Sunday, August 1, 2010

Alexender Pope as a Satarist...

Definition of satire and its two kinds
Satire is defined by Long as "a literary work which searches out the faults of men or institutions in order to hold them upto ridicule." Dryden thinks that the true purpose of satire is "the amendment of vices by correction." The best definition of the word is the one given by Richard Garnett, "the expression in adequate terms of the sense of amusement or disgust excited by the ridiculous or unseemly, provided the humour is a distinctly recognised element, and that the utterance is inverted with literary from. Without humour satire is invective, without literary form, it is mere clownish jeering."

Satire may be of two kinds, (1) personal, (2) impersonal. Personal satire has an individual for its target. It can be effective in the hands of a master ; generally it degenerates into vituperation and personal invective. It is short-lived and has little permanent value. Impersonal or genuine satire aims at the type, not the individual, and it tends to proceed from the ephemeral to the enternal and the universal. It has a wider range. In it individuals are used as examples of vices and foibles that infect the age. Types provide some of the finest achievements of impersonal satire.
Essential features of satire
A good satire will be found to possess the following tour characteristics : (1) Disgust at the ridiculous, the ugly, the foolish and the incongruous, (2) Humour, (3) literary form of expression, and (4) a genuine desire to correct or reform.
A successful satirist is really speaking a critic whose business is to reform or correct human follies and foibles, vices and weaknesses and the weapon which he uses for the purpose is laughter. He laughs out at folly or scorns it into shame. His attack is not direct, but it is concealed under allegory, fable, mock-heroic, parody or burlesque, Verse is a better midium of satire than prose, for it provides greater scope for concentration and brevity, which are the main requirements of a good satire ; although satirists in prose are not altogether asking, and Twift presents the best example of a satirist using prose as the medium of satire.
Origin of satire in England
Satire is as old as literature, but the Romans like Persius, Horace and Juvenal were great satirists, for they were the first to lay down the principles on which this form of literature was to fashion itself. Horace in his satires laughs at mankind, Persius is indignant in his portrayal of man and Juvenal is Cynical in his approach, for he hates and despises mankind. Pope's satire is akin-to Horace generally in tone though at times it becomes bitter, caustic and venomous like that of Juverial. In the middle Ages Church and women were the usual objects of satire. Langland attacks the corrupt clergy of the times and Chaucer too digs at the clergy and the women. The Elizabethan Age ridiculed and lashed at the puritan, the affected traveller and the women. Political satire was born in the times of Milton. Samuel Butler's Hudibras satirises the false chivalry of the age ; and it is the best piece of its kind before Dryden. In the 17th and early 18th centuries Dryden, Swift and Pope satirise their personal and political enemies, and, when at their best they rise from the personal to the impersonal level, they transform politics and literary rivalry into genuine satire and present a picture of the follies and vices of the contemporary society. Satire is universal with man ; it continues so long as man continues to be imperfect, and that he will ever remain so ; although its form may vary and its edge and vigour may be sharp or blunt, as the exigencies of the times demand.
The Satires of Pope:
Pope's poetry is either satirical in tone or it consists predomi­nantly of satire. Satire is an essential feature of Pope's poetry. The Rape of the Lock, Dunciad, Moral Essays. Satires and Epistles of Horace imitated are the best of this satires.
The circumstances of Pope's times and those of his life and character favoured the growth of a satirical turn in his genius. Literature at this time came to be more and more intimately related to politics; nearly every writer was used by the Whigs or the Tories to hure abuses and invectives at each other. A change came over the very objective of literature during this period ; it was not aimed merely to entertain but also to reform. Wit was enlivened with morality and morality with wit in the works of Addison. Authors tried to improve the manners and morals of the people. The climate of the times thus was favourable to the growth of satire which almost dominated at this time and Pope could not help coming within its influence. Pope, besides, suffered from a number of disabilities ; he was weak, sickly and deformed. He suffered life­long from various kinds of diseases. His enemies did not spare his family, nor did they spare his works and physical deformities. He became peevish and ill-tempered and was prone to take offence quickly. He was extremely vindictive. He remembered the taunts and sneers of his enemies and when the occasion presented itself to take revenge he would come out with greater violence and brutality. In his satires and it was his aim to cause pain to his enemies. With his cunning and scheming nature he planned attacks on his enemies. which took the shape of indecorum and coarseness. He was, more­over, a Roman Catholic and the Roman Catholics of his age were subjected to a number of handicaps. He took revenge upon the Protestants too, for they cansed him misery and unmerited suffering. He used the weapon of satire to fulfil his revenge upon them.
The Rape of the Lock is a social satire which was prompted by a small occasion. It is a mock-heroic poem in which Pope laughs not only at the "little unguarded follies" of the fair sex, but at the artificial life of 18th century London as a whole. The fashions, the artificiality, frivolity and vanity of the age is exposed and ridiculed with the unfailing grasp of a master. "The piece spaikles in every line." "The touch is never too heavy, an air of gay good humour is preserved throughout." The poem portrays the triumph of the insignificant and the mockery is the outcome of the exaltation of the trivial, and at every step there is a wonderful mingling of the great and the trival. The eighteenth century Romeos and Juliuts both come in for an attack here. The Rape is the best satiric composi­tion extant, in that it contains the truest and liveliest picture of modern life and that the subject is of a more elegant nature, as well as more artfully conducted, than that of any other heroic-comic poem.
The next notable satire of Pope is the Dunciad, which may be rightly considered as the epic of the dunces. He wrote it to avenge upon all those who had criticised sometimes unjustly his translations of Homer and his Edition of Shakespeare. He had carefully planned out his revenge and his attack is ruthless as well as devastating. The victims of his attack are a number of poetasters and hack-writers of Grub Street. Theobald, the famous Shakespearean scholar, was first crowned the hero of the tunce-land, but the honour was transferred in the IV book of the second edition, to Cibber. He writes with unique vehemance and virulancy and fully enjoys the pain inflicted on the victims of his wrath. He is not satisfied with only lashing at the particular individuals whom he disliked, but his wounded artistic conscience led him from the particular to the general and from the individual to the type, education, trivialities and follies of learning. However, it is not a poem which it is any longer possible to read either with much pleasure or with much profit.
The Moral Essays and Satires and Epistles of Pope are the final and crowning efforts of Pope in the sphere of satire. They are examples of his finest workmanship as a satirist and will-ever be read with greater interest than Dunciad. In his Epistle to Mr. fortesque corruption in high places is boldly satirised by him. Pope never flattered and he was always much more independent, "unplaced, unpensioned, no man's heir or slave."
Pope was noted for his satirical portraiture in the Satires end Epistles and more particularly in the Epistle to Arbuthnot. Addison's portrait as Atticus and of Lord Halifax as Bufo are classics of satirical portraiture, marked as they are by sheer force, vividness, accuracy and precision. Portraits of Tumon, Attosa etc., testify to his dexterity in ruthlessly dissecting and analysing the short-comings of his enemies. The portrait of Lady Mary Montague as Sappho is vile, unmanly and coarse. His Epistle to Augustus addressed to George II, the King Augustus of England, is remarkable for its irony and bears out the boldness as well as the skill of the poet.
General characteristics of Pope as a satirist;
Pope's nature, as Lowell has pointed out, "delighted more in detecting the blemish, than in enjoying the charm." Pope was a moralist besides, and he tried by his poetry to improve the morals of the society. He exposed its evils and whenever he found them he held them up to ridicule and satire.
Pope was pre-eminently a satirist. His satire was more intellectual than emotional. He was not prompted to indignation as Ben Jonson or Swift was, by the evils and corruptions in human nature. There is hardly any emotion in his satirical poetry. He faithfully portrayed the follies and frivolities of the fashionable people of his time, and while doing so, he added a little venom to his ink.
His satire sometimes comes in most unexpected places and acquires vivid force.
Pope wrote many satires against individuals and though they are deadly and sharp, they are marked by bitterness and malice. Dryden's work as a satirist is done in large outline ;it has relation not only to the man he is satirising, but to the whole of human nature; Pope's satire is thin and it confines itself to person, it has no relation to the greater world beyond his clique, and its voice, both sharp and querulous rises sometimes to a shreik of feeble acuity.
His satire is intellectual and is full of wit and epigram. His portrait of Addison as Atticus, though unjust and prompted by malice, is a brilliant piece of satire. "As an intellectual observer and describer of personal weaknesses, Pope stands by himself in English verse." (Lowell)
His satires breathe the spirit of a coterie of which he was the guiding spirit. He was capable of tender affection and he was not constitutionally a bad heart or a misanthrope like Swift. He was tender only to his friends and associates, to others he was exception­ally bitter. There were two Popes, in Hugh Walker's words, as it were ; he was as passionate in his love as in his hate.
Acrimony is an important trait of his satires. Whereas Dryden could afford to be generous, Pope is deliberately bitter or at best ominously reserved. Bitter animosity, sharp personal rancour have imparted to his satires their unmistakable vigour and effect as well as a settled ferocity, as in characterisations of Harvey and Mary Wortley Montague in Epistle to Arbuthnot.
His satires, however personal they may be, are often faithful copies of the vices of men. As a stern realist he held the mirror upto society and his theme was "civilisation illumined by animosity." Although his canvas was narrow, his insight was deep and penetrat­ing.
Pope would live by the perfection of the form in his satires.
As a verbal artist he is almost unchallenged. There is an extra­
ordinary fitness and exactitude in his language which wounds with an irresistible force. "Thought is turned over and over till it is brought to a finish." Packing words and lines with the maximum idea was found by him to produce a greater and surer effect in satire than an elaborate attack, a pinch more stinging than a blow. Not that there is no blow in him, but where he pinches he seems to achieve the maximum effect rather than where he comes out with an open and devastating blow. He uses very simple and ordinarily monosyllabic Saxon words, but he can use them with consummate skill. He knows where to stimulate and intensify attention, where to let it repose, where again to focus it.

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