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Alexander Pope’s Poems

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Alexander Pope was a great poet in his own way. One of his greatest works “The Dying Christian in his Soul” was one poem of great awe and inspiration. His poems cover many of the literary devices used in the English language, and can be very complex to explain at times. In order to fully analyze one of Pope’s poems, one must look through and describe each and every stanza with every little detail possible in order to fully understand his poems. Pope’s “The Dying Christian in his Soul” is a perfect example of how Pope uses the many literary devise known to the English language.

The first element of this well written poem is point of view, setting and theme. From the very start of the poem Pope explains the theme and setting of his poem, but not with full clarity.

Vital spark of heav’nly flame!

Quit, O quit this mortal frame:

Trembling, hoping, ling’ring, flying,

O the pain, the bliss of dying!

Cease, fond Nature, cease they life. (Alexander Pope)

In this first stanza of the poem, the theme is pointed out by the use of the word “dying”. Obviously this means the poem is stating that it will be about death and how it affects the person dying. The setting of the poem is also noted on the third, fourth and last line, and words such as “Nature”, “Cease”, “flying”, and “dying” are used. These words show that the speaker is outside of the real world, and is experiencing death first handedly and is disoriented by his surroundings. The speaker seems to have a sorrowful and confused tone in this stanza because the person doesn’t fully know what’s happening

Al-Sarraf 2 and they are in sorrow because they have just passed away. Lines two, three, four, and five explain this point.

In the second stanza is when Pope starts to clarify what his poem’s true setting and point of view is.

Hark I they whisper; angels say,

Sister Spirit, come away!

What is this absorbs me quite?

Steals my senses, shuts my sight,

Drowns my spirits, draws my breath?

Tell me, my soul, can this be death? (Alexander Pope)

Pope clarifies the setting and point of view clearly in this stanza. The amount of times personal pronouns are used (I, me, and my) are quite numerous in this stanza, and thus we can assume this poem is from a first person point of view. The setting can also be observed openly in this stanza. Words such as “angel”, “Sister Sprit”, “absorbs”, “soul” and “death” are used to convey that the setting of this poem does take place after a person’s death, with the speaker questioning his soul on death, asking if this can truly be death.

Finally in the third stanza, Pope truly explains what the setting and theme are of this poem are.

The world recedes; it disappears!

Heav’n opens on my ears! My ears

With sounds seraphic ring!

Lend, lend your wings! I mount! I fly!

O Grave! Where is thy victory?

O Death! Where is thy sting? (Alexander Pope)

Al-Sarraf 3″Recedes” and “world” are linked together because it shows that the person is truly dead because the Earth is moving away from the person, and this shows that the setting is in another world, namely heaven. “Seraphic”, “Heav’n” and “wings” are used to convey the thought of heaven, and also show that the setting is indeed in heaven. The tone is also changed in the last stanza. The speaker seems to be going to heaven, which makes it sound as if the speaker is happy. This is how the tone of the last stanza is changed. Lastly, the whole stanza is related to the central theme “death” because of the way people use these words, when a person usually thinks of these words, the word “death” crosses their minds, thus making the reader realize the central theme of this poem is “death”.

The imagery used in this poem often revolves around the central theme of “death”. Many words that are often used in conjunction with death such as “angel”, “seraphic”, “dying”, “grave” and “Heav’n” are found throughout the poem.

The first stanza starts off with the expressions “spark”, “heave’nly’ and “flame”. When these words are visualized by the reader it often gives the image of some sort of flame and a black background, because it is the start of death. “Mortal” and “frame” found on the second line are often imagined as the human body, because mortal meaning of this world and frame meaning something that encompasses something else are used mutually to allow the reader to see a human body. “Trembling”, “ling’ring” and “flying are on the third line of the third stanza and they often lead readers to think of a person that is disoriented or confused. The speaker doesn’t know what is happening, and has become disoriented because of his new surroundings. In the fourth line “pain”, “bliss” and “dying” are used to show that even though the speaker is hurt by his death and wishes he had not died, the speaker is also happy at the same time because his suffering in the real world has ended and is finally over. These words allow the reader to envisage this in their minds and understand how the speaker feels. On the final line of the first stanza, terms such as “Cease”, “Nature” and “life” are utilized. “Cease” means to stop, when the reader looks at this term, they imagine that something has stopped, then when the reader reads on, the idioms “Nature” and “life” are read. This allows the reader to visualize that a life has stopped and that nature no longer has a grasp of this life anymore.

The second stanza is where the speaker finally notices what is going on. “Hark”, “whisper” and “angels” are used on the first line. When one reads these words they think of a person listening attentively to the whispers of an angel, because the term “Hark” means to listen conscientiously. The second line uses the name “Sister Spirit” for a superior reason. A spirit is something that is super natural, and sister is a female sibling. The speaker calls upon the “Sister Spirit” because that is the only way the speaker can realize and see what is truly happening. The reader pictures this and sees how the speaker does this because of this line. The third line “What is this absorbs me quite?” draws the picture of the speaker being confused and asking the “Sister Spirit’ what is happening. Lines four and five explain how the speaker’s senses are being shocked and how his spirit is being taken away. “Senses”, “sight”, “spirits” and “breath” are all used on these two lines and they convey to the reader the fact of the speaker losing his senses slowly and gaining super-natural powers, and it shows that he can be alive in spirit, but dead in reality. Finally on the last line the words “soul” and “death” are used. The reader can picture that the speaker is talking to his soul, and asks if this can truly be death.

Finally the third stanza shows the true colors of the poem, and has very vibrant imagery. Words such as “world”, “recedes”, and “disappears” show the reader that the speaker is finally going to heaven because the world is quickly moving away from the speaker and the speaker is moving very quickly. The second line describes that the speaker has finally reached heaven. The word “Heav’n” is used in conjunction with “opens on my eyes!” This allows the reader to imagine that the speaker is finally reaching his destination and is excited about it. Angelic references are used on the third line with the word “seraphic” which means a celestial being having three pairs of wings. This line dictates to the reader that the speaker hears angelic rings and knows that the speaker is truly in heaven. Line four uses the idioms “lend”, “wings”, “mount” and “fly”. The reader imagines the speaker mounting an angel and flying swiftly to the heavens. Finally on the last two lines the expressions “O Grave! Where is thy victory?” and “O Death! Where is thy sting?” allow the reader to think of the speaker as satirizing death because it wasn’t a harsh experience as the speaker once thought it would be.

The three stanzas show how Pope uses imagery to convey thoughts, emotions and feelings of the speaker towards the reader. This is what makes Pope’s use of imagery excellent in this poem.

The diction Pope uses in this poem shows that his central theme in this poem is death. In the first stanza, “heav’nly”, “mortal”, “dying” and “cease” are all used to relate to the central theme. They relate to the central theme because many of these words relate to death. “Heav’nly” which means heaven, is the place in many religions where moral and good people go when they pass away. “Mortal” means something that can end, or something that has an end, and the end is death. “Dying” is the process of death, one dies before death comes upon them. “Cease” means to stop, and the item that is stopped is life, when life is stopped death starts.

The second stanza’s diction explains how the speaker integrates with the surroundings. Pope uses “Hark”, “whisper”, “angels”, and “Sister Sprit” in lines one and two. “Hark” which means to listen carefully is used to show how the speaker is quite amazed with his surroundings and listens to it in order to understand it. “Whisper” and “angel” are used to convey that there are some whispers and that angels are the source of these whispers. “Sister Spirit” is very intriguing. This term can be thought of in a number of ways. It can be interpreted as a relative of the speaker because it seems to be personified. It can also be some kind of leader of the angels which has come to the speaker to show the way to heaven. It ultimately comes down to the reader to interpret it in their own way. Lines three through six use the terms “absorbs”, “senses”, “sight”, “spirits”, “breath”, “soul”, and “death”. The diction here is chosen to explain how the speaker is losing his sense of the real world as he crosses over to the super-natural world. Pope uses the words “Absorbs”, “senses” and “sight” because the senses of the speaker are being absorbed by the super-natural world, with the main sense being sight. “Sprits” and “breath” are used because they explain how the speaker can be alive but dead at the same time. Finally, in the last line of the second stanza Pope uses “my soul”, “can”, and “death” to show how the speaker questions his soul on how the speaker’s experience can truly be death.

Finally in the third stanza Pope’s diction conveys the thought of the speaker making the final move from the real world to the super-natural world. The first line uses the three words “world”, “recedes”, and “disappears”. “Recedes” which means to go away from, and “disappears” which means to go away, are used to show that the speaker is moving away from the real-world into the super-natural world. “Heav’n” on the second line shows the destination of the speaker. “Seraphic” on the third line demonstrates an angelic essence to the place the speaker is in. The fourth line explains how the speaker flies away on an angel by using words such as “lend”, “wings”, “mount” and “fly”. Finally on the last two lines, “O Grave!” and “O Death” are used to convey how the speaker ridicules how death is supposed to be painful, because the speaker has not experienced this pain or suffering that is supposedly supposed to happen.

Almost all of the words used in the poem relate to death in one way or another and convey the though to the reader that death isn’t supposed to be harsh and painful, but somewhat of an enjoyable and happy experience.

The rhythm of this poem ranges from iambic pentameter to anapestic heptameter. Most of the lines from every stanza start off as being iambic pentameter. As each stanza progresses however, the rhythm of the poem starts to become more complex until it reaches its peak at anapestic heptameter. This is how the rhythm of the poem is organized.

The sound of the poem seems to be the same throughout the poem with the exception of line two in the first stanza. Most of the lines contain a masculine rhyme, which when the sounds have only one syllable. The exception to this is on line two where it has alliteration, which is when consonant sounds at the beginning of the words are all repeated throughout the line.

Finally, the structure of the poem seems to be in free-verse. The pattern of sounds is not very obvious and is very difficult to decipher and set into a category of structures. Most of the lines have different rhythms, different subjects, and different use of diction. This is the main reason why this poem is a free-verse poem.

Pope makes “The Dying Christian in his Soul” a very complex and original poem. The main theme of death is excellently portrayed in this poem. Also, many literary devices such as “theme” or “alliterations” are used throughout the poem. To fully understand all of Pope’s poems, one must fully analyze it for all it’s worth. One should examine every single detail, every single word, to find the true meaning of Pope’s poems. If one should do this, they would be subjected to many different forms of expression in the language and discover the beauty of the language known as English.

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