Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Essay on Criticism [But most by numbers]

But most by Numbers judge a Poet's song;
And smooth or rough, with them, is right or wrong:
In the bright Muse tho' thousand charms conspire,
Her voice is all these tuneful fools admire;
Who haunt Parnassus but to please their ear,
Not mend their minds; as some to church repair,
Not for the doctrine but the music there.
These equal syllables alone require,
Tho' oft the ear the open vowels tire;
While expletives their feeble aid do join;
And ten low words oft creep in one dull line:
While they ring round the same unvary'd chimes,
With sure returns of still expected rhymes;
Where'er you find "the cooling western breeze,"
In the next line it "whispers through the trees"
If crystal streams "with pleasing murmurs creep"
The reader's threaten'd (not in vain) with "sleep":
Then, at the last and only couplet fraught
With some unmeaning thing they call a thought,
A needless Alexandrine ends the song
That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.

Credit


This poem is in the public domain.

Author


Alexander Pope

Born in 1688, Alexander Pope's poetry often used satire to comment on society and politics

Date Published: 1711-01-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/essay-criticism-most-numbers