Friday, August 20, 2010

Alexander Pope on poets in August

an 18th c. salon, at which Pope might have read the following

From "Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot"
Shut, shut the door, good John! fatigu'd, I said,
Tie up the knocker, say I'm sick, I'm dead.
The dog-star rages! nay 'tis past a doubt,
All Bedlam, or Parnassus, is let out:
Fire in each eye, and papers in each hand, 
They rave, recite, and madden round the land.

    What walls can guard me, or what shades can hide?
They pierce my thickets, through my grot they glide;
By land, by water, they renew the charge;
They stop the chariot, and they board the barge. 
No place is sacred, not the church is free;
Ev'n Sunday shines no Sabbath-day to me:
Then from the Mint walks forth the Man of Ryme,
Happy! to catch me just at Dinner-time.

Continue reading the complete annotated text from Jack Lynch's excellent 18th century literature resources


Sirius, the dog-star, is visible in late August; that time of year is known as the "dog-days." It was traditionally a time when poets read their work in ancient Rome: see Juvenal's third Satire.

Bedlam, or Parnassus

Bedlam, "[Corrupted from Bethlehem, the name of a religious house in London, converted afterwards into an hospital for the mad and lunatick.] A madhouse; a place appointed for the cure of lunacy" (Johnson). Parnassus is a mountain in Greece sacred to the Muses, and is therefore associated with poetry and the arts.

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