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"Ode on
Solitude" by Alexander Pope (1688-1744)



Analyzed by Dr. Kamal
Arkan 7-8-2011



How we analyze a poem?



The elements of analysis of a
poem are genre, the speaker, the subject, the structure, setting, imagery, key
statements, and the sound of poetry, language use, and intertextuality. In
addition to the way the reader is formed by the poem, the poem's historical
placement, and ideology or 'world view'. (See Critical Reading: A
Guide
). These elements will help us in understanding and analyzing the
poem.



First we read the poem. After
reading the poem we look at the difficult words and find the meaning from the
dictionary. Then we read the poem again trying to understand it. The third step
is to attempt to read the poem in context if possible. Such reading will
facilitate the process of understanding and analyzing the poem. If you find
difficulty try to read other people's interpretations of the poem or other
poems to learn from them the steps of analysis (See Practical Criticism,
by I. A. Richards).



Before you start the analysis,
try to assign the genre of the poem. For example, this poem; "Ode on
Solitude", is an ode which is a song or a sonnet. The speaker or the
narrator is the poet himself. The subject is the happiness of living in
solitude. The structure in this poem is well-built. The setting is a farm in a
country side. The images are very clear, they are not so complicated. The
similes, the metaphors, and the tone, all are simple and help us to see the
poem as nostalgia or a wish. Finally, one must look at the point of view of the
poet, if it is not there; try to form your own point of view with the help of
steps of analysis like looking at the title, the theme, the tone, the movement
in the poem, and the figurative language, but in this poem the point of view is
very clear. Here, Pope is appreciating the life in the farm and considers the
owner of few acres as a happy man. In fact, after knowing all these elements
one can proceed to analyze the poem.     



Here is an example of analyzing a
poem so please read the poem and read the analysis and write down your
comments.            



In "Ode on Solitude",
Alexander Pope presents to us the blessing of solitude in the form of a
beautiful song. He directed his speech to us to show us the happiness of living
in a country side. If we look at the title and attempt to connect it to the
main theme we find that the whole poem talks about the happiness of solitude in
a beautiful productive farm in the middle of a green area.



In the first stanza, Pope says:
"happy is the man whose wish" is to get a small farm or "a few
paternal acres" and willing to take care of them after the death of his
parents. Here, the poet depicts that if a man inherits "a few acres in his
own country and breathes his native air" he will be happy, contented, and
blessed. This stanza implies the happiness of owning a small productive
property in one's own country. From an economic point of view here the poet
encourages us to take care of the land of the parents instead of leaving it
looking for a job in the city or abroad. In other words, the owner of a
productive farm is the master of himself.   



In the second stanza, the poet
portrays the products of the farm and how such products nurture the man by
saying that the herds provide him with milk, and the land with bread. In
addition, the flocks in the farm supply the farmer with garments; even the
trees give him shade in summer and warm in winter. This stanza implies that
self-contained economy and happiness can be achieved through keeping and preserving
a small productive farm. On another level of meaning, the poet in this poem is
calling for preserving nature and the farms instead of neglecting them or
selling them to contractors who devastate the land and nature.



In the third and fourth stanzas,
the poet talks about how time passes happily and swiftly in the farm. At day
time, not only the "hours, but also days, and years", pass in good
health of body and with peace of mind during the quiet day time, while at night
the farmer enjoys good sleep and he can study at ease if he wants and practices
recreation. Furthermore, the living in the farm leads to that great feeling of
innocence and the pleasure of meditation.



In the last stanza, the poet
wishes to live "unseen, unknown" enjoying the happiness of quiet life
not caring about fame and wealth. He also wishes to die unlamented as if he is
quietly stolen from this world wishing nobody to cry over his death. Finally,
for his love of such a quiet and blissful life, the poet or the narrator
recommends that his grave must be left without "a stone", a sign, or
a mark to tell where he dies. 



Comments:



In this poem the language is
simple, musical, and photographic. Here there is no great action, and the
poem's movement is dreamy and sweet, just like a sweet dream. The point of view
is romantic and at the same time it is universal because at the age of
capitalism everyone wishes to live a quiet peaceful life in the country side
far away from the noisy cities. It is also possible that the poet is calling
for conserving nature and farms as sources of happiness, health, peace, and
self-contained economy. The theme of the poem makes it universal, despite that
the conclusion is not open.



 



 

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