Sounds in “An Essay on Criticism”

Blog: Identify at least five brief examples in “An Essay on Criticism” when the sound echoes the sense, and explain each connection. If you wish, this can be more of a series of brief examples and explanations than one sustained paragraph, but it still should exceed 200 words.

“Though oft the ear the open vowels tire” (9)

– In this line, the speaker talks about repetitive open vowels becoming boring, and he uses this example in the line. There are many vowels in the line, showing exactly what his point is.

“While expletives their feeble aid do join” (10)

– This is a perfect example of Pope showing the reader what he is talking about. He writes about the use of expletives, or as the footnote says, unnecessary filler words (like “do” in this line). He uses the word “do” and at the same time, he is criticizing filler words that are of no use.

“And ten low words oft creep in one dull line” (11)

– The poet’s point in this line is to show how ten words move slowly through the line to reach its tired rhymes. The line has ten words, giving the reader a chance to experience the example.

“In the next line, it ‘whispers through the trees'” (15)

– This example really sounds like what it says; the word “whispers” allows the reader to hear a soft breeze blow past the tree. It is such a soft word, which is why the example is able to work here.

“Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows” (30)

– Again in this line, Pope uses wind to present his example. There are many s’s in this line making it truly sound like gentle winds blowing. Also, the use of the word “Zephyr” adds to that sound, with an open “e” and the “ph” to make a light “f” sound.


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