Poem introduction

Pope's expert handling of the heroic couplet allows it to modulate in and out of every kind of formality and informality. Here, in a brief passage from a larger argument about ruling passions and the example of miserliness in particular, he changes gear into a joke – and not only a simple joke at that, but one with dialogue and characterised voices. The theme is the familiar one of 'you can't take it with you'.

Epistle to Cobham from Moral Essays (extract)

Old politicians chew on wisdom past,
And totter on in bus’ness to the last;
As weak, as earnest, and as gravely out
As sober Lanesb’row dancing in the gout.
  The courtier smooth, who forty years had shined
An humble servant to all humankind,
Just brought out this, when scarce his tongue could stir:—
‘If—where I’m going—I could serve you, sir?’
  ‘I give and I devise (old Euclio said,
And sigh’d) my lands and tenements to Ned.’
‘Your money, sir?’—‘My money, sir! what, all?
Why—if I must—(then wept) I give it Paul.’
‘The manor, sir?’—‘The manor! hold,’ he cried,
‘Not that—I cannot part with that!’—and died.


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Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope Downloads read by John Fuller

1A Farwell to London in the Year 1715


2Epistle to Lord Bathurst


3Epistle to Cobham


4From Sober Advice to Horace


5From the Dunciad Variorum Book ii


6From The Rape of the Lock