Ode on Solitude
Happy the man whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air
In his own ground.
Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire;
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.
Blest who can unconcern'dly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day,
Sound sleep by night; study and ease
Together mixt, sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please
Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lie.
Of the Poem (Brief Thought & Parameters):
I thought these the words of an elderly sage-poet the first time I read them. Turns out Alexander Pope was just twelve years old when he scribed out these beautiful thoughts. Not only am I reminded of Thoreau and his Walden when I read this poem, I'm also reminded of his personal axiom: Simplify, simplify, simplify.
The poem exhibits the same mood of biophilia that's usually associated with pastoral works; and, much like ecclesiastical books or wisdom scriptures, the poem has a certain didactic element to it.
Considering the sharp and angular works produced by the poet in his latter years, works that could have cost our poet his life, this one has a rather tranquil disposition about it. In fact, I would even venture to say that it's almost a still-frame of the poet's psychological state of being as a child.
It's interesting to note that this poem was done in a structure that's almost foreign to the measure Pope would take up as an adult: heroic couplets. This unique status just seems another reason, for me at any rate, to appreciate its presence among his many others works.
Read, reread, meditate ... enjoy.
Stanza: quatrain (5 total)
Meter: first three lines per stanza, tetrameter; last line per stanza, dimeter
Rhyme Scheme: a.b.a.b. (per stanza)
Note that lines 9 & 10 may seem as though they’re a nine syllable count, but this is not the case. In line 9 the word unconcern’dly should not be pronounced un-con-cern-ED-ly (that would definitely render an extra syllable); it should be pronounced un-con-cern-DLY (almost as if the ‘d’ were silent and one were saying the name Lee).
Also, in line 10, the way the mouth moves saying the word hour makes it feel as though there are two syllables- there are. But the diction utilized by Pope, and by those of his day, is slightly different from ours today. Think of it this way, we have the word 'being' which has two syllables; however, when it's spoken today, it sounds like a single syllable. The same may be said with Pope's use of the word 'hour'.
Note: post photo-art done by Michael Cunliffe Thompson