Sierra Tavasolian on Alexander Pope's "Eloisa to Abelard"

Published by admin_main on Mon 15 Nov, 2010

33. Many readers have found that Pope conveys a genuine sense of Eloisa's passion for Abelard. Yet, this is a very formal poem consisting in rhymed couplets. If you find the formal approach effective, what makes it so? How might rhyme, in the hands of a master like Pope, actually work in his favor?

To understand the poem, one must first understand its history. The story of Eloisa and Abelard was the epitome of romantic love. Abelard, a distinguished tutor, seduced and fell in love with his student Elosia. Together, they had a child and married, all in secret as romantic love seems always to be. However, Eloisa's family found out and punished Abelard in the form of castration, causing Abelard to join a monastery. Abelard told Eloisa to do the same, and eventually she did. Eloisa, however, was less satisfied by this arrangement. Later on in life, the original letter was written, and "Eloisa to Abelard" was consequently dramatized and translated. This letter, written later in life, is full of Eloisa's confused and tormented emotions about Abelard.

Pope, who translated a version of the letter, chose to do so in rhymed couplets. Though formal and formulaic in style, the emotion in the poem is not diminished or hindered. Throughout the poem, the emotion is obvious in Eloisa's voice, her confusion and sadness complete and even exemplified. The rhymes are natural and very rarely forced, and those that are only help to get the emotions across. Some of the more repeated false rhymes are those which


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