Sound And Sense Poem By Alexander Pope Summary, Notes And Line By Line Analysis In English


When Pope was just twenty-three years old, he wrote An Essay on Criticism, which included “Sound and Sense.” He said that it was one of his first poems and was composed before the age of twenty. One of his most well-known poems, “Sound and Sense,” contributed to his recognition as one of the most significant poets of his day. 

About the poet

Alexander Pope was an English poet, translator, and satire who lived from May 21, 1688, to May 30, 1744. He is most known for his translations of Homer and his sarcastic and argumentative poetry, which includes The Rape of the Lock, The Dunciad, and An Essay on Criticism. Pope appears often in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, and several of his lines have become part of everyday speech.

Line 1-4 

True ease in writing comes from art, not chance, 
As those move easiest who have learned to dance. 
‘Tis not enough no harshness gives offense, 
The sound must seem an echo to the sense: 

In “Sound and Sense,” the speaker begins by quoting an aphorism that claims that writing ease results from art, not luck. As a result, writing does not come naturally, but it is possible to improve as a writer with dedication. He continues by saying that just because one’s rhymes don’t “offend” somebody does not imply that the poem is good poetry. The “sense” or the meaning must match the sound.

Line 5-8

Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows, 
And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows; 
But when loud surges lash the sounding shore, 
The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent roar; 

The speaker continues in the following few lines, saying that poetry should have a flowing meter and the feel of a gentle breeze. All of this is depicted in these lines through the use of rhythm and assonance. He goes on to suggest that if one is writing about the “loud surges” of the water, the reverse should be true. Poems should have a similar tone to the “sounding shore”. It should read, “rough…like the torrent roar.” 

Lines 9-14

When Ajax strives some rock’s vast weight to throw, 
The line too labors, and the words move slow; 
Not so, when swift Camilla scours the plain, 
Flies o’er the unbending corn, and skims along the main. 
Hear how Timotheus’ varied lays surprise, 
And bid alternate passions fall and rise!

The poem makes a reference to the mythological character Ajax from the Iliad in its ninth line. Timotheus and Camilla are mentioned in the following lines. Virgil said that Camilla, the Volscian queen, and virgin, was so swift that she could dash over a cornfield without bending the stalks. Greek poet Timotheus produced some intriguing poetry. Pope is implying that this individual and he are somehow related because both possess the ability to produce original poetry.