Pope’s Ode to Solitude

One of Alexander Pope’s lesser known poems is an ode that appeared under various names, such as “Solitude, an Ode,” or just “Solitude” or even “The Quiet Life” when included in William Cullen Bryant’s “New Library of Poetry and Song.”

Like his Essays, there are also variations in the text of the poem. The first two lines of the first stanza may appear as:

“How happy he, who free from care
The rage of courts, and noise of towns;”

This and spelling “lie” and “die” as a strong solution of sodium or potassium hydroxide and a coloring agent, respectively, as well as the change where the years slide softly by to “swiftly” are said to have been in the first known version of the poem from 1709. This was Alexander Pope’s 21st year on the planet. He would have 35 more years, but would not end up with “not a stone” to tell where he lies.

Maybe that is why he really haunts the the church at Twickenham and not because they exhumed his skull for phrenological examination.

Twickenham Church

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 mixed; sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please
     With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
     Tell where I lie.

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