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From the eleventh line we examine the state of the critic.
In the fifth line we move onto focusing on young poets.
They are presented as being richer with inspiration as they are fresh and unburdened by a deep understanding of the rules so that they don’t fear making mistakes.
This is a common idea now, that the young lack the knowledge to fear failure and thus are more likely to ‘tempt the heights’ than those who are older and have either seen their efforts fail or who have learned to respect the work of others too much.
Again contrary to common sense, the knowledge, rules and respect the critics have learned leaves them ‘bounded’ and imprisoned against change and innovation.
Contrast this censure of the critics with the romantic notion of the young poet.
They are ‘fired at first sight’, which suggests they are inflamed with passion and the intensity of ‘fearless youth’ that is not yet stymied by knowledge of rules and failure to surpass or equal the greatness of others.However, if you look at this stanza alone, this message could be generalised beyond poetry and literature.This could be seen as a defence of innovation and progress in the world.In it, Pope advises against rash judgement from critics and that they should persevere with poets even if they make mistakes or break the rules from time to time.He argues that without critics being open to new approaches and ideas they will stifle the rise of great poets of their age.This could be down to the fact that as a Catholic at the time he was unable to hold public office; he had a hunchback so wasn’t very attractive to the other sex; and he had health problems that stunted his growth meaning he only ever reached 4″6.So with all that he had bugger all else to do, except become a kick ass poet.He suggests that age can bring a degree of cynicism and rigidity in thinking, which can prevent the bright lights of innovation and change from emerging and challenging our ideas of beauty or brilliance.The stanza opens with a analogy comparing literary critics to thirsty hikers.They forget that their are many mountains to conquer and in our focus on appreciating the brilliance of the past, we fail to focus on the challenges and opportunities ahead for new achievement and majesty.This poem is one of the most quoted and it’s not hard to see why. ‘A little learning is a dangerous thing’ is contrary to popular wisdom and suggests that knowledge in itself does not directly represent wisdom or understanding.