Alexander Pope 's Translation Of The Iliad

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Sometime last year, I started to bike to my job an hour early, in order to spend time reading before work at a nearby coffee shop. Among the books I read was Alexander Pope’s translation of the Iliad, and after a particularly cold a miserable bike ride in the winter, I came across this couplet: To labour is the lot of man below; / And when Jove gave us life, he gave us woe. That line struck me, partially because of the three thousand years of solidarity connecting my complaints to the old Greek kings, but because of how the words gained meaning to me as they carried meaning. Of course, that was not the first time I ever had a line or phrasing stick with me from a book. It was, however, the first time I realized the strangeness of being able to connect with words from an author so disparate from me in time and place who was writing about a setting completely disconnected from my own experiences. I had this little moment of clarity about my time as an undergraduate student in English.
While thinking about it, I connected this couplet to a larger idea I had been circling around for a while about how works of fiction require a back and forth between a reader and text. While I underline quotes and take notes in the margins of books I read, I am adding my own words directly into the text of a book. As a great essay can change how people view an author or book, writing essays is a way to actively engage with texts in order to shape their meaning. This is what I had been

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