The poem, “The Dying Christian to His Soul”, by Alexander Pope focuses on the speaker in his time of death. Across many cultures and generations, people have been preoccupied with death. People fear it, and so they think of it often. People lose loved ones, causing them to wonder what death feels like. While many poets have written on death, none has done it quite like Alexander Pope. In this particular poem, the reader is left feeling victorious over death. The author gives readers reason to believe that this feeling of victory over death is a result of faith, particularly the Christian faith. This is why the poem is addressed especially to the Dying Christian, and not to his body, but rather to his soul. In this article, we are going through a detailed analysis of the poem The Dying Christian to His Soul by Alexander Pope.
This Ode was sent in a letter to Richard Steele. The letter states, “You have it, as Cowley calls it, just warm from the brain; it came to me the first moment I walked this morning, yet you’ll see, it was not so absolutely inspiration, but that I had in my head, not only the verses of Hadrian but the fine fragment of Sappho.”
The Dying Christian to His Soul Analysis by Alexander Pope
In this first stanza of the poem, the theme is pointed out by the use of the word “dying”. Obviously, this means the poem is stating that it will be about death and how it affects the person dying. The setting of the poem is also noted on the third, fourth and last line, and words such as “Nature”, “Cease”, “flying”, and “dying” are used. These words show that the speaker is outside of the real world, and is experiencing death first handedly and is disoriented by his surroundings. The speaker seems to have a sorrowful and confused tone in this stanza because the
person does not fully know what’s happening.
In the second stanza is when Pope starts to clarify what his poem’s true setting and point of view is.
“Hark I they whisper; angels say,
Sister Spirit, come away!
What is this absorbs me quite?
Steals my senses, shuts my sight,
Drowns my spirits, draws my breath?
Tell me, my soul, can this be death?”
Pope clarifies the setting and point of view clearly in this stanza. The number of times personal pronouns are used (I, me, and my) are quite numerous in this stanza, and thus we can assume this poem is from a first-person point of view. The setting can also be observed openly in this stanza. Words such as “angel”, “Sister Sprit”, “absorbs”, “soul” and “death” are used to convey that the setting of this poem does take place after a person’s death, with the speaker questioning his soul on death, asking if this can truly be death.
Finally, in the third stanza, Pope truly explains what the setting and theme are of this poem are.
“The world recedes; it disappears!
Heav’n opens on my ears! My ears
With sounds seraphic ring!
Lend, lend your wings! I mount! I fly!
O Grave! Where is thy victory?
O Death! Where is thy sting?”
″Recedes” and “world” are linked together because it shows that the person is truly dead because the Earth is moving away from the person, and this shows that the setting is in another world, namely heaven. “Seraphic”, “Heav’n” and “wings” are used to convey the thought of heaven, and also show that the setting is indeed in heaven. The tone is also changed in the last stanza. The speaker seems to be going to heaven, which makes it sound as if the speaker is happy. This is how the tone of the last stanza is changed. Lastly, the whole stanza is related to the central theme “death” because of the way people use these words when a person usually thinks of these words, the word “death” crosses their minds, thus making the reader realize the central theme of this poem is “death”.
Pope clearly held these feelings of victory over death very near to his heart, and this is why he writes a poem of hope and even excitement in the face of death. He titles it, “The Dying Christian to His Soul” to emphasize the role of his
faith in his ability to feel triumphant in the face of death.
Style and Imagery in The Dying Christian to His Soul
The imagery used in this poem often revolves around the central theme of “death”. Many words that are often used in conjunction with death such as “angel”, “seraphic”, “dying”, “grave” and “Heav’n” are found throughout the poem.
The first stanza starts off with the expressions “spark”, “heave’nly’ and “flame”. When the reader visualizes these words it often gives the image of some sort of flame and a black background because it is the start of death. “Mortal” and “frame” found on the second line is often imagined as the human body, because
mortal meaning of this world and frame meaning something that encompasses something else are used mutually to allow the reader to see a human body.
“Trembling”, “ling’ring” and “flying is on the third line of the third stanza and they often lead readers to think of a person that is disoriented or confused. The speaker doesn’t know what is happening and has become disoriented
because of his new surroundings. In the fourth line “pain”, “bliss” and “dying” are used to show that even though the speaker is hurt by his death and wishes he had not died, the speaker is also happy at the same time because his suffering in the real world has ended and is finally over. These words allow the reader to envisage this
in their minds and understand how the speaker feels.
The final line of the first stanza utilizes terms such as “Cease”,“Nature” and “life”. “Cease” means to stop, when the reader looks at this term, they imagine that something has stopped, then when the reader reads on, the idioms “Nature” and “life” are read. This allows the reader to visualize that a life has stopped and that nature no longer has a grasp of this life anymore. The second stanza is where the speaker finally notices what is going on.
“Hark”, “whisper” and “angels” are used on the first line. When one reads these words, they think of a person listening attentively to the whispers of an angel, because the term “Hark” means to listen conscientiously. The second line uses the name “Sister Spirit” for a superior reason.
A spirit is something that is supernatural, and sister is a female sibling. The speaker calls upon the “Sister Spirit” because that is the only way the speaker can realize and see what is truly happening. The reader pictures this and sees how the speaker does this because of this line. The third line “What is this absorbs me quite?” draws the picture of the speaker being confused and asking the “Sister Spirit’ what is happening. Lines four and five explain how the speaker’s senses are being shocked and how his spirit is being taken away. “Senses”, “sight”, “spirits” and “breath” are all used on these two lines and they convey to the reader the fact of the speaker losing his senses slowly and gaining super-natural powers, and it shows that he can be alive in spirit, but dead in reality. On the last line, the words “soul”
and “death” are used. The reader can picture that the speaker is talking to his soul, and asks if this can truly be dead.
Finally, the third stanza shows the true colors of the poem and has very vibrant imagery. Words such as “world”, “recedes”, and “disappears” show the reader that the speaker is finally going to heaven because the world is quickly
moving away from the speaker and the speaker is moving very quickly. The second line describes that the speaker has finally reached heaven.
The word “Heav’n” is used in conjunction with “opens on my eyes!” This allows the reader to imagine that the speaker is finally reaching his destination and is excited about it. Angelic references are used on the third line with the word “seraphic” which means a celestial being having three pairs of wings. This line dictates to the reader that the speaker hears angelic rings and knows that the speaker is truly in heaven.
Line four uses the idioms “lend”, “wings”, “mount” and “fly”. The reader imagines the speaker mounting an angel and flying swiftly to the heavens. Finally, on the last two lines the expressions “O Grave! Where is thy victory?” and
“O Death! Where is thy sting?” allow the reader to think of the speaker as satirizing death because it wasn’t a harsh experience as the speaker once thought it would be.
The three stanzas show how Pope uses imagery to convey thoughts, emotions and feelings of the speaker towards the reader. This is what makes Pope’s use of imagery excellent in this poem
Alexander Pope was a great poet in his own way. One of his greatest works “The Dying Christian in his Soul” was one poem of great awe and inspiration. His poems cover many of the literary devices used in the English language and can be very complex to explain at times. One must look through and describe each stanza with every little detail possible in order to fully understand his poems. Pope’s “The Dying Christian in his Soul” is a perfect example of how Pope uses the many literary device known to the English language. We hope you enjoyed reading the detailed analysis of The Dying Christian to His Soul by Alexander Pope.