Shut, shut the door, good John! fatigu'd, I said, Tie up the knocker, say I'm sick, I'm dead. The

An Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot by Alexander Pope


Reference to context

Shut, shut the door, good John! fatigu'd, I said,

Tie up the knocker, say I'm sick, I'm dead.

The dog-star rages! nay 'tis past a doubt,

All Bedlam, or Parnassus, is let out:





The above lines are taken from the poem An Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot written and composed by Alexander Pope .


Pope was born in the year 1688, a century where there was so much confusion in

the society. People were torn between the extremes of religion, society and politics. Pope, as a poet, wrote many satires. Pope and his friends were fondly named as scriblerians. Dr. Arbuthnot, Pope’s friend, was hopelessly ill. He wrote to Pope that he should be careful while attacking others. Pope wrote this poem as a reply in 1734. This poem attacks Pope’s detractors and defends Pope’s character and career.


These are the opening lines of the poem where Pope is ordering John, a servant, to shut the door. Pope is afraid of letting in the budding poets, who are like dogs. He asks John to tie the knocker of the door. He thinks that the mental institutions like Bedlam and Parnassus are let loose in the road. He finds the poets with papers in their hands and fire in their eyes. Pope is not left alone; wherever he goes he is followed by the budding poets. They come into his house by climbing the wall and shrubs.


The opening of the poem combines the most humble prose-like statement with dramatic immediacy and conversational intimacy. The poet directly addresses his servant, giving an order, with only one slight modification of prose order to accommodate rhythm and rhyme (“ fatigu'd I said"). As he gradually reveals to us the cause of this peculiar command, diction and word order convey the intensity of his annoyance, and the effect of the dramatic description of the behavior of the yet unspecified versifiers who plague the poet is to draw attention to the poet's reaction to them, which is extreme yet controlled. In the face of these assaults, the poet retains a poetic means to contain his

emotion and to classify the objects of his scorn in the pointed rhymes, parallelism, and


In the second line of the poem, the disease image, "I'm sick, I'm dead," is of course comic exaggeration: Pope is not at home to the poetasters.

"The Dog-star rages" of the following line suggests the maddening heat of dog days (as well as the custom in Juvenal's time of rehearsing poetry in August. Likewise, the correlation of Bedlam and Parnassus implies a mock-heroic metaphor in the connection of lunacy with the classical furor poeticus of the divinely inspired.

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