English: Portrait of Pope in bigger version
English: Portrait of Pope in bigger version (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am thankful for the poet Alexander Pope who wrote an amazing essay in poetic form which included this memorable line:

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again.

For those of us who, with more effort on our parts, could potentially be called Renaissance Men, due to the breadth and scope of our interests and knowledge, there is a more apropos title: Pieriansipist. We don’t drink deeply enough of the various pursuits to have actually gained much experience, let alone mastery (which would qualify us as true Renaissance Men). Rather we sip here and there from a ginormous variety of pools instead of drinking deeply enough from one before moving on to the next. Would that I could claim credit for this most excellent adjective, but to give credit where credit is due, look here.

Mr. Alexander Pope’s Essay on Criticism is a book length poem that is…not for the faint of heart. If you didn’t thoroughly enjoy The Bard in high school, don’t bother with Pope’s essay. It will be tough going. Should you, however, drink deeply of this particular spring, you will find at least two other well known phrases: “To err is human, to forgive divine” and “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” An annotated version explaining the multitude of (now obscure) classical references and archaic language is probably a necessity for really being able to savor Pope’s work. And frankly, were it not an assignment at one point in my life, I wouldn’t have done it. But, much like Basic Training, although I didn’t enjoy it at the time, I’m glad I did. Equally glad I don’t have to do it again in this lifetime. There are way too many other things I’d rather spend my life on, thank you very much. Which brings us back to where we started: the title. So I’m off (please, no comments) to sip at another gazillion little rivulets and runnels I find on the vast and wild Interweb…


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