From the Eloisa to Abelard by Alexander Pope is the line "The world forgetting, by the world forgot"

I know the intended meaning of the line, so I didn't post on Literature StackExchange. I just want clarification on whether the line is gramatically valid. Is the sentence order Object-Verb-Subject?

Could the line be reworked as: "The world forgetting, forgot by the world" where [the world forgetting] are, within the context of the poem, nuns within a convent forgetting the world, and [forgot] is the verb done [by the world]?

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    After eventually tracking down the line (it's a long poem), one discovers it's a standalone, grammatically disjoint from adjacent lines. It's poetry, and deletions are made here, so 'grammatical validity' is not determinable by normal rules. But yes, a prosaic and execrable but grammatical rendition is 'The nuns are in the process of forgetting (or have actually forgotten) all about the world outside, and have been forgotten by that world.' Jul 13, 2020 at 10:49
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    I’m voting to close this question because poetic licence takes us beyond the rules of standard English grammar. Jul 13, 2020 at 10:50
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    @EdwinAshworth ctrl+f/cmd+f is your friend :) Jul 13, 2020 at 10:51

1 Answer 1


How happy is the blameless vestal's lot!/ The world forgetting, by the world forgot.

Forgot should be "forgotten" (passive participle) - but that would ruin the meter and the rhyme.

How happy is the blameless vestal's lot! / They forget the real world, and they are forgotten by everyone.

That said:

I just want clarification on whether the line is grammatically valid.

Poetry, songs, and sometimes literature have their own conventions that are far more liberal than the guidance on the grammaticality of basic prose. This is known as "poetic licence"

From Google definitions:

poetic licence: noun

"the freedom to depart from the facts of a matter or from the conventional rules of language when speaking or writing in order to create an effect.

"he used a little poetic licence to embroider a good tale"

  • [The nuns were] by the world forgot = Subject, Object, Verb. I'm not sure about that first clause. Jul 13, 2020 at 10:49
  • Subject, PP, Verb. Jul 13, 2020 at 11:17

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