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    #1

    I lisped in numbers, for the numbers came.

    http://www.poeticbyway.com/xpope.htm
    AN EPISTLE TO DR. ARBUTHNOT
    Why did I write? what sin to me unknown
    Dipped me in ink, my parents', or my own?
    As yet a child, nor yet a fool to fame,
    I lisped in numbers, for the numbers came.
    What does the word "numbers" mean?
    I need native speakers' help.

  1. BobK's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: I lisped in numbers, for the numbers came.

    It's not clear. It's poetry. The context might make it clearer. Perhaps it's about a mathematician, whose early speech ('lisp' used to be used to refer to an infant's first attempts at speech) involved numbers...

    b

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    #3

    Re: I lisped in numbers, for the numbers came.

    A few stanzas later, Pope writes:

    Soft were my numbers; who could take offence,
    While pure description held the place of sense?
    Like gentle Fanny's was my flowery theme,
    A painted mistress, or a purling stream.


    That is, his numbers (which I take to mean his verse) were initially quite innocent dealing with descriptive themes suitable to young ladies. It's only when he becomes political or expresses opinions that his readers should be offended.
    I don't know of any official equation of poetry = numbers, but poems have rhythm, metre, and other attributes that might have been referred to as 'numbers' a few hundred years ago.



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    #4

    Re: I lisped in numbers, for the numbers came.

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/numbers?s=t
    10. numbers.
    a. a considerable amount or quantity; many: Numbers flocked to the city to see the parade.
    b. metrical feet; verse.
    c. musical periods, measures, or groups of notes.
    d. numbers pool ( def 1 ) .
    e. Informal. the figures representing the actual cost, expense, profit, etc.: We won't make a decision until we see the numbers.
    f. Obsolete , arithmetic.
    I need native speakers' help.

  3. BobK's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: I lisped in numbers, for the numbers came.

    Well spotted.

    b

  4. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: I lisped in numbers, for the numbers came.

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    A few stanzas later, Pope writes:

    Soft were my numbers; who could take offence,
    While pure description held the place of sense?
    Like gentle Fanny's was my flowery theme,
    A painted mistress, or a purling stream.


    That is, his numbers (which I take to mean his verse) were initially quite innocent dealing with descriptive themes suitable to young ladies. It's only when he becomes political or expresses opinions that his readers should be offended.
    I don't know of any official equation of poetry = numbers, but poems have rhythm, metre, and other attributes that might have been referred to as 'numbers' a few hundred years ago.


    Yes, this is how I understood it, too. It's good that you gave us the link. Complete text often helps us understand the question.

    By numbers, he means lines of verse. He's saying that he has been a poet ever since he was a small child who lisped his verse. (And he's not sure whether it's his own fault or his parents!)

    To answer Raymott's question, I have seen older verse (like Shakespeare and the Bible, for instance) where the lines are numbered. But I had forgotten that (and was confused by the quote) until I read down to the same line you highlighted. Then I got it.
    Last edited by Charlie Bernstein; 06-Aug-2014 at 00:10.

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