The movement to improve poetry by making it more classically regular began in France early in the seventeenth century. If the Enlightenment inherited from many predecessors the theory of the end of poetry, it evolved anew, or revived from some periods of antiquity, a characteristic theory of its practice. The history of literature shows the pendulum of taste oscillating between the classic and the romantic, between imagination and reason, and between poetry and rhetoric. The new theory of poetry was expounded in an Essay on Criticism, imitated from Boileau but far surpassing Pope in power of expression. All the influences that moulded modern prose and poetry worked also to form the French drama. It was written in and for the court of the Sun King, for an audience that cultivated pure speech, that was regulated by an elaborate code of etiquette and of honor, that was tinctured with science and philosophy, and that came in contact with high politics.