What does this quote by Alexander Pope mean: How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot! The world forgetting, by the world forgot. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d?

Eloisa to Abelard” by Alexander Pope>

Appreciating these lines calls for some background understanding. So here is some history you might wanna dig into—

The poem is based on the clandestine love and subsequent marriage of Héloïse d’Argenteuil to Peter Abélard, her teacher. Abélard insisted that she keep their marriage a secret as it might mar his reputation. However, as the word spread, Abélard persuaded Héloïse to take the vow of silence in the convent of Argenteuil, for her own safety. This act of his was perceived by her family as his attempt to get rid of her. They sought their vengeance by castrating him. Completely mortified, Abélard became a monk in the Abbey of St Denis in Paris. After several years of agonizing separation, Héloïse’s feelings for Abélard were revived. So they exchanged four letters, where they expressed their indignation, anguish and consternation. However, their conflict of opinions left them both feeling bitter. So she decided on living in solitude than spend an eternity with him.

Now, back to the point –
1— How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
2— The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
3— Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
4— Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d ..

1— The nuns (chaste women) who devote their life to serving God are cut off from the world and happy due to their ignorance.

2—The vestals forget the world and the world reciprocates it for them. Neither of them has the need to think of the other.

There is bliss in ignorance, but it is insipid, it is like being in deep sleep, there are no worries, no fears, no anxiety, but then there is no fun, no joy being with someone. Devotion to God fulfills this void.

3— A mind that does not dwell upon the tribulations of the past and dissociates itself from any ingrained feelings experiences true bliss, comparable to an “eternal sunshine”.

4— Héloïse feels happy about the fact that her prayer for lapse of memory on events that had bothered her over the years had been answered. Also, she voluntarily demits herself from her wish to be reunited with her long-lost love when she comes to terms with the fact that he never truly loved her. (Reference – Héloïse d’Argenteuil)

These lines are quoted by Mary Svevo in the movie “Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind”. She also quotes Nietzsche (“Blessed are the forgetful: for they get the better even of their blunders”) in the same scene, thus supporting the above idea.

This is the true nature of worldly love(Love, haha, I do not call this as love, it is mere infatuation/lust/illusion, but covered with a sweet word called “love”)
To know about true love, I suggest one must read the Sneh Geeta-The Song of True Love (Download)
The last line, each prayer accepted and each wish resigned. I thought a bit about it, and I feel a prayer is always answered, because a prayer is mostly for welfare of someone, it has a selfless sentiment to it, whereas our wishes are self centered. God listens to each and every pure-hearted selfless prayer without fail.And our wishes are unending, so he lets them pass, and he waits for a sincere prayer.


  1. Thank you for this interpretation. This quote popped in at a special time as I have been recovering from a near death accident and as I analyse my own expectations of life. Thanks again


  2. Hey! i have looked for this quote , as i have received it on my sketch book during this last weekend, at the milan design week. I don’t know the person who has written it. I like it though, it’s very deep and makes me thinking about pylosophy, art, love and creativity. They are all part of our human being nature, but unfortunately not everyone understand them. I will always be curious about the people who wrote it! thanks for sharing this impressions! alessio from italy


  3. Thank you for this, I’ve always loved this movie and this quote. After reading what you have shared, I love this quote even more.


      • I’m pretty sure the ‘vestal’s lot’ has a more ancient undertone referring at least in part to the Vestal Virgins of antiquity. Since concepts of physical and emotional/romantic virginity in view of females have often been (however unrealistically) intertwined, I think the narrator is commenting not about her own experience as a nun at that moment, but rather those unlike her and like the Vestal Virgins (who by law needed to remain wholly “pure” and naive or would have been put to death) that were entirely unaware of any romantic experience at all. She can never be like this as she has already experienced romantic love and therefore, no matter the present oaths she takes, will never be “spotless”. I like your retake on 4. by the way. In light of that I think in this passage also speaks to the narrator’s conflict in being a nun- that the choice itself was never pure from it’s inception, or continuance; but rather a “wish” to avoid pain, ridicule, shame, confronting feeling duped and let down, etc. She has chosen being a nun- because she is resigned to a realization of never being truly loved (what her greatest wish is) and to avoid pain, not because of spiritual calling. She wishes she could be like the true vestals, but in her impurity (forgive the patriarchal bs viewpoint for a sec) can never be.

        Liked by 1 person

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