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POPE wrote but few short Poems that are suitable for this Series. In order, therefore, to do him justice, one of his longer pieces is here given ; and The Rape of the Lock for preference, because, as regards its form, it is one of the masterpieces of English Mock Heroic Verse; while its subject matter gives us a charming picture of the Age of Queen ANNE.
This Poem is in English, what BOILEAU's Lutrin is in French. It is based upon an incident in real life ; and the characters in it are BELINDA, Mrs. ARABELLA
THALESTRIS, Mrs. MORLEY. FERMOR.
Sir PLUME, her brother, Sir The Baron, Lord PETRE.
CLARISSA. While there is much fun and burlesque pomposity in the Poem, it contains not a few exquisitely musical lines; and, in other respects, carries out the principles of writing verse that POPE has laid down on the preceding page. It is also a sufficiently acid banter of the Fair Sex; so that Lady WINCHILSEA, at page 111, advises POPE to soothe the Ladies!'
THE RAPE OF THE LOCK.
AN HEROI-COMICAL POEM
In Five Cantos.
A tonso est hoc nomen adepta capillo.-Ovid.
What dire offence, from am'rous causes springs, What mighty quarrels rise from trivial things; I sing! This Verse to Caryl, Muse! is due ! This, ev'n BELINDA may vouchsafe to view! Slight is the subject; but not so the praise, If she inspire, and he approve, my Lays!
Say, what strange motive, Goddess ! could compel A well-bred Lord † assault a gentle Belle ? O, say, what stranger cause, yet unexplored, Could make a gentle Belle reject a Lord ? And dwells such rage in softest bosoms then ? And lodge such daring souls in little men ?
Sol, through white curtains, did his beams display; And oped those eyes, which brighter shine than they. Now Shock had given himself the rousing shake; And Nymphs prepared their chocolate to take. Thrice the wrought slipper knocked against the ground; And striking watches the tenth hour resound.
BELINDA still her downy pillow prest: Her guardian Sylph prolonged the balmy rest. 'Twas he had summoned to her silent bed The Morning Dream that hovered o'er her head. A Youth, more glitt'ring than a Birth-night Beau, (That ev'n in slumber caused her cheek to glow!) Seemed to her ear, his winning lips to lay; And thus, in whispers said, or seemed to say.
Fairest of mortals! thou distinguished care Of thousand bright inhabitants of air ! If e'er one vision touched thy infant thought Of all the Nurse, and all the Priest, have taught Of airy Elves by moonlight shadows seen, The silver token, and the circled Green; Or Virgins visited by Angel Powers, With golden crowns and wreaths of heavenly flowers;
Hear, and believe! Thy own importance know;
* Know then, unnumbered Spirits round thee fly!
*Think what an equipage thou hast in air ; And view with scorn two Pages and a Chair! As now your own, our Beings were of old ; And once inclosed in Woman's beauteous mould: Thence, by a soft transition, we repair From earthly vehicles to these of air.
'Think not, when Woman's transient breath is fled,
* For when the Fair in all their pride expire,
The light Coquettes in Sylphs aloft repair,
* Know farther yet, Whoever fair and chaste
'What guards the purity of melting Maids In Courtly Balls, and midnight Masquerades, Safe from the treach'rous friend, and daring Spark, The glance by day, the whisper in the dark, When kind occasion prompts their warm desires, When Music softens, and when Dancing fires ? 'Tis but their Sylph, the wise celestials know; Though Honour is the word with men below.
Some Nymphs there are, too conscious of their face, For life predestined to the Gnomes' embrace : Who swell their prospects, and exalt their pride; When offers are disdained, and love denied. Then, gay ideas crowd the vacant brain, While Peers and Dukes, and all their sweeping Train, And Garters, Stars, and Coronets appear, And, in soft sounds, “Your Grace!” salutes their ear. 'Tis these, that early taint the female soul, Instruct the eyes of young Coquettes to roll, Teach infants' cheeks, a bidden blush to know; And little hearts to flutter at a Beau!
Oft when the World imagine women stray, The Sylphs through mystic mazes guide their way! Through all the giddy circle they pursue, And old impertinence expel by new!
What tender Maid but must a victim fall
Of these am I, who thy protection claim; A watchful Sprite, and ARIEL is my name. Late, as I ranged the crystal wilds of air, In the clear mirror of thy ruling star I saw, alas! some dread event impend, Ere to the Main this morning's sun descend ! But Heaven reveals not What, or How, or Where.
'Warned by thy Sylph, O, pious Maid! beware! This to disclose is all thy Guardian can! Beware of all ! but most beware of Man !'
He said: when Shock, who thought she slept too long, Leapt up, and waked his Mistress with his tongue.
'Twas then, BELINDA ! if report say true, Thy eyes first opened on a billet-doux. Wounds, charms, and ardours were no sooner read; But all the vision vanished from thy head!