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Alexander Pope

The Rape of the Lock


What dire offense from amorous causes springs,
What mighty contests rise from trivial things,
I sing. This verse to Caryl, muse, is due;
This, even 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 to assault a gentle belle ?
Oh, say, what stranger cause, yet unexplored,
Could make a gentle belle reject a lord ?
In tasks so bold can little men engage,
And in soft bosoms dwells such mighty rage?

Sol through white curtains shot a timorous ray, And oped those eyes that must eclipse the day. Now lapdogs give themselves the rousing shake, And sleepless lovers, just at twelve, awake. Thrice rung the bell, the slipper knock'd the ground, And the press'd watch return'd a silver sound. 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 hover'd o'er her head; A youth more glittering than a birth-night beau (That e'en in slumber caused her cheek to glow)

Seem'd to her ear his winning lips to lay,
And thus in whispers said, or seem'd to say:

Fairest of mortals, thou distinguish'd care
Of thousand bright inhabitants of air !
If e'er one vision touch'd 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,
Nor bound thy narrow views to things below.
Some secrets truths, from learnéd pride conceald,
To maids alone and children are reveal'd.
What though no credit doubting wits may give?
The fair and innocent shall still believe.
Know, then, unnumber'd spirits round thee fly,
The light militia of the lower sky;
These, though unseen, are ever on the wing,
Hang o'er the box, and hover round the ring.
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 enclosed in woman's beauteous mould;
Thence, by a soft transition, we repair
From earthly vehicles to those of air.
Think not, when woman's transient breath is fled,
That all her vanities at once are dead;
Succeeding vanities she still regards,
And though she plays no more, o’erlooks the cards.
Her joy in gilded chariots, when alive,
And love of ombre, after death survive.


For when the fair in all their pride expire,
To their first elements their souls retire:
The sprites of fiery termagants in flame
Mount up, and take a salamander's name.
Soft, yielding minds to water glide away,
And sip, with nymphs, their elemental tea.
The graver prude sinks downward to a gnome,
In search of mischief still on earth to roam.
The light coquettes in sylphs aloft repair,
And sport and futter in the fields of air.

“A sylph 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 sun descend,
But Heaven reveals not what, or how, or where:
Warn'd by the sylph, oh, pious maid, beware!
This to disclose is all thy guardian can:
Beware of all, but most beware of man!”

He said. Then Shock, who thought she slept too long,
Leap'd 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 vanish'd from thy head.

And now, unveiled, the toilet stands display'd,
Each silver vase in mystic order laid.
First, robed in white the nymph intent adores,
With head uncover'd, the cosmetic powers.
A heavenly image in the glass appears,
To that she bends, to that her eyes she rears;

The inferior priestess, at her altar's side,
Trembling begins the sacred rites of pride.
Unnumber'd treasures ope at once, and here
The various offerings of the world appear;
From each she nicely culls with curious toil,
And decks the goddess with the glittering spoil.
This casket India's glowing gems unlocks,
And all Arabia breathes from yonder box.
The tortoise here and elephant unite,
Transformed to combs, the speckled and the white.
Here files of pins extend their shining rows,
Puffs, powders, patches, bibles, billets-doux.
Now awful beauty puts on all its arms;
The fair each moment rises in her charms,
Repairs her smiles, awakens every grace,
And calls forth all the wonders of her face;
Sees by degrees a purer blush arise,
And keener lightnings quicken in her eyes.
The busy sylphs surround their darling care,
These set the head, and those divide the hair,
Some fold the sleeve, whilst others plait the gown;
And Betty's praised for labours not her own.


Not with more glories, in the ethereal plain, The sun first rises o'er the purpled main, Than, issuing forth, the rival of his beams Launched on the bosom of the silver Thames. Fair nymphs and well-dress’d youths around her shone, But every eye was fixed on her alone. On her white breast a sparkling cross she wore, Which Jews might kiss, and infidels adore.

sun, her

Her lively looks a sprightly mind disclose,
Quick as her eyes and as unfixed as those:
Favours to none, to all she smiles extends;
Oft she rejects, but never once offends.
Bright as the


gazers strike,
And, like the sun, they shine on all alike.
Yet graceful ease, and sweetness void of pride,
Might hide her faults if belles had faults to hide.
If to her share some female errors fall,
Look on her face, and you'll forget 'em all.

This nymph, to the destruction of mankind,
Nourished two locks which graceful hung behind
In equal curls, and well conspired to deck
With shining ringlets the smooth, ivory neck.
Love in these labyrinths his slaves detains,
And mighty hearts are held in slender chains.
With hairy springes we the birds betray,
Slight lines of hair surprise the finny prey,
Fair tresses man's imperial race ensnare,
And beauty draws us with a single hair.

The adventurous Baron the bright locks admired;
He saw, he wish’d, and to the prize aspired.
Resolved to win, he meditates the way,
By force to ravish or by fraud betray;
For when success a lover's toil attends,
Few ask, if fraud or force attained his ends.

For this, ere Phæbus rose, he had implored
Propitious Heaven, and every power adored,
But chiefly Love-to Love an altar built
Of twelve vast French romances, neatly gilt.
There lay three garters, half a pair of gloves,
And all the trophies of his former loves;

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