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The muse, whose early voice you taught to sing,
Still pleas'd to praise, yet not afraid to blame:
Not free from faults, nor yet too vain to mend.
THE RAPE OF THE LOCK
A HEROI-COMICAL POEM.
Written in the Year 1712.
TO MRS. ARABELLA FERMOR.
IT will be in vain to deny that I have some regard for this piece, since I dedicate it to you; yet you may bear me witness, it was intended only to divert a few young ladies, who have good sense and good humour enough to laugh not only at their sex's little unguarded follies, but at their own. But as it was communicated with the air of a secret, it soon found its way into the world. An imperfect copy having been of fered to a bookseller, you had the good nature for my sake to consent to the publication of one more correct. This I was forced to, before I had executed half my design; for the machinery was entirely wanting to complete it.
The machinery, madam, is a term invented by the critics, to signify that part which the deities, angels, or demons, are made to act in a poem : for the ancient poets are, in one respect, like many modern ladies: let an action be never so trivial in itself they always
make it appear of the utmost importance. These machines I determined to raise on a very new and odd foundation, the Rosicrucian doctrine of spirits.
I know how disagreeable it is to make use of hard words before a lady; but it is so much the concern of a poet to have his works understood, and particularly by your sex, that you must give me leave to explain two or three difficult terms.
The Rosicrucians are a people I must bring you acquainted with. The best account I know of them is in a French book called Le Compte de Gabalis, which, both in its title and size, is so like a novel, that many of the fair sex have read it for one by mistake. According to these gentlemen, the four elements are inhabited by spirits, which they call Sylphs, Gnomes, Nymphs, and Salamanders. The Gnomes, or demons of earth, delight in mischief; but the Sylphs, whose habitation is in the air, are the best conditioned creatures imaginable; for they say, any mortal may enjoy the most intimate familiarities with these gentle spirits, upon a condition very easy to all true adepts-an inviolate preservation of chastity.
As to the following cantos, all the passages of them are as fabulous as the vision at the beginning, or the transformation at the end (except the loss of your hair, which I always mention with reverence.) The human persons are as fictitious as the airy ones; and the character of Belinda, as it is now managed, resembles you in nothing but in beauty.
If this poem had as many graces as there are in your person or in your mind, yet I could never hope it should pass through the world half so uncensured as you have done. But let its fortune be what it will mine is happy enough to have given me this occasion of assuring you that I am, with the truest esteem, Madam,
Your most obedient humble servant,
THE RAPE OF THE LOCK.
Nolueram, Belinda, tuos violare capillos;
Sed juvat, hoc precibus me tribuisse tuis. MART.
WHAT dire offence from amorous causes springs,
Say what strange motive, goddess! could compel A well-bred lord to assault a gentle belle?
say what stranger cause, yet unexplored,
Sol through white curtains shot a timorous ray And oped those eyes that must eclipse the day: Now lap-dogs 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 press'd,
Her guardian Sylph prolong'd the balmy rest:
'Fairest of mortals, thou distinguish'd care Of thousand bright inhabitants of air!
If e'er one vision touch'd thy infant thought,
Or virgins visited by angel-powers,
With golden crowns and wreaths of heavenly flowers
These, though unseen, are ever on the wing,
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,
'Know farther yet; whoever, fair and chaste,
What guards the purity of melting maids,
'Some nymphs there are, too conscious of theit face,
For life predestined to the Gnomes' embrace,
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.
'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 To one man's treat, but for another's ball? When Florio speaks, what virgin could withstand, If gentle Damon did not squeeze her hand? With varying vanities, from every part, They shift the moving toy-shop of their heart; Where wigs with wigs, with sword-knots sword-knots
Beaux banish beaux, and coaches coaches drive.
'Of these am I, who thy protection claim, A watchful sprite, and Ariel is my name.