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RAPE OF THE LOCK,
AN 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 But as little unguarded follies, but at their own.
it was communicated with the air of a secret, it soon found its way into the world. An imperfect copy having been offered 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 ever 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 Rosicrusian 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 Rosicrusians are a people I must bring you acquainted with. The best account I know of them is in a French book called Le Comte 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,
Your most obedient, humble servant,
RAPE OF THE LOCK.
Nolueram, Belinda, tuos violare capillos;
HAT dire offence from amorous causes springs,
I sing; this verse to Caryl, Muse! is due:
Say what strange motive, goddess! could compel
Sol through white curtains shot a timorous ray, And ope'd 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 hell, 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 prolong'd the balmy rest: 'Twas he had summon'd to her silent bed
The morning dream that hover'd o'er her head.
A youth more glittering than a birth-night beau
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,
And though she plays no more, o'erlooks the cards.
The graver prude sinks downward to a Gnome,
Know farther yet; whoever fair and chaste
For life predestin'd to the Gnomes embrace.
And garters, stars, and coronets appear,
And in soft sounds, 'your grace' salutes their ear.
Oft, when the world imagine women stray,
When Florio speaks, what virgin could withstand,