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THE RAIPE OF THE LoCK
AN HEROI – COMICAL POEM.
TO MRS. ARABELLA FERMOR. MADAM, 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 offered to a bookseller, you had the goodnature 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 'tis 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 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 mortals 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, ail 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, . A. Pope.
Nolueram, Belinda, tuos violare capillos;
It appears by this motto, that the following poem was written or published at the lady's request. But there are some further circumstances not unworthy relating. Mr. Caryl (a gentleman who was secretary to Queen Mary, wife of James II., whose fortunes he followed into France, author of the comedy of Sir Solomon Single, and of several translations in Dryden's Miscellanies) originally proposed the subject to him, in a view of putting an end, by this piece of ridicule, to a quarrel that was risen between two noble families, those of Lord Petre and of Mrs. Fermor, on the trifling occasion of his having cut off a lock of her hair. The author sent it to the lady with whom he was acquainted; and she took it so well as to give about copies of it.
CAN TO FIRST.
Fairest of mortals, thou distinguish’d care Of thousand bright inhabitants of air If eer 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 secret truths, from learned pride conceal’d, To maids alone and children are reveal’d: What though no credit doubting wits may give 1 The fair and innocent shall still believe. Rnow, 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 'ihink 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 Trom 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 aliye, 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 flutter in the fields of air. Enow further yet; whoever fair and chaste Rejects mankind, is by some Sylph embraced: For spirits, freed from mortal laws, with ease Assume what sexes and what shapes they please.
What guards the purity of melting maids,
He said; when Shock, who thought she slept too long,
- CANTO SECOND. 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 Launch'd on the bosom of the silver Thames. 1 Ancient traditions of the rabbis relate, that several of the fallen angels became amorous of women, and particularize some ; among the rest, Asael, who was enamoured with Naamah, the wife of Noah, or of Ham; and who, continuing impenitent, still presides over the women's toilets. . - - -