The Rape of the Lock/Canto I

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The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope
Canto I.

Canto 1.

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Lud. Du Guernier inv.C. Du Boʃc sculp.

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THE


Rape of the Lock.


CANTO I.

WHAT dire Offence from am'rous Causes springs,

What mighty Quarrels rise from trivial Things,

I sing——This Verse to C---l, 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! cou'd compel

A well-bred Lord t'assault a gentle Belle?

Oh say what stranger Cause, yet unexplored,

Cou'd make a gentle Belle reject a Lord?

And dwells such Rage in softest Bosoms then?

And lodge such daring Souls in Little Men?


Sol thro' white Curtains did his Beams display,

And op'd those Eyes which brighter shine than they;

Now Shock had giv'n himself the rowsing Shake,

And Nymphs prepar'd their Chocolate to take;

Thrice the wrought Slipper knock'd against the Ground,

And striking Watches the tenth Hour resound.

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 glitt'ring than a Birth-night Beau,

(That ev'n in Slumber caus'd 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-Pow'rs,

With Golden Crowns and Wreaths of heav'nly Flow'rs,

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 tho' 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, tho' 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 how your own, our Beings were of old,

And once inclos'd in Woman's beauteous Mold;

Thence, by a soft Transition, we repair

From earthly Vehicles to these 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 tho' 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 the Souls retire:

The Sprights 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.


Know farther yet; Whoever fair and chaste

Rejects Mankind, is by some Sylph embrac'd:

For Spirits, freed from mortal Laws, with ease

Assume what Sexes and what Shapes they please.

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 Musick softens, and when Dancing fires?

'Tis but their Sylph, the wise Celestials know,

Tho' Honour is the Word with Men below.


Some Nymphs there are, too conscious of their Face,

For Life predestin'd to the Gnomes Embrace.

Who swell their Prospects and exalt their Pride,

When Offers are disdain'd, and Love deny'd.

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 thro' mystick Mazes guide thier Way,

Thro' 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 ev'ry Part,

They shift the moving Toyshop of their Heart;

Where Wigs with Wigs, with Sword-knots Sword-knots strive,

Beaus banish Beaus, and Coaches Coaches drive.

This erring Mortals Levity may call,

Oh blind to Truth! the Sylphs contrive it all.


Of these am I, who thy Protection claim,

A watchful Sprite, and Ariel is my Name.

Late, as I rang'd the Crystal Wilds of Air,

In the clear Mirror of thy ruling Star

I saw, alas! some dread Event impend,

E're to the Main this Morning Sun descend.

But Heav'n reveals not what, or how, or where:

Warn'd by thy Sylph, oh 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 wak'd his Mistress with his Tongue.

'Twas then Belinda! if Report say true,

Thy Eyes first open'd on a Billet-doux;

Wounds, Charms, and Ardors, were no sooner read,

But all the Vision vanish'd from thy Head.


And now, unveil'd, the Toilet stands display'd,

Each Silver Vase in mystic Order laid.

First, rob'd in White, the Nymph intent adores

With Head uncover'd, the Cosmetic Pow'rs.

A heav'nly Image in the Glass appears,

To that she bends, to that her Eyes she rears;

Th' inferior Priestess, at her Altar's side,

Trembling, begins the sacred Rites of Pride.

Unnumber'd Treasures ope at once, and here

The various Off'rings of the World appear;

From each she nicely culls with curious Toil,

And decks the Goddess with the glitt'ring Spoil.

This Casket India's glowing Gems unlocks,

And all Arabia breathes from yonder Box.

The Tortoise here and Elephant unite,

Transform'd to Combs, the speckled and the white.

Here Files of Pins extend their shining Rows,

Puffs, Powders, Patches, Bibles, Billet-doux.

Now awful Beauty puts on all its Arms;

The Fair each moment rises in her Charms,

Repairs her Smiles, awakens ev'ry 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, while others plait the Gown;

And Betty's prais'd for Labours not her own.