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THE RAPE OF THE LOCK.
An Heroi-Comical Poem.
Nolueram, Belinda, tuos violare capillos ;
Sed juvat, hoc precibus me tribuisse tuis. Mart.
CANTO I. WHAT dire offence from amorous causes springs,
What mighty contests rise from trivial things, I sing-This verse to Caryl, 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! could compel A well-bred lord to' assault a gentle belle ?
say what stranger cause, yet unexplor'd,
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 op'd those eyes that must eclipse the day.
Now lap-dogs give themselves the rouzing 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 prolong’d the balmy rest;
'Twas he had summond to her silent bed
The morning-dream that hover'd o'er her head :
A youth more glittering than a birthnight-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 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 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 inclos'd 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 filed,
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 flutter in the fields of air.
•Know further 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 treacherous friend, the daring spark,
The glance by day, the whisper in the dark ;
When kind occasion prompts their warm desires,
When music softens, and when dancing fires ?
'Tis but their sylph, the wise celestials know,
Though honour is the word with men below.
'Some nymphs there are, too conscious of their
face, For life predestin'd to the gnomes' embrace. These swell their prospects and exalt their pride, When offers are disdain'd, and love denied : 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 infant cheeks a bidden blush to know, And little hearts to flutter at a beau.
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 ?
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 insnare,
And beauty draws us with a single hair.
The adventurous baron the bright locks admir'd;
He saw, he wish'd, and to the prize aspir'd.
Resolv'd to win, he ineditates the way,
By force to ravish, or by fraud betray;
For when success a lover's toil attends,
Few ask if fraud or force attain'd his ends.
For this, ere Phæbus rose, he had implor'd Propitious Heav'n, and every pow'r ador'd, But chiefly Love-to Love an altar built, Of twelve vast French romances, neatly guilt. There lay three garters, half a pair of gloves, And all the trophies of his former loves; With tender billet-doux he lights the pyre, And breathes three amorous sighs to raise the fire. Then prostrate falls, and begs with ardent eyes Soon to obtain, and long possess the prize: The pow'rs gave ear, and granted half his pray'r, The rest the winds dispers’d in empty air.
But now secure the painted vessel glides, The sun-beams trembling on the floating tides ; While melting music steals upon the sky, And soften'd sounds along the waters die : Smooth flow the waves, the zephyrs gently play, Belinda smil'd, and all the world was gay. All but the sylph-with careful thoughts opprest, The' inpending woe sat heavy on his breast. He summons straight his denizens of air; The lucid squadrons round the sails repair : Soft o'er the shrouds aërial whispers breathe, That seem'd but zephyrs to the train beneath. Some to the sun their insect-wings unfold, Waft on the breeze, or sink in clouds of gold; Transparent forms too fine for mortal sight, Their fluid bodies half dissolv'd in light,
Loose to the wind their airy garments flew,
Thin glittering textures of the filmy dew,
Dipt in the richest tincture of the skies,
Where light disports in ever-mingling dyes,
While every beam new transient colours flings,
Colours that change whene'er they wave their wings.
Amid the circle, on the gilded mast,
Superior by the head, was Ariel plac'd;
His purple pinions opening to the sun,
He rais'd his azure wand, and thus begun :-
*Ye sylphs and sylphids, to your chief give ear,
Fays, fairies, genii, elves, and demons, hear!
Ye know the spheres, and various tasks assign'd
By laws eternal to the aërial kind.
Some in the fields of purest ether play,
And bask and whiten in the blaze of day:
Some guide the course of wandering orbs on high,
Or roll the planets through the boundless sky:
Some, less refin'd, beneath the moon's pale light
Pursue the stars that shoot athwart the night,
Or suck the mists in grosser air below,
Or dip their pinions in the painted bow,
Or brew fierce tempests on the wintry main,
Or o'er the glebe distil the kindly rain.
Others, on earth, o'er human race preside,
Watch all their ways, and all their actions guide:
Of these the chief the care of nations own,
And guard with arms divine the British throne.
*Our humbler province is to tend the fair, Not a less pleasing, though less glorious care ; To save the powder from too rude a gale, Nor let the imprison'd essences exhale ; To draw fresh colours from the vernal flowers; To steal from rainbows ere they drop in showers A brighter wash; to curl their waving hairs, Assist their blushes, and inspire their airs; Nay oft, in dreams, invention we bestow, To change a flounce, or add a furbelow.
This day black omens threat the brightest fair That e'er desery'd a watchful spirit's care;