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Fierce for the liberties of wit, and bold,
THE RAPE OF THE LOCK,
AN HEROI-COMICAL POEM,
Written in the Year 1712.
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 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 crities, 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 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 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 bad 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 hare 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,
RAPE OF THE LOCK.
Say what strange motive, goddess ! could compel
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: 'Twas he had summon'd to her silent bed The morning dream that lover'd o'er her head. A youth more glittering than a birth-night beau (That e'en in slumber caused 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,
and take a Salamander's name.
• Know farther 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,
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 hidden blush to know, And little hearts to flutter at a beau.
• Oft, when the world imagine women stray,
Of these am I, who thy protection claim,
alas ! some dread event impend,