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of Ffacastorius. Garth's versification is flowing and musical; his style, perspicuous and neat; and the poem, in general, abounds with sallies of wit, and nervous satire.
The Rape Of The Lock, now before us, is the fourth, and most excellent of the heroi-comic poems. The subject was a quarrel occasioned by a little piece of gallantry of Lord Petre, who, in a party of pleasure, found means to cut off a favourite lock of Mrs. Arabella Fermor's hair. Pope was desired to write it, in order to put an end to the quarrel it produced, by Mr. Caryl, who had been secretary to Queen Mary, author of Sir Solomon Single, a comedy, and of some translations in Dryden's Miscellanies. Pope was accustomed to say, 'What I wrote fastest always pleased most." The first sketch of this exquisite piece, which Addison called Meruit Sal, was written in less than a fortnight, in tM'o cantos only: but it was so universally applauded, that, in the next year, our poet enriched it with the machinery of the sylphs, and extended it to five cantos • when it was printed with a letter to Mrs. Fermor, far' superior to any of Voiture.
The insertion of the machinery of the sylphsin proper places, without the least appearance of its being awkwardly stitched in, is one of the happiest efforts of judgment and art. He took the idea of these invisible beings, so proper to be employed in a poem of this nature, from a little French book entitled, Le Comte de Gabalis, of which is given the following account in an entertaining writer. "The Abbe" Villars, who came from Thoulouse to Paris, to make his fortune by preaching, is the author of this diverting work. The five dialogue's of^ which it consists, are the result of those gay conversations'in which the Abb6 was engaged with a small circle of men, of fine wit and humour, like himself. When this book first appeared, ft was universally read, as innocent and amusing. But at*w length its consequences were * perceived, and" reckoned dangerous, at a time when this sort of curiosities began to gain credit. Our devout preacher was denied the chair, and his book forbidden to be read. It was not clear whether the author intended to be ironical, <or spoke all seriously. The second volume, which he promised, would have decided the question; but
P 4 the
the unfortunate Abbe" was soon afterwards assassinated by ruffians on the road to Lyons. The laughers gave out, that the gnomes and sylphs, disguised like ruffians, had shot him, as a punishment for revealing the secrets of the Cabala; a crime not to be pardoned by these jealous spirits, as Villars himself has declared in his book.*
It may not be improper to give a specimen of this author's manner, who has lately been well imitated in the M'ay of mixing jest with earnest, in an elegant piece called Hermippus Redivivus. The Comte de Gabalis being about to initiate his pupil into the most profound mysteries of the Rosicrusian philosophy, advises him to consider seriously, whether or no he had courage and resolution sufficient to Renounce all those obstacles which might prevent his arising to that height which the figure of his nativity promised. "Le mot de Renoncer, (says the scholar,) m'effraya, & je ne doutai point qu'il n'allat me proposer de renoncer au bapteme ou au
* Melanges d'Histoire & de Litterature. By Dom Noel Dargonne, disguised under the name of Vigneul Marville, Tom. prem. pag. 275. edit. Rotterdam, 1700.
paradis. Ainsi ne sçachant comme me tirer de ce mauvais pas; Renoncer, lui dis-je, Monsieur quoi-faut, il renoncer à quelque chose? Vraiment, reprit-il, il le faut bien; & il le faut si necessairement, qu'il faut commencer par-là. Je ne sçai si vous pourrez vous résoudre: mais je sçai bien que la sagesse n'habite point dans un corps sujet au péché, comme elle n'entre point dans une ame prevenue d'erreur ou de malice. Les sages ne vous admettront jamais à leur compagnie, si vous ne renoncez dès à présent à un chose qui ne peut compatir avec la sagesse. Il faut, ajoûta-t-il tout bas en se baissant à mon oreille, il faut renoncer à tout commerce charnel avec les femmes.'"* On a diligent perusal of this book, I cannot find that Pope has borrowed any particular circumstances relating to these spirits, but merely the general idea of their existence.
These machines are vastly superior to the allegorical personages of Boileau and Garth; not only on account of their novelty, but for the exquisite poetry, and oblique satire, which they
* Le Comte De Gabalis, Ou Entretiens sur les Sciences Secretes. Second Entretien, page 30. à Amsterdam, 1671.
have given the poet an opportunity to display. The business and petty concerns of a fine lady, receive an air of importance from the notion of their being perpetually overlooked, and conducted, by the interposition of celestial agents.
It is judicious to open the poem, by introducing the Guardian Sylph warning Belinda against some secret impending danger. The account which Ariel* gives of the nature, office, and employment, of these inhabitants of air, is finely fancied; into which several strokes of satire are thrown with great delicacy and address.
Think what an equipage thou hast in air,
The transformation of women of different tempers into different kinds of spirits, cannot be too much applauded.
+ The sprites of fiery Termagants, in flame
* Cant. i. ver. 27. to ver. 11*.
f These images have been lately expressed in Latin, with much purity and elegance; and deserve to be here inserted.