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The graver prude sinks downward to a gnome,
In search of mischief still on earth to roam.
The light coquettes in sylphs aloft repair, 65
And sport and flutter in the fields of air.
• 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,
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 ? 76
'Tis but their sylph, the wise celestials know,
Though honor is the word with men below.
Some nymphs there are, too conscious of their
face, For life predestined to the gnomes' embrace. 80 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, 85 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.
90 Oft, when the world imagine women stray, The sylphs through mystic mazes guide their
Through all the giddy circle they pursue,
And old impertinençe 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 every part,
They shift the moving toyshop of their heart; 100
Where wigs with wigs, with sword-knots sword-
Beaux banish beaux, and coaches coaches drive.
This erring mortals levity may call :
O, 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 ranged the crystal wilds of air,
In the clear mirror of thy ruling star
alas! some dread event impend,
Ere to the main this morning sun descend, 110
But Heaven reveals not what, or how, or where :
Warn’d by the sylph, O 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, Leap'd up, and waked 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, 120
And now, unveil'd, the toilet stands display'd, Each silver vase in mystic order laid.
First, robed in white, the nymph intent adores,
With head uncover'd, the cosmetic powers.
A heavenly image in the glass appears, 125
To that she bends, to that her eyes she rears ;
The inferior priestess, at her altar's side,
Trembling begins the sacred rites of pride.
Unnumber'd treasures ope at once, and here
The various offerings of the world appear; 130
From each she nicely culls with curious toil,
And decks the goddess with the glittering 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, 140
Repairs her smiles, awakens every grace,
And calls forth all the wonders of her face;
trick was played by Parnell on Pope, originating in this highly-wrought passage. Warton tells us, that Parnell, privately turning it into monkish Latin verses, brought them to his friend, charging him with plagiarism : Pope must of course have protested in vain, until the trick was last laughingly acknowleged. Dryden had been similarly imposed on: a friend of his printed, and pasted on the bottom of an old batbox, a Latin version of the passage beginning with
To die is landing on some silent shore. Dryden, on opening the box, was 'alarmed and amazed.' Parnell's lines commence with
Et nunc dilectum speculum, pro more retectum,
Emicat in mensa, quæ splendet pyxide densa : and conclude with
Et tibi, vel, Betty, tibi vel, nitidissima Letty,
Gloria factorum temere conceditur horum.
Sees by degrees a purer blush arise,
And keener lightnings quicken in her eyes.
The busy sylphs surround their darling care, 145
These set the head, and those divide the hair,
Some fold the sleeve, whilst others plait the gown;
And Betty's praised for labors not her own.
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.
Fair nymphs and well-dress’d youths around her
But every eye was fix'd on her alone.
On her white breast a sparkling cross she wore,
Which Jews might kiss and infidels adore.
Her lively looks a sprightly mind disclose,
Quick as her eyes, and as unfix'd as those :
Favors to none, to all she smiles extends;
Oft she rejects, but never once offends.
Bright as the sun, her eyes the gazers strike;
And like the sun, they shine on all alike.
Yet graceful ease, and sweetness void of pride, 15
Might hide her faults, if belles had faults to hide :
If to her share some female errors fall,
Look on her face, and you ’ll forget them all.
This nymph, to the destruction of mankind, Nourish'd two locks, which graceful hung behind In equal curls, and well conspired to deck, 21 With shining ringlets, the smooth ivory neck. Love in these labyrinths his slaves detains, And mighty hearts are held in slender chains.