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THE RAPE OF THE LOCK. 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 e'en 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 ? O say what stranger cause, yet unexplored, 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 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 summond to her silent bed
The morning dream that hover'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 !
Ife'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 conceal'd,
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 enclosed 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 fled,
That all her vanities at once are dead :
Succeeding vanities she still regards,
And though she plays no more, o'erlooks the cards
er 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 farther yet; whoever, fair and chaste,
Rejccts mankind, is by some Sylph embraced :
For spirits, freed from mortal laws, with ease
Assume what sexes and what shapes they pleasc
What guards the purity of melting maids,
In courtly balls, and ruidnight 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
For life predestined 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 hidden blush to know,
And little hearts to flutter at a beau.
‘Oft when the world imagine women stiay,
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 ?
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 toy-shop of their heart;
Where wigs with wigs, with sword-knots sword-knota
Beaux banish beaux, 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 ranged the crystal wilds of air,
In the clear mirror of thy ruling star,
I saw, alas! some dread event impend,
Ere to the main this morning sun descend;
But Heaven 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
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 ardour, 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 robed in white, the nymph intent adores, With head uncover'd, the cosmetic powers. A heavenly image in the glass appears, 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; 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 whito 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 every 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 gowns
And Betty's praised for labours not her own.
Not with morc 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'd Thames.
Fair nymphs and well-dress'd youths around her shone,
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 :
Favours 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,
Might hide her faults, if belles had faults to hide
If to her share soine 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
With shining ringlets the smooth ivory neck.
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 ensnarc,
And beauty draws us with a single hair.
The adventurous baron the bright locks admired
He saw, he wish'd, and to the prize aspired.