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EPITAPH ON GAY

John Gay, the idlest, best-natured, and best-loved man of letters of his day, was the special friend of Pope. His early work, The Shepherd's Week, was planned as a parody on the Pastorals of Pope's rival, Ambrose Philips, and Pope assisted him in the composition of his luckless farce, Three Hours after Marriage. When Gay's opera Polly was forbidden by the licenser, and Gay's patrons, the Duke and Duchess of Queensberry, were driven from court for soliciting subscriptions for him, Pope warmly espoused his cause. Gay died in 1732 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Pope's epitaph for his tomb was first published in the quarto edition of Pope's works in 1735. Johnson, in his discussion of Pope's epitaphs (Lives of the Poets), devotes a couple of pages of somewhat captious criticism to these lines; but they have at least the virtue of simplicity and sincerity, and are at once an admirable portrait of the man and a lasting tribute to the poet Gay.

APPENDIX

THE RAPE OF THE LOCK

Nolueram, Belinda, tuos violare capillos
Sed juvat, hoc precibus me tribuisse tuis. — MART.

FIRST EDITION

THE RAPE OF THE LOCK

CANTO I

5

IO

What dire offence from am'rous causes springs,
What mighty quarrels rise from trivial things,
I sing — This verse to C—1, 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 † assault a gentle belle ?
O say what stranger cause, yet unexplored,
Could make a gentle belle reject a lord ?
And dwells such rage in softest bosoms then,
And lodge such daring souls in little men?

Sol through white curtains did his beams display,
And ope'd those eyes which brighter shine than they,
Shock just had giv'n himself the rousing shake,
And nymphs prepared their chocolate to take;
Thrice the wrought slipper knocked against the ground,
And striking watches the tenth hour resound.
Belinda rose, and midst attending dames,
Launched on the bosom of the silver Thames:
A train of well-dressed youths around her shone,
And ev'ry eye was fixed 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,

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Quick as her eyes, and as unfixed 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 some female errors fall,
Look on her face, and you'll forgive 'em all.

This nymph, to the destruction of mankind,
Nourished two locks, which graceful hung behind
In equal curls, and well conspired to deck
With shining ringlets her smooth iv'ry 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 insnare,
And beauty draws us with a single hair.

Th’adventurous baron the bright locks admired;
He saw, he wished, and to the prize aspired.
Resolved to win, he meditates the way,
By force to ravish, or by fraud betray;
For when success a lover's toil attends,
Few ask if fraud or force attained his ends.

For this, ere Phæbus rose, he had implored
Propitious heav'n, and every pow'r adored,
But chiefly Love — to Love an altar built,
Of twelve vast French romances, neatly gilt.
There lay the sword-knot Sylvia's hands had sewn
With Flavia's busk that oft had wrapped his own:
A fan, a garter, half a pair of gloves,
And all the trophies of his former loves.

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