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RAPE OF THE LOCK,
Written in the year 1712.
TO MRS. ARABELLA FERMOR.
ÍT 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 critics, to signify that part which the deities, angels, or dæmons, are made to act in a poem: for the ancient poets are in one respect like many modern ladies, let an action be ever 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 dæmons 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 had 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 have done. But let its fortune be what it will, mine is happy enough, to have given me this occasion of assaring you that I am, with the truest esteem,
RAPE OF THE LOCK.
CANTO. I. WHAT dire offence from am'rous 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, 5 If she inspire, and he approve my lays.
Say, what strange motive, goddess! could compel A well-bred lord t' assault a gentle belle ? O say, what stranger cause, yet unexplor'd, Could make a gentle belle reject a lord ?
10 In tasks so bold can little men engage ? And in soft bosoms dwells such mighty rage?
Sol through white curtains shot a tim'rous ray, And op'd those eyes that must eclipse the day : Now lap-dogs give themselves the rousing shake, 15 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.