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RAPE of the LOCK.
a Nolueram, Belinda, tuos violare capillos; Sed juvat hoc precibus me tribuiffe tuis. MART.
CAN TO I.
HAT dire offence from am'rous caufes
What mighty contests rife from trivial things,
a It appears by this Motto, that the following Poem was written or published at the Lady's requeft. But there are some further circumstances not unworthy relating. Mr. Caryl (a Gentleman who was Secretary to Queen Mary, wife of James II. whofe fortunes he followed into France, Author of the Comedy of Sir Solomon Single, and of feveral translations in Dryden's Mifcellanies) originally propofed the subject to him in a view of putting an end, by this piece of ridicule, to a quarrel that was rifen between two noble Families, thofe of Lord Petre and of Mrs, Fermor, on the trifling occafion of his having cut off a lock of her hair. The Author fent it to the Lady, with whom he was acquainted; and fhe took it fo well as to give about copies of it. That first sketch, (we learn from one of his Letters) was written in lefs than a fortnight, in 1711. in two Canto's only, and it was fo printed; firft, in a Mifcellany of Bern.
Slight is the fubject, but not fo the praise,
Say what range motive, Goddefs! could compel
VER. II, 12. It was in the first Editions,
And dwells fuch rage in fofteft bofoms then,
Sol thro' white curtains did his beams difplay,
Lintot's, without the name of the Author. But it was received fo well, that he made it more confiderable the next year by the addition of the machinery of the Sylphs, and extended it to five Canto's. We fhall give the reader the pleasure or feeing in what manner thefe additions were inferted, fo as to feem not to be added, but to grow out of the Poem. See Notes, Cant I. 19, etc. P.
This infertion he always efteemed, and juftly, the greatest effort of his skill and art as a Poet.
Now lap-dogs give themselves the roufing shake, 15
Her guardian SYLPH prolong'd the balmy reft: 20
VER. 22. Belinda ftill, etc.] All the verfes from hence to the end of this Canto were added afterwards.
VER. 20. Her Guardian Sylph] When Mr. Pope had projected to give this Poem its prefent form, he was obliged to find it with its Machinery. For as the subject of the Epic Poem confifts of two parts, the metaphyfical and the civil, fo this mock epic, which is of the fatiric kind, and receives its grace from a ludicrous imitation of the other's pomp and folemnity, was to have the fame divifion of the fubject. And, as the civil part is intentionally debafed by the choice of an infignificant action: fo fhould the metaphyfical, by the ufe of fome very extravagant fyftem. A rule, which tho' neither Boileau nor Garth have been careful enough to attend to, our Author's good fenfe would not fuffer him to overlook. And that fort of Machinery which his judgment taught him was only fit for his ufe, his admirable invention fupplied. There was but one Syftem in all nature which was to his purpose, the Roficrufian Philofophy; and this, by the well directed effort of his imagination, he presently seized upon. The fanatic Alchemifts, in their fearch after the great fecret, had invented a means altogether proportioned to their end. It was a kind of Theological-Philofophy, made up of almost equal mixtures of Pagan Platonifm, Chriftian Quietifm, and the Jewish Cabbala; a compofition enough to fright Reafon from human commerce. This general fyftem, he tells us, he took
A Youth more glitt'ring than a Birth-night Beau,
The filver token, and the circled green,
Or virgins vifited by Angel-pow'rs,
With golden crowns and wreaths of heav'nly flow'rs;
as he found it in a little French tract called, Le Comte de Gabalis, This book is written in Dialogue, and is a delicate and very ingenious piece of raillery of the Abbe Villiers, upon that invifible fect, of which the stories that went about at that time, made a great deal of noise at Paris. But, as in this fatirical Dialogue, Mr. P. found several whimfies, of a very high mysterious kind, told of the nature of these elementary beings, which were very unfit to come into the machinery of such a fort of poem, he has with great judgment omitted them; and in their stead, made use of the Legendary stories of Guardian Angels, and the Nursery Tales of the Fairies; which he has artfully accommodated to the reft of the Roficrufian Syftem. And to this, (unless we will be fo uncharitable to believe he intended to give a needless scandal) we must suppose he referred, in these two lines,
If c'er one Vision touch'd thy infant thought, Of all the nurse, and all the priest have taught. Thus, by the most beautiful invention imaginable, he has contrived, that, as in the ferious Epic, the popular belief supports the Machinery; fo, in his mock Epic, the Machinery should be contrived to difmount philofophic pride and arrogance.
Hear and believe! thy own importance know, 35
And once inclos'd in Woman's beauteous mould;
Think not, when Woman's tranfient breath is fled,
That all her vanities at once are dead;
Succeeding vanities the ftill regards,
VER. 47. As now your own, etc.] He here forfakes the Roficrufian fyftem; which, in this part, is too extravagant even for Poetry; and gives a beautiful fiction of his own, on the Platonic Theology of the continuance of the paffions in another fate, when the mind, before its leaving this, has not been purged and purified by philofophy; which furnishes an occafion for much