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The Rape of the Lock and Other Poems by Alexander Pope

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An allusion to a story circulated, in an abusive pamphlet called 'A Pop
upon Pope', that the poet had been whipped for his satire and that he
had cried like a child.


Dull and scandalous poems printed under Pope's name, or attributed to
him by his enemies.

'351 the pictur'd shape':

Pope was especially hurt by the caricatures which exaggerated his
personal deformity.

'353 A friend in exile':

probably Bishop Atterbury, then in exile for his Jacobite opinions.


Another reference to Hervey who was suspected of poisoning the mind of
the King against Pope.

'361 Japhet':

Japhet Crooke, a notorious forger of the time. He died in prison in
1734, after having had his nose slit and ears cropped for his crimes;
see below, l. 365.

'363 Knight of the post':

a slang term for a professional witness ready to, swear to anything for
money. A knight of the shire, on the other hand, is the representative
of a county in the House of Commons.

'367 bit':

tricked, taken in, a piece of Queen Anne slang. The allusion is probably
to the way in which Lady Mary Wortley Montague allowed Pope to make love
to her and then laughed at him.

'369 friend to his distress':

in 1733, when old Dennis was in great poverty, a play was performed for
his benefit, for which Pope obligingly wrote a prologue.


Colley Gibber, actor and poet laureate. Pope speaks as if it were an act
of condescension for him to have drunk with Gibber.--'Moore': James
Moore Smythe (see note on l. 23), whom Pope used to meet at the house of
the Blounts. He wrote a comedy, 'The Rival Modes', in which he
introduced six lines that Pope had written. Pope apparently had given
him leave to do so, and then retracted his permission. But Moore used
them without the permission and an undignified quarrel arose as to the
true authorship of the passage.

'373 Welsted',

a hack writer of the day, had falsely charged Pope with being
responsible for the death of the lady who is celebrated in Pope's 'Elegy
to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady'.


There is an allusion here that has never been fully explained. Possibly
the passage refers to Teresa Blount whom Pope suspected of having
circulated slanderous reports concerning his relations with her sister.


Suffered Budgell to attribute to his (Pope's) pen the slanderous gossip
of the 'Grub Street Journal',--a paper to which Pope did, as a matter of
fact, contribute--and let him (Budgell) write anything he pleased except
his (Pope's) will. Budgell, a distant cousin of Addison's, fell into bad
habits after his friend's death. He was strongly suspected of having
forged a will by which Dr. Tindal of Oxford left him a considerable sum
of money. He finally drowned himself in the Thames.

'378 the two Curlls':

Curll, the bookseller, and Lord Hervey whom Pope here couples with him
because of Hervey's vulgar abuse of Pope's personal deformities and
obscure parentage.

'380 Yet why':

Why should they abuse Pope's inoffensive parents? Compare the following


Moore's own mother was suspected of loose conduct.

'386-388 Of gentle blood ... each parent':

Pope asserted, perhaps incorrectly, that his father belonged to a
gentleman's family, the head of which was the Earl of Downe. His mother
was the daughter of a Yorkshire gentleman, who lost two sons in the
service of Charles I (cf. l. 386).

'389 Bestia':

probably the elder Horace Walpole, who was in receipt of a handsome


An allusion to Addison's unhappy marriage with the Countess of Warwick.

'393 The good man':

Pope's father, who as a devout Roman Catholic refused to take the oath
of allegiance (cf. l. 395), or risk the equivocations sanctioned by the
"schoolmen," 'i.e'. the Catholic casuists of the day (l. 398).

'404 Friend':

Arbuthnot, to whom the epistle is addressed.


The first draft of these appeared in a letter to Aaron Hill, September
3, 1731, where Pope speaks of having sent them "the other day to a
particular friend," perhaps the poet Thomson. Mrs. Pope, who was very
old and feeble, was of course alive when they were first written, but
died more than a year before the passage appeared in its revised form in
this 'Epistle'.


An allusion to the promise contained in the fifth commandment.

'415 served a Queen':

Arbuthnot had been Queen Anne's doctor, but was driven out of his rooms
in the palace after her death.

'416 that blessing':

long life for Arbuthnot. It was, in fact, denied, for he died a month or
so after the appearance of the 'Epistle'.

* * * * *



Pope says that this delightful little poem was written at the early age
of twelve. It first appeared in a letter to his friend, Henry Cromwell,
dated July 17, 1709. There are several variations between this first
form and that in which it was finally published, and it is probable that
Pope thought enough of his boyish production to subject it to repeated
revision. Its spirit is characteristic of a side of Pope's nature that
is often forgotten. He was, indeed, the poet of the society of his day,
urban, cultured, and pleasure-loving; but to the end of his days he
retained a love for the quiet charm of country life which he had come to
feel in his boyhood at Binfield, and for which he early withdrew from
the whirl and dissipations of London to the groves and the grotto of his
villa at Twickenham.

* * * * *



In the fourth book of the 'Dunciad', Pope abandons the satire on the
pretenders to literary fame which had run through the earlier books, and
flies at higher game. He represents the Goddess Dullness as "coming in
her majesty to destroy Order and Science, and to substitute the Kingdom
of the Dull upon earth." He attacks the pedantry and formalism of
university education in his day, the dissipation and false taste of the
traveled gentry, the foolish pretensions to learning of collectors and
virtuosi, and the daringly irreverent speculations of freethinkers and
infidels. At the close of the book he represents the Goddess as
dismissing her worshipers with a speech which she concludes with "a yawn
of extraordinary virtue." Under its influence "all nature nods," and
pulpits, colleges, and Parliament succumb. The poem closes with the
magnificent description of the descent of Dullness and her final
conquest of art, philosophy, and religion. It is said that Pope himself
admired these lines so much that he could not repeat them without his
voice faltering with emotion. "And well it might, sir," said Dr. Johnson
when this anecdote was repeated to him, "for they are noble lines." And
Thackeray in his lecture on Pope in 'The English Humorists' says:

"In these astonishing lines Pope reaches, I think, to the very
greatest height which his sublime art has attained, and shows himself
the equal of all poets of all times. It is the brightest ardor, the
loftiest assertion of truth, the most generous wisdom, illustrated by
the noblest poetic figure, and spoken in words the aptest, grandest,
and most harmonious."

* * * * *


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.

* * * * *



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




What dire offence from am'rous causes springs,
What mighty quarrels rise from trivial things,
I sing--This verse to C--l, Muse! is due:
This, ev'n 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 unexplored,
Could make a gentle belle reject a lord? 10
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, 15
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: 20
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, 25
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. 30
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, 35
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. 40
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; 45
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. 50

For this, ere Phoebus 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 55
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.
With tender billets-doux he lights the pire,
And breathes three am'rous sighs to raise the fire. 60
Then prostrate falls, and begs with ardent eyes
Soon to obtain, and long possess the prize:
The pow'rs gave ear, and granted half his pray'r,
The rest the winds dispersed in empty air.

Close by those meads, for ever crowned with flow'rs, 65
Where Thames with pride surveys his rising tow'rs,
There stands a structure of majestic frame,
Which from the neighb'ring Hampton takes its name.
Here Britain's statesmen oft the fall foredoom
Of foreign tyrants, and of nymphs at home; 70
Here thou, great Anna! whom three realms obey,
Dost sometimes counsel take--and sometimes tea.

Hither our nymphs and heroes did resort,
To taste awhile the pleasures of a court;
In various talk the cheerful hours they passed, 75
Of who was bit, or who capotted last;
This speaks the glory of the British queen,
And that describes a charming Indian screen;
A third interprets motions, looks, and eyes;
At ev'ry word a reputation dies. 80
Snuff, or the fan, supply each pause of chat,
With singing, laughing, ogling, and all that.

Now when, declining from the noon of day,
The sun obliquely shoots his burning ray;
When hungry judges soon the sentence sign, 85
And wretches hang that jurymen may dine;
When merchants from th' Exchange return in peace,
And the long labours of the toilet cease,
The board's with cups and spoons, alternate, crowned,
The berries crackle, and the mill turns round; 90
On shining altars of Japan they raise
The silver lamp, and fiery spirits blaze:
From silver spouts the grateful liquors glide,
While China's earth receives the smoking tide.
At once they gratify their smell and taste, 95
While frequent cups prolong the rich repast.
Coffee (which makes the politician wise,
And see through all things with his half-shut eyes)
Sent up in vapours to the baron's brain
New stratagems, the radiant lock to gain. 100
Ah cease, rash youth! desist ere't is too late,
Fear the just gods, and think of Scylla's fate!
Changed to a bird, and sent to flit in air,
She dearly pays for Nisus' injured hair!

But when to mischief mortals bend their mind, 105
How soon fit instruments of ill they find!
Just then, Clarissa drew with tempting grace
A two-edged weapon from her shining case:
So ladies, in romance, assist their knight,
Present the spear, and arm him for the fight; 110
He takes the gift with rev'rence, and extends
The little engine on his fingers' ends;
This just behind Belinda's neck he spread,
As o'er the fragrant steams she bends her head.
He first expands the glitt'ring forfex wide 115
T' enclose the lock; then joins it, to divide;
One fatal stroke the sacred hair does sever
From the fair head, for ever, and for ever!

The living fires come flashing from her eyes,
And screams of horror rend th' affrighted skies. 120
Not louder shrieks by dames to heav'n are cast,
When husbands die, or lapdogs breathe their last;
Or when rich china vessels, fall'n from high,
In glitt'ring dust and painted fragments lie!

"Let wreaths of triumph now my temples twine," 125
The victor cried, "the glorious prize is mine!
While fish in streams, or birds delight in air,
Or in a coach and six the British fair,
As long as Atalantis shall be read,
Or the small pillow grace a lady's bed, 130
While visits shall be paid on solemn days,
When num'rous wax-lights in bright order blaze,
While nymphs take treats, or assignations give,
So long my honour, name, and praise shall live!"

What time would spare, from steel receives its date, 135
And monuments, like men, submit to fate!
Steel did the labour of the gods destroy,
And strike to dust th' aspiring tow'rs of Troy;
Steel could the works of mortal pride confound,
And hew triumphal arches to the ground. 140
What wonder then, fair nymph! thy hairs should feel
The conqu'ring force of unresisted steel?


But anxious cares the pensive nymph oppressed,
And secret passions laboured in her breast.
Not youthful kings in battle seized alive,
Not scornful virgins who their charms survive,
Not ardent lover robbed of all his bliss, 5
Not ancient lady when refused a kiss,
Not tyrants fierce that unrepenting die,
Not Cynthia when her manteau's pinned awry,
E'er felt such rage, resentment, and despair,
As thou, sad virgin! for thy ravished hair. 10

While her racked soul repose and peace requires,
The fierce Thalestris fans the rising fires.
"O wretched maid!" she spread her hands, and cried,
(And Hampton's echoes, "Wretched maid!" replied)
"Was it for this you took such constant care 15
Combs, bodkins, leads, pomatums to prepare?
For this your locks in paper durance bound?
For this with tort'ring irons wreathed around?
Oh had the youth been but content to seize
Hairs less in sight, or any hairs but these! 20
Gods! shall the ravisher display this hair,
While the fops envy, and the ladies stare!
Honour forbid! at whose unrivalled shrine
Ease, pleasure, virtue, all, our sex resign.
Methinks already I your tears survey, 25
Already hear the horrid things they say,
Already see you a degraded toast,
And all your honour in a whisper lost!
How shall I, then, your helpless fame defend?
'T will then be infamy to seem your friend! 30
And shall this prize, th' inestimable prize,
Exposed through crystal to the gazing eyes,
And heightened by the diamond's circling rays,
On that rapacious hand for ever blaze?
Sooner shall grass in Hyde Park Circus grow, 35
And wits take lodgings in the sound of Bow;
Sooner let earth, air, sea, to chaos fall,
Men, monkeys, lapdogs, parrots, perish all!"

She said; then raging to Sir Plume repairs,
And bids her beau demand the precious hairs: 40
Sir Plume, of amber snuff-box justly vain,
And the nice conduct of a clouded cane,
With earnest eyes, and round unthinking face,
He first the snuff-box opened, then the case,
And thus broke out--"My lord, why, what the devil! 45
Zounds! damn the lock! 'fore Gad, you must be civil!
Plague on't! 't is past a jest--nay, prithee, pox!
Give her the hair."--He spoke, and rapped his box.

"It grieves me much," replied the peer again,
"Who speaks so well should ever speak in vain: 50
But by this lock, this sacred lock, I swear,
(Which never more shall join its parted hair;
Which never more its honours shall renew,
Clipped from the lovely head where once it grew)
That, while my nostrils draw the vital air, 55
This hand, which won it, shall for ever wear."
He spoke, and speaking, in proud triumph spread
The long-contended honours of her head.

But see! the nymph in sorrow's pomp appears,
Her eyes half-languishing, half drowned in tears; 60
Now livid pale her cheeks, now glowing red
On her heaved bosom hung her drooping head,
Which with a sigh she raised, and thus she said:
"For ever cursed be this detested day,
Which snatched my best, my fav'rite curl away; 65
Happy! ah ten times happy had I been,
If Hampton Court these eyes had never seen!
Yet am not I the first mistaken maid,
By love of courts to num'rous ills betrayed.
O had I rather unadmired remained 70
In some lone isle, or distant northern land,
Where the gilt chariot never marked the way,
Where none learn ombre, none e'er taste bohea!
There kept my charms concealed from mortal eye,
Like roses, that in deserts bloom and die. 75
What moved my mind with youthful lords to roam?
O had I stayed, and said my pray'rs at home!
'Twas this the morning omens did foretell,
Thrice from my trembling hand the patchbox fell;
The tott'ring china shook without a wind, 80
Nay, Poll sat mute, and Shock was most unkind!
See the poor remnants of this slighted hair!
My hands shall rend what ev'n thy own did spare:
This in two sable ringlets taught to break,
Once gave new beauties to the snowy neck; 85
The sister-lock now sits uncouth, alone,
And in its fellow's fate foresees its own;
Uncurled it hangs, the fatal shears demands,
And tempts once more thy sacrilegious hands."

She said: the pitying audience melt in tears; 90
But fate and Jove had stopped the baron's ears.
In vain Thalestris with reproach assails,
For who can move when fair Belinda fails?
Not half so fixed the Trojan could remain,
While Anna begged and Dido raged in vain. 95
"To arms, to arms!" the bold Thalestris cries,
And swift as lightning to the combat flies.
All side in parties, and begin th' attack;
Fans clap, silks rustle, and tough whalebones crack;
Heroes' and heroines' shouts confus'dly rise, 100
And bass and treble voices strike the skies;
No common weapons in their hands are found,
Like gods they fight, nor dread a mortal wound.

So when bold Homer makes the gods engage,
And heav'nly breasts with human passions rage, 105
'Gainst Pallas, Mars; Latona, Hermes arms,
And all Olympus rings with loud alarms;
Jove's thunder roars, heav'n trembles all around,
Blue Neptune storms, the bellowing deeps resound:
Earth shakes her nodding tow'rs, the ground gives way, 110
And the pale ghosts start at the flash of day!

While through the press enraged Thalestris flies,
And scatters death around from both her eyes,
A beau and witling perished in the throng,
One died in metaphor, and one in song. 115
"O cruel nymph; a living death I bear,"
Cried Dapperwit, and sunk beside his chair.
A mournful glance Sir Fopling upwards cast,
"Those eyes are made so killing"--was his last.
Thus on MŠander's flow'ry margin lies 120
Th' expiring swan, and as he sings he dies.

As bold Sir Plume had drawn Clarissa down,
Chloe stepped in, and killed him with a frown;
She smiled to see the doughty hero slain,
But at her smile the beau revived again. 125

Now Jove suspends his golden scales in air,
Weighs the men's wits against the lady's hair;
The doubtful beam long nods from side to side;
At length the wits mount up, the hairs subside.

See fierce Belinda on the baron flies, 130
With more than usual lightning in her eyes:
Nor feared the chief th' unequal fight to try,
Who sought no more than on his foe to die.
But this bold lord, with manly strength endued,
She with one finger and a thumb subdued: 135
Just where the breath of life his nostrils drew,
A charge of snuff the wily virgin threw;
Sudden, with starting tears each eye o'erflows,
And the high dome re-echoes to his nose.

"Now meet thy fate," th' incensed virago cried, 140
And drew a deadly bodkin from her side.

"Boast not my fall," he said, "insulting foe!
Thou by some other shalt be laid as low;
Nor think to die dejects my lofty mind;
All that I dread is leaving you behind! 145
Rather than so, ah let me still survive,
And still burn on, in Cupid's flames, alive."

"Restore the lock!" she cries; and all around
"Restore the lock!" the vaulted roofs rebound.
Not fierce Othello in so loud a strain 150
Roared for the handkerchief that caused his pain.
But see how oft ambitious aims are crossed,
And chiefs contend till all the prize is lost!
The lock, obtained with guilt, and kept with pain,
In ev'ry place is sought, but sought in vain: 155
With such a prize no mortal must be blessed,
So heav'n decrees! with heav'n who can contest?
Some thought it mounted to the lunar sphere,
Since all that man e'er lost is treasured there.
There heroes' wits are kept in pond'rous vases, 160
And beaux' in snuff-boxes and tweezer-cases.
There broken vows, and death-bed alms are found,
And lovers' hearts with ends of ribbon bound,
The courtier's promises, and sick man's pray'rs,
The smiles of harlots, and the tears of heirs, 165
Cages for gnats, and chains to yoke a flea,
Dried butterflies, and tomes of casuistry.

But trust the muse--she saw it upward rise,
Though marked by none but quick poetic eyes:
(Thus Rome's great founder to the heav'ns withdrew, 170
To Proculus alone confessed in view)
A sudden star, it shot through liquid air,
And drew behind a radiant trail of hair.
Not Berenice's locks first rose so bright,
The skies bespangling with dishevelled light. 175
This the beau monde shall from the Mall survey, }
As through the moonlight shade they nightly stray, }
And hail with music its propitious ray; }
This Partridge soon shall view in cloudless skies,
When next he looks through Galileo's eyes; 180
And hence th' egregious wizard shall foredoom
The fate of Louis, and the fall of Rome.

Then cease, bright nymph! to mourn thy ravished hair,
Which adds new glory to the shining sphere!
Not all the tresses that fair head can boast, 185
Shall draw such envy as the lock you lost.
For after all the murders of your eye,
When, after millions slain, yourself shall die;
When those fair suns shall set, as set they must,
And all those tresses shall be laid in dust, 190
This lock the muse shall consecrate to fame,
And 'midst the stars inscribe Belinda's name.

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