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Ir appears by the Motto, that the following Poem was written or published at the Lady's request. But there are fome further circumstances not unworthy relating. Mr. Caryl (a gentleman who was Secretary to Queen Mary, wife of James II. whose fortunes he followed into France, author of the Comedy of "Sir Solomon Single," and of several translations in Dryden's Mifcellanies) originally proposed 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 she took it so well as to give about copies of it. That first sketch (we learn from one of his Letters) was written in less than a fortnight, in 1711, in two Cantos only, and it was so printed; first, in a Miscellany of Bern. Lintot's, without the name of the Author. But it was received fo well, that he made it more confiderable the next year, bÿ the addition of the machinery of the Sylphs, and extended it to five Cantos. We fhall give the reader the pleasure of seeing in what manner these additions were inferted, fo as to feem not to be added, but to grow out of the Poem. See Canto I. ver. 19, &c.
This infertion he always esteemed, and justly, the greatest effort of his skill and art as a Poet,
MRS. ARABELLA FERMOR.
T will be in vain to deny that I have fome regard for this piece, fince I dedicate it to You. Yet you may bear me witness, it was intended only to divert a few young Ladies, who have good fenfe and good humour enough to laugh not only at their fex's little unguarded follies, but at their own. But as it was communicated with the air of a fecret, it foon found its way into the world. An imperfect copy having been offered to a Bookfeller, you had the good-nature for my fake to confent 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 fignify 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 never so trivial in itself, they always make appear of the utmost importance. These Machines I determined to raise on a very new and odd foundation, the Roficrufian 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 Roficrufians are a people I must bring you acquainted with, The beft account I know of them is in
a French book called Le Comte de Gabalis, which, both in its title and size, is fo 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 fay, any mortals may enjoy the moft intimate familiarities with these gentle Spirits, upon a condition very easy to all true Adepts, an inviolate prefervation of Chastity.
As to the following Cantos, all the paffages of them are as fabulous as the Vision at the beginning, or the Transformation at the end (except the lofs of your hair, which I always mention with reverence). The Human perfons are as fictitious as the Airy ones: and the character of Belinda, as it is now managed, refembles you in nothing but in Beauty.
If this Poem had as many Graces as there are in your Perfon, or in your Mind, yet I could never hope it fhould pass through the world half fo uncenfured as You have done. But let its fortune be what it will, mine is happy enough, to have given me this occafion of affuring you that I am, with the trueft esteem,
Your most obedient, humble fervant,
RAPE OF THE LOCK.
HAT dire offence from amorous causes springs,
I fing-this verfe to Caryl, Mufe! is due:
Say what ftrange motive, Goddefs! could compel
Sol through white curtains hot a timorous ray,
Ver. 11, 12. It was in the first editions,
Now lap-dogs give themselves the rouzing shake, 15 And fleepless lovers, juft at twelve, awake:
Thrice rung the bell, the flipper knock'd the ground,
Her guardian Sylph prolong'd the balmy rest
Of thousand bright Inhabitants of Air!
Of all the Nurfe and all the Priest have taught;
Of airy Elves by moonlight shadows seen,
The filver token, and the circled green,
Or virgins vifited 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.
Ver. 19. Belinda ftill, &c.] All the verfes from hence
to the end of this Canto were added afterwards.