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The muse, whose early voice you taught to sing,
Prescrib'd her heights, and prun'd her tender wing,
(Her guide now lost,) no more attempts to rise,
But in low numbers short excursions tries;
Content, if hence th’unlearn'd their wants may view,
The learn'd reflect on what before they knew : 740
Careless of censure, nor too fond of fame;
Still pleas'd to praise, yet not afraid to blame:
Averse alike to flatter or offend;
No: free from faults, nor yet too vain to mend.
TO MRS. ARABELLA FERMOR. MADAM, It 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 unguard. ed follies, but at their own. But as it was commu. nicated 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 demons, are made to act in a poem: for the ancient рое are, in one respect, like many modern ladies : let an action be never so trivial in itself thev always
make it appear of the utmost importance. These machines I determined to raise on a very new and odd foundation, the Rosicrucian 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 Rosicrucians 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 mis. take. According to these gentlemen, the four ele. ments are inhabited by spirits, which they call Sylphs, Gnomes, Nymphs, and Salamanders. The Gnomes, or demons 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 assuring you that I am, with the truest esteem,
Your most obedient humble servant,
THE RAPE OF THE LOCK.
Nolueram, Belinda, tuos violare capillos;
Sed juvat, hoc precibus me tribuisse tuis. MART.
What dire offence from amorous 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,
If she inspire, and he approve my lays.
Say what strange motive, goddess ! could compel
A well-bred lord to assault a gentle belle ?
O say what stranger cause, yet unexplored,
Could make a gentle belle reject a lord ?
In tasks so bold, can little men engage ?
And in soft bosoms dwells such mighty rage ?
Sol through white curtains shot a timorous ray
And oped those eyes that must eclipse the day:
Now lap-dogs give themselves the rousing shake,
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.
Belinda still her downy pillow press'd,
Her guardian Sylph prolong'd the balmy rest :
'Twas he had summon'd to her silent bed
The morning dream that hover'd o'er her head.
A youth more glittering than a birth-night beau
(That e'en in slumber caused her cheek to glow)
Seern'd to her ear his winning lips to lay,
And thus in whispers said, or secm'd to say:
*Fairest of mortals, thou distinguish'd care
Of thousand bright inhabitants of air !
Ife'er one vision touch'd thy infant thought,
Of all the nurse and all the priest have taught :
Of airy elves by moonlight shadows seen,
The silver token, and the circled green,
Or virgins visited 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.
Some secret truths, from learned pride conceal'd,
To maids alone and children are reveal'd.
What, though no credit doubting wits may give,
The fair and innocent shall still believe.
Know then, unnumber'd spirits round thee fly,
The light militia of the lower sky:
These, though unseen, are ever on the wing,
Hang o'er the box, and hover round the ring
Think what an equipage thou hast in air,
And view with scorn two pages and a chair
As now your own, our beings were of old,
And once enclosed in woman's beauteous mould;
Thence, by a soft transition we repair,
From earthly vehicles to those of air.
Think not, when woman's transient breath is fled,
That all her vanities at once are dead :
Succeeding vanities she still regards,
And though she plays no more, o'erlooks the cards
Her joy in gilded chariots, when alive,
And love of onbre, after death survive.
For when the fair in all their pride expire,
To their first elements their souls retire:
The sprites of fiery termagants in flame
Mount up, and take a Salamander's name.
Soft yielding minds to water glide away,
And sip, with nymphs, their elemental tea.
The graver prude sinks downward to a Gnome,
in search of mischief sull on earth to roam.
The light coquettes in Sylphs aloft repair,
.Ind sport and flutter in the fields of air.
Know farther yet; whoever, fair and chaste,
Rejects mankind, is by some Sylph embraced :
For spirits, freed from mortal laws, with ease
Assume what sexes and what shapes they please
What guards the purity of melting maids,
In courtly balls, and midnight masquerades,
Safe from the treacherous friend, the daring spark,
The glance by day, the whisper in the dark,
When kind occasion prompts their warm desires,
When music softens, and when dancing fires ?
"Tis but their Sylph, the wise celestials know,
Though honour is the word with men below.
"Some nymphs there are, too conscious of their
For life predestined to the Gnomes' embrace,
These swell their prospects, and exalt their pride,
When offers are disdain'd, and love denied :
Then gay ideas crowd the vacant brain,
While peers, and dukes, and all their sweeping train,
And garters, stars, and coronets appear,
And in soft sounds, your grace' salutes their ear.
'Tis these that early taint the female soul,
Instruct the eyes of young coquettes to roll,
Teach infant cheeks a hidden blush to know,
And little hearts to flutter at a beau.
'Oft when the world imagine women stray,
The Sylphs through mystic mazes guide their way,
Through all the giddy circle they pursue,
And old impertinence expel by now;
What tender maid but must a victim fall
To one man's treat, but for another's ball ?
When Florio speaks, what virgin could withstand,
If gentle Damon did not squeeze her hand ?
With varying vanities, from every part,
They shift the moving toy-shop of their heart;
Where wigs with wigs, with sword-knots sword-knots
Beaux banish beaux, and coaches coaches drive.
This erring mortals levity may call;
Oh, blind to truth! the Sylphs contrive it all.
"Of these am I, who thy protection claim, A watchful sprite, and Ariel is my name.