The Augustan Poets -The Rape of the Lock (1-26 lines)
Poets Dryden and Pope belong to Augustan age which occurred during the 17th and first half of the 18th century. During this time number of poets and dramatists wrote with the imitation of classical writers. Consequently the Augustan poets are known as neoclassical poets too. Most of the time these Augustan poets wrote satires that satirizes politicians, public figures and also social foibles especially belong to upper class society. Furthermore this age is known as golden age for satires.
The Rape of the Lock (1-26 lines) (Alexander Pope)
What dire offence from amorous causes springs,
What mighty contests rise from trivial things,
I sing—this verse to Caryl, Muse! is due:
This, even 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 t' 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 thro' 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 knocked the ground,
And the pressed watch returned a silver sound.
Belinda still her downy pillow pressed,
Her guardian sylph prolonged the balmy rest:
'Twas he had summoned to her silent bed
The morning dream that hover'd o'er her head;
A youth more glittering than a birthnight beau,
(That even in slumber caused her cheek to glow)
Seemed to her ear his winning lips to lay,
And thus in whispers said, or seemed to say.
The Rape of the Lock is under the poetic genre of epic and it satirizes an actual trivial incident that occurred in the polite society (1711). According to the real incident twenty one years old Rober, Lord Petre cut a lock of hair from the head of beautiful Arabella Fermor, whom he had been courting. The poem Rape of the Lock which means snipping of a lock of hair deals with the above trivial incident that turned the members of the above two families into bitter enemies. John Caryll who was a friend of both families requested Alexander Pope to write a poem to satirize this incident.
Basically in the poem the poet questions why a lord of good breeding would assault a lady and secondly why a lady would reject a lord and also why the society misplaces the values and emphasizes the trivial matters? Accordingly trivial things often can become enormous if we take seriously. Therefore the poet emphasizes the failure of the society that puts too much gravity and seriousness on trivial things. In the first twenty six lines of the poem the poet discusses about a single day at the London residence of Belinda which means Arabella Fermor in the real incident. In his opening invocation, Pope has already identified “‘am’rous Causes”as the stimulant to the Baron’s ‘dire offence’ (RL, I; 1); but the poem goes on to suggest more complicated maneuverings between ‘mighty Contests’ and ‘trivial Things’ (RL, I; 2). Belinda is a little ‘Belle’, or fashionable beauty, celebrated in conventional language (‘those Eyes that must eclipse the Day’, RL 1;14),but Dozing her way through the morning, absolutely without responsibility or occupation. Her attempts at action are curious: we may take ‘Trice rung the Bell the Slipper knock’d the Ground,/ and the press ‘d Watch return’d a silver sound’ (RL, I;17-18) to indicate that she rings for her maid, knocks on the floor for attention, then checks the time, but her agency is nowhere specified and the objects appear to perform the actions themselves. Belinda is, in any case, put back to sleep again by her ‘Guardian Sylph’, Ariel,(the women who reject mankind and remained chaste/pure) who puts into her head (in a parody of epic and biblical dreams) and attractive male figure to warn her of some impending disaster (I: 27-114)
The poem goes under the epic theme of love and war. Apart from that the poet emphasizes the fuss that high society makes over trifling matters and also human vanity. The poem is an epic and under the genre of mock epic with a humorous and mock heroic tone. As a poetic convention there can be seen the invocation of muse and here the muse is John Caryll because the poet dedicates the poem to him. Furthermore Belinda’s dream provides a mythical structure with a supernatural force.