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The Rape of the Lock: Canto 4

Alexander Pope 1688 (London) – 1744 (Twickenham)

But anxious cares the pensive nymph oppress'd,
  And secret passions labour'd in her breast.
  Not youthful kings in battle seiz'd alive,
  Not scornful virgins who their charms survive,
  Not ardent lovers robb'd of all their bliss,
  Not ancient ladies when refus'd a kiss,
  Not tyrants fierce that unrepenting die,
  Not Cynthia when her manteau's pinn'd awry,
  E'er felt such rage, resentment, and despair,
  As thou, sad virgin! for thy ravish'd hair.

  For, that sad moment, when the Sylphs withdrew,
  And Ariel weeping from Belinda flew,
  Umbriel, a dusky, melancholy sprite,
  As ever sullied the fair face of light,
  Down to the central earth, his proper scene,
  Repair'd to search the gloomy cave of Spleen.

  Swift on his sooty pinions flits the Gnome,
  And in a vapour reach'd the dismal dome.
  No cheerful breeze this sullen region knows,
  The dreaded East is all the wind that blows.
  Here, in a grotto, shelter'd close from air,
  And screen'd in shades from day's detested glare,
  She sighs for ever on her pensive bed,
  Pain at her side, and Megrim at her head.

  Two handmaids wait the throne: alike in place,
  But diff'ring far in figure and in face.
  Here stood Ill Nature like an ancient maid,
  Her wrinkled form in black and white array'd;
  With store of pray'rs, for mornings, nights, and noons,
  Her hand is fill'd; her bosom with lampoons.

  There Affectation, with a sickly mien,
  Shows in her cheek the roses of eighteen,
  Practis'd to lisp, and hang the head aside,
  Faints into airs, and languishes with pride,
  On the rich quilt sinks with becoming woe,
  Wrapp'd in a gown, for sickness, and for show.
  The fair ones feel such maladies as these,
  When each new night-dress gives a new disease.

  A constant vapour o'er the palace flies;
  Strange phantoms, rising as the mists arise;
  Dreadful, as hermit's dreams in haunted shades,
  Or bright, as visions of expiring maids.
  Now glaring fiends, and snakes on rolling spires,
  Pale spectres, gaping tombs, and purple fires:
  Now lakes of liquid gold, Elysian scenes,
  And crystal domes, and angels in machines.

  Unnumber'd throngs on ev'ry side are seen,
  Of bodies chang'd to various forms by Spleen.
  Here living teapots stand, one arm held out,
  One bent; the handle this, and that the spout:
  A pipkin there, like Homer's tripod walks;
  Here sighs a jar, and there a goose pie talks;
  Men prove with child, as pow'rful fancy works,
  And maids turn'd bottles, call aloud for corks.

  Safe pass'd the Gnome through this fantastic band,
  A branch of healing spleenwort in his hand.
  Then thus address'd the pow'r: "Hail, wayward Queen!
  Who rule the sex to fifty from fifteen:
  Parent of vapours and of female wit,
  Who give th' hysteric, or poetic fit,
  On various tempers act by various ways,
  Make some take physic, others scribble plays;
  Who cause the proud their visits to delay,
  And send the godly in a pet to pray.
  A nymph there is, that all thy pow'r disdains,
  And thousands more in equal mirth maintains.
  But oh! if e'er thy gnome could spoil a grace,
  Or raise a pimple on a beauteous face,
  Like citron waters matrons' cheeks inflame,
  Or change complexions at a losing game;
  If e'er with airy horns I planted heads,
  Or rumpled petticoats, or tumbled beds,
  Or caus'd suspicion when no soul was rude,
  Or discompos'd the head-dress of a prude,
  Or e'er to costive lap-dog gave disease,
  Which not the tears of brightest eyes could ease:
  Hear me, and touch Belinda with chagrin;
  That single act gives half the world the spleen."

  The goddess with a discontented air
  Seems to reject him, though she grants his pray'r.
  A wondrous bag with both her hands she binds,
  Like that where once Ulysses held the winds;
  There she collects the force of female lungs,
  Sighs, sobs, and passions, and the war of tongues.
  A vial next she fills with fainting fears,
  Soft sorrows, melting griefs, and flowing tears.
  The Gnome rejoicing bears her gifts away,
  Spreads his black wings, and slowly mounts to day.

  Sunk in Thalestris' arms the nymph he found,
  Her eyes dejected and her hair unbound.
  Full o'er their heads the swelling bag he rent,
  And all the Furies issu'd at the vent.
  Belinda burns with more than mortal ire,
  And fierce Thalestris fans the rising fire.
  "Oh wretched maid!" she spread her hands, and cried,
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:51 min read

Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope (1688-1744) is regarded as one of the greatest English poets, and the foremost poet of the early eighteenth century. He is best known for his satirical and discursive poetry, including The Rape of the Lock, The Dunciad, and An Essay on Criticism, as well as for his translation of Homer. more…

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