The Rape of the Lock: Canto 2

Original Text: 
Miscellany (Bernard Lintot, May 1712). Revised in Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock (March 2, 1714). Facs. edn.: Scolar Press, 1970. PR 3629.A1 1970 TRIN. Further revised in Alexander Pope, Works (London: W. Bowyer for Bernard Lintot, 1717). E-10 884 and E-10 885 and E-10 3947 and E-10 3938 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
1Not with more glories, in th' etherial plain,
2The sun first rises o'er the purpled main,
3Than, issuing forth, the rival of his beams
4Launch'd on the bosom of the silver Thames.
5Fair nymphs, and well-dress'd youths around her shone,
6But ev'ry eye was fix'd on her alone.
7On her white breast a sparkling cross she wore,
8Which Jews might kiss, and infidels adore.
9Her lively looks a sprightly mind disclose,
10Quick as her eyes, and as unfix'd as those:
11Favours to none, to all she smiles extends;
12Oft she rejects, but never once offends.
13Bright as the sun, her eyes the gazers strike,
14And, like the sun, they shine on all alike.
15Yet graceful ease, and sweetness void of pride,
16Might hide her faults, if belles had faults to hide:
17If to her share some female errors fall,
18Look on her face, and you'll forget 'em all.
19     This nymph, to the destruction of mankind,
20Nourish'd two locks, which graceful hung behind
21In equal curls, and well conspir'd to deck
22With shining ringlets the smooth iv'ry neck.
23Love in these labyrinths his slaves detains,
24And mighty hearts are held in slender chains.
25With hairy springes we the birds betray,
26Slight lines of hair surprise the finney prey,
27Fair tresses man's imperial race ensnare,
28And beauty draws us with a single hair.
29     Th' advent'rous baron the bright locks admir'd;
30He saw, he wish'd, and to the prize aspir'd.
31Resolv'd to win, he meditates the way,
32By force to ravish, or by fraud betray;
33For when success a lover's toil attends,
34Few ask, if fraud or force attain'd his ends.
35     For this, ere Phœbus rose, he had implor'd
36Propitious Heav'n, and ev'ry pow'r ador'd,
37But chiefly love--to love an altar built,
39There lay three garters, half a pair of gloves;
40And all the trophies of his former loves;
41With tender billet-doux he lights the pyre,
42And breathes three am'rous sighs to raise the fire.
43Then prostrate falls, and begs with ardent eyes
44Soon to obtain, and long possess the prize:
46The rest, the winds dispers'd in empty air.
48The sun-beams trembling on the floating tides,
49While melting music steals upon the sky,
50And soften'd sounds along the waters die.
51Smooth flow the waves, the zephyrs gently play,
52Belinda smil'd, and all the world was gay.
53All but the Sylph--with careful thoughts opprest,
54Th' impending woe sat heavy on his breast.
55He summons strait his denizens of air;
56The lucid squadrons round the sails repair:
57Soft o'er the shrouds aerial whispers breathe,
58That seem'd but zephyrs to the train beneath.
59Some to the sun their insect-wings unfold,
60Waft on the breeze, or sink in clouds of gold.
61Transparent forms, too fine for mortal sight,
62Their fluid bodies half dissolv'd in light,
63Loose to the wind their airy garments flew,
64Thin glitt'ring textures of the filmy dew;
65Dipp'd in the richest tincture of the skies,
66Where light disports in ever-mingling dyes,
67While ev'ry beam new transient colours flings,
68Colours that change whene'er they wave their wings.
69Amid the circle, on the gilded mast,
70Superior by the head, was Ariel plac'd;
71His purple pinions op'ning to the sun,
72He rais'd his azure wand, and thus begun.
74Fays, Fairies, Genii, Elves, and Dæmons, hear!
75Ye know the spheres and various tasks assign'd
76By laws eternal to th' aerial kind.
77Some in the fields of purest æther play,
78And bask and whiten in the blaze of day.
79Some guide the course of wand'ring orbs on high,
80Or roll the planets through the boundless sky.
81Some less refin'd, beneath the moon's pale light
82Pursue the stars that shoot athwart the night,
83Or suck the mists in grosser air below,
84Or dip their pinions in the painted bow,
85Or brew fierce tempests on the wintry main,
86Or o'er the glebe distil the kindly rain.
87Others on earth o'er human race preside,
88Watch all their ways, and all their actions guide:
89Of these the chief the care of nations own,
90And guard with arms divine the British throne.
91     "Our humbler province is to tend the fair,
92Not a less pleasing, though less glorious care.
93To save the powder from too rude a gale,
94Nor let th' imprison'd essences exhale,
95To draw fresh colours from the vernal flow'rs,
96To steal from rainbows e'er they drop in show'rs
98Assist their blushes, and inspire their airs;
100To change a flounce, or add a furbelow.
101     "This day, black omens threat the brightest fair
102That e'er deserv'd a watchful spirit's care;
103Some dire disaster, or by force, or slight,
104But what, or where, the fates have wrapt in night.
105Whether the nymph shall break Diana's law,
106Or some frail china jar receive a flaw;
107Or stain her honour, or her new brocade,
108Forget her pray'rs, or miss a masquerade;
109Or lose her heart, or necklace, at a ball;
110Or whether Heav'n has doom'd that Shock must fall.
111Haste, then, ye spirits! to your charge repair:
114And, Momentilla, let the watch be thine;
115Do thou, Crispissa, tend her fav'rite lock;
116Ariel himself shall be the guard of Shock.
117     "To fifty chosen Sylphs, of special note,
118We trust th' important charge, the petticoat:
119Oft have we known that sev'n-fold fence to fail,
120Though stiff with hoops, and arm'd with ribs of whale.
121Form a strong line about the silver bound,
122And guard the wide circumference around.
123     "Whatever spirit, careless of his charge,
124His post neglects, or leaves the fair at large,
125Shall feel sharp vengeance soon o'ertake his sins,
126Be stopp'd in vials, or transfix'd with pins;
127Or plung'd in lakes of bitter washes lie,
129Gums and pomatums shall his flight restrain,
130While clogg'd he beats his silken wings in vain;
131Or alum styptics with contracting pow'r
135In fumes of burning chocolate shall glow,
136And tremble at the sea that froths below!"
137     He spoke; the spirits from the sails descend;
139Some thrid the mazy ringlets of her hair,
140Some hang upon the pendants of her ear;
141With beating hearts the dire event they wait,
142Anxious, and trembling for the birth of fate.


38] vast French romances: folio translations of such novels as Madame de Scudéry's Le Grand Cyrus (1649-53). Cf. the dedicatory letter. Back to Line
45] The pow'rs ... in empty air: Virgil, Aeneid, XI, 794-95. Dryden translates this passage: "Apollo heard, and granting half his pray'r,/Shuffled in winds the rest, and toss'd in empty air." A common mishap in epic literature. Back to Line
47] floating tides: The Thames. In 1714 it was a tidal river up to Teddington. Back to Line
73] Sylphids. The female sylph in Gabalis is called a sylphide.
73-74: Ye Sylphs ... Dæmons, hear! Pope is parodying Paradise Lost, V, 601, Satan's address to his angels. Back to Line
97] wash: cf. Moral Essays II, 54. Back to Line
99] invention: the finding or discovery of a subject, idea, or method of treatment by the exercise of the intellect or the imagination. Back to Line
112] The sylphs' names are adapted to their function. For example, Zephyretta (from zephyr) guards the fan; Crispissa (from crispus, curly) guards the lock; Brillante guards the brilliant diamonds, and Momen tilla, the watch. Back to Line
113] drops: ear-rings. Back to Line
128] bodkin. Pope plays on various meanings of bodkin: (1) a blunt needle (I, 128); (2) a hair ornament (IV, 98, and V, 95); (3) a dagger (with a pun on [2], V, 55, and 88.) Back to Line
132] rivel'd: contracted into wrinkles. Back to Line
133] Ixion: the personage in Greek mythology punished in Hades by being tied to the side of a fiery wheel that turned endlessly. Back to Line
134] Mill: the beater used to stir the chocolate. Back to Line
138] orb in orb: like the angels in Paradise Lost, V, 596. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
Revised 1714, 1717
RPO poem Editors: 
D. F. Theall
RPO Edition: 
3RP 2.108.