The Rape of the Lock: Canto 3

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).
1Close by those meads, for ever crown'd with flow'rs,
2Where Thames with pride surveys his rising tow'rs,
4Which from the neighb'ring Hampton takes its name.
5Here Britain's statesmen oft the fall foredoom
6Of foreign tyrants and of nymphs at home;
7Here thou, great Anna! whom three realms obey,
8Dost sometimes counsel take--and sometimes tea.
9     Hither the heroes and the nymphs resort,
10To taste awhile the pleasures of a court;
11In various talk th' instructive hours they pass'd,
12Who gave the ball, or paid the visit last;
13One speaks the glory of the British queen,
14And one describes a charming Indian screen;
15A third interprets motions, looks, and eyes;
16At ev'ry word a reputation dies.
17Snuff, or the fan, supply each pause of chat,
18With singing, laughing, ogling, and all that.
19     Meanwhile, declining from the noon of day,
20The sun obliquely shoots his burning ray;
21The hungry judges soon the sentence sign,
22And wretches hang that jury-men may dine;
23The merchant from th' Exchange returns in peace,
24And the long labours of the toilet cease.
25Belinda now, whom thirst of fame invites,
26Burns to encounter two adventrous knights,
28And swells her breast with conquests yet to come.
29Straight the three bands prepare in arms to join,
30Each band the number of the sacred nine.
31Soon as she spreads her hand, th' aerial guard
32Descend, and sit on each important card:
33First Ariel perch'd upon a Matadore,
34Then each, according to the rank they bore;
35For Sylphs, yet mindful of their ancient race,
36Are, as when women, wondrous fond of place.
38With hoary whiskers and a forky beard;
39And four fair Queens whose hands sustain a flow'r,
40Th' expressive emblem of their softer pow'r;
41Four Knaves in garbs succinct, a trusty band,
42Caps on their heads, and halberds in their hand;
43And parti-colour'd troops, a shining train,
44Draw forth to combat on the velvet plain.
45     The skilful nymph reviews her force with care:
47     Now move to war her sable Matadores,
48In show like leaders of the swarthy Moors.
49Spadillio first, unconquerable lord!
50Led off two captive trumps, and swept the board.
51As many more Manillio forc'd to yield,
52And march'd a victor from the verdant field.
53Him Basto follow'd, but his fate more hard
54Gain'd but one trump and one plebeian card.
55With his broad sabre next, a chief in years,
56The hoary Majesty of Spades appears;
57Puts forth one manly leg, to sight reveal'd;
58The rest, his many-colour'd robe conceal'd.
59The rebel Knave, who dares his prince engage,
60Proves the just victim of his royal rage.
62And mow'd down armies in the fights of loo,
63Sad chance of war! now destitute of aid,
64Falls undistinguish'd by the victor Spade!
65     Thus far both armies to Belinda yield;
66Now to the baron fate inclines the field.
67His warlike Amazon her host invades,
68Th' imperial consort of the crown of Spades.
69The Club's black tyrant first her victim died,
70Spite of his haughty mien, and barb'rous pride:
71What boots the regal circle on his head,
72His giant limbs, in state unwieldy spread;
73That long behind he trails his pompous robe,
74And of all monarchs, only grasps the globe?
75     The baron now his diamonds pours apace;
76Th' embroider'd King who shows but half his face,
77And his refulgent Queen, with pow'rs combin'd
78Of broken troops an easy conquest find.
79Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, in wild disorder seen,
80With throngs promiscuous strow the level green.
81Thus when dispers'd a routed army runs,
82Of Asia's troops, and Afric's sable sons,
83With like confusion diff'rent nations fly,
84Of various habit, and of various dye,
85The pierc'd battalions disunited fall.
86In heaps on heaps; one fate o'erwhelms them all.
87     The Knave of Diamonds tries his wily arts,
88And wins (oh shameful chance!) the Queen of Hearts.
89At this, the blood the virgin's cheek forsook,
90A livid paleness spreads o'er all her look;
91She sees, and trembles at th' approaching ill,
92Just in the jaws of ruin, and codille.
93And now (as oft in some distemper'd state)
94On one nice trick depends the gen'ral fate.
95An Ace of Hearts steps forth: The King unseen
96Lurk'd in her hand, and mourn'd his captive Queen:
97He springs to vengeance with an eager pace,
98And falls like thunder on the prostrate Ace.
99The nymph exulting fills with shouts the sky;
101     Oh thoughtless mortals! ever blind to fate,
102Too soon dejected, and too soon elate!
103Sudden, these honours shall be snatch'd away,
104And curs'd for ever this victorious day.
105     For lo! the board with cups and spoons is crown'd,
108The silver lamp; the fiery spirits blaze.
109From silver spouts the grateful liquors glide,
111At once they gratify their scent and taste,
112And frequent cups prolong the rich repast.
113Straight hover round the fair her airy band;
114Some, as she sipp'd, the fuming liquor fann'd,
115Some o'er her lap their careful plumes display'd,
116Trembling, and conscious of the rich brocade.
117Coffee, (which makes the politician wise,
118And see through all things with his half-shut eyes)
119Sent up in vapours to the baron's brain
120New stratagems, the radiant lock to gain.
121Ah cease, rash youth! desist ere 'tis too late,
123Chang'd to a bird, and sent to flit in air,
124She dearly pays for Nisus' injur'd hair!
125     But when to mischief mortals bend their will,
126How soon they find fit instruments of ill!
127Just then, Clarissa drew with tempting grace
128A two-edg'd weapon from her shining case;
129So ladies in romance assist their knight
130Present the spear, and arm him for the fight.
131He takes the gift with rev'rence, and extends
132The little engine on his fingers' ends;
133This just behind Belinda's neck he spread,
134As o'er the fragrant steams she bends her head.
135Swift to the lock a thousand sprites repair,
136A thousand wings, by turns, blow back the hair,
137And thrice they twitch'd the diamond in her ear,
138Thrice she look'd back, and thrice the foe drew near.
139Just in that instant, anxious Ariel sought
140The close recesses of the virgin's thought;
141As on the nosegay in her breast reclin'd,
142He watch'd th' ideas rising in her mind,
143Sudden he view'd, in spite of all her art,
144An earthly lover lurking at her heart.
145Amaz'd, confus'd, he found his pow'r expir'd,
146Resign'd to fate, and with a sigh retir'd.
148T' inclose the lock; now joins it, to divide.
149Ev'n then, before the fatal engine clos'd,
150A wretched Sylph too fondly interpos'd;
151Fate urg'd the shears, and cut the Sylph in twain,
153The meeting points the sacred hair dissever
154From the fair head, for ever, and for ever!
155     Then flash'd the living lightning from her eyes,
156And screams of horror rend th' affrighted skies.
157Not louder shrieks to pitying Heav'n are cast,
158When husbands or when lap-dogs breathe their last,
159Or when rich China vessels, fall'n from high,
160In glitt'ring dust and painted fragments lie!
161     "Let wreaths of triumph now my temples twine,"
162The victor cried, "the glorious prize is mine!
163While fish in streams, or birds delight in air,
164Or in a coach and six the British fair,
166Or the small pillow grace a lady's bed,
167While visits shall be paid on solemn days,
168When num'rous wax-lights in bright order blaze,
169While nymphs take treats, or assignations give,
170So long my honour, name, and praise shall live!
171What time would spare, from steel receives its date,
172And monuments, like men, submit to fate!
173Steel could the labour of the gods destroy,
174And strike to dust th' imperial tow'rs of Troy;
175Steel could the works of mortal pride confound,
176And hew triumphal arches to the ground.
177What wonder then, fair nymph! thy hairs should feel
178The conqu'ring force of unresisted steel?"


3] structure: Hampton Court, one of the palaces of Queen Anne. Back to Line
27] Ombre: a game of cards derived from Spain and very popular in Queen Anne's time. For a full description, see Poems of Alexander Pope (G. Tillotson, ed.), 361-68. Belinda and her two opponents held nine cards each. The three highest were called matadores (Spanish matador, slayer). Belinda, being the "ombre" and therefore having the right to declare the trump, made it spades. In this case the three matadores were, in order of importance, the ace of spades (Spadillio), the deuce of spades (Manillio) and the ace of clubs (Basto). Belinda took the first four tricks by leading, successively, her three matadores and the king of spades. In the last of these she took the knave (jack) of spades and the knave of clubs, which in the game of Loo was called Pam and was higher than all trumps (the joker). The baron won the next four tricks with the queen of spades, and the king, queen, and knave of diamonds respectively. The scores of Belinda and the baron now being equal, the next play was crucial, for if either antagonist took more tricks than the "ombre," the same went to the challengers, and the "ombre" had to replace the pool for the next game (the technical term for the defeat being codille). When the heroine saw the baron's ace of hearts led, she was jubilant; her last card was the king of hearts, and (except when hearts were trumps) the king ranked above the ace. Back to Line
37] Pope is describing the face cards as they appeared in the eighteenth-century packs of playing cards. Back to Line
46] Let ... were: cf. Gen. 1:3, "And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light." Back to Line
61] Pam: knave of clubs; see note to line 27 ff. Back to Line
100] long canals: made by William III in imitation of Dutch landscape gardening. Back to Line
106] berries ... mill: coffee berries and coffee mill. The berries are roasted and then groumd. Back to Line
107] shining altars of Japan: Japanned (or lacquered) tables. "Altar" is used to suggest the sacrifice of epicfeasts. Back to Line
110] China's earth ... tide: the China cups. But also suggesting libations poured on the ground in epic feasts. Back to Line
122] ff. Scylla's Fate.... Nisus' hair. In Metamorphoses, VIII, 1 ff., Ovid tells the story of Scylla, daughter of Nisus, and her infatuation for Minos, King of Crete, who was besieging her father's city. Her father, Nisus, was safe so long as a purple hair among the white ones remained intact. Scylla, however, plucked the hair and gave it to his enemy, Minos. When Minos finally conquered, he had her drowned by dragging her through the sea suspended from his ship. At this time she was changed into a sea bird and pursued by her father in the shape of a sea eagle. Back to Line
147] forfex: Latin (and therefore an elevated heroic term) for scissors. Back to Line
152] "[Pope] See Milton [Paradise Lost, VI] of Satan cut asunder by the Angel, Michael." Back to Line
165] Atalantis. The New Atalantis (1709) by Mrs. Manley was a thinly disguised account of scandal in high life. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
Revised 1714, 1717
RPO poem Editors: 
D. F. Theall
RPO Edition: 
3RP 2.111.