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Belinda still her downy pillow prest,
Chapelle, who was one of the company, and who, as usual, had drank freely, stopt him, and objected strongly to the expression, silver sounds. Boileau disregarded his objections, and continued to read; but Chapelle again interrupting him, “You are drunk," said Boileau; “ I am not so much intoxicated with wine (replied Chapelle) as you are with your own verses.” It is a singular circumstance that Boileau was buried in the very spot on which the Lutrin stood.
Warton. “ Silver sound," is a combination often used by the early English Poets. Spenser uses it, Shakespear, Dryden, and our Author very frequently. Hence Shakespear's humourous dialogue in Romeo and Juliet ;
“ Peter. Why music with her silver sound ? —What say you, Simon Catling?
1 Mus. Marry, Sir; because silver hath a sweet sound. Peter. Pretty!—What say you, Hugh Rebeck ?2 Mus. I say, silver sound ; because Musicians sound for silver. Peter. Pretty too!— What say you, James Sound-post ? 3 Mus. Faith, I know not what to say.”
Bowles. Ver. 19. Belinda still, &c.] All the verses from hence to the end of this Canto were added afterwards.
Shock just had given himself the rousing shake,
Fairest of mortals, thou distinguish'd care
NOTES., Ver. 27. Fairest of mortals,] These machines were vastly superior to the allegorical personages of Boileau and Garth; not only on account of their novelty, but for the exquisite poetry, and oblique satire, which they have given the poet an opportunity to display. The business and petty concerns of a fine lady, receive an air of importance from the notion of their being perpetually overlooked and conducted by the interposition of celestial agents. The first time these beings were mentioned by any writer in our language was by Sir W. Temple, Essays, iv. p. 255. " I should (says he) as soon fall into the study of the Rosicrucian philosophy, and expect to meet a Nymph or a Sylph for a wife or a mistress.” They are also mentioned in a letter of Dryden to Mrs. Thomas, 1699; “Whether Sylph or Nymph I know not; those fine creatures, as your author, Count Gabalis, assures us, have a mind to be christened, and since you desire a name from me, take that of Corinna, if you please." Sylphs are mentioned, as invisible attendants, and as interested in the affairs of the ladies, in the 101st, 104th, and 195th, of Madame de Sevigné's celebrated Letters; as they are also in the second chapter of Le Sage's Diable Boiteux. M. de Sevigné says, remarkably enough, letter 90, “If we had a few Sylphs at our command now, one might furnish out a story to divert
What tho' no credit doubting Wits may give?
Ver. 47. As now your own, &c.] The Poet here forsakes the Rosicrucian system ; which, in this part, is too extravagant even for ludicrous Poetry; and gives a beautiful fiction of his own, on the Platonic Theology, of the continuance of the passions in another state, when the mind, before its leaving this, has not been well purged and purified by philosophy; which furnishes an occasion for much useful satire.
Prude sinks downward to a Gnome, In search of mischief still on earth to roam. The light Coquettes in Sylphs aloft repair, 65 And sport and flutter in the fields of Air.
Know further yet; whoever fair and chaste Rejects mankind, is by some Sylph embrac'd : For Spirits, freed from mortal laws, with ease Assume what sexes and what shapes they please. 70 What guards the purity of melting Maids, In courtly balls, and midnight masquerades, Safe from the treach'rous 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?
Ver. 67. Know further yet;] Marmontel has, on this idea, framed one of his most popular Tales. I must again and again repeat, that it is on account of the exquisite skill, and humour, and pleasantry of the use made of the machinery of the Sylphs, that this poem has excelled all the heroi-comic poems in all languages. The Ver-vert of Gresset, in point of delicate satire, is perhaps next to it, but far inferior for the want of such machinery. Warton.
Ver. 68. Is by some Sylph embrac'd :) Here again the Author resumes the Rosicrucian system. But this tenet, peculiar to that wild philosophy, was founded on a principle very unfit to be employed in such a sort of poem, and therefore suppressed, though a less judicious writer would have been tempted to expatiate upon it.
Ver. 54, 55.
“Quæ gratia currům Armorumque fuit vivis, quæ cura nitentes Pascere equos, cadem sequitur tellure repostos."
Virg. Æneid, vi.
'Tis but their Sylph, the wise Celestials know, Though Honour is the word with Men below. Some nymphs there are, too conscious of their
face, For life predestin'd to the Gnomes embrace. 80 These swell their prospects and exalt their pride, When offers are disdain'd, and love deny'd : Then
Ideas croud the vacant brain, While Peers, and Dukes, and all their sweeping
train, And Garters, Stars, and Coronets appear,
85 And in soft sounds, YOUR GRACE salutes their ear. 'Tis these that early taint the female soul, Instruct the
young Coquettes to roll, Teach Infant-cheeks a bidden blush to know, And little hearts to flutter at a Beau.
90 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 new. What tender maid but must a victim fall 95 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 ev'ry part, They shift the moving Toyshop of their heart; 100
Ver. 78. Though Honour is the word with Men below.] Parody of Homer.