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elements are inhabited by spirits, which they call Sylphs, Gnomes, Nymphs, and Salamanders. The gnomes, or dæmons of earth, delight in mischief; but the sylphs, whose habitation is in the air, are the best-conditioned creatures imaginable : for they say, any mortal may enjoy the most intimate familiarities with these gentle spirits, upon a condition very easy to all true adepts, an inviolate preservation of chastity.
As to the following Cantos, all the passages of them
are as fabulous as the Vision at the beginning, or the Transformation at the end ; (except the loss of your hair, which I always mention with reverence.) The human persons are as fictitious as the airy ones; and the character of Belinda, as it is now managed, resembles you in nothing but in beauty.
If this Poem had as many graces as there are in your
person, or in your mind, yet I could never hope it should pass through the world half so uncensured as you have done. But let its fortune be what it will, mine is happy enough, to have given me this occasion of assuring you that I am, with the truest esteem,
THE RAPE OF THE LOCK.
Nolueram, Belinda, tuos violare capillos;
WHAT dire offence from am'rous causes springs, What mighty contests rise from trivial things, I sing— This verse to Caryl, Muse! is due : This, e'en Belinda may vouchsafe to view : Slight is the subject, but not so the praise,
5 If she inspire, and he approve my lays.
Say what strange motive, Goddess ! could compel A well-bred lord t'assault a gentle belle? 0
say what stranger cause, yet unexplor'd, Could make a gentle belle reject a lord ?
10 In tasks so bold can little men engage ? And in soft bosoms dwells such mighty rage?
Sol through white curtains shot a tim'rous ray, And op'd those eyes that must eclipse the day: Now lap-dogs give themselves the rouzing shake, 15 And sleepless lovers, just at twelve, awake:
Thrice rung the bell, the slipper knock'd the ground, And the press’d watch return’d a silver sound.
Belinda still her downy pillow prest, Her guardian sylph prolong'd the balmy rest : 20 'Twas he had summon’d to her silent bed The morning dream that hover'd o'er her head : A youth more glitt’ring than a birthnight-beau (That e'en in slumber caus'd her cheek to glow). Seem'd to her ear his winning lips to lay,
25 And thus in whispers said, or seem'd to say :
Fairest of mortals, thou distinguish'd care Of thousand bright inhabitants of air! If e'er one vision touch'd thy infant-thought, Of all the nurse and all the priest have taught; 30 Of airy elves by moonlight shadows seen, The silver token, and the circled green, Or virgins visited by angel pow'rs, With golden crowns and wreaths of heav'nly flow'rs; Hear and believe! thy own importance know, 35 Nor bound thy narrow views to things below. Some secret truths, from learned pride conceal'd, To maids alone and children are reveald; What though no credit doubting wits may give ? The fair and innocent shall still believe.
40 Know then, unnumber'd spirits round thee fly, The light militia of the lower sky: These, though unseen, are ever on the wing, Hang o’er the box, and hover round the ring.
Think what an equipage thou hast in air,
45 And view with scorn two pages and a chair. As now your own, our beings were of old, And once inclos'd in woman's beauteous mould; Thence, by a soft transition, we repair From earthly vehicles to those of air. Think not, when woman's transient breath is fled, That all her vanities at once are dead; Succeeding vanities she still regards, And though she plays no more, oe'rlooks the cards. Her joy in gilded chariots, when alive,
55 And love of Ombre, after death survive. For when the fair in all their pride expire, To their first elements their souls retire : The sprites of fiery termagants in flame
and take a salamander's name.
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