The Rape of The Lock: Lines 271-284 - Summary & Analysis

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Lines: 271-284. Whatever spirit.....that froths below:

      Summary: These lines form the concluding portion of Ariel's charge to the attending spirits to guard Belinda against the threatened danger. Having assigned their respective duties to the various sylphs, Ariel here holds out the threat of punishment in case anyone proves negligent and the nymph (Belinda) suffers as a consequence. If, any spirit fails in his or her duty and leaves Belinda unattended, "he or she shall be punished by being either corked up in a bottle or pinned on to a board, or drowned in Belinda's Eau de toilette or struck for ages in the eye of a bodkin, or clogged with ointment or pomatum, or dried up with alum like faded flower, or broken like lxion on the wheel of the chocolate-mill, and be scalded in the hot frothing chocolate itself."

Lines: 281-284. Or, as Ixion fix'd.....that froths below:

      Summary: The chief of the sylphs recounts the dire punishments that will meet out to the careless sylphs who will neglect their particular task in the matter of guarding Belinda. The offender will be subjected to one or another of the various toilet or luxury requisites of the fair sex. Among these a few, which are most dreadful, are described here. The offender will be tied to the tiny wheel of the chocolate mill which the ladies turn in grinding coca seeds to obtain cocoa. There, held fast, as Ixion was fixed, fast to a wheel in hell, the sylph will turn round and round so that his head will reel. Or, he may be thrust into the hot vapour arising from the vessel of boiling cocoa and made to turn in it, while he will have to look with infinite horror on the seething and foamy liquid below him from which the vapour rises.

      Critical Analysis: The description of the punishment to the offending sylphs is exquisitely fanciful. Its humour is yet made more pungent with satire. The offenders will be punished by means of the very articles of female luxury over which they are to keep guard.

      Even the scale of punishment is appropriately reduced to the ridiculous in this mock-epic. Ariel's mechanism of torture, and the contemporary mechanical contrivance, (the small grinding machine of cocoa-seeds) is really a mimicry of the wheel in the classics on which Ixion was punished.

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