The Rape of The Lock: Canto 2 - Summary & Analysis

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      Belinda in a pleasure barge on the Thames (L. 149-166). Finishing her toilette (and breakfast, etc.) Belinda, as glorious as the morning sun over the sea, issued forth for a pleasure trip in a barge on the bosom of the Thames, accompanied by a number of friends, male and female. She was the center of attraction of the party; her lively looks, her sprightly mind, and her flashing eyes charmed one and all. She bestowed her favors on all the gallants without offending anyone but without giving special preference to anyone.

      The Baron intends to secure her curled side-lock of hair (L. 167-194). Belinda's exquisite beauty was enhanced by two beautiful curling side-locks of hair, which charmingly set off her white neck. For young gallants to see them is to lose their hearts. The Baron (Lord Petre) who was in her company desired to seize one of them at any cost, by any means fair or foul. He had that very morning before the sun rose, prayed to all the gods, specially the god of love, that he may get the desired prize and that he may retain it for long.

      Ariel commands the sylphs to guard Belinda (L. 195-290). The merry party in the gilt barge had a merry time of it as the barge glided softly on; but Ariel was oppressed with the thought of the impending danger to Belinda. He summoned his sylphs and they came crowding round the sails and shrouds, flying on their colored wings; their transparent forms were too fine for human sights; the rustle of their wings seemed but the sound of the gentle wind. Ariel reminded them of the various classes, of spirits, each with particular duties in a particular sphere of activity. The order of sylphs of which Ariel was the chief had the duty of ministering to the needs of beauties by preserving the powder of their face, by extracting liquid cosmetics for them from the rainbow, by assisting their blushes, by curling their hair and by suggesting to them in dream about new fashions in their petticoat fringes. He told the sylphs that he had come to know that some disaster was going to befall Belinda that day, but he could not know exactly in what shape or where it would come from. He, therefore, charged different sylphs to keep guard over Belinda's fan, her eardrops, her watch, favorite lock; and he himself took charge of Shock, her favorite lap-dog. He appointed, fifty specially chosen sylphs to guard her hoop petticoat. Then he warned them that anyone found remiss in his duty would be adequately punished; he would be stopped in a phial or fixed with a pin, or plunged in vessels of washes, or stuck fast in gums and pomatum or broken on chocolate mills or roasted, in fumes of hot chocolate. The sylphs at once dutifully hurried to their respective posts, trembling at the thought of the coming danger.

Critical Analysis

      The spirit of satire runs through this canto. The Baron prays to the god of Love. He lights the fire with his old love letters before the god. On the other hand, Ariel calls the other spirits and warns them of the coming misfortune. He addresses the spirits and assigns to each a particular duty. It is not quite clear to Ariel whether the lady would lose her chastity or necklace. The sylphs take up their duty seriously. If any one of them is found wanting, he shall be punished according to the code. The satire of the poem is obvious because the chief pre-occupations of the ladies of the time were their beauty and their love affairs.

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