The Rape of The Lock: Canto 3 - Line by Line Summary

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      Lines: 291-298. Near those meadows, on which flowers blossom all the year round and where many high towers rise on the bank of the Thames, there stands a grand, and majestic building which takes its name (Hampton Court) from the neighboring villages Hampton. Here, in this palace, Britain's statesmen (Ministers, etc.) often assembled to predict the overthrow of foreign despotic kings and of the beautiful ladies of England. Here, the great Queen Anne, who ruled over three realms, viz., England, Scotland and Wales, held sometimes the meetings of her Council (of ministers, to discuss state affairs) and sometimes simply a tea party. (Pope is, here also, speaking of grave and light matters in the same vein.)

      Lines: 299-308. The gallant young men and the beautiful ladies went to the palace to enjoy sometimes the pleasures of a court. There they idled away hours talking on a variety of subjects, adding to their knowledge thereby. Someone told the assembly as to who gave the ball or who had come to pay the visit last. One of them described the pomp and finery (fine dress, equipage etc.) of Queen Anne. Someone described a beautifully painted Indian screen. Another interpreted the gestures and movements of some lady to read her feelings; and this talk was so scandalous that every word of it took away the reputation of the lady concerned, i.e., lowered her in the eyes of the people. During the short intervals of the chit-chat, some gentlemen took snuff, ladies waved their fans, some sang while others laughed, some exchanged glances and so on.

      Lines: 309-326. Meanwhile, the sun had descended to a lower position in the sky and threw his hot rays obliquely (i.e., evening had come; at noon, the sun is at the highest point in the sky and the rays fall over men's heads). The hungry judges and jurymen, anxious to return home for dinner, decided hurriedly the cases of wretched persons under trial and sentenced them to death. The merchants returned in peace from the stock exchange. The ladies completed the long labor of dressing themselves for the night's dinner party. Belinda, who was very eager to win fame; longed to engage with two gallant young men and defeated them single-handed at the game of Ombre. The idea of the anticipated victory filled her heart with joy. At once, the three Squadrons (of cards) began to fight, i.e., they began the play. Each hand consisted of nine, the sacred number of the Muses. As soon as she spread out the cards in her hand, the spirits came down and sat on each important card (on Matadores). First of all, Ariel sat on a principal card. Then other sylphs came own, perched on other cards, each choosing a card of a higher or lower value according to his own rank; because the sylphs, who remembered what they were in their previous state of existence, were still as fastidious about their place and precedence as they were when they used to be women.

      Lines: 327-336. Four Kings in stately dignity, with white whiskers and forked beards, and four beautiful Queens, each with a flower in her hand as an appropriate symbol of the gentle influence of the fair sex, a trusted band of four Jacks in smart tunics and each with a cap on his head and a long-handled axe in his hand, and a glittering train of various colored troops (some red, some black) were marshaled to fight on the card-table, covered with a velvet cloth. The skillful lady; Belinda examined her cards carefully and declared spades to be the trumps; (she was strongest in Spades and being the Ombre she had the privilege of declaring the trump) and Spades were the trump for that game.

      Lines: 337-354. She moved her black chief cards to fight on the table. They looked like the leaders of the dark-complexioned Moors; she first moved the invincible ace of Spades, carried off two trump cards as captives, and cleared the table. Manillio, the two of spades, captured two more trump cards and marched off like a victor from the table, covered with green velvet. Basto, the ace of Clubs, followed. Manillio, but he was less lucky because he captured only one trump card and one card belonging to some other suit. Next, the old king of Spades, with his broad sword, appeared in the field. He put forth one masculine leg which was visible, but the other was hidden by his many-colored flowing dress. The rebel Knave of spades had the insolence to engage his king in a fight; and he was justly struck down by his indignant master. Even the mighty Pam, the Knave of Clubs, which is the most important card in the game of Loo, and who had defeated Kings and Queens and slaughtered huge armies in the battle of Loo, now quite helpless, suffered an inglorious defeat at the hands of the victorious King of spades. Such is the sad uncertainty of war. The King of spades captured both the Knaves of clubs and of Spades.

      Lines: 355-365. Thus Belinda had conquered both the armies (the cards of the Baron and his partner). She had made four tricks and needed only one more to win. But Fate, after that, turned the tide in favor of the Baron. His female warrior, the royal spouse of the king of spades, moved her armies (or he, the Baron, moved his Queen of Spades). With all his arrogant bearing and savage pride, the King of Clubs was the first to be her victim. The crown on his head, his gigantic limbs, his bulky body, the long majestic robe that trailed behind him, and the globe which he alone of all the Monarchs (of the four suits) held in his hand, stood him in no good stead-they all proved useless and he was captured by the Queen of Spades.

      Lines: 365-476. The Baron next moved his Diamonds one after the other. He first led the beautifully painted King, who showed only his profile, and his beautiful Queen. Their combined strength gained an easy victory over the disorganized forces. Clubs, Diamonds and Hearts were seen in a state of wild disorder, and they lay indiscriminately scattered over the green field. (The cards to be captured were those of Diamonds, Clubs and Hearts).

      (The poet next gives a mock-epic simile). The defeat (of the combined army of Hearts, Diamonds and Glubs) resembled the defeat of a great mixed army of Asiatics and black Africans, who, belonging to different nations and wearing diverse garments of various colors, when dispersed and defeated and all thrown alike, into wild disorder, fly away and are killed in large numbers by their enemy, as he pierces through their scattered ranks. All meet the same fate, i.e., they are involved in a common ruin.

      Lines: 377-390. Next, the Knave of Diamonds, tried his wicked skill (i.e., the Baron next moved this card) and it was really shameful that he captured the Queen of Hearts.

      As the Baron made this (eighth) trick, Belinda became nervous and her face turned pale. She realized her position and trembled at the prospect of defeat. She feared that she was just on the verge of ruin (and would have to replace the stake).

      And now, as often happens in the case of a country which falls in a state of disorder and tumult, on one clever trick depended the whole issue. The Baron moved his Ace of Hearts. Belinda had, concealed in her hand, the King of Hearts, who mourned the fate of his Queen, taken prisoner by the Baron's Knave of Diamonds. Eager to have his revenge, he rushed forth with a bound and pounced like thunderbolt (with a sudden fury) upon the Ace, that was lying prone on the table, and captured it. Belinda felt extremely delighted and shouted loudly with joy. The walls, the woods and the long canals (of Hampton Court) echoed back her shouts.

      Lines: 391-394. Oh, how foolish human beings are! They never know what future may have in store for them. At one moment, they feel desperate at some loss and, at the next, they are beside themselves with joy at some trifling gain (like Belinda's). Belinda did not know that all this glory would be snatched away (by fate) in moment and that very day of her victory (at the game of Ombre) would stand accursed ever a afterward. (That was a day of shame and humiliation for her because on that day she lost her favorite lock.)

      Lines: 395-404. After the game was over, cups and spoons were laid on the table. The berries of the coffee plant produced a crackling sound (as they were roasted in the fire) and they were afterward ground in a mill. A bright lamp was placed on a Japanese tray and lighted. The highly inflammable spirits burnt (to boil coffee). The hot liquid (coffee) that had a very delightful flavor, flowed through the white spouts of teapots and was poured into porcelain tea cups.

      Lines: 405-414. It (coffee) satisfied both the senses of taste and smell of these ladies and young men, and each of them took many cups. They enjoyed his rich entertainment for a pretty long time. The spirits attending on Belinda, hovered round her as she took her coffee. Some of them fanned the hot liquid in the cup as she sipped from it. Some others carefully spread their wings over her lap, because they knew how rich her dress was and was afraid (lest some drops of coffee should spill on her gown and spoil it).

      (When we sit to meals, we spread towels or handkerchiefs over our laps to save our dresses from being spoiled. The spirits here spread their wings over Belinda's lap to protect her gown).

      The coffee, which has the virtue of making politicians wise and which enables them to grasp everything readily as they lie in their chairs, with their eyes half shut, sent up to the Baron's head in the form of fumes, novel plans of possessing the bright lock, i.e., coffee inspired the Baron with some movel plan of gaining possession of Belinda's lock. Withhold! O! rash young lord, before it becomes too late for your to retrace your steps. Have fear of divine administration of justice (God must give you just punishment for your sins) and take lesson from what became of Scylla. She was changed into a bird and made to fly about in the air; thus she was severely punished for betraying the secret of the hair of her father (Nisus).

      Lines: 415-436. But when men make up their minds to do some mischief they very easily find a suitable agent to execute their evil schemes. At that very moment Clarissa (one of the ladies accompanying Belinda) took out from her bright case a pair of scissors in a very graceful and fascinating manner. We read in the romantic stories of medieval chivalry of ladies helping their knights in this fashion, as Clarrissa here helped the Baron by giving him the pair of scissors. We learn from them how they (ladies) handed spears to them (to the knights) and helped them to put on their armor as they went to fight. The Baron took the scissors very respectfully from Clarissa's hand and adjusted it on the ends of his fingers to clip Belinda's lock. And, as Belinda bent her head over the cup of coffee to have a sip, he opened it behind her neck. A thousand spirits ran at once to protect the lock, and with the help of the wind produced by the fluttering of their wings, they tried to remove the lock to some distance, safe from the scissors' reach. They pulled her ear-rings (to make her attentive) and, as she looked back, every time the baron withdrew' to a little distance. But he came back nearer as soon as she turned to her cup of coffee.

      Just at that moment, Ariel, curious to know about Belinda's love-secrets, tried to read her thoughts.

      As the rested on a bunch of flowers on her breast, he watched some ideas rising in her mind; and in spite of all her efforts to conceal her secret, he saw, of all a sudden, that she secretly cherished in her heart a human lover, i.e., she secretly loved some gentleman. He was quite surprised at this discovery and could not decide what to do. He found that all his power to take care of her had gone. So he left her to her fate and with regret, retired from his post.

      Lines: 437-444. The Baron opened the bright scissors to enclose the lock, and joined the two ends to cut it off from the rest of her hair. Even at that last moment, before the fatal scissors closed to cut the lock, a sylph tried very foolishly to avert the tragedy. But cruel fate pressed the scissors and cut the poor sylph into two. But because he was a spirit of the air, and not an earthly creature, the two parts joined again. The points of the scissors, as they met, separated for ever the sacred lock of hair from the beautiful lady's head. It was really very sad.

      Lines: 445-450. When Belinda saw her lock cut off, she burned with indignation and her eyes flashed forth fire. Her loud shrieks rent the skies and terrified even the inhabitants of the air. Even when the husband or the lap-dog of a lady dies, or some costly China-ware falls from some height and breaks into small bright pieces, she does not shriek more loudly (than did Belinda at the loss of her lock).

      Lines: 451-468. The triumphant Baron shouted with joy: "Let my forehead be bound with garlands of victory I have won the glorious prize-the lock. As long as fishes will play in water or birds in the air or the beautiful ladies of Britain will enjoy rides in carriages, driven by six horses; as long as the Atlantis shall be a favorite reading, and small pillows decorate a lady's bed as she receives her visitors in her bedroom; as long as bright social gatherings will be held on some festive day when numerous wax-candles are lighted to give bright light; and as long as ladies will accept entertainments and fix secret meetings with their loves, my honor, my name and my fame shall live."

      All that escapes from the hands of time is destroyed by steel (reference to sword), and great memorials and monuments yield to fate like man does. Steel destroyed even the labor of gods and dashed the grand majestic city of Troy to the ground. (Reference to the Trojan war in which the city of Troy, which was supposed to have been built by gods, was destroyed by the Greeks, e.g., Alexander's Feast). Steel can destroy the great work of which man feels proud and can pull to the ground the great arches built to commemorate some great victory. Therefore, fair lady, if your hair has fallen to the irresistible power of that mighty steel, i.e., if your lock has been cut by steel scissors, you should not be surprised (Mark how mocking the consolation is!)

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