The Rape of The Lock: Canto 4 - Line by Line Summary

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      Lines: 469-478. But great anxiety oppressed the melancholy lady; and there was a conflict of secret passions in her breast. No young king, who was captured alive in a battle; no conceited virgin who lived after she had lost her charm; no old lady, who was refused to be kissed, no cruel tyrant when he died without feeling remorse for his sins, and no fashionable, lady, whose mantle was pinned in an awkward fashion, ever felt so furious, indignant and despaired as did Belinda, the sorrowful lady, for her lock of hair which had been forcibly cut.

      Lines: 479-485. At that unhappy moment, when the sylphs withdrew from their posts and Ariel flew away from Belinda with a feeling of great regret, Umbriel, as black and melancholy a spirit as had ever stained the fair face of bright daylight, went down to the center of the earth - a place suitable for him in search of the dark and secret abode of the goddess of Spleen.

      Lines: 485-506. The Gnome flew very swiftly on his black wings and reached the dark gloomy cave (of Spleen) in a moment. Soft pleasant breezes do not blow in this dismal region. The only wind that blows there is the dreadful East wind. Here (in this region at the center of the earth), in an underground cavern, which was very well protected from air and was kept dark by keeping away the hateful light of the sun, the melancholy goddess lay on her bed and she always sighed. Pain stood at her side and at her head stood Megrim, the evil spirit responsible for causing headaches.

      Two maids waited on the throne. They held the same rank, but there was a vast difference between their features and complexions. On the one side stood ill-nature, like an old maid, who fails to get a husband and is soured by disappointment. Her wrinkled body was dressed in black and white garments. In her hand, there was a good stock of morning, evening, and mid-day prayers, but her bosom was full of poisonous satires and abuses.

      On the other side, stood Affectation with the bearing of a sick person. She tried to make her complexion look as fresh and rosy as that of a girl of eighteen. She pronounced words imperfectly as though she were a young child, and hung her head to one side to affect shyness like an innocent girl. At times, she pretended to faint and to be ill in order to assume greater importance. Dressed in a gown, which was meant to be shown (to visitors) under the pretense of illness, she lay on a costly bed. Whenever a beautiful lady got a new night-dress she suffered from such diseases because in this way she could receive her visitors in her bed-chamber and get an opportunity to display her rich dress.

      Lines: 507-516. A cloud of mist hung constantly over this cave and strange, unreal forms were seen there in the minds. These forms were either dreadful, as the dreams of an ascetic in a place haunted by some evil spirit, or bright, as the vision of a female saint as she is expiring. Sometimes were seen demons with terrible looks, coiled serpents, pale ghosts, tombs wide open, and purple colored flame; sometimes came into sight lakes of liquid gold, palaces of glass and angels interposing on behalf of mankind-scenes such as were possible only in Elysium. On every side were visible innumerable bodies, changed to various forms by Spleen.

      Lines: 517-522. (In these lines are described some very ridiculous fancies which people have under the influence of Spleen). Somewhere, in that place, stood women who fancied themselves to be teapots. Each stood with one arm extended, representing the handle of the teapot, and the other arm representing the spout. Another woman fancied herself to be an earthen vessel and walked like Homer's Tripod. Someone fancied herself to be a jar deeply sighing and still another, who imagined herself to be a goose pie, was talking. Under the influence of powerful fancy, men imagined themselves to be pregnant and women to have been turned into bottles; and the latter called aloud for corks. (These were the innumerable bodies changed to various forms under the influence of spleen or hypochondria. When a man suffers from this disease, he fancies various forms just as we sometimes do in a state of high fever.)

      Lines: 523-544. The Gnome (Umbriel) passed safely through this host of fantastic persons (suffering from strange fantasies) because in his hand he carried a branch of the spleenwort plant, which cures the disorders of spleen.

      On getting into the presence of the goddess of Spleen, he addressed her thus: "I greet you, perverse and capricious Queen. You have great influence upon women of the ages between fifteen and fifty. You are the cause of all depressions of spirits and source of women's wit. People fall into poetic or hysterical fits under your influence. You influence different temperaments in different ways. You make some persons use medicines and some others write worthless plays. You make proud persons delay their visits and put those people, who think themselves to be very pious and saintly, into a fit of prayer and devotion.

      There is a beautiful lady who disregards all your powers (she is free from disorders of spleen and is quite cheerful and lively) and her company consists of a large circle of gay and sportive friends.

      But if you think that I was capable of spoiling beauty of causing pimples on a maiden's lovely face, or could make the cheeks of ladies red as if they had taken citron-water (a combination of brandy and lemon peel, which brought a red colour on a woman's cheek) or could make them turn pale at the idea of losing a game, or grow invisible horns on the heads of husbands in order to make them suspect the loyalty of their wives; or could spoil the petticoats of women as if they had been ruffled by their lovers or could crush the beds of ladies to create the impression that they had been sleeping with their lovers secretly or could rub off a cosmetic (lipstick) from the lips of women to create a false impression that she had been kissed by her lover, or could disorder the head-dress of a woman, pretending to have a moral character, to make others feel that her lover had played with her hair, or could cause lap-dogs suffer from some serious disease caused by Constipation which could not be cured in spite of the tears shed by their lovely owners, listen to me and infect Belinda with melancholy. This single act could infect half the people of the world with ill-humor.

      Lines: 545-566. The goddess Spleen assumed an air of discontentment and though she granted the prayer of the Gnome, her manner was such that she seemed to be rejecting it. With both her hands, she tied the mouth of a wonderful bag, which was like the one in which Ulysses had once kept all the adverse winds. In that bag, she compressed all the force of women's lungs, i.e., the breath which women spend in sighs, sobs, loud shrieks, violent outbursts of passion and in noisy quarrels. (The strength is said to consist in these things). She next filled a small bottle with fears, that cause ladies to swoon with gentle sorrows, mild griefs and flowing tears. The Gnome felt very happy and carried away her gift. He spread his black wings and slowly ascended (from the interior of the earth) to the surface above where there was sunlight.

      Lines: 557-582. As the Gnome got back to the scene of the incident he found Belinda lying in the arms of her friends Thalestris. Her eyes were cast sown and her hair disordered and disheveled. He opened the bag, swelling with its contents, exactly over their heads. At once, (as the bag opened), the furies came out, i.e., both Belinda and Thalestris burst into a violent passion of indignation. Belinda burned with super human wrath and furious Thalestris roused her to still greater fury. Thalestris spread her hands and cried loudly: "O miserable lady", and all Hampton Court resounded with the echoes of her shouts. Was it to lose our lock in this rude fashion that you took constantly so much care to prepare perfumes for your hair and to fix hairpins and combs on them so nicely? Was it to meet this fate that you kept your hair confined in curl-papers, and got them twisted with curling tongs? Did you bind your delicate, tender head with bandages of ribbon and put up with the heavy load of lead to see this day? It is really a pity that the insolent Baron, who had cut your lock forcibly, would show it round with triumph, while some beaus would feel envious and ladies stare at the lock. O! Honour, at whose matchless altar ladies prepare to sacrifice comfort, pleasure and even virtue itself, forbid that it should so happen. I think I already see tears coming in your eyes and hear people talking scandal about you. I see you have already become a degraded toast, and all your reputation has melted away in one breath of scandal.

      Even I shall not be able to put in a good word for you and defend your diminishing fame, because it would be regarded disgraceful to be your friend. This lock, the invaluable prize, will be put inside a ring which that robber (the Baron) shall put on his finger; and made all the more glorious by the bright rays of the diamond (of the ring) encircling it, it will be exposed to the gaze of the people."

      Lines: 583-588. But before that happens, i.e., before the Baron exhibits your hair in his fashion, may the Hyde Park become deserted, the West End wits settle in London; the earth, the air and the sea, all be in a state of chaos and confusion, and may men, monkeys, lap-dogs and parrots, all perish, i.e., the world be dissolved before your hair is exposed by the Baron to the insulting gaze of the people.

      Lines: 589-598. She spoke thus: and after that, still fuming with wrath, she went to Sir Plume and asked that fashionable Lord to demand of the Baron to give back the precious lock of hair. This Sir Plume was proud-and he was justified in that—of his snuff-box, made of amber wood, and of the delicate way in which he carried his dark-spotted stick with amber head. With earnest looks and a dull, unintelligent face, he first opened his snuff-box and then the case-i.e., began to plead for Belinda (The opening of the snuff-box and then of the case is again spoken of in the mock-heroic style of Homer). He addressed the Baron and spoke as follows: "My Lord: What is this mischief? God’s wounds! Damn that lock. In the name of God, you ought to be well-behaved! Curse this lock; it is carrying the jest too far. Give the lock back to the lady." He spoke thus and gave tap to his snuff-box.

      Lines: 599-608. The Baron replied in return, "I am really very sorry that I cannot comply with the demand of a gentleman who speaks so well but in vain. But I swear by this lock of hair, which is so sacred to me and which shall never again join the hair from which it parted, and hence, shall never again have the honor and privilege of sitting on the beautiful head where it lately grew and from where it was cut but a short while ago, that as long as I am able to draw breath, i.e., I am alive, this hand, which has gained possession of it, shall wear it forever." He spoke thus: and proudly and triumphantly, he displayed the lock of Belinda's hair, which he had struggled so long to possess.

      Lines: 609-614. But Umbriel, the detestable Gnome, did not let the matter stop there. He was bent upon making mischief still further. He broke the phial from which sorrows came out and the beautiful lady at once became sorrowful; her anger turned into grief. Her eyes lost their brightness and became half full of tears. Her head bent down and hung on her bosom, which was swollen with grief.

      Lines: 615-644. She heaved a sigh, lifted up her head and said, Let this wretched day, that has snatched away from me my best and favorite lock, be for ever cursed. I would have been very happy, had I never come to Hampton Court. Yet, I am not the first lady to go astray. Many have been subjected to numerous evils by their love of high, and fashionable society. O! I wish I had remained unadmired in some solitary island or the distant northern land, where a glided chariot was never seen, and where people neither played Ombre nor took tea, i.e., where there was no fashionable society, no balls or mask, and there kept my charms concealed from the sight of men, like roses that blossom and fade away in desert lands, unseen and unenjoyed. O! I do not know what power or what consideration prompted me to move in the society of these young gallant Barons. I rather wish that I had stayed at home and offered my prayers there. It was this misfortune which the ill-omens predicated this morning. The patch-box fell from my nervous hands three times, the tottering China pot shook, though there was no wind; even Poll sat mute and Shock behaved unkindly; i.e., did not respond to my caresses or show the usual signs of affection. A sylph, also warned me against the coming misfortune in the mysterious dream in which I am sorry to say I have come to believe, when it is too late.

      See the miserable remnants of the hair subjected to such an insult. I shall, with my own hands tear away what has been left behind by your(she addresses the Baron) rapacious hand. These locks, which were taught to fall apart in two black curls, added fresh charms to my snow-white neck. But now, one lock having been cut, the other one, left alone, looks very ugly and foresees its own fate in that of its companion. It hangs uncurled, therefore, and calls for a pair of scissors that would clip it, and invites you to lay your irreverent hand this time on it. Matters would have stood differently had you cruel man been content to cut some less conspicuous hair or any hair other than this lock."

      (This is Belinda's lamentation over the loss of her favorite lock and is designed to evoke sympathy; but it is full of frivolity and vanity.)

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