The Rape of The Lock: Lines 1-6 - Summary & Analysis

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Lines: 1-6. What dire offence.....approve my lays.

      Summary: Pope opens his mock-heroic poem The Rape of the Lock in the typical epic fashion with an invocation to the Muse. These opening lines of the poem quoted above set the tone and give us an idea of the theme.

      The subject, he intends to treat in the poem is a trivial one, being but an incident in the love affairs of a young man and a lady, which resulted in a rather serious family quarrel. Though the subject is slight, the poet thinks that he will be justly entitled to much praise if he can treat it in an effective manner. And he hopes that he will be able to win that fame for himself if only the grace and virtue of the heroine of his poem lend him the necessary inspiration to bring out his poetic talents to the utmost and if his friend, Caryll, who suggested the subject to him, comments the poem as one which by its light ridicule and merry wit, it fitted to make the two families laugh away their petty differences.

      Critical Analysis: We are to observe two things in connection with these opening verses of the poem, (i) He begins the poem in the approved epic manner by announcing his subject. The style of the opening lines reminds us of Homer's "of the Wrath of Achilles.....I sing," at the beginning of Iliad: of Virgil's "Of arms and the man...." at the beginning of his Aeneid, of Milton's "Of man's first disobedience...." at the beginning of Paradise Lost, (ii) The poet also invokes the Muse in the true epical style but the mention of 'amorous causes' etc. shows the comic intention of the poet. The poet mockingly suggests in the very first line that love affairs are the root causes or some of the most drastic and dreadful actions.

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