The Rape of The Lock: Lines 295-308 - Summary & Analysis

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Lines: 295-308. Here Britain's.....and all that

      Summary: Belinda and her party landed from the barge in Hampton and went into Hampton Court to pass the evening in aristocratic social pleasures. Hampton Court was a famous palace at that time and Queen Anne lived in it. Here were held cabinet meetings on grave political questions of the day and British statesmen glibly aired their opinion that their enemies, King Louis of France and the King of Bavaria, were doomed to destruction at the hands of the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene of Italy. They, sometimes, with equal felicity predicted the fall of favorite court ladies either from power or from their position as reigning beauties of the day. Here Queen Anne consulted her ministers on important political questions of the day but more often gave tea parties to her courtiers (Pope overlooks the act that after the death of her only surviving son at Hampton Court, Queen Anne lived chiefly at Windsor and Kensington palaces).

      Hampton Court had developed into a prominent place where ladies and lords assembled to enjoy life and all its pleasures. In their leisure hours, beautiful ladies and lords retired to this lovely place. They could enjoy the pleasures of the court, spending an hour or two in the Hampton Court. They spent their time in gossiping and talking scandals. These talks often centered around the lady who entertained them last time with her ball dance or the prominent guest who paid his visit last. The idle chats were quite fanciful and covered many fashionable topics of the day. Sometimes, someone talked about the glory and grace of the British Queen. Someone admired the charming beauty of the Indian screen. It was a fashion in those days to talk about the beauty and the glory, the art and the riches of the East. So it was quite fascinating and fashionable to talk of the Indian screen. The charm and grace of handsome ladies were, too the subject of their discussion. The lords loved to interpret the meaning of a look or a gesture or a movement. They either admired a lady's grace or condemned another's. At every word, the reputation of a maiden's charm and grace or character was made or unmade. There were silent interludes in between these heated debates which provided them with an occasion to relax. These idle moments were spent by the lords with snuff, while the ladies fanned themselves—not because they were hot or bothered, but just because it was the fashion among the ladies of the elite to carry fans in their hands. Sometimes they relaxed themselves by singing, laughing, casting amorous glances and all that. The entire picture is satirical in its implication. But it would be wrong to assess Pope as merely a satirist. He has been an extremely misunderstood poet. Pope was, in fact, a poet of civilization. He had a rare flash of genius and a superb grace to transform the common place into the sublime and charming. The eighteenth-century men with their jeweled snuff-boxes, and ladies with their toilet ritual assume a rare charm and seem to us more meaningful than the apparently ridiculous picture they present. There is a certain amount of sacredness about the whole image. The picture has a subtle poise and a subtle and is gleaming with a radiant glow of everlasting beauty and grace.

      Critical Analysis: The third canto opens with a description of the palace and the people who visited there. The description is humorous and it arises due to the putting together of big matters with small and trivial things. The fall of foreign tyrants is equated with the fall of beautiful ladies from the Queen's grace, and cabinet meetings are equated with tea parties. In this humorous manner, Pope succeeds in presenting the true picture and worth of the ladies and gentlemen of his time. They had nothing to do but gossip, take snuff or keep sitting idly, fanning themselves so as to attract attention.

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