The Rape of The Lock: Canto 2 - Line by Line Summary

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      Lines: 149-166. The sun first rising in the skies over the crimson horizon cannot excel in resplendent majesty his rival, namely, Belinda with her effulgent beauty, as she embarked on the silvery Waters of the Thames. Beautiful girls and finely dressed young men appeared like luminaries around her, but all eyes were riveted on her alone. On her white bosom, she wore a shining cross that looked so lovely that Jews and even unbelievers might kiss or worship it. Her lovely looks showed the liveliness of her mind. They were as sharp and fickle as her eyes. To none of her admirers, Belinda showed signs of yielding; she just smiled at them in thankfulness. She often had to reject offers, but she never caused offence to anyone. Sparkling eyes, bright as the sun, arrest the attention of the beholders; and like the sun, they shone equally on all. If young beautiful girls had any faults to hide, those would be concealed by her inborn grace and sweetness of bearing, unvitiated by any element of pride. Anyone suspecting that Belinda had in her some of the frailties of womanhood, would soon forget these when confronted with the beauty of her face.

      Lines: 167-176. This nymph, that is, Belinda, cherished two locks of hair which gracefully hung in equal curls behind her smooth ivory neck and well combined to decorate it. These locks were ruinous for men. Lovers were captured by and kept as prisoners in the maze of Belinda's hair and even men possessing strong hearts fell victim to the beauty of her delicate lock. A snare of catching birds is made only of horse-hair; fishermen's lines, too, are made of horse-hair; and men of sovereign race too, throughout the ages, have been made captive and held as such by woman's lovely hair. And a beautiful woman attracts a man with a single lock of hair.

      Lines: 177-182. The Baron (Lord Petre) admired these locks. The sight of them immediately begot in him the desire to possess them. He was determined to obtain them as a prize: what remained to be decided was whether he should carry them off forcibly or employ some deceitful trick for the purpose. He had no scruples, for he knew that once success crowns the efforts of a lover, nobody questions him regarding the method he adopted, whether of fraud or force.

      Lines: 183-194. For this purpose, before sunrise, he had entreated favorable heaven and worshipped every power, but chiefly Love. He built an altar to Love which consisted of twelve gilded French romances of enormous size. He also lay three garters, half a pair of gloves and all the momentos of his former loves. He employed billet-doux or love-letters to kindle the heap of combustible material and thereafter breathed lovelorn sighs into it in order to inflame the fire. Then he fell before the altar with his face to the ground and earnestly prayed that he might be rewarded with the prize of Belinda's locks, which he might retain for a long time. The deities listened to half his prayer and granted it; the other half was blown away by the wind.

      Lines: 195-220. And now Belinda's painted vessel moves gently and smoothly, free from care; while the rays of the sun appear to be trembling on account of the motion of the water receding towards the Channel, and music that dissolves one into ecstasies, quietly rises to the sky and the low sounds of the music die away on the water of the river. The waves flow smoothly, the wind blows gently; Belinda smiles and all the world becomes gay. The sylph alone, troubled with anxious thoughts, does not share in the gaiety. The coming calamity sits heavy on his heart. He forthwith calls his fellow inhabitants of the air and the bright orderly bodies of spirits gather round the sails and whispered conversations start, related to the purpose of this summons. These sounds produced over the shrouds or heaps of ropes for supporting the mast of the vessel, are taken by the gay procession below to be just the whistle of the wind. Some open their tiny wings to the sun, flutter in the breeze or settle down in groups so as to resemble golden clouds. They are bright fonts, too subtle to be perceived by the gross eyes of men. Their bodies, made of readily moving substances, are partially melted into light.

      Their airy garments, thin tissues of filmy dew, and colored in the most gorgeous hues of the heavens and the light of the sun, display themselves in varying combinations of color so that every ray emits for the moment a new tinge which changes into an other as soon as they flap their wings. Amidst the circle formed by the spirits, on the gilded mast of the vessels, sat Ariel taller by a head. His crimson wings were displayed in the sunlight. He lifted his sky-blue rod of authority and thus spoke:

      Lines: 221-238. "You sylphs, both male and female, listen to your chief. Fays, fairies, genii, elves, and demons, all give ear. You know your spheres of activity and the duties allotted to the aerial creatures by the eternal laws. Some frolic in the regions of purest ether and bask and grow white in the sunlight. Some control the movement of the comets in the regions above or steer the stars that travel along a regular and calculated course, through the limitless expanse of the sky. Those less refined, follow the shooting stars across the night in the pale moonlight, or suck the mists on the gross earth below, or dip their wings in the colors of the rainbow or make terrible storms on the wintry sea, or give forth in drops the beneficent rain over the earth. Other guide the destinies of men on earth, observe their conduct, and control their deeds. The chief of these aerial spirits look after the welfare of nations and protect with divine power, the British throne.

      Lines: 239-248. Our duty is of a humbler kind. It is to wait upon women, a less glorious work no doubt, but not the less pleasing. Our duty is to prevent the powder on the face being blown off by a rough wind and the perfumes secured in the bottles from evaporating or to extract new hues from the flowers of spring; to draw stealthily from the rainbows before they melt into rain, a brighter cosmetic; to form the flowing hair into ringlets, to inspire their blushes, and to help their gestures. We very often in dreams teach them new modes of fashions, i.e., to change the ornamental trimming on the petticoat or to add a new kind of ornamental border to a petticoat.

      Lines: 249-264. Today, dark forebodings threaten the brightest of women, who deserved to be ever looked after by a vigilant spirit, with some dreadful calamity-to be brought about by force or by trickery; but the exact nature of the calamity and the place of its happening are still enveloped in mystery; whether Belinda shall lose her virginity, or some delicate porcelain vase shall be cracked; whether her honor or her new brocade will receive a stain; whether she will forget to say her prayers or fail to attend a masked ball; whether she will lose her heart or her necklace at a dance; or whether her lap-dog Shock is doomed to receive a fall. Therefore, you spirits, make haste and go to the places which are in your charge. Zephyrettis to look after the fluttering fan; the ear-drops are entrusted to brillante; the watch is made over to Momentilla; Crispissa is charged to take care of Belinda's favorite lock, and Ariel himself offers to look after Shock.

      Lines: 265-270. Fifty chosen sylphs of special distinction are entrusted with the important charge of the petticoat. Often, the sevenfold shield, viz., the hooped petticoat invested with whale bone, have been known to give way. Therefore, form a strong cord round the silver edging to the petticoat and protect the circumference of it.

      Lines: 271-284. If any spirit proves careless and neglects his duty; or leaves Belinda unprotected, he will soon be punished for his delinquency, confined in a small narrow glass or fixed up with pins, thrown into pools of bitter washes or for ages thrust tightly into the eyes of a blunt pointed needle; gums and pomades will check his flight and he will beat his silken wings in vain against the sticky obstruction; or alum styptics that produce contraction will reduce his thin size like a shriveled flower:

      Or like Ixion, punished with eternal torture on the wheel, he will be subjected to the dizzy motion of the ever moving mill in the midst of the vapor of the burning chocolate, trembling all the time at the burning sea below.

      Lines: 285-290. Ariel had finished speaking. The spirits then came down from the sails. Some extend themselves, circle in circle, around Belinda; some thread the many curls of her hair; some stand guard on her ear-drops. Anxious and shaking at the thought of what Fate may have in store for them, they wait in nervousness for the dreadful event.

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