RAPE OF, THE LOCK, The. Pope's 'Rape of the Lock) (1714), a mock-epic of 814 lines in heroic couplets, remains the most famous and perhaps the most finished example of society verse in English. The seriocomic genesis of this brilliant, fanciful and vivacious poem was the very pretty social quarrel that resulted when a certain Lord Petre had stolen a lock of the hair of a Miss Arabella Fermor. Pope's friend' Caryl! asked the young poet, just then becoming famous, to heal the breach by friendly -ridicule. Pope consented, and pub lished his first version of his poem in Lintot's Miscellany in 1712.. The success of the charm ing trifle was so great that the poet planned'a more elaborate version in the form of the inock epics then popular in 'France and England. He conceived the idea of parodying_ the supernatu ral machinery of the epic by using the gnomes and sylphs of the so-called Rosterucian *1 losophy instead of the classical divinities. These he very appropriately made attendant upon his heroine, and added also a scene of a pme it 'cards and other details. The result justified the revision and elaboration. The Rape of the Lock) as published in 1714 at once took its plane as the supreme product of the drarwing-room muse.
It does not sparkle so brilliantly'after the lapse of two centuries. The heroic style id ant of date; the literary parody has lost its signifi cance; the beaux and belles belong to a past age; the dainty filigree work has•grown some what tarnished. Under all this lies a snore fundamental defect : despite Pope's dedication of the poem to Miss Fermor.as a tribute to her charms, it is the product of an age and a class that regarded woman as little better than a fool.
Even Addison, though urbane and gracious enough, assumes this in his Spectator satire; Pope, embittered by his sense of the personal deformity that rendered him =attractive to :women, embodies in his clever epigrams impli cations none too complimentary to .the seat. His admiration• is feigned; his' satire is sins Sere. But such defects in the poem are cop ceihalanced by qualities that defy the passing Of. nine and any change in taste and point. of slew The story is admirably. managed: Be rm:hes toilet, her trip up the Thames to Hamp ton Court, the game• at cards,' the afternoon tea, Nye rape of the 'lock itself and the ensuing bat tle, the • 'anxiety and the intervention of the Attendant spirits, are clearly and firmly pro •ented. The preparation, climax and catas trophe are the work of a master cniftsition. TM verse, with eta Plenitude of epigrammatic, !Offen Stinging, iconplets, is polished 'to 'the last 'degree. The language shows "the most del& trous transformation of ordinary social gabble into mock heroic.' Many of the epigrams are 'characteristic of the age that "knew how to refine shrewd sense into wits; and Pope's Arid, thbegh of course a mere parody of Shakespeare's, is a charming poetic fancy. As whole The Rape, of the Lock) is the eon !Summate satirical expression of a social* phase and a masterpiece of its kind, by a master artist in poetry. ' • . . ', ' lillmtioN Tucker.