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The Rape of the Lock

The Rape of the Lock

by Aubrey Beardsley, Alexander Pope


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Only rarely in publishing history has the ideal edition of a literary work been created, where text, typography, and illustrations complement one another perfectly. Among the few examples are the Kelmscott Chaucer, Baskerville's Milton, and Beardsley's Salome. Another such book is the 1896 edition of Pope's The Rape of the Lock, illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley.
Beardsley's elaborate drawings for The Rape of the Lock were created during the last phase of his brief career. This nearly Romantic period, characterized by rich, brilliantly imagined decoration and ornamentation and by high textual contrasts, was perfectly suited to the blend of mock-heroic, satire, and delicate fancy of Pope's poems. As Beardsley's biographer R. A. Walker wrote, "These drawings show a verve, a wit and appreciation of the poem than can scarcely be matched in English literature." Using his unique line and "black blot" technique, Beardsley created a masterpiece of design and mood.
This Dover edition reproduces the first edition: the complete text of the five-canto poem, notes, seven full-page drawings, two half-page drawings, and the original cover design by Beardsley.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486219639
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 06/01/1968
Series: Dover Fine Art, History of Art Series
Pages: 80
Sales rank: 1,174,428
Product dimensions: 8.25(w) x 11.00(h) x (d)
Lexile: 1220L (what's this?)

Read an Excerpt


By Aubrey Beardsley

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1968 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-14755-0


WHAT dire Offence from am'rous Causes springs, What mighty Contests rise from trivial Things, I sing—This verse to CARYL, Muse ! is due ;

This, ev'n Belinda may vouchsafe to view : Slight is the Subject, but not so the Praise, If She inspire, and He approve, my Lays.

Say what strange Motive, Goddess ! cou'd compel A well-bred Lord t' assault a gentle Belle? Oh say what stranger Cause, yet unexplor'd, Cou'd make a gentle Belle reject a Lord ? In tasks so bold, can little Men engage, And in soft Bosoms, dwell such mighty Rage ?

Sol through white Curtains shot a tim'rous Ray, And ope'd those Eyes that must eclipse the Day : Now Lap-dogs give themselves the rouzing Shake, And sleepless Lovers, just at Twelve, awake : Thrice rung the Bell, the Slipper knock'd the Ground, And the press'd Watch return'd a silver sound, Belinda still her downy Pillow prest, Her guardian Sylph prolong'd the balmy rest. 'Twas he had summon'd to her silent Bed The Morning Dream that hover'd o'er her Head. A Youth more glitt'ring than a Birth-night Beau (That ev'n in slumber caus'd her Cheek to glow) Seem'd to her Ear his winning Lips to lay, And thus in Whispers said, or seemed to say.

Fairest of Mortals, thou distinguish'd Care Of thousand bright Inhabitants of Air! If e'er one Vision touch'd thy infant Thought, Of all the Nurse and all the Priest have taught, Of airy Elves by Moonlight Shadows seen, The silver Token, and the Circled Green, Or Virgins visited by Angel-pow'rs With Golden Crowns and Wreaths of heav'nly Flow'rs ; Hear and believe! thy own Importance know, Nor bound thy narrow Views to things below.

Some secret Truths, from Learned Pride conceal'd, To Maids alone and Children are reveal'd : What tho' no Credit doubting Wits may give ? The Fair and Innocent shall still believe. Know then, unnumber'd Spirits round thee fly, The light Militia of the lower sky : These, tho' unseen, are ever on the Wing, Hang o'er the Box, and hover round the Ring.

Think what an Equipage thou hast in Air, And view with scorn Two Pages and a Chair. As now your own, our Beings were of old, And once inclos'd in Woman's beauteous Mold ; Thence, by a soft Transition, we repair From earthly Vehicles to these of Air. Think not, when Woman's transient Breath is fled, That all her Vanities at once are dead.

Succeeding Vanities she still regards, And tho' she plays no more, o'erlooks the Cards. Her Joy in gilded Chariots, when alive, And love of Ombre, after Death survive. For when the Fair in all their Pride expire, To their first Elements the Souls retire : The Sprites of fiery Termagants in Flame Mount up, and take a Salamander's name. Soft yielding Minds to Water glide away, And sip, with Nymphs, their elemental Tea. The graver Prude sinks downward to a Gnome, In search of Mischief still on Earth to roam. The light Coquettes in Sylphs aloft repair, And sport and flutter in the Fields of Air.

Know further yet; Whoever fair and chaste Rejects Mankind, is by some Sylph embrac'd : For Spirits, freed from mortal Laws, with ease Assume what Sexes and what Shapes they please. What guards the Purity of melting Maids, In Courtly Balls, and Midnight Masquerades, Safe from the treach'rous Friend, the daring Spark, The Glance by Day, the Whisper in the Dark ; When kind Occasion prompts their warm Desires, When Music softens, and when Dancing fires ?

'Tis but their Sylph, the wise Celestials know, Tho' Honour is the Word with Men below.

Some Nymphs there are, too conscious of their Face, For Life predestin'd to the Gnomes' Embrace. Who swell their Prospects and exalt their Pride, When Offers are disdain'd, and Love deny'd. Then gay Ideas crowd the vacant Brain, While Peers and Dukes, and all their sweeping Train, And Garters, Stars, and Coronets appear, And in soft sounds, Your Grace salutes their Ear. 'Tis these that early taint the Female Soul, Instruct the eyes of young Coquettes to roll, Teach Infant Cheeks a bidden Blush to know, And little Hearts to flutter at a Beau.

Oft when the World imagine Women stray, The Sylphs through Mystic mazes guide their Way. Thro' all the giddy Circle they pursue, And old Impertinence expel by new. What tender Maid but must a Victim fall To one Man's Treat, but for another's Ball ? When Florio speaks, what Virgin could withstand, If gentle Damon did not squeeze her Hand ? With varying Vanities, from ev'ry Part,

They shift the moving Toyshop of their Heart ; Where Wigs with Wigs, with Sword-knots Sword-knots strive, Beaux banish Beaux, and Coaches Coaches drive. This erring Mortals Levity may call, Oh blind to Truth ! the Sylphs contrive it all.

Of these am I, who thy Protection claim, A watchful Sprite, and Ariel is my Name. Late, as I rang'd the crystal Wilds of Air, In the clear Mirror of thy ruling Star I saw, alas ! some dread Event impend, Ere to the Main this morning's Sun descend, But Heav'n reveals not what, or how, or where: Warn'd by thy Sylph, oh pious Maid beware! This to disclose is all thy Guardian can. Beware of all, but most beware of Man !

He said : when Shock, who thought she slept too long, Leap'd up, and wak'd his Mistress with his Tongue. 'Twas then, Belinda! if Report say true, Thy Eyes first open'd on a Billet-doux;Wounds, Charms, and Ardors, were no sooner read, But all the Vision vanish'd from thy Head.

And now, unveil'd, the Toilet stands display'd, Each Silver Vase in mystic Order laid.

First, rob'd in White, the Nymph intent adores With Head uncover'd, the Cosmetic Pow'rs. A heav'nly Image in the Glass appears, To that she bends, to that her Eyes she rears ; Th' inferior Priestess, at her Altar's side, Trembling, begins the sacred Rites of Pride. Unnumber'd Treasures ope at once, and here The various Off'rings of the World appear ; From each she nicely culls with curious Toil, And decks the Goddess with the glitt'ring Spoil. This Casket India's glowing Gems unlocks, And all Arabia breathes from yonder Box.

The Tortoise here and Elephant unite, Transform'd to Combs, the speckled and the white. Here Files of Pins extend their shining Rows, Puffs, Powders, Patches, Bibles, Billet-doux. Now awful Beauty puts on all its Arms ; The Fair each moment rises in her Charms, Repairs her Smiles, awakens ev'ry Grace, And calls forth all the Wonders of her Face; Sees by Degrees a purer Blush arise, And keener Lightnings quicken in her Eyes. The busy Sylphs surround their darling Care ; These set the Head, and those divide the Hair, Some fold the Sleeve, whilst others plait the Gown ; And Betty's prais'd for labours not her own,


NOT with more Glories, in th' Ethereal Plain, The Sun first rises o'er the purpled Main, Than issuing forth, the Rival of his Beams Launch'd on the Bosom of the Silver Thames. Fair Nymphs, and well-drest Youths around her shone, But ev'ry Eye was fix'd on her alone. On her white Breast a sparkling Cross she wore, Which Jews might kiss, and Infidels adore. Her lively Looks a sprightly Mind disclose, Quick as her Eyes, and as unfix'd as those : Favours to none, to all she Smiles extends, Oft she rejects, but never once offends. Bright as the Sun, her Eyes the Gazers strike, And, like the Sun, they shine on all alike. Yet graceful Ease, and Sweetness void of Pride, Might hide her Faults, if Belles had Faults to hide : If to her share some Female Errors fall, Look on her Face, and you'll forget 'em all.

This Nymph, to the Destruction of Mankind, Nourish'd two Locks which graceful hung behind In equal Curls, and well conspir'd to deck With shining Ringlets the smooth Iv'ry Neck. Love in these Labyrinths his Slaves detains, And mighty Hearts are held in slender Chains. With hairy sprindges we the Birds betray, Slight lines of Hair surprise the Finny Prey, Fair Tresses Man's Imperial Race insnare, And Beauty draws us with a single Hair.

Th' Advent'rous Baron the bright Locks admir'd, He saw, he wish'd, and to the Prize aspir'd : Resolv'd to win, he meditates the way, By Force to ravish, or by Fraud betray; For when Success a Lover's Toil attends, Few ask, if Fraud or Force attain'd his Ends.

For this, ere Phœbus rose, he had implor'd Propitious Heav'n, and ev'ry Pow'r ador'd, But chiefly Love—to Love an Altar built, Of twelve vast French Romances, neatly gilt. There lay three Garters, half a Pair of Gloves, And all the Trophies of his former Loves. With tender Billet-doux he lights the Pyre, And breathes three am'rous Sighs to raise the Fire. Then prostrate falls, and begs with ardent Eyes Soon to obtain, and long possess the Prize : The Pow'rs gave Ear, and granted half his Pray'r, The rest, the Winds dispers'd in empty Air.

But now secure the painted Vessel glides, The Sun-beams trembling on the floating Tydes, While melting Musick steals upon the Sky, And soften'd Sounds along the Waters die. Smooth flow the Waves, the Zephyrs gently play, Belinda smil'd, and all the World was gay. All but the Sylph—With careful Thoughts opprest, Th' impending Woe sat heavy on his Breast. He summons straight his Denizens of Air ; The lucid Squadrons round the Sails repair: Soft o'er the Shrouds Aerial Whispers breath, That seem'd but Zephyrs to the Train beneath. Some to the Sun their Insect-Wings unfold, Waft on the Breeze, or sink in Clouds of Gold. Transparent Forms, too fine for mortal Sight, Their fluid Bodies half dissolv'd in Light. Loose to the Wind their airy Garments flew, Thin glitt'ring Textures of the filmy Dew ; Dipt in the richest Tincture of the Skies, Where Light disports in ever-mingling Dies,

While ev'ry Beam new transient Colours flings, Colours that change whene'er they wave their Wings. Amid the Circle, on the gilded mast, Superiour by the Head, was Ariel plac'd ; His Purple Pinions op'ning to the Sun, He rais'd his Azure Wand, and thus begun.

Ye Sylphs and Sylphids, to your Chief give ear, Fays, Fairies, Genii, Elves, and Daemons hear ! Ye know the Spheres and various Tasks assign'd By Laws Eternal to th' Aerial Kind. Some in the Fields of purest Aether play, And bask and whiten in the Blaze of Day. Some guide the Course of wand'ring Orbs on high, On roll the Planets through the boundless Sky. Some less refin'd, beneath the Moon's pale Light Pursue the Stars that shoot athwart the Night; Or suck the Mists in grosser Air below, Or dip their Pinions in the painted Bow, Or brew fierce Tempests on the wintry Main, Or o'er the Glebe distil the kindly Rain. Others on Earth o'er human Race preside, Watch all their Ways, and all their Actions guide : Of these the Chief the Care of Nations own, And guard with Arms Divine the British Throne.

Our humbler Province is to tend the Fair, Not a less pleasing, tho' less glorious Care. To save the Powder from too rude a Gale, Nor let th' imprison'd Essences exhale; To draw fresh Colours from the vernal Flow'rs, To steal from Rainbows ere they drop in Show'rs A brighter Wash ; to curl their waving Hairs, Assist their Blushes, and inspire their Airs; Nay oft, in Dreams, Invention we bestow, To change a Flounce, or add a Furbelo !

This Day, black Omens threat the brightest Fair That e'er deserv'd a watchful Spirit's Care ; Some dire Disaster, or by Force, or Slight, But what, or where, the Fates have wrapt in Night. Whether the Nymph shall break Diana's law, Or some frail China jar receive a Flaw, Or stain her Honour, or her new Brocade, Forget her Pray'rs, or miss a Masquerade, Or lose her Heart, or Necklace, at a Ball; Or whether Heav'n has doom'd that Shock must fall. Haste then ye Spirits ! to your Charge repair ; The flutt'ring Fan be Zephyretta's Care; The Drops to thee, Brillante, we consign; And, Momentilla, let the Watch be thine ; Do thou, Crispissa, tend her fav'rite Lock ; Ariel himself shall be the guard of Shock.

To Fifty chosen Sylphs, of special Note, We trust th' important Charge, the Petticoat: Oft have we known that sev'nfold Fence to fail, Tho' stiff with Hoops, and arm'd with Ribs of Whale. Form a strong Line about the Silver Bound, And guard the wide Circumference around.

Whatever Spirit, careless of his Charge, His Post neglects, or leave the Fair at large, Shall feel sharp Vengeance soon o'ertake his Sins, Be stop'd in Vials, or transfixt with Pins; Or plung'd in Lakes of bitter Washes lie, Or wedg'd whole Ages in a Bodkin's Eye : Gums and Pomatums shall his Flight restrain, While clog'd he beats his silken Wings in vain ; Or Alom-Stypticks with contracting Pow'r Shrink his thin Essence like a rivell'd Flower. Or, as Ixion fix'd, the Wretch shall feel The giddy Motion of the whirling Mill, Midst Fumes of burning Chocolate shall glow, And tremble at the Sea that froaths below !

He spoke ; the Spirits from the Sails descend ; Some, Orb in Orb, around the Nymph extend, Some thrid the mazy Ringlets of her Hair, Some hang upon the Pendants of her Ear ; With beating Hearts the dire Event they wait, Anxious, and trembling for the Birth of Fate.


Excerpted from THE RAPE OF THE LOCK by Aubrey Beardsley. Copyright © 1968 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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