Valerie Rumbold

These two early poems appeared in the 1717 folio Works in which, still aged only twenty-nine, Pope demonstrated to the literary world the impressive range and accomplishment of his career to date. "Eloisa" was presented there for the first time, while versions of the Rape had already appeared in 1712 and 1714. The two poems served to show not only the quality but also the variety of which Pope was capable. While "Eloisa" draws on the tragic and elegiac rhetoric of the heroic letter (dramatic epistles of female lamentation influenced by the Heroides of the Roman poet Ovid), the Rape is Pope's decisive intervention in the developing tradition of mock-epic (comic satires using the motifs of ancient epic to reflect ironically on modern life).

There are also important similarities between the two poems. Both, as already mentioned, build on models from the ancient world; both are composed in heroic couplets; both base their narratives on real-life events; and both take women as protagonists. More troublingly, both hinge on an infringement of bodily integrity that leads to division both between and within individuals (Abelard is castrated, Belinda has her hair cut against her will); both imagine a state of wholeness that contrasts with the disaster that has actually occurred; and both end with a transposition of the poem's concerns into a version of poetry's traditional claims to immortalize its subject.

Both narratives, moreover, are handled in such a way as to engage with difficult issues in the poet's own life. Both end with a carefully staged focus on Pope's claims for the transcendent significance of his art. Spinal tuberculosis had limited his growth, distorted his figure, and cramped his heart and lungs, making many forms of "manly" exertion impossible; yet still in the conclusions of these poems the poet speaks as a figure of potency. Moreover, in choosing these particular female subjects he appropriates the expressive terrain of confinement and impotence imposed upon them by gender, imprisonment, and violence (Rumbold 1989: 4—6). Though attracted to women, Pope was defensive about their possible reaction to his physique and regarded himself as effectively barred from marriage; but in the poems he takes on a creator's authority over women who are exemplars of beauty and passion, while

(at least in one possible view of the poems) presiding over the suppression of his heroines' desires.

Difficult issues of religious and political identity are also evoked in both poems. As a Catholic at a time when Catholicism was officially regarded as political and cultural subversion, and as the son of a convert from the middle ranks of society, Pope could not identify unproblematically either with the Protestant establishment or with the old Catholic gentry who made up much of his early social circle. Both poems signal, though in less than straightforward ways, the awkwardness of his specific religious identity, "Eloisa" by imagining a version of medieval monasticism, and the Rape by taking as its subject a quarrel in Catholic high society. In terms of party politics, the events surrounding the death of Queen Anne in 1714, leading to the establishment under George I of a Whig hegemony that would last the rest of Pope's life, told against the basically Tory poet's earlier hope of situating himself above narrow considerations of party; and in the light of this dilemma, both poems can be read in terms of political position-taking. "Eloisa" gives an account of the old religion in marked contrast with the propaganda of patriotic Whiggery, and its heroine's high-minded defiance of common sense constraints recalls the aristocratic ethos of heroic love that had animated the world-defying passions of the Restoration tragedy as conceived by triumphant royalists. The Rape, on the other hand, can be read in terms of subversive allusion to the triumph of the Hanoverian Georges and the exile of the Stuarts (Erskine-Hill 1996: 71—93). Both poems, from many points of view, allow for a constant play between their ostensible subjects and what might be at stake for the poet in taking on those subjects.

A productive first approach to these poems might well begin by noting a shared characteristic that links their themes to their formal strategies. (In fact, it is a tendency shared by Pope's work more widely, and by the wider culture in which his poetry was conceived.) Because it lends itself to patterns of comparison and contrast, the rhyming couplet is a potent expressive medium for themes of conflict between ideals or entities defined by their difference one from another. The "Advertisement" to "Eloisa," for example, invites the reader to attend to "the struggles of grace and nature, virtue and passion" (Fairer and Gerrard 1999: 133). In the climactic battle between men and women in The Rape of the Lock, scales appear in the air to weigh up the opposed forces:

Now Jove suspends his golden scales in air,

Weighs the Men's wits against the Lady's hair;

The doubtful beam long nods from side to side;

At length the wits mount up, the hairs subside.

The characteristic polarizing dynamic of the two poems starts at the level of line and couplet. It then builds into larger formal and thematic structures, connecting with wider trends in a period particularly prone to argue in terms such as Court and

Country, Whig and Tory, or ancient and modern. Yet the texts do not rest content with the relentless to and fro of such arguments, but also question the adequacy of such binary oppositions.

At first sight, "Eloisa" is full of expressive oppositions between the pull of the body and its associated drives and the spiritual claims of the Christian religion, intensified in the context of this poem by the particular form of imagined medieval monasti-cism to which the protagonist has submitted. (Any simple equation of the poem's religious assumptions with either medieval practice or Pope's own Catholicism is problematic: his source, a translation indirectly derived from the medieval originals via a seventeenth-century French reworking, had given the subject an almost impenetrable gloss of romance and sensationalism; and the convents he would have known most about, the English communities on the continent where friends like the Blount sisters had been educated, were not isolated settlements of contemplatives like the one hinted at in the poem, but lively urban communities orientated to the education of the young, whose members had active family networks that kept them in constant connection with English Catholic society [Rumbold 1989: 58—9].) A typical passage of conflict between sexual love and religious discipline concludes the poem's opening exposition:

Heav'n claims me all in vain, while he has part, Still rebel nature holds out half my heart; Nor pray'rs nor fasts its stubborn pulse restrain, Nor tears, for ages, taught to flow in vain.

The first line of each of these couplets swivels around an opposition between God/ spirit/grace and Abelard/body/nature: the totality of God's demands is contrasted with Eloisa's reservations in favor of her lover; religious exercises are set against the insistent rhythms of the body. The second line in each case is subtler in its contribution to the pattern: the heart is divided, but we hear only of the rebel part; and the tears that should express penitence prove futile. It is not hard to find lines that stage the polarization that Pope sees in his source and encourages us in his "Advertisement" to look for in the poem; but when we analyze them in the context of the passages of which they form part, the pattern is not as mechanical as an unpracticed reader might fear. In a world ostensibly divided between opposites, we are challenged by what cannot be accommodated, what runs against the grain.

David Morris intriguingly comments that though Pope routinely condemned medieval scholastic philosophy as sterile and divisive, he "does not exploit the irony that Abelard, as the founder of scholastic philosophy, bears responsibility for the false philosophical antagonism between reason and passion that is a main source of Eloisa's dilemma" (Morris 1984: 141); and a major tradition in readings of the poem has been to discern progress, or lack of it, in Eloisa's attempts to achieve a resolution of a conflict inseparable from the either/or choices she sees before her (DePorte 1990:

n. 8). While the first of these binaries, "grace and nature," evokes the Christian insistence that fallen human nature must submit to redemptive grace or risk damnation, the second, "virtue and passion," is more problematically entwined with gendered expectations: virtue, generally equated in women with virginity before marriage and chastity thereafter, is too easily contrasted with a passion culturally associated with the sensuality traditionally attributed to women and cited as justification for their subjection to patriarchal control. It is hard, for example, to think that either Pope or his readers would have focused so readily on the tutor Abelard's combat between virtue and passion, as he prepared to set the story in motion by seducing his pupil Eloisa. In the poem, even the possibility of such an angle on its rights and wrongs tends to be obscured by the sheer verve of moral idealism with which Eloisa insists on the purity of her passion, in contrast to the allegedly instrumental conformity of "the wedded dame":

Let wealth, let honour, wait the wedded dame, August her deed, and sacred be her fame; Before true passion all those views remove, Fame, wealth, and honour! what are you to Love?

This leaves the married woman looking distinctly meretricious, reliant for her "august" and "sacred" status on Eloisa's generous concession, while Eloisa herself, with a bravura reminiscent of the "heroic love" of Restoration aristocratic self-idealization, advocates a radical disinterest in material and social rewards that defies the most basic requirements of female virtue in the eighteenth century. It is no accident that it is this insistence on sidelining conventional morality that leads into the clearest articulation of a possibility of transcending the oppositions on which the poem seems to be posited:

Oh happy state! when souls each other draw, When love is liberty, and nature, law: All then is full, possessing, and possest, No craving Void left aking in the breast: Ev'n thought meets thought e'er from the lips it part, And each warm wish springs mutual from the heart. This sure is bliss (if bliss on earth there be) And once the lot of Abelard and me.

Not only are the two lovers united on every imaginable level (in contrast to their present separation), but the opposition between "liberty" and "law" is dissolved, as one is identified with "love" and the other with "nature" — both terms that belong, in this context, at the bodily pole of the poem's undergirding binary, although the ambiguity of "love" in the context of Eloisa's religious profession is one that will also be explored in visions of divine love elsewhere in the poem. The passage also eliminates any hierarchy between lovers in a vision of absolute and spontaneous mutuality, "possessing, and possest," and, crucially, celebrates the absence of the "craving Void left aking in the breast." It is almost as if Eloisa regains in her relationship with Abelard that originary psychological state in which the infant perceives no boundary between self and mother. From this point of view, the "Void" might be read as that sense of need and desire inseparable from adult knowledge of oneself as an individual, interpreted, in this poem and in the broader construction of experience of which its binary rhetoric partakes, by the splitting of the world into opposed pairings of which one must choose one and cannot have both. Not only lines and couplets, but the poem as a whole switchbacks around this necessity, sharpened (and this is a key factor in the aptness of the story to Pope's project) by the special violence and finality of the castration that brings this particular sexual relationship to an end: these are not simply separated or estranged lovers, but lovers whose complication of physical impairment and voluntary religious renunciation carry separation and estrangement to the extreme. Their peculiar situation matters not because of its freakish aspect, but because it exposes in an intense way the consequences of understanding the world through this particular kind of rhetorical construction, enabling the poem to explore, as it swings between spiritual aspiration and bodily desire, a heightened version of an exemplary conflict.

It is instructive to consider, not only thematically, but also from the point of view of Pope's craft as poet, Eloisa's evocation of the happiness of "the blameless Vestal," a figure entirely at ease with her sublimation of sexual desire in anticipation of union with the heavenly bridegroom ("For her the Spouse prepares the bridal ring, / For her white virgins Hymenaals sing": ll. 217—18). In Eloisa's fantasy of an ideal vocation, phrases and lines balance less to register tension than to assure fullness and completion. (Even Eloisa's evocation of her former happiness with Abelard, as already quoted, offers a pointed contrast in its precise registration of the tensions uniquely resolved in their love.) Here, there is a loss of energy that powerfully suggests the dynamic function of the conflicts that characteristically keep the verse shifting between incompatible options:

How happy is the blameless Vestal's lot?

The world forgetting, by the world forgot.

Eternal sun-shine of the spotless mind!

Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd;

Labour and rest, that equal periods keep;

"Obedient slumbers that can wake and weep";

Desires compos'd, affections ever even,

Tears that delight, and sighs that waft to heav'n.

The previous restless movement does, however, return to the poem as Eloisa imagines Abelard discharging the role of priest at her deathbed. Even here there is division between ostensible piety and erotic preoccupation, as he is imagined holding "the Cross before my lifted eye" (l. 329). The cross evidently cannot speak to her of Christ's redeeming death nearly as vividly as proximity to Abelard speaks of the body and its desires, even at the moment of escaping them for ever: "It will be then no crime to gaze on me. / See from my cheek the transient roses fly! / See the last sparkle languish in my eye!" (ll. 332-4). And Eloisa still has one earthly desire that reaches beyond her death: "May one kind grave unite each hapless name, / And graft my love immortal on thy fame" (ll. 345-6). Even if she is to be imagined as finally transcending life's binary torments, safe "Where flames refin'd in breasts seraphic glow" (l. 322) (a formulation in which she once more attempts to conceive a fullness of life capable of reconciling grace and nature, virtue and passion), her earthly remains, however mixed with Abelard's, still invite commemoration within a gendered system of "fame" and "love."

The disruptive power of sexual attraction is also central to The Rape of the Lock. Lord Petre had caused outrage by snipping a lock of Arabella Fermor's hair, and by 1717 Pope had added considerably to the two-canto poem of 1712 that had been his first response to the story. In 1714 he added the divine "machinery" of sylphs and gnomes, supplying a key desideratum of the epic mode; and in 1717 he further added a speech for Clarissa (v. 9-34), an account of women's role that parodies the pre-battle exposition of warriors' duties and privileges voiced by Homer's Sarpedon (Fairer and Gerrard 1999: 129). The self-conscious playfulness of these epic elaborations contrasts sharply with the investment in high heroic emotionalism that marks "Eloisa," with its inheritance from Ovidian and later traditions of epistolary lament. Yet like the contrasts available within the couplet form itself, the contrast of genre offers Pope a method of juxtaposing radically different angles on surprisingly similar issues; for like "Eloisa," the Rape too hinges on an estranging trespass on bodily integrity. This time it is not a man's genitals but a woman's hair that is severed (though the ritual significance of cut locks might warn against too easy laughter - witness the biblical Samson, who lost his strength when Delilah had his "seven locks" shaved [Judges 16: 4-21], or Virgil's suicide Dido, whose soul could not leave her body until a lock had been cut as a sacrifice to the gods of the underworld [Erskine-Hill 1996: 90-1]). Like Abelard's castration, the theft of Belinda's lock effects a violent division not only between man and woman but also within the woman herself. In the poem, the perpetrator (the Baron, based on Lord Petre) arouses in his victim (Belinda, based on Arabella Fermor) such a rage that battle ensues: in real life, it seems that the quarrel caused a rift between their families that ended any prospect of marriage (Rumbold

The Rape of the Lock evokes a whole range of binaries against which its mock-heroic conflict is to be played out:

What dire Offence from am'rous causes springs,

What mighty contests rise from trivial things,

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! could 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? And dwells such rage in softest bosoms then? And lodge such daring souls in Little men?

A contrast is set up in the second line between "mighty contests" and the "trivial things" that allegedly give rise to them; and the disposition of the two noun phrases at each end of the first and second lines implies that, since "dire Offence" provides an obvious parallel to the former, "am'rous causes" must be paralleled with the latter. Yet this is not in itself quite so obvious: Eloisa, for instance, had no reason to think that "am'rous causes" were "trivial"; and even if we rule out her evidence as being from a contrasted and therefore inadmissible genre, the very fact that we need to make this concession reminds us that Eloisa and Belinda are constructions dependent each on her respective generic matrix: there is no imaginable world in which they can both be equally plausible. At the beginning of The Rape of the Lock readers are being asked not so much to test the equivalence of the "am'rous" and the "trivial" against real-world experience as to recognize and accept the belittling wit expected of a polite (if still slightly rakish) satire on relations between the sexes.

This wit in effect minimizes the trespass that has provoked Belinda's anger, and we may accordingly suspect a routine assumption of masculine authority that would underwrite such a judgment. If we follow the parallel logic of the third couplet, for instance, Belinda is balanced against Caryll. (Identified merely as "C—," he was the young Pope's older and socially more distinguished friend, and Lord Petre's guardian; and it was he who had asked Pope to write something humorous about the quarrel in the hope of reconciling the parties.) The beginning of each line is Belinda's: she provides the "subject," "slight" as it is said to be; and she is the poet's inspiration. The end of each line, however, belongs to Caryll, who it is hoped will "approve" and "praise" the poem he has in effect commissioned: what closes the couplet and is endorsed by its rhyme is the masculine aspiration to art, created by the poet and confirmed by the patron's judgment. It seems an easy step to the next paragraph of the passage, where parallel questions are framed by minimally contrasted couplets whose modulation from "strange" to "stranger" insinuates that a woman's refusal of a man is more surprising than a man's resort to violence against her. Again, the victim is labeled as the more perverse: if he is (understandably?) drawn by the beauty and style of "a gentle Belle," she is (mystifyingly?) unresponsive to the wealth and status of "a Lord." Even when acting against gendered expectation in this way, Belinda furnishes an opportunity for the rehearsal of her sex's allegedly instrumental view of marriage, its fixation on wealth and rank.

To read in this way is to read against the masculine grain of the presentation, interpreting the balancing and pairing of terms as part of a systematic strategy of blaming the victim. However, much in the poem will seek to counter so crude (if subtly insinuated) an argument; and this introductory passage closes with a pair of questions that puts another factor into the balance. Although "such rage" compromises a member of the sex whose "softest bosoms" suggest a contrasting ideal of sweet responsiveness, what is much more striking is the surprisingly satirical force of the final phrase of the passage: that "Little men" should have "such daring souls" as to attack a woman whose anger will increasingly be elevated, within the mock-heroic myth of the poem, into heroic rage. The Baron will sacrifice on the altar of love a collection of "trophies of his former loves" that is both light-minded and indecorous: his "twelve vast French Romances, neatly gilt" are accompanied not only by "half a pair of gloves," but also by "three garters" (ii. 38—40). Sir Plume, whose wife Thalestris commands a disastrously vigorous rhetoric, is himself unable to frame a coherent sentence; and it would be hard for a female character to be any more identified with her material appurtenances than this would-be defender of female vulnerability. He is introduced as "of amber Snuff-box justly vain, / And the nice conduct of a clouded Cane" (iv. 123—4), and his mute accoutrements make more impact than he does:

"Plague on't! 'tis past a jest — nay prithee, pox!

"Give her the hair — he spoke, and rapp'd his box.

The final question mark to be placed against the claims of masculine intellect comes with the apparition of the cosmic scales to decide the battle. While this is at one level a witty allusion to a familiar epic motif (Fairer and Gerrard 1999: 131), what is being weighed here is not simply the fortunes of the contending parties, but the kind of resource that each brings to the struggle, conceived on each side as constitutive of one of the two warring sexes. Men are aligned with intellect, women with the body and sexuality, a reading of gender entirely in line with the dominant outlook of the poem so far, and with wide resonance in the culture of the time; yet when the scales come to rest, the result is not an obvious victory for the male sex:

The doubtful beam long nods from side to side;

At length the wits mount up, the hairs subside.

It is Belinda's lock that weighs heaviest, and the men are routed. Yet even here the ostensible purport of the action is overcast by the inevitability (from the masculine perspective) of women's sexual need of men, as the Baron prepares to expire in a heroic climax of double entendre:

Boast not my fall (he cry'd) insulting foe!

Thou by some other shalt be laid as low.

Nor think, to die dejects my lofty mind: All that I dread is leaving you behind! Rather than so, ah let me still survive, And burn in Cupid's flames, — but burn alive.

Still Belinda challenges him to "Restore the Lock!," and still the text withholds approval of his original trespass, reminding us that the lock had been "obtain'd with guilt" as well as "kept with pain" (v. 103, 109). It might seem that Belinda has at last won her case, although the Baron's innuendo (echoing the narrator's: cf. v. 77-80) keeps in view an irrepressible masculine confidence that the Baron shares — at least on occasion - with the poem's narrator, as evidenced by the way that so many of the poem's binaries work to enforce the superiority of male over female.

Where, though, in this poem is there a vision of fullness and integrity to compare with Eloisa's? Is there any evocation of a coherence antecedent to loss and separation, or any sense that it might be restored? Pope testifies that Caryll wanted a poem that would "laugh them together again," so we might perhaps have expected some idealization of the happy marriage and communal reconciliation that might just have been retrievable; but we have none of this, whether in the past or in prospect (Rumbold 1989: 68). Far from matching Eloisa's vision of wholeness in love, Belinda's mental state before the theft of the lock is both dissipated and sexually fixated: exhorted in her dream to "Beware of all, but most beware of man!" (i. 114), she forgets the warning as soon as she sees a love-letter: "'Twas then Belinda! if report say true, / Thy eyes first open'd on a Billet-doux" (i. 117—18). The poem insinuates that butterfly-mindedness is characteristic of the society belle. This is made explicit through the mock-epic machinery of sylphs and gnomes, who, as Ariel explains in the dream, ensure that each stimulus is quickly canceled out by the next — and that their charges never concentrate on an individual suitor for long enough to see the man behind the fashionable appurtenances:

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,

Beaus banish Beaus, and Coaches Coaches drive.

Under the sylphs' management, the belles' desires flit from one commodity to another; and the beau appears indistinguishable from the wig and sword-knot he wears and the coach in which he rides. This is a world of objects rather than persons, of surfaces rather than interiors; and a consequence is that when Belinda tries to conjure up an alternative life that might have kept her safe, her vision of self-sufficiency and integrity is utterly implausible for the personality the poem has constructed for her. The unremitting modishness of her references and the absence of any but a negative evocation of the benefits of seclusion and simplicity undermine her fantasy even as she utters it:

Oh had I rather un-admir'd remain'd In some lone isle, or distant Northern land; Where the gilt Chariot never marks the way, Where none learn Ombre, none e'er taste Bohea! There kept my charms, conceal'd from mortal eye Like roses that in desarts bloom and die. What mov'd my mind with youthful Lords to rome? O had I stay'd, and said my pray'rs at home!

It is left to Clarissa, who had lent the Baron the scissors in the first place (a neglected rival for his affections, perhaps; or just someone resentful of Belinda's ability to monopolize male attention?) to set forth a realistic alternative for Belinda's next move, and for female life in general. Clarissa (with an infuriatingly patronising "And trust me, dear!") prides herself on telling it like it is: boys will be boys; their estimate of you is what counts in the end; so best smile sweetly and let them get on with it:

But since, alas! frail beauty must decay, Curl'd or uncurl'd, since Locks will turn to grey, Since painted, or not painted, all shall fade, And she who scorns a man, must die a maid; What then remains, but well our pow'r to use, And keep good humour still whate'er we lose? And trust me, dear! good humour can prevail, When airs, and flights, and screams, and scolding fail. Beauties in vain their pretty eyes may roll; Charms strike the sight, but merit wins the soul.

It is often said that Pope added Clarissa's speech, which appeared for the first time in the 1717 revision of the poem, "to open more clearly the moral of the Poem"; but this is in fact an interpretation added by Pope's literary heir William Warburton in his edition of 1751 (Tillotson 1940: 199; Erskine-Hill 1996: 89). Warburton's flatly literal approach is in fact quite at odds with the playful withholding of explicit judgment that is the hallmark of the poem.

This being said, "good nature" does remain, however lamentably to modern readers, the most plausible option that the poem had to offer the women in its original audience. For them, the self-affirmation that many today find inspiring in the mock-heroic posturings the poem allows Belinda would probably have seemed an embarrassing offense against feminine standards of behavior, her representation as modern parody of the hero of ancient epic not a recognition of the obsolescence of traditional paradigms but a snub to overweening self-importance. Pope had, after all, found it advisable to placate Belinda's real-life original with a declaration that "the Character of Belinda, as it is now manag'd, resembles You in nothing but in Beauty" (Tillotson 1940: 143). In comparison with "Eloisa," which became a congenial if in some ways troubling object of imitation and allusion for many eighteenth-century women poets, the Rape hardly figures in their work at all: "they evidently found it nearly impossible to adapt The Rape of the Lock to a woman's point of view" (Thomas 1994: 132—5, 174—93 at 190). The sense that the epic comparison might dignify as well as criticize a heroine adapted to the realities of modern consumer culture is, in comparison, a rather recent one.

As the two poems come to their conclusions, neither offers a clear prospect of achievable wholeness. Instead, both attempt a displacement of the heroine's dilemma, as the final focus shifts to the poet himself. Eloisa looks forward to becoming the subject of "some future Bard": "The well-sung woes shall sooth my pensive ghost; / He best can paint 'em, who shall feel 'em most" (ll. 367—8). The reference to the poet's own sadness in love compliments Pope's absent friend Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, absent with her husband on a diplomatic mission to Constantinople; but an earlier plan for the ending would apparently have invoked his more loyal if less flamboyant friend Martha Blount (Sherburn 1956: vol. 1, 338) — and what seems most important here is the fact that the poem ultimately comes to rest not on a particular woman, but on the poet. In the final line he appropriates not only the praise of writing well, which we might have expected, but also, more tendentiously, of equaling if not excelling the emotional intensity of his heroine.

The tone of The Rape of the Lock is very different; but it too shifts emphasis in its closing lines away from the woman's experience and towards the poet's power. "But trust the Muse," Belinda is exhorted, as the lock disappears into the heavens (v. 123—4). Only the Muse and those blessed with "quick, poetic eyes" can see, as the image of the transfigured star implies, that the quarrel is best pursued no further, that the fuss and anguish will be most constructively interpreted in terms not of crime and disgrace, but rather of testimony to Arabella's beauty (a reading whose strategic support for male rapacity has been frequently noted). The lines insist that the woman's beauty and erotic power is bodily and therefore temporary, while poetry is immortal and immortalizing:

Then cease, bright nymph! to mourn the ravish'd hair,

Which adds new glory to the shining sphere!

Not all the tresses that fair head can boast,

Shall draw such envy as the Lock you lost.

For, after all the murders of your eye,

When, after millions slain, your self shall die;

When those fair suns shall set, as set they must,

And all those tresses shall be laid in dust;

This Lock, the Muse shall consecrate to fame,

And 'midst the stars inscribe Belinda's, name!

Her name, in effect, will survive only because Pope wrote about her. This is a highly traditional piece of audacity on the poet's part, and a striking one coming from a very young man with plenty of enemies. It is also a strategy by which a man triply disadvantaged by his body, his religion, and his politics can stake a claim to a compensatory cultural power. In a letter to Caryll in 1711 thanking him for his praise of his poetry, Pope had commented that in his "own eyes," with regard to "his own person," he seemed "not the great Alexander Mr Caryll is so civil to, but that little Alexander the women laugh at" (Sherburn 1956: vol. 1, 114). At the end of the Rape, as in "Eloisa," the confidence that praise like Caryll's had helped to consolidate comes into its own, asserting, in the face of his heroines' suffering, the power of his art to transcend the anguish of division between and within human beings.

When the 29-year-old poet published these poems along with other highlights of his early career in 1717, "in publishing a volume of Works he was engaging in an act of self-promotion that any celebrated 79-year-old contemporary would have blenched at" (McLaverty 2001: 46). The effrontery is compounded by a handsome portrait frontispiece. This could not, of course, cancel readers' knowledge of his deformity and disability. Nor did the success of his poems make him any more enthusiastic about the well-meaning attempts of friends to point him toward suitable marriage partners (Rumbold 1989: 4). But his poems could offer their heroines, and, through them, the divided psyches of their culture, a vision of integration through the transcendence of art. In his real-life attempts to help women in trouble, Pope sometimes exasperated the men officially charged with their welfare (Rumbold 1989: 103—8); but in these poems the urge to reparation and appropriation is sublimated into a masculine performance that is authoritatively his own, that of the poet who articulates the dividedness of his culture, registers its ironies, contradictions, and inadequacies, and figures the restoration of its originary loss by translating its victims into the immortality of art.

See also chs. 9, "Poetry, Sentiment, and Sensibility"; 26, "Epic and Mock-Heroic"; 31, "The Constructions of Femininity."

References and Further Reading

Beer, Gillian (1982). " 'Our unnatural no-voice': The Heroic Epistle, Pope, and Women's Gothic." Yearbook of English Studies 12, 125—51.

DePorte, M. (1990). "Grace within the Reach of Art: Pope's 'Eloisa to Abelard.' " In C. Fox (ed.), Teaching Eighteenth-Century Poetry, 223—35. New York: AMS.

Erskine-Hill, Howard (1996). The Poetry of Opposition and Revolution: Dryden to Wordsworth. Oxford: Clarendon.

Fabricant, C. (1997). "Defining Self and Others: Pope and Eighteenth-Century Gender Ideology." Criticism 39, 503—29.

Fairer, David, and Gerrard, Christine, eds. (1999).

Eighteenth-Century Poetry: An Annotated Anthology. Oxford: Blackwell.

Grove, R. (1979). "Uniting Airy Substance: The Rape of the Lock 1712-1736." In H. Erskine-Hill and A. Smith (eds.), The Art of Alexander Pope, 52-88. London: Vision.

Hammond, B., ed. (1996). Pope. London: Longman. (See Part II for essays by S. Bygrave, L. Claridge, and E. Pollak.)

McLaverty, James (2001). Pope, Print and Meaning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Morris, D. (1984). Alexander Pope: The Genius of Sense. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Pope, Alexander (1998). The Rape of the Lock, ed. and intr. C. Wall. Boston: Bedford.

Rumbold, V. (1989). Women's Place in Pope's World. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Sherburn, G., ed. (1956). The Correspondence of Alexander Pope, 5 vols. Oxford: Clarendon.

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