TABLE OF CONTENTS
An Allusion to Ovid in "The Rape of the Lock"
One of the many allusions in Pope's Canto IV is to an episode of the Second Book of Ovid's Metamorphoses regarding a cave he made for Envy. Ovid was a Roman poet, writer of love poetry , and re-teller of classical myths whose writings were standard reading in schools from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. Many writers such as Shakespeare used him for plot sources, and Pope helped to translate his works into English. The relevant episode concerns the messenger of the gods, Hermes, who falls in love with a beautiful virgin, Aglauros, and is determined to be with her...
ASSIGNMENT: FIND PARALLELS IN THIS SELECTION TO CANTO IV OF POPE'S POEM:
Twas now the feast, when each Athenian maid
Her yearly homage to Minerva paid;
In canisters, with garlands cover'd o'er,
High on their heads, their mystick gifts they bore:
And now, returning in a solemn train,
The troop of shining virgins fill'd the plain.
The God well pleas'd beheld the pompous show,
And saw the bright procession pass below...
At length Hermes pitch'd upon the ground, and show'd
The form divine, the features of a God.
He knew their virtue o'er a female heart,
And yet he strives to better them by art...
Aglauros first th' approaching God descry'd,
And, as he cross'd her chamber, ask'd his name,
And what his business was, and whence he came.
"I come," reply'd the God, "from Heav'n, to woo
Your sister, and to make an aunt of you;
[This act of love on the part of a god makes Minerva, her sister very jealous, and she seeks out ENVY in her cave to plot revenge The following is a description of her cave...]
She sought out Envy in her dark abode,
Defil'd with ropy gore and clots of blood:
Shut from the winds, and from the wholesome skies,
In a deep vale the gloomy dungeon lies,
Dismal and cold, where not a beam of light
Invades the winter, or disturbs the night.
Directly to the cave her course she steer'd;
Against the gates her martial lance she rear'd;
The gates flew open, and the fiend appear'd.
A pois'nous morsel in her teeth she chew'd,
And gorg'd the flesh of vipers for her food.
Minerva loathing turn'd away her eye;
The hideous monster, rising heavily,
Came stalking forward with a sullen pace,
And left her mangled offals on the place.
Soon as she saw the goddess gay and bright,
She fetch'd a groan at such a cheerful sight.
Livid and meagre were her looks, her eye
In foul distorted glances turn'd awry;
A hoard of gall her inward parts possess'd,
And spread a greenness o'er her canker'd breast;
Her teeth were brown with rust, and from her tongue,
In dangling drops, the stringy poison hung.
She never smiles but when the wretched weep,
Nor lulls her malice with a moment's sleep,
Restless in spite: while watchful to destroy,
She pines and sickens at another's joy;
Foe to her self, distressing and distrest,
She bears her own tormentor in her breast.
[She commands that Envy seek revenge on her sister]...
The Goddess gave (for she abhorr'd her sight)
A short command: "To Athens speed thy flight;
On curst Aglauros try thy utmost art,
And fix thy rankest venoms in her heart..."
Th' apartment now she enter'd, where at rest
Aglauros lay, with gentle sleep opprest.
To execute Minerva's dire command,
She stroak'd the virgin with her canker'd hand,
Then prickly thorns into her breast convey'd,
That stung to madness the devoted maid:
Her subtle venom still improves the smart,
Frets in the blood, and festers in the heart.
To make the work more sure, a scene she drew,
And plac'd before the dreaming virgin's view
Her sister's marriage, and her glorious fate:
Th' imaginary bride appears in state;
The bride-groom with unwonted beauty glows:
For envy magnifies what-e'er she shows.
Full of the dream, Aglauros pin'd away
In tears all night, in darkness all the day;
Consum'd like ice, that just begins to run,
When feebly smitten by the distant sun;
Or like unwholsome weeds, that set on fire
Are slowly wasted, and in smoke expire.
Giv'n up to envy (for in ev'ry thought
The thorns, the venom, and the vision wrought)
Oft did she call on death, as oft decreed,
Rather than see her sister's wish succeed,
To tell her awfull father what had past:
At length before the door her self she cast;
And, sitting on the ground with sullen pride,
A passage to the love-sick God deny'd.
The God caress'd, and for admission pray'd,
And sooth'd in softest words th' envenom'd maid.
In vain he sooth'd: "Begone!" the maid replies,
"Or here I keep my seat, and never rise."
"Then keep thy seat for ever," cries the God,
And touch'd the door, wide op'ning to his rod.
Fain would she rise, and stop him, but she found
Her trunk too heavy to forsake the ground;
Her joints are all benum'd, her hands are pale,
And marble now appears in ev'ry nail.
As when a cancer in the body feeds,
And gradual death from limb to limb proceeds;
So does the chillness to each vital part
Spread by degrees, and creeps into her heart;
'Till hard'ning ev'ry where, and speechless grown,
She sits unmov'd, and freezes to a stone.
But still her envious hue and sullen mien
Are in the sedentary figure seen.