The Rape of the Lock In Plain and Simple English (Digital Download)
Unraveling the Wit and Wisdom of Pope's Masterpiece

Dive into the intricate world of satire with Alexander Pope's celebrated mock-heroic poem. Its humor and keen observations are timeless, echoing with as much relevance and hilarity today as they did centuries ago. But like many classics, the nuances and layers of its prose can be challenging to the contemporary reader.

The poem brilliantly uses the act of snatching away a lock of hair as its central theme - an action that might seem trivial today but held significant implications of reputation and honor in the times it was written. Navigate through Pope's deft portrayal of societal norms and the often absurd lengths people go to uphold or defend them.

With BookCaps' modern rendition, every line, jest, and poetic device is made clear and relatable. Dive into this satirical gem and relish its wit, made accessible for today's audience. Your journey through this classic satire awaits, simplified yet never diluted.



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Excerpt From The Rape of the Lock In Plain and Simple English



There's no point in pretending that I don't think this poem has some value, as I'm dedicating it to you.  But you are my witness to the fact that I only wrote it for the amusement of a few young ladies, who are clever and witty enough to laugh at the daft things not only other women. but also themselves, sometimes get up to.  But of course as it was supposed to remain secret it soon got out.  As someone offered a poor copy to a publisher, you kindly agreed to allow, for my sake, the publication of a more accurate copy.  I was forced into doing this before I had finished what I planned, not all of the scheme being complete.


Machinery, Madam, is a term invented by critics for the part which Gods, Angels or Devils play in a poem.  In one way the ancient poets are very similar to modern Ladies: however trivial somehting is, they always make it seem extremely important. I meant to include these spiritual elements in a very novel and unusual way, following the Rosicrucian idea of spirits.


I know that it's wrong to bother a Lady with complex concepts, but the poet is so eager to have his work understood, particularly by Ladies, that you must let me explain one or two difficult terms.


I must tell you about the Rosicrucians.  The best account of them I know is in a French book called Le Comte de Gabalais, which in size and title is so like a novel that many women have mistakenly read it as one.  According to these gentlemen, each element contains a spirit, and they call them Sylphs, Gnomes, Nymphs and Salamanders.  The Gnomes, or earthly Daemons, love to cause mischief, but the Sylphs, who live in the air, are the most goodnatured creatures imaginable.  They say that any mortal person can be on the best of terms with these gentle spirits, as long as they are completely chaste (an easy proviso for all true believers).


As for the poem which follows, everything about it is a fantasy, like the Vision at the beginning or the Transformation at the end (apart from the loss of your hair, which I always mention with great respect).  The human characters are as made up as the spiritual ones; the character of Belinda, as she appears here, is nothing like you, except in her beauty.


If this poem was as wonderful as you and your mind, I couldn't hope for it to pass through the world with such universal admiration as you receive.  But whatever may happen to it, I am still very lucky to be able to have the chance to say that I am, with very great respect,


Your most obedient and humble servant,


Alexander Pope


Canto I  



I am singing about the terrible consequences that come from love,

What great battles are started by trivial things;

This verse is offered to my inspiraiton Caryl!

Even Belinda might agree to look at this,

And it is a small subject, but the praise won't be small,

If she inspires, and he approves of, my verse.


Tell us, Goddess, what strange motives could lead

A well-bred Lord to attack a gentle beauty?

What stranger reason, yet to be investigated,

Could make a gentle beauty reject a Lord?

Can little men become involved in such great matters,

And can such a great anger live in soft bosoms?


The sun shone a timid ray through the white curtains

And opened those eyes which are brighter than thee day:

Now lapdogs wake up, shaking,

And sleepless lovers are as awake as they were at midnight:

The bell is rung three times, the slipper falls to the ground,

And the watch when pressed rings its silver bell.

Belinda still rested her head on her feather pillow,

With her guardian Sylph still watching over her rest:

It was he who had brought to her silent bed

The morning dream which hovered over her head;

A youth more lovely than a birthday suitor

(Who made her flush even in her sleep)

Seemed to put his winning lips to her ear,

And said in whispers, or seemed to say,


Most lovely human, who is watched over

By a thousand bright creatures of the air!

If you have ever seen in your young mind

Any of the things your nurse and priest have told you of,

Dancing elves seen in the moonlight shadows,

The silver token, the green crown,

Or virgins visited by angels,

With golden crowns and wreaths of heavenly flowers;

Hear and believe!  Know your own importance,

And don't just look at the things of earth.


There are some secret truths, hidden from the arrogant educated,

Which are shown only to girls and to children:

What does it matter if the doubters don't believe?

The lovely and the innocent will still believe.

So you should know that countless spirits fly around you,

The armies of light of the lower skies:

Though you can't see them they are always flying,

Swarming through the heavens.

Think of the servants you have for you in the air,

And look scornfully at servants and sedan chairs.

Our beings used to have the shape you have now,

We once had the lovely shapes of women;

From there, by a soft transition, we went

From being corporeal to beings of air.


Do not imagine that when a woman no longer breathes

That all of the vanities have died with her;

She still follows other vanities,

Although she no longer plays, she watches over the game.

The pleasure she took in Golden chariots, when she was alive,

And her love of card games, survives after death.

For when the lovely ones die, with all their pride,

Their souls return to their original elements:

The spirits of troublesome women rise up

Inflame, and become salamanders.

Soft yielding minds slide away to the water,

And sip their eternal tea with the nymphs.

The more serious prudish ones become gnomes,

Roaming the Earth, still looking for mischief.

The trivial flirts go up to the sylphs,

Dancing and fluttering through the air.


“And furthermore you should know that whoever, lovely and chaste,

Rejects mankind, is taken in by some Sylph:

For spirits, when they are freed from the laws of men, can

Easily take on whatever sex and shape they please.

What protects the purity of gentle girls,

In formal balls, and dances at midnight,

Keeping them from treacherous friends, daring young men,

Who glance at them in daytime, whisper to them in the dark,

When good times light up their warm desires,

With music softening them, dancing heating them?

That is just their Slyph, the wise ones of heaven know,

Although men on earth call that honour.


There are some nymphs, who care too much about their appearance,

Who are destined to join with the gnomes.

They think their life is good and they become proud,

When they turn down offers, and reject love:

Happy ideas swarm into their empty brains,

They seem to see Peers and Dukes, although retinues,

With garters, styles and coronets,

And with noblemen whispering in their areas.

This is what corrupts the female soul when young,

Teaching young flirts how to roll their eyes,

Teaching young cheeks how to show a blush,

And making little hearts flutter at their suitors.

Often, when the world thinks that a woman has strayed,

She is being guided by the Sylphs through mysterious mazes,

They chase them all through the whirling circle,

And find new cheek to replace the old.

What tender maid is there who can avoid becoming a victim

When offered a treat by one man, unless there is another to distract her?

When Florio speaks, what virgin could withstand him,

If gentle Damon wasn't there to squeeze her hand?

With different vanities, from all over,

Their inconstant hearts move from place to place,

Wigs and decorations fight with each other,

One boy drives out another, coaches jostle each other side.

Mistaken men call these things levity;

They are blind to the truth! It is all planned by the Sylphs.


I am one of these who wants to protect you,

I am a watchful sprite, and my name is Ariel.

Recently, as I roamed across the heavens,

I saw in the clear mirror of your ruling star,

Alas! Some dreadful event coming,

Before the sun passes midday,

But the heavens do not reveal what is, or how, or where:

You have been warned by the Sylph, oh pious girl, be careful!

This is all that your guardian can tell you:

Be careful of everything, but most of all be wary of man!"


He said this, then Shock, who thought she had slept too long,

Jumped up, and licked his mistress awake.

It was then, Belinda, if the reports are true,

That the first thing you saw was a love letter;

No sooner had you read everything in that,

Than all of your vision was driven out of your head.


And now, uncovered, we see your dressing things,

Each silver vase laid out in a mystical order.

Firstly, closed in white, the Nymph adoringly concentrates

On your uncovered head, the power of cosmetics.

A heavenly image appears in the mirror,

She bows to that, she lives up her eyes;

The inferior priestess, at the side of her altar,

Trembling, begins the sacred rites of vanity.

At once she opens countless treasures,

And presents from all over the world appear;

And she worked her magic, taking things

To dress her Goddess with the glittering results.

From this casket come glowing gems from India,

And all the perfumes of Arabia waft from that box.

Here we see tortoiseshell and ivory together,

Turned into combs, speckled and white.

Here we see rows of pins laid out together,

Puffs, powders, patches, Bibles, love letters.

Now terrible beauty has dressed itself in its armour;

The lovely one becomes more lovely every moment,

She repaints her lips, summons every grace,

And draws out all the beauty in her face;

Gradually she takes on a more pure colour,

And her eyes sparkle even brighter.

The busy Sylphs surround their dear mistress,

Some dressing her head, others brushing her hair,

Some folding her sleeves, others plaiting her gown:

And the maid gets the praise for the work which they have done.
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