Rape of the lock Canto 2 page 512 (anxiety around materiality ('On…
Rape of the lock Canto 2 page 512
relies on martial language to situate his poem within the epic genre
'glories' 'in the ethereal plane'
anxiety around materiality
'On her white breast a sparkling cross she wore, 'Which Jews might kiss and infidels adore'
serves an ornamental, rather than religious, function.
itemising her, the fact that the cross is 'glittering' infuses it with a certain superficiality, distracting quality that is almost sacrilegious
the double bind of appearing beautiful to attract a proper husband, but also this veering into vain excess.
her appearance is a form of display, 'and, like the sun, they shine on all alike'. Something mercenary about it, inheriting the tropes of religion.
there is something coquettish about her behaviour and appearance, almost accusing her of being too inviting, 'to all she smiles extends'.
display of courtship?
charms becoming objects of worship, 'nourished two locks which graceful hung behind/ In equal curls'
vanity is a female error, her redemption and her demise are therefore bound up in her appearance. Paradox.
'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 them all'
female agency depicted as malevolent and exploitative; feminine beauty is a trap.
'fair tresses man's imperial race ensnare, / And beauty draws us with a single hair'
also the epic idea of assigning grand importance to seeming trivial details, how they accumulate metaphorical meanings
the sexual allegory of the poem in enforced
'by force to ravish, or by fraud betray' about the result, not the means, sexually violent undertones of 'ravishing' and also objectifying part of her physical body as 'the prize'.
the means does not matter, as it is appearances that people judge upon and this is how society quantifies moral values, 'few ask if fraud or force attained his ends'
objects as conquests and the ritualised worship of secular love, 'to Love an altar built. / There lay three garters, half a pair of gloves' all incomplete, material memories more of the act of taking and possession.
epic convention of sacrificing to the Gods
'the powers gave ear, and granted half his prayer' however, the interference of the Gods is usually a moral blessing.