1. Parallel and contrast

Know farther yet; Whoever FAIR and CHASTE
Rejects [verb1: -] Mankind, is by some Sylph Embrac'd [verb1: +]:
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 [noun-adjective1a], and Midnight Masquerades [noun-adjective1b],
The Glance by Day [obj1c], the Whisper in the Dark [obj1d];
WHEN kind Occasion prompts their warm Desires,
WHEN Musick softens, and WHEN Dancing fires? — The Rape of the Lock, Canto I, lines 67-76

Note how Pope turns each set of two lines into a unit by closing it off with a strong rhyme. What kind of words and what parts of speech does he chose to create this closure? What kind does he avoid?

How many different kinds of parallels can you find in these lines?

How does Pope create variety so the form doesn't get monotonous? Hint: line 73 pairs "treach'rous Friend" and "daring Spark."

What does the second half of the couplet use for a similar parallel?

2. Rhetorical organization

An example of the way that the rhetorical organization of Pope's couplets generates his characteristic wit:

Whether the Nymph shall break Diana's Law,
Or some frail China Jar recieve a Flaw,
Or stain her Honour, or her new Brocade,
Forget her Prayer's, or miss a Masquerade,
Or lose her Heart, or Necklace, at a Ball... — The Rape of the Lock, Canto II, lines 103-9

What point does Pope make by placing side by side (and in similar grammatical forms) the important and the trivial?

How does this establish tone, point of view, the subject of the poem?

3. Puns and wordplay

Here Britain's Statesmen oft the Fall foredoom
Of Foreign Tyrants, and of Nymphs at Home;
Here Thou, Great Anna! whom three Realms obey,
Dost sometimes Counsel take and sometimes Tea. — The Rape of the Lock, Canto III, lines 5-9

Compare lines 157-60.

How do the verbs act to create puns?

Why is a pun particularly suitable for this kind of verse form? subject? satire?


Website Overview Screen Before Victoria Neoclassicism Genre and Technique Alexander Pope

Originally created 1987; last modified 2007