Short Summary of Rape of the Lock Canto-I: "Rape of the Lock" by Alexander Pope
The poet begins the mock epic poem in the manner as if it were some great event ready to be unfolded but he himself clarifies that "slight is the subject"; therefore, no real tale of glory is to be expected of it. The poet tells us that the poem is about a lady Belinda that rejects a lord and the lord's assaulting that "gentle belle" and the consequences. After this introduction, the poet leads us to the room of Belinda where sun has of late been shining its rays but "sleepless lovers, just at twelve, awake". So, she is sleeping with her "pillow prest". The guardian sylphs of Belinda have caste the dream of such a "beau" which has caused her cheeks to shine. Belinda is surrounded by a multitude of guardian angels:
"Know then, unnumbered Spirits round thee fly,
The light Militia of the lower Sky"
The poet ironically implies that the task of these spirits is of varied kinds which include not only guarding the beauty and chastity of the maids but also the tools of her beautification e.g. "Hang o'er the Box, and hover round the Ring." These sylphs were once women and after their deaths, they have transformed into sylphs. The poet describes in detail of the transition and formation the sylphs that are entrusted with the task of Belinda's care.
"For when the Fair in all their Pride expire,
To their first Elements the Souls retire"
The poet describes four types of the airy militia which guards the chastity of maids. The "fiery" sort of women transform and assume the shape of "Salamander" and "Soft yielding" turn into nymphs. While "the graver Prude sinks downward to a Gnome" and the "light Coquettes" becomes sylphs and play about in the earth. Gnomes are the spirits which were transformed of women that were too conscious of their face. These spirits can assume any shape they please. The poet then directs his attack one women claiming:
"Know farther yet; Whoever fair and chaste
Rejects Mankind, is by some Sylph embrac'd"
He advances in the same theme and asserts that these light militia of air guard "the Purity of melting Maids" when they are about to fall during midnight balls or masquerades and treacherous friends. These are the cause of the women to reject a lord's love and these sylphs not only guard but also teach numerous ways to attract men and how to blush while the poet accuses women of having a "vacant brain". Whenever a woman is stray, these sylphs guide her way to the correct path. The Ariel introduces itself as the guardian of Belinda:
"Of these am I, who thy Protection claim,
A watchful Sprite, and Ariel is my Name."
Ariel whispers in the air of Belinda that it has seen some bad omen but does not know when and where it is likely to take place: "I saw, alas! some dread Event impend" and then she advises Belinda to be "most beware of Man!".
Then Belinda wakes up by licking of her dog, Shock. She unveils the toilet of wonderful "Unnumber'd Treasures ope at once" that are meant to turn her beauty into a goddess of earth.
"Th' inferior Priestess, at her Altar's side,
Trembling, begins the sacred Rites of Pride.