Pope's first 'heroi-comical poem' coupled together heroic language and contemporary life, producing a medium appropriate for a poet who was engaging in a massive epic translation but whose temperament was satiric. Originally designed as a palliative in a family quarrel , it was itself expanded from the miniature squib of 1712 into a five-canto version complete with a race of mythological beings to act in parody of the epic 'machinery' of divine action ; in the later version (used here), contrasts of perspective, the conflation of big and little, high and low, animate and inanimate, offer Pope a fertile field both for imaginative play and for explorations of the strangeness of mental and emotional life. The poem poses explicit questions, but its answers are more diffuse.
Say what strange Motive, Goddess! cou'd compel
A well-bred Lord t'assault a gentle Belle?
Oh say what stranger Cause, yet unexplor'd,
Cou'd make a gentle Belle reject a Lord?
In Tasks so bold, can Little Men engage,
And in soft Bosoms dwells such mighty Rage?
In his opening invocation, Pope has already identified 'am'rous Causes' as the stimulant to the Baron's 'dire Offence' (RL, I:1); but the poem goes on to suggest more complicated manoeuvrings between 'mighty Contests' and 'trivial Things' (RL, I:2).
Belinda is a little 'Belle', or fashionable beauty, celebrated in conventional language ('those Eyes that must eclipse the Day', RL, I:14), but dozing her way through the morning, absolutely without responsibility or occupation. Her attempts at action are curious: we may take 'Thrice rung the Bell the Slipper knock'd the Ground/And the press'd Watch return'd a silver Sound' (RL, I:17-18) to indicate that she rings for her maid, knocks on the floor for attention, then checks the time, but her agency is nowhere specified and the objects appear to perform the actions themselves. Belinda is, in any case, put back to sleep again by her 'Guardian Sylph', Ariel, who puts into her head (in a parody of epic and biblical dreams) an attractive male figure to warn her of some impending disaster (I:27-114). The long speech grafts onto Belinda's