Canto 1 opens with the lines,
What dire offence from am'rous causes springs,
What mighty contests rise from trivial things.
These lines, especially the words "trivial things" signal that this will be a mock epic, using the heroic form to satirize an unimportant event. The lines carry echoes for contemporary readers of the "am'rous" and "trivial" cause of the Trojan War, the subject of Homer's Iliad, in which an ego-driven quarrel between three goddesses over who was the most beautiful led to a bloody, decade-long conflict.
The narrator invokes his muses and the camera, so to speak, moves to the lovely, sleeping Belinda, beginning to arouse at noon to begin her day. In her half-awake state, the chief Sylph Ariel begins to speak to her in her "dreams" as he explains the important role such invisible creatures as Nymphs and Sylphs play in the life of a young lady such as Belinda. Like the more imposing and significant role of the gods in the Iliad, these tiny and trivial spirits guide the fortunes of the humans under their care.
Ariel, having explained the spirit world's role, then prophesies that some "dread event" is about to occur, ending his monologue with the words
Beware of all, but most beware of man!
At this point, the story moves back to the voice of the narrator, who reports in detail on the many aspects of Belinda's getting dressed and made up as she readies for the day ahead. This is likened to putting on armor for battle, though Belinda's armor is dainty and delicate: pins rather than swords, powder and plaits rather than armor and helmets. Once Belinda is readied for her day, the canto ends.