The poem "The Rape of the Lock" by Alexander Pope: there is a description of Maid and nymphs in Canto 1.. Please tell me whether actually the maid is present in the poem or nymphs are the ones who...

The poem "The Rape of the Lock" by Alexander Pope: there is a description of Maid and nymphs in Canto 1.. Please tell me whether actually the maid is present in the poem or nymphs are the ones who are helping the lady to dress up???

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In Canto 1, Belinda hears advice from Ariel (a Sylph, a kind of spirit/guardian angel). This is while she's still asleep or just about to wake up. Ariel speaks to her offering advice about avoiding jealousy and certainly men. Upon reading the love letter, she ignores all of the advice and begins to get dressed. 

As she is getting dressed, note the line "First, robed in white, the nymph intent adores" (123). Here, "nymph" actually refers to Belinda herself. (Note that starting with line 78, "nymph" can refer to a young woman; not necessarily a feminine spirit.) 

Betty, the maid, “decks the goddess” (Belinda) with wonderful clothing. So, Betty, the maid, does the actual dressing. However, the concluding lines of Canto 1 suggest that the Sylphs (not nymphs) really deserve the credit for dressing Belinda (either by controlling Betty's actions or this is simply meant to show how the Sylphs, namely Ariel, are always taking care of Belinda, the way guardian angels would.

The busy Sylphs surround their darling care,

These set the head, and those divide the hair,

Some fold the sleeve, whilst others plait the gown;

And Betty's praised for labors not her own. (145-48)

So, the answer to your question is that the maid is present, but the sylphs are also presently helping, even if only in a spiritual or metaphysical way.

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