What is the meaning of lines 1-10 of Pope's The Rape of the Lock?
The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope is a mock-epic poem, composed and published anonymously in 1712 and revised and republished under Pope's own name in 1714. A third version was published in 1717. It is based on an actual incident in which Lord Petre (the Baron in the poem) cut off a lock of Arabella Fermor’s (Belinda in the poem) hair.
The poem as a whole, including the first 10 lines, is written in heroic couplets, i.e. iambic pentameter lines rhymed AA BB CC, etc. the metrical and rhyme scheme are both fairly regular, with limited use of substitutions and elision.
As a mock epic, The Rape of the Lock follows many epic conventions but in a humorous manner. The first six couplets or 12 lines take the form of an invocation to the Muses, which was the typical opening of actual ancient epic such as that of Virgil or Homer. The poet sets out the themes of the story, the motives of the Baron in stealing the lock and Belinda in rejecting the Baron's attempts to seduce her, and asks the Muse for help in searching for answers. The opening two lines, which emphasize the triviality of the subject, cue the reader from the start that this is a mock, not serious, epic on the theme of love
What dire Offence from am'rous Causes springs,
What mighty Contests rise from trivial Things ...
As you work on your assignment, you should emphasize the elements of humor and satire in the lines, showing how they make fun of both the triviality of the aristocrats portrayed and the pomposity of much epic writing.