The Rape of the Lock, Part Deux


When I was finishing up my English degree at the University of South Alabama, I took a class in 17th and 18th century English literature. One of the things we had to read for that class was Alexander Pope’s mock-epic poem, THE RAPE OF THE LOCK. I found it absolutely charming! For those unfamiliar with the poem, the “rape” in question is the unauthorized cutting of a lock of the fair Belinda’s hair by the Baron, without the lady’s knowledge or permission, while her attention is engaged in playing cards. Believe it or not, it was based on an actual event, which apparently caused quite a rift between the families of the lady and gentleman involved! Pope was requested to write the poem as a way of telling the parties to “get over it, already.” Anyway, the class was instructed to write a paper on the poem. We could choose our own topic, as long as we cleared it with the professor beforehand. So after class, I approached Dr. Patricia Stevens and said, “I want to write a sequel!” She asked for clarification, and I promised her a sequel written in iambic pentameter with rhymed couplets, just like the original. She gave me her permission, and soon returned the paper to me with the following comments: “This is excellent, Sheri. You’ve captured both the style and the spirit of the poem. A+.” More than that, she made a copy of my poem and kept it on her bulletin board for years afterwards.

Since many of my readers are history/literature buffs, I thought you might like to read it as well. You may share it if you wish, as long as you give me (and Pope!) author credit, as below.

by Sheri Cobb South
(with apologies to Alexander Pope)

Since Pope did on the fair Belinda dwell,
And offered not the Baron’s side to tell,
I here allow the Rapist equal chance
To speak his case and plead his own defense.
“My lady, he begins, “I must object,
My character and honor here protect.
It seems to me appropriate to claim
That I a victim more than villain am.”
“A victim? You?” outraged Belinda cries,
“You ought to blush with shame to tell such lies!
Behold, where once two sable locks were worn,
My neck, now bare: both of its ringlets shorn.
The first was cut by your deceitful hand;
Its twin, alas, cut at my own command.
Now, having seen my poor, ravaged locks,
Can you deny your guilt, oh cunning fox?”
“I don’t deny,” said he. “I must confess
‘Twas my own hand that stole the shining tress.
But, fair nymph, if malice here there be,
‘Twas but to avenge that which you stole from me.”
“What stole I e’er from you?” the nymph shot back,
“Save but a game of cards of red and black?”
With forcefulness that made Belinda start,
The Baron cried, “Fair maid, you stole my heart!
Come, my lady, come, let us be fair:
You have my heart, so why not I your hair?
Yet now I find (though much to my disgrace)
A thousand locks cannot one heart replace.
Though I the lock have claimed, my heart’s yours still,
And though hairs grow again, hearts never will.”
The Baron wooed Belinda with such charms,
At last she smiled, and laid aside her arms.
“Dear sir,” she said, “if you had asked of me,
I might have given the lock most willingly.”
“Alas, ’tis now too late,” the Baron said,
“But might I hope to have your hand instead?”
Belinda offers him her fingertips;
The grateful Baron lifts them to his lips.
For thus it is with lovers the world around:
For each thing lost, a better thing is found.
If one should lose, they never lose alone;
But when one wins, then both the vict’ry own.”

Drivin’ and Cryin’


I have a confession to make. I don’t really like to drive. Oh, I can drive, mind you; in fact, I got my driver’s license in a VW beetle with a stick shift. And apparently I’m pretty good at it: in thirty-eight years behind the wheel, I’ve never had a wreck. But I don’t take any particular pleasure in the act of driving. It gets me where I want to go, and that’s it. I’ll never be like my dad, who loves to get out and drive in ice and snow just to show the neighbors he can, or my son, who when moving his car across the country took turns driving with my husband, but insisted on doing the driving through Nashville, Memphis, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Denver himself.
But I’ll go a step further than that, and admit that while I never got any particular joy out of driving in my hometown of Cullman,  Alabama, the prospect of driving in large cities scares me spitless. I still remember my first time driving in Mobile, which is a big city compared
to the town I grew up in. I was on Interstate 65 just getting into the city traffic when the heavens opened and the floods descended. A few months of living in Mobile would teach me that this is typical summer weather for the Gulf Coast, but at that time I didn’t know that all I had to do was pull over and wait, and it would all be gone in ten minutes. All I knew was that it was raining so hard my windshield wipers couldn’t keep up, and I couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of me. Which is why I was driving down I-65 singing “Jesus, Hold My Hand.” But I got more accustomed with time, and by the time we moved away from Mobile almost thirty years later, I was unfazed even by Airport Boulevard at rush hour.
Fast forward to May 2012, and my first solo trip to Denver. Mind you, it took nothing less than a writer’s conference–and with it the opportunity to meet other local writers–to make me set out from Loveland on the hour-long trek down I-25. I had just sighted the conference hotel and was congratulating myself on having successfully navigated the trip when my GPS guide, Carmen the Garmin, let me down. It seems the street she was telling me to turn on had a sign calling it by a completely different name, and so I didn’t recognize my turn until I was already past it. Carmen rolled her eyes, huffed “Recalculating,” and proceeded to take me on a very roundabout journey back.
After I arrived at the hotel, I was fine (a little shaky, but fine) until time to go home that evening, when I found myself in the second-to-the-right lane of a highway with five lanes going in each direction. In order to make a left-hand turn onto northbound I-25, I had to position myself in the far left lane, so that I could scoot into one of the two lanes (for anyone who’s counting, that would be lane number 6 or 7) that formed the ramps onto I-25. With very little room in which to get over, I put on my blinker, gritted my teeth, and  swerved across three lanes of traffic. Success! One very nice man in a pickup truck even held back to let me cut in front of him. Or maybe he was just scared of me. Either way, within an hour I was home, having driven to Denver and back and lived to tell the tale.

I don’t doubt that there will be other times I’ll have to drive to Denver, and I don’t doubt that I’ll be just as terrified as I was that first time. But with each experience, I’ll get a little more confident, just as I did with driving in Cullman as a teenager and in Mobile as a young adult.
That’s the way it is with things that push you out of your comfort zone: eventually you get a bigger comfort zone.

What do you sometimes have to do that makes you uncomfortable? How do you handle it? Inquiring minds want to know!