A mock epic
written by Alexander Pope
, The Rape of the Lock
is a long, humorous narrative poem
based on an actual incident
One day a wealthy baron of the name Lord Petre decided to cut a lock of hair from the strikingly beautiful Arabella Fermor. A large quarrel ensued between the families of the baron and Arabella.
Finding the entire situation quite laughable, Pope's good friend John Caryll suggested that Pope write a poem mocking the entire episode, pointing out the absurdity of the situation. Pope didn't just mock the situation: he made it into a circus fiasco.
The Rape of the Lock is divided into five cantos, with the first opening with a formal statement of theme and an actual invocation to the muse of poetry for inspiration. Then Belinda (based on Arabella) heard from the sylph Ariel that a dreadful event will happen in the near future. Canto II tells of an adventurous baron (modeled after Lord Petre) who admires Belinda's luscious hair and is determined to cut two bright locks and keep them as a prize.
Pope's poem was so outrageous that he stood to lose a few friends, including Arabella Fermor. To her he dedicated the poem, and won her good mood.