Lord Petre, in a thoughtless moment of frolic gallantry, cut off a lock of Arabella Fermor's hair; and this liberty gave rise to a bitter feud between the two families, which Alexander Pope has worked up into the best heroic-comic poem of the language. The first sketch was published in 1712 in two cantos. The machinery of sylphs and gnomes is most happily conceived. Pope, under the name of Esdras Barnevelt, apothecary, says the poem is a covert satire on Queen Anne and the Barrier Treaty. In the poem the lady is called Belinda, and the poet says she wore on her neck two curls, one of which the baron cut off with a pair of scissors borrowed of Clarissa. Belinda, in anger, demanded back the ringlet, but it had flown to the skies and become a meteor there. (See Coma Berenices.)
Say what strange motive, goddess, could compel A well-bred ford to assault a gentle belle; O say, what stranger cause, yet unexplored, Could make a gentle belle reject a lord.
Introduction to the Poem.