Comment on Umbriel’s journey to the Cave of Spleen
In the poem “The Rape of the Lock”, Umbriel’s journey to the “Cave of Spleen” is allegorical to focus on the mental state of Belinda and rebuke society. After the sylphs fail to protect the beautiful lock of her hair, Belinda falls under the influence of Umbriel who is a spirit of the earth. Proper speculation of Umbriel’s journey helps to understand the purposes of the poem which is written by Alexander Pope.
Journey to the Cave of Spleen
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Purpose of the journey
Umbriel’s journey to the Cave of Spleen happens in the Canto Four of the poem. It is the surface meaning that Umbriel descends to the Cave of Spleen to intensify Belinda’s despair at the loss of her hair. But allegorically this visit traces the full concept of the vague lifestyle of human society from contemporary and universal perspectives.
Imagery of depression
The cave is situated at the center of the earth. The air is cheerless. It is a shadowy cave since the daylight does not enter this place. The only wind that always blows there is the east wind which causes fits of melancholy. The place is full of vapors which assume various forms. The interior of the cave is full of many funny and strange shapes. There is a woman in the cave who thinks of herself as a teapot, holding one arm, turning the other. Another woman in the cave imagines herself as a pipkin and walks like a tripod. Such narration of the cave is the reflective concept of the interior of depression of human beings. Under the influence of powerful fancy, human beings imagine themselves to be pregnant but literally, they are all depressed.
The parallelism between Belinda and Spleen
Umbriel finds an ill-nature queen named Spleen who is lying on her bed. she keeps sighing all the time because of her low spirit. She is attended by her two companions –pain and headache. Spleen has two handmaidens who are Ill-nature and Affectation. Ill-nature is an old maid and wrinkled in form.
“There Affectation with sickly Mien
Shows in her Cheek the Roses of Eighteen,”
The other handmaiden, Affectation is sickly in appearance. She pretends to be young by painting her cheeks as that of a girl of eighteen. This is an allegorically vain life cycle of Belinda which is full of hypocrisy and devoid of religious morality like the handmaids.
Levity of women
Umbriel approaches the goddess of Spleen and appeals to her to fill Belinda with disdain and morose. At his request, the goddess gives him a bag full of sighs, sobs, screams, outbursts of anger, loud quarrels. The goddess also gives him a bottle filled with fainting fears, soft sorrows, melting griefs, and flowing tears. Umbriel returns with the bag and bottle and finds Belinda lying depressed in the arms of her friend Thalestris. He pours out the contents of the bag over the heads of the two ladies. After this, Belinda begins to burn with flames of human fury and Thalestris too becomes fiercely angry and begins to add fuel to the fury of Belinda’s wrath. Thalstris then goes to Sir Plume to ask him to demand the lock back from the Baron. But the Baron bluntly refuses to return it and celebrates his victory. Umbriel then pours down the contents of the bottle on Belinda’s head and she begins to sigh, sheds tears in sorrow, and curses herself why she has visited Hampton Court. Therefore, the Pope means to say that the mentality of women is very trifling.
To sum up, the visit to the cave of Spleen is introduced for the sake of the mock-heroic epic effect. It gives an opportunity to the poet to satirize the evil nature and the affectations of ladies and gentlemen of his society. In this case, the Pope is like Homer and Virgil.