In the dedication poet explains that machinery is a term invented by the critics’ to signify the part, which deities, angels, or demons play in a poem. He goes on to say that the machinery in his poem is based on the Rosicrucian doctrine of spirits. According to this doctrine, the four elements are inhabited by sylphs, nymphs, gnomes, and salamanders. The sylphs, whose habitation is in the air, are supposed to be the best-conditioned creatures imaginable.
Poet tells us in the poem that beautiful women return, after their death, to the elements from which they were derived .Termagants, or violent tempered women become salamanders or spirits of the fire. Women of gentle and pleasing disposition pass into nymphs or water spirits. Prudish women become sylphs or spirits of the air. Poet attributes to the mischievous influence of the gnomes many unguarded follies of the female sex, which he holds up to ridicule.
The first and perhaps the foremost occupation of the sylphs is the protection of fair and chaste women who reject the male sex. They guard and save the chastity of maiden who are on the point of yielding to their lovers. They save these maidens from falling victims to the allurements of “treacherous friend”, dashing young men whose music softens their minds, and dancing inflames their passions. The gnomes or earth spirits fill the minds of proud maidens with foolish ideas, which make them indulge in vain dreams of being married to lords and peers. These gnomes teach young coquettes to ogle and pretend blushing at the sight of fashionable young men who cause their hearts flutter. It is the sylphs, however, who safely guide the maiden through all dangers. It is most amusing to note how these sylphs do this. Whenever a maiden is about to yield to the seduction of a particular young man , another who is more attractive and tempting appears on the scene and the fashionable maidens at once transfers her favor to the new- comer. This may be called levity or fecklessness in women but it is all contrived by the sylphs. Some of the sylphs are in charge of national affairs and their chief guards of the British Throne.
In most of famous epics, machinery consists in supernatural beings like gods and angels who play a vital role in the action of the poems thus showing that the human world is dependent or even adequate and that supernatural powers have an important bearing on this world. Pope thought that his Mock epic would be incomplete without a parody of this established practice of epic poets in introducing machinery. The machinery of is poem comprises the sylphs led by Ariel. In lines of great poetic beauty, Pope describes wittily the Occupations and tasks of the sylphs in general.
Ariel tells in the poem that to him and his followers has been assigned the humble but pleasant duty of fashionable young women. The functions of these sylphs are described humorously and including saving the powder from being blown off from the cheeks of ladies, preventing scents from evaporating , preparing cosmetics, teaching the ladies to blush and to put on enchanting airs, suggesting new ideas about dress.
The sylphs show a delightful down scaling of the epic machines. They are light by any heroic standards. They feel scared when a crisis approaches. Yet they are in every detail Belinda’s intimate and councilors, they explain the various complicated conventions and anxieties that make up Belinda’s day.
The Mock epic may be described as satirical comedy of manners. The sylphs in this poem are both a mirror and mock presentation of customs and conventions of the community of the time. Belinda is told in a dream that sylphs guide and protect through the dangers of life. Ariel’s account of the predicament of the tender mind in a circle of rakes reduces his use of noble words such as innocent, honor, purity to the level of muddle and a sham he is there , he tells her , to protect her purity according to sylphlike theology. Defended by sylphs, the melting maids are safe, for what we call honor is really no more than Providence. Reassuring Belinda in this way , Ariel is in effect undermining her moral position, taking away with one hand the credit he gives with the other .he explains how a woman‘s defense is archived . a maid would fall to Florio if Damon were not at hand to divert her attention , and if , an old folly were not expelled by a new . A maid shifts the moving toy-shop of her heart with her varying vanities it is the sylphs that make her do that.
What we called levity in women, says Ariel, is the effect of the same divine guidance as determined their honor. The Concealed implication, that the two qualities are roughly on a par, is very cruel. Nevertheless, Ariel merrily goes on to warn Belinda in Epic style of the danger that threatens her. He concludes with a plea for caution, and the orders of caution come from the lips that have just encouraged flirtatiousness.
The machines are present at every crucial situation in the play. The sylphs are present in the course of Belinda’s journey by boat to Hampton court. They have been warned by Ariel to remain alert and vigilant, fifty of them having been deputed to take charge of Belinda’s petticoat. They attend on Belinda when she plays ombre. They hover around her when she sips coffee. In addition, they withdraw only when Ariel sees an earthly lover lurking at her heart. A gnome, called Umbriel, goes to the Cave of Spleen and returns with a bag full of sighs, sobs, screams and outburst of anger, and a phial filled with fainting fits, gentles sorrows, soft grieves. All of which are released over Belinda and the Sylphs are present to witness the flight Belinda’s lock of hair to the sky. In short, the machinery of the poem is constantly kept in the reader’s view, to the very last.
Thus, poet has provided the myth of the sylphs in order to symbolize the polite conventions, which govern the conduct of maidens. We miss the whole point if we regard the sylphs as merely supernatural machinery. In general, we may say that Pope’s us of this myth represents his attempt to do justice to the intricacies of the feminine mind. His treatment of the sylphs allows him to develop his whole attitude towards Belinda and the special world she graces.