Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0005296, Thu, 6 Jul 2000 20:26:11 -0700

Bodkins, bare and otherwise (fwd)
From: Arthur Glass <goliard@worldnet.att.net>

The word 'bodkin' appears three times in Pope's 'The Rape of the
Lock.' In the course of Canto I, Ariel, the major-domo of the squadron of
sylphs assigned to guard the lovely Belinda against some vague, portending
doom, announces to his troops the punishments that await slackers. Among
these is to be

'..wedg'd whole Ages in a Bodkin's Eye.'

The OED cites this line as an example of the use of the word meaning 'a
needle-like instrument with a blunt knobbed point having a large (as well as
a small) eye. for drawing a tape or cord through a hem, heavy loops etc.'
In Canto V at line 95 we find the word used in a slightly different

'Then in a Bodkin grac'd her Mother's Hairs.'

This is an example. according to the OED, of sense 3: 'a long pin or
pin-shaped ornament used by women to fasten up the hair.' A few lines
earlier, in 87, 88 we find this:

'Now meet thy Fate, incens'd Belinda cry'd
And drew a deadly Bodkin from her side.'

Here, I think, we have a mock-heroic play of double meaning. The bodkin
Belinda draws must literally be the hair ornament of the previous example,
but a bodkin, as in the famous use of the word in Hamlet's soliloquy, is
also 'a short pointed weapon, a dagger.'

Any examination of 'Pale Fire's' allusive connections with 'The Rape of the
Lock' must pause over these instances.