Exploring, the toddler made his way slowly down the dimly lit hall towards the open bathroom door. He peeked into the room and exclaimed: “Purple, a purple potty.” There was a short silence, and he continued: “Purple, purple everything.”
Moving into our home in Palo Alto after a hiatus of several years, we surveyed the empty rooms and waited for our furniture to arrive. Our renters had vacated the premises in good order. Our extraordinary bathroom fixtures were still there; they greatly impressed our youngest son whose favorite color was purple.
Alexander Pope’s ode to things ordinary (a stolen lock of hair) opens with an appeal to the muse:
What dire offence from am’rous causes springs,
What mighty contests rise from trivial things,
I sing—This verse to Caryl, Muse! is due:
This, ev’n Belinda may vouchsafe to view:
Slight is the subject, but not so the praise,
If she inspire, and he approve my lays.
The final stanza of the poem begins with Pope’s shocking line about a toilet:
And now, unveil’d, the toilet stands display’d,
Each silver vase in mystic order laid.
First, rob’d in white, the nymph intent adores
With head uncover’d, the cosmetic pow’rs.
A heav’nly image in the glass appears,
To that she bends, to that her eyes she rears;
Th’ inferior priestess, at her altar’s side,
Trembling, begins the sacred rites of pride.
Unnumber’d treasures ope at once, and here
The various off’rings of the world appear;
From each she nicely culls with curious toil,
And decks the goddess with the glitt’ring spoil.
This casket India’s glowing gems unlocks,
And all Arabia breathes from yonder box.
The tortoise here and elephant unite,
Transform’d to combs, the speckled and the white.
Here files of pins extend their shining rows,
Puffs, powders, patches, bibles, billet-doux.
Now awful beauty puts on all its arms;
The fair each moment rises in her charms,
Repairs her smiles, awakens ev’ry grace,
And calls forth all the wonders of her face;
Sees by degrees a purer blush arise,
And keener lightnings quicken in her eyes.
The busy Sylphs surround their darling care;
These set the head, and those divide the hair,
Some fold the sleeve, whilst others plait the gown;
And Betty’s prais’d for labours not her own.
— The Rape of the Lock, Alexander Pope, 1712
Thirty some years after moving back into our home, the purple fixtures are still serving their ordinary purpose.
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