dip their pinions in the painted bow


Senior Member
Canada, English

I was recently reading The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope. Does anyone know what "bow" means here? I have trouble thinking of anything being dipped in a bow, since it is not a receptacle of any sort (or can it be?).

Or suck the mists in grosser air below,
Or dip their pinions in the painted bow,
Or brew fierce tempests on the wintry main,

  • Ariel is addressing various sylphs and fairies, describing what they do. While some guide the course of planets, or chase meteors, others dye their wings in the rainbow -- that is, "dip their pinions in the painted bow"