Jonathan Swift.

The Poems of Jonathan Swift, D.D., Volume 1 online

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Edited by


Barrister, Inner Temple
Author of "The Life of Lord Chesterfield"

G. Bell and Sons, Ltd.


[Illustration: Jonathan Swift
From the bust by Cunningham in St. Patrick's Cathedral]


The works of Jonathan Swift in prose and verse so mutually illustrate
each other, that it was deemed indispensable, as a complement to the
standard edition of the Prose Works, to issue a revised edition of the
Poems, freed from the errors which had been allowed to creep into the
text, and illustrated with fuller explanatory notes. My first care,
therefore, in preparing the Poems for publication, was to collate them
with the earliest and best editions available, and this I have done.

But, thanks to the diligence of the late John Forster, to whom every
lover of Swift must confess the very greatest obligation, I have been
able to do much more. I have been able to enrich this edition with some
pieces not hitherto brought to light - notably, the original version of
"Baucis and Philemon," in addition to the version hitherto printed; the
original version of the poem on "Vanbrugh's House"; the verses entitled
"May Fair"; and numerous variations and corrections of the texts of
nearly all the principal poems, due to Forster's collation of them with
the transcripts made by Stella, which were found by him at Narford
formerly the seat of Swift's friend, Sir Andrew Fountaine - see Forster's
"Life of Swift," of which, unfortunately, he lived to publish only the
first volume. From Swift's own copy of the "Miscellanies in Prose and
Verse," 1727-32, with notes in his own handwriting, sold at auction last
year, I was able to make several corrections of the poems contained in
those four volumes, which serve to show how Swift laboured his works, and
revised and improved them whenever he had an opportunity of doing so. It
is a mistake to suppose that he was indifferent to literary fame: on the
contrary, he kept some of his works in manuscript for years in order to
perfect them for publication, of which "The Tale of a Tub," "Gulliver's
Travels," and the "Verses on his own Death" are examples.

I am indebted to Miss Wilmot-Chetwode, of Wordbrooke, for the loan of a
manuscript volume, from which I obtained some various readings. By the
advice of Mr. Elrington Ball, I applied to the librarians of Trinity
College and of the National Library, and from the latter I received a
number of pieces; but I found that the harvest had already been reaped so
fully, that there was nothing left to glean which could with certainty be
ascribed to Swift. On the whole, I believe that this edition of the Poems
will be found as complete as it is now possible to make it.

In the arrangement of the poems, I have adopted nearly the same order as
in the Aldine edition, for the pieces seem to fall naturally into those
divisions; but with this difference, that I have placed the pieces in
their chronological order in each division. With regard to the notes in
illustration of the text, many of them in the Dublin editions were
evidently written by Swift, especially the notes to the "Verses on his
own Death." And as to the notes of previous editors, I have retained them
so far as they were useful and correct: but to many of them I have made
additions or alterations wherever, on reference to the authorities cited,
or to other works, correction became necessary. For my own notes, I can
only say that I have sought to make them concise, appropriate to the
text, and, above all, accurate.

Swift and the educated men of his time thought in the classics, and his
poems, as well as those of his friends, abound with allusions to the
Greek and Roman authors, especially to the latter. I have given all the
references, and except in the imitations and paraphrases of so familiar a
writer as Horace, I have appended the Latin text. Moreover, Swift was,
like Sterne, very fond of curious and recondite reading, in which it is
not always easy to track him without some research; but I believe that I
have not failed to illustrate any matter that required elucidation.

W. E. B.

May 1910.


Introduction xv

Ode to Doctor William Sancroft
Ode to Sir William Temple
Ode to King William
Ode to The Athenian Society
To Mr. Congreve
Occasioned by Sir William Temple's late illness and recovery
Written in a Lady's Ivory Table Book
Mrs. Frances Harris's Petition
A Ballad on the game of Traffic
A Ballad to the tune of the Cutpurse
The Discovery
The Problem
The Description of a Salamander
To Charles Mordaunt, Earl of Peterborough
On the Union
On Mrs. Biddy Floyd
The Reverse
Apollo Outwitted
Answer to Lines from May Fair
Vanbrugh's House
Vanbrugh's House
Baucis and Philemon
Baucis and Philemon
The History of Vanbrugh's House
A Grub Street Elegy
The Epitaph
A Description of the Morning
A Description of a City Shower
On the Little House
A Town Eclogue
A Conference
To Lord Harley on his Marriage
Horace, Book IV, Ode ix
To Mr. Delany
An Elegy
To Mrs. Houghton
Verses written on a Window
On another Window
Apollo to the Dean
News from Parnassus
Apollo's Edict
The Description of an Irish Feast
The Progress of Beauty
The Progress of Marriage
The Progress of Poetry
The South Sea Project
Fabula Canis et Umbrae
A Prologue
Answer to Prologue and Epilogue
On Gaulstown House
The Country Life
Dr. Delany's Villa
On one of the Windows at Delville
Carberiae Rupes
Carbery Rocks
Copy of the Birthday Verses on Mr. Ford
On Dreams
Dr. Delany to Dr. Swift
The Answer
A Quiet Life and a Good Name
A Pastoral Dialogue
Desire and Possession
On Censure
The Furniture of a Woman's Mind
Clever Tom Clinch
Dr. Swift to Mr. Pope
A Love Poem
Bouts Rimez
Helter Skelter
The Puppet Show
The Journal of a Modern Lady
The Logicians Refuted
The Elephant; or the Parliament Man
Paulus; an Epigram
The Answer
A Dialogue
On burning a dull Poem
An excellent new Ballad
On Stephen Duck
The Lady's Dressing Room
The Power of Time
Cassinus and Peter
A Beautiful young Nymph
Strephon and Chloe
Apollo; or a Problem solved
The Place of the Damned
The Day of Judgment
An Epistle to Mr. Gay
To a Lady
Epigram on Busts in Richmond Hermitage
A Conclusion from above Epigrams
Swift's Answer
To Swift on his Birthday with a Paper Book from the Earl of Orrery
Verses on Swift's Birthday with a Silver Standish
Verses occasioned by foregoing Presents
Verses sent to the Dean with an Eagle quill
An Invitation, by Dr. Delany
The Beasts' Confession
The Parson's Case
The hardship upon the Ladies
A Love Song
The Storm
Ode on Science
A Young Lady's Complaint
On the Death of Dr. Swift
On Poetry, a Rhapsody
Verses sent to the Dean on his Birthday
Epigram by Mr. Bowyer
On Psyche
The Dean and Duke
Written by Swift on his own Deafness
The Dean's Complaint
The Dean's manner of living
Epigram by Mr. Bowyer
Verses made for Fruit Women
On Rover, a Lady's Spaniel
Epigrams on Windows
To Janus, on New Year's Day
A Motto for Mr. Jason Hasard
To a Friend
Catullus de Lesbia
On a Curate's complaint of hard duty
To Betty, the Grisette
Epigram from the French
Epigram added by Stella
Joan cudgels Ned
Verses on two modern Poets
Epitaph on General Gorges and Lady Meath
Verses on I know not what
Dr. Swift to himself
An Answer to a Friend's question
Verses written during Lord Carteret's administration
An Apology to Lady Carteret
The Birth of Manly Virtue
On Paddy's Character of the "Intelligencer"
An Epistle to Lord Carteret by Delany
An Epistle upon an Epistle
A Libel on Dr. Delany and Lord Carteret
To Dr. Delany
Directions for a Birthday Song
The Pheasant and the Lark by Delany
Answer to Delany's Fable
Dean Smedley's Petition to the Duke of Grafton
The Duke's Answer by Swift
Parody on a character of Dean Smedley


Dr. Johnson, in his "Life of Swift," after citing with approval Delany's
character of him, as he describes him to Lord Orrery, proceeds to say:
"In the poetical works there is not much upon which the critic can
exercise his powers. They are often humorous, almost always light, and
have the qualities which recommend such compositions, easiness and
gaiety. They are, for the most part, what their author intended. The
diction is correct, the numbers are smooth, and the rhymes exact. There
seldom occurs a hard laboured expression or a redundant epithet; all his
verses exemplify his own definition of a good style - they consist of
'proper words in proper places.'"

Of his earliest poems it is needless to say more than that if nothing
better had been written by him than those Pindaric Pieces, after the
manner of Cowley - then so much in vogue - the remark of Dryden, "Cousin
Swift, you will never be a Poet," would have been fully justified. But
conventional praise and compliments were foreign to his nature, for his
strongest characteristic was his intense sincerity. He says of himself
that about that time he had writ and burnt and writ again upon all manner
of subjects more than perhaps any man in England; and it is certainly
remarkable that in so doing his true genius was not sooner developed, for
it was not till he became chaplain in Lord Berkeley's household that his
satirical humour was first displayed - at least in verse - in "Mrs. Frances
Harris' Petition." - His great prose satires, "The Tale of a Tub," and
"Gulliver's Travels," though planned, were reserved to a later time. - In
other forms of poetry he soon afterwards greatly excelled, and the title
of poet cannot be refused to the author of "Baucis and Philemon"; the
verses on "The Death of Dr. Swift"; the "Rhapsody on Poetry"; "Cadenus
and Vanessa"; "The Legion Club"; and most of the poems addressed to
Stella, all of which pieces exhibit harmony, invention, and imagination.

Swift has been unduly censured for the coarseness of his language upon
Certain topics; but very little of this appears in his earlier poems, and
what there is, was in accordance with the taste of the period, which
never hesitated to call a spade a spade, due in part to the reaction from
the Puritanism of the preceding age, and in part to the outspeaking
frankness which disdained hypocrisy. It is shown in Dryden, Pope, Prior,
of the last of whom Johnson said that no lady objected to have his poems
in her library; still more in the dramatists of that time, whom Charles
Lamb has so humorously defended, and in the plays of Mrs. Aphra Behn,
who, as Pope says, "fairly puts all characters to bed." But whatever
coarseness there may be in some of Swift's poems, such as "The Lady's
Dressing Room," and a few other pieces, there is nothing licentious,
nothing which excites to lewdness; on the contrary, such pieces create
simply a feeling of repulsion. No one, after reading the "Beautiful young
Nymph going to bed," or "Strephon and Chloe," would desire any personal
acquaintance with the ladies, but there is a moral in these pieces, and
the latter poem concludes with excellent matrimonial advice. The
coarseness of some of his later writings must be ascribed to his
misanthropical hatred of the "animal called man," as expressed in his
famous letter to Pope of September 1725, aggravated as it was by his
exile from the friends he loved to a land he hated, and by the reception
he met with there, about which he speaks very freely in his notes to the
"Verses on his own Death."

On the morning of Swift's installation as Dean, the following scurrilous
lines by Smedley, Dean of Clogher, were affixed to the doors of St.
Patrick's Cathedral:

To-day this Temple gets a Dean
Of parts and fame uncommon,
Us'd both to pray and to prophane,
To serve both God and mammon.
When Wharton reign'd a Whig he was;
When Pembroke - that's dispute, Sir;
In Oxford's time, what Oxford pleased,
Non-con, or Jack, or Neuter.
This place he got by wit and rhime,
And many ways most odd,
And might a Bishop be in time,
Did he believe in God.
Look down, St. Patrick, look, we pray,
On thine own church and steeple;
Convert thy Dean on this great day,
Or else God help the people.
And now, whene'er his Deanship dies,
Upon his stone be graven,
A man of God here buried lies,
Who never thought of heaven.

It was by these lines that Smedley earned for himself a niche in "The
Dunciad." For Swift's retaliation, see the poems relating to Smedley at
the end of the first volume, and in volume ii, at p. 124, note.

This bitterness of spirit reached its height in "Gulliver's Travels,"
surely the severest of all satires upon humanity, and writ, as he tells
us, not to divert, but to vex the world; and ultimately, in the fierce
attack upon the Irish Parliament in the poem entitled "The Legion Club,"
dictated by his hatred of tyranny and oppression, and his consequent
passion for exhibiting human nature in its most degraded aspect.

But, notwithstanding his misanthropical feelings towards mankind in
general, and his "scorn of fools by fools mistook for pride," there never
existed a warmer or sincerer friend to those whom he loved - witness the
regard in which he was held by Oxford, Bolingbroke, Pope, Gay, Arbuthnot,
and Congreve, and his readiness to assist those who needed his help,
without thought of party or politics. Although, in some of his poems,
Swift rather severely exposed the follies and frailties of the fair sex,
as in "The Furniture of a Woman's Mind," and "The Journal of a Modern
Lady," he loved the companionship of beautiful and accomplished women,
amongst whom he could count some of his dearest and truest friends; but
He loved to be bitter at
A lady illiterate;
and therefore delighted in giving them literary instruction, most notably
in the cases of Stella and Vanessa, whose relations with him arose
entirely from the tuition in letters which they received from him. Again,
when on a visit at Sir Arthur Acheson's, he insisted upon making Lady
Acheson read such books as he thought fit to advise, and in the doggerel
verses entitled "My Lady's Lamentation," she is supposed to resent his
"very imperious" manner of instruction:

No book for delight
Must come in my sight;
But instead of new plays,
Dull Bacon's Essays,
And pore every day on
That nasty Pantheon.

As a contrast to his imperiousness, there is an affectionate simplicity
in the fancy names he used to bestow upon his female friends. Sir William
Temple's wife, Dorothea, became Dorinda; Esther Johnson, Stella; Hester
Vanhomrigh, Vanessa; Lady Winchelsea, Ardelia; while to Lady Acheson he
gave the nicknames of Skinnybonia, Snipe, and Lean. But all was taken by
them in good part; for his rather dictatorial ways were softened by the
fascinating geniality and humour which he knew so well how to employ when
he used to "deafen them with puns and rhyme."

Into the vexed question of the relations between Swift and Stella I do
not purpose to enter further than to record my conviction that she was
never more to him than "the dearest friend that ever man had." The
suggestion of a concealed marriage is so inconsistent with their whole
conduct to each other from first to last, that if there had been such a
marriage, instead of Swift having been, as he was, a man of _intense
sincerity_, he must be held to have been a most consummate hypocrite.
In my opinion, Churton Collins settled this question in his essays on
Swift, first published in the "Quarterly Review," 1881 and 1882. Swift's
relation with Vanessa is the saddest episode in his life. The story is
amply told in his poem, "Cadenus and Vanessa," and in the letters which
passed between them: how the pupil became infatuated with her tutor; how
the tutor endeavoured to dispel her passion, but in vain, by reason; and
how, at last, she died from love for the man who was unable to give love
in return. That Swift ought, as soon as Hester disclosed her passion for
him, at once to have broken off the intimacy, must be conceded; but how
many men possessed of his kindness of heart would have had the courage to
have acted otherwise than he did? Swift seems, in fact, to have been
constitutionally incapable of the _passion_ of love, for he says,
himself, that he had never met the woman he wished to marry. His annual
tributes to Stella on her birthdays express the strongest regard and
esteem, but he "ne'er admitted love a guest," and he had been so long
used to this Platonic affection, that he had come to regard women as
friends, but never as lovers. Stella, on her part, had the same feeling,
for she never expressed the least discontent at her position, or ever
regarded Swift otherwise than as her tutor, her counsellor, her friend.
In her verses to him on his birthday, 1721, she says:

Long be the day that gave you birth
Sacred to friendship, wit, and mirth;
Late dying may you cast a shred
Of your rich mantle o'er my head;
To bear with dignity my sorrow
One day alone, then die tomorrow.

Stella naturally expected to survive Swift, but it was not to be. She
died in the evening of the 28th January 1727-8; and on the same night he
began the affecting piece, "On the Death of Mrs. Johnson." (See "Prose
Works," vol. xi.)

With the death of Stella, Swift's real happiness ended, and he became
more and more possessed by the melancholy which too often accompanies the
broadest humour, and which, in his case, was constitutional. It was, no
doubt, to relieve it, that he resorted to the composition of the doggerel
verses, epigrams, riddles, and trifles exchanged betwixt himself and
Sheridan, which induced Orrery's remark that "Swift composing Riddles is
Titian painting draught-boards;" on which Delany observes that "a Riddle
may be as fine painting as any other in the world. It requires as strong
an imagination, as fine colouring, and as exact a proportion and keeping
as any other historical painting"; and he instances "Pethox the Great,"
and should also have alluded to the more learned example - "Louisa to

On Orrery's seventh Letter, Delany says that if some of the "coin is
base," it is the fine impression and polish which adds value to it, and
cites the saying of another nobleman, that "there is indeed some stuff
in it, but it is Swift's stuff." It has been said that Swift has never
taken a thought from any writer ancient or modern. This is not literally
true, but the instances are not many, and in my notes I have pointed out
the lines snatched from Milton, Denham, Butler - the last evidently a
great favourite.

It seems necessary to state shortly the causes of Swift not having
obtained higher preferment. Besides that Queen Anne would never be
reconciled to the author of the "Tale of a Tub" - the true purport of
which was so ill-understood by her - he made an irreconcilable enemy of
her friend, the Duchess of Somerset, by his lampoon entitled "The Windsor
Prophecy." But Swift seldom allowed prudence to restrain his wit and
humour, and admits of himself that he "had too much satire in his vein";
and that "a genius in the reverend gown must ever keep its owner down";
and says further:

Humour and mirth had place in all he writ;
He reconciled divinity and wit.

But that was what his enemies could not do.

Whatever the excellences and defects of the poems, Swift has erected, not
only by his works, but by his benevolence and his charities, a
_monumentum aere perennius,_ and his writings in prose and verse
will continue to afford instruction and delight when the malevolence of
Jeffrey, the misrepresentations of Macaulay, and the sneers and false
statements of Thackeray shall have been forgotten.





Truth is eternal, and the Son of Heaven,
Bright effluence of th'immortal ray,
Chief cherub, and chief lamp, of that high sacred Seven,
Which guard the throne by night, and are its light by day;
First of God's darling attributes,
Thou daily seest him face to face,
Nor does thy essence fix'd depend on giddy circumstance
Of time or place,
Two foolish guides in every sublunary dance;
How shall we find Thee then in dark disputes?
How shall we search Thee in a battle gain'd,
Or a weak argument by force maintain'd?
In dagger contests, and th'artillery of words,
(For swords are madmen's tongues, and tongues are madmen's swords,)
Contrived to tire all patience out,
And not to satisfy the doubt?


But where is even thy Image on our earth?
For of the person much I fear,
Since Heaven will claim its residence, as well as birth,
And God himself has said, He shall not find it here.
For this inferior world is but Heaven's dusky shade,
By dark reverted rays from its reflection made;
Whence the weak shapes wild and imperfect pass,
Like sunbeams shot at too far distance from a glass;
Which all the mimic forms express,
Though in strange uncouth postures, and uncomely dress;
So when Cartesian artists try
To solve appearances of sight
In its reception to the eye,
And catch the living landscape through a scanty light,
The figures all inverted show,
And colours of a faded hue;
Here a pale shape with upward footstep treads,
And men seem walking on their heads;
There whole herds suspended lie,
Ready to tumble down into the sky;
Such are the ways ill-guided mortals go
To judge of things above by things below.
Disjointing shapes as in the fairy land of dreams,
Or images that sink in streams;
No wonder, then, we talk amiss
Of truth, and what, or where it is;
Say, Muse, for thou, if any, know'st,
Since the bright essence fled, where haunts the reverend ghost?


If all that our weak knowledge titles virtue, be
(High Truth) the best resemblance of exalted Thee,
If a mind fix'd to combat fate
With those two powerful swords, submission and humility,
Sounds truly good, or truly great;
Ill may I live, if the good Sancroft, in his holy rest,
In the divinity of retreat,
Be not the brightest pattern earth can show
Of heaven-born Truth below;
But foolish man still judges what is best
In his own balance, false and light,
Following opinion, dark and blind,
That vagrant leader of the mind,
Till honesty and conscience are clear out of sight.


And some, to be large ciphers in a state,
Pleased with an empty swelling to be counted great,
Make their minds travel o'er infinity of space,
Rapt through the wide expanse of thought,
And oft in contradiction's vortex caught,
To keep that worthless clod, the body, in one place;
Errors like this did old astronomers misguide,
Led blindly on by gross philosophy and pride,
Who, like hard masters, taught the sun
Through many a heedless sphere to run,
Many an eccentric and unthrifty motion make,
And thousand incoherent journeys take,
Whilst all th'advantage by it got,
Was but to light earth's inconsiderable spot.
The herd beneath, who see the weathercock of state
Hung loosely on the church's pinnacle,
Believe it firm, because perhaps the day is mild and still;
But when they find it turn with the first blast of fate,
By gazing upward giddy grow,
And think the church itself does so;
Thus fools, for being strong and num'rous known,
Suppose the truth, like all the world, their own;
And holy Sancroft's motion quite irregular appears,
Because 'tis opposite to theirs.


In vain then would the Muse the multitude advise,
Whose peevish knowledge thus perversely lies
In gath'ring follies from the wise;
Rather put on thy anger and thy spite,
And some kind power for once dispense
Through the dark mass, the dawn of so much sense,
To make them understand, and feel me when I write;
The muse and I no more revenge desire,
Each line shall stab, shall blast, like daggers and like fire;
Ah, Britain, land of angels! which of all thy sins,
(Say, hapless isle, although
It is a bloody list we know,)
Has given thee up a dwelling-place to fiends?
Sin and the plague ever abound
In governments too easy, and too fruitful ground;
Evils which a too gentle king,
Too flourishing a spring,
And too warm summers bring:
Our British soil is over rank, and breeds
Among the noblest flowers a thousand pois'nous weeds,

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Online LibraryJonathan SwiftThe Poems of Jonathan Swift, D.D., Volume 1 → online text (page 1 of 23)