Jonathan Swift: The Selected Poems Poem Text

Jonathan Swift: The Selected Poems Poem Text

Advice to the Grub Street Verse-writers

Ye poets ragged and forlorn,
Down from your garrets haste;
Ye rhymers, dead as soon as born,
Not yet consign'd to paste;

I know a trick to make you thrive;
O, 'tis a quaint device:
Your still-born poems shall revive,
And scorn to wrap up spice.

Get all your verses printed fair,
Then let them well be dried;
And Curll must have a special care
To leave the margin wide.

Lend these to paper-sparing Pope;
And when he sets to write,
No letter with an envelope
Could give him more delight.

When Pope has fill'd the margins round,
Why then recall your loan;
Sell them to Curll for fifty pound,
And swear they are your own.

The Beasts' Confession

To the Priest, on Observing how most Men mistake their own Talents

When beasts could speak (the learned say,

They still can do so ev'ry day),

It seems, they had religion then,

As much as now we find in men.

It happen'd, when a plague broke out

(Which therefore made them more devout),

The king of brutes (to make it plain,

Of quadrupeds I only mean)

By proclamation gave command,

That ev'ry subject in the land

Should to the priest confess their sins;

And thus the pious wolf begins:

"Good father, I must own with shame,

That often I have been to blame:

I must confess, on Friday last,

Wretch that I was! I broke my fast:

But I defy the basest tongue

To prove I did my neighbour wrong;

Or ever went to seek my food

By rapine, theft, or thirst of blood."

The ass, approaching next, confess'd

That in his heart he lov'd a jest:

A wag he was, he needs must own,

And could not let a dunce alone:

Sometimes his friend he would not spare,

And might perhaps be too severe:

But yet, the worst that could be said,

He was a wit both born and bred;

And, if it be a sin or shame,

Nature alone must bear the blame:

One fault he hath, is sorry for't,

His ears are half a foot too short;

Which could he to the standard bring,

He'd show his face before the King:

Then for his voice, there's none disputes

That he's the nightingale of brutes.

The swine with contrite heart allow'd,

His shape and beauty made him proud:

In diet was perhaps too nice,

But gluttony was ne'er his vice:

In ev'ry turn of life content,

And meekly took what fortune sent:

Inquire through all the parish round,

A better neighbour ne'er was found:

His vigilance might some displease;

'Tis true he hated sloth like peas.

The mimic ape began his chatter,

How evil tongues his life bespatter:

Much of the cens'ring world complain'd,

Who said, his gravity was feign'd:

Indeed, the strictness of his morals

Engag'd him in a hundred quarrels:

He saw, and he was griev'd to see't,

His zeal was sometimes indiscreet:

He found his virtues too severe

For our corrupted times to bear:

Yet, such a lewd licentious age

Might well excuse a Stoic's rage.

The goat advanc'd with decent pace;

And first excus'd his youthful face;

Forgiveness begg'd that he appear'd

('Twas nature's fault) without a beard.

'Tis true, he was not much inclin'd

To fondness for the female kind;

Not, as his enemies object,

From chance, or natural defect;

Not by his frigid constitution,

But through a pious resolution;

For he had made a holy vow

Of chastity as monks do now;

Which he resolv'd to keep for ever hence,

As strictly too, as doth his Reverence.

Apply the tale, and you shall find,

How just it suits with human kind.

Some faults we own: but, can you guess?

Why?—virtues carried to excess,

Wherewith our vanity endows us,

Though neither foe nor friend allows us.

The lawyer swears, you may rely on't,

He never squeez'd a needy client;

And this he makes his constant rule,

For which his brethren call him fool:

His conscience always was so nice,

He freely gave the poor advice;

By which he lost, he may affirm,

A hundred fees last Easter term.

While others of the learned robe

Would break the patience of a Job;

No pleader at the bar could match

His diligence and quick dispatch;

Ne'er kept a cause, he well may boast,

Above a term or two at most.

The cringing knave, who seeks a place

Without success, thus tells his case:

Why should he longer mince the matter?

He fail'd because he could not flatter;

He had not learn'd to turn his coat,

Nor for a party give his vote:

His crime he quickly understood;

Too zealous for the nation's good:

He found the ministers resent it,

Yet could not for his heart repent it.

The chaplain vows he cannot fawn,

Though it would raise him to the lawn:

He pass'd his hours among his books;

You find it in his meagre looks:

He might, if he were worldly wise,

Preferment get and spare his eyes:

But own'd he had a stubborn spirit,

That made him trust alone in merit:

Would rise by merit to promotion;

Alas! a mere chimeric notion.

The doctor, if you will believe him,

Confess'd a sin; and God forgive him!

Call'd up at midnight, ran to save

A blind old beggar from the grave:

But see how Satan spreads his snares;

He quite forgot to say his prayers.

He cannot help it for his heart

Sometimes to act the parson's part:

Quotes from the Bible many a sentence,

That moves his patients to repentance:

And, when his med'cines do no good,

Supports their minds with heav'nly food,

At which, however well intended,

He hears the clergy are offended;

And grown so bold behind his back,

To call him hypocrite and quack.

In his own church he keeps a seat;

Says grace before and after meat;

And calls, without affecting airs,

His household twice a day to prayers.

He shuns apothecaries' shops;

And hates to cram the sick with slops:

He scorns to make his art a trade;

Nor bribes my lady's fav'rite maid.

Old nurse-keepers would never hire

To recommend him to the squire;

Which others, whom he will not name,

Have often practis'd to their shame.

The statesman tells you with a sneer,

His fault is to be too sincere;

And, having no sinister ends,

Is apt to disoblige his friends.

The nation's good, his master's glory,

Without regard to Whig or Tory,

Were all the schemes he had in view;

Yet he was seconded by few:

Though some had spread a hundred lies,

'Twas he defeated the Excise.

'Twas known, though he had borne aspersion,

That standing troops were his aversion:

His practice was, in ev'ry station,

To serve the King, and please the nation.

Though hard to find in ev'ry case

The fittest man to fill a place:

His promises he ne'er forgot,

But took memorials on the spot:

His enemies, for want of charity,

Said he affected popularity:

'Tis true, the people understood,

That all he did was for their good;

Their kind affections he has tried;

No love is lost on either side.

He came to Court with fortune clear,

Which now he runs out ev'ry year:

Must, at the rate that he goes on,

Inevitably be undone:

Oh! if his Majesty would please

To give him but a writ of ease,

Would grant him licence to retire,

As it hath long been his desire,

By fair accounts it would be found,

He's poorer by ten thousand pound.

He owns, and hopes it is no sin,

He ne'er was partial to his kin;

He thought it base for men in stations

To crowd the Court with their relations;

His country was his dearest mother,

And ev'ry virtuous man his brother;

Through modesty or awkward shame

(For which he owns himself to blame),

He found the wisest man he could,

Without respect to friends or blood;

Nor ever acts on private views,

When he hath liberty to choose.

The sharper swore he hated play,

Except to pass an hour away:

And well he might; for, to his cost,

By want of skill he always lost;

He heard there was a club of cheats,

Who had contriv'd a thousand feats;

Could change the stock, or cog a die,

And thus deceive the sharpest eye:

Nor wonder how his fortune sunk,

His brothers fleece him when he's drunk.

I own the moral not exact;

Besides, the tale is false in fact;

And so absurd, that could I raise up

From fields Elysian fabling Aesop;

I would accuse him to his face

For libelling the four-foot race.

Creatures of ev'ry kind but ours

Well comprehend their natural pow'rs;

While we, whom reason ought to sway,

Mistake our talents ev'ry day.

The ass was never known so stupid

To act the part of Tray or Cupid;

Nor leaps upon his master's lap,

There to be strok'd, and fed with pap,

As Aesop would the world persuade;

He better understands his trade:

Nor comes, whene'er his lady whistles;

But carries loads, and feeds on thistles.

Our author's meaning, I presume, is

A creature bipes et implumis;

Wherein the moralist design'd

A compliment on human kind:

For here he owns, that now and then

Beasts may degenerate into men.

A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed

Corinna, pride of Drury-Lane
For whom no shepherd sighs in vain;
Never did Covent Garden boast
So bright a battered, strolling toast;
No drunken rake to pick her up,
No cellar where on tick to sup;
Returning at the midnight hour;
Four stories climbing to her bow’r;
Then, seated on a three-legged chair,
Takes off her artificial hair:
Now, picking out a crystal eye,
She wipes it clean, and lays it by.
Her eye-brows from a mouse’s hide,
Stuck on with art on either side,
Pulls off with care, and first displays ’em,
Then in a play-book smoothly lays ’em.
Now dexterously her plumpers draws,
That serve to fill her hollow jaws.
Untwists a wire; and from her gums
A set of teeth completely comes.
Pulls out the rags contrived to prop
Her flabby dugs and down they drop.
Proceeding on, the lovely goddess
Unlaces next her steel-ribbed bodice;
Which by the operator’s skill,
Press down the lumps, the hollows fill,
Up goes her hand, and off she slips
The bolsters that supply her hips.
With gentlest touch, she next explores
Her shankers, issues, running sores,
Effects of many a sad disaster;
And then to each applies a plaister.
But must, before she goes to bed,
Rub off the dawbs of white and red;
And smooth the furrows in her front
With greasy paper stuck upon’t.
She takes a bolus ere she sleeps;
And then between two blankets creeps.
With pains of love tormented lies;
Or if she chance to close her eyes,
Of Bridewell and the Compter dreams,
And feels the lash, and faintly screams;
Or, by a faithless bully drawn,
At some hedge-tavern lies in pawn;
Or to Jamaica seems transported,
Alone, and by no planter courted;
Or, near Fleet-Ditch’s oozy brinks,
Surrounded with a hundred stinks,
Belated, seems on watch to lie,
And snap some cully passing by;
Or, struck with fear, her fancy runs
On watchmen, constables and duns,
From whom she meets with frequent rubs;
But, never from religious clubs;
Whose favor she is sure to find,
Because she pays ’em all in kind.
Corinna wakes. A dreadful sight!
Behold the ruins of the night!
A wicked rat her plaster stole,
Half eat, and dragged it to his hole.
The crystal eye, alas, was missed;
And puss had on her plumpers pissed.
A pigeon picked her issue-peas;
And Shock her tresses filled with fleas.
The nymph, tho’ in this mangled plight,
Must ev’ry morn her limbs unite.
But how shall I describe her arts
To recollect the scattered parts?
Or shew the anguish, toil, and pain,
Of gath’ring up herself again?
The bashful muse will never bear
In such a scene to interfere.
Corinna in the morning dizened,
Who sees, will spew; who smells, be poison’d.

A Description of a City Shower

Careful observers may foretell the hour
(By sure prognostics) when to dread a shower:
While rain depends, the pensive cat gives o’er
Her frolics, and pursues her tail no more.
Returning home at night, you’ll find the sink
Strike your offended sense with double stink.
If you be wise, then go not far to dine;
You’ll spend in coach hire more than save in wine.
A coming shower your shooting corns presage,
Old achès throb, your hollow tooth will rage.
Sauntering in coffeehouse is Dulman seen;
He damns the climate and complains of spleen.
Meanwhile the South, rising with dabbled wings,
A sable cloud athwart the welkin flings,
That swilled more liquor than it could contain,
And, like a drunkard, gives it up again.
Brisk Susan whips her linen from the rope,
While the first drizzling shower is born aslope:
Such is that sprinkling which some careless quean
Flirts on you from her mop, but not so clean:
You fly, invoke the gods; then turning, stop
To rail; she singing, still whirls on her mop.
Not yet the dust had shunned the unequal strife,
But, aided by the wind, fought still for life,
And wafted with its foe by violent gust,
’Twas doubtful which was rain and which was dust.
Ah! where must needy poet seek for aid,
When dust and rain at once his coat invade?
Sole coat, where dust cemented by the rain
Erects the nap, and leaves a mingled stain.
Now in contiguous drops the flood comes down,
Threatening with deluge this devoted town.
To shops in crowds the daggled females fly,
Pretend to cheapen goods, but nothing buy.
The Templar spruce, while every spout’s abroach,
Stays till ’tis fair, yet seems to call a coach.
The tucked-up sempstress walks with hasty strides,
While seams run down her oiled umbrella’s sides.
Here various kinds, by various fortunes led,
Commence acquaintance underneath a shed.
Triumphant Tories and desponding Whigs
Forget their feuds, and join to save their wigs.
Boxed in a chair the beau impatient sits,
While spouts run clattering o’er the roof by fits,
And ever and anon with frightful din
The leather sounds; he trembles from within.
So when Troy chairmen bore the wooden steed,
Pregnant with Greeks impatient to be freed
(Those bully Greeks, who, as the moderns do,
Instead of paying chairmen, run them through),
Laocoön struck the outside with his spear,
And each imprisoned hero quaked for fear.
Now from all parts the swelling kennels flow,
And bear their trophies with them as they go:
Filth of all hues and odors seem to tell
What street they sailed from, by their sight and smell.
They, as each torrent drives with rapid force,
From Smithfield or St. Pulchre’s shape their course,
And in huge confluence joined at Snow Hill ridge,
Fall from the conduit prone to Holborn Bridge.
Sweepings from butchers’ stalls, dung, guts, and blood,
Drowned puppies, stinking sprats, all drenched in mud,
Dead cats, and turnip tops, come tumbling down the flood.

A Description of the Morning

Now hardly here and there a hackney-coach

Appearing, show'd the ruddy morn's approach.

Now Betty from her master's bed had flown,

And softly stole to discompose her own.

The slip-shod 'prentice from his master's door

Had par'd the dirt, and sprinkled round the floor.

Now Moll had whirl'd her mop with dext'rous airs,

Prepar'd to scrub the entry and the stairs.

The youth with broomy stumps began to trace

The kennel-edge, where wheels had worn the place.

The small-coal man was heard with cadence deep;

Till drown'd in shriller notes of "chimney-sweep."

Duns at his lordship's gate began to meet;

And brickdust Moll had scream'd through half a street.

The turnkey now his flock returning sees,

Duly let out a-nights to steal for fees.

The watchful bailiffs take their silent stands;

And schoolboys lag with satchels in their hands.

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