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state the great Dean Swift died, in October 1744, "a driveller and a show!"
The poems of Swift form only the smallest item in the account of his wonderful genius. They are remarkable, however, in a high degree, for their power of versification. Their ease and vivacity have never been excelled. We think them also, in conversational humour, in homely but powerful satire, and in a witty accuracy and exactness of description, unquestionably first rate. Nor are they wanting, as the poems to Stella and Vanessa prove, in tender and graceful poetical fancies. It is impossible to pass, however, without the strongest terms of reprobation and shame, certain descriptions, which frequently and shockingly disfigure these poems of Swift. It is but a poor excuse to say, that they were not written with a view to publication. We may suggest, with perhaps as slight an available ground of defence, that they were the product of his moments of spleen and indignation, when he desired to exhibit humanity at a level below itself, correspondent with that to which, from the higher aspirations of his genius, its treatment had reduced him. One thing, at least, is certain and consolatory: Swift could not degrade, as he assisted, humanity. As, while he was doing wonderful services to Ireland, he protested he did not love her; so upon that human nature which he would have us believe he loved as little,
In a glad hour Lucina's aid
Produc'd on Earth a wondrous maid,
On whom the queen of love was bent
To try a new experiment.
She threw her law-books on the shelf,
And thus debated with herself:
“ Since men allege, they ne'er can find
Those beauties in a female mind,
Which raise a flame that will endure
For ever uncorrupt and pure;
If 'tis with reason they complain,
This infant shall restore my reign.
I'll search where every virtue dwells,
From courts inclusive down to cells:
What preachers talk, or sages write;
These I will gather and unite,
And represent them to mankind
Collected in that infant's mind.”
This said, she plucks in Heaven's high bowers
A sprig of amaranthine flowers,
In nectar thrice infuses bays,
Three times refin'd in Titan's rays;
Then calls the Graces to her aid,
And sprinkles thrice the new-born maid :
From whence the tender skin assumes
A sweetness above all perfumes :
From whence a cleanliness remains
Incapable of outward stains :
From whence that decency of mind,
So lovely in the female kind,
Where not one careless thought intrudes,
Less modest than the speech of prudes.
The Graces next would act their part,
And show'd but little of their art;
Their work was half already done,
The child with native beauty shone;
The outward form no help requir’d:
Each, breathing on her thrice, inspir'd
That gentle, soft, engaging air,
Which in old times adorn'd the fair:
And said, “ Vanessa be the name
By which thou shalt be known to fame;
Vanessa, by the gods inrollid:
Her name on Earth shall not be told.”
Vain human-kind ! fantastic race!
Thy various follies who can trace ?
Self-love, ambition, envy, pride,
Their empire in our heart divide.
Give others riches, power, and station,
I have no title to aspire;
Yet, when you sink, I seem the higher.
In Pope I cannot read a line,
But with a sigh I wish it mine:
When he can in one couplet fix
More sense than I can do in six.
I grieve to be outdone by Gay
In my own humorous biting way.
Arbuthnot is no more my friend,
Who dares to irony pretend,
Which I was born to introduce,
Refin'd at first, and show'd its use.
St. John, as well as Pulteney, knows
That I had some repute for prose;
And, till they drove me out of date,
Could maul a minister of state.
If they have mortified my pride,
And made me throw my pen aside;
If with such talents heaven hath bless'd 'em,
Have I not reason to detest 'em ?
From Dublin soon to London spread,
'Tis told at court, “ the Dean is dead ;'
And Lady Suffolk, in the spleen,
Runs laughing up to tell the queen.
The queen so gracious, mild, and good,
Cries, “ Is he gone! 'tis time he should.
He's dead, you say; then let him rot:
I'm glad the medals were forgot.
I promis'd him, I own; but when ?
I only was the princess then:
But now, as consort of the king,
You know, 'tis quite another thing."
Now Chartres, at Sir Robert's levee,
Tells with a sneer the tidings heavy:
Why, if he died without his shoes,”
Cries Bob, “ I'm sorry for the news:
Oh, were the wretch but living still,
And in his place my good friend Will !
Or had a mitre on his head,
Provided Bolingbroke were dead !"
Now Curll his shop from rubbish drains :
And then, to make them pass the glibber,
Revis’d by Tibbalds, Moore, and Cibber.
He'll treat me as he does my betters,
Publish my will, my life, my letters;
Revive the libels born to die :
Which Pope must bear as well as I.
Here shift the scene, to represent
How those I love my death lament.
Poor Pope will grieve a month, and Gay
A week, and Arbuthnot a day.
St. John himself will scarce forbear
To bite his pen, and drop a tear.
The rest will give a shrug, and cry,
“ I'm sorry—but we all must die !"
My female friends, whose tender hearts Have better learn'd to act their parts, Receive the news in doleful dumps : “ The Dean is dead : (Pray what is trumps ?) Then, Lord have mercy on his soul ! (Ladies, I'll venture for the vole.) Six deans, they say, must bear the pall : (I wish I knew what king to call.) Madam, your
husband will attend
The funeral of so good a friend ?"
“ No, madam, 'tis a shocking sight;
And he's engag'd to-morrow night :
My Lady Club will take it ill,
If he should fail her at quadrille.
He lov’d the Dean-(I lead a heart :)
But dearest friends, they say, must part.
His time was come; he ran his race;
We hope he 's in a better place.”
Suppose me dead; and then suppose
A club assembled at the Rose ;
Where, from discourse of this and that,
I grow the subject of their chat.
And while they toss my name about,
With favour some, and some without;
One, quite indifferent in the cause,
My character impartial draws.