Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. III. Addison to Blake
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. III. The Eighteenth Century: Addison to Blake
 
Extracts from Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift
By Jonathan Swift (1667–1745)
 
VAIN human kind! fantastic race!
Thy various follies who can trace?
Self-love, ambition, envy, pride,
Their empire in our hearts divide.
Give others riches, power, and station,        5
’Tis all on me a usurpation.
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;        10
When he can in one couplet fix
More sense than I can do in six,
It gives me such a jealous fit,
I cry, ‘Pox take him and his wit!’
I grieve to be outdone by Gay        15
In my own humorous biting way.
Arbuthnot is no more my friend,
Who dares to irony pretend,
Which I was born to introduce,
Refined it first, and show’d its use.        20
St. John, as well as Pultney, 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And, till they drove me out of date,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,        25
And made me throw my pen aside;
If with such talents Heaven has bless’d ’em,
Have I not reason to detest ’em?
*        *        *        *        *
  From Dublin soon to London spread,
’Tis told at court, ‘the Dean is dead.’        30
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:        35
I ’m glad the medals were forgot. 1
I promised him, I own; but when?
I only was the princess then;
But now, as consort of the king,
You know, ’tis quite another thing.’        40
Now Chartres, at Sir Robert’s 2 levee,
Tells with a sneer the tidings heavy:
‘Why, if he died without his shoes,’
Cries Bob, ‘I ’m sorry for the news:
O, were the wretch but living still,        45
And in his place my good friend Will! 3
Or had a mitre on his head,
Provided Bolingbroke were dead!’
Now Curll his shop from rubbish drains:
Three genuine tomes of Swift’s remains!        50
And then, to make them pass the glibber,
Revised 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;        55
Which Pope must bear, as well as I.
  Here shift the scene, to represent
How those I love my death lament.
Poor Pope would grieve a month, and Gay
A week, and Arbuthnot a day.        60
  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!’
*        *        *        *        *
  Suppose me dead; and then suppose        65
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,        70
One, quite indifferent in the cause,
My character impartial draws:
  ‘The Dean, if we believe report,
Was never ill-received at court.
As for his works in verse and prose,        75
I own myself no judge of those;
Nor can I tell what critics thought ’em:
But this I know, all people bought ’em.
As with a moral view design’d
To cure the vices of mankind:        80
His vein, ironically grave,
Exposed the fool, and lash’d the knave.
To steal a hint was never known,
But what he writ was all his own.
  ‘He never thought an honour done him,        85
Because a duke was proud to own him;
Would rather slip aside and choose
To talk with wits in dirty shoes;
Despised the fools with stars and garters,
So often seen caressing Chartres.        90
He never courted men in station,
Nor persons held in admiration;
Of no man’s greatness was afraid,
Because he sought for no man’s aid.
Though trusted long in great affairs        95
He gave himself no haughty airs:
Without regarding private ends,
Spent all his credit for his friends;
And only chose the wise and good;
No flatterers; no allies in blood:        100
But succour’d virtue in distress,
And seldom fail’d of good success;
As numbers in their hearts must own,
Who, but for him, had been unknown.
*        *        *        *        *
  ‘Perhaps I may allow the Dean        105
Had too much satire in his vein;
And seem’d determined not to starve it,
Because no age could more deserve it.
Yet malice never was his aim;
He lash’d the vice, but spared the name;        110
No individual could resent,
Where thousands equally were meant;
His satire points at no defect,
But what all mortals may correct;
For he abhorr’d that senseless tribe        115
Who call it humour when they gibe:
He spared a hump, or crooked nose,
Whose owners set not up for beaux.
True genuine dulness moved his pity,
Unless it offer’d to be witty.        120
Those who their ignorance confest,
He ne’er offended with a jest;
But laugh’d to hear an idiot quote
A verse from Horace learn’d by rote.
  ‘He knew a hundred pleasing stories,        125
With all the turns of Whigs and Tories:
Was cheerful to his dying day;
And friends would let him have his way.
  ‘He gave the little wealth he had
To build a house for fools and mad;        130
And show’d by one satiric touch,
No nation wanted it so much.’
 
Note 1. The Queen had promised Swift a present which she never gave him. [back]
Note 2. Sir Robert Walpole. The Dublin edition describes Chartres as ‘an infamous vile scoundrel, grown from a footboy, or worse, to a prodigious fortune.’ [back]
Note 3. William Pultney, who went over from Walpole to Bolingbroke. [back]
 
 
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