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addresses to women are, as might be expected, singularly unfortunate. He says truly of himself that he
·could praise, esteem, approve, But understood not what it was to love.' He can never get out of his satiric pulpit, and while saluting his mistresses as nymphs, he lectures them as school-girls. His verses to Stella, whom he came as near to loving as was for him possible, and whose death certainly hastened his mental ruin, are as unimpassioned as those to Vanessa, with whose affections he merely trifled. Swift's tendency to dwell on the meaner, and even the revolting facts of life, pardonable in his prose, is unpardonable in those tributes to Venus Cloacina, in which he intrudes on a lady's boudoir with the eye of a surgeon fresh from a dissecting-room or an hospital. His society verses are like those of a man writing with his feet, for he delights to trample on what others caress. Often he seems, among singing birds, a vulture screeching over carrion.
Of Swift's graver satiric pieces, the Rhapsody on Poetry has the fatal drawback of suggesting a comparison with The Dunciad. In The Beast's Confession, vivid and trenchant though it be, the author appears occasionally to intrude on the gardens of Prior and Gay. Had he been an artist in verse, he might have written something in English more like the sixth satire of Juvenal than Churchill ever succeeded in doing. But Swift despised art : he rode rough-shod, on his ambling cynic steed, through bad double rhyme and halting rhythm, to his end. War with the cold steel of prose was his business: his poems are the mere side-lights and pastimes of a man too grim to join heartily in any game. Only here and there among them, as in the strange medley of pathos and humour on his own death, there is a flash from the eyes which Pope-good hater and good friend—said were azure as the heavens, a touch of the hand that was never weary of giving gifts to the poor and blows to the powerful, a reflection of the universal condottiere, misanthrope and sceptic, who has a claim to our forbearance in that he detested, as Johnson and as Byron detested, cowardice and cant.
A DESCRIPTION OF THE MORNING. WRITTEN IN APRIL
1709, AND FIRST PRINTED IN THE TATLER.
Now hardly here and there a hackney-coach
Appearing, show'd the ruddy morn's approach.
The slip-shod 'prentice from his master's door
Had pared the dirt, and sprinkled round the floor.
Now Moll had whirld her mop with dextrous airs,
Prepared to scrub the entry and the stairs.
The youth with broomy stumps began to trace
The kennel's 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 the 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.
HORACE, BOOK IV. ODE IX. ADDRESSED TO
ARCHBISHOP KING. 1718.
Virtue conceald within our breast
Is inactivity at best:
But never shall the Muse endure
To let your virtues lie obscure;
Or suffer Envy to conceal
Your labours for the public weal.
Within your breast all wisdom lies,
Either to govern or advise ;
Your steady soul preserves her frame,
In good and evil times, the same.
Pale Avarice and lurking Fraud,
Stand in your sacred presence awed ;
Your hand alone from gold abstains,
Which drags the slavish world in chains.
Him for a happy man I own,
Whose fortune is not overgrown ;
And happy he who wisely knows
To use the gifts that Heaven bestows;
Or, if it please the powers divine,
Can suffer want and not repine.
The man who infamy to shun
Into the arms of death would run;
That man is ready to defend,
With life, his country or his friend.
APOLLO'S EDICT. OCCASIONED BY NEWS FROM PARNASSUS.'
Ireland is now our royal care,
We lately fix'd our viceroy there.
How near was she to be undone,
Till pious love inspired her son !
What cannot our vicegerent do,
As poet and as patriot too ?
Let his success our subjects sway,
Our inspirations to obey,
And follow where he leads the way:
Then study to correct your taste;
Nor beaten paths be longer traced.
No simile shall be begun,
With rising or with setting sun;
And let the secret head of Nile
Be ever banish'd from your isle.
When wretched lovers live on air,
I beg you 'll the chameleon spare ;
And when you'd make a hero grander,
Forget he's like a salamander.
No son of mine shall dare to say,
Aurora usher'd in the day,
Or ever name the milky-way.
You all agree, I make no doubt,
Elijah's mantle is worn out.
The bird of Jove shall toil no more
To teach the humble wren to soar.
Your tragic heroes shall not rant,
Nor shepherds use poetic cant.
Simplicity alone can grace
The manners of the rural race.
Theocritus and Philips be
Your guides to true simplicity.
When Damon's soul shall take its flight,
Though poets have the second-sight,
They shall not see a trail of light.
Nor shall the vapours upwards rise,
Nor a new star adorn the skies :
For who can hope to place one there,
As glorious as Belinda's hair?
Yet, if his name you'd eternize,
And must exalt him to the skies,
Without a star this may be done :
So Tickell mourn'd his Addison.
If Anna's happy reign you praise,
Pray, not a word of halcyon days :
Nor let my votaries show their skill
In aping lines from Cooper's Hill;
For know I cannot bear to hear
The mimicry of deep, yet clear.
Whene'er my viceroy is address'd,
Against the phenix I protest.
When poets soar in youthful strains,
No Phaeton to hold the reins.
1 Referring to some verses in which Swift had described Lord Cutts under the form of salamander.
When you describe a lovely girl,
No lips of coral, teeth of pearl.
Cupid shall ne'er mistake another,
However beauteous, for his mother ;
Nor shall his darts at random fly
From magazine in Celia's eye.
With woman compounds I am cloy'd,
Which only pleased in Biddy Floyd'.
For foreign aid what need they roam,
Whom fate has amply blest at home?
Unerring Heaven, with bounteous hand,
Has form'd a model for your land,
Whom Jove endued with every grace ;
The glory of the Granard race ;
Now destined by the powers divine
The blessing of another line.
Then, would you paint a matchless dame,
Whom you'd consign to endless fame?
Invoke not Cytherea's aid,
Nor borrow from the blue-eyed maid ;
Nor need you on the Graces call ;
Take qualities from Donegal ?.
FROM CADENUS AND VANESSA.'
In a glad hour Lucina's aid
Produced 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 ; 1 A lady whom Swift had praised as a 'happy composition of innocence, breeding, wit, &c.
2 The Countess of Donegal, daughter to the first earl of Granard.