Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift, D.S.P.D.

by Jonathan Swift

Occasioned by reading a Maxim in Rochefoucauld.


As Rochefoucauld his Maxim drew
From nature, I believe 'em true :
They argue no corrupted mind
In him; the fault is in mankind.

  This Maxim more than all the rest
Is thought too base for human breast ;
'In all distresses of our friends
We first consult our private ends,
While nature kindly bent to ease us,
Points out some circumstance to please us.'

  If this perhaps your patience move
Let reason and experience prove.

  We all behold with envious eyes,
Our equal rais'd above our size ;
Who would not at a crowded show,
Stand high himself, keep others low ?
I love my friend as well as you,
But would not have him stop my view ;
Then let me have the higher post ;
I ask but for an inch at most.

  If in a battle you should find,
One, whom you love of all mankind,
Had some heroic action done,
A champion kill'd, or trophy won ;
Rather than thus be over-topt,
Would you not wish his laurels cropt ?

  Dear honest Ned is in the gout,
Lies rackt with pain, and you without :
How patiently you hear him groan!
How glad the case is not your own!

  What poet would not grieve to see,
His brethren write as well as he?
But rather than they should excel,
He'd wish his rivals all in hell.

  Her end when Emulation misses,
She turns to envy, stings and hisses :
The strongest friendship yields to pride,
Unless the odds be on our side.

  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,
'Tis all on me an 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 :
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.

  Why must I be outdone by Gay,
In my own hum'rous biting way?

  Arbuthnot is no more my friend,
Who dares to irony pretend;
Which I was born to introduce,
Refin'd it first, and show'd its use.

  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And till they drove me out of date,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,
And made me throw my pen aside ;
If with such talents Heav'n hath blest 'em
Have I not reason to detest 'em?

  To all my foes, dear Fortune, send
Thy gifts, but never to my friend :
I tamely can endure the first,
But, this with envy makes me burst.

  Thus much may serve by way of proem,
Proceed we therefore to our poem.

  The time is not remote, when I
Must by the course of nature die :
When I foresee my special friends,
Will try to find their private ends :
Tho' it is hardly understood,
Which way my death can do them good ;
Yet, thus methinks, I hear 'em speak ;
See, how the Dean begins to break :
Poor gentleman, he droops apace,
You plainly find it in his face :
That old vertigo in his head,
Will never leave him, till he's dead :
Besides, his memory decays,
He recollects not what he says ;
He cannot call his friends to mind ;
Forgets the place where last he din'd :
Plies you with stories o'er and o'er,
He told them fifty times before.
How does he fancy we can sit,
To hear is out-of-fashion'd wit?
But he takes up with younger folks,
Who for his wine will bear his jokes :
Faith, he must make his stories shorter,
Or change his comrades once a quarter:
In half the time, he talks them round ;
There must another set be found.

  For poetry, he's past his prime,
He takes an hour to find a rhyme :
His fire is out, his wit decay'd,
His fancy sunk, his Muse a jade.
I'd have him throw away his pen ;
But there's no talking to some men.

  And, then their tenderness appears,
By adding largely to my years :
'He's older than he would be reckon'd,
And well remembers Charles the Second.

  'He hardly drinks a pint of wine ;
And that, I doubt, is no good sign.
His stomach too begins to fail :
Last year we thought his strong and hale ;
But now, he's quite another thing ;
I wish he may hold out till spring.'

  Then hug themselves, and reason thus ;
'It is not yet so bad with us.'

  In such a case they talk in tropes,
And, by their fears express their hopes :
Some great misfortune to portend,
No enemy can match a friend ;
With all the kindness they profess,
The merit of a lucky guess,
(When daily howd'y's come of course,
And servants answer ; Worse and worse)
Wou'd please 'em better than to tell,
That, God be prais'd, the Dean is well.
Then he who prophesied the best,
Approves his foresight to the rest :
'You know, I always fear'd the worst,
And often told you so at first':
He'd rather choose that I should die,
Than his prediction prove a lie.
Not one foretells I shall recover ;
But, all agree, to give me over.

  Yet should some neighbour feel a pain,
Just in the parts, where I complain ;
How many a message would be send?
What hearty prayers that I should mend?
Enquire what regimen I kept ;
What gave me ease, and how I slept?
And more lament, when I was dead,
Than all the sniv'llers round my bed.

  My good companions, never fear,
For though you may mistake a year ;
Though your prognostics run too fast,
They must be verified at last.

  'Behold the fatal day arrive!
How is the Dean? He's just alive.
Now the departing prayer is read :
He hardly breathes. The Dean is dead.
Before the passing-bell begun,
The news thro' half the town has run.
O, may we all for death prepare!
What, has he left? And who's his heir?
I know no more than what the news is,
'Tis all bequeathed to public uses.
To public use! A perfect whim!
What had the public done for him!
Mere envy, avarice and pride!
He gave it all :- But first he died.
And had the Dean, in all the nation ,
No worthy friend, no poor relation?
So ready to do strangers good.
Forgetting his own flesh and blood?

  Now Grub-Street wits are all employ'd ;
With elegies, the town is cloy'd :
Some paragraph in ev'ry paper,
To curse the Dean, or bless the Drapier.

  The doctors tender of their fame,
Wisely on me lay all the blame :
We must confess his case was nice ;
But he would never take advice :
Had he been rul'd, for ought appears,
He might have liv'd these twenty years :
For when we open'd him we found,
That all his vital parts were sound.'

  From Dublin soon to London spread,
'Tis told at Court, the Dean is dead.

  Kind 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 ; why let him rot ;
I'm glad the medals were forgot.
I promis'd them, I own ; but when?
I only was the Princess then ;
But now as Consort of the King,
You know 'tis quite a different thing.'

  Now, Chartres at Sir Robert's levee
Tells, with a sneer, the tidings heavy :
'Why, is he dead 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 Curl his shop from rubbish drains ;
Three genuine tomes of Swift's remains.
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 scare 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.
Indifference clad in wisdom's guise,
All fortitude of mind supplies :
For how can stony bowels melt,
In those who never pity felt ;
When we are lash'd, they kiss the rod ;
Resigning to the will of God.

  The fools, my juniors by a year,
Are tortur'd with suspense and fear.
Who wisely thought my age a screen,
When death approach'd to stand between :
The screen remov'd, their hearts are trembling,
They mourn for me without dissembling.

  My female friends, who tender hearts
Have better learn'd to act their parts,
Receive the news in doleful dumps,
'The Dean is dead, (and 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 wou'd take it ill
If you shou'd fail her at Quadrill.
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.'

  Why do we grieve that friends should die?
No loss more easy to supply.
One year is past ; a different scene ;
No further mention of the Dean ;
Who now, alas, no more is mist,
Than if he never did exist.
Where's now the fav'rite of Apollo?
Departed ; and his works must follow :
Must undergo the common fate
His kind of wit is out of date.
Some country squire to Lintot goes,
Enquires for Swift in verse and prose :
Says Lintot, 'I have heard the name :
He died a year ago.' The same
He searcheth all his shop in vain;
'Sir you may find them in Duck-lane :
I sent them with a load of books,
Last Monday to the pastry-cooks.
To fancy they could live a year!
I find you're but a stranger here.
The Dean was famous in his time ;
And had a kind of knack at rhyme :
His way of writing now is past ;
The town hath got a better taste :
I keep no antiquated stuff ;
But, spick and span I have enough.
Pray, do but give me leave to show-em ;
Here's Colley Cibber's Birth-day Poem.
This Ode you never yet have seen,
By Stephen Duck, upon the Queen.
Then, here's a Letter finely penn'd
Against the Craftsman and his friend ;
It clearly shows that all reflection
On ministers, is disaffection.
Next, here’s Sir Robert's Vindication,
And Mr. Henly's last Oration :
The hawkers have not got 'em yet,
Your Honour please to buy a set?

  'Here's Wolston's Tracts, the twelfth edition ;
'Tis read by ev'ry politician :
The country members, when in town,
To all their boroughs send them down :
You never met a thing so smart ;
The couriers have them all by heart :
Those Maids of Honour (who can read)
Are taught to use them for their creed.
The Rev'rend author's good intention,
Hath been rewarded with a pension :
He doth an honour to his gown,
By bravely running priest-craft down :
He shows, as sure as God's in Gloster,
That Jesus was a Grand Imposter :
That all his miracles were cheats,
Perform'd as jugglers do their feats :
The Church had never such a writer :
A shame, he hath not got a mitre!'

  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 indiff'rent in the cause,
My character impartial draws :

  'The Dean, if we believe report,
Was never ill receiv'd at Court :
As for his works in verse and prose,
I own my self 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 :
His vein, ironically grave,
Expos'd 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,
Because a Duke was proud to own him :
Would rather slip aside, and choose
To talk with wits in dirty shoes :
Despis'd the fools with stars and garters,
So often seen caressing Chartres :
He never courted men in station,
Nor persons had in admiration ;
Of no man's greatness was afraid,
Because he sought for no man's aid.
Though trusted long in great affairs,
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 flatt'rers ; no allies in blood ;
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.

  'With princes kept a due decorum,
But never stood in awe before 'em :
And to her Majesty, God bless her,
Would speak as free as to her dresser,
She thought it his peculiar whim,
Nor took it ill as come from him.
He follow'd David's lesson just,
In Princes never put thy trust.
And, would you make him truly sour ;
Provoke him with a slave in Power :
The Irish Senate, if you nam'd,
With what impatience he declaim'd!
Fair LIBERTY was all his cry ;
For her he stood prepar'd to die ;
For her he boldly stood alone ;
For her he oft expos'd his own.
Two kingdoms, just as faction led,
Had set a price upon his head ;
But, not a traitor could be found,
To sell him for six hundred pound.
  'Had he but spar'd his tongue and pen,
He might have rose like other men :
But, power was never in his thought ;
And, wealth he valu'd not a groat :
Ingratitude he often found,
And pitied those who meant the wound :
But, kept the tenor of his mind,
To merit well of human kind :
Nor made a sacrifice of those
Who still were true, to please his foes.
He labour'd many a fruitless hour
To reconcile his friends in power ;
Saw mischief by a faction brewing,
While they pursu'd each other's ruin.
But, finding vain was all his care,
He left the Court in mere despair.

  'And, oh! how short are human schemes!
Here ended all our golden dreams.
What St John's skill in state affairs,
What Ormond's valour, Oxford's cares,
To save their sinking country lent,
Was all destroy'd by one event.
Too soon that previous life was ended,
On which alone, our weal depended.
When up a dangerous faction starts,
With wrath and vengeance in their hearts:
By solemn league and cov'nant bound,
To ruin, slaughter and confound ;
To turn Religion to a fable,
And make the government a Babel :
Pervert the Law, disgrace the Gown,
Corrupt the Senate, rob the Crown ;
To sacrifice old England's glory,
And make her infamous in story.
When such a tempest shook the land,
How could unguarded virtue stand?

  'With horror, grief, despair the Dean
Beheld the dire destructive scene :
His fiends in exile, or the Tower,
Himself within the frown of power ;
Pursu'd by base envenom'd pens,
Far to the land of slaves and fens ;
A service race in folly nurs'd,
Who truckle most, when treated worst.

  'By innocence and resolution,
He bore continual persecution ;
While numbers to preferment rose ;
Whose merits were, to be his foes.
When, e'en his own familiar friends
Intent upon their private ends ;
Like renegados now he feels,
Against him lifting up their heels.

'The Dean did by his pen defeat
An infamous destructive cheat.
Taught fools their int'rest how to know ;
And gave them arms to ward the blow.
Envy hath own'd it was his doing,
To save that helpless land from ruin,
While they who at the steerage stood,
And reapt the profit, sought his blood.

  'To save them from their evil fate,
In him was held a crime of state.
A wicked monster on the bench,
Whose fury blood could never quench ;
As vile and profligate a villain,
As modern Scroggs, or old Tressilian ;
Who long all justice had discarded,
Nor fear'd he GOD, nor man regarded ;
Vow'd on the Dean his rage to vent,
And make him of his zeal repent ;
But Heav'n his innocence defends,
The grateful people stand his friends
Not strains of law, nor judge's frown,
Nor topics brought to please the Crown,
Nor witness hir'd, nor jury pick'd,
Prevail to bring him in convict.

  'In exile with a steady heart,
He spent his life's declining part ;
Where, folly, pride and faction sway,
Remove from St John, Pope and Gay.

  'His friendship there to few confin'd,
Were always of the middling kind :
No fools of rank, a mongrel breed,
Who fain would pass for lords indeed :
Where titles give no right or power,
And peerage is a wither'd flower,
He would have held it a disgrace,
If such a wretch had known his face.
On rural squires, that kingdom's bane,
He vented oft his wrath in vain :
Biennial squires, to market brought ;
Who sell their souls and votes for naught ;
The nation stript go joyful back,
To rob the Church, their tenants rack,
Go snacks with thieves and rapparees,
And, keep the peace, to pick up fees :
In every job to have a share,
A jail or barrack to repair ;
And turn the tax for public roads
Commodious to their own abodes.

  'Perhaps I may allow, the Dean
Had too much satire in his vein ;
And seem'd determin'd not to starve it,
Because no age could more deserve it.
Yet, malice never was his aim ;
He lash'd the vice but spar'd the name.
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,
Who call it humour when they gibe :
He spar'd a hump or crooked nose,
Whose owners set not up for beaux.
True genuine dullness mov'd his pity,
Unless it offer'd to be witty.
Those, who their ignorance confess'd,
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 an hundred pleasant stories,
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 :
And show'd by one satiric touch,
No nation wanted it so much :
That kingdom he hath left his debtor,
I wish it soon may have a better.'
Jonathan Swift | Classic Poems

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