Jonathan Swift

30 November 1667 – 19 October 1745 / Dublin

Atlas; Or The Minister Of State

TO THE LORD TREASURER OXFORD
1710

Atlas, we read in ancient song,
Was so exceeding tall and strong,
He bore the skies upon his back,
Just as the pedler does his pack;
But, as the pedler overpress'd
Unloads upon a stall to rest,
Or, when he can no longer stand
Desires a friend to lend a hand;
So Atlas, lest the ponderous spheres
Should sink, and fall about his ears,
Got Hercules to bear the pile,
That he might sit and rest awhile.
Yet Hercules was not so strong,
Nor could have borne it half so long.
Great statesmen are in this condition;
And Atlas is a politician,
A premier minister of state;
Alcides one of second rate.
Suppose then Atlas ne'er so wise;
Yet, when the weight of kingdoms lies
Too long upon his single shoulders,
Sink down he must, or find upholders.
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