Jonathan Swift

30 November 1667 – 19 October 1745 / Dublin

Horace, Epist. I, Vii Imitation Of Horace To Lord Oxford

Harley, the nation's great support,
Returning home one day from court,
His mind with public cares possest,
All Europe's business in his breast,
Observed a parson near Whitehall,
Cheap'ning old authors on a stall.
The priest was pretty well in case,
And show'd some humour in his face;
Look'd with an easy, careless mien,
A perfect stranger to the spleen;
Of size that might a pulpit fill,
But more inclining to sit still.
My lord, (who, if a man may say't,
Loves mischief better than his meat),
Was now disposed to crack a jest
And bid friend Lewis go in quest.
(This Lewis was a cunning shaver,
And very much in Harley's favour)—
In quest who might this parson be,
What was his name, of what degree;
If possible, to learn his story,
And whether he were Whig or Tory.
Lewis his patron's humour knows;
Away upon his errand goes,
And quickly did the matter sift;
Found out that it was Doctor Swift,
A clergyman of special note
For shunning those of his own coat;
Which made his brethren of the gown
Take care betimes to run him down:
No libertine, nor over nice,
Addicted to no sort of vice;
Went where he pleas'd, said what he thought;
Not rich, but owed no man a groat;
In state opinions a la mode,
He hated Wharton like a toad;
Had given the faction many a wound,
And libell'd all the junto round;
Kept company with men of wit,
Who often father'd what he writ:
His works were hawk'd in ev'ry street,
But seldom rose above a sheet:
Of late, indeed, the paper-stamp
Did very much his genius cramp;
And, since he could not spend his fire,
He now intended to retire.
Said Harley, 'I desire to know
From his own mouth, if this be so:
Step to the doctor straight, and say,
I'd have him dine with me to-day.'
Swift seem'd to wonder what he meant,
Nor could believe my lord had sent;
So never offer'd once to stir,
But coldly said, 'Your servant, sir!'
'Does he refuse me?' Harley cry'd:
'He does; with insolence and pride.'
Some few days after, Harley spies
The doctor fasten'd by the eyes
At Charing-cross, among the rout,
Where painted monsters are hung out:
He pull'd the string, and stopt his coach,
Beck'ning the doctor to approach.
Swift, who could neither fly nor hide,
Came sneaking to the chariot side,
And offer'd many a lame excuse:
He never meant the least abuse—
'My lord—the honour you design'd—
Extremely proud—but I had dined—
I am sure I never should neglect—
No man alive has more respect'—
Well, I shall think of that no more,
If you'll be sure to come at four.'
The doctor now obeys the summons,
Likes both his company and commons;
Displays his talent, sits till ten;
Next day invited, comes again;
Soon grows domestic, seldom fails,
Either at morning or at meals;
Came early, and departed late;
In short, the gudgeon took the bait.
My lord would carry on the jest,
And down to Windsor takes his guest.
Swift much admires the place and air,
And longs to be a Canon there;
In summer round the Park to ride,
In winter—never to reside.
A Canon!—that's a place too mean:
No, doctor, you shall be a Dean;
Two dozen canons round your stall,
And you the tyrant o'er them all:
You need but cross the Irish seas,
To live in plenty, power, and ease.
Poor Swift departed, and, what's worse,
With borrow'd money in his purse,
Travels at least a hundred leagues,
And suffers numberless fatigues.
Suppose him now a dean complete,
Demurely lolling in his seat,
And silver verge, with decent pride,
Stuck underneath his cushion side.
Suppose him gone through all vexations,
Patents, instalments, abjurations,
First-fruits, and tenths, and chapter-treats;
Dues, payments, fees, demands, and cheats.
(The wicked laity's contriving
To hinder clergymen from thriving.)
Now all the doctor's money's spent,
His tenants wrong him in his rent,
The farmers spitefully combine,
Force him to take his tithes in kine,
And Parvisol discounts arrears
By bills, for taxes and repairs.
Poor Swift, with all his losses vex'd,
Not knowing where to turn him next,
Above a thousand pounds in debt,
Takes horse, and in a mighty fret
Rides day and night at such a rate,
He soon arrives at Harley's gate;
But was so dirty, pale, and thin,
Old Read would hardly let him in.
Said Harley, 'Welcome, rev'rend dean!
What makes your worship look so lean?
Why, sure you won't appear in town
In that old wig and rusty gown?
I doubt your heart is set on pelf
So much that you neglect yourself.
What! I suppose, now stocks are high,
You've some good purchase in your eye?
Or is your money out at use?'—
'Truce, good my lord, I beg a truce!'
The doctor in a passion cry'd,
'Your raillery is misapply'd;
Experience I have dearly bought;
You know I am not worth a groat:
But you resolved to have your jest,
And 'twas a folly to contest;
Then, since you now have done your worst,
Pray leave me where you found me first.'
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