Riddles by

From The Poems of Jonathan Swift, D.D., Volume II (of 2)

Edited by William Ernst Browning
Barrister, Inner Temple
Author of The Life of Lord Chesterfield.


The following notice is subjoined to some of these riddles, in the Dublin edition: “About nine or ten years ago, (i.e. about 1724,) some ingenious gentlemen, friends to the author, used to entertain themselves with writing riddles, and send them to him and their other acquaintance; copies of which ran about, and some of them were printed, both here and in England. The author, at his leisure hours, fell into the same amusement; although it be said that he thought them of no great merit, entertainment, or use. However, by the advice of some persons, for whom the author hath a great esteem, and who were pleased to send us the copies, we have ventured to print the few following, as we have done two or three before, and which are allowed to be genuine; because we are informed that several good judges have a taste for such kind of compositions.”


FROM Venus born, thy beauty shows;
But who thy father, no man knows:
Nor can the skilful herald trace
The founder of thy ancient race;
Whether thy temper, full of fire,
Discovers Vulcan for thy sire,
The god who made Scamander boil,
And round his margin singed the soil:
(From whence, philosophers agree,
An equal power descends to thee;)
Whether from dreadful Mars you claim
The high descent from whence you came,
And, as a proof, show numerous scars
By fierce encounters made in wars,
Those honourable wounds you bore
From head to foot, and all before,
And still the bloody field frequent,
Familiar in each leader’s tent;
Or whether, as the learn’d contend,
You from the neighbouring Gaul descend;
Or from Parthenope[1] the proud,
Where numberless thy votaries crowd;
Whether thy great forefathers came
From realms that bear Vespuccio’s name,[2]
For so conjectures would obtrude;
And from thy painted skin conclude;
Whether, as Epicurus[3] shows,
The world from justling seeds arose,
Which, mingling with prolific strife
In chaos, kindled into life:
So your production was the same,
And from contending atoms came.

Thy fair indulgent mother crown’d
Thy head with sparkling rubies round:
Beneath thy decent steps the road
Is all with precious jewels strew’d,
The bird of Pallas,[4] knows his post,
Thee to attend, where’er thou goest.

Byzantians boast, that on the clod
Where once their Sultan’s horse hath trod,
Grows neither grass, nor shrub, nor tree:
The same thy subjects boast of thee.

The greatest lord, when you appear,
Will deign your livery to wear,
In all the various colours seen
Of red and yellow, blue and green.

With half a word when you require,
The man of business must retire.

The haughty minister of state,
With trembling must thy leisure wait;
And, while his fate is in thy hands,
The business of the nation stands.

Thou darest the greatest prince attack,
Canst hourly set him on the rack;
And, as an instance of thy power,
Enclose him in a wooden tower,
With pungent pains on every side:
So Regulus[5] in torments died.

From thee our youth all virtues learn,
Dangers with prudence to discern;
And well thy scholars are endued
With temperance and with fortitude,
With patience, which all ills supports,
And secrecy, the art of courts.

The glittering beau could hardly tell,
Without your aid, to read or spell;
But, having long conversed with you,
Knows how to scroll a billet-doux.

With what delight, methinks, I trace
Your blood in every noble race!
In whom thy features, shape, and mien,
Are to the life distinctly seen!
The Britons, once a savage kind,
By you were brighten’d and refined,
Descendants to the barbarous Huns,
With limbs robust, and voice that stuns:
But you have moulded them afresh,
Removed the tough superfluous flesh,
Taught them to modulate their tongues,
And speak without the help of lungs.

Proteus on you bestow’d the boon
To change your visage like the moon;
You sometimes half a face produce,
Keep t’other half for private use.

How famed thy conduct in the fight
With Hermes, son of Pleias bright!
Outnumber’d, half encompass’d round,
You strove for every inch of ground;
Then, by a soldierly retreat,
Retired to your imperial seat.
The victor, when your steps he traced,
Found all the realms before him waste:
You, o’er the high triumphal arch
Pontific, made your glorious march:
The wondrous arch behind you fell,
And left a chasm profound as hell:
You, in your capitol secured,
A siege as long as Troy endured.

[Footnote 1: Naples, anciently called Parthenope, from the name of the siren who threw herself into the sea for grief at the departure of Ulysses, and was cast up and buried there.–Ovid, “Met.,” xiv, 101.–W. E. B.] [Footnote 2: Americus Vespuccius, the discoverer of America in 1497. See Hakluyts “Navigations, Voyages, etc.,” vii, 161; viii, 449.–W. E. B.] [Footnote 3: See Lucretius, “De Rer. Nat.,” lib. i.–W. E. B.] [Footnote 4: Bubo, the owl.–Dublin Edition.] [Footnote 5: Taken prisoner by the Carthaginians in the first Punic war, and ultimately tortured to death. See the story in Cicero, “De Officiis,” i, 13; Hor., “Carm.,” iii, 5.–W. E. B.]

ON A PEN. 1724

In youth exalted high in air,
Or bathing in the waters fair,
Nature to form me took delight,
And clad my body all in white.
My person tall, and slender waist,
On either side with fringes graced;
Till me that tyrant man espied,
And dragg’d me from my mother’s side:
No wonder now I look so thin;
The tyrant stript me to the skin:
My skin he flay’d, my hair he cropt:
At head and foot my body lopt:
And then, with heart more hard than stone,
He pick’d my marrow from the bone.

To vex me more, he took a freak
To slit my tongue and make me speak:
But, that which wonderful appears,
I speak to eyes, and not to ears.
He oft employs me in disguise,
And makes me tell a thousand lies:
To me he chiefly gives in trust
To please his malice or his lust.
From me no secret he can hide;
I see his vanity and pride:
And my delight is to expose
His follies to his greatest foes.
All languages I can command,
Yet not a word I understand.
Without my aid, the best divine
In learning would not know a line:
The lawyer must forget his pleading;
The scholar could not show his reading.

Nay; man my master is my slave;
I give command to kill or save,
Can grant ten thousand pounds a-year,
And make a beggar’s brat a peer.

But, while I thus my life relate,
I only hasten on my fate.
My tongue is black, my mouth is furr’d,
I hardly now can force a word.
I die unpitied and forgot,
And on some dunghill left to rot.



All-ruling tyrant of the earth,
To vilest slaves I owe my birth,
How is the greatest monarch blest,
When in my gaudy livery drest!
No haughty nymph has power to run
From me; or my embraces shun.
Stabb’d to the heart, condemn’d to flame,
My constancy is still the same.
The favourite messenger of Jove,
And Lemnian god, consulting strove
To make me glorious to the sight
Of mortals, and the gods’ delight.
Soon would their altar’s flame expire
If I refused to lend them fire.

By fate exalted high in place,
Lo, here I stand with double face:
Superior none on earth I find;
But see below me all mankind
Yet, as it oft attends the great,
I almost sink with my own weight.

At every motion undertook,
The vulgar all consult my look.
I sometimes give advice in writing,
But never of my own inditing.

I am a courtier in my way;
For those who raised me, I betray;
And some give out that I entice
To lust, to luxury, and dice.
Who punishments on me inflict,
Because they find their pockets pickt.

By riding post, I lose my health,
And only to get others wealth.



Because I am by nature blind,
I wisely choose to walk behind;
However, to avoid disgrace,
I let no creature see my face.
My words are few, but spoke with sense;
And yet my speaking gives offence:
Or, if to whisper I presume,
The company will fly the room.
By all the world I am opprest:
And my oppression gives them rest.

Through me, though sore against my will,
Instructors every art instil.
By thousands I am sold and bought,
Who neither get nor lose a groat;
For none, alas! by me can gain,
But those who give me greatest pain.
Shall man presume to be my master,
Who’s but my caterer and taster?
Yet, though I always have my will,
I’m but a mere depender still:
An humble hanger-on at best;
Of whom all people make a jest.

In me detractors seek to find
Two vices of a different kind;
I’m too profuse, some censurers cry,
And all I get, I let it fly;
While others give me many a curse,
Because too close I hold my purse.
But this I know, in either case,
They dare not charge me to my face.
‘Tis true, indeed, sometimes I save,
Sometimes run out of all I have;
But, when the year is at an end,
Computing what I get and spend,
My goings-out, and comings-in,
I cannot find I lose or win;
And therefore all that know me say,
I justly keep the middle way.
I’m always by my betters led;
I last get up, and first a-bed;
Though, if I rise before my time,
The learn’d in sciences sublime
Consult the stars, and thence foretell
Good luck to those with whom I dwell.



The joy of man, the pride of brutes,
Domestic subject for disputes,
Of plenty thou the emblem fair,
Adorn’d by nymphs with all their care!
I saw thee raised to high renown,
Supporting half the British crown;
And often have I seen thee grace
The chaste Diana’s infant face;
And whensoe’er you please to shine,
Less useful is her light than thine:
Thy numerous fingers know their way,
And oft in Celia’s tresses play.

To place thee in another view,
I’ll show the world strange things and true;
What lords and dames of high degree
May justly claim their birth from thee!
The soul of man with spleen you vex;
Of spleen you cure the female sex.
Thee for a gift the courtier sends
With pleasure to his special friends:
He gives, and with a generous pride,
Contrives all means the gift to hide:
Nor oft can the receiver know,
Whether he has the gift or no.
On airy wings you take your flight,
And fly unseen both day and night;
Conceal your form with various tricks;
And few know how or where you fix:
Yet some, who ne’er bestow’d thee, boast
That they to others give thee most.
Meantime, the wise a question start,
If thou a real being art;
Or but a creature of the brain,
That gives imaginary pain?
But the sly giver better knows thee;
Who feels true joys when he bestows thee.



Though I, alas! a prisoner be,
My trade is prisoners to set free.
No slave his lord’s commands obeys
With such insinuating ways.
My genius piercing, sharp, and bright,
Wherein the men of wit delight.
The clergy keep me for their ease,
And turn and wind me as they please.
A new and wondrous art I show
Of raising spirits from below;
In scarlet some, and some in white;
They rise, walk round, yet never fright.
In at each mouth the spirits pass,
Distinctly seen as through a glass:
O’er head and body make a rout,
And drive at last all secrets out;
And still, the more I show my art,
The more they open every heart.

A greater chemist none than I
Who, from materials hard and dry,
Have taught men to extract with skill
More precious juice than from a still.

Although I’m often out of case,
I’m not ashamed to show my face.
Though at the tables of the great
I near the sideboard take my seat;
Yet the plain ‘squire, when dinner’s done,
Is never pleased till I make one;
He kindly bids me near him stand,
And often takes me by the hand.

I twice a-day a-hunting go;
Nor ever fail to seize my foe;
And when I have him by the poll,
I drag him upwards from his hole;
Though some are of so stubborn kind,
I’m forced to leave a limb behind.

I hourly wait some fatal end;
For I can break, but scorn to bend.



Come hither, and behold the fruits,
Vain man! of all thy vain pursuits.
Take wise advice, and look behind,
Bring all past actions to thy mind.
Here you may see, as in a glass,
How soon all human pleasures pass;
How will it mortify thy pride,
To turn the true impartial side!
How will your eyes contain their tears,
When all the sad reverse appears!

This cave within its womb confines
The last result of all designs:
Here lie deposited the spoils
Of busy mortals’ endless toils:
Here, with an easy search, we find
The foul corruptions of mankind.
The wretched purchase here behold
Of traitors, who their country sold.

This gulf insatiate imbibes
The lawyer’s fees, the statesman’s bribes.
Here, in their proper shape and mien,
Fraud, perjury, and guilt are seen.
Necessity, the tyrant’s law,
All human race must hither draw;
All prompted by the same desire,
The vigorous youth and aged sire.
Behold the coward and the brave,
The haughty prince, the humble slave,
Physician, lawyer, and divine,
All make oblations at this shrine.
Some enter boldly, some by stealth,
And leave behind their fruitless wealth.
For, while the bashful sylvan maid,
As half-ashamed and half-afraid,
Approaching finds it hard to part
With that which dwelt so near her heart;
The courtly dame, unmoved by fear,
Profusely pours her offering here.

A treasure here of learning lurks,
Huge heaps of never-dying works;
Labours of many an ancient sage,
And millions of the present age.

In at this gulf all offerings pass
And lie an undistinguish’d mass.
Deucalion,[1] to restore mankind,
Was bid to throw the stones behind;
So those who here their gifts convey
Are forced to look another way;
For few, a chosen few, must know
The mysteries that lie below.

Sad charnel-house! a dismal dome,
For which all mortals leave their home!
The young, the beautiful, and brave,
Here buried in one common grave!
Where each supply of dead renews
Unwholesome damps, offensive dews:
And lo! the writing on the walls
Points out where each new victim falls;
The food of worms and beasts obscene,
Who round the vault luxuriant reign.

See where those mangled corpses lie,
Condemn’d by female hands to die;
A comely dame once clad in white,
Lies there consign’d to endless night;
By cruel hands her blood was spilt,
And yet her wealth was all her guilt.

And here six virgins in a tomb,
All-beauteous offspring of one womb,
Oft in the train of Venus seen,
As fair and lovely as their queen;
In royal garments each was drest,
Each with a gold and purple vest;
I saw them of their garments stript,
Their throats were cut, their bellies ript,
Twice were they buried, twice were born,
Twice from their sepulchres were torn;
But now dismember’d here are cast,
And find a resting-place at last.

Here oft the curious traveller finds
The combat of opposing winds;
And seeks to learn the secret cause,
Which alien seems from nature’s laws;
Why at this cave’s tremendous mouth,
He feels at once both north and south;
Whether the winds, in caverns pent,
Through clefts oppugnant force a vent;
Or whether, opening all his stores,
Fierce Æolus in tempest roars.

Yet, from this mingled mass of things,
In time a new creation springs.
These crude materials once shall rise
To fill the earth, and air, and skies;
In various forms appear again,
Of vegetables, brutes, and men.
So Jove pronounced among the gods,
Olympus trembling as he nods.

[Footnote 1: Ovid, “Metam.,” i, 383.]


Ah! Strephon, how can you despise
Her, who without thy pity dies!
To Strephon I have still been true,
And of as noble blood as you;
Fair issue of the genial bed,
A virgin in thy bosom bred:
Embraced thee closer than a wife;
When thee I leave, I leave my life.
Why should my shepherd take amiss,
That oft I wake thee with a kiss?
Yet you of every kiss complain;
Ah! is not love a pleasing pain?
A pain which every happy night
You cure with ease and with delight;
With pleasure, as the poet sings,
Too great for mortals less than kings.

Chloe, when on thy breast I lie,
Observes me with revengeful eye:
If Chloe o’er thy heart prevails,
She’ll tear me with her desperate nails;
And with relentless hands destroy
The tender pledges of our joy.
Nor have I bred a spurious race;
They all were born from thy embrace.

Consider, Strephon, what you do;
For, should I die for love of you,
I’ll haunt thy dreams, a bloodless ghost;
And all my kin, (a numerous host,)
Who down direct our lineage bring
From victors o’er the Memphian king;
Renown’d in sieges and campaigns,
Who never fled the bloody plains:
Who in tempestuous seas can sport,
And scorn the pleasures of a court;
From whom great Sylla[2] found his doom,
Who scourged to death that scourge of Rome,
Shall on thee take a vengeance dire;
Thou like Alcides[3] shalt expire,
When his envenom’d shirt he wore,
And skin and flesh in pieces tore.
Nor less that shirt, my rival’s gift,
Cut from the piece that made her shift,
Shall in thy dearest blood be dyed,
And make thee tear thy tainted hide.

[Footnote 1: The solution is, phtheirhiasis morbus pedicularis. With this piece may be read Peter Pindar’s epic, “The Lousiad.”–W. E. B.] [Footnote 2: Plutarch tells how Sylla’s body was so corrupted with these vermin, that they streamed from him into every place: pasan esthêta kai loutron kai aponimma kai sition anapimplasthai tou reumatos ekeinon kai tes phthoras. tosouton exenthei. “Vita Syllae,” xxxvi.–W. E. B.] [Footnote 3: Hercules, who died from wearing the shirt (given him by his wife as a charm against his infidelities) stained with the blood of Nessus, the centaur, whom Hercules had slain with a poisoned arrow. Ovid, “Epist. Heroid. Deianira Herculi,” and “Metam.,” lib. ix, 101.–W. E. B.]


Deprived of root, and branch and rind,
Yet flowers I bear of every kind:
And such is my prolific power,
They bloom in less than half an hour;
Yet standers-by may plainly see
They get no nourishment from me.
My head with giddiness goes round,
And yet I firmly stand my ground:
All over naked I am seen,
And painted like an Indian queen.
No couple-beggar in the land
E’er join’d such numbers hand in hand.
I join’d them fairly with a ring;
Nor can our parson blame the thing.
And though no marriage words are spoke,
They part not till the ring is broke;
Yet hypocrite fanatics cry,
I’m but an idol raised on high;
And once a weaver in our town,
A damn’d Cromwellian, knock’d me down.
I lay a prisoner twenty years,
And then the jovial cavaliers
To their old post restored all three–
I mean the church, the king, and me.



I with borrow’d silver shine
What you see is none of mine.
First I show you but a quarter,
Like the bow that guards the Tartar:
Then the half, and then the whole,
Ever dancing round the pole.

What will raise your admiration,
I am not one of God’s creation,
But sprung, (and I this truth maintain,)
Like Pallas, from my father’s brain.
And after all, I chiefly owe
My beauty to the shades below.
Most wondrous forms you see me wear,
A man, a woman, lion, bear,
A fish, a fowl, a cloud, a field,
All figures Heaven or earth can yield;
Like Daphne sometimes in a tree;
Yet am not one of all you see.



I’m up and down, and round about,
Yet all the world can’t find me out;
Though hundreds have employ’d their leisure,
They never yet could find my measure.
I’m found almost in every garden,
Nay, in the compass of a farthing.
There’s neither chariot, coach, nor mill,
Can move an inch except I will.


I am jet black, as you may see,
The son of pitch and gloomy night:
Yet all that know me will agree,
I’m dead except I live in light.

Sometimes in panegyric high,
Like lofty Pindar, I can soar;
And raise a virgin to the sky,
Or sink her to a pocky whore.

My blood this day is very sweet,
To-morrow of a bitter juice;
Like milk, ’tis cried about the street,
And so applied to different use.

Most wondrous is my magic power:
For with one colour I can paint;
I’ll make the devil a saint this hour,
Next make a devil of a saint.

Through distant regions I can fly,
Provide me but with paper wings;
And fairly show a reason why
There should be quarrels among kings:

And, after all, you’ll think it odd,
When learned doctors will dispute,
That I should point the word of God,
And show where they can best confute.

Let lawyers bawl and strain their throats:
‘Tis I that must the lands convey,
And strip their clients to their coats;
Nay, give their very souls away.



All of us in one you’ll find,
Brethren of a wondrous kind;
Yet among us all no brother
Knows one tittle of the other;
We in frequent councils are,
And our marks of things declare,
Where, to us unknown, a clerk
Sits, and takes them in the dark.
He’s the register of all
In our ken, both great and small;
By us forms his laws and rules,
He’s our master, we his tools;
Yet we can with greatest ease
Turn and wind him where we please.

One of us alone can sleep,
Yet no watch the rest will keep,
But the moment that he closes,
Every brother else reposes.
If wine’s brought or victuals drest,
One enjoys them for the rest.

Pierce us all with wounding steel,
One for all of us will feel.

Though ten thousand cannons roar,
Add to them ten thousand more,
Yet but one of us is found
Who regards the dreadful sound.

Do what is not fit to tell,
There’s but one of us can smell.



When on my bosom thy bright eyes,
Florinda, dart their heavenly beams,
I feel not the least love surprise,
Yet endless tears flow down in streams;
There’s nought so beautiful in thee,
But you may find the same in me.

The lilies of thy skin compare;
In me you see them full as white:
The roses of your cheeks, I dare
Affirm, can’t glow to more delight.
Then, since I show as fine a face,
Can you refuse a soft embrace?

Ah! lovely nymph, thou’rt in thy prime!
And so am I, while thou art here;
But soon will come the fatal time,
When all we see shall disappear.
‘Tis mine to make a just reflection,
And yours to follow my direction.

Then catch admirers while you may;
Treat not your lovers with disdain;
For time with beauty flies away,
And there is no return again.
To you the sad account I bring,
Life’s autumn has no second spring.

[Footnote 1: A fountain.]


Never sleeping, still awake,
Pleasing most when most I speak;
The delight of old and young,
Though I speak without a tongue.
Nought but one thing can confound me,
Many voices joining round me;
Then I fret, and rave, and gabble,
Like the labourers of Babel.
Now I am a dog, or cow,
I can bark, or I can low;
I can bleat, or I can sing,
Like the warblers of the spring.
Let the lovesick bard complain,
And I mourn the cruel pain;
Let the happy swain rejoice,
And I join my helping voice:
Both are welcome, grief or joy,
I with either sport and toy.
Though a lady, I am stout,
Drums and trumpets bring me out:
Then I clash, and roar, and rattle,
Join in all the din of battle.
Jove, with all his loudest thunder,
When I’m vext, can’t keep me under;
Yet so tender is my ear,
That the lowest voice I fear;
Much I dread the courtier’s fate,
When his merit’s out of date,
For I hate a silent breath,
And a whisper is my death.



By something form’d, I nothing am,
Yet everything that you can name;
In no place have I ever been,
Yet everywhere I may be seen;
In all things false, yet always true,
I’m still the same–but ever new.
Lifeless, life’s perfect form I wear,
Can show a nose, eye, tongue, or ear,
Yet neither smell, see, taste, or hear.
All shapes and features I can boast,
No flesh, no bones, no blood–no ghost:
All colours, without paint, put on,
And change like the cameleon.
Swiftly I come, and enter there,
Where not a chink lets in the air;
Like thought, I’m in a moment gone,
Nor can I ever be alone:
All things on earth I imitate
Faster than nature can create;
Sometimes imperial robes I wear,
Anon in beggar’s rags appear;
A giant now, and straight an elf,
I’m every one, but ne’er myself;
Ne’er sad I mourn, ne’er glad rejoice,
I move my lips, but want a voice;
I ne’er was born, nor e’er can die,
Then, pr’ythee, tell me what am I?

Most things by me do rise and fall,
And, as I please, they’re great and small;
Invading foes without resistance,
With ease I make to keep their distance:
Again, as I’m disposed, the foe
Will come, though not a foot they go.
Both mountains, woods, and hills, and rocks
And gamesome goats, and fleecy flocks,
And lowing herds, and piping swains,
Come dancing to me o’er the plains.
The greatest whale that swims the sea
Does instantly my power obey.
In vain from me the sailor flies,
The quickest ship I can surprise,
And turn it as I have a mind,
And move it against tide and wind.
Nay, bring me here the tallest man,
I’ll squeeze him to a little span;
Or bring a tender child, and pliant,
You’ll see me stretch him to a giant:
Nor shall they in the least complain,
Because my magic gives no pain.



Ever eating, never cloying,
All-devouring, all-destroying,
Never finding full repast,
Till I eat the world at last.



There is a gate, we know full well,
That stands ‘twixt Heaven, and Earth, and Hell,
Where many for a passage venture,
Yet very few are fond to enter:
Although ’tis open night and day,
They for that reason shun this way:
Both dukes and lords abhor its wood,
They can’t come near it for their blood.
What other way they take to go,
Another time I’ll let you know.
Yet commoners with greatest ease
Can find an entrance when they please.
The poorest hither march in state
(Or they can never pass the gate)
Like Roman generals triumphant,
And then they take a turn and jump on’t,
If gravest parsons here advance,
They cannot pass before they dance;
There’s not a soul that does resort here,
But strips himself to pay the porter.



We are little airy creatures,
All of different voice and features;
One of us in glass is set,
One of us you’ll find in jet.
T’other you may see in tin,
And the fourth a box within.
If the fifth you should pursue,
It can never fly from you.



From Heaven I fall, though from earth I begin,
No lady alive can show such a skin.
I’m bright as an angel, and light as a feather,
But heavy and dark, when you squeeze me together.
Though candour and truth in my aspect I bear,
Yet many poor creatures I help to ensnare.
Though so much of Heaven appears in my make,
The foulest impressions I easily take.
My parent and I produce one another,
The mother the daughter, the daughter the mother.



Begotten, and born, and dying with noise,
The terror of women, and pleasure of boys,
Like the fiction of poets concerning the wind,
I’m chiefly unruly when strongest confined.
For silver and gold I don’t trouble my head,
But all I delight in is pieces of lead;
Except when I trade with a ship or a town,
Why then I make pieces of iron go down.
One property more I would have you remark,
No lady was ever more fond of a spark;
The moment I get one, my soul’s all a-fire,
And I roar out my joy, and in transport expire.



We are little brethren twain,
Arbiters of loss and gain,
Many to our counters run,
Some are made, and some undone:
But men find it to their cost,
Few are made, but numbers lost.
Though we play them tricks for ever,
Yet they always hope our favour.



Of all inhabitants on earth,
To man alone I owe my birth,
And yet the cow, the sheep, the bee,
Are all my parents more than he:
I, a virtue, strange and rare,
Make the fairest look more fair,
And myself, which yet is rarer,
Growing old, grow still the fairer.
Like sots, alone I’m dull enough,
When dosed with smoke, and smear’d with snuff;
But, in the midst of mirth and wine,
I with double lustre shine.
Emblem of the Fair am I,
Polish’d neck, and radiant eye;
In my eye my greatest grace,
Emblem of the Cyclops’ race;
Metals I like them subdue,
Slave like them to Vulcan too;
Emblem of a monarch old,
Wise, and glorious to behold;
Wasted he appears, and pale,
Watching for the public weal:
Emblem of the bashful dame,
That in secret feeds her flame,
Often aiding to impart
All the secrets of her heart;
Various is my bulk and hue,
Big like Bess, and small like Sue:
Now brown and burnish’d like a nut,
At other times a very slut;
Often fair, and soft, and tender,
Taper, tall, and smooth, and slender:
Like Flora, deck’d with various flowers,
Like Phoebus, guardian of the hours:
But whatever be my dress,
Greater be my size or less,
Swelling be my shape or small,
Like thyself I shine in all.
Clouded if my face is seen,
My complexion wan and green,
Languid like a love-sick maid,
Steel affords me present aid.
Soon or late, my date is done,
As my thread of life is spun;
Yet to cut the fatal thread
Oft revives my drooping head;
Yet I perish in my prime,
Seldom by the death of time;
Die like lovers as they gaze,
Die for those I live to please;
Pine unpitied to my urn,
Nor warm the fair for whom I burn:
Unpitied, unlamented too,
Die like all that look on you.



I reach all things near me, and far off to boot,
Without stretching a finger, or stirring a foot;
I take them all in too, to add to your wonder,
Though many and various, and large and asunder,
Without jostling or crowding they pass side by side,
Through a wonderful wicket, not half an inch wide;
Then I lodge them at ease in a very large store,
Of no breadth or length, with a thousand things more.
All this I can do without witchcraft or charm,
Though sometimes they say, I bewitch and do harm;
Though cold, I inflame; and though quiet, invade:
And nothing can shield from my spell but a shade.
A thief that has robb’d you, or done you disgrace,
In magical mirror, I’ll show you his face:
Nay, if you’ll believe what the poets have said,
They’ll tell you I kill, and can call back the dead.
Like conjurers safe in my circle I dwell;
I love to look black too, it heightens my spell;
Though my magic is mighty in every hue,
Who see all my power must see it in you.



With half an eye your riddle I spy,
I observe your wicket hemm’d in by a thicket,
And whatever passes is strain’d through glasses.
You say it is quiet: I flatly deny it.
It wanders about, without stirring out;
No passion so weak but gives it a tweak;
Love, joy, and devotion, set it always in motion.
And as for trie tragic effects of its magic,
Which you say it can kill, or revive at its will,
The dead are all sound, and they live above ground:
After all you have writ, it cannot be wit;
Which plainly does follow, since it flies from Apollo.
Its cowardice such it cries at a touch;
‘Tis a perfect milksop, grows drunk with a drop,
Another great fault, it cannot bear salt:
And a hair can disarm it of every charm.



From India’s burning clime I’m brought,
With cooling gales like zephyrs fraught.
Not Iris, when she paints the sky,
Can show more different hues than I;
Nor can she change her form so fast,
I’m now a sail, and now a mast.
I here am red, and there am green,
A beggar there, and here a queen.
I sometimes live in house of hair,
And oft in hand of lady fair.
I please the young, I grace the old,
And am at once both hot and cold.
Say what I am then, if you can,
And find the rhyme, and you’re the man.



Your house of hair, and lady’s hand,
At first did put me to a stand.
I have it now–’tis plain enough–
Your hairy business is a muff.
Your engine fraught with cooling gales,
At once so like your masts and sails;
Your thing of various shape and hue
Must be some painted toy, I knew;
And for the rhyme to you’re the man,
What fits it better than a fan?



I’m wealthy and poor,
I’m empty and full,
I’m humble and proud,
I’m witty and dull.
I’m foul and yet fair:
I’m old, and yet young;
I lie with Moll Kerr,
And toast Mrs. Long.



In rigging he’s rich, though in pocket he’s poor,
He cringes to courtiers, and cocks to the cits;
Like twenty he dresses, but looks like threescore;
He’s a wit to the fools, and a fool to the wits.
Of wisdom he’s empty, but full of conceit;
He paints and perfumes while he rots with the scab;
‘Tis a beau you may swear by his sense and his gait;
He boasts of a beauty and lies with a drab.



Pray discruciate what follows.

The dullest beast, and gentleman’s liquor,
When young is often due to the vicar,[1]

The dullest of beasts, and swine’s delight,
Make up a bird very swift of flight.[2]

The dullest beast, when high in stature,
And another of royal nature,
For breeding is a useful creature.[3]

The dullest beast, and a party distress’d,
When too long, is bad at best.[4]

The dullest beast, and the saddle it wears,
Is good for partridge, not for hares.[5]

The dullest beast, and kind voice of a cat,
Will make a horse go, though he be not fat.[6]

The dullest of beasts and of birds in the air,
Is that by which all Irishmen swear.[7]

The dullest beast, and famed college for Teagues,
Is a person very unfit for intrigues.[8]

The dullest beast, and a cobbler’s tool,
With a boy that is only fit for school,
In summer is very pleasant and cool.[9]

The dullest beast, and that which you kiss,
May break a limb of master or miss.[10]

Of serpent kind, and what at distance kills,
Poor mistress Dingley oft hath felt its bills.[11]

The dullest beast, and eggs unsound,
Without it I rather would walk on the ground.[12]

The dullest beast, and what covers a house,
Without it a writer is not worth a louse.[13]

The dullest beast, and scandalous vermin,
Of roast or boil’d, to the hungry is charming.[14]

The dullest beast, and what’s cover’d with crust,
There’s nobody but a fool that would trust.[15]

The dullest beast, and mending highways,
Is to a horse an evil disease.[16]

The dullest beast, and a hole in the ground,
Will dress a dinner worth five pound.[17]

The dullest beast, and what doctors pretend,
The cook-maid often has by the end.[18]

The dullest beast, and fish for lent,
May give you a blow you’ll for ever repent.[19]

The dullest beast, and a shameful jeer,
Without it a lady should never appear.[20]

Wednesday Night. I writ all these before I went to bed. Pray explain them for me, because I cannot do it.

[Footnote 1: A swine.]
[Footnote 2: A swallow.]
[Footnote 3: A stallion.]
[Footnote 4: A sail.]
[Footnote 5: A spaniel.]
[Footnote 6: A spur.]
[Footnote 7: A soul.]
[Footnote 8: A sloven.]
[Footnote 9: A sallad.]
[Footnote 10: A slip.]
[Footnote 11: A sparrow.]
[Footnote 12: A saddle.]
[Footnote 13: A style.]
[Footnote 14: A slice.]
[Footnote 15: A spy.]
[Footnote 16: A spavin.]
[Footnote 17: A spit.]
[Footnote 18: A skewer.]
[Footnote 19: Assault.]
[Footnote 20: A smock.]



A long-ear’d beast, and a field-house for cattle,
Among the coals doth often rattle.[1]

A long-ear’d beast, a bird that prates,
The bridegrooms’ first gift to their mates,
Is by all pious Christians thought,
In clergymen the greatest fault.[2]

A long-ear’d beast, and woman of Endor,
If your wife be a scold, that will mend her.[3]

With a long-ear’d beast, and medicine’s use,
Cooks make their fowl look tight and spruce.[4]

A long-ear’d beast, and holy fable,
Strengthens the shoes of half the rabble.[5]

A long-ear’d beast, and Rhenish wine,
Lies in the lap of ladies fine.[6]

A long-ear’d beast, and Flanders College,
Is Dr. T—-l, to my knowledge.[7]

A long-ear’d beast, and building knight,
Censorious people do in spite.[8]

A long-ear’d beast, and bird of night,
We sinners art too apt to slight.[9]

A long-ear’d beast, and shameful vermin,
A judge will eat, though clad in ermine.[10]

A long-ear’d beast, and Irish cart,
Can leave a mark, and give a smart.[11]

A long-ear’d beast, in mud to lie,
No bird in air so swift can fly.[12]

A long-ear’d beast, and a sputt’ring old Whig,
I wish he were in it, and dancing a jig.[13]

A long-ear’d beast, and liquor to write,
Is a damnable smell both morning and night.[14]

A long-ear’d beast, and the child of a sheep,
At Whist they will make a desperate sweep.[15]

A beast long-ear’d, and till midnight you stay,
Will cover a house much better than clay.[16]

A long-ear’d beast, and the drink you love best,
You call him a sloven in earnest for jest.[17]

A long-ear’d beast, and the sixteenth letter,
I’d not look at all unless I look’d better.[18]

A long-ear’d beast give me, and eggs unsound,
Or else I will not ride one inch of ground.[19]

A long-ear’d beast, another name for jeer,
To ladies’ skins there nothing comes so near.[20]

A long-ear’d beast, and kind noise of a cat,
Is useful in journeys, take notice of that.[21]

A long-ear’d beast, and what seasons your beef,
On such an occasion the law gives relief.[22]

A long-ear’d beast, a thing that force must drive in,
Bears up his house, that’s of his own contriving.[23]

[Footnote 1: A shovel.]
[Footnote 2: Aspiring.]
[Footnote 3: A switch.]
[Footnote 4: A skewer.]
[Footnote 5: A sparable; a small nail in a shoe.]
[Footnote 6: A shock.]
[Footnote 7: A sloven.]
[Footnote 8: Asperse. (Pearce was an architect, who built the
Parliament-House, Dublin.)]
[Footnote 9: A soul.]
[Footnote 10: A slice.]
[Footnote 11: A scar.]
[Footnote 12: A swallow.]
[Footnote 13: A sty.]
[Footnote 14: A sink.]
[Footnote 15: A slam.]
[Footnote 16: A slate.]
[Footnote 17: A swine.]
[Footnote 18: Askew.]
[Footnote 19: A saddle.]
[Footnote 20: A smock.]
[Footnote 21: A spur.]
[Footnote 22: Assault.]
[Footnote 23: A snail.]

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