English Literature » Jonathan Swift » The Stella Poems

The Stella Poems by

Stella this day is thirty-four,
(We shan't dispute a year or more:)
However, Stella, be not troubled,
Although thy size and years are doubled
Since first I saw thee at sixteen,
The brightest virgin on the green;
So little is thy form declined;
Made up so largely in thy mind.

O, would it please the gods to split
Thy beauty, size, and years, and wit!
No age could furnish out a pair
Of nymphs so graceful, wise, and fair;
With half the lustre of your eyes,
With half your wit, your years, and size.
And then, before it grew too late,
How should I beg of gentle fate,
(That either nymph might have her swain,)
To split my worship too in twain.


Stella's Birth-Day[1]


WRITTEN A.D. 1720-21.

All travellers at first incline
Where'er they see the fairest sign
And if they find the chambers neat,
And like the liquor and the meat,
Will call again, and recommend
The Angel Inn to every friend.
And though the painting grows decay'd,
The house will never lose its trade:
Nay, though the treach'rous tapster,[2] Thomas,
Hangs a new Angel two doors from us,
As fine as daubers' hands can make it,
In hopes that strangers may mistake it,
We[3] think it both a shame and sin
To quit the true old Angel Inn.

Now this is Stella's case in fact,
An angel's face a little crack'd.
(Could poets or could painters fix
How angels look at thirty-six:)
This drew us in at first to find
In such a form an angel's mind;
And every virtue now supplies
The fainting rays of Stella's eyes.
See, at her levee crowding swains,
Whom Stella freely entertains
With breeding, humour, wit, and sense,
And puts them to so small expense;
Their minds so plentifully fills,
And makes such reasonable bills,
So little gets for what she gives,
We really wonder how she lives!
And had her stock been less, no doubt
She must have long ago run out.

Then, who can think we'll quit the place,
When Doll hangs out a newer face?
Nail'd to her window full in sight
All Christian people to invite.
Or stop and light at Chloe's head,
With scraps and leavings to be fed?

Then, Chloe, still go on to prate
Of thirty-six and thirty-eight;
Pursue your trade of scandal-picking,
Your hints that Stella is no chicken;
Your innuendoes, when you tell us,
That Stella loves to talk with fellows:
But let me warn you to believe
A truth, for which your soul should grieve;
That should you live to see the day,
When Stella's locks must all be gray,
When age must print a furrow'd trace
On every feature of her face;
Though you, and all your senseless tribe,
Could Art, or Time, or Nature bribe,
To make you look like Beauty's Queen,
And hold for ever at fifteen;
No bloom of youth can ever blind
The cracks and wrinkles of your mind:
All men of sense will pass your door,
And crowd to Stella's at four-score.

[Footnote 1: Collated with Stella's own copy transcribed in her volume.–Forster.]

[Footnote 2: Rascal.–Stella.]

[Footnote 3: They.–Stella.]


To Stella



As, when a lofty pile is raised,
We never hear the workmen praised,
Who bring the lime, or place the stones.
But all admire Inigo Jones:
So, if this pile of scatter'd rhymes
Should be approved in aftertimes;
If it both pleases and endures,
The merit and the praise are yours.

Thou, Stella, wert no longer young,
When first for thee my harp was strung,
Without one word of Cupid's darts,
Of killing eyes, or bleeding hearts;
With friendship and esteem possest,
I ne'er admitted Love a guest.

In all the habitudes of life,
The friend, the mistress, and the wife,
Variety we still pursue,
In pleasure seek for something new;
Or else, comparing with the rest,
Take comfort that our own is best;
The best we value by the worst,
As tradesmen show their trash at first;
But his pursuits are at an end,
Whom Stella chooses for a friend.
A poet starving in a garret,
Conning all topics like a parrot,
Invokes his mistress and his Muse,
And stays at home for want of shoes:
Should but his Muse descending drop
A slice of bread and mutton-chop;
Or kindly, when his credit's out,
Surprise him with a pint of stout;
Or patch his broken stocking soles;
Or send him in a peck of coals;
Exalted in his mighty mind,
He flies and leaves the stars behind;
Counts all his labours amply paid,
Adores her for the timely aid.

Or, should a porter make inquiries
For Chloe, Sylvia, Phillis, Iris;
Be told the lodging, lane, and sign,
The bowers that hold those nymphs divine;
Fair Chloe would perhaps be found
With footmen tippling under ground;
The charming Sylvia beating flax,
Her shoulders mark'd with bloody tracks;[1]
Bright Phillis mending ragged smocks:
And radiant Iris in the pox.
These are the goddesses enroll'd
In Curll's collection, new and old,
Whose scoundrel fathers would not know 'em,
If they should meet them in a poem.

True poets can depress and raise,
Are lords of infamy and praise;
They are not scurrilous in satire,
Nor will in panegyric flatter.
Unjustly poets we asperse;
Truth shines the brighter clad in verse,
And all the fictions they pursue
Do but insinuate what is true.

Now, should my praises owe their truth
To beauty, dress, or paint, or youth,
What stoics call without our power,
They could not be ensured an hour;
'Twere grafting on an annual stock,
That must our expectation mock,
And, making one luxuriant shoot,
Die the next year for want of root:
Before I could my verses bring,
Perhaps you're quite another thing.

So Mævius, when he drain'd his skull
To celebrate some suburb trull,
His similes in order set,
And every crambo[2] he could get;
Had gone through all the common-places
Worn out by wits, who rhyme on faces;
Before he could his poem close,
The lovely nymph had lost her nose.

Your virtues safely I commend;
They on no accidents depend:
Let malice look with all her eyes,
She dares not say the poet lies.

Stella, when you these lines transcribe,
Lest you should take them for a bribe,
Resolved to mortify your pride,
I'll here expose your weaker side.

Your spirits kindle to a flame,
Moved by the lightest touch of blame;
And when a friend in kindness tries
To show you where your error lies,
Conviction does but more incense;
Perverseness is your whole defence;
Truth, judgment, wit, give place to spite,
Regardless both of wrong and right;
Your virtues all suspended wait,
Till time has open'd reason's gate;
And, what is worse, your passion bends
Its force against your nearest friends,
Which manners, decency, and pride,
Have taught from you the world to hide;
In vain; for see, your friend has brought
To public light your only fault;
And yet a fault we often find
Mix'd in a noble, generous mind:
And may compare to Ætna's fire,
Which, though with trembling, all admire;
The heat that makes the summit glow,
Enriching all the vales below.
Those who, in warmer climes, complain
From Phoebus' rays they suffer pain,
Must own that pain is largely paid
By generous wines beneath a shade.

Yet, when I find your passions rise,
And anger sparkling in your eyes,
I grieve those spirits should be spent,
For nobler ends by nature meant.
One passion, with a different turn,
Makes wit inflame, or anger burn:
So the sun's heat, with different powers,
Ripens the grape, the liquor sours:
Thus Ajax, when with rage possest,
By Pallas breathed into his breast,
His valour would no more employ,
Which might alone have conquer'd Troy;
But, blinded by resentment, seeks
For vengeance on his friends the Greeks.

You think this turbulence of blood
From stagnating preserves the flood,
Which, thus fermenting by degrees,
Exalts the spirits, sinks the lees.
Stella, for once you reason wrong;
For, should this ferment last too long,
By time subsiding, you may find
Nothing but acid left behind;
From passion you may then be freed,
When peevishness and spleen succeed.
Say, Stella, when you copy next,
Will you keep strictly to the text?
Dare you let these reproaches stand,
And to your failing set your hand?
Or, if these lines your anger fire,
Shall they in baser flames expire?
Whene'er they burn, if burn they must,
They'll prove my accusation just.

[Footnote 1: At Bridewell; see vol. i, "A Beautiful Young Nymph," at p. 201.– W. E. B.]

[Footnote 3: A cant word for a rhyme.–W. E. B.]


To Stella



Pallas, observing Stella's wit
Was more than for her sex was fit,
And that her beauty, soon or late,
Might breed confusion in the state,
In high concern for human kind,
Fix'd honour in her infant mind.

But (not in wrangling to engage
With such a stupid, vicious age)
If honour I would here define,
It answers faith in things divine.
As natural life the body warms,
And, scholars teach, the soul informs,
So honour animates the whole,
And is the spirit of the soul.

Those numerous virtues which the tribe
Of tedious moralists describe,
And by such various titles call,
True honour comprehends them all.
Let melancholy rule supreme,
Choler preside, or blood, or phlegm,
It makes no difference in the case,
Nor is complexion honour's place.

But, lest we should for honour take
The drunken quarrels of a rake:
Or think it seated in a scar,
Or on a proud triumphal car;
Or in the payment of a debt
We lose with sharpers at piquet;
Or when a whore, in her vocation,
Keeps punctual to an assignation;
Or that on which his lordship swears,
When vulgar knaves would lose their ears;
Let Stella's fair example preach
A lesson she alone can teach.

In points of honour to be tried,
All passions must be laid aside:
Ask no advice, but think alone;
Suppose the question not your own.
How shall I act, is not the case;
But how would Brutus in my place?
In such a case would Cato bleed?
And how would Socrates proceed?

Drive all objections from your mind,
Else you relapse to human kind:
Ambition, avarice, and lust,
A factious rage, and breach of trust,
And flattery tipt with nauseous fleer,
And guilty shame, and servile fear,
Envy, and cruelty, and pride,
Will in your tainted heart preside.

Heroes and heroines of old,
By honour only were enroll'd
Among their brethren in the skies,
To which (though late) shall Stella rise.
Ten thousand oaths upon record
Are not so sacred as her word:
The world shall in its atoms end,
Ere Stella can deceive a friend.
By honour seated in her breast
She still determines what is best:
What indignation in her mind
Against enslavers of mankind!
Base kings, and ministers of state,
Eternal objects of her hate!
She thinks that nature ne'er design'd
Courage to man alone confined.
Can cowardice her sex adorn,
Which most exposes ours to scorn?
She wonders where the charm appears
In Florimel's affected fears;
For Stella never learn'd the art
At proper times to scream and start;
Nor calls up all the house at night,
And swears she saw a thing in white.
Doll never flies to cut her lace,
Or throw cold water in her face,
Because she heard a sudden drum,
Or found an earwig in a plum.

Her hearers are amazed from whence
Proceeds that fund of wit and sense;
Which, though her modesty would shroud,
Breaks like the sun behind a cloud;
While gracefulness its art conceals,
And yet through every motion steals.

Say, Stella, was Prometheus blind,
And, forming you, mistook your kind?
No; 'twas for you alone he stole
The fire that forms a manly soul;
Then, to complete it every way,
He moulded it with female clay:
To that you owe the nobler flame,
To this the beauty of your frame.

How would Ingratitude delight,
And how would Censure glut her spite,
If I should Stella's kindness hide
In silence, or forget with pride!
When on my sickly couch I lay,
Impatient both of night and day,
Lamenting in unmanly strains,
Call'd every power to ease my pains;
Then Stella ran to my relief,
With cheerful face and inward grief;
And, though by Heaven's severe decree
She suffers hourly more than me,
No cruel master could require,
From slaves employ'd for daily hire,
What Stella, by her friendship warm'd
With vigour and delight perform'd:
My sinking spirits now supplies
With cordials in her hands and eyes:
Now with a soft and silent tread
Unheard she moves about my bed.
I see her taste each nauseous draught,
And so obligingly am caught;
I bless the hand from whence they came,
Nor dare distort my face for shame.

Best pattern of true friends! beware;
You pay too dearly for your care,
If, while your tenderness secures
My life, it must endanger yours;
For such a fool was never found,
Who pull'd a palace to the ground,
Only to have the ruins made
Materials for a house decay'd.


Stella to Dr. Swift


St. Patrick's Dean, your country's pride,
My early and my only guide,
Let me among the rest attend,
Your pupil and your humble friend,
To celebrate in female strains
The day that paid your mother's pains;
Descend to take that tribute due
In gratitude alone to you.

  When men began to call me fair,
You interposed your timely care:
You early taught me to despise
The ogling of a coxcomb's eyes;
Show'd where my judgment was misplaced;
Refined my fancy and my taste.

  Behold that beauty just decay'd,
Invoking art to nature's aid:
Forsook by her admiring train,
She spreads her tatter'd nets in vain;
Short was her part upon the stage;
Went smoothly on for half a page;
Her bloom was gone, she wanted art,
As the scene changed, to change her part;
She, whom no lover could resist,
Before the second act was hiss'd.
Such is the fate of female race
With no endowments but a face;
Before the thirtieth year of life,
A maid forlorn, or hated wife.

  Stella to you, her tutor, owes
That she has ne'er resembled those:
Nor was a burden to mankind
With half her course of years behind.
You taught how I might youth prolong,
By knowing what was right and wrong;
How from my heart to bring supplies
Of lustre to my fading eyes;
How soon a beauteous mind repairs
The loss of changed or falling hairs;
How wit and virtue from within
Send out a smoothness o'er the skin:
Your lectures could my fancy fix,
And I can please at thirty-six.
The sight of Chloe at fifteen,
Coquetting, gives not me the spleen;
The idol now of every fool
Till time shall make their passions cool;
Then tumbling down Time's steepy hill,
While Stella holds her station still.
O! turn your precepts into laws,
Redeem the women's ruin'd cause,
Retrieve lost empire to our sex,
That men may bow their rebel necks.

  Long be the day that gave you birth
Sacred to friendship, wit, and mirth;
Late dying may you cast a shred
Of your rich mantle o'er my head;
To bear with dignity my sorrow,
One day alone, then die to-morrow.



While, Stella, to your lasting praise
The Muse her annual tribute pays,
While I assign myself a task
Which you expect, but scorn to ask;
If I perform this task with pain,
Let me of partial fate complain;
You every year the debt enlarge,
I grow less equal to the charge:
In you each virtue brighter shines,
But my poetic vein declines;
My harp will soon in vain be strung,
And all your virtues left unsung.
For none among the upstart race
Of poets dare assume my place;
Your worth will be to them unknown,
They must have Stellas of their own;
And thus, my stock of wit decay'd,
I dying leave the debt unpaid,
Unless Delany, as my heir,
Will answer for the whole arrear.


On the Great Buried Bottle


Amphora, quae moestum linquis, laetumque revises
  Arentem dominum, sit tibi terra levis.
Tu quoque depositum serves, neve opprime, marmor;
  Amphora non meruit tam pretiosa mori.




Hoc tumulata jacet proles Lenaea sepulchro,
Immortale genus, nee peritura jacet;
Quin oritura iterum, matris concreditur alvo:
Bis natum referunt te quoque, Bacche Pater.


Stella's Birth-Day



Resolv'd my annual verse to pay,
By duty bound, on Stella's day,
Furnish'd with paper, pens, and ink,
I gravely sat me down to think:
I bit my nails, and scratch'd my head,
But found my wit and fancy fled:
Or if, with more than usual pain,
A thought came slowly from my brain,
It cost me Lord knows how much time
To shape it into sense and rhyme:
And, what was yet a greater curse,
Long thinking made my fancy worse.

  Forsaken by th'inspiring Nine,
I waited at Apollo's shrine:
I told him what the world would say,
If Stella were unsung to-day:
How I should hide my head for shame,
When both the Jacks and Robin came;
How Ford would frown, how Jim would leer,
How Sheridan the rogue would sneer,
And swear it does not always follow,
That semel'n anno ridet Apollo.
I have assur'd them twenty times,
That Phoebus help'd me in my rhymes;
Phoebus inspired me from above,
And he and I were hand and glove.
But, finding me so dull and dry since,
They'll call it all poetic license;
And when I brag of aid divine,
Think Eusden's[1] right as good as mine.

  Nor do I ask for Stella's sake;
'Tis my own credit lies at stake:
And Stella will be sung, while I
Can only be a stander by.

  Apollo, having thought a little,
Return'd this answer to a tittle.

  Though you should live like old Methusalem,
I furnish hints and you shall use all 'em,
You yearly sing as she grows old,
You'd leave her virtues half untold.
But, to say truth, such dulness reigns,
Through the whole set of Irish deans,
I'm daily stunn'd with such a medley,
Dean White, Dean Daniel, and Dean Smedley,
That, let what dean soever come,
My orders are, I'm not at home;
And if your voice had not been loud,
You must have pass'd among the crowd.

  But now, your danger to prevent,
You must apply to Mrs. Brent;[2]
For she, as priestess, knows the rites
Wherein the god of earth delights.
First, nine ways looking,[3] let her stand
With an old poker in her hand;
Let her describe a circle round
In Saunders'[4] cellar on the ground:
A spade let prudent Archy[5] hold,
And with discretion dig the mould.
Let Stella look with watchful eye,
Rebecca,[6] Ford, and Grattans by.

  Behold the bottle, where it lies
With neck elated toward the skies!
The god of winds and god of fire
Did to its wondrous birth conspire;
And Bacchus for the poet's use
Pour'd in a strong inspiring juice.
See! as you raise it from its tomb,
It drags behind a spacious womb,
And in the spacious womb contains
A sov'reign med'cine for the brains.

  You'll find it soon, if fate consents;
If not, a thousand Mrs. Brents,
Ten thousand Archys, arm'd with spades,
May dig in vain to Pluto's shades.

  From thence a plenteous draught infuse,
And boldly then invoke the Muse;
But first let Robert[7] on his knees
With caution drain it from the lees;
The Muse will at your call appear,
With Stella's praise to crown the year.

[Footnote 1: The Poet Laureate.]

[Footnote 2: "Mrs. Brent, my housekeeper, famous in print for digging out the great bottle." I dine tête a tête five days a week with my old presbyterian housekeeper whom I call Sir Robert." Swift to Pope. Pope's "Works," edit. Elwin and Courthope, vii, pp. 145, 212.–W. E. B.]

[Footnote 3: She had a cast in her eyes.–Swift.]

[Footnote 4: The butler.]

[Footnote 5: The footman.]

[Footnote 6: Mrs. Dingley.]

[Footnote 7: The valet.]


Stella at Wood Park



…cuicumque nocere volebat,
Vestimenta dabat pretiosa.


Don Carlos, in a merry spight,
Did Stella to his house invite:
He entertain'd her half a year
With generous wines and costly cheer.
Don Carlos made her chief director,
That she might o'er the servants hector.
In half a week the dame grew nice,
Got all things at the highest price:
Now at the table head she sits,
Presented with the nicest bits:
She look'd on partridges with scorn,
Except they tasted of the corn:
A haunch of ven'son made her sweat,
Unless it had the right fumette.
Don Carlos earnestly would beg,
"Dear Madam, try this pigeon's leg;"
Was happy, when he could prevail
To make her only touch a quail.
Through candle-light she view'd the wine,
To see that ev'ry glass was fine.
At last, grown prouder than the devil
With feeding high, and treatment civil,
Don Carlos now began to find
His malice work as he design'd.
The winter sky began to frown:
Poor Stella must pack off to town;
From purling streams and fountains bubbling,
To Liffey's stinking tide in Dublin:
From wholesome exercise and air
To sossing in an easy-chair:
From stomach sharp, and hearty feeding,
To piddle[2] like a lady breeding:
From ruling there the household singly.
To be directed here by Dingley:[3]
From every day a lordly banquet,
To half a joint, and God be thank it:
From every meal Pontac in plenty,
To half a pint one day in twenty:
From Ford attending at her call,
To visits of Archdeacon Wall:
From Ford, who thinks of nothing mean,
To the poor doings of the Dean:
From growing richer with good cheer,
To running out by starving here.

  But now arrives the dismal day;
She must return to Ormond Quay.[4]
The coachman stopt; she look'd, and swore
The rascal had mistook the door:
At coming in, you saw her stoop;
The entry brush'd against her hoop:
Each moment rising in her airs,
She curst the narrow winding stairs:
Began a thousand faults to spy;
The ceiling hardly six feet high;
The smutty wainscot full of cracks:
And half the chairs with broken backs:
Her quarter's out at Lady-day;
She vows she will no longer stay
In lodgings like a poor Grisette,
While there are houses to be let.

  Howe'er, to keep her spirits up,
She sent for company to sup:
When all the while you might remark,
She strove in vain to ape Wood Park.
Two bottles call'd for, (half her store,
The cupboard could contain but four:)
A supper worthy of herself,
Five nothings in five plates of delf.

  Thus for a week the farce went on;
When, all her country savings gone,
She fell into her former scene,
Small beer, a herring, and the Dean.

  Thus far in jest: though now, I fear,
You think my jesting too severe;
But poets, when a hint is new,
Regard not whether false or true:
Yet raillery gives no offence,
Where truth has not the least pretence;
Nor can be more securely placed
Than on a nymph of Stella's taste.
I must confess your wine and vittle
I was too hard upon a little:
Your table neat, your linen fine;
And, though in miniature, you shine:
Yet, when you sigh to leave Wood Park,
The scene, the welcome, and the spark,
To languish in this odious town,
And pull your haughty stomach down,
We think you quite mistake the case,
The virtue lies not in the place:
For though my raillery were true,
A cottage is Wood Park with you.

[Footnote 1: Horat., "Epist.," i, 18, 31.–W. E. B.]

[Footnote 2: In its proper sense–to pick at table, to feed squeamishly.

"With entremets to piddle with at hand."
–BYRON, Don Juan.–W. E. B.]

[Footnote 3: The constant companion of Stella.]

[Footnote 4: Where the two ladies lodged.]


A New Year's Gift for Bec

[1] — 1723-4

Returning Janus[2] now prepares,
For Bec, a new supply of cares,
Sent in a bag to Dr. Swift,
Who thus displays the new-year's gift.

First, this large parcel brings you tidings
Of our good Dean's eternal chidings;
Of Nelly's pertness, Robin's leasings,
And Sheridan's perpetual teazings.
This box is cramm'd on every side
With Stella's magisterial pride.
Behold a cage with sparrows fill'd,
First to be fondled, then be kill'd.
Now to this hamper I invite you,
With six imagined cares to fright you.
Here in this bundle Janus sends
Concerns by thousands for your friends.
And here's a pair of leathern pokes,
To hold your cares for other folks.
Here from this barrel you may broach
A peck of troubles for a coach.
This ball of wax your ears will darken,
Still to be curious, never hearken.
Lest you the town may have less trouble in
Bring all your Quilca's [3] cares to Dublin,
For which he sends this empty sack;
And so take all upon your back.

[Footnote 1: Mrs. Rebecca Dingley, Stella's friend and companion.]

[Footnote 2: The sun god represented with two faces, one in front, and one behind, to whom the new year was sacred.–W. E. B.]

[Footnote 3: Country-house of Dr. Sheridan.]


Dingley and Brent

[1] — A SONG

To the tune of "Ye Commons and Peers."

      Dingley and Brent,
      Wherever they went,
Ne'er minded a word that was spoken;
      Whatever was said,
      They ne'er troubled their head,
But laugh'd at their own silly joking.

      Should Solomon wise
      In majesty rise,
And show them his wit and his learning;
      They never would hear,
      But turn the deaf ear,
As a matter they had no concern in.

      You tell a good jest,
      And please all the rest;
Comes Dingley, and asks you, what was it?
      And, curious to know,
      Away she will go
To seek an old rag in the closet.

[Footnote 1: Dr. Swift's housekeeper.]

To Stella Written on the day of her Birth

MARCH 13, 1723-4,


Tormented with incessant pains,
Can I devise poetic strains?
Time was, when I could yearly pay
My verse to Stella's native day:
But now unable grown to write,
I grieve she ever saw the light.
Ungrateful! since to her I owe
That I these pains can undergo.
She tends me like an humble slave;
And, when indecently I rave,
When out my brutish passions break,
With gall in every word I speak,
She with soft speech my anguish cheers,
Or melts my passions down with tears;
Although 'tis easy to descry
She wants assistance more than I;
Yet seems to feel my pains alone,
And is a stoic in her own.
When, among scholars, can we find
So soft and yet so firm a mind?
All accidents of life conspire
To raise up Stella's virtue higher;
Or else to introduce the rest
Which had been latent in her breast.
Her firmness who could e'er have known,
Had she not evils of her own?
Her kindness who could ever guess,
Had not her friends been in distress?
Whatever base returns you find
From me, dear Stella, still be kind.
In your own heart you'll reap the fruit,
Though I continue still a brute.
But, when I once am out of pain,
I promise to be good again;
Meantime, your other juster friends
Shall for my follies make amends;
So may we long continue thus,
Admiring you, you pitying us.


Verses by Stella

If it be true, celestial powers,
That you have form'd me fair,
And yet, in all my vainest hours,
My mind has been my care:
Then, in return, I beg this grace,
As you were ever kind,
What envious Time takes from my face
Bestow upon my mind!


A Receipt to restore Stella's Youth


The Scottish hinds, too poor to house
In frosty nights their starving cows,
While not a blade of grass or hay
Appears from Michaelmas to May,
Must let their cattle range in vain
For food along the barren plain:
Meagre and lank with fasting grown,
And nothing left but skin and bone;
Exposed to want, and wind, and weather,
They just keep life and soul together,
Till summer showers and evening's dew
Again the verdant glebe renew;
And, as the vegetables rise,
The famish'd cow her want supplies;
Without an ounce of last year's flesh;
Whate'er she gains is young and fresh;
Grows plump and round, and full of mettle,
As rising from Medea's [1] kettle.
With youth and beauty to enchant
Europa's[2] counterfeit gallant.


Why, Stella, should you knit your brow,
If I compare you to a cow?
'Tis just the case; for you have fasted
So long, till all your flesh is wasted;
And must against the warmer days
Be sent to Quilca down to graze;
Where mirth, and exercise, and air,
Will soon your appetite repair:
The nutriment will from within,
Round all your body, plump your skin;
Will agitate the lazy flood,
And fill your veins with sprightly blood.
Nor flesh nor blood will be the same
Nor aught of Stella but the name:
For what was ever understood,
By human kind, but flesh and blood?
And if your flesh and blood be new,
You'll be no more the former you;
But for a blooming nymph will pass,
Just fifteen, coming summer's grass,
Your jetty locks with garlands crown'd:
While all the squires for nine miles round,
Attended by a brace of curs,
With jockey boots and silver spurs,
No less than justices o' quorum,
Their cow-boys bearing cloaks before 'em,
Shall leave deciding broken pates,
To kiss your steps at Quilca gates.
But, lest you should my skill disgrace,
Come back before you're out of case;
For if to Michaelmas you stay,
The new-born flesh will melt away;
The 'squires in scorn will fly the house
For better game, and look for grouse;
But here, before the frost can mar it,
We'll make it firm with beef and claret.

[Footnote 1: The celebrated sorceress, daughter of Æetes, King of Colchis, who assisted Jason in obtaining possession of the Golden Fleece.–W. E. B.]

[Footnote 2: Carried off by Jupiter under the form of a bull. Ovid, "Met." ii, 836.]


Stella's Birth-Day


As when a beauteous nymph decays,
We say she's past her dancing days;
So poets lose their feet by time,
And can no longer dance in rhyme.
Your annual bard had rather chose
To celebrate your birth in prose:
Yet merry folks, who want by chance
A pair to make a country dance,
Call the old housekeeper, and get her
To fill a place for want of better:
While Sheridan is off the hooks,
And friend Delany at his books,
That Stella may avoid disgrace,
Once more the Dean supplies their place.

Beauty and wit, too sad a truth!
Have always been confined to youth;
The god of wit and beauty's queen,
He twenty-one and she fifteen,
No poet ever sweetly sung,
Unless he were, like Phoebus, young;
Nor ever nymph inspired to rhyme,
Unless, like Venus, in her prime.
At fifty-six, if this be true,
Am I a poet fit for you?
Or, at the age of forty-three,
Are you a subject fit for me?
Adieu! bright wit, and radiant eyes!
You must be grave and I be wise.
Our fate in vain we would oppose:
But I'll be still your friend in prose:
Esteem and friendship to express,
Will not require poetic dress;
And if the Muse deny her aid
To have them sung, they may be said.

But, Stella, say, what evil tongue
Reports you are no longer young;
That Time sits with his scythe to mow
Where erst sat Cupid with his bow;
That half your locks are turn'd to gray?
I'll ne'er believe a word they say.
'Tis true, but let it not be known,
My eyes are somewhat dimmish grown;
For nature, always in the right,
To your decays adapts my sight;
And wrinkles undistinguished pass,
For I'm ashamed to use a glass:
And till I see them with these eyes,
Whoever says you have them, lies.

No length of time can make you quit
Honour and virtue, sense and wit;
Thus you may still be young to me,
While I can better hear than see.
O ne'er may Fortune show her spite,
To make me deaf, and mend my sight![1]

[Footnote 1: Now deaf, 1740.–Swift. This pathetic note was in Swift's writing in his own copy of the "Miscellanies," edit. 1727-32.–W. E. B.]


Bec's Birth-Day

[1] — NOV. 8, 1726

This day, dear Bec, is thy nativity;
Had Fate a luckier one, she'd give it ye.
She chose a thread of greatest length,
And doubly twisted it for strength:
Nor will be able with her shears
To cut it off these forty years.
Then who says care will kill a cat?
Rebecca shows they're out in that.
For she, though overrun with care,
Continues healthy, fat, and fair.

  As, if the gout should seize the head,
Doctors pronounce the patient dead;
But, if they can, by all their arts,
Eject it to the extremest parts,
They give the sick man joy, and praise
The gout that will prolong his days.
Rebecca thus I gladly greet,
Who drives her cares to hands and feet:
For, though philosophers maintain
The limbs are guided by the brain,
Quite contrary Rebecca's led;
Her hands and feet conduct her head;
By arbitrary power convey her,
She ne'er considers why or where:
Her hands may meddle, feet may wander,
Her head is but a mere by-stander:
And all her bustling but supplies
The part of wholesome exercise.
Thus nature has resolved to pay her
The cat's nine lives, and eke the care.

  Long may she live, and help her friends
Whene'er it suits her private ends;
Domestic business never mind
Till coffee has her stomach lined;
But, when her breakfast gives her courage,
Then think on Stella's chicken porridge:
I mean when Tiger[2]has been served,
Or else poor Stella may be starved.

  May Bec have many an evening nap,
With Tiger slabbering in her lap;
But always take a special care
She does not overset the chair;
Still be she curious, never hearken
To any speech but Tiger's barking!

  And when she's in another scene,
Stella long dead, but first the Dean,
May fortune and her coffee get her
Companions that will please her better!
Whole afternoons will sit beside her,
Nor for neglects or blunders chide her.
A goodly set as can be found
Of hearty gossips prating round;
Fresh from a wedding or a christening,
To teach her ears the art of listening,
And please her more to hear them tattle,
Than the Dean storm, or Stella rattle.

  Late be her death, one gentle nod,
When Hermes,[3] waiting with his rod,
Shall to Elysian fields invite her,
Where there will be no cares to fright her!

[Footnote 1: Mrs. Rebecca Dingley.]

[Footnote 2: Mrs. Dingley's favourite lap-dog. See next page.–W. E. B.]

[Footnote 3: Mercury.–Virg., "Aeneid," iv.]


On the Collar of Tiger


Pray steal me not; I'm Mrs. Dingley's,
Whose heart in this four-footed thing lies.


Stella's Birth-Day
MARCH 13, 1726-7

This day, whate'er the Fates decree,
Shall still be kept with joy by me:
This day then let us not be told,
That you are sick, and I grown old;
Nor think on our approaching ills,
And talk of spectacles and pills;
To-morrow will be time enough
To hear such mortifying stuff.
Yet, since from reason may be brought
A better and more pleasing thought,
Which can, in spite of all decays,
Support a few remaining days;
From not the gravest of divines
Accept for once some serious lines.

  Although we now can form no more
Long schemes of life, as heretofore;
Yet you, while time is running fast,
Can look with joy on what is past.

  Were future happiness and pain
A mere contrivance of the brain;
As atheists argue, to entice
And fit their proselytes for vice;
(The only comfort they propose,
To have companions in their woes;)
Grant this the case; yet sure 'tis hard
That virtue, styled its own reward,
And by all sages understood
To be the chief of human good,
Should acting die; nor leave behind
Some lasting pleasure in the mind,
Which, by remembrance, will assuage
Grief, sickness, poverty, and age;
And strongly shoot a radiant dart
To shine through life's declining part.

  Say, Stella, feel you no content,
Reflecting on a life well spent?
Your skilful hand employ'd to save
Despairing wretches from the grave;
And then supporting with your store
Those whom you dragg'd from death before?
So Providence on mortals waits,
Preserving what it first creates.
Your generous boldness to defend
An innocent and absent friend;
That courage which can make you just
To merit humbled in the dust;
The detestation you express
For vice in all its glittering dress;
That patience under torturing pain,
Where stubborn stoics would complain:
Must these like empty shadows pass,
Or forms reflected from a glass?
Or mere chimeras in the mind,
That fly, and leave no marks behind?
Does not the body thrive and grow
By food of twenty years ago?
And, had it not been still supplied,
It must a thousand times have died.
Then who with reason can maintain
That no effects of food remain?
And is not virtue in mankind
The nutriment that feeds the mind;
Upheld by each good action past,
And still continued by the last?
Then, who with reason can pretend
That all effects of virtue end?

  Believe me, Stella, when you show
That true contempt for things below,
Nor prize your life for other ends,
Than merely to oblige your friends;
Your former actions claim their part,
And join to fortify your heart.
For Virtue, in her daily race,
Like Janus, bears a double face;
Looks back with joy where she has gone
And therefore goes with courage on:
She at your sickly couch will wait,
And guide you to a better state.

  O then, whatever Heaven intends,
Take pity on your pitying friends!
Nor let your ills affect your mind,
To fancy they can be unkind.
Me, surely me, you ought to spare,
Who gladly would your suffering share;
Or give my scrap of life to you,
And think it far beneath your due;
You, to whose care so oft I owe
That I'm alive to tell you so.


Death and Daphne



Lord Orrery gives us the following curious anecdote respecting this poem:

"I have just now cast my eye over a poem called 'Death and Daphne,’ which makes me recollect an odd incident, relating to that nymph. Swift, soon after our acquaintance, introduced me to her as to one of his female favourites. I had scarce been half an hour in her company, before she asked me if I had seen the Dean's poem upon 'Death and Daphne.' As I told her I had not, she immediately unlocked a cabinet, and, bringing out the manuscript, read it to me with a seeming satisfaction, of which, at that time, I doubted the sincerity. While she was reading, the Dean was perpetually correcting her for bad pronunciation, and for placing a wrong emphasis upon particular words. As soon as she had gone through the composition, she assured me, smilingly, that the portrait of Daphne was drawn for herself. I begged to be excused from believing it; and protested that I could not see one feature that had the least resemblance; but the Dean immediately burst into a fit of laughter. 'You fancy,' says he, 'that you are very polite, but you are much mistaken. That lady had rather be a Daphne drawn by me, than a Sacharissa by any other pencil.' She confirmed what he had said with great earnestness, so that I had no other method of retrieving my error, than by whispering in her ear, as I was conducting her down stairs to dinner, that indeed I found

  'Her hand as dry and cold as lead!'"
–Remarks on the Life of Swift, Lond., 1752, p. 126.

Death went upon a solemn day
At Pluto's hall his court to pay;
The phantom having humbly kiss'd
His grisly monarch's sooty fist,
Presented him the weekly bills
Of doctors, fevers, plagues, and pills.
Pluto, observing since the peace
The burial article decrease,
And vex'd to see affairs miscarry,
Declared in council Death must marry;
Vow'd he no longer could support
Old bachelors about his court;
The interest of his realm had need
That Death should get a numerous breed;
Young deathlings, who, by practice made
Proficient in their father's trade,
With colonies might stock around
His large dominions under ground.

  A consult of coquettes below
Was call'd, to rig him out a beau;
From her own head Megaera[1] takes
A periwig of twisted snakes:
Which in the nicest fashion curl'd,
(Like toupees[2] of this upper world)
With flower of sulphur powder'd well,
That graceful on his shoulders fell;
An adder of the sable kind
In line direct hung down behind:
The owl, the raven, and the bat,
Clubb'd for a feather to his hat:
His coat, a usurer's velvet pall,
Bequeath'd to Pluto, corpse and all.
But, loath his person to expose
Bare, like a carcass pick'd by crows,
A lawyer, o'er his hands and face
Stuck artfully a parchment case.
No new flux'd rake show'd fairer skin;
Nor Phyllis after lying in.
With snuff was fill'd his ebon box,
Of shin-bones rotted by the pox.
Nine spirits of blaspheming fops,
With aconite anoint his chops;
And give him words of dreadful sounds,
G–d d–n his blood! and b–d and w–ds!'

  Thus furnish'd out, he sent his train
To take a house in Warwick-lane:[3]
The faculty, his humble friends,
A complimental message sends:
Their president in scarlet gown
Harangued, and welcomed him to town.

  But Death had business to dispatch;
His mind was running on his match.
And hearing much of Daphne's fame,
His majesty of terrors came,
Fine as a colonel of the guards,
To visit where she sat at cards;
She, as he came into the room,
Thought him Adonis in his bloom.
And now her heart with pleasure jumps,
She scarce remembers what is trumps;
For such a shape of skin and bone
Was never seen except her own.
Charm'd with his eyes, and chin, and snout,
Her pocket-glass drew slily out;
And grew enamour'd with her phiz,
As just the counterpart of his.
She darted many a private glance,
And freely made the first advance;
Was of her beauty grown so vain,
She doubted not to win the swain;
Nothing she thought could sooner gain him,
Than with her wit to entertain him.
She ask'd about her friends below;
This meagre fop, that batter'd beau;
Whether some late departed toasts
Had got gallants among the ghosts?
If Chloe were a sharper still
As great as ever at quadrille?
(The ladies there must needs be rooks,
For cards, we know, are Pluto's books.)
If Florimel had found her love,
For whom she hang'd herself above?
How oft a-week was kept a ball
By Proserpine at Pluto's hall?
She fancied those Elysian shades
The sweetest place for masquerades;
How pleasant on the banks of Styx,
To troll it in a coach and six!

  What pride a female heart inflames?
How endless are ambition's aims:
Cease, haughty nymph; the Fates decree
Death must not be a spouse for thee;
For, when by chance the meagre shade
Upon thy hand his finger laid,
Thy hand as dry and cold as lead,
His matrimonial spirit fled;
He felt about his heart a damp,
That quite extinguished Cupid's lamp:
Away the frighted spectre scuds,
And leaves my lady in the suds.

[Footnote 1: Megaera, one of three Furies, beautifully described by Virgil, "Aeneid," xii, 846. –. W. E. B.]

[Footnote 2: Periwigs with long tails.]

[Footnote 3: Where the College of Physicians was situated at that time. See Cunningham's "Handbook of London."–W. E. B.]



Daphne knows, with equal ease,
How to vex, and how to please;
But the folly of her sex
Makes her sole delight to vex.
Never woman more devised
Surer ways to be despised;
Paradoxes weakly wielding,
Always conquer'd, never yielding.
To dispute, her chief delight,
Without one opinion right:
Thick her arguments she lays on,
And with cavils combats reason;
Answers in decisive way,
Never hears what you can say;
Still her odd perverseness shows
Chiefly where she nothing knows;
And, where she is most familiar,
Always peevisher and sillier;
All her spirits in a flame
When she knows she's most to blame.


Send me hence ten thousand miles,
From a face that always smiles:
None could ever act that part,
But a fury in her heart.
Ye who hate such inconsistence,
To be easy, keep your distance:
Or in folly still befriend her,
But have no concern to mend her;
Lose not time to contradict her,
Nor endeavour to convict her.
Never take it in your thought,
That she'll own, or cure a fault.
Into contradiction warm her,
Then, perhaps, you may reform her:
Only take this rule along,
Always to advise her wrong;
And reprove her when she's right;
She may then grow wise for spight.

No–that scheme will ne'er succeed,
She has better learnt her creed;
She's too cunning and too skilful,
When to yield, and when be wilful.
Nature holds her forth two mirrors,
One for truth, and one for errors:
That looks hideous, fierce, and frightful;
This is flattering and delightful:
That she throws away as foul;
Sits by this to dress her soul.

Thus you have the case in view,
Daphne, 'twixt the Dean and you:
Heaven forbid he should despise thee,
But he'll never more advise thee.

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