« PreviousContinue »
Yet, to his guest though no way sparing,
The veriest hermit in the nation
Behold the place, where if a poet
Our courtier walks from dish to dish,
Such were the notes thy once-lov'd poet supe.
Absent or dead, still let a friend be dear,
And sure, if aught below the seats divine
In vain to deserts thy retreat is made ; | The Muse attends thee to thy silent shade: 'Tis hers, the brave man's latest steps to trace, Re-judge his acts, and dignify disgrace. When interest calls off all her sneaking train, And all th'oblig'd desert, and all the vain; She waits, or to the scaffold, or the cell, When the last lingering friend has bid farewell. Ev'n now she shades thy evening-walk with bays (No hireling she, no prostitute to praise);
Ev'n now, observant of the parting ray, Eyes the calm sun-set of thy various day, Through Fortune's cloud one truly great can see, Nor fears to tell, that Mortimer is he.
JONATHAN Swift, a person who has carried one brought him under the heavy imputation, from species of poetry, that of humorous satire, to a de- which he was never able entirely to free himself, gree never before attained, was, by his parentage, of being a scoffer against revealed religion. of English descent, but probably born in Ireland. His prospects of advancement in the political It is known that his father, also called Jonathan, career were abortive, till 1710, when the Tories having married a Leicestershire lady, died at an came into power. His connexion with this party early age, leaving a daughter, and a posthumous son. began in an acquaintance with Harley, afterwards His widow, being left in narrow circumstances, Earl of Oxford, who introduced him to secretary was invited by her husband's brother, Godwin, St. John, afterwards Lord Boling broke; and, he who resided in Dublin, to his house ; and there, it engaged the confidence of these leaders to such a is supposed, Jonathan was born, on November 30th, degree, that he was admitted to their most secret 1667. After passing some time at a school in Kil. consultations. In all his transactions with them, by kenny, he was removed to Trinity College, Dublin, was most scrupulously attentive to preserve every in his 15th year; in which university he spent seven appearance of being on an equality, and to repress years, and then obtained with difficulty the degree every thing that lookec like slight or neglect on of bachelor of arts, conferred speciali gratia. The their parts; and there probably is not another excircumstance affords sufficient proof of the misap- ample of a man of letters who has held bis head so plication of his talents to mathematical pursuits ; high in his association with men in power. This but he is said to have been at this period engaged was undoubtedly owing to that constitutional pride eight hours a day in more congenia! studies. and unsubmitting nature which governed all his
So profuse are the materials for the life of Swift, actions. that it has become almost a vain attempt to give, in A bishopric in England was the object at which a moderate compass, the events by which he was he aimed, and a vacancy on the bench occurring, distinguished from ordinary mortals; and it will he was recommended by his friends in the ministry therefore be chiefly in his character of a poetical to the Queen; but suspicions of his faith, and other composer that we shall now consider him. He was prejudices, being raised against him, he was passed early domesticated with the celebrated statesman, over; and the highest preferment which bis patrons Sir William Temple, who now lived in retirement could venture to bestow upon him was the deanery at Moor Park; but having made choice of the of St. Patrick's, in Dublin ; to which he was prechurch as his future destination, on parting in sented in 1713, and in which he continued for life. some disagreement from Temple, he went to Ire- The death of the Queen put an end to all contests land, with very moderate expectations, and took among the Tory ministers; and the change termiorders. A reconciliation with his patron brought nated Swift's prospects, and condemned him to an him back to Moor Park, where he passed his time unwilling residence in country which he always in harmony till the death of Sir William, who left disliked. On his return to Dublin, his temper was him a legacy and his papers. He then accepted severely tried by the triumph of the Whigs, who an invitation from the earl of Berkeley, one of the treated him with great indignity; but in length of Lords Justices of Ireland, to accompany him time, by a proper exercise of his clerical office, by thither as chaplain and private secretary; and he reforms introduced into the chapter of St. Patrick's, continued in the family as long as his lordship re- and by his bold and able exposures of the abuses mained in that kingdom. Here Swift began to practised in the government of Ireland, he rose to dis'inguish himself by an incomparable talent of the title of King of the Mob in that capital. writing humorous verses in the true familiar style, His conduct with respect to the female sex was several specimens of which he produced for the not less unaccountable than singular, and certainly amusement of the house. After Lord Berkeley's does no honor to his memory. Early in life he return to England, Swift went to reside at his attached himself to his celebrated Suella, whose real living at Laracor, in the diocese of Meath; and name was Johnson, the daughter of Sir William here it was that ambition began to take possession Temple's steward. Soon after his seulement at of his mind. He thought it proper to increase his Laracor, he invited her to Ireland. She caine, acconsequence by taking the degree of doctor of companied by a Mrs. Dingley, and resided near divinity in an English university; and, for the pur- the parsonage when he was at home, and in it when pose of forming connexions, he paid annual visits he was absent; nor were they ever known to lodge to that country. In 1701, he first engaged as a in the same house, or to see each other without a political writer; and, in 1704, he published, though witness. In 1716, he was privately married to her, anonymously, his celebrated “Tale of a Tub," but the parties were brought no nearer than before which, while it placed him high as a writer, dis- and the act was attended with no acknowledgment tinguished by wit and humor of a peculiar cast, that could gratify the feelings of a woman who had so long devoted herself to him. About the humorous and sarcastic was his habitual taste, year 1712, he became acquainted, in London, with which he frequently indulged beyond the bounds of Miss Esther Vanhomrigh, a young lady of fortune, decorum; a circumstance which renders the task with a taste for literature, which Swift was fond of of selection from his works somewhat perplexing. cultivating. To her he wrote the longest and most In wit, both in verse and prose, he stands foremost finished of his poems, entitled Cadenus and in grave irony, maintained with the most plausible Vanessa ; and her attachment acquired so much air of serious simplicity, and supported by great strength, that she made him the offer of her hand. minuteness of detail. His “Gulliver's Travels” Even after his marriage to Stella, Swift kept are a remarkable exemplification of his powers in Miss Vanhomrigh in ignorance of this connexion; this kind, which have rendered the work wonder. but a report of it having at length reached her, she fully amusing, even to childish readers, whilst the took the step of writing a note to Siella, requesting keen satire with which it abounds may gratify the to know if the marriage were real. Stella assured most splenetic misanthropist. In general, however, her of the affirmative in her answer, which she his style in prose, though held up as a model of inclosed to Swift, and went into the country without clearness, purity, and simplicity, bas only the merit seeing him. Swift went immediately to the house of expressing the author's meaning with perfect of Miss Vanhomrigh, threw Stella's letter on the precision. table, and departed, without speaking a word. She Late in life, Swift fell under the fate which he never recovered the shock, and died in 1723. dreaded : the faculties of his mind decayed before Stella, with her health entirely ruined, languished those of his body, and he gradually settled into abon till 1728, when she expired. Such was the fate solute idiocy. A wtal silence for some months which he prepared for both.
preceded his decease, which took place in October, Of the poems of Swift, some of the most striking 1744, when he was in his 781h year. He was inwere composed in mature life, after his attainment terred in St. Patrick's cathedral, under a monuof his deanery of St. Patrick; and it will be ad- ment, for which he wrote a Latin epitaph, in which mitted that no one ever gave a more perfect ex. one clause most energetically displays the state of ample of the easy familiarity attainable in the his feelings :—“Ubi sæva indignatio ulterius cor English language. His readiness in rhyme is lacerare nequit.” He bequeathed the greatest part truly astonishing; the most uncommon associations of his property to an hospital for lunatics and of sounds coming to him as it were spontaneously, idiots, in words seemingly the best adapted to the occasion. That he was capable of high polish and elegance,
To show, by one satiric touch, some of his works sufficiently prove; but the
No nation wanted it so much.
CADENUS AND VANESSA.*
WRITTEN AT WINDSOR, 1713.
The shepherds and the nymphs were seen
Against our sovereign lady's peace,
The nymphs with scorn beheld their foes
Founded on an offer of marriage made by Miss Von. homrigh to Dr. Swift, who was occasionally her preceplor. The lady's unhappy story is well known.
From visits to receive and pay;
For Cowley's briefs, and pleas of Waller. From scandal, politics, and play ;
Still their authority was smaller. From fans, and flounces, and brocades,
There was on both sides much to say: From equipage and park-parades,
She'd hear the cause another day. From all the thousand female toys,
And so she did ; and then a third From every trifle that employs
She heard it—there, she kept her word: The out or inside of their heads,
But, with rejoinders or replies, Between their toilets and their beds.
Long bills, and answers stuff 'd with lies, In a dull stream, which moving slow,
Demur, imparlance, and essoign, You hardly see the current flow;
The parties ne'er could issue join : If a small breeze obstruct the course,
For sixteen years the cause was spun, It whirls about, for want of force,
And then stood where it first begun. And in its narrow circle gathers
Now, gentle Clio, sing or say, Nothing but chaff, and straws, and feathers What Venus meant by this delay. The current of a female mind
The goddess, much perplex'd in mind Stops thus, and turns with every wind;
To see her empire thus declin’d, Thus whirling round together draws
When first this grand debate arose, Fools, fops, and rakes, for chaff and straws. Above her wisdom to compose, Hence we conclude, no women's hearts
Conceiv'd a project in her head Are won by virtue, wit, and parts :
To work her ends; which, if it sped, Nor are the men of sense to blame,
Would show the merits of the cause For breasts incapable of flame;
Far better than consulting laws. The fault must on the nymphs be plac'd,
In a glad hour Lucina's aid Grown so corrupted in their taste.
Produc'd on Earth a wondrous maid, The pleader, having spoke his best,
On whom the queen of love was bent Had witness ready to attest,
To try a new experiment. Who fairly could on oath depose,
She threw her law-books on the shelf, When questions on the fact arose,
And thus debated with herself. That every article was true;
“Since men allege, they ne'er can find Nor further these deponents knew :
Those beauties in a female mind, Therefore he humbly would insist,
Which raise a flame that will endure The bill might be with costs dismiss'd.
For ever uncorrupt and pure ; The cause appear'd of so much weight,
If 'tis with reason they complain, That Venus, from her judgment-seat,
This infant shall restore my reign. Desir'd them not to talk so loud,
I'll search where every virtue dwells, Else she must interpose a cloud :
From courts inclusive down to cells : For, if the heavenly folk should know
What preachers talk, or sages write ; These pleadings in the courts below,
These I will gather and unite, That mortals here disdain to love,
And represent them to mankind She ne'er could show her face above;
Collected in that infant's mind." For gods, their betters, are too wise
This said, she plucks in heaven's high bowers To value that which men despise.
A sprig of amaranthine flowers, " And then," said she, “my son and I
In nectar thrice infuses bays, Must stroll in air, 'twixt land and sky;
Three times refin'd in Titan's rays; Or else, shut out from heaven and earth,
Then calls the Graces to her aid, Fly to the sea, my place of birth ;
And sprinkles thrice the new-born maid: There live, with daggled mermaids pent,
From whence the tender skin assumes And keep on fish perpetual Lent.”
A sweetness above all perfumes : But, since the case appear'd so nice,
From whence a cleanliness remains She thought it best to take advice.
Incapable of outward stains : The Muses, by their king's permission,
From whence that decency of mind, Though foes to love, attend the session,
So lovely in the female kind, And on the right hand took their places
Where not one careless thought intrudes, In order ; on the left, the Graces :
Less modest than the speech of prudes; To whom she might her doubts propose
Where never blush was call'd in aid, On all emergencies that rose.
That spurious virtue in a maid, The Muses oft were seen to frown;
A virtue but at second-hand ; The Graces half-asham'd look down ;
They blush because they understand. And 'Iwas observ'd there were but few
The Graces next would act their part, Of either sex among the crew,
And show'd but little of their art; Whom she or her assessors knew.
Their work was half already done, The goddess soon began to see,
The child with native beauty shone ; Things were not ripe for a decree :
The outward form no help requir'd: And said she must consult her books,
Each, breathing on her thrice, inspir’d The lovers' Fletas, Bractons, Cokes.
That gentle, soft, engaging air, First to a dapper clerk she beckon'd,
Which in old times adorn'd the fair : To turn to Ovid, book the second ;
And said, “Vanessa be the name She then referr'd them to a place
By which thou shalt be known to fame; In Virgil (vide Dido's case :)
Vanessa, by the gods enrollid: As for Tibullus's, reports,
Her name on Earth shall not be told." They never pass'd for law in courts :
But still the work was not complete;
Wisdom 's above suspecting wiles :
The queen of love was pleas'd, and proud,
For when in time the martial maid
To-morrow, ere the setting sun,
But in the poeis we may find
In proper season Pallas meets The queen of love, whom thus she greets. (For gods, we are by Homer told, Can in celestial language scold :) “ Perfidious goddess! but in vain You form'd this project in your brain; A project for thy talents fit, With much deceit and little wit. Thou hast, as thou shalt quickly see, Deceiv'd thyself, instead of me: For how can heavenly wisdom prove An instrument to earthly love ? Know'st thou not yet, that men commence Thy votaries, for want of sense ? Nor shall Vanessa be the theme To manage thy abortive scheme : See 'll prove the greatest of thy foes ; And yet I scorn to interpose, But, using neither skill nor fotce, Leave all things to their natural course."
The goddess thus pronounc'd her doom.
First issued from perfumers' shops,