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Best Famous Jonathan Swift Poems

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by Jonathan Swift | |

A Satirical Elegy on the Death of a Late Famous General

His Grace! impossible! what dead!
Of old age too, and in his bed!
And could that mighty warrior fall?
And so inglorious, after all!
Well, since he's gone, no matter how,
The last loud trump must wake him now:
And, trust me, as the noise grows stronger,
He'd wish to sleep a little longer.
And could he be indeed so old As by the newspapers we're told? Threescore, I think, is pretty high; 'Twas time in conscience he should die.
This world he cumbered long enough; He burnt his candle to the snuff; And that's the reason, some folks think, He left behind so great a s---k.
Behold his funeral appears, Nor widow's sighs, nor orphan's tears, Wont at such times each heart to pierce, Attend the progress of his hearse.
But what of that, his friends may say, He had those honors in his day.
True to his profit and his pride, He made them weep before he died.
Come hither, all ye empty things, Ye bubbles raised by breath of kings; Who float upon the tide of state, Come hither, and behold your fate.
Let pride be taught by this rebuke, How very mean a thing's a Duke; From all his ill-got honors flung, Turned to that dirt from whence he sprung.

by William Butler Yeats | |

Parnells Funeral


Under the Great Comedian's tomb the crowd.
A bundle of tempestuous cloud is blown About the sky; where that is clear of cloud Brightness remains; a brighter star shoots down; What shudders run through all that animal blood? What is this sacrifice? Can someone there Recall the Cretan barb that pierced a star? Rich foliage that the starlight glittered through, A frenzied crowd, and where the branches sprang A beautiful seated boy; a sacred bow; A woman, and an arrow on a string; A pierced boy, image of a star laid low.
That woman, the Great Mother imaging, Cut out his heart.
Some master of design Stamped boy and tree upon Sicilian coin.
An age is the reversal of an age: When strangers murdered Emmet, Fitzgerald, Tone, We lived like men that watch a painted stage.
What matter for the scene, the scene once gone: It had not touched our lives.
But popular rage, Hysterica passio dragged this quarry down.
None shared our guilt; nor did we play a part Upon a painted stage when we devoured his heart.
Come, fix upon me that accusing eye.
I thirst for accusation.
All that was sung.
All that was said in Ireland is a lie Bred out of the c-ontagion of the throng, Saving the rhyme rats hear before they die.
Leave nothing but the nothingS that belong To this bare soul, let all men judge that can Whether it be an animal or a man.
II The rest I pass, one sentence I unsay.
Had de Valera eaten parnell's heart No loose-lipped demagogue had won the day.
No civil rancour torn the land apart.
Had Cosgrave eaten parnell's heart, the land's Imagination had been satisfied, Or lacking that, government in such hands.
O'Higgins its sole statesman had not died.
Had even O'Duffy - but I name no more - Their school a crowd, his master solitude; Through Jonathan Swift's clark grove he passed, and there plucked bitter wisdom that enriched his blood.

by Jonathan Swift | |

Stellas Birthday March 13 1719

 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 declin'd;
Made up so largely in thy mind.
Oh, 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.

by Jonathan Swift | |

A Description of the Morning

 Now hardly here and there a hackney-coach
Appearing, show'd the ruddy morn's approach.
Now Betty from her master's bed had flown, And softly stole to discompose her own.
The slip-shod 'prentice from his master's door Had par'd the dirt, and sprinkled round the floor.
Now Moll had whirl'd her mop with dext'rous airs, Prepar'd to scrub the entry and the stairs.
The youth with broomy stumps began to trace The kennel-edge, where wheels had worn the place.
The small-coal man was heard with cadence deep; Till drown'd in shriller notes of "chimney-sweep.
" Duns at his lordship's gate began to meet; And brickdust Moll had scream'd through half a street.
The turnkey now his flock returning sees, Duly let out a-nights to steal for fees.
The watchful bailiffs take their silent stands; And schoolboys lag with satchels in their hands.

by Jonathan Swift | |

A Description of a City Shower

 Careful Observers may fortel the Hour 
(By sure Prognosticks) when to dread a Show'r: 
While Rain depends, the pensive Cat gives o'er 
Her Frolicks, and pursues her Tail no more.
Returning Home at Night, you'll find the Sink Strike your offended Sense with double Stink.
If you be wise, then go not far to Dine, You spend in Coach-hire more than save in Wine.
A coming Show'r your shooting Corns presage, Old Aches throb, your hollow Tooth will rage.
Sauntring in Coffee-house is Dulman seen; He damns the Climate, and complains of Spleen.
Mean while the South rising with dabbled Wings, A Sable Cloud a-thwart the Welkin flings, That swill'd more Liquor than it could contain, And like a Drunkard gives it up again.
Brisk Susan whips her Linen from the Rope, While the first drizzling Show'r is born aslope, Such is that Sprinkling which some careless Quean Flirts on you from her Mop, but not so clean.
You fly, invoke the Gods; then turning, stop To rail; she singing, still whirls on her Mop.
Not yet, the Dust had shun'd th'unequal Strife, But aided by the Wind, fought still for Life; And wafted with its Foe by violent Gust, 'Twas doubtful which was Rain, and which was Dust.
Ah! where must needy Poet seek for Aid, When Dust and Rain at once his Coat invade; Sole Coat, where Dust cemented by the Rain, Erects the Nap, and leaves a cloudy Stain.
Now in contiguous Drops the Flood comes down, Threat'ning with Deloge this Devoted Town.
To Shops in Crouds the dagled Females fly, Pretend to cheapen Goods, but nothing buy.
The Templer spruce, while ev'ry Spout's a-broach, Stays till 'tis fair, yet seems to call a Coach.
The tuck'd-up Sempstress walks with hasty Strides, While Streams run down her oil'd Umbrella's Sides.
Here various Kinds by various Fortunes led, Commence Acquaintance underneath a Shed.
Triumphant Tories, and desponding Whigs, Forget their Fewds, and join to save their Wigs.
Box'd in a Chair the Beau impatient sits, While Spouts run clatt'ring o'er the Roof by Fits; And ever and anon with frightful Din The Leather sounds, he trembles from within.
So when Troy Chair-men bore the Wooden Steed, Pregnant with Greeks, impatient to be freed, (Those Bully Greeks, who, as the Moderns do, Instead of paying Chair-men, run them thro'.
) Laoco'n struck the Outside with his Spear, And each imprison'd Hero quak'd for Fear.
Now from all Parts the swelling Kennels flow, And bear their Trophies with them as they go: Filth of all Hues and Odours seem to tell What Streets they sail'd from, by the Sight and Smell.
They, as each Torrent drives, with rapid Force From Smithfield, or St.
Pulchre's shape their Course, And in huge Confluent join at Snow-Hill Ridge, Fall from the Conduit prone to Holborn-Bridge.
Sweepings from Butchers Stalls, Dung, Guts, and Blood, Drown'd Puppies, stinking Sprats, all drench'd in Mud, Dead Cats and Turnips-Tops come tumbling down the Flood.

by Jonathan Swift | |

A Satirical Elegy

 On the Death of a Late FAMOUS GENERAL

His Grace! impossible! what dead!
Of old age, too, and in his bed!
And could that Mighty Warrior fall?
And so inglorious, after all!
Well, since he's gone, no matter how,
The last loud trump must wake him now:
And, trust me, as the noise grows stronger,
He'd wish to sleep a little longer.
And could he be indeed so old As by the news-papers we're told? Threescore, I think, is pretty high; 'Twas time in conscience he should die.
This world he cumber'd long enough; He burnt his candle to the snuff; And that's the reason, some folks think, He left behind so great a stink.
Behold his funeral appears, Nor widow's sighs, nor orphan's tears, Wont at such times each heart to pierce, Attend the progress of his hearse.
But what of that, his friends may say, He had those honours in his day.
True to his profit and his pride, He made them weep before he dy'd.
Come hither, all ye empty things, Ye bubbles rais'd by breath of Kings; Who float upon the tide of state, Come hither, and behold your fate.
Let pride be taught by this rebuke, How very mean a thing's a Duke; From all his ill-got honours flung, Turn'd to that dirt from whence he sprung.

by Jonathan Swift | |

A Beautiful Young Nymph Going To Bed

 Corinna, Pride of Drury-Lane,
For whom no Shepherd sighs in vain;
Never did Covent Garden boast
So bright a batter'd, strolling Toast;
No drunken Rake to pick her up,
No Cellar where on Tick to sup;
Returning at the Midnight Hour;
Four Stories climbing to her Bow'r;
Then, seated on a three-legg'd Chair,
Takes off her artificial Hair: 
Now, picking out a Crystal Eye,
She wipes it clean, and lays it by.
Her Eye-Brows from a Mouse's Hide, Stuck on with Art on either Side, Pulls off with Care, and first displays 'em, Then in a Play-Book smoothly lays 'em.
Now dextrously her Plumpers draws, That serve to fill her hollow Jaws.
Untwists a Wire; and from her Gums A Set of Teeth completely comes.
Pulls out the Rags contriv'd to prop Her flabby Dugs and down they drop.
Proceeding on, the lovely Goddess Unlaces next her Steel-Rib'd Bodice; Which by the Operator's Skill, Press down the Lumps, the Hollows fill, Up hoes her Hand, and off she slips The Bolsters that supply her Hips.
With gentlest Touch, she next explores Her Shankers, Issues, running Sores, Effects of many a sad Disaster; And then to each applies a Plaster.
But must, before she goes to Bed, Rub off the Daubs of White and Red; And smooth the Furrows in her Front, With greasy Paper stuck upon't.
She takes a Bolus e'er she sleeps; And then between two Blankets creeps.
With pains of love tormented lies; Or if she chance to close her Eyes, Of Bridewell and the Compter dreams, And feels the Lash, and faintly screams; Or, by a faithless Bully drawn, At some Hedge-Tavern lies in Pawn; Or to Jamaica seems transported, Alone, and by no Planter courted; Or, near Fleet-Ditch's oozy Brinks, Surrounded with a Hundred Stinks, Belated, seems on watch to lie, And snap some Cull passing by; Or, struck with Fear, her Fancy runs On Watchmen, Constables and Duns, From whom she meets with frequent Rubs; But, never from Religious Clubs; Whose Favour she is sure to find, Because she pays them all in Kind.
CORINNA wakes.
A dreadful Sight! Behold the Ruins of the Night! A wicked Rat her Plaster stole, Half eat, and dragged it to his Hole.
The Crystal Eye, alas, was miss'd; And Puss had on her Plumpers piss'd.
A Pigeon pick'd her Issue-Peas; And Shock her Tresses fill'd with Fleas.
The Nymph, tho' in this mangled Plight, Must ev'ry Morn her Limbs unite.
But how shall I describe her Arts To recollect the scatter'd Parts? Or show the Anguish, Toil, and Pain, Of gath'ring up herself again? The bashful Muse will never bear In such a Scene to interfere.
Corinna in the Morning dizen'd, Who sees, will spew; who smells, be poison'd.

by Jonathan Swift | |

To Stella Who Collected and Transcribed His Poems

 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 scattered 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, 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 marked with bloody tracks; Bright Phyllis mending ragged smocks: And radiant Iris in the pox.
These are the goddesses enrolled 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 Maevius, when he drained his skull To celebrate some suburb trull, His similes in order set, And every crambo 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 dare 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 opened 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 Mixed in a noble, generous mind: And may compare to Etna'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 conquered Troy; But, blinded be 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 your 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.

by Jonathan Swift | |

The Ladys Dressing Room

 Five hours, (and who can do it less in?)
By haughty Celia spent in dressing;
The goddess from her chamber issues,
Arrayed in lace, brocades, and tissues.
Strephon, who found the room was void And Betty otherwise employed, Stole in and took a strict survey Of all the litter as it lay; Whereof, to make the matter clear, An inventory follows here.
And first a dirty smock appeared, Beneath the arm-pits well besmeared.
Strephon, the rogue, displayed it wide And turned it round on every side.
On such a point few words are best, And Strephon bids us guess the rest; And swears how damnably the men lie In calling Celia sweet and cleanly.
Now listen while he next produces The various combs for various uses, Filled up with dirt so closely fixt, No brush could force a way betwixt.
A paste of composition rare, Sweat, dandruff, powder, lead and hair; A forehead cloth with oil upon't To smooth the wrinkles on her front.
Here alum flower to stop the steams Exhaled from sour unsavory streams; There night-gloves made of Tripsy's hide, Bequeath'd by Tripsy when she died, With puppy water, beauty's help, Distilled from Tripsy's darling whelp; Here gallypots and vials placed, Some filled with washes, some with paste, Some with pomatum, paints and slops, And ointments good for scabby chops.
Hard by a filthy basin stands, Fouled with the scouring of her hands; The basin takes whatever comes, The scrapings of her teeth and gums, A nasty compound of all hues, For here she spits, and here she spews.
But oh! it turned poor Strephon's bowels, When he beheld and smelt the towels, Begummed, besmattered, and beslimed With dirt, and sweat, and ear-wax grimed.
No object Strephon's eye escapes: Here petticoats in frowzy heaps; Nor be the handkerchiefs forgot All varnished o'er with snuff and snot.
The stockings, why should I expose, Stained with the marks of stinking toes; Or greasy coifs and pinners reeking, Which Celia slept at least a week in? A pair of tweezers next he found To pluck her brows in arches round, Or hairs that sink the forehead low, Or on her chin like bristles grow.
The virtues we must not let pass, Of Celia's magnifying glass.
When frighted Strephon cast his eye on't It shewed the visage of a giant.
A glass that can to sight disclose The smallest worm in Celia's nose, And faithfully direct her nail To squeeze it out from head to tail; (For catch it nicely by the head, It must come out alive or dead.
) Why Strephon will you tell the rest? And must you needs describe the chest? That careless wench! no creature warn her To move it out from yonder corner; But leave it standing full in sight For you to exercise your spite.
In vain, the workman shewed his wit With rings and hinges counterfeit To make it seem in this disguise A cabinet to vulgar eyes; For Strephon ventured to look in, Resolved to go through thick and thin; He lifts the lid, there needs no more: He smelt it all the time before.
As from within Pandora's box, When Epimetheus oped the locks, A sudden universal crew Of humane evils upwards flew, He still was comforted to find That Hope at last remained behind; So Strephon lifting up the lid To view what in the chest was hid, The vapours flew from out the vent.
But Strephon cautious never meant The bottom of the pan to grope And foul his hands in search of Hope.
O never may such vile machine Be once in Celia's chamber seen! O may she better learn to keep "Those secrets of the hoary deep"! As mutton cutlets, prime of meat, Which, though with art you salt and beat As laws of cookery require And toast them at the clearest fire, If from adown the hopeful chops The fat upon the cinder drops, To stinking smoke it turns the flame Poisoning the flesh from whence it came; And up exhales a greasy stench For which you curse the careless wench; So things which must not be exprest, When plumpt into the reeking chest, Send up an excremental smell To taint the parts from whence they fell, The petticoats and gown perfume, Which waft a stink round every room.
Thus finishing his grand survey, Disgusted Strephon stole away Repeating in his amorous fits, Oh! Celia, Celia, Celia shits! But vengeance, Goddess never sleeping, Soon punished Strephon for his peeping: His foul Imagination links Each dame he see with all her stinks; And, if unsavory odors fly, Conceives a lady standing by.
All women his description fits, And both ideas jump like wits By vicious fancy coupled fast, And still appearing in contrast.
I pity wretched Strephon blind To all the charms of female kind.
Should I the Queen of Love refuse Because she rose from stinking ooze? To him that looks behind the scene Satira's but some pocky queen.
When Celia in her glory shows, If Strephon would but stop his nose (Who now so impiously blasphemes Her ointments, daubs, and paints and creams, Her washes, slops, and every clout With which he makes so foul a rout), He soon would learn to think like me And bless his ravished sight to see Such order from confusion sprung, Such gaudy tulips raised from dung.

by Jonathan Swift | |


 Charming oysters I cry:
My masters, come buy,
So plump and so fresh,
So sweet is their flesh,
No Colchester oyster
Is sweeter and moister:
Your stomach they settle,
And rouse up your mettle:
They'll make you a dad
Of a lass or a lad;
And madam your wife
They'll please to the life;
Be she barren, be she old,
Be she slut, or be she scold,
Eat my oysters, and lie near her,
She'll be fruitful, never fear her.