Jonathan Swift

Poems to Cadenus and Vanessa

Poem by Jonathan Swift

To Love [1]

In all I wish, how happy should I be,
Thou grand Deluder, were it not for thee!
So weak thou art, that fools thy power despise;
And yet so strong, thou triumph'st o'er the wise.
Thy traps are laid with such peculiar art,
They catch the cautious, let the rash depart.
Most nets are fill'd by want of thought and care
But too much thinking brings us to thy snare;
Where, held by thee, in slavery we stay,
And throw the pleasing part of life away.
But, what does most my indignation move,
Discretion! thou wert ne'er a friend to Love:
Thy chief delight is to defeat those arts,
By which he kindles mutual flames in hearts;
While the blind loitering God is at his play,
Thou steal'st his golden pointed darts away:
Those darts which never fail; and in their stead
Convey'st malignant arrows tipt with lead:
The heedless God, suspecting no deceits,
Shoots on, and thinks he has done wondrous feats;
But the poor nymph, who feels her vitals burn,
And from her shepherd can find no return,
Laments, and rages at the power divine,
When, curst Discretion! all the fault was thine:
Cupid and Hymen thou hast set at odds,
And bred such feuds between those kindred gods,
That Venus cannot reconcile her sons;
When one appears, away the other runs.

The former scales, wherein he used to poise
Love against love, and equal joys with joys,
Are now fill'd up with avarice and pride,
Where titles, power, and riches, still subside.
Then, gentle Venus, to thy father run,
And tell him, how thy children are undone:
Prepare his bolts to give one fatal blow,
And strike Discretion to the shades below.

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[Footnote 1: Found in Miss Vanhomrigh's desk, after her death, in the handwriting of Dr. Swift.--H.]

A Rebus By Vanessa

Cut the name of the man [1] who his mistress denied,
And let the first of it be only applied
To join with the prophet[2] who David did chide;
Then say what a horse is that runs very fast;[3]
And that which deserves to be first put the last;
Spell all then, and put them together, to find
The name and the virtues of him I design'd.
Like the patriarch in Egypt, he's versed in the state;
Like the prophet in Jewry, he's free with the great;
Like a racer he flies, to succour with speed,
When his friends want his aid, or desert is in need.

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[Footnote 1: Jo-seph.] [Footnote 2: Nathan.] [Footnote 3: Swift.]

The Dean's Answer

The nymph who wrote this in an amorous fit,
I cannot but envy the pride of her wit,
Which thus she will venture profusely to throw
On so mean a design, and a subject so low.
For mean's her design, and her subject as mean,
The first but a rebus, the last but a dean.
A dean's but a parson: and what is a rebus?
A thing never known to the Muses or Phoebus.
The corruption of verse; for, when all is done,
It is but a paraphrase made on a pun.
But a genius like hers no subject can stifle,
It shows and discovers itself through a trifle.
By reading this trifle, I quickly began
To find her a great wit, but the dean a small man.
Rich ladies will furnish their garrets with stuff,
Which others for mantuas would think fine enough:
So the wit that is lavishly thrown away here,
Might furnish a second-rate poet a year.
Thus much for the verse, we proceed to the next,
Where the nymph has entirely forsaken her text:
Her fine panegyrics are quite out of season:
And what she describes to be merit, is treason:
The changes which faction has made in the state,
Have put the dean's politics quite out of date:
Now no one regards what he utters with freedom,
And, should he write pamphlets, no great man would read 'em;
And, should want or desert stand in need of his aid,
This racer would prove but a dull founder'd jade.