The battle of the books.., p.9
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       The Battle of the Books and Other Short Pieces, p.9

           Jonathan Swift
 
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And with discretion dig the mould;

  Let Stella look with watchful eye,

  Rebecea, Ford, and Grattons by.

  Behold the bottle, where it lies

  With neck elated tow'rds the skies!

  The god of winds, and god of fire,

  Did to its wondrous birth conspire;

  And Bacchus for the poet's use

  Poured 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 sovereign 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 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.

  STELLA'S BIRTHDAY, 1724.

  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;

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  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 turned to grey;

  I'll ne'er believe a word they say.

  'Tis true, but let it not be known,

  My eyes are somewhat dimish 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:

  Oh, ne'er may fortune show her spite,

  To make me deaf, and mend my sight.

  STELLA'S BIRTHDAY, MARCH 13, 1726.

  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:

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  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, or 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 employed to save

  Despairing wretches from the grave;

  And then supporting with your store,

  Those whom you dragged from death before?

  So Providence on mortals waits,

  Preserving what it first creates,

  You 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 to torturing pain,

  Where stubborn stoics would complain.

  Must these like empty shadows pass,

  Or forms reflected from a glass?

  Or mere chimaeras 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

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  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.

  Look 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 heav'n 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 sufferings 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.

  CHAPTER X - TO STELLA,

  VISITING ME IN MY SICKNESS, OCTOBER, 1727.

  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,

  Fixed honour in her infant mind.

  But (not in wranglings 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.

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  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 cause would Cato bleed;

  And how would Socrates proceed?

  Drive all objections from your mind,

  Else you relapse to human kind;

  Ambition, avarice, and lust,

  And factious rage, and breach of trust,

  And flattery tipped with nauseous fleer,

  And guilt and shame, and servile fear,

  Envy, and cruelty, and pride,

  Will in your tainted heart preside.

  Heroes and heroines of old,

  By honour only were enrolled

  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 designed,

  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 learned 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.

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  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,

  Called 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 employed for daily hire,

  What Stella by her friendship warmed,

  With vigour and delight performed.

  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 pulled a palace to the ground,

  Only to have the ruins made

  Materials for a house decayed.

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  CHAPTER XI - THE FIRST HE WROTE OCT. 17, 1727.

  MOST merciful Father, accept our humblest prayers in behalf of this

  Thy languishing servant; forgive the sins, the frailties, and

  infirmities of her life past. Accept the good deeds she hath done

  in such a manner that, at whatever time Thou shalt please to call

  her, she may be received into everlasting habitations. Give her

  grace to continue sincerely thankful to Thee for the many favours

  Thou hast bestowed upon her, the ability and inclination and

  practice to do good, and those virtues which have procured the

  esteem and love of her friends, and a most unspotted name in the

  world. O God, Thou dispensest Thy blessings and Thy punishments,

  as it becometh infinite justice and mercy; and since it was Thy

  pleasure to afflict her with a long, constant, weakly state of

  health, make her truly sensible that it was for very wise ends, and

  was largely made up to her in other blessings, more valuable and

  less common. Continue to her, O Lord, that firmness and constancy

  of mind wherewith Tho
u hast most graciously endowed her, together

  with that contempt of worldly things and vanities that she hath

  shown in the whole conduct of her life. O All-powerful Being, the

  least motion of whose Will can create or destroy a world, pity us,

  the mournful friends of Thy distressed servant, who sink under the

  weight of her present condition, and the fear of losing the most

  valuable of our friends; restore her to us, O Lord, if it be Thy

  gracious Will, or inspire us with constancy and resignation to

  support ourselves under so heavy an affliction. Restore her, O

  Lord, for the sake of those poor, who by losing her will be

  desolate, and those sick, who will not only want her bounty, but

  her care and tending; or else, in Thy mercy, raise up some other in

  her place with equal disposition and better abilities. Lessen, O

  Lord, we beseech thee, her bodily pains, or give her a double

  strength of mind to support them. And if Thou wilt soon take her

  to Thyself, turn our thoughts rather upon that felicity which we

  hope she shall enjoy, than upon that unspeakable loss we shall

  endure. Let her memory be ever dear unto us, and the example of

  her many virtues, as far as human infirmity will admit, our

  constant imitation. Accept, O Lord, these prayers poured from the

  very bottom of our hearts, in Thy mercy, and for the merits of our

  blessed Saviour. AMEN.

  CHAPTER XII - THE SECOND PRAYER WAS WRITTEN NOV. 6, 1727.

  O MERCIFUL Father, who never afflictest Thy children but for their

  own good, and with justice, over which Thy mercy always prevaileth,

  either to turn them to repentance, or to punish them in the present

  life, in order to reward them in a better; take pity, we beseech

  Thee, upon this Thy poor afflicted servant, languishing so long and

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  The Battle of the Books and

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  so grievously under the weight of Thy Hand. Give her strength,

  O

  Lord, to support her weakness, and patience to endure her pains,

  without repining at Thy correction. Forgive every rash and

  inconsiderate expression which her anguish may at any time force

  from her tongue, while her heart continueth in an entire submission

  to Thy Will. Suppress in her, O Lord, all eager desires of life,

  and lesson her fears of death, by inspiring into her an humble yet

  assured hope of Thy mercy. Give her a sincere repentance for all

  her transgressions and omissions, and a firm resolution to pass the

  remainder of her life in endeavouring to her utmost to observe all

  thy precepts. We beseech Thee likewise to compose her thoughts,

  and preserve to her the use of her memory and reason during the

  course of her sickness. Give her a true conception of the vanity,

  folly, and insignificancy of all human things; and strengthen her

  so as to beget in her a sincere love of Thee in the midst of her

  sufferings. Accept and impute all her good deeds, and forgive her

  all those offences against Thee, which she hath sincerely repented

  of, or through the frailty of memory hath forgot. And now, O Lord,

  we turn to Thee in behalf of ourselves, and the rest of her

  sorrowful friends. Let not our grief afflict her mind, and thereby

  have an ill effect on her present distemper. Forgive the sorrow

  and weakness of those among us who sink under the grief and terror

  of losing so dear and useful a friend. Accept and pardon our most

  earnest prayers and wishes for her longer continuance in this evil

  world, to do what Thou art pleased to call Thy service, and is only

  her bounden duty; that she may be still a comfort to us, and to all

  others, who will want the benefit of her conversation, her advice,

  her good offices, or her charity. And since Thou hast promised

  that where two or three are gathered together in Thy Name, Thou

  wilt be in the midst of them to grant their request, O Gracious

  Lord, grant to us who are here met in Thy Name, that those

  requests, which in the utmost sincerity and earnestness of our

  hearts we have now made in behalf of this Thy distressed servant,

  and of ourselves, may effectually be answered; through the merits

  of Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN,

  CHAPTER XIII - THE BEASTS' CONFESSION (1732)

  .

  WHEN beasts could speak (the learned say

  They still can do so every day)

  ,

  It seems, they had religion then,

  As much as now we find in men.

  It happened when a plague broke out

  (Which therefore made them more devout)

  The king of brutes (to make it plain,

  Of quadrupeds I only mean)

  ,

  By proclamation gave command,

  That every subject in the land

  Should to the priest confess their sins;

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  The Battle of the Books and

  Other Short Pieces

  And thus the pious wolf begins:

  Good father, I must own with shame,

  That, often I have been to blame:

  I must confess, on Friday last,

  Wretch that I was, I broke my fast:

  But I defy the basest tongue

  To prove I did my neighbour wrong;

  Or ever went to seek my food

 
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