Jonathan Swift(1667-1745) is a problem for readers and biographers we are informed in a recent biography, because "the cast of characters in his life grew much larger as he grew older. It can be hard to keep them straight."(1) There are royalty and aristocracy, statesmen and politicians, clergymen and laymen, friends and enemies, the high and the low, lots of women from queens and duchesses down to servants and everything in between, including two beloved lovers. Trying to keep them straight may, indeed, be impossible but the story, as told by Leo Damrosch, can be enjoyed regardless. -Ron Price with thanks to (1)John Simon "A Giant Among Men," a review in The New York Times, 27/11/'13, of Leo Damrosch's Jonathan Swift,’ Yale UP, 600 pages, 2013, p. 178.
Readers won't have that problem
with my autobiography and life-
narrative even though there is a
galaxy, a myriad, & bucket-fulls
of people in my life, gazing as I
am at the last 70 years of my life.
All this flotsam and jetsam are kept
in their little places in my letters and
my computer directory, tied-up in the
bundles of paper and vast tracts of new
cyberspace, the WWW, & the internet.
This narrative keeps most of them
far away from the main plot, & an
analysis which goes on for over 5
volumes and 2600 pages....It will
dry-out the average reader before
he or she gets too far. Sadly, too,
readers of my work will not enjoy
the humour and immensely clever
wit of this novelist, essayist, poet,
satirist, epistolarian, pamphleteer.
As readers wade through my-many
millions of words on their long way,
such is my hope, to illuminating a
journey of understanding of what is,
arguably, the greatest of the spiritual
narratives in the history of civilization,
narrative that is at the heart of this
transformation of a heterodox and
seemingly negligible offshoot of the
Shaykhi school of the Ithna-Ashariyyih
sect of Shi'ah Islam into a world religion.(1)
The transformation has been slow, in some
ways, and in the years ahead in this, and
future centuries, it will take this world by
an unobtrusive storm, at least in the years
that have been my life in this first century
of its Formative Age, and before centuries
2 and 3 when the world will find its soul
for the next 1000 years: the journey has
just begun in my lifetime when the fully
institutionalized charismatic Force went
through Its first decades: 1963 to 2013.
1 God Passes by, Shoghi Effendi, Baha'i Pub., Trust, Wilmette, 1957, p. xii.
While here and, while thinking about that genius of wit, Jonathan Swift, I'll post several other pieces, partly drawing-on and inspired by this very clever man of words who had such a grim end to his life.-Ron
THE FRIENDLY FLIGHT
Seven years before he died, Anglo-Irish writer Jonathan Swift(1667-1745), author of Gulliver’s Travels, wrote to Edward Harley, Earl of Oxford: “I am now good for nothing, very deaf, very old, and very much out of favour with those in power. My dear lord, I have a thousand things to say, but I can remember none of them.”
In 1740, five years before his demise, he wrote to his cousin, Mrs Whiteway: “I have been very miserable all night and to-day extremely deaf and full of pain. I am so stupid and confounded that I cannot express the mortification I am under both in body and mind. All I can say, is that I am not in torture: but I daily and hourly expect it. I hardly understand one word I write. I am sure my days will be very few, few and miserable they must be.”
Swift's brain trouble, which had threatened him all his life, became worse, and he had violent fits of temper accompanied by considerable physical pain in his last years. In his last three years, we are informed by biographers, he had dementia. The end came at last on 7 October 1745. He left his fortune to found a hospital for idiots and lunatics. -Ron Price with thanks to The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes, Volume IX: “From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift,” 1907-1921.
I shall keep you in mind, Jonathan,
as I head down this back stretch.
It is always good to have someone
in my mind who is worse off than I:
or so it seems, although I often wonder.
Is it any use to know that:
Jesus died on the cross for our sins;
they hung one or two of His disciples
upside down at their final life-hour;
9 million blacks from Africa became
slaves in a very miserable existence;
that over a billion(!) died in the last
hundred years from massive trauma,
suffering, disease and starvation?
….that Gone With the Wind was
released in 1939, that my mother
loved Ronald Coleman, and that
my wife gardened yesterday
while I sat in my study and had
a lovely afternoon sleep before
washing up…..my regular job?
I trust you now live in peace,
Jonathan, with your labor put
away, your pain, 260 years ago:
an evanescent grace is yours, I trust,
and June in England forever.
Life is such a little thing to lose
when you pass that door where
all attain all goodness--and this
migration surely it's a friendly
flight—& forgiveness like a flood,
an early peach, all astonishment
and those I loved awaiting, a light
unbearable: does it burn, Jonathan?
Does it burn? What a relief, eh, eh?
24/1/'06 to 8/12/'13.