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-To Dr. Delany

ON THE LIBELS WRITTEN AGAINST HIM.

1729


Tanti tibi non sit opaci
Omnis arena Tagi quodque in mare volvitur aurum.
--Juv. iii, 54.


As some raw youth in country bred,
To arms by thirst of honour led,
When at a skirmish first he hears
The bullets whistling round his ears,
Will duck his head aside, will start,
And feel a trembling at his heart,
Till 'scaping oft without a wound
Lessens the terror of the sound;
Fly bullets now as thick as hops,
He runs into a cannon's chops.
An author thus, who pants for fame,
Begins the world with fear and shame;
When first in print you see him dread
Each pop-gun levell'd at his head:
The lead yon critic's quill contains,
Is destined to beat out his brains:
As if he heard loud thunders roll,
Cries, Lord have mercy on his soul!
Concluding that another shot
Will strike him dead upon the spot.
But, when with squibbing, flashing, popping,
He cannot see one creature dropping;
That, missing fire, or missing aim,
His life is safe, I mean his fame;
The danger past, takes heart of grace,
And looks a critic in the face.

Though splendour gives the fairest mark To poison'd arrows in the dark, Yet, in yourself when smooth and round, They glance aside without a wound.

'Tis said, the gods tried all their art, How pain they might from pleasure part: But little could their strength avail; Both still are fasten'd by the tail; Thus fame and censure with a tether By fate are always link'd together.

Why will you aim to be preferr'd In wit before the common herd; And yet grow mortified and vex'd, To pay the penalty annex'd?

'Tis eminence makes envy rise; As fairest fruits attract the flies. Should stupid libels grieve your mind, You soon a remedy may find; Lie down obscure like other folks Below the lash of snarlers' jokes. Their faction is five hundred odds, For every coxcomb lends them rods, And sneers as learnedly as they, Like females o'er their morning tea.

You say the Muse will not contain And write you must, or break a vein. Then, if you find the terms too hard, No longer my advice regard: But raise your fancy on the wing; The Irish senate's praises sing; How jealous of the nation's freedom, And for corruptions how they weed 'em; How each the public good pursues, How far their hearts from private views; Make all true patriots, up to shoe-boys, Huzza their brethren at the Blue-boys;[1] Thus grown a member of the club, No longer dread the rage of Grub.

How oft am I for rhyme to seek! To dress a thought I toil a week: And then how thankful to the town, If all my pains will earn a crown! While every critic can devour My work and me in half an hour. Would men of genius cease to write, The rogues must die for want and spite; Must die for want of food and raiment, If scandal did not find them payment. How cheerfully the hawkers cry A satire, and the gentry buy! While my hard-labour'd poem pines Unsold upon the printer's lines.

A genius in the reverend gown Must ever keep its owner down; 'Tis an unnatural conjunction, And spoils the credit of the function. Round all your brethren cast your eyes, Point out the surest men to rise; That club of candidates in black, The least deserving of the pack, Aspiring, factious, fierce, and loud, With grace and learning unendow'd, Can turn their hands to every job, The fittest tools to work for Bob;[2] Will sooner coin a thousand lies, Than suffer men of parts to rise; They crowd about preferment's gate, And press you down with all their weight; For as of old mathematicians Were by the vulgar thought magicians; So academic dull ale-drinkers Pronounce all men of wit free-thinkers.

Wit, as the chief of virtue's friends, Disdains to serve ignoble ends. Observe what loads of stupid rhymes Oppress us in corrupted times; What pamphlets in a court's defence Show reason, grammar, truth, or sense? For though the Muse delights in fiction, She ne'er inspires against conviction. Then keep your virtue still unmixt, And let not faction come betwixt: By party-steps no grandeur climb at, Though it would make you England's primate; First learn the science to be dull, You then may soon your conscience lull; If not, however seated high, Your genius in your face will fly.

When Jove was from his teeming head Of Wit's fair goddess[3] brought to bed, There follow'd at his lying-in For after-birth a sooterkin; Which, as the nurse pursued to kill, Attain'd by flight the Muses' hill, There in the soil began to root, And litter'd at Parnassus' foot. From hence the critic vermin sprung, With harpy claws and poisonous tongue: Who fatten on poetic scraps, Too cunning to be caught in traps. Dame Nature, as the learned show, Provides each animal its foe: Hounds hunt the hare, the wily fox Devours your geese, the wolf your flocks Thus Envy pleads a natural claim To persecute the Muse's fame; On poets in all times abusive, From Homer down to Pope inclusive.

Yet what avails it to complain? You try to take revenge in vain. A rat your utmost rage defies, That safe behind the wainscot lies. Say, did you ever know by sight In cheese an individual mite! Show me the same numeric flea, That bit your neck but yesterday: You then may boldly go in quest To find the Grub Street poet's nest; What spunging-house, in dread of jail, Receives them, while they wait for bail; What alley are they nestled in, To flourish o'er a cup of gin; Find the last garret where they lay, Or cellar where they starve to-day. Suppose you have them all trepann'd, With each a libel in his hand, What punishment would you inflict? Or call them rogues, or get them kickt? These they have often tried before; You but oblige them so much more: Themselves would be the first to tell, To make their trash the better sell.

You have been libell'd--Let us know, What fool officious told you so? Will you regard the hawker's cries, Who in his titles always lies? Whate'er the noisy scoundrel says, It might be something in your praise; And praise bestow'd in Grub Street rhymes, Would vex one more a thousand times. Till critics blame, and judges praise, The poet cannot claim his bays. On me when dunces are satiric, I take it for a panegyric. Hated by fools, and fools to hate, Be that my motto, and my fate.


[Footnote 1: The Irish Parliament met at the Blue-Boys Hospital, while the new Parliament-house was building.--Swift.]

[Footnote 2: Sir Robert Walpole.]

[Footnote 3: Pallas.]


Jonathan Swift

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