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-The History of Vanbrugh's House


    When Mother Cludd[1] had rose from play,
And call'd to take the cards away,
Van saw, but seem'd not to regard,
How Miss pick'd every painted card,
And, busy both with hand and eye,
Soon rear'd a house two stories high.
Van's genius, without thought or lecture
Is hugely turn'd to architecture:
He view'd the edifice, and smiled,
Vow'd it was pretty for a child:
It was so perfect in its kind,
He kept the model in his mind.

But, when he found the boys at play And saw them dabbling in their clay, He stood behind a stall to lurk, And mark the progress of their work; With true delight observed them all Raking up mud to build a wall. The plan he much admired, and took The model in his table-book: Thought himself now exactly skill'd, And so resolved a house to build: A real house, with rooms and stairs, Five times at least as big as theirs; Taller than Miss's by two yards; Not a sham thing of play or cards: And so he did; for, in a while, He built up such a monstrous pile, That no two chairmen could be found Able to lift it from the ground. Still at Whitehall it stands in view, Just in the place where first it grew; There all the little schoolboys run, Envying to see themselves outdone.

From such deep rudiments as these, Van is become, by due degrees, For building famed, and justly reckon'd, At court,[2] Vitruvius the Second:[3] No wonder, since wise authors show, That best foundations must be low: And now the duke has wisely ta'en him To be his architect at Blenheim.

But raillery at once apart, If this rule holds in every art; Or if his grace were no more skill'd in The art of battering walls than building, We might expect to see next year A mouse-trap man chief engineer.

[Footnote 1: See ante, p. 51, "The Reverse."--W, E. B.]

[Footnote 2: Vitruvius Pollio, author of the treatise "De Architectura."--W. E. B.]

[Footnote 3: Sir John Vanbrugh held the office of Comptroller-General of his majesty's works.--Scott.]

Jonathan Swift

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