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-To Lord Harley


OCTOBER 31, 1713

    Among the numbers who employ
Their tongues and pens to give you joy,
Dear Harley! generous youth, admit
What friendship dictates more than wit.
Forgive me, when I fondly thought
(By frequent observations taught)
A spirit so inform'd as yours
Could never prosper in amours.
The God of Wit, and Light, and Arts,
With all acquired and natural parts,
Whose harp could savage beasts enchant,
Was an unfortunate gallant.
Had Bacchus after Daphne reel'd,
The nymph had soon been brought to yield;
Or, had embroider'd Mars pursued,
The nymph would ne'er have been a prude.
Ten thousand footsteps, full in view,
Mark out the way where Daphne[2] flew;
For such is all the sex's flight,
They fly from learning, wit, and light;
They fly, and none can overtake
But some gay coxcomb, or a rake.

How then, dear Harley, could I guess That you should meet, in love, success? For, if those ancient tales be true, Phoebus was beautiful as you; Yet Daphne never slack'd her pace, For wit and learning spoil'd his face. And since the same resemblance held In gifts wherein you both excell'd, I fancied every nymph would run From you, as from Latona's son. Then where, said I, shall Harley find A virgin of superior mind, With wit and virtue to discover, And pay the merit of her lover? This character shall Ca'endish claim, Born to retrieve her sex's fame. The chief among the glittering crowd, Of titles, birth, and fortune proud, (As fools are insolent and vain) Madly aspired to wear her chain; But Pallas, guardian of the maid, Descending to her charge's aid, Held out Medusa's snaky locks, Which stupified them all to stocks. The nymph with indignation view'd The dull, the noisy, and the lewd; For Pallas, with celestial light, Had purified her mortal sight; Show'd her the virtues all combined, Fresh blooming, in young Harley's mind.

Terrestrial nymphs, by formal arts, Display their various nets for hearts: Their looks are all by method set, When to be prude, and when coquette; Yet, wanting skill and power to chuse, Their only pride is to refuse. But, when a goddess would bestow Her love on some bright youth below, Round all the earth she casts her eyes; And then, descending from the skies, Makes choice of him she fancies best, And bids the ravish'd youth be bless'd. Thus the bright empress of the morn[3] Chose for her spouse a mortal born: The goddess made advances first; Else what aspiring hero durst? Though, like a virgin of fifteen, She blushes when by mortals seen; Still blushes, and with speed retires, When Sol pursues her with his fires.

Diana thus, Heaven's chastest queen Struck with Endymion's graceful mien Down from her silver chariot came, And to the shepherd own'd her flame.

Thus Ca'endish, as Aurora bright, And chaster than the Queen of Night Descended from her sphere to find A mortal of superior kind.

[Footnote 1: Lord Harley, only son of the first Earl of Oxford, married Lady Henrietta Cavendish Holles, only daughter of John, Duke of Newcastle. He took no part in public affairs, but delighted in the Society of the poets and men of letters of his day, especially Pope and Swift.--W. E. B.]

[Footnote 2: Pursued in vain by Apollo, and changed by him into a laurel tree. Ovid, "Metam.," i, 452; "Heroides," xv, 25.--W. E. B.]

[Footnote 3: Aurora, who married Tithonus, and took him up to Heaven; hence in Ovid, "Tithonia conjux.," "Fasti," lib. iii, 403.--W. E. B.]

Jonathan Swift

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