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-An Elegy


    Know all men by these presents, Death, the tamer,
By mortgage has secured the corpse of Demar;
Nor can four hundred thousand sterling pound
Redeem him from his prison underground.
His heirs might well, of all his wealth possesst
Bestow, to bury him, one iron chest.
Plutus, the god of wealth, will joy to know
His faithful steward in the shades below.
He walk'd the streets, and wore a threadbare cloak;
He din'd and supp'd at charge of other folk:
And by his looks, had he held out his palms,
He might be thought an object fit for alms.
So, to the poor if he refus'd his pelf,
He us'd 'em full as kindly as himself.

Where'er he went, he never saw his betters; Lords, knights, and squires, were all his humble debtors; And under hand and seal, the Irish nation Were forc'd to own to him their obligation.

He that cou'd once have half a kingdom bought, In half a minute is not worth a groat. His coffers from the coffin could not save, Nor all his int'rest keep him from the grave. A golden monument would not be right, Because we wish the earth upon him light.

Oh London Tavern![2] thou hast lost a friend, Tho' in thy walls he ne'er did farthing spend; He touch'd the pence when others touch'd the pot; The hand that sign'd the mortgage paid the shot.

Old as he was, no vulgar known disease On him could ever boast a pow'r to seize; "[3]But as the gold he weigh'd, grim death in spight Cast in his dart, which made three moidores light; And, as he saw his darling money fail, Blew his last breath to sink the lighter scale." He who so long was current, 'twould be strange If he should now be cry'd down since his change.

The sexton shall green sods on thee bestow; Alas, the sexton is thy banker now! A dismal banker must that banker be, Who gives no bills but of mortality!

[Footnote 1: The subject was John Demar, a great merchant in Dublin who died 6th July, 1720. Swift, with some of his usual party, happened to be in Mr. Sheridan's, in Capel Street, when the news of Demar's death was brought to them; and the elegy was the joint composition of the company.--C. Walker.]

[Footnote 2: A tavern in Dublin, where Demar kept his office.--F.]

[Footnote 3: These four lines were written by Stella.--F.]


Beneath this verdant hillock lies
Demar, the wealthy and the wise,
His heirs,[1] that he might safely rest,
Have put his carcass in a chest;
The very chest in which, they say,
His other self, his money, lay.
And, if his heirs continue kind
To that dear self he left behind,
I dare believe, that four in five
Will think his better self alive.

[Footnote 1:

"His heirs for winding sheet bestow'd His money bags together sew'd And that he might securely rest," Variation--From the Chetwode MS.--W. E. B.]

Jonathan Swift

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