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-Apollo to the Dean

[1] 1720


Right Trusty, and so forth--we let you know
We are very ill used by you mortals below.
For, first, I have often by chemists been told,
(Though I know nothing on't,) it is I that make gold;
Which when you have got, you so carefully hide it,
That, since I was born, I hardly have spied it.
Then it must be allow'd, that, whenever I shine,
I forward the grass, and I ripen the vine;
To me the good fellows apply for relief,
Without whom they could get neither claret nor beef:
Yet their wine and their victuals, those curmudgeon lubbards
Lock up from my sight in cellars and cupboards.

That I have an ill eye, they wickedly think, And taint all their meat, and sour all their drink. But, thirdly and lastly, it must be allow'd, I alone can inspire the poetical crowd: This is gratefully own'd by each boy in the College, Whom, if I inspire, it is not to my knowledge. This every pretender in rhyme will admit, Without troubling his head about judgment or wit. These gentlemen use me with kindness and freedom, And as for their works, when I please I may read 'em. They lie open on purpose on counters and stalls, And the titles I view, when I shine on the walls.

But a comrade of yours, that traitor Delany, Whom I for your sake have used better than any, And, of my mere motion, and special good grace, Intended in time to succeed in your place, On Tuesday the tenth, seditiously came, With a certain false trait'ress, one Stella by name, To the Deanery-house, and on the North glass, Where for fear of the cold I never can pass, Then and there, vi et armis, with a certain utensil, Of value five shillings, in English a pencil, Did maliciously, falsely, and trait'rously write, While Stella, aforesaid, stood by with a[3] light. My sister[2] hath lately deposed upon oath, That she stopt in her course to look at them both; That Stella was helping, abetting, and aiding; And still as he writ, stood smiling and reading: That her eyes were as bright as myself at noon-day, But her graceful black locks were all mingled with grey:

And by the description, I certainly know, 'Tis the nymph that I courted some ten years ago; Whom when I with the best of my talents endued, On her promise of yielding, she acted the prude: That some verses were writ with felonious intent, Direct to the North, where I never once went: That the letters appear'd reversed through the pane, But in Stella's bright eyes were placed right again; Wherein she distinctly could read ev'ry line,[4] And presently guessed the fancy was mine. She can swear to the Parson whom oft she has seen At night between Cavan Street and College Green.

Now you see why his verses so seldom are shown, The reason is plain, they are none of his own; And observe while you live that no man is shy To discover the goods he came honestly by. If I light on a thought, he will certainly steal it, And when he has got it, find ways to conceal it. Of all the fine things he keeps in the dark, There's scarce one in ten but what has my mark; And let them be seen by the world if he dare, I'll make it appear they are all stolen ware. But as for the poem he writ on your sash, I think I have now got him under my lash; My sister transcribed it last night to his sorrow, And the public shall see't, if I live till to-morrow. Thro' the zodiac around, it shall quickly be spread In all parts of the globe where your language is read.

He knows very well, I ne'er gave a refusal, When he ask'd for my aid in the forms that are usual: But the secret is this; I did lately intend To write a few verses on you as my friend: I studied a fortnight, before I could find, As I rode in my chariot, a thought to my mind, And resolved the next winter (for that is my time, When the days are at shortest) to get it in rhyme; Till then it was lock'd in my box at Parnassus; When that subtle companion, in hopes to surpass us, Conveys out my paper of hints by a trick (For I think in my conscience he deals with old Nick,) And from my own stock provided with topics, He gets to a window beyond both the tropics, There out of my sight, just against the north zone, Writes down my conceits, and then calls them his own; And you, like a cully, the bubble can swallow: Now who but Delany that writes like Apollo? High treason by statute! yet here you object, He only stole hints, but the verse is correct; Though the thought be Apollo's, 'tis finely express'd; So a thief steals my horse, and has him well dress'd. Now whereas the said criminal seems past repentance, We Phoebus think fit to proceed to his sentence.

Since Delany hath dared, like Prometheus his sire, To climb to our region, and thence to steal fire; We order a vulture in shape of the Spleen, To prey on his liver, but not to be seen. And we order our subjects of every degree To believe all his verses were written by me: And under the pain of our highest displeasure, To call nothing his but the rhyme and the measure. And, lastly, for Stella, just out of her prime, I'm too much revenged already by Time, In return of her scorn, I sent her diseases, But will now be her friend whenever she pleases. And the gifts I bestow'd her will find her a lover Though she lives till she's grey as a badger all over.


[Footnote 1: Collated with the original MS. in Swift's writing, and also with the copy transcribed by Stella.--Forster.]

[Footnote 2: Stella's copy has "the."--Forster.]

[Footnote 3: Diana.]

[Footnote 4: As originally written, this passage ran:

"Wherein she distinctly could read ev'ry line And found by the wit the Fancy was mine For none of his poems were ever yet shown Which he in his conscience could claim for his own."--Forster.]


Jonathan Swift

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