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-The Progress of Beauty

1719[1]


When first Diana leaves her bed,
  Vapours and steams her looks disgrace,
A frowzy dirty-colour'd red
  Sits on her cloudy wrinkled face:

But by degrees, when mounted high, Her artificial face appears Down from her window in the sky, Her spots are gone, her visage clears.

'Twixt earthly females and the moon, All parallels exactly run; If Celia should appear too soon, Alas, the nymph would be undone!

To see her from her pillow rise, All reeking in a cloudy steam, Crack'd lips, foul teeth, and gummy eyes, Poor Strephon! how would he blaspheme!

The soot or powder which was wont To make her hair look black as jet, Falls from her tresses on her front, A mingled mass of dirt and sweat.

Three colours, black, and red, and white So graceful in their proper place, Remove them to a different light, They form a frightful hideous face:

For instance, when the lily slips Into the precincts of the rose, And takes possession of the lips, Leaving the purple to the nose:

So Celia went entire to bed, All her complexion safe and sound; But, when she rose, the black and red, Though still in sight, had changed their ground.

The black, which would not be confined, A more inferior station seeks, Leaving the fiery red behind, And mingles in her muddy cheeks.

The paint by perspiration cracks, And falls in rivulets of sweat, On either side you see the tracks While at her chin the conflu'nts meet.

A skilful housewife thus her thumb, With spittle while she spins anoints; And thus the brown meanders come In trickling streams betwixt her joints.

But Celia can with ease reduce, By help of pencil, paint, and brush, Each colour to its place and use, And teach her cheeks again to blush.

She knows her early self no more, But fill'd with admiration stands; As other painters oft adore The workmanship of their own hands.

Thus, after four important hours, Celia's the wonder of her sex; Say, which among the heavenly powers Could cause such wonderful effects?

Venus, indulgent to her kind, Gave women all their hearts could wish, When first she taught them where to find White lead, and Lusitanian dish.

Love with white lead cements his wings; White lead was sent us to repair Two brightest, brittlest, earthly things, A lady's face, and China-ware.

She ventures now to lift the sash; The window is her proper sphere; Ah, lovely nymph! be not too rash, Nor let the beaux approach too near.

Take pattern by your sister star; Delude at once and bless our sight; When you are seen, be seen from far, And chiefly choose to shine by night.

In the Pall Mall when passing by, Keep up the glasses of your chair, Then each transported fop will cry, "G----d d----n me, Jack, she's wondrous fair!"

But art no longer can prevail, When the materials all are gone; The best mechanic hand must fail, Where nothing's left to work upon.

Matter, as wise logicians say, Cannot without a form subsist; And form, say I, as well as they, Must fail if matter brings no grist.

And this is fair Diana's case; For, all astrologers maintain, Each night a bit drops off her face, When mortals say she's in her wane:

While Partridge wisely shows the cause Efficient of the moon's decay, That Cancer with his pois'nous claws Attacks her in the milky way:

But Gadbury,[2] in art profound, From her pale cheeks pretends to show That swain Endymion is not sound, Or else that Mercury's her foe.

But let the cause be what it will, In half a month she looks so thin, That Flamsteed[3] can, with all his skill, See but her forehead and her chin.

Yet, as she wastes, she grows discreet, Till midnight never shows her head; So rotting Celia strolls the street, When sober folks are all a-bed:

For sure, if this be Luna's fate, Poor Celia, but of mortal race, In vain expects a longer date To the materials of her face.

When Mercury her tresses mows, To think of oil and soot is vain: No painting can restore a nose, Nor will her teeth return again.

Two balls of glass may serve for eyes, White lead can plaister up a cleft; But these, alas, are poor supplies If neither cheeks nor lips be left.

Ye powers who over love preside! Since mortal beauties drop so soon, If ye would have us well supplied, Send us new nymphs with each new moon!


[Footnote 1: Collated with the copy transcribed by Stella.--Forster.]

[Footnote 2: Gadbury, an astrologer, wrote a series of ephemerides.--W. E. B.]

[Footnote 3: John Flamsteed, the celebrated astronomer-royal, born in August, 1646, died in December, 1719. For a full account of him, see "Dictionary of National Biography."--W. E. B.]


Jonathan Swift

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