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AETATIS SUAE fifty-two, A reverend Dean began to woo A handsome, young, imperious girl, Nearly related to an earl. Her parents and her friends consent; The couple to the temple went: They first invite the Cyprian queen; 'Twas answer'd, "She would not be seen;" But Cupid in disdain could scarce Forbear to bid them kiss his ---- The Graces next, and all the Muses, Were bid in form, but sent excuses. Juno attended at the porch, With farthing candle for a torch; While mistress Iris held her train, The faded bow bedropt with rain. Then Hebe came, and took her place, But show'd no more than half her face.
Whate'er these dire forebodings meant, In joy the marriage-day was spent; The marriage-day, you take me right, I promise nothing for the night. The bridegroom, drest to make a figure, Assumes an artificial vigour; A flourish'd nightcap on, to grace His ruddy, wrinkled, smirking face; Like the faint red upon a pippin, Half wither'd by a winter's keeping.
And thus set out this happy pair, The swain is rich, the nymph is fair; But, what I gladly would forget, The swain is old, the nymph coquette. Both from the goal together start; Scarce run a step before they part; No common ligament that binds The various textures of their minds; Their thoughts and actions, hopes and fears, Less corresponding than their years. The Dean desires his coffee soon, She rises to her tea at noon. While the Dean goes out to cheapen books, She at the glass consults her looks; While Betty's buzzing at her ear, Lord, what a dress these parsons wear! So odd a choice how could she make! Wish'd him a colonel for her sake. Then, on her finger ends she counts, Exact, to what his age amounts. The Dean, she heard her uncle say, Is sixty, if he be a day; His ruddy cheeks are no disguise; You see the crow's feet round his eyes.
At one she rambles to the shops, To cheapen tea, and talk with fops; Or calls a council of her maids, And tradesmen, to compare brocades. Her weighty morning business o'er, Sits down to dinner just at four; Minds nothing that is done or said, Her evening work so fills her head. The Dean, who used to dine at one, Is mawkish, and his stomach's gone; In threadbare gown, would scarce a louse hold, Looks like the chaplain of the household; Beholds her, from the chaplain's place, In French brocades, and Flanders lace; He wonders what employs her brain, But never asks, or asks in vain; His mind is full of other cares, And, in the sneaking parson's airs, Computes, that half a parish dues Will hardly find his wife in shoes.
Canst thou imagine, dull divine, 'Twill gain her love, to make her fine? Hath she no other wants beside? You feed her lust as well as pride, Enticing coxcombs to adore, And teach her to despise thee more.
If in her coach she'll condescend To place him at the hinder end, Her hoop is hoist above his nose, His odious gown would soil her clothes. She drops him at the church, to pray, While she drives on to see the play. He like an orderly divine, Comes home a quarter after nine, And meets her hasting to the ball: Her chairmen push him from the wall. The Dean gets in and walks up stairs, And calls the family to prayers; Then goes alone to take his rest In bed, where he can spare her best. At five the footmen make a din, Her ladyship is just come in; The masquerade began at two, She stole away with much ado; And shall be chid this afternoon, For leaving company so soon: She'll say, and she may truly say't, She can't abide to stay out late.
But now, though scarce a twelvemonth married, Poor Lady Jane has thrice miscarried: The cause, alas! is quickly guest; The town has whisper'd round the jest. Think on some remedy in time, The Dean you see, is past his prime, Already dwindled to a lath: No other way but try the Bath.
For Venus, rising from the ocean, Infused a strong prolific potion, That mix'd with Acheloues spring, The horned flood, as poets sing, Who, with an English beauty smitten, Ran under ground from Greece to Britain; The genial virtue with him brought, And gave the nymph a plenteous draught; Then fled, and left his horn behind, For husbands past their youth to find; The nymph, who still with passion burn'd, Was to a boiling fountain turn'd, Where childless wives crowd every morn, To drink in Acheloues horn; Or bathe beneath the Cross their limbs Where fruitful matter chiefly swims. And here the father often gains That title by another's pains. Hither, though much against his grain The Dean has carried Lady Jane. He, for a while, would not consent, But vow'd his money all was spent: Was ever such a clownish reason! And must my lady slip her season? The doctor, with a double fee, Was bribed to make the Dean agree.
Here, all diversions of the place Are proper in my lady's case: With which she patiently complies, Merely because her friends advise; His money and her time employs In music, raffling-rooms, and toys; Or in the Cross-bath seeks an heir, Since others oft have found one there; Where if the Dean by chance appears, It shames his cassock and his years. He keeps his distance in the gallery, Till banish'd by some coxcomb's raillery; For 'twould his character expose, To bathe among the belles and beaux.
So have I seen, within a pen, Young ducklings foster'd by a hen; But, when let out, they run and muddle, As instinct leads them, in a puddle; The sober hen, not born to swim, With mournful note clucks round the brim.
The Dean, with all his best endeavour, Gets not an heir, but gets a fever. A victim to the last essays Of vigour in declining days, He dies, and leaves his mourning mate (What could he less?) his whole estate.
The widow goes through all her forms: New lovers now will come in swarms. O, may I see her soon dispensing Her favours to some broken ensign! Him let her marry for his face, And only coat of tarnish'd lace; To turn her naked out of doors, And spend her jointure on his whores; But, for a parting present, leave her A rooted pox to last for ever!
[Footnote 1: Collated with Swift's original MS. in my possession, dated January, 1721-2.--Forster.]
"A rich divine began to woo,"
"A grave divine resolved to woo,"
are Swift's successive changes of this line.--Forster.]
[Footnote 3: "Philippa, daughter to an Earl," is the original text, but he changed it on changing the lady's name to Jane.--Forster.]
[Footnote 4: Scott prints "her."--Forster.]
[Footnote 5: Swift has writ in the margin:
"If by a more than usual grace She lends him in her chariot place, Her hoop is hoist above his nose For fear his gown should soil her clothes."--Forster.]
[Footnote 6: For this fable, see Ovid, "Metam.," lib. ix.--W. E. B.]
[Footnote 7: So named from a very curious cross or pillar which was erected in it in 1687 by John, Earl of Melfort, Secretary of State to James the Second, in honour of the King's second wife, Mary Beatrice of Modena, having conceived after bathing there.--Collinson's "History of Somersetshire."--W. E. B.]
[Footnote 8: "Meanwhile stands cluckling at the brim," the first draft.--Forster.]
[Footnote 9: "The best of heirs" in first draft.--Forster.]
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