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-Dr. Delany to Dr. Swift



Dear Sir, I think, 'tis doubly hard,
Your ears and doors should both be barr'd.
Can anything be more unkind?
Must I not see, 'cause you are blind?
Methinks a friend at night should cheer you,--
A friend that loves to see and hear you.
Why am I robb'd of that delight,
When you can be no loser by't
Nay, when 'tis plain (for what is plainer?)
That if you heard you'd be no gainer?
For sure you are not yet to learn,
That hearing is not your concern.
Then be your doors no longer barr'd:
Your business, sir, is to be heard.


   The wise pretend to make it clear,
'Tis no great loss to lose an ear.
Why are we then so fond of two,
When by experience one would do?

'Tis true, say they, cut off the head, And there's an end; the man is dead; Because, among all human race, None e'er was known to have a brace: But confidently they maintain, That where we find the members twain, The loss of one is no such trouble, Since t'other will in strength be double. The limb surviving, you may swear, Becomes his brother's lawful heir: Thus, for a trial, let me beg of Your reverence but to cut one leg off, And you shall find, by this device, The other will be stronger twice; For every day you shall be gaining New vigour to the leg remaining. So, when an eye has lost its brother, You see the better with the other, Cut off your hand, and you may do With t'other hand the work of two: Because the soul her power contracts, And on the brother limb reacts.

But yet the point is not so clear in Another case, the sense of hearing: For, though the place of either ear Be distant, as one head can bear, Yet Galen most acutely shows you, (Consult his book de partium usu) That from each ear, as he observes, There creep two auditory nerves, Not to be seen without a glass, Which near the os petrosum pass; Thence to the neck; and moving thorough there, One goes to this, and one to t'other ear; Which made my grandam always stuff her ears Both right and left, as fellow-sufferers. You see my learning; but, to shorten it, When my left ear was deaf a fortnight, To t'other ear I felt it coming on: And thus I solve this hard phenomenon.

'Tis true, a glass will bring supplies To weak, or old, or clouded eyes: Your arms, though both your eyes were lost, Would guard your nose against a post: Without your legs, two legs of wood Are stronger, and almost as good: And as for hands, there have been those Who, wanting both, have used their toes.[1] But no contrivance yet appears To furnish artificial ears.

[Footnote 1: There have been instances of a man's writing with his foot. And I have seen a man, in India, who painted pictures, holding the brush betwixt his toes. The work was not well done: the wonder was to see it done at all.--W. E. B.]

Jonathan Swift

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