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-Cassinus and Peter

A TRAGICAL ELEGY

1731


Two college sophs of Cambridge growth,
Both special wits and lovers both,
Conferring, as they used to meet,
On love, and books, in rapture sweet;
(Muse, find me names to fit my metre,
Cassinus this, and t'other Peter.)
Friend Peter to Cassinus goes,
To chat a while, and warm his nose:
But such a sight was never seen,
The lad lay swallow'd up in spleen.
He seem'd as just crept out of bed;
One greasy stocking round his head,
The other he sat down to darn,
With threads of different colour'd yarn;
His breeches torn, exposing wide
A ragged shirt and tawny hide.
Scorch'd were his shins, his legs were bare,
But well embrown'd with dirt and hair
A rug was o'er his shoulders thrown,
(A rug, for nightgown he had none,)
His jordan stood in manner fitting
Between his legs, to spew or spit in;
His ancient pipe, in sable dyed,
And half unsmoked, lay by his side.

Him thus accoutred Peter found,
With eyes in smoke and weeping drown'd;
The leavings of his last night's pot
On embers placed, to drink it hot.
Why, Cassy, thou wilt dose thy pate:
What makes thee lie a-bed so late?
The finch, the linnet, and the thrush,
Their matins chant in every bush;
And I have heard thee oft salute
Aurora with thy early flute.
Heaven send thou hast not got the hyps!
How! not a word come from thy lips?

Then gave him some familiar thumps,
A college joke to cure the dumps.

The swain at last, with grief opprest,
Cried, Celia! thrice, and sigh'd the rest.

Dear Cassy, though to ask I dread,
Yet ask I must--is Celia dead?

How happy I, were that the worst!
But I was fated to be curst!

Come, tell us, has she play'd the whore?
O Peter, would it were no more!
Why, plague confound her sandy locks!

Say, has the small or greater pox
Sunk down her nose, or seam'd her face?
Be easy, 'tis a common case.

O Peter! beauty's but a varnish,
Which time and accidents will tarnish:
But Celia has contrived to blast
Those beauties that might ever last.
Nor can imagination guess,
Nor eloquence divine express,
How that ungrateful charming maid
My purest passion has betray'd:
Conceive the most envenom'd dart
To pierce an injured lover's heart.

Why, hang her; though she seem'd so coy,
I know she loves the barber's boy.

Friend Peter, this I could excuse,
For every nymph has leave to choose;
Nor have I reason to complain,
She loves a more deserving swain.
But, oh! how ill hast thou divined
A crime, that shocks all human kind;
A deed unknown to female race,
At which the sun should hide his face:
Advice in vain you would apply--
Then leave me to despair and die.
Ye kind Arcadians, on my urn
These elegies and sonnets burn;
And on the marble grave these rhymes,
A monument to after-times--
"Here Cassy lies, by Celia slain,
And dying, never told his pain."

Vain empty world, farewell. But hark,
The loud Cerberian triple bark;
And there--behold Alecto stand,
A whip of scorpions in her hand:
Lo, Charon from his leaky wherry
Beckoning to waft me o'er the ferry:
I come! I come! Medusa see,
Her serpents hiss direct at me.
Begone; unhand me, hellish fry:
"Avaunt--ye cannot say 'twas I."[1]

Dear Cassy, thou must purge and bleed;
I fear thou wilt be mad indeed.
But now, by friendship's sacred laws,
I here conjure thee, tell the cause;
And Celia's horrid fact relate:
Thy friend would gladly share thy fate.

To force it out, my heart must rend;
Yet when conjured by such a friend--
Think, Peter, how my soul is rack'd!
These eyes, these eyes, beheld the fact.
Now bend thine ear, since out it must;
But, when thou seest me laid in dust,
The secret thou shalt ne'er impart,
Not to the nymph that keeps thy heart;

(How would her virgin soul bemoan
A crime to all her sex unknown!)
Nor whisper to the tattling reeds
The blackest of all female deeds;
Nor blab it on the lonely rocks,
Where Echo sits, and listening mocks;
Nor let the Zephyr's treacherous gale
Through Cambridge waft the direful tale;
Nor to the chattering feather'd race
Discover Celia's foul disgrace.
But, if you fail, my spectre dread,
Attending nightly round your bed--
And yet I dare confide in you;
So take my secret, and adieu:
Nor wonder how I lost my wits:
Oh! Celia, Celia, Celia sh--!


[Footnote 1: From "Macbeth," in Act III, Sc. iv:

"Thou canst not say, I did it:" etc.
"Avaunt, and quit my sight."]


Jonathan Swift

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