An Epistle To A Lady
From Some Verse Pieces (1709-1733) by Dr Swift

Who desired the AUTHOR to make VERSES on Her, in the Heroic Style.

AFTER venting all my Spight,
Tell me, what have I to write?
Ev'ry Error I could find
Thro' the Mazes of your Mind,
Have my busy Muse employ'd,
Till the Company was cloy'd.
Are you positive and fretful?
Heedless, ignorant, forgetful?
Those, and twenty Follies more,
I have often told before.10
HEARKEN, what my Lady says—:
Have I nothing then to praise?
Ill it fits you to be witty,
Where a Fault shou'd move your Pity.
If you think me too conceited,
Or, to Passion quickly heated:
If my wand'ring Head be less
Set on Reading, than on Dress:
If I always seem too dull t'ye;
I can solve the Diffi---culty.20
YOU wou'd teach me to be wise;
Truth and Honour how to prize;
How to shine in Conversation,
And, with Credit fill my Station;
How to relish Notions high;
How to live, and how to die.
BUT it was decreed by Fate---;
Mr. DEAN, You come too late:
Well I know, you can discern,
I am now too old to learn:30
Follies, from my Youth instill'd,
Have my Soul entirely fill'd:
In my Head and Heart they center;
Nor will let your Lessons enter.
BRED a Fondling, and an Heiress;
Drest like any Lady May'ress;
Cocker'd by the Servants round,
Was too good to touch the Ground:
Thought the Life of ev'ry Lady
Shou'd be one continu'd Play-Day:40
Balls, and Masquerades, and Shows,
Visits, Plays, and Powder'd Beaux.
THUS you have my Case at large,
And may now perform your Charge.
Those Materials I have furnish'd,
When, by you refin'd and burnish'd,
Must, that all the World may know 'em,
Be reduc'd into a Poem.
But, I beg, suspend a While,
That same paultry Burlesque Stile: 50
Drop, for once, your constant Rule,
Turning all to Ridicule:
Teaching others how to ape ye;
Court, nor Parli'ment, can 'scape ye;
Treat the Publick, and your Friends,
Both alike; while neither mends.
SING my Praise in Strain sublime:
Treat me not with Doggrel Rhime.
'Tis but just, you shou'd produce,
With each Fault, each Fault's Excuse: 60
Not to publish ev'ry Trifle,
And my few Perfections stifle.
With some Gifts, at least endow me,
Which my very Foes allow me.
Am I spightful, proud, unjust?
Did I ever break my Trust?
Which, of all our modern Dames
Censures less, or less defames?
In Good Manners, am I faulty?
Can you call me rude, or haughty? 70
Did I e'er my Mite withold
From the Impotent and Old?
When did ever I omit
Due Regard for Men of Wit?
When have I Esteem express'd
For a Coxcomb gaily dress'd?
Do I, like the Female Tribe,
Think it Wit to fleer, and gibe?
Who, with less designing Ends,
Kindlier entertains her Friends? 80
THINK not Cards my chief Diversion,
'Tis a wrong, unjust Aspersion:
Never know I any Good in 'um,
But, to doze my Head, like Lodanum.
We, by Play, as Men by Drinking,
Pass our Nights, to drive out thinking.
From my Ailments give me Leisure,
I shall read and think with Pleasure:
Conversation learn to relish,
And with Books my Mind embellish. 90
NOW, methinks, I hear you cry;
Mr. DEAN, you must reply.
MADAM, I allow 'tis true;
All these Praises are your Due.
You, like some acute Philosopher,
Ev'ry Fault have drawn a Gloss over:
Placing in the strongest Light,
All your Virtues to my Sight.
THO' you lead a blameless Life,
Are an humble, prudent Wife; 100
Answer all domestick Ends,
What is this to us your Friends?
Tho' your Children by a Nod
Stand in Awe without a Rod:
Tho' by your obliging Sway
Servants love you, and obey:
Tho' you treat us with a Smile,
Clear your Looks, and smooth your Stile:
Load our Plates from ev'ry Dish;
This is not the Thing we wish. 110
Col'nel — may be your Debtor;
We expect Employment better.
You must learn, if you would gain us,
With good sense to entertain us.
SCHOLARS, when good Sense describing,
Call it Tasting, and lmbibing:
Metaphorick Meat and Drink,
Is to understand, and think:
We may carve for others thus;
And let others carve for us. 120
To discourse, and to attend,
Is to help yourself, and Friend.
Conversation is but carving,
Carve for all, yourself is starving.
Give no more to ev'ry Guest,
Than he's able to digest:
Give him always of the Prime,
And, but little at a Time
Carve to all but just enuff,
Let them neither starve, nor stuff: 130
And, that you may have your Due,
Let your Neighbours carve for you.
TO conclude this long Essay;
Pardon, if I disobey:
Nor, against my nat'ral Vein,
Treat you in Heroick Strain.
I, as all the Parish knows,
Hardly can be grave in Prose:
Still to lash, and lashing Smile,
Ill befits a lofty Stile. 140
From the Planet of my Birth,
r encounter Vice with Mirth.
Wicked Ministers of State
I can easier scorn than hate:
And I find it answers right:
Scorn torments them more than Spight.
All the Vices of a Court,
Do but serve to make me Sport.
Shou'd a Monkey wear a Crown,
Must I tremble at his Frown? 150
Could I not, thro' all his Ermine,
Spy the strutting chatt'ring Vermin?
Safely write a smart Lampoon,
To expose the brisk Baboon?
WHEN my Muse officious ventures
On the Nation's Representers;
Teaching by what Golden Rules
Into Knaves they turn their Fools:
How the Helm is rul'd by —
At whose Oars, like Slaves, they all pull: 160
Let the Vessel split on Shelves,
With the Freight enrich themselves:
Safe within my little Wherry,
All their Madness makes me merry:
Like the Watermen of Thames,
I row by, and call them Names.
Like the ever-laughing Sage,
In a Jest I spend my Rage:
(Tho' it must be understood,
I would hang them if I cou'd:) 170
If I can but fill my Nitch,
I attempt no higher Pitch.
Leave to D'ANVERS and his Mate,
Maxims wise, to rule the State.
POULTNEY deep, accomplish'd ST. JOHNS,
Scourge the Villains with a Vengeance.
Let me, tho' the Smell be Noisom,
Strip their Bums; let CALEB hoyse 'em;
Then, apply ALECTO'S Whip,
'Till they wriggle, howl, and skip. 180
DEUCE is in you, Mr. DEAN;
What can all this Passion mean?
Mention Courts, you'll ne'er be quiet;
On Corruptions running Riot.
End, as it befits your Station;
Come to use, and Application:
Nor with Senates keep a Fuss,
I submit; and answer thus.
IF the Machinations brewing,
To compleat the Publick Ruin, 190
Never once cou'd have the Pow'r
To affect me half an Hour;
If I laugh at Whig and Tory;
I conclude a Fortiori,
All your Eloquence will scarce
Drive me from my fav'rite Farce.
This I must insist on. For, as
It is well observ'd by HORACE
Ridicule has greater Pow'r
To reform the World, than Sour. 200
Horses thus, let Jockeys judge else,
Switches better guide than Cudgels.
Bastings heavy, dry, obtuse,
Only Dulness can produce,
While a little gentle Jerking
Sets the Spirits all a working.
THUS, I find it by Experiment,
Scolding moves you less than Merriment.
I may storm and rage in vain;
It but stupifies your Brain. 210
But, with Raillery to nettle,
Set your Thoughts upon their Mettle:
Gives Imagination Scope,
Never lets your Mind elope:
Drives out Brangling and Contention,
Brings in Reason and Invention.
For your Sake, as well as mine,
I the lofty Stile decline.
I Shou'd make a Figure scurvy,
And your Head turn Topsy-turvy. 220
I, WHO love to have a Fling,
Both at Senate-House, and —
That they might some better Way tread,
To avoid the publick Hatred;
Thought no Method more commodious,
Than to shew their Vices odious:
Which I chose to make appear,
Not by Anger, but a Sneer:
As my Method of Reforming,
Is by Laughing, not by Storming. 230
(For my Friends have always thought
Tenderness my greatest Fault.)
Wou'd you have me change my Stile,
On your Faults no longer smile?
But, to patch up all our Quarrels,
Quote you Texts from Plutarch's Morals;
Or from Solomon produce
Maxims teaching Wisdom's Use.
IF I treat you like —
You have cheap enough compounded. 240
Can you put in higher Claims,
Than the Owners of St. J—s.
You are not so great a Grievance
As the Hirelings of St. St—s.
You are of a lower Class
Than my Friend Sir R— Br—s.
None of these have Mercy found:
I have laugh'd, and lash'd them round.
HAVE you seen a Rocket fly?
You would swear it pierc'd the Sky; 250
It but reach'd the middle Air,
Bursting into Pieces there:
Thousand Sparkles falling down
Light on many a Coxcomb's Crown.
See, what Mirth the Sport creates;
Sindges Hair, but breaks no Pates.
THUS, Shou'd I attempt to climb,
Treat you in a Stile sublime,
Such a Rocket is my Muse,
Shou'd I lofty Numbers chuse, 260
E'er I reach'd Parnassus Top
I shou'd burst, and bursting drop.
All my Fire would fall in Scraps,
Give your Head some gentle Raps;
Only make it smart a while:
Then cou'd I forbear to smile,
When I found the tingling Pain,
Entring warm your frigid Brain
Make you able upon Sight,
To decide of Wrong and Right? 270
Talk with Sense, whate'er you please on,
Learn to relish Truth and Reason.
THUS we both should gain our Prize:
I to laugh, and you grow wise.
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