The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 17/The Quidnunckis

While this work is included within The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift and is not attributed to anyone other than Jonathan Swift, it may have been written by another member of the Scriblerus Club. The club, which was founded in 1714, included Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, John Gay, John Arbuthnot, Henry St John, and Thomas Parnell.

THE QUIDNUNCKIS:

A TALE OCCASIONED BY THE DEATH OF THE DUKE REGENT OF FRANCE.

HOW vain are mortal man's endeavours!
(Said, at dame Elleot's[1], master Travers)
Good Orleans dead! in truth 'tis hard:
O! may all statesmen die prepar'd!
I do foresee (and for foreseeing
He equals any man in being)
The army ne'er can be disbanded.
— I wish the king were safely landed.
Ah friends! great changes threat the land!
All France and England at a stand!
There's Meroweis — mark! strange work!
And there's the czar, and there's the Turk —
The pope —— an India merchant by
Cut short the speech with this reply:
All at a stand? you see great changes?
Ah, sir! you never saw the Ganges:
There dwells the nation of Quidnunckis
(So Monomotapa calls monkeys:)
On either bank, from bough to bough,
They meet and chat (as we may now:)
Whispers go round, they grin, they shrug:
They bow, they snarl, they scratch, they hug;
And, just as chance or whim provoke them,
They either bite their friends, or stroke them.
There have I seen some active prig,
To show his parts, bestride a twig:
Lord! how the chatt'ring tribe admire!
Not that he's wiser, but he's higher:
All long to try the vent'rous thing
(For pow'r is but to have one's swing.)
From side to side he springs, he spurns,
And bangs his foes and friends by turns.
Thus, as in giddy freaks he bounces,
Crack goes the twig, and in he flounces!
Down the swift stream the wretch is born;
Never, ah never, to return!
Z——ds! what a fall had our dear brother!
"Morbleu!" cries one and "damme," t'other.
The nation gives a gen'ral screech;
None cocks his tail, none claws his breech;
Each trembles for the publick weal,
And for a while forgets to steal.
A while all eyes, intent and steady,
Pursue him whirling down the eddy:
But, out of mind when out of view,
Some other mounts the twig anew;
And bus'ness, on each monkey shore,
Runs the same track it ran before.


  1. Coffeehouse, near St. James's.