The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 19/From John Browne to George Faulkner - 1
NEALE, FEB. 14, 1750.
I HAVE at last finished, what you have often heard me wish I might be able to do, a monument for the greatest genius of our age, the late dean of St. Patrick's. The thing in itself is but a trifle; but it is more than I should ever have attempted, had I not with indignation seen a country (so honoured by the birth of so great a man, and so faithfully served by him all his life) so long and so shamefully negligent in erecting some monument of gratitude to his memory. Countries are not wise in such neglect: for they hurt themselves. Men of genius are encouraged to apply their talents to the service of their country, when they see in it gratitude to the memory of those who have deserved well of them. The ingenious pere Castle told me at Paris, that he reckoned it the greatest misfortune to him that he was not born an Englishman; and, when he explained himself, it was only for this, that, after two hundred years, they had erected a monument to Shakspeare; and another to a modern, but to the greatest of them, sir Isaac Newton. Great souls are very disinterested in the affairs of life: they look for fame and immortality, scorning the mean paths of interest and lucre: and, surely, in an age so mercenary as ours, men should not be so sparing to give publick marks of their gratitude to men of such virtue, dead, however they may treat them living; since in so doing, they bespeak, and almost insure to themselves, a succession of such useful persons in society. It was with this view that I have determined to throw in my mite.
In a fine lawn below my house, I have planted a hippodrome. It is a circular plantation, consisting of five walks; the central of which is a horsecourse, and three rounds make exactly a mile. All the lines are so laid out, that, from the centre, the six rows of trees appear but one, and form 100 arches round the field; in the centre of which I have erected a mount, and placed a marble column on its proper pedestal, with all the decorations of the order; on the summit of which I have placed a Pegasus, just seeming to take flight to the Heavens; and, on the die of the pedestal I have engraved the following inscription, written by an ingenious friend:
IN MEMORIAM IONATHAN SWIFT, S. T. P., VIRI SINE PARI.
AONIDVM FONTES APERIS, DIVINE POETA, ARTE NOVA: ÆTHEREAS PROPRIIS, VT PEGASVS, ALIS SCANDE DOMOS: ÆTERNVM ADDET TVA FAMA COLVMNÆ HVIC MEMORI DECVS. HIC, TANTI QVAM POSSVMVS VMBRAM NOMINIS IN MENTEM, SACRO REVOCARE QVOTANNIS LVDORVM RITV IVVAT; HIC TIBI PARVVS HONORVM OFFERTVR CVMVLVS: LAVDVM QVO FINE TVARVM COPIA CLAVDATVR QVI QVÆRIT, GENTIS IERNÆ PECTORA SCRVTETVR, LATVMQVE INTERROGET ORBEM.
I have also appointed a small fund for annual premiums to be distributed in the celebration of games at the monument yearly. The ceremony is to last three days, beginning the first of May, yearly. On this day, young maids and men in the neighbourhood are to assemble in the hippodrome, with their garlands and chaplets of flowers, and to dance round the monument, singing the praises of this ingenious patriot, and strewing with flowers all the place: after which, they are to dance for a prize; the best dancer among the maids is to be presented with a cap and ribbands; and, after the dance, the young men are to run for a hat and gloves.
The second day, there is to be a large market upon the ground: and the most regular reel and count is to have a guinea premium; and the person who buys the greatest quantity of yarn is to have a premium of two guineas.
The third day, the farmer who produces the best yearling calf of his own breed is to have two guineas premium; and he that produces the fairest colt or filly, of his own breed likewise, not over two years old, shall receive a premium of two guineas also. — Thus the whole will not exceed ten pounds; and all these useful branches of our growth and manufacture will be encouraged, in remembering the patron who with so much care and tenderness recommended them to others, and cherished them himself.
I am, dear sir,
Your humble servant,