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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 7/A Ballad to the Tune of the Cut-purse



Written in 1699.


ONCE on a time, as old stories rehearse,
A friar would need show his talent in Latin;
But was sorely put to 't in the midst of a verse,
Because he could find no word to come pat in:
Then all in the place
He left a void space,
And so went to bed in a desperate case:
When behold the next morning a wonderful riddle!
He found it was strangely filled up in the middle.

Cho. Let censuring criticks then think what they list on 't;
Who would not write verses with such an assistant?


This put me the friar into an amazement:
For he wisely consider'd it must be a sprite;
That he came through the keyhole, or in at the casement;
And it needs must be one that could both read and write:
Yet he did not know
If it were friend or foe,
Or whether it came from above or below:
However, 'twas civil, in angel or elf,
For he ne er could have fill'd it so well of himself.

Chor. Let censuring, &c.


Even so master doctor had puzzled his brains
In making a ballad, but was at a stand:
He had mixt little wit with a great deal of pains,
When he found a new help from invisible hand.
Then, good doctor Swift,
Pay thanks for the gift,
For you freely must own, you were at a dead lift:
And, though some malicious young spirit did do 't,
You may know by the hand it had no cloven foot.

Cho. Let censuring, &c.

  1. Lady Betty Berkeley, finding the preceding verses in the author's room unfinished, wrote under them the concluding stanza; which gave occasion to this ballad, written by the author in a counterfeit hand, as if a third person had done it.