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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 7/A Left-Handed Letter to Dr. Sheridan

A LEFT-HANDED LETTER


TO DR. SHERIDAN[1]. 1718.


DELANY reports it, and he has a shrewd tongue,
That we both act the part of the clown and the cow-dung;
We lye cramming ourselves, and are ready to burst,
Yet still are no wiser than we were at first.
Pudet hæc opprobria, I freely must tell ye,
Et dici potuisse, et non potuisse refelli.
Though Delany advis'd you to plague me no longer,
You reply and rejoin like Hoadly of Bangor;
I must now, at one sitting, pay off my old score;
How many to answer? One, two, three, or four.
But, because the three former are long ago past,
I shall, for method sake, begin with the last.
You treat me like a boy that knocks down his foe,
Who, ere t'other gets up, demands the rising blow.
Yet I know a young rogue, that, thrown flat on the field,
Would, as he lay under, cry out, sirrah! yield.
So the French, when our generals soundly did pay them,
Went triumphant to church, and sang stoutly Te Deum.
So the famous Tom Leigh, when quite run aground,
Comes off by outlaughing the company round.
In every vile pamphlet you'll read the same fancies,
Having thus overthrown all our farther advances.
My offers of peace you ill understood:
Friend Sheridan, when will you know your own good?
'Twas to teach you in moderate language your duty;
For, were you a dog, I could not be rude t' ye:
As a good quiet soul, who no mischief intends
To a quarrelsome fellow, cries, Let us be friends.
But we like Antæus and Hercules fight,
The oftener you fall, the oftener you write;
And I'll use you as he did that overgrown clown,
I'll first take you up, and then take you down:
And, 'tis your own case, for you never can wound
The worst dunce in your school, till he's heav'd from the ground.


I beg your pardon for using my left hand, but I was in great haste, and the other hand was employ'd at the same time in writing some letters of business. — I will send you the rest when I have leisure: but pray come to dinner with the company you met here last.


  1. The humour of this poem is partly lost, by the impossibility of printing it left-handed as it was written.