Open main menu

The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 7/An Elegy on the Death of Demar the Usurer

AN ELEGY


ON THE DEATH OF DEMAR, THE USURER;


WHO DIED THE SIXTH OF JULY, 1720.


KNOW all men by these presents, Death the tamer,
By mortgage has secur'd the corpse of Demar:
Nor can four hundred thousand sterling pound
Redeem him from his prison under ground.
His heirs might well, of all his wealth possess'd,
Bestow to bury him one iron chest.
Plutus the god of wealth will joy to know
His faithful steward in the shades below.
He walk'd the streets, and wore a threadbare cloak;
He din'd and supp'd at charge of other folk:
And by his looks, had he held out his palms,
He might be thought an object fit for alms.
So, to the poor if he refus'd his pelf,
He us'd them full as kindly as himself.
Where'er he went, he never saw his betters;
Lords, knights, and squires, were all his humble debtors;
And under hand and seal the Irish nation
Were forc'd to own to him their obligation.
He that could once have half a kingdom bought,
In half a minute is not worth a groat.
His coffers from the coffin could not save,
Nor all his interest keep him from the grave.
A golden monument would not be right,
Because we wish the earth upon him light.
Oh London tavern[1]! thou hast lost a friend,
Though in thy walls he ne'er did farthing spend:
He touch'd the pence, when others touch'd the pot;
The hand that sign'd the mortgage paid the shot.
Old as he was, no vulgar known disease
On him could ever boast a power to seize;
"But[2], as he weigh'd his gold, grim Death in spight
Cast in his dart, which made three moidores light;
And, as he saw his darling money fail,
Blew his last breath, to sink the lighter scale."
He who so long was current, 'twould be strange
If he should now be cry'd down since his change.
The sexton shall green sods on thee bestow;
Alas, the sexton is thy banker now!
A dismal banker must that banker be,
Who gives no bills but of mortality!


  1. A tavern in Dublin, where Demar kept his office.
  2. These four lines were written by Stella.