The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 7/Imitation of Horace, Book II. Sat. 6


[1]I'VE often wish'd that I had clear,
For life, six hundred pounds a year,
A handsome house to lodge a friend,
A river at my garden's end,
A terrace walk, and half a rood 5
Of land, set out to plant a wood.
Well, now I have all this and more,
I ask not to increase my store;
["[2] But here a grievance seems to lie,
All this is mine but till I die; 10
I can't but think 'twould sound more clever,
To me and to my heirs for ever.
"If I ne'er got or lost a groat,
By any trick, or any fault;
And if I pray by reason's rules,15
And not like forty other fools:
As thus, 'Vouchsafe, O gracious Maker!
To grant me this and t'other acre:
Or, if it be thy will and pleasure,
Direct my plow to find a treasure!'20
But only what my station fits,
And to be kept in my right wits,
Preserve, Almighty Providence!
Just what you gave me, competence:
And let me in these shades compose25
Something in verse as true as prose;
Remov'd from all th' ambitious scene,
Nor puff'd by pride, nor sunk by spleen."]
In short, I'm perfectly content,
Let me but live on this side Trent[3]; 30
Nor cross the channel twice a year,
To spend six months with statesmen here.
I must by all means come to town,
'Tis for the service of the crown.
"Lewis, the dean will be of use,35
Send for him up, take no excuse."
The toil, the danger of the seas,
Great ministers ne'er think of these;
Or let it cost five hundred pound,
No matter where the money's found,40
It is but so much more in debt,
And that they ne'er consider'd yet.
"Good Mr. dean, go change your gown,
Let my lord know you're come to town."
I hurry me in haste away,45
Not thinking it is levee-day;
And find his honour in a pound,
Hemm'd by a triple circle round,
Chequer'd with ribbons blue and green:
How should I thrust myself between?50
Some wag observes me thus perplex'd,
And, smiling, whispers to the next,
"I thought the dean had been too proud,
To justle here among a crowd!"
Another, in a surly fit,55
Tells me I have more zeal than wit,
"So eager to express your love,
You ne'er consider whom you shove,
But rudely press before a duke."
I own, I'm pleas'd with this rebuke,60
And take it kindly meant, to show
What I desire the world should know.
I get a whisper, and withdraw;
When twenty fools I never saw
Come with petitions fairly penn'd,65
Desiring I would stand their friend.
This humbly offers me his case —
That begs my interest for a place —
A hundred other men's affairs,
Like bees, are humming in my ears.70
"Tomorrow my appeal comes on,
Without your help, the cause is gone —."
The duke expects my lord and you,
About some great affair at two —
"Put my lord Bolingbroke in mind,75
To get my warrant quickly sign'd:
Consider, 'tis my first request." —
Be satisfy'd, I'll do my best:
Then presently he falls to teaze,
"You may for certain, if you please;80
I doubt not, if his lordship knew —
And, Mr. dean, one word from you[4] —"
'Tis (let me see) three years and more,
(October next it will be four)
Since Harley bid me first attend[5],85
And chose me for an humble friend;
Would take me in his coach to chat,
And question me of this and that;
As "What's o'clock?" And, "How's the wind?"
"Whose chariot's that we left behind?"90
Or gravely try to read the lines
Writ underneath the country signs[6];
Or, "Have you nothing new to day
From Pope, from Parnell, or from Gay?"
Such tattle often entertains95
My lord and me as far as Staines,
As once a week we travel down
To Windsor, and again to town,
Where all that passes inter nos
Might be proclaim'd at Charing-cross.100
Yet some I know with envy swell,
Because they see me us'd so well:

How think you of our friend the dean?
I wonder what some people mean!
My lord and he are grown so great,105
Always together, tête à tête;
What! they admire him for his jokes? —
See but the fortune of some folks!"
There flies about a strange report
Of some express arriv'd at court:110
I'm stopp'd by all the fools I meet,
And catechis'd in every street.
"You, Mr. dean, frequent the great:
Inform us, will the emperor treat?
Or do the prints and papers lie?"115
Faith, sir, you know as much as I.
"Ah, doctor, how you love to jest!
'Tis now no secret" — I protest
'Tis one to me — "Then tell us, pray,
When are the troops to have their pay?"120
And, though I solemnly declare
I know no more than my lord mayor,
They stand amaz'd, and think me grown
The closest mortal ever known.

Thus in a sea of folly tost,125
My choicest hours of life are lost;
Yet always wishing to retreat,
O, could I see my country seat!
There leaning near a gentle brook,
Sleep, or peruse some ancient book;130
And there in sweet oblivion drown
Those cares that haunt the court and town[7].

  1. 1. Hoc erat in votis: modus agri non ita magnus,
    Hortus ubi, et tecto vicinus jugis aquæ fons,
    7. Et paulum silvæ super his foret. Auctius atque
    Dii melius fecere.——
    37. Sive Aquilo radit terras, seu bruma nivalem
    Interiore diem gyro trahit, ire necesse est.
    55. Quid vis, insane, et quas res agis? improbus urget,
    Iratis precibas, tu pulses omne quod obstat,
    Ad Mecænatem memori si mente recurras.
    Hoc juvat, et melli est, non mentiar. —
    64. —— Aliena negotia centum
    Per caput, et circa saliant latus.
    80. —— Si vis, potes, addit et instat.
    83. Septimus octavo propior jam fugerit annus,
    Ex quo Mecænas me cœpit habere suorum
    In numero; duntaxat ad hoc, quem tollere rhedâ
    Vellet, iter faciens, et cui concredere nugas.
    101. —— Subjectior in diem et horam
    109. Frigidus à rostris manat per compita rumor;
    Quicunque obvius est, me consulit. —
    121. Jurantem me scire nihil, miratur, ut unum
    Scilicet egregii mortalem altique silenti.
    125. Perditur hæc inter misero lux, non sine votis,
    O rus, quando ego te aspiciam? quandoque licebit
    Nunc veterum libris, nunc somno, et inertibus horis,
    Ducere solicitæ jucunda oblivia vitæ?
    O quando faba Pythagoræ cognata, simulque
    Uncta satis pingui ponentur oluscula lardo?
  2. The twenty lines within hooks were added by Mr. Pope.
  3. He was perpetually expressing his deep discontent at his Irish preferment, and forming schemes for exchanging it for a smaller in England; and courted queen Caroline and sir Robert Walpole to effect such a change. A negotiation had nearly taken place between the dean and a Mr. Talbot for the living of Burfield, in Berkshire. Mr. Talbot himself informed me of this negotiation. Burfield is in the neighbourhood of Bucklebary, lord Bolingbroke's seat. Dr. Warton.
  4. Very happily turned from "Si vis potes —."
  5. The rise and progress of Swift's intimacy with lord Oxford is minutely detailed in his very interesting Journal to Stella. And the reasons why a man, that served a ministry so effectually, was so tardily, and so difficultly, and so poorly rewarded, are well explained in Sheridan's Life of Swift, and arose principally from the insuperable aversion the queen had conceived to the author of a Tale of a Tub as a profane book; which aversion was kept alive, and increased by the duchess of Somerset, against whom Swift had written a severe lampoon. It appears from this life, that lords Oxford and Bolingbroke always kept concealed from Swift their inability to serve him. One of the most common artifices of ministers and great men is to retain in their service those whom they cannot reward, and "Spe pascere inani;" — for year after year. With whatever secrets Swift might have been trusted, it does not appear he knew anything of a design to bring in the pretender. Swift was a true whig. His political principles are amply unfolded in an excellent letter written to Pope, Jan. 20, 1721: and indeed they had been sufficiently displayed, many years before, in The Sentiments of a Church of England Man; a treatise replete with strong sense, sound principles, and clear reasoning. Dr. Warton.
  6. Another of their amusements in these excursions consisted in lord Oxford and Swift's counting the poultry on the road, and which ever reckoned thirty-one first, or saw a cat, or an old woman, won the game. Bolingbroke overtaking them one day in their road to Windsor, got into lord Oxford's coach, and begun some political conversation; lord Oxford said, "Swift, I am up; there is a cat." Bolingbroke was disgusted with this levity, and went again into his own carriage. This was

    —— "Nugari et discincti ludere"

    with a witness. Dr. Warton.

  7. Thus far was translated by Dr. Swift in 1714. The remaining part of the ode was afterward added by Mr. Pope; in whose Works the whole is printed. See Dr. Warton's edition, vol. VI, p. 13.