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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 7/Stella's Birthday, 1724-5


AS, when a beauteous nymph decays,
We say, she's past her dancing days;
So poets lose their feet by time,
And can no longer dance in rhyme.
Your annual bard had rather chose
To celebrate your birth in prose:
Yet merry folks, who want by chance
A pair to make a country dance,
Call the old housekeeper, and get her
To till a place, for want of better;
While Sheridan is off the hooks,
And friend Delany at his books,
That Stella may avoid disgrace,
Once more the dean supplies their place.
Beauty and wit, too sad a truth!
Have always been confin'd to youth;
The god of wit and beauty's queen,
He twenty-one, and she fifteen.
No poet ever sweetly sung,
Unless he were, like Phœbus, young;
Nor ever nymph inspir'd to rhyme,
Unless, like Venus, in her prime.
At fifty-six, if this be true,
Am I a poet fit for you?
Or, at the age of forty three,
Are you a subject fit for me?
Adieu! bright wit, and radiant eyes!
You must be grave, and I be wise.
Our fate in vain we would oppose:
But I'll be still your friend in prose:
Esteem and friendship to express,
Will not require poetick dress;
And, if the Muse deny her aid
To have them sung, they may be said.
But, Stella, say, what evil tongue
Reports you are no longer young;
That Time sits, with his sithe to mow
Where erst sat Cupid with his bow;
That half your locks are turn'd to gray?
I'll ne'er believe a word they say.
'Tis true, but let it not be known,
My eyes are somewhat dimmish grown:
For nature, always in the right,
To your decays adapts my sight;
And wrinkles undistinguish'd pass,
For I'm asham'd to use a glass;
And till I see them with these eyes,
Whoever says you have them, lyes.
No length of time can make you quit
Honour and virtue, sense and wit:
Thus you may still be young to me,
While I can better hear than see.
O, ne'er may Fortune show her spight,
To make me deaf, and mend my sight!