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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 7/The Country Life

< The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift‎ | Volume 7



THALIA, tell in sober lays,
How George[1], Nim[2], Dan[3], Dean[4], pass their days;
And, should our Gaulstown's art grow fallow,
Yet Neget quis carmina Gallo?
Here (by the way) by Gallus mean I5
Not Sheridan, but friend Delany.
Begin, my Muse. First from our bowers
We sally forth at different hours;
At seven the Dean, in night-gown drest,
Goes round the house to wake the rest;10
At nine, grave Nim and George facetious
Go to the Dean, to read Lucretius;
At ten, my Lady comes and hectors,
And kisses George, and ends our lectures;
And when she has him by the neck fast,15
Hals him, and scolds us down to breakfast.
We squander there an hour or more,
And then all hands, boys, to the oar;
All, heteroclite Dan except,
Who neither time nor order kept,20
But, by peculiar whimsies drawn,
Peeps in the ponds to look for spawn;
O'ersees the work, or Dragon[5] rows,
Or mars a text, or mends his hose;
Or — but proceed we in our journal — 25
At two, or after, we return all:
From the four elements assembling,
Warn'd by the bell, all folks come trembling[6]:
From airy garrets some descend,
Some from the lake's remotest end:30
My lord[7] and dean the fire forsake.
Dan leaves the earthy spade and rake:
The loiterers quake, no corner hides them,
And lady Betty soundly chides them.
Now water's brought, and dinner's done:35
With "Church and King" the ladies gone:
Not reckoning half an hour we pass
In talking o'er a moderate glass.
Dan, growing drowsy, like a thief
Steals off to dose away his beef;40
And this must pass for reading Hamond —
While George and Dean go to backgammon.
George, Nim, and Dean, set out at four,
And then again, boys, to the oar.
But when the sun goes to the deep45
(Not to disturb him in his sleep,
Or make a rumbling o'er his head,
His candle out, and he abed)
We watch his motions to a minute,
And leave the flood when he goes in it.50
Now stinted in the shortening day,
We go to prayers, and then to play,
Till supper comes; and after that
We sit an hour to drink and chat.
'Tis late — the old and younger pairs,55
By Adam[8] lighted, walk up stairs.
The weary Dean goes to his chamber;
And Nim and Dan to garret clamber.
So when the circle we have run,
The curtain falls, and all is done.60
I might have mention’d several facts,
Like episodes between the acts;
And tell who loses and who wins,
Who gets a cold, who breaks his shins;
How Dan caught nothing in his net,65
And how the boat was overset.
For brevity I have retrench'd
How in the lake the dean was drench'd:
It would be an exploit to brag on,
How valiant George rode o'er the Dragon;70
How steady in the storm he sat,
And sav'd his oar, but lost his hat:
How Nim (no hunter e'er could match him)
Still brings us hares, when he can catch 'em:
How skilfully Dan mends his nets;75
How fortune fails him when he sets;
Or how the Dean delights to vex
The ladies, and lampoon their sex:
I might have told how oft dean Percival[9]
Displays his pedantry unmerciful,80
How haughtily he cocks his nose,
To tell what every schoolboy knows:
And with his finger and his thumb,
Explaining, strikes opposers dumb:
But now there needs no more be said on't,85
Nor how his wife, that female pedant,
Shows all her secrets of housekeeping;
For candles how she trucks her dripping;
Was forc'd to send three miles for yeast,
To brew her ale, and raise her paste;90
Tells every thing that you can think of,
How she cur'd Charly of the chin cough;
What gave her brats and pigs the measles,
And how her doves were kill'd by weasles;
How Jowler howl'd, and what a fright95
She had with dreams the other night.
But now, since I have gone so far on,
A word or two of lord chief baron;
And tell how little weight he sets
On all whig papers and gazettes;100
But for the politicks of Pue,
Thinks every syllable is true.
And since he owns the king of Sweden
Is dead at last, without evading,
Now all his hopes are in the czar:105
"Why, Muscovy is not so far:
Down the Black Sea, and up the Straits,
And in a month he's at your gates;
Perhaps, from what the packet brings,
By Christmas we shall see strange things."110
Why should I tell of ponds and drains,
What carps we met with for our pains;
Of sparrows tam'd, and nuts innumerable
To choke the girls, and to consume a rabble?
But you, who are a scholar, know115
How transient all things are below,
How prone to change is human life!
Last night arriv'd Clem[10] and his wife —
This grand event has broke our measures;
Their reign began with cruel seizures:120
The dean must with his quilt supply
The bed in which those tyrants lie:
Nim lost his wig block, Dan his jordan,
(My lady says, she can't afford one)
George is half scar'd out of his wits,125
For Clem gets all the dainty bits.
Henceforth expect a different survey,
This house will soon turn topsyturvy;
They talk of farther alterations,
Which causes many speculations.130

  1. Mr. Rochfort.
  2. His brother, Mr. John Rochfort; who was called Nimrod, from his great attachment to the chace.
  3. Rev. Daniel Jackson.
  4. Dr. Swift.
  5. A small boat so called.
  6. The dean has been censured, on an idle supposition of this passage being an allusion to the day of judgment.
  7. Mr. Rochfort's father was lord chief baron of the exchequer in Ireland.
  8. The butler.
  9. See the dean's letter to Mr. Cope, Oct. 9, 1722.
  10. Mr. Clement Barry.