Open main menu

The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 8/To the Memory of Dr. Swift

< The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift‎ | Volume 8


WHEN wasteful death has clos'd the poet's eyes,
And low in earth his mortal essence lies;
When the bright flame, that once his breast inspir'd,
Has to its first, its noblest seat retir'd;
All worthy minds, whom love of merit sways,
Should shade from slander his respected bays;
And bid that fame, his useful labours won,
Pure and untainted through all ages run.
Envy's a fiend all excellence pursues,
But mostly poets favour'd by the Muse:
Who wins the laurel, sacred verse bestows,
Makes all, who fail in like attempts, his foes:
No puny wit of malice can complain,
The thorn is theirs, who most applauses gain.
Whatever gifts or graces Heaven design'd
To raise man's genius, or enrich his mind,
Were Swift's to boast — alike his merits claim,
The statesman's knowledge, and the poet's flame;
The patriot's honour, zealous to defend
His country's rights — and faithful to the end;
The sound divine, whose charities display'd
He more by virtue than by forms was sway'd;
Temperate at board, and frugal of his store,
Which he but spar'd, to make his bounties more;
The generous friend, whose heart alike caress'd,
The friend triumphant, or the friend distress'd;
Who could unpain'd another's merit spy,
Nor view a rival's fame with jaundic'd eye;
Humane to all, his love was unconfin'd,
And in its scope embrac'd all humankind;
Sharp, not malicious, was his charming wit,
And less to anger than reform he writ;
Whatever rancour his productions show'd,
From scorn of vice and folly only flow'd;
He thought that fools were an invidious race,
And held no measures with the vain or base.
Virtue so clear! who labours to destroy,
Shall find the charge can but himself annoy:
The slanderous theft to his own breast recoils,
Who seeks renown from injur'd merit's spoils;
All hearts unite, and Heaven with man conspires
To guard those virtues, she herself admires.
O sacred bard! — once ours! — but now no more,
Whose loss; for ever, Ireland must deplore.
No earthly laurels needs thy happy brow,
Above the poet's are thy honours now:
Above the patriot's (though a greater name
No temporal monarch for his crown can claim).
From noble breasts if envy might ensue,
Thy death is all the brave can envy you.
You died, when merit (to its fate resigned)
Saw scarce one friend to genius left behind.
When shining parts did jealous hatred breed,
And 'twas a crime in science to succeed,
When ignorance spread her hateful mist around,
And dunces only an acceptance found,
What could such scenes in noble minds beget,
But life with pain and talents with regret?
Add, that thy spirit from the world retir'd,
Ere hidden foes its farther grief conspir'd;
No treacherous friend did stories yet contrive,
To blast the Muse he flatter'd when alive,
Or sordid printer (by his influence led)
Abus'd the fame that first bestow'd him bread.
Slanders so mean, had he whose nicer ear
Abhorr'd all scandal, but surviv'd to hear,
The fraudful tale had stronger scorn supply'd,
And he (at length) with more disdain had died.
But since detraction is the portion here
Of all who virtuous durst, or great, appear,
And the free soul no true existence gains,
While earthy particles its flight restrains,
The greatest favour grimful Death can show,
Is with swift dart to expedite the blow.
So thought the dean, who, anxious for his fate,
Sigh'd for release, and deem'd the blessing late.
And sure if virtuous souls (life's travail past)
Enjoy (as churchmen teach) repose at last,
There's cause to think, a mind so firmly good,
Who vice so long, and lawless power, withstood,
Has reached the limits of that peaceful shore,
Where knaves molest, and tyrants awe, no more;
These blissful seats the pious but attain,
Where incorrupt, immortal spirits reign.
There his own Parnell strikes the living lyre,
And Pope harmonious joins the tuneful choir;

His Stella too (no more to forms confin'd,
For heavenly beings all are of a kind)
Unites with his the treasures of her mind,
With warmer friendships bids their bosoms glow,

Nor dreads the rage of vulgar tongues below.
Such pleasing hope the tranquil breast enjoys,
Whose inward peace no conscious crime annoys;
While guilty minds irresolute appear,
And doubt a state their vices needs must fear.

R——t B——n.

Nov. 4, 1755.