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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 8/Verses sent to the Dean on His Birthday



— (Horace speaking.)

YOU'VE read, sir, in poetick strain,
How Varus and the Mantuan swain
Have on my birthday been invited,
(But I was forc'd in verse to write it)
Upon a plain repast to dine,
And taste my old Campanian wine;
But I, who all punctilios hate,
Though long familiar with the great,
Nor glory in my reputation,
Am come without an invitation;
And, though I'm us'd to right Falernian,
I'll deign for once to taste Iernian;
But fearing that you might dispute
(Had I put on my common suit)
My breeding and my politesse,
I visit in my birthday dress;
My coat of purest Turkey red,
With gold embroidery richly spread;
To which I've sure as good pretensions,
As Irish lords who starve on pensions.
What though proud ministers of state
Did at your antichamber wait;
What though your Oxfords and your St. Johns,
Have at your levee paid attendance;
And Peterborow and great Ormond,
With many chiefs who now are dormant,
Have laid aside the general's staff,
And publick cares, with you to laugh;
Yet I some friends as good can name,
Nor less the darling sons of fame;
For sure my Pollio and Mæcenas
Were as good statesmen, Mr. dean, as
Either your Bolingbroke or Harley,
Though they made Lewis beg a parley;
And as for Mordaunt, your lov'd hero,
I'll match him with my Drusus Nero.
You'll boast, perhaps, your favourite Pope;
But Virgil is as good, I hope.
I own indeed I can't get any
To equal Helsham and Delany;
Since Athens brought forth Socrates,
A Grecian isle Hippocrates;
Since Tully liv'd before my time,
And Galen bless'd another clime.
You'll plead perhaps, at my request,
To be admitted as a guest,
"Your hearing's bad!" — But why such fears?
I speak to eyes, and not to ears;
And for that reason wisely took
The form you see me in, a book.
Attack'd by slow devouring moths,
By rage of barbarous Huns and Goths;
By Bentley's notes, my deadliest foes,
By Creech's rhymes, and Dunster's prose;
I found my boasted wit and fire
In their rude hands almost expire:
Yet still they but in vain assail'd;
For, had their violence prevail'd,
And in a blast destroyed my fame,
They would have partly miss'd their aim;
Since all my spirit in thy page
Defies the Vandals of this age.
'Tis yours to save these small remains
From future pedant's muddy brains,
And fix my long uncertain fate,
You best know how — "which way?" — Translate.