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Poem by Jonathan Swift


The Deans Answer


The nymph who wrote this in an amorous fit,
I cannot but envy the pride of her wit,
Which thus she will venture profusely to throw
On so mean a design, and a subject so low.
For mean's her design, and her subject as mean,
The first but a rebus, the last but a dean.
A dean's but a parson: and what is a rebus?
A thing never known to the Muses or Phoebus.
The corruption of verse; for, when all is done,
It is but a paraphrase made on a pun.
But a genius like hers no subject can stifle,
It shows and discovers itself through a trifle.
By reading this trifle, I quickly began
To find her a great wit, but the dean a small man.
Rich ladies will furnish their garrets with stuff,
Which others for mantuas would think fine enough:
So the wit that is lavishly thrown away here,
Might furnish a second-rate poet a year.
Thus much for the verse, we proceed to the next,
Where the nymph has entirely forsaken her text:
Her fine panegyrics are quite out of season:
And what she describes to be merit, is treason:
The changes which faction has made in the state,
Have put the dean's politics quite out of date:
Now no one regards what he utters with freedom,
And, should he write pamphlets, no great man would read 'em;
And, should want or desert stand in need of his aid,
This racer would prove but a dull founder'd jade. 



Jonathan Swift


Jonathan Swift's other poems:
  1. Sid Hamets Rod
  2. On the Vowels
  3. Elegy on Partridge
  4. On Stella's Birth-day 1719
  5. Stella's Birthday March 13, 1727


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