The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 17/Ballad on Nelly

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While this work is included within The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift and is not attributed to anyone other than Jonathan Swift, it may have been written by another member of the Scriblerus Club. The club, which was founded in 1714, included Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, John Gay, John Arbuthnot, Henry St John, and Thomas Parnell.


OF all the girls that e'er were seen,
There's none so fine as Nelly,
For charming face and shape and mien,
And what's not fit to tell ye:
Oh! the turn'd neck, and smooth white skin
Of lovely dearest Nelly!
For many a swain it well had been
Had she ne'er pass'd by Calai-.

For when, as Nelly came to France
(Invited by her cousins)
Across the Tuilleries each glance
Kill'd Frenchmen by whole dozens;
The king, as he at dinner sate,
Did beckon to his hussar,
And bid him bring his tabby cat,
For charming Nell to buss her.

The ladies were with rage provok'd
To see her so respected:
The men look'd arch, as Nelly strok'd,
And puss her tail erected.
But not a man did look employ,
Except on pretty Nelly:
Then said the duke de Villeroy,
Ah! qu'elle est bien jolie!

But who's that grave philosopher,
That carefully looks a'ter?
By his concern it should appear,
The fair one is his daughter.
Ma foy! (quoth then a courtier sly)
He on his child does leer too;
I wish he has no mind to try
What some papas will here do.

The courtiers all with one accord
Broke out in Nelly's praises,
Admir'd her rose, and lys sans farde
(Which are your termes françoises.)
Then might you see a painted ring
Of dames that stood by Nelly:
She, like the pride of all the spring,
And they like fleurs de palais.

In Marli's gardens, and St. Clou,
I saw this charming Nelly,
Where shameless nymphs, expos'd to view,
Stand naked in each alley:
But Venus had a brazen face,
Both at Versailles and Meudon,
Or else she had resign'd her place,
And left the stone she stood on.

Were Nelly's figure mounted there,
'Twould put down all th' Italian:
Lord! how those foreigners would stare!
But I should turn Pygmalion:
For, spite of lips, and eyes, and mien,
Me nothing can delight so,
As does that part that lies between
Her left toe and her right toe.