The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 18/Occasioned by Sir William Temple's Late Illness and Recovery

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OCCASIONED BY SIR WILLIAM TEMPLE'S LATE ILLNESS AND RECOVERY.


WRITTEN IN DECEMBER 1693.


STRANGE to conceive, how the same objects strike
At distant hours the mind with forms so like!
Whether in time, Deduction's broken chain
Meets, and salutes her sister link again;
Or hunted Fancy, by a circling flight,
Comes back with joy to its own seat at night;
Or whether dead Imagination's ghost
Oft hovers where alive it haunted most;
Or if Thought's rolling globe, her circle run,
Turns up old objects to the soul her sun;
Or loves the muse to walk with conscious pride
O'er the glad scene whence first she rose a bride:
Be what it will; late near yon whisp'ring stream,
Where her own Temple was her darling theme;
There first the visionary sound was heard,
When to poetick view the Muse appear'd.
Such seem'd her eyes, as when an evening ray
Gives glad farewell to a tempestuous day;
Weak is the beam to dry up nature's tears,
Still ev'ry tree the pendent sorrow wears;
Such are the smiles where drops of crystal show
Approaching joy at strife with parting woe.
As when to scare th' ungrateful or the proud
Tempests long frown, and thunder threatens loud,
Till the blest sun to give kind dawn of grace
Darts weeping beams across Heaven's wat'ry face;
When soon the peaceful bow unstring'd is shown,
A sign God's dart is shot, and wrath o'erblown;
Such to unhallowed sight the Muse divine
Might seem, when first she rais'd her eyes to mine.
What mortal change does in thy face appear,
Lost youth, she cried, since first I met thee here!
With how undecent clouds are overcast
Thy looks, when every cause of grief is past!
Unworthy the glad tidings which I bring,
Listn while the muse thus teaches thee to sing:
As parent earth, burst by imprison'd winds,
Scatters strange agues o'er men's sickly minds,
And shakes the atheist's knees; such ghastly fear
Late I beheld on every face appear;
Mild Dorothea[1], peaceful, wise, and great,
Trembling beheld the doubtful hand of fate;
Mild Dorothea, whom we both have long
Not dared to injure with our lowly song;
Sprung from a better world, and chosen then
The best companion for the best of men:
As some fair pile, yet spared by zeal and rage,
Lives pious witness of a better age;
So men may see what once was womankind,
In the fair shrine of Dorothea's mind.
You that would grief describe, come here and trace
Its wat'ry footsteps in Dorinda's face;
Grief from Dorinda's face does ne'er depart
Farther than its own palace in her heart:
Ah, since our fears are fled, this insolent expel,
At least confine the tyrant to his cell.
And if so black the cloud, that Heaven's bright queen
Shrouds her still beams; how should the stars be seen?
Thus, when Dorinda wept, joy ev'ry face forsook,
And grief flung sables on each menial look;
The humble tribe mourn'd for the quick'ning soul,
That furnish'd spirit and motion through the whole;
So would earth's face turn pale, and life decay,
Should Heaven suspend to act but for a day;
So nature's crazed convulsions make us dread
That time is sick, or the world's mind is dead.
Take, youth, these thoughts, large matter to employ
The fancy furnish'd by returning joy;
And to mistaken man these truths rehearse,
Who dare revile the integrity of verse:
Ah fav'rite youth, how happy is thy lot! ——
But I'm deceiv'd, or thou regard'st me not;
Speak, for I wait thy answer, and expect
Thy just submission for this bold neglect.
Unknown the forms we the high-priesthood use
At the divine appearance of the Muse,
Which to divulge might shake profane belief,
And tell the irreligion of my grief;
Grief that excused the tribute of my knees,
And shaped my passion in such words as these.
Malignant goddess! bane to my repose,
Thou universal cause of all my woes;
Say, whence it comes that thou art grown of late
A poor amusement for my scorn and hate;
The malice thou inspir'st I never fail
On thee to wreak the tribute when I rail;
Fools commonplace thou art, their weak ensconcing fort,
Th' appeal of dullness in the last resort:
Heaven with a parent's eye regarding earth,
Deals out to man the planet of his birth:
But sees thy meteor blaze about me shine,
And passing o'er, mistakes thee still for mine:
Ah, should I tell a secret yet unknown,
That thou ne'er hadst a being of thy own,
But a wild form dependent on the brain,
Scatt'ring loose features o'er the optick vein;
Troubling the crystal fountain of the sight,
Which darts on poets eyes a trembling light;
Kindled while reason sleeps, but quickly flies,
Like antick shapes in dreams, from waking eyes:
In sum, a glitt'ring voice, a painted name,
A walking vapour, like thy sister fame.
But if thou be'st what thy mad vot'ries prate,
A female pow'r, loose govern'd thoughts create;
Why near the dregs of youth perversely wilt thou stay,
So highly courted by the brisk and gay?
Wert thou right woman, thou shouldst scorn to look
On an abandon'd wretch by hopes forsook;
Forsook by hopes, ill fortune's last relief,
Assign'd for life to unremitting grief;
For, let Heaven's wrath enlarge these weary days,
If hope e'er dawns the smallest of its rays[2].
Time o'er the happy takes so swift a flight.
And treads so soft, so easy, and so light,
That we the wretched, creeping far behind,
Can scarce th' impression of his footsteps find;
Smooth as that airy nymph so subtly born
With inoffensive feet o'er standing corn;
Which bow'd by evening breeze with bending stalks,
Salutes the weary trav'ller as he walks;
But o'er th' afflicted with a heavy pace
Sweeps the broad sithe, and tramples on his face.
Down falls the summer's pride, and sadly shows
Nature's bare visage furrowed as he mows:
See Muse, what havock in these looks appear,
These are the tyrant's trophies of a year;
Since hope his last and greatest foe is fled,
Despair and he lodge ever in its stead;
March o'er the ruin'd plain with motion slow,
Still scatt'ring desolation where they go.
To thee I owe that fatal bent of mind,
Still to unhappy restless thoughts inclin'd;
To thee, what oft I vainly strive to hide,
That scorn of fools, by fools mistook for pride;
From thee whatever virtue takes its rise,
Grows a misfortune, or becomes a vice;
Such were thy rules to be poetically great,
"Stoop not to int'rest, flattery, or deceit;
Nor with hired thoughts be thy devotion paid;
Learn to disdain their mercenary aid;
Be this thy sure defence, thy brazen wall,
Know no base action, at no guilt turn pale;
And since unhappy distance thus denies
T' expose thy soul, clad in this poor disguise;
Since thy few ill presented graces seem
To breed contempt where thou hast hoped esteem." ——
Madness like this no fancy ever seized,
Still to be cheated, never to be pleased;
Since one false beam of joy in sickly minds
Is all the poor content delusion finds. —
There thy enchantment broke, and from this hour
I here renounce thy visionary pow'r;
And since thy essence on my breath depends,
Thus with a puff the whole delusion ends.


  1. Sister to sir William Temple.
  2. What a miserable state of mind must Swift have been in when he wrote this! which was owing to the state of dependence in which he had always lived from his birth to that time, with but little prospect of his being relieved from it. How grating must this have been to such a proud and generous spirit!