The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 8/The Original of Punning, From Plato's Symposiacks

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ONCE on a time, in merry mood,
Jove made a Pun of flesh and blood;
A double, two-fac'd living creature,
Androgynos, of twofold nature,
For back to back with single skin
He bound the male and female in;
So much alike, so near the same,
They stuck as closely as their name.
Whatever words the male exprest,
The female turn'd them to a jest;
Whatever words the female spoke,
The male converted to a joke:
So, in this form of man and wife,
They led a merry punning life.
The Gods from Heaven descend to Earth,
Drawn down by their alluring mirth;
So well they seem'd to like the sport,
Jove could not get them back to court.
Th' infernal Gods ascend as well,
Drawn up by magick puns from Hell.
Judges and furies quit their post,
And not a soul to mind a ghost.
"Heyday!" says Jove; says Pluto too,
"I think the Devil's here to do;
Here's Hell broke loose, and Heaven's quite empty,
We scarce have left one God in twenty.
Pray, what has set them all a running?" —
"Dear brother, nothing else but punning.
Behold that double creature yonder
Delights them with a double entendre."
"Ods-fish," says Pluto, "where's your thunder?
Let drive, and split this thing asunder."
"That's right;" quoth Jove; with that he threw
A bolt, and split it into two;
And when the thing was split in twain,
Why then it punn'd as much again.
"'Tis thus the diamonds we refine,
The more we cut, the more they shine:
And ever since, your Men of Wit,
Until they're cut, can't pun a bit.
So take a starling when 'tis young,
And down the middle slit the tongue,
With groat or sixpence, 'tis no matter,
You'll find the bird will doubly chatter.
"Upon the whole, dear Pluto, you know,
'Tis well I did not split my Juno!
For, had I done't, whene'er she'd scold me,
She'd make the Heavens too hot to hold me."

The Gods, upon this application,
Return'd each to his habitation,
Extremely pleas'd with this new joke;
The best, they swore, he ever spoke.

  1. This and the following poem were originally published with "The Art of Punning;" as were also the verses by Dr. Swift in vol. VII, p. 231.