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STELLA'S BIRTHDAY, MARCH 13, 1727
This day, whate'er the Fates decree,
Shall still be kept with joy by me.
This day, then, let us not be told
That you are sick, and I grown old;
Nor think on our approaching ills,
And talk of spectacles and pills.
To-morrow will be time enough
To hear such mortifying stuff.
Yet, since from reason may be brought
A better and more pleasing thought,
Which can in spite of all decays
Support a few remaining days,
From not the gravest of divines
Accept for once some serious lines.
Although we now can form no more
Long schemes of life, as heretofore,
Yet you, while time is running fast,
Can look with joy on what is past.
Were future happiness and pain
A mere contrivance of the brain,—
As atheists argue, to entice
And fit their proselytes for vice
(The only comfort they propose,
To have companions in their woes),—
Grant this the case, yet sure 't is hard
That virtue, styled its own reward,
And by all sages understood
To be the chief of human good,
Should acting die, nor leave behind
Some lasting pleasure in the mind,
Which, by remembrance, will assuage
Grief, sickness, poverty, and age,
And strongly shoot a radiant dart
To shine through life's declining part.
Say, Stella, feel you no content,
Reflecting on a life well spent?—
Your skilful hand employed to save
Despairing wretches from the grave,
And then supporting with your store
Those whom you dragged from death before:
So Providence on mortals waits,
Preserving what it first creates.
Your gen'rous boldness to defend
An innocent and absent friend;
That courage which can make you just
To merit humbled in the dust;
The detestation you express
For vice in all its glitt'ring dress;
That patience under tort'ring pain,
Where stubborn Stoics would complain;
Must these like empty shadows pass,
Or forms reflected from a glass,
Or mere chimæras in the mind,
That fly and leave no marks behind?
Does not the body thrive and grow
By food of twenty years ago?
And had it not been still supplied,
It must a thousand times have died;
Then who with reason can maintain
That no effects of food remain?
And is not virtue in mankind
The nutriment that feeds the mind,
Upheld by each good action past,
And still continued by the last?
Then who with reason can pretend
That all effects of virtue end?
Believe me, Stella, when you show
That true contempt for things below,
Nor prize your life for other ends
Than merely to oblige your friends,
Your former actions claim their part,
And join to fortify your heart:
For Virtue in her daily race,
Like Janus, bears a double face;
Looks back with joy where she has gone,
And therefore goes with courage on.
She at your sickly couch will wait,
And guide you to a better state.
O then, whatever Heaven intends,
Take pity on your pitying friends!
Nor let your ills affect your mind
To fancy they can be unkind.
Me, surely me, you ought to spare,
Who gladly would your suff'rings share,
Or give my scrap of life to you,
And think it far beneath your due;
You, to whose care so oft I owe
That I'm alive to tell you so.
VERSES ON THE DEATH OF DR. SWIFT
Before the passing bell begun,
The news through half the town is run.
"O, may we all for death prepare!
What has he left? and who's his heir?"
"I know no more than what the news is;
'Tis all bequeathed to public uses."
"To public uses! there's a whim!
What had the public done for him?
Mere envy, avarice, and pride:
He gave it all-but first he died.
And had the Dean, in all the nation,
No worthy friend, no poor relation?
So ready to do strangers good,
Forgetting his own flesh and blood!"
Here shift the scene, to represent
How those I love my death lament.
Poor Pope would grieve a month, and Gay
A week, and Arbuthnot a day.
St. John himself will scarce forbear
To bite his pen and drop a tear.
The rest will give a shrug, and cry,
"I'm sorry-but we all must die!”
Indifference, clad in Wisdom's guise,
All fortitude of mind supplies;
For how can stony bowels melt
In those who never pity felt?
When we are lashed, they kiss the rod,
Resigning to the will of God.
The fools, my juniors by a year,
Are tortured with suspense and fear;
Who wisely thought my age a screen,
When death approached, to stand between:
The screen removed, their hearts are trembling;
They mourn for me without dissembling.
My female friends, whose tender hearts
Have better learned to act their parts,
Receive the news in doleful dumps:
"The Dean is dead (pray, what is trumps?)."
"Then Lord have mercy on his soul!
(Ladies, I'll venture for the vole.)" "Six deans, they say, must bear the pall (I wish I knew what king to call)." “Madam, your husband will attend
The funeral of so good a friend?"
“No, madam, 't is a shocking sight,
And he's engaged to-morrow night:
My lady Club will take it ill
If he should fail her at quadrille.
He loved the Dean (I lead a heart),
But dearest friends, they say, must part.
His time was come; he ran his race;
We hope he's in a better place."
Suppose me dead, and then suppose
A club assembled at the Rose;
Where, from discourse of this and that,
I grow the subject of their chat;
And while they toss my name about,
With favour some, and some without,
One, quite indiff'rent in the cause,
My character impartial draws:
"The Dean, if we believe report,
Was never ill-received at court.
As for his works in verse and prose,
I own myself no judge of those,
Nor can I tell what critics thought 'em;
But this I know-all people bought 'em.
As with a moral view designed
To cure the vices of mankind,
His vein, ironically grave,
Exposed the fool and lashed the knave:
To steal a hint was never known,
But what he writ was all his own.
He never thought an honour done him
Because a duke was proud to own him;
Would rather slip aside and choose
To talk with wits in dirty shoes;
Despised the fools with stars and garters,
So often seen caressing Chartres.
He never courted men in station;
No persons held in admiration;
Of no man's greatness was afraid,
Because he sought for no man's aid.
Though trusted long in great affairs,
He gave himself no haughty airs;
Without regarding private ends,
Spent all his credit for his friends;
And only chose the wise and good-
No flatt'rers, no allies in blood;
But succored virtue in distress,
And seldom failed of good success,
As numbers in their hearts must own,
Who but for him had been unknown.
With princes kept a due decorum,
But never stood in awe before 'em:
He followed David's lesson just,
'In princes never put thy trust';
And would you make him truly sour,
Provoke him with a slave in power.
The Irish senate if you named,
With what impatience he declaimed!
Fair Liberty was all his cry,
For her he stood prepared to die;
For her he boldly stood alone;
For her he oft exposed his own.
Two kingdoms, just as faction led,
Had set a price upon his head;
But not a traitor could be found
To sell him for six hundred pound.
Had he but spared his tongue and pen,