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Riddles By Dr. Swift And His Friends

Jonathan Swift 1667 (Dublin) – 1745 (Ireland)

FROM Venus born, thy beauty shows;
But who thy father, no man knows:
Nor can the skilful herald trace
The founder of thy ancient race;
Whether thy temper, full of fire,
Discovers Vulcan for thy sire,
The god who made Scamander boil,
And round his margin singed the soil:
(From whence, philosophers agree,
An equal power descends to thee
Whether from dreadful Mars you claim
The high descent from whence you came,
And, as a proof, show numerous scars
By fierce encounters made in wars,
Those honourable wounds you bore
From head to foot, and all before,
And still the bloody field frequent,
Familiar in each leader's tent;
Or whether, as the learn'd contend,
You from the neighbouring Gaul descend;
Or from Parthenope the proud,
Where numberless thy votaries crowd;
Whether thy great forefathers came
From realms that bear Vespuccio's name,
For so conjectures would obtrude;
And from thy painted skin conclude;
Whether, as Epicurus shows,
The world from justling seeds arose,
Which, mingling with prolific strife
In chaos, kindled into life:
So your production was the same,
And from contending atoms came.
Thy fair indulgent mother crown'd
Thy head with sparkling rubies round:
Beneath thy decent steps the road
Is all with precious jewels strew'd,
The bird of Pallas, knows his post,
Thee to attend, where'er thou goest.
Byzantians boast, that on the clod
Where once their Sultan's horse hath trod,
Grows neither grass, nor shrub, nor tree:
The same thy subjects boast of thee.
The greatest lord, when you appear,
Will deign your livery to wear,
In all the various colours seen
Of red and yellow, blue and green.
With half a word when you require,
The man of business must retire.
The haughty minister of state,
With trembling must thy leisure wait;
And, while his fate is in thy hands,
The business of the nation stands.
Thou darest the greatest prince attack,
Canst hourly set him on the rack;
And, as an instance of thy power,
Enclose him in a wooden tower,
With pungent pains on every side:
So Regulus in torments died.
From thee our youth all virtues learn,
Dangers with prudence to discern;
And well thy scholars are endued
With temperance and with fortitude,
With patience, which all ills supports,
And secrecy, the art of courts.
The glittering beau could hardly tell,
Without your aid, to read or spell;
But, having long conversed with you,
Knows how to scroll a billet-doux.
With what delight, methinks, I trace
Your blood in every noble race!
In whom thy features, shape, and mien,
Are to the life distinctly seen!
The Britons, once a savage kind,
By you were brighten'd and refined,
Descendants to the barbarous Huns,
With limbs robust, and voice that stuns:
But you have moulded them afresh,
Removed the tough superfluous flesh,
Taught them to modulate their tongues,
And speak without the help of lungs.
Proteus on you bestow'd the boon
To change your visage like the moon;
You sometimes half a face produce,
Keep t'other half for private use.
How famed thy conduct in the fight
With Hermes, son of Pleias bright!
Outnumber'd, half encompass'd round,
You strove for every inch of ground;
Then, by a soldierly retreat,
Retired to your imperial seat.
The victor, when your steps he traced,
Found all the realms before him waste:
You, o'er the high triumphal arch
Pontific, made your glorious march:
The wondrous arch behind you fell,
And left a chasm profound as hell:
You, in your capitol secured,
A siege as long as Troy endured.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:01 min read
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Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift was an Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet and cleric who became Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. more…

All Jonathan Swift poems | Jonathan Swift Books

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