Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TO MR. GAY; ON HIS BEING STEWARD TO THE DUKE OF QUEENSBERRY, by JONATHAN SWIFT



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

TO MR. GAY; ON HIS BEING STEWARD TO THE DUKE OF QUEENSBERRY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: How could you, gay, disgrace the muses' train
Last Line: His snot into the mess; 'tis all his own.
Subject(s): Gay, John (1685-1732)


How could you, Gay, disgrace the muses' train,
To serve a tasteless court twelve years in vain?
Fain would I think, our female friend sincere,
Till Bob, the poet's foe, possessed her ear.
Did female virtue e'er so high ascend,
To lose an inch of favour for a friend?
Say, had the court no better place to choose
For thee, than make a dry nurse of thy muse?
How cheaply had thy liberty been sold,
To squire a royal girl of two years old!
In leading strings her infant steps to guide;
Or, with her go-cart amble side by side.
But princely Douglas, and his glorious dame,
Advanced thy fortune, and preserved thy fame.
Nor, will your nobler gifts be misapplied,
When o'er your patron's treasure you preside,
The world shall own, his choice was wise and just,
For, sons of Phoebus never break their trust.
Not love of beauty less the heart inflames
Of guardian eunuchs to the sultan dames,
Their passions not more impotent and cold,
Than those of poets to the lust of gold.
With Paean's purest fire his favourites glow;
The dregs will serve to ripen ore below;
His meanest work: for, had he thought it fit,
That, wealth should be the appanage of wit,
The god of light could ne'er have so blind,
To deal it to the worst of humankind.
But let me now, for I can do it well,
Your conduct in this new employ foretell.
And first: to make my observation right,
I place a Statesman full before my sight.
A bloated minister in all his gear,
With shameless visage, and perfidious leer,
Two rows of teeth arm each devouring jaw;
And, ostrich-like, his all-digesting maw.
My fancy drags this monster into view,
To show the world his chief reverse in you.
Of loud unmeaning sounds, a rapid flood
Rolls from his mouth in plenteous streams of mud;
With these, the court and senate-house he plies,
Made up of noise, and impudence, and lies.
Now, let me show how Bob and you agree.
You serve a potent prince, as well as he.
The ducal coffers, trusted to your charge,
Your honest care may fill; perhaps enlarge.
His vassals easy, and the owner blessed;
They pay a trifle, and enjoy the rest.
Not so a nation's revenues are paid:
The servant's faults are on the master laid.
The people with a sigh their taxes bring;
And cursing Bob, forget to bless the King.
Next, hearken Gay, to what thy charge requires,
With servants, tenants, and the neighbouring squires.
Let all domestics feel your gentle sway;
Nor bribe, insult, nor flatter, nor betray,
Let due reward to merit be allowed;
Nor with your kindred half the palace crowd.
Nor, think yourself secure in doing wrong,
By telling noses with a party strong.
Be rich; but of your wealth make no parade;
At least, before your master's debts are paid.
Nor, in a palace built with charge immense,
Presume to treat him at his own expense.
Each farmer in the neighbourhood can count
To what your lawful perquisites amount.
The tenants poor, the hardness of the times,
Are ill excuses for a servant's crimes:
With interest, and a premium paid beside,
The master's pressing wants must be supplied;
With hasty zeal, behold, the steward come,
By his own credit to advance the sum;
Who, while the unrighteous Mammon is his friend,
May well conclude his power will never end.
A faithful treasurer! What could he do more?
He lends my Lord, what was my Lord's before.
The law so strictly guards the monarch's health,
That no physician dares prescribe by stealth:
The council sit; approve the doctor's skill;
And give advice before he gives the pill.
But, the state empiric acts a safer part;
And while he poisons, wins the royal heart.
But, how can I describe the ravenous breed?
Then, let me now by negatives proceed.
Suppose your lord a trusty servant send,
On weighty business, to some neighbouring friend:
Presume not, Gay, unless you serve a drone,
To countermand his orders by your own.
Should some imperious neighbour sink the boats,
And drain the fish-ponds; while your master doats;
Shall he upon the ducal rights entrench,
Because he bribed you with a brace of tench?
Nor, from your lord his bad condition hide;
To feed his luxury, or soothe his pride.
Nor, at an under rate his timber sell;
And with an oath, assure him, 'all is well.'
Or swear it rotten; and with humble airs,
Request it of him to complete your stairs.
Nor, when a mortgage lies on half his lands,
Come with a purse of guineas in your hands.
Have Peter Waters always in your mind;
That rogue of genuine ministerial kind
Can half the peerage by his arts bewitch;
Starve twenty lords to make one scoundrel rich:
And when he gravely has undone a score,
Is humbly prayed to ruin twenty more.
A dexterous steward, when his tricks are found,
Hush-money sends to all the neighbours round:
His master, unsuspicious of his pranks,
Pays all the cost, and gives the villain thanks.
And, should a friend attempt to set him right,
His Lordship would impute it all to spite:
Would love his favourite better than before;
And trust his honesty just so much more.
Thus realms, and families, with equal fate,
Are sunk by premier ministers of state.
Some, when an heir succeeds, go boldly on,
And, as they robbed the father, rob the son.
A knave, who deep embroils his lord's affairs,
Will soon grow necessary to his heirs.
His policy consists in setting traps,
In finding ways and means, and stopping gaps:
He knows a thousand tricks, whene'er he please,
Though not to cure, yet palliate each disease.
In either case, an equal chance is run:
For, keep, or turn him out, my Lord's undone.
You want a hand to clear a filthy sink;
No cleanly workman can endure the stink.
A strong dilemma in a desperate case!
To act with infamy, or quit the place.
A bungler thus, who scarce the nail can hit,
With driving wrong, will make the panel split:
Nor, dares an abler workman undertake
To drive a second, lest the whole should break.
In every court the parallel will hold;
And kings, like private folks, are bought and sold:
The ruling rogue, who dreads to be cashiered,
Contrives, as he is hated, to be feared:
Confounds accounts, perplexes all affairs;
For, vengeance more embroils, than skill repairs.
So, robbers (and their ends are just the same)
To scape inquiries, leave the house in flame.
I knew a brazen minister of state,
Who bore for twice ten years the public hate.
In every mouth the question most in vogue
Was, 'When will they turn out this odious rogue?'
A juncture happened in his highest pride:
While he went robbing on, old Master died.
We thought, there now remained no room to doubt:
'His work is done, the minister must out.'
The court invited more than one, or two;
'Will you, Sir Spencer? or will you, or you?'
But not a soul his office durst accept:
The subtle knave had all the plunder swept.
And, such was then the temper of the times,
He owed his preservation to his crimes.
The candidates observed his dirty paws,
Nor found it difficult to guess the cause:
But when they smelt such foul corruptions round him;
Away they fled, and left him as they found him.
Thus, when a greedy sloven once has thrown
His snot into the mess; 'tis all his own.





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