1736 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Jonathan Swift

Anonymous, "Sure to Swift: or, A Letter from a Phoenix at Court to a Screech Owl at Twickenham, in Answer to a Thing entitl'd Bounce to Fop" The Hyp-Doctor (11 May 1736).



Screech-Owl, to thee these Lines I send,
Who, though a Courtier, am a Friend:
Tho' once my Wing in wanton play
Now waving this and then that Way
Chanc'd with a Touch of just the Tip
To fright your sullen Screech-Owl-Ship,
Yet chance to think I'd bit your Head off,
Sure Wit's a Thing you never read of!

You, Reverend Owl, can hoot and pray,
Can rogue all Night and cant all Day:
You once could Dance and make a Leg,
Could fetch and carry, cringe and beg,
At Evening late and Morning early,
E'er made a Dublin Dean by Harley:
And once, the Top of all your Tricks,
Could stoop to worship Strings and Sticks:
We, Doctor, aim at nobler Sport,
Your Country Pranks are Jests at Court:
Fye, Screech-Owl, fye, where'er you come,
To mute and scream about the Room;
To range all Corners of the House,
And snap at Folks like Rat and Mouse:
Self-teiz'd with Envy and with Spite,
No Joy you feel but grin and bite:
To humour Vagrants, Rogues in Rags,
And make at Dublin empty Brags:
And sometimes towzing Girls that flutter,
Ev'n to a Dean is Bread and Butter.

You, Dean, was once a Courtly Fop,
Fawn'd on the Devil for a Chop:
Now on the Top of Twickenham Barn
With ill-tim'd hoots the Mice you warn.
You hourly more Malicious grow,
And live in Misery and Woe:
You squeal in Verse and yell in Satire
And not one Mortal minds the Matter;
Why should a Bird of Omen write?
An Owl, why turn a Paper-Kite?
Or may we prove it from the Word,
A Dean is a Canary-Bird?

When all such Deans have had their Days,
And lost their Souls to gain the Bays,
When rhyming Cuckoos, feather'd Beasts,
That thrive by robbing other's Nests,
With Twickenham Scare-crows, Dublin Bats,
And Owls that be the Prey of Cats:
When Irish Daws and Butter-Bumps
And Carrion-Crows shall be in Dumps,
When Choughs and Magpyes and Tom-Tits,
And Buzzards all shall dye of Fits:
When Scare-crows, Widgeons, and Wall-creepers
Shall drop their Coats and eke their Peepers,
When Hang-nests, God-wits and Night-Ravens,
No more shall fly about the Heavens:
In short, when Poppinjays and Puffins
Screech-Owls and Deans and such like Ruffians,
Shall not have Power to keep their Blood in,
But gasp and give the Crow a Pudding,
Still in the Park my Ducks shall waddle,
And not one Egg shall e'er prove addle.
Fair Thames from either ecchoing Shoar
Shall view the mounting Phoenix soar.

See Halcyons at St. James's crown'd
With Joyous Off-spring all around;
Happy, where'er your Eyes you lift,
All trusty Birds, and not one — Sw—ft.

While Deans eat other Christian's Beef,
No Phoenix ever was a Thief:
Thus Doctor, you're ordain'd to feed,
And oft with J—mes's doleful Breed;
You come of a devouring Race,
Eat much Tythe-pie, with little Grace;
And learn your other Whelps to steal,
With pious Hands our Chick and Veal.
See, Screech-Owl, if thou canst, from far
Where shines great W—LE'S glitt'ring Star;
A Star, portentous to thy Kind,
Though good to English Birds design'd:
See, see, thy Coalition waits
Penitent at St. James's Gates:
To lay their Factious Quarrels down,
And George's healing Sceptre own:
The Princely Nuptials to attend,
All Jars and Piques and Parties blend:
See, W—m quit his tough Debate,
And S—s stroke his nice Cravat,
To pay their Complements of State:
In these, a Royal Youth — and true,
Sure may enjoy a Friend or two;
A Treasure this, of Royal Kind,
The Court we hope will Sterling find:
Doubtless, with these no Slaves came near
These are all Cordial, all Sincere.

And Master P—e, whom Truth and Sense
May call their Friend some Ages hence,
Because the present Age in troth,
Can prove him Enemy to both,
Though now on loftier Themes he sings,
Than to bestow a Word on Kings,
For Kings he is resolv'd to hate,
'Till a King makes him Laureate,
By Sticks, the Poet's Oath, has sworn,
On Sticks, not Legs, our Poet's borne:
Man and his Works he'll soon renounce
And roar in Numbers worthy Bounce,
For Doggrel is his main Delight,
Curs always bark, and never bite.