1774 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Jonathan Swift

Sylvia, "On Reading Swift's Works, written by a young Lady of Eighteen" 1774; Universal Asylum and Columbian Magazine 5 (September 1790) 185.



Ungenerous bard, whom not e'en Stella's charms
Thy vengeful satire of its sting disarms!
Say, when thou dipp'st thy keenest pen in gall,
Why must it still on helpless woman fall!
Why must our "dirt and dulness" fill each line,
Our love of "follies, our desire to shine!"
Why are we drawn as a whole race of fools,
Unsway'd alike by sense or virtues rules!
Oh! had thy heart with generous candour glowed,
Hadst thou alone on vice thy lash bestowed;
Had there fair Purity her form imprest,
And had the milder virtues filled thy breast;
Thy sprightly page had been by all approved,
And what we now admire we then had loved.
But thy harsh satire, rude, severe, unjust,
Awakes too oft our anger or distrust.
Such are the scenes which still thy pen engage,
That modesty disdains the shameless page,
'Tis true, we own thy wit almost divine,
And view the diamond 'midst the dunghill shine:
Oh, had it sparkled on the breast of youth,
To charm the sage, and to instruct with truth;
To chace the gloom of ignorance away,
And teach mankind with wisdom to be gay;
Thy perfect style, thy wit serenely bright,
Would shed through distant climes their pleasing light;
Mankind would grateful to thy muse attend,
But now, so oft filth choaks thy sprightly fire,
We loath one instant, and the next admire—
Even when we laugh, we mourn thy wit's abuse,
And while we praise thy talents, scorn their use.
Philadelphia, 1774.