Jonathan Swift

(30 November 1667 – 19 October 1745 / Dublin)

Death And Daphne - Poem by Jonathan Swift

Death went upon a solemn day
At Pluto's hall his court to pay;
The phantom having humbly kiss'd
His grisly monarch's sooty fist,
Presented him the weekly bills
Of doctors, fevers, plagues, and pills.
Pluto, observing since the peace
The burial article decrease,
And vex'd to see affairs miscarry,
Declared in council Death must marry;
Vow'd he no longer could support
Old bachelors about his court;
The interest of his realm had need
That Death should get a numerous breed;
Young deathlings, who, by practice made
Proficient in their father's trade,
With colonies might stock around
His large dominions under ground.
A consult of coquettes below
Was call'd, to rig him out a beau;
From her own head Megaera takes
A periwig of twisted snakes:
Which in the nicest fashion curl'd,
(Like toupees of this upper world)
With flower of sulphur powder'd well,
That graceful on his shoulders fell;
An adder of the sable kind
In line direct hung down behind:
The owl, the raven, and the bat,
Clubb'd for a feather to his hat:
His coat, a usurer's velvet pall,
Bequeath'd to Pluto, corpse and all.
But, loath his person to expose
Bare, like a carcass pick'd by crows,
A lawyer, o'er his hands and face
Stuck artfully a parchment case.
No new flux'd rake show'd fairer skin;
Nor Phyllis after lying in.
With snuff was fill'd his ebon box,
Of shin-bones rotted by the pox.
Nine spirits of blaspheming fops,
With aconite anoint his chops;
And give him words of dreadful sounds,
G—d d—n his blood! and b—d and w—ds!'
Thus furnish'd out, he sent his train
To take a house in Warwick-lane:
The faculty, his humble friends,
A complimental message sends:
Their president in scarlet gown
Harangued, and welcomed him to town.
But Death had business to dispatch;
His mind was running on his match.
And hearing much of Daphne's fame,
His majesty of terrors came,
Fine as a colonel of the guards,
To visit where she sat at cards;
She, as he came into the room,
Thought him Adonis in his bloom.
And now her heart with pleasure jumps,
She scarce remembers what is trumps;
For such a shape of skin and bone
Was never seen except her own.
Charm'd with his eyes, and chin, and snout,
Her pocket-glass drew slily out;
And grew enamour'd with her phiz,
As just the counterpart of his.
She darted many a private glance,
And freely made the first advance;
Was of her beauty grown so vain,
She doubted not to win the swain;
Nothing she thought could sooner gain him,
Than with her wit to entertain him.
She ask'd about her friends below;
This meagre fop, that batter'd beau;
Whether some late departed toasts
Had got gallants among the ghosts?
If Chloe were a sharper still
As great as ever at quadrille?
(The ladies there must needs be rooks,
For cards, we know, are Pluto's books.)
If Florimel had found her love,
For whom she hang'd herself above?
How oft a-week was kept a ball
By Proserpine at Pluto's hall?
She fancied those Elysian shades
The sweetest place for masquerades;
How pleasant on the banks of Styx,
To troll it in a coach and six!
What pride a female heart inflames?
How endless are ambition's aims:
Cease, haughty nymph; the Fates decree
Death must not be a spouse for thee;
For, when by chance the meagre shade
Upon thy hand his finger laid,
Thy hand as dry and cold as lead,
His matrimonial spirit fled;
He felt about his heart a damp,
That quite extinguished Cupid's lamp:
Away the frighted spectre scuds,
And leaves my lady in the suds.


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Poem Submitted: Monday, April 12, 2010



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