Jonathan Swift

(30 November 1667 – 19 October 1745 / Dublin)

Elegy On Partridge - Poem by Jonathan Swift

Well; 'tis as Bickerstaff has guess'd,
Though we all took it for a jest:
Partridge is dead; nay more, he died
Ere he could prove the good 'squire lied.
Strange, an astrologer should die
Without one wonder in the sky!
Not one of his crony stars
To pay their duty at his hearse!
No meteor, no eclipse appear'd!
No comet with a flaming beard!
The sun has rose, and gone to bed,
Just as if Partridge were not dead;
Nor hid himself behind the moon
To make a dreadful night at noon.
He at fit periods walks through Aries,
Howe'er our earthly motion varies;
And twice a year he'll cut the equator,
As if there had been no such matter.
Some wits have wonder'd what analogy
There is 'twixt cobbling and astrology;
How Partridge made his optics rise
From a shoe-sole to reach the skies.
A list the cobbler's temples ties,
To keep the hair out of his eyes;
From whence 'tis plain, the diadem
That princes wear derives from them:
And therefore crowns are nowadays
Adorn'd with golden stars and rays:
Which plainly shows the near alliance
'Twixt cobbling and the planets science.
Besides, that slow-pac'd sign Bootes,
As 'tis miscall'd, we know not who 'tis:
But Partridge ended all disputes;
He knew his trade, and call'd it boots.
The horned moon, which heretofore
Upon their shoes the Romans wore,
Whose wideness kept their toes from corns,
And whence we claim our shoeing-horns,
Shows how the art of cobbling bears
A near resemblance to the spheres.
A scrap of parchment hung by geometry
(A great refinement in barometry)
Can, like the stars, foretell the weather;
And what is parchment else but leather?
Which an astrologer might use
Either for almanacs or shoes.
Thus Partridge by his wit and parts
At once did practise both these arts:
And as the boding owl (or rather
The bat, because her wings are leather)
Steals from her private cell by night,
And flies about the candle-light;
So learned Partridge could as well
Creep in the dark from leathern cell,
And in his fancy fly as far
To peep upon a twinkling star.
Besides, he could confound the spheres,
And set the planets by the ears;
To show his skill, he Mars could join
To Venus in aspect malign;
Then call in Mercury for aid,
And cure the wounds that Venus made.
Great scholars have in Lucian read,
When Philip king of Greece was dead,
His soul and spirit did divide,
And each part took a different side:
One rose a star; the other fell
Beneath, and mended shoes in hell.
Thus Partridge still shines in each art,
The cobbling and star-gazing part,
And is install'd as good a star
As any of the Caesars are.
Triumphant star! some pity show
On cobblers militant below,
Whom roguish boys in stormy nights
Torment by pissing out their lights,
Or thro' a chink convey their smoke
Inclos'd artificers to choke.
Thou, high exalted in thy sphere,
May'st follow still thy calling there.
To thee the Bull will lend his hide,
By Phoebus newly tann'd and dry'd:
For thee they Argo's hulk will tax,
And scrape her pitchy sides for wax;
Then Ariadne kindly lends
Her braided hair to make thee ends;
The point of Sagittarius' dart
Turns to an awl by heav'nly art;
And Vulcan, wheedled by his wife,
Will forge for thee a paring-knife.
For want of room by Virgo's side,
She'll strain a point, and sit astride,
To take thee kindly in between;
And then the signs will be thirteen.


Here, five foot deep, lies on his back
A cobbler, star-monger, and quack;
Who to the stars in pure good-will
Does to his best look upward still.
Weep, all you customers that use
His pills, his almanacs, or shoes:
And you that did your fortunes seek,
Step to his grave but once a week:
This earth, which bears his body's print,
You'll find has so much virtue in't,
That I durst pawn my ears 't will tell
Whate'er concerns you full as well,
In physic, stolen goods, or love,
As he himself could, when above.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, April 12, 2010

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