Jonathan Swift

(30 November 1667 – 19 October 1745 / Dublin)

The Dean’s Reasons For Not Building At Drapier’s-Hill - Poem by Jonathan Swift

I will not build on yonder mount;
And, should you call me to account,
Consulting with myself, I find
It was no levity of mind.
Whate'er I promised or intended,
No fault of mine, the scheme is ended;
Nor can you tax me as unsteady,
I have a hundred causes ready;
All risen since that flattering time,
When Drapier's-Hill appear'd in rhyme.
I am, as now too late I find,
The greatest cully of mankind;
The lowest boy in Martin's school
May turn and wind me like a fool.
How could I form so wild a vision,
To seek, in deserts, Fields Elysian?
To live in fear, suspicion, variance,
With thieves, fanatics, and barbarians?
But here my lady will object;
Your deanship ought to recollect,
That, near the knight of Gosford placed,
Whom you allow a man of taste,
Your intervals of time to spend
With so conversable a friend,
It would not signify a pin
Whatever climate you were in.
'Tis true, but what advantage comes
To me from all a usurer's plums;
Though I should see him twice a-day,
And am his neighbour 'cross the way:
If all my rhetoric must fail
To strike him for a pot of ale?
Thus, when the learned and the wise
Conceal their talents from our eyes,
And from deserving friends withhold
Their gifts, as misers do their gold;
Their knowledge to themselves confined
Is the same avarice of mind;
Nor makes their conversation better,
Than if they never knew a letter.
Such is the fate of Gosford's knight,
Who keeps his wisdom out of sight;
Whose uncommunicative heart
Will scarce one precious word impart:
Still rapt in speculations deep,
His outward senses fast asleep;
Who, while I talk, a song will hum,
Or with his fingers beat the drum;
Beyond the skies transports his mind,
And leaves a lifeless corpse behind.
But, as for me, who ne'er could clamber high,
To understand Malebranche or Cambray;
Who send my mind (as I believe) less
Than others do, on errands sleeveless;
Can listen to a tale humdrum,
And with attention read Tom Thumb;
My spirits with my body progging,
Both hand in hand together jogging;
Sunk over head and ears in matter.
Nor can of metaphysics smatter;
Am more diverted with a quibble
Than dream of words intelligible;
And think all notions too abstracted
Are like the ravings of a crackt head;
What intercourse of minds can be
Betwixt the knight sublime and me,
If when I talk, as talk I must,
It is but prating to a bust?
Where friendship is by Fate design'd,
It forms a union in the mind:
But here I differ from the knight
In every point, like black and white:
For none can say that ever yet
We both in one opinion met:
Not in philosophy, or ale;
In state affairs, or planting kale;
In rhetoric, or picking straws;
In roasting larks, or making laws;
In public schemes, or catching flies;
In parliaments, or pudding pies.
The neighbours wonder why the knight
Should in a country life delight,
Who not one pleasure entertains
To cheer the solitary scenes:
His guests are few, his visits rare;
Nor uses time, nor time will spare;
Nor rides, nor walks, nor hunts, nor fowls,
Nor plays at cards, or dice, or bowls;
But seated in an easy-chair,
Despises exercise and air.
His rural walks he ne'er adorns;
Here poor Pomona sits on thorns:
And there neglected Flora settles
Her bum upon a bed of nettles.
Those thankless and officious cares
I used to take in friends' affairs,
From which I never could refrain,
And have been often chid in vain;
From these I am recover'd quite,
At least in what regards the knight.
Preserve his health, his store increase;
May nothing interrupt his peace!
But now let all his tenants round
First milk his cows, and after, pound;
Let every cottager conspire
To cut his hedges down for fire;
The naughty boys about the village
His crabs and sloes may freely pillage;
He still may keep a pack of knaves
To spoil his work, and work by halves;
His meadows may be dug by swine,
It shall be no concern of mine;
For why should I continue still
To serve a friend against his will?


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Poem Submitted: Monday, April 12, 2010



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