Jonathan Swift

(30 November 1667 – 19 October 1745 / Dublin)

The Progress Of Marriage - Poem by Jonathan Swift

Aetatis suae fifty-two,
A rich Divine began to woo
A handsome young imperious girl,
Nearly related to an Earl.
Her parents and her friends consent,
The couple to the temple went.
They first invite the Cyprian Queen,
’Twas answered, she would not be seen;
The Graces next, and all the Muses
Were bid in form, but sent excuses.
Juno attended at the porch,
With farthing candle for a torch,
While Mistress Iris held her train,
The faded bow distilling rain.
Then Hebe came and took her place,
But showed no more than half her face.

What’er these dire forebodings meant,
In mirth the wedding-day was spent;
The wedding-day, you take me right,
I promise nothing for the night.
The bridegroom, dressed to make a figure,
Assumes an artificial vigour,
A flourished night-cap on to grace
His ruddy, wrinkled, smirking face,
Like the faint red upon a pippin,
Half withered by a winter’s keeping.

And thus set out, this happy pair,
The Swain is rich, the Nymph is fair;
But, which I gladly would forget,
The Swain is old, the Nymph coquette;
Both from the goal together start,
Scarce run a step before they part;
No common ligament that binds
The various textures of their minds,
Their thoughts and actions, hopes and fears,
Less corresponding than their years.
Her spouse desires his coffee soon,
She rises to her tea at noon.
While he goes out to cheapen books,
She at the glass consults her looks
While Betty’s buzzing in her ear,
Lord, what a dress these Parsons wear!
So odd a choice how could she make?
Wished him a Colonel for her sake.
Then, on her fingers ends, she counts
Exact to what his age amounts;
The Dean, she heard her Uncle say,
Is fifty, if he be a day;
His ruddy cheeks are no disguise;
You see the crows-feet round his eyes.

At one she rambles to the shops,
To cheapen tea, and talk with fops;
Or calls a council of her maids
And tradesmen, to compare brocades.
Her weighty morning business o’er,
Sits down to dinner just at four;
Minds nothing that is done or said,
Her evening work so fills her head.
The Dean, who used to dine at one,
Is mawkish, and his stomach gone;
In thread-bare gown, would scarce a louse hold,
Looks like the chaplain of the household,
Beholds her from the chaplain’s place
In French brocades and Flanders lace;
He wonders what employs her brain;
But never asks, or asks in vain;
His mind is full of other cares,
And in the sneaking parson’s airs
Computes, that half a parish dues
Will hardly find his wife in shoes.
Can’st thou imagine, dull Divine,
’Twill gain her love to make her fine?
Hath she no other wants beside?
You raise desire as well as pride,
Enticing coxcombs to adore,
And teach her to despise thee more.

If in her coach she’ll condescend
To place him at the hinder end,
Her hoop is hoist above his nose,
His odious gown would soil her clothes,
And drops him at the church, to pray,
While she drives on to see the play.
He like an orderly Divine
Comes home a quarter after nine,
And meets her hasting to the Ball:
Her chairmen push him from the wall;
He enters in, and walks up stairs,
And calls the family to prayers,
Then goes alone to take his rest
In bed, where he can spare her best.
At five the footmen make a din,
Her Ladyship is just come in;
The Masquerade began at two,
She stole away with much ado,
And shall be chid this afternoon
For leaving company so soon;
She’ll say, and she may truly say’t,
She can’t abide to stay out late.

But now, though scarce a twelvemonth married
His Lady has twelve times miscarried;
The cause, alas, is quickly guessed,
The Town has whispered round the jest;
Think on some remedy in time,
You find His Reverence past his prime,
Already dwindled to a lath;
No other way but try the Bath.
For Venus rising from the ocean,
Infused a strong prolific potion,
That mixed with Achelaus’ spring,
The hornéd flood, as poets sing,
Who, with an English Beauty smitten,
Ran underground from Greece to Britain,
The genial Virtue with him brought,
And gave the Nymph a plenteous draught;
Then fled, and left his Horn behind
For husbands past their youth to find;
The Nymph who still with passion burned
Was to a boiling fountain turned,
Where childless wives crowd every morn
To drink in Achelaus’ Horn;
And here the father often gains
That title by another’s pains.

Hither, though much against his grain,
The Dean has carried Lady Jane;
He for a while would not consent,
But vowed his money all was spent;
His money spent! a clownish reason!
And must My Lady slip her Season?
The Doctor with a double fee,
Was bribed to make the Dean agree.

Here all diversions of the place
Are proper in my Lady’s case
With which she patiently complies,
Merely because her friends advise;
His money and her time employs
In music, raffling-rooms, and toys,
Or in the Cross Bath seeks an heir,
Since others oft have found one there;
Where if the Dean by chance appears,
It shames his cassock and his years;
He keeps his distance in the gallery
’Till banished by some coxcomb’s raillery,
For ’twould his character expose
To bathe among the belles and beaux.

So have I seen within a pen,
Young ducklings fostered by a hen;
But when let out, they run and muddle,
As instinct leads them, in a puddle;
The sober hen, not born to swim,
With mournful note clucks round the brim.

The Dean, with all his best endeavour,
Gets not an heir, but gets a fever;
A victim to the last essays
Of vigor in declining days,
He dies, and leaves his mourning mate
(What could he less?) his whole estate.

The widow goes through all her forms;
New lovers now will come in swarms.
Oh, may I see her soon dispensing
Her favours to some broken Ensign!
Him let her marry for his face,
And only coat of tarnished lace;
To turn her naked out of doors,
And spend her jointure on his whores:
But for a parting present leave her
A rooted pox to last for ever.


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Poem Submitted: Monday, April 12, 2010



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