from Verses on the Death of Dr Swift
The time is not remote, when I
Must by the course of nature die;
When I foresee my special friends
Will try to find their private ends:
Tho' it is hardly understood
Which way my death can do them good,
Yet thus, methinks, I hear 'em speak:
‘See, how the Dean begins to break!
Poor gentleman, he droops apace!
You plainly find it in his face.
That old vertigo in his head
Will never leave him till he's dead.
Besides, his memory decays:
He recollects not what he says;
He cannot call his friends to mind:
Forgets the place where last he dined;
Plies you with stories o'er and o'er;
He told them fifty times before.
How does he fancy we can sit
To hear his out-of-fashioned wit?
But he takes up with younger folks,
Who for his wine will bear his jokes.
Faith, he must make his stories shorter,
Or change his comrades once a quarter:
In half the time he talks them round,
There must another set be found.
‘For poetry he's past his prime:
He takes an hour to find a rhyme;
His fire is out, his wit decay'd,
His fancy sunk, his Muse a jade.
I'd have him throw away his pen;—
But there's no talking to some men!’
And then their tenderness appears,
By adding largely to my years:
‘He's older than he would be reckon'd
And well remembers Charles the Second.
‘He hardly drinks a pint of wine;
And that, I doubt, is no good sign.
His stomach too begins to fail:
Last year we thought him strong and hale;
But now he's quite another thing:
I wish he may hold out till spring.’
Then hug themselves, and reason thus:
‘It is not yet so bad with us.’
Behold the fatal day arrive!
"How is the Dean?"—"He's just alive."
Now the departing prayer is read;
"He hardly breathes."—"The Dean is dead."
Before the passing-bell begun,
The news through half the town has run.
"O, may we all for death prepare!
What has he left? and who's his heir?"—
"I know no more than what the news is;
'Tis all bequeath'd to public uses."—
"To public use! a perfect whim!
What had the public done for him?
Mere envy, avarice, and pride:
He gave it all—but first he died.
And had the Dean, in all the nation,
No worthy friend, no poor relation?
So ready to do strangers good,
Forgetting his own flesh and blood?’
‘He gave the little wealth he had
To build a house for fools and mad;
And show'd by one satiric touch,
No nation wanted it so much[…]’