Tag Archives: wit

Jonathan Swift, “Apollo Outwitted”

JONATHAN SWIFT

“Apollo Outwitted”

To the Honourable Mrs. FINCH, under her Name of Ardelia.
Written, 1709.

PHOEBUS now shortning every Shade,
Up to the Northern Tropick came,
And thence Beheld a Lovely Maid
Attending on a Royal Dame.

THE God laid down his Feeble Rays,                                                  5
Then lighted from his Glitt’ring Coach,
But fenc’d his Head with his own Bays
Before he durst the Nymph approach.

UNDER those Sacred Leaves, Secure
From common Lightning of the Skies,                                        10
He fondly thought he might endure
The Flashes of Ardelia’s Eyes.

THE Nymph who oft had read in Books,
Of that Bright God whom Bards invoke,
Soon knew Apollo by his looks,                                                             15
And Guest his Business e’er he Spoke.

HE in the old Celestial Cant,
Confest his Flame, and Swore by Styx,
What e’er she would desire, to Grant,
But Wise Ardelia knew his Tricks.                                                    20

OVID had warn’d her to beware,
Of Stroling Gods, whose usual Trade is,
Under pretence of Taking Air,
To Pick up Sublunary Ladies.

HOWE’ER she gave no flat Denial,                                                            25
As having Malice in her Heart,
And was resolv’d upon a Tryal,
To Cheat the God in his own Art.

HEAR my Request the Virgin said
Let which I please of all the Nine                                                       30
Attend when e’er I want their Aid,
Obey my Call, and only mine.

BY Vow Oblig’d, By Passion led,
The God could not refuse her Prayer;
He wav’d his Wreath Thrice o’er her Head,                                               35
Thrice mutter’d something to the Air.

AND now he thought to Seize his due,
But she the Charm already try’d,
Thalia heard the Call and Flew
To wait at Bright Ardelia’s Side.                                                             40

ON sight of this Celestial Prude,
Apollo thought it vain to stay,
Nor in her Presence durst be Rude,
But made his Leg and went away.

HE hop’d to find some lucky Hour,                                                               45
When on their Queen the Muses wait;
But Pallas owns Ardelia’s Power,
For Vows Divine are kept by Fate.

THEN full of Rage Apollo Spoke,
Deceitful Nymph I see thy Art,                                                               50
And tho’ I can’t my gift revoke,
I’ll disappoint its Nobler Part.

LET Stubborn Pride Possess thee long,
And be thou Negligent of Fame,
With ev’ry Muse to Grace thy Song,                                                               55
May’st thou despise a Poets Name.

OF Modest Poets thou be first,
To silent Shades repeat thy Verse,
Till Fame and Eccho almost burst,
Yet hardly dare one Line Rehearse.                                                        60

AND last, my Vengeance to Compleat,
May you Descend to take Renown,
Prevail’d on by the Thing you hate,
A [Whig] and one that wears a Gown.

NOTES:

Dedication  Ardelia  Anne Finch’s poetical name for herself.

1  PHOEBUS  “[Ancient Greek name of Apollo] god of light, poetry and music” (OED).

2  Northern Tropick  “Tropic of Cancer,” which includes Britain (Britannica).

4  Royal Dame  Finch was appointed Maid of Honour to Mary of Modena in 1682.  Mary became queen in 1685 when her husband ascended the throne as James II, though Finch had resigned her court position in 1684 after marrying.

7  Bays  “Leaves or sprigs of this tree, esp. as woven into a wreath or garland to reward a conqueror or poet; hence figurative the fame and repute attained by these” (OED).

14  Bards  “A lyric or epic poet, a ‘singer’; a poet generally” (OED).

18  Styx  “A river of the lower world or Hades, over which the shades of the departed were ferried by Charon, and by which the gods swore their most solemn oaths” (OED).

21  OVID  Roman poet (43BC-17AD), famous for Metamorphoses.

30  all the Nine  The muses.

39  Thalia  “The eighth of the muses, presiding over comedy and idyllic poetry” (OED).

47  Pallas  Epithet for Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and war.

64  [Whig]  “A person who supported the exclusion of James, Duke of York (later James II), from the succession to the thrones of England, Scotland, and Ireland on account of his Roman Catholicism during the late 1670s and 1680s” (OED); added in later printings of the poem; one that wears a Gown  Swift himself.

SOURCE:  Miscellanies in Prose and Verse (London, 1711), pp. 399–403.  [Google Books]

Edited by Jake Araiza

 

Matthew Prior, “The Cameleon”

MATTHEW PRIOR

“The Cameleon”

As the Cameleon, who is known
To have no Colours of his own;
But borrows from his Neighbour’s Hue
His White, or Black; his Green, or Blue;
And struts as much in ready Light,                                             5
Which Credit gives him upon Sight,
As if the Rain-bow were in Tail
Settl’d on him, and his Heirs Male.
So the young Squire, when first he comes
From Country School to Will’s or Tom’s;                                     10
And equally (G–d knows) is fit
To be a Statesman, or a Wit:
Without one Notion of his own,
He saunters wildly up and down,
‘Till some Acquaintance, good or bad,                                       15
Takes notice of a staring Lad;
Admits him in amongst the Gang:
They jest, reply, dispute, harangue;
He acts and talks, as they befriend him:
Smear’d with the Colours, which they lend him.                       20

Thus, meerly as his Fortune chances,
His Merit or his Vice advances.

If haply he the Sect pursues,
That read and comment upon News;
He takes up their mysterious Face;                                              25
He drinks his Coffee without Lace:
This Week his mimic Tongue runs o’er
What they have said the Week before;
His Wisdom sets all Europe right,
And teaches Marlb’rough when to fight.                                      30

Or, if it be his Fate to meet
With Folks who have more Wealth than Wit:
He loves cheap Port, and double Bub,
And settles in the Hum Drum Club.
He learns how stocks with fall or rise;                                         35
Holds Poverty the greatest Vice:
Thinks Wit the Bane of Conversation;
And says that Learning spoils a Nation.

But, if at first he minds his Hits,
And drinks Champaine among the Wits:                                      40
Five deep he toasts the tow’ring Lasses;
Repeats you Verses writ on Glasses:
Is in the Chair; prescribes the Law;
And lyes with Those he never saw.

NOTES:

1 Cameleon An inconstant or variable person” (OED).

9 Squire “A young man of good birth attendant upon a knight” (OED).

10 Will’s or Tom’s Most likely common names of local pubs or coffeehouses.

18 jest “To tell a tale, to recite a romance” (OED); harangue “To make an address or speech to an assembly” (OED).

23 Sect A class “or kind of persons” (OED).

26 Coffee without Lace The epithet applied to tea or coffee that has not been mixed with some kind of spirit; “Mr. Nisby is of opinion that laced coffee is bad for the head” –Spectator No. 317 (Dinsdale, A Glossary of Provincial Words Used in Teesdale, 76).

30 Marlb’rough John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722). He is considered one of England’s greatest generals after leading the British and allied armies to key victories over Louis XIV of France at Blenheim (1704), Ramillies (1706), and Oudenaarde (1708) (Konstam, Marlborough, 4).

33 double Bub “A slang word for drink, esp. strong beer” (OED).

34 Hum Drum “Lacking variety; of a routine character” (OED).

Source: Poems on Several Occasions (London 1718) pp. 177-179. [Google Books]

Edited by Jane Matchak