A Satirical Elegy on the Death of a Late Famous General

By Jonathan Swift 1667–1745 Jonathan Swift
His Grace! impossible! what dead!
Of old age too, and in his bed!
And could that mighty warrior fall?
And so inglorious, after all!
Well, since he’s gone, no matter how,
The last loud trump must wake him now:
And, trust me, as the noise grows stronger,
He’d wish to sleep a little longer.
And could he be indeed so old
As by the newspapers we’re told?
Threescore, I think, is pretty high;
’Twas time in conscience he should die
This world he cumbered long enough;
He burnt his candle to the snuff;
And that’s the reason, some folks think,
He left behind so great a stink.
Behold his funeral appears,
Nor widow’s sighs, nor orphan’s tears,
Wont at such times each heart to pierce,
Attend the progress of his hearse.
But what of that, his friends may say,
He had those honours in his day.
True to his profit and his pride,
He made them weep before he died.

    Come hither, all ye empty things,
Ye bubbles raised by breath of kings;
Who float upon the tide of state,
Come hither, and behold your fate.
Let pride be taught by this rebuke,
How very mean a thing’s a Duke;
From all his ill-got honours flung,
Turned to that dirt from whence he sprung.

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Poet Jonathan Swift 1667–1745

POET’S REGION Ireland

SCHOOL / PERIOD Augustan

Subjects Living, Humor & Satire, Arts & Sciences, Death

Poetic Terms Elegy, Couplet

 Jonathan  Swift

Biography

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) was born to English parents in Dublin, Ireland, and his family moved throughout Great Britain. Deeply involved in politics and religion, Swift became one of the first prose satirists. His masterpiece is Gulliver’s Travels. Swift’s sharp wit carried over into his poetry, as in the mock elegy for himself, “Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift.”

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Humor & Satire, Arts & Sciences, Death

POET’S REGION Ireland

SCHOOL / PERIOD Augustan

Poetic Terms Elegy, Couplet

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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