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A poem by Jonathan Swift

Apollo's Edict

Title:     Apollo's Edict
Author: Jonathan Swift [More Titles by Swift]


Ireland is now our royal care,
We lately fix'd our viceroy there.
How near was she to be undone,
Till pious love inspired her son!
What cannot our vicegerent do,
As poet and as patriot too?
Let his success our subjects sway,
Our inspirations to obey,
And follow where he leads the way:
Then study to correct your taste;
Nor beaten paths be longer traced.
No simile shall be begun,
With rising or with setting sun;
And let the secret head of Nile
Be ever banish'd from your isle.
When wretched lovers live on air,
I beg you'll the chameleon spare;
And when you'd make a hero grander,
Forget he's like a salamander.[1]
No son of mine shall dare to say,
Aurora usher'd in the day,
Or ever name the milky-way.
You all agree, I make no doubt,
Elijah's mantle is worn out.
The bird of Jove shall toil no more
To teach the humble wren to soar.
Your tragic heroes shall not rant,
Nor shepherds use poetic cant.
Simplicity alone can grace
The manners of the rural race.
Theocritus and Philips be
Your guides to true simplicity.
When Damon's soul shall take its flight,
Though poets have the second-sight,
They shall not see a trail of light.
Nor shall the vapours upwards rise,
Nor a new star adorn the skies:
For who can hope to place one there,
As glorious as Belinda's hair?
Yet, if his name you'd eternize,
And must exalt him to the skies;
Without a star this may be done:
So Tickell mourn'd his Addison.
If Anna's happy reign you praise,
Pray, not a word of halcyon days:
Nor let my votaries show their skill
In aping lines from Cooper's Hill;[2]
For know I cannot bear to hear
The mimicry of "deep, yet clear."
Whene'er my viceroy is address'd,
Against the phoenix I protest.
When poets soar in youthful strains,
No Phaethon to hold the reins.
When you describe a lovely girl,
No lips of coral, teeth of pearl.
Cupid shall ne'er mistake another,
However beauteous, for his mother;
Nor shall his darts at random fly
From magazine in Celia's eye.
With woman compounds I am cloy'd,
Which only pleased in Biddy Floyd.[3]
For foreign aid what need they roam,
Whom fate has amply blest at home?
Unerring Heaven, with bounteous hand,
Has form'd a model for your land,
Whom Jove endued with every grace;
The glory of the Granard race;
Now destined by the powers divine
The blessing of another line.
Then, would you paint a matchless dame,
Whom you'd consign to endless fame?
Invoke not Cytherea's aid,
Nor borrow from the blue-eyed maid;
Nor need you on the Graces call;
Take qualities from Donegal.[4]

[Footnote 1: See the "Description of a Salamander," _ante_, p. 46.--_W. E. B_.]

[Footnote 2: Denham's Poem.]

[Footnote 3: _Ante_, p. 50.]

[Footnote 4: Lady Catherine Forbes, daughter of the first Earl of Granard, and second wife of Arthur, third Earl of Donegal.--_Scott_.]

[The end]
Jonathan Swift's poem: Apollo's Edict