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When curlews cry beneath the village-walls,
Joys in the inferior world, and thinks it like her own;
Till morning breaks and all's confused again;
FROM AN ODE TO THE SPLEEN.'
Falsely the mortal part we blame
Nor, whilst in his own heaven he dwelt,
No armèd sweets, until thy reign, Could shock the sense, or in the face A flushed, unhandsome colour place; But now a jonquil daunts the feeble brain, We faint beneath the aromatic pain, Till some offensive scent thy powers appease, And pleasure we resign for short and nauseous ease.
IN ANSWER TO MR. POPE.
Disarmed with so genteel an air,
First slaves to every tempting face,
You of one Orpheus sure have read,
And polished, too, his wit;
But he, poor soul, thought all was well,
And great should be his fame,
When he had left his wife in hell,
And birds and beasts could tame.
Soon punished his offence;
But you our follies gently treat,
And spin so fine the thread,
Yet soothe the ladies, I advise,—
As me, too, pride has wrought,—
[JONATHAN SWIFT was born in Hoey's court, Dublin, on the 30th of Novem. ber 1667. Belonging to a Yorkshire family and directly descended from a vicar in Herefordshire, one of whose younger sons, the poet's father, married a Leicestershire lady, he was of unmixed English blood. A posthumous child, left in indigent circumstances, he was sent to school at Kilkenny, and then to Trinity College, Dublin, by the charity of his uncle Godwin, who died in 1688. Swift seems to have neglected the studies requisite to his degree, and having been plucked at his first examination only obtained, on a second trial, Feb. 1686, ‘speciali gratia.' On the outbreak of the war, 1688, he fled to England, and found his way from Chester on foot to his mother's residence. She obtained for him the patronage of Sir William Temple, to whose wife she was related, and he remained at Moor Park for eleven years in the capacity of secretary to that accomplished statesman, at a salary of £20 a year. This residence, interrupted by a short absence during which he held an Irish country living in the diocese of Connor, brought him into the frequent society of Hester Johnson (Stella), an inmate of the same house, and reputed daughter of Sir William's steward. In 1692 Swift went to Oxford, and was admitted there to a Master's degree. On occasion of this visit he produced his first verses--an indifferent rendering of Horace (Odes ii. 18), followed a little later by his Pindaric Odes. A more substantial result of his studies in his master's library was The Battle of the Books. In 1694 he took Deacon's, and in 1695 Priest's orders. Ere his death in 1699 Sir William had from the king a promise of promotion for his client—a promise afterwards forgotten. In 1700 Swift accompanied Lord Berkeley to Ireland as chaplain, and obtained the living of Laracor in the county of Meath, at an income of £200 a year, which by the addition of the Prebend of Dunlavin was increased to £350. Initiated into the intrigues of party, he first came before the public as a champion of the Whigs, in his pamphlet entitled A Discourse on the contests and dissensions of Athens and Rome (1701). In 1704 appeared the Tale of a Tub, perhaps the wittiest of controversial works, and in 1708 the papers ridiculing the astrologer Partridge, under the signature of Isaac Bickerstaff. In 1710, with a change of opinion, quickened by chagrin at patronage deferred, Swift passed to the side of the Tories and became their most effective literary champion. His Conduct of the Allies
(1712) brought about in 1713 the Peace of Utrecht, and the gratitude of Harley and Bolinbroke procured for him the Deanery of St. Patrick's. During these years he spent a considerable portion of his time in London, exercised a commanding influence in literary and social circles, and was the leading patron of good and the scourge of bad writers. He maintained a close correspondence with Stella, and unfortunately won the affections of Miss Vanhomrigh (Vanessa), who followed him to Ireland and died there in 1723. In 1714, on the death of the Queen, Swift's hopes of further preferment being closed, he withdrew to his deanery, settled in Dublin and commenced Irishman for life.' In 1716 he contracted a formal marriage with Miss Johnson. The Drapier's Letters were issued in 1724; they effectually stopped Wood's pence,' and made their author for a time the most popular man in Ireland. Gulliver's Travels were published in 1727. Swift spe it much of the year with Pope, but was recalled by the illness of Stella, who died in 1728. Shortly after this event he wrote to Bolinbroke, 'It is time for me to have done with the world.' To another friend he remarked, gazing at a blasted elm, ‘I shall be like that tree, and die first at the top'-a prediction realised in the gradual loss of his memory, sight, hearing, speech, and finally his reason. He died in Oct. 1745, and left his fortune, of about £10,000, to found a lunatic asylum in Dublin.j
Dryden, then the veteran of our literature, sitting in the dictator's chair left vacant by Ben Jonson and waiting for Samuel Johnson, having perused an ode on the Athenian Society dating from Moor Park, February 14, 1691, hazarded the prediction, 'Cousin Swift, you will never be a poet.' The unforgiven criticism has received from the judgment of posterity an assent qualified by respect for the strongest satirist of England and for an ability which cannot help making itself here and there manifest even in his verse.
Swift's satire is of two kinds: the party polemic of his earlier years, which culminated in 1724 in the Drapier's Letters, and the expression of a misanthropy as genuine as that of Shakespeare's Timon, of a rage directed not against Dissent or Church or Whig or Tory, but mankind, finding mature vent in the most terrible libel that has ever been imagined—a libel on the whole of his race— the hideous immortal mockery of the closing voyage of Gulliver. Such a work could only have been written by one born a cynic, doubly soured by some mysterious affliction, and by having had
To fawn, to crouch, to wait, to ride, to run,
till he had lost any original capacity he may have had for
becoming a poet. His genius, moreover, was from the first as far removed from that peculiar to poetry as it is possible for any genius of the first rank to be. The power of Swift's prose was the terror of his own, and remains the wonder of after times. With the exception of a few clumsy paragraphs thrown off in haste, he says what he means in the homeliest native English that can be conceived. Disdaining even those refinements cr shades of expression to which most writers touching on delicate or dangerous subjects feel compelled to resort, he owes almost nothing to foreign influence. 'I am,' he wrote, 'for every man's working on his own materials, and producing only what he can find within himself': he consistently carved everything he had to set before his readers out of the plain facts with which he professed to deal. In his masterpieces there is scarce a hint from any known source, rarely a quotation: his sentences are selfsufficient, and fit the occasion as a glove the hand. In the Tale of a Tub he anticipates Teufelsdröckh in his contempt for trappings of speech as of person; he regarded fine language as leather and prunella. Though Swift's Allegories are abundant, he disdained ordinary metaphor, in the spirit in which Bentham defined poetry as misrepresentation. But towards the close of the seventeenth and during the end of the eighteenth centuries, almost every English writer-apart from those purely scientific-had to pay toll to what he called the Muses. Bunyan seems to have written his bad lines to italicise the distinction between the most highly imaginative prose and poetry. In the next age no one who addressed the general public could escape the trial; and Swift's verses are at least as worthy of preservation as Addison's. In following a fashion he also gratified a talent,-nor Pope nor Byron had a greater,—for random rhyme. Generally careless, often harsh, his versification is seldom laboured: his pen may run till it wearies the reader; but we see no reason in fall of energy why Swift's Hudibrastic jingle should cease, any more than why the waves of Spenser's stanza should not roll for ever. The other merits of our author's verse are those of his prose-condensation, pith, always the effect, generally the reality, of sincere purpose, and, with few exceptions, simplicity and directness. The exceptions are in his unhappy Pindaric odes, and some of his later contributions to the pedantry of the age. The former could scarcely be worse, for they have almost the contortions of Cowley, without his occasional flow and elevation. Take the following lines from the Athenian Ode: