Verse > Anthologies > T. R. Smith, ed. > Poetica Erotica: A Collection of Rare and Curious Amatory Verse
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T. R. Smith, comp.  Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse.  1921–22.
 
Phyllis
By Jonathan Swift (1667–1745)
 
(From Miscellanies in Prose and Verse, 1727–32)

DESPONDING Phyllis was endued
With ev’ry talent of a prude:
She trembled when a man drew near;
Salute her, and she turned her ear:
If o’er against her you were placed,        5
She durst not look above your waist:
She’d rather take you to her bed,
Than let you see her dress her head;
In church you hear her, thro’ the crowd,
Repeat the absolution loud:        10
In church, secure behind her fan,
She durst behold that monster man:
There practised how to place her head,
And bit her lips to make them red;
Or, on the mat devoutly kneeling,        15
Would lift her eyes up to the ceiling,
And heave her bosom unaware
For neighbouring beaux to see it bare.
  At length a lucky lover came,
And found admittance to the dame.        20
Suppose all parties now agreed,
The writings drawn, the lawyer feed,
The vicar and the ring bespoke:
Guess, how could such a match be broke?
See then what mortals place their bliss in!        25
Next morn betimes the bride was missing:
The mother screamed, the father chid;
Where can this idle wench be hid?
No news of Phyl! the bridegroom came,
And thought his bride had skulked for shame;        30
Because her father used to say,
The girl had such a bashful way!
  Now John the butler must be sent
To learn the road that Phyllis went:
The groom was wished to saddle Crop;        35
For John must neither light nor stop,
But find her, wheresoe’er she fled,
And bring her back alive or dead.
  See here again the devil to do!
For truly John was missing too:        40
The horse and pillion both were gone!
Phyllis, it seems, was fled with John.
  Old Madam, who went up to find
What papers Phyl had left behind,
A letter on the toilet sees,        45
“To my much honoured father—these—”
(’Tis always done, romances tell us,
When daughters run away with fellows),
Filled with the choicest common-places,
By others used in the like cases,—        50
“That long ago a fortune-teller
Exactly said what now befell her;
And in a glass had made her see
A serving-man of low degree.
It was her fate, must be forgiven;        55
For marriages were made in Heaven:
His pardon begged: but, to be plain,
She’d do’t if ’twere to do again:
Thank’d God, ’twas neither shame nor sin;
For John was come of honest kin.        60
Love never thinks of rich and poor;
She’d beg with John from door to door.
Forgive her, if it be a crime;
She’ll never do’t another time.
She ne’er before in all her life        65
Once disobey’d him, maid nor wife.
One argument she summ’d up all in,
The thing was done and past recalling;
And therefore hoped she should recover
His favour when his passion’s over.        70
She valued not what others thought her,
And was—his most obedient daughter.”
Fair maidens all attend the Muse,
Who now the wand’ring pair pursues:
Away they rode in homely sort,        75
Their journey long, their money short;
The loving couple well bemired;
The horse and both the riders tired:
Their vituals bad, their lodgings worse;
Phyl cried! and John began to curse:        80
Phyl wished that she had strained a limb,
When first she ventured out with him;
John wish’d that he had broke a leg,
When first for her he quitted Peg.
But what adventures more befell them,        85
The Muse hath now no time to tell them;
How Johnny wheedled, threatened, fawned,
Till Phyllis all her trinkets pawn’d:
How oft she broke her marriage vows,
In kindness to maintain her spouse,        90
Till swains unwholesome spoiled the trade;
For now the surgeon must be paid,
To whom those perquisites are gone,
In Christian justice due to John.
  When food and raiment now grew scarce,        95
Fate put a period to the farce,
And with exact poetic justice;
For John was landlord, Phyllis hostess;
They keep at Staines the Old Blue Boar,
Are cat and dog, and rogue and whore.        100
 
 
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