Friday, February 17, 2006
“… our solemnities.”
December 27, 1733
I waked at two this morning with the two above lines in my head, which I had made in my sleep, and I wrote them down in the dark, lest I should forget them. But as the original words being writ in the dark, may possibly be mistaken by a careless or unskilful transcriber, I shall give them a fairer copy, that two such precious lines may not be lost to posterity.
I walk before no man, a hawk in his fist;
Nor, am I a brilliant, whenever I list.
On the Day of Judgement
With a whirl of thought oppressed,
I sink from reverie to rest.
An horrid vision seized my head,
I saw the graves give up their dead.
Jove, armed with terrors, burst the skies,
And thunder roars, and lightning flies!
Amazed, confused, its fate unknown,
The world stands trembling at his throne.
While each pale sinner hangs his head,
Jove, nodding, shook the heavens, and said,
‘Offending race of humankind,
By nature, reason, learning, blind;
You who through frailty stepped aside,
And you who never fell—through pride;
You who in different sects have shammed,
And come to see each other damned;
(So some folks told you, but they knew
No more of Jove’s designs than you)
The world’s mad business now is o’er,
And I resent these pranks no more.
I to such blockheads set my wit?
I damn such fools?—Go, go, you’re bit.’
This post looked so lonesome without any comments! Here’s a naive question --what’s “pride” doing there? Is it the sole support that prevents “you” from ever falling? Or have “you” fallen through every other conceivable medium and membrane, leaving pride the only thing “you“‘ve never fallen “through”? In other words, is “through” synomymous with “thanks to” or not?
I should always make a point of just putting a ‘thank you’ in the comment box to Ray’s posts, because I always enjoy them, but I often don’t have anything to say. I like this bit because it’s so plainspoke:
“So some folks told you, but they knew
No more of Jove’s designs than you”
Josh: I read “pride” as, yeah, “the sole support” that kept non-sinners from the sins they otherwise would’ve been pleased to commit. For them, vanity was a keener urge than, for example, lust. That’s what the parallel constructions “through frailty” and “through pride” seem meant to signal, although the meter pinches Swift’s syntax something fierce.