Advice to the Grub Street Verse-writers

by Jonathan Swift

Ye poets ragged and forlorn,
Down from your garrets haste;
Ye rhymers, dead as soon as born,
Not yet consign’d to paste;

I know a trick to make you thrive;
O, ‘tis a quaint device:
Your still-born poems shall revive,
And scorn to wrap up spice.

Get all your verses printed fair,
Then let them well be dried;
And Curll must have a special care
To leave the margin wide.

Lend these to paper-sparing Pope;
And when he sets to write,
No letter with an envelope
Could give him more delight.

When Pope has fill’d the margins round,
Why then recall your loan;
Sell them to Curll for fifty- pond,
And swear they are your own.

 

 


Title:

Advice to the Grub Street Verse-writers

Poet:

Swift, Jonathan

Year of Publication:

1735

Age Appropriate:

15+

Notes:

Curll, Edmund (1675-1747) a London Bookseller who published Court Poems naming Alexander Pope as contributor. Pope confronted Curll at a local tavern and in response wrote A Full and True Account of a Horrid and Barbarous Revenge by Poison on the Body of Mr. Edmund Curl; Bookseller. Later on the House of Lords issued condemnation of Curll for obscene publications. Curll went on to publish biographies, histories, books on criticism, and literary collections.

Category:

Humor

Form:

Hymnal Measure

Type:

Didactic

Meter:

Accentual-syllabic; tetrameter couplets

Rhyme:

abab

Literary Period:

Augustan; Queen Anne

Things to Discuss:

Note the examples of “syncope” always a good indicator that the poet is following accentual-syllabic meter. Swift was master of both styles of satire, how would you describe this one, Horatian or Juvenalian?

About the Poem:

The term “Grub Street” refers to a London street, now called Milton Street, fond hang-out for “would-be” poets, writers, historians, copyists or as some prefer “literary hacks” selling to unauthenticated populist papers.

About the Poet:

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) wrote under several nom de plums – M. B. Drapier, Lemuel Gulliver, and Isaac Bickerstaff. Pope wrote:

“O Thou! Whatever title please thine ear, Dean, Drapier, Bickerstaff, or Gulliver! Whether if thou choose Cerbantes’ serious air, Or laugh and shake in Rabelais’ easy chair, …Mourn not, my Swift! At ought our realm reauires, Here pleased behold her mighty wings outspread, To hatch a new Saturnian age of lead.”