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A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed – Jonathan Swift

Corinna, pride of Drury-Lane
For whom no shepherd sighs in vain;
Never did Covent Garden boast
So bright a battered, strolling toast;
No drunken rake to pick her up,
No cellar where on tick to sup;
Returning at the midnight hour;
Four stories climbing to her bow’r;
Then, seated on a three-legged chair,
Takes off her artificial hair:
Now, picking out a crystal eye,
She wipes it clean, and lays it by.

Meaning

  • Corinna
  • Drury-Lane
  • Pride of Drury-Lane
  • Sigh – An expression of loss
  • For whom no shepherd sighs in vain – Even a shepherd doesn’t want Corinna
  • Covent Garden
  • Never did Covent Garden boast so bright a battered, strolling toast;
  • No drunken rake to pick her up
  • No cellar where on tick to sup;
  • Returning at the midnight hour;
  • Four stories climbing to her bow’r;
  • Bow’r;
  • Then, seated on a three-legged chair,
  • Takes off her artificial hair:
  • Now, picking out a crystal eye,
  • She wipes it clean, and lays it by.
  • Her eye-brows from a mouse’s hide,
  • Stuck on with art on either side,
  • Pulls off with care, and first displays ’em,
  • Then in a play-book smoothly lays ’em.
Now dexterously her plumpers draws,
That serve to fill her hollow jaws.
Untwists a wire; and from her gums
A set of teeth completely comes.
Pulls out the rags contrived to prop
Her flabby dugs and down they drop.

Meaning

  • Dexterously – With experience
  • Plumpers – Usually artificial lips but here, a padding to fill the jaws.
  • Untwists – Unfolds
  • Rags
  • Contrived
  • Prop
  • Flabby dugs

Proceeding on, the lovely goddess
Unlaces next her steel-ribbed bodice;
Which by the operator’s skill,
Press down the lumps, the hollows fill,
Up goes her hand, and off she slips
The bolsters that supply her hips.

Meaning

  • Proceeding on – Further more
  • The lovely goddess – Corinna
  • Unlaces – Unties
  • Steel-ribbed
  • Bodice – A woman’s sleeveless undergarment with laces
  • Which by the operator’s skill,
  • Press down the lumps, the hollows fill,
  • Up goes her hand, and off she slips
  • Bolsters – Padding
With gentlest touch, she next explores
Her shankers, issues, running sores,
Effects of many a sad disaster;
And then to each applies a plaister.

But must, before she goes to bed,
Rub off the dawbs of white and red;
And smooth the furrows in her front
With greasy paper stuck upon’t.

She takes a bolus ere she sleeps;
And then between two blankets creeps.

Meaning

  • Explores
  • Shankers
  • Issues – Discharge of pus
  • Running sores,
  • Effects of many a sad disaster
  • Plaister
  • Dawbs – Daubs
  • Dawbs of white and red
  • Furrows – Wrinkles
  • Bolus – Pill
  • Between two blankets creeps
  • Lies – Corinna lies down to sleep
  • Tormented – Tortured
  • With pains of love tormented lies

Or if she chance to close her eyes,
Of Bridewell and the Compter dreams,
And feels the lash, and faintly screams;
Or, by a faithless bully drawn,
At some hedge-tavern lies in pawn;
Or to Jamaica seems transported,
Alone, and by no planter courted;
Or, near Fleet-Ditch’s oozy brinks,
Surrounded with a hundred stinks,
Belated, seems on watch to lie,
And snap some cully passing by;
Or, struck with fear, her fancy runs
On watchmen, constables and duns,
From whom she meets with frequent rubs;
But, never from religious clubs;
Whose favor she is sure to find,
Because she pays ’em all in kind.

Meaning

  • Bridewell and the Compter
  • Lash
  • Faithless – Not trustworthy; cheat
  • Bully
  • drawn
  • At some hedge-tavern lies in pawn;
  • Or to Jamaica seems transported,
  • Alone, and by no planter courted;
  • Or, near Fleet-Ditch’s oozy brinks,
  • Surrounded with a hundred stinks,
  • Belated, seems on watch to lie,
  • Cully – An innocent, gullible person
  • Or, struck with fear, her fancy runs
  • On watchmen, constables and duns,
  • From whom she meets with frequent rubs;
  • But, never from religious clubs;
  • Whose favor she is sure to find,
  • Because she pays ’em all in kind.

Corinna wakes. A dreadful sight!
Behold the ruins of the night!
A wicked rat her plaster stole,
Half eat, and dragged it to his hole.

The crystal eye, alas, was missed;
And puss had on her plumpers pissed.
A pigeon picked her issue-peas;
And Shock her tresses filled with fleas.
The nymph, tho’ in this mangled plight,
Must ev’ry morn her limbs unite.
But how shall I describe her arts
To recollect the scattered parts?
Or shew the anguish, toil, and pain,
Of gath’ring up herself again?
The bashful muse will never bear
In such a scene to interfere.
Corinna in the morning dizened,
Who sees, will spew; who smells, be poison’d.

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