In 1731, Swift wrote to his friend, John Gay, "I have been several months writing near five hundred lines on a pleasant subject, only to tell what my friends and enemies will say on me after I am dead." His poem was first published in a thoroughly edited and abridged version in London in 1739. This text is based on the Dublin edition of the same year, drawing on the manuscript evidence Harold Williams uses in his edition of the poems.
Dans l'adversité de nos meilleurs amis nous trouvons quelque chose, qui ne nous deplaist pas. 2
[In the Adversity of our best Friends, we find something that doth not displease us.]
As Rochefoucault his Maxims drew
This Maxim more than all the rest
If this perhaps your Patience move
We all behold with envious Eyes,
If in a Battle you should find,
Dear honest Ned is in the Gout,
What Poet would not grieve to see,
Her End when Emulation misses,
Vain human Kind! Fantastick Race!
Why must I be outdone by Gay,
Arbuthnot 6 is no more
my Friend, 
St. John, as well as Pultney 7 knows,
To all my Foes, dear Fortune, send
Thus much may serve by way of Proem, 8
The Time is not remote, when I
For Poetry, he's past his Prime,
And, then their Tenderness appears,
"He hardly drinks a Pint of Wine;
Then hug themselves, and reason thus;
In such a Case they talk in Tropes, 15
Yet shou'd some Neighbour feel a Pain,
My good Companions, never fear,
"Behold the fatal Day arrive!
The Doctors tender of their Fame, 20
From Dublin soon to London
Kind Lady Suffolk 23 in the
Now, Chartres 27 at Sir
Robert's Levee, 28
Now Curl his Shop from Rubbish drains;
Here shift the Scene, to represent
St. John himself will scarce forbear,
The Fools, my Juniors by a Year,
My female Friends, whose tender Hearts
Why do we grieve that Friends should dye?
Here's Wolston's Tracts, 53 the
Suppose me dead; and then suppose
"The Dean, if we believe Report,
"He never thought an Honour done him,
"With Princes kept a due Decorum,
"Had he but spar'd his Tongue and Pen,
"And, oh! how short are human Schemes!
"With Horror, Grief, Despair the Dean
"By Innocence and Resolution,
"The Dean did by his Pen defeat
"To save them from their evil Fate,
In Exile 78 with a
His Friendship there to few confin'd,
"Perhaps I may allow, the Dean
"He knew an hundred pleasant Stories,
"He gave the little Wealth he had,
1. D.S.P.D.: Dean of St. Patrick's, Dublin.
2. Dans l'adversité . . . deplaist pas: From La Rochefoucauld's Maxims.
3. Lawrels (or laurels), the laurel wreath that crowns the victor.
4. Without, "outside."
5. Pope: Alexander Pope was among Swift's close friends, as were John Gay and John Arbuthnot (see lines 53 and 55).
6. Arbuthnot: John Arbuthnot (1667-1735), a physician, writer, and friend of Swift.
7. Pultney: See Swift's note on line 194.
8. Proem, "introduction."
9. Hardly, "with difficulty."
10. Apace, "quickly."
11. Vertigo in his Head: Swift suffered from a disorder of the inner ear which made him subject to bouts of vertigo.
12. Jade, "A horse of no spirit; a hired horse; a worthless nag" (Johnson).
13. Well remembers Charles the Second: King Charles died in 1685; Swift was eighteen at the time.
14. Doubt, "To fear; to be apprehensive" (Johnson).
15. Tropes, "figures of speech" — that is, they don't speak literally.
16. Passing-Bell, "death knell."
17. Bequeath'd to publick Uses: Swift's will gave much of his property to set up a house for the insane.
18. Grub-Street: "Originally the name of a street in Moorfields in London, much inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems; whence any mean production is called grubstreet" (Johnson).
19. The Drapier: "The Author imagines, that the Scriblers of the prevailing Party, which he always opposed, will libel him after his Death; but that others will remember him under the name of M. B. Drapier, by utterly defeating the destructive Project of Wood's Half-pence, in five Letters to the People of Ireland, at that Time read universally, and convincing every Reader" — Swift's note. Swift alludes to his role in defeating an English plan to introduce copper half-pence in Ireland; his Drapier's Letters made him an Irish national hero. See Swift's note on line 408.
20. Fame, "Celebrity; renown" (Johnson).
21. Nice, "Requiring scrupulous exactness" (Johnson).
22. The Dean is dead: "The Dean supposeth himself to dye in Ireland" — Swift's note. He did.
23. Lady Suffolk: "Mrs. Howard, afterwards Countess of Suffolk, then of the Bed-chamber to the Queen, professed much Friendship for the Dean. The Queen then Princess, sent a dozen times to the Dean (then in London) with her Command to attend her; which at last he did, by Advice of all his Friends. She often sent for him afterwards, and always treated him very Graciously. He taxed her with a Present worth Ten Pounds, which she promised before he should return to Ireland, but on his taking Leave, the Medals were not ready" — Swift's note.
24. Spleen, "Melancholy; hypochondriacal vapours" (Johnson).
25. The Medals were forgot: "The Medals were to be sent to the Dean in four Months, but she forgot them, or thought them too dear. The Dean, being in Ireland, sent Mrs. Howard a Piece of Indian Plad made in that Kingdom: which the Queen seeing took from her, and wore it herself, and sent to the Dean for as much as would cloath herself and Children, desiring he would send the Charge of it. He did the former. It cost thirty-five Pounds, but he said he would have nothign except the Medals. He was the Summer following in England, was treated as usual, and she being then Queen, the Dean was promised a Settlement in England, but returned as he went, and, instead of Favour or Medals, hath been ever since under her Majesty's Displeasure" — Swift's note.
26. Own, "To confess; not to deny" (Johnson).
27. Chartres: "Chartres is a most infamous, vile Scoundrel, grown from a Foot-Boy, or worse, to a prodigious Fortune both in England and Scotland: He had a Way of insinuating himself into all Minsters under every Change, either as Pimp, Flatterer, or Informer. He was Tryed at Seventy for a Rape, and came off by sacrificing a great Part of his Fortune (he is since dead, but this Poem still preserves the Scene and Time it was writ in)" — Swift's note.
28. Levee, "The concourse of those who croud round a man of power in a morning" (Johnson).
29. Without his Shoes: "To die in one's shoes" meant to die violently.
30. Bob: "Sir Robert Walpole, Chief Minister of State, treated the Dean in 1726, with great Distinction, invited him to Dinner at Chelsea, with the Dean's Friends chosen on Purpose; appointed an Hour to talk with him of Ireland, to which Kingdom and People the Dean found him no great Friend; for he defended Wood's Project of Half-pence, &c. The Dean would see him no more; and upon his next Year's return to England, Sir Robert on an accidental Meeting, only made a civil Compliment, and never invited him again" — Swift's note.
31. Will: "Mr. William Pultney, from being Mr. Walpole's intimate Friend, detesting his Administratino, opposed his Measures, and joined with my Lord Bolingbroke, to represent his Conduct in an excellent Paper, called the Craftsman, which is still continued" — Swift's note.
32. Mitre: The hat of a bishop.
33. Bolingbroke: "Henry St. John, Lord Viscount Bolingbroke, Secretary of State to Queen Anne of blessed Memory. He is reckoned the most Universal Genius in Europe; Walpole dreading his Abilities, treated him most injuriously, working with King George, who forgot his Promise of restoring the said Lord, upon the restless Importunity of Walpole" — Swift's note.
34. Swift's Remains: "Curl hath been the most infamous Bookseller of any Age or Country: His CHaracter in Part may be found in Mr. Pope's Dunciad. He published three Volumes all charged on the Dean, who never writ three Pages of them: He hath used many of the Dean's Friends in almost as vile a Manner" — Swift's note.
35. Glibber, "more saleable."
36. Tibbalds, Moore, and Cibber: "Three stupid Verse Writers in London, the last to the Shame of the Court, and the highest Disgrace to Wit and Learning, was made Laureat. Moore, commonly called Jemmy Moore, Son of Arthur Moore, whose Father was Jaylor of Monaghan in Ireland. See the Character of Jemmy Moore, and Tibbalds, Theobald in the Dunciad" — Swift's note.
37. My Letters: "Curl is notoriously infamous for publishing the Lives, Letters, and last Wills and Testaments of the Nobility and Ministers of State, as well as of all the Rogues, who are hanged at Tyburn. He hath been in Custody of the House of Lords for publishing or forging the Letters of many Peers; which hath made the Lords enter a Resolution in their Journal Book, that no Life or Writings of any Lord should be published without the Consent of the next Heir at Law, or Licence from their House" — Swift's note.
38. Bowels, "Tenderness; compassion" (Johnson).
39. Dissemble, "To play the hypocrite" (Johnson).
40. The Vole, "all the tricks."
41. Engag'd, "busy."
42. Quadrill (or quadrille), "A game at cards" (Johnson).
43. Lintot: "Bernard Lintot, a Bookseller in London. Vide Mr. Pope's Dunciad" — Swift's note. Lintot (1675-1736) published many of the works of Pope, Gay, and Steele.
44. Duck-lane: "A Place in London where old Books are sold" — Swift's note.
45. Pastry-cooks would use the pages from worthless books to line their pie-tins.
46. Stuff, "Matter or thing. In contempt. It is now seldom used in any sense but in contempt or dislike" (Johnson).
47. Spick and span, "Quite new; now first used" (Johnson, who quotes this couplet from Swift in the Dictionary).
48. Colley Cibber's Birth-day Poem: Cibber (1671-1757) became Poet Laureate in 1730. One of the laureate's duties was to write celebratory poems on the king's birthday.
49. Stephen Duck: Duck (1705-56), the "thresher poet," began life as a manual laborer. When his poetic talents were discovered, he became a celebrity, patronized by Queen Caroline. Swift ridiculed him in several publications.
50. The Craftsman: A journal begun by the Opposition in December 1726; it regularly attacked Walpole and his government.
51. Sir Robert's Vindication: "Walpole hires a Set of Party Scriblers, who do nothing else but write in his Defence" — Swift's note.
52. Henly: "Henly is a Clergyman who wanting both Merit and Luck to get Preferment, or even to keep his Curacy in the Established Church, formed a new Conventicle, which he calls an Oratory. There, at set Times, he delivereth strange Speeches compiled by himself and his Associates, who share the Profit with him: Every Hearer pays a Shilling each Day for Admittance. He is an absolute Dunce, but generally reputed crazy" — Swift's note.
53. Wolston's Tracts: "Wolston was a Clergyman, but for want of Bread, hath in several Treaties, in the most blasphemous Manner, attempted to turn Our Saviour and his Miracles into Ridicule. He is much caressed by many great Courtiers, and by all the Infidels, and his Books read generally by the Court Ladies" — Swift's note. In fact Swift confuses two people with similar names, Thomas Wollston (1670-1733), who was convicted of blasphemy, and William Woolaston (1660-1724), the moral philosopher.
54. Country Members: Members of Parliament who represent the "Country Party," that is, the Opposition to Walpole.
55. Mitre, a bishop's hat.
56. The Rose: A tavern in Covent Garden, London.
57. Own, "To avow" (Johnson).
58. Stars and Garters: Marks of two orders of knighthood.
59. Chartres: "See the Notes before on Chartres" — Swift's note. See line 189.
60. Admiration, "awe."
61. Just, "exactly."
62. In Princes never put thy Trust: Psalms 146:3, "Put not your trust in princes."
63. Sower, that is, sour.
64. Two Kingdoms . . . Six Hundred Pound: "In the Year 1713, the late Queen was prevailed with by an Address of the House of Lords in England, to publish a Proclamation, promising Three Hundred Pounds to whatever Person would discover the Author of a Pamphlet called, The Publick Spirit of the Whiggs; and in Ireland, in the Year 1724, my Lord Carteret at his first coming into the Government, was prevailed on to issue a Proclamation for promising the like Reward of Three Hundred Pounds, to any Person who could discover the Author of a Pamphlet called, The Drapier's Fourth Letter, &c. writ against that destructive Project of coining Half-pence for Ireland; but in neither Kingdoms was the Dean discovered" — Swift's note.
65. Groat, a small coin worth four pence.
66. Tenor, "even keel."
67. Still, "always."
68. He left the Court in meer Despair: "Queen ANNE's Ministry fell to Variance from the first Year after their Ministry began: Harcourt the Chancellor, and Lord Bolingbroke the Secretary, were discontented with the Treasurer Oxford, for his too much Mildness to the Whig Party; this Quarrel grew higher every Day till the Queen's Death: The Dean, who was the only Person that endeavoured to reconcile them, found it impossible; and thereupon retired to the Country about ten Weeks before that fatal Event: Upon which he returned to his Deanry in Dublin, where for many Years he was worryed by the new People in Power, and had Hundreds of Libels writ against him in England" — Swift's note.
69. Too soon that precious Life was ended: "In the Height of the Quarrel between the Ministers, the Queen died" — Swift's note.
70. When up . . . their Hearts: "Upon Queen ANNE's Death the Whig Faction was restored to Power, which they exercised with the utmost Rage and Revenge; impeached and banished the Chief Leaders of the Church Party, and stripped all their Adherents of what Employments they had, after which England was never known to make so mean a Figure in Europe. The greatest Preferments in the Church in both Kingdoms were given to the most ignorant Men, Fanaticks were publickly caressed, Ireland utterly ruined and enslaved, only great Ministers heaping up Millions, and are likely to go on in the same Manner" — Swift's note.
71. By solemn League and Cov'nant bound: In 1643, Scotland entered into a covenant to become a Presbyterian nation. Swift, an Anglican, resented their rejection of episcopacy.
72. Pursu'd by base envenom'd Pens: "Upon the Queen's Death, the Dean returned to live in Dublin, at his Deanry-House: Numberless Libels were writ against him in England, as a Jacobite; he was insulted in the Street, and at Nights was forced to be attended by his Servants armed" — Swift's note.
73. The Land of Slaves and Fens: "The Land of Slaves and Fens, is Ireland" — Swift's note.
74. Truckle, "to be servile."
75. An infamous destructive Cheat: "One Wood, a Hardware-man from England, had a Patent for coining Copper Half-pence in Ireland, to the Sum of 108,000l. which in the Consequence, must leave that Kingdom without Gold or Silver" — Swift's note.
76. Wicked Monster . . . never quench: "One Whitshed was then Chief Justice: He had some Years before prosecuted a Printer for a Pamphlet writ by the Dean, to perswade the People of Ireland to wear their own Manufactures. Whitshed sent the Jury down elevent Times, and kept them nine Hours, until they were forced to bring in a special Verdict. He sat as Judge afterwards on the Tryal of the Printer of the Drapier's Fourth Letter; but the Jury, against all he could say or swear, threw out the Bill: All the Kingdom took the Drapier's Part, except the Courtiers, or those who expected Places. His Signw as set up in most Streets of Dublin (where many of them still continue" and in several Country Towns" — Swift's note.
77. Scroggs . . . Tressilian: "Scroggs was Chief Justice under King Charles the Second: His Judgment always varied in State Tryals, according to Directions from Court. Tressilian was a wicked Judge, hanged above three hundred Years ago" — Swift's note. Sir William Scroggs (c. 1623-83) was impeached in 1680; Sir Robert Tresilian, Chief Justice of the King's Bench, was impeached in 1387 and hanged in 1388.
78. Exile: "In Ireland, which he had Reason to call a Place of Exile; to which Country nothing could have driven him, but the Queen's Death, who had determined to fix him in England, in Spight of the Dutchess of Somerset, &c." — Swift's note.
79. His Friendship . . . midling Kind: "In Ireland the Dean was not acquainted with one single Lord Spiritual [bishop] or Temporal [member of the House of Lords]. He only conversed with private Gentlemen of the Clergy or Laity, and but a small Number of either" — Swift's note.
80. Where Titles . . . wither'd Flower: "The Peers of Ireland lost a great Part of their Jurisdiction by one single Act, and tamely submitted to this infamous Mark of Slavery without the least Resentment, or Remonstrance" — Swift's note.
81. Biennial Squires: "The Parliament (as they call it) in Ireland meet but once in two Years; and, after giving five Times more than they can afford, return Home to reimburse themselves by all the Country Jobs, and Oppressions, of which some few only are here mentioned" — Swift's note.
82. Their Tenants rack: They raise the rents on their tenants.
83. Snacks, "A share; a part taken by compact" (Johnson). To go snacks meant to divide the money into shares.
84. Rapparees: "The Highway-Men in Ireland are, since the late Wars there, usually called Rapparees, which was a Name given to those Irish Soldiers who in small Parties used, at that Time, to plunder the Protestants" — Swift's note.
85. Barrack: "The Army in Ireland is lodged in Barracks, the building and repairing whereof, and other Charges, have cost a prodigious Sum to that unhappy Kingdom" — Swift's note.
86. A House for Fools and Mad: See the note on line 156.
87. That Kingdom: "Meaning Ireland, where he now lives, and probably may dye" — Swift's note.