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Short poem

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

A Description of the Morning

              1Now hardly here and there a hackney-coach
              2Appearing, show'd the ruddy morn's approach.
              3Now Betty from her master's bed had flown,
              4And softly stole to discompose her own.
              5The slip-shod 'prentice from his master's door
              6Had par'd the dirt, and sprinkled round the floor.
              7Now Moll had whirl'd her mop with dext'rous airs,
              8Prepar'd to scrub the entry and the stairs.
              9The youth with broomy stumps began to trace
            10The kennel-edge, where wheels had worn the place.
            11The small-coal man was heard with cadence deep;
            12Till drown'd in shriller notes of "chimney-sweep."
            13Duns at his lordship's gate began to meet;
            14And brickdust Moll had scream'd through half a street.
            15The turnkey now his flock returning sees,
            16Duly let out a-nights to steal for fees.
            17The watchful bailiffs take their silent stands;
            18And schoolboys lag with satchels in their hands.


1] The poem is introduced as follows: "the town has, this half age, been tormented with insects called easy writers .... Such jaunty scribblers are so justly laughed at for their sonnets on Phillis and Chloris, and fantastical descriptions in 'em, that an ingenious kinsman of mine, of the family of the Staffs, Mr. Humphrey Wagstaff by name, has, to avoid their strain, run into a way perfectly new, and described things exactly as they happen: he never forms trees, or nymphs, or groves, where they are not, but makes the incidents just as they really appear. For an example of it: I stole out of his manuscript the following lines: they are a description of the morning, but of the morning in town; nay, of the morning at this end of the town, where my kinsman at present lodges."

9] broomy stumps: worn-out broom.
9-10. to trace/The kennel-edge: to sweep down the gutter.

14] brickdust Moll: painted prostitute.

16] In return for privileges, jailers demanded fees from their prisoners.

Online text copyright © 2005, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: The Tatler, 9 (Will's Coffee-house, April 28, 1709). E-10 206 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto)
First publication date: 1709
RPO poem editor: G. G. Falle
RP edition: 3RP 2.64.
Recent editing: 4:2002/5/29

Form: Heroic Couplets

Other poems by Jonathan Swift