1753 Poem, Anon. (William Starrat), ‘A Pastoral Elegy on the Death of Jonathan Swift’

Author: Anon. (William Starrat)

Date: 1753

Source: ‘A Pastoral Elegy on the Death of Jonathan Swift, D.D. late D.S.P.D.’, an anonymous poem in ‘Scotch Poems’, The Ulster Miscellany, 1753

Comments: This poem is one of nine anonymous ‘Scotch Poems’ from the ‘Laggan’ area of North-East Donegal published in The Ulster Miscellany of 1753. In Philip Robinson’s ‘William Starrat of Strabane: the first Ulster-Scots Poet’, Ullans, 5, 1997, he identifies William Starrat as the likely author of at least some of these. Given Starrat’s well-known friendship and poetical correspondence (in Scots) with Allan Ramsay about 1722, further corroboration of Starrat’s authorship of these ‘Scotch Poems’ is revealed in the seventh poem (‘An additional Verse to the Widow my Laddie’). The original ‘Widow my Laddie’ was published by Allan Ramsay in his Tea-Table Miscellany … of Songs in English and Scots, in 1750.

Doc. ref. no.: USLS/TB/Poetry/1700-1799/012

A Pastoral Elegy on the Death of Jonathan Swift

A Pastoral Elegy on the Death of


[1]Patrick, a shepherd, wond’rous wise, and good,

Ae morn was musing in a pensive mood:

Tenting his flock as here and there they stray’d,

And nipt the tender grass, or frisking play’d.

Oh happy flock! he cries, nae grieff ye feel,

For lambs wha fell beneath the murd’ring steel;

Gin ye get lizzar rowth, ye heed nae mair,

If void of reason, ye’re as void of care:

While my reflections gi’ me unco pain.

Here his heart fill’d — he sigh’d — and mus’d again.

Near hand there lives a farmer rich and bein,

A fae to cares, a stranger to the spleen;

Browden o’ right, averse to a’ that’s wrang,

Can chearfu’ tell his tale, or lilt a sang;

In landart matters is exceeding wise,

And gi’s our ablest farmers sound advice.

[2]Laird Johnny heght, he, daund’ring came the gate,

Whare by good chance, he fan lamenting Pate.

Bless me, quo’ he, what cause can I assign,

That gars the blythe sweet singing Patrick pine.

Be chearfu’, man, let nought afflict you sae,

Dight off your tears, and be nae langer wae.


Ah’ sir! I’m lost in grief, I’m left alane,

My better half, my SWIFT is dead and gane.

Whom hae I now to fill my heart wi’ glee

Or sing a pleasant roundelay to me!


SWIFT dead! ----


------- Ow’r true. -------


------- E’en gi’ your sorrow vent,

Nae wonder you, and thousands may lament.

He was the blythest sheperd e’er was seen;

The king o’ mirth, the wonder o’ the green.

Juft heav’n, your friendly warnings ay are right;

I fear’d some ill, by what I dream’d last night.

Methought the hawthorn hedge that shades the plain,

And shields my hirsle frae the blatt’ring rain,

Was a’ cut down by some ill-deedy hand;

And no ae single buss got leave to stand.

I kend some loss wad kythe, that I would rue:

But O dear SWIFT, I didna ken ’twas you.


My blessings on you — ye have eas’d my heart,

When sympathizing thus ye bear a part!

Streams when contracted rin wi’ unco speed,

But tine their force, when far and near they spread;

And sure this grief will spread thro’ all our dales,

As current as his bonny sangs and tales.

Let farmers grieve, and tears frae shepherds fa’,

For you, dear SWIFT, ye weel deserv’d them a’.


O Patrick, we have cause to rue the day,

That took our guardian Jonathan away.

Ye canna tent your flock wi’ greater skill,

Than he watch’d ow’r us, guarding us frae ill.

When Willy Wood, base loon, did a’ he dow’d,

To gi’ us trash, and carry off our gowd.

(As elves, they say, the thriving bairny nick,

And lee’ a crowl in lieu, or rotten stick)

When many greats anes, stifly by him stood,

Consulting his, mair than their kintry’s good.

Their great authority our gabs did steek;

We saw the danger, but we durst na speek.

SWIFT was na sae, he, dauntless fac’d them a,

And shaw’d their project was against the law.

We thought him wrang at first, and bad him leen;

But soon his reasons apen’d a’ our een:

We join’d him then, the dev’lish scheme we stapt,

They saw we wou’d na bear’t, and sae it drapt.

Our swains may now sink drumly in dispair,

For now their guardian shepherd is na mair.


Ae day my bairn and I lean’d ow’r this rock,

And saw a mickle mastiff scar the flock:

He drave my fav’rite toop wi’ a’ his speed;

I rax’d a stane, and shor’d to fell him dead.

O Father! cry’d the wean, it is, you see,

The landlord’s dog, and ye maun let him be;

I did na heed the brat, the stane I flang,

And gi’d the barb’rous tyke a deadly bang:

Yelping he fell - sic sheep, sic bairns were we,

When SWIFT, frae danger, fairly set us free:

But now he’s gane, how dreary looks the glen,

Sin’ it has tin’d the very wale o’ men.


Then a’ our manners he took unco care,

And those that misbehav’d he did na spare.

Wi’ pleasant merriment he made us wise,

Play’d wi’ our fau’ts, and leugh us out o’ vice.

And when our farmers sons gaid ou’r the seas,

And brought hame wonders, but thae wonders lies;

He made some [3]bonny tales, that gib’d them sair,

And tauk’d o’ wonders far ayont their sphere.


And then ye ken the bonny [4]scheme he plann’d,

To gar religion spread thro’ a’ our land.

[5]Berkelia got it, and our [6]lady saw’t,

And yet it fail’d — he was na in the fau’t!

He minted weel — but oh, how can I tell,

The many favours which he shaw’d my sell:

When first I drave my flocks out ow’r the lee,

And was a shepherd o’ nae mean degree;

I made some sangs that chanc’d to please the best,

And brought in laids o’ envy frae the rest.

Some ither herds wi’ wandoughts at their beck,

Miscaw’d me sair, wi’ many a flout and geck:

I just was sinking when he took my part,

And soon his gen’rous friendship rais’d my heart,

I e’en sang on — while wi’ a ward or twa,

That cut like razors, he diperst them a’

O Jonathan, when thou wer’t by my side,

I leugh at envy, and its force defy’d:

Nor need I even now for envy care,

I’ll quat my whistle, and I’ll sing na mair.


Dear Patrick, drap that thought for ye maun be

A Jonathan to us, [7]his place supply.

Ye ha’e already an extensive gift,

And heav’n will double what it gi’ to SWIFT.

Be ye Elisha, in Elijah’s stead,

And still we’ll say, our guardian is na dead.


I doubt, dear Johnny, that I want the skill:

Ae thing I dinna want, and that’s good will.

But how can I attempt the blythesome strain,

While thus I grieve! ----- O Jonathan ye’re gane!


Nane better than your sell can counsel gi’,

If grief, and kind affection let you be.

Let reason take its place, ye manna grieve;

He was a man, and couldna a’ways live.

And yet he lives! he lives in ilka tale,

And sang he made, his works will never fail.

And then religion solid comfort brings,

And sure ye’re brawly vers’d in haly things.

Let a’ your confidence on heav’n be lean’d;

For they who trust in heav’n ne’er want a friend.


May ye ne’er want a rowth o’ calm content,

Wha has sae kindly gi’en my sorrows vent,

And heal’d my mind, when it was fair opprest,

With the big sorrow, labouring in my breast.

Thus when our mickle blood hefts up our veins,

It gi’es us fev’rish heat and thrilling pains:

But when the kind physician comes, like you,

He tooms the veins, and does our health renew.

Wow but I’m eas’d. — This day I sheer my sheep,

And now the sun’s weel up the heav’nly steep:

I’ll drive them hame, and ye maun gang wi’ me;

I hae a browst o’ ale for ye to prie.

We’ll get sic cheer as Jannet can afford,

And trowth ye’re e’en as welcome as a Lord.


[1] The Rev. P--- D---, D.D. and D. Down.

[2] The Right Hon. J---, Earl of O----y.

[3] Gulliver’s Travels.

[4] A Project for the Advancement of Religion.

[5] The Countess of Berkly.

[6] Queen Ann.

[7] ---------------- Delany

When I, for your sake, lov’d better than any;

And of my meer motion and special good grace,

Intended in time to succeed in your place.



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