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Jonathan Swift: On A Shadow In A Glass

 

On A Shadow In A Glass

By something form’d, I nothing am,
Yet everything that you can name;
In no place have I ever been,
Yet everywhere I may be seen;
In all things false, yet always true,
I’m still the same – but ever new.
Lifeless, life’s perfect form I wear,
Can show a nose, eye, tongue, or ear,
Yet neither smell, see, taste, or hear.
All shapes and features I can boast,
No flesh, no bones, no blood – no ghost:
All colours, without paint, put on,
And change like the cameleon.
Swiftly I come, and enter there,
Where not a chink lets in the air;
Like thought, I’m in a moment gone,
Nor can I ever be alone:
All things on earth I imitate
Faster than nature can create;
Sometimes imperial robes I wear,
Anon in beggar’s rags appear;
A giant now, and straight an elf,
I’m every one, but ne’er myself;
Ne’er sad I mourn, ne’er glad rejoice,
I move my lips, but want a voice;
I ne’er was born, nor e’er can die,
Then, pr’ythee, tell me what am I?

Most things by me do rise and fall,
And, as I please, they’re great and small;
Invading foes without resistance,
With ease I make to keep their distance:
Again, as I’m disposed, the foe
Will come, though not a foot they go.
Both mountains, woods, and hills, and rocks
And gamesome goats, and fleecy flocks,
And lowing herds, and piping swains,
Come dancing to me o’er the plains.
The greatest whale that swims the sea
Does instantly my power obey.
In vain from me the sailor flies,
The quickest ship I can surprise,
And turn it as I have a mind,
And move it against tide and wind.
Nay, bring me here the tallest man,
I’ll squeeze him to a little span;
Or bring a tender child, and pliant,
You’ll see me stretch him to a giant:
Nor shall they in the least complain,
Because my magic gives no pain.

Jonathan Swift
(1667 – 1745)
On A Shadow In A Glass

• fleursdumal.nl magazine

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