A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed

Jonathan Swift


Edited by Jack Lynch

Corinna, Pride of Drury-Lane, 1 
For whom no Shepherd sighs in vain;
Never did Covent Garden boast
So bright a batter’d, strolling Toast; 2 
No drunken Rake 3  to pick her up, [5]
No Cellar where on Tick 4  to sup;
Returning at the Midnight Hour;
Four Stories climbing to her Bow’r;
Then, seated on a three-legg’d Chair,
Takes off her artificial Hair: [10]
Now, picking out a Crystal Eye,
She wipes it clean, and lays it by.
Her Eye-Brows from a Mouse’s Hyde,
Stuck on with Art on either Side,
Pulls off with Care, and first displays ’em, [15]
Then in a Play-Book smoothly lays ’em.
Now dextrously her Plumpers 5  draws,
That serve to fill her hollow Jaws.
Untwists a Wire; and from her Gums
A Set of Teeth completely comes. [20]
Pulls out the Rags contriv’d to prop
Her flabby Dugs 6  and down they drop.
Proceeding on, the lovely Goddess
Unlaces next her Steel-Rib’d Bodice; 7 
Which by the Operator’s Skill, [25]
Press down the Lumps, the Hollows fill,
Up goes her Hand, and off she slips
The Bolsters that supply her Hips.
With gentlest Touch, she next explores
Her Shankers, Issues, running Sores, 8  [30]
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, 9  [35]
With greasy Paper stuck upon’t.
She takes a Bolus 10  e’er she sleeps;
And then between two Blankets creeps.
With Pains of Love tormented lies;
Or if she chance to close her Eyes, [40]
Of Bridewell and the Compter dreams, 11 
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, 12  [45]
Alone, and by no Planter courted; 13 
Or, near Fleet-Ditch’s oozy Brinks,
Surrounded with a Hundred Stinks,
Belated, seems on watch to lye,
And snap some Cully 14  passing by; [50]
Or, struck with Fear, her Fancy 15  runs
On Watchmen, Constables and Duns, 16 
From whom she meets with frequent Rubs; 17 
But, never from Religious Clubs;
Whose Favour she is sure to find, [55]
Because she pays ’em all in Kind.

   Corinna wakes. A dreadful Sight!
Behold the Ruins of the Night!
A wicked Rat her Plaister stole,
Half eat, and dragg’d it to his Hole. [60]
The Crystal Eye, alas, was miss’t;
And Puss had on her Plumpers p—-t.
A Pigeon pick’d her Issue-Peas; 18 
And Shock 19  her Tresses fill’d with Fleas.

   The Nymph, tho’ in this mangled Plight, [65]
Must ev’ry Morn her Limbs unite.
But how shall I describe her Arts
To recollect the scatter’d Parts?
Or shew the Anguish, Toil, and Pain,
Of gath’ring up herself again? [70]
The bashful Muse will never bear
In such a Scene to interfere.
Corinna in the Morning dizen’d, 20 
Who sees, will spew; who smells, be poison’d.


1. Drury Lane, like Covent Garden below, was a fashionable area of London, but often frequented by prostitutes.

2. Toast, “A celebrated woman whose health is often drunk" (Johnson).

3. Rake, “A loose, disorderly, vicious, wild, gay, thoughtless fellow; a man addicted to pleasure" (Johnson).

4. Tick, “credit.”

5. Plumper, “Something worn in the mouth to swell out the cheeks" (Johnson).

6. Dug, “A pap; a nipple; a teat: spoken of beasts, or in malice or contempt of human beings" (Johnson).

7. Bodice, “Stays; a waistcoat quilted with whalebone, worn by women" (Johnson).

8. Shankers, Issues, and running Sores, presumably from venereal disease. Shankers, “chancres.”

9. Front, “forehead.”

10. Bolus, “A form of medicine in which the ingredients are made up into a soft mass, larger than pills, to be swallowed at once" (Johnson).

11. Bridewell, a woman’s prison. Compter, prisons controlled by sheriffs.

12. Transported can suggest either that she goes to Jamaica in her imagination, or that she has been sent to work in the New World as punishment for a crime.

13. “—Et longam incomitata videtur/Ire viam—“ (Swift’s note): “She seemed to be going on a long journey alone" (from Virgil’s Aeneid, 4.467-68).

14. Cully, “A man deceived or imposed upon; as, by sharpers or a strumpet" (Johnson).

15. Fancy, “Imagination; the power by which the mind forms to itself images and representations of things, persons, or scenes of being" (Johnson).

16. Dun, “A clamorous, importunate, troublesome creditor" (Johnson).

17. Rub, “Collision; hindrance; obstruction" (Johnson).

18. Issue-peas, pieces of ivy root rolled up and inserted into open wounds to keep them running.

19. Shock, a common name for a lapdog (as in Belinda’s lapdog in Pope’s Rape of the Lock).

20. Dizen, “To dress; to deck; to rig out. A low word" (Johnson).