The Lady’s Dressing Room


Jonathan Swift

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 18:53.

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eBooks@Adelaide
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

The Lady’s Dressing Room

Five hours, (and who can do it less in?)

By haughty Celia spent in dressing;

The goddess from her chamber issues,

Arrayed in lace, brocades, and tissues.

Strephon, who found the room was void

And Betty otherwise employed,

Stole in and took a strict survey

Of all the litter as it lay;

Whereof, to make the matter clear,

An inventory follows here.

And first a dirty smock appeared,

Beneath the arm-pits well besmeared.

Strephon, the rogue, displayed it wide

And turned it round on every side.

On such a point few words are best,

And Strephon bids us guess the rest;

And swears how damnably the men lie

In calling Celia sweet and cleanly.

Now listen while he next produces

The various combs for various uses,

Filled up with dirt so closely fixt,

No brush could force a way betwixt.

A paste of composition rare,

Sweat, dandruff, powder, lead and hair;

A forehead cloth with oil upon’t

To smooth the wrinkles on her front.

Here alum flower to stop the steams

Exhaled from sour unsavory streams;

There night-gloves made of Tripsy’s hide,

Bequeath’d by Tripsy when she died,

With puppy water, beauty’s help,

Distilled from Tripsy’s darling whelp;

Here gallypots and vials placed,

Some filled with washes, some with paste,

Some with pomatum, paints and slops,

And ointments good for scabby chops.

Hard by a filthy basin stands,

Fouled with the scouring of her hands;

The basin takes whatever comes,

The scrapings of her teeth and gums,

A nasty compound of all hues,

For here she spits, and here she spews.

But oh! it turned poor Strephon’s bowels,

When he beheld and smelt the towels,

Begummed, besmattered, and beslimed

With dirt, and sweat, and ear-wax grimed.

No object Strephon’s eye escapes:

Here petticoats in frowzy heaps;

Nor be the handkerchiefs forgot

All varnished o’er with snuff and snot.

The stockings, why should I expose,

Stained with the marks of stinking toes;

Or greasy coifs and pinners reeking,

Which Celia slept at least a week in?

A pair of tweezers next he found

To pluck her brows in arches round,

Or hairs that sink the forehead low,

Or on her chin like bristles grow.

The virtues we must not let pass,

Of Celia’s magnifying glass.

When frighted Strephon cast his eye on’t

It shewed the visage of a giant.

A glass that can to sight disclose

The smallest worm in Celia’s nose,

And faithfully direct her nail

To squeeze it out from head to tail;

(For catch it nicely by the head,

It must come out alive or dead.)

Why Strephon will you tell the rest?

And must you needs describe the chest?

That careless wench! no creature warn her

To move it out from yonder corner;

But leave it standing full in sight

For you to exercise your spite.

In vain, the workman shewed his wit

With rings and hinges counterfeit

To make it seem in this disguise

A cabinet to vulgar eyes;

For Strephon ventured to look in,

Resolved to go through thick and thin;

He lifts the lid, there needs no more:

He smelt it all the time before.

As from within Pandora’s box,

When Epimetheus oped the locks,

A sudden universal crew

Of humane evils upwards flew,

He still was comforted to find

That Hope at last remained behind;

So Strephon lifting up the lid

To view what in the chest was hid,

The vapours flew from out the vent.

But Strephon cautious never meant

The bottom of the pan to grope

And foul his hands in search of Hope.

O never may such vile machine

Be once in Celia’s chamber seen!

O may she better learn to keep

“Those secrets of the hoary deep”!

As mutton cutlets, prime of meat,

Which, though with art you salt and beat

As laws of cookery require

And toast them at the clearest fire,

If from adown the hopeful chops

The fat upon the cinder drops,

To stinking smoke it turns the flame

Poisoning the flesh from whence it came;

And up exhales a greasy stench

For which you curse the careless wench;

So things which must not be exprest,

When plumpt into the reeking chest,

Send up an excremental smell

To taint the parts from whence they fell,

The petticoats and gown perfume,

Which waft a stink round every room.

Thus finishing his grand survey,

Disgusted Strephon stole away

Repeating in his amorous fits,

Oh! Celia, Celia, Celia shits!

But vengeance, Goddess never sleeping,

Soon punished Strephon for his peeping:

His foul Imagination links

Each dame he see with all her stinks;

And, if unsavory odors fly,

Conceives a lady standing by.

All women his description fits,

And both ideas jump like wits

By vicious fancy coupled fast,

And still appearing in contrast.

I pity wretched Strephon blind

To all the charms of female kind.

Should I the Queen of Love refuse

Because she rose from stinking ooze?

To him that looks behind the scene

Satira’s but some pocky queen.

When Celia in her glory shows,

If Strephon would but stop his nose

(Who now so impiously blasphemes

Her ointments, daubs, and paints and creams,

Her washes, slops, and every clout

With which he makes so foul a rout),

He soon would learn to think like me

And bless his ravished sight to see

Such order from confusion sprung,

Such gaudy tulips raised from dung.

This web edition published by:

eBooks@Adelaide
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005