Corinna, pride of Drury-Lane

Today’s fragment is a poem by Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) which explores the artifice and reality of life as a prostitute.

A Beautiful Young Nymph Going To Bed

Written for the honour of the fair sex

(1731)
Corinna, pride of Drury-Lane,
For whom no shepherd sighs in vain;
Never did Covent-Garden boast
So bright a batter’d strolling toast!
No drunken rake to pick her up,
No cellar where on tick to sup;
Returning at the midnight hour,
Four stories climbing to her bower;
Then, seated on a three-legg’d chair,
Takes off her artificial hair;
Now picking out a crystal eye,
She wipes it clean, and lays it by.
Her eyebrows from a mouse’s hide
Stuck on with art on either side,
Pulls off with care, and first displays ‘em,
Then in a play-book smoothly lays ‘em.
Now dext’rously her plumpers draws,
That serve to fill her hollow jaws,
Untwists a wire, and from her gums
A set of teeth completely comes;
Pulls out the rags contrived to prop
Her flabby dugs, and down they drop.
Proceeding on, the lovely goddess
Unlaces next her steel-ribb’d bodice,
Which, by the operator’s skill,
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 chancres, issues, running sores;
Effects of many a sad disaster,
And then to each applies a plaster:
But must, before she goes to bed,
Rub off the daubs of white and red,
And smooth the furrows in her front
With greasy paper stuck upon’t.
She takes a bolus ere she sleeps;
And then between two blankets creeps.
With pains of love tormented lies;
Or, if she chance to close her eyes,
Of Bridewell and the Compter dreams,
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
Alone, and by no planter courted;
Or, near Fleet-ditch’s oozy brinks,
Surrounded with a hundred stinks,
Belated, seems on watch to lie,
And snap some cully passing by;
Or, struck with fear, her fancy runs
On watchmen, constables, and duns,
From whom she meets with frequent rubs;
But never from religious clubs;
Whose favour she is sure to find,
Because she pays them all in kind.

Corinna wakes. A dreadful sight!
Behold the ruins of the night!
A wicked rat her plaster stole,
Half eat, and dragg’d it to his hole.
The crystal eye, alas! was miss’d;
And puss had on her plumpers piss’d,
A pigeon pick’d her issue-pease:
And Shock her tresses fill’d with fleas.

The nymph, though in this mangled plight
Must ev’ry morn her limbs unite.
But how shall I describe her arts
To re-collect the scatter’d parts?
Or show the anguish, toil, and pain,
Of gath’ring up herself again?
The bashful Muse will never bear
In such a scene to interfere.
Corinna, in the morning dizen’d,
Who sees, will spew; who smells, be poison’d.

Comments are closed.

All original content on these pages is fingerprinted and certified by Digiprove
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers:

© Shakespeare's England 2009-2014