'A Beautiful Young Nymph Going To Bed' by Jonathan Swift

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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 Bow'r;
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 Eye-Brows 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 dextrously 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 contriv'd to prop
Her flabby Dugs and down they drop.
Proceeding on, the lovely Goddess
Unlaces next her Steel-Rib'd Bodice;
Which by the Operator's Skill,Press down the Lumps, the Hollows fill,
Up hoes her Hand, and off she slips
The Bolsters that supply her Hips.
With gentlest Touch, she next explores
Her Shankers, 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 e'er 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 Cull 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 dragged 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-Peas;
And Shock her Tresses fill'd with Fleas.
The Nymph, tho' in this mangled Plight,
Must ev'ry Morn her Limbs unite.
But how shall I describe her Arts
To recollect 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.

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed: An Analysis

Jonathan Swift's "A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed" is a poem that, at first glance, seems to be nothing more than a simple description of a beautiful woman undressing and getting ready for bed. However, a closer analysis reveals a deeper layer of meaning and social commentary that makes this poem a masterpiece of 18th-century literature.

Setting the Scene

The poem starts with a description of the woman's physical beauty. The first two stanzas are dedicated to enumerating her attributes: her hair, her eyes, her breasts, her buttocks, and her legs. The language is sensual and evocative, with words like "snowy," "swelling," and "round" painting a vivid picture of the woman's body.

As readers, we are immediately drawn into the scene, invited to imagine this beautiful woman undressing in front of us. But as the poem progresses, we start to realize that there is more to this scene than meets the eye.

The Poem as Social Commentary

Swift was a master of satire, and "A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed" is no exception. As much as the poem is a celebration of female beauty, it is also a critique of the society that objectifies and commodifies women.

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is the way the woman is described as if she were an object, rather than a person. Her body is compared to various inanimate objects: her breasts are "ivory globes," her buttocks are "two hills of snow," and her legs are "two marble pillars." This objectification of the female body is a theme that runs throughout the poem, and it is clear that Swift is using the woman's beauty as a way to comment on the way women are treated in his society.

Furthermore, the poem is also a commentary on the class system of the time. The woman in the poem is a "nymph," a term that connotes youth, beauty, and innocence. But she is also going to bed, which suggests that she is a prostitute, or at least someone who is sexually available. This juxtaposition of innocence and sexuality is a common trope in literature, but Swift uses it to comment on the way the upper classes viewed and exploited the lower classes.

The Power Dynamics at Play

Another theme that emerges from the poem is the power dynamics at play in the scene. On the surface, it seems as if the woman holds all the power: she is young, beautiful, and desirable. But as the poem progresses, we start to see that the power dynamic is much more complex than that.

For one thing, the woman is not described as being in control of the situation. Instead, she is described as being "forced" to undress by her maid. This suggests that she is not in charge of her own body or her own actions, but is instead subject to the whims of others.

Furthermore, the poem hints at a larger power dynamic at play: the power of men over women. The woman in the poem is undressing for a man, or at least for someone who represents male desire. This is made clear in the final stanza, which describes the man (or men) who will enjoy the woman's beauty: "Some fop, whose vanity / Leads him to places where he should not be."

This final stanza is a powerful critique of the way men use and exploit women for their own pleasure. The "fop" is a stand-in for all men who view women as objects, as things to be used and discarded. The fact that he is described as being vain and foolish only underscores the poem's condemnation of this behavior.


In conclusion, "A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed" is a complex and multi-layered poem that uses the beauty of a woman's body as a jumping-off point for a powerful critique of the society in which it was written. By examining the themes of objectification, class, and power dynamics, we can see that Swift was not just celebrating female beauty, but was also using it to expose the darker aspects of his society. This poem is a testament to his skill as a satirist and his ability to use language to comment on the world around him.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry has always been a medium of expression for the human soul. It is a form of art that has the power to evoke emotions, stir up thoughts, and inspire change. One such poem that has stood the test of time is "A Beautiful Young Nymph Going To Bed" by Jonathan Swift. This poem is a satirical take on the beauty standards of the 18th century and the hypocrisy of the society that upheld them. In this analysis, we will delve deeper into the poem's themes, structure, and literary devices to understand its significance in the literary canon.

The poem begins with a description of the titular character, a beautiful young nymph, who is getting ready for bed. The speaker, who is assumed to be a male, describes her in great detail, highlighting her physical attributes and the various adornments she uses to enhance her beauty. However, as the poem progresses, the speaker's tone becomes increasingly sarcastic and critical, revealing the underlying message of the poem.

The poem's central theme is the objectification of women and the unrealistic beauty standards imposed on them by society. The nymph's beauty is described in terms of her physical features, such as her "snowy breast," "ivory neck," and "silken thighs." These descriptions reduce her to a mere object of desire, devoid of any agency or personality. The speaker's use of hyperbole, such as "her eyes so bright, must dazzle mortal sight," further emphasizes the unrealistic expectations placed on women's beauty.

The poem also highlights the hypocrisy of the society that upholds these beauty standards. The nymph's beauty routine is described in great detail, with the speaker listing the various cosmetics and perfumes she uses to enhance her appearance. However, the speaker also points out that these same people who admire the nymph's beauty would condemn her if they knew the extent of her beauty routine. The line "And all her dressing is, you'll swear, / Nor costlier, nor more nice than fair" is a subtle dig at the society's double standards, where women are expected to look beautiful but are also judged for the effort they put into achieving that beauty.

The poem's structure is also significant in conveying its message. The poem is written in rhyming couplets, with each line consisting of ten syllables. This structure gives the poem a sing-song quality, which contrasts with the poem's satirical tone. The use of rhyming couplets also emphasizes the poem's message, as it creates a sense of repetition and monotony, mirroring the repetitive nature of the beauty standards imposed on women.

The poem's use of literary devices is also noteworthy. The speaker's use of hyperbole, as mentioned earlier, is a powerful tool in emphasizing the unrealistic expectations placed on women's beauty. The use of irony is also prevalent in the poem, with the speaker's sarcastic tone highlighting the hypocrisy of the society that upholds these beauty standards. The poem's use of imagery, such as the description of the nymph's beauty routine, creates a vivid picture in the reader's mind, making the poem more impactful.

In conclusion, "A Beautiful Young Nymph Going To Bed" is a powerful poem that critiques the beauty standards imposed on women by society. The poem's use of satire, irony, and hyperbole highlights the unrealistic expectations placed on women's beauty, while its structure and literary devices emphasize its message. Jonathan Swift's poem is a timeless piece of literature that continues to resonate with readers today, reminding us of the importance of challenging societal norms and expectations.

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