Born in Ireland in 1667, Swift spent much of his adult life in England. He was actively involved in politics, and in his self-penned epitaph describes himself as a ‘champion of liberty’. He was a prolific writer of prose satire and is perhaps most famous for his novel Gulliver’s Travels. Although often mistaken for a children’s book, this was in fact a satirical depiction of human nature.

In his 1729 essay A Modest Proposal, much to the outrage of his contemporaries, Swift sardonically proposed cannibalism as a solution to the plight of an impoverished Ireland. His reputation as a writer found him companionship with a group of authors that included Alexander Pope.

Swift’s poems, though less wellknown, also tend towards satire and humour. His tone is generally direct and genial, parodying the styles of numerous poetic forerunners. On a technical level, Swift’s poetry appears simple, however his rhetoric is powerful.

Recording commissioned by the Poetry Archive, reproduced here by kind permission of the reader.

Poems by Jonathan Swift

A satirical elegy on the death of a late famous general - Jonathan Swift - Read by Jean Sprackland