Because Swift constructs a speaker who is meant to be seen as himself in “Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift, D.S.P.D.”, his approach to the satire changes, taking on a more playful approach. The poem is more personal than political, and is more comedic in the sense that he satirizing himself as well as other people groups. The self-defeating rhetorical approach is embodied in this poem in the way that he puts himself down and exposes his own follies throughout the poem. While this is no doubt somewhat tongue-in-cheek, this in some ways frees Swift from criticism from outside sources. It is difficult to wager criticism at someone who has already wagered it against himself. While this could also be seen as poking fun at other writers who are self-deprecating, this self-defeating narration is used mostly comically in “Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift, D.S.P.D.”. In spite of this, it does effectively build a narrator who is well defended in the sense that he cannot easily be criticized from outside sources.
The self-defeating speaker can be used rhetorically either directly or indirectly. In a case where it is truly against oneself that the author wagers criticism, I consider this to be a directly self-defeating narrator; in cases where the narrator’s errors in morality or logic project on to someone or something else, I consider this to be an indirectly self-defeating narrator. While “Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift” eventually moves into satirizing Swift’s friends and readers, Swift opens the text by satirizing himself. The poem begins with Swift as a directly self-defeating speaker, in the sense that it is truly against himself that Swift is wagering satire. In the following lines, we see Swift present himself in a comically negative light:
Who would not at a crowded show,
Stand high himself, keep others low?
I love my friend as well as you,
But would not have him stop my view
Then let me have the higher post;
I ask but for an inch at most (15-20).
In lumping himself in with this display of selfishness, Swift is self-defeating in a way which seems to be asking for his actions to be excused. Because he criticizes himself, he does not offer much of an opportunity for others to criticizing him. If one were to suggest that Swift were selfish or self-seeking, it loses its impact because of fact that Swift has already wagered this same criticism against himself in verse. The self-defeating speaker can thus be effectively used defensively when it is used directly.
Shortly following this section of the “Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift”, the speaker creates other speakers who discuss Jonathan Swift and his work. At this point, the narration becomes indirectly self-defeating. While there are still blunders in morality and logic, they are projected onto Swift’s friends and readers instead of onto himself. Upon receiving news of his death, the ‘friends’ Swift depicts in the poem immediately seek their own gain, financial and otherwise: “O, may...