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A MEDITATION UPON A
ACCORDING TO THE STYLE AND MANNER OF THE
HONOURABLE ROBERT BOYLE'S MEDITATIONS.
Swift went to Ireland in 1699 as chaplain and secretary to Lord
Berkeley, one of the Lords Justices. Lady Berkeley evinced a singular partiality for Boyle's Meditations, which she would ask Swift to read aloud to her of an evening. Weary of these pious platitudes, he at last ventured to substitute a meditation of his own, On a Broomstick, which Lady Berkeley accepted in all good faith ; until the fraud being discovered by more discerning persons, Swift was relieved from further persecution at the hands of the Honourable Robert Boyle. The parody was published in 1710.
A MEDITATION UPON A BROOMSTICK
'HIS singlestick, which you now beholdingloriously
lying in that neglected corner, I once knew in a flourishing state in a forest : it was full of sap, full of leaves, and full of boughs : but now, in vain does the busy art of man pretend to vie with nature, by tying that withered bundle of twigs to its sapless trunk : it is now, at best, but the reverse of what it was, a tree turned upside down, the branches on the earth, and the root in the air ; it is now handled by every dirty wench, condemned to do her drudgery, and, by a capricious kind of fate, destined to make other things clean and be nasty itself; at length, worn to the stumps in the service of the maids, it is either thrown out of doors, or condemned to the last use of kindling a fire. When I beheld this, I sighed, and said within myself, Surely man is a Broomstick! Nature sent him into the world strong and lusty, in a thriving condition, wearing his own hair on his head, the proper branches of this reasoning vegetable, until the axe of intemperance has lopped off his green boughs, and left him a withered trunk : he then flies to art, and puts on a periwig, valuing himself upon an unnatural bundle of hairs (all covered with powder), that never grew on his head ; but now, should this our broomstick pretend to enter
A MEDITATION UPON A BROOMSTICK
the scene, proud of those birchen spoils it never bore, and all covered with dust, though the sweepings of the finest lady's chamber, we should be apt to ridicule and despise its vanity. Partial judges that we are of our own excellences and other men's defaults !
But a broomstick, perhaps you will say, is an emblem of a tree standing on its head : and pray what is man but a topsyturvy creature, his animal faculties perpetually mounted on his rational, his head where his heels should be, grovelling on the earth! And yet, with all his faults, he sets up to be a universal reformer and correcter of abuses, a remover of grievances, rakes into every slut's corner of nature, bringing hidden corruption to the light, and raises a mighty dust where there was none before ; sharing deeply all the while in the very same pollutions he pretends to sweep away : his last days are spent in slavery to women, and generally the least deserving ; till, worn out to the stumps, like his brother besom; he is either kicked out of doors, or made use of to kindle flames for others to warm themselves by.