Jonathan Swift

30 November 1667 – 19 October 1745 / Dublin

The Fagot

Observe the dying father speak:
Try, lads, can you this bundle break?
Then bids the youngest of the six
Take up a well-bound heap of sticks.
They thought it was an old man's maggot;
And strove, by turns, to break the fagot:
In vain: the complicated wands
Were much too strong for all their hands.
See, said the sire, how soon 'tis done:
Then took and broke them one by one.
So strong you'll be, in friendship ty'd;
So quickly broke, if you divide.
Keep close then, boys, and never quarrel:
Here ends the fable, and the moral.
This tale may be applied in few words,
To treasurers, comptrollers, stewards;
And others, who, in solemn sort,
Appear with slender wands at court;
Not firmly join'd to keep their ground,
But lashing one another round:
While wise men think they ought to fight
With quarterstaffs instead of white;
Or constable, with staff of peace,
Should come and make the clatt'ring cease;
Which now disturbs the queen and court,
And gives the Whigs and rabble sport.
In history we never found
The consul's fasces were unbound:
Those Romans were too wise to think on't,
Except to lash some grand delinquent,
How would they blush to hear it said,
The praetor broke the consul's head!
Or consul in his purple gown,
Came up and knock'd the praetor down!
Come, courtiers: every man his stick!
Lord treasurer, for once be quick:
And that they may the closer cling,
Take your blue ribbon for a string.
Come, trimming Harcourt, bring your mace;
And squeeze it in, or quit your place:
Dispatch, or else that rascal Northey
Will undertake to do it for thee:
And be assured, the court will find him
Prepared to leap o'er sticks, or bind them.
To make the bundle strong and safe,
Great Ormond, lend thy general's staff:
And, if the crosier could be cramm'd in
A fig for Lechmere, King, and Hambden!
You'll then defy the strongest Whig
With both his hands to bend a twig;
Though with united strength they all pull,
From Somers, down to Craggs and Walpole.
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