The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 17/Ay and No; a Fable

While this work is included within The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift and is not attributed to anyone other than Jonathan Swift, it may have been written by another member of the Scriblerus Club. The club, which was founded in 1714, included Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, John Gay, John Arbuthnot, Henry St John, and Thomas Parnell.



IN fable all things hold discourse;
Then words, no doubt, must talk of course.
Once on a time, near Channel row[1],
Two hostile adverbs, Ay and No,
Were hastening to the field of fight,
And front to front stood opposite.
Before each gen'ral join'd the van,
Ay, the more courteous knight, began:

Stop, peevish particle, beware!
I'm told you are not such a bear,
But sometimes yield, when offer'd fair.

Suffer yon folks a while to tattle;
'Tis we who must decide the battle.
Whene'er we war on yonder stage
With various fate and equal rage,
The nation trembles at each blow,
That No gives Ay, and Ay gives No:
Yet, in expensive, long contention,
We gain nor office, grant, or pension:
Why then should kinsfolk quarrel thus?
(For two of you make one of us[2].)
To some wise statesman let us go,
Where each his proper use may know:
He may admit two such commanders,
And make those wait who serv'd in Flanders.
Let's quarter on a great man's tongue,
A treas'ry lord, not master Y——g.
Obsequious at his high command,
Ay shall march forth to tax the land.
Impeachments No can best resist,
And Ay support the Civil List:
Ay, quick as Cæsar wins the day;
And No, like Fabius, by delay.
Sometimes, in mutual sly disguise,
Let Ayes seem Noes, and Noes seem Ayes;
Ayes be in courts denials meant,
And Noes in bishops give consent.
Thus Ay proposed — and for reply
No for the first time answer'd Ay.
They parted with a thousand kisses,
And fight e'er since for pay, like Swisses.

  1. Channel row is a dirty street, near the parliament house, Westminster.
  2. In English, two negatives make an affirmative.