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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 7/A Serious Poem upon Will Wood



When foes are o'ercome, we preserve them from slaughter,
To be hewers of Wood, and drawers of water.
Now, although to draw water is not very good;
Yet we all should rejoice to be hewers of Wood.
I own, it has often provok'd me to mutter,
That a rogue so obscure should make such a clutter:
But ancient philosophers wisely remark,
That old rotten Wood will shine in the dark.
The Heathens, we read, had Gods made of Wood,
Who could do them no harm, if they did them no good:
But this idol Wood may do us great evil:
Their Gods were of Wood; but our Wood is the Devil.
To cut down fine Wood, is a very bad thing;
And yet we all know much gold it will bring:
Then, if cutting down Wood brings money good store,
Our money to keep, let us cut down one more.
Now hear an old tale. There anciently stood
(I forget in what church) an image of Wood.
Concerning this image, there went a prediction,
It would burn a whole forest; nor was it a fiction.
'Twas cut into faggots and put to the flame,
To burn an old friar, one Forest by name.
My tale is a wise one, if well understood;
Find you but the Friar; and I'll find the Wood.
I hear, among scholars there is a great doubt,
From what kind of tree this Wood was hewn out.
Teague made a good pun by a brogue in his speech:
And said, "By my shoul, he's the son of a Beech."
Some call him a Thorn, the curse of the nation,
As Thorns were design'd to be from the creation.
Some think him cut out from the poisonous Yew,
Beneath whose ill shade no plant ever grew.
Some say he's a Birch, a thought very odd;
For none but a dunce would come under his rod.
But I'll tell the secret; and pray do not blab:
He is an old stump, cut out of a Crab;
And England has put this Crab to a hard use,
To cudgel our bones, and for drink give us verjuice;
And therefore his witnesses justly may boast,
That none are more properly knights of the Post.
I ne'er could endure my talent to smother:
I told you one tale, and I'll tell you another.
A joiner, to fasten a saint in a nitch,
Bor'd a large auger-hole in the image's breech.
But, finding the statue to make no complaint,
He would ne'er be convinc'd it was a true saint.
When the true Wood arrives, as he soon will, no doubt,
(For that's but a sham Wood they carry about[1];)
What stuff he is made of you quickly may find,
If you make the same trial, and bore him behind.
I'll hold you a groat, when you wimble his bum,
He'll bellow as loud as the Devil in a drum.
From me, I declare, you shall have no denial;
And there can be no harm in making a trial:
And, when to the joy of your hearts he has roar'd,
You may show him about for a new groaning board.
Hear one story more, and then I will stop.
I dreamt Wood was told he should die by a drop:
So methought he resolved no liquor to taste,
For fear the first drop might as well be his last.
But dreams are like oracles; 'tis hard to explain 'em;
For it prov'd that he died of a drop at Kilmainham[2].
I wak'd with delight; and not without hope,
Very soon to see Wood drop down from a rope.
How he, and how we, at each other should grin!
'Tis kindness to hold a friend up by the chin.
But soft! says the Herald; I cannot agree;
For metal on metal is false heraldry.
Why, that may be true; yet Wood upon Wood,
I'll maintain with my life, is heraldry good.

  1. He was frequently burnt in effigy.
  2. Their place of execution.