The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 7/Prologue to a Play for the Benefit of Distressed Weavers

This poem and the next, Epilogue by the Dean, are related to the same play.




Spoken by Mr. Elrington. 1721.

GREAT cry and little wool — is now become
The plague and proverb of the weaver's loom:
No wool to work on, neither weft nor warp;
Their pockets empty, and their stomachs sharp.
Provok'd, in loud complaints to you they cry:
Ladies, relieve the weavers: or they die!
Forsake your silks for stuffs; nor think it strange,
To shift your clothes, since you delight in change.
One thing with freedom I'll presume to tell —
The men will like you every bit as well.
See I am dress'd from top to toe in stuff;
And, by my troth, I think I'm fine enough:
My wife admires me more, and swears she never,
In any dress, beheld me look so clever.
And if a man be better in such ware,
What great advantage must it give the fair!
Our wool from lambs of innocence proceeds:
Silks come from maggots, calicoes from weeds:

Hence 'tis by sad experience that we find
Ladies in silks to vapours much inclined —
And what are they but maggots in the mind?
For which I think it reason to conclude

That clothes may change our temper like our food.
Chintses are gawdy, and engage our eyes
Too much about the partycolour'd dyes:
Although the lustre is from you begun,
We see the rainbow, and neglect the sun.
How sweet and innocent's the country maid,
With small expense in native wool array'd;
Who copies from the fields her homely green,
While by her shepherd with delight she's seen!
Should our fair ladies dress like her in wool,
How much more lovely, and how beautiful,
Without their Indian drapery, they'd prove!
While wool would help to warm us into love!
Then, like the famous Argonauts of Greece,
We'd all contend to gain the Golden Fleece!

  1. An answer to this Prologue and Epilogue is printed in the Works of Concanen.