The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 8/The Legion Club



LEGION CLUB[1]. 1736.

AS I stroll the city, oft' I
See a building large and lofty,
Not a bowshot from the college;
Half the globe from sense and knowledge:
By the prudent architect,
Plac'd against the church direct,
Making good my grandam's jest,
"Near the church" — you know the rest.
Tell us, what the pile contains?
Many a head that holds no brains.
These demoniacks let me dub
With the name of Legion club.
Such assemblies, you might swear,
Meet when butchers bait a bear;
Such a noise, and such haranguing,
When a brother thief is hanging;
Such a rout and such a rabble
Run to hear Jackpudding gabble:
Such a crowd their ordure throws
On a far less villain's nose.
Could I from the building's top
Hear the rattling thunder drop,
While the devil upon the roof
(If the devil be thunder-proof)
Should with poker fiery red
Crack the stones, and melt the lead;
Drive them down on every scull,
When the den of thieves is full;
Quite destroy the harpies' nest;
How might then our isle be blest!
For divines allow, that God
Sometimes makes the devil his rod;
And the Gospel will inform us,
He can punish sins enormous.
Yet should Swift endow the schools,
For his lunaticks and fools,
With a rood or two of land;
I allow the pile may stand.
You perhaps will ask me, Why so?
But it is with this proviso:
Since the house is like to last,
Let the royal grant be pass'd,
That the club have right to dwell
Each within his proper cell,
With a passage left to creep in,
And a hole above for peeping.
Let them, when they once get in,
Sell the nation for a pin;
While they sit apicking straws,
Let them rave at making laws;
While they never hold their tongue,
Let them dabble in their dung:
Let them form a grand committee,
How to plague and starve the city;
Let them stare, and storm, and frown
When they see a clergy-gown;
Let them, ere they crack a louse,
Call for th' orders of the house;
Let them, with their gosling quills,
Scribble senseless heads of bills;
We may, while they strain their throats.
Wipe our a—s with their votes.
Let sir Tom, that rampant ass,
Stuff his guts with flax and grass;
But before the priest he fleeces,
Tear the Bible all to pieces:
At the parsons, Tom, halloo, boy,
Worthy offspring of a shoeboy,
Footman, traitor, vile seducer,
Perjur'd rebel, brib'd accuser,
Lay thy paltry privilege aside,
Sprung from papists, and a regicide;
Fall a working like a mole,
Raise the dirt about your hole.
Come, assist me, Muse obedient!
Let us try some new expedient;
Shift the scene for half an hour,
Time and place are in thy power.
Thither, gentle Muse, conduct me;
I shall ask, and you instruct me.
See, the Muse unbars the gate;
Hark, the monkeys, how they prate!
All ye gods who rule the soul!
Styx, through Hell whose waters roll!
Let me be allow'd to tell
What I heard in yonder Hell.
Near the door an entrance gapes,
Crowded round with antick shapes,
Poverty, and Grief, and Care,
Causeless Joy, and true Despair;
Discord periwigg'd with snakes,
See the dreadful strides she takes!
By this odious crew beset,
I began to rage and fret,
And resolv'd to break their pates.
Ere we entered at the gates;
Had not Clio in the nick
Whisper'd me, "Lay down your stick."
What, said I, is this the madhouse?
These, she answer'd, are but shadows,
Phantoms bodiless and vain,
Empty visions of the brain.
In the porch Briareus stands,
Shows a bribe in all his hands:
Briareus the secretary,
But we mortals call him Carey.
When the rogues their country fleece,
They may hope for pence apiece.
Clio, who had been so wise
To put on a fool's disguise,
To bespeak some approbation,
And be thought a near relation,
When she saw three hundred brutes
All involv'd in wild disputes,
Roaring till their lungs were spent,
Privilege of Parliament,
Now a new misfortune feels,
Dreading to be laid by th' heels.
Never durst a Muse before
Enter that infernal door;
Clio, stifled with the smell,
Into spleen and vapours fell,
By the Stygian steams that flew
From the dire infectious crew.
Not the stench of Lake Avernus
Could have more offended her nose;
Had she flown but o'er the top,
She had felt her pinions drop,
And by exhalations dire,
Though a goddess, must expire.
In a fright she crept away;
Bravely I resolv'd to stay.
When I saw the keeper frown,
Tipping him with half a crown,
Now, said I, we are alone,
Name your heroes one by one.
Who is that hell-featur'd brawler?
Is it Satan? No; 'tis Waller.
In what figure can a bard dress
Jack the grandson of sir Hardress?
Honest keeper, drive him further,
In his looks are Hell and murder;
See the scowling visage drop,
Just as when he murder'd T—p.
Keeper, show me where to fix
On the puppy pair of Dicks:
By their lantern jaws and leathern,
You might swear they both are brethren:
Dick Fitzbaker, Dick the player,
Old acquaintance, are you there?
Dear companions, hug and kiss,
Toast Old Glorious in your piss;
Tie them, keeper, in a tether,
Let them starve and stink together;
Both are apt to be unruly,
Lash them daily, lash them duly;
Though 'tis hopeless to reclaim them,
Scorpion rods perhaps may tame them.
Keeper, yon old dotard smoke.
Sweetly snoring in his cloke:
Who is he? 'Tis humdrum Wynne,
Half encompass'd by his kin:
There observe the tribe of Bingham,
For he never fails to bring 'em;
While he sleeps the whole debate,
They submissive round him wait;
Yet would gladly see the hunks,
In his grave, and search his trunks.
See, they gently twitch his coat,
Just to yawn and give his vote,
Always firm in his vocation,
For the court, against the nation.
Those are A—s Jack and Bob,
First in every wicked job,
Son and brother to a queer
Brainsick brute, they call a peer.
We must give them better quarter,
For their ancestor trod mortar,
And at Hoath, to boast his fame,
On a chimney cut his name.
There sit Clements, D—ks, and Harrison:
How they swagger from their garrison!
Such a triplet could you tell
Where to find on this side Hell?
Harrison, and D—ks, and Clements,
Keeper, see, they have their payments,
Every mischief's in their hearts;
If they fail, 'tis want of parts.
Bless us, Morgan, art thou there, man!
Bless mine eyes! art thou the chairman!
Chairman to your damn'd committee!
Yet I look on thee with pity.
Dreadful sight! what, learned Morgan
Metamorphos'd to a Gorgon?
For thy horrid looks, I own,
Half convert me to a stone.
Hast thou been so long at school,
Now to turn a factious tool?
Alma Mater was thy mother,
Every young divine thy brother.
Thou, a disobedient varlet,
Treat thy mother like a harlot!
Thou ungrateful to thy teachers,
Who are all grown reverend preachers!
Morgan, would it not surprise one!
Turn thy nourishment to poison!
When you walk among your books,
They reproach you with their looks;
Bind them fast, or from their shelves
They will come and right themselves:
Homer, Plutarch, Virgil, Flaccus,
All in arms, prepare to back us:
Soon repent, or put to slaughter
Every Greek and Roman author.
Will you, in your faction's phrase,
Send the clergy all to graze;
And, to make your project pass,
Leave them not a blade of grass?
How I want thee, humorous Hogarth!
Thou, I hear, a pleasant rogue art.
Were but you and I acquainted,
Every monster should be painted:
You should try your graving tools
On this odious groupe of fools;
Draw the beasts as I decribe them
From their features, while I gibe them;
Draw them like; for I assure you,
You will need no car'catura;
Draw them so, that we may trace
All the soul in every face.
Keeper, I must now retire,
You have done what I desire:
But I feel my spirits spent
With the noise, the sight, the scent.
"Pray be patient; you shall find
Half the best are still behind:
You have hardly seen a score;
I can show two hundred more."
Keeper, I have seen enough.
Taking then a pinch of snuff,
I concluded, looking round them,
"May their god, the devil, confound them!"

  1. In a letter to Dr. Sheridan, April 24, 1736, the dean says, "I have written a masterly poem on the Legion Club; it is 240 lines;" and in another letter, May 15, complains that other characters were added; and says, June 5, there were fifty different copies.