View Full Version : A Meditation Upon A Broomstick.

The Unnamable
01-22-2006, 02:53 AM


THIS single stick, which you now behold ingloriously lying in that neglected corner, I once knew in a flourishing state in a forest. It was full of sap, full of leaves, and full of boughs; but now in vain does the busy art of man pretend to vie with nature, by tying that withered bundle of twigs to its sapless trunk; it is now at best but the reverse of what it was, a tree turned upside-down, the branches on the earth, and the root in the air; it is now handled by every dirty wench, condemned to do her drudgery, and, by a capricious kind of fate, destined to make other things clean, and be nasty itself; at length, worn to the stumps in the service of the maids, it is either thrown out of doors or condemned to the last use — of kindling a fire. When I behold this I sighed, and said within myself, “Surely mortal man is a broomstick!” Nature sent him into the world strong and lusty, in a thriving condition, wearing his own hair on his head, the proper branches of this reasoning vegetable, till the axe of intemperance has lopped off his green boughs, and left him a withered trunk; he then flies to art, and puts on a periwig, valuing himself upon an unnatural bundle of hairs, all covered with powder, that never grew on his head; but now should this our broomstick pretend to enter the scene, proud of those birchen spoils it never bore, and all covered with dust, through the sweepings of the finest lady’s chamber, we should be apt to ridicule and despise its vanity. Partial judges that we are of our own excellencies, and other men’s defaults!

But a broomstick, perhaps you will say, is an emblem of a tree standing on its head; and pray what is a man but a topsy-turvy creature, his animal faculties perpetually mounted on his rational, his head where his heels should be, grovelling on the earth? And yet, with all his faults, he sets up to be a universal reformer and corrector of abuses, a remover of grievances, rakes into every slut’s corner of nature, bringing hidden corruptions to the light, and raises a mighty dust where there was none before, sharing deeply all the while in the very same pollutions he pretends to sweep away. His last days are spent in slavery to women, and generally the least deserving; till, worn to the stumps, like his brother besom, he is either kicked out of doors, or made use of to kindle flames for others to warm themselves by.

:lol: :lol: :lol:

Jonathan Swift

Xamonas Chegwe
01-22-2006, 09:18 AM
Very good stuff. Had a way with words that Mr. Swift.

I am not familiar with Robert Boyle's writings but I dare say that this is a shamelessly contrived parody aimed at holding that writer's work up to ridicule. Would I be right?

Xamonas Chegwe
01-22-2006, 09:21 AM
...Yes I would. I just looked him up on Wikipedia - (Boyle's Law - I should have realised!)

1665 - Occasional Reflections upon Several Subjects, which was ridiculed by Swift in A Pious Meditation upon a Broom Stick, and by Butler in An Occasional Reflection on Dr Charlton's Feeling a Dog's Pulse at Gresham College

The Unnamable
01-22-2006, 10:04 AM
I’m glad you liked it. I find it laugh out loud hilarious as well as extremely well done. I wish there were more like Swift around now. He’s a great pesticide. There is a fantastically imaginative logic to Swift’s analogy. Even though I know he is, as you say, shamelessly parodying Boyle, his parody seems to acquire an imaginative life of its own. I love the sense of sad resignation to one’s fate as a creature that ages and dies.

“I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.” from Gulliver’s Travels

There are some wonderful parodies of the Royal Institute’s science experiments in Gulliver’s Travels, especially the Laputa section (chapter 21 in the online text available here) where the various experiments occurring at the Grand Academy of Lagado are described. They include such projects as extracting sunbeams from cucumbers and building houses from the roof down.

“He has been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw inclement summers.”

“I was complaining of a small fit of the colic, upon which my conductor led me into a room where a great physician resided, who was famous for curing that disease, by contrary operations from the same instrument. He had a large pair of bellows, with a long slender muzzle of ivory: this he conveyed eight inches up the anus, and drawing in the wind, he affirmed he could make the guts as lank as a dried bladder. But when the disease was more stubborn and violent, he let in the muzzle while the bellows were full of wind, which he discharged into the body of the patient; then withdrew the instrument to replenish it, clapping his thumb strongly against the orifice of the fundament; and this being repeated three or four times, the adventitious wind would rush out, bringing the noxious along with it, (like water put into a pump), and the patient recovered. I saw him try both experiments upon a dog, but could not discern any effect from the former. After the latter the animal was ready to burst, and made so violent a discharge as was very offensive to me and my companion.

The dog died on the spot, and we left the doctor endeavouring to recover him, by the same operation.”

“I went into another chamber, but was ready to hasten back, being almost overcome with a horrible stink. My conductor pressed me forward, conjuring me in a whisper "to give no offence, which would be highly resented;" and therefore I durst not so much as stop my nose. The projector of this cell was the most ancient student of the academy; his face and beard were of a pale yellow; his hands and clothes daubed over with filth. When I was presented to him, he gave me a close embrace, a compliment I could well have excused. His employment, from his first coming into the academy, was an operation to reduce human excrement to its original food, by separating the several parts, removing the tincture which it receives from the gall, making the odour exhale, and scumming off the saliva. He had a weekly allowance, from the society, of a vessel filled with human ordure, about the bigness of a Bristol barrel.”

Wonderful. :lol:

Xamonas Chegwe
01-22-2006, 12:02 PM
Indeed. I love Gulliver. Yet another book that I haven't read for far too long. Life's too bloody short!

01-24-2006, 08:31 AM
There's a weird echo of Dante's Inferno about the beginning of the second paragraph of the Gulliver passage.

The Unnamable
01-24-2006, 09:17 AM
There's a weird echo of Dante's Inferno about the beginning of the second paragraph of the Gulliver passage.
:lol: :D :lol:
I know, wonderful isn't it?
Do you know the story of when Swift invited around a few friends, including Pope and Gay? The great man was a little insane in later years but seldom far from it ever. He had forgotten that he’d promised them an entertaining evening and some nourishment, so when they turned up he was totally unprepared. Undaunted, he gave them all a shilling each and told them to go home.

01-26-2006, 08:13 PM
Sounds a bit like a dinner party a friend of mine went to recently at one of her ex-boyfriends'. Dinner was a large bowl of cocktail sausages and a bottle of cheap wine each.

02-24-2006, 02:35 AM
I like that you say he is a great pesticide. I love the imagery and the unadorned naked if you will manner that he sees things. I really liked it.
Why you could have written that yourself Unnameable.

02-26-2006, 11:35 PM
I like that you say he is a great pesticide. I love the imagery and the unadorned naked if you will manner that he sees things. I really liked it.
Why you could have written that yourself Unnameable.

Perhaps a pesticide, in dust form, to hang upon the cobwebs of the mind. Those webs that are created by unforeseen thoughts that was once atop the tree that could see a great distance, which now have settled in a neglected corner of the room hidden from our sight. Alas no matter how we try and see; we can not. Like that which is among words that provoke deep thought, and still we are not clear to what their meaning may be because it says so much more than mere words.

We are nothing more than like a bunch of insects put into a jar by a larger being who watches. When we were few we were as mindful as an ant with a purpose relying on his instincts, but now are swarms in turmoil feeding off each other and the crumbs that are left. Deluded that we are that larger being and have wisdom and yet we can not see beyond that which holds us. In our mindless pursuits we are merely clawing at the glass and the words that come from our breath is fogging our vision to see clearly.