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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.
Provoked, in loud complaints to you they cry;
Ladies, relieve the weavers; or they die!
Forsake your silks for stuff's; 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. Chintzes are gawdy, and engage our eyes Too much about the party-colour'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'll all contend to gain the Golden Fleece!

[Footnote 1: In connection with this Prologue and the Epilogue by the Dean which follows, see Swift's Papers relating to the use of Irish Manufactures in "Prose Works," vol. vii.--W. E. B.]



Who dares affirm this is no pious age,
When charity begins to tread the stage?
When actors, who at best are hardly savers,
Will give a night of benefit to weavers?
Stay--let me see, how finely will it sound!
Imprimis, From his grace[1] a hundred pound.
Peers, clergy, gentry, all are benefactors;
And then comes in the item of the actors.
Item, The actors freely give a day--
The poet had no more who made the play.

But whence this wondrous charity in players? They learn it not at sermons, or at prayers: Under the rose, since here are none but friends, (To own the truth) we have some private ends. Since waiting-women, like exacting jades, Hold up the prices of their old brocades; We'll dress in manufactures made at home; Equip our kings and generals at the Comb.[2] We'll rig from Meath Street Egypt's haughty queen And Antony shall court her in ratteen. In blue shalloon shall Hannibal be clad, And Scipio trail an Irish purple plaid, In drugget drest, of thirteen pence a-yard, See Philip's son amidst his Persian guard; And proud Roxana, fired with jealous rage, With fifty yards of crape shall sweep the stage. In short, our kings and princesses within Are all resolved this project to begin; And you, our subjects, when you here resort, Must imitate the fashion of the court.

O! could I see this audience clad in stuff, Though money's scarce, we should have trade enough: But chintz, brocades, and lace, take all away, And scarce a crown is left to see the play. Perhaps you wonder whence this friendship springs Between the weavers and us playhouse kings; But wit and weaving had the same beginning; Pallas[3] first taught us poetry and spinning: And, next, observe how this alliance fits, For weavers now are just as poor as wits: Their brother quillmen, workers for the stage, For sorry stuff can get a crown a page; But weavers will be kinder to the players, And sell for twenty pence a yard of theirs. And to your knowledge, there is often less in The poet's wit, than in the player's dressing.

[Footnote 1: Archbishop King.]

[Footnote 2: A street famous for woollen manufactures.--F.]

[Footnote 3: See the fable of Pallas and Arachne in Ovid, "Metamorph.," lib. vi, applied in "A proposal for the Universal use of Irish Manufacture," "Prose Works," vii, at p. 21.--W. E. B.]

Answer to Prologue and Epilogue


Femineo generi tribuantur.

   The Muses, whom the richest silks array,
Refuse to fling their shining gowns away;
The pencil clothes the nine in bright brocades,
And gives each colour to the pictured maids;
Far above mortal dress the sisters shine,
Pride in their Indian Robes, and must be fine.
And shall two bards in concert rhyme, and huff
And fret these Muses with their playhouse stuff?

The player in mimic piety may storm, Deplore the Comb, and bid her heroes arm: The arbitrary mob, in paltry rage, May curse the belles and chintzes of the age: Yet still the artist worm her silk shall share, And spin her thread of life in service of the fair.

The cotton plant, whom satire cannot blast, Shall bloom the favourite of these realms, and last; Like yours, ye fair, her fame from censure grows, Prevails in charms, and glares above her foes: Your injured plant shall meet a loud defence, And be the emblem of your innocence.

Some bard, perhaps, whose landlord was a weaver, Penn'd the low prologue to return a favour: Some neighbour wit, that would be in the vogue, Work'd with his friend, and wove the epilogue. Who weaves the chaplet, or provides the bays, For such wool-gathering sonnetteers as these? Hence, then, ye homespun witlings, that persuade Miss Chloe to the fashion of her maid. Shall the wide hoop, that standard of the town, Thus act subservient to a poplin gown? Who'd smell of wool all over? 'Tis enough The under petticoat be made of stuff. Lord! to be wrapt in flannel just in May, When the fields dress'd in flowers appear so gay! And shall not miss be flower'd as well as they?

In what weak colours would the plaid appear, Work'd to a quilt, or studded in a chair! The skin, that vies with silk, would fret with stuff; Or who could bear in bed a thing so rough? Ye knowing fair, how eminent that bed, Where the chintz diamonds with the silken thread, Where rustling curtains call the curious eye, And boast the streaks and paintings of the sky! Of flocks they'd have your milky ticking full: And all this for the benefit of wool!

"But where," say they, "shall we bestow these weavers, That spread our streets, and are such piteous cravers?" The silk-worms (brittle beings!) prone to fate, Demand their care, to make their webs complete: These may they tend, their promises receive; We cannot pay too much for what they give!

Jonathan Swift

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