Jonathan Swift

(30 November 1667 – 19 October 1745 / Dublin)

On Cutting Down The Thorn At Market-Hill - Poem by Jonathan Swift

At Market-Hill, as well appears
By chronicle of ancient date,
There stood for many hundred years
A spacious thorn before the gate.


Hither came every village maid,
And on the boughs her garland hung,
And here, beneath the spreading shade,
Secure from satyrs sat and sung.


Sir Archibald, that valorous knight.
The lord of all the fruitful plain,
Would come to listen with delight,
For he was fond of rural strain.


(Sir Archibald, whose favourite name
Shall stand for ages on record,
By Scottish bards of highest fame,
Wise Hawthornden and Stirling's lord.)


But time with iron teeth, I ween,
Has canker'd all its branches round;
No fruit or blossom to be seen,
Its head reclining toward the ground.


This aged, sickly, sapless thorn,
Which must, alas! no longer stand,
Behold the cruel Dean in scorn
Cuts down with sacrilegious hand.


Dame Nature, when she saw the blow,
Astonish'd gave a dreadful shriek;
And mother Tellus trembled so,
She scarce recover'd in a week.


The Sylvan powers, with fear perplex'd,
In prudence and compassion sent
(For none could tell whose turn was next)
Sad omens of the dire event.


The magpie, lighting on the stock,
Stood chattering with incessant din:
And with her beak gave many a knock,
To rouse and warn the nymph within.


The owl foresaw, in pensive mood,
The ruin of her ancient seat;
And fled in haste, with all her brood,
To seek a more secure retreat.


Last trotted forth the gentle swine,
To ease her itch against the stump,
And dismally was heard to whine,
All as she scrubb'd her meazly rump.


The nymph who dwells in every tree,
(If all be true that poets chant,)
Condemn'd by Fate's supreme decree,
Must die with her expiring plant.


Thus, when the gentle Spina found
The thorn committed to her care,
Received its last and deadly wound,
She fled, and vanish'd into air.


But from the root a dismal groan
First issuing struck the murderer's ears:
And, in a shrill revengeful tone,
This prophecy he trembling hears:


'Thou chief contriver of my fall,
Relentless Dean, to mischief born;
My kindred oft thine hide shall gall,
Thy gown and cassock oft be torn.


'And thy confederate dame, who brags
That she condemn'd me to the fire,
Shall rend her petticoats to rags,
And wound her legs with every brier.


'Nor thou, Lord Arthur, shall escape;
To thee I often call'd in vain,
Against that assassin in crape;
Yet thou couldst tamely see me slain:


'Nor, when I felt the dreadful blow,
Or chid the Dean, or pinch'd thy spouse;
Since you could see me treated so,
(An old retainer to your house


'May that fell Dean, by whose command
Was form'd this Machiavelian plot,
Not leave a thistle on thy land;
Then who will own thee for a Scot?


'Pigs and fanatics, cows and teagues,
Through all my empire I foresee,
To tear thy hedges join in leagues,
Sworn to revenge my thorn and me.


'And thou, the wretch ordain'd by fate,
Neal Gahagan, Hibernian clown,
With hatchet blunter than thy pate,
To hack my hallow'd timber down;


'When thou, suspended high in air,
Diest on a more ignoble tree,
(For thou shall steal thy landlord's mare,)
Then, bloody caitiff! think on me.'


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Poem Submitted: Monday, April 12, 2010



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