A TALE OF A NETTLE1
A MAN with expense and infinite toil,
By digging and dunging, ennobled his soil;
There fruits of the best your taste did invite,
And uniform order still courted the sight.
No degenerate weeds the rich ground did produce,
But all things afforded both beauty and use:
Till from dunghill transplanted, while yet but a seed,
A nettle rear'd up his inglorious head.
The gard'ner would wisely have rooted him up,
To stop the increase of a barbarous crop;
But the master forbid him, and after the fashion
Of foolish good nature, and blind moderation,
Forbore him through pity, and chose as much rather,
To ask him some questions first, how he came thither.
Kind sir, quoth the nettle, a stranger I come,
For conscience compell'd to relinquish my home,
'Cause I wouldn't subscribe to a mystery dark,
That the prince of all trees is the Jesuit's bark,2
An erroneous tenet I know, sir, that you,
No more than myself, will allow to be true.
To you, I for refuge and sanctuary sue,
There's none so renown'd for compassion as you;
And, though in some things I may differ from these,
The rest of your fruitful and beautiful trees;
Though your digging and dunging, my nature much harms,
And I cannot comply with your garden in forms:
Yet I and my family, after our fashion,
Will peaceably stick to our own education.
Be pleased to allow them a place for to rest 'em,
For the rest of your trees we will never molest 'em;
A kind shelter to us and protection afford,
We'll do you no harm, sir, I'll give you my word.
The good man was soon won by this plausible tale,
So fraud on good-nature doth often prevail.
He welcomes his guest, gives him free toleration
In the midst of his garden to take up his station,
And into his breast doth his enemy bring,
He little suspected the nettle could sting.
'Till flush'd with success, and of strength to be fear'd,
Around him a numerous offspring he rear'd.
Then the master grew sensible what he had done,
And fain he would have his new guest to be gone;
But now 'twas too late to bid him turn out,
A well rooted possession already was got.
The old trees decay'd, and in their room grew
A stubborn, pestilent, poisonous crew.
The master, who first the young brood had admitted,
They stung like ingrates, and left him unpitied.
No help from manuring or planting was found,
The ill weeds had eat out the heart of the ground.
All weeds they let in, and none they refuse
That would join to oppose the good man of the house.
Thus one nettle uncropp'd, increased to such store,
That 'twas nothing but weeds what was garden before.
1 These verses relate to the proposed repeal of the Test Act,
and may be compared with the "Fable of the Bitches."
2 In allusion to the supremacy of Rome.—Scott.
The Poetical Works of Jonathan Swift. Vol III.
London: William Pickering, 1853. 80-82.
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