Harold Williams (ed.), The Poems of Jonathan Swift, Vol. 1 (Second Edition)

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On the Little House by the Church Yard of Castleknock.

Faulkner, 1746, viii. 338.

Miscellanies, 1746, xi. 268 (1749, xi. 268; 1751, xiv. 237). [Refs. 1746, 1749, 1751.] Brett's Miscellany, 1752, ii. 200–2.

The Works of Jonathan Swift, D.D., ed. Hawkesworth, 1755, 4to, iv (1), 304.

This poem was written in the earlier half of 1710, during a period of residence in Ireland (see note to the preceding poem). It describes a tiny building used as a vestry by Swift's friend, Archdeacon Walls, when officiating at Castleknock church, the parish church of Phoenix Park. No date is given to the poem in the early collections. Deane Swift, Essay, 1755, p. 144, rightly assigns it to 1710.

In 1943 Dr. St. John Brooks acquired four volumes, i to iv, 1748–57, of Brett's Miscellany, a rare Dublin publication, for the contents of which Peter Brett, parish clerk and schoolmaster of Castleknock, was responsible. In vol. ii, pp. 200–2 appears a version of Swift's poem, presenting minor variants, indicated in the apparatus by B., and differing substantially in two passages from Faulkner's text. It is clear that Brett did not rely on any printed edition of the poem. The most probable conjecture is that he had access to a manuscript which for many years had been in the possession of the vicars of Castleknock. Archdeacon Walls was succeeded as vicar in 1738 by his son the Rev. Thomas Walls, who in his turn was succeeded in 1745 by the Rev. John Towers. Jemmy Dunn, appearing by name in Brett's lines, was a predecessor of Peter Brett as parish clerk of Castleknock. A likely guess may be hazarded that Brett's variants and additional lines were part of Swift's original draft, subsequently discarded by him. Faulkner, apparently, printed from a revised and abbreviated manuscript.

pg 126The two passages which differ substantially are—

(1) For Faulkner's four lines 19–22 Brett has five lines:

  • The Vicar once a week walks in,
  • Waiting the Service to begin.
  • Here conns his notes, and takes a Whet
  • With Dunn his Clark, when in they get,
  • Waiting until the Flock is met.

(2) After line 54 of Faulkner Brett has fourteen lines, representing four lines only, 55–8, in Faulkner. Brett reads:

  • The Clerk immediately did come,
  • His Name, I think, is Jemmy Dunn,
  • And when to her he had appear'd,
  • He thought the Lady had him jeer'd,
  • And cries God mend me, in a Heat,
  • What! Sell the Vicar's Country Seat,
  • Where he comes ev'ry Week from Town,
  • I would not sell it for a Crown:
  • I'll sooner Preach within Christ-Church,
  • Than leave the Vicar in the Lurch;
  • Or give from him one single Brick,
  • Madam, you touch me to the Quick.
  • I cannot now consent to this,
  • Nor give this House to little Miss.

The poem is here printed from Faulkner's edition of the Works, vol. viii, 1746.

  • 1WHOEVER pleaseth to enquire,
  • 2Why yonder Steeple wants a Spire,
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus3  The gray old Fellow Poet Joe
  • 4  The Philosophic Cause will shew.
  • 5Once, on a Time a Western Blast,
  • 6At least twelve Inches overcast,
  • 7Reckoning Roof, Weather Cock and all,
  • 8Which came with a prodigious Fall;
  • 9And tumbling topsi-turvy round
  • 10Light with its Bottom on the Ground.
  • pg 127Critical Apparatus11  For by the Laws of Gravitation,
  • 12It fell into its proper Station.
  • 13  This is the little strutting Pile,
  • 14You see just by the Church-yard Stile;
  • 15The Walls in tumbling gave a Knock;
  • Critical Apparatus16And thus the Steeple got a Shock;
  • 17From whence the neighbouring Farmer calls
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus18The Steeple, Knock, the Vicar, Walls.
  • 19  The Vicar once a Week creeps in,
  • 20Sits with his Knees up to his Chin;
  • 21Here conns his Notes, and takes a Whet,
  • 22Till the small ragged Flock is met.
  • 23  A Traveller, who by did pass,
  • 24Observ'd the Roof behind the Grass;
  • 25On Tiptoe stood and rear'd his Snout,
  • Critical Apparatus26And saw the Parson creeping out;
  • 27Was much surpriz'd to see a Crow
  • 28Venture to build his Nest so low.
  • 29  A School-boy ran unto't and thought,
  • 30The Crib was down, the Blackbird caught.
  • 31A Third, who lost his Way by Night,
  • 32Was forc'd, for Safety, to alight,
  • 33And stepping o'er the Fabrick-roof,
  • 34His Horse had like to spoil his Hoof.
  • Editor’s Note35  Warburton took it in his Noddle,
  • 36This Building was designed a Model,
  • 37Or of a Pigeon-house, or Oven,
  • 38To bake one Loaf, and keep one Dove in.
  • pg 128Editor’s Note39  Then Mrs. Johnson gave her Verdict,
  • 40And every one was pleas'd, that heard it:
  • 41All that you make this Stir about,
  • 42Is but a Still which wants a Spout.
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus43The Rev'rend Dr. Raymond guess'd,
  • 44More probably than all the rest;
  • 45He said, but that it wanted Room,
  • 46It might have been a Pigmy's Tomb.
  • 47  The Doctor's Family came by,
  • 48And little Miss began to cry;
  • 49Give me that House in my own Hand;
  • Critical Apparatus50Then Madam bid the Chariot stand,
  • 51Call'd to the Clerk in manner mild,
  • 52Pray reach that Thing here to the Child,
  • 53That Thing, I mean, among the Kale,
  • 54And here's to buy a Pot of Ale.
  • 55  The Clerk said to her in a Heat,
  • Critical Apparatus56What? sell my Master's Country Seat?
  • 57Where he comes ev'ry Week from Town;
  • 58He wou'd not sell it for a Crown.
  • Critical Apparatus59Poh! Fellow keep not such a Pother
  • 60In half an Hour thou'lt make another.
  • Editor’s Note61  Says Nancy, I can make for Miss,
  • 62A finer House ten times than this,
  • 63The Dean will give me Willow-Sticks,
  • 64And Joe my Apron full of Bricks.

Notes Settings


Critical Apparatus
3 Fellow] 1746, 1749, 1751 fellow, 1755
Editor’s Note
3. Poet Joe. Joseph Beaumont, a linen-draper and general tradesman of Trim, a friend of Swift, and remarkable for the greyness of his hair at an early age. He introduced improvements in the art of linen weaving, and Swift assisted him in pressing a claim for reward upon the Irish government. He is said to have developed a passion for abstruse mathematics, which finally deranged him. There are frequent references to him in the Journal to Stella and in Swift's correspondence.
Critical Apparatus
11 Gravitation,] 1746, 1749, 1751 gravitation 1755
Critical Apparatus
11, 12] Part of preceding para., 1755
Critical Apparatus
16 got] gave B. 1755
Critical Apparatus
18 creeps] walks B.
Editor’s Note
18. Walls. The Rev. Thomas Walls, of English origin, entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1693 at the age of twenty. He became master of the school attached to St. Patrick's Cathedral, and held it with the Archdeaconry of Achrony. Later he resigned his schoolmastership and became incumbent of Castleknock, near Dublin. See Corresp. i. 69 n.3, ii. 67 n.8, and passim.
Critical Apparatus
26 creeping] coming B.
out;] 1746, 1749, 1755 out. 1751
Editor’s Note
35. Warburton. The Rev. Thomas Warburton was Swift's curate at Laracor. He also had a school at Trim. In 1716–17 he married and obtained the living of Magherafelt in the Diocese of Armagh, which he held until his death in 1736. See Corresp. ii. 366 n.2; Leslie, Armagh Clergy, p. 364.
Editor’s Note
39. Mrs. Johnson. Stella. Faulkner's note: 'A Friend of the Author's.'
Critical Apparatus
43 Raymond] Reymond remainder
Editor’s Note
43. Dr. Raymond. The Rev. Anthony Raymond became rector of Trim in 1705, and thereupon resigned his fellowship at Trinity College, Dublin. He held the living till his death in 1726. In 1713 he also received the small living of Moymet within two miles of Trim. Before his death he issued the prospectus of a History of Ireland. The work was never published (Corresp. i. 120 n.2). Swift and Raymond were lifelong friends.
Critical Apparatus
50 bid] bad remainder
Critical Apparatus
56 What?] 1746, 1749, 1751 What! B. 1755
Critical Apparatus
59 Fellow] Fellow, 1746, 1749, 1751 fellow, 1755
Editor’s Note
61. Nancy. 'The Waiting Woman.' —Faulkner.
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