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The Grand Question Debated: Hamilton's Bawn Be Turned Into A Barrack Or Malt-house Post by :cyclone Category :Poems Author :Jonathan Swift Date :August 2011 Read :3100

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The Grand Question Debated: Hamilton's Bawn Be Turned Into A Barrack Or Malt-house

The Grand Question Debated: Whether Hamilton's Bawn(1) Should Be Turned Into A Barrack Or Malt-House.



The author of the following poem is said to be Dr. J. S. D. S. P. D. who writ it, as well as several other copies of verses of the like kind, by way of amusement, in the family of an honourable gentleman in the north of Ireland, where he spent a summer, about two or three years ago.(2) A certain very great person,(3) then in that kingdom, having heard much of this poem, obtained a copy from the gentleman, or, as some say, the lady in whose house it was written, from whence I know not by what accident several other copies were transcribed full of errors. As I have a great respect for the supposed author, I have procured a true copy of the poem, the publication whereof can do him less injury than printing any of those incorrect ones which run about in manuscript, and would infallibly be soon in the press, if not thus prevented. Some expressions being peculiar to Ireland, I have prevailed on a gentleman of that kingdom to explain them, and I have put the several explanations in their proper places.--_First Edition_.

Thus spoke to my lady the knight(2) full of care,
"Let me have your advice in a weighty affair.
This Hamilton's bawn, while it sticks in my hand
I lose by the house what I get by the land;
But how to dispose of it to the best bidder,
For a barrack(6) or malt-house, we now must consider.
"First, let me suppose I make it a malt-house,
Here I have computed the profit will fall t'us:
There's nine hundred pounds for labour and grain,
I increase it to twelve, so three hundred remain;
A handsome addition for wine and good cheer,
Three dishes a-day, and three hogsheads a-year;
With a dozen large vessels my vault shall be stored;
No little scrub joint shall come on my board;
And you and the Dean no more shall combine
To stint me at night to one bottle of wine;
Nor shall I, for his humour, permit you to purloin
A stone and a quarter of beef from my sir-loin.
If I make it a barrack, the crown is my tenant;
My dear, I have ponder'd again and again on't:
In poundage and drawbacks I lose half my rent,
Whatever they give me, I must be content,
Or join with the court in every debate;
And rather than that, I would lose my estate."
Thus ended the knight; thus began his meek wife:
"It must, and it shall be a barrack, my life.
I'm grown a mere _mopus_; no company comes
But a rabble of tenants, and rusty dull rums.(5)
With parsons what lady can keep herself clean?
I'm all over daub'd when I sit by the Dean.
But if you will give us a barrack, my dear,
The captain I'm sure will always come here;
I then shall not value his deanship a straw,
For the captain, I warrant, will keep him in awe;
Or, should he pretend to be brisk and alert,
Will tell him that chaplains should not be so pert;
That men of his coat should be minding their prayers,
And not among ladies to give themselves airs."
Thus argued my lady, but argued in vain;
The knight his opinion resolved to maintain.
But Hannah,(6) who listen'd to all that was past,
And could not endure so vulgar a taste,
As soon as her ladyship call'd to be dress'd,
Cried, "Madam, why surely my master's possess'd,
Sir Arthur the maltster! how fine it will sound!
I'd rather the bawn were sunk under ground.
But, madam, I guess'd there would never come good,
When I saw him so often with Darby and Wood.(7)
And now my dream's out; for I was a-dream'd
That I saw a huge rat--O dear, how I scream'd!
And after, methought, I had lost my new shoes;
And Molly, she said, I should hear some ill news.
"Dear Madam, had you but the spirit to tease,
You might have a barrack whenever you please:
And, madam, I always believed you so stout,
That for twenty denials you would not give out.
If I had a husband like him, I _purtest,_
Till he gave me my will, I would give him no rest;
And, rather than come in the same pair of sheets
With such a cross man, I would lie in the streets:
But, madam, I beg you, contrive and invent,
And worry him out, till he gives his consent.
Dear madam, whene'er of a barrack I think,
An I were to be hang'd, I can't sleep a wink:
For if a new crotchet comes into my brain,
I can't get it out, though I'd never so fain.
I fancy already a barrack contrived
At Hamilton's bawn, and the troop is arrived;
Of this to be sure, Sir Arthur has warning,
And waits on the captain betimes the next morning.
"Now see, when they meet, how their honours behave;
'Noble captain, your servant'--'Sir Arthur, your slave;
You honour me much'--'The honour is mine.'--
''Twas a sad rainy night'--'But the morning is fine.'--
'Pray, how does my lady?'--'My wife's at your service.'--
'I think I have seen her picture by Jervas.'--
'Good-morrow, good captain'--'I'll wait on you down'--
'You shan't stir a foot'--'You'll think me a clown.'--
'For all the world, captain, not half an inch farther'--
'You must be obey'd--Your servant, Sir Arthur!
My humble respects to my lady unknown.'--
'I hope you will use my house as your own.'"
"Go bring me my smock, and leave off your prate,
Thou hast certainly gotten a cup in thy pate."
"Pray, madam, be quiet: what was it I said?
You had like to have put it quite out of my head.
Next day to be sure, the captain will come,
At the head of his troop, with trumpet and drum.
Now, madam, observe how he marches in state:
The man with the kettle-drum enters the gate:
Dub, dub, adub, dub. The trumpeters follow.
Tantara, tantara; while all the boys holla.
See now comes the captain all daub'd with gold lace:
O la! the sweet gentleman! look in his face;
And see how he rides like a lord of the land,
With the fine flaming sword that he holds in his hand;
And his horse, the dear _creter_, it prances and rears;
With ribbons in knots at its tail and its ears:
At last comes the troop, by word of command,
Drawn up in our court; when the captain cries, STAND!
Your ladyship lifts up the sash to be seen,
For sure I had dizen'd you out like a queen.
The captain, to show he is proud of the favour,
Looks up to your window, and cocks up his beaver;
(His beaver is cock'd: pray, madam, mark that,
For a captain of horse never takes off his hat,
Because he has never a hand that is idle,
For the right holds the sword, and the left holds the bridle;)
Then flourishes thrice his sword in the air,
As a compliment due to a lady so fair;
(How I tremble to think of the blood it has spilt!)
Then he lowers down the point, and kisses the hilt.
Your ladyship smiles, and thus you begin:
'Pray, captain, be pleased to alight and walk in.'
The captain salutes you with congee profound,
And your ladyship curtseys half way to the ground.
'Kit, run to your master, and bid him come to us;
I'm sure he'll be proud of the honour you do us;
And, captain, you'll do us the favour to stay,
And take a short dinner here with us to-day:
You're heartily welcome; but as for good cheer,
You come in the very worst time of the year;
If I had expected so worthy a guest--'
'Lord, madam! your ladyship sure is in jest;
You banter me, madam; the kingdom must grant--'
'You officers, captain, are so complaisant!'"--
"Hist, hussey, I think I hear somebody coming "--
"No madam: 'tis only Sir Arthur a-humming.
To shorten my tale, (for I hate a long story,)
The captain at dinner appears in his glory;
The dean and the doctor(8) have humbled their pride,
For the captain's entreated to sit by your side;
And, because he's their betters, you carve for him first;
The parsons for envy are ready to burst.
The servants, amazed, are scarce ever able
To keep off their eyes, as they wait at the table;
And Molly and I have thrust in our nose,
To peep at the captain in all his fine _clo'es._
Dear madam, be sure he's a fine spoken man,
Do but hear on the clergy how glib his tongue ran;
And, 'madam,' says he, 'if such dinners you give,
You'll ne'er want for parsons as long as you live.
I ne'er knew a parson without a good nose;
But the devil's as welcome, wherever he goes:
G--d d--n me! they bid us reform and repent,
But, z--s! by their looks, they never keep Lent:
Mister curate, for all your grave looks, I'm afraid
You cast a sheep's eye on her ladyship's maid:
I wish she would lend you her pretty white hand
In mending your cassock, and smoothing your band:
(For the Dean was so shabby, and look'd like a ninny,
That the captain supposed he was curate to Jinny.)
'Whenever you see a cassock and gown,
A hundred to one but it covers a clown.
Observe how a parson comes into a room;
G--d d--n me, he hobbles as bad as my groom;
A _scholard_, when just from his college broke loose,
Can hardly tell how to cry bo to a goose;
Your Noveds, and Bluturks, and Omurs,(9) and stuff
By G--, they don't signify this pinch of snuff.
To give a young gentleman right education,
The army's the only good school in the nation:
My schoolmaster call'd me a dunce and a fool,
But at cuffs I was always the cock of the school;
I never could take to my book for the blood o' me,
And the puppy confess'd he expected no good o' me.
He caught me one morning coquetting his wife,
But he maul'd me, I ne'er was so maul'd in my life: (10)
So I took to the road, and, what's very odd,
The first man I robb'd was a parson, by G--.
Now, madam, you'll think it a strange thing to say,
But the sight of a book makes me sick to this day.
"Never since I was born did I hear so much wit,
And, madam, I laugh'd till I thought I should split.
So then you look'd scornful, and snift at the Dean,
As who should say, 'Now, am I skinny(11) and lean?'
But he durst not so much as once open his lips,
And the doctor was plaguily down in the hips."
Thus merciless Hannah ran on in her talk,
Till she heard the Dean call, "Will your ladyship walk?"
Her ladyship answers, "I'm just coming down:"
Then, turning to Hannah, and forcing a frown,
Although it was plain in her heart she was glad,
Cried, "Hussey, why sure the wench is gone mad!
How could these chimeras get into your brains!--
Come hither and take this old gown for your pains.
But the Dean, if this secret should come to his ears,
Will never have done with his gibes and his jeers:
For your life, not a word of the matter I charge ye:
Give me but a barrack, a fig for the clergy."

(Footnote 1: A bawn was a place near the house, enclosed with mud or stone walls, to keep the cattle from being stolen in the night, now little used.--_Dublin Edition_.)

(Footnote 2: Sir Arthur Acheson, at whose seat this was written.)

(Footnote 3: John, Lord Carteret, then Lord-lieutenant of Ireland, since Earl of Granville, in right of his mother.)

(Footnote 4: The army in Ireland was lodged in strong buildings, called barracks. See "Verses on his own Death," and notes, vol. i, 247.--_W. E. B._)

(Footnote 5: A cant-word in Ireland for a poor country clergyman.)

(Footnote 6: My lady's waiting-woman.)

(Footnote 7: Two of Sir Arthur's managers.)

(Footnote 8: Dr. Jinny, a clergyman in the neighbourhood.)

(Footnote 9: Ovids, Plutarchs, Homers.)

(Footnote 10: These four lines were added by Swift in his own copy of the Miscellanies, edit. 1732.--_W. E. B._)

(Footnote 11: Nicknames for my lady, see _ante_, pp. 94, 95.--_W. E. B._)

(The end)
Jonathan Swift's poem: Grand Question Debated: Whether Hamilton's Bawn Should Be Turned Into A Barrack Or Malt-House

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