"For, some think that the spirit is apt to feed on the flesh, like hungry wines upon raw beef."

— Swift, Jonathan (1667-1745)

Place of Publication
"For, some think that the spirit is apt to feed on the flesh, like hungry wines upon raw beef."
Metaphor in Context
As yet snuffling was not, when the following adventure happened to a Banbury saint. Upon a certain day, while he was far engaged among the tabernacles of the wicked, he felt the outward man put into odd commotions, and strangely pricked forward by the inward; an effect very usual among the modern inspired. For, some think that the spirit is apt to feed on the flesh, like hungry wines upon raw beef. Others rather believe there is a perpetual game at leap-frog between both, and sometimes the flesh is uppermost, and sometimes the spirit; adding that the former, while it is in the state of a rider, wears huge Rippon spurs, and when it comes to the turn of being bearer, is wonderfully headstrong and hard-mouthed. However it came about, the saint felt his vessel full extended in every part (a very natural effect of strong inspiration), and the place and time falling out so unluckily that he could not have the convenience of evacuating upwards by repetition, prayer, or lecture, he was forced to open an inferior vent. In short, he wrestled with the flesh so long, that he at length subdued it, coming off with honourable wounds, all before. The surgeon had now cured the parts primarily affected, but the disease, driven from its post, flew into his head; and, as a skilful general, valiantly attacked in his trenches, and beaten from the field, by flying marches withdraws to the capital city, breaking down the bridges to prevent pursuit; so the disease, repelled from its first station, fled before the Rod of Hermes to the upper region, there fortifying itself; but finding the foe making attacks at the nose, broke down the bridge, and retired to the head-quarters. Now, the naturalists observe, that there is in human noses an idiosyncracy, by virtue of which, the more the passage is obstructed, the more our speech delights to go through, as the music of a flageolet is made by the stops. By this method, the twang of the nose becomes perfectly to resemble the snuffle of a bag-pipe, and is found to be equally attractive of British ears; whereof the saint had sudden experience by practising his new faculty with wonderful success in the operation of the spirit. For, in a short time, no doctrine passed for sound and orthodox, unless it were delivered through the nose. Straight, every pastor copied after this original, and those who could not otherwise arrive to a perfection, spirited by a noble zeal, made use of the same experiment to acquire it. So that I think it may be truly affirmed, the saints owe their empire, to the snuffling of one animal as Darius did his to the neighing of another, and both stratagems were performed by the same art; for we read how the Persian beast acquired his faculty, by covering a mare the day before.
(pp. 136-7)
More than 40 entries in ECCO and ESTC (1704, 1705, 1710, 1711, 1720, 1724, 1726, 1727, 1733, 1734, 1739, 1741, 1743, 1747, 1750, 1751, 1752, 1753, 1754, 1756, 1760, 1761, 1762, 1766, 1768, 1769, 1771, 1772, 1774, 1776, 1781, 1784, 1798).

Reading Jonathan Swift, A Tale of a Tub and Other Works, eds. Angus Ross and David Woolley. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986). Some text drawn from ebooks@Adelaide.

Note, the textual history is complicated. First published May 10, 1704. The second edition of 1704 and the fifth of 1710 include new material. Ross and Woolley's text is an eclectic one, based on the three authoritative editions.

See A Tale of a Tub. Written for the Universal Improvement of Mankind. To Which Is Added, an Account of a Battel Between the Antient and Modern Books in St. James's Library, 2nd edition, corrected (London: Printed for John Nutt, 1704). <Link to ESTC>
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.