“A Meditation upon a Broomstick” begins with the narrator’s lament that he used to know “this single stick” when it was a part of a beautiful tree, and now it is used to make things clean by getting itself dirty. The fate of “this single stick” is ultimately the fire.
The narrator reveals that his subject is a broomstick. He declares that a broomstick is like a man. He is born upright, with all his hair, but is turned upside down, then relegated to a “withered trunk” as he ages. Man lives according to the whim of maids, much like the broomstick. Man reveals abuses, sweeps up dirt, and participates in the very pollution he pretends to want to eradicate. Man’s fate, like that of the stick, is either to be kicked out of doors or to be used for criticism by others.
The main purpose of “A Meditation Upon a Broomstick,” a short piece in just two paragraphs, is literary parody. Swift is mocking the writing style of Robert Boyle, whom he considered to be a “very silly writer.” The specific book that Swift is parodying is Occasional Reflections Upon Several Subjects, which Swift considered a silly title (almost as silly as “A Meditation Upon a Broomstick”). Swift’s attempts to poke fun at Boyle’s language are apparent in his woeful, lamenting tone, in such lines as, “When I beheld this I sighed, and said within myself, Surely mortal man is a Broomstick!” (p. 231).
Swift also presents a piece that is humorous in itself. It turns out that man is very like a broomstick, often being upside-down and irrational, sweeping up and raking up dirt as people criticize one another, and becoming soiled in the process.