Page images
PDF
EPUB

that on the left side, the king's smith conveyed fourscore and eleven chains, like those that hang to a lady's watch in Europe, and almost as large, which were locked to my left leg with sixand-thirty padlocks. Over against this temple, on the other side of the great highway, at twenty feet distance, there was a turret at least five feet high. Here the emperor ascended, with many principal lords of his court, to have an opportunity of viewing me, as I was told, for I could not see them. It was reckoned that above a hundred thousand inhabitants came out of the town upon the same errand ; and, in spite of my guards, I believe there could not be fewer than ten thousand at several times, who mounted my body by the help of ladders. But a proclamation was soon issued, to forbid it upon pain of death. When the workmen found it was impossible for me to break loose, they cut all the strings that bound me; whereupon I rose up, with as melancholy a disposition as ever I had in my life. But the noise and astonishment of the people, at seeing me rise and walk, are not to be expressed. The chains that held my left leg were about two yards long, and gave me not only liberty of walking backwards and forwards in a semicircle, but being fixed within four inches of the gate, allowed me to creep in, and lie at my full length in the temple.

A Voyage to Lilliput.

a

THE KING'S OPINIONS ON GUNPOWDER.

IN hopes to ingratiate myself farther into his majesty's favour, I told him of “an invention, discovered between three and four hundred years ago, to make a certain powder, into a heap of which, the smallest spark of fire falling, would kindle the whole in a moment, although it were as big as a mountain, and make it all fly up in the air together, with a noise and agitation greater than thunder. That a proper quantity of this powder, rammed into a hollow tube of brass or iron, according to its bigness, would drive a ball of iron or lead with such violence and speed, as nothing was able to sustain its force. That the largest balls, thus discharged, would not only destroy whole ranks of an army

a

[ocr errors]

a

at once, but batter the strongest walls to the ground, sink down ships, with a thousand men in each, to the bottom of the sea ; and when linked together by a chain, would cut through masts and rigging, divide hundreds of bodies in the middle, and lay all waste before them. That we often put this powder into large, hollow balls of iron, and discharged them by an engine into some city we were besieging, which would rip up the pavements, tear the houses to pieces, burst, and throw splinters on every side, dashing out the brains of all who came near. That I knew the ingredients very well, which were cheap and common; I understood the manner of compounding them, and could direct his workmen how to make those tubes, of a size proportionable to all other things in his majesty's kingdom, and the largest need not be above a hundred feet long ; twenty or thirty of which tubes, charged with the proper quantity of powder and balls, would batter down the walls of the strongest town in his dominions in a few hours, or destroy the whole metropolis, if ever it should pretend to dispute his absolute commands. This I humbly offered to his majesty, as a small tribute of acknowledgment, in return of so many marks that I had received of his royal favour and protection.”

The king was struck with horror at the description I had given of these terrible engines, and the proposal I had made. “He

mazed, how so impotent and grovelling an insect as I," (these were his expressions,) "could entertain such inhuman ideas, and in so familiar a manner, as to appear wholly unmoved at all the scenes of blood and desolation which I had painted, as the common effects of those destructive machines; whereof," he said, “some evil genius, enemy to mankind, must have been the first contriver." As for himself, he protested, that although few things delighted him so much as new discoveries in art or in nature, yet he would rather lose half his kingdom than be privy to such a secret ; which he commanded me, as I valued my life, never to mention any more.

A strange effect of narrow principles and views ! that a prince, possessed of every quality which procures veneration, love, and esteem ; of strong parts, great wisdom, and profound learning, endued with admirable talents, and almost adored by his subjects,

was ama

should, from a nice, unnecessary scruple, whereof in Europe we can have no conception, let slip an opportunity put into his hands, that would have made him absolute master of the lives, liberties, and the fortunes of his people! Neither do I say this with the least intention to detract from the many virtues of that excellent king, whose character, I am sensible, will, on this account, be very much lessened in the opinion of an English reader ; but, I take this defect among them to have risen from their ignorance, by not having hitherto reduced politics into a science, as the more acute wits of Europe have done. For, I remember very well, in a discourse one day with the king, when I happened to say, “there were several thousand books among us written upon the art of government,” it gave him (directly contrary to my intention) a very mean opinion of our understandings. He professed both to abominate and despise all mystery, refinement, and intrigue, either in a prince or in a minister. He could not tell what I meant by secrets of state, where an enemy, or some rival nation, were not in the case. He confined the knowledge of governing within very narrow bounds, to common sense and reason, to justice and lenity, to the speedy determination of civil and criminal causes ; with some other obvious topics, which are not worth considering. And he gave it for his opinion “ That whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together."

A Voyage to Brobdingnag.

CONCERNING MADNESS.

LET us next examine the great introducers of new schemes in philosophy, and search till we can find from what faculty of the soul the disposition arises in mortal man, of taking it into his head to advance new systems, with such an eager zeal, in things agreed on all hands impossible to be known : from what seeds this disposition springs, and to what quality of human nature

1

1

these grand innovators have been indebted for their number of disciples. Because it is plain, that several of the chief among them, both ancient and modern, were usually mistaken by their adversaries, and indeed by all, except their own followers, to have been persons crazed, or out of their wits; having generally proceeded, in the common course of their words and actions, by a method very different from the vulgar dictates of unrefined reason ; agreeing for the most part in their several models, with their present undoubted successors in the academy of modern Bedlam ; whose merits and principles I shall farther examine in due place. Of this kind were Epicurus, Diogenes, Apollonius, Lucretius, Paracelsus, Des Cartes, and others; who, if they were now in the world, tied fast, and separate from their followers, would, in this our undistinguishing age, incur manifest danger of phlebotomy, and whips, and chains, and dark chambers, and straw. For what man, in the natural state or course of thinking, did ever conceive it in his power to reduce the notions of all mankind exactly to the same length, and breadth, and height of his own ? yet this is the first humble and civil design of all innovators in the empire of reason. Epicurus modestly hoped, that, one time or other, a certain fortuitous concourse of all men's opinions, after perpetual justlings, the sharp with the sinooth, the light and the heavy, the round and the square, would, by certain clinamina, unite in the notions of atoms and void, as these did in the originals of all things. Cartesius reckoned to see, before he died, the sentiments of all philosophers, like so many lesser stars in his romantic system, wrapped and drawn within his own vortex. Now, I would gladly be informed, how it is possible to account for such imaginations as these in particular men, without recourse to my phenomenon of vapours, ascending from the lower faculties to overshadow the brain, and there distilling into conceptions, for which the narrowness of our mother-tongue has not yet assigned any other name beside that of madness or phrensy. Let us therefore now conjecture how it comes to pass, that none of these great prescribers do ever fail providing themselves and their notions with a number of implicit disciples. And, I think, the reason is easy to be assigned : for there is a peculiar string in the harmony of

[ocr errors]

human understanding, which, in several individuals, is exactly of the same tuning. This, if you can dexterously screw up to its right key, and then strike gently upon it, whenever you have the good fortune to light among those of the same pitch, they will, by a secret necessary sympathy, strike exactly at the same time. And in this one circumstance lies all the skill or luck of the matter; for, if you chance to jar the string among those who are either above or below your own height, instead of subscribing to your doctrine, they will tie you fast, call you mad, and feed you with bread and water. It is therefore a point of the nicest conduct, to distinguish and adapt this noble talent, with respect to the differences of persons and times. Cicero understood this very well, when writing to a friend in England, with a caution, among other matters, to beware of being cheated by our hackneycoachmen, (who it seems, in those days were as arrant rascals as they are now,) has these remarkable words : Est quod gaudeas te in ista loca venisse, ubi aliquid sapere viderere. For, to speak a bold truth, it is a fatal miscarriage so ill to order affairs, as to pass for a fool in one company, when, in another, you might be treated as a philosopher. Which I desire some certain gentlemen of my acquaintance to lay up in their hearts, as a very seasonable innuendo.

A Tale of a Tub.

2

P. 137, I. 2. Arrived. Participle, not verb. Is arrivedis now thought a Gallicism, perhaps not justly.

P. 141, 1. 8. Them, the Brobdingnagians, though nobody but the king has been the subject of discourse.

P. 142, 1. 24. Clinamina. The Epicurcan postulate of a slight declension from the perpendicular in the rain of atoms through space, which brings them together.

P. 142, 1. 36. Fail providing. This, like agreed impossible,is characteristic of Swift's elliptic shortenings of phrase.

P. 143, 1. 12. Cicero. The actual quotation is from Ep. ad Fam. vii. 10. The reader will hardly need to be told that there is nothing about hackney coachmen in the original. The series of letters to Trebatius is, however, full of"chaf," and in a previous epistle (7) Cicero suggests that if his friend finds that there is nothing to be made in Britain, he shall take an essedum (the war chariots which Casar's expedition had made famous) and come back.

« PreviousContinue »