<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Return to home

Home

SCND Shop

Contacts

EXTRACT FROM CHAPTER VII OF GULLIVER'S TRAVELS

BY JONATHAN SWIFT (FIRST PUBLISHED 1726) (paragraphing is not that of the original)

Lemuel Gulliver , a man addicted to travelling, finds himself in the land of Brobdingnag, which is inhabited by benevolent giants. In the previous chapter, he has explained the history and customs of England over the past hundred years (including the English Civil War and foreign wars) to the inquisitive king, trying to put them in as favourable a light as possible. The king is not impressed. In what follows, Gulliver finds excuses for the king's 'ignorance' and makes him an offer which he thinks the king can't refuse.

But great Allowances should be given to a King who lives wholly secluded from the rest of the World, and must therefore be altogether unacquainted with the Manners and Customs that most prevail in other Nations: The want of which Knowledge will ever produce many Prejudices, and a certain Narrowness of thinking, from which we and the politer Countries of Europe are wholly exempted. And it would be hard, indeed, if so remote a Prince's Notions of Virtue and Vice were to be offered as a standard for all Mankind .

To confirm what I have now said, and further, to shew the miserable Effects of a confined Education, I shall here insert a Passage which will hardly obtain Belief.

In hopes to ingratiate my self farther into his Majesty's Favour, I told him of an Invention discovered between three and four hundred Years ago, to make acertain Powder, into an 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 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 an hundred Foot 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 those terrible Engines, and the Proposal I had made. He was amazed 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 short 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 for Government, and almost adored by his Subjects, 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, the Liberties, and the Fortunes of his People.

  • The italics and capitals are Swift's. Phrases in bold are referred to in the enclosed questions on the text
  • 'politer' = 'more polished/more civilised'
  • 'Engine' = 'device'
  • 'compounding' = 'mixing'
  • 'pretend' = 'presume'
  • 'parts' = 'capacities'
  • 'nice' = 'foolish, over-fastidious'

 

 
    Copyright © SCND 2004. All rights reserved.
site template provided by walrus and carpenter