Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 1

  • [The author sets out as captain of a ship. His men conspire against him,
  • confine him a long time to his cabin, and set him on shore in an unknown land.
  • He travels up into the country. The Yahoos, a strange sort of animal,
  • described. The author meets two Houyhnhnms.]
  • I continued at home with my wife and children about five months, in a ver_appy condition, if I could have learned the lesson of knowing when I wa_ell. I left my poor wife big with child, and accepted an advantageous offe_ade me to be captain of the Adventurer, a stout merchantman of 350 tons: fo_ understood navigation well, and being grown weary of a surgeon's employmen_t sea, which, however, I could exercise upon occasion, I took a skilful youn_an of that calling, one Robert Purefoy, into my ship. We set sail fro_ortsmouth upon the 7th day of September, 1710; on the 14th we met wit_aptain Pocock, of Bristol, at Teneriffe, who was going to the bay of Campech_o cut logwood. On the 16th, he was parted from us by a storm; I heard sinc_y return, that his ship foundered, and none escaped but one cabin boy. He wa_n honest man, and a good sailor, but a little too positive in his ow_pinions, which was the cause of his destruction, as it has been with severa_thers; for if he had followed my advice, he might have been safe at home wit_is family at this time, as well as myself.
  • I had several men who died in my ship of calentures, so that I was forced t_et recruits out of Barbadoes and the Leeward Islands, where I touched, by th_irection of the merchants who employed me; which I had soon too much cause t_epent: for I found afterwards, that most of them had been buccaneers. I ha_ifty hands onboard; and my orders were, that I should trade with the Indian_n the South-Sea, and make what discoveries I could. These rogues, whom I ha_icked up, debauched my other men, and they all formed a conspiracy to seiz_he ship, and secure me; which they did one morning, rushing into my cabin,
  • and binding me hand and foot, threatening to throw me overboard, if I offere_o stir. I told them, "I was their prisoner, and would submit." This they mad_e swear to do, and then they unbound me, only fastening one of my legs with _hain, near my bed, and placed a sentry at my door with his piece charged, wh_as commanded to shoot me dead if I attempted my liberty. They sent me ow_ictuals and drink, and took the government of the ship to themselves. Thei_esign was to turn pirates and, plunder the Spaniards, which they could not d_ill they got more men. But first they resolved to sell the goods the ship,
  • and then go to Madagascar for recruits, several among them having died sinc_y confinement. They sailed many weeks, and traded with the Indians; but _new not what course they took, being kept a close prisoner in my cabin, an_xpecting nothing less than to be murdered, as they often threatened me.
  • Upon the 9th day of May, 1711, one James Welch came down to my cabin, an_aid, "he had orders from the captain to set me ashore." I expostulated wit_im, but in vain; neither would he so much as tell me who their new captai_as. They forced me into the long-boat, letting me put on my best suit o_lothes, which were as good as new, and take a small bundle of linen, but n_rms, except my hanger; and they were so civil as not to search my pockets,
  • into which I conveyed what money I had, with some other little necessaries.
  • They rowed about a league, and then set me down on a strand. I desired them t_ell me what country it was. They all swore, "they knew no more than myself;"
  • but said, "that the captain" (as they called him) "was resolved, after the_ad sold the lading, to get rid of me in the first place where they coul_iscover land." They pushed off immediately, advising me to make haste fo_ear of being overtaken by the tide, and so bade me farewell.
  • In this desolate condition I advanced forward, and soon got upon firm ground,
  • where I sat down on a bank to rest myself, and consider what I had best do.
  • When I was a little refreshed, I went up into the country, resolving t_eliver myself to the first savages I should meet, and purchase my life fro_hem by some bracelets, glass rings, and other toys, which sailors usuall_rovide themselves with in those voyages, and whereof I had some about me. Th_and was divided by long rows of trees, not regularly planted, but naturall_rowing; there was great plenty of grass, and several fields of oats. I walke_ery circumspectly, for fear of being surprised, or suddenly shot with a_rrow from behind, or on either side. I fell into a beaten road, where I sa_any tracts of human feet, and some of cows, but most of horses. At last _eheld several animals in a field, and one or two of the same kind sitting i_rees. Their shape was very singular and deformed, which a little discompose_e, so that I lay down behind a thicket to observe them better. Some of the_oming forward near the place where I lay, gave me an opportunity o_istinctly marking their form. Their heads and breasts were covered with _hick hair, some frizzled, and others lank; they had beards like goats, and _ong ridge of hair down their backs, and the fore parts of their legs an_eet; but the rest of their bodies was bare, so that I might see their skins,
  • which were of a brown buff colour. They had no tails, nor any hair at all o_heir buttocks, except about the anus, which, I presume, nature had place_here to defend them as they sat on the ground, for this posture they used, a_ell as lying down, and often stood on their hind feet. They climbed hig_rees as nimbly as a squirrel, for they had strong extended claws before an_ehind, terminating in sharp points, and hooked. They would often spring, an_ound, and leap, with prodigious agility. The females were not so large as th_ales; they had long lank hair on their heads, but none on their faces, no_ny thing more than a sort of down on the rest of their bodies, except abou_he anus and pudenda. The dugs hung between their fore feet, and often reache_lmost to the ground as they walked. The hair of both sexes was of severa_olours, brown, red, black, and yellow. Upon the whole, I never beheld, in al_y travels, so disagreeable an animal, or one against which I naturall_onceived so strong an antipathy. So that, thinking I had seen enough, full o_ontempt and aversion, I got up, and pursued the beaten road, hoping it migh_irect me to the cabin of some Indian. I had not got far, when I met one o_hese creatures full in my way, and coming up directly to me. The ugl_onster, when he saw me, distorted several ways, every feature of his visage,
  • and stared, as at an object he had never seen before; then approaching nearer,
  • lifted up his fore-paw, whether out of curiosity or mischief I could not tell;
  • but I drew my hanger, and gave him a good blow with the flat side of it, for _urst not strike with the edge, fearing the inhabitants might be provoke_gainst me, if they should come to know that I had killed or maimed any o_heir cattle. When the beast felt the smart, he drew back, and roared so loud,
  • that a herd of at least forty came flocking about me from the next field,
  • howling and making odious faces; but I ran to the body of a tree, and leanin_y back against it, kept them off by waving my hanger. Several of this curse_rood, getting hold of the branches behind, leaped up into the tree, whenc_hey began to discharge their excrements on my head; however, I escaped prett_ell by sticking close to the stem of the tree, but was almost stifled wit_he filth, which fell about me on every side.
  • In the midst of this distress, I observed them all to run away on a sudden a_ast as they could; at which I ventured to leave the tree and pursue the road,
  • wondering what it was that could put them into this fright. But looking on m_eft hand, I saw a horse walking softly in the field; which my persecutor_aving sooner discovered, was the cause of their flight. The horse started _ittle, when he came near me, but soon recovering himself, looked full in m_ace with manifest tokens of wonder; he viewed my hands and feet, walkin_ound me several times. I would have pursued my journey, but he placed himsel_irectly in the way, yet looking with a very mild aspect, never offering th_east violence. We stood gazing at each other for some time; at last I too_he boldness to reach my hand towards his neck with a design to stroke it,
  • using the common style and whistle of jockeys, when they are going to handle _trange horse. But this animal seemed to receive my civilities with disdain,
  • shook his head, and bent his brows, softly raising up his right fore-foot t_emove my hand. Then he neighed three or four times, but in so different _adence, that I almost began to think he was speaking to himself, in som_anguage of his own.
  • While he and I were thus employed, another horse came up; who applying himsel_o the first in a very formal manner, they gently struck each other's righ_oof before, neighing several times by turns, and varying the sound, whic_eemed to be almost articulate. They went some paces off, as if it were t_onfer together, walking side by side, backward and forward, like person_eliberating upon some affair of weight, but often turning their eyes toward_e, as it were to watch that I might not escape. I was amazed to see suc_ctions and behaviour in brute beasts; and concluded with myself, that if th_nhabitants of this country were endued with a proportionable degree o_eason, they must needs be the wisest people upon earth. This thought gave m_o much comfort, that I resolved to go forward, until I could discover som_ouse or village, or meet with any of the natives, leaving the two horses t_iscourse together as they pleased. But the first, who was a dapple gray,
  • observing me to steal off, neighed after me in so expressive a tone, that _ancied myself to understand what he meant; whereupon I turned back, and cam_ear to him to expect his farther commands: but concealing my fear as much a_ could, for I began to be in some pain how this adventure might terminate;
  • and the reader will easily believe I did not much like my present situation.
  • The two horses came up close to me, looking with great earnestness upon m_ace and hands. The gray steed rubbed my hat all round with his right fore-
  • hoof, and discomposed it so much that I was forced to adjust it better b_aking it off and settling it again; whereat, both he and his companion (wh_as a brown bay) appeared to be much surprised: the latter felt the lappet o_y coat, and finding it to hang loose about me, they both looked with ne_igns of wonder. He stroked my right hand, seeming to admire the softness an_olour; but he squeezed it so hard between his hoof and his pastern, that _as forced to roar; after which they both touched me with all possibl_enderness. They were under great perplexity about my shoes and stockings,
  • which they felt very often, neighing to each other, and using variou_estures, not unlike those of a philosopher, when he would attempt to solv_ome new and difficult phenomenon.
  • Upon the whole, the behaviour of these animals was so orderly and rational, s_cute and judicious, that I at last concluded they must needs be magicians,
  • who had thus metamorphosed themselves upon some design, and seeing a strange_n the way, resolved to divert themselves with him; or, perhaps, were reall_mazed at the sight of a man so very different in habit, feature, an_omplexion, from those who might probably live in so remote a climate. Upo_he strength of this reasoning, I ventured to address them in the followin_anner: "Gentlemen, if you be conjurers, as I have good cause to believe, yo_an understand my language; therefore I make bold to let your worships kno_hat I am a poor distressed Englishman, driven by his misfortunes upon you_oast; and I entreat one of you to let me ride upon his back, as if he were _eal horse, to some house or village where I can be relieved. In return o_hich favour, I will make you a present of this knife and bracelet," takin_hem out of my pocket. The two creatures stood silent while I spoke, seemin_o listen with great attention, and when I had ended, they neighed frequentl_owards each other, as if they were engaged in serious conversation. I plainl_bserved that their language expressed the passions very well, and the word_ight, with little pains, be resolved into an alphabet more easily than th_hinese.
  • I could frequently distinguish the word YAHOO, which was repeated by each o_hem several times: and although it was impossible for me to conjecture wha_t meant, yet while the two horses were busy in conversation, I endeavoured t_ractise this word upon my tongue; and as soon as they were silent, I boldl_ronounced YAHOO in a loud voice, imitating at the same time, as near as _ould, the neighing of a horse; at which they were both visibly surprised; an_he gray repeated the same word twice, as if he meant to teach me the righ_ccent; wherein I spoke after him as well as I could, and found mysel_erceivably to improve every time, though very far from any degree o_erfection. Then the bay tried me with a second word, much harder to b_ronounced; but reducing it to the English orthography, may be spelt thus,
  • HOUYHNHNM. I did not succeed in this so well as in the former; but after tw_r three farther trials, I had better fortune; and they both appeared amaze_t my capacity.
  • After some further discourse, which I then conjectured might relate to me, th_wo friends took their leaves, with the same compliment of striking eac_ther's hoof; and the gray made me signs that I should walk before him;
  • wherein I thought it prudent to comply, till I could find a better director.
  • When I offered to slacken my pace, he would cry HHUUN HHUUN: I guessed hi_eaning, and gave him to understand, as well as I could, "that I was weary,
  • and not able to walk faster;" upon which he would stand awhile to let me rest.