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Chapter 3

  • [A phenomenon solved by modern philosophy and astronomy. The Laputians' grea_mprovements in the latter. The king's method of suppressing insurrections.]
  • I desired leave of this prince to see the curiosities of the island, which h_as graciously pleased to grant, and ordered my tutor to attend me. I chiefl_anted to know, to what cause, in art or in nature, it owed its severa_otions, whereof I will now give a philosophical account to the reader.
  • The flying or floating island is exactly circular, its diameter 7837 yards, o_bout four miles and a half, and consequently contains ten thousand acres. I_s three hundred yards thick. The bottom, or under surface, which appears t_hose who view it below, is one even regular plate of adamant, shooting up t_he height of about two hundred yards. Above it lie the several minerals i_heir usual order, and over all is a coat of rich mould, ten or twelve fee_eep. The declivity of the upper surface, from the circumference to th_entre, is the natural cause why all the dews and rains, which fall upon th_sland, are conveyed in small rivulets toward the middle, where they ar_mptied into four large basins, each of about half a mile in circuit, and tw_undred yards distant from the centre. From these basins the water i_ontinually exhaled by the sun in the daytime, which effectually prevent_heir overflowing. Besides, as it is in the power of the monarch to raise th_sland above the region of clouds and vapours, he can prevent the falling o_ews and rain whenever he pleases. For the highest clouds cannot rise abov_wo miles, as naturalists agree, at least they were never known to do so i_hat country.
  • At the centre of the island there is a chasm about fifty yards in diameter,
  • whence the astronomers descend into a large dome, which is therefore calle_LANDONA GAGNOLE, or the astronomer's cave, situated at the depth of a hundre_ards beneath the upper surface of the adamant. In this cave are twenty lamp_ontinually burning, which, from the reflection of the adamant, cast a stron_ight into every part. The place is stored with great variety of sextants,
  • quadrants, telescopes, astrolabes, and other astronomical instruments. But th_reatest curiosity, upon which the fate of the island depends, is a loadston_f a prodigious size, in shape resembling a weaver's shuttle. It is in lengt_ix yards, and in the thickest part at least three yards over. This magnet i_ustained by a very strong axle of adamant passing through its middle, upo_hich it plays, and is poised so exactly that the weakest hand can turn it. I_s hooped round with a hollow cylinder of adamant, four feet yards i_iameter, placed horizontally, and supported by eight adamantine feet, eac_ix yards high. In the middle of the concave side, there is a groove twelv_nches deep, in which the extremities of the axle are lodged, and turned roun_s there is occasion.
  • The stone cannot be removed from its place by any force, because the hoop an_ts feet are one continued piece with that body of adamant which constitute_he bottom of the island.
  • By means of this loadstone, the island is made to rise and fall, and move fro_ne place to another. For, with respect to that part of the earth over whic_he monarch presides, the stone is endued at one of its sides with a_ttractive power, and at the other with a repulsive. Upon placing the magne_rect, with its attracting end towards the earth, the island descends; bu_hen the repelling extremity points downwards, the island mounts directl_pwards. When the position of the stone is oblique, the motion of the islan_s so too: for in this magnet, the forces always act in lines parallel to it_irection.
  • By this oblique motion, the island is conveyed to different parts of th_onarch's dominions. To explain the manner of its progress, let A B represen_ line drawn across the dominions of Balnibarbi, let the line C D represen_he loadstone, of which let D be the repelling end, and C the attracting end,
  • the island being over C: let the stone be placed in position C D, with it_epelling end downwards; then the island will be driven upwards obliquel_owards D. When it is arrived at D, let the stone be turned upon its axle,
  • till its attracting end points towards E, and then the island will be carrie_bliquely towards E; where, if the stone be again turned upon its axle till i_tands in the position E F, with its repelling point downwards, the islan_ill rise obliquely towards F, where, by directing the attracting end toward_, the island may be carried to G, and from G to H, by turning the stone, s_s to make its repelling extremity to point directly downward. And thus, b_hanging the situation of the stone, as often as there is occasion, the islan_s made to rise and fall by turns in an oblique direction, and by thos_lternate risings and fallings (the obliquity being not considerable) i_onveyed from one part of the dominions to the other.
  • But it must be observed, that this island cannot move beyond the extent of th_ominions below, nor can it rise above the height of four miles. For which th_stronomers (who have written large systems concerning the stone) assign th_ollowing reason: that the magnetic virtue does not extend beyond the distanc_f four miles, and that the mineral, which acts upon the stone in the bowel_f the earth, and in the sea about six leagues distant from the shore, is no_iffused through the whole globe, but terminated with the limits of the king'_ominions; and it was easy, from the great advantage of such a superio_ituation, for a prince to bring under his obedience whatever country la_ithin the attraction of that magnet.
  • When the stone is put parallel to the plane of the horizon, the island stand_till; for in that case the extremities of it, being at equal distance fro_he earth, act with equal force, the one in drawing downwards, the other i_ushing upwards, and consequently no motion can ensue.
  • This loadstone is under the care of certain astronomers, who, from time t_ime, give it such positions as the monarch directs.
  • They spend the greatest part of their lives in observing the celestial bodies,
  • which they do by the assistance of glasses, far excelling ours in goodness.
  • For, although their largest telescopes do not exceed three feet, they magnif_uch more than those of a hundred with us, and show the stars with greate_learness. This advantage has enabled them to extend their discoveries muc_urther than our astronomers in Europe; for they have made a catalogue of te_housand fixed stars, whereas the largest of ours do not contain above on_hird part of that number. They have likewise discovered two lesser stars, o_atellites, which revolve about Mars; whereof the innermost is distant fro_he centre of the primary planet exactly three of his diameters, and th_utermost, five; the former revolves in the space of ten hours, and the latte_n twenty-one and a half; so that the squares of their periodical times ar_ery near in the same proportion with the cubes of their distance from th_entre of Mars; which evidently shows them to be governed by the same law o_ravitation that influences the other heavenly bodies.
  • They have observed ninety-three different comets, and settled their period_ith great exactness. If this be true (and they affirm it with grea_onfidence) it is much to be wished, that their observations were made public,
  • whereby the theory of comets, which at present is very lame and defective,
  • might be brought to the same perfection with other arts of astronomy.
  • The king would be the most absolute prince in the universe, if he could bu_revail on a ministry to join with him; but these having their estates belo_n the continent, and considering that the office of a favourite has a ver_ncertain tenure, would never consent to the enslaving of their country.
  • If any town should engage in rebellion or mutiny, fall into violent factions,
  • or refuse to pay the usual tribute, the king has two methods of reducing the_o obedience. The first and the mildest course is, by keeping the islan_overing over such a town, and the lands about it, whereby he can deprive the_f the benefit of the sun and the rain, and consequently afflict th_nhabitants with dearth and diseases: and if the crime deserve it, they are a_he same time pelted from above with great stones, against which they have n_efence but by creeping into cellars or caves, while the roofs of their house_re beaten to pieces. But if they still continue obstinate, or offer to rais_nsurrections, he proceeds to the last remedy, by letting the island dro_irectly upon their heads, which makes a universal destruction both of house_nd men. However, this is an extremity to which the prince is seldom driven,
  • neither indeed is he willing to put it in execution; nor dare his minister_dvise him to an action, which, as it would render them odious to the people,
  • so it would be a great damage to their own estates, which all lie below; fo_he island is the king's demesne.
  • But there is still indeed a more weighty reason, why the kings of this countr_ave been always averse from executing so terrible an action, unless upon th_tmost necessity. For, if the town intended to be destroyed should have in i_ny tall rocks, as it generally falls out in the larger cities, a situatio_robably chosen at first with a view to prevent such a catastrophe; or if i_bound in high spires, or pillars of stone, a sudden fall might endanger th_ottom or under surface of the island, which, although it consist, as I hav_aid, of one entire adamant, two hundred yards thick, might happen to crack b_oo great a shock, or burst by approaching too near the fires from the house_elow, as the backs, both of iron and stone, will often do in our chimneys. O_ll this the people are well apprised, and understand how far to carry thei_bstinacy, where their liberty or property is concerned. And the king, when h_s highest provoked, and most determined to press a city to rubbish, order_he island to descend with great gentleness, out of a pretence of tendernes_o his people, but, indeed, for fear of breaking the adamantine bottom; i_hich case, it is the opinion of all their philosophers, that the loadston_ould no longer hold it up, and the whole mass would fall to the ground.
  • By a fundamental law of this realm, neither the king, nor either of his tw_ldest sons, are permitted to leave the island; nor the queen, till she i_ast child-bearing.