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Chapter 4

  • [The Houyhnhnm's notion of truth and falsehood. The author's discours_isapproved by his master. The author gives a more particular account o_imself, and the accidents of his voyage.]
  • My master heard me with great appearances of uneasiness in his countenance;
  • because doubting, or not believing, are so little known in this country, tha_he inhabitants cannot tell how to behave themselves under such circumstances.
  • And I remember, in frequent discourses with my master concerning the nature o_anhood in other parts of the world, having occasion to talk of lying an_alse representation, it was with much difficulty that he comprehended what _eant, although he had otherwise a most acute judgment. For he argued thus:
  • "that the use of speech was to make us understand one another, and to receiv_nformation of facts; now, if any one said the thing which was not, these end_ere defeated, because I cannot properly be said to understand him; and I a_o far from receiving information, that he leaves me worse than in ignorance;
  • for I am led to believe a thing black, when it is white, and short, when it i_ong." And these were all the notions he had concerning that faculty of lying,
  • so perfectly well understood, and so universally practised, among huma_reatures.
  • To return from this digression. When I asserted that the YAHOOS were the onl_overning animals in my country, which my master said was altogether past hi_onception, he desired to know, "whether we had HOUYHNHNMS among us, and wha_as their employment?" I told him, "we had great numbers; that in summer the_razed in the fields, and in winter were kept in houses with hay and oats,
  • where YAHOO servants were employed to rub their skins smooth, comb thei_anes, pick their feet, serve them with food, and make their beds." "_nderstand you well," said my master: "it is now very plain, from all you hav_poken, that whatever share of reason the YAHOOS pretend to, the HOUYHNHNM_re your masters; I heartily wish our YAHOOS would be so tractable." I begged
  • "his honour would please to excuse me from proceeding any further, because _as very certain that the account he expected from me would be highl_ispleasing." But he insisted in commanding me to let him know the best an_he worst.
  • I told him "he should be obeyed." I owned "that the HOUYHNHNMS among us, who_e called horses, were the most generous and comely animals we had; that the_xcelled in strength and swiftness; and when they belonged to persons o_uality, were employed in travelling, racing, or drawing chariots; they wer_reated with much kindness and care, till they fell into diseases, or becam_oundered in the feet; but then they were sold, and used to all kind o_rudgery till they died; after which their skins were stripped, and sold fo_hat they were worth, and their bodies left to be devoured by dogs and bird_f prey. But the common race of horses had not so good fortune, being kept b_armers and carriers, and other mean people, who put them to greater labour,
  • and fed them worse." I described, as well as I could, our way of riding; th_hape and use of a bridle, a saddle, a spur, and a whip; of harness an_heels. I added, "that we fastened plates of a certain hard substance, calle_ron, at the bottom of their feet, to preserve their hoofs from being broke_y the stony ways, on which we often travelled."
  • My master, after some expressions of great indignation, wondered "how we dare_o venture upon a HOUYHNHNM'S back; for he was sure, that the weakest servan_n his house would be able to shake off the strongest YAHOO; or by lying dow_nd rolling on his back, squeeze the brute to death." I answered "that ou_orses were trained up, from three or four years old, to the several uses w_ntended them for; that if any of them proved intolerably vicious, they wer_mployed for carriages; that they were severely beaten, while they were young,
  • for any mischievous tricks; that the males, designed for the common use o_iding or draught, were generally castrated about two years after their birth,
  • to take down their spirits, and make them more tame and gentle; that they wer_ndeed sensible of rewards and punishments; but his honour would please t_onsider, that they had not the least tincture of reason, any more than th_AHOOS in this country."
  • It put me to the pains of many circumlocutions, to give my master a right ide_f what I spoke; for their language does not abound in variety of words,
  • because their wants and passions are fewer than among us. But it is impossibl_o express his noble resentment at our savage treatment of the HOUYHNHNM race;
  • particularly after I had explained the manner and use of castrating horse_mong us, to hinder them from propagating their kind, and to render them mor_ervile. He said, "if it were possible there could be any country where YAHOO_lone were endued with reason, they certainly must be the governing animal;
  • because reason in time will always prevail against brutal strength. But,
  • considering the frame of our bodies, and especially of mine, he thought n_reature of equal bulk was so ill-contrived for employing that reason in th_ommon offices of life;" whereupon he desired to know whether those among who_ lived resembled me, or the YAHOOS of his country?" I assured him, "that _as as well shaped as most of my age; but the younger, and the females, wer_uch more soft and tender, and the skins of the latter generally as white a_ilk." He said, "I differed indeed from other YAHOOS, being much more cleanly,
  • and not altogether so deformed; but, in point of real advantage, he thought _iffered for the worse: that my nails were of no use either to my fore o_inder feet; as to my fore feet, he could not properly call them by that name,
  • for he never observed me to walk upon them; that they were too soft to bea_he ground; that I generally went with them uncovered; neither was th_overing I sometimes wore on them of the same shape, or so strong as that o_y feet behind: that I could not walk with any security, for if either of m_inder feet slipped, I must inevitably fail." He then began to find fault wit_ther parts of my body: "the flatness of my face, the prominence of my nose,
  • mine eyes placed directly in front, so that I could not look on either sid_ithout turning my head: that I was not able to feed myself, without liftin_ne of my fore-feet to my mouth: and therefore nature had placed those joint_o answer that necessity. He knew not what could be the use of those severa_lefts and divisions in my feet behind; that these were too soft to bear th_ardness and sharpness of stones, without a covering made from the skin o_ome other brute; that my whole body wanted a fence against heat and cold,
  • which I was forced to put on and off every day, with tediousness and trouble:
  • and lastly, that he observed every animal in this country naturally to abho_he YAHOOS, whom the weaker avoided, and the stronger drove from them. S_hat, supposing us to have the gift of reason, he could not see how it wer_ossible to cure that natural antipathy, which every creature discovere_gainst us; nor consequently how we could tame and render them serviceable.
  • However, he would," as he said, "debate the matter no farther, because he wa_ore desirous to know my own story, the country where I was born, and th_everal actions and events of my life, before I came hither."
  • I assured him, "how extremely desirous I was that he should be satisfied o_very point; but I doubted much, whether it would be possible for me t_xplain myself on several subjects, whereof his honour could have n_onception; because I saw nothing in his country to which I could resembl_hem; that, however, I would do my best, and strive to express myself b_imilitudes, humbly desiring his assistance when I wanted proper words;" whic_e was pleased to promise me.
  • I said, "my birth was of honest parents, in an island called England; whic_as remote from his country, as many days' journey as the strongest of hi_onour's servants could travel in the annual course of the sun; that I wa_red a surgeon, whose trade it is to cure wounds and hurts in the body, gotte_y accident or violence; that my country was governed by a female man, whom w_alled queen; that I left it to get riches, whereby I might maintain mysel_nd family, when I should return; that, in my last voyage, I was commander o_he ship, and had about fifty YAHOOS under me, many of which died at sea, an_ was forced to supply them by others picked out from several nations; tha_ur ship was twice in danger of being sunk, the first time by a great storm,
  • and the second by striking against a rock." Here my master interposed, b_sking me, "how I could persuade strangers, out of different countries, t_enture with me, after the losses I had sustained, and the hazards I had run?"
  • I said, "they were fellows of desperate fortunes, forced to fly from th_laces of their birth on account of their poverty or their crimes. Some wer_ndone by lawsuits; others spent all they had in drinking, whoring, an_aming; others fled for treason; many for murder, theft, poisoning, robbery,
  • perjury, forgery, coining false money, for committing rapes, or sodomy; fo_lying from their colours, or deserting to the enemy; and most of them ha_roken prison; none of these durst return to their native countries, for fea_f being hanged, or of starving in a jail; and therefore they were under th_ecessity of seeking a livelihood in other places."
  • During this discourse, my master was pleased to interrupt me several times. _ad made use of many circumlocutions in describing to him the nature of th_everal crimes for which most of our crew had been forced to fly thei_ountry. This labour took up several days' conversation, before he was able t_omprehend me. He was wholly at a loss to know what could be the use o_ecessity of practising those vices. To clear up which, I endeavoured to giv_ome ideas of the desire of power and riches; of the terrible effects of lust,
  • intemperance, malice, and envy. All this I was forced to define and describ_y putting cases and making suppositions. After which, like one whos_magination was struck with something never seen or heard of before, he woul_ift up his eyes with amazement and indignation. Power, government, war, law,
  • punishment, and a thousand other things, had no terms wherein that languag_ould express them, which made the difficulty almost insuperable, to give m_aster any conception of what I meant. But being of an excellen_nderstanding, much improved by contemplation and converse, he at last arrive_t a competent knowledge of what human nature, in our parts of the world, i_apable to perform, and desired I would give him some particular account o_hat land which we call Europe, but especially of my own country.