February 13, 2002
America : Europe :: Gulliver : The Lilliputians?

Not to sound like the Weekly Standard parody of a blogger, but I have something to add to Michael Gove's comments on Chris Patten's remarks, quoted by Glenn Reynolds in Instapundit. (I can't seem to get the Times link to work.) As quoted by Reynolds, Gove writes:

"Mr Patten may protest that America as 'Gulliver' can’t 'go it alone' and the EU should not regard itself as 'so Lilliputian that we can’t speak up and say it'. But I would rather Gulliver unbound, standing taller and seeing further, than Gulliver tethered by pygmies. Mr Patten may not recall, but it was Swift’s hero who, after they had freed him, saved the Lilliputians. Sometimes we need a giant’s 'simplistic' strength. Now is such a time."

This is true as far as it goes, but a look at the original text never hurts. In this case it shows that we sometimes need the giant's simple and effective solution to a problem, even if it leaves the pygmies a terrible mess to clean up. Someone named Lee Jaffe (his 'About Me' file is empty) has provided an excellent website for Gulliver's Travels, with the complete text formatted for pleasant reading, glosses on obsolete words, and lots more. Here is the last paragraph and a half of Book I, Chapter V, Gulliver (as always) narrating:

". . . it was not long before I had an Opportunity of doing his Majesty, at least, as I then thought, a most signal Service. I was alarmed at Midnight with the Cries of many hundred People at my Door; by which being suddenly awaked, I was in some kind of Terror. I heard the word Burglum repeated incessantly: several of the Emperor's Court, making their way through the Croud, intreated me to come immediately to the Palace, where her Imperial Majesty's Apartment was on fire, by the carelessness of a Maid of Honour, who fell asleep while she was reading a Romance. I got up in an instant; and Orders being given to clear the way before me, and it being likewise a Moon-shine Night, I made a shift to get to the Palace without trampling on any of the People. I found they had already applied Ladders to the Walls of the Apartment, and were well provided with Buckets, but the Water was at some distance. These Buckets were about the size of a large Thimble, and the poor People supplied me with them as fast as they could; but the Flame was so violent that they did little good. I might easily have stifled it with my Coat, which I unfortunately left behind me for haste, and came away only in my Leathern Jerkin. The Case seemed wholly desperate and deplorable; and this magnificent Palace would have infallibly been burnt down to the ground, if, by a Presence of Mind, unusual to me, I had not suddenly thought of an Expedient. I had the Evening before drunk plentifully of a most delicious Wine, called Glimigrim (the Blefuscudians call it Flunec, but ours is esteemed the better sort), which is very diuretick. By the luckiest Chance in the World, I had not discharged myself of any part of it. The Heat I had contracted by coming very near the Flames, and by labouring to quench them, made the Wine begin to operate my Urine; which I voided in such a Quantity, and applied so well to the proper Places, that in three Minutes the Fire was wholly extinguished, and the rest of that noble Pile, which had cost so many Ages in erecting, preserved from Destruction.

"It was now Day-light, and I returned to my House, without waiting to congratulate with the Emperor: because, although I had done a very eminent piece of Service, yet I could not tell how his Majesty might resent the manner by which I had performed it: For, by the fundamental Laws of the Realm, it is Capital in any Person, of what Quality soever, to make water within the Precincts of the Palace. But I was a little comforted by a Message from his Majesty, that he would give Orders to the Grand Justiciary for passing my Pardon in form; which, however, I could not obtain. And I was privately assured, that the Empress, conceiving the greatest Abhorrence of what I had done, removed to the most distant side of the Court, firmly resolved that those Buildings should never be repaired for her Use: and, in the presence of her chief Confidents could not forbear vowing Revenge."

In Chapter VII, this is given as Article I in the indictment for treason of Lemuel Gulliver, aka "Quinbus Flestrin":

"Whereas, by a Statute made in the Reign of his Imperial Majesty Calin Deffar Plune, it is enacted, That whoever shall make water within the Precincts of the Royal Palace, shall be liable to the Pains and Penalties of High Treason; Notwithstanding, the said Quinbus Flestrin, in open breach of the said Law, under colour of extinguishing the Fire kindled in the Apartment of his Majesty's most dear Imperial Consort, did maliciously, traitorously, and devilishly, by discharge of his Urine, put out the said Fire kindled in the said Apartment, lying and being within the Precincts of the said Royal Palace, against the Statute in that case provided, etc., against the Duty, etc."

Gulliver is forced to flee for his life. I suppose the moral of the story is that Lilliputians can be petty, ungrateful, stupid little bastards.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at February 13, 2002 10:00 PM