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Gulliver's Travels
by Jonathan Swift

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[A grand debate at the general assembly of the HOUYHNHNMS,
and how it was determined. The learning of the HOUYHNHNMS.
Their buildings. Their manner of burials. The defectiveness of their

One of these grand assemblies was held in my time, about three
months before my departure, whither my master went as the
representative of our district. In this council was resumed
their old debate, and indeed the only debate that ever happened
in their country; whereof my master, after his return, give me a
very particular account.

The question to be debated was, "whether the YAHOOS should be
exterminated from the face of the earth?" One of the members for
the affirmative offered several arguments of great strength and
weight, alleging, "that as the YAHOOS were the most filthy,
noisome, and deformed animals which nature ever produced, so they
were the most restive and indocible, mischievous and malicious;
they would privately suck the teats of the HOUYHNHNMS' cows, kill
and devour their cats, trample down their oats and grass, if they
were not continually watched, and commit a thousand other
extravagancies." He took notice of a general tradition, "that
YAHOOS had not been always in their country; but that many ages
ago, two of these brutes appeared together upon a mountain;
whether produced by the heat of the sun upon corrupted mud and
slime, or from the ooze and froth of the sea, was never known;
that these YAHOOS engendered, and their brood, in a short time,
grew so numerous as to overrun and infest the whole nation; that
the HOUYHNHNMS, to get rid of this evil, made a general hunting,
and at last enclosed the whole herd; and destroying the elder,
every HOUYHNHNM kept two young ones in a kennel, and brought them
to such a degree of tameness, as an animal, so savage by nature,
can be capable of acquiring, using them for draught and carriage;
that there seemed to be much truth in this tradition, and that
those creatures could not be YINHNIAMSHY (or ABORIGINES of the
land), because of the violent hatred the HOUYHNHNMS, as well as
all other animals, bore them, which, although their evil
disposition sufficiently deserved, could never have arrived at so
high a degree if they had been ABORIGINES, or else they would
have long since been rooted out; that the inhabitants, taking a
fancy to use the service of the YAHOOS, had, very imprudently,
neglected to cultivate the breed of asses, which are a comely
animal, easily kept, more tame and orderly, without any offensive
smell, strong enough for labour, although they yield to the other
in agility of body, and if their braying be no agreeable sound,
it is far preferable to the horrible howlings of the YAHOOS."

Several others declared their sentiments to the same purpose,
when my master proposed an expedient to the assembly, whereof he
had indeed borrowed the hint from me. "He approved of the
tradition mentioned by the honourable member who spoke before,
and affirmed, that the two YAHOOS said to be seen first among
them, had been driven thither over the sea; that coming to land,
and being forsaken by their companions, they retired to the
mountains, and degenerating by degrees, became in process of time
much more savage than those of their own species in the country
whence these two originals came. The reason of this assertion
was, that he had now in his possession a certain wonderful YAHOO
(meaning myself) which most of them had heard of, and many of
them had seen. He then related to them how he first found me;
that my body was all covered with an artificial composure of the
skins and hairs of other animals; that I spoke in a language of
my own, and had thoroughly learned theirs; that I had related to
him the accidents which brought me thither; that when he saw me
without my covering, I was an exact YAHOO in every part, only of
a whiter colour, less hairy, and with shorter claws. He added,
how I had endeavoured to persuade him, that in my own and other
countries, the YAHOOS acted as the governing, rational animal,
and held the HOUYHNHNMS in servitude; that he observed in me all
the qualities of a YAHOO, only a little more civilized by some
tincture of reason, which, however, was in a degree as far
inferior to the HOUYHNHNM race, as the YAHOOS of their country
were to me; that, among other things, I mentioned a custom we had
of castrating HOUYHNHNMS when they were young, in order to render
them tame; that the operation was easy and safe; that it was no
shame to learn wisdom from brutes, as industry is taught by the
ant, and building by the swallow (for so I translate the word
LYHANNH, although it be a much larger fowl); that this invention
might be practised upon the younger YAHOOS here, which besides
rendering them tractable and fitter for use, would in an age put
an end to the whole species, without destroying life; that in the
mean time the HOUYHNHNMS should be exhorted to cultivate the
breed of asses, which, as they are in all respects more valuable
brutes, so they have this advantage, to be fit for service at
five years old, which the others are not till twelve."

This was all my master thought fit to tell me, at that time, of
what passed in the grand council. But he was pleased to conceal
one particular, which related personally to myself, whereof I
soon felt the unhappy effect, as the reader will know in its proper place,
and whence I date all the succeeding misfortunes of my life.

The HOUYHNHNMS have no letters, and consequently their knowledge
is all traditional. But there happening few events of any moment
among a people so well united, naturally disposed to every
virtue, wholly governed by reason, and cut off from all commerce
with other nations, the historical part is easily preserved
without burdening their memories. I have already observed that
they are subject to no diseases, and therefore can have no need
of physicians. However, they have excellent medicines, composed
of herbs, to cure accidental bruises and cuts in the pastern or
frog of the foot, by sharp stones, as well as other maims and
hurts in the several parts of the body.

They calculate the year by the revolution of the sun and moon,
but use no subdivisions into weeks. They are well enough
acquainted with the motions of those two luminaries, and
understand the nature of eclipses; and this is the utmost
progress of their astronomy.

In poetry, they must be allowed to excel all other mortals;
wherein the justness of their similes, and the minuteness as well
as exactness of their descriptions, are indeed inimitable. Their
verses abound very much in both of these, and usually contain
either some exalted notions of friendship and benevolence or the
praises of those who were victors in races and other bodily
exercises. Their buildings, although very rude and simple, are
not inconvenient, but well contrived to defend them from all
injuries of and heat. They have a kind of tree, which at forty
years old loosens in the root, and falls with the first storm:
it grows very straight, and being pointed like stakes with a
sharp stone (for the HOUYHNHNMS know not the use of iron), they
stick them erect in the ground, about ten inches asunder, and
then weave in oat straw, or sometimes wattles, between them. The
roof is made after the same manner, and so are the doors.

The HOUYHNHNMS use the hollow part, between the pastern and the
hoof of their fore-foot, as we do our hands, and this with
greater dexterity than I could at first imagine. I have seen a
white mare of our family thread a needle (which I lent her on
purpose) with that joint. They milk their cows, reap their oats,
and do all the work which requires hands, in the same manner.
They have a kind of hard flints, which, by grinding against other
stones, they form into instruments, that serve instead of wedges,
axes, and hammers. With tools made of these flints, they likewise
cut their hay, and reap their oats, which there grow naturally in
several fields; the YAHOOS draw home the sheaves in carriages,
and the servants tread them in certain covered huts to get out
the grain, which is kept in stores. They make a rude kind of
earthen and wooden vessels, and bake the former in the sun.

If they can avoid casualties, they die only of old age, and are
buried in the obscurest places that can be found, their friends
and relations expressing neither joy nor grief at their
departure; nor does the dying person discover the least regret
that he is leaving the world, any more than if he were upon
returning home from a visit to one of his neighbours. I remember
my master having once made an appointment with a friend and his
family to come to his house, upon some affair of importance: on
the day fixed, the mistress and her two children came very late;
she made two excuses, first for her husband, who, as she said,
happened that very morning to SHNUWNH. The word is strongly
expressive in their language, but not easily rendered into
English; it signifies, "to retire to his first mother." Her
excuse for not coming sooner, was, that her husband dying late in
the morning, she was a good while consulting her servants about a
convenient place where his body should be laid; and I observed,
she behaved herself at our house as cheerfully as the rest. She
died about three months after.

They live generally to seventy, or seventy-five years, very
seldom to fourscore. Some weeks before their death, they feel a
gradual decay; but without pain. During this time they are much
visited by their friends, because they cannot go abroad with
their usual ease and satisfaction. However, about ten days
before their death, which they seldom fail in computing, they
return the visits that have been made them by those who are
nearest in the neighbourhood, being carried in a convenient
sledge drawn by YAHOOS; which vehicle they use, not only upon
this occasion, but when they grow old, upon long journeys, or
when they are lamed by any accident: and therefore when the
dying HOUYHNHNMS return those visits, they take a solemn leave of
their friends, as if they were going to some remote part of the
country, where they designed to pass the rest of their lives.

I know not whether it may be worth observing, that the HOUYHNHNMS
have no word in their language to express any thing that is evil,
except what they borrow from the deformities or ill qualities of
the YAHOOS. Thus they denote the folly of a servant, an omission
of a child, a stone that cuts their feet, a continuance of foul
or unseasonable weather, and the like, by adding to each the
epithet of YAHOO. For instance, HHNM YAHOO; WHNAHOLM YAHOO,
YNLHMNDWIHLMA YAHOO, and an ill-contrived house

I could, with great pleasure, enlarge further upon the manners
and virtues of this excellent people; but intending in a short
time to publish a volume by itself, expressly upon that subject,
I refer the reader thither; and, in the mean time, proceed to
relate my own sad catastrophe.



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