The battle of the books.., p.3
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       The Battle of the Books and Other Short Pieces, p.3

           Jonathan Swift
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dare to oppose me? But come, my aged parent, and you, my children

  dear, and thou, my beauteous sister; let us ascend my chariot, and

  haste to assist our devout Moderns, who are now sacrificing to us a

  hecatomb, as I perceive by that grateful smell which from thence

  reaches my nostrils."

  The goddess and her train, having mounted the chariot, which was

  drawn by tame geese, flew over infinite regions, shedding her

  influence in due places, till at length she arrived at her beloved

  island of Britain; but in hovering over its metropolis, what

  blessings did she not let fall upon her seminaries of Gresham and

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  Covent-garden! And now she reached the fatal plain of St. James's

  library, at what time the two armies were upon the point to engage;

  where, entering with all her caravan unseen, and landing upon


  case of shelves, now desert, but once inhabited by a colony of

  virtuosos, she stayed awhile to observe the posture of both armies.

  But here the tender cares of a mother began to fill her thoughts

  and move in her breast: for at the head of a troup of Modern

  bowmen she cast her eyes upon her son Wotton, to whom the fates had

  assigned a very short thread. Wotton, a young hero, whom an

  unknown father of mortal race begot by stolen embraces with this

  goddess. He was the darling of his mother above all her children,

  and she resolved to go and comfort him. But first, according to

  the good old custom of deities, she cast about to change her shape,

  for fear the divinity of her countenance might dazzle his mortal

  sight and overcharge the rest of his senses. She therefore

  gathered up her person into an octavo compass: her body grow white

  and arid, and split in pieces with dryness; the thick turned into

  pasteboard, and the thin into paper; upon which her parents and

  children artfully strewed a black juice, or decoction of gall and

  soot, in form of letters: her head, and voice, and spleen, kept

  their primitive form; and that which before was a cover of skin did

  still continue so. In this guise she marched on towards the

  Moderns, indistinguishable in shape and dress from the divine

  Bentley, Wotton's dearest friend. "Brave Wotton," said the

  goddess, "why do our troops stand idle here, to spend their present

  vigour and opportunity of the day? away, let us haste to the

  generals, and advise to give the onset immediately." Having spoke

  thus, she took the ugliest of her monsters, full glutted from her

  spleen, and flung it invisibly into his mouth, which, flying

  straight up into his head, squeezed out his eye-balls, gave him


  distorted look, and half-overturned his brain. Then she privately

  ordered two of her beloved children, Dulness and Ill-manners,

  closely to attend his person in all encounters. Having thus

  accoutred him, she vanished in a mist, and the hero perceived it

  was the goddess his mother.

  The destined hour of fate being now arrived, the fight began;

  whereof, before I dare adventure to make a particular description,

  I must, after the example of other authors, petition for a hundred

  tongues, and mouths, and hands, and pens, which would all be too

  little to perform so immense a work. Say, goddess, that presidest

  over history, who it was that first advanced in the field of

  battle! Paracelsus, at the head of his dragoons, observing Galen

  in the adverse wing, darted his javelin with a mighty force, which

  the brave Ancient received upon his shield, the point breaking in

  the second fold . . . HIC PAUCA

  . . . . DESUNT

  They bore the wounded aga on their shields to his

  chariot . .


  DESUNT . .




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  Then Aristotle, observing Bacon advance with a furious mien, drew

  his bow to the head, and let fly his arrow, which missed the

  valiant Modern and went whizzing over his head; but Descartes it

  hit; the steel point quickly found a defect in his head-piece; it

  pierced the leather and the pasteboard, and went in at his right

  eye. The torture of the pain whirled the valiant bow-man round

  till death, like a star of superior influence, drew him into his

  own vortex INGENS HIATUS . . . .

  HIC IN MS. . . . .

  . . . . when Homer appeared at the head of the cavalry, mounted

  on a furious horse, with difficulty managed by the rider himself,

  but which no other mortal durst approach; he rode among the enemy's

  ranks, and bore down all before him. Say, goddess, whom he slew

  first and whom he slew last! First, Gondibert advanced against

  him, clad in heavy armour and mounted on a staid sober gelding, not

  so famed for his speed as his docility in kneeling whenever his

  rider would mount or alight. He had made a vow to Pallas that he

  would never leave the field till he had spoiled Homer of his

  armour: madman, who had never once seen the wearer, nor understood

  his strength! Him Homer overthrew, horse and man, to the ground,

  there to be trampled and choked in the dirt. Then with a long

  spear he slew Denham, a stout Modern, who from his father's side

  derived his lineage from Apollo, but his mother was of mortal race.

  He fell, and bit the earth. The celestial part Apollo took, and

  made it a star; but the terrestrial lay wallowing upon the ground.

  Then Homer slew Sam Wesley with a kick of his horse's heel; he took

  Perrault by mighty force out of his saddle, then hurled him at

  Fontenelle, with the same blow dashing out both their brains.

  On the left wing of the horse Virgil appeared, in shining armour,

  completely fitted to his body; he was mounted on a dapple-grey

  steed, the slowness of whose pace was an effect of the highest

  mettle and vigour. He cast his eye on the adverse wing, with a

  desire to find an object worthy of his valour, when behold upon a

  sorrel gelding of a monstrous size appeared a foe, issuing from

  among the thickest of the enemy's squadrons; but his speed was less

  than his noise; for his horse, old and lean, spent the dregs of his

  strength in a high trot, which, though it made slow advances, yet

  caused a loud clashing of his armour, terrible to hear. The two

  cavaliers had now approached within the throw of a lance, when the

  stranger desired a parley, and, lifting up the visor of his helmet,

  a face hardly appeared from within which, after a pause, was known

  for that of the renowned Dryden. The brave Ancient suddenly

  started, as one possessed with surprise and disappointment

  together; for the helmet was nine times too large for the head,

  which appeared situate far in the hinder part, even like the lady

  in a lobster, or like a mouse under a canopy of state, or like a

bsp; shrivelled beau from within the penthouse of a modern periwig; and

  the voice was suited to the visage, sounding weak and remote.

  Dryden, in a long harangue, soothed up the good Ancient; called him

  father, and, by a large deduction of genealogies, made it plainly

  appear that they were nearly related. Then he humbly proposed an

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  exchange of armour, as a lasting mark of hospitality between them.

  Virgil consented (for the goddess Diffidence came unseen, and cast

  a mist before his eyes), though his was of gold and cost a hundred

  beeves, the other's but of rusty iron. However, this glittering

  armour became the Modern yet worsen than his own. Then they agreed

  to exchange horses; but, when it came to the trial, Dryden was

  afraid and utterly unable to mount. . . ALTER HIATUS

  . . . . IN MS.

  Lucan appeared upon a fiery horse of admirable shape, but

  headstrong, bearing the rider where he list over the field; he made

  a mighty slaughter among the enemy's horse; which destruction to

  stop, Blackmore, a famous Modern (but one of the mercenaries),

  strenuously opposed himself, and darted his javelin with a strong

  hand, which, falling short of its mark, struck deep in the earth.

  Then Lucan threw a lance; but AEsculapius came unseen and turned

  off the point. "Brave Modern," said Lucan, "I perceive some god

  protects you, for never did my arm so deceive me before: but what

  mortal can contend with a god? Therefore, let us fight no longer,

  but present gifts to each other." Lucan then bestowed on the

  Modern a pair of spurs, and Blackmore gave Lucan a bridle. . . .


  . . . .

  Creech: but the goddess Dulness took a cloud, formed into the

  shape of Horace, armed and mounted, and placed in a flying posture

  before him. Glad was the cavalier to begin a combat with a flying

  foe, and pursued the image, threatening aloud; till at last it led

  him to the peaceful bower of his father, Ogleby, by whom he was

  disarmed and assigned to his repose.

  Then Pindar slew -, and - and Oldham, and -, and Afra the Amazon,

  light of foot; never advancing in a direct line, but wheeling with

  incredible agility and force, he made a terrible slaughter among

  the enemy's light-horse. Him when Cowley observed, his generous

  heart burnt within him, and he advanced against the fierce Ancient,

  imitating his address, his pace, and career, as well as the vigour

  of his horse and his own skill would allow. When the two cavaliers

  had approached within the length of three javelins, first Cowley

  threw a lance, which missed Pindar, and, passing into the enemy's

  ranks, fell ineffectual to the ground. Then Pindar darted a

  javelin so large and weighty, that scarce a dozen Cavaliers, as

  cavaliers are in our degenerate days, could raise it from the

  ground; yet he threw it with ease, and it went, by an unerring

  hand, singing through the air; nor could the Modern have avoided

  present death if he had not luckily opposed the shield that had

  been given him by Venus. And now both heroes drew their swords;

  but the Modern was so aghast and disordered that he knew not where

  he was; his shield dropped from his hands; thrice he fled, and

  thrice he could not escape. At last he turned, and lifting up his

  hand in the posture of a suppliant, "Godlike Pindar," said he,

  "spare my life, and possess my horse, with these arms, beside the

  ransom which my friends will give when they hear I am alive and

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  your prisoner." "Dog!" said Pindar, "let your ransom stay with

  your friends; but your carcase shall be left for the fowls of the

  air and the beasts of the field." With that he raised his sword,

  and, with a mighty stroke, cleft the wretched Modern in twain, the

  sword pursuing the blow; and one half lay panting on the ground, to

  be trod in pieces by the horses' feet; the other half was borne by

  the frighted steed through the field. This Venus took, washed it

  seven times in ambrosia, then struck it thrice with a sprig of

  amaranth; upon which the leather grow round and soft, and the

  leaves turned into feathers, and, being gilded before, continued

  gilded still; so it became a dove, and she harnessed it to her

  chariot. . . .

  . . . . HIATUS VALDE DE.

  . . . FLENDUS IN MS.


  Day being far spent, and the numerous forces of the Moderns half

  inclining to a retreat, there issued forth, from a squadron of

  their heavy-armed foot, a captain whose name was Bentley, the most

  deformed of all the Moderns; tall, but without shape or comeliness;

  large, but without strength or proportion. His armour was patched

  up of a thousand incoherent pieces, and the sound of it, as he

  marched, was loud and dry, like that made by the fall of a sheet of

  lead, which an Etesian wind blows suddenly down from the roof of

  some steeple. His helmet was of old rusty iron, but the vizor was

  brass, which, tainted by his breath, corrupted into copperas, nor

  wanted gall from the same fountain, so that, whenever provoked by

  anger or labour, an atramentous quality, of most malignant nature,

  was seen to distil from his lips. In his right hand he grasped a

  flail, and (that he might never be unprovided of an offensive

  weapon) a vessel full of ordure in his left. Thus completely

  armed, he advanced with a slow and heavy pace where the Modern

  chiefs were holding a consult upon the sum of things, who, as he

  came onwards, laughed to behold his crooked leg and humped

  shoulder, which his boot and armour, vainly endeavouring to hide,

  were forced to comply with and expose. The generals made use of

  him for his talent of railing, which, kept within government,

  proved frequently of great service to their cause, but, at other

  times, did more mischief than good; for, at the least touch of

  offence, and often without any at all, he would, like a wounded

  elephant, convert it against his leaders. Such, at this juncture,

  was the disposition of Bentley, grieved to see the enemy prevail,

  and dissatisfied with everybody's conduct but his own. He humbly

  gave the Modern generals to understand that he conceived, with

  great submission, they were all a pack of rogues, and fools, and

  confounded logger-heads, and illiterate whelps, and nonsensical

  scoundrels; that, if himself had been constituted general, those

  presumptuous dogs, the Ancients, would long before this have been

  beaten out of the field. "You," said he, "sit here idle, but when

  I, or any other valiant Modern kill an enemy, you are sure to seize

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  the spoil. But I
will not march one foot against the foe till you

  all swear to me that whomever I take or kill, his arms I shall

  quietly possess." Bentley having spoken thus, Scaliger, bestowing

  him a sour look, "Miscreant prater!" said he, "eloquent only in

  thine own eyes, thou railest without wit, or truth, or discretion.

  The malignity of thy temper perverteth nature; thy learning makes

  thee more barbarous; thy study of humanity more inhuman; thy

  converse among poets more grovelling, miry, and dull. All arts of

  civilising others render thee rude and untractable; courts have

  taught thee ill manners, and polite conversation has finished thee

  a pedant. Besides, a greater coward burdeneth not the army. But

  never despond; I pass my word, whatever spoil thou takest shall

  certainly be thy own; though I hope that vile carcase will first

  become a prey to kites and worms."

  Bentley durst not reply, but, half choked with spleen and rage,

  withdrew, in full resolution of performing some great achievement.

  With him, for his aid and companion, he took his beloved Wotton,

  resolving by policy or surprise to attempt some neglected quarter

  of the Ancients' army. They began their march over carcases of

  their slaughtered friends; then to the right of their own forces;

  then wheeled northward, till they came to Aldrovandus's tomb, which

  they passed on the side of the declining sun. And now they

  arrived, with fear, toward the enemy's out-guards, looking about,

  if haply they might spy the quarters of the wounded, or some

  straggling sleepers, unarmed and remote from the rest. As when two

  mongrel curs, whom native greediness and domestic want provoke and

  join in partnership, though fearful, nightly to invade the folds of

  some rich grazier, they, with tails depressed and lolling tongues,

  creep soft and slow. Meanwhile the conscious moon, now in her

  zenith, on their guilty heads darts perpendicular rays; nor dare

  they bark, though much provoked at her refulgent visage, whether

  seen in puddle by reflection or in sphere direct; but one surveys

  the region round, while the other scouts the plain, if haply to

  discover, at distance from the flock, some carcase half devoured,

  the refuse of gorged wolves or ominous ravens. So marched this

  lovely, loving pair of friends, nor with less fear and

  circumspection, when at a distance they might perceive two shining

  suits of armour hanging upon an oak, and the owners not far off in

  a profound sleep. The two friends drew lots, and the pursuing of

  this adventure fell to Bentley; on he went, and in his van

  Confusion and Amaze, while Horror and Affright brought up the rear.

  As he came near, behold two heroes of the Ancient army, Phalaris

  and AEsop, lay fast asleep. Bentley would fain have despatched

  them both, and, stealing close, aimed his flail at Phalaris's

  breast; but then the goddess Affright, interposing, caught the

  Modern in her icy arms, and dragged him from the danger she

  foresaw; both the dormant heroes happened to turn at the same

  instant, though soundly sleeping, and busy in a dream. For

  Phalaris was just that minute dreaming how a most vile poetaster

  had lampooned him, and how he had got him roaring in his bull. And

  AEsop dreamed that as he and the Ancient were lying on the ground,

  a wild ass broke loose, ran about, trampling and kicking in their

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  faces. Bentley, leaving the two heroes asleep, seized on both

  their armours, and withdrew in quest of his darling Wotton.

  He, in the meantime, had wandered long in search of some

  enterprise, till at length he arrived at a small rivulet that

  issued from a fountain hard by, called, in the language of mortal

  men, Helicon. Here he stopped, and, parched with thirst, resolved

  to allay it in this limpid stream. Thrice with profane hands he

  essayed to raise the water to his lips, and thrice it slipped all

  through his fingers. Then he stopped prone on his breast, but, ere

  his mouth had kissed the liquid crystal, Apollo came, and in the

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