The battle of the books.., p.4
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       The Battle of the Books and Other Short Pieces, p.4

           Jonathan Swift
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channel held his shield betwixt the Modern and the fountain, so

  that he drew up nothing but mud. For, although no fountain on

  earth can compare with the clearness of Helicon, yet there lies at

  bottom a thick sediment of slime and mud; for so Apollo begged of

  Jupiter, as a punishment to those who durst attempt to taste it

  with unhallowed lips, and for a lesson to all not to draw too deep

  or far from the spring.

  At the fountain-head Wotton discerned two heroes; the one he could

  not distinguish, but the other was soon known for Temple, general

  of the allies to the Ancients. His back was turned, and he was

  employed in drinking large draughts in his helmet from the

  fountain, where he had withdrawn himself to rest from the toils of

  the war. Wotton, observing him, with quaking knees and trembling

  hands, spoke thus to himself: O that I could kill this destroyer

  of our army, what renown should I purchase among the chiefs! but to

  issue out against him, man against man, shield against shield, and

  lance against lance, what Modern of us dare? for he fights like a

  god, and Pallas or Apollo are ever at his elbow. But, O mother! if

  what Fame reports be true, that I am the son of so great a goddess,

  grant me to hit Temple with this lance, that the stroke may send

  him to hell, and that I may return in safety and triumph, laden

  with his spoils. The first part of this prayer the gods granted at

  the intercession of his mother and of Momus; but the rest, by a

  perverse wind sent from Fate, was scattered in the air. Then

  Wotton grasped his lance, and, brandishing it thrice over his head,

  darted it with all his might; the goddess, his mother, at the same

  time adding strength to his arm. Away the lance went hizzing, and

  reached even to the belt of the averted Ancient, upon which,

  lightly grazing, it fell to the ground. Temple neither felt the

  weapon touch him nor heard it fall: and Wotton might have escaped

  to his army, with the honour of having remitted his lance against

  so great a leader unrevenged; but Apollo, enraged that a javelin

  flung by the assistance of so foul a goddess should pollute his

  fountain, put on the shape of -, and softly came to young Boyle,

  who then accompanied Temple: he pointed first to the lance, then

  to the distant Modern that flung it, and commanded the young hero

  to take immediate revenge. Boyle, clad in a suit of armour which

  had been given him by all the gods, immediately advanced against

  the trembling foe, who now fled before him. As a young lion in the

  Libyan plains, or Araby desert, sent by his aged sire to hunt for

  prey, or health, or exercise, he scours along, wishing to meet some

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  Other Short Pieces

  tiger from the mountains, or a furious boar; if chance a wild ass,

  with brayings importune, affronts his ear, the generous beast,

  though loathing to distain his claws with blood so vile, yet, much

  provoked at the offensive noise, which Echo, foolish nymph, like

  her ill-judging sex, repeats much louder, and with more delight

  than Philomela's song, he vindicates the honour of the forest, and

  hunts the noisy long-eared animal. So Wotton fled, so Boyle

  pursued. But Wotton, heavy-armed, and slow of foot, began to slack

  his course, when his lover Bentley appeared, returning laden with

  the spoils of the two sleeping Ancients. Boyle observed him well,

  and soon discovering the helmet and shield of Phalaris his friend,

  both which he had lately with his own hands new polished and gilt,

  rage sparkled in his eyes, and, leaving his pursuit after Wotton,

  he furiously rushed on against this new approacher. Fain would he

  be revenged on both; but both now fled different ways: and, as a

  woman in a little house that gets a painful livelihood by spinning,

  if chance her geese be scattered o'er the common, she courses round

  the plain from side to side, compelling here and there the

  stragglers to the flock; they cackle loud, and flutter o'er the

  champaign; so Boyle pursued, so fled this pair of friends: finding

  at length their flight was vain, they bravely joined, and drew

  themselves in phalanx. First Bentley threw a spear with all his

  force, hoping to pierce the enemy's breast; but Pallas came unseen,

  and in the air took off the point, and clapped on one of lead,

  which, after a dead bang against the enemy's shield, fell blunted

  to the ground. Then Boyle, observing well his time, took up a

  lance of wondrous length and sharpness; and, as this pair of

  friends compacted, stood close side by side, he wheeled him to the

  right, and, with unusual force, darted the weapon. Bentley saw his

  fate approach, and flanking down his arms close to his ribs, hoping

  to save his body, in went the point, passing through arm and side,

  nor stopped or spent its force till it had also pierced the valiant

  Wotton, who, going to sustain his dying friend, shared his fate.

  As when a skilful cook has trussed a brace of woodcocks, he with

  iron skewer pierces the tender sides of both, their legs and wings

  close pinioned to the rib; so was this pair of friends transfixed,

  till down they fell, joined in their lives, joined in their deaths;

  so closely joined that Charon would mistake them both for one, and

  waft them over Styx for half his fare. Farewell, beloved, loving

  pair; few equals have you left behind: and happy and immortal

  shall you be, if all my wit and eloquence can make you.

  And now. . . .




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  THIS single stick, which you now behold ingloriously lying in that

  neglected corner, I once knew in a flourishing state in a forest.

  It was full of sap, full of leaves, and full of boughs; but now in

  vain does the busy art of man pretend to vie with nature, by tying

  that withered bundle of twigs to its sapless trunk; it is now at

  best but the reverse of what it was, a tree turned upside-down, the

  branches on the earth, and the root in the air; it is now handled

  by every dirty wench, condemned to do her drudgery, and, by a

  capricious kind of fate, destined to make other things clean, and

  be nasty itself; at length, worn to the stumps in the service of

  the maids, it is either thrown out of doors or condemned to the

  last use - of kindling a fire. When I behold this I sighed, and

  said within myself, "Surely mortal man is a broomstick!" Nature

  sent him into the world strong and lusty, in a thriving condition,

  wearing his own hair on his head, the proper branches of this

  reasoning vegetable, till the axe of intemperance has lopped off

  his green boughs, and left him a withered trunk; he then flies to

  art, and pu
ts on a periwig, valuing himself upon an unnatural

  bundle of hairs, all covered with powder, that never grew on his

  head; but now should this our broomstick pretend to enter the

  scene, proud of those birchen spoils it never bore, and all covered

  with dust, through the sweepings of the finest lady's chamber, we

  should be apt to ridicule and despise its vanity. Partial judges

  that we are of our own excellencies, and other men's defaults!

  But a broomstick, perhaps you will say, is an emblem of a tree

  standing on its head; and pray what is a man but a topsy-turvy

  creature, his animal faculties perpetually mounted on his rational,

  his head where his heels should be, grovelling on the earth? And

  yet, with all his faults, he sets up to be a universal reformer and

  corrector of abuses, a remover of grievances, rakes into every

  slut's corner of nature, bringing hidden corruptions to the light,

  and raises a mighty dust where there was none before, sharing

  deeply all the while in the very same pollutions he pretends to

  sweep away. His last days are spent in slavery to women, and

  generally the least deserving; till, worn to the stumps, like his

  brother besom, he is either kicked out of doors, or made use of to

  kindle flames for others to warm themselves by.








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  I HAVE long considered the gross abuse of astrology in this

  kingdom, and upon debating the matter with myself, I could not

  possibly lay the fault upon the art, but upon those gross impostors

  who set up to be the artists. I know several learned men have

  contended that the whole is a cheat; that it is absurd and

  ridiculous to imagine the stars can have any influence at all upon

  human actions, thoughts, or inclinations; and whoever has not bent

  his studies that way may be excused for thinking so, when he sees

  in how wretched a manner that noble art is treated by a few mean

  illiterate traders between us and the stars, who import a yearly

  stock of nonsense, lies, folly, and impertinence, which they offer

  to the world as genuine from the planets, though they descend from

  no greater a height than their own brains.

  I intend in a short time to publish a large and rational defence of

  this art, and therefore shall say no more in its justification at

  present than that it hath been in all ages defended by many learned

  men, and among the rest by Socrates himself, whom I look upon as

  undoubtedly the wisest of uninspired mortals: to which if we add

  that those who have condemned this art, though otherwise learned,

  having been such as either did not apply their studies this way, or

  at least did not succeed in their applications, their testimony

  will not be of much weight to its disadvantage, since they are

  liable to the common objection of condemning what they did not


  Nor am I at all offended, or think it an injury to the art, when I

  see the common dealers in it, the students in astrology, the

  Philomaths, and the rest of that tribe, treated by wise men with

  the utmost scorn and contempt; but rather wonder, when I observe

  gentlemen in the country, rich enough to serve the nation in

  Parliament, poring in Partridge's Almanack to find out the events

  of the year at home and abroad, not daring to propose a hunting-

  match till Gadbury or he have fixed the weather.

  I will allow either of the two I have mentioned, or any other of

  the fraternity, to he not only astrologers, but conjurers too, if I

  do not produce a hundred instances in all their almanacks to

  convince any reasonable man that they do not so much as understand

  common grammar and syntax; that they are not able to spell any word

  out of the usual road, nor even in their prefaces write common

  sense or intelligible English. Then for their observations and

  predictions, they are such as will equally suit any age or country

  in the world. "This month a certain great person. will be

  threatened with death or sickness." This the newspapers will tell

  them; for there we find at the end of the year that no month passes

  without the death of some person of note; and it would be hard if

  it should be otherwise, when there are at least two thousand

  persons of note in this kingdom, many of them old, and the

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  almanack-maker has the liberty of choosing the sickliest season of

  the year where lie may fix his prediction. Again, "This month an

  eminent clergyman will be preferred;" of which there may be some

  hundreds, half of them with one foot in the grave. Then "such a

  planet in such a house shows great machinations, plots, and

  conspiracies, that may in time be brought to light:" after which,

  if we hear of any discovery, the astrologer gets the honour; if

  not, his prediction still stands good. And at last, "God preserve

  King William from all his open and secret enemies, Amen." When if

  the King should happen to have died, the astrologer plainly

  foretold it; otherwise it passes but for the pious ejaculation of a

  loyal subject; though it unluckily happened in some of their

  almanacks that poor King William was prayed for many months after

  he was dead, because it fell out that he died about the beginning

  of the year.

  To mention no more of their impertinent predictions: what have we

  to do with their advertisements about pills and drink for disease?

  or their mutual quarrels in verse and prose of Whig and Tory,

  wherewith the stars have little to do?

  Having long observed and lamented these, and a hundred other abuses

  of this art, too tedious to repeat, I resolved to proceed in a new

  way, which I doubt not will be to the general satisfaction of the

  kingdom. I can this year produce but a specimen of what I design

  for the future, having employed most part of my time in adjusting

  and correcting the calculations I made some years past, because I

  would offer nothing to the world of which I am not as fully

  satisfied as that I am now alive. For these two last years I have

  not failed in above one or two particulars, and those of no very

  great moment. I exactly foretold the miscarriage at Toulon, with

  all its particulars, and the loss of Admiral Shovel, though I was

  mistaken as to the day, placing that accident about thirty-six

  hours sooner than it happened; but upon reviewing my schemes, I

  quickly found the cause of that error. I likewise foretold the

attle of Almanza to the very day and hour, with the lose on both

  sides, and the consequences thereof. All which I showed to some

  friends many months before they happened - that is, I gave them

  papers sealed up, to open at such a time, after which they were at

  liberty to read them; and there they found my predictions true in

  every article, except one or two very minute.

  As for the few following predictions I now offer the world, I

  forbore to publish them till I had perused the several almanacks

  for the year we are now entered on. I find them all in the usual

  strain, and I beg the reader will compare their manner with mine.

  And here I make bold to tell the world that I lay the whole credit

  of my art upon the truth of these predictions; and I will be

  content that Partridge, and the rest of his clan, may hoot me for a

  cheat and impostor if I fail in any single particular of moment. I

  believe any man who reads this paper will look upon me to be at

  least a person of as much honesty and understanding as a common

  maker of almanacks. I do not lurk in the dark; 1 am not wholly

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  unknown in the world; I have set my name at length, to be a mark of

  infamy to mankind, if they shall find I deceive them.

  In one thing I must desire to be forgiven, that I talk more

  sparingly of home affairs. As it will be imprudence to discover

  secrets of State, so it would be dangerous to my person; but in

  smaller matters, and that are not of public consequence, I shall be

  very free; and the truth of my conjectures will as much appear from

  those as the others. As for the most signal events abroad, in

  France, Flanders, Italy, and Spain, I shall make no scruple to

  predict them in plain terms. Some of them are of importance, and I

  hope I shall seldom mistake the day they will happen; therefore I

  think good to inform the reader that I all along make use of the

  Old Style observed in England, which I desire he will compare with

  that of the newspapers at the time they relate the actions I


  I must add one word more. I know it hath been the opinion of

  several of the learned, who think well enough of the true art of

  astrology, that the stars do only incline, and not force the

  actions or wills of men, and therefore, however I may proceed by

  right rules, yet I cannot in prudence so confidently assure the

  events will follow exactly as I predict them.

  I hope I have maturely considered this objection, which in some

  cases is of no little weight. For example: a man may, by the

  influence of an over-ruling planet, be disposed or inclined to

  lust, rage, or avarice, and yet by the force of reason overcome

  that bad influence; and this was the case of Socrates. But as the

  great events of the world usually depend upon numbers of men, it

  cannot be expected they should all unite to cross their

  inclinations from pursuing a general design wherein they

  unanimously agree. Besides, the influence of the stars reaches to

  many actions and events which are not any way in the power of

  reason, as sickness, death, and what we commonly call accidents,

  with many more, needless to repeat.

  But now it is time to proceed to my predictions, which I have begun

  to calculate from the time that the sun enters into Aries. And

  this I take to be properly the beginning of the natural year. I

  pursue them to the time that he enters Libra, or somewhat more,

  which is the busy period of the year. The remainder I have not yet

  adjusted, upon account of several impediments needless here to

  mention. Besides, I must remind the reader again that this is but

  a specimen of what I design in succeeding years to treat more at

  large, if I may have liberty and encouragement.

  My first prediction is but a trifle, yet I will mention it, to show

  how ignorant those sottish pretenders to astrology are in their own

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