Part III - Chapter I

I HAD NOT BEEN at home above ten days when Captain William Robinson, a Cornishman, commander of the Hope Well, a stout ship of three hundred tons, came to my house. I had formerly been surgeon of another ship where he was master, and a fourth part owner, in a voyage to the Levant; he had always treated me more like a brother than an inferior officer, and, hearing of my arrival, made me a visit, as I apprehended, only out of friendship, for nothing passed more than what is usual after long absences. But repeating his visits often, expressing his joy to find me in good health, asking whether I were now settled for life, adding that he intended a voyage to the East Indies in two months, at last he plainly invited me, though with some apologies, to be surgeon of the ship; that I should have another surgeon under me, besides our two mates; that my salary should be double to the usual pay; and that, having experienced my knowledge in sea affairs to be at least equal to his, he would enter into any engagement to follow my advice as much as if I had shared in the command.

He said so many other obliging things, and I knew him to be so honest a man, that I could not reject his proposal; the thirst I had of seeing the world, notwithstanding my past misfortunes, continuing as violent as ever. The only difficulty that remained was to persuade my wife, whose consent, however, I at last obtained, by the prospect of advantage she proposed to her children.

We set out the fifth day of August, 1706, and arrived at Fort St. George the 11th of April, 1707. We stayed there three weeks to refresh our crew, many of whom were sick. From thence we went to Tonquin, where the captain resolved to continue some time, because many of the goods he intended to buy were not ready, nor could he expect to be despatched in several months. Therefore, in hopes to defray some of the charges he must be at, he bought a sloop, loaded it with several sorts of goods, wherewith the Tonquinese usually trade to the neighboring islands, and, putting fourteen men on board, whereof three were of the country, he appointed me master of the sloop, and gave me power to traffic while he transacted his affairs at Tonquin.

We had not sailed above three days when, a great storm arising, we were driven five days to the north-northeast and then to the east; after which we had fair weather, but still with a pretty strong gale from the west. Upon the tenth day we were chased by two pirates, who soon overtook us, for my sloop was so deep loaden that she sailed very slow, neither were we in a condition to defend ourselves.

We were boarded about the same time by both the pirates, who entered furiously at the head of their men; but, finding us all prostrate upon our faces (for so I gave order), they pinioned us with strong ropes, and, setting guard upon us, went to search the sloop.

I observed among them a Dutchman who seemed to be of some authority, though he was not commander of either ship. He knew us by our countenances to be Englishmen, and, jabbering to us in his own language, swore we should be tied back to back and thrown into the sea. I spoken Dutch tolerably well; I told him who we were, and begged him, in consideration of our being Christians and Protestants of neighboring countries in strict alliance, that he would move the captains to take some pity on us. This inflamed his rage; he repeated his threatenings, and, turning to his companions, spoke with great vehemence in the Japanese language, as I suppose, often using the word Christianos.

The largest of the two pirate-ships was commanded by a Japanese captain, who spoke a little Dutch, but very imperfectly. He came up to me, and after several questions, which I answered in great humility, he said we should not die. I made the captain a very low bow, and then, turning to the Dutchman, said I was sorry to find more mercy in a heathen than in a brother Christian. But I had soon reason to repent those foolish words, for that malicious reprobate, having often endeavored in vain to persuade both the captains that I might be thrown into the sea (which they would not yield to after the promise made me that I should not die), however, prevailed so far as to have a punishment inflicted on me worse, in all human appearance, than death itself. My men were sent, by an equal division, into both the pirate-ships, and my sloop new manned. As to myself, it was determined that I should be set adrift in a small canoe, with paddles and a sail, and four days’ provisions, which last the Japanese captain was so kind to double out of his own stores, and would permit no man to search me. I got down into the canoe while the Dutchman, standing upon the deck, loaded me with all the curses and injurious terms his language could afford.

About an hour before we saw the pirates I had taken an observation, and found we were in the latitude of 46 N. and of longitude 183. When I was at some distance from the pirates I discovered by my pocket-glass several islands to the southeast. I set up my sail, the wind being fair, with a design to reach the nearest of those islands, which I made a shift to do in about three hours. It was all rocky; however, I got many birds’ eggs, and, striking fire, I kindled some heath and dry seaweed, by which I roasted my eggs. I ate no other supper, being resolved to spare my provisions as much as I could. I passed the night under the shelter of a rock, strewing some heath under me, and slept pretty well.

The next day I sailed to another island, and thence to a third and fourth, sometimes using my sail and sometimes my paddles. But, not to trouble the reader with a particular account of my distresses, let it suffice that on the fifth day I arrived at the last island in my sight, which lay south-southeast to the former.

This island was at a greater distance than I expected, and I did not reach it in less than five hours. I encompassed it almost round before I could find a convenient place to land in, which was a small creek about three times the wideness of my canoe. I found the island to be all rocky, only a little intermingled with tufts of grass and sweet-smelling herbs. I took out my small provisions, and after having refreshed myself I secured the remainder in a cave, whereof there were great numbers. I gathered plenty of eggs upon the rocks, and got a quantity of dry sea-weed and parched grass, which I designed to kindle the next day and roast my eggs as well as I could (for I had about me my flint, steel, match, and burning-glass). I lay all night in the cave where I had lodged my provisions. My bed was the same dry grass and seaweed which I intended for fuel. I slept very little, for the disquiets of my mind prevailed over my weariness and kept me awake. I considered how impossible it was to preserve my life in so desolate a place, and how miserable my end must be. Yet I found myself so listless and desponding that I had not the heart to rise; and before I could get spirits enough to creep out of my cave the day was far advanced. I walked awhile among the rocks; the sky was perfectly clear, and the sun so hot that I was forced to turn my face from it, when, all on a sudden, it became obscure, as I thought, in a manner very different from what happens by the interposition of a cloud. I turned back and perceived a vast opaque body between me and the sun moving forward toward the island; it seemed to be about two miles high, and hid the sun six or seven minutes; but I did not observe the air to be much colder, or the sky more darkened, than if I had stood under the shade of a mountain. As it approached nearer over the place where I was it appeared to be a firm substance, the bottom flat, smooth, and shining very bright from the reflection of the sea below. I stood upon a height about two hundred yards from the shore, and saw this vast body descending almost to a parallel with me at less than an English mile distance. I took out my pocket-perspective and could plainly discover numbers of people moving up and down the sides of it, which appeared to be sloping; but what those people where doing I was not able to distinguish.

The natural love of life gave me some inward motions of joy, and I was ready to entertain a hope that this adventure might some way or other help to deliver me from the desolate place and condition I was in. But at the same time the reader can hardly conceive my astonishment to behold an island in the air inhabited by men who were able (as it should seem) to raise or sink or put it into progressive motion as they pleased. But, not being at that time in a disposition to philosophize upon this phenomenon, I rather chose to observe what course the island would take, because it, seemed for awhile to stand still. Yet soon after it advanced nearer, and I could see the sides of it encompassed with several gradations of galleries and stairs, at certain intervals, to descend from one to the other. In the lowest gallery I beheld some people fishing with long angling rods, and others looking on. I waved my cap (for my hat was long since worn out) and my handkerchief toward the island; and, upon its nearer approach, I called and shouted with the utmost strength of my voice; and then, looking circumspectly, I beheld a crowd gathered to that side which was most in my view. I found by their pointing toward me and to each other that they plainly discovered me, although they made no return to my shouting. But I could see four or five men running in great haste up the stairs to the top of the island, who then disappeared. I happened rightly to conjecture that these were sent for orders to some person in authority upon this occasion.

The number of people increased, and in less than half an hour the island was moved and raised in such a manner that the lowest gallery appeared in a parallel of less then a hundred yards’ distance from the height where I stood. I then put myself in the most supplicating postures and spoke in the humblest accent, but received no answer. Those who stood nearest over against me seemed to be persons of distinction, as I supposed by their habit. They conferred earnestly with each other, looking often upon me. At length one of them called out in a clear, polite, smooth dialect not unlike in sound to the Italian; and therefore I returned an answer in that language, hoping, at least, that the cadence might be more agreeable to his ears. Although neither of us understood the other, yet my meaning was easily known, for the people saw the distress I was in.

They made signs for me to come down from the rock and go toward the shore, which I accordingly did; and the flying island, being raised to a convenient height, the verge directly over me, a chain was let down from the lowest gallery with a seat fastened to the bottom, to which I fixed myself and was drawn up by pulleys.

The Author sets out on his third voyage, is taken by pirates. The malice of a Dutchman. His arrival at an island. He is received into Laputa.


  1. Swift uses language as a symbol to advance the theme that communication across cultures is valuable, even when it is difficult. Language is not universal, but emotions can sometimes communicate for us when words fail. Gulliver has encountered many societies and different languages, but he has been able to communicate with others when he really needs to.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Gulliver shows that he does not mean harm by changing his posture to diminish his physical power. This posture convinces the people on the island to rescue him. The people of the floating island, rather than grabbing weapons, simply are won over by Gulliver’s gesture of peace.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. A “reprobate” is a person who is depraved or unprincipled. In Calvinism, the term means that one is predestined for damnation. Gulliver is referring to the Dutchman as a “malicious reprobate” because he does not show mercy even though the Christian doctrine preaches mercy and forgiveness.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. A “sloop” is a sailboat with one mast, and a fore-and-aft rig. This means that the boat’s sail is parallel to the keel, rather than perpendicular to it.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff