Part III - Chapter IX

THE DAY OF OUR departure being come, I took leave of his Highness, the governor of Glubbdubdrib, and returned with my two companions to Maldonada, where, after a fortnight's waiting, a ship was ready to sail for Luggnagg. The two gentlemen, and some others, were so generous and kind as to furnish me with provisions and see me on board. I was a month on this voyage. We had one violent storm, and were under a necessity of steering westward to get into the trade-wind, which holds for above sixty leagues. On the 21st of April, 1708, we sailed in the River Clumegnig, which is a seaport town at the southeast point of Luggnagg. We cast anchor within a league of the town, and made a signal for a pilot. Two of them came on board in less than half an hour, by whom we were guided between certain shoals and rocks, which are very dangerous in the passage, to a large basin where a fleet may ride in safety, within a cable's length of the town wall.

Some of our sailors, whether out of treachery or inadvertence, had informed the pilots that I was a stranger and a great traveler; whereof these gave notice to a custom-house officer, by whom I was examined very strictly upon my landing. This officer spoke to me in the language of Balnibarbi, which, by the force of much commerce, is generally understood in that town, especially by seamen and those employed in the customs. I gave him a short account of some particulars, and made my story as plausible and consistent as I could; but I thought it necessary to disguise my country and call myself a Hollander, because my intentions were for Japan, and I knew the Dutch were the only Europeans permitted to enter into that kingdom. I therefore told the officer that, having been shipwrecked on the coast of Balnibarbi, and cast on a rock, I was received up into Laputa, or the flying island (of which he had often heard), and was now endeavoring to get to Japan, from whence I might find a convenience of returning to my own country. The officer said I must be confined till he could receive orders from court, for which he would write immediately, and hoped to receive an answer in a fortnight. I was carried to a convenient lodging, with a sentry placed at the door; however, I had the liberty of a large garden, and was treated with humanity enough, being maintained all the time at the King's charge. I was visited by several persons, chiefly out of curiosity, because it was reported that I came from countries very remote, of which they had never heard.

I hired a young man who came in the same ship to be an interpreter; he was a native of Luggnagg, but had lived some years at Maldonada, and was a perfect master of both languages. By his assistance I was able to hold a conversation with those who came to visit me, but this consisted only of their questions and my answers.

The despatch came from court about the time we expected. It contained a warrant for conducting me and my retinue to Traldragdubb, or Trildrogdrib, for it is pronounced both ways, as near as I can remember, by a party of ten horse. All my retinue was that poor lad for an interpreter, whom I persuaded into my service, and, at my humble request, we had each of us a mule to ride on. A messenger was despatched half a day's journey before us to give the King notice of my approach, and to desire that his Majesty would please to appoint a day and hour when it would be his gracious pleasure that I might have the honor to lick the dust before his footstool. This is the court style, and I found it to be more than matter of form. For, upon my admittance two days after my arrival, I was commanded to crawl on my belly and lick the floor as I advanced; but, on account of my being a stranger, care was taken to have it made so clean that the dust was not offensive. However, this was a peculiar grace, not allowed to any but persons of the highest rank, when they desire an admittance. Nay, sometimes the floor is strewed with dust on purpose, when the person to be admitted happens to have powerful enemies at court. And I have seen a great lord with his mouth so crammed that, when he had crept to the proper distance from the throne, he was not able to speak a word. Neither is there any remedy; because it is capital for those who receive an audience to spit or wipe their mouths in his Majesty's presence. There is, indeed, another custom which I cannot altogether approve of: when the king hath a mind to put any of his nobles to death in a gentle, indulgent manner, he commands the floor to be strewed with a certain brown powder, of a deadly composition, which, being licked up, infallibly kills him in twenty-four hours. But in justice to this Prince's great clemency, and the care he hath of his subjects’ lives (wherein it were much to be wished that the monarchs of Europe would imitate him), it must be mentioned for his honor that strict orders are given to have the infected parts of the floor well washed after such execution; which, if his domestics neglect, they are in danger of incurring his royal displeasure. I myself heard him give directions that one of his pages should be whipped, whose turn it was to give notice about washing the floor after an execution, but maliciously had omitted it, by which neglect a young lord of great hopes, coming to an audience, was unfortunately poisoned, although the King at that time had no design against his life. But this good Prince was so gracious as to forgive the poor page his whipping, upon promise that he would do so no more without special orders.

To return from this digression: when I had crept within four yards of the throne, I raised myself gently upon my knees, and then, striking my forehead seven times against the ground, I pronounced the following words, as they had been taught me the night before: Ickpling gloffthrobb squut serumm blhiop mlashnalt zwin tnodbalkuffh slhiophad gurdlubh asht. This is the compliment established by the laws of the land for all persons admitted to the King's presence. It may be rendered into English thus: May your celestial Majesty outlive the sun eleven moons and a half. To this the King returned some answer, which, although I could not understand, yet I replied as I had been directed: Fluft drin yalerick dwuldom prastrad mirpush, which properly signifies, My tongue is in the mouth of my friend; and by this expression was meant that I desired leave to bring my interpreter; whereupon the young man already mentioned was accordingly introduced, by whose intervention I answered as many questions as his Majesty could put in above an hour. I spoke in the Balnibarbian tongue, and my interpreter delivered my meaning in that of Luggnagg.

The King was much delighted with my company, and ordered his bliffmarklub, or high chamberlain, to appoint a lodging in the court for me and my interpreter, with a daily allowance for my table and a large purse of gold for my common expenses.

I stayed three months in this country, out of perfect obedience to his Majesty, who was pleased highly to favor me, and made me very honorable offers. But I thought it more consistent with prudence and justice to pass the remainder of my days with my wife and family.

The Author's return to Maldonada. Sails to the kingdom of Luggnagg. The Author confined. He is sent for to Court. The manner of his admittance. The King's great lenity to his subjects.


  1. Gulliver has often said that he does not want to bore the reader with trivial details, but this seems like it might. Swift satirizes travel narratives by including an exceedingly long excerpt written in a fictional language that no reader would understand.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. The king is another example of a leader who uses physical power to punish and degrade his citizens. Gulliver’s ironic comment about the “clemency” of the king is Swift’s way of satirizing the king’s cruel methods. His actions clearly do not indicate his decency as a ruler.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. A “custom-house” is a building at a port of entry or border in which customs duties are paid and travellers submit documents upon entering or leaving the country. A custom-house officer is a person who is employed to collect customs duties and prevent the entrance of illegal goods.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff