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“ The language of this country being always upon the flux, the struldbrugs of one age do not understand those of another ; neither are they able, after two hundred years, to hold any conversation, farther than by a few general words, with their neighbours the mortals; and thus they lie under the disadvantage of living like foreigners in their own country.”
This was the account given me of the struldbrugs, as near as I can remember. I afterwards saw five or six of different ages, the youngest not above two hundred years old, who were brought to me at several times by some of my friends ; but although they were told “That I was a great traveller, and had seen all the world,” they had not the least curiosity to ask me a question; only desired “I would give them slumskudask, or a token of remembrance ;” which is a modest way of begging, to avoid the law, that strictly forbids it, because they are provided for by the public, although indeed with a very scanty allowance.
They are despised and hated by all sorts of people. When one of them is born, it is reckoned ominous, and their birth is recorded very particularly ; so that you may know their age by consulting the register, which however has not been kept above a thousand years past, or at least has been destroyed by time or public disturbances. But the usual way of computing how old they are, is by asking them what kings or great persons they can remember, and then consulting history ; for infallibly the last prince in their mind did not begin his reign after they were fourscore years old.
They were the most mortifying sight I ever beheld ; and the women more horrible than the men. Besides
the usual deformities in extreme old age, they acquired an additional ghastliness, in proportion to their number of years, which is not to be described ; and among half a dozen, I soon distinguished which was the eldest, although there was not above a century or two between them
THE GRAY HOVYHNHNM
THE horse started a little when he came near me, but soon recovering himself, looked full in my face with manifest tokens of wonder. He viewed my hands and feet, walking round me several times. I would have pursued my journey, but he placed himself directly in the way, yet looking with very mild aspect, never offering the least violence. We stood gazing at each other for some time ; at last I took the boldness to reach my hand towards his neck, with a design to stroke it, using the common style and whistle of jockeys when they are going to handle a strange horse. But this animal seemed to receive my civilities with disdain, shook his head and bent his brows, softly raising up his right fore-foot to remove my hand. Then he neighed three or four times, but in so different a cadence, that I almost began to think he was speaking to himself in some language of his own.
While he and I were thus employed, another horse came up; who applying himself to the first in a very formal manner, they gently struck each other's right hoof before, neighing several times by turns, and vary. ing the sound, which seemed to be almost articulate. They went some paces off, as if it were to confer together, walking side by side, backward and forward,
like persons deliberating upon some affair of weight, but often turning their eyes towards me, as it were to watch that I might not escape. I was amazed to see such actions and behaviour in brute beasts, and concluded with myself, that if the inhabitants of this country were endued with a proportionable degree of reason, they must needs be the wisest people upon earth. This thought gave me so much comfort, that I resolved to go forward until I could discover some house or village, or meet with any of the natives, leaving the two horses to discourse together as they pleased. But the first, who was a dapple gray, observing me to steal off, neighed after me in so expressive a tone, that I fancied myself to understand what he meant ; where. upon I turned back and came near him, to expect his farther commands; but concealing my fear as much as I could, for I began to be in some pain how this adventure might terminate : and the reader will easily believe I did not much like my present situation.
The two horses came up close to me, looking with great earnestness upon my face and hands. The gray steed rubbed my hat all round with his right fore-hoof, and discomposed it so much, that I was forced to adjust it better by taking it off and settling it again ; whereat both he and his companion, who was a brown bay, appeared to be much surprised : the latter felt the lappet of my coat, and finding it to hang loose about me, they both looked with new signs of wonder. He stroked my right hand, seeming to admire the softness and colour ; but he squeezed it so hard between his hoof and his pastern, that I was forced to roar ; after which, they both touched it with all possible tenderness. They were under great perplexity about
my shoes and stockings, which they felt very often, neighing to each other, and using various gestures, not unlike those of a philosopher when he would attempt to solve some new and difficult phenomenon.
Upon the whole, the behaviour of these animals was so orderly and rational, so acute and judicious, that I at last concluded they must needs be magicians who had thus metamorphosed themselves upon some design, and, seeing a stranger in the way, resolved to divert themselves with him ; or perhaps were really amazed at the sight of a man so very different in habit, feature, and complexion, from those who might probably live in so remote a climate. Upon the strength of this reasoning, I ventured to address them in the following manner : “Gentlemen, if you be conjurors, as I have good cause to believe, you can understand my language; therefore I make bold to let your worships know that I am a poor distressed Englishman, driven by his misfortunes upon your coast ; and I entreat one of you to let me ride upon his back, as if he were a real horse, to some house or village where I can be relieved. In return of which favour, I will make you a present of this knife and bracelet " (taking them out of my pocket). The two creatures stood silent while I spoke, seeming to listen with great attention ; and when I had ended they neighed frequently towards each other, as if they were engaged in serious conversation. I plainly observed that their language expressed the passions very well ; and the words might, with little pains, be resolved into an alphabet more easily than the Chinese.
I could frequently distinguish the word Yahoo, which was repeated by each of them several times ;