**take care of thyself, gentle Yahoo
Finally, the concluding part of this epic work! Once again, Gulliver is off to sea – this time leaving his wife (“big with child”). How considerate of him. Just like always, however, Gulliver does not have good luck in his ship, crew, and voyage. (he has the seafaring luck of a Mario Andretti at Indianapolis). This time, his crew mutinies and maroons him, making off with his ship. Later in Part 4, Swift explains – through the mouth of Gulliver – what kind of people comprised his crew: “they were fellows of desperate fortunes, forced to fly from the places of their birth, on account of their poverty or their crimes. Some were undone by lawsuits, others spent all they had in drinking, whoring, and gaming; others fled for treason, many for murder, theft, poisoning, robbery, perjury, forgery, coining false money; for committing rapes or sodomy, for flying from their colours or deserting to the enemy; and most of them had broken prison; none of these durst return to their native countries for fear of being hanged, or of starving in a jail; and therefore were under a necessity of seeking a livelihood in other places.” I get the feeling that this was not an altogether uncommon demographic for merchant sailing ships of the era..
In the country of the Houyhnhnms (I don’t believe Swift gave it any other name than that). Gulliver learns finally how ‘pathetic’ the human race (known there as “Yahoos”) is compared to a truly an advanced race – in this case, a race of intelligent horses.
Gulliver stays longer here than on any of his other stops, and truly grows to love it there, but is eventually sent away since the race of Houyhnhnms find his presence disturbing (since he resembles the vile Yahoos of that land).
OK, I have to stop a moment here and comment on the pronunciation – or my lack of ability to pronounce – many of the names of places and people in this work. Is there a pronunciation guide available anywhere? I also wonder how Swift decided to come up with some of these names. The footnotes in my edition offer some commentary on this, but it seems to most be scholarly guesses by critics and not from Swift himself. Anybody “out there” know anything about this?
Oh, and I found myself pronouncing Houyhnhnms like “Who ‘n Hims” which I doubt is correct, but I find it amusing as it reminds me of that home-schooled girl, Rebecca Sealfon, who won the National Spelling Bee back in 1997 with her overly passionate spelling of “Euonym” You all probably remember it (it was unavoidable back then), but here is a link to a copy of the video in case you forgot… She was not a good spokesperson for the well-adjusted-ness of home-schooled children.
Anyway, back to Gulliver. The Houhnhynm’s own etymology of their name indicates its meaning as “the perfection of nature,” and indeed in every way j- as far as a society goes – they seem to live up to that description. Gulliver becomes so enamored with them that he doesn’t want to leave. Later, when he is forced to do so, after he is picked up by a crew of his own kind, he even tries to ‘jump ship’ when in open waters, preferring to take his chances swimming back to the land of the Houhynhynms, than to go back amongst his own people, who he now finds indistinguishable from the despicable Yahoos.
Gulliver’s “Master” (the Houyhnhynm of whom he is a guest) is indeed quite wise – although his name is never given either – and had an interesting commentary about the uselessness of lying: “he argued thus; that the use of speech was to make us understand one another, and to receive information of facts; now if any one said the thing which was not, these ends were defeated.” Very succinct and simple and TRUE. This was a hallmark of the Houyhnhmn’s philosophy.
Perhaps the best satire in Part 4 comes in Chapter V, where Gulliver discourses to his master on all the causes of war. He says the causes “were innumerable” but among them were “the ambition of princes, differences of opinion, because the enemy is too strong, because the enemy is too weak, because they want the things we have, or have the things we want,” etc., etc. He goes on and on and indeed it takes a couple pages to list all of the reasons, at which his master is quite astonished.
Later he describes what kind of person a “minister of state” is, which is also rife with satire. It made me wonder how familiar Swift was with Machiavelli’s The Prince. Certainly he must have been conversant with it, as an educated man of his time would no doubt have been. (Lawyers also taste Swift’s wrath in depth in Part 4.)
Throughout Part 4, Gulliver comes to realize that, though he thought his country and race great, it pales in comparison to a truly civilized culture such as he has found in the land of the Houyhnhmns. Swift sums it up nicely in the final pages of his work:
“My reconcilement to the Yahoo-kind in general might not be so difficult if they would be content with those vices and follies only with which nature hath entitled them to. I am not in the least provoked by the sight of a lawyer, a pickpocket, a colonel, a fool, a lord, a gamester, a politician, a whoremonger, a physician, an evidence, a suborner, an attorney, a traitor or the like; that is all according to the due course of things; but when I behold a lump of deformity and diseases both in body and mind smitten with PRIDE, it immediately breaks all the measures of my patience.; neither shall I ever be able to comprehend how such an animal and such a vice could tally together. The wise and virtuous Houyhnhmns, who abound in all excellencies that can adorn a rational creature, have no name for this vice in their language.”
Wow, it may be hard to go on being a yahoo human after reading this work. Seriously, though, I’m glad I finally read it and would like to thank Allie over at A Literary Odyssey for sponsoring this read along. Give her blog a visit and hop into the “100 Years of Solitude” read-along if you’re interested.