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ance." And with that he opened the door and said, “Go, if you will."
His discourse had shocked my resolution a little, and I stood wavering for a good while, but just at that interval I saw two links come over from the end of the Minories, and heard the bellman, and then appeared a dead-cart, as they called it, coming over the streets; so I could no longer resist my desire of seeing it, and went in. There was nobody, as I could perceive at first, in the churchyard, or going into it, but the buriers and the fellow that drove the cart, or rather led the horse and cart; but when they came up to the pit they saw a man go to and again, muffled up in a brown cloak, and making motions with his hands under his cloak, as if he was in a great agony, and the buriers immediately gathered about him, supposing he was one of those poor delirious or desperate creatures that used to pretend, as I have said, to bury themselves. He said nothing as he walked about, but two or three times groaned very deeply and loud, and sighed as he would break his heart.
When the buriers came up to him they soon found he was neither a person infected and desperate, as I have observed above, or a person distempered in mind, but one oppressed with a dreadful weight of grief indeed, having his wife and several of his children all in the cart that was just come in with him, and he followed in an agony and excess of sorrow. He mourned heartily, as it was easy to see, but with a kind of masculine grief that could not give itself vent by tears; and, calmly defying the buriers to let him alone, said he would only see the bodies thrown in and go away. So they left importuning him. But no sooner was the cart turned round and the bodies shot into the pit promiscuously, which was a surprise to him, for he at least expected they would have been decently laid in, though indeed he was afterwards convinced that was impracticable, I say, no sooner did he see the sight but he cried aloud, unable to contain himself. I could not hear what he said, but he went backward two or three steps and fell down in a swoon. The buriers ran to him and took him up, and in a little while he came to himself, and they led him away to the Pie Tavern over against the end of Houndsditch, where, it seems, the man was known, and where they took care of him. He looked into the pit again as he went away, but the buriers had covered the bod
ies so immediately with throwing in earth, that, though there was light enough, for there were lanterns, and candles in them, placed all night round the sides of the pit, upon heaps of earth, seven or eight, or perhaps more, - - yet nothing could be seen.
This was a mournful scene indeed, and affected me almost as much as the rest; but the other was awful and full of terror. The cart had in it sixteen or seventeen bodies; some were wrapped up in linen sheets, some in rags, some little other than naked, or so loose that what covering they had fell from them in the shooting out of the cart; and they fell quite naked among the rest. But the matter was not much to them, or the indecency much to anyone else, seeing they were all dead, and were to be huddled together into the common grave of mankind, as we may call it; for here was no difference made, but poor and rich went together; there was no other way of burials, neither was it possible there should, for coffins were not to be had for the prodigious numbers that fell in such a calamity as this.
In these walks I had many dismal scenes before my eyes, as particularly of persons falling dead in the streets, terrible shrieks and screechings of women, who, in their agonies, would throw open their chamber windows and cry out in a dismal, surprising manner. It is impossible to describe the variety of postures in which the passions of the poor people would express themselves.
Passing through Tokenhouse Yard, in Lothbury, of a sudden a casement violently opened just over my head, and a woman gave three frightful screeches, and then cried - "Oh! death, death, death!" in a most inimitable tone, and which struck me with horror and a chillness in my very blood. There was nobody to be seen in the whole street, neither did any other window open, for people had no curiosity now in any case, nor could anybody help one another; so I went on to pass into Bell Alley.
Just in Bell Alley, on the right hand of the passage, there was a more terrible cry than that, though it was not so directed out at the window; but the whole family was in a terrible fright, and I could hear women and children run screaming about the rooms like distracted, when a garret-window opened,
and somebody from a window on the other side the alley called and asked, "What is the matter?" Upon which, from the first window it was answered, "O Lord! my old master has hanged himself!" The other asked again, "Is he quite dead?" and the first answered, "Ay, ay, quite dead; quite dead and cold!" This person was a merchant and a deputy alderman, and very rich. I care not to mention the name, though I knew his name too; but that would be an hardship to the family, which is now flourishing again.
But this is but one; it is scarce credible what dreadful cases happened in particular families every day. People in the rage of the distemper, or in the torment of their swellings, which was indeed intolerable, running out of their own government, raving and distracted, and oftentimes laying violent hands upon themselves, throwing themselves out at their windows, shooting themselves, etc.; mothers murdering their own children in their lunacy; some dying of mere grief as a passion, some of mere fright and surprise without any infection at all, others frightened into idiotism and foolish distractions, some into despair and lunacy, others into melancholy madness.
A TALE OF A TUB
WRITTEN FOR THE UNIVERSAL IMPROVEMENT OF MANKIND
Diu multumque desideratum
[This early example of Swift's satire was written chiefly in the year 1697. The title was already a familiar phrase in the meaning of an absurd or pointless story. The book contains a Dedication to Lord Somers, an address from Bookseller to Reader, an Epistle Dedicatory to Posterity, an Author's Preface, and eleven sections, of which one is called The Introduction, five are called Digressions of various kinds, and the remaining five give the Tale of the Tub proper, the story of the three brothers. Of these, Peter represents the Roman Catholic Church, Martin (from Martin Luther) the moderate Reformers — especially of the Church of England, and Jack (from John Calvin) the more violent reformers — Presbyterians and other Dissenters. The father's will is of course the Bible, and the sons' coats are organized theology and church polity; for the more detailed allusions throughout the satire, the reader must be referred to some annotated edition, like that of Craik or Prescott. For convenience, extracts from the tale of the three brothers are here brought together continuously, from Sections II, IV, VI, and XI; those from the Digression on Madness, which forms Section IX, are added separately.]
THE EPISTLE DEDICATORY, TO HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS PRINCE POSTERITY
SIR: I here present your Highness with the fruits of a very few leisure hours, stolen from the short intervals of a world of business, and of an employment quite alien from such amusements as this the poor production of that refuse of time, which has lain heavy upon my hands during a long prorogation of Parliament, a great dearth of foreign news, and a tedious fit of rainy weather; for which, and other reasons, it cannot choose extremely to deserve such a patronage as that of your Highness, whose numberless virtues, in so few years, make the world look upon you as the future example to all princes. For although your Highness is hardly got clear of infancy, yet has
the universal learned world already resolved upon appealing to your future dictates, with the lowest and most resigned submission, fate having decreed you sole arbiter of the productions of human wit, in this polite and most accomplished age. Methinks the number of appellants were enough to shock and startle any judge of a genius less unlimited than yours; but, in order to prevent such glorious trials, the person, it seems, to whose care the education of your Highness is committed, has resolved (as I am told) to keep you in almost a universal ignorance of our studies, which it is your inherent birthright to inspect.
It is amazing to me that this person should have the assurance, in the face of the sun, to go about persuading your Highness that our age is almost wholly illiterate, and has hardly produced one writer upon any subject. I know very well that, when your Highness shall come to riper years, and have gone through the learning of antiquity, you will be too curious to neglect inquiring into the authors of the very age before you; and to think that this insolent, in the account he is preparing for your view, designs to reduce them to a number so insignificant as I am ashamed to mention, it moves my zeal and my spleen, for the honor and interest of our vast flourishing body, as well as of myself, for whom, I know by long experience, he has professed, and still continues, a peculiar malice.
It is not unlikely that, when your Highness will one day peruse what I am now writing, you may be ready to expostulate with your governor, upon the credit of what I here affirm, and command him to show you some of our productions. To which he will answer (for I am well informed of his designs) by asking your Highness where they are? and what is become of them? and pretend it a demonstration that there never were any, because they are not then to be found. Not to be found! Who has mislaid them? are they sunk in the abyss of things? It is certain that in their own nature they were light enough to swim upon the surface for all eternity. Therefore the fault is in him who tied weights so heavy to their heels as to depress them to the centre. Is their very essence destroyed? Who has annihilated them? Were they drowned by purges, or martyred by pipes? But, that it may no longer be a doubt with your Highness who is to be the author of this universal ruin, I beseech you