PART III. A VOYAGE TO LAPUTA, BALNIBARBI, LUGGNAGG, GLUBBDUBDRIB, AND JAPAN.
8. CHAPTER VIII.
Among others, there was one person, whose case appeared a little
singular. He had a youth about eighteen years old standing by his
side. He told me, "he had for many years been commander of a ship;
and in the sea fight at Actium had the good fortune to break
through the enemy's great line of battle, sink three of their
capital ships, and take a fourth, which was the sole cause of
Antony's flight, and of the victory that ensued; that the youth
standing by him, his only son, was killed in the action." He
added, "that upon the confidence of some merit, the war being at an
end, he went to Rome, and solicited at the court of Augustus to be
preferred to a greater ship, whose commander had been killed; but,
without any regard to his pretensions, it was given to a boy who
had never seen the sea, the son of Libertina, who waited on one of
the emperor's mistresses. Returning back to his own vessel, he was
charged with neglect of duty, and the ship given to a favourite
page of Publicola, the vice-admiral; whereupon he retired to a poor
farm at a great distance from Rome, and there ended his life." I
was so curious to know the truth of this story, that I desired
Agrippa might be called, who was admiral in that fight. He
appeared, and confirmed the whole account: but with much more
advantage to the captain, whose modesty had extenuated or concealed
a great part of his merit.
I was surprised to find corruption grown so high and so quick in
that empire, by the force of luxury so lately introduced; which
made me less wonder at many parallel cases in other countries,
where vices of all kinds have reigned so much longer, and where the
whole praise, as well as pillage, has been engrossed by the chief
commander, who perhaps had the least title to either.
As every person called up made exactly the same appearance he had
done in the world, it gave me melancholy reflections to observe how
much the race of human kind was degenerated among us within these
hundred years past; how the pox, under all its consequences and
denominations had altered every lineament of an English
countenance; shortened the size of bodies, unbraced the nerves,
relaxed the sinews and muscles, introduced a sallow complexion, and
rendered the flesh loose and rancid.