PART I--A VOYAGE TO LILLIPUT.
3. CHAPTER III.
[The author diverts the emperor, and his nobility of both sexes, in
a very uncommon manner. The diversions of the court of Lilliput
described. The author has his liberty granted him upon certain
My gentleness and good behaviour had gained so far on the emperor
and his court, and indeed upon the army and people in general, that
I began to conceive hopes of getting my liberty in a short time. I
took all possible methods to cultivate this favourable disposition.
The natives came, by degrees, to be less apprehensive of any danger
from me. I would sometimes lie down, and let five or six of them
dance on my hand; and at last the boys and girls would venture to
come and play at hide-and-seek in my hair. I had now made a good
progress in understanding and speaking the language. The emperor
had a mind one day to entertain me with several of the country
shows, wherein they exceed all nations I have known, both for
dexterity and magnificence. I was diverted with none so much as
that of the rope-dancers, performed upon a slender white thread,
extended about two feet, and twelve inches from the ground. Upon
which I shall desire liberty, with the reader's patience, to
enlarge a little.
This diversion is only practised by those persons who are
candidates for great employments, and high favour at court. They
are trained in this art from their youth, and are not always of
noble birth, or liberal education. When a great office is vacant,
either by death or disgrace (which often happens,) five or six of
those candidates petition the emperor to entertain his majesty and
the court with a dance on the rope; and whoever jumps the highest,
without falling, succeeds in the office. Very often the chief
ministers themselves are commanded to show their skill, and to
convince the emperor that they have not lost their faculty.
Flimnap, the treasurer, is allowed to cut a caper on the straight
rope, at least an inch higher than any other lord in the whole
empire. I have seen him do the summerset several times together,
upon a trencher fixed on a rope which is no thicker than a common
packthread in England. My friend Reldresal, principal secretary
for private affairs, is, in my opinion, if I am not partial, the
second after the treasurer; the rest of the great officers are much
upon a par.