PART IV--A VOYAGE TO THE COUNTRY OF THE HOUYHNHNMS.
9. CHAPTER IX.
This was all my master thought fit to tell me, at that time, of
what passed in the grand council. But he was pleased to conceal
one particular, which related personally to myself, whereof I soon
felt the unhappy effect, as the reader will know in its proper
place, and whence I date all the succeeding misfortunes of my life.
The Houyhnhnms have no letters, and consequently their knowledge is
all traditional. But there happening few events of any moment
among a people so well united, naturally disposed to every virtue,
wholly governed by reason, and cut off from all commerce with other
nations, the historical part is easily preserved without burdening
their memories. I have already observed that they are subject to
no diseases, and therefore can have no need of physicians.
However, they have excellent medicines, composed of herbs, to cure
accidental bruises and cuts in the pastern or frog of the foot, by
sharp stones, as well as other maims and hurts in the several parts
of the body.
They calculate the year by the revolution of the sun and moon, but
use no subdivisions into weeks. They are well enough acquainted
with the motions of those two luminaries, and understand the nature
of eclipses; and this is the utmost progress of their astronomy.
In poetry, they must be allowed to excel all other mortals; wherein
the justness of their similes, and the minuteness as well as
exactness of their descriptions, are indeed inimitable. Their
verses abound very much in both of these, and usually contain
either some exalted notions of friendship and benevolence or the
praises of those who were victors in races and other bodily
exercises. Their buildings, although very rude and simple, are not
inconvenient, but well contrived to defend them from all injuries
of and heat. They have a kind of tree, which at forty years old
loosens in the root, and falls with the first storm: it grows very
straight, and being pointed like stakes with a sharp stone (for the
Houyhnhnms know not the use of iron), they stick them erect in the
ground, about ten inches asunder, and then weave in oat straw, or
sometimes wattles, between them. The roof is made after the same
manner, and so are the doors.