YOU NEED TO READ SWIFT TO GET UP TO SPEED

I don’t recall how old I was — probably no later than my early teens — when I first read Jonathan Swift’s satirical masterpiece Gulliver’s Travels; all I know is it made a lasting impression on my unworldly-wise perception of the world. If you haven’t read the book, this summary will at least give you the bare bones:

Several films have been made based on the novel; here is the trailer for the version I remember seeing (the book was what made me think; the movie served as entertaining afterthought):

JONATHAN SWIFT, born this day (Nov. 30) in 1667 in Dublin, led a multi-faceted life between Ireland and England (his place of residence often depended on events beyond his control). For the meaty details of  his life, you might consider taking time to go Googling; here, I offer a dozen of his quotes, the first two of which are from Gulliver’s Travels:

Based on Gulliver’s descriptions of their behavior, the King describes Europeans as “the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.

The tiny Lilliputians surmise that Gulliver’s watch may be his God, because it is that which, he admits, he seldom does anything without consulting.

When the world has once begun to use us ill, it afterwards continues to use the same treatment with less scruple or ceremony, as men do to a whore.

I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed.

Words are the clothing of our thoughts.

Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect: like a man who hath thought of a good repartee when the company departed.

Happiness is the perpetual possession of being well deceived.

We of this age have discovered a shorter, and more prudent method to become scholars and wits, without the fatigue of reading or of thinking.

We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.

I wonder what fool it was that first invented kissing.

It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.

Nothing is so hard for those who  abound in riches as to conceive how others can be in want.

Almost 300 years have passed since Swift completed Gulliver’s Travels, and the world still doesn’t seem to have gotten the word. Too bad.

20 comments on “YOU NEED TO READ SWIFT TO GET UP TO SPEED

  1. calmkate says:

    yes I always thought he was profound beyond measure … these quotes perfectly demonstrate that!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. obbverse says:

    ‘Words are the clothing of our thoughts’, that’s a wonderful quote.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rivergirl says:

    Sadly, there are some lessons we never learn….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Elizabeth says:

    The essay by Swift that always got to my students was “A Modest Proposal.” It is pretty timely again too, given the attitude towards struggling refugees world wide at the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow – three hundred years old! And as timely as ever.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Haha! I nearly spewed my morning cup o’ tea on the keyboard when I read your reply.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. JosieHolford says:

    It’s a brilliant skewering of all our pretensions and hypocrisies.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Seems like there are quite a few descendants of the Yahoos in today’s world 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Everyone was required to read Gulliver’s Travels in my high school days, and they should be again Sr. Muse. That’s a modest proposal.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. as to Swift’s take on religion; Perfect! continue…

    Liked by 1 person

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