An Ode to Make You Blush: Gulliver #5

Many have responded to Gulliver over the years. In addition to a number of essays and letters of correspondence in the nerd version are a handful of poems inspired by the tales. Lest you think the publications of the day were all prim and proper, this gem is found – word for word – amidst the bunchI have to admit, the style has a strong resemblance to the poems of Alexander Pope also found in the volume. I dare not speculate such a thing! But I felt this one was worth a good laugh.

(If you’ve not read Chapter V in Gulliver’s Travelsyou might not get the joke!)

 

 

A Lilliputian Ode on the ENGINE with which Captain Gulliver extinguish’d the Flames in the Royal Palace.
(published anonymously May/June 1727)

I.

Engine strong,
Thick and long!
With Surprize,
Have our Eyes,
View’d its Size;
And its Nose,
Like a Rose;
And its Beard,
Much rever’d!
How it stood,
When the Flood,
Pouring down,
Sav’d the Town!
Ev’n the Queen,
Who has seen
How it plays,
In Amaze
Fury quits;
And has Fits
Of Delight,
Since the Sight.
‘Tis a Thing
Makes the King
Sometimes glad,
Sometimes sad;
Pray Heav’n he run not mad

II.

O how strange
Is the Change
In the Crowd!
Wives are loud
In its Praise;
And with Bays
Want to spread
Its high Head!
Maids, with Joys,
Hear the Boys
Talk it o’er,
And adore!
Husbands now
Jealous grow;
And a-Nights
Are in Frights!
All Day long,
Every Tongue
Says or sings
Wondrous Things.
Titty Tit, (this is a name under which Pope published poems on Gulliver)
Master Wit,
Tries in vain,
Lofty Strain,
To set forth
Its Magnitude and Worth!

III.

Mountain-Man,
He who can
Reach thy Fame,
And proclaim
Stature odd,
Is a GOD.
O descend,
As a Friend,
To our State;
And beget
Such a Race
In this Place.
Female blest,
By thee prest;
Whose fierce Fire
Of Desire
Thy great Tool
Can but cool!
But ’tis such,
That too much
We intreat!
Ah! hard Fate.
One Flame out,
‘Tis past doubt,
That thy Parts
Have rais’d one in our Hearts.

 

 

 

A Vile Torrent: Gulliver #4

If you are following along in the Summer Read, this post assumes you’ve finished Chapter V of Gulliver’s Travels. If you happen to be reading the kiddos’ version, it would help if you’ve read through pg. 37.

On Pace

Despite the extensive vocabulary and the centuries-wide gap in manners of speech, I’m still enjoying Gulliver. I am excited to serve as family narrator for the summer, reading the nerd version aloud to my wife and the kiddos version to our four young ones. At different points, I’ve caught everyone in the family laughing, even our littlest. All along, everyone has listened intently and stayed on board to at least have an understanding of the story. I hope you’ve found a sense of enjoyment in the book as well.

I’ve also enjoyed reading quite slowly. I’m often one to swallow a book quickly, which can have its benefits. But there is a wonderful delight in chewing on the chapters for awhile in order to let them smack me around a bit. If, as Swift has said, truth convicts, then we must let truth speak no matter where we find it!

On Making Water

Gulliver - 4Mr. Gulliver is not shy about sharing stories involving bodily functions. In fact, they provide some of the lighter moments in his Travels thus far. As I considered the event of the flames in the royal palace (and the unorthodox effort to extinguish), I was again drawn to consider the incident from multiple perspectives.

With the palace on fire, Gulliver used the only viable resource available. He considered it lucky, in fact, to have such an opportunity. And so naturally he availed himself, though I’m pretty sure it would take a Gulliver-sized bladder on a Lilliputian for the effort to have lasted a full three minutes. In any case, the flames were out, the mission accomplished, and the day sufficiently saved.

Despite the preservation of the palace – with a lingering funk – the people are unsure of the method employed by the Man Mountain. Gulliver himself worries that the Emperor will resent his actions. In the end, though Gulliver receives a pardon for the crime (punishable by death!), the Empress chooses to move across the grounds rather than live near such a vile act. She distances herself from the offensive action rather than see (or smell) the effects. Gulliver’s time on the island has taken a turn for the less comfortable. It would seem as though, on a certain level, the royal family might have preferred their home to burn than to be saved in such a manner. Imagine the horror of the scene through the eyes of one 1/12th the size of the giant!

Perspective.

As the footnotes declare, the palace fire is possibly a reference to Queen Anne’s hesitation to elevate Swift in the Anglican church because of his occasionally crude and impious way of telling stories. (Go figure!) If this is the case, then the goal is to join Swift in his smarmy satire and view the situation through the cynical eyes of the author. Maybe we’re supposed to see the whole situation as ridiculous and cheer as the overconfident Lilliputians get theirs. But there is a strange draw in the story that leaves me sympathetic to the Lilliputians as well. I am curious, this time around in reading the book, if I’m drawn to the inhabitants of the other lands as much as I am this first bunch.

Taking the Lilliputian perspective, then, I can’t help but think of sovereignty and blood.

Really, Bob?

Really.

I cannot count the number of times in my life I’ve heard or been asked, why would a good God _________? The question is posed as a response to doubt and pain. If I may toy with the notion of our current chapter, though, I would propose that often times providence feels like the vile torrent of Swift’s Chapter V. Caught within the circumstance, with a perspective far too small and marred by sin, it might appear that we are being defiled in the hands of a irrational God. As a result, we respond in a manner not unlike the Empress… disgust and distance. We stay away from the pain, away from the damage, away from the redeeming quality, because to face the damage is to possibly face the uncomfortable means by which we received care.

Could it be that God might work through pain – not only by passively allowing it, but also by actively ordaining it as his agent in this cursed world – in order to bring the greatest redemption? To be quite honest, sometimes our palaces need a little “made water” in order to let go of them as a means of ultimate security. The irony of Swift’s beef with the Queen is that in what seems like taking out his frustration through a tale of filthy firefighting, he was illustrating the point he may have failed to believe… that sometimes the vile torrent is a means of grace. Setback and pain are warning signs that something is amiss, and a clear signal that our eyes may be fixed on the wrong mighty fortress.

I think of biblical redemption and what is often considered the vile torrent that brings peace – blood. And this all in the name of supreme love? For those who cannot bring themselves to find comfort in the bloody reality of salvation, typified in animal sacrifice and fulfilled in the cross of Christ, they too respond with disgust and distance. Yet it is the disgusting and vile blood that saves. At the risk of sounding irreverent in the face of a story such as the palace fire, there is something very real to consider… God’s ordained means of saving have rarely if ever resembled the expected. And to be quite honest, if we’re not willing to embrace mystery in humility, his means are often downright difficult.

I don’t want to press to far in aligning Gulliver with God in the story. I don’t believe that to be the point. But I can’t help but see the parallels when the so-small-yet-so-puffed-up race encounter the giant beyond their comprehension. I don’t see God in Gulliver as much as I see myself in the Lilliputians.

 

“… For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” (2Corinthians 1:8b-9 ESV)

“So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2Corinthians 12:7-9 ESV)