Part Eight: A Voyage to Laputa and Bahibarbifre
I was at home for about ten days when a friend of mine came to see me. Captain Robinson owned a hip called the Hope-well, and he wanted me to sail with him. At first I did not want to go, but he offered me a lot of money,and in the end I agreed.
We sailed in the Hope-well to the East Indies. There was bad news when we arrived there. The goods which Captain Robinson wanted to buy were not ready.
'I'll have to stay here and wait,' Captain Robinson told me. 'But you don't have to stay here with me, Gulliver. Let's buy a smaller ship, and you can go to the islands near here and buy and sell goods.'
I agreed, and soon I was in command of a little ship of my own.
Unfortunately this little ship was attacked by pirates. They came on board, and they stole everything, including the ship itself. They were very fierce,and I thought they were going to kill me. They changed their minds,though, and decided to put me into a canoe with enough food and water for four days.
I knew there were some islands in this part of the sea. I spent a few days going from one island to another. The islands were all small ones, and there were no people on them. There was also very little food. I began to think thatI would die on one of these islands, and I was very unhappy.
One day I saw something very strange in the sky. It was afternoon, and the sun was very hot. Suddenly the sky became dark, and I could not see the sun at all. I looked up, and saw a huge object in the sky. It seemed to be an island, and it was flying! I looked at it through my telescope, and I saw people on the island. I was very surprised to see a flying island with people on it, and I did not know what to do.
I decided to call out to the people. Perhaps they would help me to escape. I shouted very loudly, and waved my arms. Some of the people on the flying island heard me, and they looked down at me. Soon there was a crowd of people looking down at me. The island began to come close to me. Someone threw down a piece of rope with a chair tied to it. I climbed into the chair, and I was pulled up towards the mysterious island.
A crowd of people was waiting to welcome me when I arrived. They told me that the name of their island was Laputa. They were strange people. Their heads were very flat, and one eye looked up to the sky and the other eye looked in the opposite direction. The clothes of the rich people were strange, too. They had pictures of stars and musical instruments on them. The rich people all had servants, and I saw that the servants carried sticks with them. Sometimes the servants touched their masters on the mouth or ears with the stick. I did not understand why they did this until someone explained it to me. The rich people of the island were all mathematicians and thinkers. They were very busy with their thoughts. When someone wanted to speak to them, they did not notice. Their servants had to touch them with a stick to make them listen.
Some of the people took me to the King's palace, and he invited me to have dinner with him. The King was a very polite man, and he wanted me to be his guest and learn their language. The people of the island were only interested in mathematics and music. They spent their time solving mathematical problems, and thinking about music. They were very good at making theories, but they were not practical people at all. They could not make proper clothes or build decent houses.
No one wanted to talk to me about my adventures, or to learn about my country. All they wanted to do was talk about mathematics and music. After a while, they stopped talking to me completely. There was a very important man at the court who became a friend of mine. He was a cousin of the King, and had a very important position in the country. Everyone thought he was stupid because he was not good at mathematics or music. He was the only man on the island who was interested in talking to me about my adventures and about England. He asked me many questions about the places I had visited, and their systems of government.
After a month on the flying island, I wanted to leave. The people were kind to me, but they only wanted to talk about mathematics and music. They were not interested in me. I learnt that the King of the island was also the King of the country below the island. This country is called Balnibarbi, and its capital city is called Lagado. I asked the King's permission to visit the other parts of his realm, and he gave it to me. My friend, the King's cousin, was sorry to see me go. 'I'll miss you,' he said, 'I've enjoyed our conversations. But when you are in Balnibarbi, please see my friend Lord Munodi. He'll show you the country.'
I met Lord Munodi in the capital city, Lagado. He was a very polite and intelligent man, and he took me on a tour of the country. I saw that the whole country was very badly organised. The houses in the towns were very ugly, and the people seemed poor. The land in the countryside seemed rich,but there were very few farms. I told Lord Munodi what I thought. 'Every country has its own traditions,' he said quietly. 'Our country is certainly different to England.'
He took me to see his own farm, and this was very different to the other farms in the country. Everything was very well organised, and the people seemed happy and rich.
'What a difference!' I said. 'Your farm is the best in the whole country.'
'Thank you,' he replied. 'I'm happy that you like my farm.'
Then he looked very sad.
'But it will not always be like this. I have just received some bad news. I will soon have to change everything, and make this farm like the others you have seen.'
I was very surprised at what he told me, and I asked him to explain. Then he told me the recent history of Balnibarbi.
'About forty years ago,' he said, 'the country was all like this. The towns were well organised, and the farms were rich. Then some people from Balnibarbi went up to Laputa. They stayed there for about five months.
When they came back here, they brought with them ideas about mathematics and music. They asked the King to begin an academy at Lagado. That is the cause of the problem. The professors at the academy have all got new ideas - but none of their ideas work. They are destroying the country.'
I told Lord Munodi that I wanted to see this academy, and he asked a friend to take me there. The academy was one of the strangest places I have ever seen. It was full of professors, and each professor was working on a different project.
The first professor that I saw had a special project. He wanted to extract sunlight from cucumbers.
'We can use the sunlight to heat the houses in winter,' he told me. He was sure that his project would be a great success. There was a school of languages in the academy, and I went there to see what the professors were doing. One professor had a project to make conversations shorter. He was working on a language that only had nouns in it.
Another professor had a project for a new kind of language. 'Words are really the names of things,' he explained to me. 'In my new language, we use things instead of words. Everybody carries a bag with the things in it that he wants to talk about. When he wants to talk, he brings out the thing he wants to talk about, and shows it to the people.'