Gulliver's Travels HTML version

Chapter I.3
[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 conditions.]
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.
These diversions are often attended with fatal accidents, whereof great numbers are on
record. I myself have seen two or three candidates break a limb. But the danger is much
greater, when the ministers themselves are commanded to show their dexterity; for, by
contending to excel themselves and their fellows, they strain so far that there is hardly
one of them who has not received a fall, and some of them two or three. I was assured
that, a year or two before my arrival, Flimnap would infallibly have broke his neck, if one
of the king's cushions, that accidentally lay on the ground, had not weakened the force of
his fall.
There is likewise another diversion, which is only shown before the emperor and
empress, and first minister, upon particular occasions. The emperor lays on the table three
fine silken threads of six inches long; one is blue, the other red, and the third green. These