What you have told me, (said my Master) upon the Subject of War, does indeed discover most admirably the Effects of that Reason you pretend to: However, it is happy that the Shame is greater than the Danger; and that Nature has left you utterly uncapable of doing much Mischief.
For your Mouths lying flat with your Faces, you can hardly bite each other to any Purpose, unless by Consent. Then as to the Claws upon your Feet before and behind, they are so short and tender that one of our Yahoos would drive a Dozen of yours before him. And therefore in recounting the Numbers of those who have been killed in Battle, I cannot but think that you have said the Thing which is not.
I could not forbear shaking my Head and smiling a little at his Ignorance. And being no Stranger to the Art of War, I gave him a Description of Cannons, culverins, Muskets, Carabines, Pistols, Bullets, Powder, Swords, Bayonets, Battles, Sieges, Retreats, Attacks, Undermines, Countermines, Bombardments, Sea-fights; Ships sunk with a Thousand Men, Twenty thousand killed on each Side; dying Groans, Limbs flying in the Air, Smoak, Noise, Confusion, trampling to Death under Horses Feet; Flight, Pursuit, Victory; Fields strewed with Carcases left for Food to Dogs, and Wolves, and Birds of Prey; Plundering, Stripping, Ravishing, Burning, and Destroying. And to set forth the Valour of my own dear Countrymen, I assured him, that I had seen them blow up a Hundred Enemies at once in a Siege, and as many in a Ship, and beheld the dead Bodies come down in pieces from the Clouds, to the great Diversion of the Spectators.
I was going on to more Particulars, when my Master commanded me Silence. He said, Whoever understood the Nature of Yahoos might easily believe it possible for so vile an Animal to be capable of every Action I had named, if their Strength and Cunning equalled their Malice. But as my Discourse had increased his Abhorrence of the whole Species, so he found it gave him a Disturbance in his Mind, to which he was wholly a Stranger before. He thought his Ears being used to such abominable Words, might by Degrees admit them with less Detestation. That although he hated the Yahoos of this Country, yet he no more blamed them for their odious Qualities, than he did a Gnnayh (a Bird of Prey) for its Cruelty, or a sharp Stone for cutting his Hoof. But when a Creature pretending to Reason, could be capable of such Enormities, he dreaded lest the Corruption of that Faculty might be worse than Brutality itself. He seemed therefore confident, that instead of Reason, we were only possessed of some Quality fitted to increase our natural Vices; as the Reflection from a troubled Stream returns the Image of an ill-shapen Body, not only larger, but more distorted.
He added, That he had heard too much upon the Subject of War, both in this, and some former Discourses.
Compare this passage with the description of warfare from Part 2 of the novel, focussing particularly on differences in language use.
What does it reveal about the way Swift portrays the shift in Gulliver’s attitudes through the novel?
What does it suggest about the attitude of the Houynhmhs towards humans?
The worksheet containing the passge from Part 2 is available here