Dean Swift: The Satirist and his Faith

A Symposium on Jonathan Swift and Christianity, St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, October 19 2002

Swift and the Idea of the Primitive Church

Anne Barbeau Gardiner (City University of New York)

Prof. Gardiner, whose works on John Dyden include Ancient Faith and Modern Freedom (1998), is a leading authority on the religious struggles of the age as context for later 17th- century literature in English.

Despite his use of a variety of disguises and tones of voice, Swift is consistent in what he writes about Christianity. The reason is that he grounds what he says on his idea of the Primitive Church, that is, the Church of the Apostles. This is not just a Church lost in the haze of antiquity, but also one manifested in the past century in the days of William Laud and William Sancroft. It is not surprising that Swift looks back to the 17th century for his points of reference in writing on religion, because he grew to manhood in that century, and the religious struggles of the 1640s, the 1680s, and the 1690s are what shaped his world.

Writing in 1726, Swift equates the Church of Laud with the Primitive Church when he accuses those who defend the Puritans of the 1640s of holding an opinion "utterly contrary" to both the "doctrine of Christ and his apostles" and to "the preaching and practice" of the "true professors" of the Church of England for "above a hundred years." With the phrase "the doctrine of Christ and his apostles," he points to the Primitive Church, and with the phrase "the true professors" of the Church for "above a hundred years," he points to Laud as the standard of his Church. He joins the Primitive to the Laudian as the antithesis of Puritanism, for his phrase "a hundred years" take us back only to the Caroline Church. Again, writing in 1733, he asks whether the Church of Laud, especially the "best" of the clergy did not suffer as "primitive Christians": "Were not all the remainders of the episcopal Church in those days, especially the clergy, under a persecution for above a dozen years, equal to that of the primitive Christians under heathen emperors?" He equates the Puritan regim to the reigns of Nero and Diocletian.

In the "Ode to Sancroft," Swift honors this Archbishop with the title, "Primitive Sancroft." He addresses him as "original mildness," too, the word original being a synonym for primitive. Sancroft is "Primitive" for two apparently contradictory actions: first for being one of the greatest sticklers when the Catholic King attempted to revoke the Test Acts in the 1680s, and then for refusing to take the new oath to his successors William and Mary in the 1690s. Swift compares Sancroft's exemplary suffering to what Jesus Christ his "almighty master" suffered when the same crowds that acclaimed him "Son of God" soon afterwards "pronounced his death." Sancroft went from the Palm Sunday of June 1688, when crowds acclaimed him on the way to the Tower for resisting James II, to the Good Friday of the 1690s, when the same crowds turned on him in a "rage" for resisting King William:

None e'er but you,
And your almighty master, knew
With heavenly peace of mind to bear
(Free from our tyrant-passions, anger, scorn, or fear)
The giddy turns of popular rage,
And all the contradictions of a poisoned age... (113-8).

What Swift says about Sancroft here applies to other deprived high-churchmen of the 1690s. He declares that only fools think "holy SANCROFT's motion" was "irregular" or that he contradicted himself by resisting both kings. These fools stare at the "weathercock of state" standing on the church steeple, he explains, and as they grow "giddy" they imagine that the Church, not the weathervane, is spinning round.

In this startling image Swift gives us Lilliput in a nutshell: he pictures the State insofar as it meddles with the Church as a tiny weathervane on top of a great solid edifice. The Church is gigantic because it is Primitive for it was long believed that the human race had diminished in size as it degenerated in virtue while the State is a miniscule weathervane on its pinnacle because it is modern. He makes a similar point when he says that Henry VIII put to death Thomas More, "a person of the greatest virtue this kingdom ever produced, for not directly owning him to be head of the Church." If More was the best Englishman who ever lived and he refused to acknowledge the king's new supremacy in religion, then it follows that Henry was wrong to make this innovation in the Church. Swift elsewhere calls Henry a "monster and tyrant" for robbing the clergy of "at least two-thirds of their legal possessions," and he charges his Tudor successors Edward and Elizabeth (but not Mary) with continuing this "rapine," which ended only with the advent of the Stuarts. In the "Ode to Sancroft," he asks plaintively:

... why the church is still led blindfold by the state?
Why should the first be ruined and laid waste,
To mend the dilapidations in the last? (177-9)

Clearly Swift is not Erastian. He believes the State can only hinder the Church from following its original laws; it cannot give the Church new laws. In his eyes, More, Laud, and Sancroft are "Primitive" because they suffered to keep the State from imposing innovations on the Church.

Swift no longer finds the lineaments of Primitive Christianity in the visible Church of his own day. In the Argument against Abolishing Christianity, he speaks of a recent fall from the "real Christianity" of "primitive times" he means the "primitive times" of Laud and Sancroft to the "nominal" Christianity of 1708. To restore the "real" thing, he says, would require digging up "foundations," a word that implies the Primitive Church is still there, buried under ground. He complains of "bishops of the Whig species" in a Preface to Burnet's History, and, in the "Ode to Sancroft," of "wild reformers" who have stripped the current Church of "every ornament and grace":

Some angel say, what were the nation's crimes,
That sent these wild reformers to our times;
Say what their senseless malice meant,
To tear Religion's lovely face;
Strip her of every ornament and grace,
In striving to wash off the imaginary paint.... (245-50)

He also finds that in the twenty years since "the late Revolution, men have sat much looser in the true fundamentals both of religion and government" and in parliament the "enemies to the clergy [have been] heard with the utmost applause." This has led to atheism: "the trade of infidelity" is taken up as "an expedient to keep in countenance that universal corruption of morals," "blasphemy is freely spoken a million of times in every coffeehouse and tavern," and contempt shown for priesthood on the stage. The loss of beauty in worship has led to the loss of fidelity.

Alluding to Christ's promises, Swift remarks that "The Church is supposed to last forever, both in its discipline and doctrine," but this means that it must "observe the laws" of its "foundation." His word foundation again points to the Primitive or Apostolic Church below ground, for St Paul called Christianity an edifice "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets" (Eph 2:20). As a way of digging up this hidden foundation, Swift urges Queen Anne to put a Laudian stress on public worship and require officeholders to attend weekly services and communicate four times a year. He sees the English of his day as fallen as far below their forefathers of a thousand years ago as hell is from heaven, for in his "Ode to Sancroft" he exclaims, "Ah, Britain, land of angels! Which of all thy sins ... / Has given thee up a dwelling place to fiends?" With the phrase "land of angels" he refers to Venerable Bede's account of how Pope St Gregory the Great, on meeting English youths in Rome, had exclaimed, "not Angles, but Angels," and promptly sent St Augustine to convert their nation.

Gulliver's Travels, which starts in 1699, opens with a picture of the Church of England grown miniscule in stature. Swift calls it "a declining church" in the "Ode to Sancroft," and here it is, only six feet long, just on a par with the weathervane State. When Gulliver comes to Lilliput, he is tied by a chain he could easily break to this "ancient Temple," which has been stripped of all its "Ornaments and Furniture" by "the Zeal of those People" and turned "to common Use." One of the first things Gulliver does is to crawl into the Temple as far as his six-foot chain allows and defecate at the East end, right in the sanctuary where the holy table once stood. Such an action had been done in the past by men who regarded the sacrament as an idol. Swift's point is that an ordinary Englishman at the start of the 18th century is as nonchalantly sacrilegious as any rabid iconoclast of an earlier time. Gulliver defends himself from being unclean, but not from being sacrilegious. By using the word zeal to explain how the Temple was stripped bare, Swift hints at a new surge of Calvinism in the 1690s.

However, in the first voyage also blames Anglicans and Catholics for the ruined Church of 1700. He tells of a century-long quarrel between the Little Endians and the Big Endians, during which one king was killed and another banished, meaning Charles I and James II. In the 17th-century the egg was an emblem of the Eucharist in that it remains the same on the outside while turning to meat on the inside. The quarrel over whether the egg should be broken at the big or little end represents the controversy between Catholics and Anglicans over the modus of the Real Presence whether this Presence be only within the soul of the receiver at communion (the smaller end), or also in the sacrament of the altar and thus received bodily at communion (the bigger end).

Swift regards this quarrel as having opened the way to rampant sacrilege. He remarks that the same "litigious vein" had "stopped the progress of Christianity" in the time of Duns Scotus. In one of his sermons, he warns that the modus of a mystery should not be discussed, because God requires us "to believe mysteries, while the reason or manner of what we are to believe is above our comprehension." We are to accept a mystery simply as a fact: "God himself hath pronounced the fact, but wholly concealed the manner." It is an either-or proposition: "either believe what God directly commands us" or "wholly reject the Scripture." In his letter to a young clergyman, he warns that it weakens "orthodoxy" to try to explain "the mysteries of the Christian religion," since God himself cannot explain them without giving us those "new powers or faculties of the mind" which he reserves for eternity.

The first point to be noted here is that Swift finds no analogy between the natural and the supernatural. He is a sceptic about the power of language or theological argument to defend the revealed mysteries. Thus, in the "Ode to Sancroft" he mocks at the "artillery of words" that will never "satisfy the doubt," for there is no way, he insists, "To judge of things above by things below." One has to make a leap of faith. Apart from Scripture, he finds the "best resemblance" of eternal Truth on earth in a holy man like Sancroft, whom he calls "the brightest pattern earth can show / Of heaven-born truth below" (52-3).

A second point is that Swift sees the quarrel between the Church of England and the Church of Rome in the 16th and 17th centuries as scandalous because he believes they agreed on the essential point, that there is an egg to be broken, that there is a Real Presence of Christ's Body in the Sacrament. Here he follows Laud, who at his trial said that Catholics differed from the Church of England only about the "means of Christ's presence in the sacrament, a question of mere circumstance, but both accounted that Presence to be a point fundamental." Swift gives a clue about where he stands on the Lord's Supper when he uses the words bread and wine for the Presbyterian Church, but the word elements for his own: he says, "their manner of taking bread and wine in their conventicles, is performed with little more solemnity than at their common meals. And ... they look upon our practice in receiving the elements, to be idolatrous." This word elements was the one Richard Hooker had used to define a sacrament, saying that when the "word" is added to the "elements" at the holy table the result is the "sacrament." Another clue is that Swift defends kneeling for communion, a posture Presbyterians long objected to as idolatry; he says kneeling obliges people to say "their prayers when they receive the Sacrament." A third clue is that Swift used to bow to the holy table, a practice for which Laud had been condemned.

On the other hand, the Real Presence appears to have been for him a purely interior encounter with Christ's body at the moment of communion, for he denied passionately that the Eucharistic Test for public office could result in profanation of the Sacrament if the candidate happened to be wicked or unbelieving. He insisted that receiving communion was no different than taking an oath: "For an oath is an act of religious worship as well as the Eucharist." Just as the words of an oath cannot be desecrated by a liar, so neither can the sacrament by the unworthy receiver. The implication is that the Real Presence occurs only within the soul at communion. Yet the charge of sacrilege in the Test upset him; he returned to it several times, at one point insisting that men are assumed to receive "the sacrament" in "their own church; and if not, are hardly fit for an office." Thus he argued that the blame for sacrilege, if any, would fall on the receiver. In addition to this, Swift usually included Transubstantiation when he listed the Church of Rome's "errors," but like the Laudians, he did not condemn it as idolatry.

In Tale of a Tub Swift depicts the Primitive Church as three Brothers endowed by their dying Father with two legacies: a Will and a Coat that will never decay and always fit their changing bodies. The Brothers represent national churches that are equal branches of the universal Church. Laud had a similar conception when he wrote that the Church of Rome and the Church of England were two "daughters" or "particular churches" dwelling within a "great universal house," namely the "Catholic Church which is spread over the face of the earth." Swift uses the same word house for the universal Church when he has the Father admonish the Brothers to "live together in one House." This is a reference to John 17, where Christ prays that his disciples may "be one." The Will is the Scripture, and the three Coats represent the visible worship of the Primitive Church. The Brothers receive exterior Coats, not an interior assurance of election, because for Swift the Church requires public worship involving creed and sacrament. In this he resembles Laud, who saw the "outward profession of Christianity, and the administration of the sacraments" as the Church's main concern.

Just as Christ promises the gates of Hell will not prevail against his Church (Mt 16:18), so the Father in Swift's Tale promises that the original Coats will remain fresh and sound "as long as you live." In one of his sermons, Swift declares that "those mysteries held by us . . . have been ever maintained by the universal body of true believers from the days of the apostles, and will be so to the resurrection; neither will the gates of hell prevail against them." The word he uses mysteries includes both Creed and Sacrament. Like Laud, Swift faults the Church of Rome for making unnecessary additions to the mysteries, but he does not accuse it of breaking with the Primitive Church. In Tale of a Tub, Peter's original Coat the foundation of Primitive worship is completely hidden under all the ornaments, but it remains intact. It is Presbyterian Jack who, from iconoclastic zeal against all ornaments, tears his Coat apart and thus loses his foundation in the Primitive Church. Thus, Swift shows Jack to have lost the basis of Christianity.

In his prose writings on religion, Swift often uses the word fundamental. This word does not mean the same thing as primitive but it is closely related. Where primitive means apostolic, fundamental means universal or catholic. At one point, Swift states that bishops are of "divine and apostolic institution," and then asks if they are not also "a fundamental point of religion." Elsewhere he defines fundamental as what has been "universally received by all bodies of Christians since the condemnation of Arianism under Constantine and his successors." Hence, involves the "tenets" held by virtually all Christians since the 5th century the Greeks, the Orientals, and the Latins. These "tenets," he asserts, "have been held inviolable, almost in all ages, by every sect that pretend to be Christian; and cannot, therefore, with any colour of reason, be called points in controversy, or matters of speculation, as some should pretend." Note well his phrase "almost in all ages." He implies that the tenets of the 5th century are not Primitive or apostolic, but he puts them beyond dispute because they are deduced from the Primitive and have been held continuously by the universal Church.

Swift observes that "to remove opinions fundamental in religion is impossible, and the attempt wicked, whether those opinions be true or false; unless your avowed design be to abolish that religion altogether." Note well his phrase true or false; it betrays his discomfort with 5th-century deductions from the Primitive. Elsewhere he traces the decline of Christianity to the early use of philosophical language in theology: "I believe that thousands of men would be orthodox enough in certain points, if divines had not been too curious, or too narrow, in reducing orthodoxy within the compass of subtleties, niceties, and distinctions, with little warrant from Scripture and less from reason or good policy." He faults even the Athanasian Creed for "some nice and philosophical points which few people can comprehend" and which were meant only to confute the Arian heretics, "very subtle disputers." Even so, he goes all the way back to the 5th century to defend the rights of clergy in the matter of tithes: "Let any scholar show the like precedent in Christendom for twelve hundred years past." If tithes are not Primitive or "of Divine original," he argues, they are "at least of great antiquity." They are thus sacrosanct because universally deduced in antiquity from the Primitive Church.

While he dates the fundamentals of Christianity to the 5th century, Swift dates "Popery" only to the 8th, which means he does not include in this category Pope St Gregory the Great, who sent St Augustine to convert the Angles and Saxons around 600 A.D. Writing in 1733, he declares, "As to Popery in general, which for a thousand years past hath been introducing and multiplying corruptions both in doctrine and discipline; I look upon it to be the most absurd system of Christianity professed by any nation." If we subtract a thousand from 1733, we come close to the Second Nicene Council of 787 AD, the seventh general council. Swift claims that "Popery" arose a millenium before his own day, not before Luther's, and he calls Popery a "system of Christianity" professed by a "nation," as the Laudians did, not an Anti-Christian religion. As fore the Second Nicene Council, John Tillotson, who was Archbishop of Canterbury after Sancroft, said this council marked the fall of the Greek Church into idolatry: there "the Doctrine of the corporal presence of Christ was first started upon occasion of the Dispute about the Worship of Images."

In Tale of a Tub, the speaker who tells the history of the general councils from a Presbyterian point of view like Marvell's depicts the 8th-century council as the one where all three Brothers fell by consensus into idolatry and stopped consulting their Father's Will. They convened for this council to decide whether to add images to their Coats. At first they were stopped by an express prohibition in the Will, that is, the Second Commandment against graven images, but then they agreed to make a distinction that would allow them to use images, that is, a distinction between an image and its prototype. After the council the Brothers agree to lock up the Will, or prohibit the translation of Scripture into vulgar tongues.

The result is that one Brother begins to dominate the other two. And now, suddenly, the Brothers acquire names, for up to this point, they have lived nameless in one House and convened to make joint decisions about adding ornaments to their Coats. In the next council, which represents the Lateran Council of 1215, Peter, who stands for Innocent III, tells his Brothers they must believe, against sensory evidence, that the loaf they are having for Supper is a joint of lamb. Tillotson made this argument against Transubstantiation in the 1680s, appealing to the senses of taste, sight, and smell, although no one had actually claimed that the Real Presence was a miracle perceptible to the senses. It is doubtful that Swift, who warns against a philosophical or reductive approach to the mysteries, would go along with Tillotson.

What Swift probably means by the rise of "Popery" in the 8th century is the start of Peter's dominion over his Brothers, for he believes firmly in the equality of bishops and of national churches. He would not condemn Second Nicene, as the speaker of the Tale does, for encouraging religious art. Far from being an iconophobe, Swift compares those who stripped the English churches of their artistic treasures in the 1640s to "some vast army of Turks or heathens" sent "on purpose to ruin and blot out all marks of Christianity." In the third Voyage of Gulliver's Travels, he also shows the Dutch merchants as much greater sticklers than the Japanese for making foreign visitors trample the crucifix. His point is that European iconoclasts have a much greater hatred of Christian images, which they condemn as idols, than non-Christians do. Swift plainly rejects the view that religious images are idols, for he calls what the Puritans destroyed in the 1640s "the most innocent ornaments both within and without" the Church. He laments that they spared "neither the statues of saints, nor ancient prelates, nor kings, nor benefactors" and broke "the tombs and monuments of men famous in their generations." Thus he shares the Laudian idea that Christian images are innocent, and yet, since he includes the "worship of images" in his list of Rome's errors, he probably means images that are only historical reminders, not ikons inviting to prayer.

One notes that the Brobdingnagians giants representing Primitive innocence (albeit tainted by the Fall) have a Church such as Laudians would approve of. Gulliver reports that their Temple is "adorned on all Sides with Statues of Gods and Emperors cut in Marble larger than the Life, placed in their several Niches." Another clue to Swift's personal appreciation of images in that, despite "severe criticism," he is said to have restored some monuments of earlier ages at St Patrick's, such as Tregury's gravestone.

Swift shows the three Brothers wearing their Coats down through the centuries: this indicates that Christianity has had an unbroken visibility, a lawful succession of bishops from the Primitive Church to the present. This succession is both Primitive (or apostolic) and fundamental (or catholic), for when he observes that to "remove opinions fundamental" causes the abolition of a religion, he gives as an example the Puritans of the 1640s who "succeeded" in the "extirpation of the Church" by removing bishops, "the whole system of spiritual government, established in all Christian nations, and of apostolic institution."

When we look closely at Swift's pamphlets defending the rights of clergy, we realize that he has a sacramental view of orders closely connected to his idea of the Primitive Church. He emphasizes that the clergy has always had "powers and employments different from the laity": they alone from the age of the apostles to the Reformation had the right to pray and preach in churches and to administer the Lord's Supper. Writing against Matthew Tindal, who sees no difference between priest and layman, Swift declares: "you alter the whole method from what it was at first. We see bishops: There always were bishops: It is the old way still. So a family is still held the same, although we are not sure of the purity of every one of the race." In this passage, he argues that the lack of purity in any age has not stopped the succession of bishops and priests: it is "the old way still," he says, the same "method" followed as "at first." His phrases old way and at first point to the Primitive "laying on of the apostles' hands," as in Acts 8:18. In another place he says plainly that "the government of bishops" was "ordained by the apostles themselves" and "continued without interruption, in all Christian churches, for above fifteen hundred years." His "fifteen hundred years" takes us from the Apostles to the Reformation.

In his Quaeries Swift asks pointedly whether bishops be not "essential" to "conferring holy orders." In his refutation of Tindal, he answers that they are. He explains that Christianity was first received in England as a "subordination of ecclesiastics, bishops, priests, and deacons." So from the start, bishops were "set apart" for their function by other bishops, while "presbyters and deacons" were "differently set apart, always by the bishops." His phrase set apart means separated from the laity. Swift sees priests and bishops in the Church of England as lineally descended from the bishops of the pre-Reformation Church. While he blames medieval popes, monks and friars for wrongdoing, he defends the bishops of those times: "For the bishops were no tyrants: Their power was swallowed up by the Popes, and the people desired they should have more. It were the regulars that tyrannized and formed priestcraft."

When Swift affirms that there is not "so pure a religion as ours," he means that the national Church is closest to the Primitive in its worship. For in Tale of a Tub, he says the Coats the three Brothers received were originally "very plain, and with little or no ornament." In short, they received a creed and sacraments untouched by philosophical explanations. In Tale of a Tub, Martin comes closest to this simplicity when he removes the additions to his Coat without damaging the fundamental fabric. He stops removing ornaments at the 5th century, at the time when there was a universal consensus about Christian worship, before the iconoclasm arose. But Presbyterian Jack continues to rip off ornaments in the hope of getting back to an apostolic state and ends up destroying the Primitive foundation of his worship. Elsewhere Swift speaks of "rites and ceremonies, and forms of prayer" as the "ornaments" of a Church. Thus he includes a rite such as the Lord's Supper under this symbol of "ornaments." Martin's cautious paring down of his Coat represents how some national Churches the Lutherans and the Laudians retained the Lord's Supper almost unchanged in word and action.

Swift contends that since the worship received by "princes and states" at the end of antiquity was "deduced from Christ and His apostles, and the instructions of the purest and earliest ages," this amounts to the ancient constitution of the national Church. The fundamentals received then remain now "as a divine law" and cannot be "justly altered or annulled," he warns, "any more than the common laws of nature." He defends the rights of the clergy by calling their convocations "an original part of our constitution ever since Christianity became national among us." Whatever the Church had in late antiquity is still its legal "patrimony." For this reason he refers more than once to the clergy's "ancient legal rights" and "ancient legal dues," and claims for the clergy "an older title" to tithes than any layman to his estate. While he approves of Henry VIII's rejecting papal authority, he disapproves of his doing it to commit "sacrilege, in which no tyrant, since Christianity became national, did ever equal him by many degrees." His phrase "since Christianity became national" recalls the Church established in 600 AD. Henry's "misapplying" of tithes to "secular persons" Swift finds "a most flagrant act of injustice and oppression" because it violates the original constitution of that Church.

In Swift's view the best way to keep the Primitive Church as the foundation of national Churches is for these to join into a Catholic or Universal Church. He is not afraid to use the phrase Catholic Church to denote a Church spread throughout the world, in which the national Churches would be equal branches. He pointedly defends his use of the term by saying: "Nor to me does there seem anything contradicting, or improper in this notion of the Catholic Church; and for want of such a communion, religion is so much corrupted." Note his word corrupted. He explains that the "necessity" of the Church's "being a corporation all over the world" is to "avoid heresies, and preserve fundamentals, and hinder corrupting of Scripture." A national Church can go astray, but not a universal Church. Swift thinks such a worldwide communion might be inaugurated if bishops of independent national Churches would meet together all on the same footing. He compares this council of the universal Church to the assembling of "colleges in a university," which are "independent, yet, joined, are one body." But in his scheme, such a "body politic of the Church" spread through the "whole world" would have no Pope, no "visible head to have recourse to."

Just as the Father in Tale of a Tub commands his sons to live in one house, so, Swift reminds us, "our Saviour" in his last instructions urged brotherly love on his disciples. The "primitive Christians" at first "propagated the faith by their strict observance of that instruction." Swift finds the present divisions of Christiandom a pressing concern, and thinks we ought at least to desire a Primitive unity to want "to be able to communicate with all Christians we come among" and to promote this intercommunion "as much as we can." Yet he remains doubtful it will ever come to pass: "That there might be a perfect union in the whole Christian Church, is a blessing which every good man wishes, but no reasonable man can hope." Still, he casts a kindly eye on Charles Leslie's scheme of reunion between the Gallican and the Anglican Churches. Evidently, he could live with French Catholicism, even with all its added tenets and rites, as long as it were ruled by bishops alone.

At the start of the first voyage, Gulliver defecates in the sanctuary of the Temple to which he is bound. At the start of the fourth voyage, the Yahoo elders go up a tree, or pulpit, and defecate on Gulliver because he has attacked them with a sword for no reason except that he dislikes the way they look. In this last episode, Swift takes us into the not-too-distant future when atheism will have gained the upper hand in Britain. The Horse was an emblem of philosophical atheism, based on a line of interpretation of Psalm 32:19, "Be ye not as the horse, which has no understanding." Donne has an entire sermon on that verse and theme. Gulliver's unprovoked attack on the Yahoo elders represents a modern hatred of the clergy about which Swift complains, but in Houynhnmland he shows it being carried to the extreme limit. The Yahoos, who bear the name of Yahweh and are his people, represent the Church after it has been trampled for a couple of generations under the hoof of atheists. It is now reduced to Primitive silence again and its members, who are seen as vicious and dangerous, are slated for extermination. The fourth voyage is a dark parable revealing Swift's profound fear of what is in store for Christianity at the start of the Enlightenment. His response to widespread blasphemy and hatred of the clergy, as he tells us in his "Ode to Sancroft," is to put on "anger" and "spite" and go off to battle with his pen,

To make them understand, and feel me when I write;
The muse and I no more revenge desire,
Each line shall stab, shall blast, like daggers and like fire.... ( 86-91)


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