PART III. A VOYAGE TO LAPUTA, BALNIBARBI, LUGGNAGG, GLUBBDUBDRIB, AND JAPAN.
5. CHAPTER V.
I saw another at work to calcine ice into gunpowder; who likewise
showed me a treatise he had written concerning the malleability of
fire, which he intended to publish.
There was a most ingenious architect, who had contrived a new
method for building houses, by beginning at the roof, and working
downward to the foundation; which he justified to me, by the like
practice of those two prudent insects, the bee and the spider.
There was a man born blind, who had several apprentices in his own
condition: their employment was to mix colours for painters, which
their master taught them to distinguish by feeling and smelling.
It was indeed my misfortune to find them at that time not very
perfect in their lessons, and the professor himself happened to be
generally mistaken. This artist is much encouraged and esteemed by
the whole fraternity.
In another apartment I was highly pleased with a projector who had
found a device of ploughing the ground with hogs, to save the
charges of ploughs, cattle, and labour. The method is this: in an
acre of ground you bury, at six inches distance and eight deep, a
quantity of acorns, dates, chestnuts, and other mast or vegetables,
whereof these animals are fondest; then you drive six hundred or
more of them into the field, where, in a few days, they will root
up the whole ground in search of their food, and make it fit for
sowing, at the same time manuring it with their dung: it is true,
upon experiment, they found the charge and trouble very great, and
they had little or no crop. However it is not doubted, that this
invention may be capable of great improvement.
I went into another room, where the walls and ceiling were all hung
round with cobwebs, except a narrow passage for the artist to go in
and out. At my entrance, he called aloud to me, "not to disturb
his webs." He lamented "the fatal mistake the world had been so
long in, of using silkworms, while we had such plenty of domestic
insects who infinitely excelled the former, because they understood
how to weave, as well as spin." And he proposed further, "that by
employing spiders, the charge of dyeing silks should be wholly
saved;" whereof I was fully convinced, when he showed me a vast
number of flies most beautifully coloured, wherewith he fed his
spiders, assuring us "that the webs would take a tincture from
them; and as he had them of all hues, he hoped to fit everybody's
fancy, as soon as he could find proper food for the flies, of
certain gums, oils, and other glutinous matter, to give a strength
and consistence to the threads."