Swift, Gulliver and Japan

Depuis que je ne travaille plus dans le milieu du livre ancien, je commence de mettre à nouveau le nez dans les vieilles pages et acquisitions passées, d'aucunes m'ayant suivi dans mon périple nippon, depuis mon ancienne vie jusqu'à la présente.

Je redécouvris ainsi une part des écrits de Jonathan SWIFT, à travers un trio de volumes dépareillés d'une édition dublinoise des œuvres du malicieux écrivain. On ouvrit ce jour le volume troisième :
Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four parts [...] By Lemuel GULLIVER, first a Surgeon, and then a Captain, of several Ships. Dublin : Geo. Faulkner, 1794. (Pour mémoire écrit en 1721, publié tronqué en 1726, entier en 1735.)

Je passai un temps certain à feuilleter le volume, et m'arrêta la troisième partie du Voyage : Part III : A Voyage to Laputa, Balnabarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib, and Japan.

J'avais parfaitement oublié que ce cher Gulliver-Swift était le découvreur-inventeur de l'île flottante-volante de Laputa (dont Miyazaki s'inspira pour son film et dessin animé), avait passé un mois (mai 1709) au Japon (seul pays réel de ses vagabondages), et nous avait même laissé plusieurs cartes en souvenir.

Le premier contact du sieur Gulliver avec le Japon se fait par le truchement d'un pirate nippon qui, curieusement, prend sa défense et allège sa peine, lui évitant par-là même le désagrément de mourir de faim (III, i ; 149-150) :

« The largest of the two Pyrate Ships was commanded by a Japanese Captain, who spoke a little Dutch, but very imperfectly. He came up to me, and after several Questions, which I answered in great Humility, he said we should not die. I made the Captain a very low Bow, and then turning to the Dutchman, said, I was sorry to find more Mercy in a Heathen, than in a Brother Christian. But I had soon Reason to repent those foolish Words ; for that malicious Reprobate, having often endeavoured in vain to persuade both the Captains that I might be thrown into the Sea (which they would not yield to, after the Promise made me, that I should not die), however, prevailed so far, as to have a Punishment inflicted on me, worse, in all human Appearance, than Death itself. My Men were sent by an equal Division into both the Pyrate-Ships, and my Sloop new manned. As to myself, it was determined that I should be set a-drift in a small Canoe, with Paddles and a Sail, and four Days Provisions; which last, the Japanese Captain was so kind to double out of his own Stores, and would permit no Man to search me. I got down into the Canoe, while the Dutchman, standing upon the Deck, loaded me with all the Curses and injurious Terms his Language could afford. »

Et voici le petit passage truculent (III, xi ; 211-213) où l'on peut lire le relat de l'arrivée et des brèves aventures du sieur Gulliver sur le sol japonais, de son entrevue avec l'Empereur de Yedo, et comment il échappe à la cérémonie du piétinement du crucifix :

The Author leaves Luggnagg, and sails to Japan. From thence he returns in a Dutch ship to Amsterdam, and from Amsterdam to England.

I thought this Account of the Struldbrugs might be some Entertainment to the Reader, because it seems to be a little out of the common Way; at least I do not remember to have met the like in any Book of Travels that has come to my Hands : And if I am deceived, my Excuse must be, that it is necessary for Travellers who describe the same Country, very often to agree in dwelling on the same Particulars, without deserving the Censure of having borrowed or transcribed from those who wrote before them.

There is indeed a perpetual Commerce between this Kingdom and the great Empire of Japan ; and it is very probable, that the Japanese Authors may have given some Account of the Struldbrugs ; but my Stay in Japan was so short, and I was so entirely a Stranger to the Language, that I was not qualified to make any Enquiries. But I hope the Dutch, upon this Notice, will be curious and able enough to supply my Defects.

His majesty having often pressed me to accept some Employment in his Court, and finding me absolutely determined to return to my native Country, was pleased to give me his License to depart, and honoured me with a Letter of Recommendation, under his own Hand, to the Emperor of Japan. He likewise presented me with four hundred and forty-four large Pieces of Gold (this Nation delighting in even Numbers), and a red Diamond, which I sold in England for eleven hundred Pounds.

On the 6th of May, 1709, I took a solemn Leave of his Majesty, and all my Friends. This Prince was so gracious as to order a Guard to conduct me to Glanguenstald, which is a Royal Port to the South- West Part of the Island. In six Days I found a Vessel ready to carry me to Japan, and spent fifteen Days in the Voyage. We landed at a small Port-Town called Xamoschi, situated on the South-East Part of Japan; the Town lies on the Western Part, where there is a narrow Streight leading Northward into along Arm of the Sea, upon the North-West Part of which, Yedo the Metropolis stands. At landing, I shewed the Custom-house Officers my Letter from the King of Luggnagg to his Imperial Majesty : They knew the Seal perfectly well ; it was as broad as the Palm of my Hand. The Impression was, A King lifting up a lame Beggar from the Earth. The Magistrates of the Town, hearing of my Letter, received me as a publick Minister ; they provided me with Carriages and Servants, and bore my Charges to Yedo, where I was admitted to an Audience, and delivered my Letter, which was opened with great Ceremony, and explained to the Emperor by an Interpreter, who then gave me Notice, by his Majesty's Order, that I should signify my Request ; and, whatever it were, it should be granted, for the sake of his Royal brother of Luggnagg. This Interpreter was a Person employed to transact Affairs with the Hollanders. He soon conjectured, by my Countenance, that I was a European, and therefore repeated his Majesty's Commands in Low-Dutch, which he spoke perfectly well. I answered, as I had before determined, "that I was a Dutch Merchant, shipwrecked in a very remote Country, whence I had travelled by Sea and Land to Luggnagg, and then took shipping for Japan ; where I knew my Countrymen often traded, and with some of these I hoped to get an Opportunity of returning into Europe : I therefore most humbly entreated his Royal Favour, to give Order that I should be conducted in Safety to Nangasac. To this I added another Petition, that for the sake of my Patron the King of Luggnagg, his Majesty would condescend to excuse my performing the Ceremony imposed on my Countrymen, of trampling upon the Crucifix ; because I had been thrown into his Kingdom by my Misfortunes, without any Intention of trading. When this latter Petition was interpreted to the Emperor, he seemed a little surprised; and said, he believed I was the first of my Countrymen who ever made any Scruple in this Point; and that he began to doubt, whether I was a real Hollander, or no ; but rather suspected I must be a CHRISTIAN. However, for the Reasons I had offered, but chiefly to gratify the King of Luggnagg by an uncommon Mark of his Favour, he would comply with the Singularity of my Humour; but the Affair must be managed with Dexterity, and his Officers should be commanded to let me pass, as it were by Forgetfulness. For he assured me, that if the Secret should be discovered by my Countrymen, the Dutch, they would cut my Throat in the Voyage. I returned my Thanks by the interpreter for so unusual a Favour; and some Troops being at that Time on their March to Nangasac, the Commanding Officer had Orders to convey me safe thither, with particular Instructions about the Business of the Crucifix.

On the 9th Day of June, 1709, I arrived at Nangasac, after a very long and troublesome Journey. »

J'ai conservé, dans la transcription, l'usage péculier des majuscules et italiques, à fin de tenter de rendre, dans la mesure de ces faibles artifices, l'agrément et l'avantage de la lecture dans un volume d'époque, saine occupation malheureusement peu répandue parmi nos contemporains.

Je vous laisse sur ces inconséquentes considérations, espère que ce léger voyage en terre Gulliver vous distraya quelque peu, et attends vos réflexions éclairées !

2 commentaires:

Unknown a dit…

Il ne s'agit pas de réflexions éclairées, mais de remerciements.
Je travaille encore comme relieur, mais ça ne va pas durer.
En attendant de pouvoir un jour peut-être me rendre en personne en ce Japon qui me fascine, je découvre avec délices ce qu'il était au milieu du XXème siècle à travers le magnifique livre que Fosco Maraini lui a consacré.
J'aime effectivement à lire un texte dans une édition d'époque.
Et je suis tombé sur cette page en cherchant justement à voir si quelu'un ne vendrait pas un volume de Swift du XVIIIème. Je ne l'ai pas encore trouvé, mais je n'y renonce pas.
En attendant, je ne regrette pas du tout d'avoir fait halte sur cette page.

n a dit…

Voilà quelques mots qui font plaisir à lire.

Bon courage, et un seul avis, concernant le livre : continuer de chercher, car tout se trouve — ça dépend juste du prix qu'on est prêt à mettre !

Au plaisir.