THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS
Jonathan Swift is one of the best satirist of English literature. He belongs to the 18th century England. He is always remembered for his ‘A Tale of a Tub’, ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ and ‘The Battle of the Books’. All these satires earned wide acclaim. In these three satires, he vehemently satirised the follies and vices of the life of the time. The political, religious and literary controversies are treated as major themes in these satires. His satires are full of imagination, inventiveness and rhetorical skill.
‘The Battle of the Books’ is written on the famous controversies on the relative matters of the ancient writers. In this controversy Swift took the side of Sir William Temple, his patron. Temple favoured the merits of the ancients. Bentley and Wotton challenged Temple's views. The battle started. In this battle the author favoures the ancient writers.
Swift has given this controversy a shape of satire. This controversy is the major theme of ‘The Battle of the Books’. This beautiful satire deals with five incidents. The first of the five incidents form the main body of the satire. This incident deals with the dispute between the ancients and the moderns for the write to live on the highest peak of Parnassus. This has been treated in allegorical manner. The second part of this incident takes a serious turn. In a corner of the St. James Library the battle among the books takes place. This incident has been treated in mock- heroic manner.
The second incident concerns the episode of the spider and the bee. The spider is the symbol of the moderns and the bee represents the ancients. With the help of this fable Swift wants to say that like spiders the moderns put forth dirt. Like bees the ancients spread honey and sweetness. Thus here Swift has proved the superiority of the ancients. Later on the satirist presents the picture of the battlefield. Both the groups stand against each other. The battle starts. These groups use all sorts of weapons. On the one side there are Pollas, Homer, Pindar, Euclid, Aristotle and Plato. Bacon, Dryden and some others are on the other side. At last the ancients win the battle.
Thus ‘The Battle of the Books’ is full of criticism and satire. But it is rarely bitter. It is fluent and witty. Swift has regarded the moderns as spiders and the ancients as bees.