Gulliver journeys to Luggnagg posing as a Dutchman, but he is discovered and imprisoned. The King sends for Gulliver, and we learn about the King's idiosyncrasies. He requires those who have an audience with him to advance on their hands and knees and lick the floor. When a courtier is out of favor, the King sprinkles poison on the floor. (Sometimes after this ritual, Gulliver notes, the pages forget or carelessly neglect to sweep the floor. Such carelessness is fatal.) Gulliver follows the custom and, as a result of his willingness to answer questions posed by the King, Gulliver is invited to stay three months as a guest.
Swift takes another slash at the Dutch by having Gulliver imprisoned merely because the Luggnaggians think that he is Dutch. He then unmasks the vanity of kings and the subservience of courtiers, using his usual technique of making abstractions concrete. He illustrates the subservience that the King demands and courtiers render by the ceremony of crawling and licking the floor. The moral — and physical — dangers of such subservience is shown by the poison on the floor. The King's mercy also falls under Swift's attack; the pages go "mercifully" unpunished for their occasional carelessness.
fortnight a period of two weeks.
custom-house officer an agent in a building or office where customs or duties are paid and ships are cleared for entering or leaving.