Слике страница
PDF
ePub

and,

some

suggested that I should try my hand at
some Yankee Pastorals, which would
admit of more sentiment and a higher
tone without foregoing the advantage
offered by the dialect. I have never
completed anything of the kind, but,
in this Second Series, both my remem-
brance of his counsel and the deeper
feeling called up by the great interests
at stake, led me to venture some pas-
sages nearer to what is called poetical
than could have been admitted without
incongruity into the former series. The
time seemed calling to me, with the old
poet,
“Leave, then, your wonted prattle,

The oaten reed forbear;
For I hear a sound of battle,

And trumpets rend the air !" The only attempt I had ever made at anything like a pastoral (if that may be called an attempt which was the result almost of pure accident) was in “The Courtin'.” While the introduction to the First Series was going through the press, I received word from the printer that there was a blank page left which must be filled. I sat down at once and improvised another fictitious “notice of the press," in which, because verse would fill up space more cheaply than prose, I inserted an extract from a supposed ballad of Mr. Biglow.

I kept no copy of it, and the printer, as directed, cut it off when the gap was filled. Presently I began to receive letters asking for the rest of it, sometimes for the balance of it. I had none, but to answer such demands, I patched a conclusion upon it in a later edition. Those who had only the first continued to importune me. Afterward, being asked to write it out as an autograph for the Baltimore Sanitary Commission Fair, I added other verses, into some of which I infused a little more sentiment in a homely way, and after a fashion completed it by sketching in the characters and making a connected story. Most likely I have spoiled it, but I shall put it at the end of this Introduction, to answer once for ak those kindly importunings.

As I have seen extracts from what

purported to be writings of Mr. Biglow, which were not genuine, I may properiy take this opportunity to say, that the two volumes now published contain every line I ever printed under tha: pseudonyme, and that I have never, so far as I can remember, written an anonymous article (elsewhere than in the North American Review, and the Atlantic Monthly, during my editorship of it) except a review of Mrs. Stowe's “Minister's Wooing,” twenty years ago, a sketch of the antislavery movement in America for an English journal.

A word more on pronunciation. I have endeavored to express this so far as I could by the types, taking such pains as, I fear, may sometimes make the reading harder than need be. At the same time, by studying uniformity I have sometimes been obliged to sacrifice minute exactness. The emphasis often modifies the habitual soud. For example, for is commonly fer (a shorter sound than fur for far), but when emphatic it always becomes for, as “wut for?So too is pronounced like to (as it was anciently spelt), and to like ta (the sound as in the tou of touch), but too, when emphatic, changes into tue, and to, sometimes, in similar cases, into toe, as, “I did n'hardly know wut toe du !” Where vowels come together, or one precedes another following an aspirate, the two melt together, as was common with the older poets who formed their versification on French or Italian models. Drayton is thoroughly Yankee when he says “I'xpect," and Pope when he says "t inspire." With becomes sometimes 'ith, 'ůth, or 'th, or even disappears wholly where it comes before the, as, “I went along th' Square" (along with the Squire), the are sound being an archaism which I have no. ticed also in choir, like the old Scottish quhair. (Herrick has, “Of flowers ne'er sucked by th’ theeving bee.") Without becomes athout and 'thout. Afterwards always retains its locative s, and is pronounced always ahter: wurd's', with a strong accent on the last

syllable. This oddity has some support in the erratic towards' instead of to' wards, which we find in the poets and sometimes hear. The sound given to the first syllable of to' wards, I may remark, sustains the Yankee lengthening of the o in to. At the beginning of a sentence, ahterwurds has the accent on the first syllable ; at the end of one, on the last; as ah'terwurds he tol me," "he tol' me ahterwurd's'." The Yankee never makes a mistake in his aspirates. U changes in many words to e, always in such, brush, tush, hush, rush, blush, seldom in much, oftener in trust and crust, never in mush, gust, bust, tumble, or (?) flush, in the latter case probably to avoid confusion with flesh. I have heard flush with the ě sound, however. For the same reason, I suspect, never in gush (at least, I never heard it), because we have already one gesh for gash. A and i short frequently become e short.

U always becomes o in the prefix un (except unto), and o in return changes to u short in uv for of, and in some words beginning with om. T and d, nd de v and w, reinain intact. So much occurs to me in addition to what I said on this head in the preface to the former volume.

Of course in what I have said I wish to be understood as keeping in mind the difference between provincialisms properly so called and slang. Slang is always vulgar, because it is not a natural but an affected way of talking, and all mere tricks of speech or writing are offensive. I do not think that Mr. Biglow can be fairly charged with vulgarity, and I should have entirely failed in my design, if I have not made it

appear that high and even refined sentiment may coexist with the shrewder and more comic elements of the Yankee character. I believe that what is essentially vulgar and mean-spirited in politics seldom has its source in the body

the people, but much rather among those who are made timid by their wealth or selfish by their love of power. A democracy can afford much better than an aristocracy to follow out its

convictions, and is perhaps better quod ified to build those convictions on plain principles of right and wrong, rather than on the shifting sands of expediency. I had always thought Sam Slick" a libel on the Yankee character, and a complete falsification of Yankee modes of speech, though, for aught I know, it may be true in both respects so far as the British Provinces are concerned. To me the dialect was native, was spoken all about me when a boy, at a time when an Irish day-laborer was as rare as an American one now.

Since then I have made a study of it so far as opportunity allowed. But when I write in it, it is as in a mother tongue, and I am carried back far beyond any studies of it to long-ago noonings in my father's hay-fields, and to the talk of Sam and Job' over their jug of blackstrap under the shadow of the ash-tree which still dapples the grass whence they have been gone so long.

But life is short, and prefaces should be. And so, my good friends, to whom this introductory epistle is addressed, farewell. Though some of you have remonstrated with me, I shall never write any more “Biglow Papers," however great the temptation, - great especially at the present time, – unless it be to complete the original plan of this Series by bringing out Mr. Sawin as an

original Union man.” The very favor with which they have been received is a hindrance to me, by forcing on me a self-consciousness from which I was entirely free when I wrote the First Series. Moreover, I am no longer the same careless youth, with nothing to do but live to myself, my books, and my friends, that I was then.

I always hated politics, in the ordinary sense of the word, and I am not likely to grow fonder of them, now that I have learned how rare it is to find a man who can keep principle clear from party and personal prejudice, or can conceive the possibility of another's doing so. feel as if I could in some sort claim to be an emeritus, and I am sure that political satire will have full justice done it by that genuine and delightful bumorist, the Rev. Petroleum V. Nasby. I regret that I killed off Mr. Wilbur so soon, for he would have enabled me to brilig into this preface a number of learned quotations, which must now go a-begging, and also enabled me to dispersonalize myself into a vicarious egotism. He would have helped me also in clearing myself from a charge which I shall briefly touch on, because my friend Mr. Hughes has found it needful to defend me in his preface to one of the English editions of the “Biglow Papers.”. I thank Mr. Hughes heartily for his friendly care of my good name, and were his Preface accessible to my readers here (as I am glad it is not, for its partiality makes me blush), I should ieave the matter where he left it. The charge is of profanity, brought in by persons who proclaimed African slavery of Divine institution, and is based (so far as I have heard) on two passages in the First Series, –

“An' you've gut to gît up airly,

Ef you want to take in Cod," and,

“God 'll send the bill to you," and on some Scriptural illustrations dy Mr. Sawin.

Now, in the first place, I was writing under an assumed character and must talk as the person would whose mouthpiece I made myself. Will any one familiar with the New England countryman venture to tell me that he does not speak of sacred things familiarly? That Biblical allusions (allusions, that is, to the single book with whose language, from his church-going habits, he is intimate) are not frequent on his lips? If so, he cannot have pursued his studies of the character on so many long-ago muster-fields and at so many cattle-shows as I. But I scorn any such line of defence, and will confess at once that one of the things I am proud of in my countrymen is (I am not speaking now of such persons as I have assumed Mr. Sawin to be) that they do not put their Maker away far from them, or interpret the fear of God inio being afraid of Him. The Tal

mudists had conceived a deep truth when they said, that “all things were in the power of God, save the fear of God”; and when people stand in great dread of an invisible power,

I

suspect they mistake quite another personage for ihe Deity. "I might justify myself for the passages criticised by many parallel ones from Scripture, but I need not. The Reverend Homer Wilbur's note-books supply me with three apposite quotations. The first is from a Father of the Roman Church, the second from a Father of the Anglican, and the third from a Father of Modern Eng. lish poetry. The Puritan divines would furnish me with many more such. St. Bernard says, Sapiens nummularius est Deus : nummum fictum non recipiet; A cunning money-changer is God : he will take in no base coin." Latimer says, “You shall perceive that God, by this example, shaketh us by the noses and taketh us by the ears.' Familiar enough, both of them, one would say ! But I should think Mı. Biglow had verily stolen the last of the two maligned passages from Dryden's “Don Sebastian," where I find “And beg of Heaven to charge the bill on

ine!

And there I leave the matter, being willing to believe that the Saint, the Martyr, and even the Poet, were 33 careful of God's honor as my critics are ever likely to be.

J. R. L.

THE COURTIN'. God makes sech nights, all white aa'

still Fur 'z you can look or listen, Moonshine an' snow on field an' hill,

All silence an' all glisten. Zekle crep' up quite unbeknown

An' peeked in thru' the winder, An' there sot Huldy all alone,

'Ith no one nigh to hender. A fireplace filled the room 's one side

With half a cord o' wood in

[ocr errors]

There warn't no stoves (tell comfort

died) To bake ye to a puddin'.

The wa'nut logs shot sparkles out

Towards the pootiest, bless her, An' leetle flames danced all about

The chiny on the dresser. Agin the chimbley crook-necks hung,

An' in amongst 'em rusted
The ole queen's-arm thet gran’ther

Young
Fetched back from Concord busted.

“ Wal

no....

The very room, coz she was in,

Seemed warm from floor to ceilin', An' she looked full ez rosy agin

Ez the apples she was peelin'. 'T was kin' o' kingdom-come to look

On sech a blessed cretur,
A dogrose blushin' to a brook

Ain't modester nor sweeter.

He was six foot o' man, A 1,

Clean grit an' human natur'; None could n't quicker pitch a ton

Nor dror a furrer straighter.

She heered a foot, an' knowed it tu,

A-raspin' on the scraper, All ways to once her feelins flew

Like sparks in burnt- up paper. He kin' o' l'itered on the mat,

Some doubtfie o' the sekle,
His heart kep' goin' pity-pat,

But hern went pity Zekle.
An' yit she gin her cheer a jerk

Ez though she wished him furder,
An' on her apples kep' to work,

Parin' away like murder. “ You want to see my Pa, I s'pose ?"

I come da signin' To see my Ma? She 's sprinklin'

clo'es Agin to-morrer's i'nin'." To say why gals acts so or so,

Or don't, 'ould be presumin'
Mebby to mean yes an' say no

Comes nateral to women.
He stood a spell on one foot fust,

Then stood a spell on t'other,
An' on which one he felt the wust

He could n't ha' told ye nuther. Says he, “I'd better call agin” ;

Says she, “ Think likely, Mister". Thet last word pricked him like a pin, An' ....

Wal, he up an' kist her. When Ma bimeby upon 'em slips,

Huldy sot pale ez ashes,
All kin' o'smily roun' the lips

An' teary roun' the lashes.
For she was jes' the quiet kind

Whose naturs never vary, Like streams that keep a summer mind

Snowhid in Jenooary. The blood clost roun' her heart felt

glued Too tight for all expressin', Tell mother see how metters stood,

And gin 'em both her blessin'. Then her red come back like the tide

Down to the Bay o’ Fundy, An' all I know is they was cried

In meetin' come nex' Sunday.

[ocr errors]

He'd sparked it with full twenty gals, Hed squired 'em, danced 'em, druv

'em, Fust this one, an’then thet, by spells –

All is, he could n't love 'em.
But long o' her his veins 'ould run

All crinkly like curled maple,
The side she breshed felt full of sun

Ez a south slope in Ap’il.
She thought no v'ice hed sech a swing

Ez hisn in the choir ; My! when he made Ole Hunderd ring,

She knowed the Lord was nigher. An' she'd blush scarlit, right in prayer,

When her new meetin'-bunnet Felt somehow thru' its crown a pair

O' blue eyes sot upon it. Thet night, I tell ye, she looked some !

She seemed to 've gut a new soul, For she felt sartin-sure he'd come,

Down to her very shoe-sole.

L

THE BIGLOW PAPERS.

No. I.

BIRDOFREDUM SAWIN, ESQ.,

TO MR. HOSEA BIGLOW.

LETTER FROM THE REVEREND HOMER

WILBUR, M, A., ENCLOSING THE EPISTLE AFORESAID.

say not this

*

*

But

JAALAM, 15th Nov., 1861.

* It is not from any idle wish to obtrude my humble person with undue prominence upon the publick view that

resume my pen upon the present occasion. Juniores ad labores. having been a main instrument in rescuing the talent of my young parishioner from being buried in the ground, by giving it such warrant with the world as could be derived from a name already widely known by several printed discourses (all of which I may be permitted without immodesty to state have been deemed worthy of preservation in the Library of Harvard College by my esteemed friend Mr. Sibley), it seemed becoming that I should not only testify to the genuineness of the following production, but call attention to it, the more as Mr. Biglow had so long been silent as to be in danger of absolute oblivion. I insinuate no claim to any share in the authorship (vix ea nostra voco) of the works already published by Mr. Biglow, but merely take to myself the credit of having fulfilled toward them the office of taster (experto crede), who, having first tried, could afterward bear witness (credenzen it was aptly named by the Germans), an office always arduous,

and sometimes even dangerous, as in the case of those devoted persons who venture their lives in the deglutition of patent medicines (dolus latet in generalibus, there is deceit in the most of them) and thereafter are wonderfully preserved long enough to append their signatures to testimonials in the diurnal and hebdomadal prints. I as covertly glancing at the authors of certain manuscripts which have been submitted to my literary judgment (though an epick in twenty-four books on the “Taking of Jericho" might, save for the prudent forethought of Mrs. Wilbur in secreting the same just as I had arrived beneath the walls and was beginning a catalogue of the various horns and their blowers, too ambitiously emulous in longanimity of Homer's list of ships, might, I say, have rendered frustrate any hope I could entertain vacare Musis for the small remainder of my days), but only the further to secure myself against any imputation of unseemly forthputting. will barely subjoin, in this connexion, that, whereas Job was left to desire, in the soreness of his heart, that his adversary had written a book, as perchance misanthropically wishing to indite a review thereof, yet was not Satan allowed so far to tempt him as to send Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar each with an unprinted work in his wallet to be submitted to his censure. But of this enough. Were I in need of other excuse, I might add that I write by the express desire of Mr. Biglow himself, whose entire winter leisure is occupied, as he assures me, in answering demands for autographs,

« ПретходнаНастави »