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by halves. Here is a man from Italy who goes on fighting, not like Witherington, upon his stumps, but fairly after he is dead.
“ Nor yet perceived the vital spirit fled,
Common sense is somewhat shocked at this single instance of an individual fighting after he is dead; but we shall, doubtless, be reconciled to the idea by the example of a gallant and modern commander, who has declared his opinion, that nothing is more feasible than for a garrison to fight, or at least to surrender, after they are dead, nay, after they are buried.— Witness this public document.
Liberty and Equality. “ May 29th, ? 30th Floreal, 6. s
Garrison of Ostend. Muscar, commandant of Ostend, to the commandant in chief of his British majesty.
“ General, “ The council of war was sitting when I received the honour of your letters. We have unanimously resolved not to surrender the place until we shall have been buried in its ruins,” &c.
One step further in hyperbole is reserved for him, who, being buried, carries about his own sepulchre.
“ Il pover uomo che non sen' era accorto,
“ To live a life half dead, a living death,
No person, if he heard this passage for the first time from the lips of an Irishman, could hesitate to. call it a series of bulls; yet these lines are part of the beautiful complaint of Samson Agonistes on his blindness. . Such are the hyperboles sanctioned by the genius, or, what with some judges may have more influence, the name of Milton. The bounds which separate sublimity from bombast, and absurdity from wit, are as fugitive as the boundaries of taste. Only those who are accustomed to examine and appraise literary goods are sensible of the prodigious change that can be made in their apparent value by a slight change in the manufacture. The absurdity of a man's swearing he was killed, or declaring that he is now dead in a ditch, is revolting to common sense; yet the living death of Dapperwit, in the “ Rape of the Lock,” is not absurd, but witty; and representing men as dying many times before their death is in Shakspeare sublime:
“ Cowards die many times before their death ;
The most direct contradictions in words do not (in English writers) destroy the effect of irony, wit, pathos, or sublimity.
In the classic ode on Eton College, the poet exclaims
“ To each their sufferings, all are men
Condemned alike to groan;
Th' unfeeling for their own.”
Who but a half-witted dunce would ask how those that are unfeeling can have sufferings ? When Milton in melodious verse inquires
what Zoilus shall dare interrupt this flow of poetry to object to the palpable obscure, or to ask how feet can wander upon that which has no bottom ?
It is easy, as Tully has long ago observed, to fix the brand of ridicule upon the verbum ardens of orators and poets—the “ Thoughts that breathe, and words that burn."
As we have not hitherto been successful in finding original Irish bulls in language, we must now look for them in conduct. A person may be guilty of a solecism without uttering a single syllable—"That man has been guilty of a solecism with his hand,” an ancient critic said of an actor, who had pointed his
hand upwards when invoking the infernal gods “ You may act a lie as well as speak one,” says Wollaston. Upon the same principle, the Irish may be said to act, as well as to utter bulls. We shall give some instances of their practical bulls, which we hope to find unmatched by the blunders of all other nations. Most people, whether they be savage or civilized, can contrive to revenge themselves upon their enemies without blundering; but the Irish are exceptions. They cannot even do this without a bull. During the late Irish rebellion, there was a banker to whom they had a peculiar dislike, and on whom they had vowed vengeance: accordingly they got possession of as many of his bank-notes as they could, and made a bonfire of them! This might have been called a feu de joie, perhaps, but certainly not un feu d'artifice ; for nothing could show less art than burning a banker's notes in order to destroy his credit. How much better do the English understand the arts of vengeance! Captain Drinkwater* informs us, that during the siege of Gibraltar, the English, being half famished, were most violently enraged against the Jews, who withheld their stores of provision, and made money of the public distress -a crime never committed except by Jews : at length the fleet relieved the besieged, and as soon as the fresh provisions were given out, the English soldiers and sailors, to revenge themselves upon the Jews, burst
open their stores, and actually roasted a pig at
* See his account of the siege of Gibraltar.
a fire made of cinnamon. There are other
persons, as well as the Irish, who do not always understand their own interests where their passions are concerned. That great warrior, Hyder Ali, once lost a battle by a practical bull. Being encamped within sight of the British, he resolved to give them a high idea of his forces and of his artillery; for this purpose, before the engagement,* he ordered his army to march early, and conveying some large pieces of cannon to the top of a hill, he caused them to be pointed at the English camp, which they reached admirably well, and occasioned a kind of disorder and haste in striking and removing tents, &c. Hyder, delighted at having thus insulted the English, caused all his artillery, even the very smallest pieces, to be drawn
up the hill for the purpose of making a vain parade, though the greater part of the balls could never reach the English: he imagined he should give the enemy a high idea of his forces, and intimidate them by showing all his artillery, and the vivacity with which it was worked ; and in order that his intention might be answered, he encouraged the soldiers himself, by giving 'money to the cannoneers of those pieces that appeared to be the best served.
The English presently, after this farce was over, obliged Hyder to come down from labour-in-vain hill, and to give them battle in earnest. As the historian observes, “ The ridiculous cannonade at the
* Life of Hyder Ali Khan, vol. ii. p. 231.