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This poor Irish petitioner's expression, however preposterous it sounds, might perhaps be justified, if we were inclined to justify an Irishman by the example, not only of poets comic and tragic, but of prose writers of various nations. The evidence in favour both of the fact and the belief that people can speak and walk after they are dead is attested by stout warriors and grave historians. Let us listen to the solemn voice of a princess, who comes sweeping in the sceptred hall of gorgeous tragedy to inform us that half herself has buried the other half:
“Weep, eyes; melt into tears these cheeks to lave:
One half myself lays t'other in the grave."*
For six such lines as these Corneille received six thousand livres and the admiration of the French court and people during the Augustan age of French literaiure. But an Italian is not content with killing 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.
o May 29th,6. }Garrison of Ostend. 30th Floreal6.
“Muscar, commandant of Ostend, to the commandantin-chief of his British majesty.
“ General, “ The council of war was sitting when I received the
* “ Pleurez, pleurez, mes ye et fondez vous en eau,
La moitié de ma vie a mis l'autre au tombeau." "Il pover uomo che non sen' era accorto, Andava combattendo ed era morto."
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:
“ To live a life half-dead, a living death,
Myself my sepulchre, a moving grave!" 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 brave can never taste of death but once." The most direct contradictions in words do not (on 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
Condemn'd alike to groan;
Th' un feeling 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,
“Who shall tempt with wandering feet
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
See his account of the siege of Gibraltar.
the public distress,-a crime never committed except by Jews: at length the feet 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 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 niarch 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 viracity with which it was worked ; and in order that his intention might be answered, he encouraged the soldiers himself, by giving money to the cannoniers 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 top of the hill had exhausted his animunition, his great guns were useless to him, and he lost the day by his premature rejoicings before the battle.” A still more ancient precedent for this preposterous practical bull, of rejoicing for an anticipated victory, was given by Xerxes, we believe, who brought with him an immense block of marble, on which he intended to inscribe the date and manner of his victory over the Greeks. When Xerxes was defeated, the Greeks dedicated this stone to Nemesis, the goddess of vengeance. But Xerxes was in the habit of making practical bulls,-such as whipping the
* Life of Hyder Ali Khan, vol. ii. p. 231
sea, and begging pardon for it afterward; throwing fetters into the Hellespont as a token of subjugation, and afterward expiating his offence by an offering of a golden cup and Persian scimitar.
To such blunders can the passions betray the most renowned heroes, although they had not the misfortune to have been born in Ireland.
The impatience which induced Hyder Ali to anticipate victory is not confined to military men and warlike operations; if we descend to common life and vulgar business, we shall find the same disposition even in the precincts of 'Change-alley: those who bargained for South Sea stock that was not actually forthcoming were called bears, in allusion to the practice of the hunters of bears in Canada–who were accustomed to bargain for the skin of the bear before it was caught,-but whence the correlative term bull is derived we are at a loss to determine, and we must also leave it to the mercantile speculators of England to explain why gentlemen call themselves bulls of wheat and bulls of coals: all we can say is, that these are not Irish bulls. There is one distinguishing peculiarity of the Irish bull,—its horns are tipped with brass.* It is generally supposed that persons who have been dipped in the Shannont are ever afterward endowed with a supernatural portion of what is called by enemies impudence or assurance, by friends self-possession or civil courage. These invulnerable mortals are never oppressed with mauvaise honte,-that malady which keeps the faculties of the soul under imaginary imprisonment. A well-dipped Irishman, on the contrary, can move, speak, think, like Demosthenes, with as much ease when the eyes of numbers are upon him as if the spectators were so many cabbagestocks. This virtue of civil courage is of inestimable value in the opinion of the best judges. The great Lord Verulam-no one, by-the-by, could be a better judge of its value than he who wanted it so much-the great Lord Verulam declares that if he were asked what is the first, second, and third thing necessary to success in public business, he should answer boldness, boldness, boldness. Success to the nation which possesses it in perfection! Bacon was too acute and candid a philosopher not to acknowledge, that, like all the other goods • Bee the advice of Cleomenes to Crius.-HERODOTUS ERATO. * It is said that the waters of the Garonne are famed for a similar virtue