Слике страница

one in the rule of three inverse, to obtain precisely the thing required ; yet the untutored Irishman, without suspecting the necessity of this operose process, arrives at the solution of the problem by some short cut of his own, as he clearly evinces by the propriety of his metaphor. To be sure there seems some incongruity in his throwing this lump of a two year old calf at his adversary. No arm but that of Milo could be strong enough for such a feat. Upon recollection, however, bold as this figure may seem, there are precedents for its use.

“ We read in a certain author,” says Beattie, of a giant, who, in his wrath, tore off the top of the promontory, and flung it at the enemy; and so huge was the mass, that you might, says he, have seen goats browsing on it as it flew through the air." Compared with this, our orator's figure is cold and tame.

I outs with my bread-earner,” continues he.

We forbear to comment on outs with, because the intelligent critic immediately perceives that it has the same sort of merit ascribed to ups with. What our hero dignifies with the name of his bread-earner is the knife with which, by scraping shoes, he earned his bread. Pope's ingenious critic, Mr. Warton; bestows judicious praise upon the art with which this poet, in the Rape of the Lock, has used many “periphrases and uncommon expressions," to avoid mentioning the name of scissars, which would sound too vulgar for epic dignity-fatal engine, forfex, meeting points, &c. Though the metonymy of bread-earner for a shoeblack's knife may not equal these in elegance, it perhaps surpasses them in ingenuity.

I gives it him up to Lamprey in the bread-basket.*

Homer is happy in his description of wounds, but this surpasses him in the characteristic choice of circumstance. Up to Lamprey gives us at once a complete idea of the length, breadth, and thickness of the wound, without the assistance of the coroner. It reminds us of a passage in Virgil

“ Cervice orantis capulo tenus abdidit ensem."

Up to the hilt his shining falchion sheathed.”

Let us now compare the Irish shoeblack's metaphorical language with the sober slang of an English blackguard, who, fortunately for the fairness of the comparison, was placed somewhat in similar circumstances.

Lord Mansfield, examining a man who was a witness in the court of King's Bench, asked him what he knew of the defendant. “Oh, my lord, I knew him. I was up to him.Up to him!”

his lordship; “ what do

you mean by being up to him ? ' “ Mean, my lord ! why, I was down upon

[ocr errors]

him.Up to him, and down



his lordship, turning to counsellor Dunning, “ what does the fellow mean?”


# The stomach.

Why, I mean, my lord, as deep as he thought himself, I stagged him.

“I cannot conceive, friend," says his lordship, « what

you mean by this sort of language ; I do not understand it.”

Not understand it !” rejoined the fellow, with surprise : “ Lord, what a flat you must be !

Though he undervalued lord Mansfield, this man does not seem to have been a very bright genius. In his cant words, up to him, down upon him, stagged him," there are no metaphors; and we confess ourselves to be as great flats as his lordship, for we do not understand this sort of language.

“ True, no meaning puzzles more than wit,”

as we may see in another English example. Proverbs have been called the wisdom of nations, therefore it is fair to have recourse to them in estimating national abilities. Now there is an old English proverb, “ Tenterten steeple is the cause of Goodwin sands.”

“ This proverb,” says Mr. Ray, “is used when an absurd and ridiculous reason is given of any thing in question : an account of the original whereof I find in one of bishop Latimer's sermons in these words Mr. Moore was once sent with commission into Kent to try out, if it might be, what was the cause of Goodwin's sands, and the shelf which stopped up Sandwich haven. Thither cometh Mr. Moore, and calleth all the country before him, such as were thought to be men of experience, and men that could, of all likelihood, best satisfy him of the matter concerning the stopping of Sandwich haven. Among the rest came in before him an old man with a white head, and one that was thought to be little less than a hundred years old. When Mr. Moore saw this aged man, he thought it expedient to hear him say his mind in this matter (for being so old a man, it was likely that he knew the most in that presence or company); so Mr. Moore called this old aged man unto him and said, Father,' said he, tell me, if you can, what is the cause of the great arising of the sands and shelves hereabout this haven, which stop it up so that no ships can arrive here. You are the oldest man I can espy in all the company, so that if any man can tell any cause of it, you, of all likelihood, can say most to it, or, at leastwise, more than any man here assembled.'

Yea, forsooth, good Mr. Moore,' quoth this old man, 'for I am well nigh a hundred years old, and no man here in this company any thing near my age.”

“Well, then,' quoth Mr. Moore, how say you to this matter? What think you to be the cause of these shelves and sands which stop up Sandwich haven?'

“Forsooth, sir,' quoth he, “I am an old man, I think that Tenterten steeple is the cause of Goodwin's sands. For I am an old man, sir,' quoth he, 1

may remember the buildings of Tenterten steeple, and I may remember when there was no steeple at all there; and before that Tenterten or Tolterden steeple was in building, there was no manner of talking of any. Alats or sands that stopped up the haven, and therefore I think that Tenterten steeple is the cause of the decay and destroying of Sandwich haven.'” Thus far the bishop.

The prolix pertinacity with which this old aged man adheres to the opinion that he had formed, without

any intelligible reason, is characteristic of an English peasant; but however absurd his mode of judging may be, and however confused and incongruous his ideas, his species of absurdity surely bears no resemblance to an Hibernian blunder. We cannot even suspect it to be possible that a man of this slow, circumspect character could be in any danger of making an Irish bull ; and we congratulate the English peasantry and populace, as a body, upon their possessing that temper which

“Wisely rests content with sober sense,

Nor makes to dangerous wit a vain pretence.”

Even the slang of English pickpockets and coiners is, as we may see in Colquhoun's View of the Metropolis, free from all seducing mixture of wit and humour. What Englishman would ever have thought of calling persons in the pillory the babes in the wood ? This is a common cant phrase amongst Dublin repro

* This ancient old man, we fear, was more knave than fool. History informs us, that the bishop of Rochester had directed the revenue, appropriated for keeping Goodwin harbour in repair, to the purpose of building a steeple.-Vide Fuller's Worthies of England, page 65.

« ПретходнаНастави »