Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

wrote at the Deepdene. I well remember her bringing it down at breakfast and reading it to us, and my impression is that she had then just composed it.”

A RIDDLE.

'Twas in heaven pronounced, and 'twas mutter'd in hell,
And echo caught faintly the sound as it fell;
On the confines of earth 'twas permitted to rest,
And the depths of the ocean its presence confess'd;
'Twill be found in the sphere when 'tis riven asunder,
Be seen in the lightning and heard in the thunder.
'Twas allotted to man with his earliest breath,
Attends him at birth, and awaits him in death,
Presides o'er his happiness, honour, and health,
Is the prop of his house, and the end of his wealth.
In the heaps of the miser 'tis hoarded with care,
But is sure to be lost on his prodigal heir.
It begins every hope, every wish it must bound,
With the husbandınan toils, and with monarchs is crownd.
Without it the soldier, the seaman may roam,
But woe to the wretch who expels it from home!
In the whispers of conscience its voice will be found,
Nor e'en in the whirlwind of passion be drown'd.
'Twill not soften the heart; but though deaf be the ear,
It will make it acutely and instantly hear.
Yet in shade let it rest, like a delicate flower,

Ah! breathe on it softly-it dies in an hour. Now for another riddle—a charade—which my fair friends shall have the pleasure of discovering for themselves.

Inscribed on many a learned page,
In mystic characters and sage,

Long time my First has stood;
And though its golden age be past,
In wooden walls it yet may last

Till clothed in flesh and blood.
My Second is a glorious prize
For all who love their wandering eyes

With curious sights to pamper;
But 'tis a sight-which should they meet,
All'improviso in the street,

Ye gods | how they would scamper !
My tout 's a sort of wandering throne,
To women limited alone,

The Salique law reversing ;
But while the imaginary queen
Prepares to act this novel scene,

Her royal part rehearsing,
O'erturning her presumptuous plan,
Up climbs the old usurper-man,
And she jogs after as she can.

It is not often that so trifling a subject has been rendered so graceful and so pleasant as in the following pleadings of two initials, C. versus K.

EPISTLE TO EARL HARCOURT,
On his wishing her to spell her name of Catherine with a K.

And can his antiquarian eyes
My Anglo-Saxon C despise ?
And does Lord Harcourt, day by day,
Regret the extinct initial K?
And still, with ardour unahated,
Labour to get it reinstated ?
I know, my lord, your generous passion
For every long-explored fashion,
And own the Katherine you delight in
Looks irresistibly inviting,
Appears to bear the stamp and mark
Of English used in Noah's Ark:
“But all that glitters is not gold,"
Nor all things obsolete are old.
Would you but take the pains to look
In Doctor Johnson's quarto book
(As I did, wishing much to see
The aforesaid letter's pedigree),
Believe me t would a tale unfold
Would make your Norman blood run cold.
My lord, you'll find the K's no better
Than an interpolated letter-
A wandering Greek, a franchised alien,
Derived from Cadmus or Deucalion,
And, why or wherefore none can tell,
Inserted 'twixt the I and L
The learned say our English tongue
On Gothic beams is built and hung:
Then why the solid fabric piece
With motley ornaments from Greece ?
Her lettered despots had no bowels
For Northern consonants and vowels ;
The Norman and the Greek grammarian
Deemed us and all our words barbarian,
Till those hard words and harder blows
Had silenced all our haughty foes,
And proud they were to kiss the sandals
(Shoes we had lone) of Goths and Vandals.

*
But since our Saxon line we trace
Up to this all-subduing race,
Who from their “sole dominion” hurled
The giants of the ancient world,
Their boasted languages confounding,

[ocr errors]

*

And with such mortal gutturals wounding,
That Greek or Latin fell or fled,
And soon were numbered with the dead;
Befits it us, so much their betters,
To spell our names with conquered letters ?
And shall they rise and prate again,
Like Falstaff from among the slain ?
A licence quite of modern date
Which no long customs consecrate;
For since this K, of doleful sound,
First set his foot on British ground,
'Tis not, as antiquaries know,
A dozen centuries ago.
That darling theme of English story,
For learning famed and martial glory,
Alfred, who quelled the usurping Dane,
And burst indignant from his chain;
Who slaves redeemed to reign o'er men,
Changing the falchion for the pen,
Alfred, whom yet these realms obey,
In all his kingdom owned no K,
From foreign arms and letters free,
Preserved his Cyngly dignity,
And wrote it with a Saxon C.

*
But grant this specious plea prevailing,
And all my legal learning failing,
There yet remains so black a charge,
Not only 'gainst the K's at large,
But the individual K in question,
You'd tremble at the bare suggestion,
Nor ever more a wish reveal
So adverse to the public weal.
Dear gentle Earl, you little know
That wish might work a world of woe;
The ears that are unborn would rise
In judgment'gainst your lordship's eyes ;
The ears that are unborn would rue
Your letter patent to renew
The dormant dignity of shrew.
The K restored takes off the attainder,
And grants the title, with remainder
In perpetuity devised
To Katherines lawfully baptised.
What has not Shakespeare said and sung
Of our pre-eminence of tongue !
His glowing pen has writ the name
In characters of fire and flame;
Not flames that mingle as they rise
Innocuous with their kindred skies;
Some chemic lady-like solution,

Shown at the Royal Institution:
But such as still with ceaseless clamour,
Dance round the anvil and the hammer.
See him the comic muse invoking,
(The merry nymph with laughter choking,)
While he exhibits at her shrine
The unhallowed form of Katherine;
And there the Gorgon irnage plants, —
Palladium of the termagants.
He formed it of the rudest ore
That lay in his exhaustless store,
Nor from the crackling furnace drew,
Which still the breath of genius blew,
Till (to preserve the bright allusion)
The mass was in a state of fusion.
Then cast it in a Grecian mould,
Once modelled from a living scold;
When from her shelly prison burst
That finished vixen, Kate the curst.
If practice e'er with precept tallies,
Could Shakespeare set down aught in malice?
From Nature all his forms he drew
And held the mirror to her view;
And if an ugly wart arose,
Or freckle upon Nature's nose,
He flattered not the unsightly flaw,
But marked and copied what he saw;
Strictly fulfilling all his duties
Alike to blemishes and beauties :
So that in Shakespeare's time 'tis plain
The Katherines were scolds in grain,
No females louder, fiercer, worse.
Now contemplate the bright reverse ;
And say amid the countless names
Borne by contemporary dames, -
Exotics, fetched from distant nations,
Or good old English appellations, --
Names hunted out from ancieut books,
Or found ʼmid dairy-maids and cooks,
Genteel, familiar, or pedantic,
Grecian, Roman, or romantic,
Christian, Infidel or Jew,
Heroines, fabulous or true,
Ruths, Rebeccas, Rachels, Sarahs,
Charlottes, Harriets, Emmas, Claras,
Auroras, Helens, Daphnes, Delias,
Martias, Portias and Cornelias,
Nannys, Fanuys, Jennys, Hettys,
Dollys, Mollys, Biddys, Bettys,
Sacharissas, Melusinas,
Dulcibellas, Celestinas, -
Say is there one more free from blame,
One that enjoys a fairer fame,

One more endowed with Christian graces
(Although I say it to our faces,
And flattery we don't delight in),
Than Catherine at this present writing ?
Where then can all the difference be ?
Where but between the K and C ?
Between the graceful curving line
We now prefix to atherine,
Which seems to keep in mild police,
Those rebel syllables in peace,
Describing in the line of duty
Both physical and moral beauty.
And th:t impracticable K
Who led them all so much astray ?
Was never seen in black and white
A character more full of spite !
That stubborn back, to bend unskilful,
So perpendicularly wilful !
With angles hideous to behold
Like the sharp elbows of a scold,
In attitude, when words shall fail
To fight their battles tooth and pail.

In page the first you're sagely told That * all that glitters is not gold;" Fain would I quote one proverb more,

N'éveillez pas le chat qui dort.” Here some will smile as if suspicious The simile was injudicious, Because in CAT they trace Alliance with the feline race. But we the name alone inherit, C has the letter, K the spirit; And woe betide the man who tries, Whether or no the spirit dies ! Though dormant long, it yet survives With its full complement of lives ; The nature of the beast is still To scratch and claw if not to kill; For royal cats to low-born wrangling Will superadd the gift of strangling. Witness in modern times the fate Of that unhappy potentate, Who from his palace near the Polc Where the chill waves of Neva roll, Was snatched, while yet alive and merry, And sent on board old Charon's ferry, The Styx he traversed execrating A Katherine of his own creating.

In evil hour this simple Czar,
Impelled by some malignant star,

« ZurückWeiter »