Графични страници
PDF файл

ingenious devices. I have communicated this thought to a young poetical lover of my acquaintance, who intends to present his mistress with a copy of verses made in the shape of her fan; and, if he tells me true, has already finished the three first sticks of it. He has likewise promised me to get the measure of his mistress's marriage finger, with a design to make a poesy in the fashion of a ring which shall exactly fit it. It is so very easy to enlarge upon a good hint, that I do not question but my ingenious readers will apply what I have said to many other particulars ; and that we shall see the town filled in a very little time with poetical tippets, handkerchiefs, snuff-boxes, and the like female ornaments. I shall therefore conclude with a word of advice to those admirable English authors who call themselves Pindario writers, that they would apply themselves to this kind of wit without loss of time, as being provided better than any other poets with verses of all sizes and dimensions.


No. 59. TUESDAY, MAY 8.

Operosè nihil agunt.

Busy about nothing.

There is nothing more certain than that every man would bo a wit if he could, and, notwithstanding pedants of pretended depth and solidity are apt to decry the writings of a polite author, as flash and froth, they all of them shew upon occasion that they would spare no pains to arrive at the character of those whom they seem to despise. For this reason we often find them endeavouring at works of fancy, which cost them infinite pangs ir the production. The truth of it is, a man had better be a gal


ley-slave than a wit, were one to gain that title by those elabo rate trifles which have been the inventions of such authors as were often masters of great learning, but no genius. In my

last I mentioned some of these false wits among the ancients, and in this shall give the reader two or three other species of them that flourished in the same early ages of the world. The first I shall produce are the Lipogrammatists, or letter-droppers of antiquity, that would take an exception, without any reason, against some particular letter in the alphabet, so as not to admit it once into a whole poem. One Tryphiodorus was a great master in this kind of writing. He composed an Odyssey, or epic poem, on the adventures of Ulysses, consisting of four-and-twenty books, having entirely banished the letter A from his first book, which was called Alpha (as lucus a non lucendo) because there was not an Alpha in it. His second book was inscribed Beta, for the same reason. In short, the poet ex. cluded the whole four-and-twenty letters in their turns, and showed them, one after another, that he could do his business without them.

It must bave been very pleasant to have seen this pout avoiding the reprobate letter, as much as another would a false quantity, and making his escape from it through the several Greek dialects, when he was pressed with it in any particular syllable. For the most apt and elegant word in the whole language was rejected, like a diamond with a flaw in it, if it appeared blemished with a wrong letter. I shall only observe upon this head, that if the work I have here mentioned had been now extant, the Odyssey of Tryphiodorus, in all probability, would have been oftener quoted by our lea ned pedants, than the Odyssey of Homer. What a perpetual fund would it have been of obsolete words and phrases, unusual barbarisms and rusticities, absurd spellings and complicated dialects! I make no question but it


would have been looked upon as one of the most valuable treasuries of the Greek tongue.

I find, likewise, among the ancients that ingenious kind of conceit, which the moderns distinguish by the name of a Rebus, that does not sink a letter, but a whole word, by substituting a picture in its place. When Cæsar was one of the masters of the Roman mint, he placed the figure of an elephant upon the reverse of the public money; the word Cæsar signifying an elephant in the Punic language. This was artificially contrived by Cæsar, because it was not lawful for a private man to stamp his own figure upon the coin of the commonwealth. Cicero, who was so called from the founder of his family, that was marked on the nose with a little wen like a vetch' (which is cicer in Latin) in. stead of Marcus Tullius Cicero, ordered the words Marcus Tullius, with the figure of a vetch at the end of them to be inscribed on a public monument. This was done probably to shew that he was neither ashamed of his name or family, notwithstanding the envy of his competitors had often reproached him with both. In the same manner we read of a famous building that was marked in several parts of it with the figures of a frog and a lizard : those words in Greek having been the names of the architects, who by the laws of their country were never permitted to inscribe their own names upon their works. For the same reason it is thought, that the forelock of the horse in the antique-equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, represents at a distance the shape of an owl,' to intimate the country of the statuary, who, in all probapility, was an Athenian. This kind of wit was very much in

1 Addison follows Plutarch in his etymology of Cicer, which Pliny; with lar more probability, attributes, like the names of the Fabii, Lentuli, &c., to the reputation their families had acquired for the cultivation of those plants. V. Pliny Hist. Nat. 18, 3, 1; and Middleton, Life of Cicero, v. 1, 0 7.-G. % V. vol. 2d, p. 161. Note.-G.

VOL. V.- -8

vogue among our own countrymen about an age or two ago, who did not practise it for any oblique reason, as the ancients above. mentioned, but purely for the sake of being witty. Among in. numerable instances that may be given of this nature, I shall produce the device of one Mr. Newberry, as I find it mentioned by our learned Camden in his remains. Mr. Newberry, to represent his name by a picture, hung up at his door the sign of a yew-tree, that had several berries upon it, and in the midst of them a great golden N hung upon a bough of the tree, which by the help of a little false spelling made up the word New-berry.

I shall conclude this topic with a Rebus, which has been lately hewn out in free-stone, and erected over two of "hi portals of Blenheim house, being the figure of a monstrous lion tearing to pieces a little cock. For the better understanding of which device, I must acquaint my English reader, that a cock has the misfortune to be called in Latin by the same word that signifies a French-man, as a lion is the emblem of the English nation. Such a device in so noble a pile of building, looks like a pun in an heroic poem; and I am very sorry the truly ingenious architect would suffer the statuary to blemish his excellent plan with so poor a conceit; but I hope what I have said will gain quarter for the cock, and deliver him out of the lion's paw.

I find likewise in ancient times the conceit of making an echo mod sensibly, and give rational answers. If this could be ex cusable in any writer, it would be in Ovid, where he introduces the echo as a nymph, before she was worn away into nothing but a voice. The learned Erasmus, though a man of wit and genius, has composed a dialogue upon this silly kind of device, and made use of an echo, who seems to have been a very extraordinary linguist, for she answers the person she talks with in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, according as she found the syllables which she was to repeat in any of those learned languages Hudibras, in ridi. cule of this false kind of wit, has described Bruin bewailing the loss of his bear to a solitary echo, who is of great use to the poet in several distichs, as she does not only repeat after him, but helps cut his verse, and furnishes him with rhymes.

He raged, and kept as heavy a coil as
Stout Hercules for loss of Hylas;
Forcing the vallies to repeat
The accents of his sad regret;
He beat his breast, and tore his hair,
For loss of his dear crony Bear,
That Echo from the hollow ground
His doleful wailings did resound
More wistfully, by many times,
Than in small poets splay-foot rhymes,
That make her in their rueful stories,
To answer to int'rogatories,
And most unconscionably depose
Things of which she nothing knows:
And when she has said all she can say
'Tis wrested to the lover's fancy.
Quoth he, O whither, wicked Bruin,
Art thou fled to my -Echo, Ruin
I thought th’hadst scorn'd to budge a step
For fear-(Quoth Echo) Marry guep.
Am I not here to take thy part?
Then what has quell'd thy stubborn heart?
Have these bones rattled, and this head
So often in thy quarrel bled ?
Nor did I ever winch or grudge it,
For thy dear sake!-(Quoth she) Mum budget.
Think'st thou 'twill not be laid i' th' dish
Thou turnd'st thy back? quoth Echo, Pish.
To run from those th'hadst overcome

Thus cowardly ? quoth Echo, Mum, 1 Juvenis, Echo-Juvenis consults Echo about his studies, and Echo an. swers in Latin and Greek, but not in Hebrew. The young man asksQuid captant plerique, qui ambiunt sacerdotium? To which Echo replies - Otium. Præterea nihil habet sacerdos i asks the yout-Répdos. Juv.Decem jam annos trivi in Cicerone. Echo_"Ove. V. Erasm. Colloq. p. 32', & 28, Ed. Lond. 1727.-G,

« ПредишнаНапред »