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The parallelism of poetry has undergone very many changes, but there has generally been an inclination to assimilate it to the style of chants or ballad music. The forms adopted may be regarded as arbitrary—the rythmical tendency of the mind being largely influenced by established use and surrounding circumstances. We cannot see any reason why rhymes should be terminal—they might be at one end of the line as well as at the other. We might have
“ Early rose of Springs first dawn,
Pearly dewdrops gem thy breast,
But there are signs that all this pedantry, graceful as it is, will gradually disappear. Blank verse is beginning to assert its sway, and the sentiment in poetry is less under the domination of measure. No doubt the advance to this freer atmosphere will be slow, music has already adopted a wider harmony. Ballads are being superseded by part singing, and airs by sonatas.' The time will come when to produce a jingle at the end of lines will seem as absurd as the rude harmonies of Dryden and Butler now appear to us.
It would not be just to judge of the profanity of Byron by the standard of the present day.
We have seen that two centuries since parodies which to us would seem distasteful, if not profane, were written and enjoyed by eminent men. Probably Byron, a man of wide reading had seen them, and thought that he too might tread on unforbidden ground and still lay claim to innocence. The periodicals and collections of the time frequently published objectionable imitations of the language of Scripture and of the Liturgy, evidently ridiculing the peculiarities inseparable from an old-fashioned style and translation. In the “Wonderful Magazine" there was “ The Matrimonial Creed,” which sets forth that the wife is to bear rule over the husband, a law which is to be kept whole on pain of being “scolded everlastingly."
A litany supposed to have been written by a nobleman against Tom Paine, was in the following style.
THE POOR MAN'S LITANY. "From four pounds of bread at sixteen-pence price, And butter at eighteen, though not very nice, And cheese at a shilling, though grawed by the mice,
Good Lord deliver us !”. The “ Chronicles of the Kings of England,” by Nathan Ben Sadi were also of this kind, parodies on Scripture were used at Elections on both sides, and one on the Te Deum against
Napoleon had been translated into all the European langauges. But a most remarkable trial took place in the year 1817, that of William Hone for publishing profane parodies against the Government. From this we might have hoped that a better taste was at length growing up, but Hone maintained that the prosecution was undertaken on political grounds, and that had the satires been in favour of the Government nothing would have been said ageinst them. He also complained of the profanity of his accuser, the Attorney-General, who was perpetually “taking the Lord's name in vain” during his speech. Some parts of Hone's publications seem to have debased the Church Services by connecting them with what was coarse and low, but the main objeet was evidently to ridicule the Regent and his Ministers, and this view led the jury to acquit him. Still there was no doubt that his satire reflected in both ways. His Catechism of a Ministerial member commenced
Question. What is your name?
Ans. My Sureties to the Ministry in my political change, wherein I'was made a member of the majority, the child of corruption, and a locust to devour the good things of this kingdom.
The supplications in his Litany were of the following kind
“O Prince! ruler of thy people, have mercy upon us thy miserable subjects.”
Some of Gillray's caricatures would not now be tolerated, such as that representing Hoche ascending to Heaven surrounded by Seraphim and Cherubim-grotesque figures with red nightcaps and tri-coloured cockades having books before them containing the Marseillaise hymn. In another Pitt was going to heaven in the form of Elijah, and letting his mantle drop on the King's Ministers.
It must be admitted that there is often a great difficulty in deciding whether the intention was to ridicule the original writing or the subject treated in the Parody. A variety of circumstances may tend to determine the question on one side or the other, but regard should especially be had as to whether any imperfection in the original is pointed out. The fault may he only in form, but in the best travesties the sense and subject are also ridiculed, and with justice.
Such was the aim in the celebrated “Rejected Addresses," and it was well carried out. This work now exhibits the ephemeral character of humour, for, the originals having fallen into obscurity, the imitations afford no amusement. But we can still appreciate a few, especially the two respectively commencing :“My brother Jack was nine in May,
And I was eight on New Year's day;
So in Kate Wilson's shop,
And brother Jack a top." ....
Fall damp as wet blankets on Drury Lane fire ?
And give the gay spirit to sparkling desire. “Let artists decide on the beauties of Drury,
The richest to me is when woman is there;
The fairest to me is the house of the fair.” The point in these will be recognised at once, as Wordsworth and Moore are still well known.