Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

who, in the same age, annexed to the become riddles. But Cheops and Cerealms of human knowledge large conti- phrenes are still heard of in books. This nents of thought, wherein "the whole great unstable globe is perpetually turnmind may orb about;" and, in contem- ing on its trunnions, and hurrying everyplation of whose great works, we may thing around towards the shady side of truly say that, in that fortunate age, earthly oblivion ; but books, like ranges other New Worlds were explored besides of mountains, are the last objects that America. It is a peculiar glory of Eliza- cease to reflect the light of one age to beth that those intellectual discoverers the eyes of another. Bacon says, of were her cotemporaries, and that she en- libraries, that they are “the shrines couraged and rewarded them. Many where all the relics of the ancient saints, other sovereigns, intensely occupied with full of true virtue, and that without dethe active affairs of empire, have de- lusion or imposture, are preserved and spised studious men, forgetting that all reposed." And sometimes, on opening their high and mighty pageantry of ac- a volume of history, we imagine ourtion must speedily pass into oblivion, selves in a sort of Westminster Abbey, unless the monuments thereof where we behold kings, princes, nobles, builded in books. Look back over the warriors, each with the insignia of his dilapidations of Time. See what an in- offices and the trophies of his achievesignificant record of great actions the ments gathered about him, each in his monumental granite of kings has been, own robes or armor, lying on his own compared with the monumental language tomb, labelled with such an epitaph as of poets and historians. Granite cannot it pleased his successors to give him, and tell its own age, and will not burden its all of them, in their helpless repose, dull faculties with human remembrances. silently appealing to the tender mercies The steps of the pyramids lead up to of posterity. nowhere, and sphynxes have themselves

are

WILLY AND I.
WE grew together

in wind and rain;
We shared the pleasure and shared the pain;
I would have died for him, and he,
I thought, would have done the samo for me

Willy and I!
Summer and winter found us together,
Through snow, and storm, and shiny weather;
Together we hid in the scented hay,
Or plucked the blooms of our English May--

Willy and I !
I called him husband-he called me wife;
We builded the dream of a perfect life:
He was to conquer some noble state,
And I was to love him through every fate-

Willy and Í!
Oh! he was so fair with his golden hair;
And bis breath was sweet as our homestead air.
My cheeks were red, so the neighbors said-
A thousand pities we were not wed

Willy and I!
Now I stand alone in the wind and rain,
With none of the pleasure and all the pain.
I am a beggar, and Willy is dead,
And the blood of another is on liis head-

Poor Willy and I

HARD SWEARING ON A CHURCH STEEPLE:

PITILOSOPHICALLY TREATED IN A RAMBLING LETTER TO THE EDITOR,

FROY A QUIET MAX.

Ter centum tonat ore Deos, Erebumque, Chaosque,
Tergeminamque Hecaten.-ÆNEID. iv. 510.

I

CALIBAN.–"You taught me language, and my profit on't
Is, I know how to curse: the red plague rid you

For learning me your language." -TEMPEST. From a common custom of Swearing, men easily slide into Perjury; therefore, 18 thou wouldst not be perjured, use not to swear.-HERACLITUS.

STEARING. A scape-pipe through which men let of their anger, their good breeding, and their morality.Modus DEFINITION, ME EDITOR,

slightest difference.” I have been bled AM

by a mosquito for half an hour, without quiet man. Rarely, indeed, is my wincing; and, when he had become so equanimity of temper disturbed; and, dropsical with the red current of my though the experiment lias never been life, that he could no longer fly, I have made, I feel an inward assurance that I been known to capture and slay him could go through-even a steamboat ex- without one word of reproach, or the plosion-coolly, calmly, and collectedly, slightest malevolence of countenance. instead of scatteraceously, as do some When the seediness of my coat and the of a less quiet turn, and who are always shocking badness of my hat have profound, at the time of such accidents, in cured for me the cut direct from old the vicinity of the boiler, or other equal- friends and fashionable acquaintances, I ly dangerous locality. I am satisfied have calmly buttoned the one, and that the papers, of the day after the jauntily adjusting the other, walked fordisaster, would have my name in the wards as imperturbably as if nothing lis. of those gentlemen who "behaved whatever had occurred—just as tho with great gallantry on the occasion ;" moon continued shining and held the or among those whose “admirable pre- even tenor of her way, despite the sence of mind and cool intrepidity ena- angry barkings of a diminutive cur bled them to be of invaluable service to which had imbibed the notion she had the ladies on the boat, inany of whom no business to shine. Aye, and I have were on deck at the moment of the been known-but sir, I will enumerate shocking catastrophe.” So, at least, I no further, lest the countless instances I am sire it would be, did not my pecu- could quote of my invincible quietude, liar intirinity-of which you will pre- should keep me too long away from the sently know more-intervene to foil me. main subject of this letter.

I an known sir, in my neighborhood, I repeat it, then, I am a very quiet as " THE QUIET MAN," and when I inform man-à mild, tranquil, unruffled, bland, you that I live in the same vicinity with placid man; and by some have even three oid maids, a chatty young widow, been thought phlegmatic. and a nuinber of gossiping misses, you

But I am also, in some respects, a may possibly appreciate the inten-ity of nervous man. I belong to that unforthat placidity which has acquired, and tunate cla-s of persons whose acoustic still maintains for me, a reputation so ducts were too finely fashioned by naenviable under these liighly adverse ture in the beginning; over the drums circumstances. I have been kuown, of whose ears the parchment is either when an awkward lout of a boy had too thin, or too tightly drawn; and I well-nigh eradicated the corn upon my am consequently the recipient of pains goaty toe, by crushing it with his boot- through that channel, which seein wellheeh, to turn to his mamma, who sat nigh incredible to those of less sensitive Txar, and, smiling sweetly, assure her tympana-pains as real and racking, as ia the blan lest manner that, “it was of tangible and torturous, as are kicks, Do consequence at all — made not the cuffs, and stripes, to others of my fellow

creatures. So subtle, refined, and ex- These sounds, however, are trifles comquisitely delicate is my sense of hearing, pared with another assault upon my ear, I have often wished, that like the peo- frequently made, and so very frequenty ple of the moon, I had been created of late, I have been driven to this letter earless.

with a hope of relief. I allude, sir,The faintest echo from the tongue of laugh if you will—to an OATII—A CURSE. a termagant, or a scold, causes me in- This it is, which shocks and shatters the continently to betake myself to my whole web-work of my nerves--goes heels; nor is it of any avail that I tingling and ripping through my cellular summon my resolution to aid me. So- tissue-causes ine involuntarily to wink crates philosophized, when Xantippe as it flies past me; and grates and janranted and raved: but I consider flight gles upon my ear as if it would shiver a better thing than philosophy, when the very skull itself. One of your big, woman gives her tongue its will. Some black oaths, as it hums and hurtles of your street cries, in linked vocifera- and whizzes through the air, seerns tion long drawn out, affect me sensibly. literally to cleave me through. I say A feline concert from an adjacent roof, seems, but the word is quite strong ends my repose for the night; while enough, for I have never learned the the cries of a cross child or a spoiled difference between verisimile and esse. baby, induce in me certain snappish and We are happy or miserable as, to ourpugnacious tendencies which might sug- selves, we seem thus or so—not as we gest to a timid mother the propriety of are. At times, I have believed myself binding me, in a suitable sum, to keep riddled under a shower of oaths; and, as the peace—first broken, be it observed, I know from actual experience how a by their own darlings. “ Can you pay man feels when he is shot, I have no this little bill, to-day, sir ?" especially if hesitation in saying, that aside from the I cannot-and I never can, till “to- fatality sometimes resulting froin lead, morrow,” or “the latter part of next there is little choice between a ball, shot week”-renders me a promising cardi- from some black-mouthed fire-arm, and date for some friendly asylum. The an oath fired from the foul muzzle of a tickings of a death-watch in the wall hard-swearer. Of course, I speak only cause me to turn restlessly in bed; and for myself, and for others having a like the shrill pipings of a mosquito, or the sensitiveness of ear. buzz of a bee near my ear, are more I am fully aware of the eccentricity of dreaded than the concealed weapons these notions. My prejudices may be, they carry, in defiance of the statute doubtless they are, very singular and made and provided. I am not a quiet very antiquated: but, sir, I cannot help man during the performances of an cherishing them. I am cognizant of the earthquake; am nervous on gunpowder fact, that the world holds an oath in days, such as national anniversaries; high esteem; but upon this point the do not blame a dog for leaving the world and I can never agree, though I neighborhood of exploding fire-crackers; do not undertake to say which party is in and am provokingly restless under the the right. I know that boys consider an influences of opera music in churches. oath a matter of much moment, and My teeth are set on edge by the scraping a proof of manliness-(rather mannishof a reed; and the mere thought, even ness); that dandies and bloods in midsummer, of craunching a cane- as an elegant ornament of speech, and thus converting the teeth into an ama- can scarce do without it, it being an teur sugar mill-begets in me a chilliness excellent substitute for thoughts and which would be refreshing (in the dog- ideas, and for giving weight and "exdays) were it not also freezing; even a pression " to the same; that sea-capcreaking hinge causes me to fly, with tains use it as part of their discipline, to creeping cuticle, after the oil-can; and, ensure prompt obedience to orders, and thongh I have not tried it, I cannot generals, as an accessory to victory; nor doubt that the report of my adversary's does it surprise me, a inember, by-thepistol, in an affair of honor so miscalled, by, of the Peace Society, that oaths, would cause me great trepidation, and inprecations and curses should form a force me to minute self-examination- fit accompaniment to the wholesale searching and thorough as if occasioned murder which men call war. Rich old by the monitions of that still, small “gents” use it as their prerogative voice, ever heard when least desired, fools, from a want of sense--and sailors, but which I dare not disregard.

as a luxury. I have understood that

use it

oaths and curses form the popular ver- and it is a good, general rule, that he nacular of bell; and know that Lord who regards not his word and sacred Byron considered swearing a heavenly honor, will not regard his oath, WHEN intention, professing to believe it divine THE PINOH Comes—the very moment in its origin. Many other great poets,

when the value of an oath becomes most too, and orators, and statesmen, have apps rent; for lying and “false-witness" indulged slily in the luxury of oaths; are absolute luxuries to no man, and though, for what reason I know not, seldom resorted to except in the exthey have seen fit to make sinall use tremest emergency. Lastly and chiefly: of then in their songs, speeches, and we are expressly commanded, in the best State-papers. A celebrated queen, now of books, to "swear not at all," and dead, swore with great piquancy; and it thongh some commentators have argued is said, though I will not vouch for it, that the prohibition applies to our "conthat a queen, now living, sometimes versation only," which word occurs in in-erts an oath between a sip of her the same verse with the above, I bebrandy-and-water and the whiffs or her lieve it would be difficult to show that cigarrette. That some women do swear, conversation is there used in our sense however, is an incontestible fact- of the word. fernales known to the world as “wo- My dislike to oaths embraces the men," and females recognized as whole calendar; I fancy none of them. ** ladies;" it no instance of the kind is The smoothly running oath of the Latins, known to you, Mr. Editor, I sincerely the majestic oath of the Greeks, the trust you inay continue in this truly ambiguous oath of Spain, the soft, muscblixul ignorance, for an oath from al oath of Italy, the thunderous oath female lips, fairly curdles the blood! of Germany, the crisp, crackling, trolling May I never hear a second one!

oath of France, are all alike to me-ali Oaths pass sometimes for wit, some- on a par with the big, burly oath of the times for humor, and often for bravery; English. Nor would I care if I never are daily heard in the streets of towns heard any one of them again. For a and cities, and frequently in private and beggarly dinner, I would dispose of my gentlemanly circles ; they abound in bar sole right and title to the privilege, and and billiard rooms, in brothels and even pay a handsome premium to any bowlir.g-alleys; are heard in hotels and company that would insure my ears forstables; bave been whispered in par- ever against such assaults. lors, and even echoed through the halls But, sir, between the eccentricity of of Congress. Yet, sir, in the teeth of these views, and my awkward manner al this authority and precedent, I am of expressing them, I fear that I weary ompelled to say that I do not admire you. Bear with me, I beg; for, though an ath; and that I detest swear- my hand is all unused to the pen, I feel

it my duty for once to write, and let the Though I do not now allude to the oath pen have its way. tak-o in courts of justice, at inaugura- I am fond of metaphysics, and have tio:14, and coroners' inquests, I am pre- been somewhat given to their study; pared to attack even this species of but I have not been able to discover swearing, if any can be found to defend what peculiar cast or quality of mind it it. Any man may dodge " the book," is, that leads men to swear. Phrenoloand affirm instead of swear, if he will gists pretend that the bump of venerabut pretend to a little scrupulosity of con- tion is either wholly wanting in tho science, and profess to have no stomach crania of swearers, or is else so small, for a regular oath ; and I have often it cannot be rightfully considered a laagberl, in my sleeve and out of it, at the phrenological tumulus. My observation, grave judges and shrewd lawyers who are however, has taught me not to place qaire willing to take a man's word for phrenology among the positive sciences; the stringency of bis religious views, like many delicate, attenuate, and yet make him approximate as near as beautiful theories, that science can be puerible to swearing, to restrain him turned to little practical account; and, in frurn lying about other matters. Oaths, this especial particular of swearing, to mere-ver, are but poor sureties for No account. I have found mountains of veracity. Men have been known to lie veneration on the heads of the hardest on the gallows, under torture, in the swearers: and mole-hills of reverence vers jaws of death, on the last confines overtopping mouths that were never deof Time, and the threshold of Eternity; filed with an oath-facts which admonish

me not to look to craniology for an explanation.

Gen. Paoli was of opinion that all barbarous nations swore from a certain violence of temper that could not be confined to earth, but was always reaching to the powers above. I consider this, however, an egregious error. The American aborigines were certainly barbarous enough when Columbus landed among them; and, though they possessed great violence of temper-a spirit which has never been tamed—they did not swear at all. It was not until the Pale Face taught him how, that the Red Man blasphemed. Indeed, it is among the barbarous races that we are to look, for awe, veneration and fear of God. Compare the white man's reverence for his God, with the Indian's for his Great Spirit, remembering the enlightenment of the one, the ignorance of the other; the former shrinks abashed from the comparison.

Again: it is in great cities, in towns, and civilized countries that swearing flourishes most vigorously. Paoli himself, went on to say, " that as is the variety of religious ceremonies, so is the variety of swearing.” Wherever you find refinement, luxury, ease, affluence, and high civilization-in whatever countries these exist, there also will you find oaths in great abundance and variety.

Swearing originated in high life. Hence the proverb that it "came in at the head and went out at the tail,"meaning thereby, that the nobility and gentry were the first to adopt it, and that it was afterwards confined to the plebeians. However true this may have been when the proverb was penned, it no longer holds good. Swearing has not gone out," either at lead or tail, or else it has been revived ; for we find the practice on every hand and amongst all classes. Like everything else, the custom seems to have had its series of rises, progressions, and declines. Under the first Charles of England (1635), it was a finable offence to swear; offices were established in every parish for the collection of the fines; and the funds thus accruing were paid over to the bishops for the relief of the poor. Thirty years after, under Charles II , there arose an aristocracy of oaths, the gentry having their curses, and the plebeians theirs: and to such height was the distinction carried, Keith relates that the nobility greatly exceeded the commons in their terrific maledictions, which were called “gentleman-oaths."

The result of much meditation and inquiry was the conclusion that swearing does not come of any special character of mind, but is rather the offspring of fashion, circumstance, and custom. A habit, that like one's coat may be put on or off, at will. In support of this view I gathered the following facts:

I once lived in a family, the head of which was an inveterate swearer. He was a stern man, and passionate: the slightest annoyance, the vaguest hint of trouble or perplexity, the least ripple in the stream of his existence, was sufficient to rouse his ire. Then, how the curses flocked to his lips, and were scattered broadcast around him! He had many sons, and though he never scrupled to swear before them, so positive were liis commands to them not to imitate his example, and so sure the dread penalty that would have followed their disobedience, not one of them ever uttered an oath in my presence. Now, the inherent qualities of the mind will assert themselves—they will put forth bud and opening blossom, though circumstance, poverty or neglect may cut off the fruit. Had these boys had any native, mental proclivity towards swearing, the father's commands would have acted as but a partial restraint upon their tongues. My presence was, certainly, no check, for, like themselves, I was but a boy; and, moreover, no “blab," as they all knew.

Again :—the bardest swearer will remain for hours, and even days, in the society of ladies, or in company with a parson, without uttering an oath, or an approach to one. A sailor never dns the eyes of bis captain ; a trooper will not swear in presence of his commanding officer; nor will an urchin in earshot of his father ; even Byron, though he thought swearing a heavenly invention, seldom cursed in print.

I had begun to flatter myself that the position just mentioned—that swearing is merely a habit—was impregnable. But my views have been well-nigh upset by the terrific oaths daily thundered forth from a CHURCH-STEEPLE now going up near my residence, causing great consternation and disquietude in the neighborhood, and not only impinging with dire effect upon my own nerves, but those also of all around. If men can ride an hundred miles with priest and parson without an oath, why can they not refrain from it on a church-steeple? If the parlor be too sacred a place to

« AnteriorContinuar »