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Hurrah. This word is of purely German origin. It is generally assumed to be derived from the imitative interjection hurr, describing a rapid movement, from which word the Middle High-German hurren, to “move rapidly," or, rather, to “hurry," has been formed. Hurrah is, therefore, nothing else than an enlarged form of hurr. In Grimm's “ Wörterbuch" we find the interjection quoted from a Minnesinger. It occurs also in Danish and in Swedish; and it would be interesting to know when it was first introduced into England in the Anglicized form of "hurray.” In Germany it was frequently used during the Napoleonic wars by the Prussian soldiers, and it also occurs in some political and martial songs of those days. Since then it seems to have been adopted also by other nations, even by the French in the form of hourra. That that interjection did not become so popular in Germany as a cheer at convivial gatherings as in England is probably owing to the circumstance that preference was given there to the brief exclamation “Hoch !" forming respectively the end and the beginning of the phrases “Er lebe hoch" and “Hoch soll er leben.” Of late the word hurrah seems to have become rather popular in Germany. It is just possible that the English reimported it there, or ihat it was revived through the magnificent poem of “Hurrah Germania," written by the poet-laureate of the German people, Ferdinand Freiligrath.
Hyperbole (Gr. Únepoan, “excess," "overstrained praise," etc.), a recog. nized figure of rhetoric, meaning an extravagant statement or assertion, which, when used for conscious effect, is not to be taken too seriously or too literally. Yet the hyperbole is often used unconsciously by the men of vivid yet un. balanced imagination whom the world sometimes calls liars and sometimes fools.
Aristotle says that hyperbole is a figure suited only to a person enraged or to children who exaggerate everything. Whereupon Chevreau pertinently notes, “I suppose, according to this maxim, that the man who said that his estate was no larger than a laconic epistle must be set down either as a child or a very irascible person. I remember an acquaintance of M. de Calprenede remarking to M. de Sercy, the bookseller who showed him that romance, *This author boasts of having a large mansion and an extensive forest ; I assure you, on my honor, that he has not wood enough to make a toothpick, and that a tortoise might make the tour of his house in a quarter of an hour.'” This is the hyperbole of minimizing. The hyperbole of magnifying is the more usual form. Excellent instances of the latter style Chevreau might have found in his own country in the sayings of the Gascons, some of which will be found duly commemorated under the head of GASCONADE (9. v.). To give an ad. ditional example, what could be better than the description given by one Gascon soldier of another?-“Hit him anywhere, and the wound is mortal, for he is all heart." Yet even the Gascon is sometimes compelled to yield to the superior prowess of his neighbor the Marseillais, if the following story be a characteristic one:
Three young soldiers, a Parisian, a Gascon, and a Marseillais, were walking one starry summer night on the shore of the Mediterranean, and seeing who could frame the most colossal wish for a fortune.
"I," said the Parisian, “ wish this sea were all ink; then I'd dip my pen in it, make a big 9 on a sheet of paper, and after the 9 I'd set down o's until the ocean were dry, and the sum thus written would represent my fortune."
" And I," said the Gascon, “ wish that every star above us represented a bushel-bag of louis-d'or that belonged to me."
“And I," said the Marseillais, “ wish that both your wishes were true, and that you might both die of heart disease the moment after you had made your wills in my favor."
The Irishman through his kinship with the Gaul-for there is more than mere sound-affinity between Gael and Gaul-resembles him in his love of high-flown phrases and verbal pyrotechnics.
Here is a bit of gorgeous rhetoric which appeared in an Irish paper for May 30, 1784, à propos of the first appearance of Mrs. Sarah Siddons in Dublin :
On Saturday, Mrs. Siddons, about whom all the world had been talking, exposed her beautiful, adamantine, soft, and lovely person, for the first time, at Smock-Alley Theatre, in the bewitching, melting, and all-tearful character of “Isabella."
From the repeated panegyrics in the impartial London newspapers, we were taught to expect the sight of a heavenly angel; but how were we supernaturally surprised into the most awful joy at beholding a mortal goddess! The house was crowded with hundreds more than it could hold,-with thousands of admiring spectators that went away without a sight. This extraordinary phenomenon of tragic excellence! this star of Melpomene! this comet of the stage! this sun of the firmament of the Muses ! this .moon of blank verse! this queen and princess of tears ! this Donnellan of the poisoned bowl! this empress of the pistol and dagger! this chaos of Shakespeare! this world of weeping clouds! this Juno of commanding aspects ! this Terpsichore of the curtains and scenes! this Proserpine of fire and earthquake this Katterfelto of wonders ! exceeded expectation, went beyond belief, and soared above all the natural powers of description! She was nature itself! She was the most exquisite work of art! She was the very daisy, primrose, tuberose, sweet-brier, furze-blossom, gilliflower, wall. flower, cauliflower, auricula, and rosemary! In short, she was the bouquet of Parnassus, Where expectation was raised so high, it was thought she would be injured by her appearance; but it was the audience who were injured : several fainted before the curtain drew up! When she came to the scene of parting with her wedding-ring, ah! what a sight was there! the very fiddlers in the orchestra, albeit unused to the melting mood, blubbered like hungry children crying for their bread and butter; and when the bell rang for music between the acts, the tears ran from the bassoon-player's eyes in such plentiful showers that they choked the finger-stops, and, making a spout of the instrument, poured in such torrents on the first fiddler's book, that, not seeing the overture was in two sharps, the leader of the band actually piayed in one flat. But the sobs and sighs of the groaning audience, and the noise of corks drawn from the smelling-bottles, prevented the mistake between flats and sharps being discovered. One hundred and nine ladies fainted, forty-six went into fits, and ninety-five had strong hysterics ! The world will scarcely credit the truth when they are told that fourteen children, five old women, one hundred tailors, and six common-councilmen were actually drowned in the inundation of tears that flowed from the galleries, the slips, and the boxes to increase the briny pond in the pit ; the water was three feet deep; and the people were obliged to stand upon the benches, and were in that position up to their ankles in tears! An act of Parliament against her playing any more will certainly pass.
But the American beats the world in this field. Indeed, he has invented two words, “highfalutin'” and “spread-eagleism,” which contain a vernacular savor that far outshines the feebler Latinism of the term “hyperbole." To the mind of the European the Yankee is a person who is continually bragging that he “kin lick all creation” (and in the few chances that have been offered to him, it must be owned, he has shown some possibilities of realizing his boast), and is continually dwelling on the fact that he lives in the biggest country, with the biggest rivers, the biggest mountains, and the biggest men in the world. It was this tendency that Webster once burlesqued, after dining a little too heavily just before addressing the citizens of Rochester, New York. “Men of Rochester !" he cried, “I am glad to see you ; and I am glad to see your noble city. Gentlemen, I saw your falls, which I am told are one hundred and fifty feet high; that is a very interesting fact. Gentlemen, Rome had her Cæsar, her Scipio, her Brutus ; but Rome in her proudest days had never a water-fall a hundred and fifty feet high. Men of Rochester, go on! No people ever lost their liberty who had a water-fall a hundred and fifty feet high !”
An Englishman boasting of the superiority of the horses in his country mentioned that the celebrated Eclipse had run a mile a minute. “My good fellow,” exclaimed a Yankee present, “that is rather less than the average rate of our common roadsters. I live in my country-seat near Boston, and when hurrying to town of a morning my own shadow can't keep up with me, but generally comes into the office to find me from a minute to a minute and a half after my arrival. One morning the beast was restless, and I rode him as fast as I possibly could several times round a large factory,-just to
take the Old Harry out of him. Well, sir, he went so fast that the whole time I saw my back directly before me, and was twice in danger of riding over myself." This story has a kinship with the familiar yarn of the man who was so tall that he had to go up a ladder to take off his hat, of the man equally small who went down-cellar to untie his shoes, of the man who could find no boot-jack that would fit him and was fain to content himself with the fork in the road.
There is merit in the following story told by Texas Siftings. Frank Jones, a gentleman from Indiana, was seated alongside of the driver on the stage going to Brownsville. They were near the Rio Grande. Frank, by the way, had embezzled a lot of money, and was en route to Mexico. “Is this country safe?" asked Frank of the driver. “Safe! Why, of course it is.” “No robbers ?” “Robbers! Why, this part of the country has got such a bad name that the highway-robbers are afraid to risk their lives in these parts."
The following bit of soul-stirring eloquence is credited to one Colonel Zell, who stumped several of the Western States during the Presidential campaign which sent Grant to the White House for the second time. The Democratic watchword throughout the campaign was “ Anything to beat Grant.” The colonel was addressing an enthusiastic meeting of Republicans, when a Democrat sung out, “It's easy talkin', colonel; but we'll show you something next fall. The colonel at once wheeled about, and with uplifted hands, hair bristling, and eyes flashing fire, cried out, “Build a worm-fence round a winter supply of summer weather ; catch a thunder-bolt in a bladder ; break a hurricane to harness; hang out the ocean on a grape-vine to dry; but never, sir, never for a moment delude yourself with the idea that you can beat Grant.” Had the orator been taking points from that other Western speaker who proposed to grasp a ray of light from the great orb of day, spin it into threads of gold, and with them weave a shroud in which to wrap the whirlwind which dies upon the bosom of the West ?
In the way of eloquence and graphic power nothing could be better than this from a Cleveland paper's account of a suicide by hanging: “An owl hooted lonesomely; an old clock on the shelf ticked with terror; a dog howled; it was midnight outside ; the wind sighed; a cat crouched on the cold hearth in fear, and a sound like the laugh of a maniac came from the garret.” A Colorado newspaper tells how “the cry of fire rang out on the still air about eight A.M.,” and “a column of smoke poured out of the roof of the adobe building corner of Fifth and G Streets like the signal-smoke of the Utes from the mountain-heights when expecting the incursions of the Arapahoes, Modocs, or other such foes," how the fire was mastered by the gallant firemen, and “ thus was a far-reaching conflagration checked like a worm in the bud that never told its love.” Perhaps the Washington Capitol's story about President Garfield was one of the most remarkable specimens of the remarkable literature provoked by his assassination. Said the eloquent writer,
The late Czar, when fired at, before the Nihilist bomb blew him into eternity, shrieked and fainted with terror. The phlegmatic Emperor of Germany never recovered the shock of a slight wound from bird-shot fired so far off it would scarcely have killed a reed-bird. But the President of the American republic, with a bullet as large as that of a Remington rifle tearing through his vitals, sets his teeth without a shudder, and says, “I'll chance and I'll win!" and, softening the lines of his face into the sweetness of a lover's smile, whispers to his dear wife as she kneels beside him, "Sweetheart, have no fear; I'll pull through!" Such heroism, such manhood, cause the blood to surge in the heart of every American.
The following elegant marriage-notice appeared in 1890 in the Dallas (Texas) News:
A bright sun and a pleasant afternoon seemed to halo the happy occasion, and its refulgence to forecast the happiness of a union of two young hearts that had been devoted from
youth and young girlhood through the years to the full maturity of young manhood and womanhood, and at last so auspiciously brought together under the holy sanction of God's ordinance to beat as one.
On the very threshold of their lives they start together along the journey of existence hand in hand, heart to heart, full of that hope and that joy which aureoles the vistas that stretch out before them and gives promise of so much of that brightness that pleases and gives zest to life.
After the ceremony which made them one, a wedding-dinner awaited them, and in that feast of good things they read an earnest, it is hoped, of the largess fate with kindly hand has in store for them through all their years to come, and with the blessings of those they love and who love them. It is the sincere hope of all their many friends that no shadow may ever. fall upon their lives and only fragrant flowers bloom along their pathway.
The East and the South have their rhetoricians, as well as the great and wild and woolly West. Here is a marriage-notice which appeared in a Georgia paper somewhere in the fifties :
Married simultaneously, on the 24th ult., by the Rev. J. W. Wallace, J. H. Burritt, Esq., of Connecticut, to Miss Ann W. Watson, and Mr. Augustus Wood to Miss Sarah Wair, Columbia County, Georgia, The ceremony was conducted under the most engaging forms of decency, and was ministered with sober and impressive dignity. The subsequent hilarity was rendered doubly entertaining by the most pleasing urbanity and decorum of the guests; the convivial board exhibited an elegant profusion of all that fancy could mingle or the most splendid liberality collect: nor did the nuptial evening afford a banquet less grateful to the intellectual senses. The mind was regaled with all that is captivating in colloquial fruition, and transported with all that is divine in the union of congenial spirits :
While hovering seraphs lingered near,
And dropped their harps, so charmed to hear! Two paragraphs may also be quoted from English country newspapers as affording excellent examples of what Lord Coleridge called, when alluding with mild malice to the late Sir Fitzroy Kelly's annual discourse to the Lord Mayor of London, “copiousness of diction :” “ After a long period of unsettled weather, it must have gladdened every one yesterday morning when the sun, with all his glorious brilliancy and splendor, shone forth with golden ray, scat. tering cloud and mist, and with his cheering beams and glowing smile causing the birds to sing, the trees of the forest to rejoice, and the Rowers of the field to unfold themselves in bright array.” “We are being constantly reminded of the inexorability of death,—the certain, and it may be sudden, visit of the angel with the amaranthine wreath,' as death is so beautifully designated by Longfellow,-and it is our painful duty to-day to chronicle the melancholy fact that one who had played his part, and played it well in life, has passed through nature to eternity.”
Indeed, in spite of their phlegmatic temperament the English have occa. sionally manifested a talent for hyperbole which dimly intimates what they might do if they once threw off the national mauvaise honte. It was a British barrister who, in the middle of an affecting appeal in court on a slander suit, treated his hearers to the following flight of genius : “Slander, gentle. men, like a boa-constrictor of gigantic size and immeasurable proportions, wraps the coil of its unwieldy body about its unfortunate victim, and, heedless of the shrieks of agony that come from the uttermost depths of its victim's soul, - loud and verberating as the night-thunder that rolls in the heavens,-it finally breaks its unlucky neck upon the iron wheel of public opinion, forcing him first to desperation, then to madness, and finally crushing him in the hideous jaws of moral death.”
The examples so far cited are those in which the humor is of an uncon. scious, or at most only a sub-conscious, sort. But as a distinct literary figure the value of over-statement, of exaggeration, -of hyperbole, in short,-has been recognized by many of the masters of satire and of innocent fun. Rabe. lais's humor largely depends upon it. Gargantua, with his insatiable maw, taking a huge mouthful of salad wherein six pilgrims were involved, who found refuge from his tusks in the hollows and recesses of his cavernous
mouth, wherein they subsisted for months,-Gargantua riding to Paris on a great mare, who knocks down whole forests with every swish of her tail, Gargantua who, en passant, robs Notre Dame of its bells, and, after a battle, calmly combs the cannon-balls out of his hair,-is a magnificent conception, more laughable in its wild extravagance than the methodical and statistical creations of Swift.
Falstaff is a true Rabelaisian humorist, as in his description of Justice Shallow, who is "like a man made after supper with a cheese-paring,” and who,“ when he was naked, was for all the world like a forked radish, with a head fantastically carved upon it with a knife,” or when he tells red-nosed Bardolph, “I never see thy face but I think upon hell-fire and Dives that lived in purple, for there he is in his robes, burning, burning. ... Oh, thou art a perpetual triumph, an everlasting bonfire-light! Thou hast saved me a thousand marks in links and torches, walking with thee in the night betwixt tavern and tavern; but the sack that thou hast drunk me would have brought me lights as good cheap at the dearest chandler's in Europe." Better still is his description of his newly-levied recruits : “ You would think that I had a hundred and fifty tattered prodigals, lately come from swine-keeping, from eating draff and husks. A mad fellow met me on the way, and told me I had unloaded all the gibbets and pressed the dead bodies.... There's but a shirt and a half in all my company; and the half-shirt is two napkins, tacked together, and thrown over the shoulders like a herald's coat without sleeves; and the shirt, to say the truth, stolen from my host of St. Alban's, or the red-nosed innkeeper of Daventry. But that's all one; they'll find linen enough on every hedge."
Dr. Johnson had something Rabelaisian in his mirth, especially when he was attacking Scotchmen. When Albert Lee spoke of some Scotchmen who had taken possession of a barren part of America and wondered why they should choose it, “Why, sir," said the Doctor, “all barrenness is comparative. The 'Scotch would not know it to be barren ;” and when Boswell stated that a beggar starving in Scotland was an impossibility, Johnson's reply was, “ That does not arise from the want of beggars, but from the impossibility of starving a Scotchman.” Which reminds one of Jekyll's comment on the Irish beggars, that they had helped him to solve one problem that had always vexed him,—what the beggars of London did with their cast-off clothing. Sydney Smith, another defamer of the Scotch, would often throw loose the reins of his fancy and dash into the wildest and most frolicsome metaphors, as when he told a lady the heat was so great “I found there was nothing for it but to take off my flesh and sit in my bones,” or when, seeing a child stroking a turtle's back, thinking it would please the turtle, he exclaimed, “ Why, child, you might as well stroke the dome of St. Paul's to please the dean and chapter.” Nothing could be more Rabelaisian than his burst of astonishment when told that a young neighbor was going to marry a very fat woman double his age :
Going to marry her! Going to marry her ? Impossible! You mean a art of her: he could not marry her all himself. It would be a case, not of bigamy, but trigamy; the neighborhood or the magistrates should interfere. There is enough of her to furnish wives for a whole parish. One man marry hermit is monstrous. You might people a colony with her, or give an assembly with her, or perhaps take your morning's walk round her,-always provided there were frequent resting-places, and you were in rude health. I once was rash enough to try walking round her before breakfast, but only got half-way, and gave it up exhausted. Or you might read the Riot Act and disperse her. In short, you might do anything with her but marry her.
It is curious that this impromptu description, dashed off on the spur of the moment, finds its parallel in the jest-books of the past. Mr. Carew Hazlitt is our authority for the following instances culled from sources dated 1640 and 1790;