Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

platformed in the Bible, but that it is left to the discretion of men.” In Lyly's *Alexander and Campaspe,” Act v., Sc. 4, Apelles is asked, “What piece of work have you now in hand ?" to which he replies, “None in hand, if it like your Majestie, but I am devising a platforme in my head." And in the “Dis. covery of the New World,” quoted by Nares, “To procure himself a pardon went and discovered the whole platforme of the conspiracie." A very early example occurs in the following title of a tract in the library of Queen's College, Cambridge : “A Survey of the pretended Holy Discipline, faithfully gathered by way of Historical Narration out of the Works and Writings of the principal Favourers of that Platforme, 4to, London, 1593."

The subdivisions of a platform are called its planks, and the metaphor is sometimes even run to death by giving the name of splinters to the subdivisions of “planks.”

Plato's man. "Plato having defined man to be a two-legged animal without feathers,' Diogenes plucked a cock and brought it into the Academy, and said, “This is Plato's man.' On which account this addition was made to the definition : 'with broad, Alat nails.'” But even with the addendum the definition cannot be considered a happy one. Franklin called man a "toolmaking animal.”

And all to leave what with his oil he won
To that unfeathered, two-leggel thing, a son.

DRYDEN: Absalomi and Achitophel, i. 169. Play. American slang has developed many new uses of this phrase, all of which may doubtless be traced back to “ Hamlet :” “Why, look you, now, how unworthy a thing you make of me! You would play upon me; you would seem to know my stops : you would pluck out the heart of my mystery. ... 'Sblood, do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe ?" (Act iii., Sc. 2.) “ You can't play that upon me,”-i.e., “I am not to be fooled or tricked in that way,” is evidently a direct descendant of Hamlet's phrase. Then comes the affirmative, to indicate that a man is weak or foolish enough to be played upon :

It was April the first,

And quite soft was the skies,
Which it might be inferred

That Ah Sin was likewise,
But he played it that day upon William
And me in a way I despise.

BRET Harte: Plain Language from Truthful Fames. I ain't over-particular, but this I do say, that interducin' a feller to yer sister, and availin' himself of the opportunity while you're a-kissin' her to stack the cards, is a-playin' it mighty low down.- Texas Siftings.

Pleasures, Life would be tolerable were it not for its, a phrase attributed to Sir George Cornewall Lewis, and intelligible enough in a member of that race of which Froissart long ago remarked, "They take their pleasures sadly, after their fashion.” Talleyrand said something not altogether unlike this, but the application was to turn into ridicule the sombreness of the Genevans. “Is not Geneva dull ?" asked a friend. “Especially when they amuse themselves," was Talleyrand's reply. George Eliot also says in “Felix Holt,” “One way of getting an idea of our fellow-countrymen's miseries is to go and look at their pleasures."

Plon-Plon, a name given to the son of Jerome Bonaparte by his second wife, the Princess Frederica Catherine of Würtemberg, the Prince Napoleon Joseph Charles Bonaparte. It is said to be a euphonism for "Craintplomb” (“Fear-bullet”), a name which he got for his poltroonery in the Crimean war.

Pluck. This word affords an instance of the way in which slang words in the course of time become adopted into current English. We now meet with "pluck" and "plucky" as the recognized equivalents of “courage" and “coura. geous.” An entry in Sir Walter Scott's Journal” shows that in 1827 the word had not yet lost its low character. He says (vol. ii. p. 30), “want of that article blackguardly called pluck.” Its origin is obvious. From early times the heart has been popularly regarded as the seat of courage. Now, when a butcher lays open à carcass he divides the great vessels of the heart, cuts through the windpipe, and then plucks out together the united heart and lungs,-lights he calls them,—and he terms the united mass "the pluck."

Pluck, To, in English university slang, to reject a candidate for graduation. The phrase arose at Oxford. It might seem that the passive form "to be plucked" had some reference to a bird despoiled of its feathers. This ety. mology has, indeed, been urged. But Cuthbert Bede explains that “when the degrees are conferred the name of each person is read out before he is presented to the vice-chancellor. The proctor then walks once up and down the room, so that any person who objects to the degree being granted may signify the same by pulling or plucking the proctor's robes.”

Plug-Uglies, the name self-assumed by a gang of thugs or rowdies in Bal. timore, who terrorized the streets for a period. Its peculiar felicity caused the name to survive when the similar associations of Ashlanders, Dead Rabbits, Blood-Tubs, etc., vanished into obscurity, and the term is now a generic one for a tough.

Blood-Tubs and Plug-Uglies, and others galore,
Are sick for a thrashing in sweet Baltimore;
Be jabers ! that same I'd be proud to inform
Of the terrible force of an Irishman's arm.

Song of the Irish Legion. Plum, an English colloquialism for one hundred thousand pounds, or more generally for any large sum. Is it only a curious coincidence that in Spanish pluma and in Italian penna, both meaning properly feather, have the slang signification of money? The London Standard thinks not, but holds that the English expression comes direct from the Spanish, “the idea being that a man who had accumulated this sum had feathered his nest."

Who in this life gets the smiles, and the acts of friendship, and the pleasing legacies? The rich. And I do, for my part, heartily wish that some one would leave me a trifle,-say twenty thousand pounds,-being perfectly confident that some one else would leave me more, and I should sink into my grave worth a plum at least.—THACKERAY: A Shabby-Genteel Story.

Plumed Knight, a sobriquet of James G. Blaine, first applied to him by Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll in the speech nominating Mr. Blaine as the candidate for President at the Republican convention of 1876: “Like an armed warrior, like a plumed knight, James G. Blaine marched down the halls of the American Congress and threw his shining lance full and fair against the brazen forehead of every defamer of this country and maligner of its honor." But the phrase was not original. Nor was Ingersoll the first to apply it to a Presidential candidate. In the Works of William H. Seward, vol. iv, p. 682, there is a quotation from John A. Andrew's speech at the Chicago con. vention in 1860, in nominating Lincoln, in which he said of Seward that "in the thickest and the hottest of every battle there would be the white plume of the gallant leader of New York.”

Poeta nascitur, non fit (L., “A poet is born, not made"). The proverb as it stands cannot be traced to any author, but similar expressions may be found in Pindar, Cicero, Quintilian, and other classic writers. Its first appear. ance as a proverb is probably in Cælius Rhodiginus (A.D. 1450–1525), “ Lectiones Antiquæ," vii. The heading of chapter iv. is, “An poeta nascitur, orator fiat,” etc., and in the course of this chapter occurs, “Vulgo certe jactatur, nasci poetam, oratorem fieri.” Jonson, however, in his lines “To the Memory of Shakespear,” says,

For a good poet's made as well as born. A well-known poet and scholar to whom we referred this question answers, “I doubt if any one can discover who first uttered this maxim in its now established form. It seems to have growed, like Topsy, but possibly has its origin in certain verses of that somewhat phantasmal Latin writer, Florus. At all events, Sir Philip Sidney, in his Apologie for Poetrie,' has these words : And therefore is an old proverb, Orator fit, poeta nascitur.' Grocott's book of quotations, I do not know on what authority, refers to Sidney as saying that this proverb was supposed to be from Florus.' Thomas Fuller, in his History of the Worthies of England,' mentions Shakspeare as an eminent instance of the truth of the saying, Poeta non fit, sed nascitur. As to Florus, I had supposed the reference was either to the orator and writer, Julius Florus, the friend of Horace, or to Julius Florus the Second, whom Quintilian praised. But Dr. Sachs, of this city, than whom there are few more learned classical and Oriental scholars, gives me the following information : I have looked industriously for Poeta nascitur, non fit, among the classical Latin writers, but fail to find the maxim in that shape, as in fact I surmised when we spoke of it. The quotation from Florus (Lucius Annius) does not contain these words exactly. His couplet reads as follows (Anthologia Latina, ed. Riese, No. 252):

Consules fiunt quotannis et novi proconsules :

Solus aut rex aut poeta non quotannis nascitur, On the question whether this Florus is identical with the historian who made the epitome of Livy's History, the critics are about equally divided.'"- ew York Critic.

Poetic prose. It is a failing with somo critics who do not clearly understand the line of demarcation between prose and verse to fall into unseemly raptures when they find that certain passages in their favorite authors can be written and scanned as verse. Now, prose is one thing and verse is another. There is such a thing as poetic prose, there is also such a thing as prosaic verse. But the former should have a rhythm and music of its own entirely different from the rhythm and music of verse. The latter, which can never have any excuse for being, may yet be found to answer to all the technical requirements of the prosodist, may scan responsive to his rule of thumb, yet through some poverty of word or thought may fail entirely to reach the level of poetry. Our two mightiest masters of harmony both in prose and verse, Shakespeare and Milton, knew this secret and taught it by example. There is no more magnificent poetry in English literature than the prose portions of “Hamlet." or various passages in the “ Areopagitica” and the “Tractate of Education." Yet no artificial rearrangement, no breaking up into measured lines, could possibly convert this poetry into verse. Therein lies its very perfection. On the other hand, inferior rhetoricians like Dickens, who are never less eloquent than when they seek to be very eloquent, and generally all that class of writers who indulge in what is known as “wordpainting," fall into a sort of sing-song that imitates the metrical structure of verse and loses the spirit of poetry. We have cited Dickens. A fagrant example is afforded in his chapter on the death of Little Nell in “ The Old Curiosity Shop." Horne in his “ New Spirit of the Age" was the first to point this out, and he does it in a laudatory manner.

“A curious circumstance," he says, “is observable in a great portion of the scenes of tragic power, pathos, and tenderness contained in various parts of Mr. Dickens's works, which it is possible may have been the result of harmonious accident, and the author not even subsequently conscious of it. It is that they are written in blank verse, of irregular metre and rhythms, which Southey, and Shelley, and some other poets, have occasionally adopted." And he thus rearranges the passage in “The Old Curiosity Shop :"

And now the bell--the bell
She had so often heard by night and day
And listened to with solid pleasure,

E'en as a living voice-
Rung its remorseless toll for her,
So young, so beautiful, so good.

Decrepit age, and vigorous life,
And blooming youth, and helpless infancy.
Poured forth-on crutches, in the pride of strength

And health, in the full blush
Of promise—the mere dawn of life-
To gather round her tomb. Old men were there

Whose eyes were dim

And senses failing-
Granddames, who might have died ten years ago,
And still been old-the deaf, the blind, the lame,

The palsied,
The living dead in many shapes and forms,
To see the closing of this early grave!

What was the death it would shat in,
To that which still would crawl and creep above it!
Along the crowded path they bore her now;

Pale as the new-fallen snow
That covered it; whose day on earth

Had been so fleeting.
Under that porch where she had sat when Heaven
In mercy brought her to that peaceful spot,

She passed again, and the old church

Received her in its quiet shade. “ Throughout the whole of the above,” continues Mr. Horne, enthusiastically, “only two unimportant words have been omitted, -in and its ; 'granddames' has been substituted for “grandmothers,' and 'e'en' for almost. All that remains is exactly as in the original, not a single word transposed, and the punctuation the same to a comma. The brief homily that concludes the funeral is profoundly beautiful :

Oh! it is hard to take
The lesson that such deaths will teach,

But let no man reject it,
For it is one that all must learn

And is a mighty universal Truth,
When Death strikes down the innocent and young,
For every fragile form from which he lets

The parting spirit free,

A hundred virtues rise,
In shapes of mercy, charity, and love,

To walk the world and bless it.

Of every tear
That sorrowing mortals shed on such green graves,

Some good is born, some gentler nature comes. “Not a word of the original is changed in the above quotation, which is worthy of the best passages in Wordsworth, and thus, meeting on the common ground of a deeply truthful sentiment, the two most unlike men in the literature of the country are brought into close proximation.”

He also gives a similar passage from the concluding paragraph of “ Nicholas Nickleby :"

The grass was green above the dead boy's grave,

Trodden by feet so small and light,
That not a daisy drooped its head

Beneath their pressure.

Through all the spring and summer time
Garlands of fresh flowers, wreathed by infant hands,

Rested upon the stone.
But Thackeray was a far truer critic than Horne. Speaking of the “Christ-

mas Carol,” he says, “I am not sure that the allegory is a very complete one, and protest, with the classics, against the use of blank verse in prose; but here all objections stop. Who can listen to objections regarding such a book as this?"

Another authority has found out that the description of Niagara Falls in “ American Notes"'may be thrown into “true iambic lines" as follows:

I think in every quiet season now,
Still do those waters roll, and leap, and roar,

And tumble all day long :
Still are the rainbows spanning them

A hundred feet below,
Still when the sun is on them, do they shine

And glow like molten gold.
Still when the day is gloomy do they fall

Like snow, or seem to crumble away,

Like the front of a great chalk cliff,
Or roll adown the rock like dense white smoke.
But always does this mighty stream appear

To die as it comes down.
And always from the unfathomable grave
Arises that tremendous ghost of spray
And mist which is never laid:

Which has haunted this place
With the same dread solemnity,

Since darkness brooded on the deep
And that first flood before the Deluge-Light-

Came rushing on Creation at the word of God. “American Notes,” it will be remembered, was the book which Macaulay refused to review because he could see no good in it. “I cannot praise it, and I will not cut it up. It is written like the worst parts of Humphrey's Clock.' What is meant to be easy and sprightly is vulgar and Alippant, as in the first two pages. What is meant to be fine is a great deal too fine, as the description of the Fall of Niagara." But Macaulay had not seen that description thrown into iambic lines.

There are worse sinners, however, than Dickens. He never did anything so outrageous as this from Disraeli's “Wondrous Tale of Alroy :".

Why am I here? are you not here and need I urge a stronger plea? Oh, brother dear, I pray you come and mingle in our festival! Our walls are hung with flowers you love; I culled them by the fountain's side; the holy lamps are trimmed and set, and you must raise their earliest flame. Without the gate my maidens wait to offer you a robe of state. Then, brother dear, I pray you come and mingle in our festival.

Of course, it sometimes happens, even in the masters, that a line may here and there be detached from the context and be made to scan. At the same time, when read as prose, it may not offend against the rhythmic integrity of the passage. But this is mere accident. In a discussion of this very subject Dr. Johnson pointed out that the accident might happen in ordinary conversation :

Such verse we make when we are writing prose :

We make such verse in common conversation. When this accident goes unnoted, when to the ear the line retains the metre of prose and melts into the common music of the whole, it has no discordant effect. But the moment it is pointed out it distinctly jars on the ear. Coleridge therefore made a mistake in dwelling on the hexametrical rhythm of these passages in Isaiah :

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, 10 earth: for the Lord hath spoken.
I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me
The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib:

But Israel doth not know, I my people doth not consider.
And an equal evil has been done by other curio-hunters who have gone to

« AnteriorContinuar »