« PredošláPokračovať »
ness of man and the coldness of woman. Each has the same defectwant of depth in passionate delineation. Each is deficient in what it is fashionable to call “a high view of life.' Each, again, presents a drama of human existence with magnificent power. Yet, in final impression, the difference we feel is wider than the difference between the atmosphere of a theatre and the atmosphere of fresh-water; of a ball supperroom and of the ‘incorruptible sea.' We close the Bride of Lammer. moor with a sense of healthy pain and healthy pleasure; Pendennis with a vanitas vanitatum.”—George Eliot.
From Thackeray's Newcomes. A crow, who had flown away with a cheese from a dairy window, sat perched on a tree, looking down at a great, big frog in a pool underneath him. The frog's hideous, large eyes were goggling out of his head in a manner which appeared quite ridiculous to the old black-amoor, who watched the splay-footed, slimy wretch with that peculiar grim humor belonging to crows. Not far from the frog a fat ox was browsing; while a few lambs frisked about the meadow, or nibbled the grass and buttercups there.
Who should come into the farther end of the field but a wolf? He was so cunningly dressed up in sheep's clothing that the very lambs did not know master wolf; nay, one of them, whose dam the wolf had just eaten, after which he had thrown her skin over his shoulders, ran up innocently toward the devouring monster, mistaking him for mamma.
“He-he!” says a fox, sneaking round the hedge-paling, over which the tree grew whereupon the crow was perched, looking down on the frog who was staring with his goggle eyes fit to burst with envy, and croaking abuse at the ox. “How absurd those lambs are! Yonder silly, little, knock-kneed, baah-ling does not know the old wolf dressed in the sheep's fleece. He is the same old rogue who gobbled up little Red Riding Hood's grandmother for lunch, and swallowed little Red Riding Hood for supper. He-he!"
An owl, that was hidden in the hollow of the tree, woke up. master fox,” says she, “I cannot see you, but I smell you! If some folks like lambs, other folks like geese,” says the owl.
* And yonr ladyship is fond of mice,” says the fox.
The Chinese eat them,” says the owl, “and I have read that they are very fond of dogs," continued the old lady.
“I wish they would exterminate every cur of them off the face of the earth,” said the fox,
“And I have also read in works of travel that the French eat frogs," continued the owl. - Aha, my friend Crapaud! are you there? That was a very pretty concert we sang together last night!”
“If the French devour my brethren, the English eat beef,” croaked out the frog—"great, big, brutal, bellowing oxen!"
“Ho, whoo!" says the owl, “I have heard that the English are toadeaters, too!”
But who ever heard of them eating an owl or a fox, madam ?” says Reynard, or their sitting down and taking a crow to pick,” adds the polite rogue, with a bow to the old crow, who was perched above them with the cheese in his mouth. “We are privileged animals, all of us; at least, we never furnish dishes for the odious orgies of man.”
“I am the bird of wisdom,” says the owl; “I was the companion of Pallas Minerva; I am frequently represented in the Egyptian monuments.”
“I have seen you over the British barn-doors,” said the fox, with a grin. “You have a deal of scholarship, Mrs. Owl. I know a thing or two myself; but am, I confess it, no scholar--a mere man of the world -a fellow that lives by his wits—a mere country gentleman.”
“You sneer at scholarship,” continues the owl, with a sneer on her venerable face. “I read a good deal of a night.”
When I am engaged deciphering the cocks and hens at roost,” says the fox.
“It's a pity for all that you can't read; that board nailed over my head would give you some information.”
“What does it say?" says the fox.
“I can't spell in the daylight,” answered the owl; and, giving a yawn, went back to sleep till evening in the hollow of her tree.
“A fig for he hieroglyphics!” said the fox, looking up at the crow in the tree. • What airs our slow neighbor gives herself! She pretends to all the wisdom; whereas, your reverences, the crows, are endowed with gifts far superior to those benighted old big-wigs of owls, who blink in the darkness and call their hooting singing. How noble it is to hear a chorus of crows! There are twenty-four brethren of the Order of St. Corvinus who have builded themselves a convent near a wood which I frequent; what a droning and a chanting they keep up! I protest their reverences' singing is nothing to yours! You sing so deliciously in parts, do for the love of harmony favor me with a solo!”
While this conversation was going on, the ox was champing the grass ; the frog was eying him in such a rage at his superior proportions that he would have spurted venom at him if he could, and that he would have burst, only that is impossible, from sheer envy: the little lambkin was lying unsuspiciously at the side of the wolf in fleecy hosiery, who did not as yet molest her, being replenished with the mutton, her mam
But now the wolf's eyes began to glare and his sharp, white teeth to show, and he rose up with a growl, and began to think he should like lamb for supper.
“What large eyes you have got!” bleated out the lamb, with rather a timid look.
“The better to see you with, my dear."
At this moment such a terrific yell filled the field that all its inhabitants started with terror. It was from a donkey, who had somehow got a lion's skin, and now came in at the hedge, pursued by some men and boys with sticks and guns.
When the wolf in sheep's clothing heard the bellow of the ass in the lion's skin, fancying that the monarch of the forest was near, he ran away as fast as his disguise would let him. When the ox heard the noise, he dashed round the meadow-ditch, and with one trample of his hoof squashed the frog who had been abusing him. When the crow saw the people with guns coming, he instantly dropped the cheese out of his mouth, and took to wing. When the fox saw the cheese drop, he immediately made a jump at it (for he knew the donkey's voice, and that his asinine bray was not a bit like his royal master's roar), and, making for the cheese, fell into a steel-trap, which snapped off his tail; without which he was obliged to go into the world, pretending, forsooth, that it was the fashion not to wear tails any more, and that the fox-party were better without 'em.
Meanwhile, a boy with a stick came up, and belabored master donkey until he roared louder than ever. The wolf, with the sheep's clothing draggling about his legs, could not run fast, and was detected and shot by one of the men. The blind old owl, whirring out of the hollow tree, quite amazed at the disturbance, flounced into the face of a plowboy, who knocked her down with a pitchfork. The butcher came and quietly led off the ox and the lamb; and the farmer, finding the fox's brush in the trap, hung it over his mantel-piece and always bragged that he had been in at his death.
What a farrago of old fables is this! What a dressing up in old clothes!” says the critic. (I think I see such a one-a Solomon that sits in judgment over us authors, and chops up our children.)
“ As sure as I am just and wise, modest, learned, and religious, so surely I have read something very like this stuff and nonsense about jackasses and foxes before. That wolf in sheep's clothing!—do I not know him? That fox discoursing with the crow!-have I not previously heard of him? Yes,
in Lafontaine's fables. Let us get the Dictionary and the Fable and the Biographie Universelle, article Lafontaine, and confound the impostor.”
“Then in what a contemptuous way,” may Solomon go on to remark, “ does this author speak of human nature! There is scarce one of these characters he represents but is a villain. The fox is a flatterer; the frog is an emblem of impotence and envy; the wolf sheep's clothing a bloodthirsty hypocrite, wearing the garb of innocence; the ass in the lion's skin a quack trying to terrify by assuming the appearance of a forest monarch; the ox a stupid common-place; the only innocent being in the writer's (stolen) apologue is a fool—the idiotic lamb, who does not know his own mother.” And then the critic, if in a virtuous mood, may indulge in some fine writing regarding the holy beauteousness of maternal affection.
Why not? If authors sneer, it is the critic's business to sneer at them for sneering He must pretend to be their superior, or who would care about his opinion? And his livelihood is to find fault. Besides, he is right sometimes; and the stories he reads, and the characters drawn in them are old, sure enough. What stories are new? All types of all characters march through all fables: tremblers and boasters; victims and bullies; dupes and knaves; long-eared Neddies, giving themselves leonine airs; Tartuffes, wearing virtuous clothing; lovers and their trials, their blindness, their folly and constancy. With the very first page of the human story do not love and lies, too, begin? So the tales were told ages before Æsop: and asses under lions' manes roared in Hebrew; and sly foxes flattered in Etruscan; and wolves in sheep's clothing gnashed their teeth in Sanscrit, no doubt. The sun shines to-day as he did when he first began shining; and the birds in the tree overhead, while I am writing, sing very much the same note they have sung ever since they were finches. Nay, since last he besought good-natured friends to listen once a month to his talking, a friend of the writer has seen the New World, and found the (featherless) birds there exceedingly like their brethren of Europe. There may be nothing new under and including the sun; but it looks fresh every morning, and we rise with it to toil, hope, scheme, laugh, struggle, love, suffer, until the night comes and quiet. And then will wake Morrow, and the eyes that look on it.
This, then, is to be a story, may it please you, in which jackdaws will wear peacock's feathers, and awaken the just ridicule of the peacocks; in which, while every justice is done to the peacocks themselves, the splendor of their plumage, the gorgeousness of their dazzling necks, and the magnificence of their tails, exception will yet be taken to the absurdity of their rickety strut, and the foolish discord of their pert squeaking; in which lions in love will have their claws pared by sly virgins; in which rogues will sometimes triumph, and honest folks, let us hope, come by their own; in which there will be black crape and white favors; in which there will be tears under orange-flower wreaths and jokes in mourning-coaches; in which there will be dinners of herbs with contentment and without; and banquets of stalled oxen where there is care and hatred—ay, and kindness and friendship, too, along with the feast. It does not follow that all men are honest because they are poor; and I have known some who were friendly and generous, although they had plenty of money. There are some greatlandlords who do not grind down their tenants; there are actually bishops who are not hypocrites; there are liberal men even among the Whigs, and the Radicals themselves are not all Aristocrats at heart.
But who ever heard of giving the moral before the Fable? Children are only led to accept the one after their delectation over the other: let us take care lest our readers skip both; and so let us bring them on quickly -our wolves and lambs, our foxes and lions, our roaring donkeys, our billing ring-doves, our motherly partlets, and crowing chanticleers.
“There is little to remark upon in Macaulay's vocabulary except its copiousness. He has no eccentricities of diction like De Quincey or Carlyle; he employs neither slang nor scholastic technicalities, and he never coins a new word. He cannot be said to use an excess of Latin words, and he is not a purist in the matter of Saxon. His command of expression was proportioned to the extraordinary compass of his memory. The copiousness appears not so much in the Shakespearian form of accumulating synonyms one upon another as in a profuse way of repeating a thought in several different sentences. This is especially noticeable in the opening passages of some of his essays.
Macaulay's is a style that may truly be called “artificial' from his excessive use of striking artifices of style-balanced sentences, abrupt transitions, and pointed figures of speech. The peculiarities of the mechanism of his style are expressed in such general terms as 'abrupt,' “pointed,' oratorical.' His sentences have the compact finish produced by the frequent occurrence of the periodic arrangement. He is not uniformly periodic; he often prefers a loose structure, and he very rarely has recourse to the forced inversions that we find occasionally in De. Quincey. Yet there is a sufficient interspersion of periodic arrangements to produce an impression of firmness.
We may notice incidentally his lavish use of antithesis. The contrasts are really more numerous than might be thought at first glance; the bare framework is so overlaid and disguised by the extraordinary