Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

But an

keys on the eve of exhalation ; but and elevates its antipodes with all the whether the end of an ass, like the pride of a peacock ; his hiss is most end of Edipus, is a thing forbidden superlatively self-complacent and conto our actual knowledge ; or whether, temptuous—it is eloquent of irrepresfor some other reason which we con- sible misanthropy ; a child can see fess ourselves unable to discover, we through his pretensions to dignity; are, we must allow, unable to sub. his folly breaks out in the very means stantiate our impression by proof posi- which he takes to hide it. tive, though we have not unfrequently ass ; pshaw! there is no deceit about watched, from morn to dewy eve, in an ass ;-he stands before us even as fond anticipations of success. Never- nature made him, rough, homely, and theless, till we have satisfactory de honest; he pretends not to beauty monstration of their mortality, we which he does not possess; he makes shall hold to our exhalation theory, no ostentatious display of his sagacity; empty as it may appear. At any rate he is content to slip through existence it is, as Shelley says,

as peaceably and silently as we will " A modest creed, and yet

let him ; he wants but little, and he Pleasant, if one considers it ;"

gets it; he can teach as many lessons

as the ant, and he finds, if possible, inasmuch as its tendency is to throw fewer disciples. Yes! the world may around the long-eared tribe a sort of sneer as it likes, but an ass is no fool; charm-to invest them with some- we rather take him for a philosopher. what of a poetical interest, of which, How many requisites for greatness Heaven knows, they stand in sufficient does he not possess ? Urge him, scold Reed; but which, we believe in our him, beat him, kick him the Man of conscience, and which we hope, before Uz himself was not more enduring ! we have done, to prove, they deserve He looks at you all the while, as much in a far greater degree than the world

as to say,

« I can't help it, so you allows them to enjoy.

must go on as long as you please, The deeming a donkey an object to though you must be aware this sort be contemned, we take to be as decided of treatment isn't, by any means, gen. à vulgar error as any which Sirtlemanlike.” Does he feel it repugThomas Brown, long ago, so labori- nant to the dictates of his concience ously combated. We have not the

to take some particular course ? only slightest sympathy with that ridicu- observe his unswerving strength of lous old Dogberry in his indignation purpose! He cares not for the “ vul at the epithet bestowed upon him ; tus instantis tyranni;" he blenches not we do not see any disgrace, even in from his fixed resolve for threats or " as pretty a piece of man's flesh as

thumps; he yields not to the more inany in Messina," being “ written sidious attacks of persuasion and blandown an ass ;'—though, of course, we dishment; and, by a miserable pervercannot be surprised that his vulgar sion of epithets, his resolution is stigsoul should have adopted a vulgar matized as stubbornness, his conscienprejudice. The marvel to us is ra- tious scruples degraded into obstinate ther how the prejudice ever entered perversity. He is abstemious, partly into any soul at all ;-its existence is it must be owned, by obligation; but a psychological curiosity ;-and like he suffers compulsion with such an us, when west and astonished at that unaffected good grace, that nature mystery of mysteries—a reel within a must have as much to do with the matbottle we wonder how the devil it ter as necessity. He will eat any got there." We should like to know thing and every thing, a thistle or a by what right Æsop, and Gay, and macaroon; and, if we mistake not, all the fablemongers, from Jotham there is somewhere or other on record upwards, have pitched upon one un- a certain noodle, who departed this life happy, animal, and made him a mock, in a guffaw, occasioned by seeing his ass and a byword, and a laughing-stock composedly appropriate some figs laid for all succeeding generations to crack by for his own private consumption. Is their « fool-born jests” upon. Now, there any pride about a donkey ? Not in a goose there really is something a scruple, not the infinitesimal particle ridiculous ;-his very waddle is vain- of a grain ; only satisfy him that the glorious; he stretches out his head, path you wish him to take is the path of duty, and what burden will be re. that, painful as it must be to his own fuse to bear ? Carrots or children, feelings, he cannot resist availing himsoot-bags or spinster,—'tis all one to self of this his only means of wreakJack. He trudges on in the same un- ing upon mankind his multifarious murmuring fashion, with an occasional wrongs and persecutions. swish of the tail, and a constant droop- We were saying, or going to say, ing of the head, poring upon the how much we commiserated a donkey, ground on which he treads, as intensely when the bare mention of his voice as the most zealous stone-smiter that sent us flying off at a tangent, much ever wandered over the country, ham- as the reality is wont to do when it mer in hand, in the wake of Dr Buck- strikes upon our unlucky tympanum. land. No waster of time is he (we mean And, truly, if he be not a pity-dethe ass, not the professor) in gaping serving object, we know of nothing and staring about him. Leave him

which is so.

It seems to us to be a to himself for hours if you will, and at notion inherent in the mind of the your return fear not to miss him. There many, that it is not only allowable, he stands, motionless as a statue ; he but an absolute matter of obligation has been in a brown study the whole and duty, to abuse, cuff, kick, lash, time, revolving in his meditative soul spur, and otherwise maltreat a jacko things human and asinine ; chewing ass ad libitum, which said ad libitum, the cud of fancy, which for him, we in the case of the unhappy sufferer fear, possesses nought but bitterness. under consideration, means always ad

We pity an ass so deeply that we infinitum. One can't turn him out for almost suspect we love him. But then an hour on a common, be it ever so his bray! No, we cannot for the life wide, or up a lane, be it ever so reof us get over that. The squeaking tired, but two or three imps of boys, of an ungreased waggon-wheel-the who can see opportunities for mischief shovelling up of cinders under the even through a millstone, are sure to grate--an amateur fiddler-a profes- spy him out, and then his torments sional bagpiper-a cat in a gutter- begin. Three or four of the villains the roaring of a spoiled child in a at least on his back at once, shouting passion--the voice of a bumbailiff- at him like young Stentors, whacking sounds all, and especially the last, to him with sticks purloined from the agonize man's tortured ear and shud- nearest hedge, drumming upon his dering frame--are “ musical as is helpless ribs with their hobnailed heels, Apollo's lute," in comparison with the till perchance, at last, some one more uplisted voice of a jackass. Were we exquisitely mischievous than his felover so partial, we could here nothing lows, seizes an opportunity of insertextenuate ; were we ever so spiteful, ing beneath his unguarded tail a furze we could hardly be suspected of set- bush plentiful in prickles, whereby ting down aught in malice. We never stung at once to frenzy, with one could discover that it has even the irresistible plunge he lays his torsingle argument of utility to allege in mentors sprawling on their mother its defence—it is the most unmeaning earth, and rushes off, alas ! hugging gratuitous piece of discord in nature! closely, in his ignorance, the invisible There the rascal stands-not another cause of his anguish. ass within a mile of him with his Look at him in the hands of the head for once stuck up in the air, bel- chimney-sweeper in the country-look lowing away for no earthly object at him in the cart of the costermonger that we can perceive, save his own will, in the town-look at him in the donkey and, we were going to add, pleasure, race at a country fair, and observe the but we doubt if even the strongest intense zeal with which he is bela-self-admiration could go so far as that. boured on such interesting occasions, Nature, when she moulded his ears, when no jockey is permitted to ride must have counterbalanced the excess bis own hanimal ! Look at him, of length by the deficiency of delicacy, above all, on Blackheath, or Hampor he could never fail of being scared, stead Heath, or any other heath in like Fear, " at the sound himself had the environs of the metropolis !-look made." We do not feel quite sure at him at Margate, Ramsgate, or any that a spirit of revenge, however un- other marine emporium of shrimps and congenial to his nature generally, is yellow slippers, to which, thick-cramnot at the bottom of the matter; and med in emulous steamboats, the sons

no!"

and daughters of Cockaigne make nialof the anticipated imputation would their hebdomadal resort from the cla- have been weak and powerless, conmour of Cheapside, and the suffocation trasted with the indignant interroga. of St Mary-Axe! Count, if you can, tion, the unceasing detachments of enter- " Oh ! if I had a donkey wot wouldn't go, prising Amazons whom he is destined

Do you think I'd wallop him ?" daily to initiate into the delights and dangers of donkey-womanship! Ad. The poet has not stopped to pick his mire their innocent wonder at his un

words-he has scorned to sacrifice willingness to go; and how calmly feeling at the shrine of elegance-he and placidly they listen to the thick. speaks in the unmeasured, off-hand, descending strokes of the driver's heart-gushing language of honest sincudgel, never dreaming, merciful cerity. Mark, too, how he answers souls ! that the said strokes can be in

his own question,—. the slightest degree unpleasant! How “ Do you think I'd wallop him ? Oh! no! they squeak, and giggle, and scream, with interestingly-assumed terror,when Was there ever any thing more en. at last the ill-fated wretch is goaded thusiastic ?-No circumlocution-No into a pace bearing a distant resem- beating about the bush: in one moblance to a trot; and how they not ment, with a single syllable, he sets us unfrequently contrive to lose their at ease as to his sentiments on the balance, and tumble off, to the now subject, and then, and not till then, he real dismay of themselves, the infinite shows, us in bold, broad, and beautiful delight of the attendant, and the sole outline, the kindly course of treatment and serious inconvenience of the don- he would adopt, if he were blest enough key, whose misfortune it is to expiate, to possess a donkey, and that not only by a world of hard names, and still a simple donkey, but-(a temptation harder belabouring, the awkwardness by which the patience even of Job was of his fair and floundering burden. unassailed)-a donkey, “wot wouldn't Most sincerely, we repeat, do we

go.” compassionate him; and, thank good

" I'd give him some hay, and I'd cry, 'gee ness, we do not stand alone in our pity,

woh !'" ay, and—for why should we not speak it boldly ?-in our love for donkeys !

Good food and kind words! Donkey. No, we have many an honoured name

lovers as we are, we could not find in to enrol in our « band of brothers,"

our heart to utter so much as one syl. even without being obliged to have re

lable in defence of the ill-conditioned course to the lists of the Society for

ass that could remain insensible to the the Prevention of Cruelty ; though we

blandishments of such a master! fear there may be here and there

- Well now," we think we hear some among us an enemy in the camp under

good, kind, simple, unsuspicious soul the guise of a friend a wolf or two

exclaim, “ Surely you don't mean to in sheep's clothing. For instance,

tell us there is any wolf in sheep's there is a minstrel, and a minstrel, too,

clothing here !” We would gladly of no mean popularity, who sings in

think so—we would give any thing to one of those simple and touching bal.

be able to think so we have set out lad strains to which the people most

every argument we could muster in love to hearken

favour of the sincerity of the poet ; and

we, who have convinced others, are “Oh! if I had a donkey wo wouldn't go,

ourselves, after all, unconvinced. We Do you think I'd wallop him? Oh! no!

may be uncharitable-We would fain no!

hope we are so-but, in spite of our I'd give him some hay, and I'd cry, gee!

teeth, we are still unsatisfied. In woh!' With a 'kim aup, Neddy!'”

the gorgeous dreams of Fairyland,

which we would give worlds to believe Could any thing be imagined more true, there is ever an intrusive, halfenergetic ? He is too well aware that waking sort of consciousness, that almost every man's hand is against a the flowers on which we tread, the pajackass, and he is in an agony of fear laces in which we revel, the delights in lest the world should set him down, as which we are lapped, are but an una matter of course, among the perse- real and fleeting mockery. And some. cuting majority :-a plain prosaic dc- what thus is it here. We are delight

ed with the kind-heartedness of the fancy, patting the head, and clapping minstrel-we surrender ourselves, as

the "

ragged coat” of the unlearned we read, to the delight of sympathizing juvenile, and tenderly enquiring the with him; and yet all the while, we reason of a despondency so unnatural hardly know why, we are unable to and unwonted in the lightsome season persuade ourselves that he is really of youth; and we think liis attributing and actually in earnest. We almost it to filial pain at seeing his maternal hate ourselves for our own suspi. parent cions, but we cannot succeed in

“ Chain’d to a log within a narrow spot." banishinthem. We could not be induced to trust that man on a donkey one of the most exquisite touches we of ours, with a crab-tree cudgel in his ever met with. The boldness, too and fist, by the richest bribe that could the magnanimity which he displays in be laid before us. We could almost venturing, “spite of the world's scorn,” swear, that as soon as ever he got out to acknowledge his fraternal relationof our sight, he would be found, in ship to the sufferer, are beyond all zealous imitation of the wretch whom, praise. Indeed, throughout the address, in a following verse of his lay, he stig. we do nothing but envy the man who matizes with so much apparent ear- could write and feel it; and by no means nestness, and giving the lie to his pro- the least when he affirms that, could fessions, by “ walloping his hanimal he place the subject of his song in that with all his means. We may be station in society of which he conceives thought to strain a point or two in de him to be worthy, his very bray would fence of our own prejudices, but we can sound in his, the poet's, ears most not help fancying that the active verb musically sweet." Certes the much "wallop” (which, it will be observed, enduring Ithacan, who heard unmoved is twice employed in the course of the the song of the Sirens, (we say it ad. lyric) comes rolling off the tongue with visedly, for the strapping to the mast such gout, and seems so habitual to the was of his own free-will,) was a fool to mouth of the minstrel, as to give some him who could listen with positive ground (though it must, in common pleasure to the braying of a jackass ! fairness, be confessed but a slight one) Talking of Ulysses very naturally for supposing him not entirely inexpe- puts us in mind of the blind old man rienced in the practice which it repre- whom the muse inspired to sing his

wanderings; and, for the confusion of But the unmasking a hypocrite, be- those who laugh at asses, we cannot neficial as it doubtless is to the public resist quoting a passage, and that, too, at large, is but an uncongenial field for thanks to the untranslateability of Hothe labours of the philanthropist, and mer, in the original. The son of Tewe turn gladly to the good men and lamon, he of the sevenfold shield, is, true.” There is a calmness and an in- . by his unassisted prowess, keeping at nocent simplicity about Coleridge's bay whole hosts of Trojans, vainly fu« Lines to a young Ass," which con- rious at the impotence of their attacks. vince us at once that they have their “ Even as when,” says the bard--but source in the heart. We see him, in we said it should be in Greek

ως δ' οτ' όνος παρ' αρουραν των εβιήσατο παϊδας
νωθής, και δη πολλά περί ρόπαλαμφίς εάγη,
κείρει τ’ εισελθών βαθύ λήίον» οι δε τε παίδες
τύπτουσι ροπάλοισι: βίη δε τε νηπίη αυτών:
σπουδή τ’ εξήλασσαν, επεί τ' εκορέσσατο φορβή.

τότ' έπειτ' Αίαντα.–κ. τ. λ. All we want to know is, did Homer “Helvellyn," and bid us match it else. intend to make Ajax ridiculous yet where among the inferior creation if we Ajax is compared to an ass!

can! We accept the challenge, and There are some misguided people claim the right to appear by our chamwho fancy that, in his love and un- pion. Stand forth, William Wordsshakeable fidelity to man the dog stands worth, and tell us how an ass could be alone, and they quote in triumph the as fond and as faithful-how he could affecting incident commemorated in stand over the drowned corpse of his Scott's beautiful little poem called late lord, sorrowing, solitary, starving,

sents.

او و

[ocr errors]

and motionless, save that, at the rude His every gesture says imploringly, ass ault of the wandering Potter, he Jump up Peter, my boy!” as plain. once or twice

ly as the pigs, which run about ready “ Upon the pivot of his skull

roasted in Connecticut with knives Turn'd round his long left ear,”

and forks stuck between their ribs to and voiceless, till, driven to speech by prevent their tumbling out, ejaculate reiterated thumps,

to the chaps-watering multitude,

" Come eat me! come eat me!” Two “ He gave a groan, and then another,

things more about this ass we cannot Of that which went before the brother,

resist noticing, before we tear ourAnd then he gave a third.”

selves from so fascinating a theme. Grunt the brother of groan! The Firstly, our long.eared friend is inworld has not been favoured with such

debted to Wordsworth for the most a genealogical morceau since the sublime comparison ever bestowed Greek of old proclaimed dust to be

upon one of his fraternity. He has " the thirsty sister of mud!” We

been by Peter (who was, as Shelley mean to say that no man ever had a

tells us in a graphic sketch of his char. more beautiful and adequate concep- acter, tion of the moral dignity of an

ass,

than Wordsworth. That particular speci

-“ an evil cotter,

And a polygamic potter”) men of the breed who figures at this moment before us, deserves to be villainously abused, maltreated, beatcommented upon in nothing less than en, and knocked down a more aggra. “whole volumes in folio," had we but vated case of assault and battery was leisure to fill them. Truly he is a never laid before a jury—and he rises most Christianlike ass! He is beaten at length from the ground, with ma(or, as our former friend would phrase nifold bumps and bruises-bones sha. it, "walloped") very heartily—and king and aching, and, as we afterdoes he kick ? Not he! His “shining wards learn, a considerable contusion hazel-eye” turns upon his persecutor on the occiput. He rises like-we only

would give you till the Greek Kalends “ One mild, reproachsul look,

to guess what-he rises A look more tender than severe.

“ like a tempest-shattered bark,

That overwhelm’d and prostrate lies, Does he bear malice ? Not a whit:

And, in a moment, to the verge Peter sets to work to haul out the

Is lifted of a foaming surge!” dead body, and all his wrongs are forgiven in a moment!

Glorious indeed! We never to this “ The little ass his neck extends,

day see a jackass under process of beAnd fondly licks his hands!”

labouring, without being reminded of

our fifteenth cousin the Middy, and He “ looks on," and his very silence the Thunder-and-Lightning man-ofis eloquent:-he wants only the fa

war in a white squall in the Bay of . culty of speech, which was given to Biscay! Lastly, what a picture is the his ancestor of old, to cry." Pull away, meeting of the ass and his young masPeter!" The camel, it is said, is ter! The love of man to beast was taught to go down on his knees to surely never painted in such glowing enable his rider to mount with greater colours. The youth has been wanease. This is certainly sensible dering over the country for three days, enough ; but our friend the ass beats

at the very least, to find his father, him hollow, for he does it of his own and his search has been in vain:-he accord. A common-minded looker. is approaching his home, sad, sorrowon-a man who calls “ a yellow prim- ful, and ignorant of his sire's fate as rose" a yellow primrose and nothing when he left it, and suddenly his eye more, might have thought he merely lights upon the returned ass. Of meditated a roll, just to stretch his course his father has returned also limbs after standing for four consecu- there can be no doubt about the mattive days in the same unaltered posi- ter_it would only be losing time to tion

enquire_ he can see him at any time * But no ! that Peter on his back in the course of the evening-and, Must mount, he shows, well as he can," even supposing he had not by any

« ForrigeFortsett »