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Title: An Outline Of Humor: Being a True Chronicle From Prehistoric Ages to the Twentieth Century
Author: Carolyn Wells, - To be updated
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "An Outline Of Humor: Being a True Chronicle From Prehistoric Ages to the Twentieth Century" ***

                           Outline of Humor

                      Being a True Chronicle From
                        Prehistoric Ages to the
                           Twentieth Century

                               Edited by

                             Carolyn Wells

                               Editor of
                     “The Book of Humorous Verse,”
                     “A Nonsense Anthology,” etc.

                          G. P. Putnam’s Sons
                           New York & London
                        The Knickerbocker Press

                            Copyright, 1923
                        Carolyn Wells Houghton


                 Made in the United States of America



                            HIGHEST REGARD


                       DOCTOR HUBER GRAY BUEHLER


Outlining is a modern art. For centuries we have collected and
selected, compiled and compended, but only of late have we outlined.

And an Outline is a result differing in kind from the other work
mentioned, and presenting different conditions and contingencies.

An Outline, owing to its sweep of magnificent distances, can touch
only the high spots, and can but skim those. Not in its province is
criticism or exhaustive commentary. Not in its scope are long effusions
or lengthy extracts.

Nor may it include everybody or everything that logically belongs to it.

An Outline is at best an irregular proposition, and the Outliner must
follow his irregular path as best he may. But one thing is imperative,
the Outliner must be conscientious. He must weigh to the best of his
knowledge and belief the claims to inclusion that his opportunities
present. He must pick and choose with all the discernment of which he
is capable and while following his best principles of taste he must
sink his personal preferences in his regard for his Outline as a whole.

Nor can he pick and choose his audience. To one reader,--or critic,--a
hackneyed selection is tiresome, while to another it is a novelty and
a revelation. And it must be remembered that a hackneyed poem is a
favorite one and a favorite is one adjudged best, by a consensus of
human opinion, and is therefore a high spot to be touched upon.

While the Outline is generally chronological, it is not a history and
dates are not given. Also, when it seemed advisable to desert the
chronological path for the topographical one, that was done.

Yet Foreign Literatures cannot be adequately treated in an Outline
printed in English. Translations are at best misleading. If the
translation is a poor one, the pith and moment of the original is
partly, or wholly lost. And if the translation be of great merit, the
work may show the merit of the new rendition rather than the original.

And aside from all that, few translations of Humor are to be found.

The translators of foreign tongues choose first the philosophy, the
fiction or the serious poetry of the other nations, leaving the humor,
if any there be, to hang unplucked on the tree of knowledge.

So the foreign material is scant, but the high spots are touched as far
as could be found convenient.

The Outline stops at the year 1900. Humor since then is too close to be
viewed in proper perspective.

But the present Outliner mainly hopes to show how, with steady
footstep, from the Caveman to the current comics Humor has followed the

                                                                  C. W.
      _April, 1923_.


All rights on poems and prose in this volume are reserved by the
authorized publisher, the author, or the holder of copyright, with whom
special arrangements have been made for including such material in this
work. The editor expresses thanks for such permission as indicated

D. APPLETON & COMPANY: For “To a Mosquito” by William Cullen Bryant;
“Tushmaker’s Tooth-Puller” by G. H. Derby; and for “The Sad End of Brer
Wolf” by Joel C. Harris, from _Uncle Remus, His Songs and His Sayings_.

THE CENTURY CO.: For an extract from the “Chimmie Fadden” stories; and
for the poem “What’s in a Name?” by R. K. Munkittrick.

DAVID MCKAY COMPANY: For “Ballad of the Noble Ritter Hugo” by Charles
G. Leland.

DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY: For “At the Sign of the Cock” by Owen Seaman;
“Here Is the Tale” by Anthony C. Deane; and “On a Fan” and “The
Rondeau” by Austin Dobson.

FORBES & COMPANY: For “If I Should Die To-Night” and “The Pessimist” by
Ben King.

HARPER & BROTHERS: For “Elegy” and “Mavrone” by Arthur Guiterman. With
the permission of the Estate of Samuel L. Clemens, the Mark Twain
Company, and Harper & Brothers, publishers, with a full reservation of
all copyright privileges is included an extract from the “Jumping Frog”
by Mark Twain.

HURST & COMPANY: For an extract from “Bill Nye.”

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY: With their permission and by special
arrangement with them as authorized publishers of the following
authors’ works, are used selections from: Charles E. Carryl, Guy
Wetmore Carryl, Ralph Waldo Emerson, James T. Fields, Bret Harte, John
Hay, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, John G. Saxe, E. R.
Sill, Bayard Taylor.

LITTLE, BROWN & COMPANY: For five limericks and “The Two Old Bachelors”
from _Nonsense Books_.

LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO.: For “A Philosopher” by Sam Walter Foss from
_Dreams in Homespun_; also for an extract from “The Partington Papers”
by B. P. Shillaber.

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY: For verses from _Through the Looking-Glass_ by
Lewis Carroll.

CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS: For “Two Men” and “Miniver Cheevy” by E. A.
Robinson from _The Children of the Night_ and _The Town Down the River_.

SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY: For an extract from Finley Peter Dunne (Mr.



    INTRODUCTION                                                   3

    ANCIENT HUMOR                                                 21

    MIDDLE DIVISION                                               43

      PART I. GREECE                                              43

      PART II. ROME                                               86

      PART III. MEDIÆVAL AGES                                    120

    MODERN HUMOR                                                 253

        ENGLISH WIT AND HUMOR                                    253

        FRENCH WIT AND HUMOR                                     312

        GERMAN WIT AND HUMOR                                     337

        ITALIAN WIT AND HUMOR                                    343

        SPANISH WIT AND HUMOR                                    359

      THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY                                    364

        ENGLISH HUMOR                                            364

        FRENCH HUMOR                                             390

        GERMAN HUMOR                                             412

      THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY                                     415

      THE NINETEENTH CENTURY                                     445

        ENGLISH HUMOR                                            446

        FRENCH HUMOR                                             560

        GERMAN HUMOR                                             586

        ITALIAN HUMOR                                            616

        SPANISH HUMOR                                            626

        RUSSIAN HUMOR                                            631

        AMERICAN HUMOR                                           643

    INDEX                                                        761

                          An Outline of Humor


Speaking exactly, an Outline of the World’s Humor is an impossibility.

For surely the adjectives most applicable to humor are elusive,
evasive, evanescent, ephemeral, intangible, imponderable, and other
terms expressing unavailability.

To outline such a thing is like trying to trap a sunbeam or bound an

Yet an Outline of the History of the World’s recorded humor as evolved
by the Human Race, seems within the possibilities.

First of all, it must be understood that the term humor is here used in
its broadest, most comprehensive sense. Including both wit and humor;
including the comic, fun, mirth, laughter, gayety, repartee,--all types
and classes of jests and jokes.

The earliest reference to this mental element is that of Aristotle, and
the word he uses to represent it is translated the Ridiculous.

His definition states that the Ridiculous is that which is in itself
incongruous, without involving the notion of danger or pai

Coleridge thus refers to Aristotle’s definition:

   “Where the laughable is its own end, and neither inference nor
   moral is intended, or where at least the writer would wish it
   so to appear, there arises what we call drollery. The pure,
   unmixed, ludicrous or laughable belongs exclusively to the
   understanding, and must be presented under the form of the
   senses; it lies within the spheres of the eye and the ear, and
   hence is allied to the fancy. It does not appertain to the
   reason or the moral sense, and accordingly is alien to the
   imagination. I think Aristotle has already excellently defined
   the laughable, τò γελοíον, as consisting of, or depending
   on, what is out of its proper time and place, yet without
   danger or pain. Here the _impropriety_--τò ἄτοπον--is the
   positive qualification; the _dangerlessness_--τò ἀχίνδυνον--the
   negative. The true ludicrous is its own end. When serious satire
   commences, or satire that is felt as serious, however comically
   drest, free and genuine laughter ceases; it becomes sardonic.
   This you experience in reading Young, and also not unfrequently
   in Butler. The true comic is the blossom of the nettle.”

Yet, notwithstanding Coleridge’s scientific views on the subject, Humor
is not an exact science. It is, more truly, an art, whose principles
are based on several accepted theories, and some other theories, not so
readily accepted or admitted only in part by these who have thought and
written on the subject.

A true solution of the mystery of why a joke makes us laugh, has yet to
be found. To the mind of the average human being, anything that makes
him laugh is a joke. Why it does so, there are very few to know and
fewer still to care.

Nor are the Cognoscenti in much better plight. A definition of humor
has been attempted by many great and wise minds. Like squaring the
circle, it has been argued about repeatedly, it has been written about
voluminously. It has been settled in as many different ways as there
have been commentators on the subject. And yet no definition, no
formula has ever been evolved that is entirely satisfactory.

Aristotle’s theory of the element of the incongruous has come to be
known as the Disappointment theory, or Frustrated Expectation.

But Aristotle voiced another theory, which he, in turn, derived from

Plato said, though a bit indefinitely, that the pleasure we derive in
laughing at the comic is an enjoyment of other people’s misfortune,
due to a feeling of superiority or gratified vanity that we ourselves
are not in like plight.

This is called the Derision theory, and as assimilated and expressed
by Aristotle comes near to impinging on and coinciding with his own
Disappointment theory.

Moreover, he attempted to combine the two.

For, he said, we always laugh at someone, but in the case, where
laughter arises from a deceived expectation, our mistake makes us laugh
at ourselves.

In fact, Plato held, in his vague and indefinite statements that there
is a disappointment element, a satisfaction element, and sometimes a
combination of the two in the make-up of the thing we are calling Humor.

All of which is not very enlightening, but it is to be remembered that
those were the first fluttering flights of imagination that sought to
pin down the whole matter; yet among the scores that have followed,
diverging in many directions, we must admit few, if any, are much more
succinct or satisfactory.

The Derision or Discomfiture Theory holds that all pleasure in laughing
at a comic scene is an enjoyment of another’s discomfiture. Yet it must
be only discomfiture, not grave misfortune or sorrow.

If a man’s hat blows off and he runs out into the street after it, we
laugh; but if he is hit by a passing motor car, we do not laugh. If a
fat man slips on a banana peel and lands in a mud puddle, we laugh; but
if he breaks his leg we do not laugh.

It is the ridiculous discomfiture of another that makes a joke, not the
serious accident, and though there are other types and other theories
of the cause of humor, doubtless the majority of jokes are based on
this principle.

From the Circus Clown to Charlie Chaplin, episodes of discomfiture
make us laugh. Every newspaper cartoon or comic series hinges on the
discomfiture of somebody. The fly on the bald head, the collar button
under the bureau, the henpecked husband, all depend for their humor on
the trifling misfortune that makes its victim ridiculous.

An enjoyment of this discomfiture of a fellow man is inherent in human
nature, and though there are subtler jests, yet this type has a grip on
the risibilities that can never be loosened.

Can we doubt that it was the Serpent’s laughing at the discomfiture of
Adam and Eve, caught in _deshabille_, that caused them to rush for
the nearest fig tree? Or perhaps, their eyes being opened, they laughed
at one another. Anyway, they were decidedly discomfited, and did their
best to remedy matters.

This Derision Theory includes also the jests at the ignorance or
stupidity of another. The enormous vogue of the Noodle jokes, some
centuries ago, hinged on the delight felt in the superiority of the
hearer over the subject of the jest. All laughable blunders, every
social _faux pas_, all funny stories of children’s sayings and
doings are based on the consciousness of superiority. Practical jokes
represent the simplest form of this theory, as in them the discomfiture
of the other person is the prime element, with no subtle byplay to
relieve it.

A mild example is the polite rejoinder of the street car conductor when
a lady asked at which end of the car she should get off.

“Either end, madame,” he responded, “both ends stop.”

An extreme specimen is the man who told the story of a burning
house--“I saw a fellow up on the roof,” he related, “and I called to
him, ‘Jump, and I’ll catch you in a blanket!’ Well, I had to laugh,--he
jumped,--and I didn’t have no blanket!”

Implied discomfiture is in the story of the agnostic, who was buried
in his evening clothes. “Poor Jim,” said a funeral guest; “he didn’t
believe in Heaven and he didn’t believe in Hell; and there he lies, all
dressed up and no place to go!”

Almost a practical joke is the man who, reading a newspaper, suddenly
exclaimed, “Why, here’s a list of people who won’t eat onions any
more!” And when his hearer asked to see the list, he handed over the
obituary column.

The Disappointment Theory, though overlapping the Derision Theory at
times, is based on the idea that the essence of the laughable is the

Hazlitt says:

   “We laugh at absurdity; we laugh at deformity. We laugh at
   a bottle-nose in a caricature; at a stuffed figure of an
   alderman in a pantomime, and at the tale of Slaukenbergius.
   A dwarf standing by a giant makes a contemptible figure
   enough. Rosinante and Dapple are laughable from contrast, as
   their masters from the same principle make two for a pair.
   We laugh at the dress of foreigners, and they at ours. Three
   chimney-sweepers meeting three Chinese in Lincoln’s Inn Fields,
   they laughed at one another till they were ready to drop down.
   Country people laugh at a person because they never saw him
   before. Any one dressed in the height of the fashion, or quite
   out of it, is equally an object of ridicule. One rich source of
   the ludicrous is distress with which we cannot sympathize from
   its absurdity or insignificance. It is hard to hinder children
   from laughing at a stammerer, at a negro, at a drunken man,
   or even at a madman. We laugh at mischief. We laugh at what
   we do not believe. We say that an argument or an assertion
   that is very absurd, is quite ludicrous. We laugh to show our
   satisfaction with ourselves, or our contempt for those about
   us, or to conceal our envy or our ignorance. We laugh at fools,
   and at those who pretend to be wise--at extreme simplicity,
   awkwardness, hypocrisy, and affectation.”

A beautiful definition of the Disappointment Theory is Max Eastman’s,
“The experience of a forward motion of interest sufficiently definite
so that its ‘coming to nothing’ can be felt.”

Mr. Eastman says further:

   “It is more like a reflex action than a mental result. It
   arises in the very act of perception, when that act is brought
   to nothing by two conflicting qualities of fact or feeling. It
   arises when some numb habitual activity, suddenly obstructed,
   first appears in consciousness with an announcement of its
   own failure. The blockage of an instinct, a collision between
   two instincts, the interruption of a habit, a ‘conflict of
   habit systems,’ a disturbed or misapplied reflex--all these
   catastrophes, as well as the coming to nothing of an effort
   at conceptual thought, must enter into the meaning of the
   word _disappointment_, if it is to explain the whole field of
   practical humor. The ‘strain’ in that expectation is what makes
   it capable of humorous collapse. It is an active expectation.
   The feelings are involved.”

The point of the Disappointment Theory, that of frustrating a carefully
built up expectation is exemplified in jests like these.

“Is your wife entertaining this winter?” asks one society man of
another. “Not very,” is the reply.

“I have to go to Brooklyn--” says a perplexed-looking old lady to a
traffic policeman. “Are you asking directions, ma’am, or just telling
me your troubles?”

The incongruity may be merely a collocution of words.

Mark Twain described Turner’s Slave Ship as “A tortoise-shell cat
having a fit in a platter of tomatoes.”

In a newspaper cartoon, a wife says to her husband, “Even if it is
Sunday morning and a terribly hot day, that’s no reason you should go
around looking like the dog’s breakfast!”

So we see the element of surprise must be combined with the element of
appropriate inappropriateness to gain the desired result.

In this story expectation is aroused for a human tragedy. The
incongruity and disappointment make its humor.

As Mr. Caveman was gnawing at a bone in his cave one morning, Mrs.
Caveman rushed in, exclaiming, “Quick! get your club! Oh, quick!”

“What’s the matter?” growled Mr. Caveman.

“A sabre-toothed tiger is chasing mother!” gasped his wife.

Mr. Caveman uttered an expression of annoyance.

“And what the deuce do I care,” he said, “what happens to a
sabre-toothed tiger?”

It must be admitted that a hard and fast line cannot be drawn between
the two theories given us by the Greek philosophers.

Cicero subscribed to the Derision theory, and said the ridiculous
rested on a certain meanness and deformity, and a joke to be pleasing
must be _on_ somebody. But he declared, also, that the most
eminent kind of the ridiculous is that in which we expect to hear one
thing and hear another said.

Several other Greek and Roman philosophers tackled the subject without
adding anything of importance, and some of them, as well as later
writers declared that the comic could never be defined, but is to be
appreciated only by taste and natural discernment; while many moderns
agree that all theories are inadequate and contradictory, however
useful they may be for convenience in discussion.

Perhaps the trouble may be that only serious-minded people attempt a
definition of humor, and they are not the ones best fitted for the work.

For the discussion goes on still, and is as fascinating to some types
of mentality as is the question of perpetual motion or the Fountain of
Immortal Youth.

A useful commentary on the matter, and one appropriate at this juncture
is the following extract from the works of the celebrated theologian,
Dr. Isaac Barrow, an Englishman of the Seventeenth century.

   “It may be demanded,” says he, “what the thing we speak of is,
   and what this facetiousness doth import; to which question I
   might reply, as Democritus did to him that asked the definition
   of a man--_’Tis that which we all see and know!_ and one better
   apprehends what it is by acquaintance, than I can inform him by
   description. It is indeed a thing so versatile and multiform,
   appearing in so many shapes, so many postures, so many garbs,
   so variously apprehended by several eyes and judgments, that
   it seemeth no less hard to settle a clear and certain notice
   thereof, than to make a portrait of Proteus, or to define the
   figure of fleeting air. Sometimes it lieth in pat allusion to a
   known story, or in seasonable application of a trivial saying,
   or in forging an apposite tale; sometimes it playeth in words
   and phrases, taking advantage from the ambiguity of their sense,
   or the affinity of their sound; sometimes it is wrapped in a
   dress of luminous expression; sometimes it lurketh under an
   odd similitude. Sometimes it is lodged in a sly question; in
   a smart answer; in a quirkish reason; in a shrewd intimation;
   in cunningly diverting or cleverly restoring an objection;
   sometimes it is couched in a bold scheme of speech; in a tart
   irony; in a lusty hyperbole; in a startling metaphor; in a
   plausible reconciling of contradictions; or in acute nonsense.
   Sometimes a scenical representation of persons or things, a
   counterfeit speech, a mimical look or gesture, passeth for it.
   Sometimes an affected simplicity, sometimes a presumptuous
   bluntness, gives it being. Sometimes it riseth only from a
   lucky hitting upon what is strange; sometimes from a crafty
   wresting obvious matter to the purpose. Often it consisteth in
   one knows not what, and springeth up one can hardly tell how.
   Its ways are unaccountable and inexplicable, being answerable
   to the numberless rovings of fancy and windings of language. It
   is, in short, a manner of speaking out of the simple and plain
   way (such as reason teacheth and knoweth things by), which
   by a pretty surprising uncouthness in conceit or expression
   doth affect and amuse the fancy, showing in it some wonder,
   and breathing some delight thereto. It raiseth admiration, as
   signifying a nimble sagacity of apprehension, a special felicity
   of invention, a vivacity of spirit, and reach of wit more than
   vulgar; it seeming to argue a rare quickness of parts, that
   one can fetch in remote conceits applicable; a notable skill
   that he can dexterously accommodate them to a purpose before
   him; together with a lively briskness of humour not apt to damp
   those sportful flashes of imagination. Whence in Aristotle such
   persons are termed επιδéξιοι, dexterous men, and ευτροποι, men
   of facile and versatile manners, who can easily turn themselves
   to all things, or turn all things to themselves. It also
   procureth delight, by gratifying curiosity with its rareness or
   semblance of difficulty (as monsters, not for their beauty but
   their rarity--as juggling tricks, not for their use but their
   abstruseness--are beheld with pleasure); by diverting the mind
   from its road of serious thoughts; by instilling gaiety and
   airiness of spirit; by provoking to such dispositions of spirit
   in way of emulation or compliance; and by seasoning matter,
   otherwise distasteful or insipid, with an unusual and thence
   grateful tang.”--_Barrow’s Works_, Sermon 14.

Also in the Seventeenth century there sprang into being a definition
that has lived, possibly because of the apt wording of its phrase.

It is by Thomas Hobbes, who declared for the Derision Theory, but with
less sweetness and light than it had hitherto enjoyed.

   “_Sudden glory_ is the passion which maketh those _Grimaces_
   called LAUGHTER,” said Hobbes in the “Leviathan,” “and is
   caused either by some sudden act of their own, that pleaseth
   them; or by the apprehension of some deformed thing in another,
   by comparison whereof they suddenly applaud themselves. And
   it is incident most to them, that are conscious of the fewest
   abilities in themselves; who are forced to keep themselves in
   their own favour, by observing the imperfections of other men.
   And therefore much laughter at the defects of others, is a signe
   of Pusillanimity. For of great minds, one of the proper workes
   is, to help and free others from scorn; and compare themselves
   onely with the most able.”

and, also from Hobbes:

   “The passion of laughter is nothing else but _sudden glory_
   arising from a sudden conception of some _eminency in ourselves_
   by comparison with the infirmity of others, or with our own
   formerly: for men laugh at the _follies_ of themselves past,
   when they come suddenly to remembrance, except they bring with
   them any present dishonour.”--_Treatise on Human Nature_, chap.

There is small doubt that the vogue of Hobbes’ definition of this
theory rests on the delightfully expressive, “Sudden Glory,” for those
two words beautifully picture the emotion caused by the unexpected
opportunity to laugh at the discomfiture of another.

Locke followed with a dry and meaningless dissertation, and Coleridge
wrote his discerning but all too brief remarks.

Many German writers gave profound if unimportant opinions.

Addison wrote pleasantly about it, and George Meredith, while accepting
the Derision Theory, modified its harshness thus:

   “If you believe that our civilization is founded in common-sense
   (and it is the first condition of sanity to believe it), you
   will, when contemplating men, discern a Spirit overhead;
   not more heavenly than the light flashed upward from glassy
   surfaces, but luminous and watchful; never shooting beyond
   them, nor lagging in the rear; so closely attached to them that
   it may be taken for a slavish reflex, until its features are
   studied. It has the sage’s brows, and the sunny malice of a faun
   lurks at the corners of the half-closed lips drawn in an idle
   wariness of half tension. That slim feasting smile, shaped like
   the long-bow, was once a big round satyr’s laugh, that flung up
   the brows like a fortress lifted by gunpowder. The laugh will
   come again, but it will be of the order of the smile, finely
   tempered, showing sunlight of the mind, mental richness rather
   than noisy enormity. Its common aspect is one of unsolicitous
   observation, as if surveying a full field and having leisure to
   dart on its chosen morsels without any fluttering eagerness.
   Men’s future upon earth does not attract it; their honesty and
   shapeliness in the present does; and whenever they wax out of
   proportion, overblown, affected, pretentious, bombastical,
   hypocritical, pedantic, fantastically delicate; whenever it
   sees them self-deceived or hoodwinked, given to run riot in
   idolatries, drifting into vanities, congregating in absurdities,
   planning shortsightedly, plotting dementedly; whenever they are
   at variance with their professions, and violate the unwritten
   but perceptible laws binding them in consideration one to
   another; whenever they offend sound reason, fair justice; are
   false in humility or mined with conceit, individually, or in the
   bulk--the Spirit overhead will look humanely malign and cast an
   oblique light on them, followed by volleys of silvery laughter.
   That is the Comic Spirit.”

With Kant, however, the other theory of Aristotle came into notice.
Kant declared, “Laughter is the affection arising from the sudden
transformation of a strained expectation into nothing.”

This was dubbed by Emerson, “Frustrated Expectation,” and describes the
Disappointment Theory as Sudden Glory describes the Derision Theory.

On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets of the
World of Humor.

There are many other theories and sub-theories, there are long and
prosy books written about them, but are outside our Outline.

A general understanding of the humorous element is all we are after and
that has now been set forth.

       *       *       *       *       *

A question closely akin to What is Humor? is What is a Sense of Humor?

The phrase seems self-explanatory, and is by no means identical with
the thing itself. Nor are the two inseparable. Humor and the sense of
humor need not necessarily lie in the same brain.

Two erudite writers on this subject have chosen to consider the phrase
as a unique bit of terminology.

Mr. Max Eastman says; “The creation of that name is the most original
and the most profound contribution of modern thought to the problem of
the comic.”

While Professor Brander Matthews says; “Ample as the English vocabulary
is today, it is sometimes strangely deficient in needful terms. Thus it
is that we have nothing but the inadequate phrase _sense of humor_
to denominate a quality which is often confounded with humor itself,
and which should always be sharply discriminated from it.”

Now it would seem that the phrase was simply a matter of evolution,
coming along when the time was ripe. Surely it is no stroke of genius,
nor yet is it hopelessly inadequate.

It must be granted that a sense of the humorous is as logical a thought
as a sensitive ear for music, or, to be more strictly analogous, a
sense of moderation or that very definite thing, card sense.

Sense, used thus, is almost synonymous with taste, and a taste for
literature or for the Fine Arts in no way implies a productive faculty
in those fields. A taste for humor would mean precisely the same thing
as a sense of humor, and the taste or the sense may be more or less
natural and more or less cultivated, as in the matter of books or

A taste for music is a sense of music, and one may appreciate and enjoy
music and its rendition to the utmost without being able to sing a note
or play upon any instrument whatever.

One may be a music critic or an art critic, or even a critic of
literature, without being able to create any of these things.

Why, then, put forth as a discovery that one may have a sense of humor
without being humorous and _vice versa_?

Humor is creative, while the sense of humor is merely receptive and

Many great humorists have little or no sense of humor. Try to tell
a joke to an accredited joker and note his blank expression of
uncomprehension. It is because he has no sense of humor that he takes
himself seriously.

Such was the case with Dickens, with Carlyle, with many renowned wits.
The humorist without the sense of humor is a bore. He tells long,
detailed yarns, proud of himself, and not seeing his hearers’ lack of

The man with a sense of humor is a joy to know and to be with.

The man who possesses both is already an immortal.

Now as the sense of humor is negative, recipient, while humor is
positive and creative, it follows that a sense of humor alone cannot
produce humorous literature.

These mute, inglorious Miltons, therefore, have no place in our
Outline, but they deserve a passing word of recognition for the
assistance they have been to the humorists, by way of being applauding

For humor, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One with an
acute sense of humor will see comic in stones, wit in the running
brooks,--while a dull or absent sense of humor can see no fun save in
the obvious jest.

The lines,

    “A jest’s prosperity lies in the ear
    Of him who hears it. Never in the tongue
    Of him who makes it.”

in _Love’s Labour’s Lost_ proves that Shakespeare understood the
meaning and value of a sense of humor.

Although it was at a much later date that the word humor came to be
used as now, to mean a gentle, good-natured sort of fun.

All types of humor are universal and of all time. But the first
definitions were arrived at by the men of Greece and Rome, who were
scholarly and analytical, hence the hair-splitting and meticulous
efforts to treat it metaphysically.

Humor today rarely is used in a caustic or biting sense,--that is
reserved for wit.

Which brings us to another great and futile question,--the distinction
between wit and humor.

There is not time or space to take up this subject fully here. But we
can sum up the decisions and opinions of some few of the thinking minds
that have been bent upon it.

As the best and most comprehensive is the dissertation by William
Hazlitt, most of this is here given.

   “Humour is the describing the ludicrous as it is in itself;
   wit is the exposing it, by comparing or contrasting it with
   something else. Humour is, as it were, the growth of nature
   and accident; wit is the product of art and fancy. Humour,
   as it is shown in books, is an imitation of the natural or
   acquired absurdities of mankind, or of the ludicrous in
   accident, situation, and character; wit is the illustrating
   and heightening the sense of that absurdity by some sudden and
   unexpected likeness or opposition of one thing to another, which
   sets off the quality we laugh at or despise in a still more
   contemptible or striking point of view. Wit, as distinguished
   from poetry, is the imagination or fancy inverted and so applied
   to given objects, as to make the little look less, the mean
   more light and worthless; or to divert our admiration or wean
   our affections from that which is lofty and impressive, instead
   of producing a more intense admiration and exalted passion, as
   poetry does. Wit may sometimes, indeed, be shown in compliments
   as well as satire; as in the common epigram--

   “‘Accept a miracle, instead of wit: See two dull lines with
   Stanhope’s pencil writ.’

   But then the mode of paying it is playful and ironical, and
   contradicts itself in the very act of making its own performance
   an humble foil to another’s. Wit hovers round the borders of
   the light and trifling, whether in matters of pleasure or pain;
   for as soon as it describes the serious seriously, it ceases
   to be wit, and passes into a different form. Wit is, in fact,
   the eloquence of indifference, or an ingenious and striking
   exposition of those evanescent and glancing impressions of
   objects which affect us more from surprise or contrast to the
   train of our ordinary and literal preconceptions, than from
   anything in the objects themselves exciting our necessary
   sympathy or lasting hatred.

   “That wit is the most refined and effectual, which is founded on
   the detection of unexpected likeness or distinction in things,
   rather than in words.

   “Wit is, in fact, a voluntary act of the mind, or exercise of
   the invention, showing the absurd and ludicrous consciously,
   whether in ourselves or another. Cross-readings, where the
   blunders are designed, are wit; but if any one were to light
   upon them through ignorance or accident, they would be merely

   “Lastly, there is a wit of sense and observation, which consists
   in the acute illustration of good sense and practical wisdom by
   means of some far-fetched conceit or quaint imagery. The matter
   is sense, but the form is wit. Thus the lines in Pope--

   “’Tis with our judgments as our watches, none Go just alike; yet
   each believes his own--’

   are witty rather than poetical; because the truth they convey
   is a mere dry observation on human life, without elevation or
   enthusiasm, and the illustration of it is of that quaint and
   familiar kind that is merely curious and fanciful.”

Thus Hazlitt: yet it is not necessary to be so verbose in the matter of
discriminating wit from humor.

They are intrinsically different though often outwardly alike.

Wit is intensive or incisive, while humor is expansive. Wit is rapid,
humor is slow. Wit is sharp, humor is gentle. Wit is intentional, humor
is fortuitous.

But to my mind the great difference lies in the fact that wit is
subjective while humor is objective.

Wit is the invention of the mind of its creator; humor lies in the
object that he observes. Wit originates in one’s self, humor outside
one’s self.

Again, wit is art, humor is nature. Wit is creative fancy, more or
less educated and skilled. Humor is found in a simple object, and is

Yet in these, as in all definitions, we must stretch a point when
necessary; we must make allowances for viewpoints and opinions, and we
must agree that the question is not one that may be answered by the

Nor is it necessary in the present undertaking.

_An Outline of Humor_ is planned to include all sorts and
conditions of fun, all types and distinctions of wit and humor from the
earliest available records, or deductions from records, down to the
dawn of the Twentieth Century.

       *       *       *       *       *

Man has been defined as the animal capable of laughter. Although this
definition has been attacked by lovers of quadrupeds, it has held
in the minds of thinkers and students. Aristotle, Milton, Hazlitt,
Voltaire, Schopenhauer, Bergson and many other distinguished scholars
hold that the playfulness seen in animals is in no way an indication of
their sense of humor.

The Laughing Hyena and the Laughing Jackass are so called only because
their cry has a likeness to the sound of raucous human laughter, but it
is no result of mirthful feeling.

Hazlitt says man is the only animal that laughs and weeps, for he is
the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things
are and what they ought to be.

The playfulness of dogs or kittens is often assumed to be humor, when
it is mere imitative sagacity. The stolid, imperturbable gravity of
animals’ faces shows no appreciation of mirth.

Oliver Wendell Holmes speaks of the large brown eyes of oxen as
imperfect organisms, because they may show no sign of fun.

Yet it is, in a way, a matter of opinion, for the instinct of humor was
among the latest to evolve in the human race, and rudimentary hints of
it may be present in other animals as in our own children. A monkey
or a baby will show amusement when tickled, but this is mere physical
reflex action, and cannot be called a true sense of humor.

Many animal lovers assume intelligences in their pets that are mere
reflections of their own mental processes or are thoughts fathered by
their own wishes.

It is, however, of little importance, for however appreciative of fun
an animal may be, it cannot create or impart wit or humor, and most
certainly it cannot laugh.

Bergson goes even farther. He declares the comic does not exist outside
the pale of what is strictly human.

He states: You may laugh at an animal, but only because you have
detected in it some human attitude or expression.

This is easily proved by the recollection of the fun of Puss In Boots
or The Three Bears, and the gravity of a Natural History.

Therefore, Bergson argues, man is not only the only animal that laughs,
he is the only animal which is laughed at, for if any other animal
or any lifeless object provokes mirth, it is only because of some
resemblance to man in appearance or intent.

So, with such minor exceptions as to be doubtful or negligible, we must
accept man as the only exponent or possessor of humor.

And it is one of the latest achievements of humanity.

First, we assent, was the survival of the fittest. Followed a sense
of hunger, a sense of safety, a sense of warfare, a sense of Tribal
Rights,--through all these stages there was no time or need for humor.

Among the earliest fossilized remains no funny bone has been found.

Doubtless, too, a sense of sorrow came before the sense of humor
dawned. Death came, and early man wept long before it occurred to him
to laugh and have the world laugh with him. Gregariousness and leisure
were necessary before mirth could ensue. All life was subjective;
dawning intelligence learned first to look out for Number One.

Yet it was early in the game that our primordial ancestors began to see
a lighter side of life.

Indeed, as Mr. Wells tells us, they mimicked very cleverly, gestured,
danced and laughed before they could talk!

And the consideration of the development of this almost innate human
sense is our present undertaking.

The matter falls easily,--almost too easily,--into three divisions.

Let us call them, Ancient, Middle and Modern.

This is perhaps not an original idea of division, but it is certainly
the best for a preliminary arrangement. And it may not be convenient to
stick religiously to consecutive dates; our progress may become logical
rather than chronological.

As to a general division, then, let us consider Ancient Humor as a
period from the very beginning down to the time of the Greeks. The
Middle Division to continue until about the time of Chaucer. And the
Modern Period from that time to the present.

                             ANCIENT HUMOR

After careful consideration of all available facts and theories of the
earliest mental processes of our race, we must come to the conclusion
that mirth had its origin in sorrow; that laughter was the direct
product of tears.

Nor are they even yet completely dissevered. Who has not laughed till
he cried? Who has not cried herself into hysterical laughter? All
theories of humor include an element of unhappiness; all joy has its
hint of pain.

And so, when our archæologists hold the mirror up to prehistoric
nature, we see among the earliest reflected pictures, a procession
or group of evolving humanity about to sacrifice human victims to
their monstrous superstitions and, withal, showing a certain festival
cheerfulness. Moreover, we note that they are fantastically dressed,
and wear horns and painted masks. Surely, the first glimmerings of a
horrid mirth are indubitably the adjunct of such celebrations.

Since we have reason to believe that man mimicked before he could
talk,--and, observing a baby, we have no difficulty in believing
this,--we readily believe that his earliest mimicries aroused a feeling
of amusement in his auditors, and as their applause stimulated him to
fresh effort, the ball was set rolling and the fun began.

From mimicry was born exaggeration and the horns and painted masks were
grotesque and mirth-provoking.

Yet were they also used to inculcate fear, and moreover had
significance as expressions of sorrow and woe.

Thus the emotions, at first, were rather inextricably intermingled, nor
are they yet entirely untangled and straightened out.

Not to inquire too closely into the vague stories of these prehistoric
men, not to differentiate too exactly between Cro-Magnards and
Grimaldis, we at least know a few things about the late Palæolithic
people, and one indicative fact is that they had a leaning toward paint.

They buried their dead after painting the body, and they also painted
the weapons and ornaments that were interred with him.

It is owing to this addiction to paint that scientists have been
enabled to learn so much of primordial life, for the pigments of black,
brown, red, yellow and white still endure in the caves of France and

And, since it is known that they painted their own faces and bodies we
can scarce help deducing that they presented grotesque appearances and
moved their fellows to laughter.

But any earnest thinker or student is very likely to get out of his
subject what he brings to it, at least, in kind. And so, archæologists
and antiquarians, being of grave and serious nature, have found no fun
or humor in these early peoples,--perhaps, because they brought none to
their search.

It remains, therefore, for us to sift their findings, and see, if by a
good chance we may discover some traces of mirth among the evidential
remains of prehistoric man.

It would not be, of course, creative or even intentional humor, but
since we know he was a clever mimic, we must assume the appreciation of
his mimicry by his fellows.

Moreover, he was deeply impressed by his dreams, and it must have been
that some of those dreams were of a humorous nature.

We are told his mentality was similar to that of a bright little
contemporary boy of five. This theory would give him the power of
laughter at simple things and it seems only fair to assume that he
possessed it.

In the beginnings of humanity there was very close connection between
man and the animals. Not only did man kill and eat the other animals,
but he cultivated and bred them, he watched them and studied their

It is, therefore, not surprising that man’s earliest efforts at drawing
should represent animals.

The earliest known drawings, those of the Palæolithic men show the
bison, horse, ibex, cave bear and reindeer. The drawing at first was
primitive, but later it became astonishingly clever and life-like.

Also, among these primitive peoples, there was some attempt at
sculpture, in the way of little stone or ivory statuettes. These
incline to caricature, and are probably the first dawning of that
tendency of the human brain.

Yet the accounts of these earliest men show little that can be
definitely styled humorous, and while we cannot doubt they possessed
a sense of mirth, they have left us scant traces of it, or else the
solemn archæologists have overlooked such.

The latter may be the case, for a scholar with a sense of humor, Thomas
Wright, declares as follows:

   “A tendency to burlesque and caricature appears, indeed, to be
   a feeling deeply implanted in human nature, and it is one of
   the earliest talents displayed by people in a rude state of
   society. An appreciation of, and sensitiveness to, ridicule, and
   a love of that which is humorous, are found even among savages,
   and enter largely into their relations with their fellow men.
   When, before people cultivated either literature or art, the
   chieftain sat in his rude hall surrounded by his warriors,
   they amused themselves by turning their enemies and opponents
   into mockery, by laughing at their weaknesses, joking on their
   defects, whether physical or mental, and giving them nicknames
   in accordance therewith,--in fact, caricaturing them in words,
   or by telling stories which were calculated to excite laughter.
   When the agricultural slaves (for the tillers of the land were
   then slaves) were indulged with a day of relief from their
   labours, they spent it in unrestrained mirth. And when these
   same people began to erect permanent buildings, and to ornament
   them, the favourite subjects of their ornamentation were such
   as presented ludicrous ideas. The warrior, too, who caricatured
   his enemy in his speeches over the festive board, soon sought
   to give a more permanent form to his ridicule, which he
   endeavoured to do by rude delineations on the bare rock, or on
   any other convenient surface which presented itself to his hand.
   Thus originated caricature and the grotesque in art. In fact,
   art itself, in its earliest forms, is caricature; for it is only
   by that exaggeration of features which belongs to caricature,
   that unskilful draughtsmen could make themselves understood.”

An early development of humor was seen in the recognition of the fool
or buffoon.

It is not impossible that this arose because of the discovery or
invention of intoxicating drinks.

This important date is set, not very definitely, somewhere between
10,000 B.C. and 2,000 B.C. Its noticeable results were merriment and
feast-making. At these feasts the fool, who was not yet a wit, won the
laughter of the guests by his idiocy, or, often by his deformity. The
wise fool is a later development.

But at these feasts also appeared the bards or rhapsodists, who
entertained the company by chanting or reciting stories and jokes.

These are called the artists of the ear as the rock painters are
called the artists of the eye. And with them language grew in beauty
and power. They were living books, the only books then extant. For
writing came slowly and was a clumsy affair at best for a long period.
The Bards sang and recited and so kept alive folk-tales and jests that
remain to this day.

Writing, like most of the inventions of man served every other purpose
before that of humor.

At first it was only for accounts and matters of fact. In Egypt it was
used for medical recipes and magic formulas. Accounts, letters, name
lists and itineraries followed; but for the preservation of humorous
thought writing was not used. That was left to the bards, and of
course, to the caricaturists.

Therefore, Egyptian art usually presents itself in solemn and dignified
effects with no lightness or gayety implied.

Yet we are told by Sir Gardner Wilkinson, the early Egyptian artists
cannot always conceal their natural tendency to the humorous, which
creeps out in a variety of little incidents. Thus, in a series of grave
historical pictures on one of the great monuments at Thebes, we find
a representation of a wine party, where the company consists of both
sexes, and which evidently shows that the ladies were not restricted
in the use of the juice of the grape in their entertainments; and,
as he adds, “the painters, in illustrating this fact, have sometimes
sacrificed their gallantry to a love of caricature.” Among the females,
evidently of rank, represented in this scene, “some call the servants
to support them as they sit, others with difficulty prevent themselves
from falling on those behind them, and the faded flower, which is ready
to drop from their heated hands, is intended to be characteristic of
their own sensations.” Sir Gardner observes that “many instances of
a talent for caricature, are observable in the compositions of the
Egyptian artists, who executed the paintings of the tombs at Thebes,
which belong to a very early period of the Egyptian annals. Nor is the
application of this talent restricted always to secular subjects, but
we see it at times intruding into the most sacred mysteries of their

A class of caricatures which dates from a very remote period, shows
comparisons between men and the particular animals whose qualities they

As brave as a lion, as faithful as a dog, as sly as a fox or as
swinish as a pig,--these things are all represented in these ancient

More than a thousand years B.C. there was drawn on an Egyptian
papyrus a cat carrying a shepherd’s crook and driving a flock of geese.
This is but one section of a long picture, in which the animals are
often shown treating their human tyrants in the manner they are usually
treated by them.

All sorts of animals are shown, in odd contortions and grotesque
attitudes, and not infrequently the scene or episode depicted refers to
the state or condition of the human soul after death.

It is deduced that from these animal pictures arose the class
of stories called fables, in which animals are endued with human

And also connected with them is the belief in metempsychosis or the
transmission of the human soul into the body of an animal after death,
which is a strong factor in the primitive religions.

Indeed, the intermingling of humans and animals is inherent in all art
and literature, as, instance the calling of Our Lord a Lamb, or the
Holy Ghost, a Dove.

Or, as to this day we call our children lambs or kittens, or, slangily,
kids. As we still call a man an ass or a puppy; or a woman, a cat.

An argument for evolution can perhaps be seen in the inevitable turning
back to the animals for a description or representation of human types.

At any rate, early man used this sort of humor almost exclusively, and
so combined it with his serious thought, even his religions, that it
was a permanently interwoven thread.

And the exaggeration of this mimicry of animals resulted in the
grotesque and from that to the monstrous, as the mind grew with what it
fed on, and caricature developed and progressed.

Also, a subtler demonstration of dawning wit and humor is seen in the
deliberate and intentional burlesque of one picture by another.

In the British Museum is an Egyptian papyrus showing a lion and a
unicorn playing chess, which is a caricature of a picture frequently
seen on ancient monuments. And in the Egyptian collection of the New
York Historical Society there is a slab of limestone, dating back three
thousand years, which depicts a lion, seated upon a throne as king. To
him, a fox, caricaturing a High Priest, offers a goose and a fan. This,
too, is a burlesque of a serious picture.

Again, a lion is engaged in laying out the dead body of another animal,
and a hippopotamus is washing his hands in a water jar.

One of these burlesque pictures shows a soul doomed to return to its
earthly home in the form of a pig. This picture, of such antiquity
that it deeply impressed the Greeks and Romans, is part of the
decoration of a king’s tomb.

The ancient Egyptians, it may be gathered from their humorous pictures,
were not averse to looking on the wine when it was red. Several
delineations of Egyptian servants carrying home their masters after a
carouse, are graphic and convincing; while others, equally so, show
the convivial ones dancing, standing on their heads or belligerently

The tombs of the ancient Egyptians abound in these representations of
over-merry occasions, and it all goes to prove the close connection in
the primitive mind of the emotions of grief and mirth.

Yet, _The Book of the Dead_ that monument of Egyptian literature,
and the oldest in the world, contains only records of conquests and
a few stories and moral sayings,--not a trace of humor. That, in
ancient Egypt is represented solely by the ready and deft pencil of the

       *       *       *       *       *

Though humor came to them later, the earliest records of the Eastern
and Oriental countries show little or no traces of the comic.

Indeed eminent authorities state that there is not a single element of
the amusing in the art or literature of the Babylonians or Assyrians.
It may be that the eminent authorities hadn’t a nose for nonsense, or
the statement may be true. We never shall know.

But both these peoples had great skill in drawing and sculpture, and
though their records are chiefly historical or religious, we cannot
help feeling there may have been some jesting at somebody’s expense.

However, there are no existing records of any sort, and we fear
the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians must go down in history as
serious-minded folk.

The Hebrews show up much better.

In recent years Renan and Carlyle both declared the Jewish race
possessed no sense of humor, but their opinions probably reflected
their own viewpoint.

For the early examples of Hebrew Satire and Parody are distinctly
humorous both in intent and in effect.

Parody is, of course, the direct outcome of the primeval passion for
mimicry. The first laugh-provoker was no doubt an exaggerated imitation
of some defect or peculiarity of another. And the development of the
art of amusement took centuries to get past that preliminary thought.

The tendency to imitation was the impetus that turned the religious
hymns into ribaldry and wine-songs, and the religious or funeral
festivals into orgies of grotesque masquerading.

And Hebrew literature is renowned for its parodies of serious matters
both of church and state.

With this race, satire sprang from parody and grew and thrived rapidly.

To quote from the learned Professor Chotzner:

   “Since the birth of Hebrew literature, many centuries ago,
   satire has been one of its many characteristics. It is directed
   against the foibles and follies of the miser, the hypocrite,
   the profligate, the snob. The dull sermonizer, who puts his
   congregation to sleep, fares badly, and even the pretty
   wickednesses of the fair sex do not escape the hawk-eye of the
   Hebrew satirist. The luxury and extravagance of the ‘Daughters
   of Zion’ were attacked by no less a person than Isaiah himself;
   but human nature, especially that of a feminine kind, was too
   strong even for so eminent a prophet as he was, and there is no
   reason to suppose that the lady of those days wore one trinket
   the less in deference to his invective.

   “There are, in fact, several incidents mentioned here and there
   in the pages of the Bible, which are decidedly of a satirical
   nature. Most prominent among them are the two that refer
   respectively to Bileam, who was sermonized by his ass, and to
   Haman who, as the Prime Minister of Persia, had to do homage
   publicly to Mordecai, the very man whom he greatly hated and
   despised. Nay, we are told, that, by the irony of fate, Haman
   himself ended his life on the exceptionally huge gallows which,
   while in a humorous turn of mind, he had ordered to be erected
   for the purpose of having executed thereon the object of his
   intense hatred.

   “And again, there are two excellent satires to be found
   respectively in the 14th chapter of Isaiah, and in the 18th
   chapter of the 1st Book of Kings. In the first, one of the
   mighty Babylonian potentates is held up to derision, on account
   of the ignominious defeat he had sustained in his own dominions,
   after he had been for a long time a great terror to contemporary
   nations, living in various parts of the ancient world. Even the
   trees of the forests are represented there as having mocked at
   his fall, saying: ‘Since thou art laid down, no feller is come
   up against us.’ In the second satire, the false prophets of Baal
   are ridiculed by Elijah for having maimed their bodies, in order
   to do thereby honour to a deity which is sometimes sarcastically
   referred to in the Bible as being ‘the god of flies.’

   “Delightfully satirical are also the two fables quoted in the
   Bible in connection with _Jotham_ and _Nathan_, the Prophet.
   These are commonly well-known, and no extracts from them need be
   given here.

   “The satirical turn of mind manifested by Hebrew writers living
   in Biblical times, has been transmitted by them as a legacy to
   their descendants, who flourished in subsequent ages down to
   the present day. The first among them was Ben Sira who, in 180
   B.C., wrote a book, some of the contents of which are satirical,
   for there the vanity of contemporary women, and the arrogance
   of some of the rich in the community are ridiculed with mild

   “But much more keen was the sense of the satirical that was
   possessed by some of the ancient Rabbis, who were among those
   that brought into existence the vast and interesting Talmudical
   literature. One of their satires, called ‘Tithes,’ runs as

   “In Palestine there once lived a widow with her two daughters,
   whose only worldly possessions consisted of a little field. When
   she began to plough it, a Jewish official quoted to her the
   words of the lawgiver Moses: ‘Thou shalt not plough with ox and
   ass together.’ When she began to sow, she was admonished in the
   words of the same lawgiver not to sow the fields with two kinds
   of seed. When she began to reap and pile up the stacks, she was
   told that she must leave ‘gleanings,’ the poor man’s sheaf, and
   the ‘corner.’

   “When the harvest time came, she was informed that it was her
   duty to give the priest’s share, consisting of the first and
   second ‘tithes.’ She quietly submitted, and gave what was
   demanded of her. Then she sold the field, and bought two young
   ewes, in order that she might use their wool, and profit by
   their offspring. But, as soon as the ewes gave birth to their
   young, a priest came, and quoted to her the words of Moses:
   ‘Give _me_ the first-born, for so the Lord hath ordained.’ Again
   she submitted, and gave him the young.

   “When the time of shearing came, the priest again made his
   appearance, and said to her that, according to the Law, she was
   obliged to give him ‘the shoulder, the two cheeks, and the maw.’

   “In a moment of despair, the widow said: ‘Let all the animals
   be consecrated to the Lord!’ ‘In that case,’ answered the
   priest, ‘they belong altogether to me; for the Lord hath said:
   “Everything consecrated in Israel shall be thine.”’ So, he took
   the sheep, and went his way, leaving the widow and her two
   daughters in great distress, and bathed in tears!”

                            _A WIFE’S RUSE_

                          (A Rabbinical Tale)

   “There is a Rabbinical law which makes it obligatory upon every
   Jewish husband to divorce his wife, if after ten years of
   married life she shall remain childless. Now, there once lived
   in an Oriental town a man and his wife who were greatly attached
   to each other, but who had, unfortunately, no children, though
   they had been married for a considerable time.

   “When the end of the tenth year of their marriage was
   approaching, they both went to the Rabbi, and asked him for his
   advice. The Rabbi listened with great sympathy, but declared
   his inability to alter or modify the law in their favour. The
   only suggestion, he said, that he could make, was, that on the
   last night before their final separation, they should celebrate
   a little feast together, and that the wife should take some
   keepsake from her husband which would be a permanent token of
   her husband’s unchangeable affection for her.

   “Thus, on the last night, the wife prepared a sumptuous meal
   for the two of them, and, amidst much merriment and laughter,
   she filled and refilled her husband’s goblet with sparkling
   wine. Under its influence, he fell into a heavy sleep, and while
   in this condition, he was carried by his wife’s orders to her
   father’s abode, where he continued to sleep till the following
   morning. When he awoke, and was wondering at his strange
   surroundings, his cunning wife came smilingly into the room,
   and said: ‘Of, my dear husband, I have actually carried out the
   Rabbi’s suggestion, inasmuch as I have taken away from home a
   most precious keepsake. This is your own dear self, without whom
   it would be impossible for me to live.’

   “The husband, moved to tears, embraced her most affectionately,
   and promised that they should live together to the end.
   Thereupon they joyfully returned home, and, going again to the
   Rabbi, they told him what had happened, and asked him for his
   forgiveness and blessing, which he readily accorded them. And,
   indeed, the Rabbi’s blessing had an excellent result. For after
   the lapse of some time, they both enjoyed the happiness of
   fondling a bright little child of their own.”

Arabian and Turkish thought and speech seem to be tinged with the sense
of the bizarre and strange rather than the grotesque. Their earliest
folk tales and pleasant stories, from which later grew the _Arabian
Nights_, form a cumulative, though broken chain from ancient to
modern times.

Persian humor leans toward the romantic and sentimental, but no ancient
fragments are available. From the later writers, as Omar and Sadi, we
feel convinced there was an early literature but we can find none to

India shows the oldest and most definite signs of early folk lore and
retold tales.

Buddha’s _Jatakas_ produced the stories that later proved the
germs of merry tales by Boccaccio and Chaucer. That these later writers
put in all the fun is not entirely probable.

Some antiquarians claim to find humor in the hymns of the Rig Vedas,
whose date is indefinitely put at between 2,000 and 1,500 B.C.
while others of different temperament deny it.

From this example the reader may judge for himself.

                        _THE HYMN OF THE FROGS_

    “When the first shower of the rainy season
    Has fallen on them, parched with thirst and longing,
    In glee each wet and dripping frog jumps upward;
    The green one and the speckled join their voices.

    “They shout aloud like Brahmans drunk with soma,
    When they perform their annual devotions:
    Like priests at service sweating o’er the kettle,
    They issue forth; not one remains in hiding.

    “The frogs that bleat like goats, that low like cattle,
    The green one and the speckled give us riches;
    Whole herds of cows may they bestow upon us,
    And grant us length of days through sacrificing.”

The _Jatakas_ of Buddha, though religious writings, and teachings
by parables, are not without humor. The one about the silly son who
killed the mosquito on his father’s bald head with a heavy blow of an
ax, has its funny side. Or the old monarch who had reigned 252,000
years and still had 84,000 years more ahead of him, and went into
solitary retirement because he discovered a gray hair in his head.
Another shrewd fellow made an enormous fortune out of the sale of a
dead mouse.

Of course, the animals figure largely. There is the tale of the monkeys
who watered a garden and then pulled up the plants to see if their
roots were wet, and the angry crows who tried to drink up the sea.

Riddles, too, must be remembered.

Though not many specimens have been preserved, yet we remember Samson’s
riddle, so disastrous to the Philistines.

“Out of the eater came forth meat; and out of the strong came forth

And when his susceptibility to cajolery led him to tell his wife the
answer, and she tattled, his comment was the pithy; “If ye had not
plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle.”

The Sphinx’s riddle is well known. “What animal goes on four legs in
the morning, on two at noon, and on three at night?”

The answer being: Man, who goes on all-fours in infancy, walks upright
in middle life, and adds a staff in old age.

An ancient riddle is ascribed to the problematical personality of
Homer, though it was doubtless originated before his time,--if he had a

Homer, the tale goes, met some boys coming home from a fishing trip. On
his asking them of their luck, they replied, “What we caught we threw
away; what we didn’t catch, we have.”

It seems they referred to fleas, not fish, and his inability to guess
this so enraged Homer, that he killed himself.

And here is a free translation of an ancient Arabian riddle.

    “The loftiest cedars I can eat,
      Yet neither paunch nor mouth have I.
    I storm whene’er you give me meat,
      Whene’er you give me drink, I die.”

The answer is Fire, and as may be seen, the type of riddle is precisely
such as are found in the puzzle columns of today’s papers.

Riddles are frequently mentioned in Ancient Literature,-- every
country or race indulging in them. Josephus tells us that Solomon and
Hiram of Tyre were in the habit of exchanging riddles.

So we find that a love of fun or playfulness was inherent in our early
ancestors, yet it did not reach a height to be called genuine creative

But there is always the feeling that if more of the translators
themselves possessed more humor, they might find more in the originals.

As a rule, translators and antiquarian researchers are so engaged in
serious seeking that they would probably pass over humor if they ran
across it.

When a man is prospecting for iron or coal, he may easily be blind to
indications of wells of natural oil.

More wit and humor of Ancient India has come down to us through the
caricatures and grotesque drawings than in words.

The innumerable pictures of the God Krishna are the most humorous of

Krishna appears to have been a veritable Don Juan, and his multitude of
lady friends numbered up to many thousands.

It is narrated that a friend of his, who had no wife, begged for just
one from Krishna’s multiplicity.

“Court any one you wish,” said the light-hearted god, pleasantly.

So the friend went from house to house of Krishna’s various wives, but
one and all, they declared themselves quite satisfied with husband,
Krishna, and moreover each one was convinced that he was hers alone.
The seeker visited sixteen thousand and eight houses, and then gave it

The endless pictures of Krishna represent him surrounded by lovely
ladies, and a curious detail of these drawings is that in many
instances the group of girls is wreathed and twisted into the shape
or semblance of a bird or a horse or an elephant, presenting an
interesting and not unpleasing effect.

Now, all we have given so far, seems indeed a meager grist for the
first division of our Outline. But one may not find what does not exist.

There is no doubt that humor was known and loved from the dawning
of independent thought, but as it was not recorded, save for a few
drawings, on the enduring rocks, it died with its originators.

Humor was the last need of a self-providing race, and even when found
it was a luxury rather than a necessity.

As a fair example of the earliest tales that have lived in various
forms ever since their first recital, is appended the bit of ancient
Hindoo folk-lore, called


In a secluded village there lived a rich man, who was very miserly,
and his wife, who was very kind-hearted and charitable, but a stupid
little woman that believed everything she heard. And there lived in
the same village a clever rogue, who had for some time watched for an
opportunity for getting something from this simple woman during her
husband’s absence. So one day, when he had seen the old miser ride
out to inspect his lands, this rogue of the first water came to the
house, and fell down at the threshold as if overcome by fatigue. The
woman ran up to him at once and inquired whence he came. “I am come
from Kailása,” said he; “having been sent down by an old couple living
there, for news of their son and his wife.” “Who are those fortunate
dwellers in Siva’s mountain?” she asked. And the rogue gave the names
of her husband’s deceased parents, which he had taken good care, of
course, to learn from the neighbours. “Do you really come from them?”
said the simple woman. “Are they doing well there? Dear old people!
How glad my husband would be to see you, were he here! Sit down,
please, and rest until he returns. How do they live there? Have they
enough to eat and dress themselves withal?” These and a hundred other
questions she put to the rogue, who, for his part, wished to get away
as soon as possible, knowing full well how he would be treated if
the miser should return while he was there. So he replied, “Mother,
language has no words to describe the miseries they are undergoing in
the other world. They have not a rag of clothing, and for the last six
days they have eaten nothing, and have lived on water only. It would
break your heart to see them.” The rogue’s pathetic words deceived the
good woman, who firmly believed that he had come down from Kailása, a
messenger from the old couple to herself! “Why should they so suffer,”
said she, “when their son has plenty to eat and clothe himself withal,
and when their daughter-in-law wears all sorts of costly garments?”
So saying, she went into the house, and soon came out again with two
boxes containing all her own and her husband’s clothes, which she
handed to the rogue, desiring him to deliver them to the poor old
couple in Kailása. She also gave him her jewel-box, to be presented to
her mother-in-law. “But dress and jewels will not fill their hungry
stomachs,” said the rogue. “Very true; I had forgot: wait a moment,”
said the simple woman, going into the house once more. Presently
returning with her husband’s cash chest, she emptied its glittering
contents into the rogue’s skirt, who now took his leave in haste,
promising to give everything to the good old couple in Kailása; and
having secured all the booty in his upper garment, he made off at the
top of his speed as soon as the silly woman had gone indoors.

Shortly after this the husband returned home, and his wife’s pleasure
at what she had done was so great that she ran to meet him at the door,
and told him all about the arrival of the messenger from Kailása, how
his parents were without clothes and food, and how she had sent them
clothes and jewels and store of money. On hearing this, the anger of
the husband was great; but he checked himself, and inquired which road
the messenger from Kailása had taken, saying that he wished to follow
him with a further message for his parents. So she very readily pointed
out the direction in which the rogue had gone. With rage in his heart
at the trick played upon his stupid wife, he rode off in hot haste,
and after having proceeded a considerable distance, he caught sight
of the flying rogue, who, finding escape hopeless, climbed up into a
_pipal_ tree. The husband soon reached the foot of the tree, when
he shouted to the rogue to come down. “No, I cannot,” said he; “this
is the way to Kailása,” and then climbed to the very top of the tree.
Seeing there was no chance of the rogue coming down, and there being
no one near to whom he could call for help, the old miser tied his
horse to a neighbouring tree, and began to climb up the _pipal_
himself. When the rogue observed this, he thanked all his gods most
fervently, and having waited until his enemy had climbed nearly up to
him, he threw down his bundle of booty, and then leapt nimbly from
branch to branch till he reached the ground in safety, when he mounted
the miser’s horse and with his bundle rode into a thick forest, where
he was not likely to be discovered. Being thus balked the miser came
down the _pipal_ tree slowly, cursing his own stupidity in having
risked his horse to recover the things which his wife had given the
rogue, and returned home at leisure. His wife, who was waiting his
return, welcomed him with a joyous countenance, and cried, “I thought
as much: you have sent away your horse to Kailása, to be used by your
old father.” Vexed at his wife’s words, as he was, he replied in the
affirmative, to conceal his own folly.

                            MIDDLE DIVISION

                                PART I


In essaying an Outline of the World’s Humor, the greatest obstacle to
our work is the insufficiency of data.

While we are sure there was humor in the early days, we cannot get much
of it for publication. The Fables and Folk Tales that come down to us
are of uncertain origin and date. Traditions have been traced to their
inception but the tracery is of vague and shadowy lines.

Wherefore it is well nigh impossible to formulate or systematize our

The simple division of Ancient, Middle and Modern must serve for a main
arrangement, with the subdivision of the Middle into Greece, Rome, and
the Mediæval Ages.

Greece will include generally the time from 500 B.C. to 500 A.D.,
although its traditions reach farther back into antiquity.

The whole Middle Division must include all from 500 B.C. to about 1300

So, we see the boundaries are inevitable if not entirely satisfactory.

Greece was the primeval European civilization, and in the year 500
B.C. it already had its own literature and the Iliad and
Odyssey were even then antique.

These, at this time, were traditionally ascribed to Homer as they have
ever since remained. But Homer’s individual existence is a matter of
doubt, and his history and personality are as unknown as those of the
ancient patriarchs of the Old Testament.

Even from this distant viewpoint the humor of antiquity is, like
beauty, in the eye of the beholder.

Coleridge says definitely, “Amongst the classic ancients there was
little or no humor.” But, on the other hand, that eminent antiquarian,
William Hayes Ward says, “The Greeks were the maddest, jolliest race of
men that ever inhabited our planet. As they loved games and play, they
loved the joke.”

So, as more than any other human emotion, humor is a matter of
opinion, we must dig up whatever nuggets we can and not assay them too

Like Homer, Æsop, is wrapped in mystery. Like Homer, too, various
cities claimed the honor of being his birthplace. The truth is not

Tradition places Æsop in the sixth century, B.C. and makes him
a dwarf and, originally, a slave.

Though probably not a historic personage, his name is inseparably
connected with the Fables that have been known to us for centuries;
and, according to scholars, some of them were known a thousand years
earlier to the Egyptians.

Of these things we cannot speak positively, but _Æsop’s Fables_
certainly come at or near the beginnings of Greek Literature, and their
place is here.

                             ÆSOP’S FABLES


The Tyrant of the forest issued a proclamation, commanding all his
subjects to repair immediately to his royal den. Among the rest, the
Bear made his appearance; but pretending to be offended with the steams
which issued from the Monarch’s apartments, he was imprudent enough
to hold his nose in his Majesty’s presence. This insolence was so
highly resented, that the Lion in a rage laid him dead at his feet.
The Monkey, observing what had passed, trembled for his carcass; and
attempted to conciliate favor by the most abject flattery. He began
with protesting, that for his part he thought the apartments were
perfumed with Arabian spices; and exclaiming against the rudeness of
the Bear, admired the beauty of his Majesty’s paws, so happily formed,
he said, to correct the insolence of clowns. This fulsome adulation,
instead of being received as he expected, proved no less offensive
than the rudeness of the Bear; and the courtly Monkey was in like
manner extended by the side of Sir Bruin. And now his Majesty cast his
eye upon the Fox. “Well, Reynard,” said he, “and what scent do you
discover here?” “Great Prince,” replied the cautious Fox, “my nose was
never esteemed my most distinguishing sense; and at present I would
by no means venture to give my opinion, as I have unfortunately got a
terrible cold.”


It is often more prudent to suppress our sentiments, than either to
flatter or to rail.

                          _THE PARTIAL JUDGE_

A Farmer came to a neighbouring Lawyer, expressing great concern for an
accident which he said had just happened. “One of your oxen,” continued
he, “has been gored by an unlucky bull of mine, and I shall be glad
to know how I am to make you a reparation.” “Thou art a very honest
fellow,” replied the Lawyer, “and wilt not think it unreasonable that
I expect one of thy oxen in return.” “It is no more than justice,”
quoth the Farmer, “to be sure: but what did I say!--I mistake--It is
your bull that has killed one of my oxen.” “Indeed,” says the Lawyer,
“that alters the case: I must inquire into the affair; and if”--“And
_if_!” said the Farmer, “the business I find would have been
concluded without an _if_, had you been as ready to do justice to
others as to exact it from them.”


The injuries we do, and those we suffer, are seldom weighed in the same

It is all very well for some wiseacres to say, “Humor came in with
civilization,” for others to say, “Humor took its rise in the Middle
Ages,” or to set any other arbitrary time.

The truth is that Humor, is an innate emotion, and in a general sense,
it is the child of religion.

The primitive religions were conducted with Festival Ceremonies, whose
celebrations were of such symbolic nature, and later, such burlesque of
symbolism that gaiety ensued and then ribaldry.

The worship of the god Dionysus,--later mixed up in tradition with
Bacchus,--was responsible for much reckless license that was the
earliest form of comedy.

Dionysus, being deity of the vineyard, as well as of phallic worship,
lent himself readily to the grotesque representations and hysterical
orgies of his followers and Greek Comedy was probably the outcome of

In these Dionysiac festivals the processions and parades represented
everything imaginable that was bizarre or ridiculous.

As in all ages, before and since, the mummers clothed themselves in the
likeness of animals, and invented horrible masks.

Comedy came to be abuse, ridicule and parody of sacred things.

Notwithstanding Coleridge’s comment, laughter was universal in Greece
and Plato declared the _agelastoi_ or non-laughers to be the least
respectable of mortals.

Small wonder then that their mirth exhibited itself in drawings and
paintings. These mediums were easier to come by than writings, and the
early grotesques and caricatures of the Greeks are drawings on Greek
vases which show the playfulness as well as the serious purpose of
the artist-potter. The first and greatest of Greek poets adds strokes
of wit to his stories of the Trojan war. When Ulysses returns from
the siege of Ilium he stops at the island of Sicily, and he and his
companions are caught by the one-eyed giant Polyphemus and imprisoned
in his cave. Then comes the story of the crafty leader’s escape, after
some of his companions had been slain and eaten by the monster. It
is a most amusing story, told with all Greek humor, how the giant
was blinded with the burnt stick which gouged out his eye while in a
drunken sleep; how the Greeks escaped through the entrance by clinging
under the bodies of his sheep, while he felt of them one by one to see
that not a Greek escaped. Then comes the giant’s howling call to his
distant companions, and in answer to their question, who had blinded
him, his telling them that “Outis” (Nobody) had done it, _Outis_
(_Nobody_) being the name Ulysses had given the giant as his own.
“If nobody has done it”, replied his companions, “then it is the act of
the gods”, and they left him to endure his loss. Thus the Greeks escape
to their ships and taunt the monster as they flee away, followed by his
vain pursuit. Homer relieves the wisdom of Ulysses and the dignity of
Agamemnon with the gibes of Thersites or the rude humor of the suitors
of Penelope, the trick of whose embroidery is itself an amusing story.

Greece, of course, was the cradle of all that we now call art.
Landscape painters, painters of animals and portrait limners, as well
as still life artists and sculptors and workers in mosaics reached a
high state of perfection.

Then naturally the caricaturists and comic artists could not be wanting
there. Burlesque affected their pencils and brushes as it had their
speech and caricature and parody were rampant.

A marvelous example is the parody or caricature of the Oracle of
Apollo at Delphi. It is taken from an oxybaphon which was brought from
the Continent to England, where it passed into the collection of Mr.
William Hope. The _oxybaphon_, or, as it was called by the Romans,
_acetabulum_, was a large vessel for holding vinegar, which formed
one of the important ornaments of the table, and was therefore very
susceptible of pictorial embellishment of this description. It is
one of the most remarkable Greek caricatures of this kind yet known,
and represents a parody on one of the most interesting stories of
the Grecian mythology, that of the arrival of Apollo at Delphi. The
artist, in his love of burlesque, has spared none of the personages who
belonged to the story. The Hyperborean Apollo himself appears in the
character of a quack doctor, on his temporary stage, covered by a sort
of roof, and approached by wooden steps. On the stage lies Apollo’s
luggage, consisting of a bag, a bow, and his Scythian cap. Chron is
represented as labouring under the effects of age and blindness, and
supporting himself by the aid of a crooked staff, as he repairs to the
Delphian quack doctor for relief. The figure of the centaur is made to
ascend by the aid of a companion, both being furnished with the masks
and other attributes of the comic performers. Above are the mountains,
and on them the nymphs of Parnassus, who, like all the other actors
in the scene, are disguised with masks, and those of a very grotesque
character. On the right-hand side stands a figure which is considered
as representing the _epoptes_, the inspector or overseer of
the performance, who alone wears no mask. Even a pun is employed to
heighten the drollery of the scene, for instead of ΠΥΘΙΑΣ, the Pythian,
placed over the head of the burlesque Apollo, it seems evident that the
artist had written ΠΕΙΘΙΑΣ, the consoler in allusion, perhaps, to the
consolation which the quack-doctor is administering to his blind and
aged visitor.

The comic and grotesque led on to the representation of the monstrous,
and queer, strange figures became part of their art and architecture.
Out of these, perhaps, grew the hideous masks and strange distortions
of the human figure.

Perhaps this is why Æsop was represented as a dwarf and a hunchback.

But the whole trend of the grotesque and monstrous in religious
ornamentation grew and flourished on into the Middle Ages and later,
and the gargoyles of our latest churches show the persisting influence.

The old comedy of Greece has been called the comedy of caricature, and
hand in hand, verbal and pictorial parody have come to us down the

Pictorial burlesque, however, was not placed on the public monuments,
but lent itself more readily to objects of common usage or individual
belongings. It is found abundantly on the pottery of Greece and Rome
and abounded in the wall paintings of Herculaneum and Pompeii.

This is not the place to discuss the identity of Homer. Whether a real
man, a group of men or a myth, the works of Homer are immortal and, for
the most part serious.

Our task is to find anything humorous in the Greek epics.

It is not easy, indeed, it is almost impossible. But we subjoin an
extract which, we may say, comes the nearest to humor in Homer.

                      _THE BEATING OF THERSITES_

                                Ulysses’ ruling thus restrained
    The host from flight; and then again the Council was maintained
    With such a concourse that the shore rang with the tumult made;
    As when the far-resounding sea doth in its rage invade
    His sandy confines, whose sides groan with his involved wave,
    And make his own breast echo sighs. All sate, and audience gave.
    Thersites only would speak all. A most disordered store
    Of words he foolishly poured out, of which his mind held more
    Than it could manage; anything with which he could procure
    Laughter, he never could contain. He should have yet been sure
    To touch no kings; t’oppose their states becomes not jesters’
    But he the filthiest fellow was of all that had deserts
    In Troy’s brave siege. He was squint-eyed, and lame of either foot;
    So crookbacked that he had no breast; sharp-headed, where did shoot
    (Here and there ’spersed) thin, mossy hair. He most of all envied
    Ulysses and Æacides, whom still his spleen would chide.
    Nor could the sacred king himself avoid his saucy vein;
    Against whom since he knew the Greeks did vehement hates sustain,
    Being angry for Achilles’ wrong, he cried out, railing thus:
    “Atrides, why complain’st thou now? What wouldst thou more of us?
    Thy tents are full of brass; and dames, the choice of all, are
    With whom we must present thee first, when any towns resign
    To our invasion. Want’st thou, then, besides all this, more gold
    From Troy’s knights to redeem their sons, whom to be dearly sold
    I or some other Greek must take? Or wouldst thou yet again
    Force from some other lord his prize, to soothe the lusts that
    In thy encroaching appetite? It fits no prince to be
    A prince of ill, and govern us, or lead our progeny
    By rape to ruin. Oh, base Greeks, deserving infamy,
    And ills eternal, Greekish girls, not Greeks, ye are! Come, flee
    Home with our ships; leave this man here to perish with his preys,
    And try if we helped him or not. He wronged a man that weighs
    Far more than he himself in worth. He forced from Thetis’ son,
    And keeps his prize still. Nor think I that mighty man hath won
    The style of wrathful worthily; he’s soft, he’s too remiss;
    Or else, Atrides, his had been thy last of injuries.”
      Thus he the people’s pastor chid; but straight stood up to him
    Divine Ulysses, who, with looks exceeding grave and grim,
    This bitter check gave: “Cease, vain fool, to vent thy railing vein
    On kings thus, though it serve thee well; nor think thou canst
    With that thy railing faculty, their wills in least degree;
    For not a worse, of all this host, came with our king than thee,
    To Troy’s great siege; then do not take into that mouth of thine
    The names of kings, much less revile the dignities that shine
    In their supreme states, wresting thus this motion for our home,
    To soothe thy cowardice; since ourselves yet know not what will
    Of these designments, if it be our good to stay, or go.
    Nor is it that thou stand’st on; thou revil’st our general so,
    Only because he hath so much, not given by such as thou,
    But our heroes. Therefore this thy rude vein makes me vow,
    Which shall be curiously observed, if ever I shall hear
    This madness from thy mouth again, let not Ulysses bear
    This head, nor be the father called of young Telemachus,
    If to thy nakedness I take and strip thee not, and thus
    Whip thee to fleet from council; send, with sharp stripes, weeping
    This glory thou affect’st to rail.” This said, his insolence
    He settled with his scepter; struck his back and shoulders so
    That bloody wales rose. He shrunk round, and from his eyes did flow
    Moist tears, and, looking filthily, he sate, feared, smarted, dried
    His blubbered cheeks; and all the press, though grieved to be denied
    Their wished retreat for home, yet laughed delightsomely, and spake
    Either to other: “Oh, ye gods, how infinitely take
    Ulysses’ virtues in our good! Author of counsels, great
    In ordering armies, how most well this act became his heat,
    To beat from council this rude fool. I think his saucy spirit
    Hereafter will not let his tongue abuse the sovereign merit,
    Exempt from such base tongues as his.”
                                                   --_The Iliad._

Attributed to Homer by many, and stoutly denied by others, is a comedy
called _The Battle of the Frogs and Mice_.

Again we note the device of animals masquerading as human beings.

Samuel Wesley, himself a humorist, calls this the oldest burlesque in
the world, and he also dubs it, _The Iliad in a Nutshell_. He
holds that Homer wrote it as a parody of his own masterpiece, while,
conversely, Statius contends that it is a work of youth, written by
Homer before he wrote _The Iliad_. Chapman deems it the work of
the poet’s old age, and as none may decide when doctors disagree, many
scholars deny a Homeric authorship to it at all. Plutarch asserts the
real author was Pigres of Halicarnassus, who flourished during the
Persian war.

This first burlesque known to literature has the following plot.

A mouse, while slaking his thirst on the margin of a pond, after a
hot pursuit by a weasel, enters into conversation with a frog on the
merits of their respective modes of life. The frog invites the mouse
to a nearer inspection of the abode and habits of his own nation, and
for this purpose offers him a sail on his back. When the party are at
some distance from land, the head of an otter suddenly appears on the
surface. The terrified frog at once dives to the bottom, disengaging
himself from his rider, who, with many a struggle and bitter
imprecations on his betrayer, is involved in a watery grave. Another
mouse, who from the shore had witnessed the fate of his unfortunate
comrade, reports it to his fellow-citizens. A council is held, and war
declared against the nation of the offender.

“Jupiter and the gods deliberate in Olympus on the issue of the
contest. Mars and Minerva decline personal interference, as well from
the awe inspired by such mighty combatants as from previous ill-will
towards both contending powers, in consequence of injuries inflicted by
each on their divine persons or properties. A band of mosquitoes sound
the war-alarum with their trumpets, and, after a bloody engagement,
the frogs are defeated with great slaughter. Jupiter, sympathising
with their fate, endeavours in vain by his thunders to intimidate the
victors from further pursuit. The rescue of the frogs, however, is
effected by an army of land-crabs, who appear as their allies, and
before whom the mice, in their turn, are speedily put to flight.”

_The Battle of the Frogs and Mice_, then, is well described as the
earliest and most successful extant specimen of the “mock-heroic,” the
double object of which is, according to Barrow’s famous definition, to
debase things pompous and elevate things mean. An amusing version of
this Homeric _jeu d’esprit_ was published in 1851 by an author
who gave himself out as the “Singing Mouse,” “the last minstrel of his
race.” “The theme,” he says, “belongs to that heroic age of which
history has recorded that the very mountains laboured when a mouse was
born.” The metre of this translation has been altered from the stately
elegance of the original to one which is perhaps better fitted to the
subject in itself than to its special object as a travestie on the
epic style of the _Iliad_. The names of the heroes are happily
rendered; but it will be seen that some difference exists between this
author and the one just cited as to certain of the zoological terms in
the poem.

                             _THE MEETING_


    It fell on a day that a mouse, travel-spent,
      To the side of a river did wearily win;
    Of the good house-cat he had baffled the scent,
      And he thirstily dipt his whiskered chin;
    When, crouched in the sedge by the water’s brink,
      A clamorous frog beheld him drink.
    “And tell me, fair sir, thy title and birth,
      For of high degree thou art surely come;
    I have room by my hearth for a stranger of worth,
      And a welcome to boot to my royal home.
    For, sooth to speak, my name is _Puffcheek_,
      And I come of _Bullfrog’s_ lordly line;
    I govern the bogs, the realm of the frogs,
      A sceptred king by right divine.”


    Then up and spake the mighty mouse:
      “And, courteous stranger, ask’st thou, then,
      What’s known alike to gods and men,
    The lineage of _Crumplunderer’s_ house?
    Me Princess _Lickfarina_ bare,
      Daughter of good King _Nibble-the-flitch_,
    And she weaned me on many a dainty rare,
    As became great _Pie-devourer’s_ heir,
      With filberts and figs and sweetmeats rich.


    “Never mortal mouse, I ween,
    Better versed in man’s cuisine;
    Not a bun or tartlet, graced
    With sweeping petticoat of paste,
    Not an oily rasher or creamy cheese,
    Or liver so gay in its silver chemise;
    Not a dish by artiste for alderman made,
    Ever escaped my foraging raid
    For when the mice pour on pantry and store,
    In foray or fight, I am aye to the fore.


    “I fear not man’s unwieldy size,
      To his very bedside I merrily go;
    At his lubberly length the ogre lies,
    And sleep never leaves his heavy-sealed eyes
      Though I pinch his heel and nibble his toe.
    But enemies twain do work my bane,
      And both from my inmost soul I hate,
    The cat and the kite, who bear me spite;
      And, third, the mouse-trap’s fatal bait;
    And the ferret foul I abhor from my soul,
    The robber! he follows me into my hole!”

Wesley’s rendering of the _dénouement_ is a thoroughly good specimen of
the mock-heroic style which runs through the original:

      The Muses knowing all things list not show
      The Wailings for the Dead and Funeral Rites,
      To blameless Æthiopians must they go
      To feast with Jove for twelve succeeding nights.
      Therefore abrupt thus end they. Let suffice
      The gods’ august assembly to relate,
      Heroic Frogs and Demigods of Mice,
      Troxartes’ vengeance and Pelides’ fate.
      Hosts routed, lakes of gore, and hills of slain,
    An Iliad, work divine! raised from a day’s campaign.

By this time Greece was ready for definite mirth and laughter. What has
come to be known as the Old Comedy was to the Athenians, we are told,
what is now shown in the influences of the newspaper, the review, the
Broadside, the satire, the caricature of the times and manners.

Nor were cartoons missing, for the grotesque pictures were as important
a factor as the verbal or written words.

The Old Comedy is marked by political satire of a virulent personality.
This is prohibited in the Middle Comedy, and replaced by literary and
philosophical criticism of the ways of the citizens. The New Comedy,
more repressed still, is the comedy of manners, and its influence
continued to the Roman stage and further.

Of the Old Comedy, save for a few lesser lights, Aristophanes is the
sole representative.

At the festivals of the god Dionysus, two elements were present. One
the solemn rites, which developed into tragedy, and the other the
grotesque and ribald orgies which were equally in evidence and which
culminated in the idea of comedy.

The license of these symbolic representations was unbridled and all
rules of decorum and decency were violated in the frenzied antics.

Doubtless many writings now lost to us were filled with the broad humor
of the day, but we have only the plays of Aristophanes left.

Of the life of this Athenian not much is known. He was born after 450
B.C. and it was after the Peloponnesian War that he wrote his

The principal and best known of his eleven extant plays is _The

Of this, two clever translations are given.

One, is thus introduced by a writer in _The Quarterly Review_:

   “One of the temples or theatres appropriated to the service
   of Bacchus in Athens, and in which the scenic performances
   of the old Greeks took place, was situated near a part of
   that metropolis usually called ‘The Marshes,’ and those who
   know by experience what tenants such places commonly harbour
   in more southern climates will think it not impossible that
   the representatives of the stage, and more particularly in
   theatres which were generally without a roof, were occasionally
   disturbed, to the great annoyance of the dramatists, by the
   noisy vociferations of these more ancient and legitimate Lords
   of the Marshes. One of them was not a man to be offended with
   impunity by biped or quadruped; and wherever the foes of
   Aristophanes were to be found, on land or in water, he had
   shafts both able and willing to reach them.

   “In his descent to the lower world, the patron of the stage is
   accordingly made to encounter a band of most pertinacious and
   invincible frogs; and the gradations through which the mind
   of Bacchus runs, after the first moments of irritation have
   subsided, from coaxing to bullying, from affected indifference
   to downright force, are probably a mere transcript of the poet’s
   own feelings under similar circumstances.”

SCENE.--_The Acherusian Lake_--BACCHUS _at the oar in_ CHARON’S _Boat_
--CHARON--_Chorus of Frogs--In the background a view of Bacchus’s Temple
or Theatre, from which are heard the sounds of a Scenic Entertainment._

    _Semich._ 1. Croak! croak! croak!

    _Semich._ 2. Croak! croak! croak!

                                    [_In answer, with music 8ve lower._

    _Full Chorus._ Croak! croak! croak!

    _Leader of the Chorus._   When flagons were foaming,
                              And roysterers roaming,
                  And bards flung about them their gibe and their joke;
                              The holiest song
                              Still was found to belong
                  To the Sons of the Marsh with their--

    _Full Chorus._                              Croak! croak!

    _Leader._                  Shall we pause in our strain,
                               Now the months bring again
                  The pipe and the minstrel to gladden the folk?
                               Rather strike on the ear,
                               With a note sharp and clear,
            A chant corresponding of--

    _Chorus._                  Croak! croak!

    _Bacchus_ (_mimicking_).   Croak! croak! By the Gods, I shall choke
                  If you pester and bore my ears any more
                    With your croak! croak! croak!

    _Leader._     Rude companion and vain,
                  Thus to carp at my strain,
                  But keep in the vein,
                  And attack him again
                  With a croak! croak! croak!

    _Chorus_ (_crescendo_). Croak! croak! croak!

    _Bacchus_ (_mimicking_). Croak! croak! Vapour and smoke!
                  Never think it, old huff,
                  That I care for such stuff
                  As your croak! croak! croak!

    _Chorus_ (_fortissimo_). Croak! croak! croak!

    _Bacchus._    Now fires light on thee
                    And waters soak,
                  And March winds catch thee
                    Without any cloak.
                  For within and without,
                  From the tail to the snout,
                Thou’rt nothing but--
                     Croak! croak! croak!

    _Leader._   And what else, captious newcomer, say, should I be?
                But you know not to whom you are talking, I see.

                                                       [_With dignity_.

                I’m the friend of the Muses, and Pan with his pipe
                Loves me better by far than a cherry that’s ripe:
                Who gives them their tone and their moisture but I?
                And therefore for ever I’ll utter my cry

    _Chorus._        Croak! croak! croak!

    _Bacchus._  I’m blistered, I’m flustered, I’m sick, I’m ill.

    _Chorus._        Croak! croak! croak!

    _Bacchus._  My dear little bull-frog, do prithee keep still.

    _Chorus._        Croak! croak! croak!

    _Bacchus._  ’Tis a sorry vocation, that reiteration;
                I speak on my honour, most musical nation
                     Of croak! croak! croak!

    _Leader_ (_maestoso_). When the sun rides in glory and makes a
                             light day
                ’Mid lilies and plants of the water I stray;
                Or when the sky darkens with tempest and rain,
                I sink like a pearl in my watery domain.
                But sinking or swimming I lift up my song,
                Or drive a gay dance with my eloquent throng.
                     Then hey, bubble, bubble,
                     For a knave’s petty trouble
                Shall I my high charter and birthright revoke?
                     Nay, my efforts I’ll double
                     And drive him like stubble
                Before me with--

    _Chorus._                   Croak! croak! croak!

    _Bacchus._     I’m ribs of steel, I’m heart of oak,
                   Let us see if a note
                   Can be found in this throat,
              To answer their (_croaks loudly_) croak! croak! croak!

    _Leader._      Poor vanity’s son!
                   And dost think me undone
                   With a clamour no bigger
                   Than a maiden’s first snigger?
                   But strike up a tune

                                                          [_To Chorus._

                   He’ll not forget soon
                   Of our croak! croak! croak!

    _Chorus_ (_with discordant crash of music_). Croak! croak! croak!

    _Bacchus._     I’m cinder, I’m coke!
                   I have got my death-stroke.
                   O that ever I woke
                   To be galled by the yoke
                   Of this croak! croak! croak!

    _Leader._   Friend, friend, I may not be still,
                My destinies high I must needs fulfil.
                And the march of creation, despite reprobation,
                Must proceed with--,

                                                          [_To Chorus._

                My lads, may I make application
                For a--

    _Chorus._         Croak! croak! croak!

    _Bacchus_ (_in a minor key_). Nay, nay! Take your own way,
                   I’ve said out my say,
                   And care nought by my fai’
                   For your croak! croak! croak!

    _Leader._   Care or care not, ’tis the same thing to me;
                My voice is my own, and my actions are free.
                I have but one note, and I chant it with glee,
                And from morning to night that note it shall be

    _Chorus._   Croak! croak! croak!

    _Bacchus._     Nay then, old rebel,
                   I’ll stop your treble
                   With a poke! poke! poke!

                                               [_Dashing at the Frogs._

                   Take this from my rudder, and that from my oar,
                   And now let us see if you’ll trouble us more
                     With your croak! croak! croak!

    _Leader._      You may batter and bore,
                   You may thunder and roar,
                   Yet I’ll never give o’er
                   Till I’m hard at death’s door--
                This rib, by the way, is confoundedly sore).

    _Semich. 1._       With my croak! croak! croak!

    _Semich. 2_ (_dim._). Croak! croak! croak!

    _Full Chorus_ (_in a dying cadence_).  Croak! croak! croak!

                                                [_The Frogs disappear._

    _Bacchus_ (_looking over the boat’s edge_). Spoke! spoke! spoke!

                                                          [_To_ CHARON.

                   Pull away, my old friend,
                   For at last there’s an end
                   To their croak! croak! croak!

                           [BACCHUS _pays his two oboli and is landed._

                       _THE PASSAGE OF THE STYX_

                    CHARON, BACCHUS, _and_ XANTHIAS

    _Charon._   Hoy! Bear a hand there! Heave ashore!

    _Bacchus._                              What’s this?

    _Xanthias._ The lake it is--the place he told us of.
                By Jove! and there’s the boat--and here’s old Charon!

    _Bacchus._  Well, Charon! Welcome, Charon! Welcome kindly!

    _Charon._   Who wants the ferryman? Anybody waiting
                To leave the pangs of life? A passage, anybody?
                To Lethe’s wharf? To Cerberus’ reach?
                To Tartarus? To Tænarus? To Perdition?

    _Bacchus._  Yes, I.

    _Charon._   Get in then.

    _Bacchus._                   Tell me, where are you going?
                To perdition, really?

    _Charon._                    Yes, to oblige you, I will--
                With all my heart. Step in there.

    _Bacchus._                   Have a care!
                Take care, good Charon! Charon, have a care!

                                             (_Getting into the boat._)

                Come, Xanthias, come!

    _Charon._                      I take no slaves aboard,
                Except they’ve volunteer’d for the naval victory.

    _Xanthias._ I could not; I was suffering with sore eyes.

    _Charon._   Off with you, round by the end of the lake.

    _Xanthias._ And whereabouts shall I wait?

    _Charon._                         At the Stone of Repentance,
                By the Slough of Despond, beyond the Tribulations.
                You understand me?

    _Xanthias._                       Yes, I understand you--
                A lucky, promising direction, truly.

    _Charon_ (_to_ BACCHUS). Sit down at the oar. Come, quick,
          if there are more coming!--
                Hullo! what’s that you’re doing?

       (BACCHUS _is seated in a buffoonish attitude in the side
                of the boat where the oar was fastened._)

    _Bacchus._                        What you told me.
                I’m sitting at the oar.

    _Charon._                         Sit _there_, I tell you,
                You fatguts; that’s your place.

    _Bacchus_ (_changes his place_). Well, so I do.

    _Charon._   Now ply your hands and arms.

    _Bacchus_ (_makes a silly motion with his arms_). Well, so I do.

    _Charon._   You’d best leave off your fooling. Take to the oar,
                And pull away.

    _Bacchus._                 But how shall I contrive?
                I’ve never served on board; I’m only a landsman;
                I’m quite unused to it.

    _Charon._                        We can manage it.
                As soon as you begin you shall have some music;
                That will teach you to keep time.

    _Bacchus._                           What music’s that?

    _Charon._  A chorus of frogs--uncommon musical frogs.

    _Bacchus._              Well, give me the word and the time.

    _Charon._  Whooh, up, up! Whooh, up, up!

                            CHORUS OF FROGS

                Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash!
                Shall the choral quiristers of the marsh
                Be censured and rejected as hoarse and harsh,
                   And their chromatic essays
                   Deprived of praise?
                No; let us raise afresh
                Our obstreperous brekeke-kesh!
                The customary croak and cry
                   Of the creatures
                   At the theaters
                In their yearly revelry.
                Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash!

    _Bacchus_ (_rowing in great misery_).
                   How I’m maul’d!
                   How I’m gall’d!
                Worn and mangled to a mash--
                There they go! Koash, koash!

    _Frogs._    Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash!

    _Bacchus._  Oh, beshrew,
                All your crew!
                You don’t consider how I smart.

    _Frogs._    Now for a sample of the art!
                Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash!

    _Bacchus._  I wish you hanged, with all my heart!
                Have you nothing else to say?
                Brekeke-kesh, koash, all day!

    _Frogs._       We’ve a right,
                   We’ve a right,
                And we croak at ye for spite.
                   We’ve a right,
                   We’ve a right,
                   Day and night,
                   Day and night,
                   Night and day,
                Still to creak and croak away.
           Phœbus and every Grace
           Admire and approve of the croaking race;
           And the egregious guttural notes
           That are gargled and warbled in their lyrical throats.
                   In reproof
                   Of your scorn,
                   Mighty Pan
                   Nods his horn;
                   Beating time
                   To the rime
                   With his hoof,
                   With his hoof.
               Persisting in our plan,
               We proceed as we began.
               Brekeke-kesh, brekeke-kesh,
               Koash, koash!

    _Bacchus._ Oh, the frogs, consume and rot ’em!
               I’ve a blister on my bottom!
               Hold your tongues, you noisy creatures!

    _Frogs._   Cease with your profane entreaties,
               All in vain forever striving;
               Silence is against our natures;
               With the vernal heat reviving,
               Our aquatic crew repair
               From their periodic sleep,
               In the dark and chilly deep,
               To the cheerful upper air.
               Then we frolic here and there
               All amid the meadows fair;
               Shady plants of asphodel
               Are the lodges where we dwell;
               Chanting in the leafy bowers
               All the livelong summer hours,
               Till the sudden gusty showers
               Send us headlong, helter-skelter,
               To the pool to seek for shelter.
               Meager, eager, leaping, lunging,
               From the sedgy wharfage plunging
               To the tranquil depth below,
               There we muster all a-row;
               Where, secure from toil and trouble,
               With a tuneful hubble-bubble,
               Our symphonious accents flow.
               Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash!

    _Bacchus._ I forbid you to proceed.

    _Frogs._   That would be severe, indeed,
               Arbitrary, bold, and rash--
               Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash!

    _Bacchus._ I command you to desist--
               Oh, my back, there! Oh, my wrist
                   What a twist!
                   What a sprain!

    _Frogs._   Once again
               We renew the tuneful strain--
               Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash!

    _Bacchus._ I disdain--hang the pain!--
               All your nonsense, noise, and trash.
               Oh, my blister! Oh, my sprain!

    _Frogs._   Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash!
               Friends and frogs, we must display
               All our powers of voice to-day.
               Suffer not this stranger here,
               With fastidious, foreign ear,
               To confound us and abash
               Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash!

    _Bacchus._ Well, my spirit is not broke;
               If it’s only for the joke,
               I’ll outdo you with a croak.
               Here it goes--(_very loud_) “Koash, koash!”

    _Frogs._   Now for a glorious croaking crash,
                          (still louder)
               Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash!

    _Bacchus_ (_splashing with his oar_).
               I’ll disperse you with a splash.

    _Frogs._   Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash!

    _Bacchus._ I’ll subdue
               Your rebellious, noisy crew--
               Have among you there, slap-dash!
                          (_Strikes at them._)

    _Frogs._   Brekeke-kesh, koash, koash!
               We defy your oar, and you.

    _Charon._  Hold! We’re ashore. Now shift your oar.
               Get out. Now pay your fare.

    _Bacchus._ There--there it is--the twopence.

                                                         --_The Frogs._

Another play of Aristophanes is _The Birds_.

The plot of this is simply that two Athenians, disgusted with the state
of things in their native city, form the idea of building a city where
the birds shall regain their old traditional supremacy.

The proposal is happily received by the birds and the city of
Nephelococyggia, or Cloud-cuckoo-town is the result.

It was merely a burlesque on the Athenians who were given to building
castles in the air.

Lack of space forbids further quotation from Aristophanes, but his
comedies are available to all who wish to read them.

Among the predecessors of Aristophanes was Cratinus, who was an enemy
of water drinkers, and expressed the dictum that no verses written by
abstainers could ever please or live!

Another, whose fragmentary lines have a certain modern ring, is
Simonides, who left us a poem of the ladies, which, it has been said,
gave the tone to all the Greek pasquinades of the same class. He
compares the different types of ladies to various members of the lower
orders in creation; and the “Fine Lady” is represented by a high-bred

                    _THE FINE LADY. BY SIMONIDES._

    Next in the lot a gallant dame we see,
    Sprung from a mare of noble pedigree;
    No servile work her spirit proud can brook,
    Her hands were never taught to bake or cook;
    The vapour of the oven makes her ill,
    She scorns to empty slops or turn the mill.
    To wash or scour would make her soft hands rough,
    Her own ablutions give pursuit enough;
    Three baths a day, with balms and perfumes rare,
    Refresh her tender limbs. Her long rich hair
    Each time she combs and decks with blooming flowers.
    No spouse more fit than she the idle hours
    Of wealthy lords or kings to recreate,
    And grace the splendour of their courtly state;
    For men of humbler sort no better guide
    Heaven in its wrath to ruin can provide.

Two more examples of the wit of Cratinus follow:

    “Apollo, of fine verses here’s a gush!
    They come, like springs and fountains, with a rush.
    A river’s in his windpipe! Turn the tap;
    This spouting, if not stopped, will cause some dire mishap.”

    “How can one stop him from this thirst for drink?
    How _can_ one? Well, I’ve found a way, I think.
    For every cup and every mug I’ll smash,
    His flasks and pitchers into fragments dash,
    Shiver all kinds of pots that come to table,
    And not one crock to keep shall he be able.”

Plato Comicus (as distinguished from the philosopher), who carried on a
poetic contest with Aristophanes, ranks among the best of the poets of
the Old Comedy, but only a few fragments of his work remain.

Here are two of them:

    “Henceforth no four-legged creature should be slain,
    Except the pig; of this the reason’s plain.
    Its use--unless for food--man vainly seeks;
    It only gives him bristles, dirt, and squeaks.”

    “We’re swamped with ‘public men’; for one scamp dead,
    Two louder talkers, greater scamps, instead
    Spring up like Hydra’s heads: the more’s the pity
    We have no Iolaus in the city
    To singe the necks from which these pests arise,
    In whom foul lives alone secure the prize.”

As students of the Classics themselves find great difficulty in drawing
strict boundaries between the Old and Middle Comedy, we need not pay
careful attention to exact dates, but accept the general idea that one
passed into the other at about the time the Peloponnesian War ended.

This was 404 B.C. and Middle Comedy may be said to extend from
that date until the overthrow of the Athenians by Philip of Macedon in
338 B.C.

The most distinguished poet of the Middle Comedy was Antiphanes, who
lived in the Fourth Century, B.C.

His lines are epigrammatic and frequently refer to the prevailing theme
of drunkenness.

    “No trade more pleasant is, no art,
    Than ours who play the flatterer’s part.
    The painter overworked gets cross,
    Your farmer learns his risk by loss;
    While care and pains each workman takes,
    “Laugh and get fat” _our_ motto makes.
    Fun, laughter, banter, drink, I hold
    Are life’s chief pleasures--next to gold.”

    “I have a vintner near who keeps a shop,
    The only man who, when I want a drop,
    Mixes my grog to suit my special taste;
    Not neat,--nor letting water run to waste.”

    “Wives are bad property, I’d have you know,--
    Except in countries where grapes do not grow.”

    “’Tis life in paradise to find a host
    To dine with, where you’ve not to count the cost.
    And so new shifts to try I shall not pause,
    To get a bite that’s toothsome for my jaws.”

    “One single thing I trust a woman saying,
    To other statements no attention paying:
    ‘When I am dead, I won’t return to grieve you.’
    Till death takes place, in naught else I’ll believe you.”

    “What! when you court concealment, will you tell
    The matter to a woman? Just as well
    Tell all the criers in the public squares!
    ’Tis hard to say which of them louder blares.”

    “Married? He’s done for! Ah! I had misgiving.
    And yet I only lately left him living.”

    “Two states there are that we can always prove,--
    If one’s in liquor, and if one’s in love.
    Both words and looks these two conditions show;
    By these if the denial’s false we know.”

Another epigrammatist was


    He who composed the ditty, “Health is best,
    Good looks come next, then money,” and the rest,
    Right in the first, in the other two was wrong.
    None but a madman could have made that song!
    Next after “health” comes “wealth”; your handsome face,
    When pinched by famine, loses all its grace.

    A man who doubts if he should marry,
    Or thinks he has good cause to tarry,
    Is foolish if he takes a wife,
    The source of half the plagues in life!
    A poor man to a rich wife sold
    Exchanges liberty for gold.
    If she has nothing, then, ’tis true,
    There is a different ill to rue;

    For now he has, with all his need,
    Two mouths instead of one to feed.
    Perhaps she’s ugly; married life
    Thenceforth is never-ending strife!
    Perhaps she’s pretty; then _your_ boast
    Is made by all your friends their toast.
    Does ugly, handsome, poor, or rich,
    Bring most ill luck?--I know not which.

    One course in life there is that’s hard to roam,
    Back from a husband’s to a father’s home;
    And every decent wife should fear to tread it;
    The “homing heat” wins nothing but discredit.

Other Greek wits offer these:


    He who first drew or modelled Love with wings
    Might paint a swallow; but how many things
    In Love are different from a bird! Not light
    To him who bears the weight, nor quick in flight,
    Unmoved the imp upon his shoulders sits.
    How can a thing have _wings_ that never flits?

    For sober folk three bowls alone I mix,
    For health, cheer, sleep; the order thus I fix.
    The first they toss off; _that’s_ for stomach’s sake.
    The next, for love and pleasure, all may take.
    The third, the few who are with wisdom blessed;
    It sends them home to bed, to take their rest.
    The fourth’s no longer _mine_! ’tis “drinkers’ bowl.”
    A fifth they call for; then they shout and howl.
    The sixth sends forth the party for a lark.
    The seventh to fight and bear the drunkard’s mark.
    Lawsuits the eighth. The ninth breeds furious talking;
    The tenth, to rave and lose the power of walking.
    Small though the bowl, much wine, if poured in neat,
    The head at first affects, and last the feet.


    Bad luck to him who _second_ came to wed!
    The first I blame not; home a wife he led
    Not knowing what a curse a wife might prove,
    What deadly feuds oft spring from miscalled love.
    But he who married next, in haste unwise
    Rushed to his fate with fully opened eyes.


    Your Sophists say, it is not Love almighty
    That roams on wings, but _lovers_ that are flighty.
    Love wrongly bears the blame; ’twas one who knew
    Nought of his ways who first winged Cupids drew.
    A drunken party coming up! To evade them I must try.
    My sole chance now to keep my cloak is having wings to fly.

    Old Chaerephon some trick is always trying,
    As now, to dine without his share supplying,
    Early he goes to shops which cooks beset,
    To whom by contract crockery is let,
    And when he sees one choosing dishes, “Say,”
    He cries, “what house do _you_ cook for to-day?”
    So, when the door’s left gaping, he contrives
    To slip in as the first guest that arrives.

    In wine and man this difference appears:
    The old man bores you, but the old wine cheers.
    Men do not, like your wine, improve by age;
    The more their years, the less their ways engage.

Aristotle, though the first to put into words the definition of the
ridiculous, can furnish no extracts which come within our present scope.

Indeed the great teacher considered comedy from its dramatic side
rather than as mere humor.

One of his pupils, Theophrastus, left us some fragments, especially a
short collection of character sketches which show both wit and humor.

                           _OF SLOVENLINESS_

This vice is a lazy and beastly negligence of a man’s person, whereby
he becomes so filthy as to be offensive to those who are about him.
You’ll see him come into a company when he is covered all over with a
leprosy or scurf, or with very long nails, and he says those distempers
are hereditary, that his father and grandfather had them before him.
He will speak with his mouth full, and gurgle at his cup in drinking.
He will intrude into the best company in ragged clothes. If he goes
with his mother to the soothsayers, he cannot even then refrain from
coarse and profane expressions. When he is making his oblations at
the temple, he will let the dish fall out of his hand, and laugh as at
some jocular exploit. At the finest concert of music he cannot forbear
clapping his hands and making a rude noise. He will pretend to sing
along with the singers, and rail at them when they leave off.
                                                --_The Characters._

                            _OF LOQUACITY_

If we would define loquacity, it is an excessive affluence of words.
The prater will not suffer any person in company to tell his own story,
but, let it be what it will, tells you you mistake the matter, that
he takes the thing right, and that if you will listen, he will make
it clear to you. If you make any reply, he suddenly interrupts you,
saying, “Why, sir, you forget what you were talking about; it’s very
well you should begin to remember, since it is most beneficial for
people to inform one another.” Then presently he says, “But what was I
going to say? Why, truly, you very soon apprehend a thing, and I was
waiting to see if you would be of my sentiment in this matter.” And
thus he always takes such occasions as these to prevent the person
he talks with the liberty of breathing. After he has thus tormented
all who will hear him, he is so rude as to break into the company of
persons met to discuss important affairs, and drives them away by his
troublesome impertinence. Thence he goes into the public schools and
places of exercise, where he interrupts the masters by his foolish
prating, and hinders the scholars from improving by their instruction.
If any person shows an inclination to go away, he will follow him, and
will not part from him till he comes to his own door. If he hears of
anything transacted in the public assembly of the citizens, he runs
up and down to tell it to everybody. He gives you a long account of
the famous battle that was fought when Aristophanes the orator was
governor, or when the Lacedæmonians were under the command of Lysander;
then tells you with what general applause he made a speech in public,
repeating a great deal of it, with invectives against the common
people, which are so tiresome to those that hear him that some forget
what he says as soon as it is out of his mouth, others fall asleep,
and others leave him in the midst of his harangue. If this talker be
sitting on the bench, the judge will be unable to determine matters.
If he’s at the theater, he’ll neither let you hear nor see anything;
nor will he even permit him that sits next to him at the table to eat
his meat. He declares it very hard for him to be silent, his tongue
being so very well hung that he’d rather be accounted as garrulous as
a swallow than be silent, and patiently bears all ridicule, even that
of his own children, who, when they want to go to rest, request him to
talk to them that they may the sooner fall asleep.

                                                --_The Characters._

One of the Characters described by Theophrastus is _The Stupid Man_,
and runs thus:

“The stupid man is one who, after doing a sum and setting down the
total, will ask the person next him, ‘What does it come to?’”

It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that this is the beginning
or at least the popularizing of the class of jests known as Noodles or
Noodle Stories.

For all nations and races have folk-lore that details the sayings and
doings of the witless or silly.

The Literature of the Orient abounds in these tales and European
stories of the same sort are equally abundant.

The collection of jokes ascribed to Hierocles, may or may not have
been gathered by that Alexandrian philosopher. The only form in which
we may read them is said to have been made not earlier than the Ninth
Century, but the stories themselves are among the very earliest of the
traditional jests of all time.

Some of these old jokemongers’ witticisms are capital--so good, in
fact, that the parentage of many of them has been claimed by modern
wits. No doubt we shall recognise some old friends as we read:

I. A pedant (for so we must probably translate, in conventional
phrase, the pervading Scholastichus of the old jokemonger) wishing to
teach his horse not to eat much, gave him no food. Eventually the horse
died of starvation; and he complained to his friends, “I have suffered
a great loss, for just when I had taught my horse to live upon nothing
he died.”

II. A pedant having bought a cask of wine, sealed it. But his slave
bored a hole and stole the wine. The master was amazed to find that,
though his seals were unbroken, the wine gradually diminished. Someone
suggested that he should examine whether it had been taken out from the
bottom. “Fool,” he replied, “it isn’t the lower part that’s gone. It’s
the upper.”

III. A pedant suffered shipwreck in a tempest, and seeing the
passengers tie themselves to different articles on board, fastened
himself to one of the anchors.

IV. Another had to cross a river, and went on board the ferry-boat on
horseback. Somebody asked him why he did so, and he replied because he
was in a hurry.

V. Yet another, anxious to know whether he looked well when he was
asleep, stood before a looking-glass with his eyes shut to see.

VI. A landlord, who had a house to sell, went about amongst his
friends, carrying a brick as a specimen.

In connection with these stories may be cited the following, from a
Persian jest-book: A poor wrestler, who had passed all his life in
forests, resolved to try his fortune in a great city, and as he drew
near it he observed with wonder the crowds on the road, and thought,
“I shall certainly not be able to know myself among so many people if
I have not something about me that the others have not.” So he tied a
pumpkin to his right leg and, thus decorated, entered the town. A young
wag, perceiving the simpleton, made friends with him, and induced him
to spend the night at his house. While he was asleep, the joker removed
the pumpkin from his leg and tied it to his own, and then lay down
again. In the morning, when the poor fellow awoke and found the pumpkin
on his companion’s leg, he called to him, “Hey! get up, for I am
perplexed in my mind. Who am I, and who are you? If I am myself, why
is the pumpkin on your leg? And if you are yourself, why is the pumpkin
not on my leg?”

Modern counterparts of the following jest are not far to seek: Quoth
a man to a pedant, “The slave I bought of you has died.” Rejoined the
other, “By the gods, I do assure you that he never once played me such
a trick while I had him.” The old Greek pedant is transformed into an
Irishman, in our collections of facetiæ, who applied to a farmer for
work. “I’ll have nothing to do with you,” said the farmer, “for the
last five Irishmen I had all died on my hands.” Quoth Pat, “Sure, sir,
I can bring you characters from half a dozen gentlemen I’ve worked for
that I never did such a thing.” And the jest is thus told in an old
translation of _Les Contes Facetieux de Sieur Gaulard_: “Speaking
of one of his Horses which broake his Neck at the descent of a Rock, he
said, Truly it was one of the handsomest and best Curtalls in all the
Country; he neuer shewed me such a trick before in all his life.”

Equally familiar is the jest of the pedant who was looking out for a
place to prepare a tomb for himself, and on a friend indicating what he
thought to be a suitable spot, “Very true,” said the pedant, “but it is
unhealthy.” And we have the prototype of a modern “Irish” story in the
following: A pedant sealed a jar of wine, and his slaves perforated it
below and drew off some of the liquor. He was astonished to find his
wine disappear while the seal remained intact. A friend, to whom he
had communicated the affair, advised him to look and ascertain if the
liquor had not been drawn off from below. “Why, you fool,” said he, “it
is not the lower, but the upper, portion that is going off.”

It was a Greek pedant who stood before a mirror and shut his eyes
that he might know how he looked when asleep--a jest which reappears
in Taylor’s _Wit and Mirth_ in this form: “A wealthy monsieur in
France (hauing profound reuenues and a shallow braine) was told by his
man that he did continually gape in his sleepe, at which he was angry
with his man, saying he would not belieue it. His man verified it to
be true; his master said that he would neuer belieue any that told
him so, except (quoth hee) I chance to see it with mine owne eyes; and
therefore I will have a great Looking glasse at my bed’s feet for the
purpose to try whether thou art a lying knaue or not.”

Not unlike some of our “Joe Millers” is the following: A citizen
of Cumæ, on an ass, passed by an orchard, and seeing a branch of a
fig-tree loaded with delicious fruit, he laid hold of it, but the
ass went on, leaving him suspended. Just then the gardener came up,
and asked him what he did there. The man replied, “I fell off the
ass.”--An analogue to this drollery is found in an Indian story-book,
entitled _Kathȧ Manjari_: One day a thief climbed up a cocoanut
tree in a garden to steal the fruit. The gardener heard the noise,
and while he was running from his house, giving the alarm, the thief
hastily descended from the tree. “Why were you up that tree?” asked the
gardener. The thief replied, “My brother, I went up to gather grass for
my calf.” “Ha! ha! is there grass, then, on a cocoanut tree?” said the
gardener. “No,” quoth the thief; “but I did not know; therefore I came
down again.”--And we have a variant of this in the Turkish jest of the
fellow who went into a garden and pulled up carrots, turnips, and other
kinds of vegetables, some of which he put into a sack, and some into
his bosom. The gardener, coming suddenly on the spot, laid hold of him,
and said, “What are you seeking here?” The simpleton replied, “For some
days past a great wind has been blowing, and that wind blew me hither.”
“But who pulled up these vegetables?” “As the wind blew very violently,
it cast me here and there; and whatever I laid hold of in the hope of
saving myself remained in my hands.” “Ah,” said the gardener, “but who
filled this sack with them?” “Well, that is the very question I was
about to ask myself when you came up.”

The Greek Anthology brings together short poems and epigrams written
during the thousand years between Simonides’ time and the sixth century

Collected shortly before the beginning of the Christian Era and added
to later, they comprise about four thousand five hundred specimens, by
three hundred authors. Few of these are witty, as, indeed, few are
epigrammatic, but of them we quote some which seem most appurtenant.

                       FROM THE GREEK ANTHOLOGY



    “A blockhead bit by fleas put out the light,
    And, chuckling, cried, ‘Now you can’t see to bite!’”


                           _CURES FOR LOVE_

    “Hunger, perhaps, may cure your love,
    Or time your passion greatly alter;
    If both should unsuccessful prove,
    I strongly recommend a halter.”



    “What! whence this, Bacchus? For, by Bacchus’ self,
    The son of Jove, I know not this strange elf.
    The other smells like nectar; but thou here
    Like the he-goat. Those wretched Celts, I fear,
    For want of grapes, made thee of ears of corn.
    Demetrius art thou, of Demeter born,
    Not Bacchus, Dionysus, nor yet wine--
    Those names but fit the products of the vine;
    Beer thou mayst be from barley; or, that failing,
    We’ll call thee ale, for thou wilt keep us ailing.”


                        _GRAMMAR AND MEDICINE_

    “A thriving doctor sent his son to school
    To gain some knowledge, should he prove no fool;
    But took him soon away with little warning,
    On finding out the lesson he was learning--
    How great Pelides’s wrath, in Homer’s rime,
    Sent many souls to Hades ere their time.
    ‘No need for this my boy should hither come;
    That lesson he can better learn at home;
    For I myself, now, I make bold to say,
    Sent many souls to Hades ere their day,
    Nor e’er found want of grammar stop my way.’”


                              _A SINGER_

    “Men die when the night-raven sings or cries;
    But when Dick sings, e’en the night-raven dies.”


                             _AN EPITAPH_

    “Light lie the earth, Nearchus, on thy clay,
    That so the dogs may easier find their prey.”



    “Poor Diophon of envy died,
      His brother thief to see
    Nailed next to him and crucified
      Upon a higher tree.”

                   _A PROFESSOR WITH A SMALL CLASS_

    “Hail, Aristides, rhetoric’s great professor!
    Of wondrous words we own thee the possessor.
    Hail ye, his pupils seven, that mutely hear him--
    His room’s four walls, and the three benches near him.”

                            _FALSE CHARMS_

    “Chloe, those locks of raven hair,
      Some people say you dye with black;
    But that’s a libel, I can swear,
      For I know where you buy them black.”

                   _A SCHOOLMASTER WITH A GAY WIFE_

    “You in your school forever flog and flay us,
    Teaching what Paris did to Menelaus;
    But all the while, within your private dwelling,
    There’s many a Paris courting of your Helen.”

                          _BOARD OR LODGING_

    “Asclepiades, the miser, in his house
    Espied one day, to his surprise, a mouse.
    ‘Tell me, dear mouse,’ he cried, ‘to what cause is it
    I owe this pleasant but unlooked-for visit?’
    The mouse said, smiling, ‘Fear not for your hoard;
    I come, my friend, to lodge, and not to board.’”


                       _CONVENIENT PARTNERSHIP_

    “Damon, who plied the undertaker’s trade,
    With Doctor Crateas an agreement made.
    What linens Damon from the dead could seize,
    He to the doctor sent for bandages;
    While the good doctor, here no promise-breaker,
    Sent all his patients to the undertaker.”


                           _LONG AND SHORT_

    “Dick cannot blow his nose whene’er he pleases
      His nose so long is, and his arm so short;
    Nor ever cries, ‘God bless me!’ when he sneezes--
      He cannot hear so distant a report.”


                            _THE LERNEANS_

    “Lerneans are bad: not some bad and some not
    But all; there’s not a Lernean in the lot,
    Save Procles, that you could a good man call.
    But Procles--is a Lernean, after all.”



    “Sad Heraclitus, with thy tears return;
    Life more than ever gives us cause to mourn.
    Democritus, dear droll, revisit earth;
    Life more than ever gives us cause for mirth.
    Between you both I stand in thoughtful pother,
    How I should weep with one, how laugh with t’other.”

Beside his short poems, we quote a little of the prose of


                      _A QUESTION OF PRECEDENCE_

                   ZEUS, ÆSCULAPIUS, _and_ HERACLES

“_Zeus._ Do, Æsculapius and Heracles, stop your wrangling, in
which you indulge as if you were a couple of mortals; for this sort of
behavior is unseemly, and quite strange to the banquets of the gods.

“_Heracles._ But, Zeus, would you have that quack drug-dealer
there take his place at table above me?

“_Æsculapius._ By Zeus, yes, for I am certainly the better man.

“_Heracles._ How, you thunderstruck fellow, is it, pray, because
Zeus knocked you on the head with his bolt for your unlawful actions,
and because now, out of mere pity, by way of compensation, you have got
a share of immortality?

“_Æsculapius._ What! have you, for your part, Heracles, altogether
forgotten your having been burned to ashes on Mount Œta, that you throw
in my teeth this fire you talk of?

“_Heracles._ We have not lived at all an equal or similar sort of
life--I, who am the son of Zeus, and have undergone so many and great
labors, purifying human life, contending against and conquering wild
beasts, and punishing insolent and injurious men; whereas you are a
paltry herb-doctor and mountebank, skilful, possibly, in palming off
your miserable drugs upon sick fools, but who have never given proof of
any noble, manly disposition.

“_Æsculapius._ You say well, seeing I healed your burns when you
came up but now half-burned, with your body all marred and destroyed by
the double cause of your death--the poisoned shirt, and afterward the
fire. Now I, if I have done nothing else, at least have neither worked
like a slave, as you have, nor have I carded wool in Lydia, dressed in
a fine purple gown; nor have I been beaten by that Omphale of yours,
with her golden slipper. No, nor did I, in a mad fit, kill my children
and my wife!

“_Heracles._ If you don’t stop your ribald abuse of me at once,
you shall very speedily learn your immortality will not avail you much;
for I will take and pitch you head first out of heaven, so that not
even the wonderful Pæon himself shall cure you and your broken skull.

“_Zeus._ Have done, I say, and don’t disturb the harmony of the
company, or I will pack both of you off from the supper-room; although,
to speak the truth, Heracles, it is fair and reasonable Æsculapius
should have precedence of you at table, inasmuch as he even took
precedence of you in death.”

                                       --“_Dialogues of the Gods._”


                       POSEIDON _and_ POLYPHEMUS

“_Polyphemus._ Oh, father, what have I endured at the hands of the
cursed stranger, who made me drunk and put out my eye, assaulting me
when I was lulled to sleep!

“_Poseidon._ Who dared to do this, my poor Polyphemus?

“_Polyphemus._ In the first instance, he called himself Outis; but
when he had got clear away, and was out of reach of my arrow, he said
that his name was Odysseus.

“_Poseidon._ I know whom you speak of--him of Ithaca, and he was
on his return voyage from Ilium. But how did he do it, for he is by no
means a man of too much courage?

“_Polyphemus._ Returning from my accustomed attending of my flock,
I caught a number of fellows in my cave, evidently having designs on
my herds; for when I placed the stone block against the door--the rock
is of huge size--and had lighted the fire by igniting the tree which
I brought from the mountain, evidently they appeared to be trying
to conceal themselves. Well, when I had got hold of some of them I
devoured them for a pack of thieves, as was reasonable. Hereupon that
most villainous rascal, whether he was Outis or Odysseus, pours out a
sort of drug and gives me to drink--sweet, indeed, and of delicious
smell, but most insidious, and which caused great disorder in my head;
for, immediately upon my drinking, everything seemed to me to be in a
whirl, and the cave itself was turned upside down, and I was no longer
at all in my senses; and at last I was dragged down into sleep. Then
sharpening the bar, and igniting it besides, he blinded me as I slept,
and from that time I am a blind man, at your service, Poseidon.

“_Poseidon._ How soundly you slept, my son, that you did not
jump up while you were being blinded! But as for this Odysseus, then,
how did he escape? For he could not--I am well assured that he could
not--move away the rock from the door.

“_Polyphemus._ Yes, but it was I who removed it, that I might the
better catch him as he was going out; and, sitting down close to the
door, I groped for him with extended hands, letting only my sheep go
out to pasture, after having given instructions to the ram what he was
to do in my place.

“_Poseidon._ I perceive: they slipped away unnoticed, under the
sheep. But you ought to have shouted, and called the rest of the
Cyclopes to your aid.

“_Polyphemus._ I did summon them, father, and they came. But
when they asked the sneaking rascal’s name, and I said it was Outis,
thinking I was in a mad fit, they took themselves off at once. Thus the
cursed fellow tricked me with his name; and what especially vexes me
is, that he actually threw my misfortune in my teeth. ‘Not even,’ said
he, ‘will your father Poseidon cure you.’

“_Poseidon._ Never mind, my child, for I will revenge myself upon
him; he shall learn that, even if it is not possible for me to heal the
mutilation of people’s eyes, at all events the fate of voyagers is in
my hands. And he is still at sea.”

                                         --_Dialogues of the Sea-Gods._

Remembering that the dividing lines may not be too strictly drawn, we
close our survey of Greek Humor with some of the fragments of Menander.

Menander, who was to the Middle or New Comedy what Aristophanes was
to the Old Comedy, left only fragments. One bit, rather longer than
the others, shows, with the inevitable animal element not lacking, a
surprisingly modern spirit of satire.

    “Suppose some god should say: Die when thou wilt,
    Mortal, expect another life on earth;
    And for that life make choice of all creation
    What thou wilt be--dog, sheep, goat, man, or horse;
    For live again thou must; it is thy fate;
    Choose only in what form; there thou art free.
    So help me, Crato, I would fairly answer
    Let me be all things, anything but man.
    He only of all creatures feels afflictions.
    The generous horse is valued for his worth.
    And dog by merit is preferred to dog,
    And warrior cock is pampered for his courage,
    And awes the baser brood. But what is man?
    Truth, virtue, valour, how do they avail him?
    Of this world’s good the first and greatest share
    Is flattery’s prize. The informer takes the next.
    And barefaced knavery garbles what is left.
    I’d rather be an ass than what I am
    And see these villains lord it o’er their betters.”

Other Fragments of Menander follow.

    “Be off! these shams of golden tresses spare;
    No honest woman ever dyes her hair.”

    “Better to have, if good you rightly measure,
    Little with joy than much that brings not pleasure,
    Scant means with peace than piles of anxious treasure.”

    “Marriage, if truth be told (of this be sure),
    An evil is--but one we must endure.”

    “Wretched is he that has one son; or, rather,
    More wretched he who of more sons is father.”

    “Think this, on marriage when your mind is set:
    If the harm is small, ’tis the chief good you’ll get.”

    “Slave not for one who has been himself a slave;
    Steers, loosed from ploughs, of toil small memory have.”

    “A handsome person, with perverted will,
    Is a fine craft that’s handled without skill.”

    “Let not a friend your cherished secrets hear;
    Then, if you quarrel, you’ve no cause for fear.”

    “More love a mother than a father shows:
    He _thinks_ this is his son; she only _knows_.”

    “Fathers’ and lovers’ threats no truth have got.
    They swear dire vengeance,--but they mean it not.”

    “Your petty tyrant’s insolence I hate;
    If wrong is done me, be it from the great.”

    “A lie has often, I have known before,
    More weight than truth, and people trust it more.”

    “Don’t talk of birth and family; all of those
    Who have no natural worth on that repose.
    Blue blood, grand pedigree, illustrious sires
    He boasts of, who to nothing more aspires.
    What use long ancestry your _pride_ to call?
    One must have had them to be born at all!
    And those who have no pedigree to show,
    Or who their grandsires were but scantly know.”

    “From change of homes or lack of friends at need,
    And so have lost all record of their breed,
    Are not more “low-born” than your men of blood;
    A nigger’s well-born, if he makes for good!”

The following are a few more epigrammatic bits from the writings of
less noted contemporaries.


    ’Tis easy, while at meals you take your fill,
    To say to sickly people, Don’t be ill!
    Easy to blame bad boxing at a fight,
    But not so for oneself to do it right.
    Action is one thing, talk another quite.

    Your fortune differs as to bed and board;
    Your wife--if ugly--can good fare afford.


    Learn, mortal, learn thy natural ills to bear:
    These, these alone thou _must_ endure; but spare
    A heavier load upon thyself to bring
    By burdens that from thine own follies spring.

    When I am asked by some rich man to dine,
    I mark not if the walls and roofs are fine,
    Nor if the vases such as Corinth prizes,--
    But _solely_ how the smoke from cooking rises.
    If dense it runs up in a column straight,
    With fluttering heart the dinner-hour I wait.
    If, thin and scant, the smoke-puffs sideway steal,
    Then I forebode a thin and scanty meal.

    So plain is she, her father shuns the sight:
    She holds out bread; no dog will take a bite.
    So dark is she, that entering a room
    Night seems to follow her, and all is gloom.


    Sweet is a life apart from toil and care;
    Blessed lot, with others such repose to share!
    But if with beasts and apes you have to do,
    Why, _you_ must play the brute and monkey too!

    In youth I felt for the untimely doom
    Of offspring carried to an early tomb.
    But now I weep when old men’s death I see;
    That moved my pity; this comes home to _me_.

    Seek not, my son, an old man’s ways to spurn;
    To these in old age you yourself will turn.
    Herein we fathers lose a point you gain;
    When you of “father’s cruelty” complain,
    “_You_ once were young,” we tauntingly are told.
    We can’t retort, “My son, you once were old.”

                                PART II


The Roman Juvenal observed, “All Greece is a comedian.” But he could
not say the same of his own country.

Though there was Roman Comedy and Roman Satire, the real and
spontaneous spirit of fun was conspicuously lacking in the tastes and
tendencies of the Romans.

Glory is attributed to Greece and grandeur to Rome, and it may be the
“sudden glory” of humor was an integral part of the Grecian nature.

Yet we must not differentiate too carefully between the two, for the
literature of Greece and Rome is so fused and intermingled that only a
historian may take up the chronological tabulation.

For our purpose it is well to let the literature of the two countries
merge and continue the consideration of classic comedy without over
cautious regard for dates.

The Greek influence on literature of all ages will never disappear, but
the Greek spirit of pure joy and gaiety will, probably never reappear.

From the beginnings of Greece, on through the existence of Rome,
and down through the Mediæval Ages, the world of letters was
self-contained, a single proposition. From 500 B.C. to 1300
A.D. the traditions of primal Greece and Rome continued to be
the common possession of all Europe.

After that, literature became diverse and divergent among the
countries. It was independent as well as interdependent, but this
condition makes an inevitable division of time.

Greece, Rome, Mediæval Times,--these are the three sections of the
Middle portion of this book.

Rome, then, considered by herself, brought forth little quotable
humorous literature, and what we have to choose from is ponderous and

Like Greece, the first germs of Roman comic literature may be traced to
the religious festivals, which were marked by an admixture of religious
rites and riotous Bacchanalian orgies, where as the crowds danced and
sang and feasted, they became first hilarious and then abusive and

Like the Greeks, the Romans used grotesque masks, large enough to
represent face and hair, too, the duplicates of which we see decorating
our theater proscenium arches and drop curtains to this day.

It would seem these masks were universally made use of in their
dramatic performances, for all caricatures and grotesque drawings show

In the burlesque entertainments there was a Buffoon, corresponding to
our clown, called a Sannio, from the Greek word meaning a fool.

Later, undoubtedly, the Court Fool and the King’s Jester were the
natural successors of this character.

In all these masks the features were exaggerated and made monstrous of
form and size. But one reason for the greatly enlarged mouth is that
it was so shaped in order to form a sort of speaking trumpet, that the
actors’ voices might be heard at greater distance.

In contrast to the grotesquerie of enlargement, there was also a branch
of caricature which depicted the pigmies.

The legend of the pigmies and cranes is as ancient, at least, as Homer,
and many examples are found in the buried cities of Herculaneum and

Comic Literature was not plentiful in the days of Early Rome. Up to the
second century B.C. we can glean but the two names, Plautus
and Terence.

These two, nearly contemporary, founded their plays on the comedies of
Menander and a few other earlier dramatic writers.

Perhaps twenty plays are left us from the hands of these two Romans,
and these, though pronounced amusing by scholars who can read the
original text, are not what the modern layman deems very humorous.

A few examples of them will suffice.


                          _MILITARY SWAGGER_


_Pyrgopolinices._ Take care that the luster of my shield is more
bright than the rays of the sun when the sky is clear, that, when
occasion comes, the battle being joined, ’mid the fierce ranks right
opposite it may dazzle the eyesight of the enemy. But I must console
this saber of mine, that it may not lament nor be downcast in spirits,
because I have thus long been wearing it keeping holiday, though it so
dreadfully longs to make havoc of the enemy. But where is Artotrogus?

_Artotrogus._ Here he is; he stands close by the hero, valiant and
successful, and of princely form. Mars could not dare to style himself
so great a warrior, nor compare his prowess with yours.

_Pyrgopolinices._ Him you mean whom I spared on the Gorgonidonian
plains, where Bumbomachides Clytomestoridysarchides, the grandson of
Neptune, was the chief commander?

_Artotrogus._ I remember him; him, I suppose you mean, with the
golden armor, whose legions you puffed away with your breath, just as
the wind blows away leaves or the reed-thatched roof.

_Pyrgopolinices._ That, by my troth, was really nothing at all.

_Artotrogus._ Faith, that really was nothing at all in comparison
with other things I could mention (_aside_) which you never did.
If any person ever beheld a more perjured fellow than this, or one more
full in vain boasting, let him have me for himself: I’ll become his

_Pyrgopolinices._ What are you saying?

_Artotrogus._ Why, that I remember in what fashion you broke the
foreleg of an elephant, in India, with your fist.

_Pyrgopolinices._ How--the foreleg?

_Artotrogus._ I meant to say the thigh.

_Pyrgopolinices._ I struck the blow without an effort.

_Artotrogus._ Troth, if, indeed, you had put forth your strength,
your arm would have passed right through the hide, the entrails, and
the frontispiece of the elephant.

_Pyrgopolinices._ I don’t care to talk about these things just now.

_Artotrogus._ I’ faith, ’tis really not worth while for you to
tell me of it, who know your prowess well. (_Aside._) My appetite
creates all these tales. I must hear him right out with my ears, that
my teeth mayn’t have time to grow, and whatever lie he shall tell I
must agree to it.

_Pyrgopolinices._ What was it I was saying?

_Artotrogus._ Oh, I know what you were going to say just now. I’
faith ’twas bravely done; I remember its being done.

_Pyrgopolinices._ What was that?

_Artotrogus._ Whatever it was you were going to say.

_Pyrgopolinices._ Have you got your tablets?

_Artotrogus._ Are you intending to enlist some one? I have them,
and a pen as well.

_Pyrgopolinices._ How quickly you guess my thoughts!

_Artotrogus._ ’Tis fit that I should study your inclinations, so
that whatever you wish should first occur to me.

_Pyrgopolinices._ What do you remember?

_Artotrogus._ I do remember this: In Cilicia there were a hundred
and fifty men, a hundred in Cryphiolathronia, thirty at Sardis, sixty
men of Macedon, whom you slaughtered altogether in one day.

_Pyrgopolinices._ What is the sum total of those men?

_Artotrogus._ Seven thousand.

_Pyrgopolinices._ It must be as much; you keep the reckoning well.

_Artotrogus._ Yet I have none of them written down; still, I
remember it was so.

_Pyrgopolinices._ By my troth, you have a right good memory.

_Artotrogus_ (_aside_). ’Tis the flesh-pots give it a fillip.

_Pyrgopolinices._ So long as you shall do as you have done
hitherto, you shall always have something to eat; I will always make
you a partaker at my table.

_Artotrogus._ Besides, in Cappadocia you would have killed five
hundred men altogether at one blow, had not your saber been blunt.

_Pyrgopolinices._ I let them live, because I was quite sick of

_Artotrogus._ Why should I tell you what all mortals know, that
you, Pyrgopolinices, live upon the earth with your valor, beauty, and
achievements unsurpassed? All the women are in love with you, and that
not without reason, since you are so handsome. Witness those girls that
pulled me by my mantle yesterday.

_Pyrgopolinices._ What was it they said to you?

_Artotrogus._ They questioned me about you. “Is Achilles here?”
says one to me. “No,” says I, “his brother is.” Then says the other to
me, “By my troth, but he is a handsome and a noble man. See how his
long hair becomes him! Certainly the women are lucky who share his

_Pyrgopolinices._ And pray, did they really say so?

_Artotrogus._ They both entreated me to bring you past today, so
that they might see you.

_Pyrgopolinices._ ’Tis really a very great plague to a man to be
too handsome!

_Artotrogus._ They are quite a nuisance to me; they are praying,
entreating, beseeching me to let them see you; sending for me for that
purpose, so that I can’t give my attention to your business.

_Pyrgopolinices._ It seems that it is time for us to go to the
Forum, that I may count out their pay to those soldiers whom I lately
enlisted; for King Seleucus entreated me with most earnest suit that
I would raise and enlist recruits for him. To that business I have
resolved to devote my attention this day.

_Artotrogus._ Come, let’s be going, then.

_Pyrgopolinices._ Guards, follow me.

    --_The Braggart Captain._

                        _THE SUSPICIOUS MISER_

                        MEGADORUS _and_ EUNOMIA

_Eunomia._ Tell me pray, who is she whom you would like to take
for a wife?

_Megadorus._ I’ll tell you. Do you know that Euclio, the poor old
man close by?

_Eunomia._ I know him; not a bad sort of man.

_Megadorus._ I’d like his maiden daughter to be promised me in
marriage. Don’t make any words about it, sister; I know what you are
going to say--that she’s poor. This poor girl pleases me.

_Eunomia._ May the gods prosper it!

_Megadorus._ I hope the same.

_Eunomia._ Do you wish me to stay for anything else?

_Megadorus._ No; farewell.

_Eunomia._ And to you the same, brother.

    (_Goes into the house._)

_Megadorus._ I’ll go to see Euclio, if he’s at home. But, ah! here
comes the very man toward his own house!

                            _Enter_ EUCLIO

_Euclio_ (_to himself_). I had a presentiment that I was
going out to no purpose when I left my house, and therefore I went
unwillingly; for neither did any one of the wardsmen come, nor yet
the master of the ward, who ought to have distributed the money. Now
I’m making all haste to hasten home; for, though I myself am here, my
mind’s at home.

_Megadorus._ May you be well, and ever fortunate, Euclio!

_Euclio._ May the gods bless you, Megadorus!

_Megadorus._ How are you? Are you quite well and contented?

_Euclio_ (_aside_). It isn’t for nothing when a rich man
accosts a poor man courteously. Now, this fellow knows that I’ve got
some gold; for that reason he salutes me more courteously.

_Megadorus._ Do you say that you are well?

_Euclio._ Oh, I’m not very well in the money line.

_Megadorus._ But if you’ve a contented mind, you have enough for
passing a happy life with.

_Euclio_ (_aside_). By my faith, the old woman has made a
discovery to him about the gold; it is clear she has told him. I’ll cut
off her tongue, and tear out her eyes, when I get home.

_Megadorus._ Why are you talking to yourself?

_Euclio._ I’m lamenting my poverty. I’ve a grown-up girl without a
portion, and one that can’t be disposed of in marriage; nor am I able
to marry her to anybody.

_Megadorus._ Hold your peace; be of good courage, Euclio; she
shall have a husband; you shall be assisted by myself. If you have need
of help, command me.

_Euclio_ (_aside_). Now he is aiming at my property, while
he’s making promises. He’s gaping for my gold, that he may devour it;
in the one hand he is carrying a stone, while he shows the bread in the
other. I trust no person who, rich himself, is exceedingly courteous
to a poor man; when he extends his hand with a kind air, then is he
loading you with some damage. I know these polyps, who, when they’ve
touched a thing, hold it fast.

_Megadorus._ Give me your attention, Euclio, for a little while;
I wish to speak a few words to you about a common concern of yours and

_Euclio_ (_aside_). Alas! wo is me! My gold has been carried
off from my house. Now he’s wishing for this thing, I’m sure, to come
to a compromise with me; but I’ll look in my house first.

                                           (_He goes toward his door._)

_Megadorus._ Where are you going?

_Euclio._ I’ll return to you directly, for there’s something I
must go and see to at home.

                                               (_Goes into his house._)

_Megadorus._ I verily believe that when I make mention of his
daughter, for him to promise her to me, he’ll suppose that I am
laughing at him; for I do not know of any man poorer than he.

                    EUCLIO _returns from his house_

_Euclio_ (_aside_). The gods favor me; my property’s all
safe. If nothing’s lost, it’s safe. I was dreadfully afraid before I
went indoors. I was almost dead. (_Aloud._) I’m come back to you,
Megadorus, if you wish to say anything to me.

_Megadorus._ I thank you. I beg that as to what I shall inquire of
you, you’ll not hesitate to speak out boldly.

_Euclio._ So long, indeed, as you inquire nothing that I mayn’t
choose to speak out upon.

_Megadorus._ Tell me, of what sort of family do you consider me to
be sprung?

_Euclio._ Of a good one.

_Megadorus._ What do you think about my character?

_Euclio._ It’s a good one.

_Megadorus._ What of my conduct?

_Euclio._ Neither bad nor dishonest.

_Megadorus._ Do you know my age?

_Euclio._ I know that you are as rich in years as in pocket.

_Megadorus._ I surely did always take you to be a citizen without
evil guile, and now I am convinced.

Euclio (_aside_). He smells the gold. (_Aloud._) What do you
want with me now?

_Megadorus._ Since you know me, and I know you, what sort of
person you are, may it bring a blessing on myself, and you and your
daughter, if I now ask your daughter as my wife. Promise me that it
shall be so.

_Euclio._ Heyday! Megadorus, you are doing a deed that’s not
becoming to your usual actions, in laughing at me, a poor man, and
guiltless toward yourself and toward your family. For neither in act,
nor in words, have I ever deserved it of you that you should do what
you are doing now.

_Megadorus._ I vow that I neither came to laugh at you nor am I
laughing at you, nor do I think you deserving of it.

_Euclio._ Why, then, do you ask my daughter for yourself?

_Megadorus._ Because I believe that the match would be a good
thing for all of us.

_Euclio._ It suggests itself to my mind, Megadorus, that you are a
wealthy man, a man of rank, and that I am the poorest of the poor. Now,
if I should give my daughter in marriage to you, it suggests itself to
my mind that you are the ox, and that I am the ass; when I’m yoked to
you, and when I’m not able to bear the burden equally with yourself,
I, the ass, must lie down in the mire; you, the ox, would regard me no
more than if I had never been born. I should then feel aggrieved, and
my own class would laugh at me. In neither direction should I have a
fixed stall, if there should be a divorce; the asses would tear me with
their teeth, the oxen would butt at me with their horns. This is the
great risk, in my passing over from the asses to the oxen.

_Megadorus._ The nearer you can unite yourself in alliance with
honorable people the better. Do you receive this proposal, listen to
me, and promise her to me.

_Euclio._ But there is no marriage portion, I tell you.

_Megadorus._ You are to give none; so long as she comes with good
principles, she is sufficiently portioned.

_Euclio._ I say so for this reason, that you mayn’t be supposing
that I have found any treasures.

_Megadorus._ I know that; don’t enlarge upon it. Promise her to me.

_Euclio._ So be it. (_Starts and looks about._) But, oh,
Jupiter, am I not utterly undone?

_Megadorus._ What’s the matter with you?

_Euclio._ What was it sounded just now as though it were iron?

_Megadorus._ I ordered them to dig up the garden at my place. (EUCLIO
_runs off into his house._) But where has this man gone? He’s off, and
he hasn’t fully answered me; he treats me with contempt. Because he
sees that I wish for his friendship, he acts after the usual manner
of mankind. For if a wealthy person goes to ask a favor of a poorer
one, the poor man is afraid to treat with him; through suspicion he
hurts his own interest. The same person, when this opportunity is lost,
afterward wishes for it too late.

_Euclio_ (_coming out of the house, addressing servant within_). By
the powers, if I don’t give you up to have your tongue cut out by the
roots, I order and I authorize you to hand me over to any one you
please, to be mutilated.

_Megadorus._ By my troth, Euclio, I perceive that you consider me
a fit man for you to make sport of in my old age, for no fault of my

_Euclio._ I’ faith, Megadorus, I am not doing so, nor should I
desire it were I able to.

_Megadorus._ Well, then, do you betroth your daughter to me?

_Euclio._ On those terms, and with that portion which I mentioned
to you.

_Megadorus._ Do you promise her, then?

_Euclio._ I do promise her.

_Megadorus._ May the gods bestow their blessings on it!

_Euclio._ May the gods do so! Observe and remember that we’ve
agreed, that my daughter is not to bring you any portion.

_Megadorus._ I remember it.

_Euclio._ But I understand in what fashion people are wont
to equivocate; an agreement is no agreement, no agreement is an
agreement--just as it pleases you.

_Megadorus._ I’ll have no misunderstanding with you. But what
reason is there why we shouldn’t have the nuptials this day?

_Euclio._ Why, by my troth, there is very good reason why we

_Megadorus._ I’ll go, then, and prepare matters. Do you want me
for anything more?

_Euclio._ All is settled. Farewell.

_Megadorus_ (_going to the door of his house and calling
out_). Hullo! Strobilus, follow me quickly to the meat-market.

    (_Exit_ MEGADORUS.)

_Euclio._ He has gone. Immortal gods, I do beseech you! How
powerful is gold! I do believe, now, that he has had some intimation
that I’ve got a treasure at home. He’s gaping for that; for the sake of
that has he persisted in this alliance!

                                               --_The Pot of Gold._


                      _PARASITES AND GNATHONITES_

_Gnathonites_ (_soliloquizing_). Immortal gods! how far does one man
excel another! What a difference there is between a wise person and a
fool! This came strongly into my mind from the following circumstance.
As I was walking along to-day I met a certain individual of this place,
of my own rank and station--no mean fellow--one who, like myself, had
guttled away his paternal estate. I saw him, shabby, dirty, sickly,
beset with rags and years. “What’s the meaning of this garb?” said I.
He answered, “Wretch that I am, I’ve lost what I possessed; see to
what I am reduced; all my acquaintances and friends have forsaken me.”
On this I felt contempt for him as in comparison with myself. “What!”
said I, “you pitiful sluggard, have you so managed matters as to have
no hope left? Have you lost your wits together with your estate? Don’t
you see me, who have risen from the same condition? What a complexion
I have, how spruce and well dressed, what portliness of person? I have
everything, yet have nothing; and although I possess nothing, still I
am in want of nothing.” “But I,” said he, “unhappily, can no longer
find anybody who will feed me in exchange for making me the butt of
his jokes.” “What!” said I, “do you suppose it is managed by those
means? You are quite mistaken. Once upon a time, in the early ages,
there was a calling of that sort; but I will tell you a new mode of
coney-catching; I, in fact, have been the first to strike into this
path. There is a class of men who strive to be the first in everything,
but are not; to these I pay my court. I do not offer myself to them
to be laughed at, but I am the first to laugh with them, and at the
same time to admire their parts. Whatever they say, I commend; if
they contradict that selfsame thing, I commend again. Does any one
deny? I deny; does he affirm? I affirm. In fine, I have so trained
myself as to humor them in everything. This calling is now by far
the most productive.” While we were thus talking, we arrived at the
market-place. Overjoyed, all the confectioners ran at once to meet
me; fishmongers, butchers, cooks, sausage-makers, fishermen, whom,
both when my fortunes were flourishing and when they were ruined, I
had served, and often serve still; they complimented me, asked me to
dinner, and gave me a hearty welcome. When this poor hungry wretch
saw that I was in such great esteem, and that I obtained a living so
easily, then the fellow began to entreat me that I would allow him
to learn this method of me. So I bade him become my follower--if he
could. As the disciples of the philosophers take their names from the
philosophers themselves, so, too, the Parasites ought to be called

At the beginning of the Christian Era, Roman Literature writers had
begun to come into their own, and the first century A.D. saw
many of the greatest Romans of them all in the paths of Literature.

Catullus, the blithe poet who left us some hundred or so of his poems,
frequently wrote lines more lyrical than chaste. Yet he himself bids
us remember that if a poet’s life be chaste, his lines need not
necessarily be so, too.

As Herrick later put it, “Jocund his muse was, but his life was chaste.”

But the self-revelations of Catullus are probably no more improper to
read than those of many later and lesser poets.


                          _THE ROMAN COCKNEY_

    _Stipends_ Anius even on opportunity _shtipends_,
    _Ambush_ as _hambush_ still Anius used to declaim;
    Then, hoped fondly the words were a marvel of articulation,
    While with an _h_ immense _hambush_ arose from his heart.
    So his mother of old, so e’en spoke Liber his uncle,
    Credibly; so grandsire, grandam, alike did agree.

    Syria took him away; all ears had rest for a moment;
    Lightly the lips those words, slightly could utter again.
    None was afraid any more of a sound so clumsy returning;
    Sudden a solemn fright seized us: a message arrives.
    “News from Sonia country; the sea, since Anius entered,
    Changed; ’twas _Ionian_ once, now ’twas _Hionian_ all.”

                            _A FIXED SMILE_

    Egnatius, spruce owner of superb white teeth,
    Smiles sweetly, smiles forever. Is the bench in view,
    Where stands the pleader just prepared to rouse our tears,
    Egnatius smiles sweetly. Near the pyre they mourn,
    Where weeps a mother o’er the lost, the kind, one son;
    Egnatius smiles sweetly--what the time, or place,
    Or thing soe’er, smiles sweetly. Such a rare complaint
    Is his, not handsome, scarce to please the town, say I.

    So take a warning for the nonce my friend; town-bred
    Were you, a Sabine hale, a pearly Tiburtine,
    A frugal Umbrian body, Tuscan, huge of paunch,
    A grim Samnian, black of hue, prodigious-tooth’d,
      A Transpadane, my country not to pass untaxed--
      In short, whoever cleanly cares to rinse foul teeth;
    Yet sweetly smiling ever I would have you not:
    For silly laughter, it’s a silly thing indeed.

Of Horace it is difficult to say anything without saying too much.

In this Outline there is no space for discussion, informative or
discursive, of the writers, it is our province but to name them and to
give examples of their humor.

Horace was not a comedian but in his Satires, as well as in some of his
other works, the comic muse is discernible.



    Along the Sacred Road I strolled one day,
    Deep in some bagatelle (you know my way),
    When up comes one whose name I scarcely knew:
    “Ah, dearest of dear fellows, how d’ye do?”
    He grasped my hand: “Well, thanks; the same to you.”
    Then, as he still kept walking by my side,
    To cut things short, “You’ve no commands?” I cried.
    “Nay, you should know me; I’m a man of lore.”
    “Sir, I’m your humble servant all the more.”
    All in a fret to make him let me go,
    I now walk fast, now loiter and walk slow,
    Now whisper to my servant, while the sweat
    Ran down so fast my very feet were wet.
    “Oh, had I but a temper worth the name,
    Like yours, Bolanus!” inly I exclaim,
    While he keeps running on at a hand-trot
    About the town, the streets, I know not what.
    Finding I made no answer, “Ah, I see
    You’re at a strait to rid yourself of me;
    But ’tis no use; I’m a tenacious friend,
    And mean to hold you till your journey’s end.”
    “No need to take you such a round; I go
    To visit an acquaintance you don’t know.
    Poor man, he’s ailing at his lodging, far
    Beyond the bridge, where Cæsar’s gardens are.”
    “Oh, never mind; I’ve nothing else to do,
    And want a walk, so I’ll step on with you.”
      Down go my ears in donkey-fashion, straight;
    You’ve seen them do it, when their load’s too great.
    “If I mistake not,” he begins, “you’ll find
    Viscus not more, nor Varius, to your mind;
    There’s not a man can turn a verse so soon,
    Or dance so nimbly when he hears a tune;
    While, as for singing--ah, my forte is there;
    Tigellius’ self might envy me, I’ll swear.”
      He paused for breath. I falteringly strike in:
    “Have you a mother? Have you kith or kin
    To whom your life is precious?” “Not a soul;
    My line’s extinct; I have interred the whole.”
    Oh, happy they! (so into thought I fell)
    After life’s endless babble they sleep well.
    My turn is next: despatch me, for the weird
    Has come to pass which I so long have feared,
    The fatal weird a Sabine beldame sung
    All in my nursery days, when life was young:
    “No sword nor poison e’er shall take him off,
    Nor gout, nor pleurisy, nor racking cough;
    A babbling tongue shall kill him; let him fly
    All talkers, as he wishes not to die.”
      We got to Vesta’s temple, and the sun
    Told us a quarter of the day was done.
    It chanced he had a suit, and was bound fast
    Either to make appearance or be cast.
    “Step here a moment, if you love me.” “Nay,
    I know no law; ’twould hurt my health to stay.
    And then, my call.” “I’m doubting what to do,
    Whether to give my lawsuit up, or you.”
    “Me, pray!” “I will not.” On he strides again.
    I follow, unresisting, in his train.
      “How stand you with Mæcenas?” he began;
    “He picks his friends with care--a shrewd, wise man.
    In fact, I take it, one could hardly name
    A head so cool in life’s exciting game.
    ’Twould be a good deed done, if you could throw
    Your servant in his way; I mean, you know.
    Just to play second. In a month, I’ll swear,
    You’d make an end of every rival there.”
    “Oh, you mistake; we don’t live there in league;
    I know no house more sacred from intrigue;
    I’m never distanced in my friend’s good grace
    By wealth or talent; each man finds his place.”
    “A miracle! If ’twere not told by you,
    I scarce should credit it.” “And yet ’tis true.”
    “Ah, well, you double my desire to rise
    To special favor with a man so wise.”
    “You’ve but to wish it; ’twill be your own fault,
    If, with your nerve, you win not by assault.
    He can be won; that puts him on his guard,
    And so the first approach is always hard.”
    “No fear of me, sir. A judicious bribe
    Will work a wonder with the menial tribe.
    Say I’m refused admittance for to-day,
    I’ll watch my time; I’ll meet him in the way,
    Escort him, dog him. In this world of ours
    The path to what we want ne’er runs on flowers.”
      ’Mid all this prating met me, as it fell,
    Aristius, my good friend, who knew him well.
    We stop. Inquiries and replies go round:
    “Where do you hail from?” “Whither are you bound?”
    There as he stood, impassive like a clod,
    I pull at his limp arms, frown, wink, and nod,
    To urge him to release me. With a smile
    He feigns stupidity. I burn with bile.
    “Something there was you said you wished to tell
    To me in private.” “Aye, I mind it well;
    But not just now. ’Tis a Jews’ fast to-day:
    Affront a sect so touchy? Nay, friend, nay!”
    “Faith, I’ve no scruples.” “Ah, but I’ve a few!
    I’m weak, you know, and do as others do.
    Some other time--excuse me.” Wretched me,
    That ever man so black a sun should see!
    Off goes the rogue, and leaves me in despair,
    Tied to the altar, with the knife in air,
    When, by rare chance, the plaintiff in the suit
    Knocks up against us: “Whither now, you brute?”
    He roars like thunder. Then to me: “You’ll stand
    My witness, sir?” “My ear’s at your command.”
    Off to the court he drags him; shouts succeed;
    A mob collects--thank Phœbus, I am freed!

The humorist feels a sense of personal grievance against the Roman
writers for that they wrote so wisely and so well, yet gave us so
little that can be used as Humor for Humor’s sake.

Petronius wrote engagingly, but with such indecency that he can scarce
be quoted for polite society.

His Trimalchio’s Dinner offers this:

                          _AN INGENIOUS COOK_

We little thought, as the saying is, that after so many dainties we had
another hill to climb; for the table being uncovered to a flourish of
music, three muzzled white hogs were brought in, with bells hanging on
their necks. The man leading them said one was two years old, the other
three, and the last full grown. For my part, I took them for acrobats,
and imagined the hogs were to perform some of the surprising feats
practised at the circus. But Trimalchio broke in upon our expectation
by asking us, “Which of these will you have dressed for supper? Cocks
and pheasants are country fare, but my cooks have pans in which a
calf can be roasted whole.” And immediately commanding a cook to be
called, Trimalchio, without waiting for our choice, bade him kill the
largest. He then inquired of the cook how he came by him saying, “Were
you bought, or were you born in my house?” “Neither,” replied the
cook, “but left you by Pansa’s testament.” “Then see to it,” answered
Trimalchio, “that this beast is prepared quickly, or I shall make you
serve my footmen.” ...

While our host was talking on, an overgrown hog was brought to table.
We all wondered at the expedition which had been used, swearing a
capon could not have been dressed in that time; and what increased
our surprise was that this hog seemed larger than the boar which
had been set before us. Trimalchio, after gazing steadfastly upon
him, exclaimed, “What! have his entrails not been taken out? No, by
Hercules, they have not! Bring in that rogue of a cook!” The cook,
being dragged in before us, hung his head, excusing himself that he
had forgotten. “Forgotten!” roared his master. “Strip the rascal!
Strip him!” The poor man was stripped forthwith, and placed between
two tormentors. We all interceded for him, alleging that such an error
might occasionally happen, and therefore desired his pardon, protesting
we would never speak for him if he repeated the same offense.

I thought he richly deserved his fate, and could not forbear whispering
to Agamemnon, “This must certainly be a most careless rascal. How could
any one forget to disembowel a hog? I would not have forgiven him,
by Hercules, had he thus served up a dish for me!” Our host, resuming
a pleasant look, said, “Come, now, you with the short memory, let us
see if you can disembowel the animal before us.” Upon which the cook,
having put his garments on again, took his knife, and with a trembling
hand slashed the hog on both sides of the belly, when out tumbled a
load of hog’s-puddings and sausages....

The dessert consisted of a blackbird pie, dried grapes, and candied
nuts. There were also quinces, stuck so full of spices that they looked
like so many hedgehogs. Yet all this might have been endured, had not
the next dish been so monstrous and disgusting that we would rather
have perished of hunger than touched it; for, it being placed upon
the table, and, as we imagined, a good fat goose, with fish and all
kinds of fowl round it, Trimalchio cried, “Whatever you see here is
all made out of one body!” I, being a cunning spark, took a guess at
what it might really be, and, turning to Agamemnon, “I wonder,” said
I, “whether all this is not made of loam? I once remember seeing such
an imaginary dish in the Saturnalia at Rome.” Scarce had I ended, when
Trimalchio began to praise his cook:

“There is no cleverer fellow in the world. Out of the belly he’ll make
you a dish of fish; a plover out of a piece of fat bacon; a turtle out
of leg of pork; and a hen out of the intestines. And therefore, in my
opinion, he has a very suitable name, for we call him Dædalus. Because
he is such an ingenious fellow, a friend of his brought him a present
of knives from Rome, of German steel; and immediately he called for
them, and, turning them over, gave us the liberty to try the edges on
his cheeks.”

Just then in rushed two servants in high dispute, as if they were
quarreling about a yoke, from which hung two earthen jars. And when
Trimalchio had judged between them, neither of them stood to the
sentence, but each fell to club law, and broke the other’s jar. Amazed
at the insolence of these drunken rascals, all our eyes were fixed on
their conflict, when we perceived oysters and other shell-fish to fall
from the broken jars, a boy collecting them in a charger and handing
them about among the guests.

Nor was the cook’s ingenuity in the least unworthy of this
extraordinary magnificence; for he brought us snails upon a silver
gridiron, and with a shrill, unpleasant voice sang us a song.... We
were almost pushed off our couches by the crowd of servants who rushed
into the hall; and who should be seated above me but the ingenious
cook, that had made a goose from a piece of pork, all reeking of
pickles and kitchen slops. Not content with being seated at table,
he began to act Thespis the Tragedian; and soon after he challenged
his master to contend with him for the laurel wreath at the next

                                          --_Trimalchio’s Banquet._

Persius, who died at twenty-eight, left us six satires. Though an
imperfect imitator of Horace, his work is characterized by earnestness
and a true sense of satire.

                             _POETIC FAME_

    Immured within our studies, we compose;
    Some, shackled meter; some, freefooted prose;
    But all, bombast--stuff, which the breast may strain,
    And the huge lungs puff forth with awkward pain.
      ’Tis done! And now the bard, elate and proud,
    Prepares a grand rehearsal for the crowd.
    Lo! he steps forth in birthday splendor bright,
    Combed and perfumed, and robed in dazzling white,
    And mounts the desk; his pliant throat he clears,
    And deals, insidious, round his wanton leers;
    While Rome’s first nobles, by the prelude wrought,
    Watch, with indecent glee, each prurient thought,
    And squeal with rapture, as the luscious line
    Thrills through the marrow and inflames the chine.
      Vile dotard! Canst thou thus consent to please,
    To pander for such itching fools as these?
    Fools, whose applause must shoot beyond thy aim,
    And tinge thy cheek, bronzed as it is, with shame!
    But wherefore have I learned, if, thus represt,
    The leaven still must swell within my breast;
    If the wild fig-tree, deeply rooted there,
    Must never burst its bounds and shoot in air?
      Are these the fruits of study, these of age?
    Oh, times, oh, manners! Thou misjudging sage,
    Is science only useful as ’tis shown,
    And is thy knowledge nothing if not known?
      But, sure, ’tis pleasant, as we walk, to see
    The pointed finger, hear the loud “That’s he!”
    On every side. And seems it, in your sight,
    So poor a trifle, that whate’er we write
    Is introduced to every school of note
    And taught the youth of quality by rote?
    Nay, more! Our nobles, gorged, and swilled with wine,
    Call, o’er the banquet, for a lay divine.
    Here one, on whom the princely purple glows.
    Snuffles some musty legend through his nose,
    Slowly distils Hypsipyle’s sad fate,
    And love-lorn Phyllis dying for her mate,
    With what of woful else is said or sung,
    And trips up every word with lisping tongue.
      The maudlin audience, from the couches round,
    Hum their assent, responsive to the sound.
    And are not now the poet’s ashes blest?
    Now lies the turf not lightly on his breast?
    They pause a moment, and again the room
    Rings with his praise. Now will not roses bloom,
    Now, from his relics, will not violets spring,
    And o’er his hallowed urn their fragrance fling?
      You laugh (’tis answered), and too freely here
    Indulge that vile propensity to sneer.
    Lives there, who would not at applause rejoice,
    And merit, if he could the public voice?
    Who would not leave posterity such rimes,
    As cedar oil might keep to latest times--
    Rimes which should fear no desperate grocer’s hand,
    Nor fly with fish and spices through the land?
      Thou, my kind monitor, whoe’er thou art,
    Whom I suppose to play the opponent’s part,
    Know, when I write, if chance some happier strain
    (And chance it needs must be) rewards my pain,
    Know, I can relish praise with genuine zest;
    Not mine the torpid, mine the unfeeling breast.
    But that I merely toil for this acclaim,
    And make these eulogies my end and aim,
    I must not, cannot grant. For--sift them all,
    Mark well their value, and on what they fall--
    Are they not showered (to pass these trifles o’er)
    On Labeo’s Iliad, drunk with hellebore,
    On princely love-lays driveled without thought,
    And the crude trash on citron couches wrought?
      You spread the table, ’tis a master-stroke,
    And give the shivering guest a threadbare cloak;
    Then, while his heart with gratitude dilates
    At the glad vest and the delicious cates,
    “Tell me,” you cry, “for truth is my delight,
    What says the town of me, and what I write?”
    He cannot; he has neither ears nor eyes.
    But shall I tell you who your bribes despise?
    Bald trifler! cease at once your thriftless trade;
    That mountain paunch for verse was never made.

In Martial we find a humorist after our own heart. As Homer was the
father of poetry and Herodotus the father of prose, so to Martial must
be ascribed the paternity of the epigram.

Epigrams, so-called, had been made before, but in Martial’s work they
rose to a new height, took on a new meaning.

Before Martial, epigram meant merely inscription,--any short poem that
might conveniently be cut on stone.

Martial’s epigrams have keen wit and sharp point, such as appeal to the
mind and appreciation of the reader.

Fourteen hundred and fifty is his legacy of epigrams to us, and most of
them properly short, as an epigram should be.

                             _TO SABIDIUS_

    I love thee not, Sabidius. But why?
    I love thee not--that’s all I can reply.

                          _PLAY’S THE THING_

    Aper pierced his wife’s heart with an arrow:
        While playing, friends say.
      The wife was exceedingly wealthy:
        He knows how to play.

                             _TO CATULLUS_

    My name’s in your will as your heir,
              So you’ve said.
    I’ll continue to doubt till the day--
              When it’s read.

                          _BETWEEN THE LINES_

    The man who sends you presents, Gaurus,--
            You so rich and gray--
    Remarks, if you’ve got sense and insight,
            “Kindly pass away.”

                              _TO AULUS_

    Though my readers sincerely admire me,
      A poet finds fault with my books.
    What’s the odds? When I’m giving a dinner
      I’d rather please guests than the cooks.

                             _TO POSTUMUS_

    When you kiss me you use only half of your mouth.
      I approve. Half that half, though, will do.
    Will you grant me a greater, ineffable boon?
      Keep the rest of that latter half, too.

                        _ROUNDED WITH A SLEEP_

    Though he bathed with us yesterday, dined with us, too,
      And was quite in the pink of condition,
    Ancus died this A.M.--of a dream that he’d asked
      Hermocrates to be his physician.


    Though it’s true, Theodorus, you frequently pray
      For my book in a flattering tone,
    No wonder I’m slow; I’ve good cause for delay
      In my fear you’d then send me your own.

                          _A MERE SUGGESTION_

    You read us your verse with your throat wrapped in wool.
        The reason we’re anxious to know,
            For to us it appears
            That some wool in our ears
        Would really be more apropos.

                        _WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN_

    I hear that Lycoris has buried
      Every friend that she’s had in her life.
    I sincerely regret, Fabianus,
      She’s not introduced to my wife.

                          _A TOTAL ABSTAINER_

    Though you serve richest wines,
    Paulus, Rumor opines
      That they poisoned your four wives, I think.
    It’s of course all a lie;
    None believes less than I--
      No, I really don’t care for a drink.

                            _MUTE MILLIONS_

    In the verse Cinna writes
      I am slandered, it’s said.
    But the man doesn’t write
      Whose verses aren’t read.

                          _MAN AND SUPERMAN_

    “Quintus loves Thais.” What Thais is that?
      “Why, Thais the one-eyed, who--” Who?
        Well, I was aware
        She’d lost one of her pair,
    But I didn’t know he had lost two.

                              _TO LINUS_

    You ask what I grow on my Sabine estate.
      A reliable answer is due.
        I grow on that soil--
        Far from urban turmoil--
      Very happy at not seeing you.

                            _CREDE EXPERTO_

    Diaulus left his doctoring
      To practise undertaking.
    His training as a medic, though,
      Has really been his making.

                            _NUMBERS SWEET_

    Two of your teeth were blown out by a cough,
      And a subsequent cough blew out two.
    You can now cough away, Delia, all night and day--
      There’s nothing a third cough can do.

                           _MILLIONS IN IT_

    Just _give_ Linus half what he asks as a loan;
                    Then console
    Yourself with the thought that you’d rather lose half
                    Than the whole.

                             _TO MAMERCUS_

    Though you never have read us a line of your verse,
      You insist on our thinking you write.
    Yes, yes, be a poet; be anything else--
      If you’ll only forbear to recite.

About the last of the great Latin Satirists is Juvenal, a contemporary
of Martial.

His lines in translation, have a modern ring, but that may be merely
because the fundamental sources and themes of wit are universal.


                          _COSMETIC DISGUISE_

      A woman stops at nothing when she wears
    Rich emeralds round her neck, and in her ears
    Pearls of enormous size; these justify
    Her faults, and make all lawful in her eye.
    Sure, of all ills with which mankind are cursed,
    A wife who brings you money is the worst.
    Behold! her face a spectacle appears,
    Bloated, and foul, and plastered to the ears
    With viscous paste. The husband looks askew,
    And sticks his lips in this detested glue.
    She meets the adulterer bathed, perfumed, and dressed,
    But rots in filth at home, a very pest!
    For him she breathes of nard; for him alone
    She makes the sweets of Araby her own;
    For him, at length, she ventures to uncase,
    Scales the first layer of roughcast from her face,
    And, while the maids to know her now begin,
    Clears, with that precious milk, her muddy skin
    For which, though exiled to the frozen main,
    She’d lead a drove of asses in her train!
    But tell me now: this thing, thus daubed and oiled,
    Thus poulticed, plastered, baked by turns and boiled,
    Thus with pomatums, ointments, lacquered o’er--
    Is it a face, pray tell me, or a sore?

                        _ON DOMINEERING WIVES_

      Now tell me, if thou canst not love a wife,
    Made thine by every tie, and thine for life,
    Why wed at all? Why waste the wine and cakes
    The queasy-stomached guest at parting takes,
    And the rich present, which the bridal right
    Claims for the favors of the happy night,
    The charger, where, triumphantly inscrolled,
    The Dacian Hero shines in current gold?
    If thou canst love, and thy besotted mind
    Is so uxoriously to _one_ inclined,
    Then bow thy neck, and with submissive air
    Receive the yoke thou must forever wear.
      To a fond spouse a wife no mercy shows;
    Though warmed with equal fires, she mocks his wos,
    And triumphs in his spoils; her wayward will
    Defeats his bliss, and turns his good to ill.
    Naught must be given, if she opposes; naught,
    If she opposes, must be sold or bought;
    She tells him where to love, and where to hate;
    Shuts out the ancient friend, whose beard his gate
    Knew from its downy to its hoary state;
    And when pimps, parasites, of all degrees,
    Have power to will their fortunes as they please,
    She dictates his, and impudently dares
    To name his very rivals for his heirs.
      “Go, crucify that slave!” “For what offense?
    Who the accuser? Where the evidence?
    For when the life of man is in debate,
    No time can be too long, no care too great.
    Hear all, weigh all with caution, I advise--”
    “Thou sniveler! Is a slave a man?” she cries.
    “He’s innocent!” “Be’t so; ’tis my command,
    My will. Let that, sir, for a reason stand.”
      Thus the virago triumphs, thus she reigns.
    Anon she sickens of her first domains,
    And seeks for new; husband on husband takes,
    Till of her bridal veil one rent she makes.
    Again she tires, again for change she burns,
    And to the bed she lately left returns,
    While the fresh garlands and unfaded boughs
    Yet deck the portal of her wondering spouse.
    A rare inscription for her grave!

Apuleius was the skilful teller of a long and fantastic tale called
Metamorphoses, commonly known as the Golden Ass.

But a small extract may be given.



Fotis came running to me one day in great excitement and trepidation,
and informed me that her mistress, having hitherto made no proficiency
by other means in her present amour, intended to assume feathers like
a bird, and so take flight to the object of her love, and that I must
prepare myself with all due care for the sight of such a wonderful
proceeding. And now, about the first watch of the night, she escorted
me, on tiptoe and with noiseless steps, to that same upper chamber, and
bade me peep through a chink in the door, which I did accordingly.

In the first place, Pamphile divested herself of all her garments,
and having unlocked a certain cabinet, took out of it several little
boxes. Taking the lid off one of them, and pouring some ointment
therefrom, she rubbed herself for a considerable time with her hands,
smearing herself all over from the tips of her toes to the crown of
her head. Then, after she had muttered a long while in a low voice
over a lamp, she shook her limbs with tremulous jerks, then gently
waved them to and fro, until soft feathers burst forth, strong wings
displayed themselves, the nose was hardened and curved into a beak,
the nails were compressed and made crooked. Thus did Pamphile become an
owl. Then, uttering a querulous scream, she made trial of her powers,
leaping little by little from the ground; and presently, raising
herself aloft, on full wing, she flew out-of-doors. And thus was she,
of her own will, changed, by her own magic arts.

But I, though not enchanted by any magic spell, still, riveted to
the spot by astonishment at this performance, seemed to myself to be
anything else rather than Lucius. Thus deprived of my senses, and
astounded even to insanity, I was in a waking dream, and rubbed my eyes
for some time to ascertain whether or not I was awake at all. At last,
however, returning to consciousness of the reality of things, I took
hold of the right hand of Fotis, and putting it to my eyes, “Suffer
me,” said I, “I beg of you, to enjoy a great and singular proof of your
affection, while the opportunity offers, and give me a little ointment
from the same box. Grant this, my sweetest, I entreat you by these
breasts of yours, and thus, by conferring on me an obligation that can
never be repaid, bind me to you forever as your slave. Be you my Venus,
and let me stand by you a winged Cupid.”

“And are you, then, sweetheart, for playing me a fox’s trick, and for
causing me, of my own accord, to let fall the ax upon my legs? Must
I run such risk of having my Lucius torn from me by the wolves of
Thessaly? Where am I to look for him when he is changed into a bird?
When shall I see him again?”

“May the celestial powers,” said I, “avert from me such a crime! Though
borne aloft on the wings of the eagle itself, soaring through the
midst of the heavens, as the trusty messenger, or joyous arm-bearer,
of supreme Jove, would I not, after I had obtained this dignity of
wing, still fly back every now and then to my nest? I swear to you,
by that lovely little knot of hair with which you have enchanted my
spirit, that I would prefer no other to my Fotis. And then, besides, I
bethink me that as soon as I am rubbed with that ointment, and shall
have been changed into a bird of this kind, I shall be bound to keep
at a distance from all human habitations; for what a beautiful and
agreeable lover will the ladies gain in an owl! Why, do we not see that
these birds of night, when they have got into any house, are eagerly
seized and nailed to the doors, in order that they may atone, by
their torments, for the evil destiny which they portend to the family
by their inauspicious flight? But one thing I had almost forgot to
inquire: what must I say, or do, in order to get rid of my wings and
return to my own form as Lucius?”

“Be in no anxiety,” she said, “about all that matter; for my mistress
has made me acquainted with everything that can again change such forms
into the human shape. But do not suppose that this was done through any
kind feeling toward me, but in order that I might assist her with the
requisite remedies when she returns home. Only think with what simple
and trifling herbs such a mighty result is brought about: for instance,
a little anise, with some leaves of laurel infused in spring water, and
used as a lotion and a draft.”

Having assured me of this over and over again, she stole into her
mistress’s chamber with the greatest trepidation, and took a little
box out of the casket. Having first hugged and kissed it, and offered
up a prayer that it would favor me with a prosperous flight, I hastily
divested myself of all my garments, then greedily dipping my fingers
into the box, and taking thence a considerable quantity of the
ointment, I rubbed it all over my body and limbs. And now, flapping my
arms up and down, I anxiously awaited my change into a bird. But no
down, no shooting wings appeared. Instead, my hairs became thickened
into bristles, and my tender skin was hardened into a hide; my hands
and feet, too, no longer furnished with distinct fingers and toes,
formed into massive hoofs, and a long tail projected from the extremity
of my spine. My face was now enormous, my mouth wide, my nostrils
gaping, and my lips hanging down. In like manner my ears grew hairy
and of immoderate length, and I found in every respect I had become
enlarged. Thus, hopelessly surveying all parts of my body, I beheld
myself changed--not into a bird, but an ass.

I wished to upbraid Fotis for the deed she had done; but, now deprived
both of the gesture and voice of man, I could only expostulate with her
silently with my under-lip hanging down, and looking sidewise at her
with tearful eyes. As for her, as soon as she beheld me thus changed
she beat her face with her hands, and cried aloud, “Wretch that I am,
I am undone! In my haste and flurry I mistook one box for the other,
deceived by their similarity. It is fortunate, however, that a remedy
for this transformation is easily to be obtained; for, by only chewing
roses, you will put off the form of an ass, and in an instant will
become my Lucius once again. I only wish that I had prepared as usual
some garlands of roses for us last evening; for then you would not have
had to suffer the delay even of a single night. But at the break of
dawn the remedy shall be provided for you.”

Thus did she lament; and as for me, though I was a perfect ass, and
instead of Lucius, a beast of burden, I still retained human sense.
Long and deeply, in fact, did I consider with myself whether I ought
not to bite and kick that most wicked woman to death. However, better
thoughts recalled me from such rash designs, lest, by inflicting on
Fotis the punishment of death, I should at once put an end to all
chances of efficient assistance. So, bending my head low, and shaking
my ears, I silently swallowed my wrongs for a time, and submitting
to my most dreadful misfortune, I betook myself to the stable to the
good horse which had carried me so well, and there I found another
ass also, which belonged to my former host, Milo. Now it occurred to
me that, if there are in dumb animals any silent and natural ties of
sympathy, this horse of mine, being influenced by a certain feeling
of recognition and compassion, would afford me room for a lodging and
the rights of hospitality. But, oh, Jupiter Hospitalis, and all you
the guardian divinities of Faith! this very excellent nag of mine and
the ass put their heads together and immediately plotted schemes for
my destruction; and as soon as they beheld me approaching the manger,
laying back their ears and quite frantic with rage, they furiously
attacked me with their heels, fearing I had design upon their food.
Consequently, I was driven away into the farthest corner from that
very barley which the evening before I had placed, with my own hands,
before that most grateful servant of mine.

Thus harshly treated and sent into banishment, I betook myself to a
corner of the stable. And while I reflected on the insolence of my
companions, and formed plans of vengeance against the perfidious steed,
for the next day, when I should have become Lucius once more by the
aid of the roses, I beheld against the central square pillar which
supported the beams of the stable, a statue of the goddess Hippona,
standing within a shrine, and nicely adorned with garlands of roses,
and those, too, recently gathered. Inspired with hope, the moment I
espied the salutary remedy I boldly mounted as far as ever my forelegs
could stretch; and then, with neck at full length, and extending my
lips as much as I possibly could, I endeavored to catch hold of the
garlands. But by a most unlucky chance, just as I was endeavoring to
accomplish this, my servant lad, who had the constant charge of my
horse, suddenly espied me, sprang to his feet in a great rage, and
exclaimed, “How long are we to put up with this vile hack, which but a
few moments ago was for making an attack upon the food of the cattle,
and is now doing the same even to the statues of the gods? But if I
don’t this very instant cause this sacrilegious beast to be both sore
and crippled”--and searching for something with which to strike me, he
stumbled upon a bundle of sticks that lay there, and, picking out a
knotted cudgel, the largest he could find among them all, he did not
cease to belabor my poor sides, until a loud thumping and banging at
the outer gates, and an uproar of the neighbors shouting “Thieves!”
struck him with terror, and he took to his heels.

                                                --_The Golden Ass._

                      _VICISSITUDES OF A DONKEY_

When the keeper of the horses had taken me to the country, I found
there none of the pleasure or the liberty I expected; for his wife,
an avaricious, bad woman, immediately yoked me to the mill, and
frequently striking me with a green stick, prepared bread for herself
and her family at the expense of my hide. And not content to make me
drudge for her own food only, she also ground corn for her neighbors,
and so made money by my toil. Nor, after all my weary labors, did she
even afford me the food which had been ordered for me; for she sold my
barley to the neighboring husbandmen, after it had been bruised and
ground in that very mill by my own roundabout drudgery; but to me,
who had worked during the whole of the day at that laborious machine,
she only gave, toward evening, some dirty, unsifted, and very gritty
bran. I was brought low enough by these miseries; but cruel fortune
exposed me to fresh torments, in order, I suppose, that I might boast
of my brave deeds, both in peace and war, as the saying is. For that
excellent equerry, complying, rather late, indeed, with his master’s
orders, for a short time permitted me to associate with the herds of

At length a free ass, I capered for joy, and softly ambling up to
the mares, chose out such as I thought would be the fittest for my
concubines. But here my joyful hopes gave place to extreme danger. For
the stallions, who were terribly strong creatures, more than a match
for any ass, regarding me with suspicion, furiously pursued me as
their rival, without respect for the laws of hospitable Jupiter. One
of them, with his head and neck and ample chest aloft, struck at me
like a pugilist with his forefeet; another, turning his brawny back,
let fly at me with his hind feet; and another, with a vicious neigh,
his ears thrown back, and showing his white teeth, sharp as spears,
bit me all over. It was like what I have read in history of the King
of Thrace, who exposed his unhappy guests to be lacerated and devoured
by wild horses; for so sparing was that powerful tyrant of his barley,
that he appeased the hunger of his voracious horses by casting human
bodies to them for food. In fact, I was so worried and distracted by
the continual attacks of the horses, that I wished myself back again at
the mill-round.

Fortune, however, would not be satisfied with my torments, and soon
after visited me with another calamity; for I was employed to bring
home wood from a mountain, and a boy, the most villainous of all boys,
was appointed to drive me. It was not only that I was wearied by
toiling up and down the steep and lofty mountain, nor that I wore away
my hoofs by running on sharp stones, but I was cudgeled without end, so
that all my bones ached to the very marrow. Moreover, by continually
striking me on the off-haunch, and always in the same place, till
the skin was broken, he occasioned a great ulcerous cavity, gaping
like a trench or a window; yet he never ceased to hit me on the raw.
He likewise laid such a load of wood on my back that you might have
thought it was a burden prepared for an elephant, and not for a donkey.
And whenever the ill-balanced load inclined to one side, instead of
taking away some of the fagots from the heavier side, and thus easing
me by somewhat lightening, or at least equalizing the pressure, he
always remedied the inequality of the weight by the addition of stones.
Nor yet, after so many miseries which I had endured, was he content
with the immoderate weight of my burden; but when it happened that we
had to pass over a river, he would leap on my back in order to keep his
feet dry, as if his weight was but a trifling addition to the heavy
mass. And if by any accident I happened to fall, through the weight of
my burden and the slipperiness of the muddy bank, instead of giving
me a helping hand, as he ought to have done, and pulling me up by the
head-stall, or by my tail, or removing a part of my load, till at least
I had got up again, this paragon of ass-drivers gave me no help at all,
however weary I might be, but beginning from my head, or rather from my
ears, he thrashed all the hair off my hide with a huge stick.

Another piece of cruelty he practised on me was this: he twisted
together a bundle of the sharpest and most venomous thorns, and tied
them to my tail as a pendulous torment; so that, jerking against me
when I walked, they pricked and stabbed me intolerably. Hence, I
was in a sore dilemma; for when I ran away from him, to escape his
unmerciful drubbings, I was hurt by the more vehement pricking of
the thorns; and if I stood still for a short time, in order to avoid
that pain, I was compelled by blows to go on. In fact, the rascally
boy seemed to think of nothing else than how he might be the death
of me by some means or other; and that he sometimes threatened with
oaths to accomplish. And, indeed, there happened a thing by which his
detestable malice was stimulated to more baneful efforts. On a certain
day, when his excessive insolence had overcome my patience, I lifted
up my powerful heels against him; and for this he retaliated by the
following atrocity: he brought me into the road heavily laden with a
bundle of coarse flax, securely bound together with cords, and placed
in the middle of the burden a burning coal, which he had stolen from
the neighboring village. Presently the fire spread through the slender
fibers, flames burst forth, and I was ablaze all over. There appeared
no refuge from immediate destruction, no hope of safety, and such a
conflagration did not admit of delay or afford time for deliberation.
Fortune, however, shone upon me in these cruel circumstances--perhaps
for the purpose of reserving me for future dangers, but, at all events,
liberating me from present and decreed death. By chance perceiving a
neighboring pool muddy with the rain of the preceding day, I threw
myself headlong into it; and the flame being immediately extinguished,
I came out, lightened of my burden and liberated from destruction. But
that audacious young rascal cast the blame of this most wicked deed of
his on me, and affirmed to all the shepherds that as I was passing near
the neighbors’ fires, I stumbled on purpose, and threw my load into the
blaze. And he added, laughing at me, “How long shall we waste food on
this fiery monster?”

                                                --_The Golden Ass._

                               PART III

                             MEDIÆVAL AGES


    “In the vast deep and middle of the night,”

gives no stronger or more absolute effect of darkness and blankness
than the state of humorous literature during the vast deep and middle
of the Mediæval Ages.

It is not possible to catalogue it with reference to time or place, for
the mass of it came from the mouths of Tale-tellers or Song-singers,
supplemented by the pencils or chisels of the caricaturists.

In the East, Folk Tales were abundant and they were brought to Europe
as the wind scatters the seeds of vegetation.

Fables, Fairy Tales, Mother Goose Jingles, Collections of Anecdotes,
all hark back to these jesting stories of the ancient Orientals.

Probably the oldest and most important link in the tracing of
Indo-European Folk Lore is found in the Fables of Pilpay, or Bidpai.

This is the Arabic translation of the Pahlavi translation of the
Sanscrit original of the Panchatantra.

The scope of the work is advice for the conduct of princes, offered in
the guise of beast fables, and perhaps containing much of the material
commonly attributed to Æsop.

Little or nothing is known of Pilpay, and his era has been variously
placed at different dates between 100 B.C. and 300 B.C.

Others, indeed, declare that Pilpay was not an individual but the name
is that of a bidbah, the court scholar of an Indian prince.

The fables, as may be seen from the following selections, inculcate
the moral teachings by means of stories about animals, to whom are
attributed the thoughts and impulses of men.

Kalidasa, called the greatest poet and dramatist of India, is also
of uncertain origin and birth date. He probably lived early in the
Christian Era, and his writings, though not strictly humorous are
instinct with the spirit of satire.


                         _HUNTING WITH A KING_

                         MATHAVYA, _a Jester_

_Mathavya._ Heigh-ho, what an unfortunate fellow I am, worn to a
shadow by my royal friend’s sporting propensities! “Here’s a deer!”
“There goes a boar!” “Yonder’s a tiger!” This is the constant subject
of his remarks, while we tramp about in the heat of the day from jungle
to jungle on paths where the trees give us no shade. If we are thirsty,
we can get nothing to drink but some dirty water from a mountain stream
full of dry leaves, tasting vilely bitter. If we are hungry, we are
obliged to eat tough, flavorless game, and have to gulp it down at
odd times as best we can. Even at night I have no peace. Sleeping is
out of the question, with my bones all aching from trotting after my
sporting friend; or, if I do contrive to doze, I am awakened at early
dawn by the horrible din of a lot of rascally beaters and huntsmen,
who must needs begin their deafening operations before sunrise. But
these are not my only troubles; for here’s a fresh grievance, like
a new boil rising upon an old one: Yesterday, while some of us were
lagging behind, my royal friend went into a hermit’s enclosure after a
deer, and there--worse luck--he caught sight of a beautiful girl called
Sakuntala, the hermit’s daughter. From that moment not a single thought
did he have of returning to town; and all night long not a wink of
sleep did he get for his thoughts of the girl. But see--here he comes!
I will pretend to stand in the easiest attitude for resting my bruised
and crippled limbs.

                        _Enter_ KING DUSHYANTA

_Mathavya._ Ah, my friend, my hands cannot move to greet you with
the accustomed salutation! I can do no more than command my lips to
wish your Majesty success.

_King._ Why, what has paralyzed your limbs?

_Mathavya._ You might as well ask me how it is my eye waters after
you have poked your finger into it!

_King._ I don’t understand what you mean. Explain yourself.

_Mathavya._ My dear friend, is that straight reed you see yonder
bent crooked by its own act, or by the force of the current?

_King._ The current of the river is the cause, I suppose.

_Mathavya._ Yes, just as you are the cause of my crippled limbs.

_King._ How so?

_Mathavya._ Here you are, living the life of a savage in a
desolate, forlorn region, while the government of the country is taking
care of itself. And poor I am no longer master of my own legs, but have
to follow you about day after day in your hunting for wild beasts, till
all my bones ache and get out of joint. Please, my dear friend, do let
us have one day’s rest!--“_Sakuntala._”

                            UNKNOWN AUTHOR

                        _THE CREATION OF WOMAN_

In the beginning, when Twashtri came to the creation of women, he found
that he had exhausted his materials in the making of man, and that no
solid elements were left. In this dilemma, after profound meditation,
he did as follows:

He took the rotundity of the moon, and the curves of creepers and the
clinging of tendrils, and the trembling of grass, and the slenderness
of the reed, and the bloom of flowers, and the lightness of leaves,
and the tapering of the elephant’s trunk, and the glances of deer,
and the joyous gaiety of sunbeams, and the weeping of clouds, and
the fickleness of the winds, and the timidity of the hare, and the
vanity of the peacock, and the softness of the parrot’s bosom, and the
hardness of adamant, and the cruelty of the tiger, and the hot glow of
fire, and the coldness of snow, and the chattering of jays, and the
cooing of the dove, and the hypocrisy of the crane, and the fidelity of
the drake. Compounding all these together, he made woman, and gave her
to man.

But after a week man came to him, and said:

“Lord, this creature that you have given me makes my life miserable.
She chatters incessantly, and teases me beyond endurance, never leaving
me alone. She requires attention every moment, takes up all my time,
weeps about nothing, and is always idle. So I have come to give her
back again, as I cannot live with her.”

Then Twashtri said, “Very well,” and took her back.

After another week man came to him again, saying:

“Lord, I find that my life is lonely since I surrendered that creature.
I remember how she used to dance and sing to me, and look at me out of
the corner of her eye, and play with me, and cling to me. Her laughter
was music; she was beautiful to look at, and soft to touch. Pray give
her back to me again.”

And Twashtri said, “Very well,” and returned woman to man.

But after only three days had passed, man appeared once more before the
Creator, to whom he said:

“Lord, I know not how it is, but, after all, I have come to the
conclusion that she is more trouble than pleasure to me. Therefore I
beg that you take her back again.”

Twashtri, however, replied:

“Out upon you! Be off! I will have no more of this. You must manage how
you can.”

Then quoth man:

“But I cannot live with her!”

To which Twashtri answered:

“Neither could you live without her.” And he turned his back on man,
and went on with his work.

Then said man:

“Alas, what is to be done? For I cannot live either with or without
her!”--_The Churning of the Ocean of Time_ (_Sansara-sagara-manthanam_).

The Talmud is far from a humorous work, but it embodies many bits of
wise wit, and is the original source of many present day proverbs.

In its twelve folio volumes it contains the work of the ancient
Jews for nearly a thousand years, and among its fine parables and
interesting legends gleams of rare wit frequently occur.

                      _EXTRACTS FROM THE TALMUD_

The forest trees once asked the fruit trees: “Why is the rustling of
your leaves not heard in the distance?” The fruit trees replied: “We
can dispense with the rustling to manifest our presence, our fruits
testify for us.” The fruit trees then inquired of the forest trees:
“Why do your leaves rustle almost continually?” “We are forced to call
the attention of man to our existence.”

Too many captains sink the ship.

Birds of a feather flock together; and so with men--like to like.

He laid his money on the horns of a deer.

Keep partners with him whom the hour favors.

Attend no auctions if thou hast no money.

Poverty comes from God, but not dirt.

Ignorance and conceit go hand in hand.

Better eat onions all thy life than dine upon geese and chickens once
and then long in vain for more ever after.

Go to sleep without supper, but rise without debt.

Do not live near a pious fool.

If thy friends agree in calling thee an ass, go and get a halter around

Love your wife truly and faithfully, and do not compel her to hard work.

When our conjugal love was strong, the width of the threshold offered
sufficient accommodation for both of us; but now that it has cooled
down, a couch sixty yards wide is too narrow.

Man is generally led the way which he is inclined to go.

If the thief has no opportunity, he thinks himself honorable.

Were it not for the existence of passions, no one would build a house,
marry a wife, beget children, or do any work.

What should man do in order to live? Deaden his passions. What should
man do in order to die? Give himself entirely to life.

He who hardens his heart with pride softens his brain with the same.

Do not reveal thy secret to the apes.

    Keep shut the doors of thy mouth
    Even from the wife of thy bosom.

Use thy best vase to-day, for to-morrow it may, perchance, be broken.

The world is only saved by the breath of the school-children.

“Repeat,” “repeat,” that is the best medicine for memory.

A woman schemes while plying the spindle.

Alas! for one thing that goes and never returns. What is it? Youth.

Rab Safra had a jewel for which he asked the price of ten pieces of
gold. Several dealers saw the jewel and offered five gold pieces.
Rab Safra declined, and the merchants left him. After a second
consideration, he, however, resolved upon selling the jewel for five
pieces. The next day, just as Rab Safra was at prayers, the merchants
unexpectedly returned: “Sir,” said they to him, “we come to you again
to do business after all. Do you wish to part with the jewel for the
price we offered you?” But Rab Safra made no reply. “Well, well; be
not angered; we will add another two pieces.” Rab Safra still remained
silent. “Well, then, be it as you say; we will give you ten pieces,
the price you asked.” By this time Rab Safra had ended his prayer,
and said: “Sirs, I was at prayers, and could not hear you. As for the
jewel, I have already resolved upon selling it at the price you offered
me yesterday. If you then pay me five pieces of gold, I shall be

Chief of the Arabian collections of tales is, of course, The Arabian
Nights’ Entertainment, or The Thousand And One Nights.

Many of these tales are of very ancient origin, others have been added
as the centuries went by.

Though the stories show their Persian, Indian and Arabian origin, the
collection as it stands at present was compiled in Egypt not more than
five or six centuries ago.

As is well known, the stories were told night after night, by
Scheherazade, to preserve her life so long as the king’s interest might
be held. Most of the tales show little or no humor, many are long and
wearisome, many more too broad to quote, but several are given that may
be considered as representative of Oriental wit.

                    _THE SIMPLETON AND THE SHARPER_

A certain simple fellow was once going along, haling his ass after
him by the halter, when a couple of sharpers saw him and one said to
his fellow, “I will take that ass from yonder man.” “How wilt thou do
that?” asked the other. “Follow me and I will show thee,” replied the
first. So he went up to the ass and loosing it from the halter, gave
the beast to his fellow; then clapped the halter on his own head and
followed the simpleton, till he knew that the other had got clean off
with the ass when he stood still. The man pulled at the halter, but the
thief stirred not; so he turned and seeing the halter on a man’s neck,
said to him, “Who art thou?” Quoth the sharper, “I am thine ass and my
story is a strange one. Know that I have a pious old mother and came
in to her one day, drunk; and she said to me, “O my son, repent to God
the Most High of these thy transgressions.” But I took the cudgel and
beat her, whereupon she cursed me and God the Most High changed me into
an ass and caused me fall into thy hands, where I have remained till
now. However, today, my mother called me to mind and her heart relented
towards me; so she prayed for me, and God restored me to my former
shape of a man.” “There is no power and no virtue but in God the Most
High, the Supreme!” cried the simpleton. “O my brother, I conjure thee
by Allah acquit me of what I have done with thee in the way of riding
and so forth.”

Then he let the sharper go and returned home, drunken with chagrin and
concern. His wife asked him, “What ails thee and where is the ass?”
And he answered, “Thou knowest not what was this ass; but I will tell
thee.” So he told her the story, and she exclaimed, “Woe worth us
for God the Most High! How could we have used a man as a beast of
burden, all this while?” And she gave alms and asked pardon of God.
Then the man abode awhile at home, idle, till she said to him, “How
long wilt thou sit at home, idle? Go to the market and buy us an ass
and do thy business with it.” Accordingly, he went to the market and
stopping by the ass-stand, saw his own ass for sale. So he went up to
it and clapping his mouth to its ear, said to it, “Out on thee, thou
good-for-nought! Doubtless thou hast been getting drunk again and
beating thy mother! But, by Allah, I will never buy thee more!” And he
left it and went away.


There was once a thief who repented to God the Most High and making
good his repentance, opened himself a shop for the sale of stuffs,
where he continued to trade awhile. One day, he locked his shop and
went home; and in the night there came to the bazaar a cunning thief
disguised in the habit of the merchant, and pulling out keys from his
sleeve, said to the watchman of the market, “Light me this candle.”
So the watchman took the candle and went to get a light, whilst the
thief opened the shop and lit another candle he had with him. When
the watchman came back, he found him seated in the shop, looking over
the account books and reckoning with his fingers; nor did he leave
to do thus till point of day, when he said to the man, “Fetch me a
camel-driver and his camel, to carry some goods for me.” So the man
fetched him a camel, and the thief took four bales of stuffs and gave
them to the camel-driver, who loaded them on his beast. Then he gave
the watchman two dirhems and went away after the camel-driver, the
watchman the while believing him to be the owner of the shop.

Next morning, the merchant came and the watchman greeted him with
blessings, because of the two dirhems, much to the surprise of the
former, who knew not what he meant. When he opened his shop, he saw
the droppings of the wax and the account-book lying on the floor, and
looking round, found four bales of stuffs missing. So he asked the
watchman what had happened and he told him what had passed in the
night, whereupon the merchant bade him fetch the camel-driver and
said to the latter, “Whither didst thou carry the stuffs?” “To such
a wharf,” answered the driver; “and I stowed them on board such a
vessel.” “Come with me thither,” said the merchant. So the camel-driver
carried him to the wharf and showed him the barque and her owner. Quoth
the merchant to the latter, “Whither didst thou carry the merchant and
the stuff?” “To such a place,” answered the master, “where he fetched
a camel-driver and setting the bales on the camel, went I know not
whither.” “Fetch me the camel-driver,” said the merchant; so he fetched
him and the merchant said to him, “Whither didst thou carry the bales
of stuffs from the ship?” “To such a khan,” answered he. “Come thither
with me and show it to me,” said the merchant.

So the camel-driver went with him to a khan at a distance from the
shore, where he had set down the stuffs, and showed him the mock
merchant’s magazine, which he opened and found therein his four bales
untouched and unopened. The thief had laid his mantle over them; so
the merchant took the bales and the cloak and delivered them to the
camel-driver, who laid them on his camel; after which the merchant
locked the magazine and went away with the camel-driver. On the way, he
met the thief who followed him, till he had shipped the bales, when he
said to him “O my brother (God have thee in His keeping!), thou hast
recovered thy goods, and nought of them is lost; so give me back my
cloak.” The merchant laughed and giving him back his cloak, let him go


There was once, among the hangers-on of the collegiate mosque, a man
who knew not how to read and write and got his bread by gulling the
folk. One day, he bethought him to open a school and teach children;
so he got him tablets and written scrolls and hung them up in a
conspicuous place. Then he enlarged his turban and sat down at the door
of the school. The people, who passed by and saw his turban and the
tablets and scrolls, thought he must be a very learned doctor; so they
brought him their children; and he would say to this, “Write,” and to
that, “Read”; and thus they taught one another.

One day, as he sat, as of wont, at the door of the school, he saw a
woman coming up, with a letter in her hand, and said to himself, “This
woman doubtless seeks me, that I may read her the letter she has in her
hand. How shall I do with her seeing I cannot read writing?” And he
would fain have gone down and fled from her; but, before he could do
this, she overtook him and said to him, “Whither away?” Quoth he, “I
purpose to pray the noontide-prayer and return.” “Noon is yet distant,”
said she; “so read me this letter.” He took the letter and turning
it upside down, fell to looking at it, now shaking his head and anon
knitting his eyebrows and showing concern. Now the letter came from
the woman’s husband, who was absent; and when she saw the schoolmaster
do thus, she said, “Doubtless my husband is dead, and this learned man
is ashamed to tell me so.” So she said to him, “O my lord, if he be
dead, tell me.” But he shook his head and held his peace. Then said
she, “Shall I tear my clothes?” “Tear,” answered he. “Shall I buffet my
face,” asked she; and he said, “Buffet.” So she took the letter from
his hand and returning home, fell a-weeping, she and her children.

One of her neighbours heard her weeping and asking what ailed her, was
answered, “She hath gotten a letter, telling her that her husband is
dead.” Quoth the man, “This is a lying saying; for I had a letter from
him but yesterday, advising me that he is in good health and case and
will be with her after ten days.” So he rose forthright and going in
to her, said, “Where is the letter thou hast received?” She brought
it to him, and he took it and read it; and it ran as follows, after
the usual salutation, “I am well and in good health and case and will
be with thee after ten days. Meanwhile, I send thee a quilt and an
extinguisher.”[1] So she took the letter and returning with it to the
schoolmaster, said to him, “What moved thee to deal thus with me?” And
she repeated to him what her neighbour had told her of his having sent
her a quilt and an extinguisher. “Thou art in the right,” answered
he. “But excuse me, good woman; for I was, at the time, troubled and
absent-minded and seeing the extinguisher wrapped in the quilt, thought
that he was dead and they had shrouded him.” The woman, not smoking the
cheat, said, “Thou art excused,” and taking the letter, went away.

                     _THE HUSBAND AND THE PARROT_

There lived once a good man who had a beautiful wife, of whom he was
so passionately fond that he could scarcely bear to have her out of
his sight. One day, when some particular business obliged him to leave
her, he went to a place where they sold all sorts of birds. Here he
purchased a parrot, which was not only highly accomplished in the art
of talking, but also possessed the rare gift of telling everything that
was done in its presence. The husband took it home in a cage to his
wife, and begged of her to keep it in her chamber, and take great care
of it during his absence. After this he set out on his journey.

On his return he did not fail to interrogate the parrot on what had
passed while he was away; and the bird very expertly related a few
circumstances which occasioned the husband to reprimand his wife.
She supposed that some of her slaves had betrayed her, but they all
assured her they were faithful, and agreed in charging the parrot with
the crime. Desirous of being convinced of the truth of this matter,
the wife devised a method of quieting the suspicions of her husband,
and at the same time of revenging herself on the parrot, if he were
the culprit. The next time the husband was absent she ordered one
of her slaves during the night to turn a handmill under the bird’s
cage, another to throw water over it like rain, and a third to wave a
looking-glass before the parrot by the light of a candle. The slaves
were employed the greater part of the night in doing what their
mistress had ordered them, and succeeded to her satisfaction.

The following day, when the husband returned, he again applied to the
parrot to be informed of what had taken place. The bird replied, “My
dear master, the lightning, the thunder, and the rain have so disturbed
me the whole night, that, I cannot tell you how much I have suffered.”

The husband, who knew there had been no storm that night, became
convinced that the parrot did not always relate facts, and that having
told an untruth in this particular, he had also deceived him with
respect to his wife. Being therefore extremely enraged with it, he took
the bird out of the cage and, dashing it on the floor, killed it. He,
however, afterward learned from his neighbors that the poor parrot had
told no falsehood in reference to his wife’s conduct, which made him
repent of having destroyed it.

                    _BAKBARAH’S VISIT TO THE HAREM_

Bakbarah the Toothless, my second brother, walking one day through the
city, met an old woman in a retired street. She thus accosted him: “I
have,” said she, “a word to say to you, if you will stay a moment.” He
immediately stopped, and asked her what she wished. “If you have time
to go with me,” she replied, “I will take you to a most magnificent
palace, where you shall see a lady more beautiful than the day. She
will receive you with a great deal of pleasure, and will treat you with
a collation and excellent wine. I have no occasion, I believe, to say
any more.” “But is what you tell me,” replied my brother, “true?” “I
am not given to lying,” replied the old woman; “I propose nothing to
you but what is the fact. You must, however, pay attention to what I
require of you. You must be prudent, speak little, and must comply with

Bakbarah having agreed to the conditions, she walked on before, and he
followed her. They arrived at the gate of a large palace, where there
were a great number of officers and servants. Some of them wished to
stop my brother, but the old woman no sooner spoke to them, than they
let him pass. She then turned to my brother, and said, “Remember that
the young lady to whose house I have brought you is fond of mildness
and modesty; nor does she like being contradicted. If you satisfy her
in this, there is no doubt you will obtain whatever you wish.” Bakbarah
thanked her for this advice, and promised to profit by it.

She then took him into a very beautiful apartment, which formed part of
a square building. It corresponded with the magnificence of the palace;
there was a gallery all round it, and in the midst of it a very fine
garden. The old woman made him sit down on a sofa that was handsomely
furnished, and desired him to wait there a moment, till she went to
inform the young lady of his arrival.

As my brother had never before been in so superb a place, he
immediately began to observe all the beautiful things that were in
sight; and judging of his good fortune by the magnificence he beheld,
he could hardly contain his joy. He almost immediately heard a great
noise, which came from a long troop of slaves who were enjoying
themselves, and came toward him, bursting out at the same time into
violent fits of laughter. In the midst of them he perceived a young
lady of most extraordinary beauty, whom he easily discovered to be
their mistress, by the attention they paid her. Bakbarah, who expected
merely a private conversation with the lady, was very much surprised at
the arrival of so large a company. In the meantime the slaves, putting
on a serious air, approached him; and when the young lady was near the
sofa, my brother, who had risen up, made a most profound reverence.
She took the seat of honor, and then, having requested him to resume
his, she said to him, in a smiling manner, “I am delighted to see you,
and wish you everything you can yourself desire.” “Madam,” replied
Bakbarah, “I cannot wish a greater honor than that of appearing before
you.” “You seem to me,” she replied, “of so good-humored a disposition,
that we shall pass our time very agreeably together.”

She immediately ordered a collation to be served up, and they covered
the table with baskets of various fruits and sweetmeats. She then sat
down at the table along with my brother and the slaves. As it happened
that he was placed directly opposite to her, she observed, as soon
as he opened his mouth to eat, he had no teeth; she remarked this to
her slaves, and they all laughed immoderately at it. Bakbarah, who
from time to time raised his head to look at the lady and saw that
she was laughing, imagined it was from the pleasure she felt at being
in his company, and flattered himself, therefore, that she would soon
order the slaves to retire, and that he should enjoy her conversation
in private. The lady easily guessed his thoughts, and took a pleasure
in continuing a delusion which seemed so agreeable to him: she said a
thousand soft, tender things, and presented the best of everything to
him with her own hand.

When the collation was finished, she arose from table; ten slaves
instantly took some musical instruments and began to play and sing,
the others to dance. In order to make himself the more agreeable, my
brother also began dancing, and the young lady herself partook of the
amusement. After they had danced for some time, they all sat down to
take breath. The lady ordered him to bring her a glass of wine, then
cast a smile at my brother, to intimate that she was going to drink to
his health. He instantly rose up, and stood while she drank. As soon
as she had finished, instead of returning the glass, she had it filled
again, and presented it to my brother, that he might pledge her.

Bakbarah took the glass, and in receiving it from the young lady he
kissed her hand, then drank to her, standing the whole time, to show
his gratitude for the favor she had done him. After this the young
lady made him sit down by her side, and began to give him signs of
affection. She put her arm round his neck, and frequently gave him
gentle pats with her hand. Delighted with these favors, he thought
himself the happiest man in the world; he also was tempted to begin
to play in the same manner with this charming creature, but he durst
not take this liberty before the slaves, who had their eyes upon him,
and who continued to laugh at this trifling. The young lady still kept
giving him such gentle taps, till at last she began to apply them so
forcibly that he grew angry at it. He reddened, and got up to sit
farther from so rude a playfellow. At this moment the old woman, who
had brought my brother there, looked at him in such a way as to make
him understand that he was wrong, and had forgotten the advice she had
before given him. He acknowledged his fault, and, to repair it, he
again approached the young lady, pretending that he had not gone to a
distance through anger. She then took hold of him by the arm, and drew
him toward her, making him again sit down close by her, and continuing
to bestow a thousand pretended caresses on him. Her slaves, whose only
aim was to divert her, began to take a part in the sport. One of them
gave poor Bakbarah a fillip on the nose with all her strength, another
pulled his ears almost off, while the rest kept giving him slaps, which
passed the limits of raillery and fun.

My brother bore all this with the most exemplary patience; he even
affected an air of gaiety, and looked at the old woman with a forced
smile. “You were right,” said he, “when you said that I should find a
very fine, agreeable, and charming young lady. How much am I obliged
to you for it!” “Oh, this is nothing yet,” replied the old woman;
“let her alone, and you will see very different things by and by.”
The young lady then spoke. “You are a fine man,” said she to my
brother, “and I am delighted at finding in you so much kindness and
complaisance toward all my little fooleries, and that you possess
a disposition so conformable to mine.” “Madam,” replied Bakbarah,
ravished with this speech, “I am no longer myself, but am entirely at
your disposal; you have full power to do with me as you please.” “You
afford me the greatest delight,” added the lady, “by showing so much
submission to my inclination. I am perfectly satisfied with you, and I
wish that you should be equally so with me. Bring,” cried she to the
attendants, “perfumes and rose-water!” At these words two slaves went
out and instantly returned, one with a silver vase, in which there was
exquisite aloe-wood, with which she perfumed him, and the other with
rose-water, which she sprinkled over his face and hands. My brother
could not contain himself for joy at seeing himself so handsomely and
honorably treated.

When this ceremony was finished, the young lady commanded the slaves
who had before sung and played to recommence their concert. They
obeyed; and while this was going on, the lady called another slave,
and ordered her to take my brother with her saying, “You know what to
do; and when you have finished, return with him to me.” Bakbarah, who
heard this order given, immediately got up, and going toward the old
woman, who had also risen to accompany the slave, he requested her to
tell him what they wished him to do. “Our mistress,” replied she, in
a whisper, “is extremely curious, and she wishes to see how you would
look disguised as a female; this slave, therefore, has orders to take
you with her, to paint your eyebrows, shave your mustachios, and dress
you like a woman.” “You may paint my eyebrows,” said my brother, “as
much as you please; to that I readily agree, because I can wash them
again; but as to shaving me, that, mind you, I will by no means suffer.
How do you think I dare appear without my mustachios?” “Take care,”
answered the woman, “how you oppose anything that is required of you.
You will quite spoil your fortune, which is going on as prosperously as
possible. She loves you, and wishes to make you happy. Will you, for
the sake of a paltry mustachio, forego the most delicious favors any
man can possibly enjoy?”

Bakbarah at length yielded to the old woman’s arguments, and without
saying another word, he suffered the slave to conduct him to an
apartment, where they painted his eyebrows red. They shaved his
mustachios, and were absolutely going to shave his beard. But the
easiness of my brother’s tempter did not carry him quite so far as to
suffer that. “Not a single stroke,” he exclaimed, “shall you take at
my beard!” The slave represented to him that it was of no use to have
cut off his mustachios if he would not also agree to lose his beard;
that a hairy countenance did not at all coincide with the dress of a
woman; and that she was astonished that a man, who was on the very
point of possessing the most beautiful woman in Bagdad, should care for
his beard. The old woman also joined with the slave, and added fresh
reasons; she threatened my brother with being quite in disgrace with
her mistress. In short, she said so much that he at last permitted them
to do what they wished.

As soon as they had dressed him like a woman, they brought him back
to the young lady, who burst into so violent a fit of laughter at the
sight of him, that she fell down on the sofa on which she was sitting.
The slaves all began to clap their hands, so that my brother was put
quite out of countenance. The young lady then got up, and continuing
to laugh all the time, said, “After the complaisance you have shown to
me, I should be guilty of a crime not to bestow my whole heart upon
you; but it is necessary that you should do one thing more for love
of me: it is only to dance before me as you are.” He obeyed; and the
young lady and the slaves danced with him, laughing all the while as if
they were crazy. After they had danced for some time, they all threw
themselves upon the poor wretch, and gave him so many blows, both with
their hands and feet, that he fell down almost fainting. The old woman
came to his assistance, and without giving him time to be angry at such
ill treatment, she whispered in his ear, “Console yourself, for you
are now arrived at the conclusion of your sufferings, and are about
to receive the reward for them. You have only one thing more to do,”
added she, “and that is a mere trifle. You must know that my mistress
makes it her custom, whenever she has drunk a little, as she has done
to-day, not to suffer anyone she loves to come near her, unless they
are stripped to their shirt. When they are in this situation, she takes
advantage of a short distance, and begins running before them through
the gallery, and from room to room, till they have caught her. This is
one of her fancies. Now, at whatever distance from you she may start,
you, who are so light and active, can easily overtake her. Undress
yourself quickly, therefore, and remain in your shirt, and do not make
any difficulty about it.”

My brother had already carried his complying humor too far to stop
at this. The young lady at the same time took off her outer robe, in
order to run with greater ease. When they were both ready to begin the
race, the lady took the advantage of about twenty paces, and then
started with wonderful celerity. My brother followed her with all
his strength, but not without exciting the risibility of the slaves,
who kept clapping their hands all the time. The young lady, instead
of losing any of the advantage she had first taken, kept continually
gaining ground of my brother. She ran round the gallery two or three
times, then turned off down a long dark passage, where she saved
herself by a turn of which my brother was ignorant. Bakbarah, who kept
constantly following her, lost sight of her in this passage, and he was
also obliged to run much slower, because it was so dark. He at last
perceived a light, toward which he made all possible haste; he went out
through a door which was instantly shut upon him.

You may easily imagine what was his astonishment at finding himself
in the middle of a street inhabited by curriers. Nor were they less
surprised at seeing him in his shirt, his eyebrows painted red, and
without either beard or mustachios. They began to clap their hands, to
hoot at him; and some even ran after him, and kept lashing him with
strips of their leather. They then stopped him, and set him on an ass,
which they accidentally met with, and led him through the city, exposed
to the laughter and shouts of the mob.

To complete his misfortune, they led him through the street where the
judge of the police court lived, and this magistrate immediately sent
to inquire the cause of the uproar. The curriers informed him that they
saw my brother, exactly in the state he then was, come out of the gate
leading to the apartments of the women belonging to the grand vizier,
which opened into their street. The judge then ordered the unfortunate
Bakbarah, upon the spot, to receive a hundred strokes on the soles of
his feet, to be conducted without the city, and forbade him ever to
enter it again.--_History of the Barber’s Second Brother._

       *       *       *       *       *

Persian Wit and humor is best known to us through the _Rubaiyat of
Omar Khayyam_.

While their interest lies partly in the adept translation, the wit of
the original is clearly self evident.


    Myself when young did eagerly frequent
    Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument
      About it and about: but evermore
    Came out by the same door where in I went.


    With them the seed of Wisdom did I sow,
    And with mine own hand wrought to make it grow;
      And this was all the Harvest that I reap’d--
    “I came like Water, and like Wind I go.”


    Into this Universe, and _Why_ not knowing
    Nor _Whence_, like Water willy-nilly flowing;
      And out of it, as Wind along the Waste,
    I know not _Whither_, willy-nilly blowing.


    What, without asking, hither hurried _Whence_?
    And, without asking, _Whither_ hurried hence!
      Oh, many a Cup of this forbidden Wine
    Must drown the memory of that insolence!


    Up from Earth’s Centre through the Seventh Gate
    I rose, and on the Throne of Saturn sate,
      And many a Knot unravel’d by the Road;
    But not the Master-knot of Human Fate.


    There was the Door to which I found no Key;
    There was the Veil through which I might not see:
      Some little talk awhile of ME and THEE
    There was--and then no more of THEE and ME.


    Waste not your Hour, nor in the vain pursuit
    Of This and That endeavour and dispute;
      Better be jocund with the fruitful Grape
    Than sadden after none, or bitter, Fruit.


    You know, my Friends, with what a brave Carouse
    I made a Second Marriage in my house;
      Divorced old barren Reason from my Bed,
    And took the Daughter of the Vine to Spouse.


    The Grape that can with Logic absolute
    The Two-and-Seventy jarring Sects confute:
      The sovereign Alchemist that in a trice
    Life’s leaden metal into Gold transmute:


    Why, be this Juice the growth of God, who dare
    Blaspheme the twisted tendril as a Snare?
      A Blessing, we should use it, should we not?
    And if a Curse--why, then, Who set it there?


    We are no other than a moving row
    Of Magic Shadow-shapes that come and go
      Round with the Sun-illumin’d Lantern held
    In Midnight by the Master of the Show;


    But helpless Pieces of the Game He plays
    Upon this Chequer-board of Nights and Days:
      Hither and thither moves, and checks, and slays,
    And one by one back in the Closet lays.


    The Ball no question makes of Ayes and Noes,
    But Here or There as strikes the Player goes;
      And He that toss’d you down into the Field,
    _He_ knows about it all--HE knows--HE knows!


    And that inverted Bowl they call the Sky,
    Whereunder crawling coop’d we live and die,
      Lift not your hands to _It_ for help--for it
    As impotently moves as you or I.


    Indeed the Idols I have loved so long
    Have done my credit in this World much wrong:
      Have drown’d my Glory in a shallow Cup,
    And sold my Reputation for a Song.


    Indeed, indeed, Repentance oft before
    I swore--but was I sober when I swore?
      And then and then came Spring, and Rose-in-hand
    My thread-bare Penitence apieces tore.


    And much as Wine has play’d the Infidel,
    And robb’d me of my Robe of Honour--Well,
      I wonder often what the Vintners buy
    One half so precious as the stuff they sell.

Firdausi, the greatest Epic poet of Persia, gives us this witty epigram.

                          _ON SULTAN MAHMOUD_

    ’Tis said our monarch’s liberal mind
    Is like the ocean, unconfined.
    Happy are they who prove it so;
    ’Tis not for me that fact to know:
    I’ve plunged within its waves, ’tis true,
    But not a single pearl could view.

Sadi, one of the greatest of Persian poets, was also a great scholar,
and wrote in both Persian and Arabian, beside being, it is said, the
first poet to write in Hindustani.

His works are numerous and beautiful, both in verse and prose, and show
a graceful wit.


A king was embarked along with a Persian boy slave on board a ship. The
boy had never been at sea nor experienced the inconvenience of a ship.
He set up a weeping and wailing, and all his limbs were in a state
of trepidation; and however much they soothed him, he was not to be
pacified. The king’s pleasure-party was disconcerted by him; but there
was no help for it. On board that ship there was a physician. He said
to the king, “If you will order it, I can manage to silence him.” The
king replied, “It will be an act of great favor.”

The physician so directed that they threw the boy into the sea, and
after he had plunged repeatedly, they seized him by the hair of the
head and drew him close to the ship, when he clung with both hands to
the rudder, and, scrambling upon the deck, slunk into a corner and sat
down quiet. The king, pleased with what he saw, said, “What art is
there in this?” The boy replied that originally he had not experienced
the danger of being drowned, and undervalued the safety of being in a
ship. In like manner, a person is aware of the preciousness of health
when he is overtaken with the calamity of sickness.

_A barley loaf of bread has, oh, epicure, no relish for thee._

_To the houris, or nymphs of paradise, purgatory would be a hell. Ask
the inmates of hell whether purgatory is not paradise._

_There is a distinction between the man that folds his mistress
in his arms and him whose two eyes are fixed on the door expecting
her._--_The Rose Garden (Gulistan)._


In the west of Africa I saw a schoolmaster of a sour aspect and bitter
speech, crabbed, misanthropic, and intemperate, insomuch that the sight
of him would derange the ecstasies of the orthodox, and his manner of
reading the Koran cast a gloom over the minds of the pious. A number
of handsome boys and lovely virgins were subject to his despotic sway;
they had neither the permission of a smile nor the option of a word,
for this moment he would smite the silver cheek of one of them with his
hand, and the next put the crystalline legs of another in the stocks.
In short, their parents, I heard, were made aware of a part of his
angry violence, and beat and drove him from his charge.

They made over his school to a peaceable creature, so pious, meek,
simple, and good-natured that he never spoke till forced to do so, nor
would he utter a word that could offend anybody. The children forgot
that awe in which they had held their first master, and remarking the
angelic disposition of their second master, they became one after
another as wicked as devils. Relying on his clemency, they would so
neglect their studies as to pass most part of their time at play, and
break the tablets of their unfinished tasks over each other’s heads.

_When the schoolmaster relaxes in his discipline, the children will
stop to play at marbles in the market-place._

A fortnight after I passed by the gate of that mosque, and saw the
first schoolmaster, with whom they had been obliged to make friends and
to restore him to his place. I was in truth offended, and calling on
God to witness, asked, saying, “Why have they again made a devil the
preceptor of angels?”

A facetious old gentleman, who had seen much of life, listened to me,
and replied, “A king sent his son to school, and hung a tablet of
silver round his neck. On the face of that tablet he had written in
golden letters, ‘The severity of the master is more useful than the
indulgence of the father.’”--_The Rose Garden (Gulistan)._

                     _HATEFULNESS OF OLD HUSBANDS_

An old man married a young virgin. He adorned the bridal chamber with
flowers, seated himself with her in private, and riveted his heart and
eyes upon her. Many a long night he would lie awake and indulge in
pleasantries and jests, in order to remove any coyness on her part, and
encourage familiarity. One of those nights he addressed her thus:

“Lofty fortune was your friend, and the eye of your prosperity broad
awake, when you fell into the society of such an old gentleman as I
am, being of mature judgment, well-bred, worldly experienced, inured
to the vicissitudes of heat and cold, and practised in the goods and
evils of life, who can appreciate the rights of good-fellowship,
and fulfil the duties of loving attachment and is kind and affable,
sweet-spoken, and cheerful. I will treat you with affection, as far
as I can, and if you deal with me unkindly, I will not be unkind in
return. _If, like a parrot, thy food be sugar, I will devote my sweet
life for thy nourishment._ And you did not become the victim of a
rude, conceited, rash, and headstrong youth, who one moment gratifies
his lust, and the next has a fresh object; who every night shifts his
abode, and every day changes his mistress. Young men are lively and
handsome, but they keep good faith with nobody. _Expect not constancy
from nightingales, who will every moment serenade a fresh rose._
Whereas my class of seniors regulate their lives by good breeding and
sense, and are not deluded by youthful ignorance.”

_Court the society of a superior, and make much of the opportunity!
for in the company of an equal thy good fortune must decline._

The old man spoke a great deal in this style, and thought that he had
caught her heart in his snare, and made sure of her as his prey, when
she suddenly drew a cold sigh from the bottom of a much-afflicted
bosom, and answered:

“All this speech which you have delivered has not, in the scale of my
judgment, the weight of that one sentence which I have heard of my
nurse, that it were better to plant a spear in a young maiden’s side
than to lay her by an old man in bed. Much contention and strife will
arise in that house where the wife shall get dissatisfied with her

_Unable to rise without the help of a staff, how can an old man stir
the staff of life?_

In short, there being no prospect of concord, they agreed to separate.
After lapse of the period prescribed by the law, she united in wedlock
with a young man of an ill-tempered and sullen disposition, and in very
narrow circumstances, so that she endured much tyranny and violence,
penury and hardship. Yet she was thus offering up thanksgivings for the
Almighty’s goodness, and saying:

“Praised be God that I have escaped from such hell-torment, and secured
a blessing so permanent. With all this violence and impetuosity of
temper, I bear with his caprice, because he is handsome. It were better
for me to burn with him in hellfire than to dwell in paradise with the

_The smell of an onion from the mouth of the lovely is sweeter than
that of a rose in the hand of the ugly._

                                    --_The Rose Garden (Gulistan)._

       *       *       *       *       *

1. LOCMAN the wise being asked, “Whence did you learn wisdom?”
answered, _From the blind, who try the path with a stick before they
tread on it_....

4. HORMUS the tyrant, being asked, why he had put his father’s
courtiers in prison, answered, _Because they feared me; and the
wise say, Fear him who fears thee, though he be a fly, and thou an

5. A religious was famous at Bagdad for his powerful prayers. Hoschas
Joseph, king of Persia, begged him to pray for him. The religious said,
_O God, take away this man’s life! for no better prayer can I make
either for him or his subjects_.

6. An infamous king asked a Dervise, “Of all pious offices, which is
the chief?” The Dervise answered, _For thee, the chief is a long
sleep at noon, that thou mayest, for a short time, cease to injure

7. A courtier being deprived of his place, became a religious. After
some time, the king wished to restore him to his station; but he said,
_Experience has now taught me to prefer ease to dignity_.

7. A slave of Omer, the viceroy, fled from his service, but was
retaken, and brought before the king; who, at Omer’s instigation,
condemned him to death. The slave upon this said, _O king, I am an
innocent man; and, if I die by thy command, my blood will be required.
Permit me then to incur guilt before I meet my sentence. Let me kill
this Omer, my master, and I shall die contented. It is for thy sake
only I desire this_. The king, laughing at this new mode of clearing
his own justice, acquitted the wretch.

9. A master had taught a youth to wrestle; who, proud of his acquired
skill, and possest of more strength than his master, wished to acquire
fame at his expence, and challenged him to wrestle before the court.
The master, by one trick, which he had not taught the youth, threw him
at once: and, the youth complaining that he had not taught him all his
art, the master said, _No. I always provide against ingratitude_.

10. A religious sitting by the highway, the king passed by; but the
religious took no notice of him. A courtier saying “Do not you see
the king?” was answered, _I want nothing of him. Kings are made for
subjects, not subjects for kings. Why then should I respect him who
is the publick servant?_ This anecdote from Sadi differs much from
present Eastern despotism.

11. A courtier went to his master, SUELNUN, king of Egypt,
and begged permission to retire; saying, “Though I am night and day
anxious in thy service; yet the fear of once displeasing thee makes me
wretched.” Suelnun, in tears, exclaimed, _Ah, did I serve God, as
thou thy king, I should be one of the just_.

12. A king condemned an innocent man to death, who said, _O king, thy
anger rages against me, but will injure thyself_. “How?” rejoined
the king. _Because my pain lasts but for a moment; but thine for
ever._ Pardon followed.

13. The courtiers of king Nourshivan consulting with him on important
business, when the king had spoken, one of them assented to his
opinion, against the rest. Being asked the cause, he said, _Human
affairs depend on chance, not on wisdom: and, if we err with the king,
who shall condemn us?_ ...

17. A king saying to a Dervise, “Do you never think on me?” was
answered, _Yes: but it is when I forget God_.

18. A Dervise, in a dream, saw a king in paradise, but a religious in
hell, and thought that, upon enquiring the cause, he was told, _The
king used to keep company with Dervises; and the Dervise with kings_.

19. LOCMAN, the sage, being asked, where he learned virtue, he
answered, _Of the vicious, for they taught me what to shun_.

20. Abu Hurura used often to visit MUSTAPHA, who one day said
to him, _O Abu Hurura, visiting seldom feeds love and friendship_.

21. SADI, being taken prisoner by the Franks, or Christians,
was redeemed for ten pieces of gold, by one, who also gave him his
daughter in marriage, with one hundred pieces of gold as a dower.
The lady, being a termagant, once reproached him with this; and he
said, _Yes, I was redeemed for ten pieces, and made a slave for a

22. Some wicked men using a religious very ill, he went to an old
dervise, and complained much. The elder told him, _Son, our habit is
that of patience. Why do you wear it, if it does not fit you?_

23. A sage seeing a strong man in a passion, asked the cause, and being
told that it was on account of an affronting word, he exclaimed, _O
strong man, with a weak mind! who could bear an elephant’s load, yet
cannot bear a word_.

24. A lawyer gave his daughter, who was very deformed in marriage
to a blind man. A celebrated oculist coming to the place, the lawyer
was asked why he did not employ him for his son-in-law? To which he
answered, _Why should I endeavour to procure the divorce of my

25. Ardeschir enquiring of a physician, how much food was necessary for
a day? was answered, eight ounces. Ardeschir said, “How can so little
support a man?” The physician replied, _That will support him; if he
takes more, he must support it_....

27. A robber said to a beggar, “Art thou not ashamed to stretch out
thy hand to all for a piece of copper?” The beggar answered, _It is
better to stretch it out for a piece of copper, than have it cut off
for a piece of gold_.

29. SADI being about to purchase a house, a Jew came up and said, “I
am an old neighbour, and know the house to be good and sufficient. Buy
it by all means.” Sadi answered, _The house must be bad if thou art a

31. An old man being asked, why he did not take a wife, answered, _I
do not like old women: and a young woman, I judge from that, can never
like me_.

32. A courtier sent a foolish son to be educated by a sage. He made
no progress, and some time after the sage brought him back, saying,
_This boy will never be wiser; and he has even made me foolish in
teaching him_.

33. A king sent his son to an instructor, desiring him to educate the
boy, as he did his own sons. The preceptor laboured in vain to teach
the young prince, though his own sons made great progress. The king
sending for him and reproaching him for this; he answered, _O king,
the education was the same, but the capacity differed. We find gold in
the soil! yet gold is not found in every soil_.

34. A man having sore eyes went to a mule-doctor, who gave him an
ointment that struck him blind. The man brought his doctor before the
cadi, who acquitted him; saying to the patient, _If you had not been
an ass, you would not have applied to a mule-doctor_.

35. Sadi saw two boys, one the son of a rich man, the other of a poor,
sitting in a cemetery. The former said “My father’s tomb is marble,
marked with letters of gold: but what is your father’s? two turfs and a
handful of dust spread over them.” The poor boy answered, _Be silent.
Before your father shall have moved his marble! mine shall be already
in paradise_.

36. MUHAMMED, the learned priest of Gasala, being asked, how
he had acquired so much science? answered, _I never was ashamed to
ask and learn what I did not know_....

Jalal uddin Rumi was another Persian who wrote a series of stories
conveying moral maxims.

                        _THE SICK SCHOOLMASTER_

The boys of a certain school were tired of their teacher, as he was
very strict in the exaction of diligence; so they consulted together
for the best means of getting rid of him for a time. Said they, “Why
does he not fall ill, so that he may be obliged to be away from school,
and we be released from confinement and work? Alas! he stands as firm
as a rock.” One of them, who was wiser than the rest, suggested this
plan: “I shall go to the teacher, and ask him why he looks so pale,
saying, ‘May it turn out well! But your face has not its usual color.
Is it due to the weather, or to fever?’ This will create some alarm
in his mind. Then you, brother,” he continued, turning to another
boy, “must assist me by using similar words. When you come into the
schoolroom you must say to the teacher, ‘I hope, sir, you are well.’
This will tend to increase his apprehension, even though in a slight
degree; and you know that even slight doubts are often enough to drive
a man mad. Then a third, a fourth, and a fifth boy must one after
another express his sympathy in similar words, till at last, when
thirty boys successively have given expression to words of like nature,
the teacher’s apprehension will be confirmed.”

The boys praised his ingenuity, and wished each other success; and
they bound themselves by solemn promises not to shirk doing what was
expected of them. Then the first boy bade them take oaths of secrecy,
lest some telltale should let the matter out.

Next morning the boys came to school in a cheerful mood, having
resolved on adopting the foregoing plan. They all stood outside the
schoolhouse, waiting for the arrival of the friend who had helped them
in the time of need--since it was he who had originated the plan: it
is the head that is the governor of the legs. The first boy arrived,
entered the schoolroom, and greeted the teacher with “I hope you are
well, sir, but the color of your face is very pale.”

“Nonsense!” said the teacher; “there is nothing the matter with me. Go
and take your seat.” But inwardly he was somewhat apprehensive. Another
boy came in, and in similar words greeted the teacher, whose misgivings
were thereby somewhat increased. And so on, one boy after another
greeted him, till his worst apprehensions seemed to be confirmed, and
he was in great anxiety regarding the state of his health.

He got enraged at his wife. “Her love for me is waning,” he thought. “I
am in this bad state of health, and she did not even ask what was the
matter with me. She did not draw my attention to the color of my face.
Perhaps she is not unwilling that I should die.”

Full of such thoughts, he came to his home, followed by the boys, and
flung open the door. His wife exclaimed, “I hope nothing is the matter
with you! Why have you returned so soon?”

“Are you blind?” he answered. “Look at the color of my face, and at my
condition! Even strangers show sympathetic alarm about my health.”

“Well, I see nothing wrong,” said the wife. “You must be laboring under
some senseless delusion.”

“Woman,” he rejoined impatiently, “you are most obstinate! Can you not
perceive the altered hue of my face and the shivering of my body? Go
and get my bed made, that I may lie down, for my head is dizzy.”

The bed was prepared, and the teacher lay down on it, giving vent
to sighs and groans. The boys he ordered to sit there and read the
lessons, which they did with much vexation. They said to themselves,
“We did so much to be free, and still we are in confinement. The
foundation was not well laid; we are bad architects. Some other plan
must now be adopted, so that we may be rid of this annoyance.”

The clever boy who had instigated the first plot advised the others
to read their lessons very loudly; and when they did so, he said, in
a tone to be overheard by the teacher, “Boys, your voices disturb our
teacher. Loud voices will only increase his headache. Is it proper that
he should be made to suffer pain for the sake of the trifling fees he
gets from us?”

The teacher said, “He is right. Boys, you may go. My headache has
increased. Be off with you!” And the boys scampered away home as
eagerly as birds fly toward a spot where they see grain.

The mothers of the boys, on seeing them return, got angry, and thus
challenged them, “This is the time for you to learn writing, and you
are engaged in play. This is the time for acquiring knowledge, and you
fly from your books and your teacher.”

The boys urged that it was no fault of theirs, and that they were in no
way to blame, for, by the decree of fate, their teacher had become very

The mothers, disbelieving, said, “This is all deceit and falsehood. You
would not scruple to tell a hundred lies to get a little quantity of
buttermilk. To-morrow morning we shall go to the teacher’s house, and
shall ascertain what truth there is in your assertions.”

So the next morning the mothers went to visit the teacher, whom they
found lying in bed like a very sick person. He had perspired freely,
owing to his having covered himself with blankets. His head was
bandaged, and his face was covered with a kerchief. He was groaning in
a feeble voice.

The ladies expressed their sympathy, hoped his headache was getting
less, and swore by his soul that they had been unaware until quite
lately that he was so ill.

“I, too,” said the teacher, “was unaware of my illness. It was through
those little bastards that I learned of it.”

                                     --_Stories in Rime (Masnavi)._


A deaf man was informed that an neighbor of his was ill, so he resolved
upon going to see him. “But,” said he to himself, “owing to my deafness
I shall not be able to catch the words of the sick man, whose voice
must be very feeble at this time. However, go I must. When I see his
lips moving I shall be able to make a reasonably good conjecture of
what he is saying. When I ask him, ‘How are you, oh, my afflicted
friend?’ he will probably reply, ‘I am well,’ or ‘I am better.’ I shall
then say, ‘Thanks be to God! Tell me, what have you taken for food?’
He will probably mention some liquid food or gruel. I shall then wish
that the food may agree with him, and shall ask him the name of the
physician under whose treatment he is. On his naming the man, I shall
say, ‘He is a skilful leech. Since it is he who is attending upon you,
you will soon be well. I have had experience of him. Wherever he goes,
his patients very soon recover.”

So the deaf man, having prepared himself for the visit, went to the
invalid’s bedside, and sat down near the pillow. Then, rubbing his
hands together with assumed cheerfulness, he inquired, “How are you?”
“I am dying,” replied the patient. “Thanks be to God!” rejoined the
deaf man.

The sick man was troubled in his heart, and said to himself, “What kind
of thanksgiving is this? Surely he must be an enemy of mine!”--little
thinking that his visitor’s remark was but the result of wrong

“What have you been eating?” was the next question; to which the reply
was, “Poison!” “May it agree with you,” was the wish expressed by the
deaf man which only increased the other’s vexation.

“And pray, who is your physician?” again asked the visitor, “Azrael,
the Angel of Death. And now, be-gone with you!” growled the invalid.
“Oh, is he?” pursued the deaf man. “Then you ought to rejoice, for he
is a man of auspicious footsteps. I saw him only just now, and asked
him to devote to you his best possible attention.”

With these words he bade the sick man good-by, and withdrew, rejoicing
that he had satisfactorily performed a neighborly duty. Meanwhile,
the other man was angrily muttering to himself, “This fellow is an
implacable foe of mine. I did not know his heart was so full of

                                     --_Stories in Rime (Masnavi)._

                          _OLD AGE--DIALOGUE_

_Old Man._ I am in sore trouble owing to my brain.

_Physician._ The weakness of the brain is due to old age.

_Old Man._ Dark spots are floating before my eyes.

_Physician._ That, too, comes from old age, oh, venerable sheikh!

_Old Man._ My back aches very much.

_Physician._ The result of old age, oh, lean sheikh!

_Old Man._ No food that I take agrees with me.

_Physician._ The failure of the digestive organs is also due to
old age.

_Old Man._ I am afflicted with hard breathing.

_Physician._ Yes, the breathing ought to be affected in that
manner. When old age comes, it brings a hundred complaints in its train.

_Old Man._ My legs are getting feeble, and I am unable to walk

_Physician._ It is nothing but old age which obliges you to sit in
a corner.

_Old Man._ My back has become bent like a bow.

_Physician._ This trouble is merely the consequence of old age.

_Old Man._ My eyesight is quite dim, oh, sage physician!

_Physician._ Nothing but old age, oh, wise man!

_Old Man._ Oh, you idiot, always harping on the same theme! Is
this all you know of the science of medicine? Fool, does not your
reason tell you that God has assigned a remedy to every ailment? You
are a stupid ass, and with your paltry stock of learning are still
fumbling in the mire!

_Physician._ Oh, you dotard past sixty, know, then, that even this
rage and fury is due to old age!

From Abu Ishak we glean this delightful bit of parody on Hafiz.

                           _PARODY ON HAFIZ_

          HAFIZ                         ABU-ISHAK

    Will those who can transmute   Will those who sell cooked
    dust into gold by looking      sheep’s-head give us a sidelong
    at it ever give a sidelong     glance, when they open
    glance at us?                  their pots in the morning?

    The beauteous Turk, who        The cook has to-day
    is the cause of death to her   bought onions for giving a
    lovers, has to-day gone forth  relish to minced meat. Let
    intoxicated. Let us see from   us see, now, from whose
    whose eyes the heart’s blood   eyes tears shall begin to
    shall begin to flow.           flow.

    I have a yearning for se-      I have an inclination for
    clusion and peace. But, oh!    abstinent living and observing
    those narcissus-like eyes!     fasts. But, oh! in what
    The commotion they cause       a tempting way doth the
    me is inexpressible!           roasted lamb wink at me!

    No one should give up his      No one should partake of
    heart and his religion in the  sauce to accompany sweetened
    expectation of faithfulness    rice colored with saffron.
    from his sweetheart. My        My having done so
    having done so has resulted    has given me cause for infinite
    to me in lifelong repentance.  regret.
      And from


                          _THESE DEFINITIONS_

_Angel._ A hidden telltale.

_King._ The idlest man in the country.

_Minister of State._ The target for the arrows of the sighs of the

_Flatterer._ One who drives a profitable trade.

_Lawyer._ One ready to tell any lie.

_Fool._ An official, for instance, who is honest.

_Physician._ The herald of death.

_Widow._ A woman in the habit of praising her husband when he is

_Poet._ A proud beggar.

_Mirror._ One that laughs at you to your face.

_Bribe._ The resource of him who knows he has a bad cause.

_National Calamity._ A ruler who cares for nothing but the
pleasures of the harem.

_Salutation._ A polite hint to others to get up and greet you with

_Priest Calling to Prayers._ A disturber of the indolent.

_Faithful Friend._ Money.

_Truthful Man._ One who is regarded as an enemy by every one.

_Silence._ Half consent.

_Service._ Selling one’s independence.

_Hunting._ The occupation of those who have no work to do.

_Mother-in-Law._ A spy domiciled in your house.

_Debtor._ An ass in a quagmire.

_Liar._ A person making frequent use of the expression, “I swear
to God it is true!”

_Guest._ One in your house who is impatient to hear the dishes

_Poverty._ The consequence of marriage.

_Hunger._ Something which falls to the lot of those out of

_Soporific._ Reading the verses of a dull poet.

_Druggist._ One who wishes everybody to be ill.

_Learned Man._ One who does not know how to earn his livelihood.

_Miser’s Eye._ A vessel which is never full.

                     _DIVING FOR AN EGG--ANECDOTE_

The Emperor Akbar was one day sitting with his attendants in the
garden of the palace, close to a large cistern full of water. At the
suggestion of a courtier, the emperor commanded some of the men present
to procure an egg each, and to place it in the cistern in such a manner
that it could easily be found when searched for.

Soon after the order had been obeyed, the Mollah Do-pyazah came to this
spot. Akbar then turned to his attendants, saying he had dreamed the
night before that there were eggs in the cistern, and that all who were
his faithful servants had dived in, and brought out an egg. Whereupon
the attendants one by one dived into the water, each one issuing forth
with an egg in his hand. Do-pyazah, not disposed himself to enter the
water, the emperor asked why he alone held aloof. The mollah, thus
pressed, divested himself of his outer garments and plunged in.

He searched for a long time, but could not find a single egg. At length
he emerged from the cistern, and, moving his arms in the manner of a
cock flapping his wings, he cried aloud, “Cock-a-doodle-doo!”

“What,” asked Akbar, “is the meaning of this?”

“Your Majesty,” came the reply, “those who brought you the eggs were
hens, but I am a cock, and you must not expect an egg from me.”

At which Akbar laughed heartily, and had Do-pyazah well rewarded.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Chinese are more noted for their wit that is wisdom, than for their

Confucius, doubtless the greatest of their philosophers, born 551
B.C., left many sayings which became proverbs, yet which
embodied only the elementary morality of all ages and races.

These are some of the sayings from _The Analects of Confucius_.

“While a man’s father is alive, look at the bent of his will; when his
father is dead, look at his conduct.”

“An accomplished scholar is not a cooking-pot.”

“When good order prevailed in his country, Ning Wu acted the part of
a wise man; when his country was in disorder, he acted the part of a
fool. Others may equal his wisdom, but they cannot equal his folly.”

“How can one know about death, when one does not understand life?”

“Four horses cannot overtake the tongue.”

“If you were not covetous, you could not even bribe a man to steal from

“When their betters love the _Rules_ [_of Propriety_], then
the folk are easy tools.”

“Why use an ox-knife to kill a hen?”

“There are two classes that never change: the supremely wise and the
profoundly stupid.”

“If a man is disliked at forty, he always will be.”

“When driving with a woman, hold the reins in one hand and keep the
other behind your back.”

Chwang Tze, another ancient, wrote much of life, death and immortality,
but showed little sense of humor therein.

One of his anecdotes, in lighter vein, follows.


Chwang Tze and a friend had strolled on to a bridge over the Hao, when
the former observed, “Look how the minnows are darting about! That is
the pleasure of fishes.”

“Not being a fish yourself,” objected the friend, “how can you possibly
know in what the pleasure of fishes consists?”

“And you not being I,” retorted Chwang Tze, “how can you know that I do
not know?”

To which the friend replied, “If I, not being you, cannot know what you
know, it follows that you, not being a fish, cannot know in what the
pleasure of fishes consists.”

“Let us go back,” rejoined Chwang Tze, “to your original question. You
ask me how I know in what the pleasure of fishes consists. Well, I
know that I am enjoying myself over the Hao, and from this I infer that
the fishes are enjoying themselves in it.”--_Autumn Floods._

Sung Yu gives us this satirical outburst about


    The eagle is king of the birds; among fishes
      Leviathan holds the first place.
    Cleaving the far, crimson clouds,
      The eagle soars upward apace,
    With only the blue sky above,
      Into remote realms of space;
    But the grandeur of heaven and earth
      Is naught to the hedge-sparrow race.
    The whale through one oceans swims,
      To take its course through a second;
    While the minnow measures a puddle
      As the width of the sea might be reckoned.
    And just as with birds and fishes,
      Is the case, to be sure, with man.
    Here soars a resplendent eagle,
      There swims one huge leviathan:
    Behold the philosopher sapient,
      Whose fame will never grow dim;
    Alone in the might of his wisdom--
      Can the rabble understand him?

Yuan Mei, however, possessed a satiric humor so keen as to place him
among the true wits.

His letter to a friend might have been written today and his Cookery
Notes are such as are found in our current comics.

                    _A STANZA FOR A TOBACCO-POUCH_


I have received your letter of congratulation, and am much obliged.
At the end of the letter, however, you mention that you have a
tobacco-pouch for me, which will be forwarded upon the receipt of
a stanza. But such an exchange would seem to establish a curious
precedent. If for a tobacco pouch you expect in return a stanza, for
a hat or a pair of boots you would demand a whole poem; while your
brother might bestow a cloak or coat upon me, and believe himself
entitled to an epic. At this rate, dear friend, your congratulations
would become rather costly to me.

Let me instruct you, on the other hand, that a man once gave a thousand
yards of silk for a phrase, and another man a beautiful girl for a
stanza--which makes your tobacco-pouch look like a slight inducement,
does it not?

Mencius forbids the taking advantage of people on the ground of one’s
rank or merits. How much worse, therefore, to do so by virtue of a mere
tobacco-pouch! Elegant as a tobacco-pouch may be, it is only the work
of a sempstress; but my poetry, poor as it may be, is the work of my
brain. The exchange would evidently be complimentary to the sempstress,
and the reverse to me.

Now, if you had taken needle and thread and made the pouch
yourself--ah, then what a difference! Then, indeed, a dozen stanzas
would not have been too great a return. But it would hardly be proper
to ask a famous warrior like yourself to lay down sword and shield for
needle and thread. Nor, dear friend, am I likely to get the pouch at
all, if you take offense at these little jokes of mine. What I advise
you to do is, to bear with me patiently, send the tobacco-pouch, and
wait for the stanza until it comes.



Birds’ nests and water-slugs have no particular flavor of their own,
and are therefore not worth eating.

The best cook cannot prepare artistically more than five or six
different dishes in one day. A host of mine once had forty courses
served at a meal, and as soon as I got home I called for a bowl of rice
to still my hunger.

In order to enjoy the pleasures of the palate to the fullest degree,
you must be sober. If you are drunk, you cannot tell one flavor from

The ingredients of a dish should always harmonize with one
another--like two people in marriage.

Some cooks use the flesh of chickens and pigs for one soup, and as
chickens and pigs have souls, they will hold those cooks to account, in
the next world, for their treatment of them in this.

Bamboo-shoots ought never to be cut with a knife which has just been
used on onions.

While cooking, do not allow ashes from your pipe, perspiration from
your face, soot from the fuel, or beetles from the ceiling to drop
into the saucepan: the guests would be likely to pass the dish
by.--_Cookery Book_

       *       *       *       *       *

The following proverbs are generally attributed to the Chinese, some of
them being the wisdom of Confucius.


An avaricious man, who can never get enough, is like a snake trying to
swallow an elephant.

To draw the picture of a tiger, and make a dog out of it, is to imitate
a masterpiece and spoil it.

Human pleasures are like the flittings of sparrows.

A narrow-minded man resembles a frog in a well.

Do not pull up your stockings in a melon-patch, or straighten your hat
in a peach orchard; any one seeing you may think you are stealing.

To talk much and arrive nowhere is the same as climbing a tree to catch
a fish.

One thread does not make a rope.

The tiger does not walk with the hind.

You can neither buy wood in the forest nor fish by the lake.

If a blind man leads another blind man, they will both fall into a

No maker of idols worships the gods; he knows their composition too

A man with a purple nose may be very temperate in drink, only no one
will believe it.

Money makes the blind man see.

We admire our own writings, but other men’s wives.

If you are afraid of being found out, leave it alone.

Bend your neck if the eaves are low.

It’s not the wine that makes a man drunk; it’s the man himself.

A whisper on earth sounds like thunder in heaven.

To get a favor granted is harder than to kill a tiger.

Sweep the snow from your own door.

If there were no error there could be no truth.

A needle never pricks with both ends.

Don’t put two saddles on one horse.

Trust nature rather than a bad doctor.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Japanese offer little that can be quoted. Their comedies are long
and not very funny, their wit is heavy and bitterly satirical.

One specimen is given from _The Land of Dreams_ by Kiokutei Bakin.

                       _ON CLOTHES AND COMFORTS_

However much money you have, you will not keep it long; it will leave
you, just like a traveler who has stayed overnight at an inn. The only
substantial things in life are food and drink. Any little house you
can just crawl into is large enough. The only difference between an
emperor’s palace and a straw hut is in their size and their situation,
one being in town and the other in the country. A single room, with
a mat long enough for you to stretch out your whole body, is quite
sufficient lodging. As for the clothes which you dress your carcass in,
the richest brocades and the commonest sackcloth differ only in being
clean or dirty. After you are dead, no one can tell, from looking at
your naked body, what sort of clothes you wore while alive. If these
facts were to become recognized, our clothes would be patched with any
sort of material or color. Now, however, a man will buy new, expensive
garments which he does not really want, owe the money for them, strut
about in these borrowed plumes, and finally pawn them.

                                            --_The Land of Dreams._


Apologues and stories, now common to all the world, had their origin
in remote antiquity. Eastern narratives were for the most part brought
to Europe orally, but some were later translated from the Oriental

Since at first, Religion and Learning went hand in hand, these stories
were of a moral and instructive nature. Their wit was the wit of
wisdom, the pithiness of graphic representation of truth.

But with the development of the wit of amusement, the rise of ribald
laughter and the supremacy of priests and monks, the stories took on a
mirthful character which may or may not have added to their efficacy as
cautionary teachings.

Humor, then, as now, was founded on the feeling of superiority which
comes from knowledge. The stories were invariably of the discomfiture
of some foolish person, and thereby, either definitely or tacitly
advised against that particular foolishness.

Narrative fiction was entirely in parables or apologues, the latter
term having come to be used exclusively for the tales in which animals
are invested with human traits.

Fables, also, is a term usually restricted to moral lessons taught by
anecdotes of beasts in human conditions.

As usual in the matter of legendary literature various countries
contend for the honor of producing the first fables.

The bestowal of the palm rests between the Hindus and the Hebrews, but
the decision may never be made.

A plausible assumption for the necessity of fables lies in the fact
that it was not the part of wisdom openly to administer reproof or
advice to the Asiatic potentates, wherefore it was done by the device
of speaking through the mouths of the fictitious characters.

And, through the ages, this plan has been found to work with
intractables of less celebrity.

But the question of the origin of these stories is outside our
Outline,--we may merely state that before, during and after the
Crusades, the flood of stories and tales from the Orient into Europe
was continuous.

Which accounts for the fact that among the oldest stories of the
various countries, duplicates are always found, and the ancient jests
of the Far East have raised and will raise appreciative laughter
as they are translated into all European tongues, including the

As religion gave rise to laughter, so religion was the medium for
disseminating mirth.

The preachers of the mediæval ages used many amusing stories in their
sermons and the monks often preserved these, with additions of their
own, in enduring literature.

But literature then was not in the form of circulating libraries, so
the tales traveled from mouth to mouth, gaining sometimes in interest
and sometimes losing charm or worth.

Perhaps about the tenth century translations began to be grouped into
collections, in Europe, and among the first was the Greek version of
the Fables of Pilpay. Soon after came the _Book of Sindibad_,
which would seem to be the original form of the story of Scheherazade.

But in most cases the monks were the go-between.

Their zeal and indefatigability produced masses of material, primarily
designed for the use of preachers, but easily adopted by the laymen.

The _Sermones_ of Jacques de Vitry, Crusader and prelate, and
the _Liber de Donis_ of Etienne de Bourbon are both remarkable
collections that predated and later gave material to the Gesta

As an instance of the ubiquity of stories, it may be mentioned here
that in both the books above noticed, occurs the old tale of the
husband who had two wives, the younger one of whom plucked out all
his gray-white hairs, the older one plucked out all his black hairs,
leaving the poor chap entirely bald. This story is also in the Talmud,
in Chinese Jestbooks and in innumerable others.

So with many of the ancient tales. They come down through the Fabliaux,
Gesta Romanorum, the Heptameron, the Decameron and on to our own dinner
tables, where many of the “latest” are merely rehashed witticisms of
the ancient monks and priests.

Nor are the stories fastened on to celebrities often authentic. Many of
Sydney Smith’s witticisms hark back to the Eastern Tales, most of Joe
Miller’s jests have similar paternity.

Hierocles made a famous collection of old stories translated into
Greek. Others followed rapidly even before the invention of printing.

After that achievement, collections of stories flooded the book mart
even as they do today.

Selections from various collections follow.

Perhaps the oldest collection of tales in the world is that known
as the _Fables of Bidpai or Pilpay_. Both author and date of
production are unknown, but tradition tells us that they were written
in Sanscrit and were the work of one Vishnu Sarma, who wrote them for
the advice and edification of certain princes. The book is enormously
long and though not of humorous intent shows much of the native wit of
the country.


                    _THE GREEDY AND AMBITIOUS CAT_

There was formerly an old Woman in a village, extremely thin,
half-starved, and meager. She lived in a little cottage as dark and
gloomy as a fool’s heart, and withal as close shut up as a miser’s
hand. This miserable creature had for the companion of her wretched
retirements a Cat meager and lean as herself; the poor creature never
saw bread, nor beheld the face of a stranger, and was forced to be
contented with only smelling the mice in their holes, or seeing the
prints of their feet in the dust. If by some extraordinary lucky chance
this miserable animal happened to catch a mouse, she was like a beggar
that discovers a treasure; her visage and her eyes were inflamed
with joy, and that booty served her for a whole week; and out of the
excess of her admiration, and distrust of her own happiness, she would
cry out to herself, “Heavens! Is this a dream, or is it real?” One
day, however, ready to die for hunger, she got upon the ridge of her
enchanted castle, which had long been the mansion of famine for cats,
and spied from thence another Cat, that was stalking upon a neighbour’s
wall like a Lion, walking along as if she had been counting her steps,
and so fat that she could hardly go. The old Woman’s Cat, astonished to
see a creature of her own species so plump and so large, with a loud
voice, cries out to her pursy neighbour, “In the name of pity, speak to
me, thou happiest of the Cat kind! why, you look as if you came from
one of the Khan of Kathai’s feasts; I conjure ye, to tell me how, or
in what region it is that you get your skin so well stuffed?” “Where?”
replied the fat one; “why, where should one feed well but at a King’s
table? I go to the house,” continued she, “every day about dinner-time,
and there I lay my paws upon some delicious morsel or other, which
serves me till the next, and then leave enough for an army of mice,
which under me live in peace and tranquillity; for why should I commit
murder for a piece of tough and skinny mouse flesh, when I can live on
venison at a much easier rate?” The lean Cat, on this, eagerly inquired
the way to this house of plenty, and entreated her plump neighbour to
carry her one day along with her. “Most willingly,” said the fat Puss;
“for thou seest I am naturally charitable, and thou art so lean that
I heartily pity thy condition.” On this promise they parted; and the
lean Cat returned to the old Woman’s chamber, where she told her dame
the story of what had befallen her. The old Woman prudently endeavoured
to dissuade her Cat from prosecuting her design, admonishing her
withal to have a care of being deceived. “For, believe me,” said she,
“the desires of the ambitious are never to be satiated, but when
their mouths are stuffed with the dirt of their graves. Sobriety and
temperance are the only things that truly enrich people. I must tell
thee, poor silly Cat, that they who travel to satisfy their ambition,
have no knowledge of the good things they possess, nor are they truly
thankful to Heaven for what they enjoy, who are not contented with
their fortune.”

The poor starved Cat, however, had conceived so fair an idea of
the King’s table, that the old Woman’s good morals and judicious
remonstrances entered in at one ear and went out at the other; in
short, she departed the next day with the fat Puss to go to the King’s
house; but alas! before she got thither, her destiny had laid a snare
for her. For being a house of good cheer, it was so haunted with cats,
that the servants had, just at this time, orders to kill all the cats
that came near it, by reason of a great robbery committed the night
before in the King’s larder by several grimalkins. The old Woman’s Cat,
however, pushed on by hunger, entered the house, and no sooner saw a
dish of meat unobserved by the cooks, but she made a seizure of it,
and was doing what for many years she had not done before, that is,
heartily filling her belly; but as she was enjoying herself under the
dresser-board, and feeding heartily upon her stolen morsels, one of the
testy officers of the kitchen, missing his breakfast, and seeing where
the poor Cat was solacing herself with it, threw his knife at her with
such an unlucky hand, that he stuck her full in the breast. However, as
it has been the providence of Nature to give his creature nine lives
instead of one, poor Puss made a shift to crawl away, after she had for
some time shammed dead: but, in her flight, observing the blood come
streaming from her wound; “Well,” said she, “let me but escape this
accident, and if ever I quit my old hold and my own mice for all the
rarities in the King’s kitchen, may I lose all my nine lives at once.”

                    _A RAVEN, A FOX, AND A SERPENT_

A Raven had once built her nest for many seasons together in a
convenient cleft of a mountain, but however pleasing the place was to
her, she had always reason enough to resolve to lay there no more; for
every time she hatched, a Serpent came and devoured her young ones.
The Raven complaining to a Fox that was one of her friends, said to
him, “Pray tell me, what would you advise me to do to be rid of this
Serpent?” “What do you think to do?” answered the Fox. “Why, my present
intent is,” replied the Raven, “to go and peck out his eyes when he
is asleep, that so he may no longer find the way to my nest.” The Fox
disapproved this design, and told the Raven, that it became a prudent
person to manage his revenge in such a manner, that no mischief might
befall himself in taking it: “Never run yourself,” says he, “into the
misfortune that once befell the Crane, of which I will tell you the

                     _THE CRANE AND THE CRAY-FISH_

A Crane had once settled her habitation by the side of a broad and deep
lake, and lived upon such fish as she could catch in it; these she got
in plenty enough for many years; but at length being become old and
feeble, she could fish no longer. In this afflicting circumstance she
began to reflect, with sorrow, on the carelessness of her past years;
“I did ill,” said she to herself, “in not making in my youth necessary
provision to support me in my old age; but, as it is, I must now make
the best of a bad market, and use cunning to get a livelihood as I
can”: with this resolution she placed herself by the waterside, and
began to sigh and look mighty melancholy. A Cray-fish, perceiving her
at a distance, accosted her, and asked her why she appeared so sad?
“Alas,” said she, “how can I otherwise choose but grieve, seeing my
daily nourishment is like to be taken from me? for I just now heard
this talk between two fishermen passing this way: said the one to the
other, Here is great store of fish, what think you of clearing this
pond? to whom his companion answered, no; there is more in such a lake:
let us go thither first, and then come hither the day afterwards. This
they will certainly perform; and then,” added the Crane, “I must soon
prepare for death.”

The Cray-fish, on this, went to the fish, and told them what she had
heard: upon which the poor fish, in great perplexity, swam immediately
to the Crane, and addressing themselves to her, told her what they had
heard, and added, “We are now in so great a consternation, that we are
come to desire your protection. Though you are our enemy, yet the wise
tell us, that they who make their enemy their sanctuary, may be assured
of being well received: you know full well that we are your daily food;
and if we are destroyed, you, who are now too old to travel in search
of food, must also perish; we pray you, therefore, for your own sake,
as well as ours, to consider, and tell us what you think is the best
course for us to take.” To which the Crane replied, “That which you
acquaint me with, I heard myself from the mouths of the fishermen; we
have no power sufficient to withstand them; nor do I know any other way
to secure you, but this: it will be many months before they can clear
the other pond they are to go about first: and, in the mean time, I
can at times, and as my strength will permit me, remove you one after
another into a little pond here hard by, where there is very good
water, and where the fishermen can never catch you, by reason of the
extraordinary depth.” The fish approved this counsel, and desired the
Crane to carry them one by one into this pond. Nor did she fail to fish
up three or four every morning, but she carried them no farther than
to the top of a small hill, where she eat them: and thus she feasted
herself for a while.

But one day, the Cray-fish, having a desire to see this delicate pond,
made known her curiosity to the Crane, who, bethinking herself that
the Cray-fish was her most mortal enemy, resolved to get rid of her at
once, and murder her as she had done the rest; with this design she
flung the Cray-fish upon her neck, and flew towards the hill. But when
they came near the place, the Cray-fish, spying at a distance the small
bones of her slaughtered companions, mistrusted the Crane’s intention,
and laying hold of a fair opportunity, got her neck in her claw, and
grasped it so hard, that she fairly saved herself, and strangled the

       *       *       *       *       *

“This example,” says the Fox, “shows you, that crafty tricking people
often become victims to their own cunning.” The Raven, returning
thanks to the Fox for his good advice, said, “I shall not by any means
neglect your wholesome instructions; but what shall I do?” “Why,”
replied the Fox, “you must snatch up something that belongs to some
stout man or other, and let him see what you do, to the end he may
follow you. Which that he may easily do, do you fly slowly; and when
you are just over the Serpent’s hole, let fall the thing that you hold
in your beak or talons whatever it be, for then the person that follows
you, seeing the Serpent come forth, will not fail to knock him on the
head.” The Raven did as the Fox advised him, and by that means was
delivered from the Serpent.

                     _THE MERCHANT AND HIS FRIEND_

A Certain Merchant, said Kalila, pursuing her discourse, had once a
great desire to make a long journey. Now in regard that he was not
very wealthy, it is requisite, said he to himself, that before my
departure I should leave some part of my estate in the city, to the
end that if I meet with ill luck in my travels, I may have wherewithal
to keep me at my return. To this purpose he delivered a great number
of bars of iron, which were a principal part of his wealth, in trust
to one of his friends, desiring him to keep them during his absence;
and then taking his leave, away he went. Some time after, having had
but ill luck in his travels, he returned home; and the first thing he
did was to go to his Friend, and demand his iron: but his Friend, who
owed several sums of money, having sold the iron to pay his own debts,
made him this answer: “Truly friend,” said he, “I put your iron into
a room that was close locked, imagining it would have been there as
secure as my own gold; but an accident has happened which nobody could
have suspected, for there was a rat in the room eat it all up.” The
Merchant, pretending ignorance, replied, “It is a terrible misfortune
to me indeed; but I know of old that rats love iron extremely; I have
suffered by them many times before in the same manner, and therefore
can the better bear my present affliction.” This answer extremely
pleased the Friend, who was glad to hear the Merchant so well inclined
to believe that the rats had eaten his iron; and to remove all
suspicions, desired him to dine with him the next day. The Merchant
promised he would, but in the mean time he met in the middle of the
city one of his Friend’s children; the child he carried home, and
locked up in a room. The next day he went to his Friend, who seemed to
be in great affliction, which he asked him the cause of, as if he had
been perfectly ignorant of what had happened. “Oh, my dear friend,”
answered the other, “I beg you to excuse me, if you do not see me so
cheerful as otherwise I would be; I have lost one of my children; I
have had him cried by sound of trumpet, but I know not what is become
of him.” “Oh!” replied the Merchant, “I am grieved to hear this; for
yesterday in the evening, as I parted from hence, I saw an owl in the
air with a child in his claws; but whether it were yours I cannot
tell.” “Why, you most foolish and absurd creature!” replied the Friend,
“are you not ashamed to tell such an egregious lie? An owl, that weighs
at most not above two or three pounds, can he carry a boy that weighs
above fifty?” “Why,” replied the merchant, “do you make such a wonder
at that? as if in a country where one rat can eat an hundred ton weight
of iron, it were such a wonder for an owl to carry a child that weighs
not above fifty pounds in all.” The Friend, upon this, found that the
Merchant was no such fool as he took him to be, begged his pardon for
the cheat which he designed to have put upon him, restored him the
value of his iron, and so had his son again.

       *       *       *       *       *

Other and very ancient Hindoo stories follow.


On the banks of the Ganges there was once a city named Makandi. And in
a temple, not far from the river, there lived a religious mendicant
with a large number of disciples. He was a great rogue, but to impress
the minds of the credulous people of the neighbourhood, he affected
to be perfectly indifferent to all worldly affairs, and even went so
far as to have taken a vow of perpetual silence. Now, in this city
there resided a wealthy merchant, who believed in the mendicant,
and was one of his devoted followers. The merchant had a beautiful
daughter, who had just come of age, and who, entertaining a tender
feeling for a handsome prince who lived in the neighbourhood, had
begun to communicate with him by means of a confidential servant.
One day the mendicant came on a begging excursion to the house of
the merchant, and his daughter, beautifully dressed, came out with a
silver cup in her hand to give him alms. The beggar as soon as he saw
her forgot his vow of perpetual silence, and exclaimed, “Oh! what a
sight!” but immediately afterwards he was ashamed of the words which
he had uttered, and hastened home to the temple. The merchant, who
had heard these words, thought that there was something unusual in
them, and followed the mendicant to his abode. The latter, on seeing
him, said with tears in his eyes, “Friend, I know that you are greatly
devoted to me, and I grieve to say that a great misfortune will come
upon you. The marks upon the body of your beautiful daughter foretell
the ruin of your family, and the loss of your wealth as soon as she
is married.” These words frightened the merchant almost out of his
wits, and he implored the hypocritical mendicant to tell him if there
were any means of averting the catastrophe. “There is one remedy,” he
replied, “but you will find it hard to practise. You must make a box
with holes in the lid, in the form of a boat, and having administered
a narcotic to your daughter, place her in it, and closing the box, put
it into the Ganges with a lamp burning on it. The waters of the river
will carry her to some distant country, where doubtless she will be
married, but her marriage there will not affect your fortune here.”
Pleased with this apparently disinterested advice, the silly merchant
returned home, and did as he was told. Fortunately, however, for
the girl, her confidential servant heard what was going to be done,
and immediately informed the young prince, the girl’s lover, of the
intentions of her father. At night he accordingly watched by the river,
and as soon as the box was left there he got hold of it, and brought
it home, and taking the sleeping girl out, put into her place a large
and ferocious monkey, and, having closed the lid, sent it back to the
river upon whose broad stream it was floated once more. In the meantime
the mendicant was enjoying golden dreams about the future. Thinking to
secure the girl for himself, he sent some of his disciples to the river
side, and told them to get hold of the box as it came floating down the
stream. He further enjoined them not to pay any attention to anything
they might hear inside the box, but to bring it directly to him as
soon as they found it. On the box being brought, he had it carried to
his cell, and then told his disciples to remain at a distance, and
not to disturb him, as he had to perform some religious ceremonies in
connection with it. The disciples then retired, and the mendicant began
to open the box with the most pleasing anticipations. But alas, the
retribution of sin is often too near. The ferocious monkey, exasperated
by his confinement, jumped out at once, and began to bite, scratch, and
tear the poor mendicant in every way. The latter bawled out as loud as
he could, but his disciples thinking that he was performing religious
ceremonies, or fighting with the devil, did not come to his assistance.
At last he succeeded in opening the door of his room, and got away with
the loss of his nose and an ear. The monkey also bolted through the
door, and disappeared into the jungle. The good people of Nakandi were
much amused with the incident, and drove the mendicant out of the town.
The merchant’s daughter was delighted to find herself with her lover,
while her father, covered with shame, consoled himself with the idea
that she had got a good husband.

                       _ABOUT A WOMAN’S PROMISE_

In the city of Madanpur there reigned a king, named Birbar. In the
same city there lived a trader, called Hermyadutt, who had a daughter,
by name Madansena. One day, in the season of spring, she went with
her female friends to a garden, and when there met a young man, named
Somdatt, the son of the merchant Dharmdatt. This young man fell
violently in love with her at first sight, and involuntarily went up
to her, and, taking hold of her hand, began to say, “If thou wilt not
love me, I shall abandon my life on thy account.” The girl said, “You
must not do so, for in doing this you will commit a great sin.” Somdatt
replied, “Excessive love has pierced my heart. The fear of separation
has burnt up my body. From the pain all my memory and intellect are
lost, and at present, through my excess of love, I have no regard
for virtue or sin. If you will give me a promise, I shall hope to
live.” Madansena said, “On the fifth day from this I am going to be
married, then I shall first meet you, and after that I shall go with my
husband.” Having given this promise, and affirming it by oath, she went

On the fifth day after this she was married, and her husband took her
to his house. After several days her sisters-in-law forcibly took her
to her husband at night, but she would have nothing to do with him;
and, when he wished to embrace her, she jerked him with her hand, and
told the story of her promise to the merchant’s son. Hearing this, her
husband said, “If thou truly wishest to go with him, then go.”

Having thus obtained her husband’s consent, she put on her best clothes
and jewels, and started for the merchant’s house. On her way she met
a thief, who asked her where she was going alone at that midnight
hour so adorned. She replied, “That she was going to meet her lover.”
On hearing this, the thief said, “Who is your protector here?” She
replied, “Kama, the god of love, with his weapons is my protector.”
She then told the whole story to the thief, and said, “Do not spoil my
attire. I promise you that, on my return, I will give you up all my

The thief let her go, and she proceeded to the place where Somdatt was
lying asleep. Awaking him suddenly, he arose bewildered, and asked her
who she was, and why she had come. She replied, “I am the daughter of
the merchant Hermyadutt. Do you not remember that you forcibly took my
hand in the garden, and insisted on my giving you my oath, and I swore,
at your bidding, that I would leave the man I was married to, and come
to you. I have come accordingly; do to me whatever thou pleasest.”

Somdatt asked her if she had told the story to her husband, and she
said that she had told him all, and that he had allowed her to come.
The youth said: “This affair is like jewels without apparel; or food
without clarified butter; or singing out of tune; all these things
are alike. In the same way, dirty garments take away beauty, bad food
saps the strength, a wicked wife takes away life, a bad son ruins the
family. What a woman does not do is of little moment, for she does not
give utterance to the thoughts of her mind; and what is at the tip of
her tongue she does not reveal, and what she does, she does not tell
of. God has created a woman in the world as a wonder.”

After uttering these words, the merchant’s son said: “I will have
nothing to do with the wife of a stranger.” Hearing this, she returned
homeward. On her way she met the thief, and told him the whole story.
He applauded her highly, and let her go, and she went to her husband
and related to him the whole circumstance. Her husband, however,
evinced no affection for her, but said, “The beauty of the cuckoo
consists in its note alone; the beauty of a woman consists in her
fidelity to her husband; the beauty of an ugly man is his knowledge;
the beauty of a devotee is his patient suffering.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Having related so much, the sprite said, “O king! whose is the highest
merit of these three?” Vickram replied: “The thief’s merit is the
greatest.” “How,” asked the sprite? The king answered: “Seeing that her
heart was set on another man, the husband let her go; through fear of
the king, Somdatt let her alone; whereas there was no reason for the
thief leaving her unmolested; therefore the thief is superior.”

                       _OF A QUEER RELATIONSHIP_

There is a city in the south named Dhurumpoor, the king of which was
named Mahabal. Once upon a time another king of the same region led
an army against him, and invested his capital. After much fighting
Mahabal was defeated, and, taking his wife and daughter with him, he
fled by night into the jungle. After travelling several miles the day
broke, and a village came in view. Leaving the queen and princess
seated beneath a tree, he himself went to the village to get something
to eat, and in the meantime a band of Bhils, or hill robbers, came and
surrounded him, and told him to throw down his arms.

The king, on hearing this, commenced discharging arrows at them, and
the Bhils did the same from their side. After fighting for some time,
an arrow struck the king’s forehead with such force that he reeled and
fell, and one of the Bhils came up and cut off his head. When the queen
and the princess saw that the king was dead, they went back into the
jungle weeping and beating their breasts. After going some distance
they became tired and sat down, and began to be troubled with anxiety.

Now, it happened that a king named Chandrasen, together with his
son, while pursuing game, came into that very jungle, and the king,
noticing the footprints of the two women, said to his son, “How have
the footprints of human feet come into this vast forest?” The prince
replied, “These are women’s footprints, a man’s foot is not so small.”
The king said, “Come let us look for them, and if we find them I
will give her whose foot is the largest to thee, and I will take the
other for myself.” Having entered into this mutual compact, they went
forward, and soon perceived the two women seated on the ground. They
were delighted at finding them, and seating them on their horses in the
manner agreed upon, they brought them home. The prince took possession
of the queen, as her feet were the largest, and the king took the
princess, and they were married accordingly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Having related so much the sprite said, “Your majesty, what
relationship will there be between the children of these two?” On
hearing this, the king held his tongue through ignorance, being unable
to describe the relationship.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hierocles’ collection of jests is mostly short anecdotes of pedants who
are shown up as simpletons or noodles.

This principle of humor which is, of course, the rock bottom theory
of the feeling of superiority induced by the discomfiture of the other
man, often pins the jest on the pedant or scholar by way of emphasizing
the point.

Hierocles was an Alexandrian Neoplatonic philosopher who lived in the
Fifth Century A.D.

With authorship of the usual legendary haziness the collection may not
have been made by him at all, but it passes for his work.

The stories themselves came into popular knowledge among the churchmen
of the Middle Ages, and in their existing form probably date about the
ninth century.

As will be seen from the following examples, many of the jests are
still being used as the basis of Twentieth century after dinner stories
and Comic Weekly jokes.

                          JESTS OF HIEROCLES

A scholar meeting a physician, said, _I beg your pardon for never
being sick, though you are one of my best friends_.

       *       *       *       *       *

A scholar wishing to catch a mouse that eats his books, baited and set
a trap, and sat by it to watch.

       *       *       *       *       *

A scholar wishing to teach his horse to eat little, gave him no food at
all; and the horse dying, _How unlucky_, said he; _as soon as I
had taught him to live without food he died_!

       *       *       *       *       *

A scholar meaning to sell a house, carried about a stone of it as a

       *       *       *       *       *

A scholar desiring to see if sleep became him, shut both his eyes, and
went to the mirror.

       *       *       *       *       *

A scholar having bought a house, looked out of the window, and asked
the passengers, _If the house became him_?

       *       *       *       *       *

A scholar dreaming he hit his foot on a nail, felt it pain him when he
waked, and bound it up. Another scholar coming to see him, asked him,
_Why he went to bed without shoes_.

A scholar being told the river had carried off a great part of his
ground, answered, _What shall I say?_

       *       *       *       *       *

A scholar sealed a wine vessel he had, but his man bored the bottom and
stole the liquor. He was astonished at the liquor’s diminishing, though
the seal was entire; and another saying, “Perhaps it is taken out at
the bottom.” The scholar answered, _Most foolish of men, it is not
the under part, but the upper that is deficient_.

       *       *       *       *       *

A scholar meeting a person, said to him, “I heard you were dead.” To
which the other answered, “You see I am alive.” The scholar replied,
_Perhaps so, but he who told me the contrary was a man of much more
credit than you_.

       *       *       *       *       *

A scholar hearing that crows lived two hundred years, bought one,
saying, _I wish to make the experiment_.

       *       *       *       *       *

A scholar being on board a ship in a tempest, when the rest seized upon
different articles to swim ashore on, he laid hold of the anchor.

       *       *       *       *       *

A scholar hearing one of two twins was dead, when he met the other,
asked, _Which of you was it that died? You or your brother?_

       *       *       *       *       *

A scholar coming to a ferry, went into the boat on horseback. Being
asked the reason, he said, _I am in great haste_.

       *       *       *       *       *

A scholar wanting money sold his books, and wrote to his father,
_Rejoice with me, for now my books maintain me_.

       *       *       *       *       *

A scholar sending his son to war, the youth said, “I shall bring
you back an enemy’s head.” To which the scholar replied, _If you
even lose your own head, I shall be happy to see you return in good

       *       *       *       *       *

A scholar in Greece receiving a letter from a friend, desiring him to
buy some books there, neglected the business. But the friend arriving
some time after, the scholar said, _I am sorry I did not receive your
letter about the books_.

       *       *       *       *       *

A scholar, a bald man, and a barber, travelling together, agreed each
to watch four hours at night, in turn, for the sake of security. The
barber’s lot came first, who shaved the scholar’s head when asleep,
then waked him when his turn came. The scholar scratching his head, and
feeling it bald, exclaimed, _You wretch of a barber, you have waked
the bald man instead of me_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Pope Alexander VII. asking the celebrated Greek, Leo Allatius, why he
did not enter into orders? he answered, _Because I desire to have it
in my power to marry if I chuse_. The pope adding, And why do you
not marry? Leo replied, _Because I desire to have it in my power to
enter into orders if I chuse_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Erasmus, himself a Satirist, collected thousands of the jests of the
Greeks and Romans. These more often noted the wit than the witlessness
of the speakers and include all degrees of wit from mere whimsicality
to sharpest satire.

Some of the best ones follow.


A friend asking him how great glory was procured, Agesilaus answered,
_By contempt of death_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Being asked the boundaries of the Spartan state, he answered, _The
points of our spears_.

       *       *       *       *       *

One asking him why Sparta had no walls, he shewed him armed citizens,
saying, _These are the walls of Sparta_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Being very fond of his children, he would sometimes ride about on a
cane among them. A friend catching him at this sport, Agesilaus said,
_Tell nobody till you are yourself a father_.

King Demaratus being asked in company whether he was silent through
folly, or wisdom, answered, _A fool cannot be silent_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Cleomenes the son of Cleombrotus, when presented with some game-cocks,
by a person who, enhancing the gift, said they were of a breed who
would die before they yielded; answered, _Give me rather some of the
breed that kill them_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Pausanias, when a physician told him “You look well,” answered, _Yes,
you are not my physician_.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the same was blamed by a friend, for speaking ill of a physician,
whom he had never tried, he replied, _If I had tried him, I should
not have lived to speak ill of him_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Charillus, being angry with his slave, said to him, _Were I not in a
passion, I would kill thee_.

       *       *       *       *       *

A dancer saying to a Spartan, “You cannot stand so long on one leg as I
can.” _True_, answered the Spartan, _but any goose can_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another Spartan mother giving her son his shield, when going to battle,
said _Son, either this, or upon this_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another to her son who complained that his sword was short, said _Do
you add a step to it_.

       *       *       *       *       *

One objecting to him his luxurious feeding, he showed him some
dear-bought dish, and said, “Would not you buy this, if it were sold
for a penny?” “Surely,” said the other. _Then_, said Aristippus,
_I only give to luxury what you give to avarice_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Diogenes the Cynic, being in the house of Plato, strode over the
carpets with his dirty feet, saying _I trample the pride of
Plato_. _True_, said Plato, _but with a greater pride_.

Seeing a very unskilful archer shoot, he seated himself by the mark.
The reason was _That he may not hit me_.

Going to the town of Myndus, and seeing the gates very large, and the
town small, he called out _Men of Myndus! shut your gates least the
town should escape_.

Being asked of what beast the bite is most dangerous, he answered _Of
wild beasts, that of a slanderer: of tame, that of a flatterer_.

Entering a dirty bath he said _Where are those washed who wash

Being asked what wine he liked best, he said _Another’s_.

Crates the Cynic of Thebes, being asked a remedy for love, said
_Hunger is one remedy. Time is a better. The best is a rope_.

Theophrastus to one who was silent in company said _If you are a fool
you do wisely! if you are wise you do foolishly_.

Empedocles saying to Xenophanes the philosopher “That a wise man could
not be found.” _True_, answered Xenophanes, _for it must be a
wise man who knows him_.

Archelaus, to a prating barber, who asked how he would please to be
shaved? answered, _In silence_.

One asking Demosthenes what is the first point in eloquence, he
answered, _Acting_. And the second? _Acting._ And the third?
_Acting still._

An Athenian who wanted eloquence, but was very brave, when another had,
in a long and brilliant speech, promised great affairs, got up and
said, _Men of Athens, all that he has said, I will do_.

Zeuxis entered into a contest of art with Parrhasius. The former
painted grapes so truly that birds came and pecked at them. The latter
delineated a cloth so exactly, that Zeuxis coming in, said, “Take away
the cloth that we may see this piece.” And finding his error, said,
_Parrhasius, thou hast conquered. I deceived but birds, thou an

Zeuxis painted a boy carrying grapes: the birds came again and pecked.
Some applauding, Zeuxis flew to the picture in a passion, saying, _My
boy must be very ill painted_.

Gnathena the courtesan, when a very small bottle of wine was brought
in, with the praise that it was very old, answered, _It is very
little for its age_.

Philip of Macedon, sitting in judgment after dinner, an old woman
receiving an unjust sentence, exclaimed, “I appeal.” “To whom!” said
Philip. _To Philip, when sober_, answered the matron. The king
took the lesson.


A soldier boasting of a scar in his face, from a wound in battle,
Augustus said, _Yes, you will look back when you run away_.

Fabia Dollabella saying, she was thirty years of age; Cicero answered,
_It must be true, for I have heard it these twenty years_.

Seeing Lentulus, his son-in-law, a man of very small stature, walking
up, with a long sword at his side, he called out, _Who has tied my
son-in-law to that sword?_

One finding his shoes eaten with mice, in the morning when he rose,
asked Cato, in great agitation, the meaning of the portent; who
answered, _It is no prodigy that mice should eat shoes! had the shoes
eaten the mice, it would have been indeed a prodigy_.

When Brutus was dissuaded from his last battle, as the jeopardy was
great, he only said, _To-day all will be well, or I shall not

       *       *       *       *       *

A large bull being produced in the amphitheatre, the hunter struck
ten times, and missed. Gallienus, the emperor, who was present, sent
the hunter a wreath: and all wondering, he said, _It is extremely
difficult to miss such a mark so often_.

       *       *       *       *       *

One saying, that in Sicily he had bought a lamprey five feet long, for
a trifle; Galba, the orator, to reprove the lye, said, _No wonder.
They are found there so long, that the fishers constantly use them for

       *       *       *       *       *

Scipio Nasica going to visit Ennius the poet, was told by his
maid-servant, that he was not at home, though he knew he was. A few
days after Ennius came to see Nasica, who hearing his voice, called
out, that he was not within. Then said Ennius, “What! Do not I hear
your voice?” To which Nasica replied, _You are an impudent fellow. I
believed your maid! and you will not believe myself_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sulpitius Galba the orator, pretended to sleep once, while Mecenas made
love to his wife, but seeing, at the same time, a slave stealing wine
from the side-board, he cried, _Friend, I do not sleep for all_.

       *       *       *       *       *

From the collection of Poggio we get other Italian stories.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some clowns going to Arezzo, to buy a crucifix for their church, the
carver seeing them very stupid, said, Do you want a living or a dead
crucifix? They requiring time to consider: after much deliberation,
returned, saying, _Make us a living one! for if our neighbours be not
pleased with that, we can easily kill it_.

       *       *       *       *       *

An inhabitant of a maritime town, looking out at a window, and seeing
the ocean in a violent storm, and many vessels tossing about, said to
a friend who was with him, “I wonder so many people go to sea, when so
many die there.” _Do not you wonder_, answered the friend, _why
so many people go to bed, when so many die there?_

       *       *       *       *       *

Bardella da Mantoua, being led to execution, a priest, who was with
him, said, “Be of good cheer, for to-night you will sup with the Virgin
Mary, and with the apostles.” Bardella answered, _It will be a favour
if you will go for me, for this is a fast-day with me_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Marcello da Scopeto, consulting Coccheto da Trievi, the physician, he
wrote a receipt, and said, “Here, take this at three times; one every
morning.” Marcello cut the paper in three; and made a shift to swallow
it in three mornings.

       *       *       *       *       *

Tosetto one day putting the physician Zerboico in a violent passion; he
said, “Peace, rogue. Do not I know that your father was a bricklayer?”
Tosetto answered, _Nobody knew this, save your father, who used to
carry him lime_.

       *       *       *       *       *

The following are from _Il Cortegiano_, by Castiglione.

       *       *       *       *       *

An Italian Doctor of Law, seeing a criminal, who was whipped, walking
very slowly during the operation, asked him why he did not hasten,
that he might have fewer stripes; adding many arguments to shew that
the slower he went, the more he must suffer. To which, the criminal,
standing still, and looking him full in the face, replied with great
gravity, _When you are whipped through the streets, walk as you
please, and pray allow me to enjoy the same liberty_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Duke Frederic of Modena, having built a palace, was at a loss what to
do with the rubbish. An abbot, standing by, told him to cause a pit
to be digged large enough to contain it. “And what,” said Frederic,
laughing, “shall I do with the earth which is dug out of the pit?” To
which the abbot, with great wisdom, replied, _Make the pit so large
as to hold all_.

Ponzio of Sila seeing a rustic who had two capons to sell, and agreeing
on the price, begged him also to carry them to his lodging, where he
was going, and he would pay him for his pains. Ponzio led him to a
round bell-tower, separate from the church, near which was an alley:
when standing still, Ponzio said, “I have wagered a couple of capons
with a friend, that this bell-tower is not forty feet round, and have
got a packthread here that we may try it.” So drawing the thread
from his pocket, he gave one end to the rustic; bidding him hold it,
while he went round. But when Ponzio came to the other side of the
bell-tower, where the alley was, he fixed the thread with a nail, and
ran down the alley with the capons. The peasant after long standing and
bawling, went round, and had the nail and packthread for his capons and

       *       *       *       *       *

Not every tongue offers us collections to be translated, nor are all
those that are available yet translated, but we may give a few of
Spanish origin, taken from the collection of Melchior de Santa Cruz
which are the flowers of Spanish Apothegms and wise or witty sayings.

Like jesters of all other nations the Spaniards saw fit to heap
sarcasms on the medical profession.

We can only assume that in those days doctors had not reached the
heights of sapience they have since attained.

And also, we must remember that it was the custom for the unlearned to
poke fun at the scholars, hence all professions felt the satiric lash.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the table of Pope Alexander the sixth, the company debated one
day, if it were advantageous to a state to have physicians in it? The
greater part held not; and alleged, as a reason, that Rome had passed
her first, and best, six hundred years without them. But the pope
said, he was not of that opinion, _for were there no physicians,
the multitude of mankind would be so great, that the world could not
contain them_.

       *       *       *       *       *

A Biscayan clergyman, a follower of the cardinal Don Pedro Gonzales de
Mendoza, pulled one day a pistol out of his pocket. The cardinal saw
him, and reproved him, saying, “That it was indecent for a clergyman
to carry arms.” The Biscayan answered, “Most reverend lord, I do not
carry arms to hurt any man, but to defend myself against the dogs of
this country, which are remarkable for fierceness.” The cardinal said,
“I can tell you a charm against dogs. You need only repeat any verse
of the gospel of St. John.” The Biscayan replied, _Yes, my lord,
but that does not apply in every case, for many of our dogs do not
understand Latin_.

       *       *       *       *       *

The same cardinal said of the monks, who, by shaving the top and under
part of the head, form a crown of hair around, that they had crowns
which the most ambitious would not envy.

       *       *       *       *       *

A bishop sent a present of six capons to brother Bernaldino Palomo, but
the servant who carried them stole one. _Tell his lordship_, said
Palomo, _that I kiss his hands for the five capons.--Do you kiss his
hands for the other_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Juan de Ayala, lord of the town of Cabolla, slew a crane. His cook,
when he dressed it, gave a leg to his mistress. When it was served up,
Juan said, Where is the other leg? The cook answered, Cranes have but
one leg. The day following, Juan took his cook to the chace with him,
and perceiving a flock of cranes, which, as usual with that bird, all
stood upon one leg, the cook said, Your worship sees the truth of what
I said. Juan riding up to the birds called, _Ox, Ox, Ox_. The
cranes being startled, put down the other leg: and Juan said, See, you
knave, have they two legs or one? The cook answered, _Body of me,
sir, had you called Ox, Ox, to the one you dined on yesterday it would
have produced its other leg too_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Perico de Ayala, the buffoon of the Marquis de Villena, came to see
Don Frances, the buffoon of Charles V. when he lay on his death bed.
Perico seeing him in so bad a way, said, Brother Don Frances, I request
you, by the great friendship which always was between us, that when you
go to heaven (which I believe must be very soon, since you lived so
pious a life), you will beseech God to have mercy on my soul. Frances
answered, _Tie a thread on this finger, that I may not forget it_.
These were his last words; and he instantly expired.

       *       *       *       *       *

The servants of a Spanish lord said, in his presence, that Don Diego
Deza, archbishop of Seville, was very liberal to his domestics. The
lord answered, So he may, for he has his wealth but for his life. A
page replied, _And for how many lives has your lordship yours?_

       *       *       *       *       *

Some thieves trying one night to break into a shop, in which two
servant men lay; one of them called to the robbers. _Come back when
we are asleep._

       *       *       *       *       *

A rich man sent to call a physician for a slight disorder he had
suffered the preceding night. The physician felt his pulse, and said,
Sir, do you eat well? Yes, said the patient. Do you sleep well? I do.
_Then_, said the physician, _I shall give you something to take
away all that_.

       *       *       *       *       *

A labourer intending to bind his son apprentice to a butcher, asked a
gentleman of the village, his friend, to whom he should put him. The
answer was, _You had best bind him to the physician, for he is the
best butcher I know_.

       *       *       *       *       *

A physician went to visit a young lady, daughter of a nobleman.
Desiring her arm, to feel her pulse, the damsel, from pride, covered
the place with the sleeve of her shift. The physician also drew down
his coat sleeve, and applying it, said, _A linen pulse must have a
woollen physician_.

       *       *       *       *       *

A bad painter, who had never produced any thing worth, went to another
place, and commenced physician. A person who knew him, meeting him
there, asked the reason of this change. _Because_ said he, _if I
now commit faults, the earth covers them_.

To a student of a college was brought a large dish of soup, and only
one pea in it. He rose, and began to strip. His companion asking what
was the matter, he answered, _I am going to swim after that pea_.

       *       *       *       *       *

The effects of a merchant, who was greatly in debt, being on sale, one
bought a pillow, saying, _That it must be good to sleep on, since he
could sleep on it, who owed so much_.

       *       *       *       *       *

The same merchant being asked, how he could sleep with such debts upon
him? said, _The wonder is, how my creditors could sleep_.

       *       *       *       *       *

A Gallician, being at the war of Granada, received a wound in the head
with an arrow. The surgeon arriving, said, upon examination, You are a
dead man, the arrow has pierced your brain. The Gallician said, Look
again, for that is impossible. The surgeon replied, It is so; I see it
plain. _It cannot be_, said the Gallician: _for if I had any
brain, I should not have been here_.

       *       *       *       *       *

A man went to borrow an ass of a neighbour, who said the ass was from
home. Meanwhile the animal chanced to bray: upon which the borrower
exclaimed, How! did you not tell me the ass was abroad? The other
replied, in a passion, _Will you prefer the ass’s word to mine?_

       *       *       *       *       *

A passenger going to Peru, a great storm arose; and the master of the
vessel ordered, that the most burdensome articles that every one had
should be thrown into the sea, to lighten the vessel. Upon which this
passenger ran and brought up his wife, saying, _That she was the most
burdensome article he had_.

       *       *       *       *       *

A squire being asked, why he had married a deaf wife? said, _In hopes
she was also dumb_.

       *       *       *       *       *

The German nation made small pretence to wit or humor. What we have of
their early efforts is either gross or stupid.

A few specimens taken from their mediæval Jest collections will quickly
prove this.

       *       *       *       *       *

A malicious woman often beat her husband; being reproved for it, and
told that her husband was her head, she answered, _May not I beat my
own head as I please?_

       *       *       *       *       *

Some Dutchmen conversing in a bookseller’s shop at Leyden, an unknown
German came in, upon which one of them exclaimed, “Why is Saul among
the prophets?” The German retorted: _He is seeking his father’s

       *       *       *       *       *

A very ignorant priest saying mass, saw on the margin of his book,
_Salta per tria_ (skip three); meaning that he should find the
rest of the office three leaves further on; upon which he leaped three
steps forwards from the altar. The clowns about him, thinking he had
suddenly gone mad, took and bound him, and carried him home.

       *       *       *       *       *

One being asked, what made him bald? said, _My hair_.

       *       *       *       *       *

A lady asking that celebrated general, prince Maurice, who was the
first captain of the age? he answered, _The marquis of Spinola is the
second_. He thereby gave to understand, that he knew himself to be
the first; but did not chuse either to say so, or tell a falsehood.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two ladies of high rank, disputing the precedence in a procession, the
Emperor, Charles V. desired they would make him their arbiter. Having
heard the reasons on both sides, he found no other way to end the
difference, than by ordering that the most foolish should go first.
After which there were as many disputes who should go last; till they
agreed, that each should be foolish in her turn.

       *       *       *       *       *

Charles V. going to see the new cloister of the Dominicans at Vienna,
overtook a peasant, who was carrying a sucking pig, and whose cries
were so disagreeable to the emperor, that, after many expressions of
impatience, he said to the peasant, “My friend, do not you know how
to silence a sucking pig?” The poor man said modestly, that he really
did not, and should be happy to learn. “Take it by the tail,” said
the Emperor. The peasant finding this succeed upon trial, turned to
the Emperor, and said, _Faith, friend, you must have been longer at
the trade than me, for you understand it better_. An answer which
furnished repeated laughter to Charles and his court.


Collections of Mediæval Epigrams are both numerous and lengthy and
not infrequently their comparative value depends largely on the
translator’s learning or talent.

For instance a distich of Plato’s is thus translated by Coleridge,

                      _THE THIEF AND THE SUICIDE_

    Jack, finding gold, left a rope on the ground;
    Bill, missing his gold, used the rope which he found.

and is thus rendered by Shelley,

    A man was about to hang himself,
    Finding a purse, then threw away his rope;
    The owner, coming to reclaim his pelf,
    The halter found and used it. So is Hope
    Changed for Despair--one laid upon the shelf,
    We take the other. Under heaven’s high cope
    Fortune is God--all you endure and do
    Depends on circumstance as much as you.

But the modernization is not just now our pursuit, so the epigrams
will be given in something approaching chronological order and the
translator’s name mentioned when known.


                       _THE MISER AND THE MOUSE_

    “Thou little rogue, what brings thee to my house?”
    Said a starv’d miser to a straggling mouse.
    “Friend,” quoth the mouse, “thou hast no cause to fear;
    I only _lodge_ with thee, I _eat_ elsewhere.”


                           _A MISER’S DREAM_

    Flint dream’d he gave a feast, ’twas regal fare,
    And hang’d himself in ’s sleep in sheer despair.


                        _THE GREAT CONTENTION_

    Three dwarfs contended by a state decree,
    Which was the least and lightest of the three.
    First, Hermon came, and his vast skill to try,
    With thread in hand leap’d through a needle’s eye.
    Forth from a crevice Demas then advanc’d
    And on a spider’s web securely danc’d.
    What feat show’d Sospiter in this high quarrel?--
    No eyes could see him, and he won the laurel.

                            UNKNOWN AUTHOR

                       _ON LATE-ACQUIRED WEALTH_

    Poor in my youth, and in life’s later scenes
      Rich to no end, I curse my natal hour,
    Who nought enjoy’d while young, denied the means;
      And nought when old enjoy’d, denied the power.

                       _A VOICE FROM THE GRAVE_

    Phido nor hand nor touch to me applied;
    Fever’d, I thought but of his name--and died.


    My Fair says, she no spouse but me
    Would wed, though Jove himself were he.
      She says it: but I deem
    That what the fair to lovers swear
    Should be inscribed upon the air,
      Or in the running stream.


                           _ON HIS OWN LOVE_

    That I love thee, and yet that I hate thee, I feel;
      Impatient, thou bid’st me my reasons explain:
    I tell thee, nor more for my life can reveal,
      That I love thee, and hate thee--and tell it with pain.

                       ALY BEN AHMED BEN MANSOUR


    Poor Cassim! thou art doom’d to mourn
      By destiny’s decree;
    Whatever happen it must turn
      To misery for thee.
    Two sons hadst thou, the one thy pride,
      The other was thy pest;
    Ah, why did cruel death decide
      To snatch away the best?
    No wonder thou should’st droop with woe,
      Of such a child bereft;
    But now thy tears must doubly flow,
      For ah!--the other’s left.

                       THE KHALIPH RADHI BILLAH

                   _TO A LADY UPON SEEING HER BLUSH_

    Leila! whene’er I gaze on thee
    My alter’d cheek turns pale,
    While upon thine, sweet maid, I see
      A deep’ning blush prevail.
    Leila, shall I the cause impart
      Why such a change takes place?
    The crimson stream deserts my heart,
      To mantle on thy face.

                            JANUS PANNONIUS

                             _ON AURISPA_

    Aurispa nothing writes though learn’d, for he
    By a wise silence seems more learn’d to be.

                          ACTIUS SANNAZARIUS

                             _ON AUFIDIUS_

    A hum’rous fellow in a tavern late,
    Being drunk and valiant, gets a broken pate;
    The surgeon with his instruments and skill,
    Searches his skull, deeper and deeper still,
    To feel his brains, and try if they were sound;
    And, as he keeps ado about the wound,
    The fellow cries--Good surgeon, spare your pains,
    When I began this brawl I had no brains.

                            EURICIUS CORDUS

                            _TO PHILOMUSUS_

    If only when they’re dead, you poets praise,
    I own I’d rather have your blame always.

                       _THE DOCTOR’S APPEARANCE_

    Three faces wears the doctor; when first sought
    An angel’s--and a god’s the cure half wrought:
    But when, that cure complete, he seeks his fee,
    The devil looks then less terrible than he.

                          GEORGIUS BUCHANANUS

                              _TO ZOILUS_

    With industry I spread your praise,
    With equal, you my censure blaze;
    But, Zoilus, all in vain we do--
    The world nor credits me nor you.

                             _ON LEONORA_

          There’s a lie on thy cheek in its roses,
            A lie echoed back by thy glass.
          Thy necklace on greenhorns imposes,
            And the ring on thy finger is brass.
    Yet thy tongue, I affirm, without giving an inch back,
    Outdoes the sham jewels, rouge, mirror, and pinchbeck.

                           JOHANNES SECUNDUS


    Your wife’s possest of such a face and mind,
    So charming that, and this so soft and kind,
    So smooth her forehead, and her voice so sweet,
    Her words so tender and her dress so neat;
    That would kind Jove, whence man all good derives,
    In wondrous bounty send me three such wives,
    Dear happy husband, take it on my word,
    To Pluto I’d give two, to take the third.

                            THEODORUS BEZA

    In age, youth, and manhood, three wives have I tried,
    Whose qualities rare all my wants have supplied.
    The first, goaded on by the ardour of youth,
    I woo’d for the sake of her person, forsooth:
    The second I took for the sake of her purse;
    And the third--for what reason? I wanted a nurse.

                             PAULUS THOMAS

                              _ON CELSUS_

    With self love Celsus burns: is he not blest?
    For thus without a rival he may rest.

                         STEPHANUS PASCHASIUS

                            _MARRIED LIFE_

    No day, no hour, no moment, is my house
    Free from the clamour of my scolding spouse!
    My servants all are rogues; and so am I,
    Unless, for quiet’s sake, I join the cry.
    I aim, in all her freaks, my wife to please;
    I wage domestic war, in hopes of ease.
    I vain the hopes! and my fond bosom bleeds,
    To feel how soon to peace mad strife succeeds:
    To find, with servants jarring, or my wife,
    The worst of lawsuits is a married life.

                           JOHANNES AUDŒMUS

                       _TO A FRIEND IN DISTRESS_

    I wish thy lot, now bad, still worse, my friend;
    For when at worst, they say, things always mend.

                         _ADVICE TO PONTICUS_

    Thou nothing giv’st, but dying wilt: then die:
    He giveth twice, who giveth speedily.

                         BALTHASAR BONIFACIUS

                           _DANGEROUS LOVE_

    All whom I love die young; Zoilus, I’ll try,
    Tho’ loath’d, to love thee--that thou too may’st die.

From Bhartrihari, an Indian philosopher who flourished about the ninth
century, we select the following cynical paragraphs.

       *       *       *       *       *

I believed that one woman was devoted to me, but she is now attracted
by another man, and another man takes pleasure in her, while a second
woman interests herself in me. Curses on them both, and on the god of
love, and on the other woman, and on myself.

       *       *       *       *       *

The fundamentally ignorant man is easily led, and the wise man still
more easily; but not even the Almighty Himself can exercise any
influence on the smatterer.

       *       *       *       *       *

A man may tear the pearl from between the teeth of the crocodile; he
may steer his ship over the roughest seas; he may twine a serpent round
his brow like a laurel; but he cannot convince a foolish and stubborn

       *       *       *       *       *

A man may squeeze oil from sand; he may slake his thirst from the well
in a mirage; he may even obtain possession of a hare’s horn; but he
cannot convince a foolish and stubborn opponent.

       *       *       *       *       *

A dog will eat with delight the most noisome and decaying bones, and
will pay no attention even if the ruler of the gods stands before
him--and in like manner a mean man takes no heed of the worthlessness
of his belongings.

       *       *       *       *       *

Our nobility of birth may pass away; our virtues may fall into decay:
our moral character may perish as if thrown over a precipice: our
family may be burnt to ashes, and a thunderbolt may dash away our power
like an enemy: let us keep a firm grip on our money, for without this
the whole assembly of virtues are but as blades of glass.

       *       *       *       *       *

Let a man be wealthy, and he shall be quite wise, learned in the sacred
writings and of good birth; virtuous, handsome and eloquent. Gold
attracts all the virtues to itself.

The same portion of the sky that forms a circle round the moon by night
also forms a circle round the sun by day How great is the labour of

       *       *       *       *       *

A sour heart; a face hardened with inward pride and a nature as
difficult to penetrate as the narrowest of mountain passes--these
things are known to be characteristic of women: their mind is known
by the wise to be as changeable as the drop of dew on the lotus leaf.
Faults develop in a woman as she grows up, exactly as poisonous
branches sprout from the creeper.

       *       *       *       *       *

The beautiful features of a woman are praised by the poets--her breasts
are compared to pots of gold: her face to the shining moon, and her
hips to the forehead of an elephant: nevertheless the beauty of a woman
merits no praise.

       *       *       *       *       *

From _The Baharistan_, the work of Jami, a Persian poet and

       *       *       *       *       *

Bahlúl being asked to count the fools of Basrah, replied: “They are
without the confines of computation. If you ask me, I will count the
wise men, for they are no more than a limited few.”

       *       *       *       *       *

A learned man being annoyed while writing a letter to one of his
confidential friends, at the conduct of a person who, seated at his
side, glanced out of the corner of his eye at his writing, wrote: “Had
not a hireling thief been seated at my side and engaged in reading my
letter I should have written to thee all my secrets.” The man said:
“By God, my lord, I have neither read nor even looked at thy letter.”
“Fool!” exclaimed the other; “how then canst thou say what thou now

A mendicant once coming to beg something at the door of a house, the
master of it called out to him from the interior: “Pray excuse me: the
women of the house are not here.” The beggar retorted: “I wish for a
morsel of bread, not to embrace the women of the house.”

       *       *       *       *       *

A certain person made a claim of ten dirams on Júhí. The judge
enquired: “Hast thou any testimony to offer?” On the answer being in
the negative he continued: “Shall I put him on his oath?” “Of what
value is _his_ oath?” said the man in reply. “O judge of the
Faithful,” then proposed Júhí in his turn, “there lives in my quarter
of the town an Imám, temperate, truthful and beneficent, send for him
and put him on his oath instead of me, that this man’s mind may be

       *       *       *       *       *

    A poet read me once a wretched ode--
    Verse of the kind where “alif” finds no place.
    I said the kind of verse that _thou_ should’st make,
    Is that in which _no_ letter we could trace.

       *       *       *       *       *

Jáhiz relates: “I never experienced so much shame as this event
occasioned me. One day a woman took my hand and led me to the shop of
a master metal founder, saying to him: ‘Be it thus formed.’ I being
puzzled to know what this conduct signified, questioned the master, who
in reply said: ‘She had ordered me to make her a figure in the form
of Satan. When I told her that I did not know in what semblance to
make it, she brought thee, as thou knowest, and said: ‘Make it in this

       *       *       *       *       *

The same learned man, too, gives us this relation: “As I was once
standing in the street, in conversation with a friend, a woman came and
standing opposite me, gazed in my face. When her staring had exceeded
all bounds, I said to my slave: ‘Go to that woman and ask her what she
seeks.’ The slave returning to me thus reported her answer: ‘I wished
to inflict some punishment on my eyes which had committed a great
fault, and could find none more severe for them than the sight of thy
ugly face.’”

A person who perceived an ugly man asking pardon for his sins, and
praying for deliverance from the fire of hell, said to him: “Wherefore,
O friend, with such a countenance as thou hast, would’st thou cheat
hell, and give such a face reluctantly to the fire?”

       *       *       *       *       *

An assembly of people being seated together, and engaged in discussing
the merits and defects of men, one of them observed: “Whoever has not
two seeing eyes is but half a man; and whoever has not in his house a
beautiful bride is but half a man; finally he who cannot swim in the
sea is but half a man.” A blind man in the company who had no wife, and
could not swim, called out to him: “O my dear friend, thou hast laid
down an extraordinary principle, and cast me so far out of the circle
of manhood, that still half a man is required before I can take the
name of one who is no man.”

       *       *       *       *       *

A Beduin having lost a camel, made an oath that when he found it he
would sell it for one diram. When however he found it, repenting of
his oath, he tied a cat to its neck, and called out: “Who will buy
the camel for one diram and the cat for a hundred dirams; but both
together, as I will not part them.” “How cheap,” said a person who had
arrived there, “would be this camel, had it not this collar attached to
its neck!”

       *       *       *       *       *

A Beduin who had lost a camel, proclaimed: “Whoever brings me my camel
shall have two camels as a reward.” “Out, man!” said they to him; “what
kind of business is this? Is the whole ass load of less value than
a small additional bundle laid upon it?” “You have this excuse for
your words,” replied he, “that you have never tasted the pleasure of
finding, and the sweetness of recovering what has been lost.”

       *       *       *       *       *

A Khalíf was partaking of food with an Arab from the desert. During
the repast as his glance fell upon the Arab’s portion he saw in it a
hair, and said: “O Arab, take that hair out of thy food.” The Arab
exclaimed: “It is impossible to eat at the table of one who looks so at
his guest’s portion as to perceive a hair in it.” Then withdrawing his
hand he swore never again to partake of food at his table.

       *       *       *       *       *

A weaver left a deposit in the house of a learned man. After a few
days had elapsed, finding some necessity for it, he paid him a visit
and found him seated at the door of his house giving instruction to a
number of pupils who were standing in a row before him. “O Professor,”
said the man, “I am in want of the deposit which I left.” “Be seated
a moment,” replied the other, “until I have finished the lesson.” The
weaver sat down, but the lesson lasted a long time and he was pressed
for time. Now that learned man had a habit when giving lessons, of
wagging his head, and the weaver seeing this, and fancying that to
give a lesson was merely to wag the head, said: “Rise up, O Professor,
and make me thy deputy till thy return: let me wag my head in place
of thee, and do thou bring out my deposit, for I am in a hurry.” The
learned man, hearing this, laughed and said:

       *       *       *       *       *

    In public halls the city jurist boasts
      That all, obscure or clear, to him is known;
    But if thou ask him aught, his answer mark:--
      A gesture with the hand or head alone.

       *       *       *       *       *

From a collection called _The Pleasantries of Cogia Nasr Eddin
Effendi_, the typical noodle of the Turks.

Cogia Effendi one day went into a garden, pulled up some carrots and
turnips and other kinds of vegetables, which he found, putting some
into a sack and some into his bosom; suddenly the gardener coming up,
laid hold of him, and said, “What are you seeking here?” The Cogia,
being in great consternation, not finding any other reply, answered,
“For some days past a great wind has been blowing, and that wind blew
me hither.” “But who pulled up these vegetables,” said the gardener?
“As the wind blew very violently,” replied the Cogia, “it cast me here
and there, and whatever I laid hold of in the hope of saving myself
remained in my hands.” “Ah,” said the gardener, “but who filled the
sack with them?” “Well,” said the Cogia, “that is the very question I
was about to ask myself when you came up.”

       *       *       *       *       *

One day Cogia Nasr Eddin Effendi said, “O Mussulmen, give thanks to God
Most High that He did not give the camel wings; for, had He given them,
they would have perched upon your houses and chimneys, and have caused
them to tumble upon your heads.”

       *       *       *       *       *

One day the, Cogia saw a great many ducks playing on the top of a
fountain. The Cogia, running towards them, said, “I’ll catch you”;
whereupon they all rose up and took to flight. The Cogia, taking a
little bread in his hand, sat down on the side of the fountain, and
crumbling the bread in the fountain, fell to eating. A person coming
up, said, “What are you eating?” “Duck broth,” replied the Cogia.

       *       *       *       *       *

One day the Cogia went with Cheragh Ahmed to the den of a wolf, in
order to see the cubs. Said the Cogia to Ahmed: “Do you go in.” Ahmed
did so. The old wolf was abroad, but presently returning, tried to get
into the cave to its young. When it was about half way in the Cogia
seized hard hold of it by the tail. The wolf in its struggles cast a
quantity of dust into the eyes of Ahmed. “Hallo, Cogia,” he cried,
“What does this dust mean.” “If the wolf’s tail breaks,” said the
Cogia, “You’ll soon see what the dust means.”

       *       *       *       *       *

One day a thief got into the Cogia’s house. Cries his wife, “O Cogia,
there is a thief in the house.” “Don’t make any disturbance,” says the
Cogia. “I wish to God that he may find something, so that I may take it
from him.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Cogia Effendi, every time he returned to his house, was in the habit
of bringing a piece of liver, which his wife always gave to a common
woman, placing before the Cogia leavened patties to eat when he came
home in the evening. One day the Cogia said, “O wife, every day I bring
home a liver: where do they all go to?” “The cat runs away with all
of them,” replied the wife. Therefore the Cogia getting up, put his
hatchet in the trunk and locked it up. Says his wife to the Cogia,
“For fear of whom do you lock up the hatchet?” “For fear of the cat,”
replied the Cogia. “What should the cat do with the hatchet?” said the
wife. “Why,” replied the Cogia, “as he takes a fancy to the liver,
which costs two aspres, is it not likely that he will take a fancy to
the hatchet, which costs four?”

       *       *       *       *       *

One day the Cogia, being out on a journey, encamped along with a
caravan, and tied up his horse along with the others. When it was
morning the Cogia could not find his horse amongst the rest, not
knowing how to distinguish it; forthwith taking a bow and arrow in his
hand, he said, “Men, men, I have lost my horse.” Every one laughing,
took his own horse; and the Cogia looking, saw a horse which he
instantly knew to be his own. Forthwith placing his right foot in the
stirrup, he mounted the horse, so that his face looked to the horse’s
tail. “O Cogia,” said they, “why do you mount the horse the wrong way?”
“It is not my fault,” said he, “but the horse’s, for the horse is

       *       *       *       *       *

One day as the Cogia was travelling in the Derbend he met a shepherd.
Said the shepherd to the Cogia. “Art thou a faquir?” “Yes,” said the
Cogia. Said the shepherd, “See these seven men who are lying here, they
were men like you whom I killed because they could not answer questions
which I asked. Now, in the first place let us come to an understanding;
if you can answer my questions let us hold discourse, if not, let us
say nothing.” Says the Cogia, “What may your questions be?” Said the
shepherd, “The moon, when it is new, is small, afterwards it increases,
until it looks like a wheel; after the fifteenth, it diminishes, and
does not remain; then again, there is a little one, of the size of
Hilal, which does remain. Now what becomes of the old moons?” Says
the Cogia. “How is it that you don’t know a thing like that? They take
those old moons and make lightning of them, have you not seen them when
the heaven thunders, glittering like so many swords?” “Bravo, Fakeer,”
said the shepherd. “Well art thou acquainted with the matter, I had
come to the same conclusion myself.”

       *       *       *       *       *

One day the Cogia’s wife, in order to plague the Cogia, boiled some
broth exceedingly hot, brought it into the room and placed it on the
table. The wife then, forgetting that it was hot, took a spoon and
put some into her mouth, and, scalding herself, began to shed tears.
“O, wife,” said the Cogia, “what is the matter with you; is the broth
hot?” “Dear Efendy,” said the wife, “my mother, who is now dead loved
broth very much; I thought of that, and wept on her account.” The Cogia
thinking that what she said was truth, took a spoonful of the broth and
burning his mouth began to cry and bellow. “What is the matter with
you,” said his wife; “why do you cry?” Said the Cogia, “You cry because
your mother is gone, but I cry because her daughter is here.”

       *       *       *       *       *

One day a man came to the house of the Cogia and asked him to lend him
his ass. “He is not at home,” replied the Cogia. But it so happened
that the ass began to bray within. “O Cogia Efendy,” said the man, “you
say that the ass is not at home, and there he is braying within.” “What
a strange fellow you are!” said the Cogia. “You believe the ass, but
will not believe a grey bearded man like me.”

       *       *       *       *       *

One day the Cogia roasted a goose, and set out in order to carry it to
the Emperor. On the way, feeling very hungry, he cut off one leg and
ate it. Coming into the presence of the Emperor, he placed the goose
before him. On seeing it, Tamerlank said to himself, “The Cogia is
making game of me,” and was very angry, and demanded, “How happens it
that this goose has but one foot?” Said the Cogia, “In our country all
the geese have only one foot. If you disbelieve me, look at the geese
by the side of that fountain.” Now at that time there was a flock of
geese by the rim of the fountain, all of whom were standing on one leg.
Timour instantly ordered that all the drummers should at once play up;
the drummers began to strike with their sticks, and forthwith all the
geese stood on both legs. On Timour saying, “Don’t you see that they
have two legs?” the Cogia replied, “If you keep up that drumming you
yourself will presently have four.”

       *       *       *       *       *

One day the Cogia’s wife, having washed the Cogia’s kaftan, hung it
upon a tree to dry; the Cogia going out saw, as he supposed, a man
standing in the tree with his arms stretched out. Says the Cogia to his
wife, “O wife, go and fetch me my bow and arrow.” His wife fetched and
brought them to him; the Cogia taking an arrow, shot it and pierced the
kaftan and stretched it on the ground; then returning, he made fast
his door and lay down to sleep. Going out in the morning he saw that
what he had shot was his own kaftan; thereupon, sitting down, he cried
aloud, “O God, be thanked; if I had been in it I should have certainly
been killed.”

       *       *       *       *       *

One day as the Cogia was going to his house, he met a number of
students, and said to them, “Gentlemen, pray this night come to our
house and taste a sup of the old father’s broth.” “Very good,” said the
students, and following the Cogia, came to the house. “Pray enter,”
said he, and brought them into the house, then going up to where his
wife was, “O wife,” said he, “I have brought some travellers that we
may give them a cup of broth.” “O master,” said his wife, “is there
oil in the house or rice, or have you brought any that you wish to
have broth?” “Bless me,” said the Cogia, “give me the broth pan,” and
snatching it up, he forthwith ran to where the students were, and
exclaimed, “Pray, pardon me gentlemen, but had there been oil or rice
in our house, this is the pan in which I would have served the broth up
to you.”

One day the Cogia going into a person’s garden climbed up into an
apricot tree and began to eat the apricots. The master coming said,
“Cogia, what are you doing here?” “Dear me,” said the Cogia, “don’t
you see that I am a nightingale sitting in the apricot tree?” Said the
gardener, “Let me hear you sing.” The Cogia began to warble. Whereupon
the other fell to laughing, and said: “Do you call that singing?” “I am
a Persian nightingale,” said the Cogia, “and Persian nightingales sing
in this manner.”

       *       *       *       *       *

From _The Book of Laughable Stories_, collected by Gregory Bar
Hebræus in the thirteenth century. The collection includes some seven
hundred stories taken from the literary products of all the Oriental
countries available at that time.

       *       *       *       *       *

Bazarjamhir said, “When thou dost not know which of two things is the
better for thee [to do], take counsel with thy wife and do the opposite
of that which she saith, for she will only counsel [thee to do] the
things which are injurious to thee.”

A certain woman saw Socrates as they were carrying him along to crucify
him, and she wept and said, “Woe is me, for they are about to slay thee
without having committed any offence.” And Socrates made answer unto
her, saying, “O foolish woman, wouldst thou have me also commit some
crime that I might be punished like a criminal?”

       *       *       *       *       *

Alexander [the Great] saw among the soldiers of his army a man called
Alexander who continually took to flight in the time of war, and he
said to him, “It is said that upon the ring of Pythagoras there was
written, ‘The evil which is not perpetual is better than the good which
is not perpetual.’”

       *       *       *       *       *

It is said that upon the ring of Pythagoras there was written, “The
evil which is not perpetual is better than the good which is not

It was said to Socrates, “Which of the irrational animals is not
beautiful?” And he replied, “Woman,” referring to her folly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another of the sages said, “The members of a man’s household are the
moth of his money.”

       *       *       *       *       *

A certain man who had once been a painter left off painting and became
a physician. And when it was said to him, “Why hast thou done this?” he
replied, “The errors [made] in painting [all] eyes see and scrutinize;
but the mistakes of the healing art the ground covereth.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Another king was asked by his sages, “To what limit hath thine
understanding reached?” And he replied, “To the extent that I believe
no man, neither do I put any confidence in any man whatsoever.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Another king said, “If men only knew how pleasant to me it is to
forgive faults there is not one of them who would not commit them.”

       *       *       *       *       *

A poet said unto a certain avaricious man, “Why dost thou never bid me
to a feast with thee?” He replied to him, “Because thou eatest very
heartily indeed, besides thou swallowest so hurriedly; and whilst thou
art still eating one morsel thou art getting ready for the next.” The
poet said to him, “What wouldst thou have then? Wouldst thou have me
whilst I am eating one morsel to stand up and bow the knee, and then
take another?”

       *       *       *       *       *

Another sage said, “I hold every man who saith that he hateth riches to
be a liar until he establisheth a sure proof thereof from what he hath
gathered together, and having established his belief it is, at the same
time, quite certain that he is a fool!”

       *       *       *       *       *

Another miser whilst quarreling violently with his neighbour was asked
by a certain man, “Why art thou fighting with him?” He replied to him,
“I had eaten a roasted head, and I threw the bones outside my door, so
that my friends might rejoice and mine enemies be sorry when they saw
in what a luxurious manner I was living; and this fellow rose up and
took the bones and threw them before his own door.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Another poet was questioned by a man concerning a certain miser,
saying, “Who eateth with him at his table?” and the poet replied,

       *       *       *       *       *

To a certain comedian it was said, “When a cock riseth up in the early
morning hours, why doth he hold one foot in the air?” He replied, “If
he should lift up both feet together he would fall down.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Another actor went into his house and found a sieve laid upon his
couch, and he went and hung himself up on the peg in the wall. His wife
said to him, “What is this? Art thou possessed of a devil?” And he
said to her, “Nay, but when I saw the sieve in my place, I went to its

       *       *       *       *       *

Another fool had two hunting dogs, one black and the other white. And
the governor said to him, “Give me one of them.” The man said to him,
“Which of them dost thou want?” and the governor said, “The black one.”
The man said, “The black one I love more than the white,” and the
governor replied, “Then give me the white one.” And the foolish man
said to him, “The white one I love more than both put together.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Another fool said, “My father went twice to Jerusalem, and there did he
die and was buried, but I do not know which time he died, whether it
was during the first visit or the last.”

       *       *       *       *       *

When another fool was told, “Thy ass is stolen,” he said, “Blessed be
God that I was not upon him.”

Another silly man buried some zûzê coins in the plain, and made a
fragment of a cloud a mark of the place where it was. And some days
after he came to carry away the money, but could not find the place to
do so, and he said, “Consider now; the zûzê were in the ground, and
they must have been carried away by some people. For who can steal the
cloud which is in the sky? And what arm could reach there unto? This
matter is one worthy to be wondered at.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Another simpleton was asked, “How many days’ journey is it between
Aleppo and Damascus?” and he replied, “Twelve; six to go and six to
come back.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Another silly man having gone on a journey to carry on his trade wrote
to his father, saying, “I have been ill with a very grievous sickness,
and if any one else had been in my place he would not have been able to
live.” And his father made him answer, saying, “Believe me, my son, if
thou hadst died thou wouldst have grieved me sadly, and I would never
have spoken to thee again in the whole course of my life.”

       *       *       *       *       *

A certain lunatic put on a skin cloak with the hairy side outwards,
and when people asked him why he did so, he replied, “If God had known
that it was better to have the hairy side of the skin cloak inwards, He
would not have created the wool on the outside of the sheep.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Another fool owned a house together with some other folk, and he said
one day, “I want to sell the half of it which is my share and buy the
other half, so that the whole building may be mine.”

       *       *       *       *       *

From earliest times the stupid or blundering fellow has been the butt
of his comrades’ shafts of wit or sarcasm.

The feeling of superiority, so delightful to the human mind, found easy
expression in jeering at the discomfiture of the noodle.

More often than not, noodle stories are told of residents of some
particular locality or district, whose people are looked upon as
simpletons. Doubtless this originally meant merely country people, who
were provincial or outlandish compared to the city bred.

But as the Greeks chose Bœotia for their noodle colony and the Persians
guyed the people of Emessa, so each country has had a location or a
community for its laughing stock down to the Gothamites of the English.

As a rule the same noodle stories are found in many languages, and only
an exhaustive study of comparative folk lore can adequately consider
the various tales.

As an instance, there is the story, of Eastern origin, that may be
found in the booby tales of all nations. It has come down in late years
in the form of a play, called in a German version, “Der Tisch Ist
Gedeckt” and in an English form, “The Obstinate Family.”

In the Arabian tale,

A blockhead, having married his pretty cousin, gave the customary feast
to their relations and friends. When the festivities were over, he
conducted his guests to the door, and from absence of mind neglected
to shut it before returning to his wife. “Dear cousin,” said his wife
to him when they were alone, “go and shut the street door.” “It would
be strange indeed,” he replied, “if I did such a thing. Am I just made
a bridegroom, clothed in silk, wearing a shawl and a dagger set with
diamonds, and am I to go and shut the door? Why, my dear, you are
crazy. Go and shut it yourself.” “Oh, indeed!” exclaimed the wife.
“Am I, young, robed in a dress, with lace and precious stones--am I
to go and shut the street door? No, indeed! It is you who are become
crazy, and not I. Come, let us make a bargain,” she continued; “and
let the first who speaks go and fasten the door.” “Agreed,” said the
husband, and immediately he became mute, and the wife too was silent,
while they both sat down, dressed as they were in their nuptial
attire, looking at each other and seated on opposite sofas. Thus they
remained for two hours. Some thieves happened to pass by, and seeing
the door open, entered and laid hold of whatever came to their hands.
The silent couple heard footsteps in the house, but opened not their
mouths. The thieves came into the room and saw them seated motionless
and apparently indifferent to all that might take place. They continued
their pillage, therefore, collecting together everything valuable, and
even dragging away the carpets from beneath them; they laid hands on
the noodle and his wife, taking from their persons every article of
jewellery, while they, in fear of losing the wager, said not a word.
Having thus cleared the house, the thieves departed quietly, but the
pair continued to sit, uttering not a syllable. Towards morning a
police officer came past on his tour of inspection, and seeing the door
open, walked in. After searching all the rooms and finding no person,
he entered their apartment, and inquired the meaning of what he saw.
Neither of them would condescend to reply. The officer became angry,
and ordered their heads to be cut off. The executioner’s sword was
about to perform its office, when the wife cried out, “Sir, he is my
husband. Do not kill him!” “Oh, oh,” exclaimed the husband, overjoyed
and clapping his hands, “you have lost the wager; go and shut the
door.” He then explained the whole affair to the police officer, who
shrugged his shoulders and went away.

Another story, known in a score of variants is found in a collection of
tales of the Kabaïl, Algeria, to this effect:

The mother of a youth of the Beni Jennad clan gave him a hundred reals
to buy a mule; so he went to market, and on his way met a man carrying
a water melon for sale. “How much for the melon?” he asks. “What will
you give?” says the man. “I have only got a hundred reals,” answered
the booby; “had I more, you should have it.” “Well,” rejoined the man,
“I’ll take them.” Then the youth took the melon and handed over the
money. “But tell me,” says he, “will its young one be as green as it
is?” “Doubtless,” answered the man, “it will be green.” As the booby
was going home, he allowed the melon to roll down a slope before him.
It burst on its way, when up started a frightened hare. “Go to my
house, young one,” he shouted. “Surely a green animal has come out of
it.” And when he got home, he inquired of his mother if the young one
had arrived.

Other stories of boobies or simpletons follow, taken here and there
from the enormous mass of humorous literature on this theme.

Yet noodles are not always witless fools.

The principle of the humor in such tales is merely and only the
superiority complex, that loves to laugh good naturedly or with a
contemptuous tolerance at the speech or actions of those less clever
than itself. It is the attitude of the cognoscenti toward,

    “The lady from the provinces, who dresses like a guy,
    Who doesn’t think she waltzes,--but would rather like to try,”

as W. S. Gilbert puts it.

One day some men were walking by the riverside, and came to a place
where the contrary currents caused the water to boil as in a whirlpool.
“See how the water boils!” says one. “If we had plenty of oatmeal,”
says another, “we might make enough porridge to serve all the village
for a month.” So it was resolved that part of them should go to the
village and fetch their oatmeal, which was soon brought and thrown into
the river. But there presently arose the question of how they were to
know when the porridge was ready. This difficulty was overcome by the
offer of one of the company to jump in, and it was agreed that if he
found it ready for use, he should signify the same to his companions.
The man jumped in, and found the water deeper than he expected. Thrice
he rose to the surface, but said nothing. The others, impatient at his
remaining so long silent, and seeing him smack his lips, took this for
an avowal that the porridge was good, and so they all jumped in after
him and were drowned.

A poor old woman used to beg her food by day and cook it at night.
Half of the food she would eat in the morning, and the other half in
the evening. After a while a cat got to know of this arrangement, and
came and ate the meal for her. The old woman was very patient, but at
last could no longer endure the cat’s impudence, and so she laid hold
of it. She argued with herself as to whether she should kill it or
not. “If I slay it,” she thought, “it will be a sin; but if I keep it
alive, it will be to my heavy loss.” So she determined only to punish
it. She procured some cotton wool and some oil, and soaking the one in
the other, tied it on to the cat’s tail and then set it on fire. Away
rushed the cat across the yard, up the side of the window, and on to
the roof, where its flaming tail ignited the thatch and set the whole
house on fire. The flames soon spread to other houses, and the whole
village was destroyed.

Not a few of the _Bizarrures_ of the Sieur Gaulard are the
prototypes of bulls and foolish sayings of the typical Irishman,
which go their ceaseless rounds in popular periodicals, and are even
audaciously reproduced as original in our “comic” journals. To cite
some examples:

       *       *       *       *       *

A friend one day told M. Gaulard that the Dean of Besançon was dead.
“Believe it not,” said he, “for had it been so he would have told me
himself, since he writes to me about everything.”

M. Gaulard asked his secretary one evening what hour it was. “Sir,”
replied the secretary, “I cannot tell you by the dial, because the sun
is set.” “Well,” quoth M. Gaulard, “and can you not see by the candle?”

       *       *       *       *       *

On another occasion the Sieur called from his bed to a servant desiring
him to see if it was daylight yet. “There is no sign of daylight,”
said the servant. “I do not wonder,” rejoined the Sieur, “that thou
canst not see day, great fool as thou art. Take a candle and look with
it out at the window, and thou shalt see whether it be day or not.”

       *       *       *       *       *

In a strange house, the Sieur found the walls of his bed chamber full
of great holes. “This,” exclaimed he in a rage, “is the cursedest
chamber in all the world. One may see day all the night through.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Travelling in the country, his man, to gain the fairest way, rode
through a field sowed with pease, upon which M. Gaulard cried to him,
“Thou knave, wilt thou burn my horse’s feet? Dost thou not know that
about six weeks ago I burned my mouth with eating pease, they were so

       *       *       *       *       *

A poor man complained to him that he had had a horse stolen from him.
“Why did you not mark his visage,” asked M. Gaulard, “and the clothes
he wore?” “Sir,” said the man, “I was not there when he was stolen.”
Quoth the Sieur, “You should have left somebody to ask him his name,
and in what place he resided.”

       *       *       *       *       *

M. Gaulard felt the sun so hot in the midst of a field at noontide in
August that he asked of those about him, “What means the sun to be
so hot? How should it not keep its heat till winter, when it is cold

       *       *       *       *       *

A proctor, discoursing with M. Gaulard, told him that a dumb, deaf, or
blind man could not make a will but with certain additional forms. “I
pray you,” said the Sieur, “give me that in writing, that I may send it
to a cousin of mine who is lame.”

       *       *       *       *       *

One day a friend visited the Sieur and found him asleep in his chair.
“I slept,” said he, “only to avoid idleness; for I must always be doing

The Abbé of Poupet complained to him that the moles had spoiled a fine
meadow, and he could find no remedy for them. “Why, cousin,” said M.
Gaulard, “it is but paving your meadow, and the moles will no more
trouble you.”

       *       *       *       *       *

M. Gaulard had a lackey belonging to Auvergne, who robbed him of twelve
crowns and ran away, at which he was very angry, and said he would have
nothing that came from that country. So he ordered all that was from
Auvergne to be cast out of the house, even his mule; and to make the
animal more ashamed, he caused his servants to take off its shoes and
its saddle and bridle.

       *       *       *       *       *

Among the cases decided by a Turkish Kází, two men came before him
one of whom complained that the other had almost bit his ear off. The
accused denied this, and declared that the fellow had bit his own
ear. After pondering the matter for some time, the judge told them to
come again two hours later. Then he went into his private room, and
attempted to bring his ear and his mouth together; but all he did was
to fall backwards and break his head. Wrapping a cloth round his head,
he returned to court, and the two men coming in again presently, he
thus decided the question: “No man can bite his own ear, but in trying
to do so he may fall down and break his head.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The typical noodle of the Turks, the Khoja Nasru ’d-Dín, quoted above
as Cogia Nasr Eddin Effendi, is said to have been a subject of the
independent prince of Karaman, at whose capital, Konya, he resided, and
he is represented as a contemporary of Timúr (Tamerlane), in the middle
of the fourteenth century. The pleasantries which are ascribed to him
are for the most part common to all countries, but some are probably of
genuine Turkish origin. To cite a few specimens: The Khoja’s wife said
to him one day, “Make me a present of a kerchief of red Yemen silk, to
put on my head.” The Khoja stretched out his arms and said, “Like that?
Is that large enough?” On her replying in the affirmative he ran off
to the bazaar, with his arms still stretched out, and meeting a man on
the road, he bawled to him, “Look where you are going, O man, or you
will cause me to lose my measure!”

       *       *       *       *       *

One evening the Khoja went to the well to draw water, and seeing the
moon reflected in the water, he exclaimed, “The moon has fallen into
the well; I must pull it out.” So he let down the rope and hook, and
the hook became fastened to a stone, whereupon he exerted all his
strength, and the rope broke, and he fell upon his back. Looking into
the sky, he saw the moon, and cried out joyfully, “Praise be to Allah!
I am sorely bruised, but the moon has got into its place again.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The Chinese have a story of a lady who had been recently married, and
on the third day saw her husband returning home, so she slipped quietly
behind him and gave him a hearty kiss. The husband was annoyed, and
said she offended all propriety. “Pardon! pardon!” said she. “I did not
know it was you.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Indian fiction abounds in stories of simpletons, and probably the
oldest extant drolleries of the Gothamite type are found in the
_J[.a]takas_, or Buddhist Birth stories. Assuredly they were own
brothers to our mad men of Gotham, the Indian villagers who, being
pestered by mosquitoes when at work in the forest, bravely resolved,
according to _J[.a]taka_ 44, to take their bows and arrows and
other weapons and make war upon the troublesome insects until they
had shot dead or cut in pieces every one; but in trying to shoot the
mosquitoes they only shot, struck, and injured one another. And nothing
more foolish is recorded of the Schildburgers than Somadeva relates,
in his _Kathá Sarit Ságara_, of the simpletons who cut down the
palm-trees: Being required to furnish the king with a certain quantity
of dates, and perceiving that it was very easy to gather the dates of
a palm which had fallen down of itself, they set to work and cut down
all the date-palms in their village, and having gathered from them
their whole crop of dates, they raised them up and planted them again,
thinking they would grow.

       *       *       *       *       *

In Málava there were two Bráham brothers, and the wealth inherited
from their father was left jointly between them. And while they were
dividing that wealth they quarrelled about one having too little and
the other having too much, and they made a teacher learned in the
Vedas arbitrator, and he said to them, “You must divide everything
your father left into two halves, so that you may not quarrel about
the inequality of the division.” When the two fools heard this, they
divided every single thing into two equal parts--house, beds, in fact,
all their property, including their cattle.

       *       *       *       *       *

Henry Stephens (Henri Estienne), in the Introduction to his _Apology
for Herodotus_, relates some very amusing noodle-stories, such as of
him who, burning his shins before the fire, and not having wit enough
to go back from it, sent for masons to remove the chimney; of the fool
who ate the doctor’s prescription, because he was told to “take it”; of
another wittol who, having seen one spit upon iron to try whether it
was hot, did likewise with his porridge; and, best of all, he tells of
a fellow who was hit on the back with a stone as he rode upon his mule,
and cursed the animal for kicking him. This last exquisite jest has its
analogue in that of the Irishman who was riding on an ass one fine day,
when the beast, by kicking at the flies that annoyed him, got one of
its hind feet entangled in the stirrup, whereupon the rider dismounted,
saying, “Faith, if you’re going to get up, it’s time I was getting

       *       *       *       *       *

The poet Ovid alludes to the story of Ino persuading the women of the
country to roast the wheat before it was sown, which may have come
to India through the Greeks, since we are told in the _Kathá Sarit
S[.a]gara_ of a foolish villager who one day roasted some sesame
seeds, and finding them nice to eat, he sowed a large quantity of
roasted seeds, hoping that similar ones would come up. The story
also occurs in Coelho’s _Contes Portuguezes_, and is probably of
Buddhistic origin. An analogous story is told of an Irishman who gave
his hens hot water, in order that they should lay boiled eggs!

       *       *       *       *       *

Few folk-tales are more widely diffused than that of the man who set
out in quest of as great noodles as those of his own household. The
details may be varied more or less, but the fundamental outline is
identical, wherever the story is found; and, whether it be an instance
of the transmission of popular tales from one country to another, or
one of those “primitive fictions” which are said to be the common
heritage of the Aryans, its independent development by different
nations and in different ages cannot be reasonably maintained.

Thus, in one Gaelic version of this diverting story--in which our old
friends the Gothamites reappear on the scene to enact their unconscious
drolleries--a lad marries a farmer’s daughter, and one day while they
are all busily engaged in peat cutting, she is sent to the house to
fetch the dinner. On entering the house, she perceives the speckled
pony’s packsaddle hanging from the roof, and says to herself, “Oh, if
that packsaddle were to fall and kill me, what should I do?” and here
she began to cry, until her mother, wondering what could be detaining
her, comes, when she tells the old woman the cause of her grief,
whereupon the mother, in her turn, begins to cry, and when the old man
next comes to see what is the matter with his wife and daughter, and
is informed about the speckled pony’s packsaddle, he too, “mingles his
tears” with theirs. At last the young husband arrives, and finding the
trio of noodles thus grieving at an imaginary misfortune, he there
and then leaves them, declaring his purpose not to return until he
has found three as great fools as themselves. In the course of his
travels he meets with some strange folks: men whose wives make them
believe whatever they please--one, that he is dead; another, that he is
clothed, when he is stark naked; a third, that he is not himself. He
meets with the twelve fishers who always miscounted their number; the
noodles who went to drown an eel in the sea; and a man trying to get
his cow on the roof of his house, in order that she might eat the grass
growing there.

       *       *       *       *       *

In Russian variants the old parents of a youth named Lutonya weep over
the supposititious death of a potential grandchild, thinking how sad
it would have been if a log which the old woman had dropped had killed
that hypothetical infant. The parents’ grief appears to Lutonya so
uncalled for that he leaves the house, declaring he will not return
until he has met with people more foolish than they. He travels long
and far, and sees several foolish doings. In one place a horse is
being inserted into its collar by sheer force; in another, a woman is
fetching milk from the cellar a spoonful at a time; and in a third
place some carpenters are attempting to stretch a beam which is not
long enough, and Lutonya earns their gratitude by showing them how to
join a piece to it.

       *       *       *       *       *

A well known English version is to this effect: There was a young man
who courted a farmer’s daughter, and one evening when he came to the
house she was sent to the cellar for beer. Seeing an axe stuck in a
beam above her head, she thought to herself, “Suppose I were married
and had a son, and he were to grow up, and be sent to this cellar for
beer, and this axe were to fall and kill him--oh, dear! oh dear!” and
there she sat crying and crying, while the beer flowed all over the
cellar floor, until her old father and mother come in succession and
blubber along with her about the hypothetical death of her imaginary
grown up son. The young man goes off in quest of three bigger fools,
and sees a woman hoisting a cow on to the roof of her cottage to
eat the grass that grew among the thatch, and to keep the animal
from falling off, she ties a rope round its neck, then goes into the
kitchen, secures at her waist the rope, which she had dropped down the
chimney, and presently the cow stumbles over the roof, and the woman
is pulled up the flue till she sticks half way. In an inn he sees a
man attempting to jump into his trousers--a favourite incident in this
class of stories; and farther along he meets with a party raking the
moon out of a pond.

Another English variant relates that a young girl having been left
alone in the house, her mother finds her in tears when she comes home,
and asks the cause of her distress. “Oh,” says the girl, “while you
were away, a brick fell down the chimney, and I thought, if it had
fallen on me I might have been killed!” The only novel adventure which
the girl’s betrothed meets with, in his quest of three bigger fools, is
an old woman trying to drag an oven with a rope to the table where the
dough lay.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is a Sicilian version in Pitrá’s collection, called _The
Peasant of Larcarà_, in which the bride’s mother imagines that her
daughter has a son who falls into the cistern. The groom--they are
not yet married--is disgusted, and sets out on his travels with no
fixed purpose of returning if he finds some fools greater than his
mother-in-law, as in the Venetian tale. The first fool he meets is a
mother, whose child, in playing the game called _nocciole_, tries
to get his hand out of the hole whilst his fist is full of stones. He
cannot, of course, and the mother thinks they will have to cut off
his hand. The traveller tells the child to drop the stones, and then
he draws out his hand easily enough. Next he finds a bride who cannot
enter the church because she is very tall and wears a high comb. The
difficulty is settled as in the former story. After a while he comes
to a woman who is spinning and drops her spindle. She calls out to the
pig, whose name is Tony, to pick it up for her. The pig does nothing
but grunt, and the woman in anger cries, “Well, you won’t pick it up?
May your mother die!” The traveller, who had overheard all this, takes
a piece of paper, which he folds up like a letter, and then knocks at
the door. “Who is there?” “Open the door, for I have a letter for you
from Tony’s mother, who is ill and wishes to see her son before she
dies.” The woman wonders that her imprecation has taken effect so soon,
and readily consents to Tony’s visit. Not only this, but she loads a
mule with everything necessary for the comfort of the body and soul of
the dying pig. The traveller leads away the mule with Tony, and returns
home so pleased with having found that the outside world contains so
many fools that he marries as he had first intended.

       *       *       *       *       *

In other Italian versions, a man is trying to jump into his stockings;
another endeavours to put walnuts into a sack with a fork; and a woman
dips a knotted rope into a deep well, and then having drawn it up,
squeezes the water out of the knots into a pail.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mediæval writers most frequently gave voice to short proverbs, maxims
or epigrams, but a longer story is this delightful one from the old
Folk tales of India.

                             SAN SHROE BU

                         _ENFORCED GREATNESS_

Once upon a time there lived a very poor middle aged couple on the
outskirts of a great and magnificent city. Early in the morning the man
used to set out to the city and return home in the evening with a few
odd annas earned by picking up small jobs in the warehouses of wealthy
merchants. One fine morning, being lazier than usual, he remained in
bed with his eyes closed though fully awake, and furtively watched the
proceedings of his wife during her toilette. When she was completely
satisfied with her performance the man pretended to wake up as though
from a deep sleep and addressed his wife, “you know, my dear, of late I
have been feeling that some strange power has been granted to me by the
gracious nats who preside over our destinies. To illustrate my point,
you saw just now that I was fast asleep, and yet, would you believe it,
I know exactly what you were doing a little while ago from the time you
rose from your bed up till the present moment,” and proceeded to tell
her all she did at her toilette. As may be imagined, his wife was quite
astonished at this feat, and womanlike, she began to see in this power
the means to a profitable living.

Just about this time the kingdom became greatly distracted by a
series of daring thefts which took place both by day and night.
All efforts made by the authorities to capture the culprits proved
useless. At length the king became seriously alarmed for the safety of
his treasures, and in order to afford better protection he redoubled
the guards round the palace. But in spite of all this precaution the
thieves entered the palace one night and succeeded in carrying away a
large quantity of gold, silver and precious stones.

On the following morning the king issued a proclamation to the effect
that a thousand gold mohurs would be given as a reward to the person
who could either capture the thieves or restore the stolen property. So
without consulting her husband in whom she had absolute faith, she went
off to the palace and informed the king that her husband was a great
astrologer and that it would be quite easy for him to find the lost
treasures. The king’s heart was filled with gladness on receiving this
information. He told the good woman that if her husband could do all
that she promised, further honours and rewards would be heaped upon him.

When the woman returned home she joyfully related to her husband the
details of her interview with the king. “What have you done, you silly
fool?” shouted the man with mingled astonishment and alarm. “The other
day when I spoke to you about my powers I was merely imposing upon you.
I am neither an astrologer nor a diviner. It will be impossible for me
to find the lost property. By your silly act you have not only brought
disgrace upon us but you have also imperilled our lives. I don’t care
what happens to you; I only know that I am going to commit suicide this
very day.”

So saying he left the house and entered a dense forest with the
intention of cutting a stout creeper with which to hang himself. After
he got what he wanted he climbed up a big tree to tie one end of the
creeper to a branch. But while he was engaged in this act the notorious
thieves came to the foot of the very tree on which he was perched and
proceeded to divide the treasures which they stole from the palace. The
man on the top remained absolutely still and eagerly listened to all
that was going on down below. Apparently the division was not quite
satisfactory to every one, and as a result a terrible dispute arose
among them. For long hours they argued and abused each other without
being able to come to a settlement. At length seeing that the sun was
already declining they agreed to bury the treasure at the foot of the
tree and to return on the morrow for a further discussion relative to
their respective shares.

As soon as they left the place the poor man came down from the tree and
ran home as fast as he could. “My dear wife, I know exactly where the
treasures are to be found. If you make haste and come along with me I
shall be able to remove the whole lot to our house.” So they hastened
together with baskets on their heads and reached the spot when darkness
had properly set in. They then dug up the treasures as quickly as they
could and conveyed them home.

On the following day they went to the palace and restored the lost
treasures to the king. Greatly overjoyed at his good fortune the king
praised the man and marvelled at his rare knowledge. In addition to the
reward which he received, the man was forthwith appointed the chief
astrologer to the King with a handsome salary which placed him beyond
the dreams of avarice.

While in the enjoyment of such honours and rewards the astrologer one
day thought to himself, “So far I have been very fortunate. My luck has
been phenomenally good. Everybody takes me to be a great man, though
actually I am not. I wonder for how long my luck will befriend me?”
From that time forward his mind became uneasy. He often sat up in bed
at nights dreading the future which should bring about his exposure
and disgrace. Every day he spoke to his wife about his false position
and the peril that threatened him. He saw that it would be utter folly
and madness to make a clean breast of everything as he had already
committed himself too far. So he decided to say nothing for the present
but to await a favourable opportunity of extricating himself from the
awkward situation.

It so happened that one day the king received a letter from the ruler
of a distant country which stated that he had heard about the famous
astrologer. But that somehow he did not quite believe all that was
said concerning the wisdom and knowledge of the man. By way of testing
his real powers would he, the king, enter into a bet? If acceptable,
he said he would send him a gourd fruit by his Envoys, and if his
astrologer could say how many seeds it contained, he was willing to
forfeit his kingdom provided he (the former) did the same in the
event of his protégé going wrong in his calculations. Having absolute
faith in his astrologer the king forthwith sent a reply to the letter
accepting the bet.

For many days after this the poor astrologer thought very hard how
he should act in the matter. He knew that the gourd fruit usually
contained thousands of seeds and that to attempt a guess would be worse
than useless. Being fully convinced that the day of reckoning had
at last arrived, he determined to run away and hide himself in some
obscure corner rather than face the disgrace of a public exposure. So
the next thing he did was to procure a boat. He then loaded it with
food for many days and quietly left the shores of the city.

The following day as he was nearing the mouth of the river, a foreign
vessel came sailing up under a full spread of canvas. He saw from a
distance that the sailors, having nothing particular to do, sat in a
group and were engaged in pleasant conversation. As he came alongside
the vessel he heard a man remark to the others, “Somehow I feel quite
certain that our king will lose the bet. Don’t you fellows know
that this country possesses an astrologer who is infallible in his
calculations? He is reputed to possess the combined sight of a thousand
_devas_. To such a one the single seed, lying hidden within this
gourd we now convey with us, will not prove an obstacle of any serious
difficulty. You may therefore rest assured that he will find it out in
a very short time.”

When the man heard these words he felt very glad and blessed his good
luck for having freed him once again from a dangerous situation.
Instead, therefore, of continuing his journey, he swung his boat round
and made for home, happy in the possession of his freshly acquired
knowledge. On his arrival he related everything to his wife who shed
tears of joy on hearing the good news.

Early next day, hearing that the king was about to grant an audience
to the foreign Envoys, the royal astrologer went to the palace. The
courtiers were very glad to see him turn up, for so great was their
confidence in him that they felt that their country was quite safe and
that the chances were in favour of their acquiring a new kingdom. When
the king entered the Hall of Audience he invited the astrologer to sit
on his right while the others sat in front of him with their faces
almost touching the floor. Then the real proceedings began.

First of all presents were exchanged and complimentary speeches were
delivered on both sides. When these ceremonies were over the Chief
Envoy addressed the king in the following terms, “Oh Mighty Monarch!
The real object of our journey to your most beautiful country has
already formed the subject of correspondence between your Majesty and
my king. I will not therefore tire you by its recital all over again.
My master commands me to show you this gourd and to ask you to say how
many seeds exactly it contains. If what you say be correct his kingdom
passes into your possession, but on the other hand should you be wrong
your kingdom becomes the property of my master.”

Hearing these words the king smiled and turning to the astrologer near
him, said, “My dear _saya_, it is unnecessary for me to tell
you what you have got to do. Consult your stars and tell us how many
seeds the fruit contains. You already know how generous I have been
to you in the past. And now at this crisis, if you are able to assist
me in winning a kingdom, my reward to you shall be such as to make
you rejoice for all the remaining days of your life.” “Your Majesty,”
replied the astrologer, “everything I have, including my life, belongs
to you. By your will I am able to live, and by your will I must also
die. In the present case my calculations point to one answer only, and
therefore I have no hesitation in saying that this gourd contains one
seed only.”

Accustomed to seeing gourds with thousands of seeds, the king
turned pale when he heard the astrologer’s answer. But still having
complete faith in him, with effort he restrained himself from further
questioning him. The gourd was then placed upon a gold plate and was
cut open in the presence of all those present. To the astonishment of
everybody there was but a single seed as was said by the astrologer.
The foreign Envoy congratulated the king on having won his bet and on
the possession of so valuable a servant. He then returned home with a
heavy heart bearing the news of his sovereign’s ruin and his country’s

As to the astrologer his fame spread far and wide. All sorts of
honours and rewards were heaped upon him. He was even granted the
unique privilege of entering or leaving any part of the palace at all
hours, just as his own inclinations directed him. Yet in spite of all
these things he was not happy. He knew he was an imposter who stood in
imminent danger of being found out. He was more than satisfied with
the reputation he had made and the riches he had acquired. He did not
desire any more of these things. His greatest ambition now was to find
a graceful way of escape from his false position.

So he thus spoke to his wife one day, “My dear wife, so far I have had
most wonderful luck. It has enabled me to escape two great dangers with
honour to myself. But how long will this luck stand by me? Something
tells me that I shall be found out on the third occasion. What I
propose to do next is this. Listen carefully so that you may carry out
my instructions without a hitch. Tomorrow while I am at the palace with
the king you must set fire to our house. Being of thatch and bamboo
it will not take long to be consumed. You must then come running to
the palace to inform me about it and at the same time you must keep on
repeating these words, ‘the Astrological Tables are gone.’ I will then
do the rest.”

On the following day while the king was holding a grand Durbar in the
Hall of Audience, a great commotion was heard outside the gates. On
enquiry the king was informed that the astrologer’s wife had come to
inform her husband that their house was burnt down and that everything
of value, including the most precious astrological tables by which her
husband made his wonderful predictions, had been consumed by the fire.
Hearing these words the astrologer pretended to be terribly affected.
He struck his forehead with the palm of his hand and for a long time he
remained silent and motionless with grief. Then turning to the king he
said, “May it please your Majesty I am now utterly ruined. For had it
been my riches alone that perished in the fire I should not have minded
so much. They could have been easily replaced. But now since these
precious tables are gone it is impossible to procure a similar set from
anywhere else. I hope I have served your Majesty faithfully and to your
satisfaction in the past; but I grieve to say that I shall not be in
a position to give you the same service in the future. I beseech you
therefore to release me from the present responsible position, for I
shall no longer be useful to you. But in recognition of my past humble
services if your Majesty, in your great goodness of heart, can see fit
to grant me a small pension for the rest of my life I shall have cause
to consider myself exceptionally favoured.”

The king was very sad to hear of his favourite’s misfortune. And as
there was nothing else to be said or done in the matter he ordered a
beautiful building to be erected on the site of the house that was
burnt down. Next he filled it with a large retinue of servants and
other equipments such as horses, carriages and so forth. Then the whole
thing was made over to the astrologer with the command that for the
rest of his life he was to draw from the Royal Treasury no less a sum
than ten thousand gold mohurs a month.

As may be imagined the lucky astrologer was more than satisfied
with the arrangements and inwardly congratulated himself upon his
good fortune which once more enabled him to escape from a dangerous
situation. Thus some men are born great, some achieve greatness; but
there are also others who have greatness forced upon them, and it is
to this third and last class that our hero the pretentious astrologer

In the Middle Ages, popular sculpture and painting were but the
translation of popular literature, and nothing was more common to
represent, in pictures and carvings, than individual men under the
forms of the animals who displayed similar characters or similar
propensities. Cunning, treachery, and intrigue were the prevailing
vices of the middle ages, and they were those also of the fox, who
hence became a favourite character in satire. The victory of craft
over force always provoked mirth. The fabulists, or, we should perhaps
rather say, the satirists, soon began to extend their canvas and
enlarge their picture, and, instead of single examples of fraud or
injustice, they introduced a variety of characters, not only foxes, but
wolves, and sheep, and bears, with birds also, as the eagle, the cock,
and the crow, and mixed them up together in long narratives, which
thus formed general satires on the vices of contemporary society. In
this manner originated the celebrated romance of “Reynard the Fox,”
which in various forms, from the twelfth century to the eighteenth,
has enjoyed a popularity which was granted probably to no other book.
The plot of this remarkable satire turns chiefly on the long struggle
between the brute force of Isengrin the Wolf, possessed only with a
small amount of intelligence, which is easily deceived--under which
character is presented the powerful feudal baron--and the craftiness
of Reynard the Fox, who represents the intelligent portion of society,
which had to hold its ground by its wits, and these were continually
abused to evil purposes. Reynard is swayed by a constant impulse to
deceive and victimise everybody, whether friends or enemies, but
especially his uncle Isengrin. It was somewhat the relationship between
the ecclesiastical and baronial aristocracy. Reynard was educated in
the schools, and intended for the clerical order; and at different
times he is represented as acting under the disguise of a priest,
of a monk, of a pilgrim, or even of a prelate of the church. Though
frequently reduced to the greatest straits by the power of Isengrin,
Reynard has generally the better of it in the end: he robs and defrauds
Isengrin continually, outrages his wife, who is half in alliance
with him, and draws him into all sorts of dangers and sufferings,
for which the latter never succeeds in obtaining justice. The old
sculptors and artists appear to have preferred exhibiting Reynard in
his ecclesiastical disguises, and in these he appears often in the
ornamentation of mediæval architectural sculpture, in wood-carvings,
in the illuminations of manuscripts, and in other objects of art. The
popular feeling against the clergy was strong in the middle ages, and
no caricature was received with more favour than those which exposed
the immorality or dishonesty of a monk or a priest. A sculpture in
the church of Christchurch, in Hampshire, represents Reynard in the
pulpit preaching; behind, or rather perhaps beside him, a diminutive
cock stands upon a stool--in modern times we should be inclined to
say he was acting as clerk. Reynard’s costume consists merely of the
ecclesiastical hood or cowl. Such subjects are frequently found on the
carved seats, or misereres, in the stalls of the old cathedrals and
collegiate churches. The painted glass of the great window of the north
cross-aisle of St. Martin’s church in Leicester, which was destroyed
in the last century, represented the fox, in the character of an
ecclesiastic, preaching to a congregation of geese.

Reynard’s mediæval celebrity dates certainly from a rather early
period. Montfaucon has given an alphabet of ornamental initial letters,
formed chiefly of figures of men and animals, from a manuscript which
he ascribes to the ninth century, among which is one representing
a fox walking upon his hind legs, and carrying two small cocks,
suspended at the ends of a cross staff. It is hardly necessary to say
that this group forms the letter T. Long before this, the Frankish
historian Fredegarius, who wrote about the middle of the seventh
century, introduces a fable in which the fox figures at the court of
the lion. The same fable is repeated by a monkish writer of Bavaria,
named Fromond who flourished in the tenth century, and by another named
Aimoinus, who lived about the year 1,000. At length, in the twelfth
century, Guibert de Nogent, who died about the year 1124, and who has
left us his autobiography (_de Vita Sua_), relates an anecdote
in that work, in explanation of which he tells us that the wolf was
then popularly designated by the name of Isengrin; and in the fables
of Odo, as we have already seen, this name is commonly given to the
wolf, Reynard to the fox, Teburg to the cat, and so on with the others.
This only shows that in the fables of the twelfth century the various
animals were known by these names, but it does not prove that what we
know as the romance of Reynard existed. Jacob Grimm argued from the
derivation and forms of these names, that the fables themselves, and
the romance, originated with the Teutonic peoples, and were indigenous
to them; but his reasons seem more specious than conclusive, and
Paulin Paris holds that the romance of Reynard was native of France,
and that it was partly founded upon old Latin legends perhaps poems.
Its character is altogether feudal, and it is strictly a picture of
society, in France primarily, and secondly in England and the other
nations of feudalism, in the twelfth century. The earliest form in
which this romance is known is in the French poem--or rather poems, for
it consists of several branches or continuations--and is supposed to
date from about the middle of the twelfth century. It soon became so
popular, that it appeared in different forms in all the languages of
Western Europe, except in England, where there appears to have existed
no edition of the romance of Reynard the Fox until Caxton printed
his prose English version of the story. From that time it became, if
possible, more popular in England than elsewhere, and that popularity
had hardly diminished down to the commencement of the present century.

The popularity of the story of Reynard caused it to be imitated in a
variety of shapes, and this form of satire, in which animals acted the
part of men, became altogether popular.

A direct imitation of “Reynard the Fox” is found in the early French
romance of “Fauvel,” the hero of which is neither a fox nor an ass,
but a horse. People of all ranks and classes repair to the court of
Fauvel, the horse, and furnish abundant matter for satire on the moral,
political, and religious hypocrisy which pervaded the whole frame
of society. At length the hero resolves to marry, and, in a finely
illuminated manuscript of this romance, preserved in the Imperial
Library in Paris, this marriage furnishes the subject of a picture,
which gives the only representation to be met with of one of the
popular burlesque ceremonies which were so common in the middle ages.

Among other such ceremonies, it was customary with the populace, on the
occasion of a man’s or woman’s second marriage, or an ill-sorted match,
or on the espousals of people who were obnoxious to their neighbours,
to assemble outside the house, and greet them with discordant music.
This custom is said to have been practiced especially in France, and
it was called a _charivari_. There is still a last remnant of it
in our country in the music of marrow-bones and cleavers, with which
the marriages of butchers are popularly celebrated; but the derivation
of the French name appears not to be known. It occurs in old Latin
documents, for it gave rise to such scandalous scenes of riot and
licentiousness, that the Church did all it could, though in vain, to
suppress it. The earliest mention of this custom, furnished in the
_Glossarium_ of Ducange, is contained in the synodal statutes of
the church of Avignon, passed in the year 1337, from which we learn
that when such marriages occurred, people forced their way into the
houses of the married couple, and carried away their goods, which they
were obliged to pay a ransom for before they were returned, and the
money thus raised was spent in getting up what is called in the statute
relating to it a _Chalvaricum_. It appears from this statute, that
the individuals who performed the _charivari_ accompanied the
happy couple to the church, and returned with them to their residence,
with coarse and indecent gestures and discordant music, and uttering
scurrilous and indecent abuse, and that they ended with feasting.
In the statutes of Meaux, in 1365, and in those of Hugh, bishop of
Beziers, in 1368, the same practice is forbidden, under the name of
_Charavallium_; and it is mentioned in a document of the year
1372, also quoted by Ducange, under that of _Carivarium_, as then
existing at Nîmes. Again, in 1445, the Council of Tours made a decree,
forbidding, under pain of excommunication, “the insolences, clamours,
sounds, and other tumults practiced at second and third nuptials,
called by the vulgar a _Charivarium_, on account of the many and
grave evils arising out of them.” It will be observed that these early
allusions to the charivari are found almost solely in documents coming
from the Roman towns in the south of France, so that this practice
was probably one of the many popular customs derived directly from
the Romans. When Cotgrave’s “Dictionary” was published (that is, in
1632) the practice of the _charivari_ appears to have become more
general in its existence, as well as its application; for he describes
it as “a public defamation, or traducing of; a foule noise made, blacke
santus rung, to the shame and disgrace of another; hence an infamous
(or infaming) ballad sung, by an armed troupe, under the window of an
old dotard, married the day before unto a young wanton, in mockerie of
them both.” And, again, a _charivaris de poelles_ is explained
as “the carting of an infamous person, graced with the harmonie of
stinging kettles and frying-pan musicke.” The word is now generally
used in the sense of a great tumult of discordant music, produced often
by a number of persons playing different tunes on different instruments
at the same time.

The sermons and satires against extravagance in costume began at
an early period. The Anglo-Norman ladies, in the earlier part of
the twelfth century, first brought in vogue in our island this
extravagance in fashion, which quickly fell under the lash of satirist
and caricaturist. It was first exhibited in the robes rather than
in the head-dress. These Anglo-Norman ladies are understood to have
first introduced stays, in order to give an artificial appearance of
slenderness to their waists; but the greatest extravagance appeared in
the forms of their sleeves. The robe, or gown, instead of being loose,
as among the Anglo-Saxons, was laced close around the body, and the
sleeves, which fitted the arm tightly till they reached the elbows,
or sometimes nearly to the wrist, then suddenly became larger, and
hung down to an extravagant length, often trailing on the ground, and
sometimes shortened by means of a knot. The gown, also, was itself
worn very long. The clergy preached against these extravagances in
fashion, and at times, it is said, with effect; and they fell under
the vigorous lash of the satirist. In a class of satires which became
extremely popular in the twelfth century, and which produced in the
thirteenth the immortal poem of Dante--the visions of purgatory and of
hell--these contemporary extravagances in fashion are held up to public
detestation, and are made the subject of severe punishment. They were
looked upon as among the outward forms of pride. It arose, no doubt,
from this taste--from the darker shade which spread over men’s minds in
the twelfth century--that demons, instead of animals, were introduced
to personify the evil-doers of the time. Such is the figure, seen in a
very interesting manuscript in the British Museum (MS. Cotton. Nero, C
iv.). The demon is here dressed in the fashionable gown with its long
sleeves, of which one appears to have been usually much longer than
the other. Both the gown and sleeve are shortened by means of knots,
while the former is brought close round the waist by tight lacing.
It is a picture of the use of stays made at the time of their first

This superfluity of length in the different parts of the dress was a
subject of complaint and satire at various and very distant periods,
and contemporary illuminations of a perfectly serious character show
that these complaints were not without foundation.

The professional entertainers of the Middle Ages performed in the
streets and public places, or in the theatres, and especially at
festivals, and they were often employed at private parties, to
entertain the guests at a supper.

We trace the existence of this class of performers during the earlier
period of the middle ages by the expressions of hostility towards
them used from time to time by the ecclesiastical writers, and the
denunciations of synods and councils. Nevertheless, it is evident from
many allusions to them, that they found their way into the monastic
houses, and were in great favour not only among the monks, but among
the nuns also; that they were introduced into the religious festivals;
and that they were tolerated even in the churches. It is probable
that they long continued to be known in Italy and the countries
near the centre of Roman influence, and where the Latin language was
continued, by their old name of _mimus_. The Anglo-Saxon vocabularies
interpret the Latin _mimus_ by _glig-mon_, a gleeman. In Anglo-Saxon,
_glig_ or _gliu_ meant mirth and game of every description, and as the
Anglo-Saxon teachers who compiled the vocabularies give, as synonyms
of _mimus_, the words _scurra_, _jocifta_, and _pantomimus_, it is
evident that all these were included in the character of the gleeman,
and that the latter was quite identical with his Roman type. It was
the Roman _mimus_ introduced into Saxon England. We have no traces of
the existence of such a class of performers among the Teutonic race
before they became acquainted with the civilisation of imperial Rome.
We know from drawings in contemporary illuminated manuscripts that the
performances of the gleeman did include music, singing, and dancing,
and also the tricks of mountebanks and jugglers, such as throwing up
and catching knives and balls, and performing with tamed bears, etc.

But even among the peoples who preserved the Latin language, the word
_mimus_ was gradually exchanged for others employed to signify the
same thing. The word _jocus_ had been used in the signification of a
jest, playfulness, _jocari_ signified to jest, and _joculator_ was a
word for a jester; but, in the debasement of the language, _jocus_
was taken in the signification of everything which created mirth. It
became, in the course of time the French verb _jeu_, and the Italian
_gioco_, or _giuoco_. People introduced a form of the verb _jocare_,
which became the French _juer_, to play or perform. _Joculator_ was
then used in the sense of _mimus_. In French the word became _jogléor_,
or _jougléor_, and in its later form _jougleur_. I may remark that, in
mediæval manuscripts, it is almost impossible to distinguish between
the _u_ and the _n_, and that modern writers have misread this last
word as _jongleur_, and thus introduced into the language a word which
never existed, and which ought to be abandoned. In old English, as we
see in Chaucer, the usual form was _jogelere_. The mediæval joculator,
or jougleur, embraced all the attributes of the Roman _mimus_, and
perhaps more. In the first place he was very often a poet himself,
and composed the pieces which it was one of his duties to sing or
recite. These were chiefly songs, or stories, the latter usually told
in verse, and so many of them are preserved in manuscripts that they
form a very numerous and important class of mediæval literature. The
songs were commonly satirical and abusive, and they were made use of
for purposes of general or personal vituperation. Out of them, indeed,
grew the political songs of a later period. They carried about with
them for exhibition tame bears, monkeys, and other animals, taught to
perform the actions of men. As early as the thirteenth century, we find
them including among their other accomplishments that of dancing upon
the tight-rope. Finally, the jougleurs performed tricks of sleight of
hand, and were often conjurers and magicians. As, in modern times, the
jougleurs of the middle ages gradually passed away, sleight of hand
appears to have become their principal accomplishment, and the name
only was left in the modern word _juggler_. The jougleurs of the middle
ages, like the mimi of antiquity, wandered about from place to place,
and often from country to country, sometimes singly and at others in
companies, exhibited their performances in the roads and streets,
repaired to all great festivals, and were employed especially in the
baronial hall, where, by their songs, stories, and other performances,
they created mirth after dinner.

This class of society had become known by another name, the origin of
which is not so easily explained. The primary meaning of the Latin
word _minister_ was a servant, one who ministers to another, either
in his wants or in his pleasures and amusements. It was applied
particularly to the cupbearer. In low Latinity, a diminutive of this
word was formed, _minestellus_, or _ministrellus_, a petty servant, or
minister. When we first meet with this word, which is not at a very
early date, it is used as perfectly synonymous with _joculator_, and,
as the word is certainly of Latin derivation, it is clear that it was
from it the middle ages derived the French word _menestrel_ (the modern
_menetrier_), and the English _minstrel_. The mimi or jougleurs were
perhaps considered as the petty ministers to the amusements of their
lord, or of him who for the time employed them. Until the close of the
middle ages, the minstrel and the jougleur were absolutely identical.
Possibly the former may have been considered the more courtly of the
two names. But in England, as the middle ages disappeared, and lost
their influence on society sooner than in France, the word minstrel
remained attached only to the musical part of the functions of the old
mimus, while, as just observed, the juggler took the sleight of hand
and the mountebank tricks. In modern French, except where employed
technically by the antiquity, the word _menetrier_ means a fiddler.

The jougleurs, or minstrels, formed a very numerous and important,
though a low and despised, class of mediæval society. The dulness of
every-day life in a feudal castle or mansion required something more
than ordinary excitement in the way of amusement, and the old family
bard, who continually repeated to the Teutonic chief the praises of
himself and his ancestors, was soon felt to be a wearisome companion.
The mediæval knights and their ladies wanted to laugh, and to make
them laugh sufficiently it required that the jokes, or tales, or comic
performances, should be broad, coarse, and racy, with a good spicing of
violence and of the wonderful. Hence the jougleur was always welcome
to the feudal mansion, and he seldom went away dissatisfied. But the
subject of the present chapter is rather the literature of the jougleur
than his personal history, and, having traced his origin to the Roman
mimus, we will now proceed to one class of his performances.

It has been stated that the mimus and the jougleurs told stories.
Of those of the former, unfortunately, none are preserved, except,
perhaps, in a few anecdotes scattered in the pages of such writers as
Apuleius and Lucian, and we are obliged to guess at their character,
but of the stories of the jougleurs a considerable number has been
preserved. It becomes an interesting question how far these stories
have been derived from the mimi, handed down traditionally from mimus
to jougleur, how far they are native in our race, or how far they were
derived at a later date from other sources. And in considering this
question, we must not forget that the mediæval jougleurs were not the
only representatives of the mimi, for among the Arabs of the East also
there had originated from them, modified under different circumstances,
a very important class of minstrels and story-tellers, and with these
the jougleurs of the west were brought into communication at the
commencement of the crusades. There can be no doubt that a very large
number of the stories of the jougleurs were borrowed from the East, for
the evidence is furnished by the stories themselves; and there can be
little doubt also that the jougleurs improved themselves, and underwent
some modification, by their intercourse with Eastern performers of the
same class.

The people of the middle ages, who took their word _fable_ from the
Latin _fabula_, which they appear to have understood as a mere term for
any short narration, included under it the stories told by the mimi and
jougleurs; but, in the fondness of the middle ages for diminutives, by
which they intended to express familiarity and attachment, applied to
them more particularly the Latin _fabella_, which in the old French
became _fablel_, or, more usually, _fabliau_. The fabliaux of the
jougleurs form a most important class of the comic literature of the
middle ages. They must have been wonderfully numerous, for a very large
quantity of them still remain, and these are only the small portion of
what once existed, which have escaped perishing like the others by the
accident of being written in manuscripts which have had the fortune to
survive; while manuscripts containing others have no doubt perished,
and it is probable that many were only preserved orally, and never
written down at all. The recital of these fabliaux appears to have
been the favourite employment of the jougleurs, and they became so
popular that the mediæval preachers turned them into short stories in
Latin prose, and made use of them as illustrations in their sermons.
Many collections of these short Latin stories are found in manuscripts
which had served as note-books to the preachers, and out of them was
originally compiled that celebrated mediæval book called the “Gesta

The _Trouvères_, or poets, who wrote the Fabliaux flourished chiefly
from the close of the twelfth century to the earlier part of the
fourteenth. They all composed in French, which was a language then
common to England and France, but some of their compositions bear
internal evidence of having been composed in England. No objection
appears to have been entertained to the recital of these licentious
stories before the ladies of the castle or of the domestic circle, and
their general popularity was so great, that the more pious clergy seem
to have thought necessary to find something to take their place in the
post-prandial society of the monastery, and especially of the nunnery;
and religious stories were written in the same form and metre as the
fabliaux. Some of these have been published under the title of _Contes
Devots_, and, from their general dulness, it may be doubted if they
answered their purpose of furnishing amusement so well as the others.

Troubadour was the Provençal name for the _Trouvères_, and in the
twelfth century these poets flourished so luxuriantly that their
influence is still felt in the poetic sentiment of today.

Yet they were in no sense humorous writers, unless their satire on the
foibles and follies of the times may be so construed. They were Boudoir
poets and their airs and graces were romantic rather than mirthful.

Much of their production was of the languishing, sighing order, but the
Fabliaux, of a ruder narrative type were also popular.

These Fabliaux, now usually given out in expurgated editions, were
extremely plain spoken, and, as so often occurred, were adopted and
adapted by the monks for the real or pretended furtherance of their
religious teachings.

The Troubadours did much for lyric art by their conscientious attention
to form, but the humor of their productions is almost a negligible
quantity. Their songs were invariably sung, and usually to the
accompaniment of the blue-ribboned guitar, but oftenest the burden was
of sorrowful intent.

And it was, perhaps, owing to the want of a humorous sense, that the
Troubadours could carry on their lackadaisical and lovesick careers.

Yet there were some of the Troubadours’ songs which showed a departure
from the usual romantic wailings and a few are here given.

Doubtless the very free translation adds to their humor, but the motive
is clear.

Rambaud d’Orange thus declares his policy in treatment to the fair sex.


    My boy, if you’d wish to make constant your Venus,
      Attend to the plan I disclose.
    Her first naughty word you must meet with a menace,
      Her next--drop your fist on her nose.
        When she’s bad, be you worse,
        When she scolds, do you curse,
      When she scratches, just treat her to blows.


    Defame and lampoon her, be rude and uncivil,
      Then you’ll vanquish the haughtiest dame.
    Be proud and presumptuous, deceive like the ----
      And aught that you wish you may claim.
        All the beautiful slight,
        To the plain be polite,
      That’s the way the proud hussies to tame.

Bernard de Ventadour is thus unromantic.

    You say the moon is all aglow,
      The nightingale a-singing.
    I’d rather watch the red wine flow
      And hear the goblets ringing.

    You say ’tis sweet to hear the gale
      Creep sighing through the willows.
    I’d rather hear a merry tale
      ’Mid a group of jolly fellows.

    You say ’tis sweet the stars to view
      Upon the waters gleaming.
    I’d rather see (’twixt me and you
      And the post) my supper steaming.

While the Monk of Montaudon, an incorrigible satirist, thus descants on
the ladies.

    I am a saint of good repute, by mortals called St. Julian;
    Being wanted much on earth I go not oft to realms cerulean.
    Yet once of late I made a call, which you may term a high call--
    I went aloft to have a chat along with good St. Michael.
    But soon the saint was called away, which closed our conversation,
    To judge between some dames and monks engaged in disputation.
    _Paint_ was the subject of their strife, the rock on which they
    Each party wanted to monopolise the use of it.
    The monks declared, with many tears, that they were ruined quite,
    For not an ounce of it was left to keep their pictures bright.
    The ladies laid it on so thick, as you can understand,
    That the compounders could not quite keep pace with their demand.
    And so, unless the former were restrained by stringent law,
    Each shrine they swore would quickly cease its worshippers to draw.

    Then stepped an ancient beauty forth, and thus to Mike descanted:
    “Our sex was painted long before paint was for pictures wanted;
    As for myself, how can it hurt a clergyman or saint,
    If the crows’-feet beneath my eyes I cover up with paint?
    In keeping up my beauteous looks I cannot see a crime;
    In spite of them I’ll still repair the ravages of time.”

    St. Michael scratched his pate awhile, then, looking very wise,
    Said: “Dames and monks, let me suggest, I pray, a compromise.
    The soul as well as body, dames, requires both paint and padding.
    You should not wholly spend your years in love-making and gadding.
    And you, my monks, be less severe, nor bend the bow to breaking;
    All dames should have a moderate time allowed to them for raking.
    Then let them paint till forty-five”--at this the dames looked
    “Or fifty,” cried the saint in haste. “Agree, my monks, now come.”

    “No,” said the monks, “that cannot be, the time is far too long;
    But, though we feel within our souls the compromise is wrong,
    Yet, in our deep respect for you, our scruples we will drop,
    And let the dames, till thirty-five, frequent the painter’s shop;
    But only on condition that thereafter they shall cease
    To daub, and let us monks enjoy our privilege in peace.”

    Before the ladies could rejoin, two other saints appeared--
    Peter and Lawrence--by the dames no less than monks revered.
    They reasoned with the parties, and so well employed their wit,
    That they persuaded them at length the difference to split.
    The monks agreed to yield five years; the ladies condescended
    Up to their fortieth year to paint, and there the trial ended.

And the same merry Monk of Montaudon voices his sentiments thus:

    I like those sports the world calls folly,
    Banquets that know no melancholy;
    I love a girl whose talk is jolly,
    Not silent like a painted dolly.

    A rich man of my love is winner,
    His foe I feel must be a sinner;
    And I adore, or I’d be thinner,
    A fine fat salmon-trout for dinner.

    I hold among my chief of blisses,
    Basking beside a stream with misses;
    Love sunshine, flowers; but O than this is
    A joy more deep--I _do_ like kisses.

    I hate a husband who’s uxorious;
    A grocer’s son, whose dress is glorious;
    Hate men in drink who get uproarious
    And maids whose conduct is censorious.

    I hate young folks who are precocious,
    Hate parsons with a beard ferocious;
    Of wine too much can no one broach us;
    But too much water is atrocious!

The Court of Love, a gay and whimsical institution, doubtless
originated in the contests of the Troubadours, when the poets recited
for a prize the particular style of an ode called the _Tenson_.

Though a fascinating subject, we may not dwell on it further than to
quote the thirty-one articles of the Code of Love, this being the most
available bit of humor.

    1. Marriage is no legitimate excuse against love.
    2. Whoever cannot conceal cannot love.
    3. No one must have two lovers at the same time.
    4. Love must always be increasing or diminishing.
    5. Favours unwillingly granted have no charm.
    6. No male must love until of full age.
    7. Whoever of two lovers survives the other must observe a
         widowhood of two years.
    8. None should be deprived of love except they lose their reason.
    9. None can love except when compelled by the stress of love.
    10. Love is an exile from the homes of avarice.
    11. She who is scrupulous of the marriage tie should not love.
    12. A true lover desires no embraces save those of his lady-love.
    13. Love divulged rarely lasts.
    14. Easy winning makes love contemptible; difficulty renders it
    15. Every lover grows pale at the sight of his lady-love.
    16. The heart of a lover trembles at the sudden sight of his
    17. A new love makes an old one depart.
    18. Probity alone makes a man worthy to be loved.
    19. If love diminishes it soon fails, and rarely recovers its
    20. The lover is always timid.
    21. From true jealousy love always increases.
    22. When suspicion is aroused about a lover, jealousy and love
    23. Filled with thoughts of love, the lover eats and drinks less
          [than usual].
    24. Every act of a lover is determined by thoughts of the beloved.
    25. A true lover thinks naught happy save what would please his
    26. Love can deny nothing to love.
    27. A lover cannot be satiated with the charms of the beloved.
    28. A slight prejudice makes a lover think ill of the beloved.
    29. He is not wont to love who is oppressed by too great abundance
          of pleasure.
    30. A true lover is always without intermission filled with the
          image of his lady-love.
    31. Nothing hinders one woman being loved by two men, or one man by
          two women.

On these rules--some nonsensical, many contradictory, and all
abominable--the following decisions, among many others, were based.

The first is that of the Countess of Champagne already quoted, with its
approval by Queen Eleanor. In its original verbiage it runs thus:

       *       *       *       *       *

_Question._ Can true love exist between married persons?

_Judgment_, by the Countess of Champagne: “We say and establish,
by the tenor of these presents, that love cannot extend its rights
to married persons. In fact, lovers accord everything to each other
mutually and gratuitously, without being constrained by motives of
necessity; while married people are bound by the duty of mutually
sacrificing their wills and refusing nothing the one to the other.

“Let this judgment, which we have given with extreme care, and after
taking counsel of a large number of ladies, be to you a constant and
irrefragable truth. Thus determined in the year 1174, the third day
before the kalends of May.”

_Question._ Do the greater affection and livelier attachment exist
between lovers or married people? [It having been already decided, let
us remember, that married people could not love one another.]

_Judgment_, by Ermengarde, Viscountess of Narbonne: “The
attachment of married people and the tender affection of lovers are
sentiments of a nature and custom altogether different. There can
consequently be no just comparison established between objects which
have no resemblance or connection the one with the other.”

_Question._ A lady attached to a gentleman in an honorable love
marries another. Has she the right to repel her former lover and refuse
him his accustomed favours?

_Judgment_, by Ermengarde, Viscountess of Narbonne: “The
supervenience of the marriage bond does not bar the right of the prior
attachment, unless the lady utterly renounces love, and declares that
she does so for ever.”

The _Gesta Romanorum_, one of the most important collections
of moral tales, was put together during the thirteenth century by a
learned Frenchman named Pierre Bercheure, who was a Benedictine Prior.
He chose to lay the scenes of the stories in Rome, though this was not
historically true. Gesta means merely acts or exploits, and many of the
tales are descended from Oriental Folk Lore.

Not all students of ancient literature agree as to the authorship of
the Gesta as it appears in its present form, but the consensus of
opinion seems to point to the aforesaid Frenchman.

However, the collector’s name matters little; the work itself, while it
harks back to the Fables of Æsop and Pilpay and to the _Talmud_,
is of interest as a veritable storehouse of Mediæval stories.

Each of these has its religious application, but it is easy to think
that the readers were oftener intrigued by the story than by the
appended moral.

                              _OF SLOTH_

The emperor Pliny had three sons, to whom he was extremely indulgent.
He wished to dispose of his kingdom, and calling the three into his
presence, spoke thus--“The most slothful of you shall reign after my
decease.” “Then,” answered the elder, “the kingdom must be mine; for
I am so lazy, that sitting once by the fire, I burnt my legs, because
I was too indolent to withdraw them.” The second son observed, “The
kingdom should properly be mine, for if I had a rope round my neck, and
held a sword in my hand, my idleness is such, that I should not put
forth my hand to cut the rope.” “But I,” said the third son, “ought to
be preferred to you both; for I outdo both in indolence. While I lay
upon my bed, water dropped from above upon my eyes; and though, from
the nature of the water, I was in danger of becoming blind, I neither
could nor would turn my head ever so little to the right hand or to
the left.” The emperor, hearing this, bequeathed the kingdom to him,
thinking him the laziest of the three.


My beloved, the king is the devil; and the three sons, different
classes of corrupt men.


There was a wise and rich king who possessed a beloved, but not a
loving wife. She had three illegitimate sons who proved ungrateful
and rebellious to their reputed parent. In due time she brought forth
another son, whose legitimacy was undisputed; and after arriving
at a good old age, he died, and was buried in the royal sepulchre
of his fathers. But the death of the old king caused great strife
amongst his surviving sons, about the right of succession. All of
them advanced a claim, and none would relinquish it to the other; the
three first, presuming upon their priority in birth, and the last upon
his legitimacy. In this strait, they agreed to refer the absolute
decision of their cause to a certain honourable soldier of the late
king. When this person, therefore, heard their difference, he said,
“Follow my advice, and it will greatly benefit you. Draw from its
sepulchre the body of the deceased monarch; prepare, each of you,
a bow and single shaft, and whosoever transfixes the heart of his
father, shall obtain the kingdom.” The counsel was approved, the body
was taken from its repository and bound naked to a tree. The arrow
of the first son wounded the king’s right hand--on which, as if the
contest were determined, they proclaimed him heir to the throne. But
the second arrow went nearer, and entered the mouth; so that he too
considered himself the undoubted lord of the kingdom. However, the
third perforated the heart itself, and consequently imagined that his
claim was fully decided, and his succession sure. It now came to the
turn of the fourth and last son to shoot; but instead of fixing his
shaft to the bow-string, and preparing for the trial, he broke forth
into a lamentable cry, and with eyes swimming in tears, said, “Oh! my
poor father; have I then lived to see you the victim of an impious
contest? Thine own offspring lacerate thy unconscious clay?--Far,
oh! far be it from me to strike thy venerated form, whether living or
dead.” No sooner had he uttered these words, than the nobles of the
realm, together with the whole people, unanimously elected him to the
throne; and depriving the three barbarous wretches of their rank and
wealth, expelled them for ever from the kingdom.


My beloved, that wise and rich king is the King of kings, and Lord
of lords, who joined himself to our flesh, as to a beloved wife. But
going after other gods, it forgot the love due to him in return, and
brought forth by an illicit connection, three sons, viz., Pagans,
Jews, and Heretics. The first wounded the right hand--that is, the
doctrine of Christ by persecutions. The second, the mouth--when they
gave Christ vinegar and gall to drink; and the third, wounded, and
continue to wound the _heart_,--while they strive, by every
sophistical objection, to deceive the faithful. The fourth son is any
good Christian.

                   _OF THE INCARNATION OF OUR LORD_

A certain king was remarkable for three qualities. Firstly, he
was braver than all men; secondly, he was wiser; and lastly, more
beautiful. He lived a long time unmarried; and his counsellors would
persuade him to take a wife. “My friends,” said he, “it is clear to
you that I am rich and powerful enough; and therefore want not wealth.
Go, then, through town and country, and seek me out a beautiful and
wise virgin; and if ye can find such a one, however poor she may be,
I will marry her.” The command was obeyed; they proceeded on their
search, until at last they discovered a lady of royal extraction with
the qualifications desired. But the king was not so easily satisfied,
and determined to put her wisdom to the test. He sent to the lady by
a herald a piece of linen cloth, three inches square; and bade her
contrive to make for him a shirt exactly fitted to his body. “Then,”
added he, “she shall be my wife.” The messenger, thus commissioned,
departed on his errand, and respectfully presented the cloth, with the
request of the king. “How can I comply with it,” exclaimed the lady,
“when the cloth is but three inches square? It is impossible to make a
shirt of that; but bring me a vessel in which I may work, and I promise
to make the shirt long enough for the body.” The messenger returned
with the reply of the virgin, and the king immediately sent a sumptuous
vessel, by means of which she extended the cloth to the required size,
and completed the shirt. Whereupon the wise king married her.


My beloved, the king is God; the virgin, the mother of Christ; who
was also the chosen vessel. By the messenger, is meant Gabriel. The
cloth, is the Grace of God, which, by proper care and labour, is made
sufficient for man’s salvation.

                     _OF THE DECEITS OF THE DEVIL_

There were once three friends, who agreed to make a pilgrimage
together. It happened that their provisions fell short, and having
but one loaf between them, they were nearly famished. “Should this
loaf,” they said to each other, “be divided amongst us, there will
not be enough for any one. Let us then take counsel together, and
consider how the bread is to be disposed of.” “Suppose we sleep upon
the way,” replied one of them; “and whosoever hath the most wonderful
dream, shall possess the loaf.” The other two acquiesced, and settled
themselves to sleep. But he who gave the advice, arose while they
were sleeping, and eat up the bread, not leaving a single crumb for
his companions. When he had finished he awoke them. “Get up quickly,”
said he, “and tell us your dreams.” “My friends,” answered the first,
“I have had a very marvellous vision. A golden ladder reached up to
heaven, by which angels ascended and descended. They took my soul from
my body, and conveyed it to that blessed place where I beheld the Holy
Trinity; and where I experienced such an overflow of joy, as eye hath
not seen, nor ear heard. This is my dream.” “And I,” said the second,
“beheld the devils with iron instruments, by which they dragged my
soul from the body, and plunging it into hell flames, most grievously
tormented me; saying, ‘As long as God reigns in heaven this will be
your portion.’” “Now then,” said the third, who had eaten the bread,
“hear my dream. It appeared as if an angel came and addressed me in
the following manner, ‘My friend, would you see what is become of your
companions?’ I answered, ‘Yes, Lord. We have but one loaf between us,
and I fear that they have run off with it.’ ‘You are mistaken,’ he
rejoined, ‘it lies beside us: follow me.’ He immediately led me to the
gate of heaven, and by his command I put in my head and saw you; and I
thought that you were snatched up into heaven and sat upon a throne of
gold, while rich wines and delicate meats stood around you. Then said
the angel, ‘Your companion, you see, has an abundance of good things,
and dwells in all pleasures. There he will remain for ever; for he has
entered a celestial kingdom and cannot return. Come now where your
other associate is placed.’ I followed, and he led me to hell-gates,
where I beheld you in torment, as you just now said. Yet they furnished
you, even there, with bread and wine in abundance. I expressed my
sorrow at seeing you in misery, and you replied, ‘As long as God reigns
in heaven here I must remain, for I have merited it. Do you then rise
up quickly, and eat all the bread, since you will see neither me nor
my companion again.’ I complied with your wishes; arose, and eat the


My beloved, the Saracens and Jews; the rich and powerful; and finally,
the perfect among men, are typified by the three companions. The bread,
represents the kingdom of heaven.

                     _OF VIGILANCE IN OUR CALLING_

A thief went one night to the house of a rich man, and scaling the
roof, peeped through a hole to examine if any part of the family were
yet stirring. The master of the house, suspecting something, said
secretly to his wife, “Ask me in a loud voice how I acquired the
property I possess; and do not desist until I bid you.” The woman
complied, and began to vociferate, “My dear husband, pray tell me,
since you never were a merchant, how you obtained all the wealth which
you have now collected.” “My love,” answered her husband, “do not ask
such foolish questions.” But she persisted in her enquiries; and at
length, as if overcome by her urgency, he said, “Keep what I am going
to tell you a secret, and your curiosity shall be gratified.”

“Oh, trust me.”

“Well, then, you must know that I was a thief, and obtained what I now
enjoy by nightly depredations.” “It is strange,” said the wife, “that
you were never taken.” “Why,” replied he, “my master, who was a skilful
clerk, taught me a particular word, which, when I ascended the tops of
people’s houses, I pronounced, and thus escaped detection.” “Tell me, I
conjure you,” returned the lady, “what that powerful word was.” “Hear,
then; but never mention it again, or we shall lose all our property.”
“Be sure of that;” said the lady, “it shall never be repeated.”

“It was--is there no one within hearing?--the mighty word was

The lady, apparently quite satisfied, fell asleep; and her husband
feigned it. He snored lustily, and the thief above, who had heard
their conversation with much pleasure, aided by the light of the moon,
descended, repeating seven times the cabalistic sound. But being too
much occupied with the charm to mind his footing, he stepped through
the window into the house; and in the fall dislocated his leg and arm,
and lay half dead upon the floor. The owner of the mansion, hearing
the noise, and well knowing the reason, though he pretended ignorance,
asked, “What was the matter?” “Oh!” groaned the suffering thief,
“_False_ words have deceived me.” In the morning he was taken
before the judge, and afterwards suspended on a cross.


My beloved, the thief is the devil; the house is the human heart. The
man is a good prelate, and his wife is the church.

To sum up, then, it would appear that the humorous muse in the Middle
Ages concerned herself chiefly with scattering and disseminating moral
lessons, which, because of the superiority of the teachers to the
taught, showed up an ignorance that was laughable.

The fables and maxims that had been passed from mouth to mouth were put
into writing and translated into various tongues.

The Sanscrit or Hindoo stories were undoubtedly the oldest and from
them were taken the Arabic and Persian tales. These drifted into Europe
and took a proper place among the literatures of the world.

Coleridge says that humor took its rise in the Middle Ages, while a
present day writer contradictingly asserts that nobody smiled from the
second century until the fifteenth.

It is true, that as the advent of Christianity put a full stop to all
progress in the arts and sciences so it impeded the advance of learning
and delayed the development of humor.

And yet, though men may not have smiled during the dark ages, they now
and then laughed, at a humor that was far from subtle, but which was
the foundation of the world’s merriment.

The monks and ecclesiastics who formulated the moral precepts for the
people found that the lessons were better conveyed by funny stories
than by serious ones, and the preachers came to use the hammer of
amusement to drive home their good advices.

                             MODERN HUMOR

With the readiness of the essayists to ascribe literary paternity,
Chaucer is called the Father of English Poetry.

Coleridge observes that he is the best representative in English of the
Norman-French Trouvères, but even more than by the French, Chaucer was
influenced by the great Italians, Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio, as
well as by Ovid and Virgil.

Father of Modern Poetry more correctly describes Chaucer, and as he was
the first notable English poet who was a layman, so also, was he the
first connected with the court.

Though his time, the Fourteenth Century, is practically in the Middle
Ages, Chaucer is distinctly modern in viewpoint and philosophy.

Born in London, he lived his life in the company of the men and women
of the circles he knew and loved. Mankind was his study and his theme.

The average reader is hampered by the difficulties of the early English
diction, and the modern mind is shocked by the freedom of speech then
in vogue.

But we append such bits of Chaucer’s verse as space allows.

       *       *       *       *       *

The story of the Cock and the Fox, in the Nun’s Priest’s Tale, is
allowed by judges to be the most admirable fable (in the narration)
that ever was written. The description of the birds, the delightful
gravity with which they are invested with intellectual endowments, are
conceived in the highest taste of true poetry and natural humour.

                        _THE COCK AND THE FOX_

    Now every wise man, let him hearken me:
    This story is all so true, I undertake,
    As is the book of Lancelot du Lake,
    That women hold in full great reverence.
    Now will I turn again to my sentence.
      A col fox, full of sly iniquity,
    That in the grove had wonned yearés three,
    By high imagination forecast.
    The samé night throughout the hedges brast
    Into the yard where Chanticleer the fair
    Was wont, and eke his wivés to repair,
    And in a bed of wortés still he lay
    Till it was passed undern of the day,
    Waiting his time on Chanticleer to fall,
    As gladly do these homicidés all
    That in await liggen to murder men.
      O falsé murderer! rucking in thy den,
    O newé Scariot, newé Ganelon!
    O false dissimuler, O Greek Simon!
    That broughtest Troy all utterly to sorrow.
    O Chanticleer, accursed be the morrow
    That thou into thy yard flew from thy beams
    Thou were full well ywarnéd by thy dreams
    That thilké day was perilous to thee:
    But what that God forewot must needés be,
    After the opinion of certain clerkés,
    Witness on him that any perfect clerk is,
    That in schoolé is great altercation
    In this matteré, and great disputision,
    And hath been of a hundred thousand men:
    But I ne cannot boult it to the bren,
    As can the holy Doctor Augustin,
    Or Boece, or the Bishop Bradwardin,
    Whether that Godde’s worthy foreweeting
    Straineth me needly for to do a thing
    (Needely clepe I simple necessity)
    Or elles if free choice be granted me
    To do the samé thing or do it naught
    Though God forewot it ere that it was wrought,
    Or if his weeting straineth never a deal
    But by necessity conditional.
    I will not have to do of such mattere;
    My Tale is of a Cock, as ye may hear,
    That took his counsel of his wife with sorrow,
    To walken in the yard upon the morrow
    That he had met the dream, as I you told.
    Womenne’s counsels be full often cold;
    Womenne’s counsels brought us first to woe,
    And made Adam from Paradise to go,
    There as he was full merry and well at ease:
    But for I n’ot to whom I might displease
    If I counsel of women wouldé blame--
    Pass over, for I said it in my game.
    Read authors where they treat of such mattere,
    And what they say of women ye may hear,
    These be the cocke’s wordés and not mine:
    I can none harm of no womán devine.
      Fair in the sand to bathe her merrily
    Li’th Partelote, and all her sisters by,
    Against the sun, and Chanticleer so free
    Sang merrier than the mermaid in the sea,
    (For Phisiologus sayeth sikerly
    How that they singeth well and merrily).
      And so befell that as he cast his eye
    Among the wortés on a butterfly,
    He was ware of this fox that lay full low,
    Nothing he list him thenné for to crow,
    But cried anon, “Cok! cok!” and up he start
    As man that was affrayed in his heart,
    For naturally a beast desireth flee
    From his contráry if he may it see,
    Though he ne’er erst had seen it with his eye.
      This Chanticleer, when he ’gan him espy,
    He would have fled, but that the fox anon
    Said: “Gentle sir, alas! what will be done?
    Be ye afraid of me that am your friend?
    Now, certes, I were worse than any fiend
    If I to you would harm or villany.
    I am not come your counsel to espy;
    But truély the cause of my coming
    Was only for to hearken how ye sing,
    For truély ye have as merry a steven
    As any angel hath that is in heaven;
    Therwith ye have of music more feeling
    Than had Boece, or any that can sing.
    My Lord, your father (God his soulé bless!)
    And eke your mother of her gentleness,
    Have in my house ybeen to my great ease,
    And certés, Sir, full fain would I you please.
    But for men speak of singing, I will say,
    (So may I brouken well my eyen tway,)
    Save you, ne heard I never man so sing
    As did your father in the morrowning:
    Certés it was of heart all that he sung:
    And for to make his voice the moré strong
    He would so pain him, that with both his eyen
    He musté wink, so loud he wouldé crien,
    And standen on his tiptoes therewithal,
    And stretchen forth his necké long and small.
    And eke he was of such discretion,
    That there n’as no man in no región
    That him in song or wisdom mighté pass.
    I have well read in Dan Burnel the ass
    Among his Vers, how that there was a cock,
    That for a Priestés son gave him a knock
    Upon his leg when he was young and nice
    He made him for to lose his benefice;
    But certain there is no comparison
    Betwixt the wisdom and discretion
    Of youré father and his subtilty.
    Now singeth, Sir, for Sainté Charity:
    Let see, can ye your father counterfeit?
      This Chanticleer his wingés ’gan to beat,
    As man that could not his treason espy,
    So was he ravished with his flattery.
      Alas! ye lordés, many a false flatour
    Is in your court, and many a losengeour,
    That pleaseth you well moré, by my faith,
    Than he that sothfastness unto you saith.
    Readeth Ecclesiast of flattery:
    Beware ye lordés of their treachery.
      This Chanticleer stood high upon his toes
    Stretching his neck, and held his eyen close,
    And ’gan to crowen loude for the nones;
    And Dan Russell the fox start up at once,
    And by the gargat henté Chanticleer
    And on his back toward the wood him bear,
    For yet ne was there no man that him sued.
      O destiny! that mayst not be eschew’d,
    Alas that Chanticleer flew from the beams,
    Alas his wife ne raughté not of dreams!
    And on a Friday fell all this mischance.

                          _TO MY EMPTY PURSE_

    To you, my purse, and to none other wight,
      Complain I, for ye be my lady dear;
    I am sorry now that ye be so light,
      For certés ye now make me heavy cheer;
      Me were as lief be laid upon a bier,
    For which unto your mercy thus I cry,
    Be heavy again, or ellés must I die.

    Now vouchsafen this day, ere it be night,
      That I of you the blissful sound may hear,
    Or see your colour like the sunné bright,
      That of yellowness ne had never peer;
      Ye be my life, ye be my heartés steer;
    Queen of comfórt and of good company,
      Be heavy again, or ellés must I die.

    Now, purse, that art to me my livés light,
      And saviour, as down in this world here,
    Out of this towné help me by your might,
      Sithen that you will not be my tresór,
    For I am shave as nigh as any frere,
    But I prayen unto your courtesy,
      Be heavy again, or ellés must I die.

                    _BALLAD OF WOMEN’S DOUBLENESS_

    This world is full of variance
      In everything; who taketh heed,
    That faith and trust, and all Constance,
      Exiléd be, this is no drede,
    And save only in womanhead,
      I can ysee no sikerness;
    But, for all that, yet as I read,
      Beware alway of doubleness.

    Also that the fresh summer flowers,
      The white and red, the blue and green,
    Be suddenly with winter showers,
      Made faint and fade, withouten ween;
    That trust is none, as ye may seen,
      In no thing, nor no steadfastness,
    Except in women, thus I mean;
      Yet aye beware of doubleness.

    The crooked moon (this is no tale),
      Some while isheen and bright of hue,
    And after that full dark and pale,
      And every moneth changeth new,
    That who the very sothé knew
      All thing is built on brittleness,
    Save that women always be true;
      Yet aye beware of doubleness.

    The lusty freshé summer’s day,
      And Phœbus with his beamés clear,
    Towardés night they draw away,
      And no longer list t’ appear,
    That in this present life now here
      Nothing abideth in his fairness,
    Save women aye be found entere,
      And devoid of all doubleness.

    The sea eke with his sterné wawés
      Each day yfloweth new again,
    And by the concourse of his lawés
      The ebbe floweth in certain;
    After great drought there cometh rain;
      That farewell here all stableness,
    Save that women be whole and plein;
      Yet aye beware of doubleness.

    Fortunés wheel go’th round about
      A thousand timés day and night,
    Whose course standeth ever in doubt
      For to transmue she is so light,
    For which adverteth in your sight
      Th’ untrust of worldly fickleness,
    Save women, which of kindly right
      Ne hath no touch of doubleness.

    What man ymay the wind restrain,
      Or holden a snake by the tail?
    Who may a slipper eel constrain
      That it will void withouten fail?
    Or who can driven so a nail
      To maké sure newfangleness,
    Save women, that can gie their sail
      To row their boat with doubleness?

    At every haven they can arrive
      Whereat they wot is good passáge;
    Of innocence they cannot strive
      With wawés, nor no rockés rage;
    So happy is their lodemanage
      With needle and stone their course to dress,
    That Solomon was not so sage
      To find in them no doubleness.

    Therefore whoso doth them accuse
      Of any double intentión,
    To speaké rown, other to muse,
      To pinch at their conditión,
    All is but false collusión,
      I dare right well the soth express;
    They have no better protectión,
      But shroud them under doubleness.

    So well fortunéd is their chance,
      The dice to-turnen up so down,
    With sice and cinque they can advance,
      And then by revolutión
    They set a fell conclusión
      Of lombés, as in sothfastness,
    Though clerkés maken mentión
      Their kind is fret with doubleness.

    Sampson yhad experience
      That women were full true yfound
    When Dalila of innocence
      With shearés ’gan his hair to round;
    To speak also of Rosamond,
      And Cleopatra’s faithfulness,
    The stories plainly will confound
      Men that apeach their doubleness.

    Single thing is not ypraiséd,
      Nor of old is of no renown,
    In balance when they be ypesed,
      For lack of weight they be borne down,
    And for this cause of just reason
      These women all of rightwisness
    Of choice and free electión
      Most love exchange and doubleness.


    O ye women! which be inclinéd
    By influence of your natúre
    To be as pure as gold yfinéd,
    And in your truth for to endure,
    Armeth yourself in strong armúre,
    (Lest men assail your sikerness,)
    Set on your breast, yourself t’assure,
    A mighty shield of doubleness.

Chaucer was called the Morning Star of Song, and his immediate
followers proved to be satellites of far less magnitude.

John Skelton, an early Poet Laureate, was of a buffoon type of humor,
yet thus speaks of his own verse.

    Though my rhyme be ragged,
    Tattered and gagged,
    Rudely rainbeaten,
    Rusty, moth-eaten,
    If ye take well therewith,
    It hath in it some pith.

One, at least, of his whimsical poems is not without charm.

                     _TO MAISTRES MARGARET HUSSEY_

    Mirry Margaret
    As midsomer flowre,
    Gentyll as faucon
    Or hauke of the towre,
    With solace and gladnes
    Moch mirth, and no madnes,
    All good and no badnes,
    So joyously
    So maydenly
    So womanly
    Her demeynynge
    In every thynge
    Far, far passynge
    That I can endite
    Or suffice to write
    Of mirry Margaret
    As mydsomer flowre
    Gentill as faucon
    Or hawke of the towre.
      As pacient and as styll
    And as ful of good wil
    As faire Isiphyll
    Sweete pomaunder
    Good Cassander;
    Stedfast of thought
    Wel made, wel wroght,
    Far may be sought
    Erst that ye can fynde
    So curteise so kynde
    As mirry Margaret
    This midsomer flowre,
    Gentyll as faucon
    Or hauke of the towre.

The Troubadours and Minstrels were followed by a type of entertainer
known as the Fool or the Court Fool, who took the place of the satirist
in the great households.

Soon various jests were collected, and attributed to these domestic
fools, whose garb began to take the form of the cap and bells,
accompanied by the jester’s bauble.

As printing became more widespread, the jestbooks multiplied, and many
collections were published in England.

Skelton seems to have been quite as much Court Jester as Poet Laureate
under Henry VII and Henry VIII, and a volume of _Merie Tayles of
Skelton_ is one of the earliest of the Jest Books.

Yet, since this was published some forty years after Skelton’s death
it is assumed that but few of the tales are really of the poet’s

Likewise, Scogin’s Jests and the stories attributed to Tarlton and
Peele are considered unauthentic as to authorship and merely the work
of the hack writers of the period.

These Jestbooks as well as the _C. Mery Talys_, or _Hundred
Merry Tales_, which, with its companion volume, _Mery Tales and
Quicke Answeres_, was, we are told, used by Shakespeare, are now
found in many reprints, and only a few bits of their witty or humorous
lore may be given here.

As an example of the sharp satire of Skelton, the following shows how
he regarded the prevalent practice of obtaining letters patent of
monopoly from the crown, and also is a hit at the fondness for drinking
among the Welsh.


Skelton, when he was in London went to the kynge’s courte, where there
dyd come to him a Welshman saying, “Syr, it is so that many dooth come
upp of my country to the kynge’s court, and some doth get of the kynge
by a patent a castell, and some a parke, and some a forest, and some
one fee and some another, and they doe lyve lyke honest men, and I
should lyve as honestly as the best, if I might have a patent for good
drynke, wherefore I dooe praye you to write a fewe woords for me in a
lytle byll to geve the same to the kynge’s handes, and I will geve you
well for your laboure. I am contented sayde Skelton. Syte downe, then,
sayd the Welshman and write. What shall I wryte? sayde Skelton. The
Welshman said wryte “_dryncke_.” Nowe sayde the Welshman wryte
“_more dryncke_.” What nowe? said Skelton. Wryte now “_A great
deale of dryncke_.” Nowe sayd the Welshman putte to all thys dryncke
“_A littell crome of breade_, and _a great déale of dryncke to
it_,” and reade once again. Skelton dyd reade “_Dryncke, more
dryncke, and a great deale of dryncke and a lytle crome of breade and a
great deale of dryncke to it_.” Then the Welshman sayde Put oute the
litle crome of breade, and sette in _all dryncke and no breade_.
And if I myght have thys sygned of the kynge, sayde the Welshman, I
care for no more as long as I lyve. Well, then, sayde Skelton, when you
have thys sygned of the kynge then will I labour for a patent to have
bread, that you wyth your dryncke and I with the bread may fare well,
and seeke our livinge with bagge and staffe.



Skelton was an Englysheman borne as Skogyn was, and hee was educated
& broughte up in Oxfoorde: and there was he made a poete lauriat. And
on a tyme he had ben at Abbington to make mery, wher that he had eate
salte meates, and hee did com late home to Oxforde, and he did lye in
an ine named y^e Tabere whyche is now the Angell, and hee dyd drynke,
& went to bed. About midnight he was so thyrstie or drye that hee was
constrained to call to the tapster for drynke, & the tapster harde
him not. Then hee cryed to hys oste & hys ostes, and to the ostler,
for drinke; and no man wold here hym. Alacke, sayd Skelton, I shall
peryshe for lacke of drynke! what reamedye? At the last he dyd crie
out and sayd: Fyer, fyer, fyer! when Skelton hard euery man bustle
hymselfe upward, & some of them were naked, & some were halfe asleepe
and amased, and Skelton dyd crye: Fier, fier! styll, that everye man
knewe not whether to resorte. Skelton did go to bed, and the oste and
ostis, & the tapster with the ostler, dyd runne to Skeltons chamber
with candles lyghted in theyr handes, saying: where, where, where is
the fyer? Here, here, here, said Skelton, & poynted hys fynger to hys
moouth, saying: fetch me some drynke to quenche the fyer and the heate
and the drinesse in my mouthe: & so they dyd. Wherfore it is good for
everye man to helpe hys owne selfe in tyme of neede wythe some policie
or crafte, so bee it there bee no deceit nor falshed used.

                          THE JESTS OF SCOGIN


Scogin on a tyme had two egs to his breakfast, and Jack his scholler
should rost them; and as they were rosting, Scogin went to the fire
to warme him. And as the egs were rosting, Jacke said: sir, I can by
sophistry prove that here be three egs. Let me se that, said Scogin.
I shall tel you, sir, said Jack. Is not here one? Yes, said Scogin.
And is not here two? Yes, said Scogin; of that I am sure. Then Jack
did tell the first egge againe, saying: is not this the third? O, said
Scogin, Jack, thou art a good sophister; wel, said Scogin, these two
eggs shall serve me for my breakfast, and take thou the third for thy
labour and for the herring that thou didst give mee the last day. So
one good turne doth aske another, and to deceive him that goeth about
to deceive is no deceit.

       *       *       *       *       *

This is a very common story. It is, in a slightly varied form, No. 67
of _A C Mery Tales_, and Johnson has introduced it into _The
Pleasant Conceits of Old Hobson, the Merry Londoner_, 1607.


Scogin divers times did lacke money, and could not tell what shift
to make. At last, he thought to play the physician, and did fill a
box full of the powder of a rotten post; and on a Sunday he went to
a Parish Church, and told the wives that hee had a powder to kil up
all the fleas in the country, and every wife bought a pennyworth; and
Scogin went his way, ere Masse was done. The wives went home, and
cast the powder into their beds and in their chambers, and the fleas
continued still. On a time, Scogin came to the same Church on a
sunday, and when the wives had espied him, the one said to the other:
this is he that deceived us with the powder to kill fleas; see, said
the one to the other, this is the selfe-same person. When Masse was
done, the wives gathered about Scogin, and said: you be an honest man
to deceive us with the powder to kill fleas. Why, said Scogin, are not
your fleas all dead? We have more now (said they) than ever we had. I
marvell of that, said Scogin, I am sure you did not use the medicine as
you should have done. They said: wee did cast it in our beds and in our
chambers. I, said he, there be a sort of fooles that will buy a thing,
and will not aske what they should doe with it. I tell you all, that
you should have taken every flea by the neck, and then they would gape;
and then you should have cast a little of the powder into every flea’s
mouth, and so you should have killed them all. Then said the wives: we
have not onely lost our money, but we are mocked for our labour.


                           _THE SECOND TALE_

There was a man of Gottam did ride to the market with two bushells of
wheate, and because his horse should not beare heavy, he caried his
corne upon his owne necke, & did ride upon his horse, because his horse
should not cary to heavy a burthen. Judge you which was the wisest, his
horse or himselfe.

                           _THE THIRD TALE_

On a tyme, the men of Gottam would have pinned in the Cuckoo, whereby
shee should sing all the yeere, and in the midst of ye town they made
a hedge round in compasse, and they had got a Cuckoo, and had put
her into it, and said: Sing here all the yeere, and thou shalt lacke
neither meate nor drinke. The Cuckoo, as soone as she perceived her
selfe incompassed within the hedge, flew away. A vengeance on her! said
they; we made not our hedge high enough.



Coomes of Stapforth, hearing that his wife was drowned comming from
market, went with certayne of his friends to see if they could find her
in the river. He, contrary to all the rest, sought his wife against
the streame; which they perceyving, sayd he lookt the wrong way. And
why so? (quoth he.) Because (quoth they) you should looke downe the
streame, and not against it. Nay, zounds (quoth hee), I shall never
find her that way: for shee did all things so contrary in her life
time, that now she is dead, I am sure she will goe against the streame.



On a time Master Hobson upon some ocation came to Master Fleetewoods
house to speake with him, being then new chosen the recorder of London,
and asked one of his men if he were within, and he said he was not at
home. But Maister Hobson, perceving that his maister bad him say so,
and that he was within (not being willing at that time to be spoken
withall), for that time desembling the matter, he went his way. Within
a few dayes after, it was Maister Fleetwoods chaunse to come to Maister
Hobson’s, and knocking at the dore, asked if he were within. Maister
Hobson, hearing and knowing how he was denyed Maister Fleetwoods speach
before time, spake himselfe aloud, and said hee was not at home. Then
sayd Maister Fleetwood: what, Master Hobson, thinke you that I knowe
not your voyce? Whereunto Maister Hobson answered and said: now,
Maister Fleetewood, am I quit with you: for when I came to speake with
you, I beleeved your man that said you were not at home, and now you
will not beleeve mine owne selfe; and this was the mery conference
betwixt these two merry gentlemen.


A certayne Poore-man met king Phillip, & besought him for something,
because he was his kinsman. The king demanded frō whence descended.
Who answered: from Adam. Then the K. commaunded an Almes to be given.
Hee replyed, an Almes was not the gift of a king; to whome the king
answered: if I should so reward all my kindred in that kinde, I should
leave but little for myselfe.

       *       *       *       *       *

A certaine conceyted Traveller being at a Banquet, where chanced a
flye to fall into his cuppe, which hee (being to drinke) tooke out for
himselfe, and afterwards put in againe for his fellow: being demanded
his reason, answered, that for his owne part he affected them not, but
it might be some other did.

       *       *       *       *       *

A certaine player, seeing Thieves in his house in the night, thus
laughingly sayde: I knowe not what you will finde here in the dark,
when I can find nothing my selfe in the light.


Taylor the Water-Poet was one of the favourite authors of Robert
Southey, who has given an account of his life and writings in
his _Uneducated Poets_, and has quoted him largely in his
_Common-Place Book_.

John Garret, at the request of whose ghost the Water-Poet professes
to have formed the present collection, was a jester of the period,
mentioned by Bishop Corbet and others. Heylin, author of the
Cosmography, speaks of “Archy’s bobs, and Garrets sawcy jests.” In his
dedication of the _Wit and Mirth_, Taylor alludes to Garret as
“that old honest mirrour of mirth deceased.”

Taylor, to forestall possible cavils at his plagiarisms from others, or
adoption of good sayings already published and well-known, expressly
says in the dedication: “Because I had many of them [the jests] by
relation and heare-say, I am in doubt that some of them may be in print
in some other Authors, which I doe assure you is more than I doe know.”

       *       *       *       *       *

One said, that hee could never have his health in _Cambridge_,
and that if hee had lived there till this time, hee thought in his
conscience that hee had dyed seven yeeres agoe.

A Judge upon the Bench did aske an old man how old he was. My Lord,
said he, I am eight and fourscore. And why not fourscore and eight?
said the Judge. The other repli’d: because I was eight, before I was

       *       *       *       *       *

A rich man told his nephew that hee had read a booke called _Lucius
Apuleius of the Golden Asse_, and that he found there how Apuleius,
after he had beene an asse many yeeres, by eating of Roses he did
recover his manly shape againe, and was no more an asse: the young man
replied to his uncle: Sir, if I were worthy to advise you, I would give
you counsell to eate a salled of Roses once a weeke yourselfe.

       *       *       *       *       *

A country man being demanded how such a River was called, that ranne
through their Country, hee answered that they never had need to call
the River, for it alwayes came without calling.

       *       *       *       *       *

One borrowed a cloake of a Gentleman, and met one that knew him, who
said: I thinke I know that cloake. It may be so, said the other, I
borrowed it of such a Gentleman. The other told him that it was too
short. Yea, but, quoth he that had the cloake, I will have it long
enough, before I bring it home againe.


A woman there was which had had iiii husbandys. It fourtuned also that
this fourth husbande dyed and was brought to chyrche upon the bere;
whom this woman folowed and made great mone, and waxed very sory,
in so moche that her neyghbours thought she wolde swown and dye for
sorow. Wherfore one of her gosseps cam to her, and spake to her in
her ere, and bad her, for Godds sake, comfort her self and refrayne
that lamentacion, or ellys it wold hurt her and peraventure put her in
jeopardy of her life. To whom this woman answeryd and sayd: I wys, good
gosyp, I have grete cause to morne, if ye knew all. For I have beryed
iii husbandes besyde this man; but I was never in the case that I am
now. For there was not one of them but when that I folowed the corse to
chyrch, yet I was sure of an nother husband, before the corse cam out
of my house, and now I am sure of no nother husband; and therfore ye
may be sure I have great cause to be sad and hevy.

By thys tale ye may se that the olde proverbe ys trew, that it is as
great pyte to se a woman wepe as a gose to go barefote.

                            A C. MERY TALYS

                             DETHE BEDDE_

A ryche covetous marchant there was that dwellid in London, which
ever gaderyd mony and could never fynd in hys hert to spend ought
_upon_ hym selfe nor upon no man els. Whiche fell sore syke, and
as he laye on hys deth bed had his purs lyenge at his beddys hede, and
[he] had suche a love to his money that he put his hande in his purs,
and toke out thereof x or xii li. in nobles and put them in his mouth.
And because his wyfe and other perceyved hym very syke and lyke to dye,
they exortyd hym to be confessyd, and brought the curate unto hym.
Which when they had caused him to say Benedicite, the curate bad hym
crye God mercy and shewe to hym his synnes. Than this seyck man began
to sey: I crey God mercy I have offendyd in the vii dedly synnes and
broken the x commaundementes; but because of the gold in his mouth he
muffled so in his speche, that the curate could not well understande
hym: wherfore the curat askyd hym, what he had in his mouthe that
letted his spech. I wys, mayster parsone, quod the syke man,
muffelynge, I have nothyng in my mouthe but a lyttle money; bycause I
wot not whither I shal go, I thought I wold take some spendynge money
with me: for I wot not what nede I shall have therof; and incontynent
after that sayeng dyed, before he was confessyd or repentant that any
man coulde perceyve, and so by lyklyhod went to the devyll.

By this tale ye may se, that they that all theyr lyves wyll never do
charyte to theyr neghbours, that God in tyme of theyr dethe wyll not
suffre them to have grace of repentaunce.


A ryche Frankelyn in the contrey havynge by his wyfe but one chylde and
no mo, for the great affeccyon that he had to his sayd chylde founde
hym at Oxforde to schole by the space of ii or iii yere. Thys yonge
scoler, in a vacacyon tyme, for his disporte came home to his father.
It fortuned afterwarde on a nyght, the father, the mother and the sayd
yonge scoler

                          _5 lines wanting._

_I_ have studyed sovestry, and by that scyence I can prove, that
these ii chekyns in the dysshe be thre chekyns. Mary, sayde the father,
that wolde I fayne se. The scoller toke one of the chekyns in his hande
and said: lo! here is one chekyn, and incontynente he toke bothe the
chekyns in his hande jointely and sayd: here is ii chekyns; and one and
ii maketh iii: ergo here is iii chekyns. Than the father toke one of
the chekyns to him selfe, and gave another to his wyfe, and sayd thus:
lo! I wyll have one of the chekyns to my parte, and thy mother shal
have a nother, and because of thy good argumente thou shalte have the
thyrde to thy supper: for thou gettyst no more meate here at this tyme;
whyche promyse the father kepte, and so the scoller wente without his

By this tale men may se, that it is great foly to put one to scole to
lerne any subtyll scyence, whiche hathe no naturall wytte.


A certayne merchaunt and a courtear, _being upon a time together_
at dyner having a hote custerd, _the courtear being_ somwhat
homely of maner toke _parte of it and put it_ in hys mouth, whych
was so hote that made him _shed teares._ The merchaunt, lookyng
on him, thought that he had _ben weeping, and asked hym why_ he
wept. This curtear, not wyllynge it to be _known that he had brent
his_ mouth with the hote custerd, answered and said, sir: _quod
he, I had_ a brother whych dyd a certayn offence wherfore he was
hanged; _and, chauncing_ to think now uppon his deth, it maketh
me to wepe. This merchaunt thought the courtear had said trew, and
anon after the merchaunt was disposid to ete _of the custerd_,
and put a sponefull of it in his mouth, and brent his mouth also, that
his _eyes watered_. This courtear, that percevyng, spake to the
merchaunt and seyd: sir, quod _he, pray_ why do ye wepe now? The
merchaunt perseyved how he had _bene deceived_ and said: mary,
quod he, I wepe, because thou wast not hangid, _when that_ they
brother was hangyd.


A man there was whose wyfe, as she came over a bridg, fell in to the
ryver and was drowned; wherfore he wente and sought for her upward
against the stream, wherat his neighboures, that wente with hym,
marvayled, and sayde he dyd nought, he shulde go seke her downeward
with the streme. Naye, quod he, I am sure I shall never fynde her that
waye: for she was so waywarde and so contrary to every thynge, while
she lyvedde, that I knowe very well nowe she is deed, she wyll go a
gaynste the stream.


There was a felowe dwellynge at Florence, called Nigniaca, whiche was
nat verye wyse, nor all a foole, but merye and jocunde. A sorte of
yonge men, for to laughe and pastyme, appoynted to gether to make hym
beleve that he was sycke. So, whan they were agreed howe they wolde do,
one of them mette hym in the mornynge, as he came out of his house, and
bad him good morowe, and than asked him, if he were nat yl at ease? No,
quod the foole, I ayle nothynge, I thanke God. By my faith, ye have a
sickely pale colour, quod the other, and wente his waye.

Anone after, an other of them mette hym, and asked hym if he had nat an
ague: for your face and colour (quod he) sheweth that ye be very sycke.
Than the foole beganne a lyttel to doubt, whether he were sycke or no:
for he halfe beleved that they sayd trouth. Whan he had gone a lytel
farther, the thyrde man mette hym, and sayde: Jesu! manne, what do you
out of your bed? ye loke as ye wolde nat lyve an houre to an ende. Nowe
he doubted greatly, and thought verily in his mynde, that he had hadde
some sharpe ague; wherfore he stode styll and wolde go no further; and,
as he stode, the fourth man came and sayde: Jesu! man, what dost thou
here, and arte so sycke? Gette the home to thy bedde: for I parceyve
thou canste nat lyve an houre to an ende. Than the foles harte beganne
to feynte, and [he] prayde this laste man that came to hym to helpe
hym home. Yes, quod he, I wyll do as moche for the as for myn owne
brother. So home he brought hym, and layde hym in his bed, and than he
fared with hym selfe, as thoughe he wolde gyve up the gooste. Forth
with came the other felowes, and saide he hadde well done to lay hym in
his bedde. Anone after, came one whiche toke on hym to be a phisitian;
whiche, touchynge the pulse, sayde the malady was so vehement, that he
coulde nat lyve an houre. So they, standynge aboute the bedde, sayde
one to an other: nowe he gothe his waye: for his speche and syght fayle
him; by and by he wyll yelde up the goste. Therfore lette us close his
eyes, and laye his hands a crosse, and cary hym forth to be buryed.
And than they sayde lamentynge one to an other: O! what a losse have we
of this good felowe, our frende?

The foole laye stylle, as one [that] were deade; yea, and thought in
his mynde, that he was deade in dede. So they layde hym on a bere, and
caryed hym through the cite. And whan any body asked them what they
caryed, they sayd the corps of Nigniaca to his grave. And ever as they
went, people drew about them. Among the prece ther was a taverners boy,
the whiche, whan he herde that it was the cors of Nigniaca, he said to
them: O! what a vile bestly knave, and what a stronge thefe is deed! by
the masse, he was well worthy to have ben hanged longe ago. Whan the
fole harde those wordes, he put out his heed and sayd: I wys, horeson,
if I were alyve nowe, as I am deed, I wolde prove the a false lyer to
thy face. They, that caryed him, began to laugh so hartilye, that they
sette downe the bere, and wente theyr waye.

By this tale ye maye se, what the perswasion of many doth. Certaynly he
is very wyse, that is nat inclined to foly, if he be stered thereunto
by a multitude. Yet sapience is founde in fewe persones: and they be
lyghtly olde sobre men.

       *       *       *       *       *

A few further bits are added, being witty sayings from Camden, Bacon
and the Jest Books and manuscripts of the period.

       *       *       *       *       *

Queen Elizabeth seeing a gentleman in her garden, who had not felt
the effect of her favours so soon as he expected, looking out of her
window, said to him, in Italian, “What does a man think of, Sir Edward,
when he thinks of nothing?” After a little pause, he answered, “He
thinks, Madam, of a woman’s promise.” The queen shrunk in her head, but
was heard to say, _Well, Sir Edward, I must not confute you: Anger
makes dull men witty, but it keeps them poor_.

       *       *       *       *       *

A certain nobleman sold a gentleman a horse for a good round sum, which
he took upon his lordship’s word, that he had no fault. About three
weeks after, he met my lord; “Why, your lordship told me,” says he,
“that your horse had no fault, and he is blind of an eye.” _Well,
Sir_, says my lord, _it is no fault, it is only a misfortune_.

       *       *       *       *       *

A doctor of little learning, and less modesty, having talked much at
table; one, much admiring him, asked another, when the doctor was gone,
if he did not think him a great scholar? The answer was, _He may be
learned, for aught I know, or can discover; but I never heard learning
make such a noise_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sir Drue Drury called for tobacco-pipes at a tavern. The waiter brought
some, and, in laying them down on the table, broke most of them. Sir
Drue swore a great oath, that they were made of the same metal with
the Commandments. “Why so?” says one. _Because they are so soon

       *       *       *       *       *

A rich usurer was very lame of one of his legs, and yet nothing of hurt
outwardly to be seen, whereupon he sent for a surgeon for his advice;
who, being more honest than ordinary, told him, “It was in vain to
meddle with it, for it was only old age that was the cause.” _But why
then_ (said the usurer) _should not my other leg be as lame as
this, seeing that the one is no older than the other?_

       *       *       *       *       *

A gentleman disputing about religion in Button’s Coffeehouse, some of
the company said, “You talk of religion! I will hold you five guineas,
you cannot repeat the Lord’s prayer; Sir Richard Steele here shall hold
stakes.” The money being deposited, the gentleman began, _I believe
in God_; and so went through his Creed. _Well_, said the other,
_I own I have lost, but I did not think that you could have done

       *       *       *       *       *

A gentleman calling for small-beer at another gentleman’s table,
finding it very hard, gave it the servant again without drinking.
“What,” said the master of the house, “do you not like the beer?” _It
is not to be found fault with_, answered the other, _for one
should never speak ill of the dead_.

Some gentlemen being at a tavern together, for want of better
diversion, some proposed play; but, said another of the company, “I
have fourteen good reasons against gaming.” “What are those,” said
another? “In the first place,” answered he, _I have no Money_.
_Oh!_ said the first, _if you had four hundred reasons, you need
not name another_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Quin used to apply a story to the then ministry. A master of a brig
calls out, _Who is there?_ A boy answered, _Will, Sir.--What are
you doing?--Nothing, Sir.--Is Tom there?--Yes_, says Tom.--_What
are you doing, Tom?--Helping Will, Sir._

       *       *       *       *       *

A gentleman, passing a woman who was skinning eels, and observing the
torture of the poor animals, asked her, how she could have the heart to
put them to such pain. _Ah_, said she, _poor creatures! they be
used to it_.

       *       *       *       *       *

A silly priest at Trumpington being to read that place, _Eli, Eli,
Lamasabachthani_, began to consider with himself, that it might
be ridiculous and absurd for him to read it as it stood, because he
was vicar of Trumpington, and not of Ely: and therefore he read it,
_Trumpington, Trumpington, Lamasabachthani_.

       *       *       *       *       *

It seems impossible, right here, not to digress, chronologically, for a

Every one will have noticed that these old time jests are the
foundations on which many modern stories are built, but the last one
quoted above is so palpably the prototype of a current Boston story
that it must be told.

       *       *       *       *       *

A small child named Halliwell, spending the night with a neighbor, Mrs.
Cabot, knelt at the knee of her hostess to say her evening prayer.

“Our Father who art in Heaven,” the little visitor began devoutly,
“Cabot be thy name--”

“What? What do you mean?” asked the startled lady.

“Oh,” said the child, “of course, at home, I say ‘Halliwell be thy
name,’ but here, I thought it more polite to say Cabot.”

       *       *       *       *       *

It is held by most writers on the subject that the great influx of
humor into literature took place in the latter half of the sixteenth

This is partly because the progressing art of printing brought about
the influx of many elements into literature at that time, and also
because then appeared the work of three of the greatest of the world’s

Shakespeare in England, Rabelais in France and Cervantes in Spain, gave
us their immortal works.

Earlier in the century Thomas More in his _Utopia_ and Nicholas
Udall in his _Ralph Royster Doyster_ wrote in humorously satiric
vein, but these works are difficult to quote from satisfactorily.

Having reached the period when Humor began to be produced in various
countries independently of one another, it becomes necessary to modify
our strict chronological arrangement and consider the nations and their
humorists separately.

Before this, broadly speaking, literature should be considered as a
whole, but as great names began to appear in certain widely separated
localities, a national division must be made.

And so, continuing in England, we come to William Shakespeare.

With Shakespeare’s greatness as a poet and dramatist we are not here
concerned, but there are some critics who dispute his preeminence as a

While Hazlitt declared that in his opinion Molière was as great or
greater than Shakespeare as a comic genius; Doctor Johnson, on the
other hand, held that Shakespeare’s comedies are better than his

However, few are found to support Johnson’s opinion, and Hazlitt
qualifies his by saying that as Shakespeare’s imagination and poetry
were the master qualities of his mind, the ludicrous was forced to take
second place.

Both these worthies, however, agree on the question of Falstaff’s
greatness, and Hazlitt takes this attitude.

“I would not be understood to say that there are not scenes or whole
characters in Shakespeare equal in wit and drollery to anything upon
record. Falstaff alone is an instance, which, if I would, I could not
get over. He is the leviathan of all the creatures of the author’s
comic genius, and tumbles about his unwieldy bulk in an ocean of wit
and humour. But in general it will be found (if I am not mistaken),
that even in the very best of these the spirit of humanity and the
fancy of the poet greatly prevail over the mere wit and satire, and
that we sympathize with his characters oftener than we laugh at them.
His ridicule wants the sting of ill-nature. He had hardly such a thing
as spleen in his composition. Falstaff himself is so great a joke,
rather from his being so huge a mass of enjoyment than of absurdity.”

While with equal perceptive judgment “Falstaff,” says Dr. Johnson,
“unimitated, unimitable Falstaff, how shall I describe thee? Thou
compound of sense and vice; of sense which may be admired but not
esteemed; of vice which may be despised, but hardly detested! Falstaff
... is a thief and a glutton, a coward and a boaster, always ready to
cheat the weak and prey upon the poor; to terrify the timorous and
insult the defenceless. At once obsequious and malignant, he satirizes
in their absence those whom he lives by flattering.... Yet the man thus
corrupt, thus despicable, makes himself necessary to the Prince that
despises him, by the most pleasing of all qualities, perpetual gaiety,
by an unfailing power of exciting laughter, which is the more freely
indulged, as his wit is not of the splendid or ambitious kind, but
consists in easy scapes and sallies of levity, which make sport, but
raise no envy.”

One of the most difficult of all poets to quote from, we can only offer
detached and fugitive fragments of Shakespeare’s plays; beginning with
a bit quoted by Hazlitt and accompanied by his delightful observations

“Shakespeare takes up the meanest subjects with the same tenderness
that we do an insect’s wing, and would not kill a fly. To give a more
particular instance of what I mean, I will take the inimitable and
affecting, though most absurd and ludicrous dialogue, between Shallow
and Silence, on the death of old Double.”

       *       *       *       *       *

_Shallow._ Come on, come on, come on; give me your hand, sir; give
me your hand, sir; an early stirrer, by the rood. And how doth my good
cousin Silence?

_Silence._ Good morrow, good cousin Shallow.

_Shallow._ And how doth my cousin, your bedfellow? and your
fairest daughter, and mine, my god-daughter Ellen?

_Silence._ Alas, a black ouzel, cousin Shallow.

_Shallow._ By yea and nay, sir; I dare say, my cousin William is
become a good scholar: he is at Oxford still, is he not?

_Silence._ Indeed, sir, to my cost.

_Shallow._ He must then to the inns of court shortly. I was once
of Clement’s inn; where, I think, they will talk of mad Shallow yet.

_Silence._ You were called lusty Shallow then, cousin.

_Shallow._ I was called anything, and I would have done anything
indeed, and roundly too. There was I, and little John Doit of
Staffordshire, and black George Bare, and Francis Pickbone, and Will
Squele, a Cotswold man, you had not four such swinge-bucklers in all
the inns of court again; and, I may say to you, we knew where the
bonarobas were, and had the best of them all at commandment. Then was
Jack Falstaff, now Sir John, a boy, and page to Thomas Mowbray, Duke of

_Silence._ This Sir John, cousin, that comes hither anon about

_Shallow._ The same Sir John, the very same: I saw him break
Schoggan’s head at the court-gate, when he was a crack, not thus
high; and the very same day did I fight with one Sampson Stockfish, a
fruiterer, behind Gray’s-inn. O, the mad days that I have spent! and to
see how many of mine old acquaintances are dead!

_Silence._ We shall all follow, cousin.

_Shallow._ Certain, ’tis certain, very sure, very sure: death (as
the Psalmist saith) is certain to all, all shall die.--How a good yoke
of bullocks at Stamford fair?

_Silence._ Truly cousin, I was not there.

_Shallow._ Death is certain. Is old Double of your town living yet?

_Silence._ Dead, sir.

_Shallow._ Dead! see, see! he drew a good bow; and dead? he shot
a fine shoot. John of Gaunt loved him well, and betted much money on
his head. Dead! he would have clapped i’ th’ clout at twelve score; and
carried you a forehand shaft a fourteen and a half, that it would have
done a man’s heart good to see.--How a score of ewes now?

_Silence._ Thereafter as they be: a score of good ewes may be
worth ten pounds.

_Shallow._ And is old Double dead?

       *       *       *       *       *

There is not anything more characteristic than this in all Shakespeare.
A finer sermon on mortality was never preached. We see the frail
condition of human life, and the weakness of the human understanding
in Shallow’s reflections on it; who, while the past is sliding
from beneath his feet, still clings to the present. The meanest
circumstances are shown through an atmosphere of abstraction that
dignifies them: their very insignificance makes them more affecting,
for they instantly put a check on our aspiring thoughts, and remind us
that, seen through that dim perspective, the difference between the
great and little, the wise and foolish, is not much. ‘One touch of
nature makes the whole world kin’: and old Double, though his exploits
had been greater, could but have had his day. There is a pathetic
_naïveté_ mixed up with Shallow’s commonplace reflections and
impertinent digressions. The reader laughs (as well he may) in reading
the passage, but he lays down the book to think. The wit, however
diverting, is social and humane. But this is not the distinguishing
characteristic of wit, which is generally provoked by folly, and spends
its venom upon vice.

The fault, then, of Shakespeare’s comic Muse is, in my opinion, that it
is too good-natured and magnanimous. It mounts above its quarry. It is
‘apprehensive, quick, forgetive, full of nimble, fiery, and delectable
shapes’: but it does not take the highest pleasure in making human
nature look as mean, as ridiculous, and contemptible as possible. It is
in this respect, chiefly, that it differs from the comedy of a later,
and (what is called) a more refined period.”

                        _FROM HENRY IV, PART I_

_Enter_ HENRY _Prince of Wales and_ SIR JOHN FALSTAFF.

_Falstaff._ Now, Hal, what time of day is it, lad?

_Prince Henry._ Thou art so fat-witted with drinking of old
sack, and unbuttoning thee after supper, and sleeping upon benches
after noon, that thou hast forgotten to demand that truly which thou
wouldst truly know. What a devil hast thou to do with the time of the
day? Unless hours were cups of sack, and minutes capons, and clocks
the tongues of bawds, and dials the signs of leaping-houses, and the
blessed sun himself a fair hot wench in flame-colored taffata, I see no
reason why thou should’st be so superfluous to demand the time of the

_Falstaff._ Indeed, you come near me now, Hal; for we that take
purses, go by the moon and seven stars; and not by Phœbus--he, “that
wand’ring knight so fair.” And, I pray thee, sweet wag, when thou art
king, as God save thy grace (majesty I should say; for grace thou wilt
have none)--

_Prince Henry._ What! none?

_Falstaff._ No, by my troth; not so much as will serve to be
prologue to an egg and butter.

_Prince Henry._ Well, how then? come, roundly, roundly.

_Falstaff._ Marry, then, sweet wag, when thou art king, let not us
that are squires of the night’s body, be called thieves of the day’s
beauty; let us be--Diana’s foresters, gentlemen of the shade, minions
of the moon: and let men say, we be men of good government; being
governed, as the sea is, by our noble and chaste mistress the moon,
under whose countenance we--steal.

_Prince Henry._ Thou say’st well, and it holds well, too; for the
fortune of us, that are the moon’s men, doth ebb and flow like the sea;
being governed as the sea is, by the moon. As, for proof, now, a purse
of gold most resolutely snatched on Monday night, and most dissolutely
spent on Tuesday morning; got with swearing--_lay by_; and spent
with crying--_bring in_; now, in as low an ebb as the foot of the
ladder; and, by and by, in as high a flow as the ridge of the gallows.

_Falstaff._ By the Lord, thou say’st true, lad. And is not my
hostess of the tavern a most sweet wench?

_Prince Henry._ As the honey of Hybla, my old lad of the castle.
And is not a buff jerkin a most sweet robe of durance?

_Falstaff._ How now, how now, mad wag? what, in thy quips and thy
quiddities? what a plague have I to do with a buff jerkin?

_Prince Henry._ Why, what a pox have I to do with my hostess of
the tavern?

_Falstaff._ Well, thou hast called her to a reckoning many a time
and oft.

_Prince Henry._ Did I ever call for thee to pay thy part?

_Falstaff._ No, I’ll give thee thy due, thou hast paid all there.

_Prince Henry._ Yea, and elsewhere, so far as my coin would
stretch; and where it would not I have used my credit.

_Falstaff._ Yea, and so used it, that, were it not here apparent
that thou art heir apparent,--But, I pr’ythee, sweet wag, shall there
be gallows standing in England when thou art king? and resolution thus
fobbed as it is, with the rusty curb of old father antic the law? Do
not thou, when thou art king, hang a thief.

_Prince Henry._ No; thou shalt.

_Falstaff._ Shall I? Oh, rare! By the Lord, I’ll be a brave judge.

_Prince Henry._ Thou judgest false already; I mean thou shalt have
the hanging of the thieves, and so become a rare hangman.

_Falstaff._ Well, Hal, well; and in some sort it jumps with my
humor, as well as waiting in the court, I can tell you.

_Prince Henry._ For obtaining of suits?

_Falstaff._ Yea, for obtaining of suits; whereof the hangman hath
no lean wardrobe. ’Sblood, I am as melancholy as a gib-cat or a lugged

_Prince Henry._ Or an old lion; or a lover’s lute.

_Falstaff._ Yea, or the drone of a Lincolnshire bagpipe.

_Prince Henry._ What say’st thou to a hare, or the melancholy of

_Falstaff._ Thou hast the most unsavory similes; and art, indeed,
the most comparative, rascalliest,--sweet young prince,--But Hal, I
pr’ythee trouble me no more with vanity. I would to God thou and I
knew where a commodity of good names were to be bought: an old lord of
the council rated me the other day in the street about you, sir; but I
marked him not; and yet he talked very wisely; but I regarded him not:
and yet he talked wisely, and in the street too.

_Prince Henry._ Thou didst well; for wisdom cries out in the
streets and no man regards it.

_Falstaff._ Oh, thou hast damnable iteration; and art, indeed,
able to corrupt a saint. Thou hast done much harm upon me, Hal,--God
forgive thee for it! Before I knew thee, Hal, I knew nothing; and
now am I, if a man should speak truly, little better than one of the
wicked. I must give over this life, and I will give it over; by the
Lord, and I do not, I am a villain; I’ll be damned for never a king’s
son in Christendom.

_Prince Henry._ Where shall we take a purse tomorrow, Jack?

_Falstaff._ Zounds, where thou wilt, lad; I’ll make one; an I do
not, call me villain, and baffle me.

_Prince Henry._ I see a good amendment of life in thee; from
praying to purse-taking.

                     _FROM MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING_


_Dogberry._ Is our whole dissembly appeared?

_Verges._ Oh, a stool and a cushion for the sexton!

_Sexton._ Which be the malefactors?

_Dogberry._ Marry, that am I and my partner.

_Verges._ Nay, that’s certain. We have the exhibition to examine.

_Sexton._ But which are the offenders that are to be examined? Let
them come before master constable.

_Dogberry._ Yea, marry, let them come before me. What is your
name, friend?

_Borachio._ Borachio.

_Dogberry._ Pray, write down--Borachio.--Yours, sirrah?

_Conrade._ I am a gentleman, sir, and my name is Conrade.

_Dogberry._ Write down--master gentleman Conrade.--Masters, do you
serve God?

_Conrade, Borachio._ Yea, sir, we hope.

_Dogberry._ Write down--that they hope they serve God. And
write God first; for God defend but God should go before such
villains!--Masters, it is proved already that you are little better
than false knaves; and it will go near to be thought so shortly. How
answer you for yourselves?

_Conrade._ Marry, sir, we are none.

_Dogberry._ A marvellous witty fellow, I assure you; but I will go
about with him.--Come you hither, sirrah; a word in your ear, sir; I
say to you, it is thought you are false knaves.

_Borachio._ Sir, I say to you, we are none.

_Dogberry._ Well, stand aside.--’Fore God, they are both in a
tale. Have you writ down, that they are none?

_Sexton._ Master constable, you go not the way to examine: you
must call forth the watch that are their accusers.

_Dogberry._ Yea, marry, that’s the eftest way.--Let the watch come
forth.--Masters, I charge you, in the prince’s name, accuse these men.

_1st Watch._ This man said, sir, that Don John, the prince’s
brother, was a villain.

_Dogberry._ Write down--Prince John a villain. Why, this is flat
perjury, to call a prince’s brother villain.

_Borachio._ Master constable--

_Dogberry._ Pray thee, fellow, peace: I do not like thy look, I
promise thee.

_Sexton._ What heard you him say else?

_2d Watch._ Marry, that he had received a thousand ducats of Don
John, for accusing the Lady Hero wrongfully.

_Dogberry._ Flat burglary as ever was committed!

_Verges._ Yea, by the mass, that it is.

_Sexton._ What else, fellow?

_1st Watch._ And that Count Claudio did mean, upon his words, to
disgrace Hero before the whole assembly, and not marry her.

_Dogberry._ O villain! thou wilt be condemned into everlasting
redemption for this.

_Sexton._ What else?

_2d Watch._ This is all.

_Sexton._ And this is more, masters, than you can deny. Prince
John is this morning secretly stolen away; Hero was in this manner
accused, in this very manner refused, and, upon the grief of this,
suddenly died.--Master constable, let these men be bound, and brought
to Leonato’s: I will go before, and show him their examination.

_Dogberry._ Come, let them be opinioned.

_Verges._ Let them be in the hands--

_Conrade._ Off, coxcomb!

_Dogberry._ God’s my life! Where’s the sexton? Let him write
down--the prince’s officer, coxcomb.--Come, bind them.--Thou naughty

_Conrade._ Away! You are an ass! you are an ass!

_Dogberry._ Dost thou not suspect my place? Dost thou not suspect
my years?--Oh, that he were here to write me down an ass!--But,
masters, remember that I am an ass; though it be not written down, yet
forget not than I am an ass.--No, thou villain, thou art full of piety,
as shall be proved upon thee by good witness. I am a wise fellow;
and, which is more, an officer; and, which is more, a householder;
and, which is more, as pretty a piece of flesh as any in Messina;
and one that knows the law, go to; and a rich fellow enough, go to;
and a fellow that hath had losses; and one that hath two gowns, and
everything handsome about him.--Bring him away.--Oh, that I had been
writ down an ass!

                     _FROM THE MERCHANT OF VENICE_

_Launcelot._ Certainly, my conscience will serve me to run this
Jew my master. The fiend is at mine elbow, and tempts me, saying to
me, “Gobbo, Launcelot Gobbo, good Launcelot,” or “good Gobbo,” or
“good Launcelot Gobbo, use your legs, take the start, run away.” My
conscience says, “No; take heed, honest Launcelot; take heed, honest
Gobbo”; or, as aforesaid, “honest Launcelot Gobbo; do not run; scorn
running with thy heels.” Well, the most courageous fiend bids me pack:
“Via!” says the fiend; “away!” says the fiend; “for the heavens, rouse
up a brave mind,” says the fiend, “and run.” Well, my conscience,
hanging about the neck of my heart, says very wisely to me, “My honest
friend Launcelot, being an honest man’s son,” or rather an honest
woman’s son; for, indeed, my father did something smack--something
grow to--he had a kind of taste--well, my conscience says, “Launcelot,
budge not.” “Budge,” says the fiend. “Budge not,” says my conscience.
“Conscience,” say I, “you counsel well.” “Fiend,” say I, “you counsel
well.” To be ruled by my conscience, I should stay with the Jew my
master, who--God bless the mark!--is a kind of devil; and to run
away from the Jew, I should be ruled by the fiend, who, saving your
reverence, is the devil himself. Certainly, the Jew is the very devil
incarnation; and, in my conscience, my conscience is a kind of hard
conscience to offer to counsel me to stay with the Jew. The fiend gives
the more friendly counsel: I will run, fiend; my heels are at your
commandment; I will run.

                             _FROM HAMLET_

                   POLONIUS _and_ HAMLET, _reading_.

_Polonius._ How does my good Lord Hamlet?

_Hamlet._ Well, God-’a’-mercy.

_Polonius._ Do you know me, my lord?

_Hamlet._ Excellent well; you are a fishmonger

_Polonius._ Not I, my lord.

_Hamlet._ Then I would you were so honest a man.

_Polonius._ Honest, my lord?

_Hamlet._ Ay, sir: to be honest, as this world goes, is to be one
man picked out of ten thousand.

_Polonius._ That’s very true, my lord.

_Hamlet._ For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a good
kissing carrion--Have you a daughter?

_Polonius._ I have, my lord.

_Hamlet._ Let her not walk i’ the sun: conception is a blessing;
but not as your daughter may conceive. Friend, look to’t.

_Polonius._ How say you by that? (_Aside._) Still harping on
my daughter. Yet he knew me not at first; he said I was a fishmonger.
He is far gone, far gone: and truly in my youth I suffered much
extremity for love; very near this. I’ll speak to him again.--What do
you read, my lord?

_Hamlet._ Words, words, words.

_Polonius._ What is the matter, my lord?

_Hamlet._ Between who?

_Polonius._ I mean the matter that you read, my lord.

_Hamlet._ Slanders, sir. For the satirical slave says here, that
old men have gray beards; that their faces are wrinkled; their eyes
purging thick amber or plum-tree gum; and that they have a plentiful
lack of wit, together with weak hams. All of which, sir, though I most
powerfully and potently believe, yet I hold it not honesty to have it
thus set down; for you yourself, sir, shall grow old as I am: if, like
a crab, you could go backward.

_Polonius._ (_Aside._) Though this be madness, yet there is
method in’t.--Will you walk out o’ the air, my lord?

_Hamlet._ Into my grave?

_Polonius._ Indeed, that is out o’ the air. (_Aside._) How
pregnant sometimes his replies are! A happiness that often madness hits
on, which reason and sanity could not so prosperously be delivered of.
I will leave him, and suddenly contrive the means of meeting between
him and my daughter.--My honourable lord, I will most humbly take my
leave of you.

_Hamlet._ You cannot, sir, take from me anything that I will more
willingly part withal: except my life, except my life, except my life.

_Polonius._ Fare you well, my lord.

_Hamlet._ These tedious old fools!

                         _FROM AS YOU LIKE IT_

                        ROSALIND _and_ ORLANDO

_Rosalind._ (_Aside._) I will speak to him like a saucy lackey, and
under that habit play the knave with him.--Do you hear, forester?

_Orlando._ Very well: what would you?

_Rosalind._ I pray you, what is’t o’clock?

_Orlando._ You should ask me, what time o’ day: there’s no clock
in the forest.

_Rosalind._ Then there is no true lover in the forest; else
sighing every minute, and groaning every hour, would detect the lazy
foot of Time as well as a clock.

_Orlando._ And why not the swift foot of Time? Had not that been
as proper?

_Rosalind._ By no means, sir. Time travels in divers paces with
divers persons. I’ll tell you, who Time ambles withal, who Time trots
withal, who Time gallops withal, and who he stands still withal.

_Orlando._ I prithee, who doth he trot withal?

_Rosalind._ Marry, he trots hard with a young maid, between the
contract of her marriage and the day it is solemnised: if the interim
be but a se’nnight, Time’s pace is so hard that it seems the length of
seven years.

_Orlando._ Who ambles Time withal?

_Rosalind._ With a priest that lacks Latin, and a rich man that
hath not the gout; for the one sleeps easily, because he cannot study;
and the other lives merrily, because he feels no pain: the one lacking
the burden of lean and wasteful learning; the other knowing no burden
of heavy, tedious penury. These Time ambles withal.

_Orlando._ Who doth he gallop withal?

_Rosalind._ With a thief to the gallows; for though he go as
softly as foot can fall, he thinks himself too soon there.

_Orlando._ Who stays it still withal?

_Rosalind._ With lawyers in the vacation; for they sleep between
term and term, and then they perceive not how Time moves.

_Orlando._ Where dwell you, pretty youth?

_Rosalind._ Here in the skirts of the forest, like fringe upon a

_Orlando._ Are you native of this place?

_Rosalind._ As the cony, that you see dwell where she is kindled.

_Orlando._ Your accent is something finer than you could purchase
in so removed a dwelling.

_Rosalind._ I have been told of so many: but, indeed, an old
religious uncle of mine taught me to speak, who was in his youth an
inland man; one that knew courtship too well, for there he fell in
love. I have heard him read many lectures against it; and I thank God
I am not a woman, to be touched with so many giddy offences as he hath
generally taxed their whole sex withal.

_Orlando._ Can you remember any of the principal evils that he
laid to the charge of women?

_Rosalind._ There were none principal: they were all like one
another, as half-pence are; every one fault seeming monstrous, till its
fellow fault came to match it.

_Orlando._ I prithee, recount some of them.

_Rosalind._ No; I will not cast away my physic but on those that
are sick. There is a man haunts the forest, that abuses our young
plants with carving Rosalind on their barks; hangs odes upon hawthorns,
and elegies on brambles; all, forsooth, deifying the name of Rosalind:
if I could meet that fancy-monger I would give him some good counsel,
for he seems to have the quotidian of love upon him.

_Orlando._ I am he that is so love-shaked. I pray you, tell me
your remedy.

_Rosalind._ There is none of my uncle’s marks upon you: he taught
me how to know a man in love; in which cage of rushes, I am sure, you
are not prisoner.

_Orlando._ What were his marks?

_Rosalind._ A lean cheek, which you have not; a blue eye, and
sunken, which you have not; an unquestionable spirit, which you have
not; a beard neglected, which you have not (but I pardon you for that,
for, simply, your having in beard is a younger brother’s revenue.
Then, your hose shall be ungartered, your bonnet unbanded, your sleeve
unbuttoned, your shoe untied, and everything about you demonstrating
a careless desolation. But you are no such man; you are rather
point-device in your accoutrements, as loving yourself, than seeming
the lover of any other.

_Orlando._ Fair youth, I would I could make thee believe I love.

_Rosalind._ Me believe it? You may as soon make her that you love
believe it; which, I warrant, she is apter to do than to confess she
does. That is one of the points in the which women still give the lie
to their consciences. But, in good sooth, are you he that hangs the
verses on the trees, wherein Rosalind is so admired?

_Orlando._ I swear to thee, youth, by the white hand of Rosalind,
I am that he, that unfortunate he.

_Rosalind._ But are you so much in love as your rhymes speak?

_Orlando._ Neither rhyme nor reason can express how much.

_Rosalind._ Love is merely a madness; and, I tell you, deserves as
well a dark house and a whip as madmen do. And the reason why they are
not so punished and cured is, that the lunacy is so ordinary that the
whippers are in love too. Yet I profess curing it by counsel.

_Orlando._ Did you ever cure any so?

_Rosalind._ Yes, one; and in this manner. He was to imagine me his
love, his mistress, and I set him every day to woo me: at which time
would I, being but a moonish youth, grieve, be effeminate, changeable,
longing, and liking; proud, fantastical, apish, shallow, inconstant,
full of tears, full of smiles; for every passion something, and for
no passion truly anything, as boys and women are, for the most part,
cattle of this colour: would now like him, now loathe him; then
entertain him, then forswear him; now weep for him, then spit at him;
that I drave my suitor from his mad humour of love, to a living humour
of madness, which was, to forswear the full stream of the world, and
to live in a nook merely monastic. And thus I cured him; and in this
way will I take upon me to wash your liver as clean as a sound sheep’s
heart, that there shall not be one spot of love in’t.

_Orlando._ I would not be cured, youth.

_Rosalind._ I would cure you, if you would but call me Rosalind,
and come every day to my cote, and woo me.

_Orlando._ Now, by the faith of my love, I will. Tell me where it

_Rosalind._ Go with me to it, and I’ll show it you; and, by the
way, you shall tell me where in the forest you live. Will you go?

_Orlando._ With all my heart, good youth.

       *       *       *       *       *

Francis, Lord Bacon, gave us much wise writing, and, incidentally much
of the wit of wisdom, but we look to him in vain for laughable humor.

A few epigrammatic selections from his essays are given.

       *       *       *       *       *

All colours will agree in the dark.

       *       *       *       *       *

This is certain, that a man that studieth revenge keepeth his own
wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well.

       *       *       *       *       *

Whosoever esteemeth too much of an amourous affection, quitteth both
riches and wisdom.

Money is like muck: not good except it be spread.

       *       *       *       *       *

Princes are like to heavenly bodies, which cause good or evil times,
and which have much veneration, and no rest.

       *       *       *       *       *

Old men object too much, consult too long, adventure too little, repent
too soon.

       *       *       *       *       *

To take advice of some few friends is ever honourable; for lookers-on
many times see more than gamesters.

       *       *       *       *       *

Suspicions that the mind of itself gathers are but buzzes; but
suspicions that are artificially nourished and put into men’s heads by
the tales and whisperings of others, have stings.

       *       *       *       *       *

Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact
man. And therefore, if man write little, he had need have a great
memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit; and if he
read little, he had need have much cunning to seem to know that which
he doth not.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sir John Harington, chiefly remembered for his translation of
_Orlando Furioso_, wrote clever humorous verse.

                         _OF A PRECISE TAILOR_

    A tailor, thought a man of upright dealing--
    True, but for lying, honest, but for stealing--
    Did fall one day extremely sick by chance,
    And on the sudden was in wondrous trance.
    The fiends of hell, mustering in fearful manner,
    Of sundry coloured silks displayed a banner
    Which he had stolen, and wished, as they did tell,
    That he might find it all one day in hell.
    The man, affrighted with this apparition,
    Upon recovery grew a great precisian.
    He bought a Bible of the best translation,
    And in his life he showed great reformation;
    He walked mannerly, he talked meekly,
    He heard three lectures and two sermons weekly;
    He vowed to shun all company unruly,
    And in his speech he used no oath but “truly”;
    And, zealously to keep the Sabbath’s rest,
    His meat for that day on the eve was drest;
    And, lest the custom which he had to steal
    Might cause him sometimes to forget his zeal,
    He gives his journeyman a special charge,
    That if the stuff, allowance being large,
    He found his fingers were to filch inclined,
    Bid him to have the banner in his mind.
    This done--I scant can tell the rest for laughter--
    A captain of a ship came three days after,
    And brought three yards of velvet and three-quarters,
    To make Venetians down below the garters.
    He, that precisely knew what was enough,
    Soon slipt aside three-quarters of the stuff.
    His man, espying it, said, in derision,
    “Master, remember how you saw the vision!”
    “Peace, knave!” quoth he; “I did not see one rag
    Of such a coloured silk in all the flag.”

                          _OF A CERTAIN MAN_

    There was (not certain when) a certain preacher
    That never learned, and yet became a teacher,
    Who, having read in Latin thus a text
    Of _erat quidam homo_, much perplext,
    He seemed the same with studie great to scan,
    In English thus: _There was a certain man._
    But now (quoth he), good people, note you this:
    He saith there _was_--he doth not say there _is_;
    For in these days of ours it is most plain
    Of promise, oath, word, deed, no man’s certain;
    Yet by my text you see it comes to pass
    That surely once a certain man there was;
      But yet, I think, in all your Bible no man
      Can find this text, _There was a certain woman_.

Ben Jonson, next to Shakespeare as a dramatist, is a master of satiric
wit. His strong, somewhat psychological comedies are difficult to quote
from except in long extracts.

                    _FROM “EVERY MAN IN HIS HUMOR”_

_Bobadil._ I will tell you, sir, by the way of private, and under
seal, I am a gentleman, and live here obscure, and to myself; but were
I known to her majesty and the lords (observe me), I would undertake,
upon this poor head and life, for the public benefit of the state, not
only to spare the entire lives of her subjects in general, but to save
the one-half, nay, three parts of her yearly charge in holding war, and
against what enemy soever. And how would I do it, think you?

_E. Knowell._ Nay, I know not, nor can I conceive.

_Bobadil._ Why, thus, sir. I would select nineteen more, to
myself, throughout the land; gentlemen they should be of good spirit,
strong and able constitution; I would choose them by an instinct, a
character that I have: and I would teach these nineteen the special
rules--as your punto, your reverso, your stoccata, your imbroccato,
your passado, your montanto--till they could all play very near, or
altogether as well as myself. This done, say the enemy were forty
thousand strong, we twenty would come into the field the tenth of
March, or thereabouts; and we would challenge twenty of the enemy; they
could not in their honor refuse us; well, we would kill them: challenge
twenty more, kill them; twenty more, kill them; twenty more, kill them
too; and thus would we kill every man his twenty a day, that’s twenty
score; twenty score, that’s two hundred; two hundred a day, five days
a thousand; forty thousand; forty times five, five times forty, two
hundred days kills them all up by computation. And this will I venture
my poor gentleman-like carcass to perform, provided there be no treason
practised upon us, by fair and discreet manhood; that is, civilly by
the sword.

                           _FROM “VOLPONE”_

_Volpone._ Lady, I kiss your bounty, and for this timely grace
you have done your poor Scoto, of Mantua, I will return you, over and
above my oil, a secret of that high and inestimable nature which shall
make you for ever enamoured on that minute, wherein your eye first
descended on so mean, yet not altogether to be despised, an object.
Here is a powder concealed in this paper, of which, if I should speak
to the worth, nine thousand volumes were but as one page, that page as
a line, that line as a word; so short is this pilgrimage of man, which
some call life, to the expression of it. Would I reflect on the price?
Why, the whole world is but as an empire, that empire as a province,
that province as a bank, that bank as a private purse to the purchase
of it. I will only tell you it is the powder that made Venus a goddess,
given her by Apollo, that kept her perpetually young, cleared her
wrinkles, firmed her gums, filled her skin, coloured her hair, from her
derived to Helen, and at the sack of Troy unfortunately lost: till now,
in this our age, it was as happily recovered, by a studious antiquary,
out of some ruins of Asia, who sent a moiety of it to the Court of
France, but much sophisticated, wherewith the ladies there now colour
their hair. The rest, at this present, remains with me, extracted to a
quintessence; so that, wherever it but touches in youth it perpetually
preserves, in age restores the complexion; seats your teeth, did they
dance like virginal jacks, firm as a wall; makes them white as ivory,
that were black as coal.

                             _A VINTNER_,

To whom Jonson was in debt, told him that he would excuse the payment,
if he could give an immediate answer to the following questions: What
God is best pleased with; what the devil is best pleased with: what the
world is best pleased with; and what he was best pleased with. Jonson,
without hesitation, replied thus:

    God is best pleas’d, when men forsake their sin;
    The devil’s best pleas’d, when they persist therein:
    The world’s best pleas’d, when thou dost sell good wine;
    And you’re best pleas’d, when I do pay for mine.

It was the fashion to flatter in those days, and King James had
abundance of such incense offered to him, though according to Ben
Jonson it was impossible to _flatter_ so perfect a monarch.
The dramatist addressed the following epigram _To the Ghost of
Martial_ (Ep. 36):

    Martial, thou gav’st far nobler epigrams
    To thy Domitian, than I can my James:
    But in my royal subject I pass thee,
    Thou flattered’st thine, mine cannot flatter’d be.

A thought which has been humorously expanded by Ben Jonson (Ep. 42):

    Who says that Giles and Joan at discord be?
    Th’ observing neighbours no such mood can see.
    Indeed, poor Giles repents he married ever;
    But that his Joan doth too. And Giles would never
    By his free will be in Joan’s company;
    No more would Joan he should. Giles riseth early,
    And having got him out of doors is glad;
    The like is Joan. But turning home is sad;
    And so is Joan. Oft-times when Giles doth find
    Harsh sights at home, Giles wisheth he were blind;
    All this doth Joan. Or that his long-yearn’d life
    Were quite outspun; the like wish hath his wife.

           *       *       *       *       *

    If now, with man and wife, to will and nill
    The self-same things, a note of concord be,
    I know no couple better can agree.

John Donne, one of the greatest preachers of the English church, was
also a noted wit, poet and courtier. Like his contemporaries his wit
was satirical, but in more playful vein than most.

                              _THE WILL_

      Before I sigh my last gasp, let me breathe,
      Great Love, some legacies: Here I bequeathe
      Mine eyes to Argus, if mine eyes can see;
      If they be blind, then, Love, I give them thee;
      My tongue to fame; to embassadors mine ears;
          To women or the sea, my tears.
        Thou, Love, hast taught me heretofore,
      By making me serve her who had twenty more,
    That I should give to none but such as had too much before.

      My constancy I to the planets give;
      My truth to them who at the court do live;
      My ingenuity and openness
      To Jesuits; to buffoons my pensiveness;
      My silence to any who abroad have been;
          My money to a Capuchin.
        Thou, Love, taught’st me, by appointing me
      To love there where no love received can be,
    Only to give to such as have an incapacity.

      My faith I give to Roman Catholics;
      All my good works unto the schismatics
      Of Amsterdam; my best civility
      And courtship to a university;
      My modesty I give to soldiers bare;
          My patience let gamesters share.
        Thou, Love taught’st me, by making me
      Love her that holds my love disparity,
    Only to give to those that count my gifts indignity.

      I give my reputation to those
      Which were my friends; mine industry to foes;
      To schoolmen I bequeathe my doubtfulness;
      My sickness to physicians, or excess;
      To Nature all that I in rhyme have writ;
          And to my company my wit.
        Thou, Love, by making me adore
      Her who begot this love in me before,
    Taught’st me to make as though I gave, when I do but restore.

      To him for whom the passing bell next tolls
      I give my physic-books; my written rolls
      Of moral counsel I to Bedlam give;
      My brazen medals unto them which live
      In want of bread; to them which pass among
          All foreigners, mine English tongue.
        Thou, Love, by making me love one
      Who thinks her friendship a fit portion
    For younger lovers, dost my gifts thus disproportion.

      Therefore I’ll give no more, but I’ll undo
      The world by dying, because love dies too.
      Then all your beauties will no more be worth
      Than gold in mines where none doth draw it forth;
      And all your graces no more use shall have
          Than a sundial in a grave.
        Thou, Love, taught’st me, by making me
      Love her who doth neglect both thee and me,
    To invent and practise this one way to annihilate all three.

Thomas Dekker was a prolific dramatic author of the period, and his
satirical characterizations are among the wittiest of his day.

                          _OBEDIENT HUSBANDS_

There is a humour incident to a woman, which is, when a young man
hath turmoiled himself so long that with much ado he hath gotten
into marriage, and hath perhaps met with a wife according to his own
desire, and perchance such an one that it had been better for him had
he lighted on another, yet he likes her so well that he would not have
missed her for any gold; for, in his opinion, there is no woman like
unto her. He hath a great delight to hear her speak, is proud of his
match, and is, peradventure, withal of so sheepish a nature, that he
has purposed to govern himself wholly by her counsel and direction,
so that if any one speak to him of a bargain, or whatsoever other
business, he tells them that he will have his wife’s opinion on it, and
if she be content, he will go through with it; if not, then will he
give it over.

Thus he is as tame and pliable as a jackanapes to his keeper. If the
Prince set forth an army, and she be unwilling that he should go,
who (you may think) will ask her leave, then must he stay at home,
fight who will for the country. But if she be desirous at any time to
have his room (which many times she likes better than his company),
she wants no journey to employ him in, and he is as ready as a page
to undertake them. If she chide, he answers not a word; generally,
whatsoever she does, or howsoever, he thinks it well done.

Judge, now, in what a case this silly calf is! Is not he, think you,
finely dressed, that is in such subjection? The honestest woman and
most modest of that sex, if she wear the breeches, is so out of reason
in taunting and controlling her husband--for this is their common
fault--and be she never so wise, yet a woman, scarce able to govern
herself, much less her husband and all his affairs; for, were it not
so, God would have made her the head. Which, since it is otherwise,
what can be more preposterous than that the head should be governed by
the foot?

If, then, a wise and honest woman’s superiority be unseemly, and breed
great inconvenience, how is he dressed, think you, if he light on a
fond, wanton, and malicious dame? Then doubtless he is soundly sped.
She will keep a sweetheart under his nose, yet is he so blind that he
can perceive nothing. But, for more security, she will many times send
him packing beyond sea, about some odd errand that she will buzz in his
ears, and he will perform it at her pleasure, though she send him forth
at midnight, in hail, rain, and snow, for he must be a man for all

Their children, if they have any, must be brought up, apparelled,
taught, and fed according to her pleasure, and one point of their
learning is always to make no account of their father. Finally, she
orders all things as she thinks best herself, making no more account
of him, especially if he be in years, than men do of an old horse that
is put to labour. Thus is he mewed up, plunged in a sea of cares;
and yet he, kind fool, deems himself most happy in his happiness,
wherein he must now perforce remain while life doth last, and pity it
were he should want it, since he likes it so well.--_The Bachelor’s

Horace is thus amusingly introduced as in the act of concocting an ode:

    To thee whose forehead swells with roses,
    Whose most haunted bower
    Gives life and scent to every flower,
    Whose most adoréd name encloses
    Things abstruse, deep and divine;
    Whose yellow tresses shine
    Bright as Eoan fire.
    Oh, me thy priest inspire!
    For I to thee and thine immortal name,
    In--in--in golden tunes,
    For I to thee and thine immortal name--
    In--sacred raptures flowing, flowing, swimming, swimming:
    In sacred raptures swimming,
    Immortal name, game, dame, tame, lame, lame, lame,
    [Foh,] hath, shame, proclaim, oh--
    In sacred raptures flowing, will proclaim [no!].
    Oh, me they priest inspire!
    For I to thee and thine immortal name,
    In flowing numbers filled with spright and flame (Good, good!)
    In flowing numbers filled with spright and flame.

John Fletcher is believed to have composed the greater part of the
plays by Beaumont and Fletcher.

The _Laughing Song_ is attributed to Fletcher alone.

                            _LAUGHING SONG_

                        (_For several voices_)

    Oh how my lungs do tickle! ha ha ha!
    Of how my lungs do tickle! ho ho ho ho!
            Set a sharp jest
            Against my breast,
    Then how my lungs do tickle!
            As nightingales,
            And things in cambric rails,
    Sing best against a prickle.
            Ha ha ha ha!
            Ho ho ho ho ho!
    Laugh! Laugh! Laugh! Laugh!
    Wide! Loud! And vary!
    A smile is for a simpering novice,--
          One that ne’er tasted caviarë,
    Nor knows the smack of dear anchovies.
            Ha ha ha ha ha!
            Ho ho ho ho ho!
    A giggling waiting-wench for me,
    That shows her teeth how white they be,--
    A thing not fit for gravity,
    For theirs are foul and hardly three.
            Ha ha ha!
            Ho ho ho!
    “Democritus, thou ancient fleerer,
      How I miss thy laugh, and ha’ since!”
    There thou named the famous[est] jeerer
      That e’er jeered in Rome or Athens.
            Ha ha ha!
            Ho ho ho!
    “How brave lives he that keeps a fool,
      Although the rate be deeper!”
    But he that is his own fool, sir,
      Does live a great deal cheaper.
    “Sure I shall burst, burst, quite break,
      Thou art so witty.”
    “’Tis rare to break at court,
      For that belongs to the city.”
    Ha ha! my spleen is almost worn
      To the last laughter.
    “Oh keep a corner for a friend!
      A jest may come hereafter.”

Bishop Corbet, more sociable and vivacious than many of his calling
wrote rollicking verses as well as wise and serious sermons.

Perhaps this is the first known example of sheer nonsense verse.

                     _LIKE TO THE THUNDERING TONE_

    Like to the thundering tone of unspoke speeches,
    Or like a lobster clad in logic breeches,
    Or like the gray fur of a crimson cat,
    Or like the mooncalf in a slipshod hat;
    E’en such is he who never was begotten
    Until his children were both dead and rotten.

    Like to the fiery tombstone of a cabbage,
    Or like a crab-louse with its bag and baggage,
    Or like the four square circle of a ring,
    Or like to hey ding, ding-a, ding-a, ding;
    E’en such is he who spake, and yet, no doubt,
    Spake to small purpose, when his tongue was out.

    Like to a fair, fresh, fading, wither’d rose,
    Or like to rhyming verse that runs in prose,
    Or like the stumbles of a tinder-box,
    Or like a man that’s sound yet sickness mocks;
    E’en such is he who died and yet did laugh
    To see these lines writ for his epitaph.

It may be that utter nonsense was more in vogue at this time than can
be definitely asserted, for such productions would, naturally, not be
preserved as were the more important matters.

This anonymous bit of nonsense is said to have been written in 1617,
and may be from the pen of the same worthy Bishop.


    Oh, that my lungs could bleat like butter’d Pease;
      But bleating of my lungs hath caught the itch,
    And are as mangy as the Irish seas
      That offer wary windmills to the Rich.

    I grant that Rainbowes being lull’d asleep,
      Snort like a woodknife in a Lady’s eyes;
    Which makes her grieve to see a pudding creep,
      For Creeping puddings only please the wise.

    Not that a hard-row’d herring should presume
      To swing a tyth pig in a Cateskin purse;
    For fear the hailstons which did fall at Rome,
      By lesning of the fault should make it worse.

    For ’tis most certain Winter woolsacks grow
      From geese to swans if men could keep them so.
    Till that the sheep shorn Planets gave the hint
      To pickle pancakes in Geneva print.

    Some men there were that did suppose the skie
      Was made of Carbonado’d Antidotes;
    But my opinion is, a Whale’s left eye,
      Need not be coynéd all King Harry groates.

    The reason’s plain, for Charon’s Westerne barge
      Running a tilt at the Subjunctive mood,
    Beckoned to Bednal Green, and gave him charge
      To fasten padlockes with Antartic food.

    The End will be the Mill ponds must be laded,
      To fish for white pots in a Country dance;
    So they that suffered wrong and were upbraded
      Shall be made friends in a left-handed trance.

A charming lyric by Bishop Corbet is:

                       _FAREWELL TO THE FAIRIES_

    “Farewell, rewards and fairies!”
      Good housewives now may say,
    For now foul sluts in dairies
      Do fare as well as they.
    And, though they sweep their hearths no less
      Than maids were wont to do,
    Yet who of late, for cleanliness,
      Finds sixpence in her shoe?

    Lament, lament, old Abbeys,
      The fairies lost command!
    They did but change priests’ babies,
      But some have changed your land;
    And all your children stoln from thence
      Are now grown Puritans;
    Who live as changelings ever since,
      For love of your domains.

    At morning and at evening both,
      You merry were and glad,
    So little care of sleep or sloth
      These pretty ladies had;
    When Tom came home from labour,
      Or Cis to milking rose,
    Then merrily went their tabor,
      And nimbly went their toes.

    Witness those rings and roundelays
      Of theirs, which yet remain,
    Were footed in Queen Mary’s days
      On many a grassy plain;
    But, since of late Elizabeth,
      And later James, came in,
    They never danced on any heath
      As when the time hath been.

    By which we note the fairies
      Were of the old profession,
    Their songs were Ave-Maries,
      Their dances were procession:
    But now, alas! they all are dead,
      Or gone beyond the seas;
    Or further for religion fled,
      Or else they take their ease.

    A tell-tale in their company
      They never could endure,
    And whoso kept not secretly
      Their mirth was punished sure;
    It was a just and Christian deed
      To pinch such black and blue:
    Oh how the commonwealth doth need
      Such justices as you!

Bishop Corbet’s epigram on Beaumont’s early death is well known:

    He that hath such acuteness and such wit,
    As would ask ten good heads to husband it;
    He, that can write so well that no man dare
    Refuse it for the best, let him beware:
      Beaumont is dead, by whose sole death appears,
      Wit’s a disease consumes men in few years.

Sir Walter Raleigh, the graceful and brilliant courtier, is thought by
most students of the subject to have written _The Lie_. Though it
has been attributed to various authors the weight of evidence is in
favor of Raleigh.

                               _THE LIE_

    Go, Soul, the body’s guest,
      Upon a thankless errand;
    Fear not to touch the best;
      The truth shall be thy warrant.
        Go, since I needs must die,
        And give them all the lie.

    Go tell the Court it glows
      And shines like rotten wood;
    Go tell the Church it shows
      What’s good, but does no good.
        If Court and Church reply,
        Give Court and Church the lie.

    Tell Potentates they live
      Acting, but oh! their actions;
    Not loved, unless they give,
      Not strong but by their factions.
        If Potentates reply,
        Give Potentates the lie.

    Tell men of high condition,
      That rule affairs of state,
    Their purpose is ambition;
      Their practice only hate;
        And if they do reply,
        Then give them all the lie.

    Tell those that brave it most,
      They beg for more by spending,
    Who in their greatest cost
      Seek nothing but commending;
        And if they make reply,
        Spare not to give the lie.

    Tell zeal it wants devotion;
      Tell love it is but lust;
    Tell time it is but motion;
      Tell flesh it is but dust:
        And wish them not reply,
        For thou must give the lie.

    Tell age it daily wasteth;
      Tell honor how it alters;
    Tell beauty how she blasteth;
      Tell favor how it falters:
        And as they shall reply,
        Give every one the lie.

    Tell wit how much it wrangles
      In tickle points of niceness;
    Tell wisdom she entangles
      Herself in over-wiseness:
        And when they do reply,
        Straight give them both the lie.

    Tell physic of her boldness;
      Tell skill it is pretension;
    Tell charity of coldness;
      Tell law it is contention:
        And as they do reply,
        So give them still the lie.

    Tell fortune of her blindness;
      Tell nature of decay;
    Tell friendship of unkindness;
      Tell justice of delay:
        And if they will reply,
        Then give them all the lie.

    Tell arts they have no soundness,
      But vary by esteeming;
    Tell schools they want profoundness,
      And stand too much on seeming:
        If arts and schools reply,
        Give arts and schools the lie.

    Tell faith it’s fled the city;
      Tell how the country erreth;
    Tell, manhood shakes off pity;
      Tell, virtue least preferreth:
        And if they do reply,
        Spare not to give the lie.

    So when thou hast, as I
      Commanded thee, done blabbing,--
    Although to give the lie
      Deserves no less than stabbing,--
        Yet, stab at thee that will,
        No stab the soul can kill.

The following well-known and thoroughly characteristic verses
originally appeared in _Gammer Gurton’s Needle_, an old English
comedy, which was long supposed to be the earliest written in the
language, but which now ranks as the second in point of age. It was
written by John Still, afterwards Bishop of Bath and Wells.

                       _JOLLY GOOD ALE AND OLD_

    I cannot eat but little meat;
      My stomach is not good;
    But sure I think that I can drink
      With him that wears a hood.
    Though I go bare, take ye no care,
      I nothing am a-cold,
    I stuff my skin so full within
      Of jolly good ale and old.

    Back and side go bare, go bare;
      Both foot and hand go cold;
    But, belly, God send thee good ale enough,
      Whether it be new or old.

    I love no roast but a nut-brown toast,
      And a crab laid in the fire;
    And little bread shall do me stead;
      Much bread I nought desire.
    No frost, no snow, no wind, I trow,
      Can hurt me if I wold,
    I am so wrapp’d, and thoroughly lapp’d,
      Of jolly good ale and old.

                Back and side, etc.

    And Tib, my wife, that as her life
      Loveth well good ale to seek,
    Full oft drinks she, till ye may see
      The tears run down her cheek:
    Then doth she troul to me the bowl,
      Even as a maltworm should,
    And saith, “Sweetheart, I took my part
      Of this jolly good ale and old.”

                Back and side, etc.

    Now let them drink till they nod and wink
      Even as good fellows should do;
    They shall not miss to have the bliss
      Good ale doth bring men to.
    And all poor souls that have scour’d bowls
      Or have them lustily troul’d,
    God save the lives of them and their wives,
      Whether they be young or old.

                Back and side, etc.

Sir John Davies, poet and lawyer, wrote many acrostics to Queen
Elizabeth, and other witty verses.


    Earth now is green and heaven is blue;
    Lively spring which makes all new,
    Iolly spring doth enter.
    Sweet young sunbeams do subdue
    Angry aged winter.
    Blasts are mild and seas are calm,
    Every meadow flows with balm,
    The earth wears all her riches,
    Harmonious birds sing such a psalm
    As ear and heart bewitches.
    Reserve (sweet spring) this nymph of ours,
    Eternal garlands of thy flowers,
    Green garlands never wasting;
    In her shall last our state’s fair spring,
    Now and forever flourishing,
    As long as heaven is lasting.

                          _THE MARRIED STATE_

    Wedlock, indeed, hath oft comparèd been
    To public feasts, where meet a public rout,
    Where they that are without would fain go in,
    And they that are within would fain go out.

John Marston, both dramatist and divine, gives us this bit of humorous

                       _THE SCHOLAR AND HIS DOG_

    I was a scholar: seven useful springs
    Did I deflower in quotations
    Of cross’d opinions ’bout the soul of man;
    The more I learnt, the more I learnt to doubt.
    Delight my spaniel slept, whilst I baus’d leaves,
    Toss’d o’er the dunces, pored on the old print
    Of titled words: and still my spaniel slept.
    Whilst I wasted lamp-oil, baited my flesh,
    Shrunk up my veins: and still my spaniel slept.
    And still I held converse with Zabarell,
    Aquinas, Scotus, and the musty saw
    Of antick Donate: still my spaniel slept.
    Still on went I; first, _an sit anima_;
    Then, an it were mortal. Oh, hold, hold! at that
    They’re at brain buffets, fell by the ears amain
    Pell-mell together; still my spaniel slept.
    Then, whether ’t were corporeal, local, fixt,
    _Ex traduce_, but whether ’t had free will
    Or no, hot philosophers
    Stood banding factions, all so strongly propt,
    I stagger’d, knew not which was firmer part,
    But thought, quoted, read, observ’d, and pryed,
    Stufft noting-books: and still my spaniel slept.
    At length he wak’d, and yawned; and by yon sky,
    For aught I know he knew as much as I.

Following the example of Jest Books and collections of Merry Tales,
came the Anthologies.

The most important of these was the _Miscellany_, which went
through eight editions in thirty years, and is said to be the book of
songs and sonnets that Master Slender missed so much.

This book was first published in 1557 and was followed by many less
worthy collections.

In 1576 appeared _The Paradise of Dainty Devices_ which also ran
through many editions.

As a rule these collections were uninteresting and composed largely
of dull and prosy numbers. Their chief charm lay in their titles,
which were such as _A Gorgeous Gallery of Gallant Inventions_,
_A Handful of Pleasant Delights_, and _A Bouquet of Dainty

Yet it must be remembered that this latter half of the Sixteenth
Century saw the splendid flowering of lyric poetry, and in the last
year appeared a famous book called _England’s Helicon_ or _The
Muses’ Harmony_, which was a sort of Golden Treasury of the
Elizabethan age.

This was supplemented two years later by the _Poetical Rhapsody_,
edited by Francis Davison, and from then on, the collected songs and
verses of England showed poetry from the masters.

Also there were produced at this period many translations, both of
the classics and of more modern works of various countries; though no
important humorous work was translated until the next century, when
Urquhart gave Rabelais to the English people.

                         FRENCH WIT AND HUMOR

Rutebœuf, the Trouvère, of the Thirteenth Century, if not the principal
author of the Fabliaux was the first to put them into rhyme.

Most of his tales are too long and rambling to quote, and we content
ourselves with one.

                         _THE ASS’S TESTAMENT_

    A priest there was in times of old,
    Fond of his church, but fonder of gold,
    Who spent his days and all his thought
    In getting what he preached was naught.
    His chests were full of robes and stuff,
    Corn filled his garners to the roof,
    Stored up against the fair-times gay,
    From Saint Rémy to Easter Day.
    An ass he had within his stable,
    A beast most sound and valuable.
    For twenty years he lent his strength
    For the priest, his master, till at length,
    Worn out with work and age, he died.
    The priest, who loved him, wept and cried;
    And, for his service long and hard,
    Buried him in his own churchyard.

    Now turn we to another thing:
    ’Tis of a bishop that I sing.
    No greedy miser he, I ween;
    Prelate so generous ne’er was seen.
    Full well he loved in company
    Of all good Christians still to be;
    When he was well, his pleasure still,
    His medicine best when he was ill.
    Always his hall was full, and there
    His guests had ever best of fare.
    Whate’er the bishop lack’d or lost
    Was bought at once despite the cost;
    And so, in spite of rent and score,
    The bishop’s debts grew more and more.
    For true it is--this ne’er forget--
    Who spends too much gets into debt.
    One day his friends all with him sat,
    The bishop talking this and that,
    Till the discourse on rich clerks ran,
    Of greedy priests, and how their plan
    Was all good bishops still to grieve,
    And of their dues their lords deceive.
    And then the priest of whom I’ve told
    Was mention’d; how he loved his gold.
    And because men do often use
    More freedom than the truth would choose,
    They gave him wealth, and wealth so much,
    As those like him could scarcely touch.
    “And then besides, a thing he’s done,
    By which great profit might be won,
    Could it be only spoken here.”
    Quoth the bishop, “Tell it without fear.”
    “He’s worse, my lord, than Bedouin,
    Because his own dead ass, Baldwin,
    He buried in the sacred ground.”
    “If this is truth, as shall be found,”
    The bishop cried, “a forfeit high
    Will on his worldly riches lie.
    Summon this wicked priest to me;
    I will myself in this case be
    The judge. If Robert’s word be true,
    Mine are the fine and forfeit too.”

           *       *       *       *       *

    “Disloyal! God’s enemy and mine,
    Prepare to pay a heavy fine.
    Thy ass thou buriedst in the place
    Sacred to church. Now, by God’s grace,
    I never heard of crime more great.
    What! Christian men with asses wait?
    Now, if this thing be proven, know
    Surely to prison thou wilt go.”
    “Sir,” said the priest, “thy patience grant;
    A short delay is all I want.
    Not that I fear to answer now--
    But give me what the laws allow.”
    And so the bishop leaves the priest,
    Who does not feel as if at feast.
    But still, because one friend remains,
    He trembles not at prison pains.
    His purse it is which never fails
    For tax or forfeit, fine or vails.

    The term arrived, the priest appeared,
    And met the bishop, nothing feared;
    For ’neath his girdle safe there hung
    A leathern purse, well stocked and strung
    With twenty pieces fresh and bright,
    Good money all, none clipped or light.
    “Priest,” said the bishop, “if thou have
    Answer to give to charge so grave,
    ’Tis now the time.”
                                “Sir, grant me leave
    My answer secretly to give.
    Let me confess to you alone,
    And, if needs be, my sins atone.”
    The bishop bent his head to hear,
    The priest he whispered in his ear:
    “Sir, spare a tedious tale to tell.
    My poor ass served me long and well,
    For twenty years my faithful slave,
    Each year his work a saving gave
    Of twenty sous---so that in all
    To twenty livres the sum will fall;
    And, for the safety of his soul,
    To you, my lord, he left the whole.”
    “’Twas rightly done,” the bishop said,
    And gravely shook his godly head:
    “And, that his soul to heaven may go,
    My absolution I bestow.”
    Now have you heard a truthful lay,
    How with rich priests the bishops play;
    And Rutebœuf the moral draws
    That, spite of kings’ and bishops’ laws,
    ’Gainst evil is the man secure
    That shields himself with money’s lure.

In the Fourteenth century, Eustache Deschampes wrote more than a
thousand ballades, virelais and other forms of light verse.

One of his ballades, here given in translation, is of a distinctly
modern type of wit.

                   _ADVICE TO A FRIEND ON MARRIAGE_

    Ope! Who? A friend! What wouldst obtain?
      Advice! Whereof? Is’t well to wed?
    I wish to marry. What’s your pain?
      No wife have I for board and bed,
      By whom my house is wisely led.
    One meek and fair I wish to gain,
      Young, wealthy, too, and nobly bred;
    You’re crazy--batter out your brain!

    Consider! Grief can you sustain?
      Women have tempers bold and dread;
    When for a dish of eggs you’re fain,
      Broth, cheese, you’ll have before you spread:
      Now free, you’ll be a slave instead--
    When married, you yourself have slain.
      Think well. My first resolve is said;
    You’re crazy--batter out your brain!

    No wife will be like her you feign;
      On angry words you shall be fed,
    So shall you bitterly complain,
      With woes too hard to bear, bested:
      Better a life in forest led
    Than of such beast to bear the strain.
      No! The sweet fancy fills my head;
    You’re crazy--batter out your brain!


    Soon you will long that you were dead
      When married; seek in street or lane
    Some love. No! Passion bids me wed;
      You’re crazy--batter out your brain!

Olivier Basselin who flourished in the Fifteenth century, and who was
a fuller by trade, is another one of the literary “Fathers,” his title
being, “Le Pere Joyeux du Vaudeville.” Born at Vire, surrounded by
valleys, it is held by some, while contradicted by others, that the
modern term vaudeville is a corruption of Vaux de Vire.

His songs are mostly convivial and his humor broad and rollicking.

                             _TO MY NOSE_

    Fair Nose! whose rubies red have cost me many a barrel
      Of claret wine and white,
    Who wearest in thy rich and sumptuous apparel
      Such red and purple light!

    Great Nose! who looks at thee through some huge glass at revel,
      More of thy beauty thinks:
    For thou resemblest not the nose of some poor devil
      Who only water drinks.

    The turkey-cock doth wear, resembling thee, his wattles,
      How many rich men now
    Have not so rich a nose! To paint thee, many bottles
      And much time I allow.

    The glass my pencil is for thine illumination;
      My color is the wine,
    With which I’ve painted thee more red than the carnation,
      By drinking of the fine.

    ’Tis said it hurts the eyes; but shall they be the masters?
      Wine is the cure for all;
    Better the windows both should suffer some disasters,
      Than have the whole house fall.

                          _APOLOGY FOR CIDER_

    Though Frenchmen at our drink may laugh,
      And think their taste is wondrous fine,
    The Norman cider, which we quaff,
      Is quite the equal of his wine,--
    When down, down, down it freely goes,
    And charms the palate as it flows.

    Whene’er a potent draught I take,
      How dost thou bid me drink again?
    Yet, pray, for my affection’s sake,
      Dear Cider, do not turn my brain.
    O, down, down, down it freely goes,
    And charms the palate as it flow.

    I find I never lose my wits,
      However freely I carouse,
    And never try in angry fits
      To raise a tempest in the house;
    Though down, down, down the cider goes,
    And charms the palate as it flows.

    To strive for riches in all stuff,
      Just take the good the gods have sent;
    A man is sure to have enough
      If with his own he is content;
    As down, down, down, the cider goes,
    And charms the palate as it flows.

    In truth that was a hearty bout;
      Why, not a drop is left,--not one;
    I feel I’ve put my thirst to rout;
      The stubborn foe at last is gone.
    So down, down, down the cider goes,
    And charms the palate as it flows.

Francois Villon, born 1431, though not paternally designated, is
called, and rightly, the Prince of Ballade Makers.

Two translations are here given of one of his most popular poems, and
another witty Ballade is added.

                     _THE BALLADE OF DEAD LADIES_

                _Translated by Dante Gabriel Rossetti_

    Tell me now in what hidden way is
      Lady Flora the lovely Roman?
    Where’s Hipparchia, and where is Thais,
      Neither of them the fairer woman?
      Where is Echo, beheld of no man,
    Only heard on river and mere,--
      She whose beauty was more than human?...
    But where are the snows of yester-year?

    Where’s Héloïse, the learned nun,
      For whose sake Abeillard, I ween,
    Lost manhood and put priesthood on?
      (From Love he won such dule and teen!)
      And where, I pray you, is the Queen
    Who willed that Buridan should steer
      Sewed in a sack’s mouth down the Seine?...
    But where are the snows of yester-year?

    White Queen Blanche, like a queen of lilies,
      With a voice like any mermaiden,--
    Bertha Broad-foot, Beatrice, Alice,
      And Ermengarde the lady of Maine,--
      And that good Joan whom Englishmen
    At Rouen doomed and burned her there,--
      Mother of God, where are they then?...
    But where are the snows of yester-year?


      Nay, never ask this week, fair lord,
    Where they are gone, nor yet this year,
      Except with this for an overword,--
    But where are the snows of yester-year?

                    _A BALLADE OF OLD TIME LADIES_

                      _Translated by John Payne_

    Tell me, where, in what land of shade,
      Hides fair Flora of Rome? and where
    Are Thaìs and Archipiade,
      Cousins-german in beauty rare?
      And Echo, more than mortal fair,
    That when one calls by river flow,
      Or marish, answers out of the air?
    But what has become of last year’s snow?

    Where did the learn’d Héloïsa vade,
      For whose sake Abelard did not spare
    (Such dole for love on him was laid)
      Manhood to lose and a cowl to wear?
      And where is the queen who will’d whilere
    That Buridan, tied in a sack, should go
      Floating down Seine from the turret-stair?
    But what has become of last year’s snow?

    Blanche, too, the lily-white queen, that made
      Sweet music as if she a siren were?
    Broad-foot Bertha? and Joan, the maid,
      The good Lorrainer the English bare
      Captive to Rouen, and burn’d her there?
    Beatrix, Eremburge, Alys--lo!
      Where are they, virgins debonair?
    But what has become of last year’s snow?


    Prince, you may question how they fare,
      This week, or liefer this year, I trow:
    Still shall the answer this burden bear--
      But what has become of last year’s snow?

                    _BALLAD OF THE WOMEN OF PARIS_

    Albeit the Venice girls get praise
      For their sweet speech and tender air,
    And though the old women have wise ways
      Of chaffering for amorous ware,
      Yet at my peril dare I swear,
    Search Rome, where God’s grace mainly tarries,
      Florence and Savoy, everywhere,
    There’s no good girl’s lip out of Paris.

    The Naples women, as folk prattle,
      Are sweetly spoken and subtle enough:
    German girls are good at tattle,
      And Prussians make their boast thereof;
      Take Egypt for the next remove,
    Or that waste land the Tartar harries,
      Spain or Greece, for the matter of love,
    There’s no good girl’s lip out of Paris.

    Breton and Swiss know nought of the matter,
      Gascony girls or girls of Toulouse;
    Two fisherwomen with a half-hour’s chatter
      Would shut them up by threes and twos;
      Calais, Lorraine, and all their crews,
    (Names enow the mad song marries)
      England and Picardy, search them and choose,
    There’s no good girl’s lip out of Paris.


    Prince, give praise to our French ladies
      For the sweet sound their speaking carries;
    ’Twixt Rome and Cadiz many a maid is,
      But no good girl’s lip out of Paris.

From Clement Marot, a delightful French poet of the Sixteenth century,
we give the following two extracts translated by Leigh Hunt.

                            _A LOVE-LESSON_

    A sweet “No! no!” with a sweet smile beneath
      Becomes an honest girl,--I’d have you learn it;
    As for plain “Yes!” it may be said, i’ faith.
      Too plainly and too oft,--pray, well discern it!

    Not that I’d have my pleasure incomplete,
      Or lose the kiss for which my lips beset you;
    But that in suffering me to take it, Sweet!
      I’d have you say--“No! no! I will not let you.”

                       _MADAME D’ALBRET’S LAUGH_

    Yes! that fair neck, too beautiful by half,
    Those eyes, that voice, that bloom, all do her honour;
    Yet, after all, that little giddy laugh
    Is what, in my mind, sits the best upon her.

    Good God! ’twould make the very streets and ways,
    Through which she passes, burst into a pleasure!
    Did melancholy come to mar my days
    And kill me in the lap of too much leisure,
    No spell were wanting, from the dead to raise me,
    But only that sweet laugh wherewith she slays me.

About this time appeared the Heptameron, a series of tales of similar
form and character to the Decameron of Boccaccio. This work was
attributed to Margaret of Navarre, and doubtless was written by the
queen with the assistance of some of her people. The tales are too long
to quote.

Jehan du Pontalais wrote a clever satirical skit on the love of money.


    Who money has, well wages the campaign;
    Who money has, becomes of gentle strain;
    Who money has, to honor all accord:
                                        He is my lord.
    Who money has, the ladies ne’er disdain;
    Who money has, loud praises will attain;
    Who money has, in the world’s heart is stored,
                                        The flower adored.
    O’er all mankind he holds his conquering track--
    They only are condemned who money lack.

    Who money has, will wisdom’s credit gain;
    Who money has, all earth is his domain;
    Who money has, praise is his sure reward,
                                        Which all afford.
    Who money has, from nothing need refrain;
    Who money has, on him is favor poured;
                                        And, in a word,
    Who money has, need never fear attack--
    They only are condemned who money lack.

    Who money has, in every heart does reign;
    Who money has, all to approach are fain;
    Who money has, of him no fault is told,
                                        Nor harm can hold.
    Who money has, none does his right restrain;
    Who money has, can whom he will maintain;
    Who money has, clerk, prior, by his gold,
                                        Is straight enrolled.
    Who money has, all raise, none hold him back--
    They only are condemned who money lack.

Francois Rabelais was born in or about 1495, in Chinon, Touraine.
Successively, monk, physician and scientist, he is best known as a
master of humor and grotesque invention. His romance of Gargantua and
Pantagruel is an extravagant, satirical criticism of the follies and
vices of the period, burlesquing the current abuses of government and

Unable to escape a paternal label,

An able writer in the _Foreign Quarterly Review_ speaks of
Rabelais as “an author without parallel in the history of literature:
an author who is the literary parent of many authors, since without him
we should probably have never known a Swift, a Sterne, a Jean Paul, or,
in fact, any of the irregular humorists: an author who did not appear
as a steadily shining light to the human race, but as a wild, startling
meteor, predicting the independence of thought, and the downfall of
the authority of ages: an author who for the union of heavy learning
with the most miraculous power of imagination, is perhaps without a

The works of Rabelais abound in learning and serious intent, but the
riotous humor and flashing wit are presented with an accompaniment of
repulsive coarseness intolerable to the modern mind.

This phase, however, was a part of the manners and customs of his time,
and to philosophers and students Rabelais will ever be a mine of deep
and recondite wisdom and thought.

Indicative of his wildly extravagant fancy are the following extracts.

                      _OF THE ECLIPSES THIS YEAR_

This year there will be so many eclipses of the sun and moon, that I
fear (not unjustly) our pockets will suffer inanition, be full empty,
and our feeling at a loss. Saturn will be retrograde, Venus direct,
Mercury as unfixed as quicksilver. And a pack of planets won’t go as
you would have them.

For this reason the crabs will go side-long, and the rope-makers
backward; the little stools will get upon the benches, and the spits on
the racks, and the bands on the hats; fleas will be generally black;
bacon will run away from peas in lent; there won’t be a bean left in a
twelfth cake, nor an ace in a flush; the dice won’t run as you wish,
tho’ you cog them, and the chance that you desire will seldom come;
brutes shall speak in several places; Shrovetide will have its day; one
part of the world shall disguise itself to gull and chouse the other,
and run about the streets like a parcel of addle-pated animals and mad
devils; such a hurly-burly was never seen since the devil was a little
boy; and there will be above seven and twenty irregular verbs made this
year, if Priscian don’t hold them in. If God don’t help us, we shall
have our hands and hearts full.

                      _OF THE DISEASES THIS YEAR_

This year the stone-blind shall see but very little; the deaf shall
hear but scurvily; the dumb shan’t speak very plain; the rich shall
be somewhat in a better case than the poor, and the healthy than the
sick. Whole flocks, herds, and droves of sheep, swine and oxen; cocks
and hens, ducks and drakes, geese and ganders, shall go to pot; but
the mortality will not be altogether so great among apes, monkeys,
baboons and dromedaries. As for old age, ’twill be incurable this year,
because of the years past. Those who are sick of the pleurisy will
feel a plaguy stitch in their sides; catarrhs this year shall distill
from the brain on the lower parts; sore eyes will by no means help the
sight; ears shall be at least as scarce and short in Gascony, and among
knights of the post, as ever; and a most horrid and dreadful, virulent,
malignant, catching, perverse and odious malady, shall be almost
epidemical, insomuch that many shall run mad upon it, not knowing what
nails to drive to keep the wolf from the door, very often plotting,
contriving, cudgeling and puzzling their weak shallow brains, and
syllogizing and prying up and down for the philosopher’s stone, tho’
they only get Midas’s lugs by the bargain. I quake for very fear when
I think on’t; for I assure you, few will escape this disease, which
Averroes calls lack of money, and by consequence of the last year’s
comet, and Saturn’s retrogradation, there will be a horrid clutter
between the cats and the rats, hounds and hares, hawks and ducks, and
eke between the monks and eggs.


I find by the calculations of Albumazar in his book of the great
conjunction, and elsewhere, that this will be a plentiful year of
all manner of good things to those who have enough; but your hops
of Picardy will go near to fare the worse for the cold. As for oats
they’ll be a great help to horses. I dare say, there won’t be much
more bacon than swine. Pisces having the ascendant, ’twill be a mighty
year for muscles, cockles, and periwinkles. Mercury somewhat threatens
our parsly-beds, yet parsly will be to be had for money. Hemp will
grow faster than the children of this age, and some will find there’s
but too much on’t. There will be a very few _bon-chretiens_, but
choak-pears in abundance. As for corn, wine, fruit and herbs, there
never was such plenty as will be now, if poor folks may have their wish.

                     _RABELAIS IMITATES DIOGENES_

              (_From the Author’s Prologue to Book III._)

When Philip, King of Macedon, enterprised the siege and ruin of
Corinth, the Corinthians having received certain intelligence by their
spies, that he with a numerous army in battle array was coming against
them, were all of them, not without cause, most terribly afraid; and,
therefore, were not neglective of their duty, in doing their best
endeavors to put themselves in a fit posture to resist his hostile
approach, and defend their own city. Some from the fields brought
into the fortified places their movables, cattle, corn, wine, fruit,
victuals and other necessary provisions. Others did fortify and rampire
their walls, set up little fortresses, bastions, squared ravelins,
digged trenches, cleansed countermines, fenced themselves with gabions,
contrived platforms, emptied casemates, barricaded the false brayes,
erected the cavalliers, repaired the contrescarpes, plaistered the
courtines, lengthened ravelins, stopped parapets, mortised barbacans,
new pointed the portcullises with fine steel or good iron, fastened the
herses and cataracts, placed their sentries and doubled their patrol.

Every one did watch and ward, and not one was exempted from carrying
the basket. Some polished corselets, varnished backs and breasts,
cleaned the headpieces, mailcoats, brigandins, salads, helmets,
murrions, jacks, gushets, gorgets, hoguines, brassars and cuissars,
corselets, haubergeons, shields, bucklers, targets, greves, gauntlets
and spurs.

Others made ready bows, slings, cross-bows, pellets, catapults,
migraines or fire-balls, firebrands, balists, scorpions, and other such
warlike engines, repugnatory, and destructive to the Helepolides.

They sharpened and prepared spears, staves, pikes, brown bills,
halberts, long hooks, lances, zagages, quarterstaves, eelspears,
partisans, troutstaves, clubs, battle-axes, maces, darts, dartlets,
glaves, javelins, javelots, and truncheons.

They set edges upon scimetars, cutlasses, badelairs, backswords, tucks,
rapiers, bayonets, arrow-heads, dags, daggers, mandousians, poniards,
whinyards, knives, skenes, chipping knives, and raillons.

Diogenes seeing them all so warm at work, and himself not employed
by the magistrates in any business whatsoever, he did very seriously
(for many days together, without speaking one word) consider, and
contemplate the countenance of his fellow-citizens.

Then on a sudden, as if he had been roused up and inspired by a martial
spirit, he girded his cloak, scarf-ways, about his left arm, tucked
up his sleeves to the elbow, trussed himself like a clown gathering
apples, and giving to one of his old acquaintance his wallet, books,
and opistographs, away went he out of town towards a little hill or
promontory of Corinth called Craneum; and there on, the strand, a
pretty level place, did he roll his jolly tub, which served him for an
house to shelter him from the injuries of the weather: there, I say, in
a great vehemency of spirit, did he turn it veer it, wheel it, whirl
it, frisk it, jumble it, shuffle it, hurdle it, tumble it, hurry it,
jolt it, jostle it, overthrow it, evert it, invert it, subvert it,
overturn it, beat it, thwack it, bump it, batter it, knock it, thrust
it, push it, jerk it, shock it, shake it, toss it, throw it, overthrow
it upside down, topsyturvy, tread it, trample it, stamp it, tap it,
ting it, ring it, tingle it, towl it, sound it, resound it, stop it,
shut it, unbung it, close it, unstopple it. And then again in a mighty
bustle he bandied it, slubbered it, hacked it, whittled it, wayed it,
darted it, hurled it, staggered it, reeled it, swinged it, brangled it,
tottered it, lifted it, heaved it, transformed it, transfigured it,
transposed it, transplaced it, reared it, raised it, hoised it, washed
it, dighted it, cleansed it, rinsed it, nailed it, settled it, fastened
it, shackled it, fettered it, levelled it, blocked it, tugged it, tewed
it, carried it, bedashed it, bewrayed it, parched it, mounted it,
broached it, nicked it, notched it, bespattered it, decked it, adorned
it, trimmed it, garnished it, gaged it, furnished it, bored it, pierced
it, tapped it, rumbled it, slid it down the hill, and precipitated it
from the very height of the Craneum; then from the foot to the top
(like another Sisyphus with his stone) bore it up again, and every way
so banged it and belabored it, that it was ten thousand to one he had
not struck the bottom of it out.

Which when one of his friends had seen, and asked him why he did
so toil his body, perplex his spirit, and torment his tub? the
philosopher’s answer was, that not being employed in any other office
by the Republic, he thought it expedient to thunder and storm it so
tempestuously upon his tub, that amongst a people so fervently busy
and earnest at work, he alone might not seem a loitering slug and lazy
fellow. To the same purpose may I say to myself,--

    Tho’ I be rid from fear,
    I am not void of care.

For perceiving no account to be made of me towards the discharge of a
trust of any great concernment, and considering that through all the
parts of this most noble kingdom of France, both on this and on the
other side of the mountains, every one is most diligently exercised
and busied; some in the fortifying of their own native country, for
its defence; others, in the repulsing of their enemies by an offensive
war; and all this with a policy so excellent, and such admirable order,
so manifestly profitable for the future, whereby France shall have
its frontiers most magnifically enlarged, and the French assured of a
long and well-grounded peace, that very little withholds me from the
opinion of good Heraclitus, which affirmeth war to be the parent of all
good things; and therefore do I believe that war is in Latin called
_bellum_, not by antiphrasis, as some patchers of old rusty Latin
would have us to think, because in war there is little beauty to be
seen; but absolutely and simply; for that in war (_bellum_ in
_Latin_) appears all that is good and graceful, _bon_ and
_bel_ in French, and that by the wars is purged out all manner
of wickedness and deformity. For proof whereof the wise and pacific
Solomon could no better represent the unspeakable perfection of the
divine wisdom, than by comparing it to the due disposure and ranking of
an army in battle array, well provided and ordered.

Therefore by reason of my weakness and inability, being reputed by my
compatriots unfit for the offensive part of warfare; and on the other
side, being no way employed in matter of the defensive, although it had
been but to carry burdens, fill ditches, or break clods, each whereof
had been to me indifferent, I held it not a little disgraceful to be
only an idle spectator of so many valorous, eloquent, and warlike
persons, who in the view and sight of all Europe act this notable
interlude or tragicomedy, and not exert myself, and contribute thereto
this nothing, my all; which remained for me to do. For, in my opinion,
little honor is due to such as are mere lookers on, liberal of their
eyes, and of their strength parsimonious; who conceal their crowns and
hide their silver; scratching their head with one finger like grumbling
puppies, gaping at the flies like tithe calves; clapping down their
ears like Arcadian asses at the melody of musicians, who with their
very countenances in the depth of silence express their consent to the

Having made this choice and election, it seemed to me that my exercise
therein would be neither unprofitable nor troublesome to any, whilst I
should thus set agoing my Diogenical Tub.

                          _THE LOST HATCHET_

There once lived a poor honest country fellow of Gravot, Tom Wellhung
by name, a wood-cleaver by trade, who in that low drudgery made shift
so to pick up a sorry livelihood. It happened that he lost his hatchet.
Now tell me who ever had more cause to be vexed than poor Tom? Alas,
his whole estate and life depended on his hatchet; by his hatchet he
earned many a fair penny of the best wood-mongers or log-merchants,
among whom he went a-jobbing; for want of his hatchet he was like to
starve; and had Death but met him six days after without a hatchet, the
grim fiend would have mowed him down in the twinkling of a bed-staff.
In this sad case he began to be in a heavy taking, and called upon
Jupiter with most eloquent prayers (for, you know, necessity was the
mother of eloquence), with the whites of his eyes turned up toward
heaven, down on his marrow-bones, his arms reared high, his fingers
stretched wide, and his head bare, the poor wretch without ceasing was
roaring out by way of Litany at every repetition of his supplications,
“My hatchet, Lord Jupiter, my hatchet, my hatchet, only my hatchet,
oh, Jupiter, or money to buy another, and nothing else; alas, my poor

Jupiter happened then to be holding a grand council about certain
urgent affairs, and old Gammer Cybele was just giving her opinion, or,
if you had rather have it so, it was young Phœbus the Beau; but, in
short, Tom’s outcry and lamentations were so loud that they were heard
with no small amazement at the council-board by the whole consistory
of the gods. “What a devil have we below,” quoth Jupiter, “that howls
so horridly? By the mud of Styx, haven’t we had all along, and haven’t
we here still, enough to do to set to rights a world of puzzling
businesses of consequence? Let us, however, despatch this howling
fellow below; you, Mercury, go see who it is, and discover what he
wants.” Mercury looked out at heaven’s trapdoor, through which, as I
am told, they hear what’s said here below. By the way, one might well
enough mistake it for the scuttle of a ship; though Icaromenippus said
it was like the mouth of a well. The light-heeled deity saw that it
was honest Tom, who asked for his lost hatchet; and, accordingly, he
made his report to the Synod. “Marry,” said Jupiter, “we are finely
holped up, as if we had now nothing else to do here but to restore lost
hatchets. Well, he must have it for all that, for so ’tis written in
the Book of Fate, as well as if it was worth the whole Duchy of Milan.
The truth is, the fellow’s hatchet is as much to him as a kingdom to a
king. Come, come, let no more words be scattered about it; let him have
his hatchet again. Run down immediately, and cast at the poor fellow’s
feet three hatchets! his own, another of gold, and a third of massy
silver, all of one size; then, having left it to his will to take his
choice, if he take his own, and be satisfied with it, give him t’other
two. If he take another, chop his head off with his own; and henceforth
serve me all those losers of hatchets after that manner.”

Having said this, Jupiter, with an awkward turn of his head, like a
jackanapes swallowing pills, made so dreadful a phiz that all the
vast Olympus quaked again. Heaven’s foot-messenger, thanks to his
low-crowned, narrow-brimmed hat, and plume of feathers, heel-pieces,
and running-stick with pigeon-wings, flings himself out at heaven’s
wicket, through the empty deserts of the air, and in a trice nimbly
alights on the earth, and throws at friend Tom’s feet the three
hatchets, saying to him: “Thou hast bawled long enough to be a-dry; thy
prayers and requests are granted by Jupiter; see which of these three
is thy hatchet, and take it away with thee.”

Wellhung lifts up the golden hatchet, peeps upon it, and finds it very
heavy; then staring on Mercury cries, “Gadzooks, this is none of mine;
I won’t ha’t.” The same he did with the silver one, and said, “’Tis not
this either; you may e’en take them again.” At last, he takes up his
own hatchet, examines the end of the helve, and finds his mark there;
then, ravished with joy, like a fox that meets some straggling poultry,
and sneering from the tip of the nose, he cries, “By the Mass, this
is my hatchet; Master God, if you will leave it me, I will sacrifice
to you a very good and huge pot of milk, brim full, covered with fine
strawberries, next Ides, _i.e._, the 15th of May.”

“Honest fellow,” said Mercury, “I leave it thee; take it; and because
thou hast wished and chosen moderately, in point of hatchet, by
Jupiter’s command I give thee these two others; thou hast now wherewith
to make thyself rich: be honest.”

Honest Tom gave Mercury a whole cart-load of thanks, and paid reverence
to the most great Jupiter. His old hatchet he fastened close to his
leathern girdle, and girds it about his breech like Martin of Cambray;
the two others, being more heavy, he lays on his shoulder. Thus he
plods on, trudging over the fields, keeping a good countenance among
his neighbors and fellow-parishioners, with one merry saying or other,
after Patelin’s way.

The next day, having put on a clean white jacket, he takes on his
back the two precious hatchets, and comes to Chinon, the famous city,
noble city, ancient city, yea, the first city in the world, according
to the judgment and assertion of the most learned Massoreths. In
Chinon he turned his silver hatchet into fine testons, crown-pieces,
and other white cash; his golden hatchet into fine angels, curious
ducats, substantial ridders, spankers, and rose nobles. Then with
them purchases a good number of farms, barns, houses, outhouses,
thatch-houses, stables, meadows, orchards, fields, vineyards, woods,
arable lands, pastures, ponds, mills, gardens, nurseries, oxen,
cows, sheep, goats, swine, hogs, asses, horses, hens, cocks, capons,
chickens, geese, ganders, ducks, drakes, and a world of all other
necessaries, and in a short time became the richest man in all the
country. His brother bumpkins, and the yeomen and other country-puts
thereabout, perceiving his good fortune, were not a little amazed,
insomuch that their former pity of poor Tom was soon changed into an
envy of his so great and unexpected rise; and, as they could not for
their souls devise how this came about, they made it their business to
pry up and down, and lay their heads together, to inquire, seek, and
inform themselves by what means, in what place, on what day, what hour,
how, why, and wherefore, he had come by this great treasure.

At last, hearing it was by losing his hatchet, “Ha, ha!” said they,
“was there no more to do, but to lose a hatchet, to make us rich?” With
this they all fairly lost their hatchets out of hand. The devil a one
that had a hatchet left; he was not his mother’s son, that did not lose
his hatchet. No more was wood felled or cleared in that country through
want of hatchets. Nay, the Æsopian apologue even saith, that certain
petty country gents, of the lower class, who had sold Wellhung their
little mill and little field to have wherewithal to make a figure at
the next muster, having been told that this treasure was come to him by
that means only, sold the only badge of their gentility, their swords,
to purchase hatchets to go to lose them, as the silly clodpates did, in
hopes to gain store of coin by that loss.

You would have truly sworn they had been a parcel of your petty
spiritual usurers, Rome-bound, selling their all, and borrowing of
others to buy store of mandates, a pennyworth of a new-made pope.

Now they cried out and brayed, and prayed and bawled, and lamented and
invoked Jupiter, “My hatchet! My hatchet! Jupiter, my hatchet!” On this
side, “My hatchet!” On that side, “My hatchet! Ho, ho, ho, ho, Jupiter,
my hatchet!” The air round about rung again with the cries and howlings
of these rascally losers of hatchets.

Mercury was nimble in bringing them hatchets; to each offering that
which he had lost, as also another of gold, and a third of silver.

Everywhere he still was for that of gold, giving thanks in abundance
to the great giver Jupiter; but in the very nick of time, that they
bowed and stooped to take it from the ground, whip in a trice, Mercury
lopped off their heads, as Jupiter had commanded. And of heads thus cut
off, the number was just equal to that of the lost hatchets.
                                      --_Gargantua and Pantagruel._

There is an epigram in Martial, and one of the very good ones--for he
has all sorts--where he pleasantly tells the story of Cælius, who, to
avoid making his court to some great men of Rome, to wait their rising,
and to attend them abroad, pretended to have the gout; and the better
to color this, anointed his legs and had them lapped up in a great many
swathings, and perfectly counterfeited both the gesture and countenance
of a gouty person; till in the end, Fortune did him the kindness to
make him one indeed.

    “Tantum cura potest, et ars doloris!
    Desit fingere Cælius podagram.”

I think I have read somewhere in Appian, a story like this, of one who
to escape the proscriptions of the triumvirs of Rome, and the better to
be concealed from the discovery of those who pursued him, having hidden
himself in a disguise, would yet add this invention, to counterfeit
having but one eye; but when he came to have a little more liberty,
and went to take off the plaster he had a great while worn over his
eye, he found he had totally lost the sight of it indeed, and that it
was absolutely gone. ’Tis possible that the action of sight was dulled
from having been so long without exercise, and that the optic power
was wholly retired into the other eye for we evidently perceive that
the eye we keep shut sends some part of its virtue to its fellow, so
that it will swell and grow bigger; and so, inaction, with the heat of
ligatures and plaster might very well have brought some gouty humor
upon this dissembler of Martial.

Reading in Froissart the vow of a troop of young English gallants,
to keep their left eyes bound up till they had arrived in France and
performed some notable exploit upon us, I have often been tickled with
the conceit: suppose it had befallen them as it did the Roman, and
they had returned with but one eye apiece to their mistresses, for
whose sakes they had made his ridiculous vow.

Mothers have reason to rebuke their children when they counterfeit
having but one eye, squinting, lameness, or any other personal defect;
for, besides that their bodies being then so tender may be subject to
take an ill bent, Fortune, I know not how, sometimes seems to delight
in taking us at our word; and I have heard several examples related
of people who have become really sick, by only feigning to be so. I
have always used, whether on horseback or on foot, to carry a stick in
my hand, and even to affect doing it with an elegant air; many have
threatened that this fancy would one day be turned into necessity: if
so, I should be the first of my family to have the gout.

But let us a little lengthen this chapter, and add another anecdote
concerning blindness. Pliny reports of one who, dreaming he was blind,
found himself so indeed in the morning without any preceding infirmity
in his eyes. The force of imagination might assist in this case, as I
have said elsewhere, and Pliny seems to be of the same opinion; but it
is more likely that the motions which the body felt within, of which
physicians, if they please, may find out the cause, taking away his
sight, were the occasion of his dream.

Let us add another story, not very improper for this subject, which
Seneca relates in one of his epistles: “You know,” says he, writing
to Lucilius, “that Harpaste, my wife’s fool, is thrown upon me as an
hereditary charge for I have naturally an aversion to those monsters;
and if I have a mind to laugh at a fool, I need not seek him far, I
can laugh at myself. This fool has suddenly lost her sight: I tell
you a strange, but a very true thing; she is not sensible that she is
blind, but eternally importunes her keeper to take her abroad, because
she says the house is dark. That what we laugh at in her, I pray you
to believe, happens to every one of us: no one knows himself to be
avaricious or grasping: and again, the blind call for a guide, while we
stray of our own accord. I am not ambitious, we say; but a man cannot
live otherwise at Rome; I am not wasteful, but the city requires a
great outlay; ’tis not my fault if I am choleric--if I have not yet
established any certain course of life: ’tis the fault of youth. Let us
not seek our disease out of ourselves; ’tis in us, and planted in our
bowels; and the mere fact that we do not perceive ourselves to be sick,
renders us more hard to be cured. If we do not betimes begin to see to
ourselves, when shall we have provided for so many wounds and evils
wherewith we abound? And yet we have a most sweet and charming medicine
in philosophy; for of all the rest we are sensible of no pleasure till
after the cure: this pleases and heals at once.” This is what Seneca
says, that has carried me from my subject, but there is advantage in
the change.

As in England, the French published many jest books containing short
anecdotes or epigrams, as well as the ubiquitous noodle stories.

       *       *       *       *       *

A wife said to her husband, who was much attached to reading, “I wish
I were a book, that I might always have your company.” _Then_,
answered he, _I should wish you an almanac, that I might change once
a year_.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was said of a malicious parasite, that he never opened his mouth
but at the expense of others; because he always ate at the tables of
others, and spoke ill of everybody.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Duke of Vivonne, who was a heretic in medicine, being indisposed,
his friends sent for a physician. When the Duke was told a physician
was below, he said, _Tell him I cannot see him, because I am not
well. Let him call again at another time_.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Marechal de Faber, at a siege, was pointing out a place with his
finger. As he spoke, a musket-ball carried off the finger. Instantly
stretching another, he continued his discourse, _Gentlemen, as I was
saying_--. This was true _sang froid_.

A man, carrying on an unjust process, was advised to pray to God for
its success. _Stop, stop_, replied he, _God must hear nothing of

       *       *       *       *       *

Another princess of France, being espoused by the king of Spain, in
passing through a town, on her way to Madrid, the magistrates of the
place, which was a famous mart for stockings, waited on the queen with
a present of a dozen pairs of remarkable fineness. The Spanish grandee,
who attended her, full of the jealous humour of his nation, said, in
a passion. “You fools, know that a queen of Spain has no legs.” The
magistrates retired in terror, and the poor queen, weeping sadly, said,
_Must I then have both my legs cut off?_

       *       *       *       *       *

In a village of Poitou, a peasant’s wife, after a long illness, fell
into a lethargy. She was thought dead; and being only wrapped in linen,
as the custom of burying the poor in that country is, she was carried
to the place of interment. In going to church, the body, being borne
aloft, was caught hold of by some briars, and so scratched, that as
if bled by a surgeon, she revived. Fourteen years after, she died in
earnest, as was thought; and as they carried her to church, the husband
exclaimed, _For God’s sake, do not go near the briars_.

       *       *       *       *       *

A gentleman, seeing in his yard a mass of rubbish, blamed his people
for not removing it. A domestic said, no cart could be got. “Why,”
answered the master, “do you not make a pit beside the rubbish, and
bury it?” “But,” answered the domestic, “where shall we put the earth
that comes out of the pit?” _You great fool_, replied his master,
_make the pit so large as to hold all_.

       *       *       *       *       *

A lady sitting near the fire, and telling a long story, a spark flew on
her gown, and she did not perceive it till it had burnt a good while.
_I saw it at first, madam_, said a lady who was present, _but I
could not be so rude as to interrupt you_.

When Rabelais lay on his death-bed, he could not help jesting at the
very last moment; for, having received the extreme unction, a friend
coming to see him, said, he hoped he was prepared for the next world.
_Yes, yes_, answered Rabelais, _I am ready for my journey now;
they have just greased my boots_.

                         GERMAN WIT AND HUMOR

Brandt’s _Das Narrenschiff_, or _The Ship of Fools_, a long
satirical poem, was published at the close of the Fifteenth century.

It was followed by _The Boats of Foolish Women_ and other
imitative works.

Among them, was _The Praise of Folly_, by Desiderius Erasmus, a
Dutch classical scholar and satirist.

The following is from the Dedicatory Epistle which introduces _The
Praise of Folly_, and which is addressed to Sir Thomas More.

“But those who are offended at the lightness and pedantry of this
subject, I would have them consider that I do not set myself for the
first example of this kind, but that the same has been oft done by many
considerable authors. For thus, several ages since, Homer wrote of no
more weighty a subject than of a war between the frogs and mice; Virgil
of a gnat and a pudding cake; and Ovid of a nut. Polycrates commended
the cruelty of Busiris; and Isocrates, that corrects him for this, did
as much for the injustice of Glaucus. Favorinus extolled Thersites,
and wrote in praise of a quartane ague. Synesius pleaded in behalf of
baldness; and Lucian defended a sipping fly. Seneca drollingly related
the deifying of Claudius; Plutarch the dialogue betwixt Gryllus and
Ulysses; Lucian and Apuleius the story of an ass; and somebody else
records the last will of a hog, of which St. Hierom makes mention. So
that, if they please, let themselves think the worst of me, and fancy
to themselves that I was, all this while, a playing at push-pin, or
riding astride on a hobby-horse. For how unjust is it, if when we allow
different recreations to each particular course of life, we afford no
diversion to studies; especially when trifles may be a whet to more
serious thoughts, and comical matters may be so treated of, as that
a reader of ordinary sense may possibly thence reap more advantage
than from some more big and stately argument.... As to what relates
to myself, I must be forced to submit to the judgment of others, yet,
except I am too partial to be judge in my own case, I am apt to believe
I have praised Folly in such a manner as not to have deserved the name
of fool for my pains.”

A short extract from the book follows.

   “It is one farther very commendable property of fools, that
   they always speak the truth, than which there is nothing more
   noble and heroical. For so, though Plato relates it as a
   sentence of Alcibiades, that in the sea of drunkenness truth
   swims uppermost, and so wine is the only teller of truth, yet
   this character may more justly be assumed by me, as I can make
   good from the authority of Euripides, who lays down this as an
   axiom, ‘Children and fools always speak the truth.’ Whatever the
   fool has in his heart, he betrays in his face; or what is more
   notifying, discovers it by his words; while the wise man, as
   Euripides observes, carries a double tongue; the one to speak
   what may be said, the other what ought to be; the one what
   truth, the other what time requires; whereby he can in a trice
   so alter his judgment, as to prove that to be now white, which
   he had just swore to be black; like the satyr at his porridge,
   blowing hot and cold at the same breath; in his lips professing
   one thing, when in his heart he means another.

   Furthermore, princes in their greatest splendor seem upon this
   account unhappy, in that they miss the advantage of being told
   the truth, and are shammed off by a parcel of insinuating
   courtiers, that acquit themselves as flatterers more than as
   friends. But some will perchance object that princes do not love
   to hear the truth, and therefore wise men must be very cautious
   how they behave themselves before them, lest they should take
   too great a liberty in speaking what is true, rather than what
   is acceptable. This must be confessed, truth indeed is seldom
   palatable to the ears of kings, yet fools have so great a
   privilege as to have free leave, not only to speak bare truths,
   but the most bitter ones too; so as the same reproof which, had
   it come from the mouth of a wise man would have cost him his
   head, being blurted out by a fool, is not only pardoned, but
   well taken, and rewarded. For truth has naturally a mixture of
   pleasure, if it carry with it nothing of offence to the person
   whom it is applied to; and the happy knack of ordering it so, is
   bestowed only on fools....”

However, but few individual names stand out in the early German
literature that can by any stretch of definition be called humorous.

As in all other countries, legends and folk lore tales were rife, and
eventually produced popular heroes about whom stories were invented.

Brother Rush, who seems to be merely a demon of darkness, is first
found in print in Germany in 1515.

He is a tricksy sprite and goes through various vicissitudes of rather
dull interest.

He was followed by Tyll Eulenspiegel, a far more popular personage, and
translated to England under the name of Owleglas or Howleglas.

Eulenspiegel was a shrewd and cunning proposition and had many
startling adventures, two of which are here given.

                        _EULENSPIEGEL’S PRANKS_

                        _The Golden Horseshoes_

Eulenspiegel came to the court of the King of Denmark, who liked him
well, and said that if he would make him some diversion, then might he
have the best of shoes for his horse’s hoofs. Eulenspiegel asked the
king if he was minded to keep his word well and truly, and the king did
answer most solemnly, “Yes.”

Now did Eulenspiegel ride his horse to a goldsmith, by whom he
suffered to be beaten upon the horse’s hoofs shoes of gold with silver
nails. This done, Eulenspiegel went to the king, that the king might
send his treasurer to pay for the shoeing. The treasurer believed
he should pay a blacksmith, but Eulenspiegel conducted him to the
goldsmith, who did require and demand one hundred Danish marks. This
would the treasurer not pay, but went and told his master.

Therefore the king caused Eulenspiegel to be summoned into his
presence, and spoke to him:

“Eulenspiegel, why did you have such costly shoes? Were I to shoe all
my horses thus, soon would I be without land or any possessions.”

To which Eulenspiegel did make reply:

“Gracious King, you did promise me the best of shoes for my horse’s
hoofs, and I did think the best were of gold.”

Then the king laughed:

“You shall be of my court, for you act upon my very word.”

And the king commanded his treasurer to pay the hundred marks for the
horse’s golden shoes. But these Eulenspiegel caused to be taken off,
and iron shoes put on in their stead; and he remained many a long day
in the service of the King of Denmark.

                  _Paying with the Sound of a Penny_

Eulenspiegel was at a tavern where the host did one day put the meat
on the spit so late that Eulenspiegel got hungry for dinner. The host,
seeing his discontent, said to him:

“Who cannot wait till the dinner be ready, let him eat what he may.”

Therefore Eulenspiegel went aside, and ate some dry bread; after that
he had eaten he sat by the fire and turned the spit until the meat was
roasted. Then was the meat borne upon the table, and the host, with the
guests, did feast upon it. But Eulenspiegel stayed on the bench by the
fire, nor would he sit at the board, since he told the host that he had
his fill from the odor of the meat. So when they had eaten, and the
host came to Eulenspiegel with the tray, that he might place in it the
price of the food, Eulenspiegel did refuse, saying:

“Why must I pay for what I have not eaten?”

To which the host replied, in anger:

“Give me your penny; for by sitting at the fire, and swallowing the
savor of the meat, you had the same nourishment as though you had
partaken of the meat at the board.”

Then Eulenspiegel searched in his purse for a penny, and threw it on
the bench, saying to the host:

“Do you hear this sound?”

“I do, indeed,” answered the host.

Then did Eulenspiegel pick up the penny and restore it to his purse;
which done, he spoke again:

“To my belly the odor of the meat is worth as much as the sound of the
penny is to you.”

       *       *       *       *       *

About this time came into being the tales of the Schildburgers, or
Noodles, who correspond to the Gothamites of England.

Schildburg, we are told, was a town “in Misnopotamia, beyond Utopia,
in the kingdom of Calecut.” The Schildburgers were originally so
renowned for their wisdom, that they were continually invited into
foreign countries to give their advice, until at length not a man was
left at home, and their wives were obliged to assume the charge of the
duties of their husbands. This became at length so onerous, that the
wives held a council, and resolved on despatching a solemn message in
writing to call the men home. This had the desired effect; all the
Schildburgers returned to their own town, and were so joyfully received
by their wives that they resolved upon leaving it no more. They
accordingly held a council, and it was decided that, having experienced
the great inconvenience of a reputation of wisdom, they would avoid
it in future by assuming the character of fools. One of the first
evil results of their long neglect of home affairs was the want of a
council-hall, and this want they now resolved to supply without delay.
They accordingly went to the hills and woods, cut down the timber,
dragged it with great labour to the town, and in due time completed
the erection of a handsome and substantial building. But, when they
entered their new council-hall, what was their consternation to find
themselves in perfect darkness! In fact, they had forgotten to make
any windows. Another council was held, and one who had been among the
wisest in the days of their wisdom, gave his opinion very oracularly;
the result of which was that they should experiment on every possible
expedient for introducing light into the hall, and that they should
first try that which seemed most likely to succeed. They had observed
that the light of day was caused by sunshine, and the plan proposed was
to meet at mid-day when the sun was brightest, and fill sacks, hampers,
jugs, and vessels of all kinds, with sunshine and daylight, which they
proposed afterwards to empty into the unfortunate council-hall. Next
day, as the clock struck one, you might see a crowd of Schildburgers
before the council-house door, busily employed, some holding the sacks
open, and others throwing the light into them with shovels and any
other appropriate implements which came to hand. While they were thus
labouring, a stranger came into the town of Schildburg, and, hearing
what they were about, told them they were labouring to no purpose,
and offered to show them how to get the daylight into the hall. It is
unnecessary to say more than that this new plan was to make an opening
in the roof, and that the Schildburgers witnessed the effect with
astonishment, and were loud in their gratitude to the new comer.

The Schildburgers met with further difficulties before they completed
their council-hall. They sowed a field with salt, and when the
salt-plant grew up next year, after a meeting of the council, at which
it was stiffly disputed whether it ought to be reaped, or mowed, or
gathered in in some other manner, it was finally discovered that
the crop consisted of nothing but nettles. After many accidents of
this kind, the Schildburgers are noticed by the emperor, and obtain
a charter of incorporation and freedom, but they profit little by
it. In trying some experiments to catch mice, they set fire to their
houses, and the whole town is burnt to the ground, upon which, in their
sorrow, they abandon it altogether, and become, like the Jews of old,
scattered over the world, carrying their own folly into every country
they visit.

Another tale relates how the boors of Schilda contrived to get their
millstone twice down from a high mountain:

The boors of Schilda had built a mill, and with extraordinary labour
they had quarried a millstone for it out of a quarry which lay on
the summit of a high mountain; and when the stone was finished, they
carried it with great labour and pain down the hill. When they had
got to the bottom, it occurred to one of them that they might have
spared themselves the trouble of carrying it down by letting it roll
down. “Verily,” said he, “we are the stupidest of fools to take these
extraordinary pains to do that which we might have done with so little
trouble. We will carry it up, and then let it roll down the hill
by itself, as we did before with the tree which we felled for the

This advice pleased them all, and with greater labour they carried
the stone to the top of the mountain again, and were about to roll it
down, when one of them said, “But how shall we know where it runs to?
Who will be able to tell us aught about it?” “Why,” said the bailiff,
who had advised the stone being carried up again, “this is very easily
managed. One of us must stick in the hole [for the millstone, of
course, had a hole in the middle], and run down with it.” This was
agreed to, and one of them, having been chosen for the purpose, thrust
his head through the hole, and ran down the hill with the millstone.
Now at the bottom of the mountain was a deep fish-pond, into which the
stone rolled, and the simpleton with it, so that the Schildburgers
lost both stone and man, and not one among them knew what had become
of them. And they felt sorely angered against their old companion who
had run down the hill with the stone, for they considered that he had
carried it off for the purpose of disposing of it. So they published a
notice in all the neighbouring boroughs, towns, and villages, calling
on them, that “if any one come there with a millstone round his neck,
they should treat him as one who had stolen the common goods, and give
him to justice.” But the poor fellow lay in the pond, dead. Had he been
able to speak, he would have been willing to tell them not to worry
themselves on his account, for he would give them their own again. But
his load pressed so heavily upon him, and he was so deep in the water,
that he, after drinking water enough--more, indeed, than was good for
him--died; and he is dead at the present day, and dead he will, shall,
and must remain!

The earliest known edition of the history of the Schildburgers was
printed in 1597, but the story itself is no doubt older. It will be
seen at once that it involves a satire upon the municipal towns of the
middle ages.

                         ITALIAN WIT AND HUMOR

Of Italian wit and humor up to and through the Sixteenth Century there
is little to be said. Translators who have given us in English the
early literature of Italy have been so concerned with the serious
poetry and prose that they neglected the lighter veins.

If, indeed, there were any worth while.

The outstanding name of the Fourteenth Century is that of Giovanni

But though the Decameron, a collection of one hundred stories, is a
mirror of the humorous taste of that time, the stories are for the most
part, long, dull and prosy.

They relate the intrigues of lovers in a freely licentious way, but
both humorous description and witty repartee are consciously lacking.

One of the most amusing of the decent tales is here given, also a
sonnet of Boccaccio’s translated by Rossetti.

                    _OF THREE GIRLS AND THEIR TALK_

    By a clear well, within a little field
    Full of green grass and flowers of every hue,
    Sat three young girls, relating (as I knew)
    Their loves. And each had twined a bough to shield
    Her lovely face; and the green leaves did yield
    The golden hair their shadow,--while the two
    Sweet colours mingled, both blown lightly through
    With a soft wind for ever stirr’d and still’d.
    After a little while one of them said
    (I heard her)--“Think! if ere the next hour struck
    Each of our lovers should come here to-day,
    Think you that we should fly or feel afraid?”
    To whom the others answer’d--“From such luck
    A girl would be a fool to run away!”

                           _THE STOLEN PIG_

Calandrino had a little farm, not far from Florence, which came to him
through his wife. There he used to have a pig fatted every year, and
some time about December he and his wife went always to kill and salt
it for the use of the family. Now it happened once--she being unwell
at the time--that he went thither by himself to kill his pig; which
Bruno and Buffalmacco hearing, and knowing she was not to be there,
they went to spend a few days with a great friend of theirs, a priest
in Calandrino’s neighborhood. Now the pig had been killed the very day
they came thither, and Calandrino, seeing them along with the priest,
called to them and said, “Welcome, kindly; I would gladly you should
see what a good manager I am.” Then, taking them into the house, he
showed them this pig. They saw that it was fat, and were told by him
that it was to be salted for his family. “Salted, booby?” said Bruno.
“Sell it, let us make merry with the money, and tell your wife that it
was stolen.” “No,” said Calandrino, “she will never believe it; and,
besides, she would turn me out of doors. Trouble me, then, no further
about any such thing, for I will never do it.” They said a great deal
more to him, but all to no purpose. At length he invited them to
supper, but did it in such a manner that they refused.

After they had come away from him, said Bruno to Buffalmacco, “Suppose
we steal this pig from him to-night.” “How is it possible?” “Oh,
I know well enough how to do it, if he does not remove it in the
meantime from the place where we just now saw it.” “Then let us do it,
and afterward we and the parson will make merry over it.” The priest
assured them that he should like it above all things. “We must use a
little art,” quoth Bruno; “you know how covetous he is, and how freely
he drinks when it is at another’s cost. Let us get him to the tavern,
where the parson shall make a pretense of treating us all, out of
compliment to him. He will soon get drunk, and then the thing will be
easy enough, as there is nobody in the house but himself.”

This was done, and Calandrino, finding that the parson was to pay, took
his glasses pretty freely, and, getting his dose, walked home betimes,
left the door open, thinking that it was shut, and so went to bed.
Buffalmacco and Bruno went from the tavern to sup with the priest, and
as soon as supper was over they took proper tools with them to get into
the house; but finding the door open, they carried off the pig to the
priest’s and went to bed likewise.

In the morning, as soon as Calandrino had slept off his wine, he rose,
came down-stairs, and finding the door open and his pig gone, began to
inquire of everybody if they knew anything of the matter; and receiving
no tidings of it, he made a terrible outcry, saying, “What shall I do
now? Somebody has stolen my pig!” Bruno and Buffalmacco were no sooner
out of bed than they went to his house to hear what he would say;
and the moment he saw them he roared out, “Oh, my friends, my pig is
stolen!” Upon this Bruno whispered to him and said, “Well, I am glad
to see you wise in your life for once.” “Alas!” quoth he, “it is too
true.” “Keep to the same story,” said Bruno, “and make noise enough for
every one to believe you.”

Calandrino now began to bawl louder, “Indeed! I vow and swear to you
that it is stolen.” “That’s right; be sure you let everybody hear you,
that it may appear so.” “Do you think that I would forswear myself
about it? May I be hanged this moment if it is not so!” “How is it
possible!” quoth Bruno; “I saw it but last night; never imagine that
I can believe it.” “It is so, however,” answered he, “and I am undone.
I dare not now go home again, for my wife will never believe me, and
I shall have no peace this twelve-month.” “It is a most unfortunate
thing,” said Bruno, “if it be true; but you know I put it into your
head to say so last night, and you should not make sport both of your
wife and us at the same time.”

At this Calandrino began to roar out afresh, saying, “Good God! you
make me mad to hear you talk. I tell you once for all it was stolen
this very night!” “Nay, if it be so,” quoth Buffalmacco, “we must think
of some way to get it back again.” “And what way must we take,” said he
“to find it?” “Depend upon it,” replied the other, “that nobody came
from the Indies to steal it; it must be somewhere in your neighborhood,
and if you could get the people together I could make a charm, with
some bread and cheese, that would soon discover the thief.” “True,”
said Bruno, “but they would know in that case what you were about; and
the person that has it would never come near you.” “How must we manage,
then?” said Buffalmacco. “Oh!” replied Bruno, “you shall see me do it
with some pills of ginger and a little wine, which I will ask them to
come and drink. They will have no suspicion what our design is, and we
can make a charm of these as well as of the bread and cheese.” “Very
well,” quoth the other. “What do you say, Calandrino? Have you a mind
we should try it?” “For Heaven’s sake do,” he said; “if I only knew who
the thief is, I should be half comforted.” “Well, then,” quoth Bruno,
“I am ready to go to Florence for the things, if you will only give me
some money.” He happened to have a few florins in his pocket, which he
gave him, and off went Bruno.

When he got to Florence, Bruno went to a friend’s house and bought a
pound of ginger made into pills. He also got two pills made of aloes,
which had a private mark that he should not mistake them, being candied
over with sugar like the rest. Then, having bought a jar of good
wine, he returned to Calandrino, and said, “To-morrow you must take
care to invite every one that you have the least suspicion of; it is
a holiday, and they will be glad to come. We will finish the charm
to-night, and bring the things to your house in the morning, and then I
will take care to do and say on your behalf what is necessary upon such
an occasion.”

Calandrino did as he was told, and in the morning he had nearly all the
people in the parish assembled under an elm-tree in the churchyard. His
two friends produced the pills and wine, and, making the people stand
round in a circle, Bruno said to them, “Gentlemen, it is fit that I
should tell you the reason of your being summoned here in this manner,
to the end, if anything should happen which you do not like, that I
be not blamed for it. You must know, then, that Calandrino had a pig
stolen last night, and, as some of the company here must have taken
it, he, that he may find out the thief, would have every man take and
eat one of these pills, and drink a glass of wine after it. Whoever
the guilty person is, you will find he will not be able to get a bit
of it down, but it will taste so bitter that he will be forced to spit
it out. Therefore, to prevent such open shame, he had better, whoever
he is, make a secret confession to the priest, and I will proceed no

All present declared their readiness to eat; so, placing them all in
order, he gave every man his pill and coming to Calandrino, he gave one
of the aloe pills to him, which he straightway put into his mouth, and
no sooner did he began to chew it than he was forced to spit it out.
Every one was now attentive to see who spit his pill out, and while
Bruno kept going round, apparently taking no notice of Calandrino, he
heard somebody say behind him, “Hey-day! what is the meaning of its
disagreeing so with Calandrino?” Bruno now turned suddenly about, and
seeing that Calandrino had spit out his pill, he said, “Stay a little,
honest friends, and be not too hasty in judging; it may be something
else that has made him spit, and therefore he shall try another.” So he
gave him the other aloe pill, and then went on to the rest that were
unserved. But if the first was bitter to him, this he thought much
more so. However, he endeavored to get it down as well as he could.
But it was impossible; it made the tears run down his cheeks, and he
was forced to spit it out at last, as he had done the other. In the
meantime Buffalmacco was going about with the wine; but when he and all
of them saw what Calandrino had done, they began to bawl out that he
had robbed himself, and some of them abused him roundly.

After they were all gone, Buffalmacco said, “I always thought that you
yourself were the thief, and that you were willing to make us believe
the pig was stolen in order to keep your money in your pocket, lest we
should expect a treat upon the occasion.” Calandrino, who had still the
taste of the aloes in his mouth, fell a-swearing that he knew nothing
of the matter. “Honor bright, now, comrade,” said Buffalmacco, “what
did you get for it?” This made Calandrino quite furious.

To crown all, Bruno struck in: “I was just now told,” said he, “by
one of the company, that you have a mistress in this neighborhood to
whom you are very kind, and that he is confident you have given it to
her. You know you once took us to the plains of Mugnone, to look for
some black stones, when you left us in the lurch, and pretended you
had found them; and now you think to make us believe that your pig is
stolen, when you have either given it away or sold it. You have played
so many tricks upon us, that we intend to be fooled no more by you.
Therefore, as we have had a deal of trouble in the affair, you shall
make us amends by giving us two couple of fowls, unless you mean that
we should tell your wife.”

Calandrino, now perceiving that he would not be believed, and being
unwilling to have them add to his troubles by bringing his wife upon
his back, was forced to give them the fowls, which they joyfully
carried off along with the pork.

                                                 --_The Decameron._

Rather earlier than Boccaccio lived Rustico di Filippo, who gives us
the following satirical bit.

                    _THE MAKING OF MASTER MESSERIN_

    When God had finished Master Messerin,
      He really thought it something to have done:
      Bird, man, and beast had got a chance in one,
    And each felt flattered, it was hoped, therein.
    For he is like a goose i’ the windpipe thin,
      And like a camelopard high i’ the loins,
      To which for manhood, you’ll be told, he joins
    Some kind of flesh hues and a callow chin.
    As to his singing, he affects the crow,
    As to his learning, beasts in general,
      And sets all square by dressing like a man.
    God made him, having nothing else to do,
    And proved there is not anything at all
      He cannot make, if that’s a thing He can.

Among other collections of tales was the _Novellino_, collected by
Massuchio di Salerno, about the middle of the Fifteenth Century.

We quote

                    _THE INHERITANCE OF A LIBRARY_

Jeronimo, who had inherited the place of master and head of the house,
found himself in possession of many thousand florins in ready money.
Wherefore the youth, seeing that he himself had endured no labor and
weariness in gathering together the same, forthwith made up his mind
not to place his affection in possessions of this sort, and at once
began to array himself in sumptuous garments, to taste the pleasures of
the town in the company of certain chosen companions of his, to indulge
in amorous adventures, and in a thousand other ways to dissipate his
substance abroad without restraint of any kind. Not only did he banish
from his mind all thought and design of continuing his studies, but he
even went so far as to harbor against the books, which his father had
held in such high esteem and reverence and had bequeathed to him, the
most fierce and savage hatred. So violent, indeed, was his resentment
against them that he set them down as the worst foes he had in the

On a certain day it happened that the young man, either by accident
or for some reason of his own, betook himself into the library of his
dead father, and there his eye fell upon a vast quantity of handsome
and well-arranged books, such as are wont to be found in places of this
sort. At the first sight of these he was somewhat stricken with fear,
and with a certain apprehension that the spirit of his father might
pursue him; but, having collected his courage somewhat, he turned with
a look of hatred on his face toward the aforesaid books and began to
address them in the following terms:

“Books, books, so long as my father was alive you waged against me war
unceasing, forasmuch as he spent all his time and trouble either in
purchasing you, or in putting you in fair bindings; so that, whenever
it might happen that there came upon me the need of a few florins or
of certain other articles, which all youths find necessary, he would
always refuse to let me have them, saying that it was his will and
pleasure to dispense his money only in the purchase of such books as
might please him. And over and beyond this, he purposed in his mind
that I, altogether against my will, should spend my life in close
companionship with you, and over this matter there arose between us
many times angry and contumelious words. Many times, also, you have put
me in danger of being driven into perpetual exile from this my home.
Therefore it cannot but be pleasing to God--since it is no fault of
yours that I was not hunted forth from this place--that I should send
you packing from this my house in such fashion that not a single one
of you will ever behold my door again. And, in sooth, I wonder more
especially that you have not before this disordered my wits, a feat
you might well have accomplished with very little more trouble on your
part, in your desire to do with me as you did with my father, according
to my clear recollection. He, poor man, as if he had become bemused
through conversing with you alone, was accustomed to demean himself
in strange fashion, moving his hands and his head in such wise that
over and over again I counted him to be one bereft of reason. Now, on
account of all this, I bid you have a little patience, for the reason
that I have made up my mind to sell you all forthwith, and thus in a
single hour to avenge myself for all the outrages I have suffered on
your account and, over and beyond this, to set myself free from the
possible danger of going mad.”

After he had thus spoken, and had packed up divers volumes of the
aforesaid books--one of his servants helping him in the work--he sent
the parcel to the house of a certain lawyer, who was a friend of his,
and then in a very few words came to an agreement with the lawyer as to
the business, the issue of the affair being that, though he had simply
expelled the books from his house, and had not sold them, he received,
nevertheless, on account of the same, several hundred florins. With
these, added to the money which still remained in his purse, he
continued to pursue the course of pleasure he had begun.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another ironical skit is by Francesco Berni, entitled

                            _LIVING IN BED_

    Yet field-sports, dice, cards, balls, and such like courses,
      Things which he might be thought to set store by,
    Gave him but little pleasure. He liked horses,
      But was content to let them please his eye--
    Buying them, not squaring with his resources.
      Therefore his _summum bonum_ was to lie
    Stretch’d at full length--yea, frankly be it said,
    To do no single thing but lie in bed.

    ’Twas owing all to that infernal writing.
      Body and brains had borne such grievous rounds
    Of kicks, cuffs, floors, from copying and inditing,
      That he could find no balsam for his wounds,
    No harbor for his wreck half so inviting
      As to lie still, far from all sights and sounds,
    And so, in bed, do nothing on God’s earth
    But try and give his senses a new birth.

    “Bed--bed’s the thing, by Heaven!” thus would he swear.
      “Bed is your only work, your only duty.
    Bed is one’s gown, one’s slippers, one’s armchair,
      Old coat; you’re not afraid to spoil its beauty.
    Large you may have it, long, wide, brown, or fair,
      Down-bed or mattress, just as it may suit ye.
    Then take your clothes off, turn in, stretch, lie double;
    Be but in bed, you’re quit of earthly trouble!”

    Borne to the fairy palace then, but tired
      Of seeing so much dancing, he withdrew
    Into a distant room, and there desired
      A bed might be set up, handsome and new,
    With all the comforts that the case required:
      Mattresses huge, and pillows not a few
    Put here and there, in order that no ease
    Might be found wanting to cheeks, or arms, or knees.

    The bed was eight feet wide, lovely to see,
      With white sheets, and fine curtains, and rich loops
    Things vastly soothing to calamity;
      The coverlet hung light in silken droops;
    It might have held six people easily;
      But he disliked to lie in bed by groups.
    A large bed to himself, that was his notion,
    With room enough to swim in--like the ocean.

    In this retreat there joined him a good soul,
      A Frenchman, one who had been long at court,
    An admirable cook--though, on the whole,
      His gains of his deserts had fallen short.
    For him was made, cheek, as it were, by jowl,
      A second bed of the same noble sort,
    Yet not so close but that the folks were able
    To set between the two a dinner-table.

    Here was served up, on snow-white table-cloths,
      Each daintiest procurable comestible
    In the French taste (all others being Goths),
      Dishes alike delightful and digestible.
    Only our scribe chose sirups, soups, and broths,
      The smallest trouble being a detestable
    Bore, into which not ev’n his dinner led him.
    Therefore the servants always came and fed him.

    Nothing at these times but his head was seen;
      The coverlet came close beneath his chin;
    And then, from out the bottle or tureen,
      They fill’d a silver pipe, which he let in
    Between his lips, all easy, smooth, and clean,
      And so he filled his philosophic skin.
    And not a finger all the while he stirred,
    Nor, lest his tongue should tire, scarce uttered word.

    The name of that same cook was Master Pierre;
      He told a tale well--something short and light.
    Quoth scribe, “Those people who keep dancing there
      Have little wit.” Quoth Pierre, “You’re very right.”
    And then he told a tale, or hummed an air;
      Then took a sip of something, or a bite;
    And then he turned himself to sleep; and then
    Awoke and ate. And then he slept again.

    One more thing I may note that made the day
      Pass well--one custom, not a little healing,
    Which was, to look above him, as he lay.
      And count the spots and blotches in the ceiling;
    Noting what shapes they took to, and which way,
      And where the plaster threatened to be peeling;
    Whether the spot looked new, or old, or what--
    Or whether ’twas, in fact, a spot or not.
                                          --From _Roland Enamored_.

Francho Sacchetti, poet and novelist, wrote many stories and verses in
lighter vein.

                            _ON A WET DAY_

    As I walk’d thinking through a little grove,
    Some girls that gather’d flowers came passing me,
    Saying--“Look here! look there!” delightedly.
    “O here it is!” “What’s that?” “A lily? love!”
    “And there are violets!”
    “Farther for roses! O the lovely pets!
    The darling beauties! O the nasty thorn!
    Look here, my hand’s all torn!”
    “What’s that that jumps?” “O don’t! it’s a grasshopper!”
    “Come, run! come, run!
    Here’s blue-bells!” “O what fun!”
    “Not that way! stop her!”
    “Yes! this way!” “Pluck them then!”
    “O, I’ve found mushrooms! O look here!” “O, I’m
    Quite sure that farther on we’ll get wild thyme.”
    “O, we shall stay too long; it’s going to rain;
    There’s lightning; O! there’s thunder!”
    “O sha’n’t we hear the vesper bell? I wonder.”
    “Why, it’s not nones, you silly little thing!
    And don’t you hear the nightingales that sing--
    Fly away O die away?”
    “O, I hear something; hush!”
    “Why, where? what is it then?” “Ah! in that bush.”
    So every girl here knocks it, shakes and shocks it:
    Till with the stir they make
    Out skurries a great snake.
    “O Lord! O me! Alack! Ah me! alack!”
    They scream, and then all run and scream again,
    And then in heavy drops comes down the rain.

    Each running at the other in a fright,
    Each trying to get before the other, and crying.
    And flying, and stumbling, tumbling, wrong or right;--
    One sets her knee
    There where her foot should be;
    One has her hands and dress
    All smother’d up with mud in a fine mess;
    And one gets trampled on by two or three.
    What’s gathered is let fall
    About the wood, and not pick’d up at all.
    The wreaths of flowers are scatter’d on the ground,
    And still as, screaming, hustling, without rest,
    They run this way and that and round and round,
    She thinks herself in luck who runs the best.

    I stood quite still to have a perfect view,
    And never noticed till I got wet through.
                                --_Translated by Rossetti._

This brings us to Benvenuto Cellini, who, though not classed among the
humorists, gives us many flashes of wit and humor in his celebrated


One of those busy personages who delight in spreading mischief came to
inform me that Paolo Micceri had taken a house for his new lady and her
mother, and that he made use of the most injurious and contemptuous
expressions regarding me, to wit:

“Poor Benvenuto! he paid the piper while I danced; and now he goes
about boasting of the exploit. He thinks I am afraid of him--I, who can
wear a sword and dagger as well as he. But I would have him to know my
weapons are as keen as his. I, too, am a Florentine, and come of the
Micceri, a much better house than the Cellini any time of day.”

In short, the vile informer painted the things in such colors to my
disadvantage that it fired my whole blood. I was in a fever of the most
dangerous kind. And feeling it must kill me unless it found vent, I had
recourse to my usual means on such occasions. I called to my workman,
Chioccia, to accompany me, and told another to follow me with my horse.
On reaching the wretch’s house, finding the door half open, I entered
abruptly in. There he sat with his precious “lady-love,” his boasted
sword and dagger beside him, in the very act of jesting with the elder
woman upon my affairs. To slam the door, draw my sword and present the
point to his throat, was the work of a moment, giving him no time to
think of defending himself:

“Vile poltroon, recommend thy soul to God! Thou art a dead man!”

In the excess of his terror he cried out thrice, in a feeble voice,
“Mama! mama! mama! Help, help, help!”

At this ludicrous appeal, so like a girl’s, and the ridiculous manner
in which it was uttered, though I had a mind to kill, I lost half my
rage and could not forbear laughing. Turning to Chioccia, however, I
bade him make fast the door; for I was resolved to inflict the same
punishment upon all three. Still with my sword-point at his throat,
and pricking him a little now and then, I terrified him with the most
desperate threats, and finding that he made no defense, was rather at
a loss how to proceed. It was too poor a revenge--it was nothing--when
suddenly it came into my head to make it effectual, and compel him to
espouse the girl upon the spot.

“Up! Off with that ring on thy finger, villain!” I cried. “Marry her
this instant, and then I shall have my full revenge.”

“Anything--anything you like, provided you will not kill me,” he
eagerly answered.

Removing my sword a little:

“Now, then,” I said, “put on the ring.”

He did so, trembling all the time.

“This is not enough. Go and bring me two notaries to draw up the
contract.” Then, addressing the girl and her mother in French:

“While the notaries and witnesses are coming, I will give you a word of
advice. The first of you that I know to utter a word about my affairs,
I will kill you--all three. So remember.”

I afterward said in Italian to Paolo:

“If you offer the slightest opposition to the least thing I choose to
propose, I will cut you up into mince-meat with this good sword.”

“It is enough,” he interrupted in alarm, “that you will not kill me. I
will do whatever you wish.”

So this singular contract was duly drawn out and signed. My rage
and fever were gone. I paid the notaries, and went home.--_The


Bandinello was incensed to such a degree that he was ready to burst
with fury, and turning to me said, “What faults have you to find with
my statues?”

I answered, “I will soon tell them, if you have but the patience to
hear me.”

He replied, “Tell them, then.”

The duke and all present listened with the utmost attention. I began
by promising that I was sorry to be obliged to lay before him all
the blemishes of his work, and that I was not so properly delivering
my own sentiments as declaring what was said of it by the artistic
school of Florence. However, as the fellow at one time said something
disobliging, at another made some offensive gesture with his hands or
his feet, he put me into such a passion that I behaved with a rudeness
which I should otherwise have avoided.

“The artistic school of Florence,” said I, “declares what follows:
If the hair of your Hercules were shaved off, there would not remain
skull enough to hold his brains. With regard to his face, it is hard
to distinguish whether it be the face of a man, or that of a creature
something between a lion and an ox; it discovers no attention to what
it is about; and it is so ill set upon the neck, with so little art
and in so ungraceful a manner, that a more shocking piece of work was
never seen. His great brawny shoulders resemble the two pommels of an
ass’s packsaddle. His breasts and their muscles bear no similitude to
those of a man, but seem to have been drawn from a sack of melons.
As he leans directly against the wall, the small of the back has the
appearance of a bag filled with long cucumbers. It is impossible to
conceive in what manner the two legs are fastened to this distorted
figure, for it is hard to distinguish upon which leg he stands, or
upon which he exerts any effort of his strength; nor does he appear to
stand upon both, as he is sometimes represented by those masters of
the art of statuary who know something of their business. It is plain,
too, that the statue inclines more than one-third of a cubit forward;
and this is the greatest and the most insupportable blunder which
pretenders to sculpture can be guilty of. As for the arms, they both
hang down in the most awkward and ungraceful manner imaginable; and so
little art is displayed in them that people would be almost tempted to
think that you had never seen a naked man in your life. The right leg
of Hercules and that of Cacus touch at the middle of their calves, and
if they were to be separated, not one of them only, but both, would
remain without a calf, in the place where they touch. Besides, one of
the feet of the Hercules is quite buried, and the other looks as if it
stood upon hot coals.”--_The Biography._

                         SPANISH WIT AND HUMOR

The Spanish literature of this time contains little that can be quoted
as humor.

Hurtado de Mendoza, a novelist, historian and poet, and Lope de Vega,
dramatist, are the principal names among the Spanish writers.

About 1600 there flourished a poet named Baltazar del Alcazar, whose
work shows a rather modern type of humor.


    Sleep is no servant of the will;
      It has caprices of its own;
      When most pursued, ’tis swiftly gone;
    When courted least, it lingers still.
    With its vagaries long perplext,
      I turned and turned my restless sconce,
      Till, one fine night, I thought at once
    I’d master it. So hear my text.

    When sleep doth tarry, I begin
      My long and well-accustomed prayer,
      And in a twinkling sleep is there,
    Through my bed-curtains peeping in.
    When sleep hangs heavy on my eyes,
      I think of debts I fain would pay,
      And then, as flies night’s shade from day,
    Sleep from my heavy eyelids flies.

    And, thus controlled, the winged one bends
      E’en his fantastic will to me,
      And, strange yet true, both I and he
    Are friends--the very best of friends.
    We are a happy wedded pair,
      And I the lord and he the dame;
      Our bed, our board, our dreams the same,
    And we’re united everywhere.

    I’ll tell you where I learned to school
      This wayward sleep: a whispered word
      From a church-going hag I heard,
    And tried it, for I was no fool.
    So, from that very hour I knew
      That, having ready prayers to pray,
      And having many debts to pay,
    Will serve for sleep, and waking too.

In 1605 was published the first part of _Don Quixote de la Mancha_
the celebrated satirical work of Miguel de Cervantes.

Of this book Hallam says, “it is the only Spanish book which can be
said to possess a European reputation.”

Its reputation is world wide and fine translations have given us the
spirit of the original.


In the meantime, Don Quixote tampered with a laborer, a neighbor of
his and an honest man (if such an epithet can be given to one that is
poor), but shallow-brained; in short, he said so much, used so many
arguments and made so many promises, that the poor fellow resolved to
sally out with him and serve him in the capacity of a squire. Among
other things, Don Quixote told him that he ought to be very glad to
accompany him, for such an adventure might, some time or the other,
occur that by one stroke an island might be won, where he might leave
him governor. With this and other promises, Sancho Panza (for that was
the laborer’s name) left his wife and children and engaged himself as
squire to his neighbor. Don Quixote now set about raising money; and,
by selling one thing, pawning another, and losing by all, he collected
a tolerable sum. He fitted himself likewise with a buckler, which he
borrowed of a friend, and, patching up his broken helmet in the best
manner he could, he acquainted his squire Sancho of the day and hour
he intended to set out, that he might provide himself with what he
thought would be most needful. Above all, he charged him not to forget
a wallet, which Sancho assured him he would not neglect; he said also
that he thought of taking an ass with him, as he had a very good one,
and he was not used to travel much on foot. With regard to the ass,
Don Quixote paused a little, endeavoring to recollect whether any
knight-errant had ever carried a squire mounted on ass-back, but no
instance of the kind occurred to his memory. However, he consented that
he should take his ass, resolving to accommodate him more honorably, at
the earliest opportunity, by dismounting the first discourteous knight
he should meet. He provided himself also with shirts, and other things,
conformably to the advice given him by the innkeeper.

All this being accomplished, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, without
taking leave, the one of his wife and children, or the other of
his housekeeper and niece, one night sallied out of the village
unperceived; and they travelled so hard that by break of day they
believed themselves secure, even if search were made after them. Sancho
Panza proceeded upon his ass like a patriarch, with his wallet and
leathern bottle, and with a vehement desire to find himself governor
of the island which his master had promised him. Don Quixote happened
to take the same route as on his first expedition, over the plain of
Montiel, which he passed with less inconvenience than before; for it
was early in the morning, and the rays of the sun, darting on them
horizontally, did not annoy them. Sancho Panza now said to his master,
“I beseech your worship, good Sir Knight-errant, not to forget your
promise concerning that same island, for I shall know how to govern
it, be it ever so large.” To which Don Quixote answered: “Thou must
know, friend Sancho Panza, that it was a custom much in use among the
knights-errant of old to make their squires governors of the islands or
kingdoms they conquered; and I am determined that so laudable a custom
shall not be lost through my neglect; on the contrary, I resolve to
outdo them in it, for they, sometimes, and perhaps most times, waited
till their squires were grown old; and when they were worn out in
their service, and had endured many bad days and worse nights, they
conferred on them some title, such as count, or at least marquis, of
some valley or province of more or less account; but if you live and
I live, before six days have passed I may probably win such a kingdom
as may have others depending on it, just fit for thee to be crowned
king of one of them. And do not think this any extraordinary matter,
for things fall out to knights by such unforeseen and unexpected ways,
that I may easily give thee more than I promise.” “So, then,” answered
Sancho Panza, “if I were a king, by some of those miracles your worship
mentions, Joan Gutierrez, my duck, would come to be a queen, and my
children infantas!” “Who doubts it?” answered Don Quixote. “I doubt
it,” replied Sancho Panza; “for I am verily persuaded that, if God
were to rain down kingdoms upon the earth, none of them would set well
upon the head of Mary Gutierrez; for you must know, sir, she is not
worth two farthings for a queen. The title of countess would sit better
upon her, with the help of Heaven and good friends.” “Recommend her
to God, Sancho,” answered Don Quixote, “and He will do what is best
for her; but do thou have a care not to debase thy mind so low as to
content thyself with being less than a viceroy.” “Sir, I will not,”
answered Sancho; “especially having so great a man for my master as
your worship, who will know how to give me whatever is most fitting for
me and what I am best able to bear.”


Engaged in this discourse, they came in sight of thirty or forty
windmills which are in that plain; and as soon as Don Quixote espied
them, he said to his squire, “Fortune disposes our affairs better than
we ourselves could have desired; look yonder, friend Sancho Panza,
where thou mayest discover somewhat more than thirty monstrous giants,
whom I intend to encounter and slay, and with their spoils we will
begin to enrich ourselves; for it is lawful war, and doing God good
service, to remove so wicked a generation from off the face of the
earth.” “What giants?” said Sancho Panza. “Those thou seest yonder,”
answered his master, “with their long arms; for some are wont to have
them almost of the length of two leagues.”

“Look, sir,” answered Sancho, “those which appear yonder are not
giants, but windmills, and what seem to be arms are the sails, which,
whirled about by the wind, make the millstone go.” “It is very
evident,” answered Don Quixote, “that thou art not versed in the
business of adventures. They are giants; and if thou art afraid, get
thee aside and pray, whilst I engage with them in fierce and unequal
combat.” So saying, he clapped spurs to his steed, notwithstanding the
cries his squire sent after him, assuring him that they were certainly
windmills, and not giants. But he was so fully possessed that they were
giants, that he neither heard the outcries of his squire Sancho, nor
yet discerned what they were, though he was very near them, but went
on, crying out aloud, “Fly not, ye cowards and vile caitiffs! for it is
a single knight who assaults you.” The wind now rising a little, the
great sails began to move, upon which Don Quixote called out, “Although
ye should have more arms than the giant Briareus, ye shall pay for it.”

Thus recommending himself devoutly to his lady Dulcinea, beseeching
her to succor him in the present danger, being well covered with his
buckler and setting his lance in the rest he rushed on as fast as
Rozinante could gallop and attacked the first mill before him, when,
running his lance into the sail, the wind whirled it about with so
much violence that it broke the lance to shivers, dragging horse and
rider after it, and tumbling them over and over on the plain in very
evil plight. Sancho Panza hastened to his assistance as fast as the ass
could carry him; and when he came up to his master he found him unable
to stir, so violent was the blow which he and Rozinante had received in
their fall.

“God save me!” quoth Sancho, “did not I warn you to have a care of what
you did, for that they were nothing but windmills? And nobody could
mistake them but one that had the like in his head.”

“Peace, friend Sancho,” answered Don Quixote; “for matters of war
are, of all others, most subject to continual change. Now I verily
believe, and it is most certainly the fact, that the sage Freston, who
stole away my chamber and books, has metamorphosed these giants into
windmills, on purpose to deprive me of the glory of vanquishing them,
so great is the enmity he bears me! But his wicked arts will finally
avail but little against the goodness of my sword.”

“God grant it!” answered Sancho Panza. Then, helping him to rise, he
mounted him again upon his steed, which was almost disjointed.--_Don

                        THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY

Though still serious-minded in the main, the world at the beginning of
the Seventeenth century recognized and appreciated humor.

And, growing with what it fed upon the vein of humor became more marked
and more important in literature.

Wherefore our outline must from now on be less comprehensive and more

The field is getting too wide, the harvest too bountiful for gleaning,
even for general reaping; we can now only pluck spears of ripened grain.

An Outline can touch only the high spots, and though many wonderful
flashes of wit and humor occur in the works of the most serious writers
space cannot be given to such, it must be conserved for the definitely
and intentionally humorous writers.

This is greatly to be regretted, for not infrequently the jests of the
serious-minded are more intrinsically witty than those of professed

As an example may be mentioned George Herbert, the famous clergyman who
was called Holy George Herbert.

His religious writings are interspersed with flashes of exquisite wit.

“God gave thy soul brave wings; put not those feathers Into a bed to
sleep out all ill weathers,”

is a most graceful bit of word play.

And so with scores, even hundreds of worthy writers, among whose pages
brilliant shafts of wit are found.

Such excursions we have no room for, and must abide by the inexorable
laws of limitation.

Nor can such a matter as the Ballads be touched upon.

The historical ballads of this time were narrative poems of exceeding
great length and usually, of exceeding great dulness. Fun they show,
here and there, but the bulk of them are destitute of mirth-provoking

Not so the Ballad Literature intended for social diversion and lovers
of ribaldry. These, in large numbers, were put forth, and were oftener
than not, founded on the old Jest Books, the Merry Tales, and even the
Gesta and Fabliaux of earlier days.

Collections of these include the effusions of the balladists from the
short stanzas, mere epigrams, to the intolerably long tales based on
political or religious matters.

Yet it is at this juncture we must mention the name of Thomas Hobbes,
the Malmesbury Philosopher, and a most important figure of the
seventeenth century.

Not because of his own wit or humor, but of his understanding and
valuation of it.

His observations on laughter, hereinbefore referred to, must be quoted

                           FROM HUMAN NATURE


There is a passion that hath no name; but the sign of it is that
distortion of the countenance which we call laughter, which is always
joy: but what joy, what we think, and wherein we triumph when we laugh,
is not hitherto declared by any. That it consisteth in wit, or, as they
call it, in the jest, experience confuteth; for men laugh at mischances
and indecencies, wherein there lieth no wit nor jest at all. And
forasmuch as the same thing is no more ridiculous when it groweth stale
or usual, whatsoever it be that moveth laughter, it must be new and
unexpected. Men laugh often--especially such as are greedy of applause
from everything they do well--at their own actions performed never so
little beyond their own expectations as also at their own jests: and
in this case it is manifest that the passion of laughter proceedeth
from a sudden conception of some ability in himself that laugheth.
Also, men laugh at the infirmities of others by comparison wherewith
their own abilities are set off and illustrated. Also men laugh at
jests the wit whereof always consisteth in the elegant discovering and
conveying to our minds some absurdity of another; and in this case also
the passion of laughter proceedeth from the sudden imagination of our
own odds and eminency; for what is else the recommending of ourselves
to our own good opinion, by comparison with another man’s infirmity or
absurdity? For when a jest is broken upon ourselves, or friends, of
whose dishonour we participate, we never laugh thereat. I may therefore
conclude that the passion of laughter is nothing else but sudden glory
arising from a sudden conception of some eminency in ourselves, by
comparison with the infirmity of others, or with our own formerly; for
men laugh at the follies of themselves past, when they come suddenly
to remembrance, except they bring with them any present dishonour.
It is no wonder, therefore, that men take heinously to be laughed at
or derided--that is, triumphed over. Laughing without offence must be
at absurdities and infirmities abstracted from persons, and when all
the company may laugh together; for laughing to one’s self putteth all
the rest into jealousy and examination of themselves. Besides, it is
vain-glory, and an argument of little worth, to think the infirmity of
another sufficient matter for his triumph.

       *       *       *       *       *

Robert Herrick, among the most exquisite of lyric poets, was a
classical scholar, addicted to Martial. His works, neglected for long
years, came into their own about a century ago, and his spontaneous
gayety and tenderness is not frequently equalled.

The temptation is to quote his lyrics, but his whimsical humor is more
clearly shown in his waggish lines.

                        _THE KISS--A DIALOGUE_

    1. Among thy fancies, tell me this:
        What is the thing we call a kisse?
    2. I shall resolve ye, what it is.

        It is a creature born and bred
        Between the lips, (all cherrie red,)
        By love and warme desires fed;
          _Chorus._--And makes more soft the bridal bed.

    2. It is an active flame, that flies
        First to the babies of the eyes,                     pupils
        And charms them there with lullabies;
          _Chorus._--And stils the bride too, when she cries.

    2. Then to the chin, the cheek, the eare
        It frisks and flyes; now here, now there;
        ’Tis now farre off, and then ’tis nere;
          _Chorus._--And here, and there, and every where.

    1. Has it a speaking virtue?--2. Yes.
    1. How speaks it, say?--2. Do you but this,
        Part your joyn’d lips, then speaks your kisse;
          _Chorus._--And this loves sweetest language is.

    1. Has it a body?--2. Ay, and wings,
        With thousand rare encolourings;
        And as it flies, it gently sings,
          _Chorus._--Love honie yeelds, but never stings.


    A little saint best fits a little shrine,
    A little prop best fits a little vine;
    As my small cruse best fits my little wine.

    A little seed best fits a little soil,
    A little trade best fits a little toil;
    As my small jar best fits my little oil.

    A little bin best fits a little bread,
    A little garland fits a little head;
    As my small stuff best fits my little shed.

    A little hearth best fits a little fire,
    A little chapel fits a little choir;
    As my small bell best fits my little spire.

    A little stream best fits a little boat,
    A little lead best fits a little float;
    As my small pipe best fits my little note.

    A little meat best fits a little belly,
    As sweetly, lady, give me leave to tell ye,
    This little pipkin fits this little jelly.

Thomas Carew, Edmund Waller, Sir John Suckling and Richard Lovelace
all followed more or less in Herrick’s footsteps, and though each
possessed what is called a pretty wit, they were not primarily humorous

A few poems are given, perhaps of more lyric than witty value.

                           RICHARD LOVELACE


    Why should you swear I am forsworn,
      Since thine I vowed to be?
    Lady, it is already morn,
      And ’twas last night I swore to thee
      That fond impossibility.

    Have I not loved thee much and long,
      A tedious twelve hours’ space?
    I must all other beauties wrong,
      And rob thee of a new embrace,
      Could I still dote upon thy face.

    Not but all joy in thy brown hair
      By others may be found;
    But I must search the black and fair,
      Like skilful mineralists that sound
      For treasure in unploughed-up ground.

    Then, if when I have loved my round,
      Thou prov’st the pleasant she;
    With spoils of meaner beauties crowned
      I laden will return to thee,
      Even sated with variety.

                           SIR JOHN SUCKLING

                         _THE CONSTANT LOVER_

      Out upon it! I have loved
    Three whole days together,
    And am like to love three more,
      If it prove fair weather.

    Time shall moult away his wings
      Ere he shall discover
    In the whole wide world again
      Such a constant lover.

    But the spite on ’tis, no praise
      Is due at all to me:
    Love with me had made no stays,
      Had it any been but she.

    Had it any been but she,
      And that very face,
    There had been at least ere this
      A dozen dozen in her place.

                          _THE REMONSTRANCE_

    Why so pale and wan, fond lover?
      Prithee, why so pale?
    Will, when looking well can’t move her,
      Looking ill prevail?
      Prithee, why so pale?

    Why so dull and mute, young sinner?
      Prithee, why so mute?
    Will, when speaking well can’t win her,
      Saying nothing do’t?
      Prithee, why so mute?

    Quite, quit, for shame! this will not move,
      This cannot take her;
    If of herself she will not love,
      Nothing can make her:
      The devil take her!

John Milton, second only to Shakespeare in all literature, is not
usually looked upon as a humorist.

A wise commentator (of more wisdom than wit), has said, of Milton, “Few
great poets are so utterly without humor; alone among the greatest
poets he has not sung of love.”

We take objection to both these statements, though with the second we
are not now concerned.

But surely no humorless pen could have indited _L’Allegro_, and as
to less subtle humor, we give in evidence the well known Epitaph on the

                           _FROM L’ALLEGRO_

      But come, thou goddess fair and free,
    In heaven yclep’d Euphrosyne,
    And by men, heart-easing Mirth;
    Whom lovely Venus, at a birth,
    With two sister Graces more,
    To ivy-crowned Bacchus bore:
    Or whether (as some sages sing)
    The frolic wind that breathes the spring,
    Zephyr, with Aurora, playing,
    As he met her once a-Maying!
    There on beds of violets blue,
    And fresh-blown roses wash’d in dew,
    Fill’d her with thee, a daughter fair,
    So buxom, blithe, and debonair.
      Haste thee, nymph, and bring with thee
    Jest, and youthful jollity,
    Quips, and cranks, and wanton wiles,
    Nods, and becks, and wreathed smiles,
    Such as hang on Hebe’s cheek,
    And love to live in dimple sleek;
    Sport that wrinkled Care derides,
    And Laughter holding both his sides
    Come, and trip it, as you go,
    On the light fantastic toe;
    And in thy right hand lead with thee
    The mountain nymph, sweet Liberty;
    And if I give thee honor due,
    Mirth, admit me of thy crew,
    To live with her, and live with thee,
    In unreproved pleasures free:

           *       *       *       *       *

    Then to the spicy nut-brown ale,
    With stories told of many a feat,
    How faery Mab the junkets ate;
    She was pinch’d, and pulled, she said;
    And he, by friar’s lantern led,
    Tells how the drudging goblin sweat
    To earn his cream-bowl duly set,
    When in one night, ere glimpses of morn,
    His shadowy flail had thresh’d the corn,
    That ten day-laborers could not end;
    Then lies him down, the lubber fiend,
    And, stretched out all the chimney’s length,
    Basks at the fire his hairy strength;
    And, crop-full, out of doors he flings,
    Ere the first cock his matin rings.
    Thus done the tales, to bed they creep,
    By whispering winds soon lull’d asleep.
      Tower’d cities please us then,
    And the busy hum of men.
    Where throngs of knights and barons bold,
    In weeds of peace, high triumphs hold,
    With store of ladies, whose bright eyes
    Rain influence, and judge and prize
    Of wit or arms, while both contend
    To win her grace, whom all commend.
    There let Hymen oft appear
    In saffron robes, with taper clear,
    And pomp, and feast, and revelry,
    With mask and antique pageantry;
    Such sights as youthful poets dream
    On summer eves by haunted stream.
    Then to the well-trod stage anon,
    If Jonson’s learned sock be on,
    Or sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy’s child,
    Warble his native wood-notes wild.
    And ever, against eating cares,
    Lap me in soft Lydian airs,
    Married to immortal verse;
    Such as the melting soul may pierce,
    In notes with many a winding bout
    Of linked sweetness long drawn out,
    With wanton heed and giddy cunning,
    The melting voice through mazes running,
    Untwisting all the chains that tie
    The hidden soul of harmony;
    That Orpheus’ self may heave his head
    From golden slumber on a bed
    Of heap’d Elysian flowers, and hear
    Such strains as would have won the ear
    Of Pluto, to have quite set free
    His half-regain’d Eurydice.
      These delights if thou canst give,
    Mirth, with thee I mean to live.


    Here lieth one who did most truly prove
    That he could never die while he could move;
    So hung his destiny, never to rot
    While he might still jog on and keep his trot;
    Made of sphere-metal, never to decay
    Until his revolution was at stay.
    Time numbers motion, yet (without a crime
    ’Gainst old truth) motion number’d out his time,
    And, like an engine moved with wheel and weight,
    His principles being ceased, he ended straight.
    Rest, that gives all men life, gave him his death,
    And too much breathing put him out of breath.
    Nor were it contradiction to affirm,
    Too long vacation hastened on his term.
    Merely to drive away the time, he sicken’d,
    Fainted, died, nor would with ale be quicken’d.
    “Nay,” quoth he, on his swooning bed outstretch’d,
    “If I mayn’t carry, sure I’ll ne’er be fetch’d,
    But vow, though the cross doctors all stood hearers,
    For one carrier put down to make six bearers.”
    Ease was his chief disease; and, to judge right,
    He died for heaviness that his cart went light.
    His leisure told him that his time was come,
    And lack of load made his life burdensome,
    That even to his last breath (there be that say’t),
    As he were press’d to death, he cried, “More weight!”
    But had his doings lasted as they were,
    He had been an immortal carrier.
    Obedient to the moon, he spent his date
    In course reciprocal, and had his fate
    Link’d to the mutual flowing of the seas,
    Yet (strange to think) his _wain_ was his _increase_.
    His letters are deliver’d all and gone;
    Only remains this superscription.

Samuel Butler, a brilliant and satiric wit, wrote _Hudibras_, the
immortal Cavalier burlesque of the views and manners of the English
Puritans. In some degree imitated from _Don Quixote_ as to plan,
this burlesque is so full of shrewd wit and felicitous drollery as to
hold a unique place in literature.

Like all such long works, it is difficult to quote from, but some
passages are given, as well as some of Butler’s clever epigrams.

                      _THE RELIGION OF HUDIBRAS_

    For his religion it was fit
    To match his learning and his wit:
    Twas Presbyterian true blue;
    For he was of that stubborn crew
    Of errant saints, whom all men grant
    To be the true Church militant;
    Such as do build their faith upon
    The holy text of pike and gun;
    Decide all controversies by
    Infallible artillery,
    And prove their doctrine orthodox,
    By apostolic blows and knocks;
    Call fire, and sword, and desolation,
    A godly, thorough reformation.
    Which always must be carried on,
    And still be doing, never done;
    As if religion were intended
    From nothing else but to be mended;
    A sect whose chief devotion lies
    In odd perverse antipathies;
    In falling out with that or this,
    And finding somewhat still amiss;
    More peevish, cross, and splenetic,
    Than dog distract or monkey sick;
    That with more care keep holy-day
    The wrong, than others the right way;
    Compound for sins they are inclin’d to,
    By damning those they have no mind to;
    Still so perverse and opposite,
    As if they worshipped God for spite;
    The self-same thing they will abhor
    One way, and long another for;
    Free-will they one way disavow,
    Another, nothing else allow;
    All piety consists therein
    In them, in other men all sin;
    Rather than fail, they will defy
    That which they love most tenderly;
    Quarrel with minc’d pies, and disparage
    Their best and dearest friend, plum porridge;
    Fat pig and goose itself oppose,
    And blaspheme custard through the nose.

                     _SAINTSHIP VERSUS CONSCIENCE_

    “Why didst thou choose that cursed sin,
    Hypocrisy, to set up in?”
    “Because it is the thriving’st calling,
    The only saints’ bell that rings all in;
    In which all churches are concern’d,
    And is the easiest to be learn’d.”

           *       *       *       *       *

    Quoth he, “I am resolv’d to be
    Thy scholar in this mystery;”
    “And therefore first desire to know
    Some principles on which you go.”

    “What makes a knave a child of God,
    And one of us?” “A livelihood.”
    “What renders beating out of brains,
    And murder, godliness?” “Great gains.”
    “What’s tender conscience?” “’Tis a botch
    That will not bear the gentlest touch;
    But, breaking out, despatches more
    Than th’ epidemical’st plague-sore.”
    “What makes y’ incroach upon our trade,
    And damn all others?” “To be paid.”
    “What’s orthodox and true believing
    Against a conscience?” “A good living.”
    “What makes rebelling against kings
    A good old cause?” “Administ’rings.”
    “What makes all doctrines plain and clear?”
    “About two hundred pounds a-year.”
    “And that which was proved true before,
    Prove false again?” “Two hundred more.”
    “What makes the breaking of all oaths
    A holy duty?” “Food and clothes.”
    “What laws and freedom, persecution?”
    “Being out of power, and contribution.”
    “What makes a church a den of thieves?”
    “A dean and chapter, and white sleeves.”
    “And what would serve, if those were gone,
    To make it orthodox?” “Our own.”
    “What makes morality a crime,
    The most notorious of the time--
    Morality, which both the saints
    And wicked too cry out against?”
    “’Cause grace and virtue are within
    Prohibited degrees of kin;
    And therefore no true saint allows
    They shall be suffered to espouse.”

                       _DESCRIPTION OF HOLLAND_

    A country that draws fifty foot of water,
    In which men live as in the hold of Nature,
    And when the sea does in upon them break,
    And drowns a province, does but spring a leak;
    That always ply the pump, and never think
    They can be safe but at the rate they stink;
    They live as if they had been run aground,
    And, when they die, are cast away and drowned;
    That dwell in ships, like swarms of rats, and prey
    Upon the goods all nations’ fleets convey;
    And when their merchants are blown up and crackt,
    Whole towns are cast away in storms, and wreckt;
    That feed, like cannibals, on other fishes,
    And serve their cousin-germans up in dishes:
    A land that rides at anchor, and is moored,
    In which they do not live, but go aboard.


      It is not poetry that makes men poor;
    For few do write that were not so before;
    And those that have writ best, had they been rich,
    Had ne’er been clapp’d with a poetic itch;
    Had loved their ease too well to take the pains
    To undergo that drudgery of brains;
    But, being for all other trades unfit,
    Only t’ avoid being idle, set up wit.


      They that do write in authors’ praises,
    And freely give their friends their voices,
    Are not confined to what is true;
    That’s not to give, but pay a due:
    For praise, that’s due, does give no more
    To worth, than what it had before;
    But to commend, without desert,
    Requires a mastery of art,
    That sets a gloss on what’s amiss,
    And writes what should be, not what is.

Samuel Pepys, whose literary work is in Diary form, is no doubt one of
the world’s greatest egoists. But the spontaneity and naturalness of
the account of his daily doings, as told by himself, have a charm all
their own and a unique and inimitable humor.

                       _EXTRACTS FROM THE DIARY_

Rose early, and put six spoons and a porringer of silver in my pocket
to give away to-day. To dinner at Sir William Batten’s; and then, after
a walk in the fine gardens, we went to Mrs. Browne’s, where Sir W. Pen
and I were godfathers, and Mrs. Jordan and Shipman godmothers to her
boy. And there, before and after the christening, we were with the
woman above in her chamber; but whether we carried ourselves well or
ill, I know not; but I was directed by young Mrs. Batten. One passage
of a lady that ate wafers with her dog did a little displease me. I did
give the midwife 10_s._ and the nurse 5_s._ and the maid of
the house 2_s._ But for as much I expected to give the name to the
child, but did not (it being called John), I forbore then to give my

_December 26th, 1662._--Up, my wife to the making of Christmas
pies all day, doeing now pretty well again, and I abroad to several
places about some businesses, among others bought a bake-pan in Newgate
Market, and sent it home, it cost me 16_s._ So to Dr Williams,
but he is out of town, then to the Wardrobe. Hither come Mr Battersby;
and we falling into discourse of a new book of drollery in use, called
Hudibras, I would needs go find it out, and met with it at the Temple:
cost me 2_s._ 6_d._ But when I come to read it, it is so
silly an abuse of the Presbyter Knight going to the warrs, that I am
ashamed of it; and by and by meeting at Mr Townsend’s at dinner, I sold
it to him for 18_d._ ...

_February 6th._-- ... Thence to Lincoln’s Inn Fields; and it being
too soon to go to dinner, I walked up and down, and looked upon the
outside of the new theatre now a-building in Covent Garden, which will
be very fine. And so to a bookseller’s in the Strand, and there bought
Hudibras again, it being certainly some ill-humour to be so against
that which all the world cries up to be the example of wit; for which
I am resolved once more to read him, and see whether I can find it or

_November 28th._-- ... And thence abroad to Paul’s Churchyard, and
there looked upon the second part of Hudibras, which I buy not, but
borrow to read, to see if it be as good as the first, which the world
cry so mightily up, though it hath not a good liking in me, though I
had tried by twice or three times reading to bring myself to think it
witty. Back again and home to my office....

_May 11th, 1667._--And so away with my wife, whose being dressed
this day in fair hair did make me so mad, that I spoke not one word to
her, though I was ready to burst with anger.... After that ... Creed
and I into the Park, and walked, a most pleasant evening, and so took
coach, and took up my wife, and in my way home discovered my trouble
to my wife for her white locks [false hair], swearing by God several
times, which I pray God forgive me for, and bending my fist, that I
would not endure it. She, poor wretch, was surprized with it, and made
me no answer all the way home; but there we parted, and I to the office
late, and then home, and without supper to bed, vexed.

_12th_ (Lord’s Day).--Up and to my chamber, to settle some
accounts there, and by and by down comes my wife to me in her
night-gown, and we begun calmly, that, upon having money to lace her
gown for second mourning, she would promise to wear white locks no more
in my sight, which I, like a severe fool, thinking not enough, began to
except against, and made her fly out to very high terms and cry, and
in her heat told me of keeping company with Mrs Knipp, saying, that
if I would promise never to see her more--of whom she hath more reason
to suspect than I had heretofore of Pembleton--she would never wear
white locks more. This vexed me, but I restrained myself from saying
anything, but do think never to see this woman--at least, to have her
here more; but by and by I did give her money to buy lace, and she
promised to wear no more white locks while I lived, and so all very
good friends as ever, and I to my business, and she to dress herself.

_August 18th_ (Lord’s Day).--Up, and being ready, walked up and
down to Cree Church, to see it how it is: but I find no alteration
there, as they say there was, for my Lord Mayor and Aldermen to come
to sermon, as they do every Sunday, as they did formerly to Paul’s....
There dined with me Mr Turner and his daughter Betty. Betty is grown
a fine young lady as to carriage and discourse. I and my wife are
mightily pleased with her. We had a good haunch of venison, powdered
and boiled, and a good dinner and merry.... I walked towards Whitehall,
but, being wearied, turned into St Dunstan’s Church, where I heard an
able sermon of the minister of the place; and stood by a pretty, modest
maid, whom I did labour to take by the hand ...; but she would not,
but got further and further from me; and, at last, I could perceive
her to take pins out of her pocket to prick me if I should touch her
again--which seeing, I did forbear, and was glad I did spy her design.
And then I fell to gaze upon another pretty maid, in a pew close to
me, and she on me; and I did go about to take her by the hand, which
she suffered a little, and then withdrew. So the sermon ended, and the
church broke up.

       *       *       *       *       *

John Dryden, famous alike for his verse, prose and drama, shows his wit
in biting, stinging satire.

Equally caustic are his epigrams, save one--the immortal lines on

                             _ON SHADWELL_

    All human things are subject to decay,
    And, when Fate summons, monarchs must obey.
    This Flecknoe found, who, like Augustus, young
    Was called to empire, and had governed long.
    In prose and verse was owned, without dispute,
    Through all the realms of Nonsense absolute.
    This aged prince, now flourishing in peace,
    And blest with issue of a large increase,
    Worn out with business, did at length debate
    To settle the succession of the state;
    And pondering which of all his sons was fit
    To reign, and wage immortal war with Wit,
    Cried: “’Tis resolved; for Nature pleads that he
    Should only rule who most resembles me.
    Shadwell alone my perfect image bears,
    Mature in dulness from his tender years;
    Shadwell alone of all my sons is he
    Who stands confirmed in full stupidity.
    The rest to some faint meaning make pretence,
    But Shadwell never deviates into sense.
    Some beams of wit on other souls may fall,
    Strike through, and make a lucid interval,
    But Shadwell’s genuine night admits no ray;
    His rising fogs prevail upon the day.
    Besides, his goodly fabric fills the eye,
    And seems designed for thoughtless majesty--
    Thoughtless as monarch oaks that shade the plain,
    And, spread in solemn state, supinely reign.”

                      _ON THE DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM_

    Some of their chiefs were princes of the land:
    In the first rank of these did Zimri stand,
    A man so various, that he seemed to be
    Not one, but all mankind’s epitome:
    Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong,
    Was everything by starts, and nothing long,
    But, in the course of one revolving moon,
    Was chemist, fiddler, statesman, and buffoon,
    Then all for women, painting, rhyming, drinking,
    Besides ten thousand freaks that died in thinking.
    Blest madman, who could every hour employ
    With something new to wish or to enjoy,
    Railing, and praising, were his usual themes;
    And both, to show his judgment, in extremes:
    So over-violent, or over-civil,
    That every man with him was god or devil.
    In squandering wealth was his peculiar art;
    Nothing went unrewarded but desert.
    Beggared by fools, whom still he found too late,
    He had his jest and they had his estate.
    He laughed himself from court, then sought relief
    By forming parties, but could ne’er be chief;
    For spite of him, the weight of business fell
    On Absalom and wise Achitophel.
    Thus, wicked but in will, of means bereft,
    He left not faction, but of that was left.


   Under a Picture of Milton in the 4th Edition of _Paradise Lost_.

    Three Poets, in three distant ages born,
    Greece, Italy, and England did adorn.
    The first, in loftiness of thought surpass’d
    The next, in majesty; in both the last.
    The force of nature could no further go;
    To make a third, she join’d the former two.

The original of these fine lines was probably a Latin distich written
by Selvaggi at Rome, which has been thus translated:

    Greece boasts her Homer, Rome her Virgil’s name,
    But England’s Milton vies with both in fame.

Cowper’s lines on Milton may be compared with Dryden’s:

    Ages elapsed ere Homer’s lamp appear’d,
    And ages ere the Mantuan Swan was heard
    To carry Nature lengths unknown before,
    To give a Milton birth, ask’d ages more.
    Thus Genius rose and set at order’d times,
    And shot a day-spring into distant climes,
    Ennobling every region that he chose;
    He sunk in Greece, in Italy he rose;
    And, tedious years of gothic darkness pass’d,
    Emerged all splendour in our isle at last,
    Thus lovely halcyons dive into the main,
    Then show far off their shining plumes again.

In Bishop Gibson’s edition of Camden’s _Britannia_, there is a
very free translation of some old monkish verses on S. Oswald by Basil
Kennet, brother of Bishop White Kennet. The last line, to which there
is nothing corresponding in the Latin, seems to have been copied from
the last line of Dryden’s epigram:

    _Cæsar_ and _Hercules_ applaud thy fame,
    And _Alexander_ owns thy greater name,
    Tho’ one himself, one foes, and one the world o’ercame:
    Great conquests all! but bounteous Heav’n in thee,
    To make a greater, join’d the former three.

The comedies of William Congreve, brilliantly witty though they are,
offer no suitable passages to quote.

Likewise the works of Daniel Defoe, who, beside the story of
_Robinson Crusoe_, wrote satirical humor.

                        _FROM ROBINSON CRUSOE_

                   _Friday’s Conflict with the Bear_

But never was a fight managed so hardily, and in such a surprising
manner, as that between Friday and the bear, which gave us all--though
at first we were surprised and afraid for him--the greatest diversion

My man Friday had delivered our guide, and when we came up to him
he was helping him off from his horse, for the man was both hurt and
frightened, and indeed the last more than the first, when on a sudden
we espied the bear come out of the wood, and a vast, monstrous one it
was, the biggest by far that ever I saw. We were all a little surprised
when we saw him; but when Friday saw him, it was easy to see joy and
courage in the fellow’s countenance. “Oh, oh, oh!” says Friday three
times, pointing to him; “oh, master! you give me te leave, me shakee te
hand with him; me makee you good laugh.”

I was surprised to see the fellow so pleased. “You fool!” said I, “he
will eat you up.” “Eatee me up! eatee me up!” says Friday twice over
again; “me eatee him up; me makee you good laugh; you all stay here,
me show you good laugh.” So down he sits, and gets his boots off in a
moment, and puts on a pair of pumps (as we call the flat shoes they
wear, and which he had in his pocket), gives my other servant his
horse, and with his gun away he flew, swift like the wind.

The bear was walking softly on, and offered to meddle with nobody,
till Friday, coming pretty near, calls to him as if the bear could
understand him, “Hark ye, hark ye,” says Friday, “me speakee with you.”
We followed at a distance, for now, being come down to the Gascony
side of the mountains, we were entered a vast, great forest, where
the country was plain and pretty open, though it had many trees in it
scattered here and there. Friday, who had, as we say, the heels of the
bear, came up with him quickly, and took up a great stone and threw it
at him, and hit him just on the head, but did him no more harm than if
he had thrown it against a wall; but it answered Friday’s end, for the
rogue was so void of fear that he did it purely to make the bear follow
him and show us some laugh, as he called it. As soon as the bear felt
the stone, and saw him, he turns about and comes after him, taking very
long strides, and shuffling on at a strange rate, so as would have put
a horse to a middling gallop. Away runs Friday, and takes his course
as if he ran toward us for help; so we all resolved to fire at once
upon the bear, and deliver my man; though I was angry at him heartily
for bringing the bear back upon us, when he was going about his own
business another way; and especially I was angry that he had turned
the bear upon us and then run away; and I called out, “You dog!” said
I, “is this your making us laugh? Come away, and take your horse, that
we may shoot the creature.” He heard me, and cried out, “No shoot! no
shoot! stand still, you get much laugh.” And as the nimble creature
ran two feet for the beast’s one, he turned on a sudden on one side of
us, and seeing a great oak-tree fit for his purpose, he beckoned us to
follow; and doubling his pace, he got nimbly up the tree, laying his
gun down upon the ground, at about five or six yards from the bottom of
the tree.

The bear soon came to the tree, and we followed at a distance. The
first thing he did, he stopped at the gun, smelled at it, but let it
lie, and up he scrambles into the tree, climbing like a cat, though so
monstrous heavy. I was amazed at the folly, as I thought it, of my man,
and could not for my life see anything to laugh at yet, till, seeing
the bear get up the tree, we all rode near to him.

When we came to the tree, there was Friday got out to the small end of
a large limb of the tree, and the bear got about half-way to him. As
soon as the bear got out to that part where the limb of the tree was
weaker, “Ha!” says he to us, “now you see me teachee the bear dance”;
so he began jumping and shaking the bough, at which the bear began to
totter, but stood still, and began to look behind him, to see how he
should get back; then, indeed, we did laugh heartily. But Friday had
not done with him by a great deal. When seeing him stand still, he
called out to him again, as if he had supposed the bear could speak
English, “What, you no come farther? Pray you come farther.” So he
left jumping and shaking the bough; and the bear, just as if he had
understood what he had said, did come a little farther. Then he began
jumping again, and the bear stopped again. We thought now was a good
time to knock him on the head, and called to Friday to stand still, and
we would shoot the bear; but he cried out earnestly, “Oh, pray! oh,
pray! no shoot! me shoot by-and-then.” He would have said by-and-by.

However, to shorten the story, Friday danced so much, and the bear
stood so ticklish, that we had laughing enough indeed, but still could
not imagine what the fellow would do; for first we thought he depended
upon shaking the bear off; and we found the bear was too cunning for
that too; for he would not go out far enough to be thrown down, but
clung fast with his great broad claws and feet, so that we could not
imagine what would be the end of it, and what the jest would be at
last. But Friday put us out of doubt quickly; for, seeing the bear
cling fast to the bough, and that he would not be persuaded to come any
farther, “Well, well,” says Friday, “you no come farther, me go; you no
come to me, me come to you.” And upon this he went out to the smaller
end of the bough, where it would bend with his weight, and gently let
himself down by it, sliding down the bough till he came near enough
to jump down on his feet, and away he ran to his gun, took it up, and
stood still. “Well,” said I to him, “Friday, what will you do now? Why
don’t you shoot him?” “No shoot,” says Friday, “no yet; me shoot now,
me no kill; me stay, give you one more laugh.” And, indeed, so he did,
as you will see presently. For when the bear saw his enemy gone, he
came back from the bough where he stood, but did it very cautiously,
looking behind him every step, and coming backward till he got into
the body of the tree. Then, with the same hinder end foremost, he came
down the tree, grasping it with his claws, and moving one foot at a
time, very leisurely. At this juncture, and just before he could set
his hind feet upon the ground, Friday stepped up close to him, clapped
the muzzle of his piece into his ear, and shot him dead as a stone.
Then the rogue turned about to see if we did not laugh; and when he saw
we were pleased by our looks, he began to laugh very loud. “So we kill
bear in my country,” says Friday. “So you kill them?” says I; “why, you
have no guns.” “No,” says he, “no gun, but shoot great much long arrow.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Matthew Prior was called by Thackeray the most charmingly humorous of
the English poets, and Cowper speaks of Prior’s charming ease.

                             _AN EPITAPH_

    Interred beneath this marble stone
    Lie sauntering Jack and idle Joan.
    While rolling threescore years and one
    Did round this globe their courses run.
    If human things went ill or well,
    If changing empires rose or fell,
    The morning past, the evening came,
    And found this couple just the same.
    They walked and ate, good folks. What then?
    Why, then they walked and ate again;
    They soundly slept the night away;
    They did just nothing all the day,
    Nor sister either had, nor brother;
    They seemed just tallied for each other.
    Their moral and economy
    Most perfectly they made agree;
    Each virtue kept its proper bound,
    Nor trespassed on the other’s ground.
    Nor fame nor censure they regarded;
    They neither punished nor rewarded.
    He cared not what the footman did;
    Her maids she neither praised nor chid;
    So every servant took his course,
    And, bad at first, they all grew worse;
    Slothful disorder filled his stable.
    And sluttish plenty decked her table.
    Their beer was strong, their wine was port;
    Their meal was large, their grace was short.
    They gave the poor the remnant meat,
    Just when it grew not fit to eat.
    They paid the church and parish rate,
    And took, but read not, the receipt:
    For which they claimed their Sunday’s due
    Of slumbering in an upper pew.
    No man’s defects sought they to know,
    So never made themselves a foe.
    No man’s good deeds did they commend,
    So never raised themselves a friend.
    Nor cherished they relations poor,
    That might decrease their present store;
    Nor barn nor house did they repair,
    That might oblige their future heir.
    They neither added nor confounded;
    They neither wanted nor abounded.
    Nor tear nor smile did they employ
    At news of grief or public joy
    When bells were rung and bonfires made,
    If asked, they ne’er denied their aid;
    Their jug was to the ringers carried,
    Whoever either died or married
    Their billet at the fire was found,
    Whoever was deposed or crowned.
    Nor good, nor bad, nor fools, nor wise;
    They would not learn, nor could advise;
    Without love, hatred, joy, or fear,
    They led--a kind of--as it were;
    Nor wished, nor cared, nor laughed, nor cried.
    And so they lived, and so they died.

                              _A SIMILE_

    Dear Thomas, didst thou never pop
    Thy head into a tin-man’s shop?
    There, Thomas, didst thou never see
    (’Tis but by way of simile)
    A squirrel spend his little rage,
    In jumping round a rolling cage?
    The cage, as either side turned up,
    Striking a ring of bells a-top?--
      Mov’d in the orb, pleas’d with the chimes,
    The foolish creature thinks he climbs:
    But here or there, turn wood or wire,
    He never gets two inches higher.
      So fares it with those merry blades,
    That frisk it under Pindus’ shades.
    In noble songs, and lofty odes,
    They tread on stars, and talk with gods;
    Still dancing in an airy round,
    Still pleased with their own verses’ sound;
    Brought back, how fast soe’er they go,
    Always aspiring, always low.

                            _PHILLIS’ AGE_

    How old may Phillis be, you ask,
      Whose beauty thus all hearts engages?
    To answer is no easy task:
      For she has really two ages.

    Stiff in brocade, and pinch’d in stays,
      Her patches, paint and jewels on;
    All day let envy view her face,
      And Phillis is but twenty-one.

    Paint, patches, jewels laid aside,
      At night astronomers agree,
    The evening has the day belied;
      And Phillis is some forty-three.

Prior delighted in epigrams on ladies who wore false hair and teeth,
and who attempted to retain the beauty of youth by means of paint and
dye. They are generally imitated from Martial.

                       _A REASONABLE AFFLICTION_

    In a dark corner of the house
    Poor Helen sits, and sobs, and cries;
    She will not see her loving spouse,
      Nor her more dear picquet allies:
        Unless she find her eye-brows,
        She’ll e’en weep out her eyes.

                             FRENCH HUMOR

The first French humorist of note in the seventeenth century was Cyrano
de Bergerac. His History of the Moon and History of the Sun are of the
nature of _Gulliver’s Travels_.

                       _THE SOUL OF THE CABBAGE_

We laid ourselves along upon very soft quilts, covered with large
carpets; and a young man that waited on us, taking the oldest of our
philosophers led him into a little parlor apart, where my Spirit called
to him to come back to us as soon as he had supped.

This humor of eating separately gave me the curiosity of asking the
cause of it. “He’ll not relish,” said he, “the steam of meat, nor yet
of herbs, unless they die of themselves, because he thinks they are
sensible of pain.” “I wonder not so much,” replied I, “that he abstains
from flesh, and all things that have had a sensitive life. For in our
world the Pythagoreans, and even some holy Anchorites, have followed
that rule; but not to dare, for instance, cut a cabbage, for fear of
hurting it--that seems to me altogether ridiculous.” “And for my part,”
answered my Spirit, “I find a great deal of reason in his opinion.

“For, tell me is not that cabbage you speak of a being existent in
Nature as well as you? Is not she the common mother of you both? Yet
the opinion that Nature is kinder to mankind than to cabbage-kind,
tickles and makes us laugh. But, seeing she is incapable of passion,
she can neither love nor hate anything; and were she susceptible of
love, she would rather bestow her affection upon this cabbage, which
you grant cannot offend her, than upon that man who would destroy her
if it lay in his power.

“And, moreover, man cannot be born innocent, being a part of the
first offender. But we know very well that the first cabbage did not
offend its Creator. If it be said that we are made after the image
of the Supreme Being, and the cabbage is not--grant that to be true;
yet by polluting our soul, wherein we resembled Him, we have effaced
that likeness, seeing nothing is more contrary to God than sin. If,
then, our soul be no longer His image, we resemble Him no more in our
feet, hands, mouth, forehead, and ears, than a cabbage in its leaves,
flowers, stalk, pith, and head--do not you really think that if this
poor plant could speak when one cuts it, it would not say, ‘Dear
brother man, what have I done to thee that deserves death? I never
grow but in gardens, and am never to be found in desert places, where
I might live in security; I disdain all other company but thine, and
scarcely am I sowed in thy garden when, to show thee my good-will, I
blossom, stretch out my arms to thee, offer thee my children in grain;
and, as a requital for my civility, thou causest my head to be chopped
off.’ Thus would a cabbage discourse if it could speak.

“To massacre a man is not so great sin as to cut and kill a cabbage,
because one day the man will rise again, but the cabbage has no other
life to hope for. By putting to death a cabbage, you annihilate it;
but in killing a man, you make him only change his habitation. Nay,
I’ll go farther with you still: since God doth equally cherish all His
works, and hath equally, divided the benefits betwixt us and plants, it
is but just we should have an equal esteem for them as for ourselves.
It is true we were born first, but in the family of God there is no
birthright. If, then, the cabbage share not with us in the inheritance
of immortality, without doubt that want was made up by some other
advantage, that may make amends for the shortness of its being--maybe
by an universal intellect, or a perfect knowledge of all things in
their causes. And it is for that reason that the wise Mover of all
things hath not shaped for it organs like ours, which are proper only
for simple reasoning, not only weak, but often fallacious too; but
others, more ingeniously framed, stronger, and more numerous, which
serve to conduct its speculative exercises. You’ll ask me, perhaps,
whenever any cabbage imparted those lofty conceptions to us? But tell
me, again, who ever discovered to us certain beings, which we allow
to be above us, to whom we bear no analogy nor proportion, and whose
existence it is as hard for us to comprehend as the understanding and
ways whereby a cabbage expresses itself to its like, though not to us,
because our senses are too dull to penetrate so far?

“Moses, the greatest of philosophers, who drew the knowledge of nature
from the fountain-head, Nature herself, hinted this truth to us when
he spoke of the Tree of Knowledge; and without doubt he intended to
intimate to us under that figure that plants, in exclusion of mankind,
possess perfect philosophy. Remember, then, oh, thou proudest of
animals, that though a cabbage which thou cuttest sayeth not a word,
yet it pays in thinking. But the poor vegetable has no fit organs to
howl as you do, nor yet to frisk about and weep. Yet it hath those
that are proper to complain of the wrong you do it, and to draw a
judgment from Heaven upon you for the injustice. But if you still
demand of me how I come to know that cabbages and coleworts conceive
such pretty thoughts, then will I ask you, how come you to know that
they do not; and how that some among them, when they shut up at
night, may not compliment one another as you do, saying, ‘Good-night,
Master _Cole-Curled-Pate_! Your most humble servant, good Master

       *       *       *       *       *

Marc-Antoine Gerard, sieur de Saint Amant, was one of the brightest and
best of the French early poets.

We give a specimen of his lighter verse. The following is “An Address
to Bacchus:”

    In idle rhymes we waste our days,
    With yawning fits for all our praise,
    While Bacchus, god of mirth and wine,
    Invites us to a life divine.
    Apollo, prince of bards and prigs,
    May scrape his fiddle to the pigs;
    And for the Muses, old maids all,
    Why let them twang their lyres, and squall
    Their hymns and odes on classic themes,
    Neglected by their sacred streams.
    As for the true poetic fire,
    What is it but a mad desire?
    While Pegasus himself, at best,
    Only a horse must be confess’d;
    And he must be an ass indeed,
    Who would bestride the winged steed.

    Bacchus, thou who watchest o’er
    All feasts of ours, whom I adore
    With each new draught of rosy wine
    That makes my red face like to thine--
    By thy ivied coronet,
    By this glass with rubies set,
    By thy thyrsus--fear of earth--
    By thine everlasting mirth,
    By the honor of the feast,
    By thy triumphs, greatest, least,
    By thy blows, not struck, but drunk,
    With king and bishop, priest and monk,
    By the jesting, keen and sharp,
    By the violin and harp,
    By the bells, which are but flasks,
    By our sighs which are but masks
    Of mirth and sacred mystery,
    By thy panthers fierce to see,
    By this place so fair and sweet,
    By the he-goat at thy feet,
    By Ariadne, buxom lass,
    By Silenus on his ass,
    By this sausage, by this stoup,
    By this rich and thirsty soup,
    By this pipe from which I wave
    All the incense thou dost crave,
    By this ham, well spiced, long hung,
    By this salt and wood-smoked tongue,
    Receive us in the happy band
    Of those who worship glass in hand.
    And, to prove thyself divine,
    Leave us never without wine.

Molière (the stage name of Jean Baptiste Poquelin), the greatest comic
dramatist of France, wrote thirty or more plays. Though difficult to
quote significant passages, two are here given:

                      _FROM “THE LEARNED WOMEN”_

_Trissotin._ Your verses have beauties unequaled by any others.

_Vadius._ Venus and the graces reign in all yours.

_Trissotin._ You have an easy style, and a fine choice of words.

_Vadius._ In all your writings one finds _ithos_ and _pathos_.

_Trissotin._ We have seen some eclogues of your composition which
surpass in sweetness those of Theocritus and Vergil.

_Vadius._ Your odes have a noble, gallant, and tender manner,
which leaves Horace far behind.

_Trissotin._ Is there anything more lovely than your canzonets?

_Vadius._ Is there anything equal to the sonnets you write?

_Trissotin._ Is there anything more charming than your little

_Vadius._ Anything so full of wit as your madrigals?

_Trissotin._ If France could appreciate your value----

_Vadius._ If the age could render justice to a lofty genius----

_Trissotin._ You would ride in the streets in a gilt coach.

_Vadius._ We should see the public erect statues to you. Hem--It
is a ballad; and I wish you frankly to----

_Trissotin._ Have you heard a certain little sonnet upon the
Princess Urania’s fever?

_Vadius._ Yes; I heard it read yesterday.

_Trissotin._ Do you know the author of it?

_Vadius._ No, I do not; but I know very well that, to tell him the
truth, his sonnet is good for nothing.

_Trissotin._ Yet a great many people think it admirable.

_Vadius._ It does not prevent it from being wretched; and if you
had read it you would think like me.

_Trissotin._ I know that I should differ from you altogether, and
that few people are able to write such a sonnet.

_Vadius._ Heaven forbid that I should ever write one so bad!

_Trissotin._ I maintain that a better one cannot be made, and my
reason is that I am the author of it.

_Vadius._ You?

_Trissotin._ Myself.

_Vadius._ I cannot understand how the thing could have happened.

_Trissotin._ It is unfortunate that I had not the power of
pleasing you.

_Vadius._ My mind must have wandered during the reading, or else
the reader spoiled the sonnet; but let us leave that subject, and come
to my ballad.

_Trissotin._ The ballad is, to my mind, an insipid thing; it is no
longer the fashion, and savors of ancient times.

_Vadius._ Yet a ballad has charms for many people.

_Trissotin._ It does not prevent me from thinking it unpleasant.

_Vadius._ That does not make it worse.

_Trissotin._ It has wonderful attractions for pedants.

_Vadius._ Yet we see that it does not please you.

_Trissotin._ You stupidly impose your qualities on others.

_Vadius._ You very impertinently cast yours upon me.

_Trissotin._ Go, you little dunce, you pitiful quill-driver!

_Vadius._ Go, you penny-a-liner, you disgrace to the profession!

_Trissotin._ Go, you book-manufacturer, you impudent plagiarist!

_Vadius._ Go, you pedantic snob!

_Philosopher._ Ah! gentlemen, what are you about?

_Trissotin_ (_to_ VADIUS). Go, go, and make restitution to the Greeks
and Romans for all your shameful thefts!

_Vadius._ Go, and do penance on Parnassus for having murdered
Horace in your verses!

_Trissotin._ Remember your book, and the little stir it made.

_Vadius._ And you, remember your bookseller, reduced to the workhouse.

_Trissotin._ My fame is established; in vain would you endeavor to
shake it.

_Vadius._ Yes, yes; I’ll send you to the author of the _Satires_.

_Trissotin._ I, too, will send you to him.

_Vadius._ I have the satisfaction of having been honorably treated
by him; he gives me a passing thrust, and includes me among several
authors well known at court. But you he never leaves in peace; in all
his verses he attacks you.

_Trissotin._ By that we see the honorable rank I hold. He leaves
you in the crowd, and esteems one blow enough to crush you. He has
never done you the honor of repeating his attacks, whereas he assails
me separately, as a noble adversary against whom all his efforts are
necessary. His blows, repeated against me on all occasions, show that
he never thinks himself victorious.

_Vadius._ My pen will teach you what soft of man I am!

_Trissotin._ And mine will make you know your master!

_Vadius._ I defy you in verse, prose, Greek, and Latin!

_Trissotin._ Very well, we shall meet again at the bookseller’s!

                      _FROM “THE GENTLEMAN CIT”_

_Professor of Philosophy._ I will thoroughly explain all these
curiosities to you.

_M. Jourdain._ Pray do. And now I want to entrust you with a great
secret. I am in love with a lady of quality, and I should be glad if
you would help me to write something to her in a short letter which I
mean to drop at her feet.

_Professor of Philosophy._ Very well.

_M. Jourdain._ That will be gallant, will it not?

_Professor of Philosophy._ Undoubtedly. Is it verse you wish to
write to her?

_M. Jourdain._ Oh, no, not verse.

_Professor of Philosophy._ You only wish for prose?

_M. Jourdain._ No, I wish neither verse nor prose.

_Professor of Philosophy._ It must be one or the other.

_M. Jourdain._ Why?

_Professor of Philosophy._ Because, sir, there is nothing by which
we can express ourselves except prose or verse.

_M. Jourdain._ There is nothing but prose or verse?

_Professor of Philosophy._ No, sir. Whatever is not prose is
verse, and whatever is not verse is prose.

_M. Jourdain._ And when we speak, what is that, then?

_Professor of Philosophy._ Prose.

_M. Jourdain._ What! when I say, “Nicole, bring me my slippers,
and give me my night-cap,” is that prose?

_Professor of Philosophy._ Yes, sir.

_M. Jourdain._ Upon my word, I have been talking prose these forty
years without being aware of it! I am under the greatest obligation to
you for informing me. Well, then, I wish to write to her in a letter,
_Fair marchioness, your beautiful eyes make me die of love!_ but I
would have this worded in a genteel manner, and turned prettily.

_Professor of Philosophy._ Say that the fire of her eyes has
reduced your heart to ashes; that you suffer day and night for her

_M. Jourdain._ No, no, no; I don’t want any of that. I simply wish
to say what I tell you: _Fair marchioness, your beautiful eyes make
me die of love_.

_Professor of Philosophy._ Still, you might amplify the thing a

_M. Jourdain._ No, I tell you, I will have nothing but those very
words in the letter; but they must be put in a fashionable way, and
arranged as they should be. Pray explain a little, so that I may see
the different ways in which they can be put.

_Professor of Philosophy._ They may be put, first of all, as
you have said, _Fair marchioness, your beautiful eyes make me die
of love_; or else, _Of love die make me, fair marchioness, your
beautiful eyes_; or, _Your beautiful eyes of love make me, fair
marchioness, die_; or, _Die of love your beautiful eyes, fair
marchioness, make me_; or else, _Me make your beautiful eyes die,
fair marchioness, of love_.

_M. Jourdain._ But of all these ways, which is the best?

_Professor of Philosophy._ The one you said--_Fair marchioness,
your beautiful eyes make me die of love_.

_M. Jourdain._ Yet I have never studied, and I did all that right
off at the first shot. I thank you with all my heart, and I beg you to
come early again to-morrow morning.

_Professor of Philosophy._--I shall not fail you.

       *       *       *       *       *

Paul Scarron, described as a “pure bird of pleasure,” wrote plays,
novels, epigrams, letters, and best known of all, a classic burlesque
called _Virgile Travesti_.

Quotations cannot be made from his longer works, but two poems are

                         _FAREWELL TO CHLORIS_

    Adieu, fair Chloris, adieu:
      ’Tis time that I speak,
      After many and many a week,
    (’Tis not thus that at Paris we woo)
    You pay me for all with a smile
    And cheat me the while,
      Speak now. Let me go.
    Close your doors, or open them wide,
      Matters not, so that I am outside;
    Devil take me, if ever I show
      Love or pity for you and your pride.

    To laugh in my face,
      It is all that she grants me
    Of pity and grace:
      Can it mean that she wants me?
    This for five or six months is my pay.
      Now hear my command,
    Shut your doors, keep them tight night and day,
      With a porter at hand
    To keep every one in;
      Well, I know my own mind.
    The devil himself, if once you begin
      To go out, couldn’t keep me behind.

The following is better known. It is his description of Paris:

    Houses in labyrinthine maze:
      The streets with mud bespattered all;
    Palace and prison, churches, quays,
      Here stately shop, there shabby stall.
    Passengers black, red, gray, and white,
      The pursed-up prude, the light coquette;
    Murder and treason dark as night;
      With clerks, their hands with inkstains wet;
    A gold-laced coat without a sou,
      And trembling at a bailiff’s sight;
    A braggart shivering with fear;
      Pages and lackeys, thieves of night;
    And ’mid the tumult, noise, and stink of it,
    There’s Paris--Pray, what do you think of it?

François de la Rochefoucauld, famous French moralist, is best known
through the wit and wisdom of his Maxims.

       *       *       *       *       *

A woman is faithful to her first lover a long time--unless she happens
to take a second.

       *       *       *       *       *

He who is pleased with nobody is much more unhappy than he with whom
nobody is pleased.

       *       *       *       *       *

We all have sufficient fortitude to bear the misfortunes of our friends.

       *       *       *       *       *

Had we no faults of our own, we should notice them with less pleasure
in others.

       *       *       *       *       *

We promise according to our hopes, and perform according to our fears.

       *       *       *       *       *

Old men are fond of giving good advice to console themselves for their
impotence to give bad examples.

       *       *       *       *       *

We often do good in order that we may do evil with impunity.

If we resist our passions it is more from their weakness than from our

       *       *       *       *       *

We should have very little pleasure if we did not sometimes flatter

       *       *       *       *       *

It is easier to be wise for others than for ourselves.

       *       *       *       *       *

Men would not live long in society if they were not dupes to each other.

       *       *       *       *       *

Virtue would not travel so far if vanity did not keep her company.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hypocrisy is the homage which vice renders to virtue.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the adversity of our best friends we often find something which does
not displease us.

       *       *       *       *       *

Gravity is a mystery of the face, invented to conceal the defects of
the mind.

       *       *       *       *       *

Affected simplicity is refined imposture.

       *       *       *       *       *

We often pardon those who weary us, but never those whom we weary.

       *       *       *       *       *

Blaise Pascal, celebrated geometrician and writer, left a series of
delightful satires upon the Jesuits.

                        _FROM LES PROVINCIALES_

                       _ON MENTAL RESERVATIONS_

“I proceed to the facilities we have invented for the avoidance of
sin in the conversation and intrigues of the world. One of the most
embarrassing things to provide against is _lying_, when it is
the object to excite confidence in any false representation. In this
case, our doctrine of _equivocals_ is of admirable service, by
which, says Sanchez, ‘it is lawful to use ambiguous terms to give the
impression a different sense from that which you understand yourself.’”
“This I am well aware of, father.” “We have,” continued he, “published
it so frequently, that in fact every body is acquainted with it; but
pray, do you know what is to be done when no equivocal terms can be
found?” “No, father.” “Ha, I thought this would be new to you: it is
the doctrine of _mental reservations_. Sanchez states it in the
same place: ‘A person may take an oath that he has not done such a
thing, though in fact he has, by saying to himself, it was not done
on a certain specified day or before he was born, or by concealing
any other similar circumstance which gives another meaning to the
statement. This is in numberless instances extremely convenient, and
is always justifiable when it is necessary to your welfare, honor, or

“But, father, is not this adding perjury to lying?” “No; Sanchez and
Filiutius show the contrary: ‘It is the _intention_ which stamps
the quality of the action’; and the latter furnishes another and surer
method of avoiding lying. After saying in an audible voice, _I swear
that I did not do this_, you may add inwardly, _to-day_; or
after affirming aloud, _I swear_ you may repeat in a whisper, _I
say_; and then resuming the former tone--_I did not do it_.
Now this you must admit is telling the truth.” “I own it is,” said I;
“but it is telling truth in a whisper, and a lie in an audible voice;
besides, I apprehend that very few people have sufficient presence of
mind to avail themselves of this deception.” “Our fathers,” answered
the Jesuit, “have in the same place given directions for those who do
not know how to manage these niceties, so that they may be indemnified
against the sin of lying, while plainly declaring they have not done
what in reality they have, provided ‘that, in general, they intended to
give the same sense to their assertion which a skilful man would have
contrived to do.’”

“Now confess,” he asked, “have not you sometimes been embarrassed
through an ignorance of this doctrine?” “Certainly.” “And will you
not admit, too, that it would often be very convenient to violate
your word with a good conscience?” “Surely, one of the most convenient
things in the world!” “Then, sir, listen to Escobar; he gives this
general rule: ‘Promises are not obligatory when a man has no intention
of being bound to fulfil them; and it seldom happens that he has such
an intention, unless he confirms it by an oath or bond, so that when
he merely says _I will do it_, it is to be understood _if he do
not change his mind_; for he did not intend by what he promised to
deprive himself of his liberty.’ He furnishes some other rules which
you may read for yourself, and concludes thus: ‘Everything is taken
from Molina and our other authors--_omnia ex Molina et aliis’_; it
is, consequently, indisputable.”

“Father,” exclaimed I, “I never knew before that the direction of the
intention could nullify the obligation of a promise.” “Now, then,”
said he, “you perceive this very much facilitates the intercourse of

Jean de la Fontaine, the universally known French Fabulist, was a
prolific writer, but his wit shows at its best in his _Fables_.

                    _THE COUNCIL HELD BY THE RATS_

        Old Rodilard, a certain cat,
          Such havoc of the rats had made,
        ’Twas difficult to find a rat
          With nature’s debt unpaid.
        The few that did remain,
          To leave their holes afraid.
        From usual food abstain,
          Not eating half their fill.
          And wonder no one will,
    That one, who made on rats his revel,
    With rats passed not for cat, but devil.
    Now, on a day, this dread rat-eater,
    Who had a wife, went out to meet her;
    And while he held his caterwauling,
    The unkilled rats, their chapter calling,
    Discussed the point, in grave debate,
    How they might shun impending fate.
      Their dean, a prudent rat,
    Thought best, and better soon than late,
      To bell the fatal cat;
    That, when he took his hunting-round,
    The rats, well cautioned by the sound,
    Might hide in safety under ground;
      Indeed, he knew no other means.
        And all the rest
        At once confessed
      Their minds were with the dean’s.
    No better plan, they all believed,
    Could possibly have been conceived;
    No doubt, the thing would work right well,
    If any one would hang the bell.
    But, one by one, said every rat,
    “I’m not so big a fool as that.”
    The plan knocked up in this respect,
    The council closed without effect.
    And many a council I have seen,
    Or reverend chapter with its dean,
      That, thus resolving wisely,
      Fell through like this precisely.

        To argue or refute,
          Wise counsellors abound;
        The man to execute
          Is harder to be found.

                        _THE COCK AND THE FOX_

      Upon a tree there mounted guard
    A veteran cock, adroit and cunning;
    When to the roots a fox up running
      Spoke thus, in tones of kind regard:
    “Our quarrel, brother, is at an end;
    Henceforth I hope to live your friend;
        For peace now reigns
        Throughout the animal domains.
      I bear the news. Come down, I pray,
    And give me the embrace fraternal:
      And please, my brother, don’t delay:
    So much the tidings do concern all,
      That I must spread them far to-day.
    Now you and yours can take your walks
    Without a fear or thought of hawks;
    And should you clash with them or others,
    In us you’ll find the best of brothers--
        For which you may, this joyful night,
        Your merry bonfires light.
          But, first, let’s seal the bliss
          With one fraternal kiss.”
    “Good friend,” the cock replied, “upon my word,
    A better thing I never heard;
        And doubly I rejoice
        To hear it from your voice:
    And, really, there must be something in it,
      For yonder come two greyhounds, which I flatter
      Myself, are couriers on this very matter;
    They come so fast, they’ll be here in a minute,
      I’ll down, and all of us will seal the blessing
      With general kissing and caressing.”
    “Adieu,” said the fox; “my errand’s pressing,
      I’ll hurry on my way,
      And we’ll rejoice some other day.”
    So off the fellow scampered, quick and light,
    To gain the fox-holes of the neighboring height--
    Less happy in his stratagem than flight.
      The cock laughed sweetly in his sleeve--
      ’Tis doubly sweet deceiver to deceive.

                        _THE CROW AND THE FOX_

    A master crow, perched on a tree one day
        Was holding in his beak a cheese--
    A master fox, by the odor drawn that way,
        Spake unto him in words like these:
        “O, good morning, my Lord Crow!
        How well you look, how handsome you do grow!
          ’Pon my honor, if your note
          Bears a resemblance to your coat,
    You are the phœnix of the dwellers in these woods.”
      At these words does the crow exceedingly rejoice;
      And, to display his beauteous voice,
    He opens a wide beak, lets fall his stolen goods.
        The fox seized on’t, and said, “My good Monsieur,
        Learn that every flatterer
      Lives at the expense of him who hears him out.
      This lesson is well worth a cheese, no doubt.”
    The crow, ashamed, and much in pain,
    Swore, but a little late, they’d not catch him so again.

Nicolas Boileau-Despreaux, commonly called Boileau, was a famous critic
and poet. His _Art Poétique_ had a decided influence on later
French verse.

His wit was keen and his satire sharp.

                             _TO PERRAULT_

    How comes it, Perrault, I would gladly know,
    That authors of two thousand years ago,
    Whom in their native dress all times revere,
    In your translations should so flat appear?
    ’Tis you divest them of their own sublime,
    By your vile crudities and odious rime.
    They’re thine when suffering thy wretched phrase,
    And then no wonder if they meet no praise.

                              _ON COTIN_

    Of all the pens which my poor rimes molest,
    Cotin’s is sharpest, and succeeds the best.
    Others outrageous scold and rail downright,
    With hearty rancor, and true Christian spite.
    But he, a readier method does design,
    Writes scoundrel verses, and then says they’re mine.

Alan René Le Sage, novelist and dramatist, is best known for his
celebrated work, _Gil Blas_. He also wrote many farce-operettas,
which offer no opportunity for quotation.

Jean de la Bruyère, is best known for his work called _The
Characters_, an imitation of Theophrastus.


Iphis at church sees a new-fashioned shoe; he looks upon his own and
blushes, and can no longer believe himself dressed. He came to prayers
only to show himself, and now he hides himself. The foot keeps him in
his room the rest of the day. He has a soft hand, with which he gives
you a gentle pat. He is sure to laugh often to show his white teeth.
He strains his mouth to a perpetual smile. He looks upon his legs, he
views himself in the glass, and nobody can have so good an opinion of
another as he has of himself. He has acquired a delicate and clear
voice, and has a happy manner in talking. He has a turn of the head, a
sweetness in his glance that he never fails to make use of. His gait is
slow, and the prettiest he is able to contrive. He sometimes employs a
little rouge, but seldom; he will not make a habit of it. It is true
that he wears breeches and a hat, has neither earrings nor necklace,
therefore I have not put him in the chapter on woman.


The pleasure of criticizing robs us of the pleasure of unconscious

       *       *       *       *       *

The most accomplished work of the age would fail under the hands
of censors and critics, if the author would listen to all their
objections, and allow each one to throw out the passage that had
pleased him least.

       *       *       *       *       *

This good we get from the perfidiousness of woman, that it cures us of

       *       *       *       *       *

There are but two ways of rising in the world--by your own industry, or
by the weakness of others.

If life is miserable, it is painful to live; if happy, it is terrible
to die; both come to the same thing.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is nothing men are so anxious to preserve, or so careless about,
as life.

       *       *       *       *       *

We are afraid of old age, and afraid not to attain it.

       *       *       *       *       *

If some men died, and others did not, death would indeed be a terrible

       *       *       *       *       *

There are but three events that happen to men--birth, life, and death.
They know nothing of their birth, suffer when they die, and forget to

       *       *       *       *       *

Gilles Ménage, a French philologist, is now best known as the Author
of _Ménagiana_, one of the most excellent and original of the
celebrated Ana of France. The following poem bears a remarkable
resemblance to Goldsmith’s _Madame Blaize_, and it is quite
possible that the latter may have been suggested by it.

    La Gallisse now I wish to touch;
      Droll air! if I can strike it,
    I’m sure the song will please you much;
      That is, if you should like it.

    La Gallisse was indeed, I grant,
      Not used to any dainty
    When he was born--but could not want,
      As long as he had plenty.

    Instructed with the greatest care,
      He always was well bred,
    And never used a hat to wear,
      But when ’twas on his head.

    His temper was exceeding good,
      Just of his father’s fashion;
    And never quarrels broil’d his blood,
      Except when in a passion.

    His mind was on devotion bent;
      He kept with care each high day,
    And Holy Thursday always spent,
      The day before Good Friday.

    He liked good claret very well,
      I just presume to think it;
    For ere its flavour he could tell,
      He thought it best to drink it.

    Than doctors more he loved the cook,
      Though food would make him gross;
    And never any physic took,
      But when he took a dose.

    O happy, happy is the swain
      The ladies so adore;
    For many followed in his train,
      Whene’er he walk’d before.

    Bright as the sun his flowing hair
      In golden ringlets shone;
    And no one could with him compare,
      If he had been alone.

    His talents I can not rehearse,
      But every one allows,
    That whatsoe’er he wrote in verse,
      No one could call it prose.

    He argued with precision nice,
      The learnèd all declare;
    And it was his decision wise,
      No horse could be a mare.

    His powerful logic would surprise,
      Amuse, and much delight:
    He proved that dimness of the eyes
      Was hurtful to the sight.

    They liked him much--so it appears
      Most plainly--who preferr’d him;
    And those did never want their ears,
      Who any time had heard him.

    He was not always right, ’tis true,
      And then he must be wrong;
    But none had found it out, he knew,
      If he had held his tongue.

    Whene’er a tender tear he shed,
      ’Twas certain that he wept;
    And he would lay awake in bed,
      Unless, indeed, he slept.

    In tilting everybody knew
      His very high renown;
    Yet no opponents he o’erthrew,
      But those that he knock’d down.

    At last they smote him in the head--
      What hero e’er fought all?
    And when they saw that he was dead,
      They knew the wound was mortal.

    And when at last he lost his breath,
      It closed his every strife;
    For that sad day that seal’d his death,
      Deprived him of his life.

Italy and Spain offer us little of seventeenth century humor. Their
comedies are long and verbose, and rather dull. Also, there are few
satisfactory translations.

The Italian, Francesca Redi, gives us a rollicking song of a
Bacchanalian order.

                       _DIATRIBE AGAINST WATER_

        He who drinks water,
        I wish to observe,
        Gets nothing from me;
        He may eat it and starve.
    Whether it’s well, or whether it’s fountain,
    Or whether it comes foaming white from the mountain,
        I cannot admire it,
        Nor ever desire it.
    ’Tis a fool, and a madman, an impudent wretch,
    Who now will live in a nasty ditch,
    And then grows proud, and full of his whims,
    Comes playing the devil, and cursing his brims,
    And swells, and tumbles, and bothers his margins,
    And ruins the flowers, although they be virgins.
    Wharves and piers, were it not for him,
        Would last forever,
        If they’re built clever;
    But no, it’s all one with him--sink or swim.

    Let the people yclept Mameluke
    Praise the Nile without any rebuke;
    Let the Spaniards praise the Tagus;
    I cannot like either, even for negus.
    If any follower of mine
    Dares so far to forget his wine
    As to drink a drop of water,
    Here’s the hand to devote him to slaughter.
    Let your meager doctorlings
    Gather herbs and such like things,
    Fellows who with streams and stills
    Think to cure all sorts of ills;
    I’ve no faith in their washery,
    Nor think it worth a glance of my eye.
    Yes, I laugh at them, for that matter,
    To think how they, with their heaps of water,
    Petrify their skulls profound,
    And make ’em all so thick and so round,
    That Viviana, with all his mathematics,
    Would fail to square the circle of their attics.

    Away with all water wherever I come;
    I forbid it ye, gentlemen, all and some.
        Lemonade water,
        Jessamine water,
        Our tavern knows none of ’em--
        Water’s a hum!
    Jessamine makes a pretty crown,
    But as a drink ’twill never go down.
    All your hydromels and flips
    Come not near these prudent lips.
    All your sippings and sherbets,
    And a thousand such pretty sweets,
    Let your mincing ladies take ’em,
    And fops whose little fingers ache ’em.
    Wine, wine is your only drink!
    Grief never dares to look at the brink.
    Six times a year to be mad with wine,
    I hold it no shame, but a very good sign.
    I, for my part, take my can,
    Solely to act like a gentleman,
    And, acting so, I care not, I,
    For all the hail and snow in the sky.
        I never go poking,
        And cowering and cloaking,
    And wrapping myself from head to foot,
    As some people do, with their wigs to boot--
    For example, like dry and shivering Redi,
    Who looks just like a peruk’d old lady.

From the Spanish poet, José Morell we include two quotations.

                       _ADVICE TO AN INNKEEPER_

    “‘Mingle the sweet and useful,’ says a sage,
    Whose name, perchance, is lost in history’s page,
    But whose advice withal is good and wise.
    It caught a tavern-keeper’s busy eyes,
    And he exclaimed, ‘Delightful! That’s for me!’
    I see the sense, I read the mystery;
    This is its meaning, I can well divine:
    ‘Mix useful water with your luscious wine.’”

                              _TO A POET_

    “You say your verses are of gold.
      And how, my friend? I’d fain inquire.
    But, no--I see the truth you’ve told:
      They must be purified by fire.”

                             GERMAN HUMOR

Germany in the seventeenth century wakes up to a dim and dawning
humorous sense, but gives little definite expression to it, unless we
except Abraham á Sancta Clara, an Augustinian monk and satirical writer
of repute.

                         _THE DONKEY’S VOICE_

A certain singer was most vain of his voice, thinking it so enchanting
it might allure the very dolphins, or if not them, the pike, from out
of the deep. But it is an old custom of the Lord to punish the vain
ones of the earth, who like nothing better than praise. So the Lord
made this man sing false at Holy Mass, and the whole congregation was
utterly displeased. Close by the altar there was kneeling an old woman,
who wept bitterly during the Mass. The conceited songster, thinking
that the old woman had been moved to those tears by the sweetness of
his voice, after Mass approached the dame, asking her, in the presence
of the congregation, why she had wept so sadly. His mouth watered
for the expected praise, when, “Sir,” said the woman, “while you were
singing I remembered my donkey; I lost him, poor soul three days ago,
and his voice was very natural, like yours. Oh, heavenly Father, if I
could only find that good and useful beast!”

                                         --_Judas, the Arch-Rogue._

                          _A BURDENSOME WIFE_

A man set sail from Venice for Ancona, with his wife, both being minded
to offer their devotions at the shrine of Santa Maria di Loreto. But
during the voyage there arose such a great storm that all thought the
ship in extreme peril of sinking. The owner of the ship therefore
gave his command that each traveler should forthwith throw his most
burdensome possessions into the sea, so that the vessel might be made
lighter. Some rolled casks of wine overboard, and others bales of
cloth; the man from Venice, who did not desire to be found tarrying
behind the rest, seized his wife, exclaiming, “Forgive me, Ursula
mine, but this day you must drink to my health in salt water!” and
would throw her into the sea. The frightened wife making a commotion
with her screams, others ran up, and scolded the husband, asking him
the cause of his action. “The owner of the ship,” said he, “urgently
commanded that we all should throw overboard our heaviest burdens. Now,
throughout my whole life nothing has ever been so burdensome to me
as this woman; hence I was gladly willing to make her over to Father

                                                      --_Hie! Fie!_


    Saint Anthony at church
    Was left in the lurch,
    So he went to the ditches
    And preached to the fishes.
      They wriggled their tails,
      In the sun glanced their scales.

    The carps with their spawn,
    Are all thither drawn;
    Have opened their jaws,
    Eager for each clause.
      No sermon beside
      Had the carps so edified.

    Sharp-snouted pikes,
    Who keep fighting like tikes,
    Now swam up harmonious
    To hear Saint Antonius.
      No sermon beside
      Had the pikes so edified.

    And that very odd fish,
    Who loves fast-days, the cod-fish,--
    The stock-fish, I mean,--
    At the sermon was seen.
      No sermon beside
      Had the cods so edified.

    Good eels and sturgeon,
    Which aldermen gorge on,
    Went out of their way
    To hear preaching that day.
      No sermon beside
      Had the eels so edified.

    Crabs and turtles also,
    Who always move low,
    Make haste from the bottom
    As if the devil had got ’em.
      No sermon beside
      The crabs so edified.

    Fish great and fish small,
    Lord, lackeys, and all,
    Each looked at the preacher
    Like a reasonable creature,
      At God’s word,
      They Anthony heard.

    The sermon now ended,
    Each turned and descended;
    The pikes went on stealing,
    The eels went on eeling.
      Much delighted were they,
      But preferred the old way.

    The crabs are back-sliders,
    The stock-fish thick-siders,
    The carps are sharp-set,
    All the sermon forget.
      Much delighted were they,
      But preferred the old way.

                        THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY

Jonathan Swift, the famous author of _Gulliver’s Travels_, wrote
voluminously. His wit was rather heavy, his satire stinging.

It is unsatisfactory to quote from his longer works, but examples of
his lighter vein are offered.


Another advantage proposed by the abolishing of Christianity is the
clear gain of one day in seven, which is now entirely lost, and
consequently the kingdom one-seventh less considerable in trade,
business, and pleasure; besides the loss to the public of so many
stately structures now in the hands of the clergy, which might
be converted into play-houses, exchanges, market-houses, common
dormitories, and other public edifices.

I hope I shall be forgiven a hard word if I call this a perfect cavil.
I readily own there hath been an old custom, time out of mind, for
people to assemble in the churches every Sunday, and that shops are
still frequently shut, in order, as it is conceived, to preserve the
memory of that ancient practice; but how this can prove a hindrance to
business or pleasure is hard to imagine. What if the men of pleasure
are forced, one day in the week, to game at home instead of the
chocolate-house? Are not the taverns and coffee-houses open? Can there
be a more convenient season for taking a dose of physic? Is not that
the chief day for traders to sum up the accounts of the week, and for
lawyers to prepare their briefs? But I would fain know how it can be
pretended that the churches are misapplied? Where are more appointments
and rendezvouses of gallantry? Where more care to appear in the
foremost box, with greater advantage of dress? Where more meetings for
business? Where more bargains driven of all sorts? And where so many
conveniences or incitements to sleep?...

It may perhaps admit a controversy, whether the banishing all notions
of religion whatsoever would be inconvenient for the vulgar. Not that
I am in the least of opinion, with those who hold religion to have
been the invention of politicians, to keep the lower part of the world
in awe by the fear of invisible powers, unless mankind were then very
different from what it is now; for I look upon the mass or body of
our people here in England to be as Freethinkers--that is to say, as
staunch unbelievers--as any of the highest rank. But I conceive some
scattered notions about a superior Power to be of singular use for the
common people, as furnishing excellent materials to keep children quiet
when they grow peevish, and providing topics of amusement in a tedious
winter night.

                   _THE FURNITURE OF A WOMAN’S MIND_

    A set of phrases learned by rote;
    A passion for a scarlet coat;
    When at a play, to laugh or cry,
    Yet cannot tell the reason why;
    Never to hold her tongue a minute,
    While all she prates has nothing in it;
    Whole hours can with a coxcomb sit,
    And take his nonsense all for wit.
    Her learning mounts to read a song,
    But half the words pronouncing wrong;
    Has every repartee in store
    She spoke ten thousand times before;
    Can ready compliments supply
    On all occasions, cut and dry;
    Such hatred to a parson’s gown,
    The sight would put her in a swoon;
    For conversation well endued,
    She calls it witty to be rude;
    And, placing raillery in railing,
    Will tell aloud your greatest failing;
    Nor make a scruple to expose
    Your bandy leg or crooked nose;
    Can at her morning tea run o’er
    The scandal of the day before;
    Improving hourly in her skill,
    To cheat and wrangle at quadrille.
    In choosing lace, a critic nice,
    Knows to a groat the lowest price;
    Can in her female clubs dispute
    What linen best the silk will suit,
    What colours each complexion match,
    And where with art to place a patch.
    If chance a mouse creeps in her sight,
    Can finely counterfeit a fright;
    So sweetly screams, if it comes near her,
    She ravishes all hearts to hear her.
    Can dexterously her husband tease,
    By taking fits whene’er she please;
    By frequent practice learns the trick
    At proper season to be sick;
    Thinks nothing gives one airs so pretty,
    At once creating love and pity.
    If Molly happens to be careless,
    And but neglects to warm her hair-lace,
    She gets a cold as sure as death,
    And vows she scarce can fetch her breath;
    Admires how modest woman can
    Be so robustious, like a man.
    In party, furious to her power,
    A bitter Whig, or Tory sour,
    Her arguments directly tend
    Against the side she would defend;
    Will prove herself a Tory plain,
    From principles the Whigs maintain,
    And, to defend the Whiggish cause,
    Her topics from the Tories draws.

                       _SUNT QUI SERVARI NOLUNT_

    As Thomas was cudgell’d one day by his wife,
    He took to the street, and he fled for his life.
    Tom’s three dearest friends came by in the squabble
    And sav’d him at once from the shrew and the rabble;
    Then ventur’d to give him some sober advice--
    But Tom is a person of honour so nice,
    Too wise to take counsel, too proud to take warning,
    That he sent to all three a challenge next morning.
    Three duels he fought, thrice ventur’d his life,
    Went home--and was cudgell’d again by his wife.

                         _ON HIS OWN DEAFNESS_

    Deaf, giddy, helpless, left alone,
    To all my friends a burden grown;
    No more I hear my church’s bell,
    Than if it rang out for my knell;
    At thunder now no more I start,
    Than at the rumbling of a cart;
    And what’s incredible, alack!
    No more I hear a woman’s clack.

                             TO DR. SWIFT_

    You always are making a god of your spouse;
    But this neither reason nor conscience allows:
    Perhaps you will say, ’tis in gratitude due,
    And you adore him, because he adores you.
    Your argument’s weak, and so you will find;
    For you, by this rule, must adore all mankind.

Alexander Pope, a true poet and humorist, sometimes dropped into sheer
nonsense, and often into satirical epigrammatic writing.

For some inexplicable reason, certain commentators have denied any
sense of humor to Pope, but the following extracts refute this:

                    _LINES BY A PERSON OF QUALITY_

    Fluttering spread thy purple pinions,
      Gentle Cupid, o’er my heart,
    I a slave in thy dominions,
      Nature must give way to art.

    Mild Arcadians, ever blooming,
      Nightly nodding o’er your flocks,
    See my weary days consuming,
      All beneath yon flowery rocks.

    Thus the Cyprian goddess weeping,
      Mourned Adonis, darling youth:
    Him the boar, in silence creeping,
      Gored with unrelenting tooth.

    Cynthia, tune harmonious numbers;
      Fair Discretion, tune the lyre;
    Soothe my ever-waking slumbers;
      Bright Apollo, lend thy choir.

    Gloomy Pluto, king of terrors,
      Armed in adamantine chains,
    Lead me to the crystal mirrors,
      Watering soft Elysian plains.

    Mournful Cypress, verdant willow,
      Gilding my Aurelia’s brows,
    Morpheus, hovering o’er my pillow,
      Hear me pay my dying vows.

    Melancholy, smooth Mæaunder,
      Swiftly purling in a round,
    On thy margin lovers wander
      With thy flowery chaplets crowned.

    Thus when Philomela, drooping,
      Softly seeks her silent mate,
    So the bird of Juno stooping;
      Melody resigns to fate.


To the Ingenious Mr. Moore, inventor of the celebrated worm powder.

    How much, egregious Moore? are we,
      Deceived by shows and forms?
    Whate’er we think, whate’er we see,
      All human race are worms.

    Man is a very worm by birth,
      Proud reptile, vile and vain,
    Awhile he crawls upon the earth,
      Then shrinks to earth again.

    That woman is a worm, we find,
      E’er since our grannum’s evil;
    She first conversed with her own kind,
      That ancient worm, the Devil.

    The fops are painted butterflies,
      That flutter for a day;
    First from a worm they took their rise,
      Then in a worm decay.

    The flatterer an ear-wig grows,
      Some worms suit all conditions;
    Misers are muck-worms; silk-worms, beaus,
      And death-watches, physicians.

    That statesmen have a worm, is seen
      By all their winding play;
    Their conscience is a worm within,
      That gnaws them night and day.

    Ah, Moore! thy skill were well employ’d,
      And greater gain would rise
    If thou couldst make the courtier void
      That worm that never dies.

    Thou only canst our fate adjourn
      Some few short years, no more;
    E’en Button’s wits to worms shall turn,
      Who maggots were before.

                        _EPIGRAM ON MRS. TOFTS_

                    (_A celebrated Opera Singer._)

    So bright is thy beauty, so charming thy song,
    As had drawn both the beasts and their Orpheus along;
    But such is thy avarice, and such is thy pride,
    That the beasts must have starved and the poet have died.

Joseph Addison, whose literary work had a decided influence on English
letters and manners, contributed much to _The Tatler_ and _The
Spectator_, from which the following extract is taken.

                       _THE WILL OF A VIRTUOSO_

I, Nicholas Gimcrack, being in sound health of mind, but in great
weakness of body, do, by this my last will and testament, bestow my
worldly goods and chattels in manner following:

      _Imprimis._--To my dear wife,
        One box of butterflies,
        One drawer of shells,
        A female skeleton,
        A dried cockatrice.

      _Item._--To my daughter Elizabeth,
        My receipt for preserving dead caterpillars,
        As also my preparations of winter Maydew and embryo-pickle.

      _Item._--To my little daughter Fanny,
        Three crocodile’s eggs,
      And upon the birth of her first child, if she marries with her
          mother’s consent,
        The nest of a humming-bird.

      _Item._--To my eldest brother, as an acknowledgment for the lands
           he has vested in my son Charles, I bequeath
        My last year’s collection of grasshoppers.

      _Item._--To his daughter Susanna, being his only child, I bequeath
           my English  weeds pasted on royal paper,
        With my large folio of Indian cabbage.

    Having fully provided for my nephew Isaac, by making over to him
           some years since,
        A horned scarabæus,
        The skin of a rattlesnake, and
        The mummy of an Egyptian king,
    I make no further provision for him in this my will.

My eldest son, John, having spoke disrespectfully of his little sister,
whom I keep by me in spirits of wine, and in many other instances
behaved himself undutifully toward me, I do disinherit, and wholly cut
off from any part of this my personal estate, by giving him a single

To my second son, Charles, I give and bequeath all my flowers, plants,
minerals, mosses, shells, pebbles, fossils, beetles, butterflies,
caterpillars, grasshoppers, and vermin, not above specified; as also
all my monsters, both wet and dry; making the said Charles whole and
sole executor of this my last will and testament: he paying, or causing
to be paid, the aforesaid legacies within the space of six months after
my decease. And I do hereby revoke all other wills whatsoever by me
formerly made.

       *       *       *       *       *

John Philips, who was a devoted student and admirer of Milton, wrote a
poem in which he parodied Milton’s style, and which Addison called the
finest burlesque in the English language.

                        _THE SPLENDID SHILLING_

          “Sing, heavenly Muse.
    Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme”;
    A shilling, breeches, and chimeras dire.

    Happy the man, who, void of acres and strife,
    In silken or in leathern purse retains
    A Splendid Shilling: he nor hears with pain
    New oysters cried, nor sighs for cheerful ale;
    But with his friends, when nightly mists arise,
    To Juniper’s Magpie, or Town Hall repairs;
    Where, mindful of the nymph, whose wanton eye
    Transfixed his soul, and kindled amorous flames,
    Chloe or Phyllis, he each circling glass
    Wisheth her health and joy and equal love.
    Meanwhile he smokes, and laughs at merry tale,
    Or pun ambiguous or conundrum quaint.
    But I, whom griping penury surrounds,
    And hunger, sure attendant upon want,
    With scanty offals, and small acid tiff
    (Wretched repast!) my meagre corpse sustain:
    Then solitary walk, or doze at home
    In garret vile, and with a warming puff
    Regale chilled fingers; or from tube as black
    As winter-chimney or well-polished jet,
    Exhale mundungus, ill-perfuming scent.
    Not blacker tube, nor of a shorter size,
    Smokes Cambro-Briton (versed in pedigree,
    Sprung from Cadwallador and Arthur, kings
    Full famous in romantic tale) when he
    O’er many a craggy hill and barren cliff,
    Upon a cargo of famed Cestrian cheese,
    High overshadowing rides, with a design
    To wend his wares at the Arvonian mart,
    Or Maridunum, or the ancient town
    Ycleped Brechinia, or where Vaga’s stream
    Encircles Ariconium, fruitful soil!
    Whence flow nectareous wines, that well may vie
    With Massic, Setin, or renowned Falern.
      Thus, while my joyless minutes tedious flow,
    With looks demure, and silent pace, a Dun,
    Horrible monster! hated by gods and men,
    To my aerial citadel ascends.
    With vocal heel thrice thundering at my gate,
    With hideous accent thrice he calls; I know
    The voice ill-boding, and the solemn sound,
    What should I do? or whither turn? Amazed,
    Confounded, to the dark recess I fly
    Of wood-hole; straight my bristling hairs erect
    Through sudden fear; a chilly sweat bedews
    My shuddering limbs, and (wonderful to tell!)
    My tongue forgets her faculty of speech;
    So horrible he seems! His faded brow
    Intrenched with many a frown, and conic beard,
    And spreading band, admired by modern saints,
    Disastrous acts forebode; in his right hand
    Long scrolls of paper solemnly he waves,
    With characters and figures dire inscribed,
    Grievous to mortal eyes, (ye gods, avert
    Such plagues from righteous men!) Behind him stalks
    Another monster, not unlike itself,
    Sullen of aspect, by the vulgar called
    A Catchpole, whose polluted hands the gods
    With force incredible, and magic charms,
    First have endued: if he his ample palm
    Should haply on ill-fated shoulder lay
    Of debtor, straight his body to the touch
    Obsequious (as whilom knights were wont)
    To some enchanted castle is conveyed,
    Where gates impregnable, and coercive chains,
    In durance strict detain him, till, in form
    Of money, Pallas sets the captive free.
      Beware, ye debtors! when ye walk, beware,
    Be circumspect; oft with insidious ken
    The caitiff eyes your steps aloof, and oft
    Lies perdue in a nook or gloomy cave,
    Prompt to enchant some inadvertent wretch
    With his unhallowed touch. So (poets sing)
    Grimalkin to domestic vermin sworn
    An everlasting foe, with watchful eye
    Lies nightly brooding o’er a chinky gap,
    Portending her fell claws, to thoughtless mice
    Sure ruin. So her disembowelled web
    Arachne, in a hall or kitchen, spreads
    Obvious to vagrant flies; she secret stands
    Within her woven cell; the humming prey,
    Regardless of their fate, rush on the toils
    Inextricable, nor will aught avail
    Their arts, or arms, or shapes of lovely hue.
    The wasp insidious, and the buzzing drone,
    And butterfly proud of expanded wings
    Distinct with gold, entangled in her snares,
    Useless resistance make; with eager strides,
    She towering flies to her expected spoils:
    Then with envenomed jaws the vital blood
    Drinks of reluctant foes, and to her cave
    Their bulky carcasses triumphant drags.
      So pass my days. But when nocturnal shades
    This world envelop, and the inclement air
    Persuades men to repel benumbing frosts
    With pleasant wines and crackling blaze of wood,
    Me, lonely sitting, nor the glimmering light
    Of make-weight candle, nor the joyous talk
    Of loving friend, delights; distressed, forlorn,
    Amidst the horrors of the tedious night,
    Darkling I sigh, and feed with dismal thoughts
    My anxious mind; or sometimes mournful verse
    Indite, and sing of groves and myrtle shades,
    Or desperate lady near a purling stream,
    Or lover pendent on a willow-tree.
    Meanwhile I labor with eternal drought,
    And restless wish, and rave; my parchèd throat
    Finds no relief, nor heavy eyes repose:
    But if a slumber haply does invade
    My weary limbs, my fancy, still awake,
    Thoughtful of drink, and eager, in a dream,
    Tipples imaginary pots of ale;
    In vain;--awake I find the settled thirst
    Still gnawing, and the pleasant phantom curse.
      Thus do I live, from pleasure quite debarred,
    Nor taste the fruits that the sun’s genial rays
    Mature, john-apple, nor the downy peach,
    Nor walnut in rough-furrowed coat secure,
    Nor medlar fruit delicious in decay;
    Afflictions great! yet greater still remain.
    My galligaskins, that have long withstood
    The winter’s fury and encroaching frosts,
    By time subdued, (what will not time subdue!)
    An horrid chasm disclose with orifice
    Wide, discontinuous; at which the winds
    Eurus and Auster and the dreadful force
    Of Boreas, that congeals the Cronian waves,
    Tumultuous enter with dire chilling blasts,
    Portending agues. Thus a well-fraught ship,
    Long sails secure, or through the Ægean deep,
    Or the Ionian, till cruising near
    The Lilybean shore, with hideous crush
    On Scylla or Charybdis (dangerous rocks)
    She strikes rebounding; whence the shattered oak,
    So fierce a shock unable to withstand,
    Admits the sea. In at the gaping side
    The crowding waves gush with impetuous rage,
    Resistless, overwhelming; horrors seize
    The mariners; Death in their eyes appears,
    They stare, they lave, they pump, they swear, they pray:
    (Vain efforts!) still the battering waves rush in,
    Implacable, till, deluged by the foam,
    The ship sinks foundering in the vast abyss.

John Arbuthnot, celebrated both as a physician and a man of letters,
leaves us this bit of nonsense.

                            JOHN ARBUTHNOT

                     _A DISSERTATION ON DUMPLINGS_

The dumpling is, indeed, an ancient institution and of foreign origin;
but, alas! what were those dumplings? Nothing but a few lentils sodden
together, moistened and cemented with a little seethed fat, not much
unlike our grit or oatmeal pudding; yet were they of such esteem among
the ancient Romans, that a statue was erected to Fulvius Agricola, the
first inventor of these lentil dumplings. How unlike the gratitude
shown by the public to our modern projectors!

The Romans, though our conquerors, found themselves much outdone in
dumplings by our forefathers, the Roman dumplings being no more to
compare to those made by the Britons than a stone-dumpling is to a
marrow-pudding; though, indeed, the British dumpling at that time was
little better than what we call a stone-dumpling, nothing else but
flour and water. But every generation growing wiser and wiser, the
project was improved, and dumpling grew to be pudding. One projector
found milk better than water; another introduced butter; some added
marrow, others plums; and some found out the use of sugar; so that, to
speak truth, we know not where to fix the genealogy or chronology of
any of these pudding projectors; to the reproach of our historians,
who ate so much pudding, yet have been so ungrateful to the first
professors of this most noble science as not to find them a place in

The invention of eggs was merely accidental, two or three of which
having casually rolled from a shelf into the pudding which a goodwife
was making, she found herself under the necessity either of throwing
away her pudding or letting the eggs remain. But concluding, from the
innocent quality of the eggs, that they would do no hurt, if they did
no good, she wisely jumbled them all together, after having carefully
picked out the shells. The consequence is easily imagined: the pudding
became a pudding of puddings, and the use of eggs from thence took its
date. The woman was sent for to Court to make puddings for King John,
who then swayed the scepter, and gained such favour that she was the
making of the whole family.

I cannot conclude this paragraph without owning I received this
important part of the history of pudding from Mr. Lawrence, of
Wilson-Green, the greatest antiquary of the present age....

From that time the English became so famous for puddings, that they are
called pudding-eaters all over the world to this day.

At her demise, the woman’s son was taken into favour, and made the
King’s chief cook; and so great was his fame for puddings, that he was
called Jack Pudding all over the kingdom, though, indeed, his real name
was John Brand, as by the records of the kitchen you will find. This
Jack Pudding became yet a greater favourite than his mother, insomuch
that he had the King’s ear as well as his mouth at command, for the
King, you must know, was a mighty lover of pudding. It is needless to
enumerate the many sorts of pudding he made. He made every pudding
except quaking pudding, which was solely invented by our friends of the
_Bull and Mouth_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lord Chesterfield, best known for his _Letters to his Son_, showed
clever wit in his ideas and Phraseology.

Men who converse only with women are frivolous, effeminate puppies, and
those who never converse with them are bears.

       *       *       *       *       *

The desire of being pleased is universal. The desire of pleasing should
be so too. Misers are not so much blamed for being misers as envied for
being rich.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dissimulation to a certain degree is as necessary in business as
clothes are in the common intercourse of life; and a man would be as
imprudent who should exhibit his inside naked, as he would be indecent
if he produced his outside so.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hymen comes whenever he is called, but Love only when he pleases.

       *       *       *       *       *

An abject flatterer has a worse opinion of others, and, if possible, of
himself, than he ought to have.

       *       *       *       *       *

A woman will be implicitly governed by the man whom she is in love
with, but will not be directed by the man whom she esteems the most.
The former is the result of passion, which is her character; the latter
must be the effect of reasoning, which is by no means of the feminine

       *       *       *       *       *

The best moral virtues are those of which the vulgar are, perhaps, the
best judges.

       *       *       *       *       *

A fool never has thought, a madman has lost it; and an absent man is
for the time without it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Advice is seldom welcome; and those who want it the most always like it
the least.

       *       *       *       *       *

Of the writers who come next, chronologically, Fielding, Sterne,
Garrick, Smollett, Foote, and others of lesser degree, we can quote no
extracts, owing to the continuous character of their work.

At this time, humor was broad and wit coarse, yet the plays and novels
of the period have lasted and retained their reputation.

Which brings us to Samuel Johnson.

Doctor Johnson’s wit was ponderous, but as his is one of the greatest
names in Eighteenth Century literature, we give a bit from _The
Idler_ which is not entirely inappropriate to the present day.

                        _ON LYING NEWS-WRITERS_

No species of literary men has lately been so much multiplied as the
writers of news. Not many years ago the nation was content with one
gazette; but now we have not only in the metropolis papers for every
morning and every evening, but almost every large town has its weekly
historian, who regularly circulates his periodical intelligence, and
fills the villages of his district with conjectures on the events of
war, and with debates on the true interest of Europe.

To write news in its perfection requires such a combination of
qualities, that a man completely fitted for the task is not always to
be found. In Sir Henry Wotton’s jocular definition, “An ambassador is
said to be a man of virtue sent abroad to tell lies for the advantage
of his country; a news-writer is a man without virtue, who writes lies
at home for his own profit.” To these compositions is required neither
genius nor knowledge, neither industry nor sprightliness; but contempt
of shame and indifference to truth are absolutely necessary. He who
by a long familiarity with infamy has obtained these qualities, may
confidently tell to-day what he intends to contradict to-morrow; he may
affirm fearlessly what he knows that he shall be obliged to recant, and
may write letters from Amsterdam or Dresden to himself.

In a time of war the nation is always of one mind, eager to hear
something good of themselves and ill of the enemy. At this time the
task of news-writers is easy; they have nothing to do but to tell that
a battle is expected, and afterward that a battle has been fought, in
which we and our friends, whether conquering or conquered, did all, and
our enemies did nothing.

Scarcely anything awakens attention like a tale of cruelty. The writer
of news never fails in the intermission of action to tell how the
enemies murdered children and ravished virgins; and, if the scene of
action be somewhat distant, scalps half the inhabitants of a province.

Among the calamities of war may be justly numbered the diminution
of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and
credulity encourages. A peace will equally leave the warrior and
relater of wars destitute of employment; and I know not whether more
is to be dreaded from the streets filled with soldiers accustomed to
plunder, or from garrets filled with scribblers accustomed to lie.

       *       *       *       *       *

Also, lapsing into sheer nonsense verse, Doctor Johnson has left for
our delectation these delightful rhymes.

    As with my hat upon my head
      I walked along the Strand,
    I there did meet another man
      With his hat in his hand.

    The tender infant, meek and mild,
      Fell down upon the stone;
    The nurse took up the squealing child,
      But still the child squealed on.

    If a man who turnips cries,
    Cry not when his father dies,
    ’Tis a proof that he would rather
    Have a turnip than a father.

Oliver Goldsmith, humorous writer of plays and novels, left many world
famous books.

His rhymes are often of the nonsense variety, and, as was common in his
day, abounded in puns, or punning ideas.

                 _AN ELEGY ON THE DEATH OF A MAD DOG_

    Good people all, of every sort,
      Give ear unto my song;
    And if you find it wondrous short
      It cannot hold you long.

    In Islington there was a man
      Of whom the world might say
    That still a godly race he ran
      Whene’er he went to pray.

    A kind and gentle heart he had,
      To comfort friends and foes;
    The naked every day he clad,
      When he put on his clothes.

    And in that town a dog was found,
      As many dogs there be,
    Both mongrel, puppy, whelp, and hound,
      And curs of low degree.

    This dog and man at first were friends,
      But when a pique began,
    The dog, to gain his private ends,
      Went mad, and bit the man.

    Around from all the neighbouring streets
      The wondering neighbours ran,
    And swore the dog had lost his wits
      To bite so good a man.

    The wound it seemed both sore and sad
      To every Christian eye;
    And while they swore the dog was mad,
      They swore the man would die.

    But soon a wonder came to light,
      That show’d the rogues they lied:
    The man recover’d of the bite,
      The dog it was that died.

                              _AN ELEGY_


    Good people all, with one accord,
      Lament for Madam Blaize,
    Who never wanted a good word--
      From those who spoke her praise.

    The needy seldom pass’d her door,
      And always found her kind:
    She freely lent to all the poor--
      Who left a pledge behind.

    She strove the neighborhood to please
      With manners wondrous winning;
    And never follow’d wicked ways--
      Unless when she was sinning.

    At church, in silks and satins new,
      With hoop of monstrous size,
    She never slumber’d in her pew--
      But when she shut her eyes.

    Her love was sought, I do aver,
      By twenty beaux and more;
    The King himself has follow’d her--
      When she has walk’d before.

    But now, her wealth and finery fled,
      Her hangers-on cut short all;
    The doctors found, when she was dead--
      Her last disorder mortal.

    Let us lament, in sorrow sore,
      For Kent Street well may say,
    That had she lived a twelvemonth more
      She had not died to-day.

                             _PARSON GRAY_

    A quiet home had Parson Gray,
      Secluded in a vale;
    His daughters all were feminine,
      And all his sons were male.

    How faithfully did Parson Gray
      The bread of life dispense--
    Well “posted” in theology,
      And post and rail his fence.

    ’Gainst all the vices of the age
      He manfully did battle;
    His chickens were a biped breed,
      And quadruped his cattle.

    No clock more punctually went,
      He ne’er delayed a minute--
    Nor ever empty was his purse,
      When he had money in it.

    His piety was ne’er denied;
      His truths hit saint and sinner;
    At morn he always breakfasted;
      He always dined at dinner.

    He ne’er by any luck was grieved,
      By any care perplexed--
    No filcher he, though when he preached,
      He always “took” a text.

    As faithful characters he drew
      As mortal ever saw;
    But, ah! poor parson, when he died,
      His breath he could not draw.

William Cowper for the most part writes with a gentle, genial spirit, a
love of nature and a joy in the domestic relations

His muse, when humorous, is also a bit stilted.


    The circle formed, we sit in silent state,
    Like figures drawn upon a dial-plate.
    “Yes, ma’am” and “No, ma’am” uttered softly, show
    Every five minutes how the minutes go.
    Each individual, suffering a constraint--
    Poetry may, but colours cannot, paint--
    As if in close committee on the sky,
    Reports it hot or cold, or wet or dry,
    And finds a changing clime a happy source
    Of wise reflection and well-timed discourse.
    We next inquire, but softly and by stealth,
    Like conservators of the public health,
    Of epidemic throats, if such there are
    Of coughs and rheums, and phthisic and catarrh.
    That theme exhausted, a wide chasm ensues,
    Filled up at last with interesting news:
    Who danced with whom, and who are like to wed;
    And who is hanged, and who is brought to bed,
    But fear to call a more important cause,
    As if ’twere treason against English laws.
    The visit paid, with ecstasy we come,
    As from a seven years’ transportation, home
    And there resume an unembarrassed brow,
    Recovering what we lost we know not how,
    The faculties that seemed reduced to naught,
    Expression, and the privilege of thought.

                            _THE COLUBRIAD_

    Close by the threshold of a door nailed fast,
    Three kittens sat; each kitten looked aghast.
    I, passing swift and inattentive by,
    At the three kittens cast a careless eye;
    Not much concerned to know what they did there;
    Not deeming kittens worth a poet’s care.
    But presently, a loud and furious hiss
    Caused me to stop, and to exclaim, “What’s this
    When lo! upon the threshold met my view,
    With head erect, and eyes of fiery hue,
    A viper long as Count de Grasse’s queue.
    Forth from his head his forked tongue he throws,
    Darting it full against a kitten’s nose;
    Who, having never seen, in field or house,
    The like, sat still and silent as a mouse;
    Only projecting, with attention due,
    Her whiskered face, she asked him, “Who are you?”
    On to the hall went I, with pace not slow,
    But swift as lightning, for a long Dutch hoe:
    With which well armed, I hastened to the spot
    To find the viper--but I found him not.
    And, turning up the leaves and shrubs around,
    Found only that he was not to be found;
    But still the kittens, sitting as before,
    Sat watching close the bottom of the door.
    “I hope,” said I, “the villain I would kill
    Has slipped between the door and the door-sill;
    And if I make despatch, and follow hard,
    No doubt but I shall find him in the yard”:
    (For long ere now it should have been rehearsed,
    ’Twas in the garden that I found him first.)
    E’en there I found him: there the full-grown cat
    His head, with velvet paw, did gently pat;
    As curious as the kittens erst had been
    To learn what this phenomenon might mean.
    Filled with heroic ardour at the sight,
    And fearing every moment he would bite,
    And rob our household of our only cat
    That was of age to combat with a rat;
    With outstretched hoe I slew him at the door
    And taught him never to come there no more!

Richard Brinsley Sheridan, brilliant dramatist and gifted political
orator, wrote many plays, from which it is not possible to quote at

His epigrammatic style, and his humorous trend are shown in the bits
here given.

                         _LET THE TOAST PASS_

                     FROM “THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL”

    Here’s to the maiden of bashful fifteen;
      Here’s to the widow of fifty;
    Here’s to the flaunting extravagant quean,
      And here’s to the housewife that’s thrifty.
              Let the toast pass,
              Drink to the lass,
    I’ll warrant she’ll prove an excuse for the glass.

    Here’s to the charmer whose dimples we prize,
      Now to the maid who has none, sir;
    Here’s to the girl with a pair of blue eyes,
      And here’s to the nymph with but one, sir.
              Let the toast pass, etc.

    Here’s to the maid with a bosom of snow;
      Now to her that’s as brown as a berry;
    Here’s to the wife with a face full of woe,
      And now to the damsel that’s merry.
              Let the toast pass, etc.

    For let ’em be clumsy, or let ’em be slim,
      Young or ancient, I care not a feather;
    So fill a pint bumper quite up to the brim,
    So fill up your glasses, nay, fill to the brim,
      And let us e’en toast them together.
              Let the toast pass, etc.

                        _LORD ERSKINE’S SIMILE_

    Lord Erskine, at woman presuming to rail,
    Called a wife a tin canister tied to one’s tail;
    And fair Lady Anne, while this raillery he carries on,
    Seems hurt at his lordship’s degrading comparison.
    But wherefore degrading, if taken aright?
    A canister’s useful and polished and bright,
    And if dirt its original purity hide,
    ’Tis the fault of the puppy to whom it is tied.

                         _SHERIDAN’S CALENDAR_

    January snowy,
    February flowy,
    March blowy,

    April showry,
    May flowry,
    June bowery,

    July moppy,
    August croppy,
    September poppy,

    October breezy,
    November wheezy,
    December freezy.

George Colman, the Younger, best known as a comic dramatist, also wrote
many poetical travesties, which he published under various titles,
including the well known one of Broad Grins. These compositions show a
broad humor, not always in the best taste.

George Canning, among other amusements, chose to ridicule the Sapphic
rhymes of Southey, and wrote this burlesque upon the humanitarian
sentiments of Southey in his younger days, as well as of the Sapphic
stanzas in which he sometimes embodied them.


                          FRIEND OF HUMANITY

    Needy knife-grinder! whither are you going?
    Rough is the road; your wheel is out of order.
    Bleak blows the blast;--your hat has got a hole in’t;
                      So have your breeches!

    Weary knife-grinder! little think the proud ones,
    Who in their coaches roll along the turnpike-
    Road, what hard work ’tis crying all day,
                        “Knives and
                      Scissors to grind O!”

    Tell me, knife-grinder, how came you to grind knives?
    Did some rich man tyrannically use you?
    Was it the squire? or parson of the parish?
                      Or the attorney?

    Was it the squire for killing of his game? or
    Covetous parson for his tithes distraining?
    Or roguish lawyer made you lose your little
                      All in a lawsuit?

    (Have you not read the Rights of Man, by Tom Paine?)
    Drops of compassion tremble on my eyelids,
    Ready to fall as soon as you have told your
                      Pitiful story.


    Story! God bless you! I have none to tell, sir;
    Only, last night, a-drinking at the Chequers,
    This poor old hat and breeches, as you see, were
                      Torn in a scuffle.

    Constables came up for to take me into
    Custody; they took me before the justice;
    Justice Oldmixon put me into the parish
                      Stocks for a vagrant.

    I should be glad to drink your honor’s health in
    A pot of beer, if you will give me sixpence;
    But for my part, I never love to meddle
                      With politics, sir.

                          FRIEND TO HUMANITY

    I give thee sixpence! I will see thee damned first,--
    Wretch! whom no sense of wrongs can rouse to vengeance,--
    Sordid, unfeeling, reprobate, degraded,
                      Spiritless outcast!

_(Kicks the knife-grinder, overturns his wheel, and exit in a
transport of republican enthusiasm and universal philanthropy.)_

       *       *       *       *       *

Robert Burns, one of the chief names in Scottish literature, has been
called the Dictionary of Poetical Quotations.

Byron said, “The rank of Burns is the very first of his art”; and the
many-sided Scotchman had both admirers and detractors galore.

It has been noted that the Scotch have a sense of humor, “because
it is a gift.” Burns’ sense of humor secures for him a high place
among humorists, and though coarse in his expressions, he is not
intentionally vulgar.

                        _HOLY WILLIE’S PRAYER_

Holy Willie was a small farmer, leading elder to Dr. Auld, austere in
speech, scrupulous to all outward appearances, a professing Christian.
He experienced, however, “a sore fall”; he was “found out” to be a
hypocrite after Burns’ castigation, and was expelled the church for
embezzling the money of the poor of the parish. His name was William

    O Thou, wha in the Heavens dost dwell,
    Wha, as it pleases best thysel’,
    Sends ane to Heaven and ten to Hell,
            A’ for thy glory,
    And no for onie guid or ill
            They’ve done afore thee.

    I bless and praise thy matchless might,
    Whan thousands thou hast left in night,
    That I am here afore thy sight,
            For gifts and grace,
    A burning an’ a shining light
            To a’ this place.

    What was I, or my generation,
    That I should get such exaltation?
    I, wha deserve such just damnation,
            For broken laws,
    Five thousand years ’fore my creation,
            Thro’ Adam’s cause.

    When frae my mither’s womb I fell,
    Thou might hae plung’d me into Hell,
    To gnash my gums, to weep and wail
            In burnin’ lake,
    Where damned Devils roar and yell,
            Chain’d to a stake.

    Yet I am here a chosen sample,
    To show thy grace is great and ample;
    I’m here a pillar in thy temple,
            Strong as a rock.
    A guide, a buckler, an example,
            To a’ thy flock.

    O L--d, thou kens what zeal I bear,
    When drinkers drink, and swearers swear,
    And singin’ here, and dancing there,
            Wi’ great and sma’:
    For I am keepit by thy fear,
            Free frae them a’.

    But yet, O L--d! confess I must,
    At times I’m fash’d wi’ fleshly lust,
    An’ sometimes, too, wi’ warldly trust--
            Vile self gets in;
    But thou remembers we are dust,
             Defil’d in sin.

    O L--d! yestreen, thou kens, wi’ Meg--
    Thy pardon I sincerely beg,
    O! may it ne’er be a livin’ plague
            To my dishonor,
    An’ I’ll ne’er lift a lawless leg
            Again upon her.

    Besides, I farther maun allow,
    Wi’ Lizzie’s lass, three times I trow;
    But, L--d, that Friday I was fou,
            When I came near her,
    Or else thou kens thy servant true
            Wad ne’er hae steer’d her.

    May be thou lets this fleshly thorn
    Beset thy servant e’en and morn,
    Lest he owre high and proud should turn,
            ’Cause he’s sae gifted;
    If sae, thy hand maun e’en be borne,
            Until thou lift it.

    L--d, bless thy chosen in this place,
    For here thou hast a chosen race;
    But G--d confound their stubborn face,
            And blast their name,
    Wha bring thine elders to disgrace,
            An’ public shame.

    L--d, mind Gawn Hamilton’s deserts,
    He drinks, an swears, an’ plays at cartes,
    Yet has sae monie takin’ arts,
            Wi’ great and sma’,
    Frae God’s ain priests the people’s hearts
            He steals awa’.

    An’ whan we chasten’d him therefore,
    Thou kens how he bred sic a splore,
    As set the warld in a roar
            O’ laughin’ at us,
    Curse thou his basket and his store,
            Kail and potatoes.

    L--d, hear my earnest cry an’ pray’r,
    Against that presbyt’ry o’ Ayr;
    Thy strong right hand, L--d, make it bare,
            Upo’ their heads;
    L--d, weigh it down, and dinna spare,
            For their misdeeds.

    O L--d, my G--d, that glib-tongued Aiken,
    My very heart and saul are quakin’,
    To think how we stood sweatin’, shakin’,
            An’ swat wi’ dread,
    While he wi’ hingin’ lips gaed snakin’,
            And hid his head.

    L--d, in the day of vengeance try him,
    L--d, visit them wha did employ him,
    And pass not in thy mercy by ’em,
            Nor hear their pray’r;
    But, for thy people’s sake, destroy ’em,
            And dinna spare.

    But, L--d, remember me and mine
    Wi’ mercies temp’ral and divine,
    That I for gear and grace may shine,
            Excelled by nane,
    An’ a’ the glory shall be thine,
            Amen, Amen.

                      _ADDRESS TO THE TOOTHACHE_

    My curse upon thy venomed stang,
    That shoots my tortured gums alang;
    An’ through my lugs gies mony a twang,
            Wi’ gnawing vengeance!
    Tearing my nerves wi’ bitter pang,
            Like racking engines.

    When fevers burn, or ague freezes,
    Rheumatics gnaw, or cholic squeezes;
    Our neighbor’s sympathy may ease us,
            Wi’ pitying moan;
    But thee,--thou hell o’ a’ diseases,
            Aye mocks our groan.

    Adown my beard the slavers trickle;
    I throw the wee stools o’er the mickle,
    As round the fire the giglets keckle
            To see me loup;
    While, raving mad, I wish a heckle
            Were in their doup.

    O’ a’ the numerous human dools,
    Ill har’sts, daft bargains, cutty-stools,
    Or worthy friends raked i’ the mools,
            Sad sight to see!
    The tricks o’ knaves or fash o’ fools,
            Thou bear’st the gree.

    Where’er that place be priests ca’ hell,
    Whence a’ the tones o’ mis’ry yell,
    And rankèd plagues their numbers tell,
            In dreadfu’ raw,
    Thou, Toothache, surely bear’st the bell,
            Among them a’;

    O thou grim mischief-making chiel,
    That gars the notes of discord squeal,
    Till daft mankind aft dance a reel
              In gore a shoe-thick!--
    Gie a’ the faes o’ Scotland’s weal
              A fowmond’s Toothache!

                        THE NINETEENTH CENTURY

Quite lately, a well known humorist of the present day was making
an after dinner speech. A voice from the audience called out,
“Louder!--and funnier!”

Some such voice must have called out to the World’s Humor at the close
of the Eighteenth Century, for the beginning of the Nineteenth finds
the Humorous element in literature decidedly louder and funnier.

The Romantic Revival which at this time affected all literature and art
has been called both the effect and the cause of the French Revolution.

It has also been called the Renascence of Wonder, and as such it let
loose hitherto hidebound fancies and imaginations on boundless and
limitless flights. In these flights Humor showed speed and endurance
quite equal to those of Romance or Poesy.

Both in energy and methods, Humor came to the front with tremendous
strides. In quality and quantity it forged ahead, both as a component
part of more serious writings and also independently.

And while this was a consummation devoutly to be wished, it makes
harder the task of the Outliner.

Many great writers held to the conviction that in Romantic poetry humor
has no place. Others were avowed comic writers of verse or prose. But
others still allowed humor to meet and mingle with their numbers, to a
greater or less degree.

And the difficulty of selection lies in the fact that the incidental
humor is often funnier than the entirely humorous concept.

It is hard to omit such as Jane Austen, Sir Walter Scott, William
Wordsworth, yet quotations from their works, showing their humorous
vein, would occupy space demanded by the humorists themselves.

So, let us start in boldly with Sydney Smith, one of the most popular
wits of all ages.

Aside from this author’s epigrams and witty sayings, he wrote with
great wisdom and insight about the principles of humor itself, from
which we quote his sapient remarks on punning.

“It is imagined that wit is a sort of inexplicable visitation, that
it comes and goes with the rapidity of lightning, and that it is
quite as unattainable as beauty or just proportion. I am so much of a
contrary way of thinking, that I am convinced a man might sit down as
systematically and as successfully, to the study of wit as he might to
the study of mathematics; and I would answer for it that by giving up
only six hours a day to being witty, he should come on prodigiously
before midsummer, so that his friends should hardly know him again.
For what is there to hinder the mind from gradually acquiring a habit
of attending to the lighter relations of ideas in which wit consists?
Punning grows upon everybody, and punning is the wit of words. I do not
mean to say that it is so easy to acquire a habit of discovering new
relations in _ideas_ as in _words_, but the difficulty is
not so much greater as to render it insuperable to habit. One man is
unquestionably much better calculated for it by nature than another;
but association, which gradually makes a bad speaker a good one, might
give a man wit who had it not, if any man chose to be so absurd as to
sit down to acquire it.

“I have mentioned puns. They are, I believe, what I have denominated
them--the wit of words. They are exactly the same to words which wit
is to ideas, and consist in the sudden discovery of relations in
language. A pun, to be perfect in its kind, should contain two distinct
meanings; the one common and obvious, the other more remote; and in
the notice which the mind takes of the relation between these two
sets of words, and in the surprise which that relation excites, the
pleasure of a pun consists. Miss Hamilton, in her book on Education,
mentions the instance of a boy so very neglectful that he could never
be brought to read the word _patriarchs_; but whenever he met with
it he always pronounced it _partridges_. A friend of the writer
observed to her that it could hardly be considered as a mere piece
of negligence, for it appeared to him that the boy, in calling them
partridges, was _making game_ of the patriarchs. Now here are
two distinct meanings contained in the same phrase: for to make game
of the patriarchs is to laugh at them; or to make game of them is by
a very extravagant and laughable sort of ignorance of words, to rank
them among pheasants, partridges, and other such delicacies, which the
law takes under its protection and calls game: and the whole pleasure
derived from this pun consists in the sudden discovery that two such
different meanings are referable to one form of expression. I have very
little to say about puns; they are in very bad repute, and so they
ought to be. The wit of language is so miserably inferior to the wit of
ideas that it is very deservedly driven out of good company. Sometimes,
indeed, a pun makes its appearance which seems for a moment to redeem
its species; but we must not be deceived by them: it is a radically
bad race of wit. By unremitting persecution, it has been at last got
under, and driven into cloisters--from whence it must never again be
suffered to emerge into the light of the world. One invaluable blessing
produced by the banishment of punning is an immediate reduction of the
number of wits. It is a wit of so low an order, and in which some sort
of progress is so easily made, that the number of those endowed with
the gift of wit would be nearly equal to those endowed with the gift of
speech. The condition of putting together ideas in order to be witty
operates much in the same salutary manner as the condition of finding
rhymes in poetry;--it reduces the number of performers to those who
have vigour enough to overcome incipient difficulties, and make a sort
of provision that that which need not be done at all should be done
_well_ whenever it _is_ done.”

       *       *       *       *       *

This quotation from one of Sydney Smith’s Speeches is characteristic of
his style.

                           _MRS. PARTINGTON_

I do not mean to be disrespectful, but the attempt of the Lords to stop
the progress of reform reminds me very forcibly of the great storm of
Sidmouth, and of the conduct of the excellent Mrs. Partington on that
occasion. In the winter of 1824 there set in a great flood upon that
town--the tide rose to an incredible height--the waves rushed in upon
the houses--and everything was threatened with destruction. In the
midst of this sublime storm, Dame Partington, who lived upon the beach,
was seen at the door of her house with mop and pattens, trundling her
mop, and squeezing out the seawater, and vigorously pushing away the
Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic was roused; Mrs. Partington’s spirit was
up; but I need not tell you that the contest was unequal. The Atlantic
Ocean beat Mrs. Partington. She was excellent at a slop or a puddle,
but she should not have meddled with a tempest.--(From a Speech at
Taunton in 1831.)

And we add the ever popular Recipe for a Salad.


    To make this condiment, your poet begs
    The pounded yellow of two hard-boiled eggs.
    Two boiled potatoes, passed through kitchen-sieve,
    Smoothness and softness to the salad give.
    Let onion atoms lurk within the bowl,
    And, half-suspected, animate the whole.
    Of mordant mustard add a single spoon,
    Distrust the condiment that bites so soon;
    But deem it not, thou man of herbs, a fault,
    To add a double quantity of salt.
    And, lastly, o’er the flavoured compound toss
    A magic soup-spoon of anchovy sauce.
    Oh, green and glorious! Oh, herbaceous treat!
    ’Twould tempt the dying anchorite to eat;
    Back to the world he’d turn his fleeting soul,
    And plunge his fingers in the salad bowl!
    Serenely full, the epicure would say,
    Fate cannot harm me, I have dined to-day!

Charles Lamb, beloved alike of the humorous and serious minded,
disagrees with Sydney Smith regarding the pun.

His opinion,

“A pun is a noble thing _per se_. It is a sole digest of
reflection; it is entire; it fills the mind; it is as perfect as a
sonnet--better. It limps ashamed in the train and retinue of humour; it
knows it should have an establishment of its own.”

is shown in this instance.

Lamb was reserved among strangers. A friend, about to introduce him to
a circle of new faces, said, “Now will you promise, _Lamb_, not to
be as _sheepish_ as usual?” Charles replied, with a rustic air, “I

Such masterpieces as Lamb’s _Dissertation Upon Roast Pig_, and his
_Farewell to Tobacco_ are too lengthy to quote. We give some of
his shorter witty allusions.

       *       *       *       *       *

Coleridge went to Germany, and left word to Lamb that if he wished any
information on any subject, he might apply to him (i.e., by letter), so
Lamb sent him the following abstruse propositions, to which, however,
Coleridge did not deign an answer.

       *       *       *       *       *

Whether God loves a dying angel better than a true man?

       *       *       *       *       *

Whether the archangel Uriel _could_ knowingly affirm an untruth,
and whether, if he _could_, he _would_?

       *       *       *       *       *

Whether the higher order of seraphim illuminati ever _sneeze_?

       *       *       *       *       *

Whether an immortal and amenable soul may not come _to be damned at
last_, and the man never suspect it beforehand?

GOOD ACTIONS.--The greatest pleasure I know is to do a good
action by stealth, and to have it found out by accident.

       *       *       *       *       *

PAYING FOR THINGS.--One cannot bear to pay for articles he
used to get for nothing. When Adam laid out his first penny upon
nonpareils at some stall in Mesopotamia, I think it went hard with
him, reflecting upon his old goodly orchard, where he had so many for

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTHING TO DO.--Positively the best thing a man can have to do
is nothing, and, _next to that_, perhaps, good works.

       *       *       *       *       *

Robert Southey, though one time Poet Laureate, is not to be too highly
rated as a writer. His humorous poems are largely of the “jagged
categorical” type, and are whimseys rather than wit.

Notwithstanding the aspersion even then cast upon the pun, he regards
it as a legitimate vehicle.

                    _THE TEN LOST TRIBES OF ISRAEL_

That the lost ten tribes of Israel may be found in London, is a
discovery which any person may suppose he has made, when he walks for
the first time from the city to Wapping. That the tribes of Judah and
Benjamin nourish there is known to all mankind; and from them have
sprung the Scripites, and the Omniumites, and the Threepercentites.

But it is not so well known that many other tribes noticed in the Old
Testament are to be found in this island of Great Britain.

There are the Hittites, who excel in one branch of gymnastics. And
there are the Amorites, who are to be found in town and country;
and there are the Gadites, who frequent watering-places, and take
picturesque tours.

Among the Gadites I shall have some of my best readers, who being in
good humour with themselves and with everything else, except on a
rainy day, will even then be in good humour with me. There will be the
Amorites in their company; and among the Amorites, too, there will be
some who in the overflowing of their love, will have some liking to
spare for the doctor and his faithful memorialist.

The poets, those especially who deal in erotics, lyrics, sentimentals,
or sonnets, are the Ah-oh-ites.

The gentlemen who speculate in chapels are the Puhites.

The chief seat of the Simeonites is at Cambridge; but they are spread
over the land. So are the Man-ass-ites, of whom the finest specimens
are to be seen in St. James’s Street, at the fashionable time of day
for exhibiting the dress and the person upon the pavement.

The freemasons are of the family of the Jachinites.

The female Haggites are to be seen, in low life wheeling barrows, and
in high life seated at card-tables.

The Shuhamites are the cordwainers.

The Teamanites attend the sales of the East India Company.

Sir James Mackintosh, and Sir James Scarlett, and Sir James Graham
belong to the Jim-nites.

Who are the Gazathites, if the people of London are not, where anything
is to be seen? All of them are the Gettites when they can, all would be
Havites if they could.

The journalists should be Geshurites, if they answered to their
profession; instead of this they generally turn out to be Geshuwrongs.

There are, however, three tribes in England, not named in the Old
Testament, who considerably outnumber all the rest. These are the High
Vulgarites, who are the children of Rahank and Phashan, the Middle
Vulgarites, who are the children of Mammon and Terade, and the Low
Vulgarities, who are the children of Tahag, Rahag, and Bohobtay-il.
                                             --From “_The Doctor_.”

                        _THE WELL OF ST. KEYNE_

    A well there is in the West country,
      And a clearer one never was seen;
    There is not a wife in the West country
      But has heard of the Well of St. Keyne.

    An oak and an elm tree stand beside,
      And behind does an ash-tree grow,
    And a willow from the bank above
      Droops to the water below.

    A traveller came to the Well of St. Keyne;
      Pleasant it was to his eye,
    For from cock-crow he had been travelling,
      And there was not a cloud in the sky.

    He drank of the water so cool and clear,
      For thirsty and hot was he,
    And he sat down upon the bank,
      Under the willow-tree.

    There came a man from the neighboring town
      At the well to fill his pail,
    On the well-side he rested it,
      And bade the stranger hail.

    “Now art thou a bachelor, stranger?” quoth he,
      “For an if thou hast a wife,
    The happiest draught thou hast drank this day
      That ever thou didst in thy life.

    “O has your good woman, if one you have,
      In Cornwall ever been?
    For an if she have, I’ll venture my life
      She has drunk of the Well of St. Keyne.”

    “I have left a good woman who never was here,”
      The stranger he made reply;
    “But that my draught should be better for that,
      I pray you answer me why.”

    “St. Keyne,” quoth the countryman, “many a time
      Drank of this crystal well,
    And before the angel summoned her
      She laid on the water a spell.

    “If the husband of this gifted well
      Shall drink before his wife,
    A happy man thenceforth is he,
      For he shall be master for life.

    “But if the wife should drink of it first,
      Heaven help the husband then!”
    The stranger stooped to the Well of St. Keyne,
      And drank of the waters again.

    “You drank of the well, I warrant, betimes?”
      He to the countryman said.
    But the countryman smiled as the stranger spake,
      And sheepishly shook his head.

    “I hastened, as soon as the wedding was done,
      And left my wife in the porch.
    But i’ faith, she had been wiser than me,
      For she took a bottle to church.”

Theodore Hook, recorded as “a playwright, a punster and a practical
joker,” also gives a dissertation on puns and a bit of helpful advice.

       *       *       *       *       *

“Personal deformities or constitutional calamities are always to be
laid hold of. If anybody tells you that a dear friend has lost his
sight, observe that it will make him more hospitable than ever, since
now he would be glad _to see anybody_. If a clergyman breaks his
leg, remark that he is no longer a clergyman, but a _lame man_.
If a poet is seized with apoplexy, affect to disbelieve it, though you
know it to be true, in order to say, ‘Poeta nascitur non _fit_’;
and then, to carry the joke one step farther, add that “it is not a
_fit_ subject for a jest.” A man falling into a tan-pit you may
call ‘sinking in the _sublime_’; a climbing boy suffocated in a
chimney meets with a _sootable_ death; and a pretty girl having
caught the small-pox is to be much _pitted_. On the subject of
the ear and its defects, talk first of something in which a _cow
sticks_, and end by telling the story of the man who, having taken
great pains to explain something to his companion, at last got into a
rage at his apparent stupidity, and exclaimed, ‘Why, my dear sir, don’t
you comprehend? The thing is as plain as A B C.’ ‘I dare say it is,’
said the other, ‘but I am D E F.’

“It may be as well to give the beginner something of a notion of
the use he may make of the most ordinary words, for the purposes of

“The loss of a hat is always _felt_; if you don’t like sugar you may
_lump_ it; a glazier is a _panes_-taking man; candles are burnt because
wick-ed things always come to _light_; a lady who takes you home from a
party is kind in her _carriage_, and you say “nunc est _ridendum_” when
you step into it; if it happens to be a chariot, she is a _charitable_
person; birds’-nests and king-killing are synonymous, because they are
_high trees on_; a Bill for building a bridge should be sanctioned
by the Court of _Arches_, as well as the House of _Piers_; when a
man is dull, he goes to the sea-side to _Brighton_; a Cockney lover,
when sentimental, should live in _Heigh Hoburn_; the greatest fibber
is the man most to _re-lie_ upon; a dean expecting a bishopric looks
_for lawn_; a _sui_cide kills pigs, and not himself; a butcher is a
gross man, but a fig-seller is a _grocer_; Joshua never had a father
or mother, because he was the son of _Nun_; your grandmother and your
great-grandmother were your _aunt’s sisters_; a leg of mutton is better
than heaven, because nothing is better than heaven, and a leg of mutton
is better than nothing; races are matters of _course_; an ass can never
be a horse, although he may be a _mayor_; the Venerable Bede was the
mother of Pearl; a baker makes bread when he _kneads_ it; a doctor
cannot be a doctor all at once, because he comes to it by _degrees_;
a man hanged at Newgate has taken a _drop_ too much; the _bridle_ day
is that on which a man leads a woman to the halter. Never mind the
aspirate; punning’s all fair, as the archbishop said in the dream.

“Puns interrogatory are at times serviceable. You meet a man carrying
a hare; ask him if it is his own _hare_, or a wig--there you stump
him. Why is Parliament Street like a compendium? Because it goes to
a _bridge_. Why is a man murdering his mother in a garret a worthy
person? Because he is _above_ committing a crime. Instances of this
kind are innumerable. If you want to render your question particularly
pointed, you are, after asking it once or twice, to say ‘D’ye give it
up?’ Then favour your friends with the solution.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Richard Harris Barham, author of the _Ingoldsby Legends_, was an
intimate friend of Hook.

Like many another true humorist he was of the clergy, being a minor
canon of St. Paul’s cathedral.

His delightful tales are too long to quote, and only some shorter
pieces may be given.

Barham was among the first to raise parody to a recognized art.

                    _A “TRUE AND ORIGINAL” VERSION_

   In the autumn of 1824, Captain Medwin having hinted that certain
   beautiful lines on the burial of Sir John Moore might have been
   the production of Lord Byron’s muse, the late Mr. Sidney Taylor,
   somewhat indignantly, claimed them for their rightful owner,
   the Rev. Charles Wolfe. During the controversy a third claimant
   started up in the person of a _soi-disant_ “Doctor Marshall,”
   who turned out to be a Durham blacksmith, and _his_ pretensions
   a hoax. It was then that a certain “Dr. Peppercorn” put forth
   his pretensions, to what he averred was the only “true and
   original” version, viz.--

    Not a _sous_ had he got,--not a guinea or note,
      And he looked confoundedly flurried,
    As he bolted away without paying his shot,
      And the landlady after him hurried.

    We saw him again at dead of night,
      When home from the Club returning;
    We twigged the Doctor beneath the light
      Of the gas-lamp brilliantly burning.

    All bare, and exposed to the midnight dews,
      Reclined in the gutter we found him;
    And he looked like a gentleman taking a snooze,
      With his _Marshall_ cloak around him.

    “The Doctor’s as drunk as the devil,” we said,
      And we managed a shutter to borrow;
    We raised him, and sighed at the thought that his head
      Would “consumedly ache” on the morrow.

    We bore him home, and we put him to bed,
      And we told his wife and his daughter
    To give him, next morning a couple of red
      Herrings, with soda water.--

    Loudly they talked of his money that’s gone,
      And his Lady began to upbraid him;
    But little he reck’d, so they let him snore on
      ’Neath the counterpane just as we laid him.

    We tuck’d him in, and had hardly done
      When, beneath the window calling,
    We heard the rough voice of a son of a gun
      Of a watchman “One o’clock!” bawling.

    Slowly and sadly we all walked down
      From his room in the uppermost story;
    A rushlight we placed on the cold hearthstone,
      And we left him alone in his glory.

                          _RAISING THE DEVIL_

                     A LEGEND OF CORNELIUS AGRIPPA

    “And hast thou nerve enough?” he said,
    That gray Old Man, above whose head
        Unnumbered years had rolled,--
    “And hast thou nerve to view,” he cried,
      “The incarnate Fiend that Heaven defied!
        --Art thou indeed so bold?

    “Say, canst thou, with unshrinking gaze,
    Sustain, rash youth, the withering blaze
      Of that unearthly eye,
    That blasts where’er it lights,--the breath
    That, like the Simoom, scatters death
        On all that yet _can_ die!

    --“Darest thou confront that fearful form
    That rides the whirlwind and the storm,
        In wild unholy revel!
    The terrors of that blasted brow,
    Archangel’s once,--though ruined now--
        --Ay,--dar’st thou face THE DEVIL?”

    “I dare!” the desperate youth replied,
    And placed him by that Old Man’s side,
        In fierce and frantic glee,
    Unblenched his cheek, and firm his limb:
    --“No paltry juggling Fiend, but HIM,
        --THE DEVIL! I fain would see!--

    “In all his Gorgon terrors clad,
    His worst, his fellest shape!” the Lad
        Rejoined in reckless tone.--
    --“Have then thy wish!” Agrippa said,
    And sighed, and shook his hoary head,
        With many a bitter groan.

    He drew the Mystic circle’s bound,
    With skull and cross-bones fenced around;
        He traced full many a sigil there;
    He muttered many a backward pray’r,
        That sounded like a curse--
    “He comes!”--he cried with wild grimace,
    “The fellest of Apollyon’s race!”--
    --Then in his startled pupil’s face
        He dashed--an EMPTY PURSE!!

Thomas De Quincey, one of the best of humorists wrote _Confessions of
an Opium Eater_, with alas, all the necessary conditions to speak at
first hand.

His clever essay, _Murder as a Fine Art_, we trust, was not
founded on facts. This delightful bit of foolery, one of his many witty
effusions, can be given only in part.

                   _MURDER AS ONE OF THE FINE ARTS_

The first murder is familiar to you all. As the inventor of murder, and
the father of the art, Cain must have been a man of first-rate genius.
All the Cains were men of genius. Tubal Cain invented tubes, I think,
or some such thing. But, whatever might be the originality and genius
of the artist, every art was then in its infancy, and the works must be
criticised with the recollection of that fact. Even Tubal’s work would
probably be little approved at this day in Sheffield; and therefore
of Cain (Cain senior, I mean) it is no disparagement to say, that his
performance was but so-so. Milton, however, is supposed to have thought
differently. By his way of relating the case, it should seem to have
been rather a pet murder with him, for he retouches it with an apparent
anxiety for its picturesque effect:

    “Whereat he inly raged; and, as they talk’d,
    Smote him into the midriff with a stone
    That beat out life. He fell; and, deadly pale,
    Groan’d out his soul _with gushing blood effused_.”

Upon this, Richardson the painter, who had an eye for effect, remarks
as follows, in his _Notes on Paradise Lost_, p. 497: “It has been
thought,” says he, “that Cain beat--as the common saying is--the breath
out of his brother’s body with a great stone; Milton gives in to this,
with the addition, however, of a large wound.”

       *       *       *       *       *

But it is time that I should say a few words about the principles
of murder, not with a view to regulate your practice, but your
judgment. As to old women, and the mob of newspaper readers, they are
pleased with anything, provided it is bloody enough; but the mind of
sensibility requires something more. _First_, then, let us speak
of the kind of person who is adapted to the purpose of the murderer;
_secondly_, of the place where; _thirdly_, of the time when,
and other little circumstances.

As to the person, I suppose that it is evident that he ought to be a
good man; because, if he were not, he might himself, by possibility, be
contemplating murder at the very time; and such “diamond-cut-diamond”
tussles, though pleasant enough when nothing better is stirring, are
really not what a critic can allow himself to call murders.

       *       *       *       *       *

The subject chosen ought to be in good health: for it is absolutely
barbarous to murder a sick person, who is usually quite unable to
bear it. On this principle, no tailor ought to be chosen who is above
twenty-five, for after that age he is sure to be dyspeptic. Or at
least, if a man will hunt in that warren, he will of course think it
his duty, on the old established equation, to murder some multiple of
9--say 18, 27, or 36. And here, in this benign attention to the comfort
of sick people, you will observe the usual effect of a fine art to
soften and refine the feelings. The world in general, gentlemen, are
very bloody-minded; and all they want in a murder is a copious effusion
of blood; gaudy display in this point is enough for _them_. But
the enlightened connoisseur is more refined in his taste; and from our
art, as from all the other liberal arts when thoroughly mastered, the
result is, to humanise the heart.

A philosophic friend, well known for his philanthropy and general
benignity, suggests that the subject chosen ought also to have a
family of young children wholly dependent upon his exertions, by
way of deepening the pathos. And, undoubtedly, this is a judicious
caution. Yet I would not insist too keenly on such a condition. Severe
good taste unquestionably suggests it; but still, where the man was
otherwise unobjectionable in point of morals and health, I would not
look with too curious a jealousy to a restriction which might have the
effect of narrowing the artist’s sphere.

So much for the person. As to the time, the place, and the tools, I
have many things to say, which at present I have no room for. The
good sense of the practitioner has usually directed him to night and
privacy. Yet there have not been wanting cases where this rule was
departed from with excellent effect.

       *       *       *       *       *

LORD BYRON, whose works are variously adjudged by the critics,
owes much to the fact that he was possessed of a distinct and definite
sense of humor.

It is that which saves many of his long and dull stretches of verse
from utter unreadability.

His facile rhymes, apparently tossed off with little of or no effort,
embody in the best possible manner his graceful fun.

The _ottava rima_ of Don Juan, though often careless, even
slovenly as to technical details, is surely the meter best fitted for
the theme.

    Juan embarked--the ship got under way,
      The wind was fair, the water passing rough;
    A devil of a sea rolls in that bay,
      As I, who’ve crossed it oft, know well enough;
    And, standing upon deck, the dashing spray
      Flies in one’s face, and makes it weather-tough;
    And there he stood to take, and take again,
    His first--perhaps his last--farewell of Spain.

    I can’t but say it is an awkward sight
      To see one’s native land receding through
    The growing waters; it unmans one quite,
      Especially when life is rather new.
    I recollect Great Britain’s coast looks white,
      But almost every other country’s blue,
    When gazing on them, mystified by distance,
    We enter on our nautical existence.

    So Juan stood, bewildered on the deck:
      The wind sung, cordage strained, and sailors swore,
    And the ship creaked, the town became a speck,
      From which away so fair and fast they bore.
    The best of remedies is a beef-steak
      Against sea-sickness: try it, sir, before
    You sneer, and I assure you this is true,
    For I have found it answer--so may you.

    “And oh! if e’er I should forget, I swear--
      But that’s impossible, and cannot be--
    Sooner shall this blue ocean melt to air,
      Sooner shall earth resolve itself to sea,
    Than I resign thine image, oh, my fair!
      Or think of anything excepting thee;
    A mind diseased no remedy can physic.”
    (Here the ship gave a lurch and he grew sea-sick.)

    “Sooner shall heaven kiss earth!” (Here he fell sicker.)
      “Oh, Julia! what is every other woe?
    (For God’s sake let me have a glass of liquor;
      Pedro, Battista, help me down below.)
    Julia, my love! (you rascal, Pedro, quicker)
      Oh, Julia! (this curst vessel pitches so)
    Beloved Julia, hear me still beseeching!”
    (Here he grew inarticulate with retching.)

    He felt that chilling heaviness of heart,
      Or rather stomach, which, alas! attends,
    Beyond the best apothecary’s art,
      The loss of love, the treachery of friends,
    Or death of those we dote on, when a part
      Of us dies with them as each fond hope ends.
    No doubt he would have been much more pathetic,
    But the sea acted as a strong emetic.


    If, in the month of dark December,
      Leander, who was nightly wont
    (What maid will not the tale remember?)
      To cross thy stream, broad Hellespont;

    If, when the wint’ry tempest roar’d,
      He sped to Hero nothing loath,
    And thus of old thy current pour’d,
      Fair Venus! how I pity both!

    For _me_, degenerate, modern wretch,
      Though in the genial month of May,
    My dripping limbs I faintly stretch,
      And think I’ve done a feat to-day.

    But since he crossed the rapid tide,
      According to the doubtful story,
    To woo--and--Lord knows what beside,
      And swam for Love, as I for Glory;

    ’Twere hard to say who fared the best:
      Sad mortals, thus the gods still plague you!
    He lost his labour, I my jest;
      For he was drowned, and I’ve the ague.

Thomas Hood, versatile alike in humorous or pathetic vein, was a
prolific and successful punster. If the form could be forgiven anybody
it must be condoned in his case. He also was apt at parody and often
blended pathos and tragedy with his humorous work.

                        _FAITHLESS NELLY GRAY_

                           A PATHETIC BALLAD

    Ben Battle was a soldier bold,
      And used to war’s alarms;
    But a cannon-ball took off his legs,
      So he laid down his arms!

    Now, as they bore him off the field,
      Said he, “Let others shoot,
    For here I leave my second leg,
      And the Forty-Second Foot!”

    The army-surgeons made him limbs;
      Said he, “they’re only pegs:
    But there’s as wooden Members quite
      As represent my legs!”

    Now Ben he loved a pretty maid,
      Her name was Nelly Gray;
    So he went to pay her his devours,
      When he devoured his pay!

    But when he called on Nelly Gray,
      She made him quite a scoff;
    And when she saw his wooden legs,
      Began to take them off!

    “O, Nelly Gray! O, Nelly Gray!
      Is this your love so warm?
    The love that loves a scarlet coat
      Should be more uniform!”

    Said she, “I loved a soldier once,
      For he was blithe and brave;
    But I will never have a man
      With both legs in the grave!

    “Before you had those timber toes,
      Your love I did allow;
    But then, you know, you stand upon
      Another footing now!”

    “O, Nelly Gray! O, Nelly Gray!
      For all your jeering speeches;
    At duty’s call I left my legs,
      In Badajos’s _breeches_!”

    “Why then,” said she, “you’ve lost the feet
      Of legs in war’s alarms,
    And now you cannot wear your shoes
      Upon your feats of arms!”

    “O, false and fickle Nelly Gray!
      I know why you refuse:--
    Though I’ve no feet--some other man
      Is standing in my shoes!

    “I wish I ne’er had seen your face;
      But now, a long farewell!
    For you will be my death;--alas!
      You will not be my _Nell_!”

    Now when he went from Nelly Gray
      His heart so heavy got,
    And life was such a burden grown,
      It made him take a knot!

    So round his melancholy neck
      A rope he did entwine,
    And, for his second time in life,
      Enlisted in the Line.

    One end he tied around a beam,
      And then removed his pegs,
    And, as his legs were off--of course
      He soon was off his legs!

    And there he hung, till he was dead
      As any nail in town--
    For though distress had cut him up,
      It could not cut him down!

    A dozen men sat on his corpse,
      To find out why he died--
    And they buried Ben in four cross-roads,
      With a _stake_ in his inside!


      No sun--no moon!
      No morn--no noon--
    No dawn--no dusk--no proper time of day--
      No sky--no earthly view--
      No distance looking blue--
    No road--no street--no “t’other side the way”--
      No end to any Row--
      No indications where the Crescents go--
      No top to any steeple--
    No recognitions of familiar people--
      No courtesies for showing ’em--
      No knowing ’em!
    To travelling at all--no locomotion,
    No inkling of the way--no notion--
      No go--by land or ocean--
      No mail--no post--
      No news from any foreign coast--
    No park--no ring--no afternoon gentility--
      No company--no nobility--
    No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
      No comfortable feel in any member--
    No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees.
      No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds.

The brothers James and Horace Smith, wrote what was in their day
considered lively and amusing humor, but which seems a trifle dry to
us. Their greatest work was the _Rejected Addresses_, a series of
parodies on the poets, such as Wordsworth, Southey, Coleridge, Scott,
Moore and many others.

One of these, an imitation of Wordsworth’s most simple style, succeeds
in parodying his mawkish affectations of childish simplicity and
nursery stammering.

                          _THE BABY’S DÉBUT_

   [_Spoken in the character of Nancy Lake, a girl eight years of
   age, who is drawn upon the stage in a child’s chaise by Samuel
   Hughes, her uncle’s porter._]

    My brother Jack was nine in May,
    And I was eight on New-Year’s day;
      So in Kate Wilson’s shop
    Papa (he’s my papa and Jack’s)
    Bought me, last week, a doll of wax,
      And brother Jack a top.

    Jack’s in the pouts, and this it is,--
    He thinks mine came to more than his;
      So to my drawer he goes,
    Takes out the doll, and, oh, my stars!
    He pokes her head between the bars,
      And melts off half her nose!

    Quite cross, a bit of string I beg,
    And tie it to his peg-top’s peg,
      And bang, with might and main,
    Its head against the parlour-door:
    Off flies the head, and hits the floor,
      And breaks a window-pane.

    This made him cry with rage and spite:
    Well, let him cry, it serves him right.
      A pretty thing, forsooth!
    If he’s to melt, all scalding hot,
    Half my doll’s nose, and I am not
      To draw his peg-top’s tooth!

    Aunt Hannah heard the window break,
    And cried, “Oh naughty Nancy Lake,
      Thus to distress your aunt:
    No Drury-Lane for you to-day!”
    And while papa said, “Pooh, she may!”
      Mamma said, “No, she sha’n’t!”

    Well, after many a sad reproach,
    They get into a hackney coach,
      And trotted down the street.
    I saw them go: one horse was blind,
    The tails of both hung down behind,
      Their shoes were on their feet.

    The chaise in which poor brother Bill
    Used to be drawn to Pentonville,
      Stood in the lumber-room:
    I wiped the dust from off the top,
    While Molly mopp’d it with a mop,
      And brush’d it with a broom.

    My uncle’s porter, Samuel Hughes,
    Came in at six to black the shoes
      (I always talk to Sam):
    So what does he, but takes, and drags
    Me in the chaise along the flags,
      And leaves me where I am.

    My father’s walls are made of brick,
    But not so tall, and not so thick
      As these; and, goodness me!
    My father’s beams are made of wood,
    But never, never half so good
      As those that now I see.

    What a large floor! ’tis like a town!
    The carpet, when they lay it down,
      Won’t hide it, I’ll be bound;
    And there’s a row of lamps!--my eye!
    How they do blaze! I wonder why
      They keep them on the ground.

    At first I caught hold of the wing,
    And kept away; but Mr. Thing-
      um bob, the prompter man,
    Gave with his hand my chaise a shove,
    And said, “Go on, my pretty love;
      Speak to ’em, little Nan.

    “You’ve only got to curtsey, whisp-
    er, hold your chin up, laugh, and lisp,
      And then you’re sure to take:
    I’ve known the day when brats, not quite
    Thirteen, got fifty pounds a night;
      Then why not Nancy Lake?”

    But while I’m speaking, where’s papa?
    And where’s my aunt? and where’s mamma?
      Where’s Jack? Oh, there they sit!
    They smile, they nod; I’ll go my ways,
    And order round poor Billy’s chaise,
      To join them in the pit.

    And now, good gentlefolks, I go
    To join mamma, and see the show;
      So, bidding you adieu,
    I curtsey, like a pretty miss,
    And if you’ll blow to me a kiss,
      I’ll blow a kiss to you.

                                             [_Blows a kiss, and exit._

                     _THE MILKMAID AND THE BANKER_

    A Milkmaid, with a pretty face,
          Who lived at Acton,
    Had a black cow, the ugliest in the place,
          A crooked-backed one,
    A beast as dangerous, too, as she was frightful,
          Vicious and spiteful;
    And so confirmed a truant that she bounded
    Over the hedges daily and got pounded:
    ’Twas in vain to tie her with a tether,
    For then both cow and cord eloped together.
    Armed with an oaken bough--(what folly!
    It should have been of thorn, or prickly holly),
    Patty one day was driving home the beast,
      Which had as usual slipped its anchor,
      When on the road she met a certain Banker,
    Who stopped to give his eyes a feast,
    By gazing on her features crimsoned high
    By a long cow-chase in July.

    “Are you from Acton, pretty lass?” he cried;
    “Yes”--with a courtesy she replied.
    “Why, then, you know the laundress, Sally Wrench?”
      “Yes, she’s my cousin, sir, and next-door neighbor.”
    “That’s lucky--I’ve a message for the wench
    Which needs despatch, and you may save my labor.
    Give her this kiss, my dear, and say I sent it:
    But mind, you owe me one--I’ve only lent it.”
    “She shall know,” cried the girl, as she brandished her bough,
      “Of the loving intentions you bore me;
    But since you’re in haste for the kiss, you’ll allow,
    That you’d better run forward and give it my cow,
    For she, at the rate she is scampering now,
      Will reach Acton some minutes before me.”
                                                   HORACE SMITH.

                    _THE JESTER CONDEMNED TO DEATH_

    One of the Kings of Scanderoon,
      A royal jester,
    Had in his train a gross buffoon,
      Who used to pester
    The Court with tricks inopportune,
    Venting on the highest folks his
    Scurvy pleasantries and hoaxes.
    It needs some sense to play the fool,
    Which wholesome rule
      Occurred not to our jackanapes,
    Who consequently found his freaks
      Lead to innumerable scrapes,
    And quite as many kicks and tweaks,
    Which only seemed to make him faster
    Try the patience of his master.

    Some sin, at last, beyond all measure,
    Incurred the desperate displeasure
      Of his serene and raging highness:
    Whether he twitched his most revered
    And sacred beard,
      Or had intruded on the shyness
    Of the seraglio, or let fly
    An epigram at royalty,
    None knows: his sin was an occult one,
    But records tell us that the Sultan,
    Meaning to terrify the knave,
      Exclaimed, “’Tis time to stop that breath:
    Thy doom is sealed, presumptuous slave!
      Thou stand’st condemned to certain death:
    Silence, base rebel! no replying!
      But such is my indulgence still,
      That, of my own free grace and will,
    I leave to thee the mode of dying.”

    “Thy royal will be done--’tis just,”
    Replied the wretch, and kissed the dust;
      “Since, my last moments to assuage,
    Your majesty’s humane decree
    Has deigned to leave the choice to me,
      I’ll die, so please you, of old age!”
                                 HORACE SMITH.

It is to be regretted that the feminine writers of this period showed
practically no evidence of humorous scintillation, but we have
searched in vain through the writings of Ann and Jane Taylor, Mary
Russell Mitford, Felicia Hemans and Letitia Elizabeth Landon,--finding
only some unconscious humor, not at all intentional on the part of the
authoresses, as they were then called.

William Maginn was also adept at parody, but his work was ephemeral.

The rollicking rhyme of the Irishman is among the most interesting of
his poems.

                            _THE IRISHMAN_

          There was a lady lived at Leith,
            A lady very stylish, man,
          And yet, in spite of all her teeth,
            She fell in love with an Irishman,
              A nasty, ugly Irishman,
              A wild, tremendous Irishman,
    A tearing, swearing, thumping, bumping, ranting, roaring Irishman.

          His face was no ways beautiful,
            For with small-pox ’twas scarred across,
          And the shoulders of the ugly dog
            Were almost double a yard across.
              Oh, the lump of an Irishman,
              The whisky-devouring Irishman,
    The great he-rogue, with his wonderful brogue, the fighting,
        rioting Irishman!

          One of his eyes was bottle-green,
            And the other eye was out, my dear,
          And the calves of his wicked-looking legs
            Were more than two feet about, my dear.
              Oh, the great big Irishman,
              The rattling, battling Irishman,
    The stamping, ramping, swaggering, staggering, leathering swash of
        an Irishman!

          He took so much of Lundy-foot
            That he used to snort and snuffle, oh,
          And in shape and size the fellow’s neck
            Was as bad as the neck of a buffalo.
              Oh, the horrible Irishman,
              The thundering, blundering Irishman,
    The slashing, dashing, smashing, lashing, thrashing, hashing

          His name was a terrible name indeed,
            Being Timothy Thady Mulligan;
          And whenever he emptied his tumbler of punch,
            He’d not rest till he’d filled it full again.
              The boozing, bruising Irishman,
              The ’toxicated Irishman,
    The whisky, frisky, rummy, gummy, brandy, no-dandy Irishman.

          This was the lad the lady loved,
            Like all the girls of quality;
          And he broke the skulls of the men of Leith,
            Just by the way of jollity.
              Oh, the leathering Irishman,
              The barbarous, savage Irishman!
    The hearts of the maids and the gentlemen’s heads were bothered,
        I’m sure, by this Irishman.

Thomas Haynes Bayly, though not especially a humorist, showed the
influence of a witty muse in his songs, which were numerous and popular.

_She Wore a Wreath of Roses_, _Oh, No, We Never Mention Her_
and _Gaily the Troubadour Touched his Guitar_ are among the best

He was the author of many bright bits of Society Verse, and wrote some
deep and very real satire.

                     _WHY DON’T THE MEN PROPOSE?_

    Why don’t the men propose, mamma?
      Why don’t the men propose?
    Each seems just coming to the point,
      And then away he goes;
    It is no fault of yours, mamma,
      _That_ everybody knows;
    You _fête_ the finest men in town,
      Yet, oh! they won’t propose.

    I’m sure I’ve done my best, mamma,
      To make a proper match;
    For coronets and eldest sons,
      I’m ever on the watch;
    I’ve hopes when some _distingué_ beau
      A glance upon me throws;
    But though he’ll dance and smile and flirt,
      Alas! he won’t propose.

    I’ve tried to win by languishing,
      And dressing like a blue;
    I’ve bought big books and talked of them
      As if I’d read them through!
    With hair cropp’d like a man I’ve felt
      The heads of all the beaux;
    But Spurzheim could not touch their hearts,
      And oh! they won’t propose.

    I threw aside the books, and thought
      That ignorance was bliss;
    I felt convinced that men preferred
      A simple sort of Miss;
    And so I lisped out nought beyond
      Plain “yesses” or plain “noes,”
    And wore a sweet unmeaning smile;
      Yet, oh! they won’t propose.

    Last night at Lady Ramble’s rout
      I heard Sir Henry Gale
    Exclaim, “Now I _propose_ again----”
      I started, turning pale;
    I really thought my time was come,
      I blushed like any rose;
    But oh! I found ’twas only at
      _Ecarté_ he’d propose.

    And what is to be done, mamma?
      Oh, what is to be done?
    I really have no time to lose,
      For I am thirty-one;
    At balls I am too often left
      Where spinsters sit in rows;
    Why don’t the men propose, mamma?
      Why _won’t_ the men propose?

Frederick Marryat, oftener spoken of as Captain Marryat was among the
most renowned writers of sea stories, and easily the most humorous of
the authors who chose the sea for their fictional setting.

His books are well known in all households, and after Dickens there is
probably no English novelist who has caused more real chuckles.

                           _NAUTICAL TERMS_

All the sailors were busy at work, and the first lieutenant cried out
to the gunner, “Now, Mr. Dispart, if you are ready, we’ll breech these

“Now, my lads,” said the first lieutenant, “we must slug (the part the
breeches cover) more forward.” As I never had heard of a gun having
breeches, I was very curious to see what was going on, and went up
close to the first lieutenant, who said to me, “Youngster, hand me that
_monkey’s tail_.” I saw nothing like a _monkey’s tail_, but I was so
frightened that I snatched up the first thing that I saw, which was
a short bar of iron, and it so happened that it was the very article
which he wanted. When I gave it to him, the first lieutenant looked at
me, and said, “So you know what a monkey’s tail is already, do you? Now
don’t you ever sham stupid after that.”

Thought I to myself, I’m very lucky, but if that’s a monkey’s tail,
it’s a very stiff one!

I resolved to learn the names of everything as fast as I could, that I
might be prepared, so I listened attentively to what was said; but I
soon became quite confused, and despaired of remembering anything.

“How is this to be finished off, sir?” inquired a sailor of the

“Why, I beg leave to hint to you, sir, in the most delicate manner
in the world,” replied the boatswain, “that it must be with a
_double-wall_--and be damned to you--don’t you know that yet?
Captain of the foretop,” said he, “up on your _horses_, and take
your _stirrups_ up three inches.” “Aye, aye, sir.” I looked and
looked, but I could see no horses.

“Mr. Chucks,” said the first lieutenant to the boatswain, “what blocks
have we below--not on charge?”

“Let me see, sir. I’ve one _sister_, t’other we split in half the other
day, and I think I have a couple of _monkeys_ down in the store-room. I
say, you Smith, pass that brace through the _bull’s eye_, and take the
_sheep-shank_ out before you come down.”

And then he asked the first lieutenant whether something should
not be fitted with a _mouse_ or only a _Turk’s-head_--told him the
_goose-neck_ must be spread out by the armourer as soon as the forge
was up. In short, what with _dead-eyes_ and _shrouds_, _cats_ and
_cat-blocks_, _dolphins_ and _dolphin-strikers, whips_ and _puddings_,
I was so puzzled with what I heard, that I was about to leave the deck
in absolute despair.

“And, Mr. Chucks, recollect this afternoon that you _bleed_ all the

Bleed the boys, thought I; what can that be for? At all events, the
surgeon appears to be the proper person to perform that operation.
                                                  --_Peter Simple._

Douglas Jerrold was an infant prodigy and later a noted playwright;
beside being the author of the world famous Caudle lectures.

He was a celebrated wit and punster and though many epigrammatic
sayings are wrongly attributed to him, yet he was the originator of as
many more.

                   _COLD MUTTON, PUDDING, PANCAKES_

“What am I grumbling about, now? It’s very well for you to ask that!
I’m sure I’d better be out of the world than--there now, Mr Caudle;
there you are again! I _shall_ speak, sir. It isn’t often I open my
mouth, Heaven knows! But you like to hear nobody talk but yourself. You
ought to have married a negro slave, and not any respectable woman.

“You’re to go about the house looking like thunder all the day, and
I’m not to say a word. Where do you think pudding’s to come from every
day? You show a nice example to your children, you do; complaining, and
turning your nose up at a sweet piece of cold mutton, because there’s
no pudding! You go a nice way to make ’em extravagant--teach ’em nice
lessons to begin the world with. Do you know what puddings cost; or do
you think they fly in at the window?

“You hate cold mutton. The more shame for you, Mr. Caudle. I’m sure
you’ve the stomach of a lord, you have. No, sir; I didn’t choose to
hash the mutton. It’s very easy for you to say hash it; but _I_
know what a joint loses in hashing: it’s a day’s dinner the less, if
it’s a bit. Yes, I dare say; other people may have puddings with cold
mutton. No doubt of it; and other people become bankrupts. But if ever
you get into the _Gazette_, it sha’n’t be _my_ fault--no;
I’ll do my duty as a wife to you, Mr. Caudle; you shall never have it
to say that it was _my_ housekeeping that brought you to beggary.
No; you may sulk at the cold meat--ha! I hope you’ll never live to want
such a piece of cold mutton as we had to-day! and you may threaten
to go to a tavern to dine; but, with our present means, not a crumb
of pudding do you get from me. You shall have nothing but the cold
joint--nothing, as I’m a Christian sinner.

“Yes; there you are, throwing those fowls in my face again! I know you
once brought home a pair of fowls; I know it; but you were mean enough
to want to stop ’em out of my week’s money! Oh, the selfishness--the
shabbiness of men! They can go out and throw away pounds upon pounds
with a pack of people who laugh at ’em afterward; but if it’s anything
wanted for their own homes, their poor wives may hunt for it. I wonder
you don’t blush to name those fowls again! I wouldn’t be so little for
the world, Mr. Caudle!

“What are you going to do? _Going to get up?_ Don’t make yourself
ridiculous, Mr. Caudle; I can’t say a word to you like any other wife,
but you must threaten to get up. _Do_ be ashamed of yourself.

“Puddings, indeed! Do you think I’m made of puddings? Didn’t you have
some boiled rice three weeks ago? Besides, is this the time of the
year for puddings? It’s all very well if I had money enough allowed
me like any other wife to keep the house with; then, indeed, I might
have preserves like any other woman; now, it’s impossible; and it’s
cruel--yes, Mr. Caudle, cruel--of you to expect it.

“_Apples ar’n’t so dear, are they?_ I know what apples are, Mr.
Caudle, without your telling me. But I suppose you want something more
than apples for dumplings? I suppose sugar costs something, doesn’t it?
And that’s how it is. That’s how one expense brings on another, and
that’s how people go to ruin.

“_Pancakes?_ What’s the use of your lying muttering there about
pancakes? Don’t you always have ’em once a year--every Shrove Tuesday?
And what would any moderate, decent man want more?

“Pancakes, indeed! Pray, Mr. Caudle--no, it’s no use your saying fine
words to me to let you go to sleep; I sha’n’t. Pray, do you know the
price of eggs just now? There’s not an egg you can trust to under seven
and eight a shilling; well, you’ve only just to reckon up how many
eggs--don’t lie swearing there at the eggs in that manner, Mr. Caudle;
unless you expect the bed to let you fall through. You call yourself a
respectable tradesman, I suppose? Ha! I only wish people knew you as
well as I do! Swearing at eggs, indeed! But I’m tired of this usage,
Mr. Caudle; quite tired of it; and I don’t care how soon it’s ended!

“I’m sure I do nothing but work and labour, and think how to make the
most of everything; and this is how I’m rewarded.”

                                --_Mrs. Caudle’s Curtain Lectures._

“Call that a kind man,” said an actor of an absent acquaintance; “a man
who is away from his family, and never sends them a farthing! Call that
kindness!” “Yes, unremitting kindness,” Jerrold replied.

Some member of “Our Club,” hearing an air mentioned, exclaimed: “That
always carries me away when I hear it.” “Can nobody whistle it?”
exclaimed Jerrold.

A friend said to Jerrold: “Have you heard about poor R---- [a lawyer]?
His business is going to the devil.” Jerrold answered: “That’s all
right: then he is sure to get it back again.”

       *       *       *       *       *

If an earthquake were to engulf England to-morrow, the English would
meet and dine somewhere just to celebrate the event.

       *       *       *       *       *

Of a man who had pirated one of his jests, and who was described in his
hearing as an honest fellow, he said, “Oh yes, you can trust him with
untold jokes.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Jerrold met Alfred Bunn one day in Piccadilly. Bunn stopped Jerrold,
and said, “I suppose you’re strolling about, picking up character.”
“Well, not exactly,” said Jerrold, “but there’s plenty lost hereabouts.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Jerrold was seriously disappointed with a certain book written by
one of his friends. This friend heard that he had expressed his
disappointment. _Friend_ (to Jerrold): “I heard you said it was
the worst book I ever wrote.” _Jerrold_: “No, I didn’t. I said it
was the worst book anybody ever wrote.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Some one was talking with him about a gentleman as celebrated for
the intensity as for the shortness of his friendships. “Yes,” said
Jerrold, “his friendships are so warm, that he no sooner takes them up
than he puts them down again.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Thomas Moore, called the most successful Irishman of letters of the
nineteenth century, early developed a taste for music and a talent for
versification. To this add his native wit, and we have a humorist of no
mean order.

He wrote epistles, odes, satires and songs with equal facility, and to
these he added books of travel and biography and history.

His quick wit is shown in his lighter verse and epigrams.


    Good reader, if you e’er have seen,
      When Phœbus hastens to his pillow,
    The mermaids with their tresses green
      Dancing upon the western billow;
        If you have seen at twilight dim,
        When the lone spirit’s vesper hymn
      Floats wild along the winding shore,
    The fairy train their ringlets weave
      Glancing along the spangled green;--
        If you have seen all this, and more,
      God bless me! what a deal you’ve seen!


    I do confess, in many a sigh,
    My lips have breath’d you many a lie,
    And who, with such delights in view,
    Would lose them for a lie or two?

    Nay--look not thus, with brow reproving:
    Lies are, my dear, the soul of loving!
    If half we tell the girls were true,
    If half we swear to think and do,
    Were aught but lying’s bright illusion,
    The world would be in strange confusion!
    If ladies’ eyes were, every one,
    As lovers swear, a radiant sun,
    Astronomy should leave the skies,
    To learn her lore in ladies’ eyes!
    Oh no!--believe me, lovely girl,
    When nature turns your teeth to pearl,
    Your neck to snow, your eyes to fire,
    Your yellow locks to golden wire,
    Then, only then, can heaven decree,
    That you should live for only me,
    Or I for you, as night and morn,
    We’ve swearing kiss’d, and kissing sworn.
    And now, my gentle hints to clear,
    For once, I’ll tell you truth, my dear!
    Whenever you may chance to meet
    A loving youth, whose love is sweet,
    Long as you’re false and he believes you,
    Long as you trust and he deceives you,
    So long the blissful bond endures;
    And while he lies, his heart is yours:
    But, oh! you’ve wholly lost the youth
    The instant that he tells you truth!

                       _WHAT’S MY THOUGHT LIKE?_

      _Quest._--Why is a Pump like Viscount Castlereagh?
      _Answ._--Because it is a slender thing of wood,
    That up and down its awkward arm doth sway,
    And coolly spout, and spout, and spout away,
      In one weak, washy, everlasting flood!

                           _OF ALL THE MEN_

    Of all the men one meets about,
      There’s none like Jack--he’s everywhere:
    At church--park--auction--dinner--rout--
      Go when and where you will, he’s there.
    Try the West End, he’s at your back--
      Meets you, like Eurus, in the East--
    You’re call’d upon for “How do, Jack?”
      One hundred times a day, at least.
    A friend of his one evening said,
      As home he took his pensive way,
    “Upon my soul, I fear Jack’s dead--
      I’ve seen him but three times to-day!”

                          _ON TAKING A WIFE_

    “Come, come,” said Tom’s father, “at your time of life,
      There’s no longer excuse for thus playing the rake.--
    It is time you should think, boy, of taking a wife.”--
      “Why, so it is, father,--whose wife shall I take?”



    Between Adam and me the great difference is,
      Though a paradise each has been forced to resign,
    That he never wore breeches till turn’d out of his,
      While, for want of my breeches, I’m banish’d from mine.

Samuel Lover and Charles James Lever are two more versatile Irish
authors, the latter being the most eminent of the Irish novelists.

Both wrote delightful light verse and many popular songs.

                             _RORY O’MORE_

    Young Rory O’More courted young Kathleen Bawn.
    He was bold as a hawk, and she soft as the dawn.
    He wished in his heart pretty Kathleen to please,
    And he thought the best way to do that was to tease.
    “Now, Rory, be aisy,” sweet Kathleen would cry,
    Reproof on her lips, but a smile in her eye;
    “With your tricks I don’t know in troth what I’m about!
    Faith! you’ve teased till I’ve put on my cloak inside out.”
    “Oh, jewel,” says Rory, “that same is the way
    You’ve thrated my heart for this many a day;
    And ’tis plased that I am, and why not, to be sure,
    For ’tis all for good luck,” says bold Rory O’More.

    “Indeed, then,” says Kathleen, “don’t think of the like,
    For I half gave a promise to soothering Mike;
    The ground that I walk on he loves, I’ll be bound.”
    “Faith,” says Rory, “I’d rather love you than the ground.”
    “Now, Rory, I’ll cry if you don’t let me go,
    Sure, I dream every night that I’m hating you so.”
    “Oh!” says Rory, “that same I’m delighted to hear,
    For dhrames always go by conthrairies, my dear;
    Oh! jewel, keep dhraming that same till you die,
    And bright morning will give dirty night the black lie.
    And ’tis plased that I am, and why not, to be sure,
    Since ’tis all for good luck,” says bold Rory O’More.

    “Arrah, Kathleen, my darlint, you’ve teased me enough,
    And I’ve thrashed for your sake Dinny Grimes and Jim Duff;
    And I’ve made myself, drinking your health, quite a baste,
    So, I think, after that, I may talk to the praste.”
    Then Rory, the rogue, stole his arm round her neck,
    So soft and so white, without freckle or speck!
    And he looked in her eyes that were beaming with light;
    And he kissed her sweet lips. Don’t you think he was right?
    “Now, Rory, leave off, sir--you’ll hug me no more--
    There’s eight times to-day that you’ve kissed me before.”
    “Then here goes another,” says he, “to make sure.
    For there’s luck in odd numbers,” says Rory O’More.
                                                      SAMUEL LOVER.

                             _LANTY LEARY_

    Lanty was in love, you see,
      With lovely, lively Rosie Carey;
    But her father can’t agree
      To give the girl to Lanty Leary.
    Up to fun, “Away we’ll run,”
      Says she; “my father’s so conthrairy.
    Won’t you follow me? Won’t you follow me?”
      “Faith, I will!” says Lanty Leary.

    But her father died one day
      (I hear ’twas not by dhrinkin’ wather);
    House and land and cash, they say,
      He left by will to Rose his daughter;
    House and land and cash to seize,
      Away she cut so light and airy.
    “Won’t you follow me? Won’t you follow me?”
      “Faith, I will!” says Lanty Leary.

    Rose, herself, was taken bad,
      The fayver worse each day was growin’;
    “Lanty, dear,” says she, “’tis sad,
      To th’ other world I’m surely goin’.
    You can’t survive my loss, I know,
      Nor long remain in Tipperary.
    Won’t you follow me? Won’t you follow me?”
      “Faith, I won’t!” says Lanty Leary.
                                    SAMUEL LOVER.

                            _WIDOW MALONE_

    Did you hear of the Widow Malone, ohone!
    Who lived in the town of Athlone, ohone?
    Oh! she melted the hearts of the swains in them parts,
    So lovely the Widow Malone, ohone!
    So lovely the Widow Malone.

    Of lovers she had a full score, or more,
    And fortunes they all had galore, in store;
    From the minister down to the clerk of the crown,
    All were courting the Widow Malone, ohone!
    All were courting the Widow Malone.

    But so modest was Mistress Malone, ’twas known,
    That no one could see her alone, ohone!
    Let them ogle and sigh, they could ne’er catch her eye,
    So bashful the Widow Malone, ohone!
    So bashful the Widow Malone.

    Till one Mister O’Brien, from Clare--how quare!
    It’s little for blushing they care down there,
    Put his arm round her waist--gave ten kisses at laste--
    “Oh,” says he, “you’re my Molly Malone, my own!
    Oh,” says he, “you’re my Molly Malone.”

    And the widow they all thought so shy, my eye!
    Ne’er thought of a simper or sigh, for why?
    “But, Lucius,” says she, “since you’ve now made so free,
    You may marry your Mary Malone, ohone!
    You may marry your Mary Malone.”
                                               CHARLES LEVER.

Winthrop Mackworth Praed belongs to the small group of Londoners which
also included Calverley and Locker-Lampson. At least one great critic
considers Praed the greatest of this band, and so far as metric skill
and finished execution are concerned, he may well be called so. Also,
his taste is impeccable, and his society verse ranks among the best.

                      _A SONG OF IMPOSSIBILITIES_

    Lady, I loved you all last year,
      How honestly and well--
    Alas! would weary you to hear,
      And torture me to tell;
    I raved beneath the midnight sky,
      I sang beneath the limes--
    Orlando in my lunacy,
      And Petrarch in my rhymes.
    But all is over! When the sun
      Dries up the boundless main,
    When black is white, false-hearted one,
      I may be yours again!

    When passion’s early hopes and fears
      Are not derided things;
    When truth is found in falling tears,
      Or faith in golden rings;
    When the dark Fates that rule our way
      Instruct me where they hide
    One woman that would ne’er betray,
      One friend that never lied;
    When summer shines without a cloud,
      And bliss without a pain;
    When worth is noticed in a crowd,
      I may be yours again!

    When science pours the light of day
      Upon the lords of lands;
    When Huskisson is heard to say
      That Lethbridge understands;
    When wrinkles work their way in youth,
      Or Eldon’s in a hurry;
    When lawyers represent the truth,
      Or Mr. Sumner Surrey;
    When aldermen taste eloquence
      Or bricklayers champagne;
    When common law is common sense,
      I may be yours again!

    When Pole and Thornton honour cheques,
      Or Mr. Const a rogue;
    When Jericho’s in Middlesex,
      Or minuets in vogue;
    When Highgate goes to Devonport,
      Or fashion to Guildhall;
    When argument is heard at Court,
      Or Mr. Wynn at all;
    When Sydney Smith forgets to jest,
      Or farmers to complain;
    When kings that are are not the best,
      I may be yours again!

    When peers from telling money shrink,
      Or monks from telling lies;
    When hydrogen begins to sink,
      Or Grecian scrip to rise;
    When German poets cease to dream,
      Americans to guess;
    When Freedom sheds her holy beam
      On Negroes, and the Press;
    When there is any fear of Rome,
      Or any hope of Spain;
    When Ireland is a happy home,
      I may be yours again!

    When you can cancel what has been,
      Or alter what must be,
    Or bring once more that vanished scene,
      Those withered joys to me;
    When you can tune the broken lute,
      Or deck the blighted wreath,
    Or rear the garden’s richest fruit,
      Upon a blasted heath;
    When you can lure the wolf at bay
      Back to his shattered chain,
    To-day may then be yesterday--
      I may be yours again!

William Makepeace Thackeray, combining all the highest mental and moral
qualities in his work, adds thereto a delicate and subtle humor, never
broad, but always forcible and original.

This permeates all his novels, which, of course, may not be quoted
here, even in excerpts.

But Thackeray was equally happy in verse, and his contributions to
London _Punch_ are among the treasures of that journal’s history.

                            _LITTLE BILLEE_

    There were three sailors of Bristol City
      Who took a boat and went to sea,
    But first with beef and captain’s biscuits,
      And pickled pork they loaded she.

    There was gorging Jack, and guzzling Jimmy,
      And the youngest he was little Billee.
    Now when they’d got as far as the Equator
      They’d nothing left but one split pea.

    Says gorging Jack to guzzling Jimmy,
      “I am extremely hungaree.”
    To gorging Jack says guzzling Jimmy,
      “We’ve nothing left, us must eat we.”

    Says gorging Jack to guzzling Jimmy,
      “With one another we shouldn’t agree!
    There’s little Bill, he’s young and tender,
      We’re old and tough, so let’s eat he.”

    “O Billy! we’re going to kill and eat you,
      So undo the button of your chemie.”
    When Bill received this information,
      He used his pocket-handkerchie.

    “First let me say my catechism,
      Which my poor mother taught to me.”
    “Make haste! make haste!” says guzzling Jimmy,
      While Jack pulled out his snicker-snee.

    Then Bill went up to the main-top-gallant-mast,
      And down he fell on his bended knee,
    He scarce had come to the Twelfth Commandment
      When up he jumps--“There’s land I see!”

    “Jerusalem and Madagascar,
      And North and South Amerikee,
    There’s the British flag a-riding at anchor,
      With Sir Admiral Napier, K. C. B.”

    So when they got aboard of the Admiral’s,
      He hanged fat Jack and flogged Jimmee,
    But as for little Bill, he made him
      The captain of a Seventy-three.


    An igstrawnary tail I vill tell you this veek--
    I stood in the Court of A’Beckett the Beak,
    Vere Mrs. Jane Roney, a vidow, I see,
    Who charged Mary Brown with a robbin’ of she.

    This Mary was pore and in misery once,
    And she came to Mrs. Roney it’s more than twelve monce
    She adn’t got no bed, nor no dinner, nor no tea,
    And kind Mrs. Roney gave Mary all three.

    Mrs. Roney kep Mary for ever so many veeks
    (Her conduct disgusted the best of all Beax),
    She kept her for nothink, as kind as could be,
    Never thinking that this Mary was a traitor to she.

    “Mrs. Roney, O Mrs. Roney, I feel very ill;
    Will you jest step to the doctor’s for to fetch me a pill?”
    “That I will, my pore Mary,” Mrs. Roney says she:
    And she goes off to the doctor’s as quickly as may be.

    No sooner on this message Mrs. Roney was sped,
    Than hup gits vicked Mary, and jumps out a bed;
    She hopens all the trunks without never a key--
    She bustes all the boxes, and vith them makes free.

    Mrs. Roney’s best linning gownds, petticoats, and close,
    Her children’s little coats and things, her boots and her hose,
    She packed them, and she stole ’em, and avay vith them did flee
    Mrs. Roney’s situation--you may think vat it vould be!

    Of Mary, ungrateful, who had served her this vay,
    Mrs. Roney heard nothink for a long year and a day,
    Till last Thursday, in Lambeth, ven whom should she see?
    But this Mary, as had acted so ungrateful to she.

    She was leaning on the helbo of a worthy young man;
    They were going to be married, and were walkin’ hand in hand;
    And the church-bells was a ringing for Mary and he,
    And the parson was ready, and a waitin’ for his fee.

    When up comes Mrs. Roney, and faces Mary Brown,
    Who trembles, and castes her eyes upon the ground.
    She calls a jolly pleaseman, it happens to be me;
    I charge this young woman, Mr. Pleaseman, says she.

    Mrs. Roney, o, Mrs. Roney, o, do let me go,
    I acted most ungrateful I own, and I know,
    But the marriage bell is ringin’ and the ring you may see,
    And this young man is a waitin’ says Mary, says she.

    I don’t care three fardens for the parson and clark,
    And the bell may keep ringing from noon day to dark.
    Mary Brown, Mary Brown, you must come along with me.
    And I think this young man is lucky to be free.

    So, in spite of the tears which bejewed Mary’s cheek,
    I took that young gurl to A’Beckett the Beak;
    That exlent justice demanded her plea--
    But never a sullable said Mary said she.

    On account of her conduck so base and so vile,
    That wicked young gurl is committed for trile,
    And if she’s transpawted beyond the salt sea,
    It’s a proper reward for such willians as she.

    Now, you young gurls of Southwark for Mary who veep,
    From pickin’ and stealin’ your ’ands you must keep,
    Or it may be my dooty, as it was Thursday veek
    To pull you all hup to A’Beckett the Beak.


    When moonlike ore the hazure seas
      In soft effulgence swells,
    When silver jews and balmy breaze
      Bend down the Lily’s bells;
    When calm and deap, the rosy sleap
      Has lapt your soal in dreems,
    R Hangeline! R lady mine!
      Dost thou remember Jeames?

    I mark thee in the Marble ’all,
      Where England’s loveliest shine--
    I say the fairest of them hall
      Is Lady Hangeline.
    My soul, in desolate eclipse,
      With recollection teems--
    And then I hask, with weeping lips,
      Dost thou remember Jeames?

    Away! I may not tell thee hall
      This soughring heart endures--
    There is a lonely sperrit-call
      That Sorrow never cures;
    There is a little, little Star,
      That still above me beams;
    It is the Star of Hope--but ar!
      Dost thou remember Jeames?

                         _SORROWS OF WERTHER_

    Werther had a love for Charlotte
      Such as words could never utter.
    Would you know how first he met her?
      She was cutting bread and butter.

    Charlotte was a married lady,
      And a moral man was Werther,
    And, for all the wealth of Indies,
      Would do nothing for to hurt her.

    So he sighed and pined and ogled,
      And his passion boiled and bubbled,
    Till he blew his silly brains out,
      And no more was by it troubled.

    Charlotte, having seen his body
      Borne before her on a shutter,
    Like a well-conducted person
      Went on cutting bread and butter.

Charles Dickens, in some senses the world’s greatest humorist, is too
much of a household word, to need either introduction or quotation.

Nor is it easy to quote from his books, which must be read in their
entirety or in long instalments to get their message.

One short extract is given, from _Martin Chuzzlewit_.

                        _MRS. GAMP’S APARTMENT_

Mrs. Gamp’s apartment in Kingsgate Street, High Holborn, wore,
metaphorically speaking, a robe of state. It was swept and garnished
for the reception of a visitor. That visitor was Betsy Prig; Mrs.
Prig of Bartlemy’s; or, as some said, Barklemy’s; or, as some said,
Bardlemy’s; for by all these endearing and familiar appellations had
the hospital of St. Bartholomew become a household word among the
sisterhood which Betsy Prig adorned.

Mrs. Gamp’s apartment was not a spacious one, but, to a contented mind,
a closet is a palace; and the first-floor front at Mr. Sweedlepipe’s
may have been, in the imagination of Mrs. Gamp, a stately pile. If it
were not exactly that to restless intellects, it at least comprised as
much accommodation as any person not sanguine to insanity could have
looked for in a room of its dimensions. For only keep the bedstead
always in your mind, and you were safe. That was the grand secret.
Remembering the bedstead, you might even stoop to look under the little
round table for anything you had dropped, without hurting yourself
much against the chest of drawers, or qualifying as a patient of St.
Bartholomew by falling into the fire. Visitors were much assisted in
their cautious efforts to preserve an unflagging recollection of this
piece of furniture by its size, which was great. It was not a turn-up
bedstead, nor yet a French bedstead, nor yet a four-post bedstead,
but what is poetically called a tent; the sacking whereof was low and
bulgy, insomuch that Mr. Gamp’s box would not go under it, but stopped
half way, in a manner which, while it did violence to the reason,
likewise endangered the legs of a stranger. The frame, too, which
would have supported the canopy and hangings, if there had been any,
was ornamented with divers pippins carved in timber, which, on the
slightest provocation, and frequently on none at all, came tumbling
down, harassing the peaceful guest with inexplicable terrors. The bed
itself was decorated with a patchwork quilt of great antiquity; and
at the upper end, upon the side nearest to the door, hung a scanty
curtain of blue check, which prevented the zephyrs that were abroad in
Kingsgate Street from visiting Mrs. Gamp’s head too roughly.

The chairs in Mrs. Gamp’s apartment were extremely large and
broad-backed, which was more than a sufficient reason for their being
but two in number. They were both elbow-chairs of ancient mahogany,
and were chiefly valuable for the slippery nature of their seats,
which had been originally horsehair, but were now covered with a shiny
substance of a bluish tint, from which the visitor began to slide away,
with a dismayed countenance, immediately after sitting down. What Mrs.
Gamp wanted in chairs she made up in band-boxes, of which she had a
great collection, devoted to the reception of various miscellaneous
valuables, which were not, however, as well protected as the good
woman, by a pleasant fiction, seemed to think; for though every
band-box had a carefully-closed lid, not one among them had a bottom,
owing to which cause the property within was merely, as it were,
extinguished. The chest of drawers having been originally made to stand
upon the top of another chest, had a dwarfish, elfin look alone; but,
in regard of security, it had a great advantage over the band-boxes,
for as all the handles had been long ago pulled off, it was very
difficult to get at its contents. This, indeed, was only to be done
by one of two devices; either by tilting the whole structure forward
until all the drawers fell out together, or by opening them singly with
knives, like oysters.

Mrs. Gamp stored all her household matters in a little cupboard by the
fireplace; beginning below the surface (as in nature) with the coals,
and mounting gradually upwards to the spirits, which, from motives
of delicacy, she kept in a teapot. The chimney-piece was ornamented
with an almanac; it was also embellished with three profiles; one,
in colors, of Mrs. Gamp herself in early life; one, in bronze, of a
lady in feathers, supposed to be Mrs. Harris, as she appeared when
dressed for a ball; and one, in black, of Mr. Gamp deceased. The last
was a full-length, in order that the likeness might be rendered more
obvious and forcible, by the introduction of the wooden leg. A pair
of bellows, a pair of pattens, a toasting-fork, a kettle, a spoon for
the administration of medicine to the refractory, and lastly, Mrs.
Gamp’s umbrella, which, as something of great price and rarity, was
displayed with particular ostentation, completed the decorations of the
chimney-piece and adjacent wall.

       *       *       *       *       *

William Edmonstoune Aytoun and Theodore Martin, two young men of
brilliant brains, produced together the collection of burlesque and
parodies known as _The Bon Gaultier Ballads_.

At this time, the middle of the eighteenth century, parody was greatly
in vogue. The Ballads were whimsical, and as a whole, kindly. They were
extremely popular, as much so as the Rejected Addresses, but today they
seem dull and rather futile.

Another vogue of the day was Bathos, of which the following is a fair

                       _THE HUSBAND’S PETITION_

    Come hither, my heart’s darling,
      Come, sit upon my knee,
    And listen, while I whisper
      A boon I ask of thee.
    You need not pull my whiskers
      So amorously, my dove;
    ’T is something quite apart from
      The gentle cares of love.

    I feel a bitter craving--
      A dark and deep desire,
    That glows beneath my bosom
      Like coals of kindled fire.
    The passion of the nightingale,
      When singing to the rose,
    Is feebler than the agony
      That murders my repose!

    Nay, dearest! do not doubt me,
      Though madly thus I speak--
    I feel thy arms about me,
      Thy tresses on my cheek:
    I know the sweet devotion
      That links thy heart with mine,--
    I know my soul’s emotion
      Is doubly felt by thine:

    And deem not that a shadow
      Hath fallen across my love:
    No, sweet, my love is shadowless,
      As yonder heaven above.
    These little taper fingers--
      Ah, Jane! how white they be!--
    Can well supply the cruel want
      That almost maddens me.

    Thou wilt not sure deny me
      My first and fond request;
    I pray thee, by the memory
      Of all we cherish best--
    By all the dear remembrance
      Of those delicious days,
    When, hand in hand, we wandered
      Along the summer braes:

    By all we felt, unspoken,
      When ’neath the early moon,
    We sat beside the rivulet,
      In the leafy month of June;
    And by the broken whisper
      That fell upon my ear,
    More sweet than angel-music,
      When first I woo’d thee, dear!

    By that great vow which bound thee
      For ever to my side,
    And by the ring that made thee
      My darling and my bride!
    Thou wilt not fail nor falter,
      But bend thee to the task--
      Is all the boon I ask!

This extract is from a long poem, called:

                       _THE LAY OF THE LOVELORN_


    Comrades, you may pass the rosy. With permission of the chair,
    I shall leave you for a little, for I’d like to take the air

    Whether ’t was the sauce at dinner, or that glass of ginger beer,
    Or these strong cheroots, I know not, but I feel a little queer.

    Let me go. Now, Chuckster, blow me, ’pon my soul, this is too bad!
    When you want me, ask the waiter, he knows where I’m to be had!

    Whew! This is a great relief now! Let me but undo my stock,
    Resting here beneath the porch, my nerves will steady like a rock.

    In my ears I hear the singing of a lot of favorite tunes--
    Bless my heart, how very odd! Why, surely there’s a brace of moons!

    See! the stars! how bright they twinkle, winking with a frosty
    Like my faithless cousin Amy when she drove me to despair.

    O, my cousin, spider-hearted! Oh, my Amy! No, confound it!
    I must wear the mournful willow,--all around my hat I’ve bound it.

    Falser than the Bank of Fancy,--frailer than a shilling glove,
    Puppet to a father’s anger,--minion to a nabob’s love!

    Is it well to wish thee happy? Having known me, could you ever
    Stoop to marry half a heart, and little more than half a liver?

    Happy! Damme! Thou shalt lower to his level day by day,
    Changing from the best of China to the commonest of clay.

    As the husband is, the wife is,--he is stomach-plagued and old;
    And his curry soups will make thy cheek the color of his gold.

    When his feeble love is sated, he will hold thee surely then
    Something lower than his hookah,--something less than his cayenne.

    What is this? His eyes are pinky. Was’t the claret? Oh, no, no,--
    Bless your soul, it was the salmon,--salmon always makes him so.

    Take him to thy dainty chamber--soothe him with thy lightest
    He will understand thee, won’t he?--pay thee with a lover’s glances?

    Louder than the loudest trumpet, harsh as harshest ophicleide,
    Nasal respirations answer the endearments of his bride.

    Sweet response, delightful music! Gaze upon thy noble charge
    Till the spirit fill thy bosom that inspired the meek Laffarge.

    Better thou wert dead before me,--better, better that I stood
    Looking on thy murdered body, like the injured Daniel Good!

    Better, thou and I were lying, cold and limber-stiff and dead,
    With a pan of burning charcoal underneath our nuptial bed!

    Cursed be the bank of England’s notes, that tempt the soul to sin!
    Cursed be the want of acres,--doubly cursed the want of tin!

    Cursed be the marriage contract, that enslaved thy soul to greed!
    Cursed be the sallow lawyer, that prepared and drew the deed!

    Cursed be his foul apprentice, who the loathsome fees did earn!
    Cursed be the clerk and parson,--cursed be the whole concern!

Charles Kingsley, a clergyman of attainments, possessed the same type
of whimsical humor as the later and greater Lewis Carroll.

His _Water Babies_ from which a short extract is given, is a
classic in child literature.

                       _THE PROFESSOR’S MALADY_

They say that no one has ever yet seen a water-baby. For my part, I
believe that the naturalists get dozens of them when they are out
dredging, but they say nothing about them and throw them overboard
again, for fear of spoiling their theories. But you see the professor
was found out, as every one is in due time. A very terrible old fairy
found the professor out. She felt his bumps, and cast his nativity, and
took the lunars of him carefully inside and out; and so she knew what
he would do as well as if she had seen it in a print book, as they say
in the dear old west country. And he did it. And so he was found out
beforehand, as everybody always is; and the old fairy will find out the
naturalists some day, and put them in the _Times_; and then on
whose side will the laugh be?

So all the doctors in the country were called in to make a report on
his case; and of course every one of them flatly contradicted the
other: else what use is there in being men of science? But at last the
majority agreed on a report, in the true medical language, one half
bad Latin, the other half worse Greek, and the rest what might have
been English, if they had only learned to write it. And this is the
beginning thereof:

“The subanhypaposupernal anastomoses of peritomic diacellurite in the
encephalo-digital region of the distinguished individual of whose
symptomatic phenomena we had the melancholy honour (subsequent to a
preliminary diagnostic inspection) of making an inspectorial diagnosis,
presenting the interexclusively quadrilateral and antinomian diathesis
known as Bumpsterhausen’s blue follicles, we proceeded----”

But what they proceeded to do my lady never knew, for she was so
frightened at the long words that she ran for her life, and locked
herself into her bedroom, for fear of being squashed by the words and
strangled by the sentence. A boa-constrictor, she said, was bad company
enough; but what was a boa-constrictor made of paving-stones?

“It was quite shocking! What can they think is the matter with him?”
said she to the old nurse.

“That his wit’s just addled; maybe wi’ unbelief and heathenry,” quoth

“Then why can’t they say so?”

And the heaven, and the sea, and the rocks and vales re-echoed, “Why,
indeed?” But the doctors never heard them.

So she made Sir John write to the _Times_ to command the
chancellor of the exchequer for the time being to put a tax on long

A light tax on words over three syllables, which are necessary evils,
like rats, but, like them, must be kept down judiciously.

A heavy tax on words over four syllables, as heterodoxy, spontaneity,
spiritualism, spuriosity, etc.

And on words over five syllables (of which I hope no one will wish to
see any examples), a totally prohibitory tax.

And a similar prohibitory tax on words derived from three or more
languages at once, words derived from two languages, having become so
common that there was no more hope of rooting out them than of rooting
out peth-winds.

The chancellor of the exchequer, being a scholar and a man of sense,
jumped at the notion, for he saw in it the one and only plan for
abolishing Schedule D. But when he brought in his bill, most of the
Irish members, and (I am sorry to say) some of the Scotch likewise,
opposed it most strongly, on the ground that in a free country no man
was bound either to understand himself or to let others understand him.
So the bill fell through on the first reading, and the chancellor,
being a philosopher, comforted himself with the thought that it was
not the first time that a woman had hit off a grand idea, and the men
turned up their stupid noses thereat.

       *       *       *       *       *

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, is conceded the gift of humor by some, but his
other attributes so far outshine it that his amusing bits are hard to
find. A moderately funny poem is:

                              _THE GOOSE_

    I knew an old wife lean and poor,
      Her rags scarce held together;
    There strode a stranger to the door,
      And it was windy weather.

    He held a goose upon his arm,
      He utter’d rhyme and reason,
    “Here, take the goose, and keep you warm,
      It is a stormy season.”

    She caught the white goose by the leg,
      A goose--’twas no great matter.
    The goose let fall a golden egg
      With cackle and with clatter.

    She dropt the goose, and caught the pelf,
      And ran to tell her neighbours;
    And bless’d herself, and cursed herself,
      And rested from her labours.

    And feeding high and living soft,
      Grew plump and able-bodied;
    Until the grave churchwarden doff’d,
      The parson smirk’d and nodded.

    So sitting, served by man and maid,
      She felt her heart grow prouder:
    But, ah! the more the white goose laid
      It clack’d and cackled louder.

    It clutter’d here, it chuckled there;
      It stirr’d the old wife’s mettle;
    She shifted in her elbow-chair,
      And hurl’d the pan and kettle.

    “A quinsy choke thy cursed note!”
      Then wax’d her anger stronger.
    “Go, take the goose, and wring her throat,
      I will not bear it longer.”

    Then yelp’d the cur, and yawl’d the cat;
      Ran Gaffer, stumbled Gammer.
    The goose flew this way and flew that,
      And fill’d the house with clamour.

    As head and heels upon the floor
      They flounder’d all together,
    There strode a stranger to the door,
      And it was windy weather:

    He took the goose upon his arm,
      He utter’d words of scorning;
    “So keep you cold, or keep you warm,
      It is a stormy morning.”

    The wild wind rang from park and plain,
      And round the attics rumbled,
    Till all the tables danced again,
      And half the chimneys tumbled.

    The glass blew in, the fire blew out,
      The blast was hard and harder.
    Her cap blew off, her gown blew up,
      And a whirlwind cleared the larder.

    And while on all sides breaking loose,
      Her household fled the danger,
    Quoth she, “The devil take the goose,
      And God forget the stranger!”

Robert Browning, though scarcely to be called a humorous poet, had a
fine wit and a quick and agile sense of whimsey.

His _Pied Piper of Hamelin_, written to amuse a sick child of
Macready’s, is a masterpiece of quiet humor. His satiric vein is shown

                        _THE POPE AND THE NET_

    What, he on whom our voices unanimously ran,
    Made Pope at our last Conclave? Full low his life began:
    His father earned the daily bread as just a fisherman.

    So much the more his boy minds book, gives proof of mother-wit,
    Becomes first Deacon, and then Priest, then Bishop: see him sit
    No less than Cardinal ere long, while no one cries “Unfit!”

    But some one smirks, some other smiles, jogs elbow and nods head;
    Each wings at each: “I’ faith, a rise! Saint Peter’s net, instead
    Of sword and keys, is come in vogue!” You think he blushes red?

    Not he, of humble holy heart! “Unworthy me!” he sighs:
    “From fisher’s drudge to Church’s prince--it is indeed a rise:
    So, here’s my way to keep the fact forever in my eyes!”

    And straightway in his palace-hall, where commonly is set
    Some coat-of-arms, some portraiture ancestral, lo, we met
    His mean estate’s reminder in his fisher-father’s net!

    Which step conciliates all and some, stops cavil in a trice:
    “The humble holy heart that holds of new-born pride no spice!
    He’s just the saint to choose for Pope!” Each adds, “’Tis my

    So Pope he was: and when we flocked--its sacred slipper on--
    To kiss his foot, we lifted eyes, alack, the thing was gone--
    That guarantee of lowlihead,--eclipsed that star which shone!

    Each eyed his fellow, one and all kept silence. I cried “Pish!
    I’ll make me spokesman for the rest, express the common wish.
    Why, Father, is the net removed?” “Son, it hath caught the fish.”

Frederick Locker-Lampson, though following in the footsteps of Praed,
was a more famous writer of the rhymes known as Vers de Société.

There is no English equivalent for the French term, and attempts
to coin one are usually failures. Society verse, Familiar Verse,
Occasional verse,--each lacks somewhat of the real implication.

Locker-Lampson, himself a discerning and severe critic, instructs us
that the rhymes should be short, graceful, refined and fanciful, not
seldom distinguished by chastened sentiment, and often playful.

But, really, playfulness and light, bright humor are more a distinctive
quality of Vers de Société than that dictum stipulates.

Wit is the keynote, fun the undercurrent of the best of the material
so often collected under this name; and Locker-Lampson made the
first and perhaps the best collection, under the title of _Lyra

Typical of all that goes to make up the best form of Vers de Société is
his poem,

                         _MY MISTRESS’S BOOTS_

    They nearly strike me dumb,
    And I tremble when they come
    This palpitation means
    These boots are Geraldine’s--
        Think of that!

    Oh, where did hunter win
    So delectable a skin
        For her feet?
    You lucky little kid,
    You perished, so you did,
        For my sweet!

    The faëry stitching gleams
    On the sides, and in the seams,
        And it shows
    The Pixies were the wags
    Who tipt those funny tags
        And these toes.

    What soles to charm an elf!
    Had Crusoe, sick of self,
        Chanced to view
    _One_ printed near the tide,
    Oh, how hard he would have tried
        For the two!

    For Gerry’s debonair
    And innocent, and fair
        As a rose;
    She’s an angel in a frock,
    With a fascinating cock
        To her nose.

    The simpletons who squeeze
    Their extremities to please
    Would positively flinch
    From venturing to pinch

    Cinderella’s _lefts and rights_,
    To Geraldine’s were frights;
        And I trow,
    The damsel, deftly shod,
    Has dutifully trod
        Until now.

    Come, Gerry, since it suits
    Such a pretty Puss (in Boots)
        These to don;
    Set this dainty hand awhile
    On my shoulder, dear, and I’ll
        Put them on.

                        _ON A SENSE OF HUMOUR_

    He cannot be complete in aught
      Who is not humorously prone;
    A man without a merry thought
      Can hardly have a funny-bone.

                             _SOME LADIES_

    Some ladies now make pretty songs,
      And some make pretty nurses;
    Some men are great at righting wrongs
      And some at writing verses.

                          _A TERRIBLE INFANT_

    I recollect a nurse call’d Ann,
      Who carried me about the grass,
    And one fine day a fine young man
      Came up, and kiss’d the pretty lass.
    She did not make the least objection!
          Thinks I, “_Aha!
      When I can talk I’ll tell Mamma_”
    --And that’s my earliest recollection.

Charles Stuart Calverley is called the Prince of Parodists, but his
genius deserves far higher praise than that.

His serious work is of a high order but it is for his humorous verse
that he is most loved and praised.

His parodies while showing the best and finest burlesque qualities, are
also poems in themselves, and are of an exquisite wit and a spontaneous
humor rarely excelled.

One of the best is the ballad in which Rossetti’s manner is parodied in
very spirit.


                                PART I

    The auld wife sat at her ivied door,
      (_Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese_)
    A thing she had frequently done before;
      And her spectacles lay on her apron’d knees.

    The piper he piped on the hilltop high,
      (_Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese_)
    Till the cow said “I die,” and the goose asked “Why?”
      And the dog said nothing, but search’d for fleas.

    The farmer he strode through the square farmyard;
      (_Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese_)
    His last brew of ale was a trifle hard--
      The connection of which the plot one sees.

    The farmer’s daughter hath frank blue eyes;
      (_Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese_)
    She hears the rooks caw in the windy skies.
      As she sits at her lattice and shells her peas.

    The farmer’s daughter hath ripe red lips;
      (_Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese_)
    If you try to approach her, away she skips
      Over tables and chairs with apparent ease.

    The farmer’s daughter hath soft brown hair;
      (_Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese_)
    And I met with a ballad, I can’t say where,
      Which wholly consisted of lines like these.

                                PART II

    She sat with her hands ’neath her dimpled cheeks,
      (_Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese_)
    And spake not a word. While a lady speaks
      There is hope, but she didn’t even sneeze.

    She sat, with her hands ’neath her crimson cheeks;
      (_Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese_)
    She gave up mending her father’s breeks,
      And let the cat roll in her new chemise.

    She sat with her hands ’neath her burning cheeks,
      (_Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese_)
    And gazed at the piper for thirteen weeks;
      Then she follow’d him o’er the misty leas.

    Her sheep follow’d her, as their tails did them,
      (_Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese_)
    And this song is consider’d a perfect gem,
      And as to the meaning, it’s what you please.

Equally marvelous in its assured touch and utter lack of mere burlesque
exaggeration is his parody of Browning.

                        _THE COCK AND THE BULL_

    You see this pebble-stone? It’s a thing I bought
    Of a bit of a chit of a boy i’ the mid o’ the day.
    I like to dock the smaller parts o’ speech,
    As we curtail the already cur-tail’d cur--
    (You catch the paronomasia, play ’po’ words?)
    Did, rather, i’ the pre-Landseerian days.
    Well, to my muttons. I purchased the concern,
    And clapt it i’ my poke, having given for same
    By way o’ chop, swop, barter or exchange--
    “Chop” was my snickering dandiprat’s own term--
    One shilling and fourpence, current coin o’ the realm.
    O-n-e one, and f-o-u-r four
    Pence, one and fourpence--you are with me, sir?--
    What hour it skills not: ten or eleven o’ the clock,
    One day (and what a roaring day it was
    Go shop or sight-see--bar a spit o’ rain!)
    In February, eighteen, sixty-nine,
    Alexandria Victoria, Fidei--
    Hm--hm--how runs the jargon? being on the throne.
    Such, sir, are all the facts, succinctly put,
    The basis or substratum--what you will--
    Of the impending eighty thousand lines.
    “Not much in ’em either,” quoth perhaps simple Hodge.
    But there’s a superstructure. Wait a bit.
    Mark first the rationale of the thing:
    Hear logic rivel and levigate the deed.
    That shilling--and for matter o’ that, the pence--
    I had o’ course upo’ me--wi’ me say--
    (_Mecum’s_ the Latin, make a note o’ that)
    When I popp’d pen i’ stand, scratch’d ear, wiped snout,
    (Let everybody wipe his own himself)
    Sniff’d--tch!--at snuff-box; tumbled up, teheed,
    Haw-haw’d (not hee-haw’d, that’s another guess thing),
    Then fumbled at and stumbled out of, door.
    I shoved the timber ope wi’ my omoplat;
    And _in vestibulo_, i’ the lobby to wit
    (Iacobi Facciolati’s rendering, sir),
    Donn’d galligaskins, antigropeloes,
    And so forth; and, complete with hat and gloves,
    One on and one a-dangle i’ my hand,
    And ombrifuge (Lord love you!), case o’ rain,
    I flopp’d forth, ’sbuddikins! on my own ten toes
    (I do assure you there be ten of them),
    And went clump-clumping up hill and down dale
    To find myself o’ the sudden i’ front o’ the boy.
    But case I hadn’t ’em on me, could I ha’ bought
    This sort-o’-kind-o’-what-you-might-call toy,
    This pebble thing, o’ the boy-thing? Q. E. D.
    That’s proven without aid from mumping Pope,
    Sleek proporate or bloated Cardinal.
    (Isn’t it, old Fatchaps? You’re in Euclid now.)
    So, having the shilling--having i’ fact a lot--
    And pence and halfpence, ever so many o’ them,
    I purchased, as I think I said before,
    The pebble (_lapis, lapidis,-di,-dem,-de--_
    What nouns ’crease short i’ the genitive, Fatchaps, eh?)
    O’ the boy, a bare-legg’d beggarly son of a gun,
    For one and fourpence. Here we are again.
    Now Law steps in, bigwigg’d, voluminous-jaw’d;
    Investigates and re-investigates.
    Was the transaction illegal? Law shakes head
    Perpend, sir, all the bearings of the case.

    At first the coin was mine, the chattel his.
    But now (by virtue of the said exchange
    And barter) _vice versa_ all the coin,
    _Per juris operationem_, vests
    I’ the boy and his assigns till ding o’ doom;
    (_In sæcula sæculo-o-o-rum_;
    I think I hear the Abate mouth out that.)
    To have and hold the same to him and them.
    _Confer_ some idiot on Conveyancing.

    Whereas the pebble and every part thereof,
    And all that appertaineth thereunto,
    _Quodcunque pertinet ad eam rem_
    (I fancy, sir, my Latin’s rather pat),
    Or shall, will, may, might, can, could, would or should
    (_Subaudi cætera_--clap we to the close--
    For what’s the good of Law in a case o’ the kind),
    Is mine to all intents and purposes.
    This settled, I resume the thread o’ the tale.

    Now for a touch o’ the vendor’s quality.
    He says a gen’lman bought a pebble of him
    (This pebble i’ sooth, sir, which I hold i’ my hand),
    And paid for’t, _like_ a gen’lman, on the nail.
    “Did I o’ercharge him a ha’penny? Devil a bit.
    Fiddlepin’s end! Get out, you blazing ass!
    Gabble o’ the goose. Don’t bugaboo-baby _me_!
    Go double or quits? Yah! tittup! what’s the odds?”
    There’s the transaction view’d i’ the vendor’s light.

    Next ask that dumpled hag, stood snuffling by,
    With her three frowsy blowsy brats o’ babes,
    The scum o’ the kennel, cream o’ the filth-heap--Faugh!
    Aie, aie, aie, aie! οτοτοτοτοτοι
    (’Stead which we blurt out Hoighty toighty now),
    And the baker and candlestickmaker, and Jack and Jill,
    Blear’d Goody this and queasy Gaffer that.
    Ask the schoolmaster. Take schoolmaster first.

    He saw a gentleman purchase of a lad
    A stone, and pay for it _rite_, on the square,
    And carry it off _per saltum_, jauntily,
    _Propria quae maribus_, gentleman’s property now
    (Agreeably to the law explain’d above),
    _In proprium usum_, for his private ends,
    The boy he chuck’d a brown i’ the air, and bit
    I’ the face the shilling; heaved a thumping stone
    At a lean hen that ran cluck clucking by
    (And hit her, dead as nail i’ post o’ door),
    Then _abiit_--what’s the Ciceronian phrase?--
    _Excessit_, _evasit_, _erupit_--off slogs boy;
    Off like bird, _avi similis_--you observed
    The dative? Pretty i’ the Mantuan!)--_Anglice_
    Off in three flea skips. _Hactenus_, so far,
    So good, _tam bene_. _Bene_, _satis_, _male_,--
    Where was I with my trope ’bout one in a quag?
    I did once hitch the syntax into verse:
    _Verbum personale_, a verb personal,
    _Concordat_--ay, “agrees,” old Fatchaps--_cum_
    _Nominativo_, with its nominative,
    _Genere_, i’ point o’ gender, _numero_,
    O’ number, _et persona_, and person. _Ut_,
    Instance: _Sol ruit_, down flops sun, _et_, and,
    _Montes umbrantur_, out flounce mountains. Pah!
    Excuse me, sir, I think I’m going mad.
    You see the trick on ’t though, and can yourself
    Continue the discourse _ad libitum_.
    It takes up about eighty thousand lines,
    A thing imagination boggles at;
    And might, odds-bobs, sir! in judicious hands,
    Extend from here to Mesopotamy.

While the style of Jean Ingelow is thus genially made fun of.

                      _LOVERS, AND A REFLECTION_

    In moss-prankt dells which the sunbeams flatter
      (And heaven it knoweth what that may mean;
    Meaning, however, is no great matter)
      Where woods are a-tremble, with rifts atween;

    Through God’s own heather we wonned together,
      I and my Willie (O love my love):
    I need hardly remark it was glorious weather,
      And flitterbats wavered alow, above:

    Boats were curtseying, rising, bowing
      (Boats in that climate are so polite),
    And sands were a ribbon of green endowing,
      And O the sun-dazzle on bark and bight!

    Through the rare red heather we danced together,
      (O love my Willie!) and smelt for flowers:
    I must mention again it was glorious weather,
      Rhymes are so scarce in this world of ours:--

    By rises that flushed with their purple favors,
      Through becks that brattled o’er grasses sheen,
    We walked or waded, we two young shavers,
      Thanking our stars we were both so green.

    We journeyed in parallels, I and Willie,
      In “fortunate parallels!” Butterflies,
    Hid in weltering shadows of daffodilly
      Or marjoram, kept making peacock’s eyes:

    Song-birds darted about, some inky
      As coal, some snowy (I ween) as curds;
    Or rosy as pinks, or as roses pinky--
      They reck of no eerie To-come, those birds!

    But they skim over bents which the mill-stream washes,
      Or hang in the lift ’neath a white cloud’s hem;
    They need no parasols, no galoshes;
      And good Mrs. Trimmer she feedeth them.

    Then we thrid God’s cowslips (as erst his heather)
      That endowed the wan grass with their golden blooms;
    And snapt--(it was perfectly charming weather)--
      Our fingers at Fate and her goddess-glooms:

    And Willie ’gan sing--(O, his notes were fluty;
      Wafts fluttered them out to the white-winged sea)--
    Something made up of rhymes that have done much duty,
      Rhymes (better to put it) of “ancientry”:

    Bowers of flowers encountered showers
      In William’s carol (O love my Willie!)
    When he bade sorrow borrow from blithe To-morrow
      I quite forget what--say a daffodilly:

    A nest in a hollow, “with buds to follow,”
      I think occurred next in his nimble strain;
    And clay that was “kneaden” of course in Eden--
      A rhyme most novel, I do maintain:

    Mists, bones, the singer himself, love-stories,
      And all least furlable things got “furled”;
    Not with any design to conceal their glories,
      But simply and solely to rhyme with “world.”

           *       *       *       *       *

    O, if billows and pillows and hours and flowers,
      And all the brave rhymes of an elder day,
    Could be furled together this genial weather,
      And carted, or carried on wafts away,
    Nor ever again trotted out--ah me!
    How much fewer volumes of verse there’d be!

                           _ODE TO TOBACCO_

    Thou who, when fears attack,
    Bid’st them avaunt, and Black
    Care, at the horseman’s back
        Perching, unseatest;
    Sweet when the morn is gray;
    Sweet, when they’ve cleared away
    Lunch; and at close of day
        Possibly sweetest:

    I have a liking old
    For thee, though manifold
    Stories, I know, are told,
        Not to thy credit;
    How one (or two at most)
    Drops make a cat a ghost--
    Useless, except to roast--
        Doctors have said it:

    How they who use fusees
    All grow by slow degrees
    Brainless as chimpanzees,
        Meagre as lizards;
    Go mad, and beat their wives;
    Plunge (after shocking lives)
    Razors and carving-knives
        Into their gizzards.

    Confound such knavish tricks!
    Yet know I five or six
    Smokers who freely mix
        Still with their neighbors;
    Jones--(who, I’m glad to say,
    Asked leave of Mrs. J.)--
    Daily absorbs a clay
        After his labors.

    Cats may have had their goose
    Cooked by tobacco-juice;
    Still why deny its use
        Thoughtfully taken?
    We’re not as tabbies are:
    Smith, take a fresh cigar!
    Jones, the tobacco-jar!
        Here’s to thee, Bacon!

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson is better known as Lewis Carroll, though
during his lifetime, the author of _Alice_ was extremely careful
to preserve a decided distinction between the College Don and the
writer of nonsense.

Lewis Carroll was the first to produce coherent humor in the form of
sheer nonsense, and his work, often imitated, has never been equaled.

Beside the _Alice_ books he wrote several volumes only a degree
less wise and witty in the nonsense vein.

But few selections can be given.


                  (From _Through the Looking-Glass_)

    ’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
    All mimsy were the borogoves,
      And the mome raths outgrabe.

    “Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
      The jaws that bite, the claws that catch
    Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
      The frumious Bandersnatch!”

    He took his vorpal sword in hand:
      Long time the manxome foe he sought--
    So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
      And stood awhile in thought.

    And, as in uffish thought he stood,
      The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
    Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
      And burbled as it came!

    One, two! One, two! And through and through
      The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
    He left it dead, and with its head
      He went galumphing back.

    “And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
      Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
    O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
      He chortled in his joy.

    ’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
    All mimsy were the borogoves,
      And the mome raths outgrabe.

                           _WAYS AND MEANS_

    I’ll tell thee everything I can;
      There’s little to relate.
    I saw an aged aged man,
      A-sitting on a gate.
    “Who are you, aged man?” I said,
      “And how is it you live?”
    His answer trickled through my head
      Like water through a sieve.

    He said, “I look for butterflies
      That sleep among the wheat:
    I make them into mutton-pies,
      And sell them in the street.
    I sell them unto men,” he said,
      “Who sail on stormy seas;
    And that’s the way I get my bread--
      A trifle, if you please.”

    But I was thinking of a plan
      To dye one’s whiskers green,
    And always use so large a fan
      That they could not be seen.
    So, having no reply to give
      To what the old man said,
    I cried, “Come, tell me how you live!”
      And thumped him on the head.

    His accents mild took up the tale;
      He said, “I go my ways
    And when I find a mountain-rill
      I set it in a blaze;
    And thence they make a stuff they call
      Rowland’s Macassar Oil--
    Yet twopence-halfpenny is all
      They give me for my toil.”

    But I was thinking of a way
      To feed oneself on batter,
    And so go on from day to day
      Getting a little fatter.
    I shook him well from side to side,
      Until his face was blue;
    “Come, tell me how you live,” I cried,
      “And what it is you do!”

    He said, “I hunt for haddock’s eyes
      Among the heather bright,
    And work them into waistcoat-buttons
      In the silent night.
    And these I do not sell for gold
      Or coin of silvery shine,
    But for a copper halfpenny
      And that will purchase nine.

    “I sometimes dig for buttered rolls,
      Or set limed twigs for crabs;
    I sometimes search the grassy knolls
      For wheels of Hansom cabs.
    And that’s the way” (he gave a wink)
      “By which I get my wealth--
    And very gladly will I drink
      Your Honor’s noble health.”

    I heard him then, for I had just
      Completed my design
    To keep the Menai Bridge from rust
      By boiling it in wine.
    I thanked him much for telling me
      The way he got his wealth,
    But chiefly for his wish that he
      Might drink my noble health.

    And now if e’er by chance I put
      My fingers into glue,
    Or madly squeeze a right-hand foot
      Into a left-hand shoe,
    Or if I drop upon my toe
      A very heavy weight,
    I weep, for it reminds me so
    Of that old man I used to know--
    Whose look was mild, whose speech was slow,
    Whose hair was whiter than the snow,
    Whose face was very like a crow,
    With eyes, like cinders, all aglow,
    Who seemed distracted with his woe,
    Who rocked his body to and fro,
    And muttered mumblingly, and low,
    As if his mouth were full of dough,
    Who snorted like a buffalo--
    That summer evening, long ago,
      A-sitting on a gate.

                         _SOME HALLUCINATIONS_

    He thought he saw an Elephant,
      That practised on a fife:
    He looked again, and found it was
      A letter from his wife.
    “At length I realize,” he said,
      “The bitterness of Life!”

    He thought he saw a Buffalo
      Upon the chimney-piece:
    He looked again, and found it was
      His Sister’s Husband’s Niece.
    “Unless you leave this house,” he said,
      “I’ll send for the Police!”

    He thought he saw a Rattlesnake
      That questioned him in Greek:
    He looked again, and found it was
      The Middle of Next Week.
    “The one thing I regret,” he said,
      “Is that it cannot speak!”

    He thought he saw a Banker’s Clerk
      Descending from the ’bus:
    He looked again, and found it was
      A Hippopotamus:
    “If this should stay to dine,” he said,
      “There won’t be much for us!”

Edward Lear, contemporary of Lewis Carroll, is the only peer of the
great writer of nonsense.

Lear’s nonsense is in different vein, but his verses are equally facile
and felicitous and his prose quite as delightfully extravagant.

If Carroll’s imagination was more exquisitely fanciful, Lear’s had
a broader scope, and both writers are masters of that peculiar
combination of paradox and reasoning that makes for delightful surprise.

Lear was the first to make popular the style of stanza since called
a Limerick, though the derivation of this name has never been
satisfactorily determined.

    There was an old man of Thermopylæ,
    Who never did anything properly;
        But they said: “If you choose
        To boil eggs in your shoes,
    You cannot remain in Thermopylæ.”

    There was an Old Man who said, “Hush!
    I perceive a young bird in this bush!”
        When they said, “Is it small?”
        He replied, “Not at all;
    It is four times as big as the bush!”

    There was an Old Man who supposed
    That the street door was partially closed;
        But some very large Rats
        Ate his coats and his hats,
    While that futile Old Gentleman dozed.

    There was an Old Man of Leghorn,
    The smallest that ever was born;
        But quickly snapt up he
        Was once by a Puppy,
    Who devoured that Old Man of Leghorn.

    There was an Old Man of Kamschatka
    Who possessed a remarkably fat Cur;
        His gait and his waddle
        Were held as a model
    To all the fat dogs in Kamschatka.

                        _THE TWO OLD BACHELORS_

    Two old Bachelors were living in one house
    One caught a Muffin, the other caught a Mouse.
    Said he who caught the Muffin to him who caught the Mouse,
    “This happens just in time, for we’ve nothing in the house,
    Save a tiny slice of lemon and a teaspoonful of honey,
    And what to do for dinner,--since we haven’t any money?
    And what can we expect if we haven’t any dinner
    But to lose our teeth and eyelashes and keep on growing thinner?”

    Said he who caught the Mouse to him who caught the Muffin,
    “We might cook this little Mouse if we only had some Stuffin’!
    If we had but Sage and Onions we could do extremely well,
    But how to get that Stuffin’ it is difficult to tell!”

    And then these two old Bachelors ran quickly to the town
    And asked for Sage and Onions as they wandered up and down;
    They borrowed two large Onions, but no Sage was to be found
    In the Shops or in the Market or in all the Gardens round.

    But some one said, “A hill there is, a little to the north,
    And to its purpledicular top a narrow way leads forth;
    And there among the rugged rocks abides an ancient Sage,--
    An earnest Man, who reads all day a most perplexing page.
    Climb up and seize him by the toes,--all studious as he sits,--
    And pull him down, and chop him into endless little bits!
    Then mix him with your Onion (cut up likewise into scraps),
    And your Stuffin’ will be ready, and very good--perhaps.”

    And then these two old Bachelors, without loss of time,
    The nearly purpledicular crags at once began to climb;
    And at the top among the rocks, all seated in a nook,
    They saw that Sage a-reading of a most enormous book.
    “You earnest Sage!” aloud they cried, “your book you’ve read enough
    We wish to chop you into bits and mix you into Stuffin’!”

    But that old Sage looked calmly up, and with his awful book
    At those two Bachelors’ bald heads a certain aim he took;
    And over crag and precipice they rolled promiscuous down,--
    At once they rolled, and never stopped in lane or field or town;
    And when they reached their house, they found (besides their want
        of Stuffin’)
    The Mouse had fled--and previously had eaten up the Muffin.

    They left their home in silence by the once convivial door;
    And from that hour those Bachelors were never heard of more.

Algernon Charles Swinburne, whose marvelous mastery of the lyric is
well known, is not so noted as a humorist.

Yet his parodies are among the finest in the language. His day was the
Golden Age of Parody, and the writers who achieved it were true poets
and true wits.

This parody of Tennyson is alike a perfect mimicry of sound and sense.


    One, who is not, we see: but one, whom we see not, is;
    Surely this is not that: but that is assuredly this.

    What, and wherefore, and whence? for under is over and under;
    If thunder could be without lightning, lightning could be without

    Doubt is faith in the main: but faith, on the whole, is doubt;
    We cannot believe by proof: but could we believe without?

    Why, and whither, and how? for barley and rye are not clover;
    Neither are straight lines curves: yet over is under and over.

    Two and two may be four: but four and four are not eight;
    Fate and God may be twain: but God is the same thing as fate.

    Ask a man what he thinks, and get from a man what he feels;
    God, once caught in the fact, shews you a fair pair of heels.

    Body and spirit are twins: God only knows which is which;
    The soul squats down in the flesh, like a tinker drunk in a ditch.

    One and two are not one: but one and nothing is two;
    Truth can hardly be false, if falsehood cannot be true.

    Once the mastodon was: pterodactyls were common as cocks;
    Then the mammoth was God: now is He a prize ox.

    Parallels all things are: yet many of these are askew.
    You are certainly I: but certainly I am not you.

    Springs the rock from the plain, shoots the stream from the rock;
    Cocks exist for the hen: but hens exist for the cock.

    God, whom we see not, is: and God, who is not, we see;
    Fiddle, we know, is diddle: and diddle, we take it, is dee.

Swinburne’s parody of his own work is beautifully done in


    From the depth of the dreamy decline of the dawn through a notable
        nimbus of nebulous moonshine,
      Pallid and pink as the palm of the flag-flower that flickers with
          fear of the flies as they float,
    Are they looks of our lovers that lustrously lean from a marvel of
        mystic miraculous moonshine,
      These that we feel in the blood of our blushes that thicken and
          threaten with throbs through the throat?
    Thicken and thrill as a theatre thronged at appeal of an actor’s
        appalled agitation,
      Fainter with fear of the fires of the future than pale with the
          promise of pride in the past;
    Flushed with the famishing fulness of fever that reddens with
        radiance of rathe recreation,
      Gaunt as the ghastliest of glimpses that gleam through the gloom
          of the gloaming when ghosts go aghast?
    Nay, for the nick of the tick of the time is a tremulous touch on
        the temples of terror,
      Strained as the sinews yet strenuous with strife of the dead who
          is dumb as the dust-heaps of death;
    Surely no soul is it, sweet as the spasm of erotic emotional
        exquisite error,
      Bathed in the balms of beatified bliss, beatific itself by
          beatitude’s breath.
    Surely no spirit or sense of a soul that was soft to the spirit and
        soul of our senses
      Sweetens the stress of surprising suspicion that sobs in the
          semblance and sound of a sigh;
    Only this oracle opens Olympian, in mystical moods and triangular
      “Life is the lust of a lamp for the light that is dark till the
          dawn of the day when we die.”
    Mild is the mirk and monotonous music of memory, melodiously mute
        as it may be,
      While the hope in the heart of a hero is bruised by the breach of
          men’s rapiers, resigned to the rod;
    Made meek as a mother whose bosom-beats bound with the
        bliss-bringing bulk of a balm-breathing baby,
      As they grope through the grave-yard of creeds, under skies
          growing green at a groan for the grimness of God.
    Blank is the book of his bounty beholden of old, and its binding is
        blacker than bluer:
      Out of blue into black is the scheme of the skies, and their dews
          are the wine of the bloodshed of things:
    Till the darkling desire of delight shall be free as a fawn that is
        freed from the fangs that pursue her,
      Till the heart-beats of hell shall be hushed by a hymn from the
          hunt that has harried the kennel of kings.

Henry Austin Dobson, better known without his first name, was a
skillful writer of beautiful _vers de société_.

He also wrote much in the French Forms and seemed to find them in no
way trammeling.

                              _ON A FAN_



    Chicken-skin, delicate, white,
      Painted by Carlo Vanloo,
    Loves in a riot of light,
      Roses and vaporous blue;
      Hark to the dainty _frou-frou_
    Picture above, if you can,
      Eyes that could melt as the dew,--
    This was the Pompadour’s fan!

    See how they rise at the sight,
      Thronging the _Œil de Bœuf_ through,
    Courtiers as butterflies bright,
      Beauties that Fragonard drew,
      _Talon-rouge_, falaba, queue,
    Cardinal, duke,--to a man,
      Eager to sigh or to sue,--
    This was the Pompadour’s fan!

    Ah, but things more than polite
      Hung on this toy, _voyez-vous_
    Matters of state and of might,
      Things that great ministers do;
      Things that, maybe, overthrew
    Those in whose brains they began;--
      Here was the sign and the cue,--
    This was the Pompadour’s fan!


    Where are the secrets it knew?
      Weavings of plot and of plan?
    --But where is the Pompadour, too?
      _This_ was the Pompadour’s _fan_!

                            _THE ROUNDEAU_

    You bid me try, Blue-eyes, to write
    A Rondeau. What! forthwith?--tonight?
      Reflect? Some skill I have, ’tis true;
      But thirteen lines!--and rhymed on two!--
    “Refrain,” as well. Ah, hapless plight!
    Still there are five lines--ranged aright.
    These Gallic bonds, I feared, would fright
      My easy Muse. They did, till you--
                            You bid me try!

    That makes them eight.--The port’s in sight;
    ’Tis all because your eyes are bright!
      Now just a pair to end in “oo,”--
      When maids command, what can’t we do?
    Behold! The Rondeau--tasteful, light--
                            You bid me try!

Andrew Lang was perhaps the most versatile writer among English bookmen
of his day. Verse or prose, religious research or translations, to each
and all he gives his individual touch,--light, airy, humorous.

Fairies, Dreams and Ghosts are all his happy hunting ground, and he was
one of the first to experiment with the old French Forms, in which he
gave his own delightful fancy free play, while adhering strictly to the
inflexible rules.

                    _BALLAD OF THE PRIMITIVE JEST_

    I am an ancient Jest!
    Paleolithic man
    In his arboreal nest
    The sparks of fun would fan;
    My outline did he plan,
    And laughed like one possessed,
    ’Twas thus my course began,
    I am a Merry Jest.

    I am an early Jest!
    Man delved and built and span;
    Then wandered South and West
    The peoples Aryan,
    _I_ journeyed in their van;
    The Semites, too, confessed,--
    From Beersheba to Dan,--
    I am a Merry Jest.

    I am an ancient Jest,
    Through all the human clan,
    Red, black, white, free, oppressed,
    Hilarious I ran!
    I’m found in Lucian,
    In Poggio, and the rest,
    I’m dear to Moll and Nan!
    I am a Merry Jest!

    Prince, you may storm and ban--
    Joe Millers _are_ a pest,
    Suppress me if you can!
    I am a Merry Jest!

                      _BALLADE OF LITERARY FAME_

    Oh, where are the endless Romances
    Our grandmothers used to adore?
    The knights with their helms and their lances,
    Their shields and the favours they wore?
    And the monks with their magical lore?
    They have passed to Oblivion and _Nox_,
    They have fled to the shadowy shore,--
    They are all in the Fourpenny Box!

    And where the poetical fancies
    Our fathers rejoiced in, of yore?
    The lyric’s melodious expanses,
    The epics in cantos a score,
    They have been and are not: no more
    Shall the shepherds drive silvery flocks,
    Nor the ladies their languors deplore,--
    They are all in the Fourpenny Box!

    And the music! The songs and the dances?
    The tunes that time may not restore?
    And the tomes where Divinity prances?
    And the pamphlets where heretics roar?
    They have ceased to be even a bore,--
    The Divine, and the Sceptic who mocks,--
    They are “cropped,” they are “foxed” to the core,
    They are all in the Fourpenny Box!


    Suns beat on them; tempests downpour,
    On the chest without cover or locks,
    Where they lie by the Bookseller’s door,--
    They are _all_ in the Fourpenny Box!

William Schwenck Gilbert began as a youth his humorous contributions to
magazines, which included the immortal _Bab Ballads_.

Ten years later he joined forces with the composer, Arthur Sullivan,
and the result of this collaboration was the well known series of
operas of which _Trial By Jury_ was the first.

Gilbert is second to none in humorous paradoxical thought and sprightly
and clever versification. His themes, subtle and fantastic, are worked
out with a serious absurdity as truly witty as it is charming.

                           _THE MIGHTY MUST_

    Come mighty Must!
      Inevitable Shall!
    In thee I trust.
      Time weaves my coronal!
    Go mocking Is!
      Go disappointing Was!
    That I am this
      Ye are the cursed cause!
    Yet humble second shall be first,
          I ween;
    And dead and buried be the curst
          Has Been!

    Of weak Might Be!
      Oh, May, Might, Could, Would, Should!
    How powerless ye
      For evil or for good!
    In every sense
      Your moods I cheerless call,
    Whate’er your tense
      Ye are imperfect, all!
    Ye have deceived the trust I’ve shown
          In ye!
    Away! The Mighty Must alone
          Shall be!

                      _TO THE TERRESTRIAL GLOBE_

                        By a Miserable Wretch.

    Roll on, thou ball, roll on!
    Through pathless realms of Space
          Roll on!
    What though I’m in a sorry case?
    What though I cannot meet my bills?
    What though I suffer toothache’s ills?
    What though I swallow countless pills?
      Never _you_ mind!
          Roll on!

    Roll on, thou ball, roll on!
    Through seas of inky air,
          Roll on!
    It’s true I have no shirts to wear;
    It’s true my butcher’s bill is due;
    It’s true my prospects all look blue--
    But don’t let that unsettle you:
      Never _you_ mind!
          Roll on!
                              (_It rolls on_).

                         _GENTLE ALICE BROWN_

    It was a robber’s daughter, and her name was Alice Brown,
    Her father was the terror of a small Italian town;
    Her mother was a foolish, weak, but amiable old thing;
    But it isn’t of her parents that I’m going for to sing.

    As Alice was a-sitting at her window-sill one day
    A beautiful young gentleman he chanced to pass that way;
    She cast her eyes upon him, and he looked so good and true,
    That she thought, “I could be happy with a gentleman like you!”

    And every morning passed her house that cream of gentlemen;
    She knew she might expect him at a quarter unto ten,
    A sorter in the Custom House it was his daily road
    (The Custom House was fifteen minutes’ walk from her abode).

    But Alice was a pious girl and knew it was not wise
    To look at strange young sorters with expressive purple eyes,
    So she sought the village priest to whom her family confessed--
    The priest by whom their little sins were carefully assessed.

    “Oh holy father,” Alice said, “’twould grieve you, would it not?
    To discover that I was a most disreputable lot!
    Of all unhappy sinners I’m the most unhappy one!”
    The padre said “Whatever have you been and gone and done?”

    “I have helped mamma to steal a little kiddy from its dad,
    I’ve assisted dear papa in cutting up a little lad.
    I’ve planned a little burglary and forged a little cheque,
    And slain a little baby for the coral on its neck!”

    The worthy pastor heaved a sigh, and dropped a silent tear--
    And said “You mustn’t judge yourself too heavily, my dear--
    It’s wrong to murder babies, little corals for to fleece;
    But sins like these one expiates at half-a-crown apiece.

    “Girls will be girls--you’re very young and flighty in your mind;
    Old heads upon young shoulders we must not expect to find:
    We mustn’t be too hard upon these little girlish tricks--
    Let’s see--five crimes at half a crown--exactly twelve-and six.”

    “Oh father,” little Alice cried, “your kindness makes me weep,
    You do these little things for me so singularly cheap--
    Your thoughtful liberality I never can forget;
    But, oh, there is another crime I haven’t mentioned yet!

    “A pleasant-looking gentleman, with pretty purple eyes,--
    I’ve noticed at my window, as I’ve sat a-catching flies;
    He passes by it every day as certain as can be--
    I blush to say I’ve winked at him, and he has winked at me!”

    “For shame,” said Father Paul, “my erring daughter! On my word
    This is the most distressing news that I have ever heard.
    Why, naughty girl, your excellent papa has pledged your hand
    To a promising young robber, the lieutenant of his band!

    “This dreadful piece of news will pain your worthy parents so!
    They are the most remunerative customers I know;
    For many, many years they’ve kept starvation from my doors,
    I never knew so criminal a family as yours!

    “The common country folk in this insipid neighbourhood
    Have nothing to confess, they’re so ridiculously good;
    And if you marry anyone respectable at all,
    Why, you’ll reform, and what will then become of Father Paul?”

    The worthy priest, he up and drew his cowl upon his crown,
    And started off in haste to tell the news to Robber Brown;
    To tell him how his daughter, who was now for marriage fit,
    Had winked upon a sorter, who reciprocated it.

    Good Robber Brown he muffled up his anger pretty well,
    He said, “I have a notion, and that notion I will tell;
    I will nab this gay young sorter, terrify him into fits,
    And get my gentle wife to chop him into little bits.

    “I’ve studied human nature, and I know a thing or two;
    Though a girl may fondly love a living gent, as many do,
    A feeling of disgust upon her senses there will fall
    When she looks upon his body chopped particularly small.”

    He traced that gallant sorter to a still suburban square;
    He watched his opportunity and seized him unaware;
    He took a life preserver and he hit him on the head,
    And Mrs. Brown dissected him before she went to bed.

    And pretty little Alice grew more settled in her mind,
    She never more was guilty of a weakness of the kind,
    Until at length good Robber Brown bestowed her pretty hand
    On the promising young robber, the lieutenant of his band.

Francis C. Burnand, writer of many comedies and burlesques, was a long
time editor of _Punch_ and wrote much of his best work for that

One of his most delightful songs, so successfully sung by the Vokes
family is:

                            _TRUE TO POLL_

    I’ll sing you a song, not very long,
      But the story somewhat new
      Of William Kidd, who, whatever he did,
        To his Poll was always true.
    He sailed away in a galliant ship
      From the port of old Bris_tol_,
          And the last words he uttered,
          As his hankercher he fluttered,
      Were, “My heart is true to Poll.”

              His heart was true to Poll,
              His heart was true to Poll.
            It’s no matter what you do
            If your heart be only true:
          And his heart _was_ true to Poll.

    ’Twas a wreck. Willi_am_, on shore he swam,
      And looked about for an inn;
    When a noble savage lady, of a colour rather shady,
      Came up with a kind of grin:
    “Oh, marry _me_, and a king you’ll be,
      And in a palace loll;
          Or we’ll eat you willy-nilly.”
          So he gave his _hand_, did Billy,
      But his _heart_ was true to Poll.

    Away a twelvemonth sped, and a happy life he led
      As the King of the Kikeryboos;
    His paint was red and yellar, and he used a big umbrella,
      And he wore a pair of over-_shoes_!
    He’d corals and knives, and twenty-six wives,
      Whose beauties I cannot here extol;
          One day they all revolted,
          So he back to Bristol bolted,
      For his _heart_ was true to Poll.

            His heart was true to Poll,
            His heart was true to Poll.
              It’s no matter what you do,
              If your heart be only true:
            And his _heart_ was true to Poll.

William Ernest Henley, though better known for his serious work, waxed
humorous, especially when making excursions into the artificial verse


    Now ain’t they utterly too-too
      (She ses, my Missus mine, ses she)
    Them flymy little bits of Blue.

    Joe, just you kool ’em--nice and skew
      Upon our old meogginee,
    Now ain’t they utterly too-too?

    They’re better than a pot’n’ a screw,
      They’re equal to a Sunday spree,
    Them flymy little bits of Blue!

    Suppose I put ’em up the flue,
      And booze the profits, Joe? Not me.
    Now ain’t they utterly too-too?

    I do the ’Igh Art fake, I do.
      Joe, I’m consummate; and I _see_
    Them flymy little bits of Blue.

    Which, Joe, is why I ses to you--
      Æsthetic-like, and limp, and free--
    Now _ain’t_ they utterly too-too,
    Them flymy little bits of Blue?

Robert Louis Stevenson’s humor consists in an extravagance and
whimsicality of thought and expression and is usually subservient to a
greater intent.

His delightful _Child’s Verses_ show quiet roguery and humorous

    The lovely cow, all red and white,
      I love with all my heart;
    She gives me milk with all her might
      To eat on apple tart.

    The world is so full of a number of things,
      I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

This original style of Juvenile verse, often imitated, has rarely been
successful in the hands of lesser artists.

James Matthew Barrie, one of the finest English humorists, may not be
quoted successfully because his work is only found in sustained stories
or plays, and few brief extracts will bear separation from their

A short passage from _A Window in Thrums_ will hint at the
delightfulness of Barrie’s humor.

                     _A HUMOURIST ON HIS CALLING_

Tammas put his foot on the pail.

“I tak no credit,” he said modestly, on the evening, I remember, of
Willie Pyatt’s funeral, “in bein’ able to speak wi’ a sort o’ faceelity
on topics ’at I’ve made my ain.”

“Aye,” said T’nowhead, “but it’s no faceelity o’ speakin’ ’at taks me.
There’s Davit Lunan ’at can speak like as if he had learned if aff a
paper, an’ yet I canna thole ’im.”

“Davit,” said Hendry, “doesna speak in a wy ’at a body can follow ’im.
He doesna gae even on. Jess says he’s juist like a man aye at the
cross-roads, an’ no sure o’ his way. But the stock has words, an’ no
ilka body has that.”

“If I was bidden to put Tammas’s gift in a word,” said T’nowhead, “I
would say ’at he had a wy. That’s what I would say.”

“Weel, I suppose I have,” Tammas admitted, “but, wy or no wy, I couldna
put a point on my words if it wasna for my sense o’ humour. Lads,
humour’s what gies the nip to speakin’.”

“It’s what maks ye a sarcesticist, Tammas,” said Hendry; “but what I
wonder at is yer sayin’ the humorous things sae aisy-like. Some says ye
mak them up aforehand, but I ken that’s no true.”

“No, only is’t no true,” said Tammas, “but it couldna be true. Them ’at
says sic things, an’ weel I ken you’re meanin’ Davit Lunan, hasna nae
idea o’ what humour is. It’s a thing ’at spouts oot o’ its ain accord.
Some o’ the maist humorous things I’ve ever said cam oot, as a body may
say, by themselves.”

“I suppose that’s the case,” said T’nowhead; “an’ yet it maun be you
’at brings them up?”

“There’s no nae doubt about its bein’ the case,” said Tammas; “for
I’ve watched mysel’ often. There was a vera guid instance occurred
sune after I married Easie. The earl’s son met me one day, aboot that
time, i’ the Tenements, an’ he didna ken ’at Chirsty was deid, an’ I’d
married again. ‘Well, Haggart,’ he says, in his frank wy, ‘and how is
your wife?’ ‘She’s vera weel, sir,’ I maks answer, ‘but she’s no the
ane you mean.’”

“Na, he meant Chirsty,” said Hendry.

“Is that a’ the story?” asked T’nowhead

Tammas had been looking at us queerly.

“There’s no nane o’ ye lauchin’,” he said, “but I can assure ye the
earl’s son gaed east the toon lauchin’ like onything.”

“But what was’t he lauched at?”

“Ou,” said Tammas, “a humourist doesna tell whaur the humour comes in.”

“No, but when you said that, did ye mean it to be humourous?”

“Am no sayin’ I did, but as I’ve been tellin’ ye humour spouts oot by

“Aye, but do ye ken noo what the earl’s son gaed awa lauchin’ at?”

Tammas hesitated.

“I dinna exactly see’t,” he confessed, “but that’s no an oncommon
thing. A humourist would often no ken ’at he was are if it wasna by the
wy he maks other fowk lauch. A body canna be expeckit baith to mak the
joke an’ to see’t. Na, that would be doin’ twa fowks’ wark.”

“Weel, that’s reasonable enough, but I’ve often seen ye lauchin’,” said
Hendry, “lang afore other fowk lauched.”

“Nae doubt,” Tammas explained, “an’ that’s because humour has twa
sides, juist like a penny piece. When I say a humorous thing mysel’ I’m
dependent on other fowk to tak note o’ the humour o’t, bein’ mysel’
taen up wi’ the makkin’ o’t. Aye, but there’s things I see an’ hear at’
maks me laucht, an’ that’s the other side o’ humour.”

“I never heard it put sae plain afore,” said T’nowhead, “an’, sal, am
no nane sure but what am a humourist too.”

“Na, na, no you, T’nowhead,” said Tammas hotly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sir Owen Seaman, present editor of _Punch_, is also one of the
finest parodists of all time. His humorous verse of all varieties is in
the first rank.

                       _A NOCTURNE AT DANIELI’S_

          (Suggested by Browning’s _A Toccata of Galuppi’s_.)

    _Caro mio, Pulcinello_, kindly hear my wail of woe
    Lifted from a noble structure--late Palazzo Dandolo.

    This is Venice, you will gather, which is full of precious “stones,”
    Tintorettos, picture-postcards, and remains of Doges’ bones.

    Not of these am I complaining; they are mostly seen by day,
    And they only try your patience in an inoffensive way.

    But at night, when over Lido rises Dian (that’s the moon),
    And the vicious _vaporetti_ cease to vex the still lagoon;

    When the final _trovatore_, singing something old and cheap,
    Hurls his _tremolo crescendo_ full against my beauty sleep;

    When I hear the Riva’s loungers in debate beneath my bower
    Summing up (about 1.30) certain questions of the hour;

    Then across my nervous system falls the shrill mosquito’s boom,
    And it’s “O, to be in England,” where the may is on the bloom.

    I admit the power of Music to inflate the savage breast--
    There are songs devoid of language which are quite among the best;

    But the present orchestration, with its poignant oboe part,
    Is, in my obscure opinion, barely fit to rank as Art.

    Will it solace me to-morrow, being hit in either eye,
    To be told that this is nothing to the season in July?

    Shall I go for help to Ruskin? Would it ease my pimply brow
    If I found the doges suffered much as I am suffering now?

    If identical probosces pinked the lovers who were bored
    By the sentimental tinkling of Galuppi’s clavichord?

    That’s from Browning (Robert Browning)--I have left his works at
    And the poem I allude to isn’t in the Tauchnitz tome;

    But, if memory serves me rightly, he was very much concerned
    At the thought that in the sequel Venice reaped what Venice earned.

    Was he thinking of mosquitoes? Did he mean _their_ poisoned crop?
    Was it through ammonia tincture that “the kissing had to stop”?

    As for later loves--for Venice never quite mislaid her spell--
    Madame Sand and dear De Musset occupied my own hotel!

    On the very floor below me, I have heard the patron say,
    They were put in No. 13 (No. 36, to-day).

    But they parted--“_elle et lui_” did--and it now occurs to me
    That mosquitoes came between them in this “kingdom by the sea.”

    Poor dead lovers, and such brains, too! What am I that I should
    When the creatures munch my forehead, taking more than I can spare?

    Should I live to meet the morning, should the climate readjust
    Any reparable fragments left upon my outer crust,

    Why, at least I still am extant, and a dog that sees the sun
    Has the pull of Danieli’s den of “lions,” dead and done.

    Courage! I will keep my vigil on the balcony till day
    Like a knight in full pyjamas who would rather run away.

    Courage! let me ope the casement, let the shutters be withdrawn;
    Let scirocco, breathing on me, check a tendency to yawn;
    There’s the sea! and--_Ecco l’alba!_ Ha! (in other words) the Dawn!

                     _TO JULIA UNDER LOCK AND KEY_

(A form of betrothal gift in America is an anklet secured by a padlock,
of which the other party keeps the key.)

    When like a bud my Julia blows
    In lattice-work of silken hose,
    Pleasant I deem it is to note
    How, ’neath the nimble petticoat,
    Above her fairy shoe is set
    The circumvolving zonulet.
    And soothly for the lover’s ear
    A perfect bliss it is to hear
    About her limb so lithe and lank
    My Julia’s ankle-bangle clank.
    Not rudely tight, for ’twere a sin
    To corrugate her dainty skin;
    Nor yet so large that it might fare
    Over her foot at unaware;
    But fashioned nicely with a view
    To let her airy stocking through:
    So as, when Julia goes to bed,
    Of all her gear disburdenèd,
    This ring at least she shall not doff
    Because she cannot take it off.
    And since thereof I hold the key,
    She may not taste of liberty,
    Not though she suffer from the gout,
    Unless I choose to let her out.

                       _AT THE SIGN OF THE COCK_

                         (FRENCH STYLE, 1898)

   (_Being an Ode in further “Contribution to the Song of French
   History,” dedicated, without malice or permission, to Mr. George


    Rooster her sign,
    Rooster her pugnant note, she struts
    Evocative, amazon spurs aprick at heel;
    Nid-nod the authentic stump
    Of the once ensanguined comb vermeil as wine;
    With conspuent doodle-doo
    Hails breach o’ the hectic dawn of yon New Year,
    Last issue up to date
    Of quiverful Fate
    Evolved spontaneous; hails with tonant trump
    The spiriting prime o’ the clashed carillon-peal;
    Ruffling her caudal plumes derisive of scuts;
    Inconscient how she stalks an immarcessibly absurd


    Mark where her Equatorial Pioneer
    Delirant on the tramp goes littoralwise.
    His Flag at furl, portmanteaued; drains to the dregs
    The penultimate brandy-bottle, coal-on-the-head-piece gift
    Of who avenged the Old Sea-Rover’s smirch.
    Marchant he treads the all-along of inarable drift
    On dubiously connivent legs,
    The facile prey of predatory flies;
    Panting for further; sworn to lurch
    Empirical on to the Menelik-buffered, enhavened blue,
    Rhyming--see Cantique I.--with doodle-doo.


    Infuriate she kicked against Imperial fact;
    Vulnant she felt
    What pin-stab should have stained Another’s pelt
    Puncture her own Colonial lung-balloon,
    Volant to nigh meridian. Whence rebuffed,
    The perjured Scythian she lacked
    At need’s pinch, sick with spleen of the rudely cuffed
    Below her breath she cursed; she cursed the hour
    When on her spring for him the young Tyrannical broke
    Amid the unhallowed wedlock’s vodka-shower,
    She passionate, he dispassionate; tricked
    Her wits to eye-blind; borrowed the ready as for dower;
    Till from the trance of that Hymettus-moon
    She woke,
    A nuptial-knotted derelict;
    Pensioned with Rescripts other aid declined
    By the plumped leech saturate urging Peace
    In guise of heavy-armed Gospeller to men,
    Tyrannical unto fraternal equal liberal, her. Not she;
    Not till Alsace her consanguineous find
    What red deteutonising artillery
    Shall shatter her beer-reek alien police
    The just-now pluripollent; not till then.


    More pungent yet the esoteric pain
    Squeezing her pliable vitals nourishes feud
    Insanely grumous, grumously insane.
    For lo!
    Past common balmly on the Bordereau,
    Churns she the skim o’ the gutter’s crust
    With Anti-Judaic various carmagnole,
    Whooped praise of the Anti-just;
    Her boulevard brood
    Gyratory in convolvements militant-mad;
    Theatrical of faith in the Belliform,
    Her Og,
    Her Monstrous. Fled what force she had
    To buckle the jaw-gape, wide agog
    For the Preconcerted One,
    The Anticipated, ripe to clinch the whole;
    Queen-bee to hive the hither and thither volant swarm.
    Bides she his coming; adumbrates the new
    Expurgatorial Divine,
    Her final effulgent Avatar,
    Postured outside a trampling mastodon
    Black as her Baker’s charger; towering; visibly gorged
    With blood of traitors. Knee-grip stiff,
    Spine straightened, on he rides;
    Embossed the Patriot’s brow with hieroglyph
    Of martial _dossiers_, nothing forged
    About him save his armour. So she bides
    Voicing his advent indeterminably far,
    Rooster her sign,
    Rooster her conspuent doodle-doo.


    Behold her, pranked with spurs for bloody sport,
    How she acclaims,
    A crapulous chanticleer,
    Breach of the hectic dawn of yon New Year.
    Not yet her fill of rumours sucked;
    Inebriate of honour; blushfully wroth;
    Tireless to play her old primeval games;
    Her plumage preened the yet unplucked
    Like sails of a galleon, rudder hard amort
    With crepitant mast
    Fronting the hazard to dare of a dual blast
    The intern and the extern, blizzards both.

Anthony C. Deane is also among the best of the modern parodists.

                          _HERE IS THE TALE_

                        (AFTER RUDYARD KIPLING)

    _Here is the tale--and you must make the most of it:
      Here is the rhyme--ah, listen and attend:
    Backwards--forwards--read it all and boast of it
      If you are anything the wiser at the end!_

    Now Jack looked up--it was time to sup, and the bucket was yet to
    And Jack looked round for a space and frowned, then beckoned his
        sister Jill,
    And twice he pulled his sister’s hair, and thrice he smote her
    “Ha’ done, ha’ done with your impudent fun--ha’ done with your
        games!” she cried;
    “You have made mud-pies of a marvellous size--finger and face are
    You have trodden the Way of the Mire and Clay--now up and wash you,
    Or else, or ever we reach our home, there waiteth an angry dame--
    Well you know the weight of her blow--the supperless open shame!
    Wash, if you will, on yonder hill--wash, if you will, at the
    Or keep your dirt, to your certain hurt, and an imminent

    “You must wash--you must scrub--you must scrape!” growled Jack,
       “you must traffic with cans and pails,
    Nor keep the spoil of the good brown soil in the rim of your
    The morning path you must tread to your bath--you must wash ere the
        night descends,
    And all for the cause of conventional laws and the soapmakers’
    But if ’tis sooth that our meal in truth depends on our washing,
    By the sacred right of our appetite--haste--haste to the top of the

    They have trodden the Way of the Mire and Clay, they have toiled
        and travelled far,
    They have climbed to the brow of the hill-top now, where the
        bubbling fountains are,
    They have taken the bucket and filled it up--yea, filled it up to
        the brim;
    But Jack he sneered at his sister Jill, and Jill she jeered at him:
    “What, blown already!” Jack cried out (and his was a biting mirth!)
    “You boast indeed of your wonderful speed--but what is the boasting
    Now, if you can run as the antelope runs and if you can turn like a
    Come, race me, Jill, to the foot of the hill--and prove your
        boasting fair!”
    “Race? What is a race” (and a mocking face had Jill as she spake
        the word)
    “Unless for a prize the runner tries? The truth indeed ye heard,
    For I can run as the antelope runs, and I can turn like a hare:--
    The first one down wins half-a-crown--and I will race you there!”
    “Yea, if for the lesson that you will learn (the lesson of humbled
    The price you fix at two-and-six, it shall not be denied;
    Come, take your stand at my right hand, for here is the mark we
    Now, are you ready, and are you steady? Gird up your petticoats!

    And Jill she ran like a winging bolt, a bolt from the bow released,
    But Jack like a stream of the lightning gleam, with its pathway
        duly greased;
    He ran down hill in front of Jill like a summer-lightning flash--
    Till he suddenly tripped on a stone, or slipped, and fell to the
        earth with a crash.
    Then straight did rise on his wondering eyes the constellations
    Arcturus and the Pleiades, the Greater and Lesser Bear,
    The swirling rain of a comet’s train he saw, as he swiftly fell--
    And Jill came tumbling after him with a loud triumphant yell:
    “You have won, you have won, the race is done! And as for the wager
    You have fallen down with a broken crown--the half-crown debt is

    They have taken Jack to the room at the back where the family
        medicines are,
    And he lies in bed with a broken head in a halo of vinegar;
    While, in that Jill had laughed her fill as her brother fell to
    She had felt the sting of a walloping--she hath paid the price of
        her mirth!

    _Here is the tale--and now you have the whole of it,
    Here is the story, well and wisely-planned,
    Beauty--Duty--these make up the soul of it--
    But, ah, my little readers, will you mark and understand?_

Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch, writing often over the pseudonym of Q, is
most versatile and talented. He, too, loved to dally with the muse of

                            _DE TEA FABULA_

                 _Plain Language from Truthful James_

    Do I sleep? Do I dream?
      Am I hoaxed by a scout?
    Are things what they seem,
      Or is Sophists about?
    Is our το τι ηυ ειναι a failure, or is Robert Browning played out?

    Which expressions like these
      May be fairly applied
    By a party who sees
      A Society skied
    Upon tea that the Warden of Keble had biled with legitimate pride.

    ’Twas November the third,
      And I says to Bill Nye,
    “Which it’s true what I’ve heard:
      If you’re, so to speak, fly,
    There’s a chance of some tea and cheap culture, the sort recommended
        as High.”

    Which I mentioned its name,
      And he ups and remarks:
    “If dress-coats is the game
      And pow-wow in the Parks,
    Then I’m nuts on Sordello and Hohenstiel-Schwangau and similar

    Now the pride of Bill Nye
      Cannot well be express’d;
    For he wore a white tie
      And a cut-away vest:
    Says I, “Solomon’s lilies ain’t in it, and they was reputed well

    But not far did we wend,
      When we saw Pippa pass
    On the arm of a friend
      --Dr. Furnivall ’t was,
    And he wore in his hat two half-tickets for London, return,

    “Well,” I thought, “this is odd.”
      But we came pretty quick
    To a sort of a quad
      That was all of red brick,
    And I says to the porter,--“R. Browning: free passes; and kindly
        look slick.”

    But says he, dripping tears
      In his check handkerchief,
    “That symposium’s career’s
      Been regrettably brief,
    For it went all its pile upon crumpets and busted on gunpowder

    Then we tucked up the sleeves
      Of our shirts (that were biled),
    Which the reader perceives
      That our feelings were riled,
    And we went for that man till his mother had doubted the traits of
        her child.

    Which emotions like these
      Must be freely indulged
    By a party who sees
      A Society bulged
    On a reef the existence of which its prospectus had never divulged.

    But I ask,--Do I dream?
      Has it gone up the spout?
    Are things what they seem,
      Or is Sophists about?
    Is our τὸ τι ἦυ εἶναι a failure, or is Robert Browning played out?

James Kenneth Stephen, like so many of the English minor poets,
expresses his humorous vein best in parody.

Stephen’s light verse belongs mostly to his undergraduate days.

                              _A SONNET_

    Two voices are there: one is of the deep;
    It learns the storm-cloud’s thunderous melody,
    Now roars, now murmurs with the changing sea,
    Now bird-like pipes, now closes soft in sleep:
    And one is of an old half-witted sheep
    Which bleats articulate monotony.
    And indicates that two and one are three,
    That grass is green, lakes damp, and mountains steep:
    And, Wordsworth, both are thine: at certain times
    Forth from the heart of thy melodious rhymes,
    The form and pressure of high thoughts will burst:
    At other times--good Lord! I’d rather be
    Quite unacquainted with the A B C
    Than write such hopeless rubbish as thy worst.

                              _A THOUGHT_

    If all the harm that women have done
    Were put in a bundle and rolled into one,
        Earth would not hold it,
        The sky could not enfold it,
    It could not be lighted nor warmed by the sun;
        Such masses of evil
        Would puzzle the devil,
    And keep him in fuel while Time’s wheels run.

    But if all the harm that’s been done by men
    Were doubled, and doubled, and doubled again,
    And melted and fused into vapour, and then
    Were squared and raised to the power of ten,
    There wouldn’t be nearly enough, not near,
    To keep a small girl for the tenth of a year.

                           _THE MILLENNIUM_

                               TO R. K.

    _As long I dwell on some stupendous
    And tremendous (Heaven defend us!)
    Penman’s latest piece of graphic._
                         ROBERT BROWNING.

    Will there never come a season
      Which shall rid us from the curse
    Of a prose which knows no reason
      And an unmelodious verse:
    When the world shall cease to wonder
      At the genius of an Ass,
    And a boy’s eccentric blunder
      Shall not bring success to pass:

    When mankind shall be delivered
      From the clash of magazines,
    And the inkstand shall be shivered
      Into countless smithereens:
    When there stands a muzzled stripling,
      Mute, beside a muzzled bore:
    When the Rudyards cease from Kipling
      And the Haggards Ride no more?


    If there is a vile, pernicious,
      Wicked and degraded rule,
    Tending to debase the vicious,
      And corrupt the harmless fool;
    If there is a hateful habit
      Making man a senseless tool,
    With the feelings of a rabbit
      And the wisdom of a mule;
    It’s the rule which inculcates,
    It’s the habit which dictates
    The wrong and sinful practice of going into school.

    If there’s anything improving
      To an erring sinner’s state,
    Which is useful in removing
      All the ills of human fate;
    If there’s any glorious custom
      Which our faults can dissipate,
    And can casually thrust ’em
      Out of sight and make us great;
    It’s the plan by which we shirk
    Half our matu-ti-nal work,
    The glorious institution of always being late.

Barry Pain, journalist and author, following the trend of the hour,
produced this amusing set of parodies.

                          _THE POETS AT TEA_

                     1--(_Macaulay, who made it_)

    Pour, varlet, pour the water,
      The water steaming hot!
    A spoonful for each man of us,
      Another for the pot!
    We shall not drink from amber,
      Nor Capuan slave shall mix
    For us the snows of Athos
      With port at thirty-six;
    Whiter than snow the crystals,
      Grown sweet ’neath tropic fires,
    More rich the herbs of China’s field,
    The pasture-lands more fragrance yield;
    For ever let Britannia wield
      The tea-pot of her sires!

                   2--(_Tennyson, who took it hot_)

    I think that I am drawing to an end:
    For on a sudden came a gasp for breath.
    And stretching of the hands, and blinded eyes,
    And a great darkness falling on my soul.
    O Hallelujah!... Kindly pass the milk.

                 3--(_Swinburne, who let it get cold_)

    As the sin that was sweet in the sinning
      Is foul in the ending thereof,
    As the heat of the summer’s beginning
      Is past in the winter of love:
    O purity, painful and pleading!
      O coldness, ineffably gray!
    Oh, hear us, our handmaid unheeding,
      And take it away!

               4--(_Cowper, who thoroughly enjoyed it_)

    The cosy fire is bright and gay,
    The merry kettle boils away
        And hums a cheerful song.
    I sing the saucer and the cup;
    Pray, Mary, fill the tea-pot up,
        And do not make it strong.

             5--(_Browning, who treated it allegorically_)

    Tut! Bah! We take as another case--
      Pass the bills on the pills on the window-sill; notice the capsule
    (A sick man’s fancy, no doubt, but I place
      Reliance on trade-marks, Sir)--so perhaps you’ll
    Excuse the digression--this cup which I hold
      Light-poised--Bah, it’s spilt in the bed!--well, let’s on go--
    Hold Bohea and sugar, Sir; if you were told
      The sugar was salt, would the Bohea be Congo?

                  6--(_Wordsworth, who gave it away_)

    “Come, little cottage girl, you seem
      To want my cup of tea;
    And will you take a little cream?
      Now tell the truth to me.”

    She had a rustic, woodland grin,
      Her cheek was soft as silk,
    And she replied, “Sir, please put in
      A little drop of milk.”

    “Why, what put milk into your head?
      ’Tis cream my cows supply”;
    And five times to the child I said,
      “Why, pig-head, tell me, why?”

    “You call me pig-head,” she replied;
      “My proper name is Ruth.
    I called that milk”--she blushed with pride--
      “You bade me speak the truth.”

                  7--(_Poe, who got excited over it_)

    Here’s a mellow cup of tea, golden tea!
    What a world of rapturous thought its fragrance brings to me!
      Oh, from out the silver cells
      How it wells!
      How it smells!
      Keeping tune, tune, tune
    To the tintinnabulation of the spoon.
    And the kettle on the fire
    Boils its spout off with desire,
    With a desperate desire
    And a crystalline endeavour
    Now, now to sit, or never,
    On the top of the pale-faced moon,
    But he always came home to tea, tea, tea, tea, tea,
        Tea to the n--th.

               8--(_Rossetti, who took six cups of it_)

    The lilies lie in my lady’s bower
    (O weary mother, drive the cows to roost),
    They faintly droop for a little hour;
    My lady’s head droops like a flower.

    She took the porcelain in her hand
    (O weary mother, drive the cows to roost);
    She poured; I drank at her command;
    Drank deep, and now--you understand!
    (O weary mother, drive the cows to roost.)

                9--(_Burns, who liked it adulterated_)

    Weel, gin ye speir, I’m no inclined,
    Whusky or tay--to state my mind,
        Fore ane or ither;
      For, gin I tak the first, I’m fou,
      And gin the next, I’m dull as you,
        Mix a’ thegither.

       10--(_Walt Whitman, who didn’t stay more than a minute_)

    One cup for myself-hood,
    Many for you. Allons, camerados, we will drink together,
    O hand-in-hand! That tea-spoon, please, when you’ve done with it.
    What butter-colour’d hair you’ve got. I don’t want to be personal.
    All right, then, you needn’t. You’re a stale-cadaver.
    Eighteen-pence if the bottles are returned.
    Allons, from all bat-eyed formula.

F. Anstey (pen name of J. B. Guthrie) wrote many novels and short skits
as well as verses. Like many of his contemporaries he is especially
happy in a parody vein.



    My Love has sicklied unto Loath,
      And foul seems all that fair I fancied--
    The lily’s sheen’s a leprous growth,
      The very buttercups are rancid.


    With matted head a-dabble in the dust,
      And eyes tear-sealèd in a saline crust
    I lie all loathly in my rags and rust--
      Yet learn that strange delight may lurk in self-disgust.

              _Stanza Written in Depression Near Dulwich_

    The lark soars up in the air;
      The toad sits tight in his hole;
    And I would I were certain which of the pair
      Were the truer type of my soul!

                             _To My Lady_

    Twine, lanken fingers, lily-lithe,
      Gleam, slanted eyes, all beryl-green,
    Pout, blood-red lips that burst a-writhe,
      Then--kiss me, Lady Grisoline!

                             _The Monster_

    Uprears the monster now his slobberous head,
      Its filamentous chaps her ankles brushing;
    Her twice-five roseal toes are cramped in dread,
      Each maidly instep mauven-pink is flushing.

                           _A Trumpet Blast_

    Pale Patricians, sunk in self-indulgence,
      Blink your blearèd eyes. Behold the Sun--
    Burst proclaim in purpurate effulgence,
      Demos dawning, and the Darkness done!

Hilaire Belloc, in addition to wiser matters, wrote most amusing
nonsense animal verses.

                             _THE PYTHON_

    A python I should not advise,--
    It needs a doctor for its eyes,
      And has the measles yearly.

    However, if you feel inclined
    To get one (to improve your mind,
      And not from fashion merely),
    Allow no music near its cage;
    And when it flies into a rage
      Chastise it most severely.

    I had an Aunt in Yucatan
    Who bought a Python from a man
      And kept it for a pet.
    She died because she never knew
    These simple little rules and few;--
      The snake is living yet.

                              _THE BISON_

    The Bison is vain, and (I write it with pain)
      The Door-mat you see on his head
    Is not, as some learned professors maintain,
    The opulent growth of a genius’ brain;
      But is sewn on with needle and thread.

                             _THE MICROBE_

    The Microbe is so very small
    You cannot make him out at all,
    But many sanguine people hope
    To see him through a microscope.
    His jointed tongue that lies beneath
    A hundred curious rows of teeth;
    His seven tufted tails with lots
    Of lovely pink and purple spots
    On each of which a pattern stands,
      Composed of forty separate bands;
        His eyebrows of a tender green;
          All these have never yet been seen--
            But Scientists, who ought to know,
              Assure us that they must be so....
                Oh! let us never, never doubt
                  What nobody is sure about!

                              _THE FROG_

    Be kind and tender to the Frog,
      And do not call him names,
    As “Slimy-Skin,” or “Polly-wog,”
      Or likewise, “Uncle James,”
    Or “Gape-a-grin,” or “Toad-gone-wrong,”
      Or “Billy-Bandy-knees”;
    The Frog is justly sensitive
      To epithets like these.

    No animal will more repay,
      A treatment kind and fair,
    At least, so lonely people say
    Who keep a frog (and, by the way,
      They are extremely rare).

Gilbert K. Chesterton, England’s great humorist of today, is cleverly
gay in his French Forms.

                        _A BALLADE OF SUICIDE_

    The gallows in my garden, people say,
    Is new and neat and adequately tall.
    I tie the noose on in a knowing way
    As one that knots his necktie for a ball;
    But just as all the neighbours--on the wall--
    Are drawing a long breath to shout “Hurray!”
    The strangest whim has seized me.... After all
    I think I will not hang myself to-day.

    To-morrow is the time I get my pay--
    My uncle’s sword is hanging in the hall--
    I see a little cloud all pink and grey--
    Perhaps the rector’s mother will _not_ call--
    I fancy that I heard from Mr. Gall
    That mushrooms could be cooked another way--
    I never read the works of Juvenal--
    I think I will not hang myself to-day.

    The world will have another washing day;
    The decadents decay; the pedants pall;
    And H. G. Wells has found that children play,
    And Bernard Shaw discovered that they squall;
    Rationalists are growing rational--
    And through thick woods one finds a stream astray,
    So secret that the very sky seems small--
    I think I will not hang myself to-day.


    Prince, I can hear the trump of Germinal,
    The tumbrils toiling up the terrible way;
    Even today your royal head may fall--
    I think I will not hang myself to-day.

                    _A BALLADE OF AN ANTI-PURITAN_

    They spoke of Progress spiring round,
    Of Light and Mrs. Humphry Ward--
    It is not true to say I frowned,
    Or ran about the room and roared;
    I might have simply sat and snored--
    I rose politely in the club
    And said, “I feel a little bored;
    Will someone take me to a pub?”

    The new world’s wisest did surround
    Me; and it pains me to record
    I did not think their views profound,
    Or their conclusions well assured;
    The simple life I can’t afford,
    Besides, I do not like the grub--
    I want a mash and sausage, “scored”--
    Will someone take me to a pub?

    I know where Men can still be found,
    Anger and clamorous accord,
    And virtues growing from the ground,
    And fellowship of beer and board,
    And song, that is a sturdy cord,
    And hope, that is a hardy shrub,
    And goodness, that is God’s last word--
    Will someone take me to a pub?


    Prince, Bayard would have smashed his sword
    To see the sort of knights you dub--
    Is that the last of them--O Lord!
    Will someone take me to a pub?

                             FRENCH HUMOR

Voltaire, the assumed name of François Marie Arouet, was one of the
most famous of French writers. Plays, fiction, criticism and letters
are among his celebrated works.

We can quote but a short bit from his novel of _Candide_:

       *       *       *       *       *

The tutor Pangloss was the oracle of the house, and little Candide
listened to his lessons with all the ready faith natural to his age and

Pangloss used to teach the science of
metaphysico-theologo-cosmologo-noodleology. He demonstrated most
admirably that there is no effect without a cause, and that, in this
best of all possible worlds, the castle of my lord baron was the most
magnificent of castles, and my lady the best of all possible baronesses.

“It has been proved,” said he, “that things cannot be otherwise than
they are; for, everything being made for a certain end, the end for
which everything is made is necessarily the best end. Observe how noses
were made to carry spectacles, and spectacles we have accordingly. Our
legs are clearly intended for shoes and stockings, so we have them.
Stone has been formed to be hewn and dressed for building castles, so
my lord has a very fine one, for it is meet that the greatest baron in
the province should have the best accommodation. Pigs were made to be
eaten, and we eat pork all the year round. Consequently those who have
asserted that all is well have said what is silly; they should have
said of everything that is, that it is the best that could possibly be.”

Candide listened attentively, and innocently believed all that he
heard; for he thought Mlle. Cunégonde extremely beautiful, though he
never had the boldness to tell her so. He felt convinced that, next
to the happiness of being born Baron of Thundertentronckh, the second
degree of happiness was to be Mlle. Cunégonde, the third to see her
every day, and the fourth to hear Professor Pangloss, the greatest
philosopher in the province, and therefore in all the world.

One day Mlle. Cunégonde, while taking a walk near the castle, in the
little wood which was called the park, saw through the bushes Dr.
Pangloss giving a lesson in experimental physics to her mother’s
chambermaid, a little brunette, very pretty and very willing to learn.
As Mlle. Cunégonde had a great taste for science, she watched with
breathless interest the repeated experiments that were carried on under
her eyes; she clearly perceived that the doctor had sufficient reason
for all he did; she saw the connection between causes and effects, and
returned home much agitated, though very thoughtful, and filled with
a yearning after scientific pursuits, for sharing in which she wished
that young Candide might find sufficient reason in her, and that she
might find the same in him.

She met Candide as she was on her way back to the castle, and blushed;
the youth blushed likewise. She bade him good morning in a voice
that struggled for utterance; and Candide answered her without well
knowing what he was saying. Next day, as the company were leaving the
table after dinner, Cunégonde and Candide found themselves behind a
screen. Cunégonde let fall her handkerchief; Candide picked it up; she
innocently took hold of his hand, and the young man, as innocently,
kissed hers with an ardor, a tenderness, and a grace quite peculiar;
their lips met and their eyes sparkled. His lordship, the Baron of
Thundertentronckh, happened to pass by the screen, and, seeing that
particular instance of cause and effect, drove Candide out of the
castle with vigorous kicks. Cunégonde swooned away, but, as soon as she
recovered, my lady the baroness boxed her ears, and all was confusion
and consternation in that most magnificent and most charming of all
possible castles.

Marc Antoine Desaugiers was a Parisian song writer and author of

His wit was cynical and his versification of a facile sort.

                         _THE ETERNAL YAWNER_

    Ah! well-a-day, in all the earth
      What can one do?
    Where for amusement seek, or mirth?
    Ah! well-a-day, in all the earth
      What can one do
    To cease from yawning here below?

    Of mortal man, what is the rôle?
      To bustle, eat, and labor ply;
      To plot, grow old, and then to die?
    Not very lively this, or droll.
        Ah! well-a-day, etc.

    No wonder in my mind begets
      The sun, which poets call sublime;
      Not this the first or second time
    He rises, runs his race, and sets.
        Ah! well-a-day, etc.

    To one dull course the seasons cling:
      For full five thousand years we view
      The summer following after spring,
    And winter autumn’s close pursue.
        Ah! well-a-day, etc.

    My watch (a friend of little use),
      Whose hands their tedious circuit ply,
      Tells me how slow the hours fly,
    Not how I may my hours amuse.
        Ah! well-a-day, etc.

    I half the world have traveled o’er,
      To see if men diversion found;
      But everywhere, on every ground,
    I saw what I had seen before.
        Ah! well-a-day, etc.

    In weariness which I abhorred,
      Wishing to know how sped the great,
      I dined with men of high estate,
    And murmured as I left their board,
        Ah! well-a-day, etc.

    Wishing to see if, when in love,
      Life some unworn amusement has,
      Love I attempted, but alas!
    Love in all climes the same doth prove.
        Ah! well-a-day, etc.

    Thus being, at this early age,
      Of all things sick, both night and day,
      In hopes to be more blithe and gay
    I did in settled life engage.
        Ah! well-a-day, etc.

    The street where now my life I led,
      By neighborhood my steps brought on
      To th’ Institute and Odéon,
    Which every day I visited.
        Ah! well-a-day, etc.

    By writing this (hope quickly gone),
      To cheer my spirits I essayed;
      But yawned the while this song was made,
    And now I sing it, still I yawn:
        Ah! well-a-day, etc.

Pierre Jean de Béranger was one of France’s greatest lyric poets.
His versatility compassed songs of every sort from political to
bacchanalian, from amatory to philosophical.

                    _THE EDUCATION OF YOUNG LADIES_

    What! this Monsieur de Fénélon
      The girls pretend to school!
    Of Mass and needlework he prates;
      Mama, he’s but a fool.
    Balls, concerts, and the piece just out,
    Can teach us better far, no doubt:
    Tra la la la, tra la la la,
    Thus are young ladies taught, Mama!

    Let others mind their work; I’ll play,
      Mama, the sweet duet,
    That for my master’s voice and mine
      Is from Armida set.
    If Rénaud felt love’s burning flame,
    I feel some shootings of the same:
    Tra la la la, tra la la la,
    Thus are young ladies taught, Mama!

    Let others keep accounts; I’ll dance,
      Mama, an hour or two;
    And from my master learn a step
      Voluptuous and new.
    At this long skirt my feet rebel;
    To loop it up a bit were well.
    Tra la la la, tra la la la,
    Thus are young ladies taught, Mama!

    Let others o’er my sister watch;
      Mama, I’d rather trace--
    I’ve wondrous talent--at the Louvre
      The Apollo’s matchless grace:
    Throughout his figure what a charm!
      ’Tis naked, true--but that’s no harm
    Tra la la la, tra la la la,
    Thus are young ladies taught, Mama!

    Mama, I must be married soon,
      Even fashion says no less;
    Besides, there is an urgent cause,
      I must, Mama, confess.
    The world my situation sees--
    But there they laugh at scrapes like these.
    Tra la la la, tra la la la,
    Thus are young ladies taught, Mama!

                           _THE DEAD ALIVE_

    When a bore gets hold of me,
      Dull and overbearing,
    Be so kind as pray for me,
      I’m as dead as herring.
    When the thrusts of pleasure glib
      In my sides are sticking,
    Poking fun at every rib,
      I’m alive and kicking.

    When a snob his £ s. d.
      Jingles in his breeches,
    Be so kind as pray for me,
      I’m as dead as ditches.
    When a birthday’s champagne-corks
      Round my ears are clicking,
    Marking time with well-oil’d works,
      I’m alive and kicking.

    Kings and their supremacy
      Occupy the table,
    Be so kind as pray for me,
      I’m as dead as Abel.
    Talk about the age of wine
      (Bought by cash or ticking),
    So you bring a sample fine,
      I’m alive and kicking.

    When a trip to Muscovy
      Tempts a conquest glutton,
    Be so kind as pray for me,
      I’m as dead as mutton.
    Match me with a tippling foe,
      See who first wants picking
    From the dead man’s field below,
      I’m alive and kicking.

    When great scribes to poetry
      March, by notions big led,
    Be so kind as pray for me,
      I’m as dead as pig-lead.
    When you start a careless song,
      Not at grammar sticking,
    Good to push the wine along.
      I’m alive and kicking.

    When a bigot, half-hours three,
      Spouts in canting gloom’s tones,
    Be so kind as pray for me,
      I’m as dead as tombstones.
    When in cloisters underground,
      Built of stone or bricking,
    Orders of the screw you found,
      I’m alive and kicking.

    Bourbons back in France we see
      (Sure we don’t much need ’em),
    Be so kind as pray for me,
      I’m as dead as freedom.
    Bess returns, and still our throats
      Find us here a-slicking,
    Sitting free without our coats--
      I’m alive and kicking.

    Forced to leave this company,
      Bottle-wine and horn-ale,
    Be so kind as pray for me,
      I’m as dead as door-nail.
    Pledging, though, a quick return,
      Soon my anchor sticking
    On the shore for which I yearn--
      I’m alive and kicking.

A great name that ushers in the Nineteenth century is that of Honoré de
Balzac, chief of the realistic school of French novelists. His humor is
keen and is never lacking in his somewhat diversified writings.

From his well known _Contes Drolatiques_ we give two stories.

                      _A SLIGHT MISUNDERSTANDING_

Louis XI had given the Abbey of Turpenay to a gentleman who, enjoying
the revenue, had called himself M. de Turpenay. It happened that the
king being at Plessis-les-Tours, the real abbot, who was a monk, came
and presented himself before the king, and presented a petition,
remonstrating with him that, canonically and monastically, he was
entitled to the abbey, and the usurping gentleman wronged him of his
right, and therefore he called upon his Majesty to have justice done
to him. Nodding his peruke, the king promised to render him contented.
This monk, importunate as are all hooded animals, came often at the end
of the king’s meals, who, bored with the holy water of the convent,
called friend Tristan and said to him, “Old fellow, there is here a
Turpenay who annoys me; rid the world of him for me.”

Tristan, taking a frock for a monk, or a monk for a frock, came to
this gentleman, whom all the court called M. de Turpenay, and, having
accosted him, managed to lead him on one side, then, taking him by the
button-hole, gave him to understand that the king desired he should
die. He tried to resist, supplicating and supplicating to escape,
but in no way could he obtain a hearing. He was delicately strangled
between the head and shoulders, so that he expired; and, three hours
afterwards, Tristan told the king that he was despatched. It happened
five days later, which is the space in which souls come back again,
that the monk came into the room where the king was, and when he saw
him he was much astonished. Tristan was present; the king called him,
and whispered into his ear:

“You have not done what I told you to.”

“Saving your Majesty, I have done it. Turpenay is dead.”

“Eh? I meant this monk.”

“I understood the gentleman!”

“What, it is done, then?”

“Yes, your Majesty.”

“Very well, then”--turning toward the monk--“come here, monk.” The monk
approached. The king said to him, “Kneel down.” The poor monk began to
shiver in his shoes. But the king said to him, “Thank God that He has
not willed that you should be executed as I had ordered. He who took
your estates has been instead. God has done you justice. Go and pray to
God for me, and don’t stir out of your convent.”

This proves the good-heartedness of Louis XI. He might very well
have hanged the monk, the cause of the error. As for the aforesaid
gentleman, it was given out that he had died in the king’s service.


When Queen Catherine was princess royal, to make herself welcome to
the king, her father-in-law, who at that time was very ill indeed, she
presented him from time to time with Italian pictures, knowing that he
liked them much, being a friend of Sire Raphael d’Urbino and of the
Sires Primaticcio and Leonardo da Vinci, to whom he sent large sums
of money. She obtained from her family a precious picture, painted by
a Venetian named Titian (painter to the Emperor Charles, and in very
high favor), in which there were portraits of Adam and Eve at the
moment when God left them to wander about the terrestrial paradise.
They were painted full height, in the costume of the period, in which
it is difficult to make a mistake, because they were attired in their
ignorance, and caparisoned with the divine grace which enveloped
them--a difficult thing to execute on account of the color, but one
in which the said Sire Titian excelled. The picture was put into the
room of the poor king, who was then ill with the disease of which he
eventually died. It had a great success at the Court of France, where
every one wished to see it; but no one was able to until after the
king’s death, since at his desire it was allowed to remain in his room
as long as he lived.

One day Catherine took with her to the king’s room her son Francis and
little Margy, who began to talk at random, as children will. Now here,
now there, these children had heard this picture of Adam and Eve spoken
about, and had tormented their mother to take them to see it. Since
the two little ones sometimes amused the old king, the princess royal
complied with their request.

“You wished to see Adam and Eve, who were our first parents; there they
are,” said she.

Then she left them in great astonishment before Titian’s picture, and
seated herself by the bedside of the king, who delighted to watch the

“Which of the two is Adam?” said Francis, nudging his sister Margaret’s

“You silly,” replied she, “they would have to be dressed for one to
know that!”

       *       *       *       *       *

Louis Charles Alfred de Musset was a celebrated French poet and man of
letters. Though he died in early middle age, he left many volumes of
wise and witty writings.


“Be silent, all of you!” cried Mimi. “I want to talk a little now.
Since the magnificent M. Marcel does not care for fables, I am going to
relate a true story, _et quorum pars magna fui_.”

“Do you speak Latin?” asked Eugène.

“As you perceive,” Mlle. Pinson answered. “I have inherited that
sentence from my uncle, who served under the great Napoleon, and who
always repeated it before he gave us an account of a battle. If you
don’t know the meaning of the words, I’ll teach you free of charge.
They mean, ‘I give you my word of honor.’ Well, then, you are to know
that one night last week I went with two of my friends, Blanchette and
Rougette, to the Odéon theater----”

“Watch me cut the cake,” interrupted Marcel.

“Cut ahead, but listen,” Mlle. Pinson continued. “As I was saying,
I went with Blanchette and Rougette to the Odéon to see a tragedy.
Rougette, as you know, has just lost her grandmother, and has inherited
four hundred francs. We had taken a box, opposite to which, in the
pit, sat three students. These young men liked our looks, and, on the
pretext that we were alone and unprotected, invited us to supper.”

“Immediately?” asked Marcel. “That was gallant indeed. And you refused,
I suppose?”

“By no means,” said Mimi. “We accepted the invitation, and in the
intermission, without waiting for the end of the play, we all went off
to Viot’s restaurant.”

“With your cavaliers?”

“With our cavaliers. The leader, of course, began by telling us that
he had nothing, but such little obstacles did not disconcert us.
We ordered everything we wanted. Rougette took pen and paper, and
ordered a veritable marriage-feast: shrimps, an omelet with sugar,
fritters, mussels, eggs with whipped cream--in fact, all the delicacies
imaginable. To tell the truth, our young gentlemen pulled wry

“I have no doubt of it!” said Marcel.

“We didn’t care. When everything was brought in we began to act the
part of great ladies. We approved of nothing, but found everything
disgusting. Hardly was any dish brought in but we sent it out again.
‘Waiter, take this away; it’s intolerable; where did you get the
horrible stuff?’ Our unknown gentlemen wanted to eat, but found it
impossible. In a word, we supped as Sancho dined, and in our vigor
nearly broke several dishes.”

“Nice conduct! And who was to pay for it all?”

“That is precisely the question that our three unknown gentlemen
asked one another. To judge by what we overheard of their whispered
conversation, one of them owned six francs, the second a good deal
less, and the third had only his watch, which he generously pulled
out of his pocket. So the three unfortunates went up to the cashier,
intending to gain a delay of some sort. What answer do you suppose they

“I imagine that you would be kept there, and your gentlemen sent to

“You are wrong,” said Mlle. Pinson. “Before going in Rougette had
taken her precautions, and had paid for everything in advance. You can
imagine the scene when Viot answered, ‘Gentlemen, everything is paid.’
Our three unknown gentlemen looked at us as never three dogs looked at
three bishops, with pitiful stupefaction mixed with pure tenderness.
But we, without seeming to notice anything unusual, went down-stairs
and ordered a cab. ‘Dear Marquise,’ said Rougette to me, ‘we ought to
take these gentlemen home.’ ‘Certainly, dear Countess,’ answered I. Our
poor young gallants did not know what to say, they looked so sheepish.
They wanted to get rid of our politeness, and asked not to be taken
home, even refusing to give their address. No wonder, either, because
they felt sure that they were having to do with great ladies, and they
lived in Fish-Cat Street!”

The two students, the friends of Marcel, who, up to this time, had done
nothing but smoke their pipes and drink in silence, appeared little
pleased with this story. Their faces grew red, and they seemed to know
as much about this unfortunate supper as Mimi herself, at whom they
glanced restlessly. Marcel, laughing, said:

“Tell us who they were, Mlle. Mimi. Since it happened last week it does
not matter.”

“Never!” cried the girl. “Play a trick on a man--yes. But ruin his

“You are right,” said Eugène, “and are acting even more wisely than you
yourself are aware of. There is not a single young fellow at college
who has not some such mistake or folly behind him, and yet it is from
among these very people that France draws her most distinguished men.”

“Yes,” said Marcel, “that’s true. There are peers of France who now
dine at Flicoteau’s, but who once could not pay their bills. But,” he
added, and winked, “haven’t you seen your unknown gentlemen again?”

“What do you take us for?” answered Mlle. Pinson in a severe and almost
offended tone. “You know Blanchette and Rougette, and do you suppose
that I----?”

“Very well,” said Marcel, “don’t be angry. But isn’t this a nice state
of affairs? Here are three giddy girls, who may not be able to pay
their next day’s dinner, and who throw away their money for the sake of
mystifying three poor unoffending devils!”

“But why did they invite us to supper?” asked Mlle. Pinson.--“_Mimi

       *       *       *       *       *

Charles Paul de Kock was a novelist and dramatist. A short quotation
from _A Much Worried Gentleman_ shows the ubiquitous mother-in-law

                      _THÉOPHILE’S MOTHER-IN-LAW_

“Son-in-law, you will offer me your arm; your wife will take her

“Yes, mother-in-law.”

“Furthermore, when we get to the caterer’s for dinner, you must not
whisper to your wife. People might suspect something unrefined.”

“Yes, mother-in-law.”

“Neither must you kiss her.”

“Why, you object to me kissing my wife?”

“Before people, yes. It’s very bad form. Haven’t you time enough for it
at home?”


“At table you will not sit next to your wife, but next to me.”

“That’s agreed.”

“During the meal you will take care that no comic songs on your
marriage are sung. Those who write them usually permit themselves
indelicate jokes, so that the ladies are put out. That is the worst
taste possible.”

“I’ll see that none are sung.”

“You will dance only once with your wife during the evening. Understand
me--only once.”

“But, why, why?”

“Because it is proper to let the bride accept the invitations of
relatives, friends, and strangers.”

“But I didn’t marry in order that my wife should dance with everybody
except myself!”

“Do you wish to insinuate, son-in-law, that you can instruct me
concerning the usages of polite society? You are beginning well.”

“I assure you, mother-in-law, that I had no intention----”

“That will do. I accept your excuses. We now come to a more delicate
matter, to--but, of course, you must understand me.”

“I confess that I do not at all.”

“Listen, son-in-law. Some newly married young men, on their
wedding-night, when the ball is at its gayest, take the liberty of
carrying off their wives, and disappearing with them about twelve

“And you object to that?”

“Fie, sir, fie! If you were to be guilty of such a thing, I would make
your wife sue for a divorce the day after your marriage.”

“Be easy, then; I will not disappear. But when may I go away with my

“I shall take my daughter with me, and arrange an opportune time when
the decencies of the situation may be observed.”

“And who will take me?”

“You will go alone, but you will not go, understand me well, until
there isn’t a cat left at the ball.”

“I shall be getting to bed very late, then. Some of the people will
want square dances and country dances, and----”

“You will get to bed soon enough, son-in-law.”

“But why all this, mother-in-law?”

“That will do, M. Tamponnet! It is not becoming that this conversation
be prolonged.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Alexandre Dumas, the Elder, was a noted novelist and dramatist. His
output was enormous, and the wit, though always discernible, was
subordinate to matters of heroism, adventure and the like.


Has it ever occurred to you, dear reader, how admirable an organ the
nose is?

The nose; yes, the nose.

And how useful an article this very nose is to every creature which, as
Ovid says, lifts its face to heaven?

Well, strange as it may seem, monstrous ingratitude that it is, no poet
has yet thought of addressing an ode to the nose!

So it has been left to me, who am not a poet, or who, at least, claim
to rank only after our greatest poets, to conceive such an idea.

Truly, the nose is unfortunate.

So many things have been invented for the eyes:

Songs and compliments and kaleidoscopes, pictures and scenery and

And for the ears:

Ear-rings, of course, and _Robert the Devil_, _William Tell_,
and _Fra Diavolo_, Stradivarius violins and Érard pianos and Sax

And for the mouth:

Lent, plain cooking, _The Gastronomists’ Calendar_, _The
Gormand’s Dictionary_. Soups of every kind have they made for it,
from Russian broth to French cabbage-soup; dishes for it are connected
with the reputations of the greatest men, from Soubise cutlets to
Richelieu puddings; its lips have been compared to coral, its teeth to
pearls, its breath to perfume. Before it have been set plumed peacocks
and undrawn snipes; and, for the future, it has been promised whole
roast larks.

But what has been invented for the nose?

Attar of roses and snuff.

You have not done well, oh, my masters the philanthropists; oh, my
brothers the poets!

And yet how faithfully this limb----

“It is not a limb!” cry the scientists.

I beg your pardon, gentlemen, and retract. This appendage--Ah yes, I
was saying with what touching fidelity this appendage has done service
for you.

The eyes sleep, the mouth closes, the ears are deaf.

The nose is always on duty.

It watches over your repose and contributes to your health. Feet,
hands, all other parts of the body are stupid. The hands are often
caught in foolish acts; the feet stumble, and in their clumsiness allow
the body to fall. And when they do, they get off free, and the poor
nose is punished for their misdeeds.

How often do you not hear it said: “Mr. So-and-So has broken his nose.”

There have been a great many broken noses since the creation of the

Can any one give a single instance of a nose broken through any fault
of its own?

No; but, nevertheless, the poor nose is always being scolded.

Well, it endures it all with angelic patience. True, it sometimes has
the impertinence to snore. But where and when did you ever hear it

But let us forget for a moment the utility of the nose, and regard it
only from the esthetic point of view.

A cedar of Lebanon, it tramples underfoot the hyssop of the mustache;
a central column, it provides a support for the double arch of the
eyebrows. On its capital perches the eagle of thought. It is enwreathed
with smiles. With what boldness did the nose of Ajax confront the storm
when he said, “I will escape in spite of the gods.” With what courage
did the nose of the great Condé--whose greatness really derived from
his nose--with what courage did the nose of the great Condé enter
before all others, before the great Condé himself, the entrenchments
of the Spanish at Lens and Rocroy, where their conqueror boldly
flourished the staff of command? With what assurance was Dugazon’s
nose thrust before the public, that nose which knew how to wriggle in
forty-two different ways, and each way funnier than the last?

No, I do not believe that the nose should be permitted to remain in the
obscurity into which man’s ingratitude has hitherto forced it.

I suggest as one reason why the nose has submitted to this injustice
the fact that Occidental noses are so small.

But the deuce is to pay if the noses of the West are the only noses.

There are the Oriental noses, which are very handsome noses.

Do you question the superiority of these noses to your own, gentlemen
of Paris, of Vienna, of St. Petersburg?

In that case, my Viennese friends, go by the Danube; you Parisians,
take the steamer; Petersburgers, the sledge; and say these simple words:

“To Georgia.”

But I forewarn you of deep humiliation. Should you bring to Georgia one
of the largest noses in Europe, at the gate of Tiflis they would gaze
at you in astonishment and exclaim:

“What a pity that this gentleman has lost his nose on the way.” ...

Ah, sweet Heaven! those beautiful Georgian noses! Robust noses,
magnificent noses!

They are all shapes:

Round, fat, long, large.

There is every color:

White, pink, crimson, violet.

Some are set with rubies, others with pearls. I saw one set with

In Georgia, Vakhtang IV abolished the fathom, the meter, and the yard,
keeping only the nose.

Goods are measured off by the nose.

They say, “I bought seventeen noses of flannel for a dressing-gown,
seven noses of cloth for a pair of breeches, a nose and a half of satin
for a cravat.”

Let us add, finally, that the Georgian ladies find this more convenient
than European measures.

       *       *       *       *       *

Théophile Gautier, poet, artist and novelist was identified with the
romantic movement in French literature.

A charming art of description was his, as may be seen in the story of
the _Lap Dog_.


To write in praise of this marvelous lap-dog, one should pluck a quill
from the wing of Love himself; the hands of the Graces alone would be
light enough to trace his picture; nor would the touch of Latour be too

His name was Fanfreluche, a pretty name for a dog, and one that he bore
with honor.

Fanfreluche was no larger than his mistress’s hand, and it is well
known that the marquise has the smallest hand in the world; and yet he
seemed larger to the eye, assuming almost the proportions of a small
sheep, for he had silky hair a foot in length, and so fine and soft and
lustrous that the tresses of Minette were a mere mop by contrast. When
he presented his paw, and one pressed it a little, one was astonished
to feel nothing at all. Fanfreluche was rather a ball of silk, from
which two beautiful brown eyes and a little red nose glittered, than an
actual dog. Such a dog could only have belonged to the mother of Love,
who lost him in Cytherea, where the marquise, on one of her occasional
visits, found him. Look for a moment at this fascinatingly exquisite
face. Would not Roxalana herself have been jealous of that delicately
tipped-up nose, divided in the middle by a little furrow just like Anne
of Austria’s?

What vivacity in that quick eye! And that double row of white teeth,
no larger than grains of rice, which, at the least emotion, sparkled
in all their brilliance--what duchess would not envy them? And this
charming Fanfreluche, apart from his physical attractions, possessed
a thousand social graces: he danced the minuet with exquisite grace,
knew how to give his paw and tell the hour, capered before the queen
and great ladies of France, and distinguished his right paw from his
left. And Fanfreluche was learned, and knew more than the members of
the Academy. If he was not a member of that body it was because he did
not desire it, thinking, no doubt, to shine rather by his absence. The
abbé declared that he was as strong as a Turk in the dead languages,
and that, if he did not talk, it was from pure malice and to vex his

Then, too, Fanfreluche had not the vivacity of common dogs. He was
very dainty, and very hard to please. He absolutely refused to eat
anything but little pies of calves’ brains made especially for him;
he would drink nothing but cream from a little Japanese saucer. Only
when his mistress dined in town would he consent to nibble at the wing
of a chicken, and to take sweets for dessert; but he did not grant
this favor to every one, and one had to have an excellent cook to gain
it. Fanfreluche had only one little fault. But who is perfect in this
world? He loved cherries in brandy and Spanish snuff, of which he took
a little pinch from time to time. But the latter is a weakness he
shared with the Prince of Condé.

When he heard the cover of the general’s golden snuff-box click, it
was a treat to see him sit up on his little hind legs and brush the
carpet with his silken tail; and, if the marquise was engrossed in the
pleasures of whist, and did not watch him closely, he would jump on the
abbé’s lap, who fed him with brandied cherries. And Fanfreluche, whose
head was not strong, would become as tipsy as a Swiss guard and two
choristers, would perform the queerest little tricks on the carpet, and
become extraordinarily ferocious on the subject of the calves of the
chevalier, who, to preserve what little was left of them, would draw
up his legs on his chair. Then Fanfreluche was no longer a little dog,
but a little lion, and the marquise alone could manage him. His picture
would not be complete without mentioning the droll little naughtinesses
that he was guilty of before being stowed away into his muff, and put
to bed in his niche of rosewood, padded with white satin and edged with
blue silk cord.

Henri Murger, a noted litterateur, wrote on themes both gloomy and
merry. More than most, he ran the gamut from grave to gay, from lively
to severe.

Among his best known works are his Bohemian Life Sketches. From the
subjoined bit, it may be seen that boresome parties obtain in all times
and nations.

                        _AN EVENING RECEPTION_

Toward the end of the month of December the messengers of Bidault’s
agency received for distribution about a hundred copies of a circular
of which we certify the following to be a true and genuine copy:

       *       *       *       *       *

Messieurs Rodolphe and Marcel request the honor of your company at a
reception, on Christmas Eve, Saturday next. There is going to be some

P. S. We only live once!



7 P.M. The rooms will open: lively and animated conversation.

8 P.M. The ingenious authors of _The Mountain in Labor_,
a comedy rejected by the Odéon, will take a turn round the rooms.

8.30 P.M. M. Alexandre Schaunard, the distinguished artist,
will execute his Imitative Symphony for the piano, called _The
Influence of Blue in Art_.

9 P.M. First reading of a memoir on the abolition of the
penalty of tragedy.

9.30 P.M. M. Gustave Colline, hyperphysical philosopher, and
M. Schaunard will commence a debate on comparative philosophy and
metapolitics. In order to prevent any possible collision, the two
disputants will be tied together.

10 P.M. M. Tristan, a literary man, will relate the story of his first
love. M. Alexandre Schaunard will play a pianoforte accompaniment.

10.30 P.M. Second reading of the memoir on the abolition of the penalty
of tragedy.

11 P.M. _The Story of a Cassowary Hunt_, by a foreign prince.


At midnight M. Marcel, historical painter, will make a white chalk
drawing, with his eyes bandaged. Subject: The interview between
Napoleon and Voltaire in the Champs Élysées. At the same time M.
Rodolphe will improvise a parallel between the author of _Zaïre_
and the author of _The Battle of Austerlitz_.

12.30 A.M. M. Gustave Colline, in modest undress, will give a
revival of the athletic sports of the Fourth Olympiad.

1 A.M. Third reading of the memoir on the abolition of the
penalty of tragedy, followed by a collection in aid of authors of
tragedies likely to be thrown out of employment.

2 A.M. Sports and quadrilles, which will be kept up till

6 A.M. Rise of the sun upon the scene. Final chorus.

The ventilators will be open during the whole of the reception.

       *       *       *       *       *

N. B. Any person attempting to read or recite poetry will be
immediately ejected from the rooms and taken into custody; you are also
requested not to take away candle-ends.

       *       *       *       *       *

Victor Marie Hugo, celebrated poet, novelist and dramatist, was a
recognized leader of the Romantic school of Nineteenth century France.

Quotation from his works is hard to do in brief, but an amusing story
is given from _Tales of a Grandfather_.


Once upon a time there was a wicked king, who made his people very
unhappy. Everybody detested him, and those whom he had put in prison
and beheaded would have liked to whip him. But how? He was the
strongest, he was the master, he did not have to give account to any
one, and when he was told his subjects were not content, he replied:

“Well, what of it? I don’t care a rap!” Which was an ugly answer.

As he continued to act like a king, and as every day he became a little
more wicked than the day before, this set a certain little flea to
thinking over the matter. It was a little bit of a flea, who was of no
consequence at all, but full of good sentiments. This is not the nature
of fleas in general; but this one had been very well brought up; it bit
people with moderation, and only when it was very hungry.

“What if I were to bring the king to reason?” it said to itself. “It is
not without danger. But no matter--I will try.”

That night the wicked king, after having done all sorts of naughty
things during the day, was calmly going to sleep when he felt what
seemed to be the prick of a pin.


He growled, and turned over on the other side.

“Bite! Bite! Bite!”

“Who is it that bites me so?” cried the king in a terrible voice.

“It is I,” replied a very little voice.

“You? Who are you?”

“A little flea who wishes to correct you.”

“A flea? Just you wait! Just you wait, and you shall see!”

And the king sprang from his bed, twisted his coverings, and shook the
sheets, all of which was quite useless, for the good flea had hidden
itself in the royal beard.

“Ah,” said the king, “it has gone now, and I shall be able to get a
sound sleep.”

But scarcely had he laid his head on the pillow, when--


“How? What? Again?”

“Bite! Bite!”

“You dare to return, you abominable little flea? Think for a moment
what you are doing! You are no bigger than