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OF FOOLS, AND THEIR WIT
SHAKSPEARE says well,
This fellow is wise enough to play the fool;
An instance or two may vindicate our poet's assertion, and convince, were they capable of conviction, our dashing witlings, that they have not sufficient sense to play the fool: moreover, wise fools have been of use on sundry occasions: but of what use have their foolish wisdoms been ?
Kel Anayet was the jester of Abbas the Great, of Persia. His fame is still fresh in that country for his sprightly wit, his burlesque drollery, his uncouth attitudes, and his uncontrollable command over the laughing powers of all who saw or heard him. The shah by punning on his name, called him Ketchel Anayet, " Scald pate ;" and suffered him to joke without danger on occasions which would have cost others dearly.
Abbas was excessively fond of a white hawk, which had been sent him as a present from mount Caucasus. Being out one day on a hawking excursion, the shah discovered that this bird was sick. In great vexation he called his grand falconer, named Hossein-bec, and charged him most solemnly to take special care of this hawk: adding "whoever comes and tells me that he is dead, shall lose his head; depend upon it." Nevertheless, the bird died at the week's end. Hossein-bec in utter despondency saw Kel Anayet walking before the mews, in his way to the court. To him he told the disaster, conjuring him, with many tears, to save his life. "Agreed," said the droll, "if the shah takes off any body's head to day, it shall be his own." Pursuing his intention, he found the shah in the greatest good humour, just after dinner. "Scald pate, where do you come from," said Abbas. Anayet assuming the most jocose air imaginable answered: "From your majesty's falconry: and pray listen with your utmost attention, for I am going to tell you the most marvellous!-most wonderful!-most astonishing!—that ever has been seen in this world! There I saw Hossein-bec, with his broom in his hand, sweeping a little square place, just before the gilded aviary; then he besprinkled it with rose-water; then he spread over it a little silken carpet, very curiously enriched with wrought flowers; then he went and fetched your white hawk, and-would you believe it?— shedding scalding tears over it, he laid it very gently on its back. There lay the hawk, without motion, his wings fallen, his bill uppermost, his claws clasped, his eyes shut"-" What then;" said Abbas surprised," my bird is dead!"-"Heaven preserve your majesty's head," replied Anayet, "for surely it is safe to day, notwithstanding your threat!-You have announced the tidings to yourself."
A management not less dexterous, on a subject much more important, was employed by a jester of the French court, when the king's servants were perplexed by what means to inform their master of the defeat his formidable armament at Sluys had met with from the English king Edward, in which many ships were sunk. Knowing that the bearer of such unwelcome tidings would be ruined-they intrusted the favourite droll with the dangerous commission. He immediately equipped himself completely à la militaire and strutting with martial fierceness began to vociferate "O brave Frenchmen! O brave Frenchmen !"-" Why brave Frenchmen?"-said the
king-"Why?" said the plumed hero, "Why !—THE FRENCHMEN LEAPED INTO THE SEA; BUT THE ENGLISH DARED NOT FOLLOW. O brave Frenchmen! O brave Frenchmen!"
HORSE RACING IN ITALY.
The following is extracted from Macgill's lute Travels in Italy, &c. THE method of horse racing in Italy is singular. The horses run without riders; and to urge them on, little balls with sharp points in them are hung to their sides, which, when the horse is employed in the race, act like spurs. They have also pieces of tinfoil fastened on their hinder parts, which as the animals rush through the air, make a loud, rustling noise, and frighten them forward. I was much amused with the horse races at Ancona. A gun is fired when they first start, that preparations may be made to receive them at the farther end; when they have run half-way, another gun is fired; and a third when they arrive at the gaol. To ascertain, without dispute, which wins the race, across the winning post a thread is stretched, dipped in red lead, which the victor breaking, it leaves a red mark on his chest, and this mark is decisive. The first race was declared unfair, as one horse had started before the rest; and the governour ordered another to be run the following evening. To guard the course, a great number of Roman soldiers under arms were ranged on each side of it, from one end to the other. The morning after the first race, the wind blew from the north, and was rather cold. I was sitting with his excellency the governour, signior Vidoni, when a messenger arrived from the general, with his compliments, requesting that the race might be deferred till another day, as he thought the weather too cold to put his troops under arms. The governour replied to him, that," as the weather was not too cold for the ladies, he thought it was not too much so for Roman soldiers." I have seen on a day which only threatened rain, a guard of Romans turn out, every one of which had an umbrella under his arm, the drummer and fifer alone excepted.
THERE can be none of your readers who have not been delighted with the "Tam o' Shanter" of Robert Burns; and to none, therefore, can the following letter be unacceptable. It was written to the antiquary Grose; and besides the tradition upon which "Tam o' Shanter" is founded, contains two others which may amuse the curious in hobgoblinism. It is but justice to add, that it appeared in print some years ago, and that Mr. Cromek has also transplanted it into his Reliques, recently published. Still, however, it may not be familiar to the general reader, as it is not in Dr. Currie's edition of his works; and therefore I transmit it to you. I remain, &c. S. S.
January 14th, 1809.
"Among the many witch stories I have heard relating to Aloway kirk, I distinctly remember only two or three.
"Upon a stormy night, amid whistling squalls of wind, and bitter blasts of hail; in short, on such a night as the devil would choose to take the air in; a farmer, or farmer's servant was plodding and plashing homeward with his plough irons on his shoulder, having been getting some repairs on them at a neighbouring smithy. His way lay by the kirk of Aloway,
and being rather on the anxious lookout in approaching a place so well known to be a favourite haunt of the devil and the devil's friends and emissaries, he was struck aghast by discovering through the horrours of the storm and stormy night, a light, which on his near approach, plainly showed itself to proceed from the haunted edifice. Whether he had been fortified from above on his devout application, as is customary with people when they suspect the immediate presence of Satan; or whether according to another custom, he had got courageously drunk at the smithy, I will not pretend to determine; but so it was that he ventured to go up to, nay, into the very kirk. As good luck would have it his temerity came off unpunished.
"The members of the infernal junto were all out on some midnight business or other, and he saw nothing but a kind of kettle or cauldron, depending from the roof, over the fire, simmering some heads of unchristened children, limbs of executed malefactors, &c. for the business of the night. It was in for a penny, in for a pound, with the honest ploughman: so without ceremony he unhooked the cauldron from off the fire, and pouring out the damnable ingredients, inverted it on his head, and carried it fairly home, where it remained long in the family, a living evidence of the truth of the story.
"Another story which I can prove to be equally true, was as follows:— "On a market day in the town of Ayr, a farmer from Carrick, and consequently whose way lay by the very gate of Aloway kirk yard, in order to cross the river Doon at the old bridge, which is about two or three hundred yards further on than the said gate, had been detained by his business, 'till by the time he reached Aloway it was the wizard hour, between night and morning.
Though he was terrified, with a blaze streaming from the kirk, yet as it is a well known fact, that to turn back on these occasions is running by far the greatest risk of mischief, he prudently advanced on his road. When he had reached the gate of the kirk yard, he was surprised and entertained, through the ribs and arches of an old Gothick window, which still faces the highway, to see a dance of witches merrily footing it round their old sooty blackguard master, who was keeping them all alive with the power of his bagpipe. The farmer, stopping his horse to observe them a little, could plainly descry the faces of many old women of his acquaintance and neighbourhood. How the gentleman was dressed, tradition does not say; but the ladies were all in their smocks and one of them happening unluckily to have a smock which was considerably too short to answer all the purpose of that piece of dress, our farmer was so tickled that he involuntarily burst out, with a loud laugh: "Weel luppen, Maggy wi' the short sark!" and recollecting himself, instantly spurred his horse to the top of his speed. I need not mention the universally known fact, that no diabolical power can pursue you beyond the middle of a running stream. Lucky it was for the poor farmer that the river Doon was so near, for notwithstanding the speed of his horse, which was a good one, against he reached the middle of the arch of the bridge, and consequently the middle of the stream, the pursuing, vengeful hags were so close at his heels, that one of them actually sprung to seize him; but it was too late. Nothing was on her side of the stream but the horse's tail, which immediately gave way at her infernal grip, as if blasted by a stroke of lightning: but the farmer was beyond her reach. However, the unsightly, tailless condition of the vigorous steed was to the last hour of the noble creature's life an awful warning to the Carrick farmers, not to stay too late in Ayr markets.
"The last relation I shall give, though equally true, is not so well identified as the two former, with regard to the scene; but as the best authorities give it for Aloway, I shall relate it.
"On a summer's evening, about the time that nature puts on her sables to mourn the expiry of the cheerful day, a shepherd boy, belonging to a farmer in the immediate neighbourhood of Aloway kirk, had just folded his charge, and was returning home. As he passed the kirk, in the adjoining field, he fell in with a crew of men and women, who were busy pulling stems of the plant Ragwort. He observed, that as each person pulled a Ragwort, he or she got astride of it, and called out: up horsie!" on which the Ragwort flew off, like Pegasus, through the air with its rider. The foolish boy likewise pulled his Ragwort, and cried with the rest: " up horsie!" and, strange to tell, away he flew with the company. The first stage at which the cavalcade stopt, was a merchant's wine cellar in Bɔurdeaux, where, without saying by your leave, they quaffed away at the best the cellar could afford, until the morning, foe to the imps and works of darkness, threatened to throw light on the matter, and frightened them from their carousals.
The poor shepherd lad, being equally a stranger to the scene and the liquor, heedlessly got himself drunk; and when the rest took horse, he fell asleep, and was found so next day by some of the people belonging to the merchant. Somebody that understood Scotch, asking him what he was, he said he was such-a-one's herd in Aloway; and, by some means or other getting home again, he lived long to tell the world the wondrous tale. "I am, &c. &c."
To the Editor of the European Magazine.
CURIOUS TYPOGRAPHICAL ERROURS.
HAVING, in an odd voume of a magazine upon German literature, met with laughable mistakes made by errours in copyists, or misreadings, I send a few of the same kind, which have occurred within my own knowledge in our language; and if you think them worthy insertion in your valuable miscellany, they are heartily at your service.
A compositor of the name of Killenbeck, an eccentrick genius, once made the following mistake, I believe in Mr. Woodfall's paper; and for which he received his discharge. Instead, in the ordinary phrase, of saying: "Yesterday a petition was presented to the house of commons," he composed it, and it was printed: "Yesterday a pistol was presented to the house of commons." The ludicrous inquiries upon the nature of such an attack upon that great constitutional body may be better conceived than detailed.
In printing the list of subscribers to the first edition of Carey's Balnea, I just arrived in time to correct the following ludicrous errour, which, by one of the types having fallen out, and being misplaced, had occurred :-One of the subscribers was deputy controller of the penny-post; but, from the transposition of the s in the last word, it stood, "Deputy controller of the penny-pots!"
When the late Dr. Hale superintended the printing of the Pharmacopeia Londinensis, published in 1780, a mistake occurred in one of the proof sheets which excited the Dr's mirth, and occasioned him to send express from Bow to correct the errour. The manuscript almost as uncouth as marks for physical quantities, was extremely difficult to read. One word,
more intricate than the rest, was referred to every person in the office for an explanation, but without success: at length the compositor on the work, priding himself on his ability at decyphering the mystical letters, found out the word to be "cordial gin ;" whence the phrase went: "This medicine is to be taken in cordial gin." The original word was cardialgria, or the heart burn, a disorder rather produced than allayed by the cordial above alluded to.
When the work of a compositor is extremely incorrect, the operation of changing the wrong letters for the right is attended with the danger of wounding and destroying the tender face of the contiguous letters. The drawing them out is performed by a sharp pointed bodkin, which enters the shoulder of the letter, and thus it is raised to be changed. I forget the name of the master printer, who made this apposite exclamation, upon seeing two very bad compositors correcting a foul proof of that size of type called Small Pica, "O small pica! small pica! how art thou crucified between two thieves!"
THE TEA TREE IN BLOSSOM.
THE ingenious Mr. Capel Loft, of Troston Hall, near Bury, has recently informed the publick, that he has had a tea tree in blossom in his parlour ever since the 18th of December last, notwithstanding the extreme severity of the weather; and though on the 21st of that month, at half past nine in the morning, the thermometer within doors in a southern aspect
was at 28.
The following is his description of the same :
"Petals 6 (one smaller and shorter than the rest) concave, obtusely heartshaped. Stamens very numerous (probably above 200) with golden summits. The whole appearance of the flower like the single broad leaved myrtle; but longer and more brilliant, from the multiplicity of the stamens, texture of the petals, stronger colour, not quite so white. Calyx: stellate, quinquetid, about one fourth the length of the petals.
"The scent of the flower delicate and evanescent; resembling that of fine green tea dried.
"There seems little doubt that this charming plant would bear a warm and sheltered exposure in the southwest of our island, like the broad leaved myrtle. Its affinity to the myrtle is indeed very striking; so much, that many species having been lately transferred from the genus Myrtus to other genera, so that it is now very thin, I doubt whether this might not be annexed to it under the denomination of Myrtus Thea, changing its elegant generick name, which it ought not wholly to lose, into its specifick. Fond as I am of plants, I have never till now seen it in bloom
"It is long in coming into blossom. The buds appeared early in September. The season of its flowering renders it peculiarly valuable. And had the weather been mild, I have no doubt that in some few days it would have been covered with bloom
"The flowers proceed from near the extremities of the branches, on solitary footstalks, some opposite, others alternate. My plant is near three feet high, and came from Mr Mackie, nurseryman, of Norwich, the year before this. In close, moist weather it requires air, and some heat, to absorb the damp: otherwise its blossoms fall without opening. This I experienced last year.