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TICKLER Byron !--Why, bull-beef and pickled salmon, to be sure. What else would he dine on? I never suspected, at least accused him, of cannibalism. And yet, during the composition of Cain, there is no saying what he may have done.
THE SHEPHERD. I'm thinking, sir, when Tam Muir was penning his Loves of the Angels, that he fed upon calf-foot jeellies, stewed prunes, the dish they ca' curry, and oysters. These last are desperate for that.
TICKLER. Did you ever hear it said that Mr Rogers never eat animal food, nor drank spirits
MULLION. Never, never, never, in all my born days, did I eat such a glorious platefull of kidneys as that which Mr Opium-Eater lately transmitted to me through the hands of our Ambrose. I feel as if I could bump my crown against the ceiling. I hae eaten the apple oʻthe tree of knowledge. I understand things I never had the least ettling of before. Will ony o'ye enter into an argument? Chuse your subject, and I'm your man, in theology, morality, anatomy, chemistry, history, poetry, and the fine arts. My very language is English, whether I will or no, and I am overpowered with a power of words.
THE OPIUM-EATER, (aside to TICKLER.) I fear that Mr Mullion's excessive animation is owing to a slight mistake of mine. I carelessly allowed a few grains of opium to slide out of my box into the plate of kidneys which Mr Hogg sent for my delectation; and ere I could pick them out, Mr Ambrose wafted away the poisoned dish to Mr Mullion, at a signal, I presume, understood between the parties.
MOLLION. I say, Opium-Eater, or Opossum, or what do they call you, did you ever see an unicorn? What signifies an Egyptian ibis, or crocodile of the Nile - I have an unicorn at livery just now in Rose-Street. Tickler, will you mount? Noble subject for John Watson. No man paints an unicorn better.
NORTH. John Watson paints everything well. But (aside to THE SHEPHERD) saw ye ever such extraordinary eyes in a man's head as in Mullion's ?
MULLION. Francis Maximus Macnab's Theory of the Universe is the only sensible book I ever read. Mr Ambrose-Mr Ambrose-bring me the Scotsman.
THE SHEPHERD, (to NORTH.) I have heard there was something wrang wi' Mullion at school; and it's breaking out you see noo. He's gaen clean wud. I wus he mayna bite.
TICKLER. Sell your unicorn to Polito, Mullion.
MULLION. Polito !-ay, a glorious collection of wild beasts--a perfect House o' Commons; where each tribe of beasts has its representative. Mild, majestic, towzy-headed, big-pawed, lean-hurdied lion, saw ye ever Mungo Park? Tiger, tiger, royal tiger-jungle-jumping, son-o'-Sir-Hector-Munro-devouring tiger !
(Rises.) THE SHEPHERD. Whare are you gaun ?-Wait an hour or twa, and I'll see ye hame.
MULLION. I am off to the Pier of Leith. What so beautiful as the sea at midnight! A glorious constellation art thou, O Great Bear! Hurra! hurra!
(Exit, without his hat.) THE OPIUM-EATER. I must give this case, in a note, to a new edition of my Confessions. If Mr Mullion did really eat all the kidneys, he must now have in his stomach that which is about equal to 570 drops of laudanum.
THE SNEPAEAD. Eat a' the kidneys !—That he did, I'll swear.
THE OPIUM-EATER. Most probably, Mr Mullion will fall into a state of utter insensibility in a couple of hours. Convulsions may follow, and then-death.
THE SHEPHERD. Deevil the fears. Mullion 'ill dee nane. I'll wauger he'll be eating twa eggs to his breakfast the morn, and a shave o' the red roun' ; luking fra him a' the time wi' een as sharp as darnin' needles, and paunin' in his cup for mair sugar.
TICKLER. Suppose now that the conversation be made to take a literary or philosophical turn. Mr North, what is your opinion on the influence of literature on human life?
NORTH. Why, after all, a love or knowledge of literature forms but a small and unimportant part of the character either of man or woman. Have we not all dear friends whom we admit to our most sacred confidence, who never take up a printed book (Maga excepted) from year's end to year's end? How few married women remember, or at least care a straw about, anything they read in their maidenhood, when in search of husbands! Take any lady, young, old, or middle-aged, and examine the dear creature with a few cross-questions, and you will not fail to be delighted with her consummate ignorance of all that is written in books. But what of that? Do you like, love, esteem, despise, or hate her, the more or less ? -Not a whit.
THE OPIUM-EATER. The female mind knows intuitively all that is really worth knowing; and the performance of duty with women is simply an outward manifestation of an inward state agreeable to nature ; both alike unconsciously, it may be, existing in perfect adaptation to the peculiar circumstances of life. Books may, or may not, cherish and direct the tendencies of a female character, naturally fine, delicate, pure, and also strong ; but most certain is it, that books are not the sine-quâ-non condition of excellence. The woman who never saw a book may be infinitely superior, even in all those matters of which books treat, to the woman who has read, and read intelligently, 10,000 volumes. For one domestic incident shall teach more wisdom than the catastrophes of a hundred novels; and one single smile from an infant at its mother's breast may make that mother wiser in love than even all the philosophy of Plato and the poetry of Wordsworth.
THE SHEPHERD. There now-I just ca' that sound sense and a true apothegm. And what 11 ye say to poets and siclike, that put meretricious thoughts into the nature of woman, and dazzle the puir innocent things' eyne till they can see naething like the path of duty, but gang ramstam and camstrairy, aiblins to the right hand and aiblins to the left? In that case, one might call his brother a fool, without danger of the fire.
TICKLER. Well spoken, my dear James. I beg your pardon, once more, for having ever called you“ a coorse tyke.” You have a soul, James ; and that is enough.
THE SHEPHERD. We have all sowls, Mr Tickler, and that some folks will come to know at · last. But I am nae dour Calvinistic minister, to deal out damnation on my brethren. All I say is this, that if the lowest shepherd lad in a' Scotland were to compose poems just on purpose to seduce lasses, he would be kicked like a foot-ba' frae ae parish to anither. And will gentlemen o' education, wha can read Greek, and hae been at a college-university, do that and be cuddled for't, that would bring a loon like Jock Linton to the stang, the pond, or the pump?
NORTH. You don't mean to tell me that there are no such songs among the old Scottish poetry, Shepherd ?
THE SHEPHERD. No half a dizzen in the haill byke and them wrote, I jalouse, by lazy
monke, losels, and gaberlunzie-men. But what I say is true, that love-verses, composed wi' a wicked spirit o' deceit and corruption, are no rife in ony national poetry; and, least o' all, in that of our ain Scotland. Men are menand, blessings on them, women are women; and mony a droll word is said, and droll thing done, among kintra folks. But they a' ettle at a kind oʻinnocence; and when they fa', it is the frailty of nature for the maist part, and there is true repentance and reformation. But funny sangs are the warst o' poets' sins in lowly life ; and if siccan a chiel as Tam Muir, bonny bonny writer as he is, were to settle in the Forest, he might hae a gowden fleece, but in faith he would soon be a wether.
THE OPIUM-EATER. Amatory poetry is not only the least intellectual, but it is also the least imaginative and the least passionate of poetry.
THE OPIUM-EATER. In mere amatory poetry—that is, verse addressed to ladies in a spirit of complimentary flirtation, there is a necessary prostration or relinquishment of the intellect : the imaginative faculty cannot deal with worthless trifles; and passion, which cleaves to flesh and blood, dies and grows drowsy on a cold thin diet of words.
THE SHEPHERD. That's better expressed ; at least, it suits better the level o'my understanding, and that's the criterion we a' judge by. Now, sir, this I wull say for the Lake folk, that they, ane and a', without exceptions, excel in painting shecharacters. Wudsworth, Wulson, Soothey, Coalrich, and yourself, sir, (for confound me gin you're no a poet,) make me far mair in love with the “ WomenFolk-the Women-Folk," wait a wee and you'll hear me sing that sang,] than Tam Muir and a' that crew. Wulson's gotten awfu' proud, they say, since he was made a Professor ; but let him lecture as eloquently's he likes, frae Lammas to Lammas, for fifty year—and by the Isle o' Palms and the City o' the Plague wull he be remembered at last. They're baith fu'o'havers : but oh! man, every now and then, he is shublime, and for pawthos he beats a'. Wudsworth wunna alloo that; but it's true, and I hae pleasure in saying
THE OPIUM-EATER. If, by pathos, you mean mere human feeling, as it exists unmodified by the imagination, then our opinions respecting the two poets coincide. But in the thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears,” I conceive William Wordsworth unequalled among the sons of song. Mark me—I do not say that the other poet has no imagination; he has a fine and powerful imagination. But
THE SHEPHERD. You may say onything against him ye like; but you needna ruze Wudsworth aboon everybody, leevin or dead. Ae thing he does excel in—the making o' deep and true observations and reflections, that come in unco weel amang dull and barren places, and wad serve for mottoes or themes. Wudsworth's likewise a capital discourser in a vivy-voce twa-handed crack, awa' frae his ain house. About yon Lakes, he's just perfectly intolerable.
TICKLER. Come, come have done with the Lakers.
NORTH. I confess criticism is not what it ought to be, not what it might be. But am I a bad critic, sir?
THE OPIUM-EATER. No, sir, you may justly be called a good critic. For, in the first place, you have a reverent, I had almost said a devout regard for genius, and not only unhesitatingly, but with alacrity and delight, pay it homage. You feel no degradation of self in the exaltation of others; and seem to me never to write such pure English, as when inspired by the divine glow of admiration. No other critic do I know since Aristotle, to compare with you in this great essential; and feeling that on all grand occasions you are cordial and sincere, I peruse your eloquent expositions, and your fervid strains of thought, not always with entire consentaneiety of sentiment, yet, without doubt, always in a state approximating to mental unison ; a state in which I am made conscious of the concord subsisting between the great strings of our hearts, even by the slight discords that I internally hear proceeding with an under tone, among the inferior notes of that mighty and mysterious instrument.
THE SHEPHERD. Gude safe us !-that's grand--and it's better than grand, it's true. I forgie the lads a' their sins, for sake o' their free, out-spoken, open-handed praise, when they do mean to do a kind thing. They lauch far ower muckle at me in their Magazine; but I canna deny, I proudly declare't, that none o' a' the critics o' this age hae had sic an insight into my poetical genius; or roused me wi' sic fearsome eloquence. When they eulogise me in that gate, my blood gangs up like spirits o'wine, and I fin' myself a' gruing wi' a sort o' courageous sense o' power, as if I could do onything, write a better poem than the Lay of the Last Minstrel, fecht Bounaparte gin he was leevin, and snap my fingers in the very face oʻ“ The Gude Man."
TME OPIUM-EATER. But farther ; you, sir, and some of your coadjutors, possess a fineness of tact and a delicacy of perception, that I in vain look for in the critical compositions of your contemporaries. You see and seize the beautiful evanescencies of the poet's soul ; you know the regions and the race of those fair spectral apparitions that come and go before the “ eye that broods on its own heart." Never can poet lament over your blindness to beauty, your deafness to the sounds singing for ever, loud or low, from the shrine of nature ;-sir, you have no common sense, and that in this age is the highest praise that can be bestowed on the immortal soul of man.
THE SHEPHERD. The deevil the like o' that heard I ever since I was born! The want o' common sense, the greatest praise o' a man's immortal sowl!
NORTH. The Opium-eater is in the right, James; there is no common sense in your Kilmeny, in Coleridge's Ancient Mariner, in Wordsworth's Ruth, in our eloquent friend's “ Contessions." Therefore dolts and dullards despise them and will do to the end of time.
TICKLER I am of the old school, gentlemen, and lay my veto on the complete exclusion of common sense from a Critical Journal. But I understand what Opium would be at; and verily believe that he speaks truth, when he says, that the wildest creation of genius, and the fairest too, pure poetry in short, and not only pure poetry, but every species of impassioned or imaginative prose, is understood better, deeper and more comprehensively, by Maga than Mrs Roberts
THE OPIUM-EATER. Mrs Roberts ? Pray, who is she?
TICKLER. Why, My Grandmother. She edits the British Review. It was a whim of the proprietors to try a female ; so they bought Mother Roberts a pair of spectacles, a black sarsnet gown, and an arm-chair ; and made her a howdy. She delivers the contributors, and swathes their bantlings. However, she has been, it is said, rather unfortunate in her practice ; for although most of the brats to whom she has lent a helping hand, have come into the world alive, and cried lustily, yet seldom have they survived the ninth day. Poor things ! they have all had Christian burial; but resurrection-men have grown to a lamentable height; and several of the ricketty infant charges of Mrs Roberts have been traced to the dissecting-table. Lord Byron, it is said, has bottled a brace ; but there is no end of such shocking stories, so push about the toddy, Christopher.
NORTH. Pray, is it true, my dear Laudanum, that your “ Confessions” have caused about fifty unintentional suicides?
THE OPIUM-EATER. I should think not. I have read of six only; and they rested on no solid foundation.
TICKLER. What if fifty foolish fellows have been burled in consequence of that delightful little Tractate on Education ? Even then it would be cheap. It only shews the danger that dunces run into, when they imitate men of genius. T'other day, a strong-headed annuitant drank to the King's health, standing upon his head, on the pinnacle of a church-spire. He afterwards described his emotions as most delightful. Up goes his nephew (his sister's son) next morning before breakfast, and in the excess of his loyalty, loses his heading; and at the conclusion of a perpendicular descent of 180 feet by the quadrant, alights upon a farmer's wife going to market with a pig in a poke ; and without any criminal intention, commits one murder and two suicides. Was his uncle to blame?
NORTH. The exculpation of the Opium-Eater is complete. A single illustration has smashed the flimsy morality of all idle objectors. And now, my dear friend, that you have fed' and flourished fourteen years op opium, will you be persuaded to try a course of arsenic?
THE OFIUM-EATER. I have tried one ; but it did not suit my constitution either of mind or body. I leave the experiment to younger men.
TICKLER. Pray, North, tell us how you kissed the rosy hours at Hogg's? Had you any rain ?
NORTH. I presume Noah would have thought it dry weather ; but we had a little moisture for all that. The lake rose ten feet during the month I sorned upon the Shepherd. First Sunday morning we thought of going to the kirk; but looking through my snug bed-room window, I saw a hay-rick, with Damon and Phæbe sailing down the Yarrow at about seven knots; so I shouted to them, that if they were going to divine service, they would please to apologize for me to the minister.
THE SHEPHERD. Lord, man, it was an awfu' spate! The stirks and the stots came down the water like straes; and in maist o' the pools, sheep were thicker than sawmon. I heucked a toop wi' a grilsh-flea, and played him wi' the pirn till I had his head up the Douglas-Burn, but he gied a wallop in the dead-thraws, and brak my tackle.
NORTH. On the 20th day, the waters began to subside ; and then how beautiful the green hill-tops !
THE SHEPHERD. Ay, they were e'en sae. For the flocks on a hundred hills were snaw-white, and the pastures drenched and dighted by the rains and the winds, till they kithed brichter than ony emerald, and launched up to the bonny blue regions aboon, that had their flocks, too, as quate and as white as the silly sheep o' the earth.
NORTH. Prime-choice-exquis. Short jigots of five year olds, taper-jointed and thick-thighed, furnished, but not overloaded, with brown, crisp fat, deep-red when cut into, and oozing through every pore with the dark richness of natural gravy that overflowed the trencher, with a tempting tincture not to be contemplated with a dry mouth by the most abstemious of the children of men.
TICKLER. Go on, you dog—What else?--Please, Mr Joyeuse, ring the bell. Mr Ambrose must bring us a devil. Or what do you say to supping over again ?
NORTH. To such mutton, add potatoes, dry even in such a season ; so great is the Shepherd's agricultural skill. Ay, dry and mouldering, at a touch, into the aforesaid gravy, till the potato was lost to the eye in a heap of sanguine hue, but felt on the palate, amalgamated with the mountain mutton, into a glorious mixture of animal and vegetable matter ; each descending mouthful of which kept regenerating the whole man, and giving assurance of a good old age.