Part 3 out of 13
It was for want of something better to do that, shortly after my
return home, I applied myself to the study of languages. By the
acquisition of Irish, with the first elements of which I had become
acquainted under the tuition of Murtagh, I had contracted a certain
zest and inclination for the pursuit. Yet it is probable that had
I been launched about this time into some agreeable career, that of
arms for example, for which, being the son of a soldier, I had, as
was natural, a sort of penchant, I might have thought nothing more
of the acquisition of tongues of any kind; but, having nothing to
do, I followed the only course suited to my genius which appeared
open to me.
So it came to pass that one day, whilst wandering listlessly about
the streets of the old town, I came to a small book-stall, and
stopping, commenced turning over the books; I took up at least a
dozen, and almost instantly flung them down. What were they to me?
At last, coming to a thick volume, I opened it, and after
inspecting its contents for a few minutes, I paid for it what was
demanded, and forthwith carried it home.
It was a tessaraglot grammar; a strange old book, printed somewhere
in Holland, which pretended to be an easy guide to the acquirement
of the French, Italian, Low Dutch, and English tongues, by means of
which any one conversant in any one of these languages could make
himself master of the other three. I turned my attention to the
French and Italian. The old book was not of much value; I derived
some benefit from it, however, and, conning it intensely, at the
end of a few weeks obtained some insight into the structure of
these two languages. At length I had learnt all that the book was
capable of informing me, yet was still far from the goal to which
it had promised to conduct me. 'I wish I had a master!' I
exclaimed; and the master was at hand. In an old court of the old
town lived a certain elderly personage, perhaps sixty, or
thereabouts; he was rather tall, and something of a robust make,
with a countenance in which bluffness was singularly blended with
vivacity and grimace; and with a complexion which would have been
ruddy, but for a yellow hue which rather predominated. His dress
consisted of a snuff-coloured coat and drab pantaloons, the former
evidently seldom subjected to the annoyance of a brush, and the
latter exhibiting here and there spots of something which, if not
grease, bore a strong resemblance to it; add to these articles an
immense frill, seldom of the purest white, but invariably of the
finest French cambric, and you have some idea of his dress. He had
rather a remarkable stoop, but his step was rapid and vigorous, and
as he hurried along the streets, he would glance to the right and
left with a pair of big eyes like plums, and on recognising any one
would exalt a pair of grizzled eyebrows, and slightly kiss a tawny
and ungloved hand. At certain hours of the day be might be seen
entering the doors of female boarding-schools, generally with a
book in his hand, and perhaps another just peering from the orifice
of a capacious back pocket; and at a certain season of the year he
might be seen, dressed in white, before the altar of a certain
small popish chapel, chanting from the breviary in very
intelligible Latin, or perhaps reading from the desk in utterly
unintelligible English. Such was my preceptor in the French and
Italian tongues. 'Exul sacerdos; vone banished priest. I came
into England twenty-five year ago, "my dear."'
Monsieur Dante--Condemned musket--Sporting--Sweet rivulet--The
Earl's Home--The pool--The sonorous voice--What dost thou read?--
Man of peace--Zohar and Mishna--Money-changers.
So I studied French and Italian under the tuition of the banished
priest, to whose house I went regularly every evening to receive
instruction. I made considerable progress in the acquisition of
the two languages. I found the French by far the most difficult,
chiefly on account of the accent, which my master himself possessed
in no great purity, being a Norman by birth. The Italian was my
'Vous serez un jour un grand philologue, mon cher,' said the old
man, on our arriving at the conclusion of Dante's Hell.
'I hope I shall be something better,' said I, 'before I die, or I
shall have lived to little purpose.'
'That's true, my dear! philologist--one small poor dog. What would
you wish to be?'
'Many things sooner than that; for example, I would rather be like
him who wrote this book.'
'Quoi, Monsieur Dante? He was a vagabond, my dear, forced to fly
from his country. No, my dear, if you would be like one poet, be
like Monsieur Boileau; he is the poet.'
'I don't think so.'
'How, not think so? He wrote very respectable verses; lived and
died much respected by everybody. T'other, one bad dog, forced to
fly from his country--died with not enough to pay his undertaker.'
'Were you not forced to flee from your country?'
'That very true; but there is much difference between me and this
Dante. He fled from country because he had one bad tongue which he
shook at his betters. I fly because benefice gone, and head going;
not on account of the badness of my tongue.'
'Well,' said I, 'you can return now; the Bourbons are restored.'
'I find myself very well here; not bad country. Il est vrai que la
France sera toujours la France; but all are dead there who knew me.
I find myself very well here. Preach in popish chapel, teach
schismatic, that is Protestant, child tongues and literature. I
find myself very well; and why? Because I know how to govern my
tongue; never call people hard names. Ma foi, il y a beaucoup de
difference entre moi et ce sacre de Dante.'
Under this old man, who was well versed in the southern languages,
besides studying French and Italian, I acquired some knowledge of
Spanish. But I did not devote my time entirely to philology; I had
other pursuits. I had not forgotten the roving life I had led in
former days, nor its delights; neither was I formed by Nature to be
a pallid indoor student. No, no! I was fond of other and, I say
it boldly, better things than study. I had an attachment to the
angle, ay, and to the gun likewise. In our house was a condemned
musket, bearing somewhere on its lock, in rather antique
characters, 'Tower, 1746'; with this weapon I had already, in
Ireland, performed some execution among the rooks and choughs, and
it was now again destined to be a source of solace and amusement to
me, in the winter season, especially on occasions of severe frost
when birds abounded. Sallying forth with it at these times, far
into the country, I seldom returned at night without a string of
bullfinches, blackbirds, and linnets hanging in triumph round my
neck. When I reflect on the immense quantity of powder and shot
which I crammed down the muzzle of my uncouth fowling-piece, I am
less surprised at the number of birds which I slaughtered than that
I never blew my hands, face, and old honeycombed gun, it one and
the same time, to pieces.
But the winter, alas! (I speak as a fowler) seldom lasts in England
more than three or four months; so, during the rest of the year,
when not occupied with my philological studies, I had to seek for
other diversions. I have already given a hint that I was also
addicted to the angle. Of course there is no comparison between
the two pursuits, the rod and line seeming but very poor trumpery
to one who has had the honour of carrying a noble firelock. There
is a time, however, for all things; and we return to any favourite
amusement with the greater zest, from being compelled to relinquish
it for a season. So, if I shot birds in winter with my firelock, I
caught fish in summer, or attempted so to do, with my angle. I was
not quite so successful, it is true, with the latter as with the
former; possibly because it afforded me less pleasure. It was,
indeed, too much of a listless pastime to inspire me with any great
interest. I not unfrequently fell into a doze, whilst sitting on
the bank, and more than once let my rod drop from my hands into the
At some distance from the city, behind a range of hilly ground
which rises towards the south-west, is a small river, the waters of
which, after many meanderings, eventually enter the principal river
of the district, and assist to swell the tide which it rolls down
to the ocean. It is a sweet rivulet, and pleasant is it to trace
its course from its spring-head, high up in the remote regions of
Eastern Anglia, till it arrives in the valley behind yon rising
ground; and pleasant is that valley, truly a goodly spot, but most
lovely where yonder bridge crosses the little stream. Beneath its
arch the waters rush garrulously into a blue pool, and are there
stilled, for a time, for the pool is deep, and they appear to have
sunk to sleep. Farther on, however, you hear their voice again,
where they ripple gaily over yon gravelly shallow. On the left,
the hill slopes gently down to the margin of the stream. On the
right is a green level, a smiling meadow, grass of the richest
decks the side of the slope; mighty trees also adorn it, giant
elms, the nearest of which, when the sun is nigh its meridian,
fling a broad shadow upon the face of the pool; through yon vista
you catch a glimpse of the ancient brick of an old English hall.
It has a stately look, that old building, indistinctly seen, as it
is, among those umbrageous trees; you might almost suppose it an
earl's home; and such it was, or rather upon its site stood an
earl's home, in days of old, for there some old Kemp, some Sigurd
or Thorkild, roaming in quest of a hearthstead, settled down in the
gray old time, when Thor and Freya were yet gods, and Odin was a
portentous name. Yon old hall is still called the Earl's Home,
though the hearth of Sigurd is now no more, and the bones of the
old Kemp, and of Sigrith his dame, have been mouldering for a
thousand years in some neighbouring knoll; perhaps yonder, where
those tall Norwegian pines shoot up so boldly into the air. It is
said that the old earl's galley was once moored where is now that
blue pool, for the waters of that valley were not always sweet; yon
valley was once an arm of the sea, a salt lagoon, to which the war-
barks of 'Sigurd, in search of a home,' found their way.
I was in the habit of spending many an hour on the banks of that
rivulet, with my rod in my hand, and, when tired with angling,
would stretch myself on the grass, and gaze upon the waters as they
glided past, and not unfrequently, divesting myself of my dress, I
would plunge into the deep pool which I have already mentioned, for
I had long since learned to swim. And it came to pass that on one
hot summer's day, after bathing in the pool, I passed along the
meadow till I came to a shallow part, and, wading over to the
opposite side, I adjusted my dress, and commenced fishing in
another pool, beside which was a small clump of hazels.
And there I sat upon the bank, at the bottom of the hill which
slopes down from 'the Earl's home'; my float was on the waters, and
my back was towards the old hall. I drew up many fish, small and
great, which I took from off the hook mechanically, and flung upon
the bank, for I was almost unconscious of what I was about, for my
mind was not with my fish. I was thinking of my earlier years--of
the Scottish crags and the heaths of Ireland--and sometimes my mind
would dwell on my studies--on the sonorous stanzas of Dante, rising
and falling like the waves of the sea--or would strive to remember
a couplet or two of poor Monsieur Boileau.
'Canst thou answer to thy conscience for pulling all those fish out
of the water, and leaving them to gasp in the sun?' said a voice,
clear and sonorous as a bell.
I started, and looked round. Close behind me stood the tall figure
of a man, dressed in raiment of quaint and singular fashion, but of
goodly materials. He was in the prime and vigour of manhood; his
features handsome and noble, but full of calmness and benevolence;
at least I thought so, though they were somewhat shaded by a hat of
finest beaver, with broad drooping eaves.
'Surely that is a very cruel diversion in which thou indulgest, my
young friend?' he continued.
'I am sorry for it, if it be, sir,' said I, rising; 'but I do not
think it cruel to fish.'
'What are thy reasons for not thinking so?'
'Fishing is mentioned frequently in Scripture. Simon Peter was a
'True; and Andrew and his brother. But thou forgettest: they did
not follow fishing as a diversion, as I fear thou doest.--Thou
readest the Scriptures?'
'Sometimes?--not daily?--that is to be regretted. What profession
dost thou make?--I mean to what religious denomination dost thou
belong, my young friend.'
'It is a very good profession--there is much of Scripture contained
in its liturgy. Dost thou read aught besides the Scriptures?'
'What dost thou read besides?'
'Greek, and Dante.'
'Indeed! then thou hast the advantage over myself; I can only read
the former. Well, I am rejoiced to find that thou hast other
pursuits beside thy fishing. Dost thou know Hebrew?'
'Thou shouldst study it. Why dost thou not undertake the study?'
'I have no books.'
'I will lend thee books, if thou wish to undertake the study. I
live yonder at the hall, as perhaps thou knowest. I have a library
there, in which are many curious books, both in Greek and Hebrew,
which I will show to thee, whenever thou mayest find it convenient
to come and see me. Farewell! I am glad to find that thou hast
pursuits more satisfactory than thy cruel fishing.'
And the man of peace departed, and left me on the bank of the
stream. Whether from the effect of his words, or from want of
inclination to the sport, I know not, but from that day I became
less and less a practitioner of that 'cruel fishing.' I rarely
flung line and angle into the water, but I not unfrequently
wandered by the banks of the pleasant rivulet. It seems singular
to me, on reflection, that I never availed myself of his kind
invitation. I say singular, for the extraordinary, under whatever
form, had long had no slight interest for me; and I had discernment
enough to perceive that yon was no common man. Yet I went not near
him, certainly not from bashfulness or timidity, feelings to which
I had long been an entire stranger. Am I to regret this? perhaps,
for I might have learned both wisdom and righteousness from those
calm, quiet lips, and my after-course might have been widely
different. As it was, I fell in with other guess companions, from
whom I received widely different impressions than those I might
have derived from him. When many years had rolled on, long after I
had attained manhood, and had seen and suffered much, and when our
first interview had long since been effaced from the mind of the
man of peace, I visited him in his venerable hall, and partook of
the hospitality of his hearth. And there I saw his gentle partner
and his fair children, and on the morrow he showed me the books of
which he had spoken years before by the side of the stream. In the
low quiet chamber, whose one window, shaded by a gigantic elm,
looks down the slope towards the pleasant stream, he took from the
shelf his learned books, Zohar and Mishna, Toldoth Jesu and
Abarbenel. 'I am fond of these studies,' said he, 'which, perhaps,
is not to be wondered at, seeing that our people have been compared
to the Jews. In one respect I confess we are similar to them; we
are fond of getting money. I do not like this last author, this
Abarbenel, the worse for having been a money-changer. I am a
banker myself, as thou knowest.'
And would there were many like him, amidst the money-changers of
princes! The hall of many an earl lacks the bounty, the palace of
many a prelate the piety and learning, which adorn the quiet
Fair of horses--Looks of respect--The fast trotter--Pair of eyes--
Strange men--Jasper, your pal--Force of blood--Young lady with
diamonds--Not quite so beautiful.
I was standing on the castle hill in the midst of a fair of horses.
I have already had occasion to mention this castle. It is the
remains of what was once a Norman stronghold, and is perched upon a
round mound or monticle, in the midst of the old city. Steep is
this mound and scarped, evidently by the hand of man; a deep gorge
over which is flung a bridge, separates it, on the south, from a
broad swell of open ground called 'the hill'; of old the scene of
many a tournament and feat of Norman chivalry, but now much used as
a show-place for cattle, where those who buy and sell beeves and
other beasts resort at stated periods.
So it came to pass that I stood upon this hill, observing a fair of
The reader is already aware that I had long since conceived a
passion for the equine race; a passion in which circumstances had
of late not permitted me to indulge. I had no horses to ride, but
I took pleasure in looking at them; and I had already attended more
than one of these fairs: the present was lively enough, indeed
horse fairs are seldom dull. There was shouting and whooping,
neighing and braying; there was galloping and trotting; fellows
with highlows and white stockings, and with many a string dangling
from the knees of their tight breeches, were running desperately,
holding horses by the halter, and in some cases dragging them
along; there were long-tailed steeds and dock-tailed steeds of
every degree and breed; there were droves of wild ponies, and long
rows of sober cart horses; there were donkeys, and even mules: the
last rare things to be seen in damp, misty England, for the mule
pines in mud and rain, and thrives best with a hot sun above and a
burning sand below. There were--oh, the gallant creatures! I hear
their neigh upon the wind; there were--goodliest sight of all--
certain enormous quadrupeds only seen to perfection in our native
isle, led about by dapper grooms, their manes ribanded and their
tails curiously clubbed and balled. Ha! ha!--how distinctly do
they say, ha! ha!
An old man draws nigh, he is mounted on a lean pony, and he leads
by the bridle one of these animals; nothing very remarkable about
that creature, unless in being smaller than the rest and gentle,
which they are not; he is not of the sightliest look; he is almost
dun, and over one eye a thick film has gathered. But stay! there
IS something remarkable about that horse, there is something in his
action in which he differs from all the rest: as he advances, the
clamour is hushed! all eyes are turned upon him--what looks of
interest--of respect--and, what is this? people are taking off
their hats--surely not to that steed! Yes, verily! men, especially
old men, are taking off their hats to that one-eyed steed, and I
hear more than one deep-drawn ah!
'What horse is that?' said I to a very old fellow, the counterpart
of the old man on the pony, save that the last wore a faded suit of
velveteen, and this one was dressed in a white frock.
'The best in mother England,' said the very old man, taking a
knobbed stick from his mouth, and looking me in the face, at first
carelessly, but presently with something like interest; 'he is old
like myself, but can still trot his twenty miles an hour. You
won't live long, my swain; tall and over-grown ones like thee never
does; yet, if you should chance to reach my years, you may boast to
thy great-grand-boys thou hast seen Marshland Shales.'
Amain I did for the horse what I would neither do for earl nor
baron, doffed my hat; yes! I doffed my hat to the wondrous horse,
the fast trotter, the best in mother England; and I too drew a deep
ah! and repeated the words of the old fellows around. 'Such a
horse as this we shall never see again; a pity that he is so old.'
Now during all this time I had a kind of consciousness that I had
been the object of some person's observation; that eyes were
fastened upon me from somewhere in the crowd. Sometimes I thought
myself watched from before, sometimes from behind; and occasionally
methought that, if I just turned my head to the right or left, I
should meet a peering and inquiring glance; and indeed once or
twice I did turn, expecting to see somebody whom I knew, yet always
without success; though it appeared to me that I was but a moment
too late, and that some one had just slipped away from the
direction to which I turned, like the figure in a magic lanthorn.
Once I was quite sure that there were a pair of eyes glaring over
my right shoulder; my attention, however, was so fully occupied
with the objects which I have attempted to describe, that I thought
very little of this coming and going, this flitting and dodging of
I knew not whom or what. It was, after all, a matter of sheer
indifference to me who was looking at me. I could only wish
whomsoever it might be to be more profitably employed; so I
continued enjoying what I saw; and now there was a change in the
scene, the wondrous old horse departed with his aged guardian;
other objects of interest are at hand; two or three men on
horseback are hurrying through the crowd, they are widely different
in their appearance from the other people of the fair; not so much
in dress, for they are clad something after the fashion of rustic
jockeys, but in their look--no light-brown hair have they, no ruddy
cheeks, no blue quiet glances belong to them; their features are
dark, their locks long, black, and shining, and their eyes are
wild; they are admirable horsemen, but they do not sit the saddle
in the manner of common jockeys, they seem to float or hover upon
it, like gulls upon the waves; two of them are mere striplings, but
the third is a very tall man with a countenance heroically
beautiful, but wild, wild, wild. As they rush along, the crowd
give way on all sides, and now a kind of ring or circus is formed,
within which the strange men exhibit their horsemanship, rushing
past each other, in and out, after the manner of a reel, the tall
man occasionally balancing himself upon the saddle, and standing
erect on one foot. He had just regained his seat after the latter
feat, and was about to push his horse to a gallop, when a figure
started forward close from beside me, and laying his hand on his
neck, and pulling him gently downward, appeared to whisper
something into his ear; presently the tall man raised his head,
and, scanning the crowd for a moment in the direction in which I
was standing, fixed his eyes full upon me, and anon the countenance
of the whisperer was turned, but only in part, and the side-glance
of another pair of wild eyes was directed towards my face, but the
entire visage of the big black man, half stooping as he was, was
turned full upon mine.
But now, with a nod to the figure who had stopped him, and with
another inquiring glance at myself, the big man once more put his
steed into motion, and, after riding round the ring a few more
times, darted through a lane in the crowd, and followed by his two
companions disappeared, whereupon the figure who had whispered to
him, and had subsequently remained in the middle of the space, came
towards me, and, cracking a whip which he held in his hand so
loudly that the report was nearly equal to that of a pocket pistol,
he cried in a strange tone:
'What! the sap-engro? Lor! the sap-engro upon the hill!'
'I remember that word,' said I, 'and I almost think I remember you.
You can't be--'
'Jasper, your pal! Truth, and no lie, brother.'
'It is strange that you should have known me,' said I. 'I am
certain, but for the word you used, I should never have recognised
'Not so strange as you may think, brother; there is something in
your face which would prevent people from forgetting you, even
though they might wish it; and your face is not much altered since
the time you wot of, though you are so much grown. I thought it
was you, but to make sure I dodged about, inspecting you. I
believe you felt me, though I never touched you; a sign, brother,
that we are akin, that we are dui palor--two relations. Your blood
beat when mine was near, as mine always does at the coming of a
brother; and we became brothers in that lane.'
'And where are you staying?' said I; 'in this town?'
'Not in the town; the like of us don't find it exactly wholesome to
stay in towns, we keep abroad. But I have little to do here--come
with me, and I'll show you where we stay.'
We descended the hill in the direction of the north, and passing
along the suburb reached the old Norman bridge, which we crossed;
the chalk precipice, with the ruin on its top, was now before us;
but turning to the left we walked swiftly along, and presently came
to some rising ground, which ascending, we found ourselves upon a
wild moor or heath.
'You are one of them,' said I, 'whom people call--'
'Just so,' said Jasper; 'but never mind what people call us.'
'And that tall handsome man on the hill, whom you whispered? I
suppose he's one of ye. What is his name?'
'Tawno Chikno,' said Jasper, 'which means the small one; we call
him such because he is the biggest man of all our nation. You say
he is handsome, that is not the word, brother; he's the beauty of
the world. Women run wild at the sight of Tawno. An earl's
daughter, near London--a fine young lady with diamonds round her
neck--fell in love with Tawno. I have seen that lass on a heath,
as this may be, kneel down to Tawno, clasp his feet, begging to be
his wife--or anything else--if she might go with him. But Tawno
would have nothing to do with her: "I have a wife of my own," said
he, "a lawful rommany wife, whom I love better than the whole
world, jealous though she sometimes be."'
'And is she very beautiful?' said I.
'Why, you know, brother, beauty is frequently a matter of taste;
however, as you ask my opinion, I should say not quite so beautiful
We had now arrived at a small valley between two hills, or downs,
the sides of which were covered with furze; in the midst of this
valley were various carts and low tents forming a rude kind of
encampment; several dark children were playing about, who took no
manner of notice of us. As we passed one of the tents, however, a
canvas screen was lifted up, and a woman supported upon a crutch
hobbled out. She was about the middle age, and, besides being
lame, was bitterly ugly; she was very slovenly dressed, and on her
swarthy features ill nature was most visibly stamped. She did not
deign me a look, but, addressing Jasper in a tongue which I did not
understand, appeared to put some eager questions to him.
'He's coming,' said Jasper, and passed on. 'Poor fellow,' said he
to me, 'he has scarcely been gone an hour, and she's jealous
already. Well,' he continued, 'what do you think of her? you have
seen her now, and can judge for yourself--that 'ere woman is Tawno
The tent--Pleasant discourse--I am Pharaoh--Shifting for one's self
--Horse-shoes--This is wonderful--Bless your wisdom--A pretty
manoeuvre--Ill day to the Romans--My name is Herne--Singular
people--An original speech--Word-master--Speaking Romanly.
We went to the farthest of the tents, which stood at a slight
distance from the rest, and which exactly resembled the one which I
have described on a former occasion; we went in and sat down one on
each side of a small fire, which was smouldering on the ground,
there was no one else in the tent but a tall tawny woman of middle
age, who was busily knitting. 'Brother,' said Jasper, 'I wish to
hold some pleasant discourse with you.'
'As much as you please,' said I, 'provided you can find anything
pleasant to talk about.'
'Never fear,' said Jasper; 'and first of all we will talk of
yourself. Where have you been all this long time?'
'Here and there,' said I, 'and far and near, going about with the
soldiers; but there is no soldiering now, so we have sat down,
father and family, in the town there.'
'And do you still hunt snakes?' said Jasper.
'No,' said I, 'I have given up that long ago; I do better now:
read books and learn languages.'
'Well, I am sorry you have given up your snake-hunting, many's the
strange talk I have had with our people about your snake and
yourself, and how you frightened my father and mother in the lane.'
'And where are your father and mother?'
'Where I shall never see them, brother; at least, I hope so.'
'No, not dead; they are bitchadey pawdel.'
'Ah! I understand; I am sorry for them. And so you are here
'Not quite alone, brother.'
'No, not alone; but with the rest--Tawno Chikno takes care of you.'
'Takes care of me, brother!'
'Yes, stands to you in the place of a father--keeps you out of
'What do you take me for, brother?'
'For about three years older than myself.'
'Perhaps; but you are of the Gorgios, and I am a Rommany Chal.
Tawno Chikno take care of Jasper Petulengro!'
'Is that your name?'
'Don't you like it?'
'Very much, I never heard a sweeter; it is something like what you
'The horse-shoe master and the snake-fellow, I am the first.'
'Who gave you that name?'
'I would, if he were here, but I do not see him.'
'I am Pharaoh.'
'Then you are a king.'
'I do not understand you.'
'Where are your languages? You want two things, brother: mother
sense, and gentle Rommany.'
'What makes you think that I want sense?'
'That, being so old, you can't yet guide yourself!'
'I can read Dante, Jasper.'
'I can charm snakes, Jasper.'
'I know you can, brother.'
'Yes, and horses too; bring me the most vicious in the land, if I
whisper he'll be tame.'
'Then the more shame for you--a snake-fellow--a horse-witch--and a
lil-reader--yet you can't shift for yourself. I laugh at you,
'Then you can shift for yourself?'
'For myself and for others, brother.'
'And what does Chikno?'
'Sells me horses, when I bid him. Those horses on the chong were
'And has he none of his own?'
'Sometimes he has; but he is not so well off as myself. When my
father and mother were bitchadey pawdel, which, to tell you the
truth, they were for chiving wafodo dloovu, they left me all they
had, which was not a little, and I became the head of our family,
which was not a small one. I was not older than you when that
happened; yet our people said they had never a better krallis to
contrive and plan for them, and to keep them in order. And this is
so well known that many Rommany Chals, not of our family, come and
join themselves to us, living with us for a time, in order to
better themselves, more especially those of the poorer sort, who
have little of their own. Tawno is one of these.'
'Is that fine fellow poor?'
'One of the poorest, brother. Handsome as he is, he has not a
horse of his own to ride on. Perhaps we may put it down to his
wife, who cannot move about, being a cripple, as you saw.'
'And you are what is called a Gypsy King?'
'Ay, ay; a Rommany Kral.'
'Are there other kings?'
'Those who call themselves so; but the true Pharaoh is Petulengro.'
'Did Pharaoh make horse-shoes?'
'The first who ever did, brother.'
'Pharaoh lived in Egypt.'
'So did we once, brother.'
'And you left it?'
'My fathers did, brother.'
'And why did they come here?'
'They had their reasons, brother.'
'And you are not English?'
'We are not gorgios.'
'And you have a language of your own?'
'This is wonderful.'
'Ha, ha!' cried the woman, who had hitherto sat knitting, at the
farther end of the tent, without saying a word, though not
inattentive to our conversation, as I could perceive by certain
glances which she occasionally cast upon us both. 'Ha, ha!' she
screamed, fixing upon me two eyes, which shone like burning coals,
and which were filled with an expression both of scorn and
malignity, 'It is wonderful, is it, that we should have a language
of our own? What, you grudge the poor people the speech they talk
among themselves? That's just like you gorgios; you would have
everybody stupid, single-tongued idiots, like yourselves. We are
taken before the Poknees of the gav, myself and sister, to give an
account of ourselves. So I says to my sister's little boy,
speaking Rommany, I says to the little boy who is with us, Run to
my son Jasper, and the rest, and tell them to be off, there are
hawks abroad. So the Poknees questions us, and lets us go, not
being able to make anything of us; but, as we are going, he calls
us back. "Good woman," says the Poknees, "what was that I heard
you say just now to the little boy?" "I was telling him, your
worship, to go and see the time of day, and to save trouble, I said
it in our language." "Where did you get that language?" says the
Poknees. "'Tis our own language, sir," I tells him, "we did not
steal it." "Shall I tell you what it is, my good woman?" says the
Poknees. "I would thank you, sir," says I, "for 'tis often we are
asked about it." "Well, then," says the Poknees, "it is no
language at all, merely a made-up gibberish." "Oh, bless your
wisdom," says I, with a curtsey, "you can tell us what our language
is, without understanding it!" Another time we meet a parson.
"Good woman," says he, "what's that you are talking? Is it broken
language?" "Of course, your reverence," says I, "we are broken
people; give a shilling, your reverence, to the poor broken woman."
Oh, these gorgios! they grudge us our very language!'
'She called you her son, Jasper?'
'I am her son, brother.'
'I thought you said your parents were--'
'Bitchadey pawdel; you thought right, brother. This is my wife's
'Then you are married, Jasper?'
'Ay, truly; I am husband and father. You will see wife and chabo
'Where are they now?'
'In the gav, penning dukkerin.'
'We were talking of language, Jasper?'
'Yours must be a rum one?'
''Tis called Rommany.'
'I would gladly know it.'
'You need it sorely.'
'Would you teach it me?'
'Suppose we begin now?'
'Suppose we do, brother.'
'Not whilst I am here,' said the woman, flinging her knitting down,
and starting upon her feet; 'not whilst I am here shall this gorgio
learn Rommany. A pretty manoeuvre, truly; and what would be the
end of it? I goes to the farming ker with my sister, to tell a
fortune, and earn a few sixpences for the chabes. I sees a jolly
pig in the yard, and I says to my sister, speaking Rommany, "Do so
and so," says I; which the farming man hearing, asks what we are
talking about. "Nothing at all, master," says I; "something about
the weather"; when who should start up from behind a pale, where he
has been listening, but this ugly gorgio, crying out, "They are
after poisoning your pigs, neighbour!" so that we are glad to run,
I and my sister, with perhaps the farm-engro shouting after us.
Says my sister to me, when we have got fairly off, "How came that
ugly one to know what you said to me?" Whereupon I answers, "It
all comes of my son Jasper, who brings the gorgio to our fire, and
must needs be teaching him." "Who was fool there?" says my sister.
"Who, indeed, but my son Jasper," I answers. And here should I be
a greater fool to sit still and suffer it; which I will not do. I
do not like the look of him; he looks over-gorgeous. An ill day to
the Romans when he masters Rommany; and, when I says that, I pens a
'What do you call God, Jasper?'
'You had better be jawing,' said the woman, raising her voice to a
terrible scream; 'you had better be moving off, my gorgio; hang you
for a keen one, sitting there by the fire, and stealing my language
before my face. Do you know whom you have to deal with? Do you
know that I am dangerous? My name is Herne, and I comes of the
And a hairy one she looked! She wore her hair clubbed upon her
head, fastened with many strings and ligatures; but now, tearing
these off, her locks, originally jet black, but now partially
grizzled with age, fell down on every side of her, covering her
face and back as far down as her knees. No she-bear of Lapland
ever looked more fierce and hairy than did that woman, as standing
in the open part of the tent, with her head bent down, and her
shoulders drawn up, seemingly about to precipitate herself upon me,
she repeated, again and again, -
'My name is Herne, and I comes of the hairy ones!--'
'I call God Duvel, brother.'
'It sounds very like Devil.'
'It doth, brother, it doth.'
'And what do you call divine, I mean godly?'
'Oh! I call that duvelskoe.'
'I am thinking of something, Jasper.'
'What are you thinking of, brother?'
'Would it not be a rum thing if divine and devilish were originally
one and the same word?'
'It would, brother, it would--'
. . .
From this time I had frequent interviews with Jasper, sometimes in
his tent, sometimes on the heath, about which we would roam for
hours, discoursing on various matters. Sometimes, mounted on one
of his horses, of which he had several, I would accompany him to
various fairs and markets in the neighbourhood, to which he went on
his own affairs, or those of his tribe. I soon found that I had
become acquainted with a most singular people, whose habits and
pursuits awakened within me the highest interest. Of all connected
with them, however, their language was doubtless that which
exercised the greatest influence over my imagination. I had at
first some suspicion that it would prove a mere made-up gibberish;
but I was soon undeceived. Broken, corrupted, and half in ruins as
it was, it was not long before I found that it was an original
speech, far more so, indeed, than one or two others of high name
and celebrity, which, up to that time, I had been in the habit of
regarding with respect and veneration. Indeed many obscure points
connected with the vocabulary of these languages, and to which
neither classic nor modern lore afforded any clue, I thought I
could now clear up by means of this strange broken tongue, spoken
by people who dwelt amongst thickets and furze bushes, in tents as
tawny as their faces, and whom the generality of mankind
designated, and with much semblance of justice, as thieves and
vagabonds. But where did this speech come from, and who were they
who spoke it? These were questions which I could not solve, and
which Jasper himself, when pressed, confessed his inability to
answer. 'But, whoever we be, brother,' said he, 'we are an old
people, and not what folks in general imagine, broken gorgios; and,
if we are not Egyptians, we are at any rate Rommany Chals!'
'Rommany Chals! I should not wonder after all,' said I, 'that
these people had something to do with the founding of Rome. Rome,
it is said, was built by vagabonds, who knows but that some tribe
of the kind settled down thereabouts, and called the town which
they built after their name; but whence did they come originally?
ah! there is the difficulty.'
But abandoning these questions, which at that time were far too
profound for me, I went on studying the language, and at the same
time the characters and manners of these strange people. My rapid
progress in the former astonished, while it delighted, Jasper.
'We'll no longer call you Sap-engro, brother,' said he; but rather
Lav-engro, which in the language of the gorgios meaneth Word-
master.' 'Nay, brother,' said Tawno Chikno, with whom I had become
very intimate, 'you had better call him Cooro-mengro, I have put on
THE GLOVES with him, and find him a pure fist-master; I like him
for that, for I am a Cooro-mengro myself, and was born at
'I likes him for his modesty,' said Mrs. Chikno; 'I never hears any
ill words come from his mouth, but, on the contrary, much sweet
language. His talk is golden, and he has taught my eldest to say
his prayers in Rommany, which my rover had never the grace to do.'
'He is the pal of my rom,' said Mrs. Petulengro, who was a very
handsome woman, 'and therefore I likes him, and not the less for
his being a rye; folks calls me high-minded, and perhaps I have
reason to be so; before I married Pharaoh I had an offer from a
lord--I likes the young rye, and, if he chooses to follow us, he
shall have my sister. What say you, mother? should not the young
rye have my sister Ursula?'
'I am going to my people,' said Mrs. Herne, placing a bundle upon a
donkey, which was her own peculiar property; 'I am going to
Yorkshire, for I can stand this no longer. You say you like him:
in that we differs; I hates the gorgio, and would like, speaking
Romanly, to mix a little poison with his waters. And now go to
Lundra, my children, I goes to Yorkshire. Take my blessing with
ye, and a little bit of a gillie to cheer your hearts with when ye
are weary. In all kinds of weather have we lived together; but now
we are parted. I goes broken-hearted--I can't keep you company; ye
are no longer Rommany. To gain a bad brother, ye have lost a good
What profession?--Not fitted for a Churchman--Erratic course--The
bitter draught--Principle of woe--Thou wouldst be joyous--What ails
you?--Poor child of clay.
So the gypsies departed; Mrs. Herne to Yorkshire, and the rest to
London: as for myself, I continued in the house of my parents,
passing my time in much the same manner as I have already
described, principally in philological pursuits; but I was now
sixteen, and it was highly necessary that I should adopt some
profession, unless I intended to fritter away my existence, and to
be a useless burden to those who had given me birth; but what
profession was I to choose? there being none in the wide world
perhaps for which I was suited; nor was there any one for which I
felt any decided inclination, though perhaps there existed within
me a lurking penchant for the profession of arms, which was natural
enough, as, from my earliest infancy, I had been accustomed to
military sights and sounds; but this profession was then closed, as
I have already hinted, and, as I believe, it has since continued,
to those who, like myself, had no better claims to urge than the
services of a father.
My father, who, for certain reasons of his own, had no very high
opinion of the advantages resulting from this career, would have
gladly seen me enter the Church. His desire was, however,
considerably abated by one or two passages of my life, which
occurred to his recollection. He particularly dwelt on the
unheard-of manner in which I had picked up the Irish language, and
drew from thence the conclusion that I was not fitted by nature to
cut a respectable figure at an English university. 'He will fly
off in a tangent,' said he, 'and, when called upon to exhibit his
skill in Greek, will be found proficient in Irish; I have observed
the poor lad attentively, and really do not know what to make of
him; but I am afraid he will never make a churchman!' And I have
no doubt that my excellent father was right, both in his premisses
and the conclusion at which he arrived. I had undoubtedly, at one
period of my life, forsaken Greek for Irish, and the instructions
of a learned Protestant divine for those of a Papist gossoon, the
card-fancying Murtagh; and of late, though I kept it a strict
secret, I had abandoned in a great measure the study of the
beautiful Italian, and the recitation of the sonorous terzets of
the Divine Comedy, in which at one time I took the greatest
delight, in order to become acquainted with the broken speech, and
yet more broken songs, of certain houseless wanderers whom I had
met at a horse fair. Such an erratic course was certainly by no
means in consonance with the sober and unvarying routine of college
study. And my father, who was a man of excellent common sense,
displayed it in not pressing me to adopt a profession which
required qualities of mind which he saw I did not possess.
Other professions were talked of, amongst which the law; but now an
event occurred which had nearly stopped my career, and merged all
minor points of solicitude in anxiety for my life. My strength and
appetite suddenly deserted me, and I began to pine and droop. Some
said that I had overgrown myself, and that these were the symptoms
of a rapid decline; I grew worse and worse, and was soon stretched
upon my bed, from which it seemed scarcely probable that I should
ever more rise, the physicians themselves giving but slight hopes
of my recovery: as for myself, I made up my mind to die, and felt
quite resigned. I was sadly ignorant at that time, and, when I
thought of death, it appeared to me little else than a pleasant
sleep, and I wished for sleep, of which I got but little. It was
well that I did not die that time, for I repeat that I was sadly
ignorant of many important things. I did not die, for somebody
coming gave me a strange, bitter draught; a decoction, I believe,
of a bitter root which grows on commons and desolate places: and
the person who gave it me was an ancient female, a kind of
doctress, who had been my nurse in my infancy, and who, hearing of
my state, had come to see me; so I drank the draught, and became a
little better, and I continued taking draughts made from the bitter
root till I manifested symptoms of convalescence.
But how much more quickly does strength desert the human frame than
return to it! I had become convalescent, it is true, but my state
of feebleness was truly pitiable. I believe it is in that state
that the most remarkable feature of human physiology frequently
exhibits itself. Oh, how dare I mention the dark feeling of
mysterious dread which comes over the mind, and which the lamp of
reason, though burning bright the while, is unable to dispel! Art
thou, as leeches say, the concomitant of disease--the result of
shattered nerves? Nay, rather the principle of woe itself, the
fountain-head of all sorrow coexistent with man, whose influence he
feels when yet unborn, and whose workings he testifies with his
earliest cries, when, 'drowned in tears,' he first beholds the
light; for, as the sparks fly upward, so is man born to trouble,
and woe doth he bring with him into the world, even thyself, dark
one, terrible one, causeless, unbegotten, without a father. Oh,
how unfrequently dost thou break down the barriers which divide
thee from the poor soul of man, and overcast its sunshine with thy
gloomy shadow. In the brightest days of prosperity--in the midst
of health and wealth--how sentient is the poor human creature of
thy neighbourhood! how instinctively aware that the flood-gates of
horror may be cast open, and the dark stream engulf him for ever
and ever! Then is it not lawful for man to exclaim, 'Better that I
had never been born!' Fool, for thyself thou wast not born, but to
fulfil the inscrutable decrees of thy Creator; and how dost thou
know that this dark principle is not, after all, thy best friend;
that it is not that which tempers the whole mass of thy corruption?
It may be, for what thou knowest, the mother of wisdom, and of
great works: it is the dread of the horror of the night that makes
the pilgrim hasten on his way. When thou feelest it nigh, let thy
safety word be 'Onward'; if thou tarry, thou art overwhelmed.
Courage! build great works--'tis urging thee--it is ever nearest
the favourites of God--the fool knows little of it. Thou wouldst
be joyous, wouldst thou? then be a fool. What great work was ever
the result of joy, the puny one? Who have been the wise ones, the
mighty ones, the conquering ones of this earth? the joyous? I
believe not. The fool is happy, or comparatively so--certainly the
least sorrowful, but he is still a fool: and whose notes are
sweetest, those of the nightingale, or of the silly lark?
'What ails you, my child?' said a mother to her son, as he lay on a
couch under the influence of the dreadful one; 'what ails you? you
Boy. And so I am; a dreadful fear is upon me.
Mother. But of what? There is no one can harm you; of what are
Boy. Of nothing that I can express; I know not what I am afraid
of, but afraid I am.
Mother. Perhaps you see sights and visions; I knew a lady once who
was continually thinking that she saw an armed man threaten her,
but it was only an imagination, a phantom of the brain.
Boy. No armed man threatens me; and 'tis not a thing like that
would cause me any fear. Did an armed man threaten me, I would get
up and fight him; weak as I am, I would wish for nothing better,
for then, perhaps, I should lose this fear; mine is a dread of I
know not what, and there the horror lies.
Mother. Your forehead is cool, and your speech collected. Do you
know where you are?
Boy. I know where I am, and I see things just as they are; you are
beside me, and upon the table there is a book which was written by
a Florentine; all this I see, and that there is no ground for being
afraid. I am, moreover, quite cool, and feel no pain--but, but -
And then there was a burst of 'gemiti, sospiri ed alti guai.'
Alas, alas, poor child of clay! as the sparks fly upward, so wast
thou born to sorrow--Onward!
Agreeable delusions--Youth--A profession--Ab Gwilym--Glorious
English law--There they pass--My dear old master--The deal desk--
Language of the tents--Where is Morfydd?--Go to--only once.
It has been said by this or that writer, I scarcely know by whom,
that, in proportion as we grow old, and our time becomes short, the
swifter does it pass, until at last, as we approach the borders of
the grave, it assumes all the speed and impetuosity of a river
about to precipitate itself into an abyss; this is doubtless the
case, provided we can carry to the grave those pleasant thoughts
and delusions, which alone render life agreeable, and to which even
to the very last we would gladly cling; but what becomes of the
swiftness of time, when the mind sees the vanity of human pursuits?
which is sure to be the case when its fondest, dearest hopes have
been blighted at the very moment when the harvest was deemed
secure. What becomes from that moment, I repeat, of the shortness
of time? I put not the question to those who have never known that
trial, they are satisfied with themselves and all around them, with
what they have done, and yet hope to do; some carry their delusions
with them to the borders of the grave, ay, to the very moment when
they fall into it; a beautiful golden cloud surrounds them to the
last, and such talk of the shortness of time: through the medium
of that cloud the world has ever been a pleasant world to them;
their only regret is that they are so soon to quit it; but oh, ye
dear deluded hearts, it is not every one who is so fortunate!
To the generality of mankind there is no period like youth. The
generality are far from fortunate; but the period of youth, even to
the least so, offers moments of considerable happiness, for they
are not only disposed but able to enjoy most things within their
reach. With what trifles at that period are we content; the things
from which in after-life we should turn away in disdain please us
then, for we are in the midst of a golden cloud, and everything
seems decked with a golden hue. Never during any portion of my
life did time flow on more speedily than during the two or three
years immediately succeeding the period to which we arrived in the
preceding chapter: since then it has flagged often enough;
sometimes it has seemed to stand entirely still; and the reader may
easily judge how it fares at the present, from the circumstance of
my taking pen in hand, and endeavouring to write down the passages
of my life--a last resource with most people. But at the period to
which I allude I was just, as I may say, entering upon life; I had
adopted a profession, and, to keep up my character, simultaneously
with that profession--the study of a new language. I speedily
became a proficient in the one, but ever remained a novice in the
other: a novice in the law, but a perfect master in the Welsh
Yes; very pleasant times were those, when within the womb of a
lofty deal desk, behind which I sat for some eight hours every day,
transcribing (when I imagined eyes were upon me) documents of every
description in every possible hand, Blackstone kept company with Ab
Gwilym--the polished English lawyer of the last century, who wrote
long and prosy chapters on the rights of things--with a certain
wild Welshman, who some four hundred years before that time indited
immortal cowydds and odes to the wives of Cambrian chieftains--more
particularly to one Morfydd, the wife of a certain hunchbacked
dignitary called by the poet facetiously Bwa Bach--generally
terminating with the modest request of a little private parlance
beneath the greenwood bough, with no other witness than the eos, or
nightingale, a request which, if the poet himself may be believed,
rather a doubtful point, was seldom, very seldom, denied. And by
what strange chance had Ab Gwilym and Blackstone, two personages so
exceedingly different, been thus brought together? From what the
reader already knows of me, he may be quite prepared to find me
reading the former; but what could have induced me to take up
Blackstone, or rather the law?
I have ever loved to be as explicit as possible; on which account,
perhaps, I never attained to any proficiency in the law, the
essence of which is said to be ambiguity; most questions may be
answered in a few words, and this among the rest, though connected
with the law. My parents deemed it necessary that I should adopt
some profession, they named the law; the law was as agreeable to me
as any other profession within my reach, so I adopted the law, and
the consequence was, that Blackstone, probably for the first time,
found himself in company with Ab Gwilym. By adopting the law I had
not ceased to be Lavengro.
So I sat behind a desk many hours in the day, ostensibly engaged in
transcribing documents of various kinds; the scene of my labours
was a strange old house, occupying one side of a long and narrow
court, into which, however, the greater number of the windows
looked not, but into an extensive garden, filled with fruit trees,
in the rear of a large, handsome house, belonging to a highly
respectable gentleman, who, moyennant un douceur considerable, had
consented to instruct my father's youngest son in the mysteries of
glorious English law. Ah! would that I could describe the good
gentleman in the manner which he deserves; he has long since sunk
to his place in a respectable vault, in the aisle of a very
respectable church, whilst an exceedingly respectable marble slab
against the neighbouring wall tells on a Sunday some eye wandering
from its prayer-book that his dust lies below; to secure such
respectabilities in death, he passed a most respectable life. Let
no one sneer, he accomplished much; his life was peaceful, so was
his death. Are these trifles? I wish I could describe him, for I
loved the man, and with reason, for he was ever kind to me, to whom
kindness has not always been shown; and he was, moreover, a choice
specimen of a class which no longer exists--a gentleman lawyer of
the old school. I would fain describe him, but figures with which
he has nought to do press forward and keep him from my mind's eye;
there they pass, Spaniard and Moor, Gypsy, Turk, and livid Jew.
But who is that? what that thick pursy man in the loose, snuff-
coloured greatcoat, with the white stockings, drab breeches, and
silver buckles on his shoes; that man with the bull neck, and
singular head, immense in the lower part, especially about the
jaws, but tapering upward like a pear; the man with the bushy
brows, small gray eyes replete with catlike expression, whose
grizzled hair is cut close, and whose ear-lobes are pierced with
small golden rings? Oh! that is not my dear old master, but a
widely different personage. Bon jour, Monsieur Vidocq! expressions
de ma part a Monsieur Le Baron Taylor. But here he comes at last,
my veritable old master!
A more respectable-looking individual was never seen; he really
looked what he was, a gentleman of the law--there was nothing of
the pettifogger about him: somewhat under the middle size, and
somewhat rotund in person, he was always dressed in a full suit of
black, never worn long enough to become threadbare. His face was
rubicund, and not without keenness; but the most remarkable thing
about him was the crown of his head, which was bald, and shone like
polished ivory, nothing more white, smooth, and lustrous. Some
people have said that he wore false calves, probably because his
black silk stockings never exhibited a wrinkle; they might just as
well have said that he waddled, because his shoes creaked; for
these last, which were always without a speck, and polished as his
crown, though of a different hue, did creak, as he walked rather
slowly. I cannot say that I ever saw him walk fast.
He had a handsome practice, and might have died a very rich man,
much richer than he did, had he not been in the habit of giving
rather expensive dinners to certain great people, who gave him
nothing in return except their company; I could never discover his
reasons for doing so, as he always appeared to me a remarkably
quiet man, by nature averse to noise and bustle; but in all
dispositions there are anomalies: I have already said that he
lived in a handsome house, and I may as well here add that he had a
very handsome wife, who both dressed and talked exceedingly well.
So I sat behind the deal desk, engaged in copying documents of
various kinds; and in the apartment in which I sat, and in the
adjoining ones, there were others, some of whom likewise copied
documents, while some were engaged in the yet more difficult task
of drawing them up; and some of these, sons of nobody, were paid
for the work they did, whilst others, like myself, sons of
somebody, paid for being permitted to work, which, as our principal
observed, was but reasonable, forasmuch as we not unfrequently
utterly spoiled the greater part of the work intrusted to our
There was one part of the day when I generally found myself quite
alone, I mean at the hour when the rest went home to their
principal meal; I, being the youngest, was left to take care of the
premises, to answer the bell, and so forth, till relieved, which
was seldom before the expiration of an hour and a half, when I
myself went home; this period, however, was anything but
disagreeable to me, for it was then that I did what best pleased
me, and, leaving off copying the documents, I sometimes indulged in
a fit of musing, my chin resting on both my hands, and my elbows
planted on the desk; or, opening the desk aforesaid, I would take
out one of the books contained within it, and the book which I took
out was almost invariably, not Blackstone, but Ab Gwilym.
Ah, that Ab Gwilym! I am much indebted to him, and it were
ungrateful on my part not to devote a few lines to him and his
songs in this my history. Start not, reader, I am not going to
trouble you with a poetical dissertation; no, no; I know my duty
too well to introduce anything of the kind; but I, who imagine I
know several things, and amongst others the workings of your mind
at this moment, have an idea that you are anxious to learn a
little, a very little, more about Ab Gwilym than I have hitherto
told you, the two or three words that I have dropped having
awakened within you a languid kind of curiosity. I have no
hesitation in saying that he makes one of the some half-dozen
really great poets whose verses, in whatever language they wrote,
exist at the present day, and are more or less known. It matters
little how I first became acquainted with the writings of this man,
and how the short thick volume, stuffed full with his immortal
imaginings, first came into my hands. I was studying Welsh, and I
fell in with Ab Gwilym by no very strange chance. But, before I
say more about Ab Gwilym, I must be permitted--I really must--to
say a word or two about the language in which he wrote, that same
'Sweet Welsh.' If I remember right, I found the language a
difficult one; in mastering it, however, I derived unexpected
assistance from what of Irish remained in my head, and I soon found
that they were cognate dialects, springing from some old tongue
which itself, perhaps, had sprung from one much older. And here I
cannot help observing cursorily that I every now and then, whilst
studying this Welsh, generally supposed to be the original tongue
of Britain, encountered words which, according to the
lexicographers, were venerable words highly expressive, showing the
wonderful power and originality of the Welsh, in which, however,
they were no longer used in common discourse, but were relics,
precious relics, of the first speech of Britain, perhaps of the
world; with which words, however, I was already well acquainted,
and which I had picked up, not in learned books, classic books, and
in tongues of old renown, but whilst listening to Mr. Petulengro
and Tawno Chikno talking over their everyday affairs in the
language of the tents; which circumstance did not fail to give rise
to deep reflection in those moments when, planting my elbows on the
deal desk, I rested my chin upon my hands. But it is probable that
I should have abandoned the pursuit of the Welsh language, after
obtaining a very superficial acquaintance with it, had it not been
for Ab Gwilym.
A strange songster was that who, pretending to be captivated by
every woman he saw, was, in reality, in love with nature alone--
wild, beautiful, solitary nature--her mountains and cascades, her
forests and streams, her birds, fishes, and wild animals. Go to,
Ab Gwilym, with thy pseudo-amatory odes, to Morfydd, or this or
that other lady, fair or ugly; little didst thou care for any of
them, Dame Nature was thy love, however thou mayest seek to
disguise the truth. Yes, yes, send thy love-message to Morfydd,
the fair wanton. By whom dost thou send it, I would know? by the
salmon forsooth, which haunts the rushing stream! the glorious
salmon which bounds and gambols in the flashing water, and whose
ways and circumstances thou so well describest--see, there he
hurries upwards through the flashing water. Halloo! what a glimpse
of glory--but where is Morfydd the while? What, another message to
the wife of Bwa Bach? Ay, truly; and by whom?--the wind! the swift
wind, the rider of the world, whose course is not to be stayed; who
gallops o'er the mountain, and, when he comes to broadest river,
asks neither for boat nor ferry; who has described the wind so
well--his speed and power? But where is Morfydd? And now thou art
awaiting Morfydd, the wanton, the wife of the Bwa Bach; thou art
awaiting her beneath the tall trees, amidst the underwood; but she
comes not; no Morfydd is there. Quite right, Ab Gwilym; what
wantest thou with Morfydd? But another form is nigh at hand, that
of red Reynard, who, seated upon his chine at the mouth of his
cave, looks very composedly at thee; thou startest, bendest thy
bow, thy cross-bow, intending to hit Reynard with the bolt just
about the jaw; but the bow breaks, Reynard barks and disappears
into his cave, which by thine own account reaches hell--and then
thou ravest at the misfortune of thy bow, and the non-appearance of
Morfydd, and abusest Reynard. Go to, thou carest neither for thy
bow nor for Morfydd, thou merely seekest an opportunity to speak of
Reynard; and who has described him like thee? the brute with the
sharp shrill cry, the black reverse of melody, whose face sometimes
wears a smile like the devil's in the Evangile. But now thou art
actually with Morfydd; yes, she has stolen from the dwelling of the
Bwa Bach and has met thee beneath those rocks--she is actually with
thee, Ab Gwilym; but she is not long with thee, for a storm comes
on, and thunder shatters the rocks--Morfydd flees! Quite right, Ab
Gwilym; thou hadst no need of her, a better theme for song is the
voice of the Lord--the rock-shatterer--than the frail wife of the
Bwa Bach. Go to, Ab Gwilym, thou wast a wiser and a better man
than thou wouldst fain have had people believe.
But enough of thee and thy songs! Those times passed rapidly; with
Ab Gwilym in my hand, I was in the midst of enchanted ground, in
which I experienced sensations akin to those I had felt of yore
whilst spelling my way through the wonderful book--the delight of
my childhood. I say akin, for perhaps only once in our lives do we
experience unmixed wonder and delight; and these I had already
Silver gray--Good word for everybody--A remarkable youth--Clients--
Grades in society--The archdeacon--Reading the Bible.
'I am afraid that I have not acted very wisely in putting this boy
of ours to the law,' said my father to my mother, as they sat
together one summer evening in their little garden, beneath the
shade of some tall poplars.
Yes, there sat my father in the garden chair which leaned against
the wall of his quiet home, the haven in which he had sought rest,
and, praise be to God, found it, after many a year of poorly-
requited toil; there he sat, with locks of silver gray which set
off so nobly his fine bold but benevolent face, his faithful
consort at his side, and his trusty dog at his feet--an eccentric
animal of the genuine regimental breed, who, born amongst red
coats, had not yet become reconciled to those of any other hue,
barking and tearing at them when they drew near the door, but
testifying his fond reminiscence of the former by hospitable
waggings of the tail whenever a uniform made its appearance--at
present a very unfrequent occurrence.
'I am afraid I have not done right in putting him to the law,' said
my father, resting his chin upon his gold-headed bamboo cane.
'Why, what makes you think so?' said my mother.
'I have been taking my usual evening walk up the road, with the
animal here,' said my father; 'and, as I walked along, I overtook
the boy's master, Mr. S-. We shook hands, and, after walking a
little way farther, we turned back together, talking about this and
that; the state of the country, the weather, and the dog, which he
greatly admired; for he is a good-natured man, and has a good word
for everybody, though the dog all but bit him when he attempted to
coax his head; after the dog, we began talking about the boy; it
was myself who introduced that subject: I thought it was a good
opportunity to learn how he was getting on, so I asked what he
thought of my son; he hesitated at first, seeming scarcely to know
what to say; at length he came out with "Oh, a very extraordinary
youth, a most remarkable youth indeed, captain!" "Indeed," said I,
"I am glad to hear it, but I hope you find him steady?" "Steady,
steady," said he, "why, yes, he's steady, I cannot say that he is
not steady." "Come, come," said I, beginning to be rather uneasy,
"I see plainly that you are not altogether satisfied with him; I
was afraid you would not be, for, though he is my own son, I am
anything but blind to his imperfections; but do tell me what
particular fault you have to find with him; and I will do my best
to make him alter his conduct." "No fault to find with him,
captain, I assure you, no fault whatever; the youth is a remarkable
youth, an extraordinary youth, only--" As I told you before, Mr.
S- is the best-natured man in the world, and it was only with the
greatest difficulty that I could get him to say a single word to
the disadvantage of the boy, for whom he seems to entertain a very
great regard. At last I forced the truth from him, and grieved I
was to hear it; though I must confess that I was somewhat prepared
for it. It appears that the lad has a total want of
'I don't understand you,' said my mother.
'You can understand nothing that would seem for a moment to impugn
the conduct of that child. I am not, however, so blind; want of
discrimination was the word, and it both sounds well, and is
expressive. It appears that, since he has been placed where is, he
has been guilty of the grossest blunders; only the other day, Mr.
S- told me, as he was engaged in close conversation with one of his
principal clients, the boy came to tell him that a person wanted
particularly to speak with him; and, on going out, he found a
lamentable figure with one eye, who came to ask for charity; whom,
nevertheless, the lad had ushered into a private room, and
installed in an arm-chair, like a justice of the peace, instead of
telling him to go about his business--now what did that show, but a
total want of discrimination?'
'I wish we may never have anything worse to reproach him with,'
said my mother.
'I don't know what worse we could reproach him with,' said my
father; 'I mean of course as far as his profession is concerned;
discrimination is the very keystone; if he treated all people
alike, he would soon become a beggar himself; there are grades in
society as well as in the army; and according to those grades we
should fashion our behaviour, else there would instantly be an end
of all order and discipline. I am afraid that the child is too
condescending to his inferiors, whilst to his superiors he is apt
to be unbending enough; I don't believe that would do in the world;
I am sure it would not in the army. He told me another anecdote
with respect to his behaviour, which shocked me more than the other
had done. It appears that his wife, who by the bye, is a very fine
woman, and highly fashionable, gave him permission to ask the boy
to tea one evening, for she is herself rather partial to the lad;
there had been a great dinner party there that day, and there were
a great many fashionable people, so the boy went and behaved very
well and modestly for some time, and was rather noticed, till,
unluckily, a very great gentleman, an archdeacon I think, put some
questions to him, and, finding that he understood the languages,
began talking to him about the classics. What do you think? the
boy had the impertinence to say that the classics were much
overvalued, and amongst other things that some horrid fellow or
other, some Welshman I think (thank God it was not an Irishman),
was a better poet than Ovid; the company were of course horrified;
the archdeacon, who is seventy years of age, and has seven thousand
a year, took snuff and turned away. Mrs. S- turned up her eyes,
Mr. S-, however, told me with his usual good-nature (I suppose to
spare my feelings) that he rather enjoyed the thing, and thought it
a capital joke.'
'I think so too,' said my mother.
'I do not,' said my father; 'that a boy of his years should
entertain an opinion of his own--I mean one which militates against
all established authority--is astounding; as well might a raw
recruit pretend to offer an unfavourable opinion on the manual and
platoon exercise; the idea is preposterous; the lad is too
independent by half. I never yet knew one of an independent spirit
get on in the army, the secret of success in the army is the spirit
'Which is a poor spirit after all,' said my mother; 'but the child
is not in the army.'
'And it is well for him that he is not,' said my father; 'but you
do not talk wisely, the world is a field of battle, and he who
leaves the ranks, what can he expect but to be cut down? I call
his present behaviour leaving the ranks, and going vapouring about
without orders; his only chance lies in falling in again as quick
as possible; does he think he can carry the day by himself? an
opinion of his own at these years--I confess I am exceedingly
uneasy about the lad.'
'You make me uneasy too,' said my mother; 'but I really think you
are too hard upon the child; he is not a bad child, after all,
though not, perhaps, all you could wish him; he is always ready to
read the Bible. Let us go in; he is in the room above us; at least
he was two hours ago, I left him there bending over his books; I
wonder what he has been doing all this time, it is now getting
late; let us go in, and he shall read to us.'
'I am getting old,' said my father; 'and I love to hear the Bible
read to me, for my own sight is something dim; yet I do not wish
the child to read to me this night, I cannot so soon forget what I
have heard; but I hear my eldest son's voice, he is now entering
the gate; he shall read the Bible to us this night. What say you?'
The eldest son--Saying of wild Finland--The critical time--Vaunting
polls--One thing wanted--A father's blessing--Miracle of art--The
Pope's house--Young enthusiast--Pictures of England--Persist and
wrestle--The little dark man.
The eldest son! The regard and affection which my father
entertained for his first-born were natural enough, and appeared to
none more so than myself, who cherished the same feelings towards
him. What he was as a boy the reader already knows, for the reader
has seen him as a boy; fain would I describe him at the time of
which I am now speaking, when he had attained the verge of manhood,
but the pen fails me, and I attempt not the task; and yet it ought
to be an easy one, for how frequently does his form visit my mind's
eye in slumber and in wakefulness, in the light of day and in the
night watches; but last night I saw him in his beauty and his
strength; he was about to speak, and my ear was on the stretch,
when at once I awoke, and there was I alone, and the night storm
was howling amidst the branches of the pines which surround my
lonely dwelling: 'Listen to the moaning of the pine, at whose root
thy hut is fastened,'--a saying that, of wild Finland, in which
there is wisdom; I listened and thought of life and death. . . . Of
all human beings that I have ever known, that elder brother was the
most frank and generous, ay, and the quickest and readiest, and the
best adapted to do a great thing needful at the critical time, when
the delay of a moment would be fatal. I have known him dash from a
steep bank into a stream in his full dress, and pull out a man who
was drowning; yet there were twenty others bathing in the water,
who might have saved him by putting out a hand, without
inconvenience to themselves, which, however, they did not do, but
stared with stupid surprise at the drowning one's struggles. Yes,
whilst some shouted from the bank to those in the water to save the
drowning one, and those in the water did nothing, my brother
neither shouted nor stood still, but dashed from the bank and did
the one thing needful, which, under such circumstances, not one man
in a million would have done. Now, who can wonder that a brave old
man should love a son like this, and prefer him to any other?
'My boy, my own boy, you are the very image of myself, the day I
took off my coat in the park to fight Big Ben,' said my father, on
meeting his son wet and dripping, immediately after his bold feat.
And who cannot excuse the honest pride of the old man--the stout
Ay, old man, that son was worthy of thee, and thou wast worthy of
such a son; a noble specimen wast thou of those strong single-
minded Englishmen, who, without making a parade either of religion
or loyalty, feared God and honoured their king, and were not
particularly friendly to the French, whose vaunting polls they
occasionally broke, as at Minden and at Malplaquet, to the
confusion vast of the eternal foes of the English land. I, who was
so little like thee that thou understoodst me not, and in whom with
justice thou didst feel so little pride, had yet perception enough
to see all thy worth, and to feel it an honour to be able to call
myself thy son; and if at some no distant time, when the foreign
enemy ventures to insult our shore, I be permitted to break some
vaunting poll, it will be a triumph to me to think that, if thou
hadst lived, thou wouldst have hailed the deed, and mightest yet
discover some distant resemblance to thyself, the day when thou
didst all but vanquish the mighty Brain.
I have already spoken of my brother's taste for painting, and the
progress he had made in that beautiful art. It is probable that,
if circumstances had not eventually diverted his mind from the
pursuit, he would have attained excellence, and left behind him
some enduring monument of his powers, for he had an imagination to
conceive, and that yet rarer endowment, a hand capable of giving
life, body, and reality to the conceptions of his mind; perhaps he
wanted one thing, the want of which is but too often fatal to the
sons of genius, and without which genius is little more than a
splendid toy in the hands of the possessor--perseverance, dogged
perseverance, in his proper calling; otherwise, though the grave
had closed over him, he might still be living in the admiration of
his fellow-creatures. O ye gifted ones, follow your calling, for,
however various your talents may be, ye can have but one calling
capable of leading ye to eminence and renown; follow resolutely the
one straight path before you, it is that of your good angel, let
neither obstacles nor temptations induce ye to leave it; bound
along if you can; if not, on hands and knees follow it, perish in
it, if needful; but ye need not fear that; no one ever yet died in
the true path of his calling before he had attained the pinnacle.
Turn into other paths, and for a momentary advantage or
gratification ye have sold your inheritance, your immortality. Ye
will never be heard of after death.
'My father has given me a hundred and fifty pounds,' said my
brother to me one morning, 'and something which is better--his
blessing. I am going to leave you.'
'And where are you going?'
'Where? to the great city; to London, to be sure.'
'I should like to go with you.'
'Pooh,' said my brother, 'what should you do there? But don't be
discouraged, I daresay a time will come when you too will go to
And, sure enough, so it did, and all but too soon.
'And what do you purpose doing there?' I demanded.
'Oh, I go to improve myself in art, to place myself under some
master of high name, at least I hope to do so eventually. I have,
however, a plan in my head, which I should wish first to execute;
indeed, I do not think I can rest till I have done so; every one
talks so much about Italy, and the wondrous artists which it has
produced, and the wondrous pictures which are to be found there;
now I wish to see Italy, or rather Rome, the great city, for I am
told that in a certain room there is contained the grand miracle of
'And what do you call it?'
'The Transfiguration, painted by one Rafael, and it is said to be
the greatest work of the greatest painter whom the world has ever
known. I suppose it is because everybody says so, that I have such
a strange desire to see it. I have already made myself well
acquainted with its locality, and think that I could almost find my
way to it blindfold. When I have crossed the Tiber, which, as you
are aware, runs through Rome, I must presently turn to the right,
up a rather shabby street, which communicates with a large square,
the farther end of which is entirely occupied by the front of an
immense church, with a dome which ascends almost to the clouds, and
this church they call St. Peter's.'
'Ay, ay,' said I, 'I have read about that in Keysler's Travels.'
'Before the church, in the square, are two fountains, one on either
side, casting up water in showers; between them, in the midst, is
an obelisk, brought from Egypt, and covered with mysterious
writing; on your right rises an edifice, not beautiful nor grand,
but huge and bulky, where lives a strange kind of priest whom men
call the Pope, a very horrible old individual, who would fain keep
Christ in leading strings, calls the Virgin Mary the Queen of
Heaven, and himself God's Lieutenant-General upon earth.'
'Ay, ay,' said I, 'I have read of him in Foxe's Book of Martyrs.'
'Well, I do not go straight forward up the flight of steps
conducting into the church, but I turn to the right, and, passing
under the piazza, find myself in a court of the huge bulky house;
and then ascend various staircases, and pass along various
corridors and galleries, all of which I could describe to you,
though I have never seen them; at last a door is unlocked, and we
enter a room rather high, but not particularly large, communicating
with another room, into which, however, I do not go, though there
are noble things in that second room--immortal things, by immortal
artists; amongst others, a grand piece of Correggio; I do not enter
it, for the grand picture of the world is not there; but I stand
still immediately on entering the first room, and I look straight
before me, neither to the right nor left, though there are noble
things both on the right and left, for immediately before me at the
farther end, hanging against the wall, is a picture which arrests
me, and I can see nothing else, for that picture at the farther end
hanging against the wall is the picture of the world. . . .'
Yes, go thy way, young enthusiast, and, whether to London town or
to old Rome, may success attend thee; yet strange fears assail me
and misgivings on thy account. Thou canst not rest, thou say'st,
till thou hast seen the picture in the chamber at old Rome hanging
over against the wall; ay, and thus thou dust exemplify thy
weakness--thy strength too, it may be--for the one idea, fantastic
yet lovely, which now possesses thee, could only have originated in
a genial and fervent brain. Well, go, if thou must go; yet it
perhaps were better for thee to bide in thy native land, and there,
with fear and trembling, with groanings, with straining eyeballs,
toil, drudge, slave, till thou hast made excellence thine own; thou
wilt scarcely acquire it by staring at the picture over against the
door in the high chamber of old Rome. Seekest thou inspiration?
thou needest it not, thou hast it already; and it was never yet
found by crossing the sea. What hast thou to do with old Rome, and
thou an Englishman? 'Did thy blood never glow at the mention of
thy native land?' as an artist merely? Yes, I trow, and with
reason, for thy native land need not grudge old Rome her 'pictures
of the world'; she has pictures of her own, 'pictures of England';
and is it a new thing to toss up caps and shout--England against
the world? Yes, against the world in all, in all; in science and
in arms, in minstrel strain, and not less in the art 'which enables
the hand to deceive the intoxicated soul by means of pictures.'
Seek'st models? to Gainsborough and Hogarth turn, not names of the
world, maybe, but English names--and England against the world! A
living master? why, there he comes! thou hast had him long, he has
long guided thy young hand towards the excellence which is yet far
from thee, but which thou canst attain if thou shouldst persist and
wrestle, even as he has done, 'midst gloom and despondency--ay, and
even contempt; he who now comes up the creaking stair to thy little
studio in the second floor to inspect thy last effort before thou
departest, the little stout man whose face is very dark, and whose
eye is vivacious; that man has attained excellence, destined some
day to be acknowledged, though not till he is cold, and his mortal
part returned to its kindred clay. He has painted, not pictures of
the world, but English pictures, such as Gainsborough himself might
have done; beautiful rural pieces, with trees which might well
tempt the wild birds to perch upon them, thou needest not run to
Rome, brother, where lives the old Mariolater, after pictures of
the world, whilst at home there are pictures of England; nor
needest thou even go to London, the big city, in search of a
master, for thou hast one at home in the old East Anglian town who
can instruct thee whilst thou needest instruction: better stay at
home, brother, at least for a season, and toil and strive 'midst
groanings and despondency till thou hast attained excellence even
as he has done--the little dark man with the brown coat and the
top-boots, whose name will one day be considered the chief ornament
of the old town, and whose works will at no distant period rank
amongst the proudest pictures of England--and England against the
world!--thy master, my brother, thy, at present, all too little
Desire for novelty--Lives of the lawless--Countenances--Old yeoman
and dame--We live near the sea--Uncouth-looking volume--The other
condition--Draoitheac--A dilemma--The Antinomian--Lodowick
Muggleton--Almost blind--Anders Vedel.
But to proceed with my own story: I now ceased all at once to take
much pleasure in the pursuits which formerly interested me, I
yawned over Ab Gwilym, even as I now in my mind's eye perceive the
reader yawning over the present pages. What was the cause of this?
Constitutional lassitude, or a desire for novelty? Both it is
probable had some influence in the matter, but I rather think that
the latter feeling was predominant. The parting words of my
brother had sunk into my mind. He had talked of travelling in
strange regions and seeing strange and wonderful objects, and my
imagination fell to work, and drew pictures of adventures wild and
fantastic, and I thought what a fine thing it must be to travel,
and I wished that my father would give me his blessing, and the
same sum that he had given my brother, and bid me go forth into the
world; always forgetting that I had neither talents nor energies at
this period which would enable me to make any successful figure on
And then I again sought up the book which had so captivated me in
my infancy, and I read it through; and I sought up others of a
similar character, and in seeking for them I met books also of
adventure, but by no means of a harmless description, lives of
wicked and lawless men, Murray and Latroon--books of singular
power, but of coarse and prurient imagination--books at one time
highly in vogue; now deservedly forgotten, and most difficult to be
And when I had gone through these books, what was my state of mind?
I had derived entertainment from their perusal, but they left me
more listless and unsettled than before, and really knew not what
to do to pass my time. My philological studies had become
distasteful, and I had never taken any pleasure in the duties of my
profession. I sat behind my desk in a state of torpor, my mind
almost as blank as the paper before me, on which I rarely traced a
line. It was always a relief to hear the bell ring, as it afforded
me an opportunity of doing something which I was yet capable of
doing, to rise and open the door and stare in the countenances of
the visitors. All of a sudden I fell to studying countenances, and
soon flattered myself that I had made considerable progress in the
'There is no faith in countenances,' said some Roman of old; 'trust
anything but a person's countenance.' 'Not trust a man's
countenance?' say some moderns, 'why, it is the only thing in many
people that we can trust; on which account they keep it most
assiduously out of the way. Trust not a man's words if you please,
or you may come to very erroneous conclusions; but at all times
place implicit confidence in a man's countenance, in which there is
no deceit; and of necessity there can be none. If people would but
look each other more in the face, we should have less cause to
complain of the deception of the world; nothing so easy as
physiognomy nor so useful.' Somewhat in this latter strain I
thought at the time of which I am speaking. I am now older, and,
let us hope, less presumptuous. It is true that in the course of
my life I have scarcely ever had occasion to repent placing
confidence in individuals whose countenances have prepossessed me
in their favour; though to how many I may have been unjust, from
whose countenances I may have drawn unfavourable conclusions, is
But it had been decreed by that Fate which governs our every action
that I was soon to return to my old pursuits. It was written that
I should not yet cease to be Lav-engro, though I had become, in my
own opinion, a kind of Lavater. It is singular enough that my
renewed ardour for philology seems to have been brought about
indirectly by my physiognomical researches, in which had I not
indulged, the event which I am about to relate, as far as connected
with myself, might never have occurred. Amongst the various
countenances which I admitted during the period of my answering the
bell, there were two which particularly pleased me, and which
belonged to an elderly yeoman and his wife, whom some little
business had brought to our law sanctuary. I believe they
experienced from me some kindness and attention, which won the old
people's hearts. So, one day, when their little business had been
brought to a conclusion, and they chanced to be alone with me, who
was seated as usual behind the deal desk in the outer room, the old
man with some confusion began to tell me how grateful himself and
dame felt for the many attentions I had shown them, and how
desirous they were to make me some remuneration. 'Of course,' said
the old man, 'we must be cautious what we offer to so fine a young
gentleman as yourself; we have, however, something we think will
just suit the occasion, a strange kind of thing which people say is
a book, though no one that my dame or myself have shown it to can
make anything out of it; so as we are told that you are a fine
young gentleman, who can read all the tongues of the earth and
stars, as the Bible says, we thought, I and my dame, that it would
be just the thing you would like and my dame has it now at the
bottom of her basket.'
'A book!' said I, 'how did you come by it?'
'We live near the sea,' said the old man; 'so near that sometimes
our thatch is wet with the spray; and it may now be a year ago that
there was a fearful storm, and a ship was driven ashore during the
night, and ere the morn was a complete wreck. When we got up at
daylight, there were the poor shivering crew at our door; they were
foreigners, red-haired men, whose speech we did not understand; but
we took them in, and warmed them, and they remained with us three
days; and when they went away they left behind them this thing,
here it is, part of the contents of a box which was washed ashore.'
'And did you learn who they were?'
'Why, yes; they made us understand that they were Danes.'
Danes! thought I, Danes! and instantaneously, huge and grisly,
appeared to rise up before my vision the skull of the old pirate
Dane, even as I had seen it of yore in the pent-house of the
ancient church to which, with my mother and my brother, I had
wandered on the memorable summer eve.
And now the old man handed me the book; a strange and uncouth-
looking volume enough. It was not very large, but instead of the
usual covering was bound in wood, and was compressed with strong
iron clasps. It was a printed book, but the pages were not of
paper, but vellum, and the characters were black, and resembled
those generally termed Gothic.
'It is certainly a curious book,' said I; 'and I should like to
have it, but I can't think of taking it as a gift, I must give you
an equivalent, I never take presents from anybody.'
The old man whispered with his dame and chuckled, and then turned
his face to me, and said, with another chuckle, 'Well, we have
agreed about the price, but, maybe, you will not consent.'
'I don't know,' said I; 'what do you demand?'
'Why, that you shake me by the hand, and hold out your cheek to my
old dame, she has taken an affection to you.'
'I shall be very glad to shake you by the hand,' said I, 'but as
for the other condition, it requires consideration.'
'No consideration at all,' said the old man, with something like a
sigh; 'she thinks you like her son, our only child, that was lost
twenty years ago in the waves of the North Sea.'
'Oh, that alters the case altogether,' said I, 'and of course I can
have no objection.'
And now at once I shook off my listlessness, to enable me to do
which nothing could have happened more opportune than the above
event. The Danes, the Danes! And was I at last to become
acquainted, and in so singular a manner, with the speech of a
people which had as far back as I could remember exercised the
strongest influence over my imagination, as how should they not!--
in infancy there was the summer-eve adventure, to which I often
looked back, and always with a kind of strange interest with
respect to those to whom such gigantic and wondrous bones could
belong as I had seen on that occasion; and, more than this, I had
been in Ireland, and there, under peculiar circumstances, this same
interest was increased tenfold. I had mingled much whilst there
with the genuine Irish--a wild but kind-hearted race, whose
conversation was deeply imbued with traditionary lore, connected
with the early history of their own romantic land, and from them I
heard enough of the Danes, but nothing commonplace, for they never
mentioned them but in terms which tallied well with my own
preconceived ideas. For at an early period the Danes had invaded
Ireland, and had subdued it, and, though eventually driven out, had
left behind them an enduring remembrance in the minds of the
people, who loved to speak of their strength and their stature, in
evidence of which they would point to the ancient raths or mounds
where the old Danes were buried, and where bones of extraordinary
size were occasionally exhumed. And as the Danes surpassed other
people in strength, so, according to my narrators, they also
excelled all others in wisdom, or rather in Draoitheac, or magic,
for they were powerful sorcerers, they said, compared with whom the
fairy men of the present day knew nothing at all, at all; and,
amongst other wonderful things, they knew how to make strong beer
from the heather that grows upon the bogs. Little wonder if the
interest, the mysterious interest, which I had early felt about the
Danes, was increased tenfold by my sojourn in Ireland.
And now I had in my possession a Danish book, which, from its
appearance, might be supposed to have belonged to the very old
Danes indeed; but how was I to turn it to any account? I had the
book, it is true, but I did not understand the language, and how
was I to overcome that difficulty? hardly by poring over the book;
yet I did pore over the book, daily and nightly, till my eyes were
dim, and it appeared to me that every now and then I encountered
words which I understood--English words, though strangely
disguised; and I said to myself, Courage! English and Danish are
cognate dialects, a time will come when I shall understand this
Danish; and then I pored over the book again, but with all my
poring I could not understand it; and then I became angry, and I
bit my lips till the blood came; and I occasionally tore a handful
from my hair, and flung it upon the floor, but that did not mend
the matter, for still I did not understand the book, which,
however, I began to see was written in rhyme--a circumstance rather
difficult to discover at first, the arrangement of the lines not
differing from that which is employed in prose; and its being
written in rhyme made me only the more eager to understand it.
But I toiled in vain, for I had neither grammar nor dictionary of
the language; and when I sought for them could procure neither; and
I was much dispirited, till suddenly a bright thought came into my
head, and I said, although I cannot obtain a dictionary or grammar,
I can perhaps obtain a Bible in this language, and if I can procure
a Bible, I can learn the language, for the Bible in every tongue
contains the same thing, and I have only to compare the words of
the Danish Bible with those of the English, and, if I persevere, I
shall in time acquire the language of the Danes; and I was pleased
with the thought, which I considered to be a bright one, and I no
longer bit my lips, or tore my hair, but I took my hat, and, going
forth, I flung my hat into the air.
And when my hat came down, I put it on my head and commenced
running, directing my course to the house of the Antinomian
preacher, who sold books, and whom I knew to have Bibles in various
tongues amongst the number, and I arrived out of breath, and I
found the Antinomian in his little library, dusting his books; and
the Antinomian clergyman was a tall man of about seventy, who wore
a hat with a broad brim and a shallow crown, and whose manner of
speaking was exceedingly nasal; and when I saw him, I cried, out of
breath, 'Have you a Danish Bible?' and he replied, 'What do you
want it for, friend?' and I answered, 'To learn Danish by'; 'And
maybe to learn thy duty,' replied the Antinomian preacher. 'Truly,
I have it not, but, as you are a customer of mine, I will endeavour
to procure you one, and I will write to that laudable society which
men call the Bible Society, an unworthy member of which I am, and I
hope by next week to procure what you desire.'
And when I heard these words of the old man, I was very glad, and
my heart yearned towards him, and I would fain enter into
conversation with him; and I said, 'Why are you an Antinomian? For
my part I would rather be a dog than belong to such a religion.'
'Nay, friend,' said the Antinomian, 'thou forejudgest us; know that
those who call us Antinomians call us so despitefully, we do not
acknowledge the designation.' 'Then you do not set all law at
nought?' said I. 'Far be it from us,' said the old man, 'we only
hope that, being sanctified by the Spirit from above, we have no
need of the law to keep us in order. Did you ever hear tell of
Lodowick Muggleton?' 'Not I.' 'That is strange; know then that he
was the founder of our poor society, and after him we are
frequently, though opprobriously, termed Muggletonians, for we are
Christians. Here is his book, which, perhaps, you can do no better
than purchase, you are fond of rare books, and this is both curious
and rare; I will sell it cheap. Thank you, and now be gone, I will
do all I can to procure the Bible.'
And in this manner I procured the Danish Bible, and I commenced my
task; first of all, however, I locked up in a closet the volume
which had excited my curiosity, saying, 'Out of this closet thou
comest not till I deem myself competent to read thee,' and then I
sat down in right earnest, comparing every line in the one version
with the corresponding one in the other; and I passed entire nights
in this manner, till I was almost blind, and the task was tedious
enough at first, but I quailed not, and soon began to make
progress: and at first I had a misgiving that the old book might
not prove a Danish book, but was soon reassured by reading many
words in the Bible which I remembered to have seen in the book; and
then I went on right merrily, and I found that the language which I
was studying was by no means a difficult one, and in less than a
month I deemed myself able to read the book.
Anon, I took the book from the closet, and proceeded to make myself
master of its contents; I had some difficulty, for the language of
the book, though in the main the same as the language of the Bible,
differed from it in some points, being apparently a more ancient
dialect; by degrees, however, I overcame this difficulty, and I
understood the contents of the book, and well did they correspond
with all those ideas in which I had indulged connected with the
Danes. For the book was a book of ballads, about the deeds of
knights and champions, and men of huge stature; ballads which from
time immemorial had been sung in the North, and which some two
centuries before the time of which I am speaking had been collected
by one Anders Vedel, who lived with a certain Tycho Brahe, and
assisted him in making observations upon the heavenly bodies, at a
place called Uranias Castle, on the little island of Hveen, in the
The two individuals--The long pipe--The Germans--Werther--The
female Quaker--Suicide--Gibbon--Jesus of Bethlehem--Fill your
glass--Shakespeare--English at Minden--Melancholy Swayne Vonved--
The fifth dinner--Strange doctrines--Are you happy?--Improve
yourself in German.
It might be some six months after the events last recorded, that
two individuals were seated together in a certain room, in a
certain street of the old town which I have so frequently had
occasion to mention in the preceding pages; one of them was an
elderly, and the other a very young man, and they sat on either
side of a fireplace, beside a table on which were fruit and wine;
the room was a small one, and in its furniture exhibited nothing
remarkable. Over the mantelpiece, however, hung a small picture
with naked figures in the foreground, and with much foliage behind.
It might not have struck every beholder, for it looked old and
smoke-dried; but a connoisseur, on inspecting it closely, would
have pronounced it to be a judgment of Paris, and a masterpiece of
the Flemish school.
The forehead of the elder individual was high, and perhaps appeared
more so than it really was, from the hair being carefully brushed
back, as if for the purpose of displaying to the best advantage
that part of the cranium; his eyes were large and full, and of a
light brown, and might have been called heavy and dull, had they
not been occasionally lighted up by a sudden gleam--not so
brilliant however as that which at every inhalation shone from the
bowl of the long clay pipe which he was smoking, but which, from a
certain sucking sound which about this time began to be heard from
the bottom, appeared to be giving notice that it would soon require
replenishment from a certain canister, which, together with a