Page images

reverse. The lie given was apparently the readiest means of proving his innocence, and really the most effectual way of establishing his guilt. There seems for a moment to be a strong relation between the means and the object; while, in fact, no irrelation can be so complete.

5. What connection is there between pelting stones at monkeys and gathering cocoa-nuts from lofty trees? Apparently none. But monkeys sit upon cocoa-nut trees; monkeys are imitative animals; and if you pelt a monkey with a stone, he pelts you with a cocoa-nut in return. This scheme of gathering cocoa-nuts is very witty, and would be more so, if it did not appear useful: for the idea of utility is always inimical to the idea of wit.

6. There appears, on the contrary, to be some relation between the revenge of the Irish rebels against a banker and the means which they took to gratify it by burning all his notes wherever they found them; whereas they could not have rendered him a more essential service. In both these cases of bulls, the one verbal, the other practical, there is an apparent congruity and real incongruity of ideas. In both the cases of wit, there is an apparent incongruity and a real relation.

7. It is clear that a bull cannot depend upon mere incongruity alone; for if a man were to say that he would ride to London upon a cocked hat, or that he would cut his throat with a pound of pickled salmon, this, though completely incongruous, would not be to make bulls but to talk nonsense. The stronger the apparent connection and the more complete the real disconnection of the ideas, the greater the surprise and the better the bull. The less apparent and the more complete the relations established by wit the higher gratification does it afford.

8. It must be observed that all the great passions, and many other feelings extinguish the relish for wit. The resemblance between the sandal tree imparting (while it falls) its aromatic flavour to the edge of the axe,

and the benevolent man rewarding evil with good, would be witty, did it not excite virtuous emotions. There are many mechanical contrivances which excite sensations


similar to wit, but the attention is absorbed by their utility. A small model of a steam-engine or mere squirt is wit to a child. A man speculates on the causes of the first or' on its consequences and so loses the feelings of wit; with the latter he is too familiar to be surprised. In short, the essence of every species of wit is surprise; which must be sudden; and the sensations which wit has a tendency to excite are impaired or destroyed, as often as they are mingled with much thought or passion.—Sydney Smith (1768—1845).

Questions on the lesson :—How is the pleasure arising from wit to be distinguished from that arising from bulls ? How is practical wit distinguished from bulls in action? How is the pleasure derived from the story of the officer to be explained? How the pleasure from the second story? What is witty about pelting monkeys with cocoa-nuts? Why is incongruity alone not sufficient to constitute a bull? In what way may the relish for wit in any particular case be extinguished?

Louis XIV., or le Grand (the Great), reigned over France from 1643, when he was five years of age, until 1715.

Parmenio was the greatest of the generals of Alexander the Great. Unbounded confidence was reposed in him. At length when Parmenio was 70 years of age he was put to death by Alexander for supposed complicity in a plot against his life.


1. O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,

Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,



Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: 0 thou
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
The wingéd seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse

within its


until Thine azure sister of the spring shall blow Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill (Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air) With living hues and odours plain and hill: Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;

Destroyer and Preserver; Hear, O hear! 2. Thou on whose stream, ʼmid the steep sky's commotion,

Loose clouds like earth's decaying leaves are shed
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,
Angels of rain and lightning; there are spread
On the blue surface of thine airy surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head
Of some fierce Maenad, ev'n from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith's height-
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge
Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre,
Vaulted with all thy congregated might
Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere

Black rain, and fire, and hail, will burst: O hear! 3. Thou who didst waken from his summer-dreams

The blue Mediterranean, where he lay
Lull’d by the coil of his crystalline streams
Beside a pumice isle in Baiae's bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave's intenser day,
All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou

For whose path the Atlantic's level powers Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear The sapless foliage of the ocean, know

[graphic][merged small]

Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear

And tremble and despoil themselves: O hear! 4. If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;

If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share
The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than Thou, O uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be
The comrade of thy wanderings over heaven,
As then, when to outstrip the skyey speed
Scarce seem'd a vision, I would ne'er have striven

As thus with thee in



my sore need. O lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud ! I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed! A heavy weight of hours has chain’d and bow'd

One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud. 5. Make me thy lyre, ev'n as the forest is:

What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies
Will take from both a deep autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! be thou me, impetuous one!
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like wither'd leaves to quicken a new birth;
And, by the incantation of this verse,
Scatter, as from an unextinguish'd hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken'd earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind ?

-P. B. Shelley (1792–1822). Questions on the lesson :—How does the poet represent the west wind as a destroyer? How as a preserver? To what different things does he compare autumn leaves? To what does he compare the “winged seeds ?” To what their buds? [So with the other verses.]

Maenad, a Greek adjective which means raving. The attendants of Dionysus or Bacchus were called Maenads.

Baiae, to the N. West of Naples on the coast of Campania. It abounded in hot-springs and was one of the most fashionable watering-places for the Romans about 50 or 60 years before Christ.

pumice isle: to the west of the bay on which Baiae stands is the island of Ischia. It is volcanic and hence the fable that one of the mythical giants was buried there.

And saw in sleep.—The site of ancient Baiae is almost entirely covered by the sea. In fine weather the remains of splendid villas, baths, &c., are easily distinguishable under the waves.

« PreviousContinue »