Imágenes de páginas

upward instead of downward; sometimes the final instead of the first letters, and sometimes both the final and the first letters, form an acrostic. The latter is known as a double acrostic, or, more technically, a telestich. An ingenious improvement requires that the double acrostic shall be formed of two words of the same letters, yet of opposite meanings, e.g.:

U-nite and untie are the same-so say yo-U;
N-ot in wedlock, I ween, has the unity bee-N;
I-n the drama of marriage, each wandering gou-T
T-o a new face would fly-all except you and I,
E-ach seeking to alter the spell in their scen-E.

Here is a bit of monastic verse of curious ingenuity. Not only do the first and the final letters, but the middle initials also, form the word Iesus. In technical words, the lines are at once acrostic, mesostic, and telestic. Nor is that all. The observant reader will discern that in the centre of the verse is a cross formed of the word Jesus, or Iesus, read perpendicularly and hori. zontally :

[blocks in formation]

For her this rhyme is penned, whose luminous eyes,
Brightly expressive as the twins of Leda,

Shall find her own sweet name, that nestling lies

Upon the page, enwrapped from every reader.

Search narrowly the lines!-they hold a treasure

Divine-a talisman-an amulet

That must be worn at heart. Search well the measure

The words-the syllables! Do not forget

The trivialest point, or you may lose your labor!

And yet there is in this no Gordian knot

Which one might not undo without a sabre,

If one could merely comprehend the plot.
Enwritten upon the leaf where now are peering
Eyes scintillating soul, there lie perdus
Three eloquent words oft uttered in the hearing
Of poets, by poets-as the name is a poet's too.
Its letters, although naturally lying

Like the knight Pinto-Mendez Ferdinando-
Still form a synonym for Truth.-Cease trying!

You will not read the riddle, though you do the best you can do.

To translate the address, read the first letter of the first line in connection with the secona letter of the second line, the third letter of the third line, the fourth of the fourth, and so on to the last line. The name Frances Sargent Osgood will then be formed.

Although acrostics are now relegated to the nursery, they were anciently looked upon with high reverence. A rude form of acrostic may even be found in the Scriptures,-.g., in twelve of the psalms, hence called the abecedarian psalms,-the most notable being Psalm cxix. This is composed of twenty-two divisions or stanzas, corresponding to the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Each stanza consists of eight couplets. The first line of each couplet in the first division begins with aleph, a, the first line of each couplet in the second division with beth, b, and so on to the end. This pecu liarity is not retained in the translation, but is indicated by the initial letter prefixed to each division. The Greeks also cultivated the acrostic, as may be seen in the specimens that survive in the Greek Anthology, and so did their intellectual successors, the Latins. Cicero, in his "De Divinatione," tells us

that "the verses of the Sibyls are distinguished by that arrangement which the Greeks call acrostic; where from the first letters of each verse in order words are formed which express some particular meaning; as is the case with some of Ennius's verses." In the year 326, Publius Porphyrius composed a poem, still extant, in praise of Constantine, the lines of which are acrostics. The early French poets, from the time of Francis I. to that of Louis XIV., were fond of this trifling. But it was carried to its most wasteful and ridiculous excess by the Elizabethan poets. Sir John Davies has a series of no less than twenty-six poems under the general heading of "Hymns to Astræa," every one of which is an acrostic on the words Elisabetha Regina. Here is a single specimen :

Earth now is green and heaven is blue;
Lively spring which makes all new,

Iolly spring doth enter.

Sweet young sunbeams do subdue
Angry aged winter.

Blasts are mild and seas are calm,

Every meadow flows with balm,
The earth wears all her riches,

Harmonious birds sing such a psalm
As ear and heart bewitches.

Reserve (sweet spring) this nymph of ours,
Eternal garlands of thy flowers,

Green garlands never wasting;

In her shall last our state's fair spring,
Now and forever flourishing,

As long as heaven is lasting.

After the Elizabethan age, acrostics soon sank into disrepute. Dryden scornfully bids the hero of his "Macflecknoe"

Leave writing plays, and choose for thy command
Some peaceful province in acrostic land.

And Addison gives the acrostic a high place among his examples of false wit. A fashion that is not quite extinct was introduced by the jewellers of the last century, who placed precious stones in such an order that the initials of their names formed the name of the recipient of the gift. Thus, the Princess of Wales, on her marriage, presented her groom with a ring set with the following gems:






The initials, it will be seen, form the word Bertie, the name by which she prefers to call her spouse.

Rachel, the French actress, when at the height of her popularity, received from her admirers a diadem with the following stones, whose name-initials not only spell her own name, but present the name-initials of her most famous characters:

[blocks in formation]

One development of the acrostic that is specially vital and electric consists in reading the initial letters of the words of a sentence as a single word, or, conversely, in flashing in a single word the initials of a whole unuttered sentence. Thus, when the Italians outside of the Piedmontese states did not dare as yet openly to shout for Victor Emmanuel and Italian unity, they managed the thing neatly and thrillingly by the short cry of Viva Verdi! Why the popular composer had suddenly become so very popular that all Italy should in season and out of season be shouting his name did not at first appear, except to those who knew that Verdi, letter for letter, stood for Vittorio Emanuele Ré d'Italia. Now, this at least was an acrostic with a soul in it. Similarly the word Nihil was by the Anti-Bonapartists made to typify the Napoleon dynasty of kings in the following strangely prophetic acrostic:

N-apoleon, the Emperor,

J-oseph, King of Spain,

H-ieronymus [Jerome], King of Westphalia,
I-oachim, King of Naples,

L-ouis, King of Holland.

Another acrostic whose augury was justified by future events, in a pleasanter manner, however, than was anticipated, is mentioned by Bacon. "The trivial prophecy," he says, "which I heard when I was a child, and Queen Elizabeth in the flower of her years, was,—

When Hempe is spun,
England's done;

whereby it was generally conceived that after the sovereigns had reigned, which had the letters of that word HEMPE (which were Henry, Edward, Mary, Philip, Elizabeth), England should come to utter confusion; which, thanks be to God, is verified in the change of the name, for that the king's style is now no more of England, but of Britain." The most noteworthy of this species of acrostic, however, is the Greek word ixtvs, fish,—formed from the initials of the sentence, Inσovç Xpiτòç →εοv Yios Ewrip, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour, which was used as a veiled symbol for Christ. The figure of a fish is frequently found carved on the monuments of the Roman catacombs to mark without revealing the burial-place of a Christian.

Act of Parliament, an English slang term for small beer, now almost obsolete. The allusion is to the fact that publicans were by act of Parliament forced to supply billeted soldiers, gratis, with five pints of small beer daily.

There is a story current among the Chelsea veterans that the Duke of Wellington saw a soldier warming his weak regulation beer. The duke said, "Damn the belly that won't warm Act of Parliament!" The soldier replied, "Damn the Act of Parliament! it won't warm the belly."-BARRÈRE AND LELAND: Dictionary of Slang.

Action, action, action! In his "Lives of the Ten Orators," Plutarch tells how Demosthenes when asked what made the perfect orator responded, "Action!" And the second thing?" Action!" And the third thing?" Action!" The saying has often been imitated. The Marshal de Trivulce, to the query of Louis XI. as to what he needed to make war, promptly replied, "Three things: money, more money, always money" ("Trois choses: de l'argent, encore de l'argent, et toujours de l'argent"). Fifty years later the Imperialist General von Schussendi said precisely the same thing: "Sind dreierlei Dinge nötig: Geld, Geld, Geld." Danton rang another change upon the phrase ir August, 1792, in a speech made before the National Assembly at the very moment when a discharge of cannon announced that the Reign of Terror had been inaugurated and the slaughter of royalist prisoners had begun. "The cannon which you hear,” he cried to his dismayed auditors, "is not the signal


of alarm it is the pas de charge upon our enemies. To conquer them, to crush them, what is necessary? Boldness, more boldness, and always boldness, and France is saved" ("De l'audace, et encore de l'audace, et toujours de l'audace, et la France est sauvée"). Had Danton read Spenser as well as Plutarch? In the "Faerie Queene" (iii. 11, 54) are the following lines :

And as she lookt about she did behold

How over that same dore was likewise writ
Be bolde, be bolde, and everywhere Be bold.

St.-Just, who succeeded Danton in the Reign of Terror, put a similar sentiment in less epigrammatic form when he exclaimed in the Convention, "Dare! that is the whole secret of revolutions." Gambetta, however, marked the difference between the present republic and its predecessor by the following paraphrase: "Work, more work, and always work!" ("Du travail, encore du travail, et toujours du travail !")—Speech at banquet to General Hoche, June 24, 1872. See also AGItate, agitate, agitate.

Actions speak louder than words. An old saw, found in one form or another in all languages. Thus, the French say, "From saying to doing is a long stretch," and "Great boasters, small doers;" the Italians, "Deeds are male, words are female" ("Fatti maschi, parole femine"); the Danes, "Big words seldom go with big deeds;" the Spaniards, "Words will not do for my aunt, for she does not trust even deeds," and "A long tongue betokens a short hand;" while our own proverb is varied by the alternatives, "Words show the wit of a man, but actions his meaning ;" "Saying and not doing is cheap ;" and the Scotch, "Saying gangs cheap." In another sense the saw may be taken as an answer to the question of the relative value to the world of the man of thought and the man of action; a question which Walton states thus in his "Angler," Part I. ch. i.: "In ancient times a debate hath risen, . . . whether the happiness of man in this world doth consist more in contemplation or action." He instances on the one hand the opinion of "many cloisteral men of great learning and devotion," who prefer contemplation before action, because they hold that "God enjoys himself only by a contemplation of his own infiniteness, eternity, power, and goodness, and the like," and on the other, the opinions of men of equal “authority and credit" who say that "action is doctrinal, and teaches both art and virtue, and is a maintainer of human society; and for these and other like reasons, to be preferred before contemplation." But he decides that the question remains yet unresolved. In the present day the weight of authority is undoubtedly on the side of action, even the authority represented by the men of thought. Kingsley's fine line,

Do noble things, not dream them all day long,

finds an echo in Emerson, “An action is the perfection and publication of thought" (Nature); in Lowell, "Every man feels instinctively that all the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action" (Rousseau and the Sentimentalists); in Beecher, "Action is the right outlet of emotion" (Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit); in Jules Simon, "In the eyes of God there is not a prayer which is worth a good action;" and in numerous sayings of Goethe and Carlyle. The other side of the question may be summed up in Owen Meredith's phrase, “Thought alone is immortal" (Lucile), and is prettily and poetically presented in Kerner's stanzas, "Two Graves," -the first grave being that of a warrior, who sleeps forgotten and unrecorded, the second that of a poet, whose songs still float in the breezes above him. And this in turn recalls the famous saying of Themistocles, who being asked whether the historian were not greater than the hero, because without the historian the hero would be forgotten, Yankee-like turned on his questioner

with another question: "Which would you rather be, one of the combatants in the public games, or the herald who announces them?"

Ad eundem (L., "to the same degree"), an English and American university phrase. A graduate of one university is permitted to enjoy the same degree at another, and is said to be admitted ad eundem (gradum understood) at the sister university. A coach that used to run between Oxford and Cambridge was facetiously known to the undergraduates at both universities as the ad eundem coach.

Adam. There is an old English proverbial expression,

When Adam delved and Eve span,

Who was then the gentleman?

The couplet is memorable in English history. In Wat Tyler's insurrection during the reign of Richard II., John Ball addressed the mob on Blackheath from this text. Evidently it was a familiar proverb then. In English literature its earliest recorded appearance is in a poem by Richard Rolle de Hampole (Early English Text Society Reprints, No. 26, p. 79):

When Adam dalfe and Eue spane,

So spire if thou may spede,
Whare was then the pride of man
That now merres his meed?

The couplet is also known in Germany. Tradition asserts that it was written up in a conspicuous place in the city of Nuremberg both in Latin and in German :

Quo nobilis tum quispiam loco fuit

Cum fœderat Adam et Eva fila duceret?

Wo was da der Edelmann

Da Adam hackt und Eva span?

SPENER: Operis Heraldici, p. 150.
(Frankfort, 1680.)

Another tradition affirms that when Maximilian, presumably the first of the name, was prosecuting researches into his own pedigree, a wag posted up on the doors of the palace this couplet, which is identical with the English:

Da Adam hackt und Eva spann,
Wer war damals der Edelmann?

Maximilian promptly retorted,―

Ich bin ein Mann wie ein ander Mann,
Allein dass mir Gott der Ehren gan.

"I am a man like any other man,

Only that God hath given honor to me."

Ray, in his collection of proverbs, adds a second couplet which contains ar answer to the first,-i.e.

Upstart [upstarted] a churl and gathered good,

And thence did spring our gentle blood

This seems to be an after-thought of comparatively recent birth.

Adam, the old. The unregenerate part of man's nature, in allusion te the doctrine of original sin. This phrase is used in the English Book of Common Prayer,-"Grant that the old Adam in these persons may be so buried, that the new man may be raised up in them" (Baptism of those of Riper Years). Shakespeare says of Henry V.,—

Consideration like an angel came

And whipped the offending Adam out of him.
King Henry V., 1. 1.

« AnteriorContinuar »