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Even Dr. Johnson, no admirer of Gray's, condescends to acknowledge that if we suppose the blindness caused by study in the formation of his poem, this account is poetically true and happily imagined. It is no detraction from Gray that he was remotely indebted for his daring and successful figure to Milton himself, who, speaking of the Deity, says,
Dark with excessive bright thy skirts appear..
Paradise Lost, Book iii., 1 380.
This line is frequently misquoted with "light" for "bright,”— -a substitution, however, which is an improvement. Milton, in his turn, may have remembered that passage in Longinus where, after quoting from Demosthenes, he asks, "In what has the orator here concealed the figure? Plainly, in its own lustre." If we read a metaphorical meaning in the following extract from Hermias, a Galatian writer of the second century, it closely approximates to Gray's figure : When Homer resolved to write of Achilles, he had an exceeding desire to fill his mind with a just idea of so glorious a hero: wherefore, having paid all due honors at his tomb, he entreats that he may obtain a sight of him. The hero grants his poet's petition, and rises in a glorious suit of armor, which cast so insufferable a splendor that Homer lost his eyes while he gazed for the enlargement of his notions.
Pope says if this be anything more than mere fable, one would be apt to imagine it insinuated his contracting a blindness by too intense application while he wrote the Iliad,—which is exactly analogous to Dr. Johnson's gloss on Gray.
Shelley has imitated Gray in these lines from "Julian and Maddalo :"
The sense that he was greater than his kind
Light-fingered, a euphemism for "thievish," applied particularly to pick
Our men contented themselves with looking after their goods (the Tonquinese being very light-fingered), and left the management of the boats entirely to the boat's crew.-DAMPIER: Voyages, II, i. 14.
Light-fingered Catch, to keep his hands in ure,
To steal such things as needs must come to light!
A Collection of Epigrams (1727).
Lightning, Quick as, an obvious metaphor found in all literatures. A few examples must suffice:
It must be done like lightning.
BEN JONSON: Every Man in his Humor, Act iii., Sc. 3.
But Hudibras gave him a twitch
As quick as lightning in the breech,
Just in the place where honor's lodged,
As wise philosophers have judged;
Because a kick in that part more
Hurts honor than deep wounds before.
BUTLER: Hudibras, Part II., Canto ii., l. 1065.
Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
WILLIAM KNOX: Mortality.
Whose sudden visitations daze the world,
Wakens the slumbering ages.
SIR HENRY TAYLOR: Philip Van Artevelde, Act i., Sc. 7.
Shakespeare says of the happiness of lovers that it is
Too like the lightning, which does cease to be
Romeo and Juliet, Act ii., Sc. 2;
Swift as a shadow, short as any dream,
So quick bright things come to confusion.
A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act i., Sc. 1.
The same comparison of the briefness of love to a lightning-flash was employed nine centuries before Shakespeare by the Indian poet Bhavabhuti, in the drama of "Málata and Mádhava :"
Alas! too often is the happiness
That kindred, friends, and lovers taste as brief
As lightning's transient glare.
Lilli-Burléro and Bullen-a-la, said to have been the shibboleth of the Irish Catholics in the bloody events of 1641. A song with the refrain of "Lilli-burlero, bullen-a-la!" was written by Lord Wharton, which may be called the "Marseillaise" of the English Revolution of 1688. Burnet says, "It made an impression on the [king's] army that cannot be imagined. . The whole army, and at last the people, both in city and country, were singing it perpetually; never had so slight a thing so great an effect." It was the favorite tune of "Uncle Toby" in "Tristram Shandy." The words of the song are printed in Percy's "Reliques of Ancient English Poetry," Series ii., Book iii.
Lily, Consider the. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ enjoins his disciples to take no thought of the morrow:
Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns: yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?-Matthew vi. 26. And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin and yet I say to you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?-Ibid., 28-30.
The above passages bear a notable similarity to one of the apothegms of the Indian poet Bhartrihari :
He by whose hands the swans are painted white, and parrots green, and peacocks manyhued, will make provision for thy maintenance.
Bhartrihari is held to have been a brother of King Vikramâditya, who flourished half a century before Christ.
Burns paraphrases the Scripture texts :
That he who stills the raven's clamorous nest,
Lime-juicers, an epithet of contempt for the English commercial marine, current among Yankee skippers; derived from the regulation requiring English merchant-vessels to carry among their stores a supply of lime-juice as a preventive against scurvy.
Lincoln Brotherhood, political associations of negroes in the South, after the close of the civil war, to protect their rights of suffrage.
Linen. It is not linen you're wearing out. One of the most vivid passages in Hood's "Song of the Shirt" is the following:
O men with sisters dear,
O men with mothers and wives,
It is not linen you're wearing out,
But human creatures' lives.
This is probably a reminiscence of the rebuke which Maggie makes to Oldbuck of Monkbarns in Scott's "Antiquary" (ch. xi.): "It's no fish ye're buying, it's men's lives."
Lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places, The. The quotation is from Psalm xvi. 6. "Lines" was formerly synonymous with “lot :" a survival of the word in this sense is found in the slang phrase "hard lines." The passage from the Psalm above given in the Prayer-Book version (where it is verse) is rendered thus: "The lot has fallen unto me in a fair ground."
Lion-Hunter, The. Among the penalties of fame there are none more terrible than the persecutions of the lion-hunter. He is indefatigable and ubiquitous; his nets and snares are spread in the most unsuspected places; he dogs the footsteps of the lion, pursues him into the sacred recesses of his home, and drags him out into the glare of publicity. Or he assails him through the mails, seeking advice, encouragement, assistance, an autograph. He cannot and will not be put off.
Nor is he a recent development. As far back as the eighteenth century Schiller complained that it was quite a peculiar case to have a literary name. "The few men of worth and consideration who offer you their intimacy on that score and whose regard is really worth coveting are too disagreeably counter-weighted by the baleful swarm of creatures who keep humming around you like so many swarms of flesh-flies, gape at you as if you were a monster, and condescend, moreover, on the strength of one or two blotted sheets, to present themselves as colleagues."
The great Goethe had a serene and splendid way of dealing with these bores. An admirer once broke into his bedroom at an inn. Goethe was undressing. But the worshipper, nothing daunted, fell at the feet of his idol, and poured out his ecstatic admiration. Goethe calmly put out the light and jumped into bed.
Sir Walter Scott had an equally hearty hatred of lionizing, but his courtesy prevented his showing it. He extended a kindly welcome to the intrusive bores who overran Abbotsford, pestered him with inquiries as to why he did not call his place Tollyveolan or Tillytudlen, questioned him about his own age and that of his wife, jotted down memoranda of other domestic details in their note-books, and shouted out "Prodigious," in facetious imitation of Dominie Sampson, at whatever was shown them. He was scrupulously careful, also, to answer all letters addressed to him. In those days of high postage this was a tax not only on his time and his temper, but on his purse as well. He spent as much as one hundred and fifty pounds a year in postage. Once a mighty package came from the United States. Five pounds were due on it. When opened it was found to contain a manuscript called "The Cherokee Lovers," a drama written by a New York lady, who begged Scott to read and correct it, write a prologue and an epilogue, and secure a manager and a publisher. A fortnight later another package of similar size, charged with a similar postage, was placed in Scott's hands. When opened, out popped another copy of "The Cherokee Lovers," with a note from the authoress explaining that, as the mails were uncertain, she had deemed it prudent to forward a duplicate.
In our own days Dr. Holmes is one of the greatest sufferers. Here is a really pathetic passage from his volume "Over the Tea-Cups :"
"For the last thirty years I have been in the habit of receiving a volume of poems, or a poem, printed or manuscript,-I will not say daily, though I sometimes receive more than one in a day, but at very short intervals. I have been consulted by hundreds of writers of verse as to the merit of their performances, and have often advised the writers to the best of my ability. Of late, I have found it impossible to attempt to read critically all the literary productions, in verse and in prose, which have heaped themselves on every exposed surface of my library like snow-drifts along the railroad-tracks, blocking my literary pathway, so that I can hardly find my daily papers."
You see he does not complain, he only laughs good-naturedly. But it is hard for an outsider to consider calmly such a selfish and impudent tax upon the time and strength of a gentleman so busy, so weary, so old, and, above all, so kindly. Lawyers, doctors, and men of business are not expected to give professional advice without a full equivalent for the service: why should a literary man have to give time, counsel, and criticism, gratis, to every stranger who may apply for it?
There is no prominent man of letters in this country or in England who has not had a similar experience. No circumstance of age, illness, poverty, or exhausting labor serves to protect him from these unconscionable demands. Walt Whitman himself, in his feeble old age, was a conspicuous victim. There is something pathetic, and humorous as well, in his answer to a poet who called and offered to read a manuscript tragedy. "No, thank you," said Whitman: "I have been paralyzed twice."
Carlyle was almost driven frantic by the callers who came to gratify their curiosity at his expense; and it is to be feared that too many of them were Americans. No wonder that he characterized the entire nation as "forty millions of bores."
In one of her letters, Mrs. Carlyle gives an interesting account of an American visitor :
"Oh, such a precious specimen of the regular Yankee I have never seen since! Coming in from a drive one afternoon, I was informed by Helen, with a certain agitation, that there was a strange gentleman in the library.
"He said he had come a long way, and would wait for the master coming home to dinner; and I have been,' said she, 'in a perfect fidget all this while, for I remembered after he was in that you had left your watch on the table.'
“I proceeded to the library to inspect this unauthorized settler with my own eyes. A tall, lean, red-herring-looking man rose from Carlyle's writingtable, at which he was sitting writing, with Carlyle's manuscripts and private letters lying all about, and, running his eyes over me from head to foot, said,— "Oh! you are Mrs. Carlyle, are you?"
"An inclination of the head, intended to be hauteur itself, was all the answer he got.
Do you keep your health pretty well, Mrs. Carlyle?' said the wretch, nothing daunted, that being always your regular Yankee's second word. "Another inclination of the head even slighter than the first.
"I have come a great way out of my road,' said he, to congratulate Mr. Carlyle on his increasing reputation; and, as I did not wish to have my walk for nothing, I am writing till he comes in. But in case he should not come in time for me, I am just writing him a letter here, at his own table, as you see, Mrs. Carlyle.'
"Having reseated himself without invitation of mine, I turned on my heel and quitted the room, determined not to sit down in it while the Yankee stayed. But about half an hour after came Darwin and Mr. Wedgwood; and,
as there was no fire in the room below, they had to be shown up to the library, where, on my return, I found the Yankee still seated in Carlyle's chair, very actively doing, as it were, the honors of the house to them; and there he sat upwards of an hour, not one of us addressing a word to him, but he not the less thrusting his word into all that we said. Finding that I would make absolutely no answer to his remarks, he poured in upon me a broadside of positive questions.
"Does Mr. Carlyle enjoy good health, Mrs. Carlyle ?'
"Oh! he doesn't! What does he complain of, Mrs. Carlyle?'
"Perhaps he studies too hard. Does he study too hard, Mrs. Carlyle ?' "Who knows?'
"How many hours a day does he study, Mrs. Carlyle ?'
"My husband does not study by the clock.'
"And so on.
"At last the gentleman, having informed himself as to all possible and probable omnibuses, reluctantly took his leave, without an opportunity of baiting the bear, who would certainly have left the marks of the teeth on him." Not all Carlyle's visitors, however, were Americans. George Gilfillan, the once famous preacher, lecturer, and critic of the Spasmodic School, once called upon the sage at Chelsea. Carlyle himself opened the door. He was in even grimmer humor than usual. Who are you?" he asked.
"I am George Gilfillan," was the reply, “and I have been giving lectures on your books throughout the country."
"You have, have you? Damn your impudence! Good-morning." And the door was shut in his face.
Emerson too, in his quiet home at Concord, was besieged by visitors of all sorts. "His mind," says Hawthorne, "acted upon other minds of a certain constitution with wonderful magnetism, and drew many men upon long pilgrimages to speak with him face to face." Some were visionaries and theorists, others were mere curiosity-seekers. They pestered him even in his declining years, when mind and memory had failed him. One morning his daughter found him entertaining a strange Boston woman in his library.
"Ellen," said the sage, looking up with an expression of hopeless bewilderment, "I wish you would attend to this lady: she wants some of my clothes." And then the visitor volubly explained she was making a "poets' rug" on the principle of a crazy quilt. Mr. Longfellow had already given her an old shirt. She wanted a pair of Emerson's cast-off pantaloons. She called them pants, by the way.
Tennyson, who has always an acute horror of being lionized, for many years has intrenched himself in his house as his castle, denying himself to strange visitors. He has been obliged to build a high wall around his grounds, with locked gates. But these very methods have whetted public curiosity to intensity. Not unfrequently when he walks out he finds a row of heads all around the wall. They stare, they make audible comments about him. The land around is trampled, the grass is killed by the waiting crowd. They bring their lunches with them, and leave relics behind in the shape of dinnerpapers, crusts, and empty bottles.
Professor Jowett has sought equal seclusion, with even less success. He is one of the lions of Oxford. That town is subjected to constant inroads of tourists, all of whom crave a sight of the famous professor. It so happened, while he was engaged on his translation of Plato, that a guide discovered the professor's study-window looked into the broad street. Coming with his menagerie under this window, the guide would begin: "This, ladies and