Imágenes de páginas

Falloit-il que le ciel me rendit amoureux,
Amoureux, jouissant d'une beauté craintive,
Craintive à recevoir la douceur excessive,
Excessive au plaisir qui rend l'amant heureux?
Heureux si nous avions quelques paisibles lieux,
Lieux où plus surement l'ami fidèle arrive,

Arrive sans soupçon de quelque âme attentive,
Attentive à vouloir nous surprendre tous deux.

Here is an anonymous English example, neither better nor worse than a dozen others:

The longer life, the more offence;
The more offence, the greater pain;
The greater pain, the less defence;
The less defence, the lesser gain :
The loss of gain long ill doth try,
Wherefore, come, Death, and let me die.
The shorter life, less count I find;

The less account, the sooner made;
The count soon made, the merrier mind;
The merrier mind doth thought invade:
Short life, in truth, this thing doth try,
Wherefore, come, Death, and let me die.
Come, gentle Death, the ebb of care;
The ebb of care, the flood of life;
The flood of life, the joyful fare;

The joyful fare, the end of strife:
The end of strife, that thing wish I,

Wherefore, come, Death, and let me die.

In German, Koerner's magnificent "Sword Song" makes a modified use of concatenation at the beginning and end of every stanza.

Confidence Game, Trick, Dodge, or Buck, a familiar expression for a common trick whereby a clever sharper gains the confidence of a greenhorn in order to cheat him. One of the earliest forms of the trick, and probably the one from which it got its name, is that of inviting the victim, a perfect stranger, to come and have a drink, over which the swindler waxes eloquent in praise of his new-found friend, expresses the utmost confidence in him, and, to prove his sincerity, intrusts him with pretended valuables, claiming in return a similar mark of confidence. Of course in the end the sharper walks off with the real valuables of his new-found friend, and the old ones he leaves behind turn out to be bogus. The term confidence-man applied to one who played this game has now been largely superseded by the kindred term Bunco-steerer (q. v.).

Conscience. In Shakespeare's "Richard III.," Act v., Scene 3, occurs the line,

O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!

and a little lower down in the same speech,

My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain.

It is only in Colley Cibber's altered version that Richard, regaining his manhood, cries out,

Conscience avaunt! Richard's himself again!

In "Hamlet," Shakespeare says,—

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,

Act iii., Sc. 1;

a line which may or may not be a reminiscence of Pilpay's phrase in his fable of "The Prince and his Minister," "Guilty consciences always make

people cowards," or of Publius Syrus's maxim (617), "A guilty conscience never feels secure," which are echoed also in the popular proverbs "A guilty conscience needs no accuser," and "Touch a galled horse and he'll wince" (cf. "Hamlet," "Let the galled jade wince, our withers are unstrung"). Substantially the same idea is expressed in the Biblical words, "The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion" (Proverbs xxviii. 1). "A clear conscience is a sure card,” says Lyly, in “Euphues and his England,” p. 207; and Shakespeare calls it,

And again,

[blocks in formation]

What stronger breastplate than a heart untainted!
Thrice is he armed that hath his quarrel just,
And he but naked, though locked up in steel,
Whose conscience with injustice is corrupted.

Evidently imitated from Marlowe,—

Henry VI., Part II., Act iii., Sc. 2.

I'm armed with more than complete steel,-
The justice of my quarrel.
Lust's Dominion, Act iii., Sc. 4.

And in its turn imitated by Pope :

He's armed without that's innocent within.

Epistles, I., Book 1.

"Trust that man in nothing," says Sterne, "who has not a conscience in everything" (Sermon XXVII). George Washington in one of his school-boy copy-books wrote or transcribed the commonplace, hence become famous, "Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire-conscience." Numerous citations from poetry and prose would support the general view that conscience is the voice of nature or of God speaking to the heart, so long as it is not utterly corrupt. Montaigne, however, asserts that "the laws of conscience, which we pretend to be derived from nature, proceed from custom" (Essays: Of Custom); perhaps the first assertion of the doctrine of the experimental philosophers, which in its latest form assumes that conscience represents the accumulated experiences of the race inherited in the form of an instinct.

Conscious water saw its God and blushed. There is a story, told sometimes of Dryden when a school-boy at Westminster, sometimes of an anonymous "school-boy at Eton," that, being required to make a verse on the miracle of Cana, he handed up the single line,

The conscious water saw its God and blushed.

But the story has no foundation. The author of the sentiment was Richard Crashaw in his Latin epigram on the miracle. Here are the Latin lines and a translation by Aaron Hill:

Unde rubor vestris, et non sua purpura, lymphis?

Quæ rosa mirantes tam nova mutat aquas?

[ocr errors]

Numen (convivæ) præsens agnoscite Numen;

Nympha pudica Deum vidit et erubuit.

When Christ, at Cana's feast, by power divine,

Inspired cold water with the warmth of wine,

"See," cried they, while in reddening tide it gushed,
"The bashful stream hath seen its God, and blushed."

It will be seen that Hill's line differs from the familiar quotation, and does not differ for the better. The line in its present form may be found in one of Heber's poems, without either credit or acknowledgment, and he may have first Englished it in this way. A somewhat similar metaphor is used in an

anonymous poem feigned to have been presented, with a white rose, by a Yorkist to a lady of the Lancastrian faction:

If this fair rose offend thy sight,

It on thy bosom wear;

"Twill blush to find itself less white,

And turn Lancastrian there.

But if thy ruby lip it spy,

As kiss it thou may'st deign,
With envy pale 'twill lose its dye,
And Yorkist turn again.

Consistency's a jewel, a popular saying which cannot be attributed to any particular author. The proverbial and written literature of all countries is full of comparisons between virtue and jewels. In Shakespeare alone we find the following among other instances:

Unless experience be a jewel.

Merry Wives of Windsor, Act ii., Sc. 1.
Good name in man or woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls.


In 1867 some wag attempted to impose on the public the information that this line was from a ballad called Jolly Robin Roughead, in "Murtagh's 'Collection of Ballads' (1754)." The poet bewails the extravagance of dress, which he considers the enormity of the day, and makes Robin say to his wife,Tush, tush, my lass, such thoughts resign, Comparisons are cruell;

Fine pictures suit to frames as fine,-
Consistencie's a jewel.

But both the ballad and the book turned out to be ingenious figments.

Conspicuous by its absence, a phrase made popular in England by Lord John Russell. In his "Address to the Electors of the City of London," published April 6, 1859, he said of Lord Derby's Reform Bill, which had just been defeated, "Among the defects of the bill, which are numerous, one provision is conspicuous by its presence, and another by its absence." The expression was sharply criticised, and nine days later, in a speech at London Tavern, he justified it thus: "It has been thought that by a misnomer, or a 'bull,' on my part, alluded to a provision as conspicuous by its absence,―a turn of phraseology which is not an original expression of mine, but is taken from one of the greatest historians of antiquity." This great historian is Tacitus. In his "Annales," lib. iii. cap. 76, describing the funeral of Junia, he thus alludes to the absence of the images of her famous kinsmen Brutus and Cassius: Sed præfulgebant Cassius atque Brutus eo ipso, quod effigies eorum non videbantur” (“ But Cassius and Brutus were the most conspicuous, for the very reason that their effigies were not seen”).

[ocr errors]

J. Chénier, in his tragedy of "Tiberius" (Act i. Scene 1), translating the expression into French, gave it the form which is familiar in English,

Brutus et Cassius brillaient par leur absence,

but which had already become familiar in France through its use by the Jansenists when their enemies had succeeded in securing the omission of the names of Pascal and Arnauld from Perrault's "History of Illustrious Men." It was revived, too, in Talleyrand's observation when some one called his attention to the fact that Lord Castlereagh at the Congress of Vienna wore no decorations: "Ma foi, c'est bien distingué." The latter story, however, is doubted by historians, and the late Prince Paul Gallitzin received from his uncle, a member of the Congress, quite another version,-namely, that Gallitzin

and Castlereagh entered the council-chamber together, and the latter, noticing a gentleman in plain dress, inquired who he was, and, on being told, “An attaché of the Russian embassy, just arrived from St. Petersburg," exclaimed, "Comment! un Russe sans décorations! Il doit être un homme bien distingué !"

Constant in nothing but inconstancy. The context is as follows:
To give the sex their due,

They scarcely are to their own wishes true;
They love, they hate, and yet they know not why;
Constant in nothing but inconstancy.

The antithesis is a very familiar one, both in prose and in verse.

a few parallel examples:

Here are

Fickle in everything else, the French have been faithful in one thing only, their love of change.-ALISON'S History of Europe.

[blocks in formation]

Constancy in love is a perpetual inconstancy which makes our heart attach itself successively to all the qualities of the loved one. This constancy is but an inconstancy arrested and fixed on a single object.-LA ROCHEFOUCAULD: Maxims, 175.

[blocks in formation]

That which was fixt is fled away,
And what was ever sliding, that doth onely stay.

E. BENLOWES: translation from JANUS VITALIS.

Cool of the evening. A nickname given to Richard Monckton Milnes, afterwards Lord Houghton. The story of its origin is told in various ways, and the inventor of the nickname is sometimes Sydney Smith, sometimes Barham, and sometimes Count D'Orsay. The most usual story refers it to the Jatter wag, and runs as follows. Young Milnes was at his club late one afternoon in company with the count, when some one proposed a call on Lady Blessington. "Oh, yes, let's call," chimed in the poet. "I'll go with you." "Indeed," responded Count D'Orsay, loftily: “are you acquainted with her ladyship?" "No, but that's of no consequence. I'll accompany you, my dear fellow." "So you shall, so you shall," retorted D'Orsay, “and I'll introduce you as the Cool of the Evening."

[ocr errors]

In a letter to Lord Houghton from Sydney Smith, quoted below, the latter expressly denies having ever used the phrase, and the fact that Houghton had addressed a remonstrance to the clerical wit shows the falsity of all the stories which represent him as having received the rebuke in person :

DEAR MILNES,-Never lose your good temper, which is one of your best qualities, and which has carried you hitherto safely through your startling eccentricities. If you turn cross and touchy, you are a lost man. No man can combine the defects of opposite characters. The names of "Cool of the Evening," "London Assurance," and "In-I-go Jones" are, I give you my word, not mine. They are of no sort of importance; they are safety.

valves, and if you could by paying sixpence get rid of them, you had better keep your money. You do me but justice in acknowledging that I have spoken much good of you. I have laughed at you for those follies which I have told you of to your face; but nobody has more readily and more earnestly asserted that you are a very agreeable, clever man, with a very good heart, unimpeachable in all the relations of life, and that you amply deserve to be retained in the place to which you had too hastily elevated yourself by manners unknown to our cold and phlegmatic people. I thank you for what you say of my good nature. Lord Dudley, when I took leave of him, said to me," You have been laughing at me for the last seven years, and you never said anything which I wished unsaid." This pleased me. Ever yours, SYDNEY SMITH.

Coon, a common abbreviation for raccoon, is also a slang term for a negro, owing, perhaps, to his fondness for the animal. In American politics, coon was a nickname for a Whig, first applied during the Presidential campaign of 1836. Martin Van Buren had been styled an old fox by the Whigs. The Democrats retaliated by calling Henry Clay "that same old coon," and facetiously insinuated that he had been treed by the old fox. The Whigs caught up the epithet and adopted the raccoon as their emblem, painting its picture on their banners and carrying live specimens in their processions.

Coon, A gone. One who is utterly ruined, exhausted, or done for; one who is placed in a hopeless difficulty. Captain Marryat records the following explanation in his "Diary" (1839), which was gravely told him by a Yankee acquaintance. "There is a Captain Martin Scott in the United States army who is a remarkable shot with his rifle. He was raised in Vermont. His fame was so considerable throughout the State that even the animals were aware of it. He went out one morning with his rifle, and, spying a raccoon upon the upper branches of a high tree, brought his gun up to his shoulder, when the raccoon, perceiving it, raised his paw up for a parley. 'I beg your pardon, mister,' said the raccoon, very politely, ‘but may I ask if your name is Scott?' 'Yes,' replied the captain. Martin Scott? continued the raccoon. 'Yes,' replied the captain. Captain Martin Scott?' still continued the animal. 'Yes,' replied the captain; Captain Martin Scott.' 'Oh, then,' says the animal, 'I may just as well come down, for I'm

gone coon." Another explanation gives the phrase a Revolutionary origin. An American scout dressed himself in a raccoon-skin and ascended a tree to reconnoitre the enemy. While thus engaged, he was surprised by a British soldier, out hunting, and the latter, mistaking him for a genuine coon, levelled his gun to fire. "Hold on!" cried the startled spy; "if you won't shoot, I'll come down. I am a gone coon!" The Englishman, however, was so terrified that he dropped his gun and fled.

I must think of something else as I lie awake, or, like that sagacious animal in the United States who recognized the colonel who was such a dead shot, I am a gone coon.-Dickens: Reprinted Pieces, Lying Awake.

Coon, Go the whole, an American equivalent for “go the whole hog." Coon's age, a long period of time, the coon being popularly supposed to be very long-lived. "I haven't seen you in a coon's age" is a common locution in rural America.

Cop or Copper (from the slang verb to cop or seize, Latin capio, or Heb. cop, a "hand" or "palm"), a slang word for a policeman. The term copper, of course, has nothing to do with the metal, nevertheless "the professors of slang, having coined the word, associate that with the metal, and as they pass a policeman they will, to annoy him, exhibit a copper coin, which is equivalent to calling the officer copper." (Manchester Courier, June 13, 1864.)

Copperhead, the popular name for the Trigonocephalus contortrix, a venomous American serpent abounding especially in Florida. Unlike the

« AnteriorContinuar »