Daily Archives: September 2, 2014

The Aristocracy of France (1852)

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Oh, never yet was theme so meet for roundel or romance
As the ancient aristocracy and chivalry of France;
As when they went for Palestine, with Louis at their head,
And many a waving banner, and the oriflamme outspread;
And many a burnished galley with its blaze of armor shone
In the ports of sunny Cyprus and the Acre of St. John:
And many a knight who signed the corss, as he saw the burning sands,
With a prayer for those whom he had left in green and fairer lands.
God aid them all, God them assoil; for few shall see again
Streams like their own, their azure Rhone, or swife and silver Seine.
God aid him, the first baron, the first of Christendom!
God aid the Montmorenci, far from his northern home!
And they are far from their Navarre, and from their soft Garonne,
The lords of Foix and Grammont, and the Count of Carcassone;
For they have left, those southron knights, the clime they love so well,
The feasts of fair Montpelier, and the Toulouse carousel,
And the chase in early morning, when the keen and pleasant breeze
Came cold to the cheek, from many a peak of the snowy Pyrenees;
And they have vowed that they will vie with the Northmen in the plain,
With De Joinville, and with Artois, and with Thibaut of Champagne;
But of them all might none compare, how great and grand his line,
With that young knight who bore in fight the blazon of Sergine:
Nor one could boast, of all that host that went against the Moor,
So fair a feat, or one so meet for praise from troubadour.
He clove his way where Louis lay, with the Moslemin around—
He clove his way through all the fray, and bore him from the ground:
And thus he earned a prouder name than herald ever gave,
The foremost of the foremost, and the bravest of the brave.

Oh, never yet was theme so meet for roundel or romance
As the ancient aristocracy and chivalry of France;
As when they lay before Tournay, and the Grand Monarque was there,
With the bravest of his warriors, and the fairest of his fair;
And the sun, that was his symbol, and on his army shone,
Was in lustre and in splendor and in light itself outdone:
For the lowland and the highland were gleaming as of old,
When England vied with France in pride, on the famous Field of Gold;
And morn, and noon, and evening, and all the livelong night,
Were the sound of ceaseless music and the echo of delight:
And but for Vauban’s waving arm and the answering cannonade,
It might hvae been a festal scene in some Versailles arcade;
For she was there, the beautiful, the daughter of Montemart,
And her proud eyes flashed the prouder for the roaring of the war:
And many a dark-haired rival, who bound her lover’s arm
With a ribbon, or a ringlet, or a kerchief for a charm;
And with an air as dainty, and with a step as light
As they moved among the masquers, they went into the fight.
Oh! brave they went, and brave they fought, for glory and for France,
The La Tremoille, and the Noailles, and the Courtenay of Byzance;
And haughty was their war cry as they rushed into the field,
The De Narbonne and De Talleyrand in Castilian on each shield;
And well they knew, De Montesquieu, and Rohan, and Loraine,
That a bold deed was ever sure high lady’s smiles to gain;
For none were loved with such true love, or wept with so true a tear,
As he who lived a courtier, but who died a cavalier.

Oh, never yet was theme so meet for roundel or romance
As the ancient aristocracy and chivalry of France;
As now they lie in poverty, and dark is their decline:
For the sun that shone so long on them, it now hath ceased to shine.
And the mighty house of Bourbon, that made them what they were,
Kneels humbly at the Austrian’s feet, beneath the Austrian’s care.
And the nineteenth Louis knows not France; and his queen, she never sees
Her soft St. Cloud, her Rambouillet, her solemn Tuileries;
And the revel, and the pageant, and the feast that were of yore,
And courtly wit and compliment—these things are now no more,
Save in some old man’s memory, who loves to ponder yet
On Lamballe’s playful jesting, and the smile of Antoinette,
And bids his son remember how the middle classes reign
In the Basilie of monarchs, and the nobles’ old domain!
For these they have lost all things save their honor and their names,
Chateaubriand, and DeBreze, and Stuart of Fitzjames,
And Levis, and La Rochejacquelein, and the brave and blameless few,
Like De Biron and De Luxembourg, the loyal and the true:
Then, though their state be fallen, all Europe cannot show
Such glory as was theirs of old, such glory as is now.
For they themselves have conquered, themselves they have foregone,
And they their own relinquish, till the King shall have his own.
Then grant, God grant, that day may come, and long shall it endure,
For the poor will find good friends in those who have themselves been poor;
And the Noble, and the People, and the Church alike shall know
A Christian King of France, in King Henry of Bordeaux.

Brown (from “Rough Sketches of Female Figures,” 1852)

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The lady quietly replied that she must confess she could not entirely sympathize with him, and that she feared she was not enough of a Christian to hate any sect! After this catastrophe, Mrs. Brown never opened her doors again to such poor deluded sinners. As Mr. Brown’s wealth increased, he began to entertain some ambition to become distinguished in the world. He accordingly subscribed largely to various religious societies; was one of the founders of an association for the conversion of Europe; was unanimously elected its president, and signed the engraved certificates of life membership. Having gained so lofty a place in public life, he sought a more elevated social position, both for his own pleasure and the advantage of his daughter Sarah, the eldest of the family, and a marriageable young lady. In pursuance of this object, he invited to his house traveling evangelists, the ‘stars’ of the ecclesiastical profession, ‘engaged at great expense,’ and ‘for a few nights only;’ renowned missionaries, college professors, and other distinguished persons were made welcome; and thus Mr. Brown’s hospitable mansion became a gratuitous tavern for the entertainment of the aristocracy of the elect.

Rough Sketches of Female Figures, 1852

Boundless Fields of Enterprise

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The increased facilities which each year affords for moving from one place to another, and the boundless fields of enterprise which the new countries in modern times have thrown open to the active and energetic, have naturally converted a large portion of the youth of this age into ‘seekers of their fortunes,’ so that in commerce knight-errantry is now looked upon, not only as a pardonable but a praiseworthy thing, and the term adventurer has lost much of its former odium; but with ‘military’ prefixed to it, it is probably as opprobrious as ever. Yet it is only very recently that it has become disreputable to rove about the world in search of employment for one’s sword. Down to the end of the last century it was very common and very creditable for a young gentleman to serve one or two campaigns under a distinguished commander, though neither he nor his country had the smallest interest in the quarrel.

Military Adventurers, 1858

Members of a class

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We must not omit to mention that the members of a class into which a man has forced his way by good luck, or sheer force of talent, are apt, in spite of his talent, are apt, in spite of his success, to stigmatize him as an adventurer, when those who remain below him would consider him to have lost all claim to the character. The crowned heads of Europe, for instance, always regarded Bernadotte and Napoleon the Great as adventurers; they still so consider Napoleon III; and Cromwell was viewed in the same light by the English aristocracy. In short, the varieties of the species are innumerable, and it would take pages to enumerate the various modifications which an adventurer may undergo, and still be an adventurer. It is no part of our present purpose to detail their several characteristics.

Military Adventurers, 1858

Education (1861)

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As literature emerged in Europe from the cloisters of the monks, education gradually advanced, clouded by the superstitions she had imbibed during her thousand years’ obscurity. The condition of mankind improved; commerce opened an intercourse between countries hitherto strangers to each other; knowledge extended, but its elements were rather the legendary traditions of the monks, than the actual development of science. The introduction of printing into England, in the fifteenth century, which burst like a new dispensation on the benighted condition of humanity, proved a powerful aid in the diffusion of general learning, —tinctured as it was by the mystic subtleties of the schools, —obscured by technicalities, and confined to the circles of aristocracy.

Education, 1861

Blue (from “Utterances of Alalcol,” 1861)

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A woodpecker said one day to a blue jay, ‘How do you get such a reputation? I should like to learn your art, for with every endeavor I find it hard to get a name, or to make a good living.’ ‘Ha, ha!’ cried the blue jay, ‘it is by making a noise with my voice that I prevail; people suppose that where there is such a verbal strain and torrent of sounds, there must be some sense. I always light on the topmost boughs; never sit long in a place; scream as loud as I can, and by continually flitting about, and showing my feathers, produce the idea that I am very wise, as well as a very active and valuable bird. while you always light on dry trees, where there is nothing to shade you, and toil with a sort of mechanical industry, making sounds that are not only monotonous but not at all musical. The truth is,’ continued the jay, ‘I am a talker, a blusterer, a stormer; my father and mother were talkers, blusterers, and stormers. I take the ear of people, not like you with a peck, peck, peck! but by a flourish of sounds.’ ‘Heigho!’ answered the woodpecker, ‘I should never get a living by such a life. I am, as you see by the red paint on my head, a warrior; and the animals I hunt are so deeply down in the trunks of old trees that I am obliged to plunge in my war-like bill after them, and my daily pecking is my war-whoop.’

Utterances of Alalcol, 1861

Dearth of Information

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The dearth of information, following the Gothic conquest of imperial Rome, by Alaric, in the fourth century, and the destruction of the Alexandrian library by Omar in the sixth, banished literature to the churches and monasteries, and produced a debasement of human intellect which has no parallel in the records of history. Tyranny, bloodshed, and cruelty disgraced the nations of the earth. Kingdoms became battlefields, and the world a charnel house. As literature emerged in Europe from the cloisters of the monks, education gradually advanced, clouded by the superstitions she had imbibed during her thousand years’ obscurity. The condition of mankind improved; commerce opened an intercourse between countries hitherto strangers to each other; knowledge extended, but its elements were rather the legendary traditions of the monks, than the actual development of science.

Education, 1835

Doodle

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‘What an addition to the society of the Dollarchinks and the Potiphars was the gay, the fashionable Tottle Dabchick! at once the envy of each lacteous Doodle, and the cynosure of each speculative mamma. His multifarious graces of mind and person eminently fitted him to adorn and beatify the society of the first of the land. At least, so said his friends — the brilliant Harry Mushroom and the volatile Felix Sophsop, who with an air of beaming patronage, drank his ‘Heidsieck,’ laughed at his jokes, and borrowed his money; and if men of their ton and calibre did not know, who on earth did? In a spirit of disinterestedness quite refreshing to behold, they undertook, like skillful lapidaries, to prepare the diamond that was destined to sparkle in their midst, and how well they succeeded is a matter of history. Under auspices so distingué, our happy little Dabchick fluttered in the sunshine of pure and refined aristocracy, like a giddy butterfly as he was, nor dreamt that cynics and out-heroded rivals were busy shaking their wise heads with ominous presage, and making mental calculations as to the length of time it would take him to reach the end of his tether.

Debut of Tottle Dabchick, 1858