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the terrific or some strong passion, has a tendency to excite risible emotions. Children whose animal spirits are very active, and whose perceptions are vivid, will frequently be disposed to laugh, at seeing a man with one leg much thicker than the other, or at an animal with only one ear. One of the finest instances of strong sublime contrast that I remember, was when Mr. Burke, in one of his speeches in the house, called the extravagant French reformers "Architects of ruin;" and Pope affords an instance of witty contrast in his ridicule of Timon's villa.....
"Lo! what huge heaps of littleness around;
The contrast must not however be too violent, nor must it involve any thing of too serious a nature, for in that case, a different train of ideas would be excited, which would destroy the ridiculous effect. A better instance it is impossible to give than the celebrated distich from the great master in wit and humour, the point and ridicule of which is wholly independent of the double rhyme.
"When pulpit, drum ecclesiastic,
"Was beat with fist, instead of a stick."
"We grant, altho' he had much wit,
"He was very shy of using it;
"As being loth to wear it out,
"And therefore bore it not about,
"Unless on holidays or so,
"As men their best apparel do."
In these instances, the contrast is strong between a pulpit and a drum; and wit and a suit of clothes. Yet, in the first instance, both (the pulpit and the drum) were made use of to excite a multitude to arms; here was a curious agreement found out, and both were beaten,
but the ridiculous contrast is again brought to view, the one was beaten with a fist, the other with a stick.
In the other quotation there is a mixture of irony; for it is meant to imply that Sir Hudibras had no wit at all, but was in reality, as described in another place,
"Which knaves do work with, call'd a fool."
Yet the drollery is exquisite in the agreement which the writer finds out between the parsimony of his hero, and that of a miser with respect to his holiday suit. The irony is displayed particularly in the couplet:
"As being loth to wear it out,
"And therefore bore it not about."
On the subject of irony I shall have something more to add, when I treat of the figures of rhetoric.
Metaphysicians have established three relations as influencing the chain of our ideas upon different occasions, there are.... Ist. Contiguity in time or place. 2d. Cause and effect. 3d. Resemblance or contrariety.*
Under these heads may be correctly classed, the various causes of that fanciful agreement which produce risible emotions. I. Under that of contiguity we may arrange,
1st. Bodily singularities, including a grotesque dress
2d. Groups of contrasted figures, such as an old popular caricature which I remember, of "A Macaroni Alderman and his Rib." The one a squat bloated figure dressed in the extravagance of fashion, the other an extremely tall and meagre female in a dress remarkably prim and formal. I may instance another which is yet popular, "A country Clown placed between a Counsellor and an Attorney.”
* See the Economy of Nature, b. x. c. 4.
3d. A confused assemblage of incongruous ideas, such as often takes place in a play to which you used to be partial, Cross Purposes; and in the cross readings of the newspaper columns. Of this kind of humour some excellent specimens were afforded by the writers of the Rolliad, the Probationary Odes, &c.
4th. Meanness and dignity brought together in contact. Under this head we may class the anticlimax, and what the writers of Martinus Scriblerus style the bathos .....one of the happiest specimens of which is,
"And thou, Dalhousie, the great god of war,
Perhaps I might add a specimen from Mr. Pope himself....
"Grac'd as thou art with all the pow'r of words,
II. Under cause and effect we may place,
1st. Ironical reasoning, and much also of what is called analogical reasoning, which is often as ridiculous as fanciful. As for instance....
"What does it signify (quoth Albertus) whether my nephew exceeds in the cursus or not? Speed is often a symptom of cowardice, witness hares and deer."...MEM. OF MART. SCRIB.
2d. Cause and effect not corresponding with each other....whence
Sd. Ridiculous hyperbole and rant....
"Behold a scene of misery and woe!
"Here Argus soon might weep himself quite blind,
"To wipe those hundred eyes.
"He roar'd so loud, and look'd so wondrous grim,
4th. Much of what is called caricaturc....
"Some have been beaten till they know
"A shoe be Spanish or neat's leather." Hud. p. ii. 1. 2.
III. But of all the relations that of resemblance is the most fruitful of ludicrous ideas.
1st. Of these, the more fanciful and unexpected the resemblance, the greater in general will be the effect. Thus Butler describes the horse of his hero:....
"The beast was sturdy, large and tall,
"And as the beast would kneel and stoop
The whole spirit of this passage, you will easily see, depends on the allusions. The majestic state of the horse, which scorned to mend his pace, contrasted with the tenderness of his feet, and the comparison with that of Cæsar, are highly ludicrous.
Contrariety, or contrast, is classed under the same head of association, by logical writers, as resemblance, and of the witty application of this we have a fine instance in the four last lines which I have just quoted; and in the following from Swift's verses on his death.
"My female friends, whose tender hearts
"Receive the news in doleful dumps :
"But dearest friends, they say, must part."
The most fruitful source of the burlesque and the mock-heroic is, when the allusion is from the great to the mean or little.
"The Greeks renown'd, so Homer writes,
The order is reversed, however, in some instances of the mock-heroic, as in the Lutrin of Boileau, and the charming Rape of the Lock.
"This nymph, to the destruction of mankind,
Slight lines of hair surprise the finny prey ;
In these lines, and in all the poem, a slight circumstance is magnified into something of apparent importance. The card party is an admirable instance in point.....
"Behold four kings in majesty rever'd,