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and the utilities of earth ; at old ocean murmuring with its innumerable waves, and the stately vessels walking the waters in all their magnificence ; and then, by a gradual and easy descent, like Socrates bringing philosophy from the abodes of the gods to the dwellings of men, chaunts the merits of him who, for the use and praise of man, devised the Leathern Bottle. Compare Pindar's celebrated opening with this, and you will see how short is the flight of the Bæotian muse, contrasted with that of our own swan. Observe, moreover, the solid British feeling of the illustrious poet. No sooner does he mention ships, than the national spirit breaks forth.
Che ships upon the seas to swim,
Had the man who wrote this, one idea inconsistent with the honour and glory of Britain ?-I lay a thousand pounds he had not. Had he lived in our days, he would have consigned the economists to the devil and the Scotsman. Conceive, for a moment, this great man, big with beer, and thoroughly impressed with veneration for our walls of wood, reading that article in the Edinburgh on the Navigation Laws. What an upcurled lip of indignation would he not display! How hearty would be his guffaw of contempt! How frequent his pulls at the vessel inserted in his dexter paw, in order to wash down the cobweb theories he was endeavouring to swallow ! How impatiently would the pigtail turn under his nether-gum, until at last, losing patience, he would fling the Balaam over the bannisters, and exclaim, “Here, John, take it away from me, and put it in the only place where it can be at all for the use and praise of man.” What place that is, it is not necessary for me to mention.
Now, what do you say to the canns of wood ?
And I wish in heaven, &c.
The ambling pace of the verse cannot be sufficiently commended. Here we go on jog trot, as Sancho Panza on Dapple. Nothing stops the full gush of poetry poured out in a ceaseless, murmuring flow, like a brook rolling at the feet of two lovers by moonlight. Remark, too, the insight this verse gives us of the manners of the poet. His habits are completely anti-domestic; they have what King Leigh calls “ all the freshness of out-of-doors life.” He has no store at home. When he wants to drink, he sends for the quantity required. All the bother of butlers is done away with. The whole tribe of tapsters are his footmen, and the wide world his cellar. You perceive, too, the habit of his household: it is in a state of perpetually blissful intoxication. Nothing can be more a matter of course than that any messenger of his should stumble by the way; it is a regular affair of ordinary speculation. And then see his magdanimity. Grieved as he is at the loss of his liquor, he has no indignation against the drunken bearer, but transfers his wrath to the vessel, resolving henceforward to alter his measures. In all this, there is something Christianlike and philanthropic.
Now for the pots with handles three,
And I wish in heaven, &e. The philosophy of this verse is worthy of Lord Bacon or his commentator. The philosopher, knowing the pugnacity of human nature, feels no surprise at a matrimonial scuffle, but instantly his great object occurs to his mind. “Fight it out,” quoth he ; “ fight it out by all means ; but don't spill the drink.” The whole forms a pleasant domestic picture; the husband on one side of the table, warming his bunnions at the fire; the wife, mending a pair of breeches at the other; and a three-handled pot, lying in quiet serenity between them, upon a a deal table. Suddenly arises a storm, occasioned by what we are not informed by the poet, but most probably by an unequal division of the contents of the aforesaid pot—and a combat ensues. Both seize the pot, and the liquor is spilt. How touchingly, and yet with a just indignation, does our friend reflect on this!
For which they shall answer another way,
for casting their liquor so bainly away. The solemnity of this threat is awfully impressive. It sounds like a voice from Delphi, or like a deep-toned imprecation, uttered from the mystic groves of Eleusis. There is nothing like it in all Paradise Lost.
Now what of the flagons of silber fine?
And I wish in heaven, &c.
the flying footman, who never again is seen after that day the baronial swearing of his lordship and his regret at the loss of his property, first in the flagon, and then in the man ; all take us back to the feudal times, and make us think of beetle-browed castles frowning over foaming cataracts; of knights clad in the panoply of plate and mail pricking forth upon the plain; of ladye love, and chivalrye;
Of tilting furniture, emblazoned shields,
Served up in hall with sewers and seneschals. It is agreeable to yield the mind occasionally to these soft delusions of fancy, and to let our souls revel in the beauties and splendours of times past by. But, alas! as Burke says, “ the day of chivalry is gone, and the glory of Europe is departed.” I agree with that great orator, but shall nevertheless proceed with the Leathern Bottle.
Now what do you say to these glasses fine ?
And I wish, &c. I am sorry the poet wrote this verse. There is something flunkyish and valleydeshammical in the whole passage. Something, in fact, Moorish–I mean Peter-Moorish; and, I suspect, an interpolation. What need we care for the discarded skip, or the stained diaper? Get it washed. Warrant it will not add a shilling to your washerwoman's bill in the twelvemonths. But perhaps you are afraid of the stains remaining to offend your optic nerve. Make your mind easy on the subject. You will find your remedy in the two hundred and ninety-ninth page of the Book of Rundell. “ Rub your part,” says that she-Kitchener, on each side with yellow soap; then lay on a mixture of starch in cold water, very thick; rub it well in, and expose the linen to the sun and air, till the stain comes out. If not removed in three or four days, rub that off, and renew the process. When dry, it may be sprinkled with a little water.” Observe, it may be sprinkled; for she does not insist on that with dogged pertinacity. Nothing can be more simple than the process; and I am sorry the matter was mentioned. If it really be a bona fide part of the composition, I must only class it among the follies of the wise ; and mourn over the frail condition of human nature,
Now when this bottle is grown old
Or hang the other side on a pen,
I mish in Heaven his soul may dwell,
That first invented the Leathern Bottle. This is a brilliant verse, and displays a genius for mechanical invention, which would do honour to a Perkins. The thrifty management, too, is highly commendable ; and the care he manifests for young beginners, marks a parental and humane disposition, which converts our admiration of the poet into love for the man. He appears to be of the opinion of that eminent statesman -the Mr Maberley of his day-who declared that there is nothing like leather. Much may be, and indeed has been, said, on both sides of the question; but though the controversy is far from being set at rest, I shall not agitate it on the present occasion.
Let me now turn to the second head of my discourse ; namely, the Black Jack.
'Tis a pitiful thing, that now-a-days, sirs,
And I wish his soul much good may partake,
I, for one, am free to admit, that I do not like this commencement. There is something, as Leigh Hunt says, base and reviewatory in it. Why need he disparage the valuable labours of his predecessor bard? The world was large enough for them both. But the poetic tribe is irritable. This very moment, there is barbarous civil war going on among them. Southey calls Byron Satan; and Byron compliments the Laureate with the soothing title of Rogue. Bernard Barton has been heard to declare, that he did not think ODoherty's poetry had anything Miltonian about it—to be sure it was in private ; and he qualified the assertion by adding, that he gave it merely as matter of opinion ; but after all, it was shabby on the part of Broadbrim. I say nothing; and mention the business just in illustration.
And now I will begin to declare
And I wish his soul in peace may dwell,
That first devised that speedy vessel. The writer of this is evidently an intensely moral and domestic man. It being an object of necessity to get drunk, the question arises how this is to be done with the most decorous propriety. Arguing, then, with Macbeth, that when a thing is to be done, 'twere well that it were done quickly; and, anxious to delight the family at home with an early visit, he naturally prefers the jack, or, as he most poetically calls it, the Speedy Vessel. He manifestly hates loitering and lingering in any work in whish he is engaged, and is quite shocked at the idea of intruding on domestic arrangements by any absence of his. He feels the duties of the head of a household too keenly; he is too much interested in the proper ordering of affairs at home. Certain I am that family prayers were the regular order of the day in his establishment.
And therefore leave your twittle twattle,
And I wish his soul in Paradise,
That first found out that happy device. The lament of the unsated beer-bibber is given here with a pathos which must draw tears from the eyes even of the most hard-hearted. No words are thrown away. We see him endeavouring to effect his purpose at the bottle's mouth, and finding his efforts vain, he “ thereat maketh great moan.” How simple, yet how tender! Had Shiel, or any other poetaster of that stamp, such a passage in his hands, into what a bladder of wordy amplification would he not have blown it! We should infallibly have had the wife and children drawn in to participate in the father's sorrow; but here we have a strain of higher mood.
Be your liquor small, or thick as mud,
And I wish his soul in Weaven may rest,
On this verse I make no remark, as I am sure that by this time the reader of moderate abilities, or proper application, will be able to discover its scope and tendency.
No flagon, tankard, bottle, or jug,
And I wish his heirs may have a pension,