American Conscription! Hurrah for the Conscription! American Conscription,. Whence sprung this new Conscription! The songs written by the soldiers and sailors themselves, descriptive of their engagements, or incidents of camp and march, or expressing their feelings, were not many, either in folk-ballads or finished poetry. Major J. De Forrest's powerful verses, In Louisiana, are almost the only specimen of the latter, and there are but few of the ruder ballads. It may have been because the soldiers and sailors were too much occupied, and that the life in camp and on shipboard was not favorable to poetical reverie, although there were many hours on picket or watch which might have been thus employed; but the fact remains that there was more carving of bone rings than of verses, and more singing than writing in the army and navy.
There was not an absolute dearth, however, and the soldiers and sailors sometimes told their own stories or expressed their own feelings in verse. One of the best of these was written during the early days of the war by H. Millard, a member of Company A, Seventy-first Regiment, concerning the march from Annapolis to the Junction, and has the genuine flavor of soldiership as well as a fine spirit of camaraderie. And how many miles to the Junction;.
And "How many miles to the Junction? There were not many attempts to describe the battles in which the soldiers took part, and they were left to the poets, who did not see them, and had to depend, not very successfully, upon their imagination. There was, however, a ballad of the Seven Days' Fight before Richmond, evidently written by a soldier, and of some force and vigor.
It begins: —. The bard details the fights as though they were a succession of Union victories, and concludes with a defense of General McClellan:—. The enthusiasm aroused by General McClellan among the rank and file of the Army of the Potomac had no counterpart in regard to any other commander, was proof against failure and defeat, and lingered, to a certain extent, even to the close of the war.
- California and the Californians.
- Fencing for Conservation: Restriction of Evolutionary Potential or a Riposte to Threatening Processes?.
- With and Without Sam: Volume The Whole Bally Lot by Bettina Jonic!
His removal caused a great deal of indignation, and called out a good many protests and appeals for his restoration. A song, Give us back our old Commander, was a good deal sung at the time:—. Let him manage, let him plan;. We can wish no better man. The very rollicking and nonsensical chorus of Bummers, come and meet Us, belongs to this period, and was almost as popular as John Brown's Body, fulfilling amply and simply the conditions for relieving the lungs.
Like the sailors' "shanties" and the plantation choruses, it was capable of indefinite extension and improvisation. The following is a specimen of its construction:—. Smile on us as we march. We 'll soon come marching home. A seaman on board the Vandalia, one of the ships engaged in the capture of Port Royal, wrote a description of the engagement, which has considerable of the light of battle in it.
It is entitled:—. How are you, old Port Royal? How are you, Secesh? Some of the disagreeable features of a soldier's duty and camp life were dealt with by the soldiers in the spirit of humorous exaggeration, which was as much an evidence of high spirits as the enthusiastic choruses.
A camp poet thus relieves his feelings in regard to the exercise of "double quick:"—. To all I 'll have to stick. But d-n the Double-Quick. The Southern poetry of the civil war was even more rhetorical and stilted than that of the North. Its literary culture was more provincial, and its style a great deal more inflated and artificial. It was the "foemen" that they were to meet instead of the enemy, and "gore" instead of blood that was to be shed; and there was a great deal about the "clank of the tyrant's chain," and the "bloodstained sword," and such other fuliginous figures of speech.
Randall's There's Life in the Old Land yet, but for the most part it had an air of bombast and turgidity, which would have given a false impression in regard to the real spirit of determination among the Southern people, if one had only judged by its inflated expression. The pages of the Southern Amaranth, and other collections of rebel poetry, give the impression of having been written by school-boys, and contain little but sophomoric rhetoric of the most sounding and inflated description.
That it had a fiery energy and an invincible determination behind it was abundantly shown, but the voice of the South in its polite literature was one of inflated extravagance.
Nevertheless it produced the most manly and vigorous song of the whole war in Dr. Palmer's Stonewall Jackson's Way; and some verses appeared in a Richmond paper in , entitled Call All, which have a fiery energy and directness unsurpassed, and were in the genuine language of the people:.
The street ballad did not exist in the South, so far as I can discover, and the popular song-books were very few in comparison with those of the North. There were some, however, printed on discolored paper and with worn-out type. Like the Northern song-books, they contained an admixture of the popular negro melodies with the songs of the war, and there are but few instances of any genuine and native expression. The song which gave the title to The Jack Morgan Songster, however, has a good deal of force and vigor, and was evidently written by the camp fire.
It is entitled Three Cheers for our Jack Morgan:—. The tone of the Southern songs was not only a good deal more ferocious and savage than that of those of the North, but there were fewer indications of that spirit of humor which pervaded the Northern camps, and found expression in the soldiers' songs. There is, however, one Southern piece of verse, descriptive of the emotions of the newly drafted conscript, which has an original flavor of comicality, although evidently inspired by the spirit of Yankee Doodle:—. The spirit of the Southern women is well known to have been as vigorous and determined as that of their brothers, and the sacrifices which they were compelled to make were much more severe and general than at the North.
They had been dependent upon the North and foreign countries for clothing and the luxuries of the household, and when these sources of supply were cut off by the war and the blockade, they had to make and sew their own homespun dresses, and forego all the delights of fashion and adornment. The sacrifices and devotion of the daughters of the South were sung in turgid rhetoric, like the threats and appeals of the men, but here is a genuine voice, evidently a woman's own, which speaks for her sisters in their homelier trials, as well as in their deeper emotions:—.
The folk-songs of the civil war, in which millions were engaged and which lasted for four years, do not compare in quality with those which much lighter struggles have produced, notably the Jacobite rebellion in Scotland. The Americans were not a singing people in the bent of their genius, and the conditions of life and civilization were not favorable to this form of expression. The newspaper had taken the place of the ballad as a means of influencing the public mind, and poetry had passed from the people to the literary artists.
So when the great crisis of the civil war came, affecting all minds and all hearts, the people were unfamiliar with this mode of expression, and the literary artists had not the power to interpret their feelings except in their own artificial forms without touching the heart or giving vital meaning to the voice. The accident of the combination of genius with this sincerity, which produced La Marseillaise and Der Wacht am Rhein, did not occur, so that the great struggle is without an equally great song embodying and interpreting the spirit of the nation, and whatever fine poems and songs there were distinctly fall below this ideal.
But in such a struggle the voice of the people could not fail to find expression by the means which the history of mankind has shown to be the most natural expression of emotion and enthusiasm, and their songs, however imperfect, either as literature or popular poetry, are the most genuine expression of the feelings and thoughts which filled their hearts and minds, and have a genuineness which informs the rude or inadequate words, and are a most important illustration of the history of that tremendous conflict. P rofessor Francis James Child's edition of the English and Scottish Popular Ballads, monumental in size, is still more monumental in the labor which it represents.
It embodies not only diligent research for the most authentic and original versions of the ancient ballads in all the known sources in print or in manuscript, and the recovery of many from still living traditions in Great Britain and the United States, but a careful study and comparison of the folk-song of kindred European nations and of the world for resemblances in subject and story; thus making a most interesting and valuable addition to the knowledge of the common development of the human intellect in primitive thought and form of expression in diverse countries.
How much study this has involved can only be appreciated by those who have seen its results in the concise introductions to each ballad, citing comparisons in every known literature, and yet further work in this direction will be left for later scholars, as the study and collection of folk-song is being pursued with more and more zeal and success in every quarter of the world, under the appreciation of its great literary as well as historical value. Professor Child has been governed by the strictest conscientiousness in giving his version of the popular ballads, not only going to the original sources like the Percy folio, the manuscript materials for The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border preserved at Abbotsford, Motherwell's note books, and other manuscripts and stall copies, but reprinting them with all their omissions and defects, not supplying the most obvious missing word or even letter without indicating it.
He has not followed the example of the strictly faithful editors of the ancient ballads like Motherwell in presenting alone the most complete and perfect specimen, nor allowed himself like others, substantially faithful, like Scott and Jamieson, to collate a number of copies derived from different sources into a harmonious whole,-but gives each version distinct in itself, even to a solitary variant verse.
It is one of the commonplaces of the history of English and Scottish ballad poetry that most of its collectors and editors from Bishop Percy downward have felt themselves entitled to amend and correct the imperfect fragments to a greater or less degree, supplying missing lines or stanzas to connect or complete the story, and that this has resulted sometimes in the most incongruous patchwork in which the sentiments and poetical fashions of one generation have been foisted upon those of another to the utter destruction of all verisimilitude, to say nothing of strength and genuineness of expression.
Bishop Percy, with all his fine taste and genuine poetic power, was a conspicuous sinner in this respect, and patched the rough and strong frieze of the ancient ballads with pieces of the thin and sleazy silk of eighteenth century sentiment and diction. Even Scott, with all his sense of honesty and appreciation of the value of the integrity of the ancient ballads, could not always refrain from his possessing temptation "to give a hat and stick" to the stories which he heard, and, as Professor Child points out, there are some stanzas in the Border Minstrelsy which bear suspiciously his mark, and of which the originals have not been found in his manuscript materials.
It is true enough that Scott's additions and emendations, as well as those of Allan Cunningham, who was wholly indifferent to the genuineness and integrity of his originals, were likely to be in the very spirit and turn of expression of the ancient ballads, and that the lover of poetry for its own sake will not be likely to find fault with them, but the real student of folk-song must repudiate them, and can be content only with the genuine expressions of the people, as they lived in tradition, however inchoate and imperfect they may he.
The historical and ethnological value of the ancient ballads consists in their absolute genuineness, and even the imperfection of their utterances illustrates the condition of the popular mind and the characteristics of the individual intelligence which produced them, and are important geological evidences of the growth and development of the human intellect. At the same time this very imperfection of speech, and the struggle of primitive thought to express itself in language sometimes creates, as it were by accident, the very flower of strength and vividness in picturesque description, and the interpretation of emotion as the most skillful art has been unable to do.
How strong these ballads were, and what a hold they had upon the minds and imaginations of the people, as the interpretation of their innate poetic spirit, is shown in the tenacity with which they have lived, and been reproduced in varying forms through generations down to the present day. Ballads like The Cruel Sister and Lord Thomas and Fair Annet, the production probably of the sixteenth or seventeenth century, have been recovered, with the essential burden of their verse and the subject of their story, from the mouths of English peasants and Irish servant girls, and in the folk-lore of the American nursery, to which they had been transmitted simply by the force of oral tradition, and without any assistance from print; and it is not likely that they will entirely disappear for generations to come, any more than the perennial nursery tales which were created by and appeal to the primitive and childish imagination.
These traditional versions have been altered to suit the localities, and weakened in their coherence and vigor of expression from the time when they were the literature of the main body of the people instead of the lowest class, as the stall copies of the ballads of the ancient minstrels, when they were the attendants of kings and nobles and shared the inspiration of chivalry, have been degraded to the level of the intelligence of the audience of the street singers or the gatherings in the taprooms of the village alehouses; but they retain the essential characteristics of simple emotion, inherent melody, and primitive language, and have still something of the fine and penetrating flavor of popular romance.
It is almost needless to say to the student of literature that the art of popular ballad writing is extinct, or is successful only in the rarest instances. Poets of genuine power and inspiration, imbued and saturated with the spirit of the ancient ballads, have attempted to re-create them in the telling of an ancient or modern story, but, whatever their original power or imitative skill, they have failed to reproduce that native strength and peculiar flavor of expression which gives the ancient ballads such a hold upon the mind.
The modern ballads are admired by the intellect rather than felt by the heart, and are recognized as the product of skillful art rather than as the expression of original emotion. Even Scott, whose literary genius was so saturated with their spirit, and Wordsworth, who sought his inspiration in the simple emotions of the peasant heart and interpreted them so perfectly in a literary form of glowing simplicity, could not produce a popular ballad, and even Coleridge's Ancient Mariner, with all its powerful and naked mystery and natural archaism of thought and language, appeals to the literary rather than to the popular imagination.
All the more absolute imitations of ancient literature, like those of Rossetti and Morris, have still more the air of unreality, in spite of what is oftentimes their very great power and skill, and Sir Samuel Ferguson's Lays of the Western Gael, perfect as they are in the reproduction of the Celtic spirit and expression, are for the admiration of scholars rather than the feeling of the people.
It is hardly too much to say that in modern English literature there are but two poems which fulfill the conditions of the ancient ballads in their simplicity, directness, and originality of language, their power upon the mind and heart through the ear, and the indefinable flavor of primitive emotion, and those very different in style, subject, and form of expression. Every one who has heard it or read it can repeat,—.
These ballads are not imitations derived from study of the ancient popular ballads, but obtaining their inspiration from the same original source in strong and primitive emotion interpreted in the simplest language possible, and speaking through the ear by the chanted rather than through the eye by the printed line. It is this appeal to the ear which is the strongest characteristic of the form of the ancient ballads. They were made to be sung or chanted rather than read, and therefore they have a felicity of sound as an interpreter of meaning which is often perfect in its expression; and when imperfect, that is, when the meaning is not clear, but is only vaguely and dimly attached to the sound, as in the refrains and burdens, there is a flavor or an atmosphere of meaning which pervades it and adds to the effect.
There is a touch of the plaintiveness of natural sounds which no literary art could give in the opening of The Queen of Elphan's Nourrice:—. Even when the burden is still more arbitrary, and without any direct reflection of the meaning whatever, it is never felt to be incongruous or artificial, and has a mystic and intensifying effect, as in the painful ballad of The Sheath and Knife:—.
And even when the refrain might be called simply a meaningless chant, it makes a part of the ballad which could not be taken away without a loss of the quality which gives it a living voice, as in the chorus, which sings of itself to The Elfin Knight:. As to these stanzas and lines, which give a perfect marriage of sound and meaning either in the interpretation of emotion or description, and in which the ear is the interpreter of the eye and the heart with a skill which no art could give, they are numberless, and of the very substance of the genius of the old ballad singers.
There is nothing in the cultivated skill of trochee and spondee to equal such untaught perfections of the human voice as these:—. Gil Brenton. Sir Cawline. Clerk Saunders. Kinmont Willie. Annan Water. And this, in which the very gallop of the horse's feet runs along the lines:—.
Prince Robert. The element of poetry of the highest kind in these ballads is the strength as well as the simplicity of passion interpreted in language of naked directness and dramatic power. Their stories are mainly those of the bloody tragedies and the violent events and emotions in the lives of a people to whom strife and adventure were an integral part of existence, and whose passions were strong and vigorous, although a proportion of the ballads have an element of rustic humor, and the cycle of those relating to Robin Hood is mainly of this kind.
There is an element of the supernatural in the English and Scottish ballads, more particularly in the latter, which, if not so marked and pervading as in those of the Celtic nations, shows that the mysterious terrors of nature were still embodied in the visible forms of the imagination, and that the woods were still haunted by elfin knights, the green braes by fairies, while human beings were still liable to be transformed into laidly worms and foul toads by the enchantment of witches, in at least a pervading shadow of popular belief.
But for the most part they were singularly free from the tincture of the marvelous, and mainly the simple chronicles of stirring events or the tragedies of passion. This gives them an element of strength, which is wanting to the phantasmagorial figures of more imaginative nations, whatever glow of misty glory shines about them as in the creations of the early Celtic bards. The impression of the soul of nature is strong but not overpowering as in these latter, and the influence of the landscape and the sky in storm or calm illuminates but does not interfere with the dramatic action.
As has been said, strength of thought and strength of language are their prevailing characteristics. Their strength of language is that which belongs to the speech of a people when it is fresh and new, and before it has been overlaid with words created for literary purposes and by the introduction of foreign words to give niceties of meaning, and no cultivated language has the same power and directness as that which is the simple expression of the thoughts of the people. Goethe, with his sound critical insight, noted this when he said, "The unsophisticated man is the more master of direct, effective expression than he who has had a regular training," and a language may often lose in strength what it gains in ornament and flexibility.
This strength of expression is written large over all the English and Scottish ballads, and specimens are merely arbitrary and may be taken almost at random:—. Lord Thomas and Fair Annet. The Battle of Otterbourne. The Gipsy Laddy. The Cruel Mother. Lord Ingram and Child Wyett. The Douglas Tragedy. The dramatic power of expression, that which illumines it with a touch of action, is not less remarkable than that of direct phraseology:—. Earl Brand. Fair Annie.
Lary Maissy. Jamie Douglass. Queen Elinor's Confession. The look cast over the shoulder is a very fa-miliar action in the ballads, as is also that where an angry man strikes the table with his hand and "keps" it with his knee. Every one who receives the letter is described as first smiling and then having his eyes filled with tears, as in Sir Patrick Spence, and almost in an exact repetition of the language, and there are numerous actions and phases which are the common stock of the ballad poets.
The idea of the exclusive rights to poetical property and of the sin of plagiarism does not seem to have occurred to them, and they took a striking image or an effective phrase wherever they found it as a part of the common stock of poetry. These familiar and striking phrases doubt-less added to the effect, being recognized as old friends by the audience, and, like the repetitions of words and action by a number of persons in the same ballad, such as by the members of a family in succession denying the prayer of an unfortunate, emphasizing and deepening the impression.
Certain adjectives also became attached to words as a part of their property, such as red to gold and wan to water, and are essential parts of the ballad language, which add to its effect by constant repetition. One of the charms of these ancient ballads is the appreciation of the effects of nature, given sometimes with a magical effect of suddenness and originality. What can be more effective, for instance, than the touch of beauty and charm in the tragedy of Babylon:—.
And can we not feel the magic of the note of elfin horn, touching the heart with irresistible call through the summer air, in the opening to Hind Etin? The voice of the unseen sea gives a note of deep solemnity and terror to the supernatural landscape through which Thomas, the Rhymer, journeys with the elfin queen:—. How the strength of a lover's thought is illuminated by the touch of nature itself in Willie and Alison:—. These touches of the power of nature upon human action, and revealing human thought, are scattered throughout the ballads, and have the effect of perfect naturalness and simplicity, as though the heart and not the mind spoke in them.
A specimen of the ancient ballad in its most perfect strength, absolute and concise in its construction, without wandering into irrelevancies and incongruities, as many of them do, and in which the appalling tragedy strikes with a sudden blow upon the heart at its close, is Edward. It has all the characteristic features of the ballads, in the vivid colors of nature illuminating and intensifying his dramatic dialogue, while it has the mist of blood in the witchlike questions of its opening, and the passion of hatred and despair in its close.
Ballads of similar form and subject are to be found in Scandinavian literature, and counterparts to its methods of revelation in various English and Scottish ballads, but none have so pure a construction and so perfect an effect as this:—. Edward was communicated to Bishop Percy from Scotland by Lord Hailes, and there is some affectation in the ancient spelling, but it is undoubtedly genuine, and, as Professor Child remarks, "as spelling will not make an old ballad, so it will not unmake one.
One of the most famous and best known of the ancient Scottish ballads is that entitled Waly, Waly, gin Love be Bony, or, as it is sometimes called, Lady Anne Bothwell's Lament, which was first published in Ramsay's Tea Table Miscellany. It has numerous variants embodying the language of the lament in stories of a more dramatic character, founded on a tradition of the Douglas family, but this has the strength and simplicity of an original:—. The burden of this lament, its simple passion appealing to the popular heart and its melody holding the ear, has been perpetuated through the generations since it was first sung.
It has been printed in all forms and variations in the broadsides and penny song books, as well as in the critical collections of poetry, solaced the sentimental feeling of the dairy maid as well as haunted the vision of Charles Lamb, and its refrain may be heard to-day in the burlesque choruses of the negro minstrel stage. A very interesting example is given by Professor Child of the way in which an old ballad of perfect form and construction may be made incoherent and shapeless in a broadside copy, mere matter of "silly sooth" for old age or primitive ignorance, without losing the fine flower of pathos and feeling, or the grace of expression, in its disconnected and ejaculatory stanzas.
It is also interesting as an example, of which many others could be given, of the effect of oral tradition passing from minds of native strength, if without education, down to and through those of a lower order of intelligence, from whom now only the debris of the ancient songs and ballads can be obtained. It is from a broadside printed in Edinburgh, without date, but of considerable antiquity, and entitled Arthur's Seat shall be My Bed, etc. As in all single hearts and primitive natures, the visible features of death, the white shroud and the grave, "hap'd with the sods sae green," make a deep impression, and the imagination concerning the loved one lost is not lifted to spiritual forms, but dwells upon the painful figures of the charnel house.
The ghosts that visit the living have the fatal breath of decaying mortality, and are summoned back by the cock to the winding sheet and the worm. The ballads that deal with this subject are all in the same strain, and repeat the same phrases. The lady asks her dead lover if there is any room at his head or any room at his feet in his new bed, and he answers that there is none, it is made so narrow, and that the worms are his only bedfellows; and warns her that he cannot give the kiss she craves, for his breath would be fatal.
Sometimes the images of mortality are extremely powerful as well as grotesque, as in the ballad of Sweet William's Ghost:—. Sometimes they have a touch of homely pathos, which relieves them from the conventional note of sorrow, as when the three sons of The Wife of Usher's Well are called back to the grave by the crowing cock, and the youngest says:—. One of the most interesting specimens of the ballads of this kind, as they exist to-day, borrowed in a modified form from the ancient, but embodying a still popular superstition, is The Unquiet Grave, recently taken down from the lips of a young girl in Sussex.
It is founded on the belief, common to many primitive peoples, that excessive weeping disturbs the repose of the departed, and has a touch of that natural originality of description and that abruptness which presupposes a quickness of appreciation, which does not require an elaborate story to make the connection intelligible, characteristic of popular poetry, and which shows that the elements of mind to which it is addressed are always the same:—. By far the larger number of the popular ballads had their origin in Scotland, and they are also of much finer quality than those of England.
Even if the question of the origin of the ballad of Chevy Chace should be decided in favor of the latter, it would simply be localized upon the Border within the limit of Scottish influence. The English ballads are mostly heavy and dull, imperfect in form and expression, in comparison with the Scottish, and show few signs of the depth and glow of feeling in the burning words of the latter.
The English ballads relating to King Arthur are greatly inferior in strength and spirit to the prose chronicles, and their dealing with the marvelous is coarse and commonplace in comparison with the spiritual and majestic mystery of the Welsh cycle of Arthurian romance. And the English ballads continued to degenerate, rather than improve, from the rude vigor of some of the Arthurian ballads, and took on the element of coarse humor which is characteristic of the Robin Hood cycle, from which nearly every gleam of poetry is eliminated.
It may be said that the degeneracy of the English popular ballad was due to the spread of education among the people, and the development of their genius in more strictly literary forms under the influence of Chaucer and his associates. But the spread of education and the increase of literary production among the English people was by no means so general as to affect the quality of the popular ballad at this period, and certainly less than that which prevailed in Scotland at a later time, when the production of popular poetry was in its fullest flower.
The adventures of the English outlaws, of whom Robin Hood, however mythical his actual existence, was the type, were not less stirring and full of the natural elements of poetry than those of the reivers and cattle thieves of the Scottish Border, but the ballads of the former cycle are only full of a vulgar peasant humor, while the latter are illuminated with the light of battle, and have the quarter staff and broken pate in place of the spear and the bleeding breast. Of Robin Hood it is said:—. It is impossible to analyze ethnologically the causes of the great superiority of the Scottish popular poetry, or to define how much of the elevation of feeling and appreciation of the magic of nature came from the greater admixture of the Celtic element, which in its turn was given force and vigor, directness of expression and coherence of construction by the stronger nature of the invading element, which, for the want of a more definite term, is called Saxon.
The effect of these influences is merely conjectural, as is also that of the country itself, its natural scenery, the disturbed life of the people, and the ferment of the popular mind. It can only be said that there was something in the national genius of the Lowland Scotch different from that of their more stolid neighbors at the south and their more mystical neighbors at the north, and which fitted them for the production of popular poetry in song and ballad at once elevated and impassioned, and which has resulted in a quantity and quality which no other province of the world has rivaled.
It is known over the world, and has been translated into almost every literary language of Europe. To the English reader it is only necessary to give the titles to recall the verses that cling to the memory, and express the deepest glow of passion and pathos in words whose magic melody is beyond the reach of art, and which are winged with a force above the powers of uninspired speech. The Border Widow tells how she buried her slain husband:—. Lord Randal comes home to his mother from his false love's poisoned banquet:—. The lady of the House of Airlie cries out from the burning reek to the cruel Edom o' Gordon:—.
These verses, and many like them, cling to the tongues and have sunk deep into the hearts of men, and will live until the speech in which they were created has passed away. The Flower of Yarrow will always utter her melodious lament so long as there is English poetry, and the Border moss-troopers will ride with spear in hand and "splent on spauld" until the valleys of the Tweed and the Tyne are inhabited by an alien race, and the songs in which they are sung have perished like those of the Assyrian shepherds. The collection and study of folk-song is being pursued with a vigor and a scholarly diligence which promises to leave no corner of the world unransacked, and no people, however simple and savage, neglected, and very valuable treasures of poetry have been and are being collected, which speak to the heart with the native eloquence of unsophisticated feeling and thought, and which give a more accurate knowledge of national temperament and of the stages of the development of the human intellect than any material remains or any historical records.
But none have as yet been discovered, or are likely to be, which have a stronger power of original poetry, passion, and pathos, or which reveal a more vigorous and noble native genius than the ballads and songs which were produced within the limits of the little province between the Grampians and the Border. The supreme felicity of lyric song is extremely rare even in the greatest masters of the art, and seems to come from something outside of themselves, some accident of the moment, some almost fortuitous intermingling of sound with meaning, which could have been attained by no ordinary inspiration and no deliberate skill, however accomplished and sure and strong the poetical organ which produced it.
It is this supreme felicity, when it occurs, by which the lyric song of man, with only the elements of harsh and prosaic speech and common words to frame it, rivals the magic of the bird's note in joyous ecstasy or sorrow, and floods the heart, as it captivates the ear, with emotions sweeter and deeper, more ethereal and more mysterious, than life had seemed able to give.
It is well known that singers, whose skill in the use of their vocal organs is the result of highly trained art, giving certainty and assurance to a great natural gift, and able at all times to command what seems the full extent of their power, sometimes have moments when they surpass themselves and exceed the limits of any art, when the voice touches a note of magic melody, which they can reach by no conscious effort even in the highest moments of inspiration, and which seems to come from some power not at their conscious command.
It seems to be the same in lyric poetry, and when the power does come, then we have the touch which makes it song, as the thrill of the lark, and the ecstasy of the mocking-bird in the tropic night, are songs. The magic may not be prolonged through an entire lyric.
It seldom is. It may be only in a single line or in a single verse. It may not be even the highest strain of feeling or nobility of sentiment, and may even carry with it little definite meaning upon analysis. It derives its power from the magic melody as much as from the feeling or the intelligible sense of the words, and its effect is indefinable by any law of the understanding. In its highest estate it combines the most penetrating feeling with not only perfect but magic melody, but it sometimes comes in a wild refrain, in which the meaning merely floats in the words, and the rhythm, the accent, the song itself, so to speak, is predominant.
For the first instance there is the perfect example of Burns, the rapture caught once for a single strain in a song, which does not rise above the level of his accomplished skill otherwise, and which has the keenest and most penetrating feeling, joined to, and permeated by, the perfect and magic melody:—.
For the second instance, where the melody is predominant over the meaning, and where the poet seemed only to be affected by the desire to frame words that would sing themselves and merely symbolize his thought, there are very many examples in the peasant poetry and folk-song of Scotland,—refrains that have no direct connection with the song, but, like the note of a second flute in a concerto, intensify the effect of the first strain by a kindred, yet diverse accentuation, as.
It is only the uneducated poets who have the courage to use language arbitrarily with a purpose. Perhaps the most perfect example of the lyric song, in which the melody is mingled with and sustains and elevates the feeling, and both are conjoined in an effect which melts the heart and possesses the ear, although the strain is not of so high a rapture of love or sorrow as parts of Burns's Ae Fond Kiss or Lady Anne Bothwell's Balow, and is of a peaceful sweetness and resignation rather than passion, is The Land of the Leal, by Carolina, Lady Nairne.
In its original and simplest form, before she had interpolated a verse to express some of her theological ideas, it is the perfect interpretation of a sweet, solemn, and simple thought, the tenderest and purest emotion, breathed in an equally simple, but absolutely perfect melody, that is like the flowing of limpid water, crystal clear and unbroken to the end. The heart of the world has responded, and it has a place like none other in the tongue of song.
The fame of the authoress, so far as she can be said to have any of her own individual personality, rests upon this song, and sufficiently, while the English language shall last, but it was not the solitary example of her genius, and her poetical work, although not great in hulk, contains other lyrics of a very high quality, with a wide range from high martial spirit and homely pathos to gay and frolicsome humor, and instinct with the vital and living element of song. Lady Nairne was almost morbidly anxious to retain her incognito as a writer during her life, so that her own husband and nearest relatives were not in the secret, and those who surmised or guessed it hardly dared to allude to it in her presence, and the veil has rested over her personality to a great degree in comparison with the flood of light poured over the words and actions of her great contemporaries, Scott and Burns, and many lesser figures in Scotch provincial literature like Professor Wilson and Hogg.
Nevertheless, since her death at a very advanced age in , her songs have been collected and published under her own name, and enough has been made known concerning her life and character to give to her poetry an individuality, and reveal a very gracious, noble and engaging figure. Carolina Oliphant was born in "the auld house of Gask," in Perthshire, on the 16th of August, , six years later than Robert Burns. The Robertsons had also been ardent Jacobites, and suffered in purse and person for their loyalty.
The grandfather, Duncan Robertson, was notable in character and personality as well in adventure and misfortune, and had his portrait painted in immortal colors by Scott as the Baron of Bradwardine.
- CAMELOTS COUSIN: The Spy Who Betrayed Kennedy?
- The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting | SpringerLink.
- Christmas Albums 2013;
- Poem of the Masses.
- Chained Reflections!
- Arkansas Arkansaw.
Carolina, baptized after the exiled prince, spent her infancy and early childhood on the Continent in France and Belgium, under the care of her grandmother, her parents being in feeble health, and then returned with them to the old home at Gask, where she spent her happy, healthy, and gay youth and young womanhood. From a feeble and delicate child she had grown into a strong, vigorous, and beautiful young woman, the beauty of the country-side, called "the Flower of Strathearn" and "the lovely Car," and her life was of a kind to strengthen her ardent patriotism and cultivate her fondness for the native music, poetry, and song of which Scotland was full, but whose transcendent merits were unknown and unappreciated by the literary world until they were illuminated by the light of the genius of Burns a few years later.
The anecdotes of her life give a very charming picture of innocent gayety, family affection, and friendship. She played the Jacobite airs for her aged grandfather, as she afterward wrote Jacobite songs for his pleasure, and with a skill and feeling which won the difficult approval of the famous Neil Gow, the wandering fiddler, whose skill on his instrument was like that of Scott's "Wandering Willie," and whose presence at a laird's house would draw all the young people for miles around to dance to the winged notes of his strathspeys and hornpipes.
She was foremost in all scenes of gayety, and is said to have taken a carriage at midnight and driven several miles to bring one of her young lady friends out of bed for a party where partners were scarce. In the simple social pleasures of the local aristocracy, the county balls and meetings, and the gatherings of the tenantry, "the Flower of Strathearn" was a conspicuous figure, while her keen eyes were taking in the queer figures that appeared later in all the glow of bright humor in The Laird of Cockpen, The County Meeting, and Jamie, the Laird.
Her first verses, The Ploughman, were written for a harvest home dinner, and were read by her brother as a contribution by an unknown author. About this time the first poems of Burns made their appearance, and stirred the heart of Scotland not less by their original genius than by the revivification of the old airs and scraps of songs, finished and cleansed of their coarseness, and made to speak to the hearts of the people in the drawing-room as well as in the peasant's cottage and the taproom of the country alehouse.
It was the first acknowledgment, if not the beginning, of that appreciation of the wealth of pathos and humor in the peasant poetry of Scotland, among the cultivated classes, and drew that attention and emulation to which all there is of value in modern Scotch poetry is due. It was the inspiration of the genius of Carolina Oliphant, and from this time she began to write the new verses to the old airs, and to replace the imperfect, unworthy, and sometimes coarse and vulgar scraps of songs with the beautiful ones of her own, equally Scotch and racy of the soil, and full of the thoughts and sentiments as well as the dialect of the people.
The old grandfather, worn with disease and living in the past light of fervid days, heard his favorite airs of welcome, gathering, and victory, for the Young Chevalier sung to new and glowing words, and the young ladies laughed at the funny lilts in which were drawn the queer figures of the dullards and provincial fops, without knowing to whose keen pen they were indebted.
The Land o' the Leal was written for Mrs. Archibald Campbell Colquhoun, a dear friend of Miss Oliphant, upon the death of an infant daughter, and to one other only was the secret of its authorship ever definitely disclosed, although its aurora, more or less mysteriously, finally settled around the head of Lady Nairne.
Colquhoun was born Mary Anne Erskine, and was the sister of that William Erskine afterward Lord Kinedder who was the dearest friend and associate of Walter Scott in his early Edinburgh days, and the sister, who kept the house for her brother until her marriage with Mr. Colquhoun, was the earliest and deepest love of Scott. Somewhat late in life Carolina Oliphant married her cousin, Major William Nairne, the heir to the forfeited Barony of Nairne, Assistant Inspector General of Barracks in Scotland, and with him removed to Edinburgh, where she occupied for a time a cottage at Portobello and afterward official quarters in Holyrood place.
The impulse given by Burns to the cultivation of native Scotch poetry still continued, and was being strengthened by his contributions of songs for the music of the old airs in Johnson's Museum, and a coterie of the literary ladies of Edinburgh established the Scotch Minstrel for the same purpose. To this Mrs. Nairne became a contributor, with a single friend for a confidant, under the name of "Mrs. Bogan of Bogan," with other pseudonyms, a disguised handwriting and other elaborate precautions for concealment. There was, of course, a keen curiosity to discover the author of these beautiful songs, but the secret was well guarded, and not even the husband was aware of it.
Nairne wrote to her friend—"lest he blab. Miss Oliphant had been "converted," as the phrase goes, when a young woman on a visit to England, and her piety and religious feeling deepened with her years, until it took on completely the rigid, depressing, and dismal forms of Scotch denominationalism, and her genius for poetry shriveled under it. During the visit of George the Fourth to Edinburgh he signalized his theatrical clemency by a restoration of the forfeited titles of the Jacobite nobility, and Major Nairne became Baron Nairne. Lord Nairne survived his restoration but a few years, and died in , leaving his widow with an only son.
To his education she devoted herself, residing for a time in Bath, afterward in Ireland, and traveling on the Continent for the health of the young lord, who was of feeble constitution, and who died at Brussels in It is painful to read of the narrow bigotry and theological gloom which enveloped the joyous and healthy spirit of Lady Nairne. She would not allow her son to be taught to dance, and regarded her poetry as the somewhat flagitious exercise of a worldly spirit, and spent her days in the doubt and self-affliction of a harsh creed and in the petty interests of a narrow church.
She was deeply interested in the hopeless task of "converting" the Catholics of Ireland and the Jews to Scotch Presbyterianism, and was the mentor of her relatives after the fashion of Mrs. Hannah More, the patroness of bazaars, and at one time with her sister was expelled from an Italian town for distributing Protestant Bibles to the people.
But her native nobleness of character shone through the theological clouds. She was regarded with affection as well as reverence by her younger relatives and her servants, and impressed all who came in contact with her by the cordial grace of her manners, and the aristocratic and highly marked contour of her features, which in the bloom of youth had made her "the Flower of Strathearn. Chalmers for the support of an industrial school for the poor. She lived during her later years at the old house of Gask, the honored guest of her nephew and his wife, and died in at the advanced age of seventy-one, in peace and tranquillity, and with only the gentle decay of her mental faculties and bodily forces.
The year after her death her poems were collected and published under her own name, and the world for the first time knew to whom it was indebted for the songs which had impressed themselves upon the popular heart and become a distinct and notable part of the lyric poetry of Scotland.
The passage mark is a cypher with a twisted tail; in some cases the tail projects into the passage, in others outwardly; thus seeming to indicate whether the houses down the passage are worth calling at or not. Almost every door has its marks; these are varied. In some cases there is a cross on the brickwork, in others a cypher; the figures 1, 2, 3 are also used. Every person may for himself test the accuracy of these statements by the examination of the brickwork near his own doorway—thus demonstrating that mendicity is a regular trade, carried out upon a system calculated to save time, and realize the largest profits.
Provincial residents, who are more likely to view the foregoing extract with an eye of suspicion than are those who live in a position to constantly watch for and profit by evidences of the secret intercommunication indulged in by the dangerous  classes, should note, in favour of the extract given, how significant is the practice of tramps and beggars calling in unfrequented localities, and how obvious it is that they are directed by a code of signals at once complete and imperious. It is bad for a tramp who is discovered disobeying secret orders.
He is marked out and subjected to all kinds of annoyance by means of decoy hieroglyphs, until his life becomes a burden to him, and he is compelled to starve or—most horrible of alternatives—go to work. They, in fact, represented the worst kinds of the two classes. The law has comparatively recently improved these nondescript gentry off the face of the country, and the hawker of the present day is generally a man more sinned against than sinning.
Another use is also made of hieroglyphs. Charts of successful begging neighbourhoods are rudely drawn, and symbolical signs attached to each house to show whether benevolent or adverse. It was obtained from the patterers and tramps who supplied a great many words for this work, and who were employed by the original publisher in collecting Old Ballads, Christmas Carols, Dying Speeches, and Last Lamentations, as materials for a History of Popular Literature.
The reader will, no doubt, be amused with the drawing. The English practice of marking everything, and scratching names on public property, extends itself to the tribe of vagabonds. On the map, as may be seen in the left-hand corner, some Traveller  has drawn a favourite or noted female, singularly nicknamed Three-quarter Sarah.
Where did these signs come from? How strange it would be if some modern Belzoni, or Champollion—say Mr. That the Gipsies were in the habit of leaving memorials of the road they had taken, and the successes that had befallen them, is upon record. It would be hardly fair to close this subject without drawing attention to the extraordinary statement that, actually on the threshold of the gibbet, the sign of the vagabond was to be met with! One gentleman writes from Great Yarmouth to say that, whilst residing in Norwich, he used frequently to see them on the houses and street corners in the suburbs.
Another gentleman, a clergyman, states that he has so far made himself acquainted with the meanings of the signs employed, that by himself marking the characters gammy  and flummuxed on the gate-posts of his parsonage, he enjoys a singular immunity from alms-seekers and cadgers on the tramp. This hint may not be lost on many other sufferers from importunate beggars, yet its publication may lead to the introduction of a new code.
In the night-time a cleft stick is placed in the fence at the cross roads, with an arm pointing down the road their comrades have taken. The marks are always placed on the left-hand side, so that the stragglers can easily and readily find them. Slang is the language of street humour, of fast, high, and low life. Cant, as was stated in the chapter upon that subject, is the vulgar language of secrecy. It must be admitted, however, that within the past few years they have become almost indivisible. They are both universal and ancient, and appear to have been, with certain exceptions, the offspring of gay, vulgar, or worthless persons in every part of the world at every period of time.
The only objection that can be raised to this idea is, that Slang was, so far as can be discovered, traditional, and unwritten, until the appearance of this volume, a state of things which accounts for its many changes, and the doubtful orthography of even its best known and most permanent forms. Slang is almost as old as speech, and must date from the congregating together of  people in cities.
It is the result of crowding, and excitement, and artificial life. We have traces of this as far as we can refer back. Martial, the epigrammatist, is full of Slang. It is often full of the most pungent satire, and is always to the point. Old English Slang was coarser, and depended more upon downright vulgarity than our modern Slang. It was a jesting speech, or humorous indulgence for the thoughtless moment or the drunken hour, and it acted as a vent-peg for a fit of temper or irritability; but it did not interlard and permeate every description of conversation as now.
It was confined to nicknames and improper subjects, and encroached but to a very small extent upon the domain of authorized speech. Indeed, it was exceedingly limited when compared with the vast territory of Slang in such general favour and complete circulation at the present day.
Still, although not an extensive institution, as in our time, Slang certainly did exist in this country centuries ago, as we may see if we look down the page of any respectable History of England. Here is a field of inquiry for the Philological Society, indeed a territory, for there are thirty thousand of these partisan tracts.
Later still, in the court of Charles II. These Slang phrases contained the marrow of his arguments stripped of all superfluous matter, and they fell with ponderous weight and terrible effect upon his opponents. How crammed with Slang are the dramatic works of the last century! The writers of the comedies and farces in those days must have lived in the streets, and written their plays in the public-houses, so filled are they with vulgarisms and unauthorized words.
In Mrs. The scene in which the two Simon Pures, the real and the counterfeit, meet, is one of the best in the comedy. Goldsmith, even, certainly coined a few words as occasion required, although as a rule his pen was pure and graceful, and adverse to neologisms. This also was brimful of Slang. Other authors helped to popularize and extend Slang down to our own time, and it has now taken a somewhat different turn, dropping many of the Cant and old vulgar words, and assuming a certain quaint and fashionable phraseology—familiar, utilitarian, and jovial.
There can be no doubt that common speech is greatly influenced by fashion, fresh manners, and that general change of ideas which steals over a people once in a generation. But before proceeding further into the region of Slang, it will be well to say something on the etymology of the word. The word Slang is only mentioned by two lexicographers—Webster and Ogilvie.
The origin of the word has often been asked for in literary journals and books, but only one man, until recently, ever hazarded an etymology—Jonathan Bee. How far he succeeded in this latter particular, his ridiculous etymology of Slang will show. Slang is not an English word; it is the Gipsy term for their secret language, and its synonym is Gibberish—another word which was believed to have had no distinct origin. It is not worth while troubling the reader with a long account of the transformation into an English term of the word Slang, as it is easily seen how we obtained it. Hucksters and beggars on tramp, or at fairs and races, associate and frequently join in any rough enterprise with the Gipsies.
Modern philologists give the word Slang as derived from the French langue. This is, at all events, as likely as any other derivative. Any sudden excitement or peculiar circumstance is quite sufficient to originate and set going a score of Slang words. Nearly every election or public agitation throws out offshoots of excitement, or scintillations of humour in the shape of Slang terms—vulgar at first, but at length adopted, if possessing sufficient hold on the public mind, as semi-respectable from sheer force of habit.
There is scarcely a condition or calling in life that does not possess its own peculiar Slang. Every workshop, warehouse, factory, and mill throughout the country has its Slang, and so have the public schools and the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. A writer in Household Words No. Speaker in his chair, to the Cabinet Ministers whispering behind it—from mover to seconder, from true blue Protectionist to extremest Radical—Mr. The universality of Slang is extraordinary.
Let any person for a short time narrowly examine the conversation of his dearest and nearest friends, or even analyse his own supposed correct talk, and he shall be amazed at the numerous unauthorized, and what we can only call vulgar, words in constant use. One peculiarity of the growth of Slang is the finding of new meanings for old words.
As, however, we do not make our language, nor for the matter of that our Slang, for the convenience or inconvenience of foreigners, we need not pursue this portion of the subject further. Sound contributes many Slang words—a source that etymologists frequently overlook.
Vulgar words representing action and brisk movement often owe their origin to sound, as has before been remarked. Fashionable or Upper-class Slang is of several varieties. There is the Belgravian, military and naval, parliamentary, dandy, and the reunion and visiting Slang. English officers, civilians, and their families, who have resided long in India, have contributed many terms from the Hindostanee to our language.
The extension of trade in China, and the English settlement of Hong Kong, have introduced among us several examples of Canton jargon, that exceedingly curious Anglo-Chinese dialect spoken in the seaports of the Celestial Empire. While these words have been carried as it were into the families of the upper and middle  classes, persons in a humbler rank of life, through the sailors and soldiers and Lascar and Chinese beggars that haunt the metropolis, have also adopted many Anglo-Indian and Anglo-Chinese phrases.
As this dictionary would have been incomplete without them, they are carefully recorded in its pages. Concerning the Slang of the fashionable world, it has been remarked that it is mostly imported from France; and that an unmeaning gibberish of Gallicisms runs through English fashionable conversation and fashionable novels, and accounts of fashionable parties in the fashionable newspapers. Yet, ludicrously enough, immediately the fashionable magnates of England seize on any French idiom, the French themselves not only universally abandon it to us, but positively repudiate it altogether from their idiomatic vocabulary.
If you were to tell a well-bred Frenchman that such and such an aristocratic marriage was on the tapis , he would stare with astonishment, and look down on the carpet in the startled endeavour to find a marriage in so unusual a place. If you were to talk to him of the beau monde , he would imagine you meant the world which God made, not half-a-dozen streets and squares between Hyde Park Corner and Chelsea Bun House. If you were to point out to him the Dowager Lady Grimgriffin acting as chaperon to Lady Amanda Creamville, he would imagine you were referring to the petit Chaperon rouge —to little Red-Riding Hood.
Carew, we are told, should be Mr. The pronunciation of proper names has long been an anomaly in the conversation of the upper classes of this country. It must not be forgotten, however, that the pronunciation of the upper classes, as regards the names of places just mentioned, is a relic of old times when the orthography was different. The  middle-class man is satisfied to take matters the modern way, but even he, when he wishes to be thought a swell, alters his style.
In fact, the old rule as to proper names being pronounced according to individual taste, is, and ever will be, of absolute necessity, not only as regards the upper and middle, but the lower classes. A costermonger is ignorant of such a place as Birmingham, but understands you in a moment if you talk of Brummagem. Why do not Pall Mall exquisites join with the costermongers in this pronunciation? It is the ancient one. When members get excited, and wish to be forcible, they are now and again, but not very often, found guilty of vulgarisms, and then may be not particular which of the street terms they select, providing it carries, as good old Dr.
The term comes from America, where caucus means a meeting simply. Who that occasionally passes near the Houses of Parliament has not often noticed stout or careful M. Military Slang is on a par, and of a character, with dandy Slang. The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and the great public schools, are the hotbeds of fashionable Slang. Growing boys and high-spirited young fellows detest restraint of all kinds, and prefer making a dash at life in a Slang phraseology of their own to all the set forms and syntactical rules of Alma Mater.
Many of the most expressive words in a common chit-chat, or free-and-easy conversation, are old university vulgarisms. The Slang words in use at Oxford and Cambridge would alone fill a volume. For numerous other examples of college Slang the reader is referred to the Dictionary. Religious Slang, strange as the compound may appear, exists with other descriptions of vulgar speech at the present day. On the contrary, and in justice to the clergy, it must be said that the principal disseminators of pure English throughout the country are the ministers of our Established Church.
Yet it cannot be denied that a great deal of Slang phraseology and expressive vulgarism have gradually crept into the very pulpits which should give forth as pure speech as doctrine. This is an error which, however, has only to be noticed, to be cured. We hear that Mr. It is applied to every person, book, or place not impregnated with Recordite principles. A ludicrous misunderstanding resulting from this phraseology is on record this is not a joke. I rode over there to-day, and found the street particularly broad and cheerful, and there is not a tree in the place. In the Essay to which reference has been made, the religious Slang terms for the two great divisions of the Established Church receive some explanation.
What can be more objectionable than the irreverent and offensive manner in which many Dissenting ministers continually pronounce the names of the Deity—God and Lord? This is, though a Christian impulse, hardly in accordance with our modern times and tolerant habits. Many young preachers strive hard to acquire this peculiar pronunciation, in imitation of the older ministers. What, then, can more properly be called Slang, or, indeed, the most objectionable of Slang, than this studious endeavour to pronounce the most sacred names in a uniformly vulgar and unbecoming manner?
If the old-fashioned preacher whistled Cant through his nose, the modern vulgar reverend whines Slang from the more natural organ. Honesty of purpose and evident truthfulness of remark will, however, overcome the  most virulent opposition. The terms used by the mob towards the Church, however illiberal and satirically vulgar, are fairly within the province of an inquiry such as the present.
Particular as lawyers generally are about the meanings of words, they have not prevented an unauthorized phraseology from arising, which may be termed legal Slang. Lawyers, from their connexion with the police courts, and transactions with persons in every grade of society, have ample opportunities for acquiring street Slang, of which, in cross-questioning and wrangling, they frequently avail themselves.
It has been said there exists a literary Slang, or the Slang of Criticism—dramatic, artistic, and scientific. It is easy to find fault with this system of doing work, whilst it is not easy to discover another at once so easily understood by educated readers, and so satisfactory to artists themselves. Discretion must, of course, always be used, in fact always is used by the best writers, with regard to the quantity of technical Slang an article will hold comfortably.
Overdone mannerism is always a mistake, and generally defeats its own end. Properly used, these technicalities are allowable as the generous inflections and bendings of a bountiful language, for the purpose of expressing fresh phases of thought, and ideas not yet provided  with representative words. To show his partiality to the subject, he once amused his readers with two columns on Slang and Sanscrit, from which the following is taken:—.
While, however, the spirit of allegory comes from the East, there is so great a difference between the brevity of Western expression and the more cumbrous diction of the Oriental, that the origin of a phrase becomes difficult to trace. It is the only word which seems a proper appellation for a great deal which we are obliged to hear and to read every day of our life. The universality of Slang is proved by its continual use in the pages of Punch.
Who ever thinks, unless belonging to a past generation, of asking a friend to explain the stray vulgar words employed by the London Charivari? Many other highly respectable journals often use Slang words and phrases. This is, however, dangerous ground. There exists, too, in the great territory of vulgar speech what may not inappropriately be termed Civic Slang. It consists of mercantile and Stock Exchange terms, and the Slang of good living and wealth.
But before proceeding further in a sketch of the different kinds of Slang, it may be as well to speak here of the extraordinary number of Cant and Slang terms in use to represent money—from farthings to bank-notes the value of fortunes. It is noticeable that coined pieces, and sums which from their smallness or otherwise are mostly in use, receive a commensurate amount of attention from promoters of Slang.
The antiquity of many of these Slang names is remarkable. Little, as a modern writer has remarked, do the persons using these phrases know of their remote and somewhat classical origin, which may, indeed, be traced to a period anterior to that when monarchs monopolized the surface of coined money with their own images and superscriptions.
They are identical with the very name of money among the early Romans, which was pecunia , from pecus , a flock. These coins were frequently deeply crossed on the reverse; this was for the  convenience of easily breaking them into two or more pieces, should the bargain for which they were employed require it, and the parties making it had no smaller change handy to complete the transaction. This remark will safely apply to most descriptions of money; and it must not be forgotten that farthing is but a corruption of fourthing, or, literally, fourth part of a penny.
The representative coin of the realm was often in olden times made to break up,—but this by the way. It simply means to give change. We thence gather, however, that the prow of a vessel would appear to have been the more ordinary device of the reverse of the brass coin of that ancient period. There are many other Cant words directly from a classic source, as will be seen in the dictionary. These are, though, very venial offenders compared with those ghouls, the advertising undertakers, who employ boys, loaded with ghastly little books, to follow up the parish doctor, and leave their horrible wares wherever he calls.
If society, as has been remarked, is a sham, from the vulgar foundation of commonalty to the crowning summit of royalty, then do we perceive the justness of the remark in that most peculiar of peculiarities, the Slang of makeshifts for oaths, and sham exclamations for passion and temper. These apologies for feeling are an addition to our vernacular, and though some argue that they are a disgrace, for the reason that no man should pretend to swear or curse who does not do so, it is some satisfaction to know that they serve the purpose of reducing the stock of national profanity.
In a casual survey of the territory of Slang, it is curious to observe how well represented are the familiar wants and failings of life. Used in an uncomplimentary sense. Some think the term is derived from Abigail Hill Mrs. Abraham-man , a vagabond, such as were driven to beg about the country after the dissolution of the monasteries. They are well described under the title of Bedlam Beggars. Lear , ii. Added to the List , a euphuism current among sporting writers implying that a horse has been gelded. Afternoon Farmer , one who wastes his best opportunity, and drives off the large end of his work to the little end of his time.
Against the Grain , in opposition to the wish. Aggerawators corruption of Aggravators , the greasy locks of hair in vogue among costermongers and other street folk, worn twisted from the temple back towards the ear. This style of adorning the head is, however, fast dying out, and the everyday costermonger or street thief has his hair cut like any one else.
The yearly militia drill may have had a good deal to do with this alteration. Albertopolis , a facetious appellation given by the Londoners to the Kensington Gore district. Now obsolete. All of a Hugh! All-overish , neither sick nor well; the premonitory symptoms of illness. All-rounder , a shirt collar going all round the neck and meeting in front. Once fashionable, but little worn now. All Serene , an ejaculation of acquiescence. Some years back a popular street cry. An artisan would use the same phrase to express the capabilities of a skillful fellow-workman.
Always used as a term of encomium. Also a term much in use among sporting men and expressing want of form, or decadence. Almighty Dollar , an American expression representing the manner in which money is worshipped. Modernly introduced by Washington Irving in The idea of this phrase is, however, far older than the time of Irving. It seems almost obvious that the term must have been applied, not to dollars certainly, but to money, long before the time of Irving.
American Tweezers , an instrument used by an hotel-sneak which nips the wards end of a key, and enables him to open a door from the opposite side to that on which it has been locked. Anointed , i. Product of the squeamishness of the age which tries to thrust away fact by the use of fine words.
Apartments to Let , a term used in reference to one who has a somewhat empty head. The last of all was called St. Apple-pie Bed , a trick played at schools on new comers, or on any boy disliked by the rest. One of the sheets is removed, and the other is doubled in the middle, so that both edges are brought to the top, and look as if both sheets were there; but the unhappy occupant is prevented getting more than half-way down, and he has to remake his bed as best he can. This trick is sometimes played by children of a larger growth. Apple-Cart , the human structure, so far as the phrases with which it is connected are concerned.
Appro , contraction of approbation, a word much in use among jewellers. Atomy , a diminutive or deformed person. Attic Salt , wit, humour, pleasantry. Partly a reference to a suggestive portion of Grecian literature, and partly a sly hit at the well-known poverty of many writers. Audit Ale , extra strong ale supposed to be drunk when the accounts are audited. Auld-Reekie , an affectionate term for the old town of Edinburgh. Derived from its dingy appearance. Aunt Sally , a favourite figure on racecourses and at fairs, consisting of a wooden head mounted on a stick, firmly fixed in the ground; in the nose of which, or rather where the nose should be, a tobacco-pipe is inserted.
Awake , or FLY , knowing, thoroughly understanding. The phrase is not confined to any section of society. Babes , the lowest order of KNOCK-OUTS which see , who are prevailed upon not to give opposing biddings at auctions, in consideration of their receiving a small sum from one shilling to half-a-crown , and a certain quantity of beer.
They can, however, even after this agreement, be secured on the other side for a little longer price. There is no honour among thieves—at all events not among auction thieves—nowadays. Back , to support by means of money, on the turf or otherwise. Probably from the action of a cat when preparing to give battle to an enemy. Back-end , that portion of the year which commences with October. This phrase is peculiar to the turf, and has its origin in the fact that October was actually, and is now nearly, the finishing portion of the racing season.
Metaphor borrowed from the stables. Back Slang It , to go out the back way. Back-Hander , a blow on the face with the back of the hand, a back-handed tip. Also a drink out of turn, as when a greedy person delays the decanter to get a second glass. Anything done slyly or secretly is said to be done in a back-handed manner. Backer , one who places his money on a particular man or animal; a supporter of one side in a contest. Virgil has an almost similar phrase, in pejus ruere , which means, by the way, to go to the worse.
Bad , hard, difficult. Bad Lot , a term derived from auctioneering slang, and now generally used to describe a man or woman of indifferent morals. Badminton proper is made of claret, sugar, spice, cucumber peel, and ice, and was sometimes used by the patrons of the Prize Ring as a synonym for blood. Bagman , a commercial traveller. This word is used more in reference to the old style of commercial travellers than to the present.
Bags , trousers. Bags of mystery is another phrase in frequent use, and refers to sausages and saveloys. Bag of tricks , refers to the whole of a means towards a result. Originally the London bakers supplied the retailers, i. Bald-Faced Stag , a term of derision applied to a person with a bald head.
Ballast , money. A rich man is said to be well-ballasted. If not proud and over-bearing he is said to carry his ballast well. The probability is that a nobleman then first used it in polite society. The term is derived from the Gipsies. Banded , hungry. From the habit hungry folks have of tying themselves tight round the middle. Bank , to put in a place of safety. Bantling , a child; stated in Bacchus and Venus , , and by Grose , to be a cant term. This is hardly slang now-a-days, and modern etymologists give its origin as that of bands or swaddling clothes.
Quite as probably from the sanitary arrangements which have in hot climates counselled the eating of BANYANS and other fruits in preference to meat on certain days. Term used in connexion with an expression too coarse to print. Barge , a term used among printers compositors to denote a case in which there is an undue proportion of some letters and a corresponding shortness of those which are most valuable. Bark , an Irish person of either sex. From this term, much in use among the London lower orders, but for which no etymology can be found, Ireland is now and then playfully called Barkshire.
Among touting photographers he is called a doorsman. Term used by footpads and thieves generally. Hence a marine term for goggles, which they resemble in shape, and for which they are used by sailors in case of ophthalmic derangement. Barney , an unfair race of any kind: a sell or cross. Also a lark, jollification, or outing. Barn Stormers , theatrical performers who travel the country and act in barns, selecting short and tragic pieces to suit the rustic taste. Hence the West country proverb—. The word BASH , among thieves, signifies to flog with the cat or birch.
Baste , to beat, properly to pour gravy on roasting meat to keep it from burning, and add to its flavour. Also a sewing term. Bastile , the workhouse. Bat , to take an innings at cricket. Bat , pace at walking or running. Battells , the weekly bills at Oxford. Batty , wages, perquisites. Used metaphorically as early as Beach-Comber , a fellow who prowls about the sea-shore to plunder wrecks, and pick up waifs and strays of any kind. Saxon , BEAG , a necklace or gold collar—emblem of authority. Bear , one who contracts to deliver or sell a certain quantity of stock in the public funds on a forthcoming day at a stated place, but who does not possess it, trusting to a decline in public securities to enable him to fulfil the agreement and realize a profit.
Both words are slang terms on the Stock Exchange, and are frequently used in the business columns of newspapers. It was the practice of stock-jobbers, in the year , to enter into a contract for transferring South Sea stock at a future time for a certain price; but he who contracted to sell had frequently no stock to transfer, nor did he who bought intend to receive any in consequence of his bargain; the seller was, therefore, called a BEAR , in allusion to the proverb, and  the buyer a BULL , perhaps only as a similar distinction.
The contract was merely a wager, to be determined by the rise or fall of stock; if it rose, the seller paid the difference to the buyer, proportioned to the sum determined by the same computation to the seller. Warton on Pope. Bear-Leader , a tutor in a private family. Bear-up and Bearer-up. Beater-Cases , boots. Nearly obsolete. Trotter cases is the term nowadays. Bed-Fagot , a contemptuous term for a woman; generally applied to a prostitute. Several otherwise sensible and excellent M.
Beeline , the straightest possible line of route to a given point. When a bee is well laden, it makes a straight flight for home. Originally an Americanism, but now general. Beeswing , the film which forms on the sides of bottles which contain good old port wine. Hence the term. The expression was made popular by being once used by Leech. Bell , a song. Bellows , the lungs.
With the P. Bender , a sixpence. Probably from its liability to bend. In the days when the term was most in use sixpences were not kept in the excellent state of preservation peculiar to the currency of the present day. Bendigo , a rough fur cap worn in the midland counties, called after a noted pugilist of that name.
They are a modification of the common Scotch cap, and have peaks. Bene , good. Benjamin , coat. Beong , a shilling. Best , to get the better or BEST of a man in any way—not necessarily to cheat—to have the best of a bargain. Bester , a low betting cheat, a fraudulent bookmaker. Betting Round , laying fairly and equally against nearly all the horses in a race so that no great risk can be run. Commonly called getting round. B Flats , bugs.
Biddy , a general name applied to Irish stallwomen and milkmaids, in the same manner that Mike is given to the labouring men. A big red-faced Irish servant girl is known as a Bridget. Big-wig , a person in authority or office. Bilbo , a sword; abbrev. Bilk , a cheat, or a swindler. Formerly in general use, now confined to the streets, where it is common, and mostly used in reference to prostitutes. Billingsgate when applied to speech , foul and coarse language. Many years since people used to visit Thames Street to hear the Billingsgate fishwomen abuse each other.
The anecdote of Dr. Johnson and the Billingsgate virago is well known. Billy , a silk pocket-handkerchief. Belcher , darkish blue ground, large round white spots, with a spot in the centre of darker blue than the ground. Also stolen metal of any kind. Billy-hunting is buying old metal. A Billy-fencer is a marine-store dealer. Billy was a real person, semi-idiotic, and though in dirt and rags, fancied himself a swell of the first water.
Occasionally he came out with real witticisms. He was a well-known street character about the East-end of London, and died in Whitechapel Workhouse. A BIT is the smallest coin in Jamaica, equal to 6d. Bit usually means the smallest silver coin in circulation; also a piece of money of any kind.
Probably because undergraduates consider tea only fit for old women. The term BITE is also applied to a hard bargainer. Swift says it originated with a nobleman in his day. Originally a Gipsy term. Cross-biter , for a cheat, continually occurs in writers of the sixteenth century. Bittock , a distance of very undecided length. It is also an old English term. Biz , contraction of the word business; a phrase much used in America in writing as well as in conversation. Military officers in mufti , when out on a spree, and not wishing their profession to be known, speak of their barracks as the B.
Black and White , handwriting or print. Blackbirding , slave-catching. Term most applied nowadays to the Polynesian coolie traffic. Blackguard , a low or dirty fellow; a rough or a hulking fellow, capable of any meanness or cowardice. Johnson says, and he cites only the modern authority of Swift. But the introduction of this word into our language belongs not to the vulgar, and is more than a century prior to the time of Swift. Malone agrees with me in exhibiting the two first of the following examples:—The black-guard is evidently designed to imply a fit attendant on the devil.http://sis.wt.com.mx/prego/comedy/minute-motivators-for-teens.php
Auxiliary Out: November
To this smutty regiment, who attended the progresses, and rode in the carts with the pots and kettles, which, with every other article of furniture, were then moved from palace to palace, the people, in derision, gave the name of black guards ; a term since become sufficiently familiar, and never properly explained. Blackleg , a rascal, swindler, or card cheat. Probably it is from the custom of sporting and turf men wearing black top-boots. Black Maria , the sombre van in which prisoners are conveyed from the police court to prison.
Black Monday , the Monday on which boys return to school after the holidays. Also a low term for the Monday on which an execution took place. Blackwork , undertaking. The waiters met at public dinners are often employed during the day as mutes, etc. Bladder-of-Lard , a coarse, satirical nickname for a bald-headed person. From similarity of appearance. Blarney , flattery, powers of persuasion. A castle in the county of Cork. It is said that whoever kisses a certain stone in this castle will be able to persuade others of whatever he or she pleases. Bladh is also flattery; hence the connexion.
Blazes , a low synonym for the infernal regions, and now almost for anything. Bleed , to victimize, or extract money from a person, to sponge on, to make suffer vindictively. Blether , to bother, to annoy, to pester. Blew , or BLOW , to inform, or peach, to lose or spend money. Blind-Half-Hundred , the Fiftieth Regiment of Foot; so called through their great sufferings from ophthalmia when serving in Egypt. Blind Monkeys , an imaginary collection at the Zoological Gardens, which are supposed to receive care and attention from persons fitted by nature for such office and for little else.
Another form this elegant conversation takes, is for one man to tell another that he knows of a suitable situation for him. They wont want no physic when they sees your mug. Blinker , a blackened eye. Also a hard blow in the eye. Bloated Aristocrat , a street term for any decently dressed person. Blob from BLAB , to talk. Block , the head. Also a street obstruction. Since the great rise in the price of meat there has been little necessity for butchers to make block ornaments of their odds and ends.
They are bespoke beforehand. Blood , a fast or high-mettled man. Blood-money , the money that used to be paid to any one who by information or evidence led to a conviction for a capital offence. Nowadays applied to all sums received by informers. Blood-Red Fancy , a particular kind of handkerchief sometimes worn by pugilists and frequenters of prize fights.
Bloody , an expletive used, without reference to meaning, as an adjective and an adverb, simply for intensification. See the condition of the flowers on a dinner-table by the time the company rise. Blow a Cloud , to smoke a cigar or pipe—a phrase used two centuries ago. Most likely in use as long as tobacco here—an almost evident conclusion. Thomas Hood used to tell a story:—. However, I accepted the terms conditionally—that is to say, provided the principle could be properly carried out. Accordingly, I wrote to my butcher, baker, and other tradesmen, informing them that it was necessary, for the sake of cheap literature and the interest of the reading public, that they should furnish me with their several commodities at a very trifling per-centage above cost price.
Blow Up , to make a noise, or scold; formerly a cant expression used among thieves, now a recognised and respectable phrase. Blowing up , a jobation, a scolding. Blowen , originally a showy or flaunting female, now a prostitute only. Bludger , a low thief, who does not hesitate to use violence, literally one who will use a bludgeon. Blue , said of talk that is smutty or indecent. From the colour of his uniform.
Blue , or BLEW , to pawn or pledge. Actually to get rid of. Blue Bellies , a term applied by the Confederate soldiers during the civil war in America to the Federals, the name being suggested by the skyblue gaberdines worn by the Northern soldiers. Blue Billy , the handkerchief blue ground with white spots sometimes worn and used as a colour at prize-fights. Also, the refuse ammoniacal lime from gas factories. Blue Bottle , a policeman. This well-known slang term for a London constable is used by Shakspeare. In Part ii. The beadles of Bridewell whose duty it was to whip the women prisoners were clad in blue.
Blue Devils , the apparitions supposed to be seen by habitual drunkards. Form of del. Blue Murders. Probably from desperate or alarming cries. A term used more to describe cries of terror or alarm than for any other purpose. Blue-Pigeon-Flyer , sometimes a journeyman plumber, glazier, or other workman, who, when repairing houses, strips off the lead, and makes away with it. This performance is, though, by no means confined to workmen. An empty house is often entered and the whole of the roof in its vicinity stripped, the only notice given to the folks below being received by them on the occasion of a heavy downfall of rain.
The Real Frank Zappa Book
The term FLYER has, indeed, of late years been more peculiarly applied to the man who steals the lead in pursuance of his vocation as a thief, than to him who takes it because it comes in the way of his work. Blues , the police. Bluey , lead. Most likely, though, from the colour, as the term is of the very lowest slang. Blunt , money. Far-fetched as this etymology seems, it may be correct, as it is borne out by the analogy of similar expressions. Blurt Out , to speak from impulse, and without reflection, to let out suddenly.
In spite of the nose over the gate the probability is the real name was Brasinium. It is still famous for its beer. Boat , originally to transport; the term is now applied to penal servitude. Bob , a shilling. Bob-a-nob , a shilling a-head. This shows how little they think of the meanings of the phrases most in use among them. Bobbish , very well, clever, spruce. These terms are now almost obsolete, so far as the pursuits mentioned are concerned. Bog-Oranges , potatoes. As, however, the majority of the lower classes of London do believe that potatoes were indigenous to, and were first brought from the soil of Ireland, which is also in some parts supposed to be capable of growing nothing else, they may even believe that potatoes are actually BOG-ORANGES.
Bog-Trotter , satirical name for an Irishman. This has been changed since the extensive alterations in the building, or rather pile of buildings, and the words are now the property of the Bethnal Green Museum. The name is now given to a dried fish bummelow , much eaten by natives and Europeans in Western India. Bone , to steal or appropriate what does not belong to you.
Boned , seized, apprehended. Bone , good, excellent. Bone-Grubber , a person who hunts dust-holes, gutters, and all likely spots for refuse bones, which he sells at the rag-shops, or to the bone-grinders. The term was also applied to a resurrectionist. Bonneting is often done in much better society than that to be found in the ordinary gaming rooms. A man who persuades another to buy an article on which he receives commission or per-centage is said to BONNET or bear-up for the seller.
Booby-Trap , a favourite amusement of boys at school. It consists in placing a pitcher of water on the top of a door set ajar for the purpose; the person whom they wish to drench is then made to pass through the door, and receives the pitcher and its contents on his unlucky head. Books are sometimes used. Book , an arrangement of bets against certain horses marked in a pocket-book made for that purpose. The BOOKMAKER is distinguished from the backer by its being his particular business to bet against horses, or to lay, while the backer, who is also often a professional gambler, stands by the chance of a horse, or the chances of a set of horses about which he supposes himself to be possessed of special information.
When a bookmaker backs a horse in the course of his regular business, it is because he has laid too much against him, and finds it convenient to share the danger with other bookmakers. Books , a pack of cards. Term used by professional card-players. Derived from the circumstance that prisoners on board convict ships were chained to, or were made to crawl along or stand on the booms for exercise or punishment.
Boon-Companion , a comrade in a drinking bout. Boon evidently corruption of BON. Booze , drink. The term is an old one. Bore , a troublesome friend or acquaintance, perhaps so called from his unvaried and pertinacious pushing; a nuisance; anything which wearies or annoys. That this was not so, the constant use of the word nowadays will prove. Please to recollect that this species of BORE is a most useful animal, well adapted for the ends for which nature intended him.
He alone, by constantly returning to the charge, and repeating the same truths and the same requests, succeeds in awakening attention to the cause which he advocates, and obtains that hearing which is granted him at last for self-protection, as the minor evil compared to his importunity, but which is requisite to make his cause understood.
Bore Pugilistic , to press a man to the ropes of the ring by superior weight. In the world of athletics to BORE is to push an opponent out of his course. This is a most heinous crime among rowers, as it very often prevents a man having the full use of the tide, or compels him to foul, in which case the decision of the race is left to individual judgment, at times, of necessity, erroneous. Bosh , nonsense, stupidity. The term was used in this country as early as , and may be found in the Student , vol. Bosh , a fiddle. Bos-Ken , a farmhouse. Boss , a master. Boss-Eyed , said of a person with one eye, or rather with one eye injured, a person with an obliquity of vision.
Bother , trouble or annoyance.
STUDIES IN FOLK-SONG AND POPULAR POETRY,
Blother , an old word, signifying to chatter idly. Bottle-Holder , originally a term in prize ring parlance for the second who took charge of the water-bottle, which was an essential feature in all pugilistic arrangements. Bottom , stamina in a horse or man. Power to stand fatigue; endurance to receive a good beating and still fight on.
Pierce Egan was very fond of the word. Botts , the colic or bellyache. Burns uses it. See Death and Dr. Bouncer , a person who steals whilst bargaining with a tradesman, a swindler, or a lie of more than ordinary dimensions. Bounder , a four-wheeled cab. Because of its jumping motion over the stones. Also a University term for a TRAP , which generally has a very rough time of it on the country roads. Bow-Catcher , or KISS-CURL , a small curl which a few years back used to be, and probably will be again some day, twisted on the cheeks or temples of young—and often old—girls, adhering to the face as if gummed or pasted.
With and Without Sam: Volume 1: A Ditty Full of Old Muck
In old times this was called a lovelock, when it was the mark at which all the Puritan and ranting preachers levelled their pulpit pop-guns, loaded with sharp and virulent abuse. Hall and Prynne looked upon all women as strumpets who dared to let the hair depart from a straight line upon their cheeks. In the days of the Civil Wars, the very last thing a Cavalier would part with was his love-lock. Bowdlerization , a term used in literary circles to signify undue strictness of treatment caused by over-modesty in editing a classic.
Bowlas , round tarts made of sugar, apple, and bread, sold in the streets, especially at the East-end of London. Box the Compass , to repeat the thirty-two points of the compass either in succession or irregularly. Brads , money. Properly a small kind of nails used by cobblers. Both pugilistic and exchangeable terms. Bran-New , quite new. Brass , impudence. In some artillerymen stationed at Norwich were directed to prove some brass ordnance belonging to the city. Brazen-Faced , impudent, shameless.
Quarles in his Emblems says—. Bread-Bags , a nickname given in the army and navy to any one connected with the victualling department, as a purser or purveyor in the Commissariat. Five-and-twenty is the price, but yer shall have them for 20s. Break Shins , to borrow money. Also among schoolboys to be well flogged. Breef , probably identical with BRIEF , a shortened card used for cheating purposes; thus described in an old book of games of about —.
When you cut to your adversary cut at the ends, and then it is a chance if you cut him an honour, because the cards at the ends are all of a length. Thus you may make breefs end-ways as well as sideways. About the highest compliment that in one word can be paid one man. Bridge , a cheating trick at cards, by which any particular card is cut by previously curving it by the pressure of the hand. Briefs , cards constructed on a cheating principle. English translation, by J. Hotten, , p. Brim , a violent irascible woman, as inflammable and unpleasant as brimstone, from which the word is contracted.
Briney , the sea. Broad-Brim , originally applied to a Quaker only, but now used in reference to all quiet, sedate, respectable old men. Broad-Faking , playing at cards. Broads , cards. Broadsman , a card-sharper. See Broad-faking. Broady , cloth. Evidently a corruption of broadcloth. Brosier , a bankrupt. Brother-Chip , originally fellow carpenter. Almost general now as brother tradesman of any kind. Brother-Smut , a term of familiarity.
Brown , a halfpenny. Brown Study , a reverie. Very common even in educated society, but hardly admissible in writing, and therefore considered a vulgarism. Brown Talk , conversation of an exceedingly proper character, Quakerish. Compare BLUE. Bruiser , a fighting man, a pugilist. Brum , a counterfeit coin. Corruption of Brummagem , for meaning of which see Introductory Chapter.
Bub , drink of any kind.
Places of Interest
See ante. Bubble , to over-reach, deceive, to tempt by means of false promises. Acta Regia , ii.