Page images

When the rock was hid by the tempest's swell,
The mariners heard the warning bell;
And then they knew the perilous Rock,
And blessed the priest of Aberbrothok.

The sun in heaven shone so gay,

All things were joyful on that day;
The sea-birds screamed as they sported round,
And there was pleasure in their sound.

The float of the Inchcape Bell was seen,
A darker speck on the ocean green;
Sir Ralph the Rover walked his deck,
And he fixed his eye on the darker speck.

He felt the cheering power of Spring;

It made him whistle, it made him sing;
His heart was mirthful to excess,
But the Rover's mirth was wickedness.

His eye was on the bell and float;

Quoth he, "My men, pull out the boat,
And row me to the Inchcape Rock,
And I'll plague the priest of Aberbrothok."

The boat is lowered, the boatmen row,
And to the Inchcape Rock they go;
Sir Ralph bent over from the boat,
And cut the warning bell from the float.

Down sank the bell with a gurgling sound;

The bubbles rose, and burst aground.

Quoth Sir Ralph, "The next who comes to the Rock Will not bless the priest of Aberbrothok."

Sir Ralph the Rover sailed away;

He scoured the seas for many a day;

And now, grown rich with plundered store,
He steers his course to Scotland's shore.

So thick a haze o'erspreads the sky,
They could not see the sun on high;

The wind hath blown a gale all day;
At evening it hath died away.

On the deck the Rover takes his stand;
So dark it is, they see no land;
Quoth Sir Ralph, "It will be lighter soon,
For there is the dawn of the rising moon."

"Canst hear," said one, "the breakers roar?
For yonder, methinks, should be the shore.
Now where we are I cannot tell,
But I wish we could hear the Inchcape Bell."

They hear no sound; the swell is strong;
Though the wind hath fallen, they drift along,
Till the vessel strikes with a shivering shock—
O Christ, it is the Inchcape Rock!


Charles Lamb was born in one of the chambers of the Inner Temple in London in 1775He was educated at Christ's Hospital, where he had Coleridge as a schoolmate, and passed the active part of his life as a clerk in the East India House. In the Essays of Elia there are many beautiful retrospective pictures of the Temple and its inmates, and of the Charity School. From his youth he was accustomed to a condition but a degree above poverty, and was early taught the useful lessons of self-denial and self-dependence. Later in life his writings added to his income, but his frugal habits remained, and the surplus was unselfishly bestowed upon others. His lot in many respects was a hard one: his father was an imbecile; his sister was a maniac, who, in a sudden frenzy, in his own presence, at the dinner table, killed their mother with a carving-knife, and who required incessant care for the remainder of her frequently clouded life; and, what was almost as hard to bear, his elder brother John refused to contribute anything to the support of this il-starred family, leaving the whole burden upon one slender clerk with the least natural aptitude for business.

The writings of Charles Lamb are not pretentious "works; " they are the natural overflow of an original fountain; they are as personal as the essays of Montaigne, but they have a sweet, unconscious simplicity to which the great Frenchman was a stranger. Lamb may be taken as the incarnation and exemplar of Humor. If the gentle current of his thought sometimes ripples, and again plunges in an unexpected cascade of wit, it is never an incongruous change. The wit of Jerrold bites like a mineral acid; the wit of Bacon crystallizes in aphoristic gems; Sydney Smith, with the spirits of a lively boy, keeps up a crackling blaze of fireworks; Sheridan's stage repartees show the brilliant points of rapier fencing; Hood's puns, though the best, often seem to have been sought out "with malice aforethought;" Lamb, though he might at times resemble the one or the other, never inflicted pain, never "struck an attitude" to say a smart thing, and never ransacked the world for verbal quibbles. His essays and letters, gay, serious, brilliant, and tender by turns, simply reflect, as in a mirror, his delicate, quick, genial nature.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Though shy and reserved before strangers, Lamb was a delightful companion when with his friends. Hazlitt, Procter (“Barry Cornwall "), Talfourd, and others have given full and affectionate accounts of his unique character and inimitable conversation. Hazlitt says, "He always made the best pun and the best remark in the course of the evening. His serious conversation, like his serious writing, is his best. No one ever stammered out such fine, piquant, deep, eloquent things, in a half a dozen sentences, as he does. His jests scald like tears; and he probes a question with a play upon words."

Mr. N. P. Willis, in Pencillings by the Way, describes him as "a gentleman in black small-clothes and gaiters, short and very slight in person, his head set on his shoulders with a thoughtful forward bent, his hair just sprinkled with gray, a beautiful deep-set eye, an aquiline nose, and a very indescribable mouth. Whether it expressed most humor or feeling, good nature or a kind of whimsical peevishness, or twenty other things which passed over it by turns, I cannot in the least be certain."

Lamb died in 1834, aged fifty-nine. His Life and Letters were given to the world by Sir T. N. Talfourd. "Barry Cornwall" also published a memoir, full of personal anecdote, and pervaded by a tender feeling. His works have been reprinted in this country in a handsome library edition of four volumes.


MANKIND, says a Chinese manuscript, which my friend M. was obliging enough to read and explain to me, for the first seventy thousand ages ate their meat raw, clawing or biting it from the living animal, just as they do in Abyssinia to this day. This period is not obscurely hinted at by their great Confucius in the second chapter of his Mundane Mutations, where he designates a kind of golden age by the term Cho-fang, literally the Cooks' Holiday. The manuscript goes on to say, that the art of roasting, or rather broiling (which I take to be the elder brother), was accidentally discovered in the manner following: The swineherd, Ho-ti, having gone out into the woods one morning, as his manner was, to collect mast for his hogs, left his cottage in the care of his eldest son, Bo-bo, a great lubberly boy, who, being fond of playing with fire, as younkers of his age commonly are, let some sparks escape into a bundle of straw, which, kindling quickly, spread the conflagration over every part of their poor mansion till it was reduced to ashes. Together with the cottage, antediluvian makeshift of a building, you a sorry may think it, - what was of much more importance, a fine litter of new-farrowed pigs, no less than nine in number, perished. China pigs have been esteemed a luxury all over the East from the remotest periods that we read of. Bo-bo was in the utmost consternation, as you may think, not so much for the sake of the tenement, which his father and he could easily build up again with a few dry branches, and the labor of an hour or two, at any time, as for the loss of the pigs. While he was thinking what he should say to his father, and wringing his hands over the smoking remnants of one of those

[ocr errors]

untimely sufferers, an odor assailed his nostrils unlike any scent which he had before experienced. What could it proceed from?—not from the burnt cottage, - he had smelt that smell before, — indeed, this was by no means the first accident of the kind which had occurred through the negligence of this unlucky young firebrand. Much less did it resemble that of any known herb, weed, or flower. A premonitory moistening at the same time overflowed his nether lip. He knew not what to think. He next stooped down to feel the pig, if there were any signs of life in it. He burnt his fingers, and to cool them he applied them in his booby fashion to his mouth. Some of the crumbs of the scorched skin had come away with his fingers, and for the first time in his life (in the world's life indeed, for before him no man had known it) he tasted-crackling! Again he felt and fumbled at the pig. It did not burn him so much now; still he licked his fingers from a sort of habit. The truth at length broke into his slow understanding, that it was the pig that smelt so, and the pig that tasted so delicious; and, surrendering himself up to the new-born pleasure, he fell to tearing up whole handfuls of the scorched skin with the flesh next it, and was cramming it down his throat in his beastly fashion, when his sire entered amid the smoking rafters, armed with retributory cudgel, and, finding how affairs stood, began to rain blows upon the young rogue's shoulders as thick as hailstones, which Bo-bo heeded not any more than if they had been flies. The tickling pleasure which he experienced in his lower regions had rendered him quite callous to any inconveniences he might feel in those remote quarters. His father might lay on, but he could not beat him from his pig till he had fairly made an end of it, when, becoming a little more sensible of his situation, something like the following dialogue ensued : —

"You graceless whelp, what have you got there devouring? Is it not enough that you have burnt me down three houses with your dog's tricks, and be hanged to you! but you must be eating fire, and I know not what? What have you got there, I say?"

"O, father, the pig, the pig! do come and taste how nice the burnt pig eats!"

The ears of Ho-ti tingled with horror. He cursed his son, and he cursed himself that ever he should beget a son that should eat burnt pig.

Bo-bo, whose scent was wonderfully sharpened since morning, soon raked out another pig, and, fairly rending it asunder, thrust the lesser half by main force into the fists of Ho-ti, still shouting out,

"Eat, eat, eat the burnt pig, father; only taste; O Lord!"—with such like barbarous ejaculations, cramming all the while as if he would choke.

Ho-ti trembled in every joint while he grasped the abominable thing, wavering whether he should not put his son to death for an unnatural young monster, when the crackling scorching his fingers, as it had done his son's, and applying the same remedy to them, he in his turn tasted some of its flavor, which, make what sour mouths he would for a pretence, proved not altogether displeasing to him. In conclusion (for the manuscript here is a little tedious), both father and son fairly set down to the mess, and never left off till they had despatched all that remained of the litter.

Bo-bo was strictly enjoined not to let the secret escape, for the neighbors would certainly have stoned them for a couple of abominable wretches, who could think of improving upon the good meat which God had sent them. Nevertheless, strange stories got about. It was observed that Ho-ti's cottage was burnt down now more frequently than ever. Nothing but fires from this time forward. Some would break out in broad day, others in the night time. As often as the sow farrowed, so sure was the house of Ho-ti to be in a blaze; and Ho-ti himself, which was the more remarkable, instead of chastising his son, seemed to grow more indulgent to him than ever. At length they were watched, the terrible mystery discovered, and father and son summoned to take their trial at Pekin, then an inconsider-· able assize town. Evidence was given, the obnoxious food itself produced in court, and verdict about to be pronounced, when the foreman of the jury begged that some of the burnt pig, of which the culprits stood accused, might be handed into the box. He handled it, and they all handled it; and burning their fingers, as Bo-bo and his father had done before them, and nature prompting to each of them the same remedy, against the face of all the facts, and the clearest charge which judge had ever given, to the surprise of the whole court, townsfolk, strangers, reporters, and all present, -without leaving the box, or any manner of consultation whatever, they brought in a simultaneous verdict of Not Guilty.

The judge, who was a shrewd fellow, winked at the manifest iniquity of the decision; and when the court was dismissed, went privily, and bought up all the pigs that could be had for love or money. In a few days his Lordship's town-house was observed to be on fire. The thing took wing, and now there was nothing to be seen but fire in every direction. Fuel and pigs grew enormously

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »