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WASHINGTON AND FRANKLIN. From "Imaginary Conversations." By WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR.
resembles that of Ebenezer Bullock toward his eldest son, Jonas.
Washington—I remember old Ebenezer; and I believe it was Jonas who, when another youth, after giving him much offence and seeing him unresisting would fain fight him, replied: "Nay, I will not fight thee, friend; but if thou dost with that fist what thou threatenest, by the Lord's help I will smite thee sore, marking thee for one of an ill, unprofitable flock; and thou shalt walk home in heaviness, like a wether the first morning he was made one." Whereat he took off his coat, folded it up, and laid it on the ground, saying, "This at least hath done no harm, and deserveth good treatment.” The adversary, not admiring such an object of contemplation, went away muttering more reasonable threats, conditional and subjunctive. Ebenezer, I guess, aggravated and wore out his son's patience; for the old man was rich and testy, and would have his comforts neither encroached upon nor much partaken.
Franklin-My story is this. Jonas had been hunting in the woods, and had contracted a rheumatism in the face which drew it awry, and, either from the pain it occasioned or from the medicines he took to cure it, rotted one of his grinders. Old Ebenezer was wealthy, had little to do or to care about, made few observations on his family, sick or sound, and saw nothing particular in his son's countenance. However, one day after dinner when he had eaten heartily, he said, “Son
Jonas, methinks thy appetite is not over-keen; pick (and welcome) the other half of that hog's foot.”
"Father," answered he, “I have had a pain in my tooth the last fortnight; the northerly wind does it no good to-day. I would rather, if so be that you approve of it, eat a slice of yon fair cheesecake in the closet." “Why, what ails the tooth?"
the tooth?" said Ebenezer. “Nothing more," replied Jonas, “than that I cannot chew with it what I used to chew." “Drive a nail in the wall," quoth stoutly and courageously Ebenezer,“tie a string to one end, and lace the other round thy tooth."
The son performed a part of the injunction, but could not very dexterously twist the string around the grinder, for his teeth were close and the cord not overfine. Then said the father kindly, "Open thy mouth, lad! give me the twine: back thy head, -back it, I tell thee, over the chair." .
"Not that, father! not that; the next," cried Jonas. “What dost mean?" proudly and impatiently said Ebenezer. “Is not the string about it? Dost hold my hand too, scapegrace? Dost give me this trouble for nought?" "Patience, now, father!" meekly said Jonas, with the cord across his tongue; “let me draw my tooth my own way."
"Follow thine own courses, serpent!" indignantly exclaimed Ebenezer. “As God's in Boston, thou art a most wilful and undutiful child.” “I hope not, father.” “Hope not! rebel! Did I not beget thee and thy teeth, one and all? Have not I lodged thee, clothed thee, and fed thee, these forty years; and now, I warrant ye, all this bustle and backwardness about a rotten tooth! Should I be a groat the richer for it, out or in?''
Washington-Dignity in private men and in governments has been little else than a stately and stiff perseverance in oppression; and spirit, as it is called, little else than the foam of hard-mouthed insolence. Such at last is become the audacity of Power, from a century or more of holidays and riot, it now complains that you deprive it of its prerogative if you limit the exercise of its malignity. I lament that there are those who can learn no lesson of humanity, unless we write it broadly with the point of the sword.
Franklin-Let us hope, however, that we may see the day when these scholars shall be turned out of school.
Washington—The object of our cares and solicitudes, at present, is the stability of the blessings we have obtained. No attempt against them is dangerous from without, nor immediately from within; but the seeds of corruption are inherent, however latent, in all bodies, physical and political; guards therefore should be stationed, and laws enacted, to deter adventurers from attempts at despotism.
It happened that some accidental reviser of the manuscript had taken the liberty to alter a line in a poem of Cowper's. This liberty drew from the offended poet the following very just and animated remonstrance, which I am anxious to preserve because it elucidates, with great felicity of expression, his deliberate ideas on English versification.-(Note by Hayley.)
DID not write the line that has been tampered
with hastily, or without due attention to the construction of it; and what appeared to me its only merit is, in its present state, entirely annihilated.
I know that the ears of modern verse writers are delicate to an excess, and their readers are troubled with the same squeamishness as themselves. So that if a line do not run as smooth as quicksilver, they are offended. A critic of the present day serves a poem as a cook does a dead turkey, when she fastens the legs of it to a post and draws out all the sinews. For this we may thank Pope; but unless we could imitate him in the closeness and compactness of his expression, as well as in the smoothness of his numbers, we had better drop the imitation, which serves no other purpose than to emasculate and weaken all we write. Give me a manly rough line, with a deal of meaning in it, rather than a whole poem full of musical periods, that have nothing but their oily smoothness to recommend them!
I have said thus much, as I hinted in the beginning, because I have just finished a much longer poem than
the last, which our common friend will receive by the
lines which an ear so nice as the gentleman's who made the above-mentioned alteration would undoubtedly condemn; and yet (if I may be permitted to say it) they cannot be made smoother without being the worse for it. There is a roughness on a plum which nobody that understands fruit would rub off, though the plum would be much more polished without it.
But, lest I tire you, I will only add that I wish you to guard me from all such meddling; assuring you that I always write as smoothly as I can; but that I never did, never will, sacrifice the spirit or sense of a passage to the sound of it.