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Consequently our dialect approaches nearer to uniformity than that of any other nation.
The English have complained of us for coining new words. Many of those so stigmatized were old ones by them forgotten; and all make now an unquestioned part of the currency wherever English is spoken. Undoubtedly, we have a right to make new words as they are needed by the fresh aspects under which life presents itself here in the New World ; and indeed, wherever a language is alive, it grows. It might be questioned whether we could not establish a stronger title to the ownership of the English tongue than the mother-islanders themselves. Here, past all question, is to be its great home and center. And not only is it already spoken here by greater numbers, but with a far higher popular average of correctness, than in Britain. The great writers of it, too, we might claim as ours, were ownership to be settled by the number of readers and lovers.
As regards the provincialisms to be met with in this volume, I may say that the reader will not find one which is not (as I believe) either native, or imported with the early settlers; nor one which I have not with my own ears heard in familiar use. In the metrical portion of the book, I have endeavored to adapt the spelling as nearly as possible to the ordinary mode of pronunciation. Let the reader who deems me over-particular remember this caution of Martial :
“Quem recitas, meus est, O Fidentine, libellus ;
Sed male cum recitas, incipit esse tuus."
A few further explanatory remarks will not be impertinent.
I shall barely lay down a few general rules for the reader's guidance.
1. The genuine Yankee never gives the rough sound to the r when he can help it, and often displays considerable ingenuity in avoiding it even before a vowel.
2. He seldom sounds the final g; a piece of self-denial, if we consider his partiality for nasals. The same of the final d, as han' and stan' for hand and stand.
3. The h in such words as while, when, where, he omits altogether.
4. In regard to a, he shows some inconsistency; sometimes giving a close and obscure sound, as hev for have, hendy for handy, ez for as, thet for that ; and again giving it the broad sound it has in father, as hånsome for handsome.
5. To the sound ou he prefixes an e (hard to exemplify otherwise than orally). The following passage in Shakspeare he would recite thus:
"Neow is the winta uv eour discontent
Med glorious summa by this sun o'Yock;
An' all the cleouds thet leowered upun cour heouse
In the deep buzzum o'the oshin buried.
Neow air cour breows beound 'ith victorious wreaths;
Eour brcusèd arms hung up fer monimunce ;
Eour starn alarums changed to merry meetin's,
Eour dreflle marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged War heth smeuthed his wrinkled front;
An' neow, instid o' mountin' barebid steeds
To fright the souls o' ferfle edverseries,
He capers nimly in a lady's chamber
To the lascivious pleasin' uv a loot.”
6. Au, in such words as daughter and slaughter, he pronounces ah.
7. To the dish thus seasoned add a drawl ad libitum.
[Mr. Wilbur's notes here become entirely fragmentary. — C. N.]
A SECOND LETTER FROM B. SAWIN, ESQ. [In the following epistle, we behold Mr. Sawin returning, a miles emeritus, to the bosom of his family. Quantum mutatus ! The good Father of us all had doubtless intrusted to the keeping of this child of his certain faculties of a constructive kind. He had put in him a share of that vital force, the nicest economy of every minute atom of which is necessary to the perfect development of humanity. He had given him a brain and heart, and so had equipped his sonl with the two strong wings of knowledge and love, whereby it can mount to hang its nest under the eaves of heaven. And this child, so dowered, he had intrusted to the keeping of his vicar, the State. How stands the account of that stewardship? The State or Society (call her by what name you will) had taken no manner of thought of him till she saw him swept out into the street, the pitiful leavings of last night's debauch, with cigar-ends, lemon-parings, tobacco-quids, slops, vile stenches, and the whole loathsome next-morning of the bar-room, - - an own child of the Almighty God! I remember him as he was brought to be christened, a ruddy, rugged babe : and now there he wallows, reeking, seething; – the dead corpse, not of a man, but of a soul; a putrefying lump, horrible for the life that is in it. Comes the wind of heaven, that Good Samaritan, and parts the hair upon his forehead, nor is too nice to kiss those parched, cracked lips; the morning opens upon him her eyes full of pitying sunshine; the sky yearns down to him: and there he lies fermenting. 0 Sleep!-let me not profane thy holy name by calling that stertorous unconsciousness a slumber! By and by comes along the State, God's vicar. Does she say, “My poor, forlorn foster-child! – behold here a force which I will make dig and plant and build for me!” Not so; but, “ Here is a recruit ready-made to my hand, a piece of destroying energy lying unprofitably idle." So she claps an ugly gray suit on him, puts a musket in his grasp, and sends him off, with gubernatorial and other godspeeds, to do duty as a destroyer.
I made one of the crowd at the last Mechanics' Fair, and with the rest stood gazing in wonder at a perfect machine, with its soul of fire, its boiler-heart that sent the hot blood pulsing along the iron arteries, and its thews of steel. And while I was admiring the adaptation of means to end, the harmonious involutions of contrivance, and the never-bewildered complexity, I saw a grimed and greasy fellow, the imperions engine's lackey and drudge, whose sole office was to let fall at intervals a drop or two of oil upon a certain joint. Then my soul said within me,
See there a piece of mechanism to which that other you marvel at is but as the rude first effort of a child; a force which not merely suffices to set a few wheels in motion, but which can send an impulse all through the infinite future; a contrivance, not for turning out pins or stitching button-holes, but for making Hamlets and Lears. And yet this thing of iron shall be housed, waited on, guarded from rust and dust, and it shall be a crime but so much as to scratch it with a pin; while the other, with its fire of God in it, shall be buffeted hither and thither, and finally sent carefully a thousand miles to be the target for a Mexican cannon-ball. Unthrifty Mother State!” My heart burned within me for pity and indignation, and I renewed this covenant with my own soul: In aliis mansuetus ero, al, in blasphemiis contra Christum, non ita. — H. W.]
I s'pose you wonder ware I be; I can't tell, fer the soul o' me,
Exacly ware I be myself, — meanin' by thet the holl o' me.
Wen I left hum, I hed two legs, an' they worn't bad ones neither,
(The scaliest trick they ever played wuz bringin' on me hither,)
Now one on ’em's I dunno ware; - they thought I wuz adyin',
An' sawed it off because they said 'twuz kin' o' mortifyin':
I'm willin' to believe it wuz, an' yit I don't see, nuther,
Wy one should take to feelin' cheap a minnit sooner 'n t'other,
Sence both wuz equilly to blame; but things is ez they be.
It took on so they took it off, an' thet's enough fer me;
There's one good thing, though, to be said about my wooden new one,
The liquor can't git into it ez't used to in the true one;
So it saves drink; an' then, besides, a feller couldn't beg
A gretter blessin' then to hev one ollers sober peg;
It's true a chap's want o' two fer follerin' a drum,
But all the march I'm up to now is jest to Kingdom Come.
I've lost one eye, but thet's a loss it's easy to supply
Out o' the glory thet I've gut, fer thet is all my eye;
An' one is big enough, I guess, by diligently usin' it,
To see all I shall ever git by way o'pay fer losin' it.
Off'cers, I notice, who git paid fer all our thumps an' kickin's,
Du wal by keepin' single eyes arter the fattest pickin's ;
So, ez the eye's put fairly out, I'll larn to go without it,
An' not allow myself to be no gret put out about it.
Now, le' me see, thet isn't all; I used, 'fore leavin' Jaalam,
To count things on my fingereends, but sutthin' seems to ail 'em :
Ware's my lett hand ? oh I darn it, yes, I recollect wut's come on't;
I hain't no left arm but my right, an' thet's gut jest a thumb on't;
It ain't so hendy ez it wuz to cal'late a sum on't.
I've hed some ribs broke, six (I b'lieve),– I hain't kep no account on
Wen pensions git to be the talk, I'll settle the amount on 'em.
An' now I'm speakin' about ribs, it kin' o' brings to mind
One thet I couldn't never break, – the one I let' behind;
Ef you should see her, jest clear out the spout o' your invention,
An' pour the longest sweetnin’in about an annooal pension,
An' kin' o' hint (in case, you know, the critter should refuse to be
Consoled) I ain't so 'xpensive now to keep ez wut I used to be;
There's one arın less, ditto one eye, an' then the leg thet's wooden
Can be took off an' sot away wenever ther''s a puddin'.
I s'pose you think I'm comin' back ez opperlunt ez thunder,
With shiploads o' gold images an' varus sorts o' plunder :
Wal, 'fore I vullinteered, I thought this country wuz a sort o'
Canaan, a reg'lar Promised Land, flowin' with rum an’ water,
Ware propaty growed up like time, without no cultivation,
An' gold wuz dug ez taters be among our Yankee nation ;
Ware nateral advantages were pufficly amazin';
Ware every rock there wuz about with precious stuns wuz blazin';
Ware mill-sites filled the country up ez thick ez you could cram 'em,
An' desput rivers run about abeggin' folks to dam 'em;
Then there were meetinhouses, tu, chockful o' gold an' silver,
Thet you could take, an' no one couldn't hand ye in no bill fer, -
Thet's wut I thought afore I went, thet's wut them fellers told us
Thet stayed to hum an' speechified an' to the buzzards sold us;
I thought thet gold mines could be gut cheaper than china-asters,
An' see myself acomin' back like sixty Jacob Astors;
But sech idees soon melted down an' didn't leave a grease-spot ;
I vow my holl sheer o’the spiles wouldn't come nigh a V spot.
Although most anywares we've ben, you needn't break no locks,
Nor run no kin' o risks to fill your pocket full o' rocks.
I guess I mentioned in my last some o' the nateral feeturs
O'this all-fiered buggy hole in th’ way o' awfle creeturs;
But I fergut to name (new things to speak on so abounded)
How one day you'll most die o' thust, an' 'fore the next git drownded.
The clymit seems to me jest like a teapot made o' pewter
Our Prudence hed, thet wouldn't pour (all she could du) to suit her:
Fust place the leaves 'ould choke the spout, so 's not a drop 'ould dreen out,
Then Prude 'ould tip an' tip an' tip, till the holl kit bust clean out;
The kiver-hinge-pin bein' lost, tea-leaves an' tea, an' kiver
'ould all come down kerswosh! ez though the dam broke in a river.
Jest so 'tis here; holl months there aint a day o' rainy weather,
An' jest ez th' officers 'ould be alayin' heads together
Ez t how they'd mix their drink at sech a milingtary deepot,
’T ’ould pour ez though the lid wuz off the everlastin' teapot.
The cons'quence is, thet I shall take, wen I'm allowed to leave here,
One piece o' propaty along, - an' thet's the shakin' fever;
It's reggilar employment, though, an' thet aint thought to harm one,
Nor 't aint so tiresome ez it wuz with t'other leg an' arm on;
An' it's a consolation tu, although it doosn't pay,
To hev it said you're some gret shakes in any kin' o' way:
'T worn't very long, I tell ye wut, I thought o' fortin-makin,
One day a reg'lar shiver-de-freeze, an' next ez good ez bakin',
One day abrilin' in the sand, then smoth’rin' in the mashes, -
up all sound, be put to bed a mess o' hacks an' smashes.
But then, thinks I, at any rate there's glory to be hed, -
Thet's an investment, arter all, thet mayn't turn out so bad ;
But somehow, wen we'd fit an' licked, I ollers found the thanks
Gut kin' o' lodged afore they come ez low down ez the ranks.
The Gin’rals gut the biggest sheer, the Cunnles next, an' so on, –
We never gut a blasted mite o' glory ez I know on;
An', spose we hed, I wonder how you're goin' to contr its
Division so's to give a piece to twenty thousand privits.
Ef you should multiply by ten the portion o' the brav'st one,
You wouldn't git mor'n half enough to speak of on a grave-stun;
We git the licks, — we're jest the grist thet's put into War's hoppers;
Leftenants is the lowest grade thet helps pick up the coppers.
It may suit folks thet go agin a body with a soul in't,
An' aint contented with a hide without a bagnet hole in't ;
But glory is a kin' o' thing I shan't pursue no furder,
Coz thet's the off'cers parquisite, —yourn's on'y jest the murder.
Wal, arter I gin glory up, thinks I at least there's one
Thing in the bills we aint hed yit, an' thet's the GLORIOUS FUN;
Ef once we git to Mexico, we fairly may persume we
All day an' night shall revel in the halls o' Montezumy.
I'll tell ye wut my revels wuz, an' see how you would like 'em :
We never gut inside the hall; the nighest ever I come
Wuz stan'in sentry in the sun (an', fact, it seemed a centry)
A ketchin' smells o' biled an' roast thet come out thru the entry,
An' hearin', ez I sweltered thru my passes an' repasses,
A rat-tat-too o' knives an' forks, a clinkty-clink o'glasses.
I can't tell off the bill o' fare the Gin’rals hed inside;
All I know is, thet out o' doors a pair o' soles wuz fried,
An', not a hunderd miles away frum ware this child wuz posted,
A Massachusetts citizen wuz baked an' biled an' roasted
The on’y thing like revellin' thet ever come to me
Wuz bein' routed out o' sleep by thet darned revelee.
They say the quarrel's settled now; fer my part I've some doubt on't; .
'T ’li take more fish-skin than folks think to take the rile clean out on't;
At any rate, I'm so used up I can't do no more fightin',
The on'y chance thet's left to me is politics or writin'.
Now, ez the people's gut to hev a milingtary man,
An' Í aint nothin' else jest now, I've hit upon a plan;
The can'idatin' line, you know, 'ould suit me to a T,
An', ef I lose, 't wunt hurt my ears to lodge another flea:
So I'll set up ez can'idate fer any kin' o' office,
(I mean fer any thet includes good easy-cheers an' soffies ;
Fer ez to runnin' fer a place ware work's the time o'day,
You know thet's wut I never did, - except the other way;)
Ef it's the Presidential cheer fer wich I'd better run,
Wut two legs anywares about could keep up with my one?
There aint no kin' o' quality in can'idates, it's said,
So useful ez a wooden leg, — except a wooden head;
There's nothin' aint so poppylar (wy, it's a parfect sin
To think wut Mexico hez paid fer Santy Anny's pin) –
Then I hain't gut no principles, an', sence I wuz knee-high,
I never did hev any gret, ez you can testify;
I'm a decided peace-man tu, an' go agin the war,
Fer now the holl on't 's gone an' past, wut is there to go for?
Et, wile you're 'lectioneerin' round, some curus chaps should beg
To know my views o' State affairs, jest answer, “ WOODEN LEG!”.
Ef they aint settisfied with thet, an' kin' o' pry an' doubt
An' ax fer sutthin' deffynit, jest say, “ ONE EYE PUT OUT!”
Thet kin' o' talk I guess you'll find'll answer to a charm,
An', wen you're druv tu nigh the wall, hol' up my missin' arm;
Ef they should nose round fer a pledge, put on a vartoous look,
An' tell 'em thet's percisely wut I never gin nor — took !
Then you can call me “ Timbertoes ; "thet's wut the people likes, –
Sutthin' combinin' morril truth with phrases sech ez strikes ;
say the people's fond o' this, or thet, or wut you please :
I tell ye wut the people want is jest correct idees.
“ Old Timbertoes,” you see, 's a creed it's safe to be quite bold on,
There's nothin'in't the other side can any ways git hold on;
It's a good tangible idee, a sutthin to embody
Thet valooable class o' men who look thru brandy-toddy;