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BY DR. DONNE.
“I am unable", yonder Beggar cries
Here the wit arises from the word lies signifying both lies down and tells an untruth.
When Jack was poor, the lad was frank and free;
Of late he's grown brim-full of pride and pelf; You wonder that he don't remember me;
Why so ? You see he has forgot himself.
Here, the word forgot signifying to have lost the remembrance of a thing in the literal sense, and in a figurative sense to have neglected to conduct himself properly, in the same manner as if he had really lost the memory of who he was, an excellent and severe piece of wit arises : It is improved by the antithesis between the words remember and forgot.
The last I shall produce is from the Collection in the Elegant Extracts, similar to one
given in your Essay on Ingenious and Witty Songs, p. 174.
FROM MARTIAL, B. VIII.
But, take his word for’t; Hall's not worth a groat. Where the wit consists in not worth signifying both not possessed of and not of the value of.
If we compare these with some Epigrams which do not depend upon puns, the superiority of the wit or comic effect in the pun will be the more apparent. I select the following from the Elegant Extracts, which are some that I had previously marked as amongst the best there without any reference to this subject.
To Joho I ow'd great obligation,
But John unhappily thought fit
Young Courtly takes me for a dunce,
Jack his own merit sees. This gives him pride,
BY JOSIAH RELPH.
I own indeed he's got a knack
But scorps to do't behind their back.
Tom, ever jorial, ever gay,
To appetite a slave,
And laughs to see me grave.
So different is our whim,
But, as thou read'st them, they may pass for thine.
Clodio, they say, has wit; for what?
EPITAPH ON A MISER.
Here lies the worst of thieves, who robb'd himself. These instances may be concluded with The Epigram on an Epigram from the Oxford Sausage.
Says Ralph, a merry Wag,
Be like a Jelly-Bag."
“ Your Simile, I own, is new,
Quoth Ralph," I'll tell thee Friend ;
And point it at the End."
Here, though in fact there is a double meaning in the word point, signifying the tapering end of any thing, and also the turn or sting of an epigram, yet there is too great a similarity in the two senses, the contrast is not sufficiently great to cause much surprise, and much laughter.
Some of the best of the wit by the generallyacknowledged wittiest writer of the age consists
of pun, as for instance, in The School for Scandal, A. ii. S. 2.
Mrs. Candour. She has a charmiog fresh colour.
Lady T. Yes, it comes at night, and goes again in the morning.
Sir Benjarnin. True, madam, it not only goes and comes, but, what's more, her maid can fetch and carry it,
Again, in The Duenna, A. ii. S. 3. Jerome. She has her aunt Ursula's nose, and her grandmother's forehead to a hair. Isaac. Aye, and her grandfather's chin, to a hair.
Instances might be multiplied without end from some of our best authors.
Of Comic Songs containing puns, the first, which at this time presents itself to my notice, is one of Trudge's, in Inkle and Yarico, in which the puns, though not of the first rate, are yet amusing. In a Song, where there are several, and there is the additional pleasure derived from the music, a less degree of excellence will suffice than in an Epigram, where the whole life of it depends upon the pun or point.