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true, madam, replies the hussey, ‘for whenever I told a round lye, you was so good as to bid me take your cap.' The court fell into a violent fit of laughter, and the jury acquitted the prisoner.”
TO BEAR THE BELL. A WRITER in the Gent. Mag. i. 515, says : " A bell was the common prize : a little golden bell was the reward of victory in 1607 at the races near York; whence came the proverb for successe of
any kind, « To bear the bell.' In Ray's Collection of English Proverbs we find 'to bear away the bell,' which seems to be the more genuine reading.” A writer, ibid. li. 25, inquires “If the proverb · Bearing away the bell’ does not mean carrying or winning the fair lady (belle)." In Dudley Lord North's Forest of Varieties, p. 175, we read :
“Jockey and his horse were by their master sent
To put in for the bell-
They are to run, and cannot misse the bell.” In Paradoxical Assertions and Philosophical Problems, by R. H., 1664, p. 4, speaking of women, the author says: “Whoever bears the bell away, yet they will ever carry the clapper.”
TO PLUCK A CROW, &c. In the second part of Dekker's Honest Whore, 1630, I find the following passage “We'll pull that old crow my father.” The subsequent occurs in the Workes of John Heiwood, 1598 :
“ He loveth well sheep's flesh, that wets his bred in the wull.
If he leave it not, we have a crow to pull.” A jealous wife is speaking concerning certain liberties which her husband is always taking with her maid. In Howell's Proverbs, fol. London, 1659, p. 2, we read :“I have a goose to pluck with you : viz. I have something to complain of.”
À writer in the Gent. Mag. li. 367, inquires after the origin of the phrase “I found everything at sixes and sevens, as the old woman left her house."
Dr. Pegge, in the Gent. Mag. for Sept. 1767, xxxvii. 442, derives the word dab, in the phrase of “ a dab at such or such a thing," as a vulgar corruption of the Latin adeptus; “a cute man,” in like manner, from the Latin acutus; and the word spice, when meaning a jot, bit, small portion, or least mixture (as “there is no spice of evil in perfect goodness”), from the French word espèce : thus Caxton, in his Mirrour of the World,
• God's bounte is all pure, without ony espece of evyll.” The French espèce is derived from the Latin species.
A writer under the signature of G. S., in the same work for March 1775, xxv. 115, says : “ Spick and span new is an expression, the meaning of which is obvious, though the words want explanation : and which, I presume, are a corruption of the Italian spiccata della spanna, snatched from the hand; opus ablatum incude ; or, according to another expression of our own, fresh from the mint ; in all which the same idea is conveyed by a different metaphor. Our language abounds with Italicisms."
He adds : “There is another expression much used by the vulgar, wherein the sense and words are equally obscure : An't please the pigs. Pigs is most assuredly a corruption of pyx, the vessel in which the host is kept in Roman Catholic countries. The expression, therefore, means no more than Deo volente ; or, as it is translated into modern English by coachmen and carriers, God willing.”
So the phrase corporal oath is supposed to have been derived—“not from the touching the New Testament, or the bodily act of kissing it, but from the ancient use of touching the corporale or cloth which covered the consecrated elements."
In Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland, iii. 380, the minister of Applecross, in the county of Ross, speaking of his parish, says: “This parish, like some of the Western Isles, hath its characteristical expressions : the Leabharfein of Sky, i. e. by the book itself, meaning the Bible; the Danish Mhoirc of Lewes, i. e. by the great sabbath ; and the Ider of Applecross, i. e.
by St. Iderius ; are so characteristical of the natives of these several places, that, when talking the Gaelic language,
hey can, with few exceptions, be easily distinguished in any part of the globe. They are the remnants of Popish oaths, which, having lost their original meaning, are now used merely as expletives in conversation.”
EPPING STAG HUNT. t"On Monday last Epping Forest was enlivened, according to ancient custom, with the celebrated stag hunt. The road from Whitechapel to the Bald-faced Stag, the Forest, was covered with Cockney sportsmen, chiefly dressed in the costume of the chace, viz. scarlet frock, black jockey cap, new boots, and buckskin breeches. By ten o'clock the assemblage of civic hunters, mounted on all sorts and shapes, could not fall short of 1200. There were numberless Dianas also of the chace, from Rotherhithe, the Minories, &c., some in riding habits, mounted on titups, and others by the sides of their mothers, in gigs, tax-carts, and other vehicles appropriate to the sports of the field. The Saffron Waldon stag-hounds made their joyful appearance about half after ten, but without any of the Mellishes or Bosanquets, who were more knowing sportsmen, than to risque either themselves, or their horses, in so desperate a burst ! The huntsman having capped their halfcrowns, the horn blew just before twelve, as a signal for the old fat one-eyed stag (kept for the day) being enlarged from the cart. He made a bound of several yards, over the heads of some pedestrians, at first starting-when such a clatter commenced, as the days of Nimrod never knew. Some of the scarlet jackets were sprawling in the high road a few minutes after starting-so that a lamentable return of maimed ! missing ! thrown ! and thrown-out ! may naturally be supposed.”Chelmsford Chron., 15th April, 1805.]
WILL WITH A WISP.
This phenomenon is called Will or Kitty with a wisp, or Jack with a lantern. To these vulgar names of it may be added, Kit of the canstick (i. e. candlestick), for so it is called by Reginald Scot, p. 85.
[And it was also termed Peg-a-lantern, as in the following extract:
" I should indeed as soon expect
That Peg-a-lantern would direct
Pegg's dancing light does oft betray
Poor Robin, 1777.] Wisp, in the name of this phenomenon, implies a little twist of straw, a kind of straw torch. Thus Junius in verbo: “Frisiis 'wispien,' etiamnum est ardentes straminis fasciculos in altum tollere.” These names have undoubtedly been derived from its appearance, as if Will, Jack, or Kit, some country-fellows, were going about with lighted straw torches in their hands."
Wisp properly signifies a little twist of straw, for the purpose of easing the head under the pressure of some heavy burthen. In the vulgar dialect of Newcastle-upon-Tyne it has been corrupted into weeze. It means also a handful of strawfolded up a little, to wipe anything with. Thus, in the Vision of Piers Plowman :
“And wish'd it had been wiped with a wisp of firses.”—Pass. V. In the old play of the Vow-breaker, or the Fayre Maid of Clifton, 1636, act ii. sc. 1, we read : “Ghosts, hobgoblins, Will with a wisp, or Dicke a Tuesday.”
“ It is called ignis fatuus, or foolish fire,” says Blount, “because it only feareth fools. Hence it is, when men are led away with some idle fancy or conceit, we use to say an ignis fatuus hath done it."
“A wandering fire,
Milton's Par. Lost, h.ix. I. 634. “ How Will a' wisp misleads night-faring clowns
O’er hills, and sinking bogs, and pathlesss downs." Gay. This appearance, called in Latin ignis fatuus, has long composed an article in the Catalogue of Popular Superstitions.Clowns, however, are not the only persons who have been
misled by it, for, as the subsequent account of it will evince, it has hitherto eluded the most diligent pursuit of our writers of natural history. The phenomenon is said to be chiefly seen in summer nights, frequenting meadows, marshes, and other moist places. It is often found also flying along rivers and hedges, as if it met there with a stream of air to direct it.
The expression in Shakespeare's Tempest, act iv. sc. 1, “played the Jack with us,” is explained by Johnson, “ he has played Jack with a lantern, he has led us about like an ignis fatuus, by which travellers are decoyed into the mire.'
“Milton's Frier's Lantern in L'Allegro is the Jack and Lantern,” says Warton, “which led people in the night into marshes and waters ;” the poet's account of the philosophy of this superstition has been already quoted in the first uotto. This appearance has anciently been called elf-fire; thus, in the title-page of a curious old tract, called Ignis Fatuus, or the Elf-fire of Purgatorie, 4to. 1625, 57 pages. In Warwickshire, Mab-led (pronounced mob-led) signifies led astray by a Will o' the wisp.
It had the title also of Gyl burnt tayle, or Gillion a burnt taile. So in Gayton's Festivous Notes
Don Quixot, 1654, p. 268 : “An ignis fatuus, an exhalation and Gillion a burnt taile, or Will with the wispe.” Also, in p. 97 : “ Will with the wispe, or Gyl burnt tayle.”
It is called also a Sylham lamp. Thus, in Gough's Camden, vol. ii. p. 90, Suffolk : "In the low grounds at Sylham, just by Wingfield, in Suffolk, are the ignes fatui, commonly called Sylham lamps, the terror and destruction of travellers, and even of the inhabitants, who are frequently misled by them.” Reginald Scot, p. 85, before he mentions • Kit with the canstick,” has the word “Sylens,” which, I have no doubt, is a corruption of the above Sylham.
In a very rare tract in my collection, entitled a Personall Treaty with his Majesty and the two honourable Houses to be speedily holden, who knowes where ? At no place, or when? Can ye tell ? 31 July, printed in the yeare 1648, 4to., we read, p. 81:“No, it may be conjectured that some ignis fatuus, or a fire-drake, some William with a wispe, or some gloworme illumination, did inlighten and guide them,” &c.
Blount defines it to be a certain viscous substance, reflecting