35. Letter on Punning.

When you have leisure from teaching the world to think and to feel in matters of vital importance to the community, I beg leave to recommend to your notice an evil, which, by poisoning the springs of taste and knowledge, by bringing forward the flippant, and throwing back the reflective speaker, tends to imbitter and destroy all the profit and pleasure of conversation. I allude to the vice of punning.

It is my fate to mix with a knot of individuals, each of them capable of sustaining a part in rational discourse, and of bringing to the intellectual conflict minds armed with vigor and stored with learning; who, nevertheless, meet together to fritter away time, patience, and attention, with a series of uncennected quibbles and conceits.

Their talk is not narrative, for nothing is related; not demonstrative, for nothing is maintained ; not dictative, for nothing can be learned; not argumentative, for nothing can be proved; not confidential, for nothing can be believed. Instead of the rich web of fancy, glowing with the vivid creations of lively and intelligent minds, the hearers are presented with a motley intermixture of shreds of wit and patches of conceit, a checker-work of incongruous images, the very orts and leavings of the “ feast of reason,” the dregs and scum of science and literature. If I relate to this group of punsters the most affecting circumstance, I am heard with impatience and inattention, till I chance, unwittingly, to utter a word susceptible of a double or triple interpretation. The mischievous spark of folly is applied; the moral interest of my tale is undermined, and a loud report of laughter announces the explosion of folly.

The Genius of Orthography frowns in vain; puns are, by the laws of custom, entitled to claim entrance into the sensorium, either by the eye or the ear; but then a pseudo-pun -"for indeed there are counterfeits abroad, and it behoves men to be carefu'” is perceptible to neither sense, — when

read, it cannot be seen, and when heard, it cannot be under: stood, and to avoid the horror of an explanation, I find I am obliged to perjure myself, by laughing in ignorance and very sadness, and thus sanction the practice I would fain abolish.

The evil, in fact, is subversive of the first principle of society. Is it little to hunger for the bread of wisdom, and to be fed with the husks of folly? Is it little to thirst for the Castalian fount, and see its waters idly wasted in sport or malice ? Is it little to seek for the interchange of souls, and find only the reciprocation of nonsense?

36. Byron, the Poet, and the Mar.

ADMIRE the goodness of Almighty God!
He riches gave, he intellectual strength,
To few, and therefore none commands to be
Or rich or learned ; nor promises reward
Of peace to these. On all he moral worth
Bestowed, and moral tribute asked from all.
And who that could not pay? who born so poor,
Of intellect so mean, as not to know
What seemed the best; and knowing, might not do
As not to know what God and conscience bade,
And what they bade not able to obey ?
And he who acted thus fulfilled the law
Eternai, and its promise reaped of peace;
Found peace this way alone : who sought it else,
Sought mellow grapes beneath the icy Pole,
Sought blooming roses on the cheek of death,
Sought substance in a world of fleeting shades.

Take one example, to our purpose quite:
A man of rank, and of capacious soul,

Who riches had, and fame, beyor d desire, A i heir of flattery, to titles born, And reputation, and luxurious life; Yet, not content with ancestorial name, Or to be known because his fathers were, He on this height hereditary stood, And, gazing higher, purposed in his heart To take another step. Above him seemed, Alone, the mount of song, the lofty seat Of canonizéd bards; and thitherward, By nature taught, and inward melody, In prime of youth, he bent his eagle eye. No cost was spared. What books he wished, he read; What sage to hear, he heard; what scenes to see, He saw. And first in rambling school-boy days, Britannia's mountain-walks, and heath-girt lakes, And story-telling glens, and founts, and brooks, And maids, as dew-drops pure and fair, his soul With grandeur filled, and melody, and love. Then travel came, and took him where he wished. He cities saw, and courts, and princely pomp'; And mused alone on ancient mountain-brows; And mused on battle-fields, where valor fought In other days; and mused on ruins gray With years; and drank from old and fabulous wella, And plucked the vine that first-born prophets pluckesko And mused on famous tombs, and on the wave Of ocean mused, and on the desert waste; The heavens and earth of every country saw. Where'er the old inspiring Genii dwelt, Aught that could rouse, expand, refine the soul, Thither he went, and meditated there.

He touched his harp, and nations heard, entranced.
As some vast river of unfailing source,
Rapid, exhaustless, deep, his numbers flowed,
And opened new fountains in the human heart.

Where Fancy halted, weary in her flight,
In other men, his fresh as morning rose,
And soared untrodden heights, and seemed at home
Where angels bashful looked. Others, though great,
Beneath their argument seemed struggling; whiles
He, from above descending, stooped to touch
The loftiest thought; and proudly stooped, as though
It scarce deserved his verse. With Nature's self
He seemed an old acquaintance, free to jest
At will with all her glorious majesty.
He laid his hand upon

" the Ocean's mane,"
And played familiar with his hoary locks;
Stood on the Alps, stood on the Apennines,
And with the thunder talked, as friend to friend ;
And wove his garland of the lightning's wing,
In sportive twist — the lightning's fiery wing,
Which, as the footsteps of the dreadful God,
Marching upon the storm in vengeance seemed
Then turned, and with the grasshopper, who sung
His evening song beneath his feet, conversed.
Suns, moons, and stars, and clouds his sisters were ;
Rocks, mountains, meteors, seas, and winds, and storius,
His brothers - younger brothers, whom he scarce
As equals deemed. All passions of all men
The wild and tame the gentle and severe;
All thoughts, all maxims, sacred and profane;
All creeds; all seasons, time, eternity;
All that was hated, and all that was dear;
All that was hoped, all that was feared by man,
He tossed about, as tempest-withered leaves,
Then smiling looked upon the wreck he made.
With terror now he froze the cowering blood,
And now dissolved the heart in tenderness;
Yet would not tremble, would not weep himsel
But back into his soul retired, alone,
Dark, sullen, proud; gazing contemptuously
On hearts and passions prostrate at his feet.

So Ocean, from the plains, his waves had late
To desolation swept, retired in pride,
Exulting in the glory of his might,
And seemed to mock the ruin he had wrought.

As some fierce comet, of tremendous size,
To which the stars did reverence as it passed,
So he through learning and through fancy took
His flight sublime, and on the loftiest top
Of Fame's dread mountain sat; not soiled and worn
As if he from the earth had labored up;
But as some bird of heavenly plumage fair,
He looked, which down from higher regions came.
And perched it there, to see what lay beneath.

The nations gazed, and wondered much, and praised;
Critics before him fell in humble plight -
Confounded fell, and made debasing signs
To catch his eye, and stretched and swelled themselves
To bursting nigh, to utter bulky words
Of admiration vast; and many, too,
Many that aimed to imitate his flight,
With weaker wing, unearthly fluttering made,
And gave abundant sport to after days.

Great man! the nations gazed, and wondered much,
And praised; and many called his evil good.
Wits wrote in favor of his wickedness ;
And kings to do him honor took delight.
Thus full of titles, flattery, honor, fame,
Beyond desire, beyond ambition full,
He died. He died of what? Of wretchedness.
Drank every cup of joy ; heard every trump
Of fame; drank early, deeply drank; drank draughts
That common millions might have quenched — then died
Of thirst, because there was no more to drink.
His goddess, Nature, wooed, embraced enjoyed,

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