Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

can

was

а

ex

unanimous in acknowledging the ade- the vernacular exercises over those quacy of the Scottish vernacular, in the who are familiar with it. One hands of Burns, as the image of the quite appreciate the force of the convivid perception of the objective world. tention that to Burns the toiling life of And sometimes they are apt to put ex- the ploughman and his horse travagantly high the claims of the dia- most vivid experience, and that he has lect in this respect.

made it live forever in his vernacular The late Principal Shairp, in his mo- verse as he could not have done had nograph on Burns, has an interesting he written in the standard English. passage which may serve as an illus- Only let us remember that the secret tration. “What pure English words,' of the power of Burns lies in clear visbe asks, “could so completely and ion and genial sympathy, not in the use graphically, describe a sturdy old mare of a particular vocabulary. The fact in the plough, setting her face to the that his genius has made the Scottish furzy braes, as the following:

dialect immortal is no proof that in

other writers the excessive use of upThou never braing't, an' fetch't, an' land words is not a blemish. Aiskit,

A lavish use of dialect in narrative But thy auld tail thou wad hae whiskit, An' spread abreed thy weel-fill'd brisket

and dialogue is a vice akin to the free Wi' pith an' pow'r,

introduction of technical phrases in a Till spritty knowes wad rair't an' riskit, work which is intended to be purely An' slypet owre?

literary. We have a remarkable

ample of this blemish in Falconer's Paraphrasing the verse, the principal "Shipwreck;” and as Falconer was a makes it read: “Thou didst never fret, Scot, one is tempted to ask whether an or plunge and kick, but thou wouldest

excessive love of detail may not be a have whisked thy old tail, and spread Scottish failing of which the too liberal abroad thy large chest, with pith and employment of the vernacular is only a power, till hillocks, where the earth

symptom. Charles Lamb says of the was filled with tough-rooted plants,

Caledonian: “He brings his total would have given forth a cracking

wealth into company and gravely unsound, and the clods fallen gently over.” The paraphrase is purposely him. His conversation is as a book.”

packs it. His riches are always about bald and cumbrous, and the principal, In the opening of “The Tempest," who accomplished Latin

Shakespeare, by a few vivid strokes, scholar, would have given a much

paints a ship driving before the wind terser .version, had he been trauslating

on a lee-shore. Burns into Latin verse. Bald as it is, it gives a better idea of the sense of the Heigh, my hearts! cheerly, cheerly, my original than many modern Scottish hearts! yare, yare! Take in the topsail. readers themselves can gather

Tend to the master's whistle. Blow, till with the assistance of a glossary. thou burst thy wind, if room enough. What strikes one in Principal Shairp's lower! Bring her to try with main course.

Down with the topmast! yare! lower, commentary, however, is the implied

. . Lay her a-hold, a-hold! set her to theory that the standard English is in

courses off to sea again; lay her off. adequate to the description of an old mare facing a particularly tough bit of There is the scene, and it could not ploughland, and that the dialect best be described without all this sailors' describes the sympathy of the farmer talk of sails and courses. At the same with his faithful, inarticulate friend time there is no display of minute and fellow-laborer. Without going the knowledge of navigation. Shakespeare length of saying that the idea could not says enough to bring before the mind's be expressed in good English, the fact eye of seaman and landsman alike the that a critic like Shairp thinks so may peril of the ship and the efforts of the be accepted as a proof of the power crew to bring her off; and he succeeds

was

an

even

a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

a

some

perfectly. Now contrast Shakespeare's tween literary Scotch and vernacular brief and graphic sketch with Fal- Scotch. The distinction is important. coner's elaborate scene. Unlike Sbake. Sir Walter Scott, who may be taken as speare Falconer makes a most copious a model in the use of dialect, is careful use of marine phraseology. In the to insist upon it, and we imagine the space of some hundred lines he intro- words he puts in the mouth of the duces to our notice, among other items Duke of Argyle in “The Heart of Midof the fitting of the ship, top-gallant lothian” express his own view. It may yards, travellers, back-stays. top-ropes, be remembered that the duke eulogizparrels, lifts, booms, reef-lines, hal- ing Effie Deans (now become Lady yards, bow-lines, clue-garnets, reef- Staunton) says, "She speaks with tackles, brails, head-ropes, and Scotch accent, and now and then bands. There have been critics who provincial word drops out so prettily have gone into ecstasies over the most that it is quite Doric;" and when Buthighly nautical passages of this poem, ler interposes with the remark that he but theirs is an enthusiasm which it is should have thought that would have difficult to share. One can understand sounded vulgar, the duke replies, "Not a seaman, or a seasoned yachtsman, at all, you must suppose that it is not becoming enraptured over Falconer's the broad, coarse Scotch that is spoken clue-garnets; and among people in the Canongate of Edinburgh or in whose love of salt water and tarry the Gorbals.” In practice Scott himlopes is proverbial, there are possibly self observes this difference. He never many to whose ears the jargon of the sinks into Gorbals Scotch. AS Mr. forecastle and the marine dictionary is Ruskin has pointed out with fine dismusic. That these sea-phrases can be crimination, he does not like used effectively Shakespeare has shown; modern writers, consider it amusing to but Falconer demonstrated that indulge in “ugly spellings.” He “makes enough is far better than a feast. Fal

no attempt whatever to indicate coner's mistake is excessive circuni- cents or modes of pronunciation by stantiality, and this is just the error changed spelling, unless the word beinto which vernacular writers, who

comes a quite definitely

ana prize the vernacular for its own sake, scarcely writeable one." He only uses are apt to fall. With them the use of the Scots form of a word when there dialect tends to become an affectation, is a difference between it and English. a sort of inverted pedantry, an

“There is no lisping, drawling, slobbersion for displaying a knowledge of un- ing, or snuffing; the speech is as clear interesting minutiæ.

as a bell and as keen as an arrow; and When applied to the description of its elisions and contractions are either rustic character and manners, King melodious (na for not and pu'd for James's advice is of wider interest pulled) or as normal as in Latin verse.” than when restricted to the description But every Scottish writer is not of external nature, for the use of dia- skilful as Scott, and the excessive use lect to portray manners is not confined some of them make of the vernacular to those who speak the vernacular. in describing rustic manners is apt to Extending the rule to this usage, we repel. The explanation is obvious if may accept the general principle that we call to mind the dictum, we think in when a thought has been born in dia. words. An excessive use of dialect in lect, so to speak, dialect is appropriate this connection involves a minute for its expression. But as no true ar- count of the meaner and more trivial tist paints everything he sees, no dis- details of common life which are not criminating writer repeats literally necessarily worth photographing.

A everything he hears. Modern writers conspicuous example of the jarring efof Scottish dialect have sinned against fect of a too free use of the vernacular this principle, and have neglected to in this way is to be found in a very inobserve that there is a distinction be- teresting narrative poem entitled “Hel

ac

new

occa

[ocr errors]

acon

ours

of

[ocr errors]

enore," written in the latter half of Judged by the result, the advice was last century by Alexander Ross of wrong. The flame of Ross's genius Lochlee. As a pastoral tale. “Hele- was smothered under the speech he nore” is admirable; the plot is original used, whereas had it been fed with the and well worked out; and it gives us a oil of a less outlandish dialect, it might valuable insight into the life and cus- have continued to shed a mild but betoms of a crofter comjuune, situated nignant light over a little known phase on the debatable ground between High- of Scottish rural life.

It was

Ross's land and Lowland where the conflict misfortune that he had no one to give between two opposing systems of so- him an advice similar to that which cial ethics was still in the balance; the Charles Lamb gave John Clare. “In Highlanders maintaining, in anticipa- some of your story-telling ballads, the tion of Wordsworth's Rob Roy, that provincial phrases sometimes startle right goes with might, and that the me. I think you are too profuse with booty belongs to the victor, while the them. In poetry slang of every kind is Lowlanders take their stand the to be avoided. There is a rustic Cockprinciple that the law is protector of neyism, as little pleasing as the weak. With all his merits Ross is London. ... Now and then a home rus. now almost unknown, and the main ticism is fresh and startling; but, when reason is that his vernacular is nothing is gained in expression, it is pleasant. Scott, when he quotes him, out of tenor. It may make folks smile amends him, and speaks of bim as be- and stare; but the ungenial coalition of ing forgotten even in his day. Had he barbarous with refined phrases will written in a language less uncouth, his prevent you in the end from being so poem might have lived. He wished, generally tasted as you desire to be.” as he tells us, to give expression to the Lamb was “a scorner of the fields,". sentiments of plain people living in a but, as Wordsworth adds, he was more remote part of the country. The ob- so in show than truth. He was ject is laudable enough; but Words- tainly a more discreet critic than: worth did something of the same kind Ross's friend. without finding it necessary to speak Upon the principle that we can look the language of Cumbrian folk, and out on infinitude through any loophole, Ross might have fulfilled his purpose it may be said that one can find without adopting the coarsest Scottish epitome of all humanity in the life of patois. He appears

to have erred his village. That is the idea, so far as against his better instinct, for he al- they act by rule, of the extreme school tered his style upon the advice of a of local and dialect literature. There mentor to whom he showed his manu- is undoubtedly some force in it. On script. The judgment which this gen- the other hand, it is almost certain, tleman pronounced might serve as the that if a man's ears continually creed of the Kailyard School. “Your filled with the cackle of his bourg, he poem, Mr. Ross,” the critic is reported will in time become deaf to everything to have said, “is beautiful, and you are else. A dialect-literature cultivated nearly as good at the English as you for its own sake inevitably tends downare at the Latin. You are trying, I see, ward to the utterly provincial and pato imitate some of those great English rochial. poets, but it will not go down just yet Shakespeare, in a well-known pasto speak of Scotch fashions to Scotch sage in “King Lear,” makes Edgar people in the English tongue. Gae speak in dialect. awa hame, mon, and turn it into braid

Good gentleman, go your gait, and let Scotch verse; and, gin ye print it, not a

poor volk pass. And chud ha' been jot will my lassies do at their wheel,

zwaggered out of my life, 'twould not ha' and some thousands mair like them,

been zo long as 'tis by a vortnight. Nay, till they have read it five or six times

come not near th' old man; keep out, over."

che vor ye, or ise try whether your costard

cer

an

[ocr errors]

are

to

ܕ

a

em

or my ballow be the harder; chill be plain sons, miss, if you please,” is Mrs. Mala. with you.

.. Chill pick your teeth, prop's version of the axiom. “Caparizir; “Come, no matter vor your foins.”

sons don't become a young woman.” If The dialect is in this case of course we think in words, there is no better adopted in order to support the peas- way of reproducing the muddle-headedant's disguise. On the same principle, ness of a Dogberry, or the vacuous conthat amusing rogue, Captain John ceit of a Malaprop than in words that Creichton, in relating how he ran are no words; but the usage marks the earth the hillside men of the West borderland between what is legitimate Country, adopts the West Country and what is illegitimate. tongue on occasion. While the sol- In the main, the practice of the best diers stayed to refresh their horses in writers confirms the rule that dialect the churchyard,” he tells us, “I spied a should only be used to convey ideas for country fellow going by, and asked the expression of which the standard him in his own dialect, 'Whither gang language is inadequate, and should be ye, this time of night?' He answered, used only to an extent sufficient to 'Wha are ye that speers?' I replied, mark the individuality of the speaker. “We are your ane foke.'This had the Where the use of dialect is really vitaldesired effect. While Captain John's izing, where it emphasizes a character dialect is not perfect, the idea of it, like really worth knowing, it is permissible, Edgar's, is correct. Friends from but not otherwise. And after all, the stranger lurking about a churchyard at experience for which the literary lannight would have sounded Enemies, guage does not provide sufficient exeven to a Westland Whig so guileless pression is comparatively unimportant. as to accept as genuine so poor an im- It is a sign of degeneracy in our literaitation of his own tongue. The

ture when writers deliberately resort ployment of dialect by Edgar and of to the grotesque, the archaic,

or the West Country Scots by Captain John vernacular. It is the duty of his counCreichton is clearly consistent with trymen to maintain the credit of the dramatic fitness. Edgar deceived Os- tongue that Shakespeare wrote. We wald by his dress and speech, and owe far more to it than to any dialect. there is no other way of indicating the It is astonishing that Scotsmen of all deception than by using the dialect. people in the world should fail to real

It is sometimes charged against mod- ize the significance of the fact that the ern vernacular writers that they do not Scottish people, like the English, have distinguish between dialect and cor- done their thinking, not in dialect, but ruptions. But the sin is not new. Flu- in English, on the most solemn ellen wears the leek “upon St. Tavy's sions in their lives. For more than two day,” and tells Henry that all the centuries the thoughts which have water in the Wye cannot wash “the made Englishmen and English women Welsh plood out of his pody.” “It sall what they are, which have made Scots. be very gud, gud feith, gud captains men and Scotswomen what they are, bath,” observes Captain Jamy; while have been presented to them in EnCaptain Macmorris, in the same play, glish pure and undefiled. The literary speaks of the town being “beseeched," value of the Church-service to the Enand asks, “what ish my nation ?" It is glish people has been incalculable; and but a step from corruptions such this is true also of Scotland. In town these to the misspelling of Tabitha and country, for generations, Scotch Bramble, the extraordinary idioms of people have heard the Bible read in Mrs. Gamp and Betsy Prig, and the the church every Sabbath, and many philological vagaries of the American of them used to hear it read twice a humorists. Mrs. Gamp offends some day at family exercise. As children fastidious tastes; but where are we to they learned by heart the metrical verdraw the line? “Comparisons are sions of the Psalms and the clean-cut, odorous,” says Dogberry. "No capari- logical, dogmatic statements of the

occa

as

а

Shorter Catechism. Their religion, in in them a great divinity that grows not short, came to thein in

an English old.” garb. It would be difficult to overestimate the literary importance of this fact. It has had much profounder infuence upon their literature, if they would only think of it, than

From The Academy. their songs and ballads, or the story of

SOME CHILD-CRITICS OF BROWNING. Wallace, of which Burns said that it

A BOARD SCHOOL OF EXPERIMENT. poured a tide of Scottish prejudice into bis veins which would continue to boil

I have before me some essays written along there until the floodgates shut by children in the Walworth Board in eternal rest. No one can take a just Schools on the life and poetry of Robert view of the comparative value of the Browning. They were prepared for a vernacular literature of Scotland who

competition which culminated, less leaves out of sight the important fact, than a fortnight ago, in a distribution which Scotsmen presumably overlook of honors, and my knowledge of the only because it is so familiar, that the matter dates from the brief newspaper standard English has been to them of report of that ceremony. But it does far greater value than their own form not end with it. So much of Brownof speech. It only needs a moment's ing's mind had been hidden from the reflection to prove that there are some

wise and prudent that it seemed to be things which their dialect cannot ac

worth while to discover how much had complish. To an ordinary sober- been revealed to babes; and I went to minded Scotsman it would appear Walworth. There I found Mr. F. Herpartly grotesque, and partly profane, bert Stead in his large office in the to state the great verities of his reli

Robert Browning Hall in York Street. gion in anything but the purest speech.

Mr. Stead spoke of working men With true insight Sir Walter Scott does who read “Abt Vogler” or “Paracelsus" not make Mause Headrigg, pru

with him, finding meanings that had nouncedly vernacular though she nat- escaped himself; of lectures and enterurally is, give paraphrases of Scripture tainments, of May Day festivals and in her own dialect. She quotes summer outings, of Bible study, clubs, rectly the Orientalisms of the Old Tes- flower missions, and of many other tament; she gives the very words of the agencies by which it is sought to authorized translation, knowing

let in light the dark places them familiarly and believing in ple- of Walworth. And he said that the nary inspiration.

pivot, the magnet, the ever-useful preThe ideas capable of being expressed text of it all was Browning's early coneven in the purest dialect which has nection with the neighborhood. Born fallen behind in the race for suprem- in Camberwell young Browning came acy, are and must be at best only of for years to worship with his parents in second-rate or third-rate value. The the Congregational Chapel which now, Scotsman, equally with the English- under the name of a hall, bears his man, is interested in maintaining the name. Thanks to the Settlement the dignity of English speech. “The lan- humblest folk in Walworth have guage of world-wide literature,” said learned the name at least of Robert Dean Stanley, “is the only fitting garb Browning. It is true that many of for those eternal and primary princi- them begin by taking the “Settlement” ples of which the Grecian poet has said for a charitable fund, and coming forthat they have their foundation ward to claim their "share;" but their high, all-embracing like their parent disillusionment is the beginning of Heaven, neither did mortal infirmity good. And the children? preside over their birth, nor shall for- Mr. Stead explained this developgetfulness lay them to sleep. There is ment. While taking a holiday in the

cor

as

on

on

« ElőzőTovább »