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Not dight full proud, nor buttoned up in gold, His cope and jape" were grey, and eke were clean;
A Liniitor's he was of order seen;
"An alms, sir priest!" the drooping pilgrim said,
"For sweet Saint Mary and your order'h sake.''
The Limitor then loosened his pouch-thread.
"But ah! unhappy pilgrim, learn of me.
From THE BATTLE OF HASTINGS*
And now Duke William mardshall'd his band,
Brave champions, each well learned in the bow,
'' Tell him from me one of these three to take:
It A short surplice (?). 20 For "pursued."
1 cross-bowraen 4 either
2 arrow c lords
8 lance? (Skeat) 0 the Pope
• There are two versions of this pnem. one of which Ohnttorton admitted to be his own. The other, from which the stanzas nlxive are taken, he declared to bo Rowley's. There are seventy-two stanzas in all. but the battle is not brought to an end.
He said; the monk departed out of hand,
A standard made of silk and jewels rare,
That straight the hesti" for battle should be spread.
To every earl and knight the word is given. And cries "a guerre!"^ and slogans shake the vaulted heaven.
As when the earth,l- torn by convulsions dire,
Some lofty mountain, by its fury torn,
Anil awful shakes, moved by th' almighty force;
Whole woods and forests nod, and rivers change their course.
So did the men of war at once advance,
w ind; , With solemn step, by echo made more dire. One single body all, they marched, their eyci
And now the grey-eyed morn with violets drest. Shaking the dewdrops on the flowery meads,
T pleasure 11 "To battle!"
* Jewels 12 Sentom rmnniatir
n See Eny. Lit., p. .'to. ally '"r<-<.tivt'
:"i.»mmnnd 13 For "c!i.T."
Fled with her rosy radiance to the west.
And scatters night's remains from out the sky.
King Harold high in air majestic raised
With even hand a mighty javelin peised,"
This William saw, and, sounding Roland's song,
From out of mortal's sight shot up the flo.
As when a flight of cranes that take their way
.•Elan Adclfred, of the stow-' of Leigh,
Then sank to glory and eternal rest.
And now the javelins, barbed with deathes wings,
Hurled from the English hands by force aderne,"
Whizz drear along, and songs of terror sings,
Not to be quenched but in Normans' blood.
SAMUEL JOHNSON (1709-1784)
From The PLAN OF AN ENGLISH
To the Sight Honourable Philip Dormer, Karl
When first I undertook to write an English Dictionary, I had no expectation of any higher patronage than that of the proprietors of the copy, nor prospect of any other advantage than the price of my labour. I knew that the work in which I engaged is generally considered as drudgery for the blind, as the proper toil of artless industry; a task that requires neither the light of learning, nor the activity of genius, but may be successfully performed without any higher quality than that of bearing burthens with dull patience, and beating the track of the alphabet with sluggish resolution.
Whether this opinion, so long transmitted,
• Johnson's ponderous diction may have been in some measure due to his labors in the Held of lexicography, though doubtless much more to bis habit of thinking in general and abstract terms. it was jestingly said In his time that he used hard words in the Rambh r papers on purpose to make his forthcoming Dictionary indispensable. Vet the diction confers a not unpleasing dignity upon the wisdom it clothes; and It grew more chastened with time, as is shown by the admirnbl • style of bis Lives of the Poets. See Km). Lit., L,(iS-20f».'
an I so widely propagated, had its beginning from truth and nature, or from accident and prejudice; whether it be decreed by the authority of reason, or the tyranny of ignorance, that of all the candidates for literary praise, the unhappy lexicographer holds the lowest place, neither vanity nor interest incited me to enquire. It appeared that the province allotted me was, of all the regions of learning, generally confessed to be the least delightful, that it was believed to produce neither fruit nor flowers; and that, after a loug and laborious cultivation, not even the barren laurelt had been found upon it.
Yet on this province, my Lord, I entered, with the pleasing hope that, as it was low, it likewise would be safe. I was drawn forward with the prospect of employment, which, though not splendid, would be useful; and which, though it could not make my life envied, would keep it innocent; which would awaken no passion, engage me in no contention, nor throw in my way any temptation to disturb the quiet of others by censure, or my own by flattery.
I had read indeed of times in which princes ] and statesmen thought it part of their honour to promote the improvement of their native tongues; and in which dictionaries were written under the protection of greatness. To the patrons of such undertakings I willingly paid the homage of believing that they, who were thus solicitous for the perpetuity of their language, had reason to expect that their actions would be celebrated by posterity, and that the eloquence which they promoted would be employed in their praise. But I consider such acts of beneficence as prodigies, recorded rather to raise wonder than expectation; and content with the terms that I had stipulated, had not suffered my imagination to flatter me with any other encouragement, when I found that my design had been thought by your Lordship of importance sufficient to attract your favour.
How far this unexpected distinction can be rated among the happy incidents of life, I am not yet able to determine. Its first effect has been to make me anxious lest it should fix the attention of the public too much upon me, and. as it once happened to an epic poet of France,t by raising the reputation of the attempt, obstruct the reception of the work. T imagine what the world will expect from a scheme
t The actual laurel Is not barren, whatever he thought of tlm triumphs it symbolizes.
t Chapeliitn's l.ti I'nrcirc. heralded for many years, was coldly received alter publication.
prosecuted under your Lordship's influence; and I know that expectation, when her wings are once expanded, easily reaches heights which performance never will attain; and when she has mounted the summit of perfection, derides her follower, who dies in the pursuit.
Not therefore to raise expectation, but to repress it, I here lay before your Lordship the Plan of my undertaking, that more may not be demanded than I intend; and that, before it is too far advanced to be thrown into a new method, I may be advertised of its defects or superfluities. Such informations I may justly hope, from the emulation with which those, wlm desire the praise of elegance or discernment, must contend in the promotion of a design that you, my Lord, have not thought unworthy tu share your atteution with treaties and with wars. . .
[Then follows the plan, with many details of vocabulary, orthography, pronunciation, etc.]
When I survey the Plan which I have laid before you, I cannot, my Lord, but confess that I am frighted at its extent, and, like the so! diers of Ca'sar, look on Britain as a new world, which it is almost madness to invade. But 1 hope that though I should not complete the conquest, I shall at least discover the coast, civilize part of the inhabitants, and make it easy for some other adventurer to proceed farther, to reduce them wholly to subjection, and settle them under laws.
We are taught by the great Roman orator, that every man should propose to himself the highest degree of excellence, but that lie may stop with honour at the second or third: though therefore my performance should fall lielow the excellence of other dictionaries, I may obtain, at least, the praise of having endeavoured well; nor shall I think it any reproach to my diligence that I have retired, without a triumph, from a contest with united academies and lone; successions of learned compilers. I cannot hope, in the warmest moments, to preserve so much caution through so long a work, as not often to sink into negligence, or to obtain so much knowledge of all its parts as not frequently to fail by ignorance. I expect that sometimes the desire of accuracy will urge me to superfluities, and sometimes the fear of prolixity betray me to omissions: that in the extent of such variety, I shall be often bewildered: and in the mazes of such intricacy, he frequently entangled: that in one part refine inent will be subtilized beyond exactness, and evidence dilated in another beyond perspicuity. , Yet I do not despair of approbation from those who. Knowing the uncertainty of conjecture, the scantiness of knowledge, the fallibility of memory, and the unsteadiness of attention, can compare the causes of error with the means of avoiding it, and the extent of art with the rapacity of man; and whatever lie the event of my endeavours, 1 shall not easily regret an attempt which has procured me the honour of appearing thus publicly,
My Lord, Your Lordship's most obedient, and most humble servant,
LETTER TO LORD CHESTERFIELD*
(Feb. 7, 175o)
To the Riyht Honourable the Karl of Chesterfield. My Lord:
I have been lately informed by the proprietor "f the World, that two papers, in which my Dictionary is recommended to the public, were written by your Lordship. To be Ho distinguished is an honour which, being very little accustomed to favours from the great, I know i not well how to receive, or in what terms to acknowledge.
When, upon some slight encouragement, I first visited your Lordship, I was overpowered, like the rest of mankind, by the enchantment of your address, and could not forbear to wish that I might boast myself Lr vainqueur du iainqueur dc la terre;1—that I might obtain that regard for which I saw the world contending; but I found my attendance so little enrouraged that neither pride nor modesty would suffer me to continue it. When I had once addressed your Lordship in public, I had ex
l "The conqueror of the conqueror of the world" i Boilcau i.
5^'Johnson told mc." says Boswcll. "that there never was any particular Incident which produced a quarrel between Lord Chesterfield and him: but that his I-ordshlp's continued neglect was the reason why he resolved to have no connection with hlni. When the Dictionary was upon the eve of publication. Lord Chesterfield, who, it Is said, bad flattered himself with expectations that Johnson would dedicate the work to him. attempted
to conciliate him. by writing two! papers In "Tile World.' in recommendation of I the work." "I'pon which." commented Johnson. "I wrote him a letter expressed In civil terms, but such as might show hini that I | did not mind what be said or wrote, and I that I bad done with him." Bosweil later I obtained a copy of this celebrated letter, and gave It to' the world. Carlyle. In his | essay" on Uiistrell'* Life vf ,/o/iiwjn. speaks of I It as "thai far-famed Blast of Doom, pro- , claiming Into the ear of Lord Chesterfield. \ and. through him. of the listening world, that patronage should be no more." Sec Enii. Lit., ] p. 208.
hausfed iill the nil of pleasing which a retired and uneourtlv scholar can possess. I had done all that I could; and no man is well pleased to have bis all neglected, be it ever so little.
Seven years, my Lord, have now passed since I waited in your outward rooms, or was repulsed from your door; during which time I have been pushing on my work through difficulties, of which it is useless to complain, and have brought it, at last, to the verge of publi cation without one act of assistance, one word of encouragement, or one smile of favour. Such treatment 1 did not expect, for I never had a Patron before.
The shepherd in Virgil grew at last acquainted with Love, and found him a native of the rocks.2
Is not a Patron, my Lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labours, had it been early, had been kind; but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary, and cannot impart it; till I am known, and do not want it. I hope it is no very cynical asperity not to confess obligations where no benefit has been received, or to be unwilling that the Public should con .sider me as owing that to a Patron, which Providence lias enabled me to do for myself.
Having carried on my work thus far with so little obligation to any favourer of learning, T shall not be disappointed though 1 should conclude it, if less be possible, with less; for I have been long wakened from that dream of hope, in which I once boasted myself with so much exultation,
Fkom The PREFACE TO THE ENGLISH DICTIONARY. 1755
Tn hope of giving longevity to that which its own nature forbids to be immortal, I have devoted this book, the labour of years, to the honour of my country, that we may no longer yield the palm of philology, without a contest, to the nations of the continent. The chief glory of every people arises from its authors: whether J shall add anything by my own writings to the reputation of English literature, must be left to time: much of my life has
L' Eclogue VIII, 4,'i.
been lost under the pressure of disease; much has been trifled away;* and much has always been spent in provision for the day that was passing over me; but I shall not think my employment useless or ignoble, if by my assistance foreign nations and distant ages gain access to the propagators of knowledge, and understand the teachers of truth; if my labours afford light to the repositories of science, and add celebrity to Bacon, to Hooker, to Milton, and to Boyle.s
When I am animated by this wish, I look with pleasure on my book, however defective, and deliver it to the world with the spirit of a man that has endeavoured well. That it will immediately become popular I have not promised to myself: a few wild blunders and risible absurdities, from which no work of such multiplicity was ever free, may for a time furnish folly with laughter and harden ignorance into contempt ;t but useful diligence will at last prevail, and there never can be wanting some who distinguish desert; who will consider that no dictionary of a living tongue ever can be perfect, since, while it is hastening to publication, some words are budding, and some falling away; that a whole life cannot be spent upon syntax and etymology, and that even a whole life would not be sufficient; that he, whose design includes whatever language can express, must often speak of what he does not understand; that a writer will sometimes be hurried by eagerness to the end, and sometimes faint with weariness under a task which Scaliger* compares to the labours of the anvil and the mine; that what is obvious is not always known, and what is known is not always present; that sudden fits of inadvertency will surprise vigilance, slight avocations will seduce attention, and casual eclipses of the mind will darken learning; and that the writer shall often in vain trace his memory, at the moment of need, for that which yesterday he knew with intuitive
3 Itolwrt Royle, the natural philosopher. 1627-1691.
4 A European scholar of the 16th century.
• Boswcll reports Johnson as saying: "1 have been
trying to cure my laziness all my lite, and
could not do It." t Johnson spoke prophetically. Among amusing
entries, some of course intentional, Boswcll
has noted the following:
Lexicographer. A writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge.
Pension. An allowance made to any one without an equivalent. In England it is generally understood to mean pay given to a Rtate hireling for treason tn his country.
Oats. A grain which In England 1s generally given to horses, hut in Scotland supports the people.
Xettcork. Anything reticulated or decussated at equal distances, with interstices between the Intersections.
readiness, and which will come uncalled into his thoughts to-morrow.
In this work, when it shall be found that much is omitted, let it not be forgotten that much likewise is performed; and though no book was ever spared out of tenderness to the author, and the world is little solicitous to know whence proceed the faults of that which it condemns, yet it may gratify curiosity to inform it that (he "English Dictionary" was written with little assistance of the learned, and without any patronage of the great; not in the soft obscurities of retirement, or under the shelter of academic bowers, but amidst inconvenience and distraction, in sickness and in sorrow.t It may repress the triumph of malignant criticism to observe, that if our language is not here fully displayed, I have only failed in an attempt which no human powers have hitherto completed. If the lexicons of ancient tongues, now immutably fixed, and comprised in a few volumes, be yet, after the toil of sue cessive ages, inadequate and delusive; if the aggregated knowledge and co-operating diligence of the Italian academicians did not secure them from the censure of Beni;| if the embodied critics of France, when fifty years had been spent upon their work, were obliged to change its economy,!* and give their second edition another form, I may surely be contented without the praise of perfection, which, if I could obtain, in this gloom of solitude, what would it avail met I have protracted my work till most of those whom I wished to please have sunk into the grave, and success and miscarriage are empty sounds: I therefore dismiss it with frigid tranquillity, having little to fear or hope from censure or from praise.
From The PREFACE TO AN EDITION OF SHAKESPEARE'S PLAYS, 1765-1768
The poet, of whose works T have undertaken the revision, may now begin to assume the dignity of an ancient, and claim the privilege of established fame and prescriptive veneration. He has long outlived his century, the term commonly fixed as the test of literary merit. Whatever advantages he might once derive from personal allusions, local customs, or temporary opinions, have for many years been lost; and every topic of merriment, or motive of sorrow, which the modes of artificial life
t Johnson's wif.> died March 17, 17."2. and the anniversary of her death he spent "in prayer and self-examination."
$ He objected to their basing their lexicon on Tuscan usage.