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finds joint-stock companies of all kinds forming; railroads, canals, and locomotive engines springing up on every side ; when idlers suddenly become men of business, and dash into the game of commerce as they would into the hazards of the faro-table; when he beholds the streets glittering with new equipages, palaces conjured up by the magic of speculation, tradesmen flushed with sudden success, and vying with each other in ostentatious expense; in a word, when he hears the whole community joining in the theme of “unexampled prosperity,” let him look upon the whole as a
“weather breeder,” and prepare for the impending storm.
WORTH OF PROVERBS. In regard of the poetry of proverbs - whatever is from the people, or truly for the people; whatever either springs from their bosom, or has been cordially accepted by them; still more, whatever unites both these conditions, will have poetry, imagination, in it; for, little as the people's craving after wholesome nutriment of the imaginative faculty, and after an entrance into a fairer and more harmonious world than that sordid and confused one with which often they are surrounded, is duly met and satisfied, still they yearn after all this with an honest hearty yearning, which must put to shame the pallid indifference, the only affected enthusiasm, of too many whose opportunities of cultivating this glorious faculty have been so immeasurably greater than theirs. This being so, and proverbs being, as we know, the sayings that have found favor with the people—their peculiar inheritance—we might be quite sure that there will be poetry, imagination, passion, in them. So much we might affirm beforehand: our closer examination of them will confirm the confidence which we have been bold to entertain.
Thus we may expect to find that they will contain often bold imagery, striking comparisons; and such they do. Let serve, as an example, our own," Grey hairs are death's blossoms ;” the Italian, “Time is an inaudible file;" or the Greek, “Man a bubble,” which Jeremy Taylor has expanded into such glorious poetry in the opening of the Holy Dying; or the Turkish, “Death is a black camel which kneels at every man's gate,” to
take up, that is, a burden of a coffin there; or this Arabic one, on the never satisfied eye of desire, “Nothing but a handful of dust will fill the eye of man;" or another, from the same quarter, worthy of Mecca's prophet himself, " There are no fans in hell;" or this other, also from the East, “Hold all the skirts of thy mantle extended when heaven is raining gold;" improve, that is, to the uttermost, the happier crises of thy spiritual life; or this Indian one, to the effect that good should be returned for evil, “The sandal-tree perfumes the axe that fells it;” or this one, current in the middle ages, “Whose life lightens, his words thunder;" or, once more, this Chinese, “ Towers are measured by their shadows, and great men by their calumniators.”
Or, consider how happily the selfishness and bye-ends which too often preside at men's very prayers, are noted in this Portuguese, “Cobblers go to mass, and pray that cows may die;" that is, that so leather may be cheap. Or take another, a German one, noting, with slightest exaggeration, a measure of charity which is only too common,
“He will swallow an egg, and give away the shells in alnıs;" or this, from the Talmud, of which I will leave the interpretation to yourselves, “All kinds of wood burn silently, except thorns, which crackle, and call out, “We,
too, are wood.'"
The wit of proverbs spares few or none. They are, as may be supposed, especially intolerant of fools. We say, "Fools grow without watering; no need, therefore, of adulation or flattery to quicken them to a ranker growth; for, indeed, the more you stroke the cat's tail, the more he raises his back;" and the Russian, "Fools are not planted or sowed, they grow of themselves;” while the Spaniards, “If folly were a pain, there would be crying in every house;" having, further, an exquisitely witty one on learned folly, as the most intolerable of all follies—"A fool, unless he knows Latin, is never a great fool;" and here is excellently unfolded to us the secret of the fool's confidence-“Who knows nothing, doubts nothing."
But the glory of proverbs, that, perhaps, which strikes us as most marked and most forcible in regard of them, is their shrewd common sense—the sound wisdom for the management of our own lives, and of our intercourse with our fellows, which so many of them contain. In truth, there is no region of practical life which they do not occupy, for which they do not supply some wise hints, and counsels, and warnings. There is hardly a mistake which, in the course of our lives, we have committed, but some proverb, had we known and attended to its lesson, might have saved us from it.
THE PRAISE OF CHIMNEY-SWEEPERS. I LIKE to meet a sweep. Understand me, not a grown sweeper; old chimney-sweepers are by no means attractive,—but one of those tender novices, blooming through their first nigritude, the maternal washings not quite effaced from the cheek; such as come forth with the dawn, or somewhat earlier, with their little professional notes sounding like the peep peep of a young sparrow, or liker to the matin lark should I pronounce them, in their aërial ascents, not seldom anticipating the sunrise !
I have a kindly yearning towards these dim specks—poor blots, innocent blacknesses.
I reverence these young Africans of our own growth-these almost clergy imps, who sport their cloth without assumption; and who, from their little pulpits (the tops of chimneys), in the nipping air of a December morning, preach a lesson of patience to mankind. When a child, what a mysterious pleasure it was to witness their operation; to see a chit, no bigger than one's self, enter, one knew not by what process, into what seemed the jaws of death; to pursue him in imagination as he went sounding on through so many dark stifling caverns; to shudder with the idea that “now, surely, he must be lost for ever!” to revive at hearing his feeble shout of discovered daylight; and then (Oh, fulness of delight !) running out of doors, to come just in time to see the sable phenomenon emerge in safety, brandishing the weapon of his art victoriously, like some flag waved over a conquered citadel!
I am by nature extremely susceptible of street affronts : the jeers and taunts of the populace; the low-bred triumph they display over the casual trip, or splashed trouser, of a gentleman. Yet can I endure the jocularity of a young sweep with something more than forgiveness. In the last winter but one, pacing along Cheapside with my accustomed precipitation when I walk
westward, * a treacherous slide brought me upon my back in an instant. I scrambled up with pain and shame enough, yet outwardly trying to face it down, as if nothing had happened, when the roguish grin of one of these young wits encountered
There he stood, pointing me out with his dusky finger to the mob, and to a poor woman (I suppose his mother) in particular, till the tears for the exquisiteness of the fun (so he thought it) worked themselves out at the corners of his poor
red eyes, soot-inflamed, yet twinkling through all with delight. There he stood irremovable, as if the jest was to last for ever, with such a maximum of glee and minimum of mischief in his mirth--for the grin of a genuine sweep bath absolutely no malice in it—that I could have been content, if the honor of a gentleman inight endure it, to have remained his butt and his mockery till midnight.
My pleasant friend, Jem White, in some sort to reverse the wrongs of fortune in these poor changelings, as he allowed himself to fancy they might be, instituted an annual feast of chimney-sweepers, at which it was his pleasure to officiate as host and waiter. It was a solemn supper, held in Smithfield, upon the yearly return of the fair of St. Bartholomew. Cards were issued a week before to the master sweeps in and about the metropolis, confining the invitation to their younger fry. Now and then an elderly stripling would get in among us, and be good-nat.uredly winked at; but our main body were infantry. One unfortunate wight, indeed, who, relying upon his dusky suit, had intruded himself into our party, but was providentially discovered in time to be po chimney-sweeper, was quoited out of the presence with aniversal indignation. The place chosen was a convenient spot among the pens, at the north side of the fair, not so far distant as to be impervious to the agreeable hubbub of that vanity; but remote enough not to be obvious to the interruption of every gaping spectator in it. The guests assembled about
In those little temporary parlors three tables were spread with drapery, not so fine as substantial; and at every board a comely hostess presided with her pan of hissing sausages.
* The author alludes to his engagements at the India House, and to his characteristic want of punctuality.
The nostrils of the young rogues dilated at the savor. James White, as head waiter, had charge of the first table, and myself ordinarily ministered to the other two-there was much clam. bering and jostling, to be sure, who should get at the first table. Oh, it was a pleasure to see the sable younker lick in the unctuous meat, with his more unctuous sayings! How he would fit the tit-bits to the puny mouths, reserving the lengthier links for the seniors ; how he would intercept a morsel, even in the jaws of some young desperado, declaring it “must to the pan again to be browned, for it was not fit for a gentleman's eating ;” how he would recommend this slice of white bread, or that piece of kissing-crust, to a tender juvenile, advising them all to have a care of cracking their teeth, which were their best patrimony; how genteelly he would deal about the small ale, as if it were wine, naming the brewer, and protesting, if it were not good, he should lose their custom, with a special recommendation to wipe the lip before drinking! Then we had our toasts—“The King," “ The Cloth,” which, whether they understood or not, was equally diverting and flattering; and for a crowning sentiment, which never failed, “ May the Brush supersede the Laurel !”
James White is extinct, and with him these suppers have long ceased. He carried away with him half the fun of the world when he died—of my world at least. His old clients look for him among the pens; and, missing him, reproach the altered Feast of St. Bartholomew, and the glory of Smithfield departed
A CITY NIGHT-PIECE. The clock has just struck two: the expiring taper rises and sinks in the socket; the watchman forgets the hour in slumber; the laborious and the happy are at rest; and nothing wakes but meditation, guilt, revelry, and despair. The drunkard once more fills the destroying bowl; the robber walks his midnight round; and the suicide lifts his guilty arm against his own sacred person.
Let me no longer waste the night over the page of antiquity, or the sallies of contemporary genius; but pursue the solitary walk, where vanity, ever changing, but a few hours past walked