Imágenes de páginas

Alphabetical whims.



EN No. 59 of the Spectator, Addison, descanting on the different species of false wit, observes, “The first I shall produce are the Lipogrammatists, or letter

droppers of antiquity, that would take an exception, without any reason, against some particular letter in the alphabet, so as not to admit it once in a whole poem. One Tryphiodorus was a great master in this kind of writing. He composed an Odyssey, or Epic Poem, on the adventures of Ulysses, consisting of four-and-twenty-books, having entirely banished the letter A from his first book, which was called Alpha, (as lucus a

non lucendo,) because there was not an alpha in it. His second book was inscribed Beta, for the same reason. In short, the poet excluded the whole four-and-twenty letters in their turns, and showed them that he could do his business without them. It must have been very pleasant to have seen this Poet avoiding the reprobate letter as much as another would a false quantity, and making his escape from it, through the different Greek dialects, when he was presented with it iu any particular syllable; for the most apt and elegant word in the whole language was rejected, like a diamond with a flaw in it, it it appeared blemished with the wrong letter."

In No. 63, Addison has again introduced Tryphiodorus, in his Vision of the Region of False Wit, where he sees the phan. tom of this poet pursued through the intricacies of a dance by four-and-twenty persons, (representatives of the alphabet,) who are unable to overtake him.

Addison should, however, have mentioned that Tryphiodorus is kept in countenance by no less an authority than Pindar, who, according to Athenæus, wrote an ode from which the letter sigma was carefully excluded.

This caprice of Tryphiodorus has not been without its imitators. Peter de Riga, a capon of Rheims, wrote a summary of the Bible in twenty-three sections, and throughout each section omitted, successively, some particular letter.

Gordianus Fulgentius, who wrote “ De Ætatibus Mundi et Honinis," has styled his book a wonderful work, chiefly, it may be presumed, from a similar reason; as from the chapter on Adam he has excluded the letter A; from that on Abel, the B; from that on Cain, the C; and so on through twentythree chapters.

Gregorio Letti presented a discourse to the Academy of Idu. morists at Rome, throughout which he had purposely omitted the letter R, and he entitled it the exiled R. A friend having requested a copy as a literary curiosity, (for so he considered this idle performance,) Letti, to show it was not so difficult a matter, replied by a copious answer of seven pages, in which he observed the same severe ostracism against the letter R.

Du Chat, in the “Ducatiana," says “there are five novels in prose, of Lope de Vega, similarly avoiding the vowels; the first without A, the second without E, the third without I, the fourth without 0, and the fifth without U.”

The Orientalists are not without this literary folly. A Persian poet read to the celebrated Jami a ghazel of his own composition, which Jami did not like; but the writer replied it was, notwithstanding, a very curious sonnet, for the letter Alij was not to be found in any of the words ! Jami sarcastically an. swered, “You can do a better thing yet; take away all the letters from every word you have written.”

This alpbabetical whim has assumed other shapes, sometimes taking the form of a fondness for a particular letter. In the Ecloga de Calvis of Hugbald the Monk, all the words begin with a C. In the Nugæ Venales there is a Poem by Petrus Placentius, entitled Pugna Porcorum, in which every word begins with a P. In another performance in the same work, entitled Canum cum cattis certamen, in which "apt alliteration's artful aid” is similarly summoned, every word begins with a C.

Lord North, one of the finest gentlemen in the Court of James I., has written a set of sonnets, each of which beging with a successive letter of the alphabet. The Earl of Rivers, in the reign of Edward IV., translated the Moral Proverbs of Christiana of Pisa, a poem of about two hundred lines, almost all the words of which he contrived to conclude with the letter E.

The Pangrammatists contrive to crowd all the letters of the alphabet into every single verse. The prophet Ezra may be regarded as the father of them, as may be seen by reference to ch. vii., v. 21, of his Book of Prophecies. Ausonius, a Roman poet of the fourth century, whose verses are characterized by great mechanical ingenuity, is fullest of these fancies.

The following sentence of only 48 letters, contains every letter of the alphabet :—John P. Brady, give me a black walnut box of quite a small size.

The stanza subjoined is a specimen of both lipogrammatio and pangrammatic ingenuity, containing every letter of the

Those who remember that e is the most indispensable letter, being much more frequently used than any other, * will perceive the difficulty of such composition.

* The relative proportions of the letters, in the formation of words, have been pretty accurately determined, as follows:

Q 5

alphabet except e.


A 85
B 16
C 30

E 120
F 25
G 17
H 64

Y 20
Z 2

I 80

U 34
V 12
W 20

4 K 8 L 40

M 30
N 80
0 80
P 17

R 62
S 80
T 90

A jovial swain may rack his brain,

And tax his fancy's might,
To quiz in vain, for 'tis most plain,

That what I say is right.

The Fate of Nassan affords another example, each stanza containing the entire alphabet except e, and composed, as the writer says, with ease without e's.

[merged small][ocr errors]

Bold Nassan quits his caravan,
A bazy mountain-grot to scan;
Climbs jaggy rocks to spy bis way,
Doth tax his sight, but far doth stray.
Not work of man, nor sport of child,
Finds Nassan in that mazy wild;
Lax grow his joints, limbs toil in vain-
Poor wight! why didst thou quit that plain?
Vainly for succor Nassan calls.
Know, Zillab, that thy Nassan falls:
But prowling wolf and fox may joy

To quarry on thy Arab toy.
LORD HOLLAND, after reading the five Spanish novels
already alluded to, in 1824, composed the following curious
example, in which all the vowels except E are omitted :-

EVE'S LEGEND. Men were never perfect; yet the three brethren Veres were ever esteemed, respected, revered, even when the rest, whether the select few, whether the mere herd, were left neglected.

The eldest's vessels seek the deep, stem the element, get penco; the keen Peter, when free, wedded llester Green,—the slender, stern, serere, erect liester Greon. The next, clever Ned, less dependent, wedded sweet Ellen Heber. Stephen, ere he inet the gentle Eve, never felt tenderness: he kept kennels, bred steeds, rested where the dcer fed, went where green trees, where fresh breezes, greeted sleep. There be inet the meck, the gentle Evo: she tended her sheep, she ever neglected self: sbe never heeded pelf, yet she heeded the shepherds even less. Nevertheless, her cheek reddened when she met Stephen; yet decent reserve, meek respect, tempered her spcech, even when she shewed tenderness. Stephen felt the sweet effect : he felt he erred when he fled the sex, yet felt he defenceless when Eve seemed tender. She, he reflects, never deserved neglect; she never vented spleep; he esteems her gentleness, ber endless deserts; he reverences her steps; he greets her :

« AnteriorContinuar »