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more ascertained, words held to be synonymous diminish daily; and when those that remain have been more than once employed, the pleasure vanisheth with the novelty,
I proceed to examples, which, as in the former case, shall be distributed into different classes.
A seeming resemblance from the double meaning of a word:
Beneath this stone my wife doth lie;
A seeming contrast from the same cause, termed a verbal antithesis, which hath no despicable effect in ludicrous subjects:
Whilst Iris his cosmetic wash would try
Dispensary, Canto ii.
And how frail nymphs, oft by abortion, aim
Ibid. Canto iii.
While nymphs take treats, or assignations give.
Other seeming connexions from the same cause:
Will you employ your conqu❜ring sword,
Hudibras, Canto ii.
To whom the knight with comely grace
Ibid. part III. Canto iii..
Here Britain's statesmen oft the fall fore doom
Here thou, great Anna! whom three realms obey,
O'er their quietus where fat judges dose,
Speaking of Prince Eugene :
This general is a great taker of snuff as well as of towns. Pope, Key to the Lock.
Exul mentisque domusque.
A seeming opposition from the same cause:
Hic quiescit qui nunquam quievit.
Metamorphoses, l. ix. 409.
Quel âge a cette Iris, dont on fait tant de bruit?
Il faut, dis-je, vous satisfaire,
Elle a vingt ans le jeur, et cinquante ans la nuit.
So like the chances are of love and war,
What new found witchcraft was in thee,
Wit of this kind is unsuitable in a serious poem; witness the following line in Pope's Elegy to the memory of an unfortunate lady:
Cold is that breast which warm'd the world before.
This sort of writing is finely burlesqued by Swift:
Her hands the softest ever felt,
Though cold would burn, though dry would melt.
Strephon and Chloe.
Taking a word in a different sense from what is meant, comes under wit, because it occasions some slight degree of surprise:
Beatrice. I may sit in a corner, and cry Heigh ho! for a husband.
Pedro. Lady Beatrice, I will get you one.
Beatrice. I would rather have one of your father's getting. Hath your grace ne'er a brother like you? Your father got excellent husbands, if a maid could come by them.
Much ado about Nothing, Act II. Sc. 5.
Falstaff. My honest lads, I will tell you what I am about. Pistol. Two yards and more.
Falstaff. No quips, now, Pistol: indeed I am in the waist two yards about; but I am now about no waste; I am about thrift.
Merry Wives of Windsor, Act I. Sc. 7.
Lord Sands. By your leave, sweet ladies,
Anne Bullen. Was he mad, Sir!
Sands. O, very mad, exceeding mad, in love too; But he would bite none
K. Henry VIII.
An assertion that bears a double meaning, one right, one wrong, but so introduced as to direct us to the wrong meaning, is a species of bastard wit, which is distinguished from all others by the name pun. For example,
-Sweet Helen, I must woo you,
To help unarm our Hector: his stubborn buckles,
The pun is in the close. is in the close. The word disarm has a double meaning: it signifies to take off a man's armour, and also to subdue him in fight. We are directed to the latter sense by the context; but, with regard to Helen, the word holds only true in the former sense. I go on with other examples:
Esse nihil dicis quicquid petis, improbe Cinna :
Martial, l. iii. epigr. 61.
N. B. Jocondus was a monk.
Chief Justice. Well! the truth is, Sir John, you live in great infamy.
Falstaff. He that buckles him in my belt cannot live in less.
Chief Justice. Your means are very slender, and your waste is great.
Falstaff. I would it were otherwise: I would my means were greater, and my waist slenderer.
Second Part, Henry IV. Act I. Sc. 1.
Celia. I pray you bear with me, I can go no further. Clown. For my part, I had rather bear with you than bear you: yet I should bear no cross if I did bear you; for I think you have no money in your purse.
As you like it, Act II. Sc. 4.
He that imposes an oath makes it,
Hudibras, Part II. Canto ii.
The seventh satire of the first book of Horace is purposely contrived to introduce at the close a most execrable pun. Talking of some infamous wretch whose name was Rex Rupilius,
Persius exclamat, Per magnos, Brute, deos te
Oro, qui reges consueris tollere, cur non
Though playing with words is a mark of a mind at ease, and disposed to any sort of amusement, we must not thence conclude that playing with words is always ludicrous. Words are so intimately connected with thought, that if the subject be really grave, it will not appear ludicrous even in that fantastic dress. I am, however, far from recommending it in any serious performance: on the contrary, the discordance between the thought and expression must be disagreeable; witness the following specimen.
He hath abandoned his physicians, Madam, under whose practices he hath persecuted time with hope: and finds no other advantage in the process, but only the losing of hope by time.
All's well that ends well, Act I. Sc. 1.
K. Henry. O my poor kingdom, sick with civil blows!
Second Part, K. Henry IV.
If any one shall observe, that there is a third species of wit, different from those mentioned, consisting in sounds merely, I am willing to give it place. And indeed it must be admitted, that many of Hudibras's double rhymes come under the definition of wit given in the beginning of this chapter: they are ludicrous, and their singularity occasions some degree of surprise. Swift is no less success