Chapter 10

It is full time we return a little, and see what became of the bog-trotter, whom we left in the capacity of judge. This will best appear from a report of a case tried before him, and which has been kindly furnished us by lawyer Tarapin, who was councel in the cause.

Report. Slouch vs. Crouch.

This was an action of assault and battery, with two counts; the first for assault and battery; the second for an assault.-The case as it came out upon the evidence, was as follows.

Upon some ill words given by Crouch, as villain, Grouch made a blow at him with a cudgel. Crouch crouching, as the name imports, let the blow slip over him, which lighting upon Slouch, broke his head. Upon this Slouch had brought his suit against Crouch.

Lawyer Tarapin moved for a nonsuit, on the ground that the action ought to have been against Grouch, whose stick, though intended against Crouch, yet trespassed, and hit upon Slouch.

Lawyer Heberden for the plaintiff, thought the action was properly brought, and that Crouch, who gave the ill words that occasioned the outrage, was responsible for all the consequences; that he had no right to take his head out of the way; but that it ought to have remained at its post, which had it been the case no blow could have fallen on Slouch.

What with the names, with terminations of a like sound, and the intricacy of the case, the judge was puzzled, and getting in a passion, snatched a staff from a constable, and fell upon the suitors. “By my showl,” said he, “I will be after bating de whole o’d you togeder. A parcel of spalpeens and bog-trotters, to be coming here bodering me wid your quarrels, and your explanations; better fight it out like men of honour wid a shelelah, and not come here to trouble de court about it.”

He had broke the heads of several, and was laying about him with the constables staff, the clerks not being able to interfere because they were blind, and the citizens not being willing because they were afraid; saying the culprits were in the hands of the judge, and it did not behove them to take the law into their hands, and resist the execution.

However, the result was that the proceeding broke up the court, and the blind lawyer, fiddler and bog-trotter had to leave the country.

The bog-trotter followed the Captain, and the blind lawyer and fiddler followed him, to the new settlement.

It was just at this time they came in, when the people were in commotion about the courts of justice. It was opportune, and occasioned them all to be provided for by the influence of the Captain. Things were reversed in some measure, from what they were in the country below; for the blind lawyer was made the judge; the fiddler the crier of the court, and the bog-trotter a constable. The piper of whom we have spoken, and who was an emigrant with the Captain, there being no bell or drum in the town, opened the first court at this place with his bagpipes.

There was nothing now wanting but a lawyer, and that was not a want long; for as one rat brings another, so lawyer brings lawyer. The one here already was soon paired, and these two, like stool pigeons, attracted others; so that in a short time the whole settlement was full of them.

There was now a talk of encouraging a printer. Some thought there were typographical errors enough in the world. However, the people were disposed to multiply them, and accordingly a printer was encouraged. He set up a paper which he called the “Twilight.” For, as there was a “dawn” in the east, it seemed reasonable there should be a “twilight” in the west. The Evening Star, and the Western Star have been names of gazettes; but Twilight, for any thing we have heard, would seem to be original. The dawn,

----”That sweet hour of prime,”

In the language of Milton.-One of his most beautiful paintings is that in which he speaks of it as introducing the sun,

----Jocund to run
His longitude through Heaven’s high road; The gray
Dawn, and the pleiades before him danc’d,
Shedding sweet influence----

The “Dawn” is a modest appellation for a paper, bespeaking the beginning of light. The “Twilight” not less so, meaning that small degree of it which remains after the sun is set. -The device was an owl, a cat, and a bat; the owl an emblem of wisdom, the cat of vigilance, the bat of impartiality, being of equivocal formation, and doubtful whether bird or beast. At the same time these animals are all of the “Twilight,” and therefore appropriate.

The motto by the Latin schoolmaster,

----Si quid superesset agendum.

Clonmel the ballad singer, furnished a few verses to introduce the publication. The composition was not the best; but it was suited to the occasion.

The dawn and the twilight, have both but small skylight,
Yet pleasant are both in their prime,
For think of the noon and the hot burning sun.
O, this is a far better time.

Hence name we the paper, and light up a taper
To lighten the clouds of the west.
If not the best skill, yet have the best will,
To make this our paper the best.
We want a little money to begin with, dear honey,
So bring it and take you the news.
Have a little heart, nor be sorry to part,
With a trifle like misers and Jews.

We shall tell how the Spaniards, dress hides in their tanyards,
Or curry their leather in France.
And when that we come to things nearer home,
You shall hear of these just at once;

Who’s married; who’s broken; who is shot, or is choken,
By himself, or the hand of the law.
What dress is on foot, who has got a new clout,
To tickle the fancy and draw.

The lads that can write now let them indite,
And here come speak their own praise;
On politics or pride, or threshing the hide,
Of judges and lawyers now-a-days.

‘Tis all one to us, what the blunderbuss,
So that it but makes a noise,
So down with your inkpots; thinkers or think nots,
And help out our journal, brave boys.

Harum Scarum was a contributor to the paper, and dealt in fabrications and intelligence, Will Watlin gave dissertations on economics, taming wild geese, and brewing beer out of wasp’s nests, Tom the tinker hankering after insurrections, struck his hammer on the government. The Latin schoolmaster was now employed as an Indian interpreter, passing his Greek for the Chickasaw; nevertheless found time to furnish a distich or hemistich or Latin epigram occasionally. O’Fin was a politician and brought down his flail upon Bonaparte, and said, had it not been for his usurpation, there would have been a republic in Ireland. The bag-piper was a merry fellow, and brought his talents into hotch-pot in the way of essays upon drones; shewing their use in a commonwealth. Thus few papers were better supported than the "Twilight". and it had subscribers. The great variety of talents,

Quoniam sic positae, suaves misscetes odores,

Said the Latinist--the great variety of talents could not fail to furnish something to hit the taste of every individual; and it is not so much, excellency, as variety that pleases, The most odoriferous shrub or rose ceases to delight, and we turn to another bush, or take up even a less fragrant flower.

The passions having their vent in a gazette, saves battery and bloodshed. In this view of the subject it is an aid-ducamp to the laws; and if it should be thought eligible to extend the province of the press, and to canvass all matters depending in a court of justice, it will be an accessary to the practice, and a great acquisition in a free government. But this I leave to the discretion of the legislature.

The bog-trotter wrote little, in fact nothing. He was busy serving process in the capacity of constable; and in one of his excursions met with an accident. He set his foot on the spur of a horse-jocky; which, in this new country, from the prick of the roller, he took for a rattle snake. Not waiting to look behind him, after it made the impression, and left a puncture like the tooth of a serpent, he made his tour to the town with great howling and lamentation. A ligament was drawn tight about his ancle, and the leg stroked down and the flesh pressed towards the orifice. Cold water from the mouth of a tea-kettle was poured upon the wound, with a steady current from a considerable height. Finally, certain roots, pointed out by the Indian traders, in a cataplasm was applied to the foot, bandaged up for a fortnight, until all appearance, I need not say, of poison, for there was none, but all apprehension of poison and mortification was removed.

It will not be understood that I record this incident as an evidence of pusillanimity in the bog-trotter. For a man of the firmest mind, might reasonably conceive an alarm at the idea of being bitten by a snake. Such is the horror in the human mind at even the touch, much more the bite of such a reptile.

Milton represents the tempter as seducing Eve under the form of a serpent, and endeavours to render that form amiable by description,

In serpent, inmate bad, and toward Eve
Address’d his way, not with indented wave
Prone on the ground, as since, but on his rear,
Circular base of rising folds, that tower’d
Fold above fold, a surging maze; his head
Crested aloft, and carbuncle his eyes;
With burnish’d neck of verdant gold, erect
Amidst his circling spires, that on the grass
Floated redundant: pleasing was his shape
And lovely; never since of serpent kind,

It would seem to me to have been an oversight in Milton to make the tempter assume the snake. For he is not supported by the Scripture. The idea in Genesis is not that the tempter was in the guise of a serpent; but of some creature which was, for that very act, condemned to be a serpent. “Upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.” It is a metanomasia, or post-nomination, “The serpent was more subtle;” that is, the beast which now we call a serpent, was then the wisest of the field. It is impossible to imagine that creature, which would seem to have been changed; for we can no more imagine a new creature, than create one. When the poets feign a griffin, it is but a winged beast. The Orc’ of Aristo is made up of parts that are taken from animals in nature.

But, it is to be presumed that the animal assumed by the tempter must have been next to the human, the form the most beautiful in nature. The poet represents the transformation as denounced in the garden,

----Without delay
To judgment he proceeded on th’ accused
Serpent, tho’ brute, unable to transfer
The guilt on him who made him instrument
Of mischief, and polluted from the end
Of his creation; justly then accurs’d.
As vitiated in nature----
Because thou hast first done this thou art accurs’d
Above all cattle, each beast of the field;
Upon thy belly grovelling thou shalt go,
And dust shall eat all the days of thy life.

I would have expected the metamorphose at this time and place.

His visage drawn he felt so sharp and spare,
His arms clung to his ribs, his legs intwining
Each other, till supplanted down he fell
A monstrous serpent on his belly prone,
Reluctant; but in vain, a greater pow’r,
Now rul’d him, punish’d in the shape he sinn’d,
According to his doom.----

Since my first reading of the poem, I have been struck with the incongruity of representing the animal which the tempter assumed, as being a serpent in the first instance. Yet there is classical authority for supposing it possible, that a serpentine form could be the subject, even of affection:

Lovelier; not those that in Illyria chang’d
Hermione and Cadmus, or the God
In Epidaurus, nor to which transform’d
Ammonian Jove, or Capitoline was seen,
He with Olympias, this with her who bore
Scipio the height of Rome.

And Dryden in his ode on St. Cecilia’s day;

When he to fair Olympia prest,
Awhile he sought her snowy breast,
And then around her slender waist he curl’d,
And stampt an image of himself, a sovereign
Of the world.

Strange as it seems to me, the ancients in some countries, appear not to have had this horror of serpents. In the temple of Esculapius, the god himself was said to visit his patients disguised under the form of a great serpent, the caresses of which reanimated them with new hope. Serpents in general were consecrated to this god. “He appears to have had a particular predeliction for those found in the neighbourhood of Epidaurus, which are of a colour approaching to a yellow, have no poison, are tame and gentle, and love to live in familiarity with man. That which the priests keep in the temple, will sometimes wind round their bodies, or raise himself on his tail to take the food which they present him on a plate. He is rarely suffered to go out, but when this liberty is permitted him, he walks majestically through the streets, and as his appearance is deemed a happy omen, it excites universal joy.

“These familiar serpents are found in the other temples of Esculapius. They are very common at Pella, the capital of Macedonia. The women there keep them for their amusement. In the great heats of summer, they wind them around their neck, like neck-laces. During my stay in Greece it was said that Olympia, queen of Philip king of Macedon, had one of them, which she frequently took to bed to her, and it was even added, that Jupiter had taken the form of that animal, and that Alexander was his son.”

Translation of Anacharsis

Nevertheless, I still think that the more natural allegory in Milton, and better supported by the scripture, would have been the idea of some creature the most beautiful, as well as the wisest, tempting Eve, and thence, as a punishment, undergoing transformation. So much for criticism.