Page images

mation of her looks intelligence seems to be beaming from her eyes, enchantment appears to dwell within the ruby portals of her mouth. Its very silence is eloquent, for hers are the lips which Apollo loved in Daphne, and Cupid in his Psyche, which Phidias and Praxiteles have immortalized in marble, and which immutable Nature still produces when she is in her happiest and most graceful moods. Hers is the mouth, in short, which, to use an appropriate botanical phrase, conducts us by a natural and delightful inosculation to the second division, or rather union of my subject— Kissing.

This is a very ancient and laudable practice, whether as a mark of respect or affection. The Roman Emperors saluted their principal officers by a kiss; and the same mode of congratulation was customary upon every promotion or fortunate event. Among the same people, men were allowed to kiss their female relations on the mouth, that they might know whether they smelt of wine or not, as it seems those vaunted dames and damsels were apt to make too free with the juice of the grape, notwithstanding a prohibition to the contrary. The refinement of manners among these classical females was probably pretty much upon a par with that depicted in the Beggar's Opera, where Macheath exclaims, after saluting Jenny Diver,-"One may know by your kiss that your gin is excellent." The ancients used not only to kiss their dying relations, from a strange notion that they should inhale the departing

soul, but repeated the salutation when dead, by way of valediction; and, finally, when they were laid upon the funeral pile. There is no accounting for tastes; but, for my own part, I would rather salute the living; and I even carry my singularity so far as to prefer the soft lips of a female, to that mutual presentation of bristled cheeks to which one is subject by the customs of France. A series of essays has been written on the rational recreation of kissing, by John Everard, better known as Johannes Secundus, the author of the Basia, which has the disgrace of being even more licentious than his prototypes, Propertius and Catullus. This gentleman held the same situation under the Archbishop of Toledo, that Gil Blas filled under the Archbishop of Granada; but instead of devoting his time to the improvement of homilies, he employed himself in describing kisses of every calibre, from the counterpart of that bestowed by Petruchio upon his bride, who

"kist her lips

With such a clamorous smack, that at the parting

All the church echo'd".

to the fond and gentle embrace described by Milton, when Adam, gazing upon our first parent in the delicious bowers of Eden

" in delight

Both of her beauty and submissive charms
Smiled with superior love, as Jupiter

* Plato seems to have thought that this interchange might occur among the living, for he says when he kisses his mistress,

[ocr errors][merged small]

On Juno smiles, when he impregns the clouds

That shed May flowers; and press'd her matron lip
With kisses pure."

Old Ben Jonson, unlike Captain Wattle, preferred the taste of his mistress's lip to Sillery or ChateauMargaud, for which we have the authority of his well-known song

"Or leave a kiss within the cup,

And I'll not ask for wine."

And Anacreon himself, tippler as he was, did not relish his Chian, "had not the lips of love first touch'd the flowing bowl." The poets in general can hardly be supposed to have possessed "lips that beauty hath seldom bless'd;" and if they have not always recorded this fact, they were probably restrained by the sanctitude of that injunction which orders us not to kiss and tell. Yet there ought to be no squeamishness in the confession, for Nature herself is ever setting us examples of cordiality and love, without the least affectation of secrecy

[ocr errors]

"This woody realm

Is Cupid's bower; see how the trees enwreathe
Their arms in amorous embraces twined!

The gugglings of the rill that runs beneath,

Are but the kisses which it leaves behind,

While softly sighing through these fond retreats
The wanton wind woos every thing it meets."

We may all gaze upon the scene, when, according to

the poet,

"The far horizon kisses the red sky,"

or look out upon the ocean

"When the uplifted waters kiss the clouds."

[ocr errors]


There was doubtless an open footpath over that
heaven-kissing hill," whereon, according to Shak-
speare, the feathered Mercury alighted; and there
were, probably, many enamoured wanderers abroad
on that tranquil night recorded by the same poet-
"When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees,

And they did make no noise.”

Even that phlegmatic compound, a pie, has its kissingcrust. There is no kissing, indeed, animate or inanimate, that has not its recommendations; but there is a nondescript species, somewhat between both, against which I beg to enter my protest-I mean the degrading ceremony of a man made in God's image, kneeling to kiss the hand of a fellow-mortal at Court, merely because that mortal is the owner of a crown and the dispenser of places and titles. Nay, there are inconsistent beings who have kissed the foot of the Servant of servants at Rome, and yet boggled at performing the ko-tou at Pekin, to the Son of the Moon, the Brother of the Sun, and the Lord of the Celestial Empire. Instead of complaining at knocking their nobs upon the floor before such an august personage, it seemed reasonable to suppose that they would conjure up in their imaginations much more revolting indignities. Rabelais, when he was in the suite of Cardinal Lorraine, accompanied him to Rome, and no sooner saw him prostrate before the Pope, and kissing his toe, as customary, than he suddenly turned round, shut the door, and scampered home. Upon his return, the Cardinal asked him the meaning of this insult. "When I saw you," said Rabelais, "who are

my master, and, moreover, a cardinal and a prince, kissing the Pope's foot, I could not bear to anticipate the sort of ceremony that was probably reserved for your servant."


WHEN Horace, as the snows descended
On Mount Soracte, recommended

That Logs be doubled,

Until a blazing fire arose,

I wonder whether thoughts like those
Which in my noddle interpose

His fancy troubled.

Poor Log! I cannot hear thee sigh,
And groan, and hiss, and see thee die,
To warm a Poet,

Without evincing thy success,

And as thou wanest less and less,
Inditing a farewell address,

To let thee know it.

Peeping from earth-a bud unveil'd,
Some "bosky bourne" or dingle hail'd
Thy natal hour,

While infant winds around thee blew,
And thou wert fed with silver dew,
And tender sun-beams oozing through
Thy leafy bower.

Earth-water-air-thy growth prepared,
And if perchance some Robin, scared

From neighbouring manor,

Perch'd on thy crest, it rock'd in air,

Making his ruddy feathers flare

In the sun's ray, as if they were

A fairy banner.

« PreviousContinue »