« PreviousContinue »
"The flies, you rogue !-the flies, you guttling dog!
I'll make you tell another story quickly.”
Who bore him to the judge-a little prig,
Like a red cabbage-rose,
While lots of white ones flourish'd on his wig.
He turn'd to the delinquent,
And 'gan to question him and catechise
As to which way the drink went: Still the same dogged answers rise, "The flies, my Lord-the flies, the flies!"
"Psha!" quoth the Judge, half peevish and half pompous, "Why, you're non compos.
You should have watch'd the bowl, as she desired,
"To kill the flies in this here town ?"-
You've my authority, where'er you meet 'em,
If yonder blue-bottle (I know his face)
Isn't the very leader of the gang
That stole the cream;-let me come near it!"-
And aiming one of his sledge-hammer blows
At a large fly upon the Judge's nose,
The luckless blue-bottle he smash'd,
THE ELOQUENCE OF EYES.
-Nor doth the eye itself,
That most pure spirit of sense, behold itself,
THE origin of language is a puzzling point, of which no satisfactory solution has yet been offered. Children could not originally have compounded it, for they would always want intelligence to construct any thing so complicated and difficult; and as it is known that after a certain age the organs of speech, if they have not been called into play, lose their flexibility, it is contended, that adults possessing the faculties to combine a new language would want the power to express it. Divine inspiration is the only clue that presents itself in this emergency; and we are then driven upon the incredibility of supposing that celestial ears and organs could ever have been instrumental in originating the Low Dutch, in which language an assailant of Voltaire drew upon himself the memorable retort from the philosopher: "That he wished him more wit and
fewer consonants." No one, however, seems contemplated the possibility that Nature never us to speak, any more than the parrot, to whom she has given similar powers of articulation; or to have speculated upon the extent of the substitutes she has provided, supposing that man had never discovered the process of representing appetites, feelings, and ideas by sound. Grief, joy, anger, and some of the simple passions, express themselves by similar intelligible exclamations in all countries; these, therefore, may be considered as the whole primitive language of Nature; but if she had left the rest of her vocabulary to be conveyed by human features and gestures, man, by addressing himself to the eyes instead of the ears, would have still possessed a medium of communication nearly as specific as speech, with the great advantage of its being silent as the telegraph. Talking with his features instead of his tongue, he would not only save all the time lost in unravelling the subtleties of the grammarians from Priscian to Lily and Lindley Murray, but he would instantly become a cosmopolitan, a citizen of the world, and might travel "from old Belerium to the northern main," without needing an interpreter.
We are not hastily to pronounce against the possibility of carrying this dumb eloquence to a certain point of perfection, for the experiment has never been fairly tried. We know that the exercise of cultivated reason, and the arts of civilized life, have eradicated many of our original instincts, and that the loss of any one sense invariably quickens the others; and we may
therefore conjecture that many of the primitive conversational powers of our face have perished from disuse, while we may be certain that those which still remain would be prodigiously concentrated and exalted, did they form the sole medium by which our mind could develope itself. But we have no means of illustrating this notion, for the wild boys and men who have from time to time been caught in the woods, have been always solitaries, who, wanting the stimulus of communion, have never exercised their faculties; while the deaf and dumb born among ourselves, early instructed to write and talk with their fingers, have never called forth their natural resources and instructive powers of expression.
Without going so far as the Frenchman who maintained that speech was given to us to conceal our thoughts, it is certain that we may, even now, convey them pretty accurately without the intervention of the tongue. To a certain extent every body talks with his own countenance, and puts faith in the indications of those which he encounters. The basis of physiognomy, that the face is the silent echo of the heart, is substantially true; and to confine ourselves to one feature-the eye-I would ask what language, what oratory can be more voluble and instinct with meaning than the telegraphic glances of the eye? So convinced are we of this property, that we familiarly talk of a man having an expressive, a speaking, an eloquent eye. I have always had a firm belief that the celestials have no other medium of conversation, but that, carrying on a colloquy of glances, they avoid all the
wear and tear of lungs, and all the vulgarity of human vociferation. Nay, we frequently do this ourselves. By a silent interchange of looks, when listening to a third party, how completely may two people keep up a by-play of conversation, and express their mutual incredulity, anger, disgust, contempt, amazement, grief, or languor. Speech is a laggard and a sloth, but the eyes shoot out an electric fluid that condenses all the elements of sentiment and passion in one single emanation. Conceive what a boundless range of feeling is included between the two extremes of the look serene and the smooth brow, and the contracted frown with the glaring eye. What varieties of sentiment in the mere fluctuation of its lustre, from the fiery flash of indignation to the twinkle of laughter, the soft beaming of compassion, and the melting radiance of love! "Oculi sunt in amore duces," says Propertius; and certainly he who has never known the tender passion knows not half the copiousness of the ocular language, for it is in those prophetic mirrors that every lover first traces the reflection of his own attachment, or reads the secret of his rejection, long before it is promulgated by the tardy tongue. It required very little imagination to fancy a thousand Cupids perpetually hovering about the eyes of beauty,— a conceit which is accordingly found among the earliest creations of the Muse. "Twas not the warrior's dart, says Anacreon, that made my bosom bleed,No-from an eye of liquid blue
A host of quiver'd Cupids flew,