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VERSES OF WHIMSICAL CONSTRUCTION.
Plutarch, in his Platonic Questions, has taken to himself the fancy, that Homer advisedly performed the feat of bringing all the parts of speech into one verse. That he has done so is certain ; but that the coincidence was accidental is almost equally so. The noblest poet of the world did not descend to grammatical tricks. The line is this :
Αυτός ιών κλισίηνδε το σον γέρας όφρ' ευ ειδης.
Pindar is stated to have composed a poem cosypov. He might have been better employed; for this could not have been accidental; nor was it worthy of the greatest lyric bard. So the curious in these matters have discovered a verse in the Seven Psalms, in which the letter A does not
This is no marvel, and must have been accidental. It was quite as easy and natural to leave the letter out in this case, as to put it in; for it runs as follows, and has every appearance of chance-medley: - “Nolite fieri sicut equus et mulus, quibus non est intellectus.'
Scaliger brings forward a verse, which he calls Proteus, because you may arrange the six words in seventy-two different ways, without the alteration of a letter. He was a learned man; but his trick in reference to the mythological transformation of Proteus is good for nothing but as a Christmas game for children, and too easy to puzzle even them. The line is this:
Perfide sperasti divos te fallere Proteu.
It may be changed twelve times beginning with perfide ; as many times with fallere ; the same number with divos, with Proteu, and so on, making six dozen times.
There is a curious monosyllabic whim in Ausonius, indicating the decline of taste, but not destitute of ingenuity :
Res hominum fragiles alit, et regit, et perimit fors.
The torturers of verses into jokes have discovered an increasing kind, where the first word is a monosyllable, the second a dissyllable, and so on; and have again pressed an accidental coincidence in Homer into their service:
"Ω μάκαρ ατρείδη μοιρηγένες όλβιόδαιμον. .
Who would ever have suspected the severe Virgil of embellishing his Latin with such ornaments ? The line of which he is accused, or in the estimation of the dealers in small wit, with which he is complimented, is,
Ex quibus insignis pulcherrima Deïopea.
But it happens, unfortunately, that there is no such line in Virgil. The lady is mentioned once in the accusative case, and once besides, thus :
Atque Ephyre, atque Opis, et Asia Deïopea.
But if we deprive them of this support, we can offer them an auxiliary from the heavy German squadron :
Si cupis armari virtutibus Heliodore.
Or we can draw up the following rank and file of syllables as military as poetical :
Dux turmas proprius conjunxerat auxiliares.
Against these set a specimen of the decreasing :
,Vectigalibus armamenta referre jubet Rex.
Every schoolboy knows the hexameter and
pentameter, composed of two words each :
Centos constitute another species of Lower Empire wit. That of Ausonius, so laboriously dull, begins thus. A short specimen will be sufficient to exhibit the taste of the contrivance, and to disgust the judicious admirer of Virgil with such a piece of patchwork :
Accipite hæc animis : lætasque advertite mentes,
Proba Falconia, a Christian poetess, with more zeal than knowledge, composed a work on the Old and New Testaments, made up in this style, exclusively from the verses of Virgil.
The following macaronic line is not only prosodially, but grammatically whimsical :
Supplicat ut præstum præstum vindicta FIATUR.
Et fugit ad salices, at se cupit ante videri.
AUSOnits, who flourished under the emperor Theodosius, as well as under Valentinian and Gratian, lived just when the abrupt and compendious mode of writing was in the height of fashion. He notices it in his panegyric on a certain notary or scribe, in the following lines, commencing his epigram 137.:
Puer notarum præpetum
The three Roman Notes which follow were, as every one knows, of long standing :
N. L. Non liquet, when the business in hand was found to be doubtful.
In Greek, was a mark of condemnation, as the first letter of Oávatos, signifying death*, and T the mark of acquittal : A that of adjournment to a future period.
* Et potis es nigrum vitio præfigere theta.