They are delighted to hear the French Court is removed to Marli, and are afterwards as much delighted with its return to Versailles. They read the advertisements with the same curiosity as the articles of public news; and are as pleased to hear of a pye-bald horse that is strayed out of a field near Islington, as of a whole troop that has been engaged in any foreign adventure.
In short, they have a relish for anything that is news , let the matter of it be what it will. They are men of a voracious appetite. We are likewise ready to maintain, with the hazard of all that is near and dear to us, that six is less than seven in all times and at all places; and that ten will not be more three years hence than it is at present. We do also firmly declare that it is our resolution as long as we live to call Black black and White white. And we shall upon all occasions oppose such persons that upon any day of the year shall call Black white or White [Pg 19] black, with the utmost of our lives and fortunes.
What do these illustrations show? Far from it. That religion is a humorous subject? They show that the literature of the Bible contains the same elements that in any other literature we call Wit and Humor. Wit and humor often lie too deep for laughter, as pathos often lies too deep for tears. No attempt is here made at exact definition of the two words that are prominent in the general title of this book. Perhaps after they have passed through their final analysis we shall not be any wiser than before we cast them into the alembic.
Our common acceptation shall serve us in these studies. One when a beggar he prepares to plunge; The other when a prince he rises with his pearl? Festus, I plunge.go site
lifes unanswered questions
And with what strokes of Nature, I could almost say of Humour, has he described the behavior of a treacherous and self-interested friend! Against the authority of so illustrious a name, the writer of these pages confesses a somewhat different impression. It is difficult to believe that such sentiments as the following could have arisen among a people whose only smile was that of complacency, whose only laughter that of scorn:.
They did not find the heavens forever black and the earth forever cheerless. When we turn to the historical and biographical portions of Scripture, we find here and there a bit of quaintness and drollery in pictures of life and delineations of character that must have brought to the faces of those who read them or heard them smiles other than those of complacency; that must have been enjoyed with laughter other than that of scorn. The writers of the Bible sketched manners and traits as they found them.
Their pencils were faithful to nature. They reported what they saw. The features which provoke the smile, as well as those which move us to admire, condemn or weep, are pictured on their canvas. They had an eye for the ludicrous side of life, as well as for its more sober aspects. So, genial is much of their—often unconscious—humor, so far removed from bitterness or scorn, that it should seem as if Addison and Irving might have drawn some of their inspiration from these old Hebrews.
In the time of the Judges the unprincipled Abimelech contrived to have himself proclaimed king in Shechem. Knowing his unfitness for the throne, and vexed at his successful machinations, Jotham, a man of ready wit, ridicules the pretensions of the monarch and the folly of the people, in an admirable fable. And they said to the [Pg 29] Olive Tree, Reign thou over us.
But the Olive Tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honor God and men, and go to be promoted over the Trees? Then said the Trees unto the Fig Tree, Come thou and reign over us.
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But the Fig Tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the Trees? Then said the Trees unto the Vine, Come thou and reign over us. They have found among their fellows of the forest no available candidate whose character and record are good. They anticipated a difficulty of more modern times. But they are becoming desperate. They are determined to have a king. In this extremity what step do they take?
This Bramble, Jotham explains, represents Abimelech, while the misguided trees are the men of Shechem. Having made this application, Jotham became convinced that his mission was ended, and abandoned Mount Gerezim for a place of greater security. He was willing to let his story, moral and all, take care of itself; for in that day, as in every subsequent age, there was no room for a satirist in the kingdom of an incompetent ruler.
Farther on in the book of Judges, we have the portrait of Samson. How quaintly is the character drawn! A great lubberly, good-natured giant, but now and then bursting out into fits of unreasoning and uncontrolled anger,—not unlike Ajax in the play.
He is constantly making himself ridiculous in his love affairs. What great men have been in love? More authority dear boy, name more; and sweet my child, let them be men of good repute and carriage. Standing out amid the confusion of legendary times, he gives us good specimens of the fierce, wild kind of merriment relished in ancient days; and was very fond of making very sanguinary sport for the Philistines.
He was an exaggeration of a not very uncommon type of man in which brute strength is joined to loose morals and whimsical fancy. People were more inclined to laugh at sufferings formerly than now, because they were not keenly sensitive to pain, and also had less feeling and consideration for others. That Samson found some malicious kind of pleasure and diversion in his reprisals on his enemies and made his misfortunes minister to his amusement, is evident from the strange character of his exploits. What a touch of human nature there is in the scene between Samson and his wife, when she asks for the solution of that wretched riddle!
But if Samson was worsted in the encounter with his wife, he scored a victory against the Philistines who had frightened her into telling them the answer to the riddle. Thou hast mocked me these three times, and hast not told me wherein thy great strength lieth. Upon the whole, as we look upon the portrait of Samson, we find it impossible to respect him.
The one flash of genuine nobility comes at the last. There is quite a different character in the first book of Samuel. His name is Nabal.
Clean Jokes and Humor
He stands out of the story like an old, gnarled tree. It would not be a matter of marvel if he suggested to Fielding the character of Squire Western. They have many points in common. There be many servants now-a-days that break away, every man from his own master! There are some elements of genuine humor in the story of Jonah. Whatever may be thought of the miraculous portions of the narrative, the character of the shirking and whimpering prophet is faithfully drawn.
He first tries to escape the command of the Lord by fleeing to Tarshish, but finds that he who runs away from duty runs into danger. Thoroughly alarmed by the disastrous outcome of his attempt to get away from responsibility, he finally goes to Nineveh, but is not reconciled to his task.
He did not go because he was anxious to serve the Ninevites, but because he wished to avert further danger from himself. He is in just the mood to complain of everything, to snatch at any straw of justification for his former conduct. Contrary to his expectations, and even, it must be confessed, to his secret wishes, the Ninevites were moved to repentance by his half-hearted preaching, with its undertone of grumbling, and God forgave them and turned away the threatened destruction of [Pg 40] their city.
But when the forty days expire, and the city does not fall, Jonah is angry, and he insists that he does well to be angry. He has been obliged to trudge through the streets of the city day after day shouting his predictions of doom, and now he is denied the poor satisfaction of seeing the bolts fall from heaven in vengeance.
Did I not say then and there how this whole affair would turn out? And now that I have come, my prophecy has failed and my mission is a farce. These wretches are spared and the prophet of God is a laughing-stock! Nothing could reconcile Jonah, just then, to the thought of further existence.
Like Mr. We must not pass by that exquisite likeness of the demagogue in Second Samuel. And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right, but there is no one deputed of the king to hear thee. The present administration has been so long in power, that it has grown careless of the interests of the people. Put our party in power and see whether the rights of the people will not be better regarded; see whether there will not be reform in all departments of the government, and better times in the nation.
Absalom, it will be remembered, closed his career by getting hung upon a tree. It is greatly to be regretted that many of our modern demagogues do not complete the parallel. If Absalom is a type of the demagogue, Shimei surely is a type of the sycophant. While David was in power, Shimei was devoted. When David was supplanted by the scheming Absalom and went forth heart-broken and weary from the city where he had reigned, Shimei basely deserts him to become the tool of Absalom, and heaps insults upon the head of the fallen monarch.
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