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(As I did, wishing much to see
The aforesaid letter's pedigree)
Believe me 'twould a tale unfold
Would make your Norman blood run cold.
My lord, you'll find the K's no better
Than an interpolated letter-
A wandering Greek, a franchised alien,
Derived from Cadmus or Deucalion,
And, why, or wherefore none can tell,
Inserted 'twixt the I and L.
The learned say our English tongue
On Gothic beams is built and hung :
Then why the solid fabric piece
With motley ornaments from Greece ?
Her lettered despots had no bowels
For Northern consonants and vowels ;
The Norman and the Greek grammarian
Deemed us and all our words barbarian,
Till those hard words, and harder blows
Had silenced all our haughty foes,
And proud they were to kiss the sandals
(Shoes we had none) of Goths and Vandals.
But since our Saxon line we trace
Up to this all-subduing race,
Who from their “sole dominion” hurled
The giants of the ancient world,
Their boasted languages confounding,
And with such mortal gutturals wounding,
That Greek or Latin fell or fled,
And soon were numbered with the dead;
Befits it us, so much their betters,
To spell our names with conquered letters ?
And shall they rise and prate again,
Like Falstaff from among the slain ?
A licence quite of modern date
Which no long customs consecrate;
For since this K, of doleful sound,
First set his foot on British ground,
'Tis not, as antiquaries know,
A dozen centuries ago.
Tbat darling theme of English story,
For learning famed and martial glory,
Alfred who quelled the usurping Dane,
And burst indignant from his chain ;
Who slaves redeemed to reign o'er men,
Changing the falchion for the pen,
Alfred, whom yet these realms obey.
In all his kingdom owned no K,
From foreign arms and letters free,
Preserved his Cyngly dignity,
And wrote it with a Saxon C.
But grant this specious plea prevailing.
And all my legal learning failing,
There yet remains so black a charge,
Not only 'gainst the Ks at large,
But the individual K in question,
You'd tremble at the bare suggestion,
Nor ever more a wish reveal
So adverse to the public weal.
Dear gentle Earl, you little know
That wish might work a world of woe;
The ears that are unborn would rise
In judgment 'gainst your lordship's eyes;
The ears that are unborn would rue Your letter patent to renew The dormant dignity of shrer. The K restored takes off the attainder, And grants the title, with remainder In perpetuity devised To Katharines lawfully baptised. What has not Shakespeare said and sung Of our pre-eminence of tongue ! His glowing pen has writ the name In characters of fire and flame; Not flames, that mingle as they rise Innocuous with their kindred skies; Some chemic lady-like solution, Shown at the Royal Institution ; But such as still, with ceaseless clamour, Dance round the anvil and the hammer. See him the comic muse invoking (The merry nymph with laughter choking) While he exhibits at her shrine The unhallowed form of Katharine ; And there the Gorgon image plants, Palladium of the termagants. He formed it of the rudest ore That lay in his exhaustless store, Nor from the crackling furnace drew, Which still the breath of genius blew, Till (to preserve the bright allusion) The mass was in a state of fusion. Then cast it in a Grecian mould, Once modelled from a living scold; When from her shelly prison burst That finished vixen, Kate the curst
If practice e'er with precept tallies
Could Shakespeare set down aught in malice ?
From Nature all his forms he drew,
And held the mirror to her view;
And if an ugly wart arose,
He flattered not the unsightly flaw,
But marked and copied what he saw;
Strictly fulfilling all his duties
Alike to blemishes and beauties :
So that in Shakespeare's time 'tis plain
The Katharines were scolds in grain,
No females louder, fiercer, worse.
Now contemplate the bright reverse ;
amid the countless names
Borne by contemporary dames,
Exotics, fetched from different nations,
Or good old English appellations,
Names hunted out from ancient books,
Or found 'mid dairy-maids and cooks,
Genteel, familiar or pedantic,
Grecian, Roman or romantic,
Christian, Infidel or Jew,
Heroines, fabulous or true,
Ruths, Rebeccas, Rachels, Sarahs,
Charlottes, Harriets, Emmas, Claras,
Auroras, Helens, Daphnes, Delias,
Martias, Portias and Cornelias,
Nannys, Fannys, Jennys, Hettys,
Dollys, Mollys, Biddys, Bettys,
Say is there one more free from blame,
One that enjoys a fair fame,
One more endowed with Christian graces,
(Although I say it to our faces,
And flattery we don't delight in),
Than Catherine at this present writing
Where then can all the difference be?
Where but between the K and C?
Between the graceful curving line
We now prefix to atherine.
Which seems to keep in mild police,
Those rebel syllables in peace,
Describing in the line of duty
Both physical and moral beauty.
And that impracticable K,
Who led them all so much astray ?
Was never seen in black and white
A character more full of spite!
That stubborn back, to bend unskilful,
So perpendicularly wilful!
With angles hideous to behold
Like the sharp elbows of a scold,
In attitude, when words shall fail
To fight their battles tooth and nail.
In page the first you're sagely told
That “all that glitters is not gold;"
Fain would I quote one proverb more, -
“N'éveillez pas le chat qui dort."
Here some will smile as if suspicious
The simile was injudicious.
Because in CAT they trace
Alliance with the feline race.
But we the name alone inherit,
C has the latter, K the spirit;