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THE KING OF CLUBS.
Saturni, 14° die Maii, 1821.
THE Club met earlier than usual this month, in order to secure the company of one of their Members, who was about to take up his abode upon the banks of Isis.
After the Articles intended for No. VIII. had been read, and the thanks of the Club voted, as usual, to the Authors of them, Mr. LE BLANC was desired, in default of any more agreeable amusement, to read to the Club his Vale. Allen accordingly complied.
MR. LE BLANC's Vale.
"From time immemorial it has been the custom of Etonians, upon their departure from this seat of classic literature, to compose something which they term a "Vale." I know not precisely how to define this species of writing: I can hardly call it prose, for it is clothed in the gewgaw fetters of rhyme; I can hardly call it poetry, for it is frequently burdened with all the ponderous inflexibility of prose. It is always very sad, and generally produces a contrary feeling in its readers.
However, it has long been a maxim with me, that old customs, in all their primitive utility, or in all their primitive absurdity, ought to be kept up; and I therefore sit down, and, having composed my thoughts into a most gentlemanly melancholy, I proceed to indite my Vale. In doing so, how
ever, I intend to deviate in one respect from the practice which has been most commonly received among our predecessors; I will not confine my thoughts in the inharmonious cadence of monkish jingle: the language in which the ideas of Allen Le Blanc are expressed shall be as free as those ideas themselves; I will write in plain, humble, unsophisticated English prose.
Neither will I adopt the hackneyed embellishments which it is commonly the custom to employ. There is one kind of Vale written, which patronizes the Pastoral: it warbles forth its delicate aspirations in a most mellifluous modulation; it can speak of nothing but whispering groves and melting loves, and verdant plains and happy swains, of tranquil hours and meeting bowers. It contrives to see Damon, and Thyrsis, and Menalcas, all sitting under the trees of the Playing-fields, and to hear a hundred nightingales warbling from the bricks of the Upper School. This is all very pretty, but I don't like it. I don't know how these things are usually summed up, for I never reached the end of one.
There is another genus which dilates into the Didactic. I am told that the study of this style is very profitable, but it generally sends me to sleep. It never rises, and it never sinks; it goes on drawling in its one unvaried tune, stringing together a set of drowsy apophthegms, which nature never expected to find tacked on to each other. It continues in this strain through about a hundred lines, and when you find yourself at the last of them, you turn round with a distension of face, partaking equally of a stare and a yawn, and inquire, "Pray! what was it all about?"
There is another and a loftier kind; I mean that which affects the Ode. This indeed presents us with something worth dwelling upon. In the first place it throws off all restrictions of metre and measure, and is almost as free as the sermo, which I am at present scribbling. In the next place it throws off all restrictions of time and place, presenting you, in the space of two or three succeeding lines, with Athens, Mexico, and St. Paul's; Cicero, Bonaparte, and Pitt. It is impossible to give any thing like a correct definition of this branch of the Vale. It assumes a thousand different shapes, and that shape is commonly esteemed the most beautiful which is the most fantastic. It delights in a
great many peculiarities. It delights in extended similes, which usually begin with "As when a-" and run along through three parts of a page, in all the meanders of long lines and short lines, interspersed with innumerable dashes, brackets, and apostrophes, before you come to the corresponding 'Thus," which informs you that you may take breath, and look for a meaning. It delights in Personification, which is the figure by which we are enabled to assign blue eyes to Hope, squinting eyes to Envy, and green eyes to Jealousy. By the help of this auxiliary, it brings before our eyes a troop of modern Gods and Goddesses, as if the old ones were not sufficient for any good or evil purpose. It represents all the Divinities which the fugitive is about to leave behind himfirst, "Mater Etona," with a laurel in one hand, and a birch in the other: next Hope, and Peace, and Poetry, and Inspiration, and Mutton, and I know not how many more! Then it raises before our eyes, "in dread array," the terrible forms which the said fugitive expects to run athwart in his peregrinations. "Hoary Granta," with Euclid, her aid-du-camp, is at the head of the enemy; she is attended by Labour, and Care, and Trouble, and Triangle, and a legion of personages of the same cast. I would rather get Homer's Catalogue by heart than enumerate the tenth part of them. This species of Vale delights also in playing the Resurrection Man, and bringing up before our eyes the numberless Heroes, Statesmen, and Bards, which have been educated upon the soil we now inhabit. After this it is generally seized with a burst of Prophecy, in which the Poet promiseth to rival with success the fame of the aforesaid Heroes, Statesmen, and Bards. This frenzy does not subside till the conclusion of the poem, which, of course, must end with a thundering Alexandrine, the very beau ideal of Pope's "wounded snake."
But the best, and perhaps the most received plan, is to mix all the above enumerated species together, and to twine the flowers of each into a wild and luxurious garland. I laugh to see the jarring and discordant atoms of different forms, and different colours, rushing simultaneously together, and forming by degrees one cohering whole, united by so delicate a cement, that if from the front, or the back, or the wings, you pilfer a single brick, an immediate disorganization must ensue, and the building, with 11 its heterogeneous compila
tion, rolls, instanter, to the ground. I laugh to see the "Learning" of Personification confounded with the "Pallas" of Mythology, Lycurgus in company with a Master of Arts, and Daphnis arm-in-arm with a second stop!
There is another component part of these efforts which runs through every species in an equal degree. I mean the language of adulation. This is mingled alike with the enervating simplicity of the Pastoral, the monotonous weariness of the Didactic, and the violent heroics of the Ode. As the ancients bestowed upon the monarchs whom they feared and hated most the title of Evesyeraι, our alumni think themselves obliged to heap upon the Governors, whom they have so lately dreaded, the grossest compliments that flattery can devise I do not quarrel with the feelings thus expressed !—I wish every one had the feeling without the display. But at present every one has the display, and I will not stop to calculate how many have the feeling.
I say that I will employ none of these tinsel ornaments which better and abler scholars have so liberally smeared over their paper. Neither will I throw myself, as many have done, into the person of some illustrious Hero of Antiquity, and from his lips pour forth the strain of hallowed verse, till the reader forgets who it is to whom he listens.—I am Allen Le Blanc, and I am writing matter-of-fact.
Farewell to ye, ye amusements in which I have so long rejoiced, ye studies in which I have so long been an actor! Farewell to all the little luxuries which custom has overlooked, to all the little annoyances which discontent has magnified! I am going from the Playing-fields, in which I have joyed in the jovial alacrity of the cricket, or the more solid rotundity of the foot-ball! from the school, whose wooden walls, sculptured on every side with the honoured names of our predecessors, awaken on every side our emulation and ambition! from the little uncarpeted cell, which has been so long dear to me as my Home!
Farewell to the congenial Spirits with whom I have so long associated! in whose pleasures and whose labours I have rejoiced to participate! Farewell too, to you, the real and only tutelary deities of the place; from whose approbation those pleasures and those labours have received their highest zest! In the new scenes to which I am now hastening,-in the new