Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Commonplace rhymes in A Burlesque Translation of Homer by Thomas Bridges, and elsewhere

It's hard to find hoofs on roofs outside of Clement C. Moore and the Coen brothers.

Except for a magical few involving reindeer and old St. Nick, the rhymes in Clement C. Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas" aka "The Night Before Christmas" are commonplace; a dozen of them occur in the first volume of A Burlesque Translation of Homer by Thomas Bridges. Possibly the bawdy verse influenced Moore, if he ever read it. Otherwise rhymes so ordinary as belly/jelly; clatter/matter; and elf/myself are merely coincidental, with no bearing on authorship. Bridges died in 1775, forty-eight years before "A Visit from St. Nicholas" was first published in the Troy Sentinel on December 23, 1823.

Examples below are from A Burlesque Translation of Homer - Volume 1 by Thomas Bridges, with links to the digitized Princeton volume in the Hathi Trust Digital Library.


And threw a stick, which bruis'd the belly
Of Farmer Amphius to a jelly
--Fifth Book - Vol. 1 page 225 
And treading on my back and belly,
Work all my ribs and guts to jelly.
--Fifth Book - Vol 1. page 244
And running through the sea full clatter
Popp'd up and cried, Zoons, what's the matter?
--First Book - Vo1. 1. page 38
Now therefore, without further clatter
Pray go and tell him all the matter.
--Third Book - Vol. 1 page 107
Nor shall the red nos'd surly elf
Drub me with arms I made myself:
--Third Book - Vol. 1 page 107
Because he found the prating elf
Could chatter faster than himself
--Second Book - Argument - page 56
Anchises, like a cunning elf,
Brought mares to cover for himself
--Fifth Book - Vol. 1 page 202
That did you hear each prating elf
I'm pretty sure you'd hang yourself
--Sixth Book - Vol. 1 page 293
Whilst she was naked he fell to work
And got these younkers at a jerk
--Sixth Book Vol. 1 page 250
 For usage of "with a jerk":
Have ply'd their broomsticks with a jerk,
And knocked folks down, just like Macquirk
--Sixth Book Vol. 1 page 293
When born, tho' smaller than a mouse
She'll quickly touch the top o' th' house
--Fourth Book - Vol. 1 page 175
What way he came they little care,
But jump'd for joy to find him there
--Fifth Book - Vol. 1 page 219
For every god had bed and bedding,
And a good house to put his head in.
--First Book - Vol. 1 page 55
But whilst I don my coat and cap,
Do you sit still, or take a nap
Sixth Book-Vol. 1 -page 279
Thus Phoebus from the Trojan wall
Reviv'd their courage one and all
--Fourth Book Vol. 1 page 180
She with the lad, and nurse, and all
Was got upon a pigstye wall
--Sixth Book Vol. 1 page 282
They mount; the nimble horses fly,
And in a twinkling reach the sky
--Fifth Book - Vol. 1 page 209
That came incumber'd with a pack,
To rest his load, and rub his back
--Fifth Book Vol. 1 page 220
But like a pedlar with his pack,
Lugg'd his great potlid on his back
--Sixth Book - Vol. 1 page 257
To strike the foe with still more dread,
She hung a lawyer's chuckle head
--Second Book - Vol. 1 page 94

The 1820 Tour of Doctor Syntax through London has bed/head and jelly/belly

 and matter/clatter

and house/mouse; and came/name; and around/bound; and fly/sky; and pack/back; and rose/nose; and sight/night.

William Combe's The Tour of Doctor Syntax: In Search of the Picturesque, a Poem repeatedly rhymes "elf" with "himself" and "yourself," for example:

But I must say, you silly elf,
You merit to be flogged yourself...
 Once Combe rhymes "elf" and "myself," as in Moore's "Visit":

When I read Falstaff to myself,
I laugh like any merry elf....
Also in Combe's 1812 Tour of Doctor Syntax: care/there; beds/heads; came/name; fly/sky; bound/around; and cap/nap.

Another, shorter poem that shares a cluster of commonplace rhymes with "The Night Before Christmas" is "The Force of Imagination / A Pindaric Tale." "Force of Imagination" was published in the Philadelphia Tickler for August 25, 1812, over the signature of "Pegasus."
And but this very morning while at work
He gave my liver a tremendous jerk...
Now all was ready as before was said;
Snug under lock and key the cobbler laid,
Still as a mouse
While solemn show of deep mysterious knowledge
Was made by every fellow of the college,
And all the house
Was nothing but a din and clatter
Waiting the upshot of the matter.  --Philadelphia Tickler, August 25, 1812
The Tickler - August 25, 1812
Found in the Historical Newspapers at Genealogy Bank

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