Where we find, to our surprise,
That within the crowded corner
Butter dreaming woman lies.
“Though she lies, she don’t deceive us,
As it might at first be thought;
This fair maid is made of butter,
On a kitchen-table wrought.
Nothing butter butter-paddle,
Sticks and straws were used to bring
Out of just nine pounds of butter
Butter fascinating thing.
“Butter maid or made of butter,
She is butter wonder rare;
Butter sweet eyes closed in slumber,
Butter soft and yellow hair,
Were the work of butter woman
Just two thousand miles away;
Butter fortune’s in the features
That she made in butter stay.
“Maid of all work, maid of honor,
Whatsoever she may be,
She is butter wondrous worker,
As the crowd can plainly see.
And ‘tis butter woman shows us
What with butter can be done,
Nothing butter hands producing
Something new beneath the sun.
“Butter line we add in closing,
Which none butter could refuse:
May her work be butter pleasure,
Nothing butter butter use;
May she never need for butter,
Though she’ll often knead for bread,
And may every churning bring her
Butter blessing on her head.”
The second and last example is much more common in its form, but is just as good as most of the verses of this style in Parton’s “Humorous Poetry.” I don’t pretend that it is remarkable, but it is equally worthy of presentation with many efforts of this sort from men with a reputation for wit.
THE VEGETABLE GIRL.
BY MAY TAYLOR.
Behind a market-stall installed,
I mark it every day,
Stands at her stand the fairest girl
I’ve met within the bay;
Her two lips are of cherry red,
Her hands a pretty pair,
With such a charming turn-up nose,
And lovely reddish hair.
‘Tis there she stands from morn till night,
Her customers to please,
And to appease their appetite
She sells them beans and peas.
Attracted by the glances from
The apple of her eye,
And by her Chili apples, too,
Each passer-by will buy.
She stands upon her little feet
Throughout the livelong day,
And sells her celery and things—
A big feat, by the way.
She changes off her stock for change,
Attending to each call;
And when she has but one beet left,
She says, “Now, that beats all.”
As to puns in conversation, my only fear is that they are too generally indulged in. Only one of this sort can be allowed, and that from the highest lady in the land, who is distinguished for culture and good sense, as well as wit. A friend said to her as she was leaving Buffalo for Washington: “I hope you will hail from Buffalo.”
“Oh, I see you expect me to hail from Buffalo and reign in Washington,” said the quick-witted sister of our President.
In epigrams there is little to offer. But as it is stated that “women cannot achieve a well-rounded epigram,” a few specimens must be produced.
Jane Austen has left two on record. The first was suggested by reading in a newspaper the marriage of a Mr. Gell to Miss Gill, of Eastborne.
“At Eastborne, Mr. Gell, from being perfectly well,
Became dreadfully ill for love of Miss Gill;
So he said, with some sighs, ‘I’m the slave of your iis;
Oh, restore, if you please, by accepting my ees.’”
The second is on the marriage of a middle-aged flirt with a Mr. Wake, whom gossips averred she would have scorned in her prime.
“Maria, good-humored and handsome and tall,
For a husband was at her last stake;
And having in vain danced at many a ball,
Is now happy to jump at a Wake.”
It was Lady Townsend who said that the human race was divided into men, women, and Herveys. This epigram has been borrowed in our day, substituting for Herveys the Beecher family.
When some one said of a lady she must be in spirits, for she lives with Mr. Walpole, “Yes,” replied Lady Townsend, “spirits of hartshorn.”
Walpole, caustic and critical, regarded this lady as undeniably witty.
It was Hannah More who said: “There are but two bad things in this world—sin and bile.”
Miss Thackeray quotes several epigrammatic definitions from her friend Miss Evans, as:
“A privileged person: one who is so much a savage when thwarted that civilized persons avoid thwarting him.”
“A musical woman: one who has strength enough to make much noise and obtuseness enough not to mind it.”
“Ouida” has given us some excellent examples of epigram, as:
“A pipe is a pocket philosopher, a truer one than Socrates, for it never asks questions. Socrates must have been very tiresome, when one thinks of it.”
“Dinna ye meddle, Tam; it’s niver no good a threshin’ other folks’ corn; ye allays gits the flail agin’ i’ yer own eye somehow.”
“Epigrams are the salts of life; but they wither up the grasses of foolishness, and naturally the grasses hate to be sprinkled therewith.”
“A man never is so honest as when he speaks well of himself. Men are always optimists when they look inward, and pessimists when they look round them.”
“Nothing is so pleasant as to display your worldly wisdom in epigram and dissertation, but it is a trifle tedious to hear another person display theirs.”
“When you talk yourself you think how witty, how original, how acute you are; but when another does so, you are very apt to think only, ‘What a crib from Rochefoucauld!’”
“Boredom is the ill-natured pebble that always will get in the golden slipper of the pilgrim of pleasure.”
“It makes all the difference in life whether hope is left or—left out!”
“A frog that dwelt in a ditch spat at a worm that bore a lamp.
“‘Why do you do that?’ said the glow-worm.
“‘Why do you shine?’ said the frog.”
“Calumny is the homage of our contemporaries, as some South Sea Islanders spit on those they honor.”
“Hived bees get sugar because they will give back honey. All existence is a series of equivalents.”
“‘Men are always like Horace,’ said the Princess. ‘They admire rural life, but they remain, for all that, with Augustus.’”
“If the Venus de Medici could be animated into life, women would only remark that her waist was large.”
The brilliant Frenchwomen whose very names seem to sparkle as we write them, yet of whose wit so little has been preserved, had an especial facility for condensed cynicism.
Think of Madame du Deffand, sceptical, sarcastic; feared and hated even in her blind old age for her scathing criticisms. When the celebrated work of Helvetius appeared he was blamed in her presence for having made selfishness the great motive of human action.
“Bah!” said she, “he has only revealed every one’s secret.”
And listen to this trio of laconics, with their saddening knowledge of human frailty and their bitter Voltaireish flavor:
We shall all be perfectly virtuous when there is no longer any flesh on our bones.—_Marguerite de Valois._
We like to know the weakness of eminent persons; it consoles us for our inferiority.—_Mme. de Lambert._
Women give themselves to God when the devil wants nothing more to do with them.—_Sophie Arnould._
Madame de Sevigne’s letters present detached thoughts worthy of Rochefoucauld without his cynicism. She writes: “One loves so much to talk of one’s self that one never tires of a tete-a-tete with a lover for years. That is the reason that a devotee likes to be with her confessor. It is for the pleasure of talking of one’s self—even though speaking evil.” And she remarks to a lady who amused her friends by always going into mourning for some prince, or duke, or member of some royal family, and who at last appeared in bright colors, “Madame, I congratulate myself on the health of Europe.”