March 31, 2008

April Fools

He didn’t say, the poor man, “A child’s burden of gorse.”

He said, “A Child’s Garden of Verse,” for whatever reason.

Might have made the difference, hearing it that way, had the Uncle been so inclined or equipped. But his hearing was both imperfect and selective. Whatever it was that was said, the Uncle would hear what he would.

Of course he didn’t say “ A child’s burden of gorse,” the poor man.

Why would anyone say that?

Idiom? —”Ah, yes, in metaphor, the child’s burden of gorse weighing down even our most enchanted, carefree hours with that hard weedy freight of life from which we may never be relieved even in the proposed idylls of youth.”

Unfortunately for all concerned the Uncle’s thoughts escaped down the path of that unlikely idiom. Farther down that path he suspected the inevitable slur against his own childrearing practices, the effects of which were wandering uncertainly about the yard.

He searched for the proper riposte. Something along the lines of “Their gorse is light enough, thank you, though if I had a stick I’d measure you out a proper burden,” is what he claimed later to have formulated on the occasion. Everyone remembers him mumbling at one juncture the not unexpected phrase “… and another swift one, to boot…” familiar point along the short line of truculent points describing the common arc of the Uncle's conversation whatever the topic.

“Eh? Swift? No, no. Lamb, surely,” said the poor puzzled man.

Suddenly the Uncle perceived a reference to Swift himself. Would that he had been mistaken in this as well but the pronouncement was clear enough. Swift, the man said, Swift! Reference to The Dean always engendered the Uncle’s fury, brought on by his long, unhealthy attention to The Dean’s most shocking pamphlet.

Seeking to avoid the Uncle’s inevitable eruption, those who had regular commerce with him used alternate words like "quick" exclusively in his hearing, regularly robbing him of the opportunity that the poor man's reference now offered him.

“Swift, then!” he shouted.

The Uncle’s firm conviction was that Swift’s modest essay contained an implied slur against Irish babies. The cannibal act was made even more repugnant by the Swiftian suggestion of their Irishness:

Imagine eating babies! Ugh!

Imagine eating Irish babies on top of that! Gack! By comparison French babies, even French babies, would seem savory, no doubt.

In this regard the Uncle felt his whelp the equal of any man’s: a meal no less tragic, no less tasty.

Swift’s imputed view to the contrary would not be countenanced by the Uncle.

It was often remarked of the Uncle that he was never in any but a dispersing crowd.

“Lamb, I’m sure, would be correct,” said the hapless young scholar, unawares [In point of fact it was Stevenson, of course, though that is of little moment].

Lamb correct!” shouted the Uncle. “But when it comes to it, would you not eat my bawn before the Duke of Gloucester's?”

And so saying, he delivered up to the ignorant man a prodigious thrashing.

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