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VII. A Pet Cormorant.1 1. The Commissariat : the body of officers to whom is entrusted or committed the duty of providing food for an army. Here the army consisted of birds.
2. Sinecure : an office with no duties attached to it. Latin, sine—without, and cura-care.
3. A cast of young merlins. Cast: a brood of hawks, or sometimes a pair of hawks. Merlin : a small kind of hawk.
4. Ornithological : about the science or study of birds.
5. Ingle : fire. nook : a quiet corner. The ingle-nook is the chimney corner.
VIII. The Labours of Robinson Crusoe. I. Arable land : land for ploughing, that is, for growing
2. Hanged in chains : It was formerly a custom in England to hang upon gibbets, by chains, the bodies of those who had been executed for stealing, at the corners of roads, etc., for a warning to others. Similarly, the heads of persons beheaded were fixed on the gates of a city.
IX. Kathleen. 1. The kern : the men. Irish cearn-a man. Shakespeare uses the word to mean Irish soldiers, as we must supplant these rough, rug-headed kerns."— Richard II.
2. Shealing fires : the fires of a cottage or hut. 3. Tow: the coarse part of flax.
4. The Banshee : a kind of spirit or ghost. The Irish peasants consider it a sign of coming ill-luck if they hear it. So the ticking of the death-watch beetle is supposed by ignorant people to foretell a death.
X. Don Quixote and the Windmills. 1. Squire, or esquire : a shield-bearer. French, écuyer, formerly escuyer; from Latin, scụtum, a shield.
In the days of chivalry every knight was attended by a squire, who bore his lance and shield.
1 See Note 3, Extract xxxvi.
2. Caitif : wretch. This word is the same really as our captive. Latin, captivus. French, chétif. As captives are generally wicked persons and miserable-looking creatures, the word got its bad meaning.
XI. Rosabelle. 1. Feat : a wonderful deed. From Latin factum,=a deed done, through French fait, a fact or deed. The minstrel says that he will not sing a song of battle-deeds, such as minstrels usually sang while a feast was held in the castle hall; but his lay is to be sad,-his note, soft.
2. Ravensheuch : an old castle on a rock overhanging the Firth of Forth.
3. Inch : island. See note to VI. 1, The Inchcape Bell.
4. The Water-sprite: the spirit of the water. It was a superstition that her screaming foretold a wreck. So in Lord Ullin's Daughter (Reading-Book No. III.) we have,
“By this the storm grew loud apace,
The water-wraith was shrieking." This poem has several references to old Scottish superstitions. In the next verse the gifted seer refers to the belief that some could foretell the future through what was called second sight. So further on, Note 6.
5. The ring they ride : a poetical transposition for they ride at the ring. A favourite sport in the Middle Ages. A horseman galloped under a wooden arch from which dangled a ring. As he passed he tried to carry it away with his lance.
6. A wondrous blaze. It was believed that when any evil was about to happen to the family of St. Clair, or Sinclair, a ghostly fire seemed to burn their castle of Roslin, near Edinburgh.
7. Hawthornden: a beautiful valley near Edinburgh. 8. Panoply: a complete suit of armour.
9. With candle, with book, and with knell : a funeral service was formerly lighted by candles. The book and the knell, or tolling of the bell, are still retained. In Hamlet the poor
dead Ophelia is allowed “the bringing home of bell and burial.” In the Tempest we have the word knell.
Full fathom five thy father lies ;
XIII. Excelsior. 1. Excelsior : higher and higher.
2. Falchion: a sword bent round like a sickle. From Latin falr-a reaping-hook. So a falcon gets its name from its crooked claws.
3. Glaciers : In Norway and Switzerland there are mountains so high that the snow on them never melts. Do these mountains then rise higher and higher every winter with the fresh snow that falls ? No, because the snow is got rid of in other ways. Some of it slips suddenly down in a great mass, and with a noise like thunder: this is called an avalanche. But some of it slips gradually and constantly in such huge quantities that valleys are filled with it. This huge mass of snow-sometimes several miles in extent, and many hundred feet deep-is pressed by its own weight into ice, so that the valley that contains it seems like a vast sea of ice. This sea of ice is called a glacier.
4. See note above. An avalanche will often carry away whole villages and forests. It consists not only of snow, but of vast masses of rocks and rubbish that the snow carries down with it. Avalanche : properly a mass of snow that slides down to a valley. From French aval, downward (Latin, ad vallem=towards the valley). The opposite of this is amont (Latin, ad montem=towards the hill upward).
5. The monks of St. Bernard : The hospice, or monastery, of St. Bernard is situated at the top of one of the Swiss passes. There travellers are fed and lodged by the hospit
able monks. The word hospice means guest-house. The dogs of St. Bernard are famous for their enormous sire, their beauty, and intelligence. A man lost in the snow is often tracked and saved by these useful creatures.
XVI. The Luck of Edenhall. 1. Seneschal: a steward. Literally, the oldest of the servants.
2. The fountain-sprite : the spirit of the fountain. Another reference to the belief in fairies and supernatural beings so common in the middle ages. Note that it is the subject not the object of gave.
3. Shards: broken pieces of an earthen vessel, or any broken fragments of a thing. It is the same word as shred. So bird used to be brid, third used to be thridde.
XVII. The Skua. 1. Migratory : wandering from one place of residence to another.
2. Viz. : a contraction for videlicet, meaning, “ that is to say.”
3. The fall : the autumn, i.e., the time of the fall of the leaf,
XVIII. The Pipes at Lucknow. 1. Pibroch: the pipe-music, the music of the bagpipes.
2. Lucknow. In 1857 a terrible mutiny broke out among the sepoys or native soldiers of India. They murdered many European officers, and their ladies and children. At Lucknow a few British troops bravely defended the Residency against overwhelming odds. Just as they were giving up all hope of rescue, the armies of Sir Henry Havelock and of General Outram came and saved them. The rescuers themselves were besieged, until Sir Colin Campbell fought his way in, and brought off all who were surviving.
3. The Indian tiger : a metaphor by which the cruel and treacherous sepoy is described as a tiger.
4. Havelock : General Sir Henry Havelock, one of the brave defenders of our power in India. He died during the progress of the mutiny. All English boys should read his life.
5. And the tartan clove the turban : that is, And the Highland soldiers (who were dressed in tartan) cut through the ranks of the Indian sepoys (who wore turbans), just as the river Goomtee cuts through the plain.
XIX. The Contracting Chamber. 1. Dynasty : properly a dominion, then a race of kings of the same family.
2. Mausoleum : a tomb. Properly speaking, the Mausoleum was a magnificent tomb built in memory of Mausolus, an ancient king of Caria, by his widow and sister. It was one of the seven wonders of the world. Mr. Whiston says that in the steeple of St. George's Church, Bloomsbury, near the British Museum, may be seen an absurd imitation of the Mausoleum, with a statue of George I. on the top of it.
XX. A Swan Hunt. 1. Lake Winnipeg : one of the large lakes or inland seas of fresh water in North America.
2. Voyageurs : travellers, so the French voyager-to travel.
3. Radii : a radius is the straight line drawn from the centre to the circumference of a circle ; radii is the plural of the word. The meaning is that the torch sent out lines of light in all directions. 4. The reach : the straight portion of a river.
XXI.. Alexander Selkirk. 1. Alexander Selkirk, a Scotch sailor who lived in solitude on the island of Juan Fernandez for about three years (1706-1709). His adventures are said to have made Daniel Defoe think of writing his Robinson Crusoe,
XXIV. Vogel Islet. 1. The fiord: a narrow inlet of the sea is called in Norway a fiord.
2. Nipen : a spirit who, as the Norwegian peasants believe, busies himself with people's affairs, and whom they try to please by offerings of rich cake, etc.