Saturday, October 02, 2010

Gazelle sighting

Though standing in the shadow of that hawk-eyed Topshamite when sighting such things as he did (here, here and here), I did stumble upon a nursing gazelle in my one of my favorite authors, Trollope. There, on page 448 of the Oxford World Classics edition of The American Senator, we have Mounser Green (of the foreign office) commenting on the demise of "The Paragon" (John Morton of the Foreign Service and Squire of Bragton):

'.... If Paraguay gets the better of the Patagonese all Brazil will be in a ferment, and you know how that kind of thing spreads among half-caste Spaniards and Portuguese. Nobody can interfere but the British Minister. When I suggested Morton I knew I had the right man if he'd only take it.'

'And now he has gone and died!' said Hoffman.

'And now he has gone and died,' continued Mounser Green. '"I never nursed a dear gazelle," and all the rest of it. Poor Paragon! I fear he was a little cut about Miss Trefoil.'
(Ms. Trefoil, we should add, was the femme fatale of the story who ended up going off to Patagonia with Mounser Green in a typically Trollopian ending.)
The editor of the book (John Halperin) has an extensive comment in the footnotes:

'I never nursed a dear gazelle': quoted from 'The Fire Worshippers' section of the famous poem by Thomas Moore (1779-1852), Lalla Rookh (1817), i, 279-86.

Oh! ever thus, from childhood's hour
I've seen my foundest hopes decay;
I never lov'd a tree or flow'r
But 'twas the first to fade away.
I never nurs'd a dear gazelle,
To glad me with its soft black eye,
But when it came to know me well
And love me, it was sure to die.

The mawkish, self-pitying tone of the poem was often parodied in the the nineteenth century, which knew Lalla Rookh well - e.g., Dick Swiveller in Dicken's The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-1): 'I never nursed a dear gazelle, to glad me with its soft black eye, but when it came to know me well, it was sure to marry a market-gardener.'
(Note how it is nurs'd in the poem but not in Trollope or Dickens. I suppose this was to simulate the Irish dialect though, to be fair, it is said that the English spoken in Dublin is the purest English of all. Then again, by the upper crust, not the Jackeens. )
On further wandering (looking up Lalla Rookh), I found this comment by Katalin Hegedus in 2007:

I found this poem (i.e. Lalla Rookh) by chance. Reading George Eliot's Middlemarch the author refers to this poem as Rosamond Vincy's favourite (sic).

(Can't they spell?? First its colour and paediatrics and now its favourite!)

Anyway, this gives me THREE gazelles. Top(sham) that if you can.
In a little while, I'll be a vertible Hemingway.

More about the book, The American Senator, in a bit.


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