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Whose rug is straw, whose wholeness is a crack :
Who prov'st, with jolting arguments and bitter,
- Thou inconvenience! thou hungry crop
For all corn! thou snail-creeper to and fro,
Of dowdies, for some dance or party drest,
"By thy ungallant bearing and sad mien,
An inch appears the utmost thou couldst budge;
To whisking tilburies, or phaetons rare,
The tact here is so nice, of all the infirmities which are but too likely to beset our poor old friend, that we should only spoil it to say more.
then to the merits.
One of the greatest helps to a sense of merit in other things is a consciousness of one's own wants. Do you despise a hackney-coach ? Get tired ; get old; get young again ! Lay down your own carriage, or inake it less uneasily too easy. Have to stand up half an hour, out of a storm, under a gateway. Be ill, and wish to visit a friend who is worse. Fall in love, and want
to sit next your mistress! Or, if all this will not do, fall in a cellar.
Ben Jonson, in a fit of indignation at the niggardliness of James I., exclaimed, “He despises me, I suppose, because I live in an alley : tell him his soul lives in an alley.” We think we see a hackney-coach moved out of its ordinary patience, and hear it say, “You there, who sit looking so scornfully at me out of your carriage, you are yourself the thing you take me for. Your understanding is a hackney-coach. It is lumbering, rickety, and at a stand. When it moves, it is drawn by things like itself. It is at once the most stationary and the most servile of commonplaces. And when a good thing is put into it, it does not know it."
But it is difficult to imagine a hackney-coach under so irritable an aspect. It is Hogarth, we think, who has drawn a set of hats or wigs with countenances of their own. We have noticed the same thing in the faces of houses, and it sometimes gets in one's way in a landscape-painting, with the outlines of the massy trees. A friend tells us that the hackney. coach has its countenance, with gesticulation besides ; and, now he has pointed it out, we can easily fancy it. Some of them look chucked under the chin, some nodding, some coming at you sideways. We shall never find it easy, however, to fancy the irritable aspect above mentioned. A hackney-coach always appeared to us the most quiescent of moveables. Its horses and it, slumbering on a stand, are an emblem of all the patience in creation, animate and inanimate. The submission with which the coach takes every variety of the weather, dust, rain, and wind, never moving but when some eddying blast makes its old body seem to shiver, is only surpassed by the vital patience of the horses. Can anything better illustrate the poet's line about
“Years that bring the philosophic mind," than the still-hung head, the dim indifferent eye, the dragged and blunt-cornered mouth, and the gaunt imbecility of body,
dropping its weight on three tired legs in order to give repose to the lame one? When it has blinkers on, they seem to be shutting up its eyes for death, like the windows of a house. Fatigue, and the habit of suffering, have become as natural to the creature as the bit to its mouth. Once in half an hour it moves the position of its leg, or shakes its drooping old ears. The whip makes it go, more from habit than from pain. Its coat has become almost callous to minor stings. The blind and staggering fly in autumn might come to die against its cheek.
Of a pair of hackney-coach horses, one so much resembles the other, that it seems unnecessary for them to compare notes. They have that within which is beyond the comparative. They no longer bend their heads towards each other as they go. They stand together as if unconscious of one another's company, but they are not. An old horse misses his companion like an old man. The presence of an associate, who has gone through pain and suffering with us, need not say anything. It is talk, and memory, and everything. Something of this it may be to our old friends in harness. What are they thinking of while they stand motionless in the rain ? Do they remember? Do they dream? Do they still, unperplexed as their old blood is by too many foods, receive a pleasure from the elements; a dull refreshment from the air and sun ? Have they yet a palate for the hay which they pull so feebly? or for the rarer grain, which induces them to perform their only voluntary gesture of any vivacity, and toss up the bags that are fastened on their mouths, to get at its shallow feast?
If the old horse were gifted with memory-and who shall say he is not, in one thing as well as another ?-it might be at once the most melancholy and pleasantest feeling he has : for the commonest hack has very likely been a hunter or racer; has had his days of lustre and enjoyment; has darted along the course, and scoured the pasture ; has carried his master proudly, or his lady gently ; has pranced, has galloped, has neighed aloud, has dared, has forded, has spurned at mastery, has graced it and
made it proud, has rejoiced the eye, has been crowded to as an actor, has been all instinct with life and quickness, has had its very fear admired as courage, and been sat upon by valour as its chosen seat.
“His cars up-prick'd ; his braided hanging mane
Upon his compass'd crest now stands on end;
His eye, which glisters scornfully like fire,
Shows his hot courage and his high desire.
With gentle majesty, and modest pride ;
And thus I do to captivate the eye
Of the fair breeder that is standing by.
His flattering holloa, or his Stand, I say
He sees his love, and nothing else he sees,
For nothing else with his proud sight agrees.
In limning out a well-proportion'd steed,
So did this horse excel a common one,
In shape, in courage, colour, pace, and bone.
Broad breast, full eyes, small head, and nostril wide ;
mane, thick tail, broad buttock, tender hide ;
Alas! his only riders now are the rain and a sordid harness! The least utterance of the wretchedest voice makes him stop, and become a fixture. His loves were in existence at the time the old sign, fifty miles hence, was first painted. His nostrils drink nothing but what they cannot help,—the water out of an old tub. Not all the hounds in the world could make his ears
attain any eminence. His mane is scratchy and lax ; his shape an anatomy; his name a mockery. The same great poet who wrote the triumphal verses for him and his loves, has written their living epitaph :
"The poor jades
down-roping from their pale, dead eyes;
King Henry V., Act iv. There is a song called "The High-mettled Racer,” describing the progress of a favourite horse's life, from its time of vigour and glory, down to its furnishing food for the dogs. It is not as good as Shakspeare ; but it will do, to those who are half as kind as he. We defy anybody to read that song, or be in the habit of singing it or hearing it sung, and treat horses as they are sometimes treated. So much good may an author do who is in earnest, and does not go a pedantic way to work. We will not say that Plutarch's good-natured observation about taking care of one's old horse did more for that class of retired servants than all the graver lessons of philosophy. For it is philosophy which first sets people thinking; and then some of them put it in a more popular shape. But we will venture to say, that Plutarch's observation saved many a steed of antiquity a superfluous thump; and in this respect, the author of the "Highmettled Racer" (Mr Dibdin, we believe,—no mean man, after all, in his way) may stand by the side of the illustrious biographer. Next to ancient causes, to the inevitable progress of events, and to the practical part of Christianity (which persons the most accused of irreligion have preserved like a glorious infant, through ages of blood and fire), the kindliness of modern philosophy is more immediately owing to the great national writers of Europe, in whose schools we have all been children ;-to Voltaire in France, and Shakspeare in England. Shakspeare, in his time, obliquely pleaded the cause of the Jew, and got him set on a common level with humanity. The Jew has since been