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J.H. Moore on Openings - Impressions and Expressions of Ijon
July 25th, 2006
04:49 am


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J.H. Moore on Openings
This one's for avva:

In his Expositional Modes and Temporal Ordering in Fiction, Meir Sternberg, discussing modes of starting narratives, quotes by way of demonstration the opening lines of the poem "The Duke of Benevento" by one Sir John Henry Moore (18th c.) --
I hate the prologue to a story
Worse than the tuning of a fiddle,
Squeaking and dinning;
Hang order and connection,
I love to dash into the middle;
Exclusive of the fame and glory,
There is a comfort on reflection
To think you've done with the beginning.

And so at supper, one fine night,
Hearing a cry of Alla, Alla,
The prince was damnably confounded,
And in a fright,
But more so when he saw himself surrounded
By fifty Turks; and at their head the fierce Abdalla.
My guess is that Sternberg didn't dig him up out of oblivion himself, but that he had encountered Moore in R.S. Crane's The Languages of Criticism and the Structure of Poetry (U. Toronto Press, 1953), which I'm guessing was widely read in the 1970s, when Sternberg wrote his book, some two hundred years after Moore's poem was published.

Disappointingly, the Internet is far from satisfying about the poem or about Moore -- this blog entry would probably be the second place on the net mentioning the two, and the full text, or a decent encyclopedic entry on Moore, are nowhere to be found. Sternberg himself is quoting from The Oxford Book of Eighteenth-Century Verse (ed. David Nichol Smith, Oxford 1936).

(5 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:July 25th, 2006 09:51 am (UTC)
Wow, that's obscure, very obscure. And an amusing specimen of narrative technique, indeed. Thank you.

I tried to exercise some of my google-fu muscles and come up with more information about the poet and the poem. That was a rather difficult task.

It seems Sir John died at 24 (1756-1780), which goes some way towards explaining the lack of information about him. This Gutenberg collection, perhaps interesting in its own right, quotes a short poem, "Cease to blame my melancholy".

[User Picture]
Date:July 25th, 2006 10:00 am (UTC)
The natural place to look for full text of works by English poets is the Chadwyck-Healey English Poetry Database, almost exhaustive in its coverage until 1800 and rather comprehensive about the 19th century. Unfortunately, it's not freely available, and I no longer have the access; many universities are subscribed, so you may have access through yours - it's worth checking out. From the freely available table of contents one learns that Moore published one book, "Poetical trifles", in 1788, when he was 21 or 22, then. Some rather tedious exercises in keeping my google-fu in shape let me come up with the full text of the poem you're quoting from (preserved in Google Cache of a webpage inadevertently made freely accessible, remedied since):

1  I hate a prologue to a story
2  Worse than the tuning of a fiddle,
3  Squeaking and dinning:
4  Hang order and connection,
5  I love to dash into the middle;
6  Exclusive of the fame and glory,
7  There is a comfort on reflection
8  To think you've done with the beginning.
9  And so at supper one fine night,
10  Hearing a cry of Alla, Alla,
11  The Prince was damnably confounded,
12  And in a fright,
13  But more so when he saw himself surrounded
14  By fifty Turks; and at their head the fierce Abdalla.
15  And then he look'd a little grave
16  To find himself become a slave,
17  And thought the Corsair rather in a hurry,
18  Out of all rules,
19  To make the Duke of Benevento curry,
20  And take care of his mules:
21  But as 'twas vain to make a riot,
22  Without grimace,
23  Or a wry face,
24  He gave a shrug, and rubb'd his mules in quiet.
25  It would have been great sport
26  To all the puppies of the court
27  To view these changes, and disasters;
28  But their enjoyments
29  Were damp'd by certain slovenly employments,
30  Not more amusing than their master's.
31  But who can paint his grief,
32  Who can describe the transports of his sorrow,
33  When he beheld Almida's charms
34  Conducted to Abdalla's arms,
35  And saw no prospect of relief;
36  But that the blooming maid,
37  By cruel destiny betray'd,
38  Must no more triumph in that name to-morrow.
39  Not understanding what he said,
40  Seeing him caper like an antic,
41  And tear his hair, and beat his head,
42  The Eunuch wisely judged him to be frantic.
43  But she, the lovely cause of all his care,
44  Darting a look to his enraptur'd soul,
45  Might soften e'en the madness of despair;
46  Bade him his weak, unmanly rage controul,
47  Each favouring opportunity improve;
48  And bade him dare to hope, and bade him dare to love.
49  The Corsair in a transport of surprise,
50  When he beheld Almida's sparkling eyes,
51  Her faultless figure, her majestic air,
52  The graceful ringlets of her auburn hair,
53  That twin'd in many a fold to deck,
54  Not hide the dazzling whiteness of her neck;
55  The various charms her flowing robe reveal'd,
56  While fancy whisper'd to his throbbing heart
57  Each nameless beauty, that well-judging art,
58  To fix the roving mind, had carefully conceal'd.
59  “O Mahomet! I thank thee,” he exclaim'd,

[User Picture]
Date:July 25th, 2006 10:02 am (UTC)
60  “That to thy servant thou hast given
61  “This bright inhabitant of heaven;
62  “To gild the progress of his life below,
63  “For him this beauteous Houri fram'd;
64  “Enjoyment I have known, but never lov'd till now.”
65  Then with a smile
66  Might ev'n a Stoic's heart beguile,
67  The fair one with a little flattery
68  To his charm'd ears address'd her battery.
69  “Still may my Lord (said she) approve
70  “The happy object of his love,
71  “Then when Almida sues,
72  “Let not Abdalla's heart her first request refuse:
73  “Deign to suspend but for three days
74  “The progress of your amorous flame,
75  “And to console my heart for these delays,
76  “Grant me two small requests that I shall name.
77  “The first is to desire,
78  “If you incline,
79  “Five hundred lashes for two friends of mine,
80  “And just as many for a Fry'r;
81  “The next a litter, and two mules,
82  “The heavy hours of absence to amuse,
83  “Besides a Muleteer that I shall chuse,
84  “At my disposal, subject to my rules.”
85  So said, the culprit knaves appear,
86  Upon each rascal's pamper'd hide
87  The stripes are in due form applied,
88  Which done, she chose
89  You may suppose
90  Her lover, for her Muleteer.
91  Then with a voice sweet as an angel's song,
92  While Tancred with attentive ear
93  In silent rapture stoop'd to hear,
94  The Beauteous Maid the silence broke,
95  Conviction follow'd as she spoke,
96  And truth, and soft persuasion, dwelt on her enchanting tongue.
97  “With grief those scenes unwilling I disclose,
98  “Whence every error, each misfortune rose;
99  “When pleasures of the lowest, meanest kind,
100  “Unnerv'd your feeble frame, and check'd the progress of your mind.
101  “In vain your people's curses, or their tears,
102  “Your heart assail'd,
103  “Two flattering knaves had charm'd your ears,
104  “And Raymond vainly counsel'd, or as vainly rail'd;
105  “He was your father's friend, wise, honest, brave,
106  “Him you displac'd,
107  “And listening to the malice of a slave,
108  “The Guardian of your Crown was banish'd, and disgrac'd.
109  “Me too you lov'd, and I approv'd the flame
110  “In hopes my counsels might have weight,
111  “To prompt you to redress the state,
112  “And save from infamy your sinking name.
113  “But soon your Confessor, the crafty Priest,
114  “Rage, hate, and malice, rankling in his breast,
115  “With timorous scruples fill'd your wavering mind,
116  “In vain each finer feeling strove
117  “To guard your heart, and court it to be kind,
118  “While haggard superstition triumph'd over love.
119  “But justice still pursues betimes,
120  “E'en now, for she directs the hour,
121  “The Priest, and the vile partners of his pow'r,
122  “Feel vengeance overtake their crimes.
123  “The Turks unnotic'd march, last night's surprise,
124  “The foe unthought-of thundering at the gate,
125  “At length have clear'd your eyes,
126  “Their treacherous negligence is found, is felt too late.
127  “No more of this unpleasing strain,
128  “If thinking, acting like a man;
129  “Reform'd by slavery's painful chain,
130  “Virtue within your breast resume her reign,
131  “Inspire your thoughts, and guide your future plan,
132  “My heart will still be your's: e'en Raymond too
133  “Still loves his Prince, to him repair,
134  “Confess your faults, his aid demand,
135  “The gallant veteran waits but your command,
136  “To spread his conquering banners to the air,
137  “To sacrifice his life with you,
138  “Or rescue and relieve his native land.

[User Picture]
Date:July 25th, 2006 10:03 am (UTC)
139  “Abdalla claims my promise in three days.
140  “Think then on me,
141  “Danger and death attend delays,
142  “Be virtuous, be daring, and be free.”
143  The Lady's sermon was a little long,
144  Not but she talk'd both well and wittily,
145  And then she look'd so prettily,
146  Her eyes excus'd the freedoms of her tongue.
147  For when a favourite mistress speaks,
148  We always think her in the right,
149  E'en though she talk for days, or weeks,
150  Or in the middle of the night.
151  To say the truth her speech was rather rough,
152  But as she promis'd him her heart,
153  Upon the whole he took it in good part,
154  And as he lov'd her, lik'd it well enough.
155  So thank'd her for the good advice,
156  And took his leave, and ere he went,
157  By way of compliment,
158  Call'd her his guardian angel, his sweet tutor,
159  And kiss'd her fair hand, once, or twice,
160  And swore to be a good boy for the future.
161  In short it was so settled; the third night,
162  By good luck too 'twas dark as hell,
163  Tancred with Raymond and a chosen band
164  Surprise the guards, who in their fright
165  Make but a shabby stand,
166  And enter at the gates pell-mell.
167  Mean time Abdalla, snug in bed,
168  Finding Almida staid away so long,
169  Suspecting there was something wrong,
170  Look'd out; and found his troops were kill'd, or gone,
171  Himself a prisoner, and alone,
172  And Tancred reigning in his stead.
173  And now the sore-back'd scoundrels in a trice
174  Came kindly with their counsels, and advice,
175  Proposing as a pious work
176  Just to impale
177  Or stick a hedge-stake through the tail
178  Of the poor Turk.
179  Indignant fury flash'd from Tancred's eye—
180  “Ye vile corruptors of my youth,
181  “Ye foes to honour, honesty, and truth,
182  “Hence from my sight, nor offer a reply:
183  “If the third day
184  “Within the limits of this state
185  “Disclose your stay;
186  “Not e'en Almida's self shall save you from your fate.
187  “Go, brave Abdalla, to your native shore,
188  “From sloth, from vice, from infamy,
189  “Your kind instructions and assistance
190  “Have haply set me free;
191  “Thanks for your visit, pray return no more,
192  “Let us be always friends, but at a distance.
193  “And now, my better angel, whose kind care
194  “The mists of error from my sight dispel'd,
195  “Burst the vile fetters that my reason held,
196  “Restor'd fair wisdom's gentle sway,
197  “Guided my steps to her, and pointed out the way;
198  “Now, while my people's eager voice,
199  “And Raymond too confirms my choice,
200  “O come, my heavenly fair!
201  “Ascend, adorn, and bless my throne;
202  “Still with that cheering influence preside,
203  “My life, my future conduct guide,
204  “Inspire my raptur'd heart, and make it virtuous as your own.” 

Date:July 25th, 2006 04:36 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure I get to the buttom of these lines:

"Exclusive of the fame and glory,
There is a comfort on reflection
To think you've done with the beginning."

I suppose exclusive is used here as "besides", but what fame and glory are being referred to? If you find these lines clearer than I do, can you perhaps elucidate?

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