Friday, 2 July 2010

An ugly, surly, sullen, selfish spirit, / Who Satan's worst perfections does inherit

Brilliant first couple of papers - covering French-British impressions, and then a virtuoso run through Czech terms for each other and foreigners. Potentially dry, you'd think, but no - fascinating, wry and witty. Now I'm in FW's paper on Defoe's satirical poetry. That gentleman thought little of the poor, the Welsh or the foreign - despite mocking the British people's xenophobia. His The True-Born Englishman, is a doozy.

Some extracts:

Pride, the first peer, and president of Hell, 
To his share Spain, the largest province, fell. 

Lust chose the torrid zone of Italy,  
Where blood ferments in rapes and sodomy: 
Where swelling veins o'erflow with livid streams, 

With heat impregnate from Vesuvian flames: 

Drunkenness, the darling favourite of Hell,  
Chose Germany to rule; and rules so well,  
No subjects more obsequiously obey,  
None please so well or are so pleased as they. 

Ungoverned Passion settled first in France,  
Where mankind lives in haste and thrives by chance; 
A dancing nation, fickle and untrue,  
Have oft undone themselves and others too; 

By Zeal the Irish, and the Russ by Folly:  
Fury the Dane, The Swede by Melancholy, 
By stupid Ignorance the Muscovite;  
The Chinese by a child of Hell called Wit.  
Wealth makes the Persian too effeminate,  
And Poverty the Tartars desperate;  
The Turks and Moors by Mah'met he subdues,  
And God has given him leave to rule the Jews. 
Rage rules the Portuguese and Fraud the Scotch,  
Revenge the Pole and Avarice the Dutch. 

So that's all the foreigners Defoe could think of - you'll have to read the rest to find out what he thought of the English. The title of this post is a mere introduction…

No comments: