Book V - Chapter XI
In which a simile in Mr Pope's period of a mile introduces as bloody a battle as can possibly be fought without the assistance of steel or cold iron.
As in the season of rutting (an uncouth phrase, by which the vulgar denote that gentle dalliance, which in the well-wooded[*] forest of Hampshire, passes between lovers of the ferine kind), if, while the lofty-crested stag meditates the amorous sport, a couple of puppies, or any other beasts of hostile note, should wander so near the temple of Venus Ferina that the fair hind should shrink from the place, touched with that somewhat, either of fear or frolic, of nicety or skittishness, with which nature hath bedecked all females, or hath at least instructed them how to put it on; lest, through the indelicacy of males, the Samean mysteries should be pryed into by unhallowed eyes: for, at the celebration of these rites, the female priestess cries out with her in Virgil (who was then, probably, hard at work on such celebration),
--Procul, o procul este, profani;
Proclamat vates, totoque absistite luco.
--Far hence be souls profane,
The sibyl cry'd, and from the grove abstain.--DRYDEN.
[*] This is an ambiguous phrase, and may mean either a forest well
cloathed with wood, or well stript of it.
If, I say, while these sacred rites, which are in common to genus omne animantium, are in agitation between the stag and his mistress, any hostile beasts should venture too near, on the first hint given by the frighted hind, fierce and tremendous rushes forth the stag to the entrance of the thicket; there stands he centinel over his love, stamps the ground with his foot, and with his horns brandished aloft in air, proudly provokes the apprehended foe to combat.
Thus, and more terrible, when he perceived the enemy's approach, leaped forth our heroe. Many a step advanced he forwards, in order to conceal the trembling hind, and, if possible, to secure her retreat. And now Thwackum, having first darted some livid lightning from his fiery eyes, began to thunder forth, "Fie upon it! Fie upon it! Mr Jones. Is it possible you should be the person?"--"You see," answered Jones, "it is possible I should be here."--"And who," said Thwackum, "is that wicked slut with you?"--"If I have any wicked slut with me," cries Jones, "it is possible I shall not let you know who she is."--"I command you to tell me immediately," says Thwackum: "and I would not have you imagine, young man, that your age, though it hath somewhat abridged the purpose of tuition, hath totally taken away the authority of the master. The relation of the master and scholar is indelible; as, indeed, all other relations are; for they all derive their original from heaven. I would have you think yourself, therefore, as much obliged to obey me now, as when I taught you your first rudiments."--"I believe you would," cries Jones; "but that will not happen, unless you had the same birchen argument to convince me."--"Then I must tell you plainly," said Thwackum, "I am resolved to discover the wicked wretch."--"And I must tell you plainly," returned Jones, "I am resolved you shall not." Thwackum then offered to advance, and Jones laid hold of his arms; which Mr Blifil endeavoured to rescue, declaring, "he would not see his old master insulted."
Jones now finding himself engaged with two, thought it necessary to rid himself of one of his antagonists as soon as possible. He therefore applied to the weakest first; and, letting the parson go, he directed a blow at the young squire's breast, which luckily taking place, reduced him to measure his length on the ground.
Thwackum was so intent on the discovery, that, the moment he found himself at liberty, he stept forward directly into the fern, without any great consideration of what might in the meantime befal his friend; but he had advanced a very few paces into the thicket, before Jones, having defeated Blifil, overtook the parson, and dragged him backward by the skirt of his coat.
This parson had been a champion in his youth, and had won much honour by his fist, both at school and at the university. He had now indeed, for a great number of years, declined the practice of that noble art; yet was his courage full as strong as his faith, and his body no less strong than either. He was moreover, as the reader may perhaps have conceived, somewhat irascible in his nature. When he looked back, therefore, and saw his friend stretched out on the ground, and found himself at the same time so roughly handled by one who had formerly been only passive in all conflicts between them (a circumstance which highly aggravated the whole), his patience at length gave way; he threw himself into a posture of offence; and collecting all his force, attacked Jones in the front with as much impetuosity as he had formerly attacked him in the rear.
Our heroe received the enemy's attack with the most undaunted intrepidity, and his bosom resounded with the blow. This he presently returned with no less violence, aiming likewise at the parson's breast; but he dexterously drove down the fist of Jones, so that it reached only his belly, where two pounds of beef and as many of pudding were then deposited, and whence consequently no hollow sound could proceed. Many lusty blows, much more pleasant as well as easy to have seen, than to read or describe, were given on both sides: at last a violent fall, in which Jones had thrown his knees into Thwackum's breast, so weakened the latter, that victory had been no longer dubious, had not Blifil, who had now recovered his strength, again renewed the fight, and by engaging with Jones, given the parson a moment's time to shake his ears, and to regain his breath.
And now both together attacked our heroe, whose blows did not retain that force with which they had fallen at first, so weakened was he by his combat with Thwackum; for though the pedagogue chose rather to play solos on the human instrument, and had been lately used to those only, yet he still retained enough of his antient knowledge to perform his part very well in a duet.
The victory, according to modern custom, was like to be decided by numbers, when, on a sudden, a fourth pair of fists appeared in the battle, and immediately paid their compliments to the parson; and the owner of them at the same time crying out, "Are not you ashamed, and be d--n'd to you, to fall two of you upon one?"
The battle, which was of the kind that for distinction's sake is called royal, now raged with the utmost violence during a few minutes; till Blifil being a second time laid sprawling by Jones, Thwackum condescended to apply for quarter to his new antagonist, who was now found to be Mr Western himself; for in the heat of the action none of the combatants had recognized him.
In fact, that honest squire, happening, in his afternoon's walk with some company, to pass through the field where the bloody battle was fought, and having concluded, from seeing three men engaged, that two of them must be on a side, he hastened from his companions, and with more gallantry than policy, espoused the cause of the weaker party. By which generous proceeding he very probably prevented Mr Jones from becoming a victim to the wrath of Thwackum, and to the pious friendship which Blifil bore his old master; for, besides the disadvantage of such odds, Jones had not yet sufficiently recovered the former strength of his broken arm. This reinforcement, however, soon put an end to the action, and Jones with his ally obtained the victory.Next