The Contributors' Club

THE allusion, in a recent chapter of The New Portolio, to “ the annual Tragedy of the Pig,” doubtless awakens a train of slumbering recollections in the memory of many a reader of the outside of that promising Budget (with a capital B), and this “one touch of Nature” — not the only touch, however — that marks the universal kinship of

childhood is enough of itself to make the readers of The New Portfolio forever grateful. It is worth a great deal, in this workaday world, to be a boy — or even a girl, again, if but for a few moments. To me, who had always cultivated the intimacy of the protagonist, the Tragedy of the Pig was full of anguish unspeakable, while it offered an irresistible fascination that compelled my attendance. Yet it must be confessed that the horror was greatly mitigated by the anticipation of the Feast of the Tail, that always followed in due course, like the farce of other days. No triumph of culinary art can tickle the palate like the crude cookery of childhood, and pig-tail, burnt to a crisp and about half raw, had a flavor and piquancy we demand in vain, in our degenerate days of spectacles and gray hairs.

The passage anent the Tragedy of the Pig recalls a page of the Autocrat treating of that universal instinct of childhood “ to make a cache, and bury in it beliefs, doubts, dreams, hopes, and terrors.” There is, indeed, something exquisitely pathetic in the earnestness and the patient secrecy—I had almost written long - suffering secrecy — with which children grapple with the problems they make to themselves out of trifles. Who does not remember such problems haunting the mind by day and night, deeply, often painfully, pondered, yet always jealously guarded ? Whether from timidity, whether from a sacred uuconsciousness of joy in the things that most deeply exercise their struggling reason, children are not wont to speak of the deep questions that perplex their dawning intelligence. These are seldom or never the questions propounded by pastors and masters, but suggestions springing from some distorted aspect of a familiar subject, striking the mind awry, as it were. Thus, to cite from personal experience, the church catechism was diligently instilled into my mind at an early age, and great pains taken to make it clear to my comprehension. With the unquestioning faith of childhood, I accepted its teachings reverently, and took only shame to myself that I could not understand the question, “ What did your sponsors then for you?” To my untutored mind, innocent of grammar, “ then ” had all the force of a verb, and for years I agonized intellectually, in the struggle to discover the awful meaning hidden in this inscrutable word. What was it “ to then ” ? What pain, and effort, and solemn prayer, and vast expense did it cost my sponsors to “ then ” for me ? By what mysterious ceremony was my “ thenning ” accomplished ? When, after years of waiting, it dawned upon me that this word was, from my point of view, void of meaning, the sense of destitution that took possession of me is indescribable. I felt myself defrauded spiritually, and the shock was something dreadful. Nor was this my only childish error concerning the things of religion. My acceptation of the doctrine of Apostolic Succession was absolute. For me, each bishop of the church was a direct descendant of St. Paul! My only difficulty was my inability to decide how many times the epithet great should stand before the word grandson, when applied to the bishop of our diocese ; and this momentous question so perplexed and harassed me that I summoned the courage to appeal to the bishop himself. Needless to say, I was désillusionnée.

Closely connected with this notion of the Apostolic Succession, and in some intangible way growing out of it, was a faith I entertained regarding the sacred vessels of the Temple of Jerusalem, carried away at the time of the Captivity. These venerable relics I firmly believed to be safely stored in the vestryroom of our little church. Once, when my mother and other ladies were assisting about the Christmas decorations, I saw the door of this vestry-room standing open, and with awe and trembling I asked and obtained permission to enter. No room I have ever seen is more indelibly stamped upon my memory, though I saw it but once : bare, whitewashed walls, a table, two chairs, a fireplace, a striped curtain drawn back from the window, and three pegs behind the door. The golden vessels of the great Temple of Jerusalem were not there, and I came out weeping ; but the cause of my tears I would never tell.

My speculations, however, were not all about questions pertaining to the things of religion. One among the many bizarre beliefs that my childhood hugged in secret owed its birth to a doggerel rhyme which a young uncle of mine used to sing for my delectation. The words and the tune, together with the image of the chimerical creature my imagination “ carved out of Nature for itself,” will dwell with me forever. These are the words : —

“Folks, won’t you go, folks, won’t you go,
To see the monkey-show?
The Bengal Tiger will be there,
The White, also the Polar Bear.”

What manner of animal was the White Also ? It never occurred to me to ask, for was not the creature mentioned in connection with the Bengal Tiger, which I knew pictorially, and the Polar Bear, which likewise I knew pietorially? But no picture-book that I could command contained any representation of the White Also. The diligence with which I pursued that apocryphal beast might have sufficed, had I practiced the same in later years, to master the sciences. Doubtless the books I ransacked — for I kept up the search long after I had learned to read — and the menageries I studiously visited did add an appreciable amount to my fund of information ; but of all the knowledge of natural history and kindred subjects gained at that time, nothing stands forth so vividly in my mind’s eye as the zoölogical phantom that forever eluded my quest, — the great White Also, the desire of my childish vision, which came at last to represent to me the type of the unattainable ; and I cannot now, without a sort of mental tug, classify “ also ” as an adverb,7emdash; I thought it was an animal for so long !

Is there no specific term among philosophers for these idola juventutis ?

— Iceland, in spite of its insular situation, has always been a constituent part of Europe. No movement, social, political, or religious, has passed upon the Continent without transmitting a throb, at least, to that far-off land. The intellectual constitution of the Icelanders has favored this result. Ever since they forsook Norway, over a thousand years ago, for the cause of liberty, they have had the vigor to form an opinion and the courage to maintain it; and, during all this time, an intellectual intercourse, wholly apart from the exchange of commodities in commerce, has been maintained between Scandinavia and Iceland. Nor has this intercourse always been one-sided, for in the ancient days the skald who sang the praises of the Norwegian kings, or the saga-man who told the story of their exploits, was almost invariably an Icelander. And not only in Norway did he find appreciative listeners, but in Sweden and Denmark, and even in England he was made welcome for the sake of his accomplishments. When Christianity, fighting its way northward, had won over all Europe, Iceland, to the last, defended its heathen religion, and only reluctantly laid it aside. For five hundred years the country was Roman Catholic, but, at length, in Iceland, too, was enacted the superb drama of the Reformation. Though the stage was smaller than in Germany and England, the action was none the less real. The incidents that accompanied the unraveling of the plot were full of dramatic force, and the plot itself, as its complications were gradually laid open to the light, became of absorbing interest. So thorough in the end was the change of faith, that, although a Catholic mission was for many years maintained in the south, it was at last abandoned, and Lutheranism became, as it now is, the one religion of the land. The history of the Reformation in Iceland is a page of its annals not wholly free from stain. There was plotting and counterplotting, which sometimes reflected but little honor upon its projectors. The greed of power was, in many cases, a greater incentive than religious conviction, and political finesse was often resorted to instead of an appeal to the hearts of men. There were, however, among those who interestedly strove against the religion of Rome striking exceptions, — men characterized by fine religious feeling and persistent opposition, for conscience’ sake, to the tenets of the Catholic Church. Such a man was Odd Gottskalksson, the translator of the New Testament into Icelandic. Of all engaged in the Reformation his name, in particular, stands out in relief, both for the importance and the purity of the part he played. Iceland in Catholic times, and even down to the beginning of the present century, was divided into two bishoprics : one of the north and one of the south. Odd was the son of Gottskalk the Grim, Bishop of Holar, in the north. The date of his birth is unknown, but it was probably about 1500. At six years of age he was sent to his uncle, then lawman in Norway, with whom he grew up. He was given a good education, for he knew Latin, Danish, and German, and, afterwards, doubtless still further to increase his knowledge, he traveled both in Denmark and Germany. It was Odd’s fortune not to arrive in Germany until after the success of the Reformation had been fully assured. Luther’s translation of the New Testament had already appeared, and the whole land was aglow with religious fervor. Doubtless from Luther’s own lips Odd heard the wrathful denunciations hurled against the faith in which he had been brought up. At any rate, the new teachings sunk deep into his heart, and he was obliged to heed them whether he would or no. “ He began to marvel much within himself,” he afterward told a priest in Iceland, “ that he could not come to a clear understanding as to this change of faith, as they called it, seeing that so many wise and thoughtful men inclined thereto. Then he made up his mind, for three nights following, when all were asleep, to get out of bed and pray God that he would open his heart and make manifest to him which of the two were the truer — this new faith or the faith of his fathers — and give him true understanding therein, with many other words of supplication, saying that whichever God should breathe into his breast as the truer he would seek to increase and further and follow all the days of his life. When these prayers were ended, and the three nights had gone by, then all had been changed before him, and he had quite forgotten the old faith as if he had never heard of it nor known aught of it, but in its stead the new faith was all laid open to him.” He made preparations to return to Iceland, but before he went he supplied himself with Latin and German books ; among others with the New Testament. Up to this time the Reformation had made but little progress in Iceland. Several influential members of the priesthood had in secret accepted its teachings, but the time was felt to be still unfavorable for its open advocacy. Upon his return to Iceland Odd became secretary to Ogmund, bishop at Skalholt in the south. The bishop’s steward, at that time, was a namesake, Odd Eyjolfsson, who lived in a house apart from the rest. He, also, had accepted the doctrines of Luther, and, with him, Odd and others were accustomed to assemble daily to discuss undisturbed the subject they so much had at heart. Odd now decided upon the great work of his life, the translation of the New Testament into his own native tongue. Like Luther and Tyndale, he, too, recognized unerringly the means that, more than all else combined, would be powerful to promote the spread of the new belief. The labor, however, required the exercise of all secrecy for its fulfillment; its accomplishment, indeed, depended almost wholly upon the fact of its remaining undiscovered, as the bishop was the avowed enemy of all that appertained to Lutheranism, and fought against it bitterly to the end of his life. Odd, accordingly, for fear of discovery, did not dare to undertake his self-imposed task, even in the outlying house of his friend and co-religionist, Odd Eyjolfsson. There was only one place that seemed to him to offer the desired security, and that was the bishop’s cow stable. So he quietly went to work that winter and made a rude desk which he set up, and there, in the cold and darkness, his long and laborious work was begun. When his retreat was discovered, as was inevitable, he gave out that he was engaged in reading old books and writing the ancient statutes of the bishops, which be had ready at hand to exhibit in corroboration. Under the same pretext he asked for additional paper from the bishop, when his own stock had given out, and was granted what he considered necessary. So successful by the exercise of all this caution were his attempts at concealment, that no one suspected the real reason of his seclusion, and he was left to labor in peace. Only a few trusted friends were in the secret, and to them he went for sympathy and encouragement. To Gizur, a priest, who afterward became the first Protestant bishop in Iceland, he said : “ Jesus, our Saviour, lay in an ass’s stall, and now I am translating His word and turning it into my mother-tongue in a cow stable.” Odd first completed, under these circumstances, the Gospel of Matthew, but it is not known how much more was done that winter. Soon after he set up housekeeping for himself, after which, it may be supposed, he was able to prosecute his work in comparative safety. After the translation of the whole New Testament was at last finished, Odd, embracing a favorable opportunity, went to Denmark and laid it before the king. Permission was given him to publish it, and, in April, 1540, it appeared, a thick duodecimo, neatly printed in fine black letter, from the press at Roskilde. Odd’s New Testament was not only the first translation of any part of the Bible into Icelandic, but it was the first literary work of any importance that had appeared for nearly two centuries. Not only does it mark the beginning of the victory that, with its aid, was now rapidly won over the old religion, but it was the forerunner of a new era in literature, which, with the advent of the Reformation, was called into the sturdy life it has ever since maintained. After the publication of his work Odd returned to Iceland. He seems to have borne no very active part in the struggles of the time, but, nevertheless, worked steadily in his own chosen way. In 1545, at the instance of Gizur, Protestant bishop of the south, he was furnished with means to go to Germany to print a translation of the Homilies of Corvinus, which he had prepared. This latter work appeared at Rostock in April of the succeeding year. That same spring Odd went back to Iceland with his second book, which Gizur, in an encyclical letter, ordered the priests of his bishopric to procure and make use of in the service of the church. The reformed religion had become, by this time, firmly established in Iceland, and a few words will suffice to tell of Odd’s subsequent fate. After living for two years as rector at Reykholt, in the west, he was made Lawman of the north and west and moved north to Rowanstead Cloister. In 1556, the third year of his lawmanship, he set out on an official journey to the south. In attempting to ford a river, the Laxa, his horse slipped under him, and he was thrown into the water; with the utmost exertion he was rescued by his men, but he died a few hours after from the injuries received. Odd’s whole career as a reformer was characterized by faith and Christian charity rather than by militant force. He did not possess the rugged strength of Luther to write and speak in the fullness of the wrath of God, nor did he know the divine fearlessness of Tyndale to dare and endure all for the sake of his belief. The mission of this Icelander was a humbler one, but he performed it well. To one who has seen the earthen floor and the reeking cattle and knows of the cold, the darkness, and the damp of the Icelandic cow-byres — and there is no reason to think that those of Odd’s time differed materially from those of the present — the full significance of the self-sacrifice of the translator comes with redoubled force. Since Odd, as in the case of Luther and Tyndale, other translations of the Bible have been made, truer, perhaps, in many respects, to the original, but in great and vital points far inferior to his work of faith. The parallel may be drawn still further, for, like the others, Odd’s translation came at a time favorable to the exercise of its full effect. As the Bible itself transformed the belief of the time, so the style and the language of the translation, at an opportune moment, set up a new standard of literary expression which has since never been lost sight of The name of Odd Gottskalksson, the Reformer, has, even in Iceland, been almost forgotten, but as the great Latin Ecclesiastical History of Iceland justly phrases it: “ He may be rightly numbered among those who have been of the most use to their mother-country.”

— It is thought to be an interesting study to trace the lineage and family connections of any word or phrase that, without the sanction of the authorities, has foisted itself into current speech.

I can but regard it as a singular omission that as yet no doctor of linguistics has undertaken to provide with a respectable ancestry the alleged Americanism “ right away.” That this can be done I am positive ; and I entertain a modest lioj)e that my purposed demonstration will be convincing. Having been accustomed from childhood to employ this tabooed phrase, and being now unalterably wedded to its use, I am, naturally, solicitous that “ right away,” slightly modified perhaps, should be recognized as a legitimate and even polite adverbial element. To this end I beg the patience of the Club for such argument and erudition as may be advanced on the subject.

First, be it remembered that there is in the dictionary a somewhat old-fashioned word (yet king’s English it should still be reckoned), with precisely the same signification as the phrase in question. The word to which I have reference is “ straightway,” obviously compounded of “straight” and “way.” Now, let us take a philological pick, and delve for the root and cognates of “ straight; ” or rather, let us avail ourselves of the information offered on this point by Noah Webster: “ L. strictus, from stringo ; Sax. strac; formed from the root of reach, stretch, right.” Hereby it will be seen that to substitute “ right for “ straight ” in any connection in which the latter is used, would not be to take a wholly unwarrantable liberty ; or, if any further authorization be required, this may be found in the synonymous use which geometry makes of right and straight. A right or straight line is the shortest line that can be drawn between two points. Now, if we can believe that one word was frequently substituted for the other (and what is more probable?), we can understand bow gradually “rightway” took its place with “ straightway ; both terms denoting that, where command is given, the act enjoined should be accomplished by the shortest and most expeditious method. But the question arises, How do we happen to have “ right away ” in common use instead of the proper dissyllabic word ? The answer is involved in difficulty, but not, I believe, in inextricable difficulty. Any one who takes the word into his mouth will at once discover that euphony dictates the insertion of a vowel sound between the two syllables: whence “right-a-way,”— or “right away,” according to present usage. Another explanation is suggested. We know that in some districts of this country one hears, instead of “ that way,” the concatenated syllables “ that-a-way: ” now, why not suppose that “rightway ” very early in its career as a vocable migrated to Kentucky, or elsewhere southward, and there received the corruption which excludes it from elegant usage? To any movement towards restoring this

phrase to its ancient and legitimate form, I will most carefully lend my influence — such as it is.

In conclusion, I would observe that this proscribed Americanism is one which foreigners (saving, perhaps, the Briton) adopt very readily. I have in mind a Teutonized form, which I used to hear from the lips of a young German employed as a servant by a friend of mine. “ Ride away quig ! ” was the invariably prompt and promising response to any call for his services. I confess I liked the suggestion of extracelerity which his treatment of the phrase afforded.