In “My Bugle, and How I Blow It”, Clarence Mangan is, characteristically, trading in masks and cloaks and puns and puzzles — what one critic calls the “identitarian” aspects of the artist’s expression. By means of such masking —in Man an ancient trait, in Mangan a manifesto— the poet would playfully engage his reading public.
This comic sketch was originally composed for The Belfast Vindicator in 1841, and reprinted three years later in what was a new paper on the Irish scene, The Nation. At the head Charles Gavan Duffy put up a rather bemused editorial note, for Mangan had shied from any commitment to political writing, the declared mission of The Nation.
The modern reader, in imbibing the present item —a heady Dublin draught of quare ould quizzicality if ever there was one— will perhaps recognise how the author of Finnegans Wake found much to admire, celebrate and emulate in the prose, as much as in the poetry, of Clarence Mangan.
Now, for fullest explications one can go and consult the authoritative latter-day annotators of Manganiana, such scholars as Jacques Chuto or Peter van de Kamp or David Lloyd ; but a handful of ready glosses on the text may be worth giving here beforehand : 1) Sam Slick was a sort of Mark Twain phænomenon before there was Mark Twain, and a “cloud-blower” was the Indians’ name for a tobacco pipe, or a smoker thereof, in works such as The Clockmaker ; or, The Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick, of Slickville (1835), which relates the comical adventures of a highly quotable character created by T. C. Haliburton, a judge in Nova Scotia. 2) The word “demonogolist” (here retained for the putative pun on Arabic gol for “ghoul”) must be a misspelling of demonologist, given that Kerner (whom Mangan translated) had written on supernatural themes. 3) The name Jacques Corveau is Mangan’s jeu de mots on a popular minstrel show refrain of the time, “Weel about and turn about and do jis so, Eb’ry time I weel about I jump Jim Crow”. 4) Of the reference to a “Grant”, Mangan’s biographer, D. J. O’Donoghue, furnishes the explanation that James Grant was the author of a book on London, entitled The Great Metropolis. 5) Cœlum non animam mutant qui trans mare currunt quotes Horace’s Epistles (properly : animum), and reads as “They change their clime, not their disposition, who rush across the sea”. 6) The French phrase Mettez cela dans votre pipe, et fumez-le is translated into English with a well-known Dublin saying which is, even nowadays, still used as a common bit of repartee in that city : “Put that in your pipe and smoke it.” 7) Bienséances are social proprieties. ~Q~
MY BUGLE, AND HOW I BLOW IT.
BY THE MAN IN THE CLOAK.
[This pleasant Extravaganza —a quiz upon the German school— by a popular writer, was given some years ago to the Editor of the Nation for a publication of a literary character. It is thought necessary to mention this, as we have not an opportunity of communicating with the author, and he may not choose to be identified with the particular politics of the Nation.]
Ein Alphorn hör’ ich schallen
Das mich von hinnen ruft ;
Tönt es aus wald’gen hallen ?
Tönt es aus blauer Luft ?
Tönt es von Bergeshöhe
Aus blumenreichem Thal ?
Wie ich nur steh’und gehe
Hör ich’s in süsser Qual.
Bei Spiel und frohem reigen,
Einsam mit mir allein,
Tönt’s ohne je zu schweigen
Tönt tief in’s Herz hinein.
Noch nie hab’ ich gefunden
Den Ort, woher es schallt
Und nimmer, wird gefunden
Dies Herz, bis es verhallt.
A mystical bugle calls o’er
The earth to me everywhere—
Peals it from forest halls or
The crypts of the azure air ?
From the snow-enrobed mountains yonder ?
From the flower-strewn vales below ?
O ! whithersoever I wander
I hear it with sweetest woe !
Alone in the woods, or present
Where mingle the song and dance,
That summoning sound incessant
Is piercing my heart like a lance.
Till now hath my search been ceaseless,
And its place I have nowhere found,
But my spirit must ever be peaceless
Till that Bugle shall cease to sound !
IF the German poet speak truth in the last two lines he had better set sail for England without delay, and assassinate ME, for I am the Bugle-player ! I plunge at once, like an Epic versifier, in medias res ; you perceive, Reader, and “give my worst of thoughts the worst of words.” Yes ; I am the Bugle-blower ; and, like Sam Slick’s cloud-blower, I am willing to blow away and “take the responsibility.” And who, you ask, is the poet ? That will I tell you instanter. The original grubber-up of the gem that I have set in gold, silver, or pewter, as the metal may turn out to the touch-stone, is, be it known to you, Justinus Kerner, man of many accomplishments — poet, physician, metaphysician, hobgoblin-hunter, widower, and weeper. He is by birth a Swabian, or, perhaps I should say a Swab ; just as we call a native of Poland a Pole. The word “Swab,” moreover, has the advantage of “Swabian” in being shorter by three letters ; and I have seen three letters take up six newspaper columns. Little did Kerner imagine the first evening the bugle smote his ears that the Man in the Cloak, whom he saw climbing the hill to the right, was his electrifier ! Up went his dexter ogler along the rocks, and there encountered— a goat : him the poet did not for a moment suspect of practising on either of his own horns ; and so down went his sinister peeper to the flood below, where, however, it was at once rebuked by a corpulent codfish, whose interrogative eye appeared fixed on “the first demonogolist in Europe,” with a library of wandering questions in the pupil thereof. I, my cloak, and my bugle, meantime, had vanished for the night. Pretty considerably bewildered, my Swab toddled homeward to his attic, and over a second tankard of heavy wet composed the stanzas I have quoted.
I confess, nevertheless, it has always appeared to me singular —I would say shameful— that neither during the concert of that nor of any subsequent evening did Kerner seem to recognise me as the musician. True it is that I wore a cloak a quarter of a hundred weight, with expansive wings at the sides, and a hood that hung down from the head, obscuring the light of my countenance ; and bugle-players are generally less cumbrously clad. But still it is difficult for me to acquit him of hoggish stupidity if I suppose that his suspicions were not at intervals directed towards me. Indeed, the very circumstance of a man’s walking about and perspiring under such a peculiar cloak, ought, alone, to have been sufficient to convince him (the swab) that there was a mystery of some sort connected with the perspirer ; and had he only trundled up to me and put the interrogatory — “Man in the Cloak, art thou he ?” I would have responded to his sagacity by nobly, and without all disguise, flapping my side-wings in his physiognomy and treating him to a blast that would have shaken him to the centre of his system.
I was one day —very recently, indeed— recounting this adventure, with slight additions, to my friend, the King of the Sicilies, when an Englishman near me, who had just been admitted to the horrors of an audience, turned round, à la Jacques Corveau, and stared at my cloak from hood to hem in the rudest manner through his lorgnette.
“Pray, sir,” he asked, “are you celebrated for anything besides wearing a cloak ?” Every hair in my moustache quivered at the ruffianism of the fellow ; but on account of the king’s proximity I restrained myself from sneering, or even sneezing.
“Yes, sir,” I replied, “for playing on my bugle. Have you not heard my anecdote, you sumph of the muddiest water ?”
“Come, come,” interrupted the king, “no personalities ; this gentleman is a Corn-law Repealer.” (This he said, evidently not knowing the signification of his words).
“Aye,” said the Englishman, “I am a Corn-law Repealer !”
“And I,” cried I, flapping my pinions, “I— I am a Unicorn-law Repealer !”
“A Unicorn-law Repealer !” and the Manchesterian grinned ; “what may that be ?”
“A Repealer in virtue of that law of my being which compels me to play on the Horn,” said I, holding up my bugle.
“How a Repealer ?” he asked,
“Thus,” quoth I : “a Pealer, when I peal ; a Re-pealer, when I peal again. Do you understand, trapp ?”
“Pardon me,” said the Englisher, waving his hand ; “I do not carry a flash vocabulary about me.”
Here the king should thrust himself in. “What does he mean by a flash vocabulary?” said he to me in an under voice.
“A horn of sulphur, your majesty,” I answered, in the same tone. “I take it as a direct insult to you, your recent political squabble with Great Britain considered.”
Up flared the king, like a rocket from Mount Vesuvius.
“Who talks of sulphur at this time of day ?” he cried.
“What on earth is he after ?” asked the Corn-law Repealer of me, sotto voce.
“He wants your opinion of the Sulphur Question,” whispered I.
“I shall be happy to give it,” said the Englishman. “The sulphur monopoly, your majesty, I conceive to be totally—”
“I wish the devil had the sulphur monopoly from the beginning !” roared the king.
“I think the devil has had the sulphur monopoly from the beginning,” observed the Corn-law Proser. “I was just about to remark that he is the legitimate monopolist of the article.”
“You were, were you ?” cried the king — then turning to me — “did any man ever see such a silly fellow ?”
“I fancy,” said I, folding my cloak about me like an emperor, “that your majesty’s subjects are pretty much in the habit of seeing fellows quite as silly.”
“Indeed! Why so?”
“Because,” said I, “you are the King of the See-sillies.”
This tickled the monarch so home that his good humour returned like fine weather on an April day, and he ordered in coffee, cigars, and a steaming bowl of bishop, in return for my share of which I executed an unapproachable solo on my bugle, which dissolved the entire court in an ecstacy of tears, and made the king, strong as his nerves were, instantaneously mix an additional tumbler, to save himself from fainting.
Then I was at Naples — now I am in London. From sulphur to coal-gas ; out of the frying-pan into the fryer. “A bitter change — severer to severe,” as the poet Young — now, alas ! grown old in dusty obscurity — sings. I have imported myself hither free of duty — free of all duties, at least, save one, that of blowing my bugle ; and here I am, in “the great Metropolis,” though I have got no Grant (either from Government or otherwise) to place me there ; my bugle on the table of my inn, and my cloak, “fold over fold, inveterately convolved,” around my majestic person. A thousand troubles menace me — Cœlum non animam mutant qui trans mare currunt ; yet I care not. Come what may my cloak will stick to me, my bugle depend from my baldric. My cloak and my bugle I must always retain, until my last hour shall see the one rended into shreds and the other divested of its identity, melted into air, transmuted into ethereality, as viewless and intangible as one of its own melodies.
Here, however, and before I advance a sentence further, I know that some noodles will be disposed to take me very short. Bah ! the jackasses will bray ; you over-rate your pretensions to notice. How are you a greater man than Plato, Brougham, or Bombastes Paracelsus ? You have a bugle and you wear a cloak ; well, and what of all that ? In what way can all those extraneous appendages of the man confer intellectual pre-eminence on the mind ? Were I for answering those green-horns seriously, I should certainly drub them until they dropped. Do the twaddlers not know that the whole thing is æsthetical ? That it involves the abstrusest metaphysical views at all ? That philosophy beholds an admirable harmony in connection between the interior and exterior of man, not only in the abstract but in the individual, and moreover, recognises the eternal truth, not to be controverted by scepticism, not to be shaken by twaddle, that every individual is himself, and that he cannot become another as long as he remains himself, for the simple reason that if he were to become another he would cease to be himself ? No, the ganders, they don’t, because they know nothing upon any subject connected with anything that has ever at all existed anywhere whatever. Let the dunderheads for once show themselves tractable, and attend to what I am going to spout. Public, do you listen ; you are elevated to the high honour of being my confidante. I am about to confer an incredible mark of my favour on you, Public. Know, then, the following things : —
Firstly.— That I am not a Man in a Cloak, but the Man in the Cloak. My personal identity is here at stake, and I cannot consent to sacrifice it. Let me sacrifice it, and what becomes of me ? “The earth hath bubbles as the water hath,” and I am thenceforth one of them. I lose my cloak and my consciousness both in the twinkling of a pair of tongs ; I become what the philosophy of Kant (in opposition to the Cant of Philosophy) denominates a Nicht-ich, a Not-I, a Non-ego. Pardon me, my Public, if I calmly but firmly express my determination to shed the last drop of my ink before I concede the possibility of such a paltry, sneaking, shabby, swindling, strip-and-pillage-me species of contingency.
Secondly.— That I am the Man in the Cloak, viz. : I am not an “Old Woman,” as Mrs. Trollope complains that the Yankees would call her, despite her best bonnets, satin frocks and flounces, and corsets à l’enfant. Neither am I a lump of moonshine all out. Stigmatise me, if you will, as a Hottentot, as a Troglodyte, as a hang-a-bone jail-bird ; still, you cannot put your hand on your heart and assert that I am a make-believe, a bag of feathers, a non-ens, a bull-beggar, a hobgoblin, a humbug, a lath-and-pulley get-up, like Punch. Not at all. I do not say that you dare not, but I clap my wings, like a bantam on a barn-roof, and I crow aloud in triumph that you cannot, Public. It is outside the sphere of your power, my Public ! I am the Man in the Cloak. Mettez cela dans votre pipe, et fumez-le, mon public !
Thirdly.— That I am the Man in the Cloak. In other words, I am by no manner of means the Man of the Cloak, or the Man under the Cloak. The Germans call me Der Mensch mit der Mantel, the Man with the Cloak. This is a deplorable error in the nomenclature of that otherwise intelligent people ; and I am speechless with astonishment that they should have fallen into it. Why ? Because my cloak is not part and parcel of myself. The cloak is outside, and the man is inside, as Goldsmith said of the World and the Prisoner ; but each is a distinct entity ; of that I am satisfied ; on that point I, as the Persians would say, tighten the girdle of assurance round the waist of my understanding, though, perhaps, there is no waste of my understanding whatever. I admit that you may say, “The Man with the Greasy Countenance,” or “The Chap with the Swivel Eye ;” thus, also, Slawkenbergius (vide Tristram Shandy) calls his hero ”The Stranger with the Nose,” and reasonably enough ; for, although it was at one period conjectured that the nose in question might extend to five hundred and seventy-five geometrical feet in longitude, not even the most incredulous amongst the Faculty of Strasburgh were found to advance an opinion that the nose was not an integral portion of the individual. With me the case is a horse of another colour. I do not put my cloak on and off, I grant, but I can do so when I please by a mere exercise of volition and muscle ; and therefore it is obvious to the meanest capacity (I like original tours de phrase) that I am just the Man in the Cloak, and no mistake. If any cavillers feel inclined to dispute the proposition with me further, they may await my arrival in Dublin at the Fifteen Acres.
Finally.— That I am the Man in the Cloak. Other men tabernacle their corporeality in broadcloth, Petershams, Redingotes, Surtouts, Macintoshes, Overalls, Wraprascals, Kangaroos, Traceys, Dreadnoughts. Every blunderer to his fancy or the fashion. I quarrel with nobody for his taste or want of taste. I do not approach any mooncalf in the public street with an uplifted crowbar, poker, pike, pitchfork, or pickaxe in my grasp, because his toggery is of a different order from my own. I could not do so, independent of my intuitive benevolence of disposition, I have what Harriet Martineau would call “a powerful preventive check” in my sense of what is due to the bienséances of society. On the other hand, however, I yield not up a whit of my own liberty. I am aware that in Africa and Asia people wear “cotton, muslin, and other stuffs with which I won’t stay puzzling ;” that in parts of America the run is upon blankets ; that in the West Indies nankeens are all the go ; that in Egypt the men sometimes carry their duds under their arms. But am I, therefore, to ape their example — to become an African, an American, a West Indian, an Egyptian ? I see not the decillionth part of a reason for doing so. I call Europe to witness that I shall never do so as long as I have my cloak. In a case like this I laugh at coercion and despise the prospect of torture. What did I buy my cloak for ? Why did I pay fifteen shillings and sixpence, besides boot, for it to a Jew hawker of old rags, but that I might don it, and never doff it, I should be glad to know ?
After all, I am the most rational of mankind, including Robert Owen himself, and I will show him that I am. Notwithstanding all I have so eloquently said, there may still remain some persons reluctant to concede my qualifications for amusing or illuminating them, because I carry a bugle and wear a cloak. Suppose, then, that in compassion to the hide-bound prejudices of those poor creatures, I gallantly waive all ground of superiority derivable from my bugle and my cloak. What if I cast away, as far as I possibly can — much further than they could cast a bull by his horns — both the one and the other ? Will my magnanimity be appreciated ? Surely, it may, can, might, could, would, or should be, only really the world is such a settled dolt ! Let me not be misunderstood. I cannot avoid blowing my bugle and showing my cloak. What I mean to state is, that I shall refrain from claiming any especial merit in possessing either. I shall not glorify myself because I split the ears of groundlings, nor shall I give myself any extra-mundane airs, though my wings do occasionally flap like winglings in the eyes of the lieges, children of dust — dusts themselves — as they are. In the very fulness and churchflower of my triumph I shall talk “with bated breath and whispering humbleness” of what I have done, am doing, and mean to do ; so that spectators shall say of me, as I said t’other day of my friend, Barney Higgins, the vintner, while he was trying to coax the Bench into (or out of) a renewal of his spirit license—
“How like a fawning Publican he looks !”
With which specimen of my Wit and Wisdom (N.B.—I am not the father of all the jests in the book that goes by that title), good Reader, I bid you farewell for the present.
There is much talk here of “embarking capital.” I wish the talkers could embark the capital itself, for never did city need an aquatory excursion so much — “all the town’s a fog, and all the men and women merely fograms.” I shall steam over to the Green Isle shortly ; and, once there, I mean to apply to some Vindicator of Talent in my own behalf and that of my cloak and bugle, and supplicate his patronage for six weeks. Beyond that period, alas ! I may not remain an abider within any town. Your surprise. Reader, is, doubtless, excited — ah ! you know not what a vagabond I am ! Perhaps I may communicate my history to the Irish people, and if I should I have no hesitation in assuring them that they will pronounce it without a parallel in the Annals of the Marvellous and Mournful. Only see the result ! — for me there is no stopping place in city or county. An unrelenting doom condemns me to the incessant exercise of my pedestrian capabilities. It is an awful thing to behold me at each completion of my term scampering off like Van Woedenblock of the Magic Leg— galloping along roads— clearing ditches— dispersing the affrighted poultry in farmyards as effectually as a forty-eight pounder could. Other men sojourn for life in the country of their choice ; there is a prospect of ultimate repose for most things ; even the March of Intellect must one day halt ; already we see that pens, ink, and paper are— stationary. But for me there is no hope ; at home or abroad I tarry not. Like Schubart’s Wandering Jew, I am “scourged by unrest through many climes.” Like Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, “I pass like Night, from land to land.” No matter who or what becomes paralytic and refuses to budge, I must progress. “Tramp, tramp along the land ; splash, splash across the sea” is my maledictory motto. A fearful voice, to all but me inaudible, for ever thunders in mine ear, “Pack up thy duds !— push along !— keep moving !” I see no prospect before me but an eternity of peripateticalism—
“The race of Life becomes a hopeless flight
To those that walk in darkness—on the sea
The boldest steer but where their ports invite,
But there are wanderers o’er eternity
Whose bark drives on and on, and anchored
. ne’er shall be.”
Once again, Reader, farewell, but forget not—THE MAN IN THE CLOAK.