Epistle To Earl Harcourt, On His Wishing Her To Spell Her Name With Of Catherine With A K.

AND can his antiquarian eyes,
My Anglo-Saxon C despise?
And does Lord Harcourt, day by day,
Regret th' extinct initial K?
And still, with ardour unabated,
Labour to get it reinstated?--
I know, my Lord, your generous passion
For ev'ry long-exploded fashion;
And own the Catherine you delight in,
Looks irresistibly inviting,
Appears to bear the stamp, and mark,
Of English, used in Noah's Ark;
'But all that glitters is not gold,'
Nor all things obsolete, are old.
Would you but take the pains to look
In Doctor Johnson's quarto book,
(As I did, wishing much to see
Th' aforesaid letter's pedigree),
Believe me, 't would a tale unfold,
Would make your Norman blood run cold.

My Lord, you'll find the K's no better
Than an interpolated letter,--
A wand'ring Greek, a franchis'd alien,
Deriv'd from Cadmus or Deucalion,
And, why, or wherefore, none can tell,
Inserted 'twixt the J and L.
The learned say, our English tongue
On Gothic beams is built and hung;
Then why the solid fabric piece
With motley ornaments from Greece?
Her letter'd despots had no bowels
For northern consonants and vowels;
The Norman and the Greek grammarian
Deem'd us, and all our words, barbarian,
Till those hard words, and harder blows,
Had silenced all our haughty foes,
And proud they were to kiss the sandals
(Shoes we had none) of Goths and Vandals.
So call we now the various race
That gave the Roman eagle chace,
Nurtur'd by all the storms that roll
In thunder round the Arctic Pole,
And from the bosom of the North,
Like gelid rain-drops scatter'd forth--
Dread Odin's desolating sons,
Teutones, Cimbrians, Franks, and Huns;--

But hold, 't would try Don Quixote's patience,
To nomenclate this mob of nations:
Whose names a poet's teeth might break,
And only botanists could speak,
They at a single glance would see us
Rang'd in the system of Linnæus;
Would organize the mingled mass,
Assign their genus, order, class,
And give, as trivial, and specific,
Names harder still, and more terrific.
But since our Saxon line we trace
Up to this all-subduing race,
Since flows their blood in British veins,
Who led the universe in chains,
And from their 'sole dominion' hurl'd
The giants of the ancient world,
Their boasted languages confounding,
And with such mortal gutturals wounding,
That Greek and Latin fell or fled,
And soon were number'd with the dead;
Befits it us, so much their betters,
To spell our names with conquer'd letters?
And shall they rise and prate again,
Like Falstaff, from among the slain?
A licence quite of modern date
Which no long customs consecrate;

For since this K, of hateful sound,
First set his foot on British ground,
'Tis not, as antiquaries know,
A dozen centuries ago.--
That darling theme of English story,
For learning fam'd and martial glory,--
Alfred, who quell'd th' unsurping Dane,
And burst, indignant, from his chain;
Who slaves redeemed, to reign o'er men,
Changing the faulchion for the pen,
And outlin'd, with a master's hand,
Th' immortal charter of the land;
Alfred, whom yet these realms obey,
In all his kingdom own'd no K,
From foreign arms, and letters free,
Preserv'd his Cyngly dignity,
And wrote it with a Saxon C.
--This case in point from Alfred's laws
Establishes my client's cause;
Secures a verdict for defendant,
K pays the costs, and there's an end on't.
The suit had linger'd long, I grant, if
Counsel had first been heard for plaintiff;
Who might, to use a new expression,
Have urg'd the plea of dis -possession,

And put our better claims to flight,
By pre-, I mean pro scriptive right,
Since that which modern times explode,
The world will deem the prior mode.--
But grant this specious plea prevailing,
And all my legal learning failing;
There yet remains so black a charge,
Not only 'gainst the K's at large,
But th' individual K in question,
You'd tremble at the bare suggestion,
Nor ever more a wish reveal
So adverse to the public weal.
Dear gentle Earl, you little know
That wish might work a world of woe;
The ears that are unborn would rise,
In judgment 'gainst your lordship's eyes
The ears that are unborn would rue
Your letter patent to renew
The dormant dignity of shrew.
The K restor'd takes off th' attainder,
And grants the title, with remainder
In perpetuity devis'd,
To Katherines lawfully baptiz'd.
What has not Shakspeare said and sung,
Of our pre-eminence of tongue!

His glowing pen has writ the
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"Epistle To Earl Harcourt, On His Wishing Her To Spell Her Name With Of Catherine With A K." Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 14 Oct. 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/43068/epistle-to-earl-harcourt,-on-his-wishing-her-to-spell-her-name-with-of-catherine-with-a-k.>.

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