and commonplace but for that benefaction. Would you be wise to draw
a dictionary on that gracious word? would you be properly grateful?
After a couple of days’ rest I now come back to my subject and seek
a case in point. I find it without trouble, in the morning paper;
a cablegram from Chicago and Indiana by way of Paris. All the words
save one are guessable by a person ignorant of Italian:
Revolverate in teatro
PARIGI, 27.–La PATRIE ha da Chicago:
Il guardiano del teatro dell’opera di Walace (Indiana), avendo voluto
espellare uno spettatore che continuava a fumare malgrado il diviety,
questo spalleggiato dai suoi amici tir`o diversi colpi di rivoltella.
Il guardiano ripose. Nacque una scarica generale. Grande panico
tra gli spettatori. Nessun ferito.
TRANSLATION.–“Revolveration in Theater. PARIS, 27TH. LA PATRIE
has from Chicago: The cop of the theater of the opera of Wallace,
Indiana, had willed to expel a spectator which continued to smoke
in spite of the prohibition, who, spalleggiato by his friends,
tir’o (Fr. TIR’E, Anglice PULLED) manifold revolver-shots;
great panic among the spectators. Nobody hurt.”
It is bettable that that harmless cataclysm in the theater of the opera
of Wallace, Indiana, excited not a person in Europe but me, and so
came near to not being worth cabling to Florence by way of France.
But it does excite me. It excites me because I cannot make out,
for sure, what it was that moved the spectator to resist the officer.
I was gliding along smoothly and without obstruction or accident,
until I came to that word “spalleggiato,” then the bottom fell out.
You notice what a rich gloom, what a somber and pervading mystery,
that word sheds all over the whole Wallachian tragedy. That is the charm
of the thing, that is the delight of it. This is where you begin,
this is where you revel. You can guess and guess, and have all
the fun you like; you need not be afraid there will be an end to it;
none is possible, for no amount of guessing will ever furnish you
a meaning for that word that you can be sure is the right one.
All the other words give you hints, by their form, their sound,
or their spelling–this one doesn’t, this one throws out no hints,
this one keeps its secret. If there is even the slightest slight
shadow of a hint anywhere, it lies in the very meagerly suggestive
fact that “spalleggiato” carries our word “egg” in its stomach.
Well, make the most out of it, and then where are you at?
You conjecture that the spectator which was smoking in spite
of the prohibition and become reprohibited by the guardians,
was “egged on” by his friends, and that was owing to that evil
influence that he initiated the revolveration in theater that has
galloped under the sea and come crashing through the European
press without exciting anybody but me. But are you sure,
are you dead sure, that that was the way of it? No. Then the
uncertainty remains, the mystery abides, and with it the charm.
If I had a phrase-book of a really satisfactory sort I would
study it, and not give all my free time to undictionarial readings,
but there is no such work on the market. The existing phrase-books
are inadequate. They are well enough as far as they go, but when
you fall down and skin your leg they don’t tell you what to say.
ITALIAN WITH GRAMMAR
I found that a person of large intelligence could read this beautiful
language with considerable facility without a dictionary, but I presently
found that to such a parson a grammar could be of use at times.
It is because, if he does not know the WERE’S and the WAS’S and the
MAYBE’S and the HAS-BEENS’S apart, confusions and uncertainties
can arise. He can get the idea that a thing is going to happen next
week when the truth is that it has already happened week before last.
Even more previously, sometimes. Examination and inquiry showed
me that the adjectives and such things were frank and fair-minded
and straightforward, and did not shuffle; it was the Verb that mixed
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