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Tristram Shandy

Full Text

Chapter 4.XCII.

Full Text Chapter 4.XCII.

Chapter 4.XCII.

—That provision should be made for continuing the race of so great, so exalted and godlike a Being as man—I am far from denying—but philosophy speaks freely of every thing; and therefore I still think and do maintain it to be a pity, that it should be done by means of a passion which bends down the faculties, and turns all the wisdom, contemplations, and operations of the soul backwards—a passion, my dear, continued my father, addressing himself to my mother, which couples and equals wise men with fools, and makes us come out of our caverns and hiding-places more like satyrs and four-footed beasts than men.

I know it will be said, continued my father (availing himself of the Prolepsis), that in itself, and simply taken—like hunger, or thirst, or sleep—'tis an affair neither good or bad—or shameful or otherwise.—Why then did the delicacy of Diogenes and Plato so recalcitrate against it? and wherefore, when we go about to make and plant a man, do we put out the candle? and for what reason is it, that all the parts thereof—the congredients—the preparations—the instruments, and whatever serves thereto, are so held as to be conveyed to a cleanly mind by no language, translation, or periphrasis whatever?

—The act of killing and destroying a man, continued my father, raising his voice—and turning to my uncle Toby—you see, is glorious—and the weapons by which we do it are honourable—We march with them upon our shoulders—We strut with them by our sides—We gild them—We carve them—We in-lay them—We enrich them—Nay, if it be but a scoundrel cannon, we cast an ornament upon the breach of it.—

—My uncle Toby laid down his pipe to intercede for a better epithet—and Yorick was rising up to batter the whole hypothesis to pieces—

—When Obadiah broke into the middle of the room with a complaint, which cried out for an immediate hearing.

The case was this:

My father, whether by ancient custom of the manor, or as impropriator of the great tythes, was obliged to keep a Bull for the service of the Parish, and Obadiah had led his cow upon a pop-visit to him one day or other the preceding summer—I say, one day or other—because as chance would have it, it was the day on which he was married to my father's house-maid—so one was a reckoning to the other. Therefore when Obadiah's wife was brought to bed—Obadiah thanked God—

—Now, said Obadiah, I shall have a calf: so Obadiah went daily to visit his cow.

She'll calve on Monday—on Tuesday—on Wednesday at the farthest—

The cow did not calve—no—she'll not calve till next week—the cow put it off terribly—till at the end of the sixth week Obadiah's suspicions (like a good man's) fell upon the Bull.

Now the parish being very large, my father's Bull, to speak the truth of him, was no way equal to the department; he had, however, got himself, somehow or other, thrust into employment—and as he went through the business with a grave face, my father had a high opinion of him.

—Most of the townsmen, an' please your worship, quoth Obadiah, believe that 'tis all the Bull's fault—

—But may not a cow be barren? replied my father, turning to Doctor Slop.

It never happens: said Dr. Slop, but the man's wife may have come before her time naturally enough—Prithee has the child hair upon his head?—added Dr. Slop—

—It is as hairy as I am; said Obadiah.—Obadiah had not been shaved for three weeks—Wheu...u...u...cried my father; beginning the sentence with an exclamatory whistle—and so, brother Toby, this poor Bull of mine, who is as good a Bull as ever p..ss'd, and might have done for Europa herself in purer times—had he but two legs less, might have been driven into Doctors Commons and lost his character—which to a Town Bull, brother Toby, is the very same thing as his life—

L..d! said my mother, what is all this story about?—

A Cock and a Bull, said Yorick—And one of the best of its kind, I ever heard.

End of the Fourth Volume.