Monday, February 28, 2011

A question Google *doesn't* answer

I'm reading Robert Blake's life of Disraeli, and quoted is a line from an 1868 Commons debate in which Dizzy is rebuking some Tory rebels who'd moved to his right:
When the bark is heard from this side the right hon. Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) emerges, I will not say from his cave, but, perhaps, from a more cynical habitation. He joins immediately in the chorus of reciprocal malignity— ‘And hails with horrid melody the moon.’
In quotes, right? A line from a poem, apparently. But what poem, by whom?

One would guess Scott or Byron. But online searching yields nothing except quotations of the Commons debate.


  1. Just a hunch, but I'd think Homer or Vergil would be more likely sources. Ovid, maybe?

  2. Disraeli was himself a writer of romantic prose and poetry. I wouldn't be surprised that he was quoting himself. It could also be just the reporter's practice of enclosing poetic sounding phrases in quotations.

  3. Hm. You have a cogent point there about the reporter, SoMs. Tho the meter suggests it's iambic. He did write some indifferent verse in youth ...

    Jim, I hadn't thought of its being a translation, but that does make it harder. Try this out for size -- Google reveals a variant, "hailing," as a slogan for the "German Club Boys" at some Kansas high school, back in the day. Could it be Heine? Schiller?

  4. The Wellington Independent for 16 Hongongoi 1870 has the following: "It appears from a complaint we have received from a correspondent, who is also a stranger in the town, that some of our youth are striving after the reputation of the colonial boy, and are nightly in the habit of 'baying with horrid melody the moon' and otherwise making night hideous with their howls at the corner of the Tinakori Road." "Colonial boy" brings up Wild Colonial Boy, an Irish and Australian song, but there is nothing about baying or hailing the moon in the text of these songs.

  5. "Hongongoi" is Maori for July.

  6. Yeah, I found that too, but either they were quoting Dizzy or the source was otherwise too familiar to require citation.

    The verb shifts, but "__ with horrid melody the moon" is evidently the memorable part.