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Fife

Sometimes I have the difficulties with the 17-19 centuries English books

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Hello. English is not my native language. Sometimes I have the difficulties when I am reading the 17-19 centuries English literature. Now I have the difficulties with the William Godwin's "Mandeville" tale. The tale came to the light in 1817 year.
The first difficulty is "to give law to the land”. What does it mean? Codwin says, this had been the “strict purpose of the rebellion” he is talking about. This had been the Irish revolt that begun in 1641 year.
The second difficulty is, the “lord of the forest engendering with a serpent, or the eagle with the wren”. Is this some old English fairy-tale? I had not found any hint of it in the Internet.
The both parts are below.

1. Such were the tales that were daily, and sometimes hourly, brought to my father and his comrades in their confinement at Kinnard; and it was soon manifest that this war, which began with professions of clemency, was rapidly degenerating into a scene of cruelty and massacre, such as has rarely occurred in the annals of the world. The first excesses commenced among the rudest of the people, and were perpetrated by boors, unacquainted with almost the slightest tincture of civilization. Yet, once begun, it would have been difficult to stay their progress, especially in a case like this, where the affair was strictly a rising of the population to give law to the land.

2. The first person who was induced to remark the nature of the communication going on between Audley and Amelia was a servant-maid; and, as this female was of a fretful and malignant temper, to which nothing was so distressing as to see other persons delighted and happy, she did not fail officiously to communicate her observations to Mrs Dorothy. The old lady was astonished; she never could have believed it. It never could have come into her head, that the blood of the Mandevilles could degrade itself by an ill-assorted wedlock. She had indeed allowed herself to doubt, whether her brother, the commodore, had conducted himself with his usual propriety, in matching with the mother of Audley. But, that Audley himself should fix his choice on a degraded branch of his mother's family, a girl without a shilling, and whose father, if he had met with his deserts, would have paid the forfeit of his life to the injured laws of his country,—she would as soon have thought of the lord of the forest engendering with a serpent, or the eagle with the wren.

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Hello Fife. I have read the excerpts you put up, and I must admit I am struggling a bit with the first one. 

 

I would have assumed that 'to give law to the land', would mean imposing new (and potentially unpopular) laws onto an unwilling and rebellious people. But I am not certain from the context. 

 

The second is not from folklore as far as I know, but is used to emphasise how unsuitable Mrs Dorothy felt the relationship between Audley and Amelia to be. She would have been more likely to accept a tiger (often considered the lord of the forest) mating with a snake, 'or the eagle with the wren'.  That is how unlikely a match Audley and Amelia are! 

 

I hope that helps a little. :)

 

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20 hours ago, Chrissy said:

Hello Fife. I have read the excerpts you put up, and I must admit I am struggling a bit with the first one. 

 

I would have assumed that 'to give law to the land', would mean imposing new (and potentially unpopular) laws onto an unwilling and rebellious people. But I am not certain from the context. 

 

The second is not from folklore as far as I know, but is used to emphasise how unsuitable Mrs Dorothy felt the relationship between Audley and Amelia to be. She would have been more likely to accept a tiger (often considered the lord of the forest) mating with a snake, 'or the eagle with the wren'.  That is how unlikely a match Audley and Amelia are! 

 

I hope that helps a little. :)

 

Hello, Chrissy. Thank you very much. It seems to me, your explanation the "lord of the forest" and go on is right. I have also some thing to make more clear the first case. After "give law to the land", Godwin says: "But, difficult or easy, the experiment never was tried. O'Neile, and most of the other heads of the conspiracy, were as bigoted, as hardened, and as brutal, as the lowest of their followers". Also, in another place, Phelim O'Neile himself says of the purposes of this revolt against English: "To-morrow all Ireland rises in the assertion of her rights. Our plan is entire and unbroken; Dublin is ours; every fort and garrison in Ulster, Leinster, Minster, and Connaught, is ours. We meditate no injury; not a drop of blood shall be shed, if it is in our power to avoid it. But we will have our rights. We will not be trampled upon as we have been by a handful of foreigners; we will not submit to have our estates turn from us, because we or our ancestors have meritoriously drawn our swords in the sacred cause of our couniry; we not allow our inability to produce certain deeds and musty parchments to be set up against immemorial possession to oust us of our lands; we are resolved that the holy Catholic faith, to which every man of Ireland is a sincere adherent, shall no longer go naked, like a dishonoured wanderer, but shall be clothed again in all her pristine magnificence and splendour".

May be, it will furnish you more matter to explain the words.

 

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Basically seconding Chrissy here but I agree that to 'give law to the land' means introducing new laws to a place. 'The law of the land' is actually a very old legal term for the laws in force in a country. I think (although I haven't read the book) that he's talking about the rebels giving new law to the land, rather than the other way around though? So, in the extract you included, he'd basically be saying that people are getting out of hand, being overly cruel and uncivilised, but because of the nature of this conflict (where the population is rising up against the existing laws in the hope they can change things) it would be impossible to stop that cruelty from happening.

 

And I also definitely agree that 'the lord of the forest engendering with a serpent, or the eagle with the wren' is a just a metaphor for extremely unlikely/ ill-matched couples. I'm pretty sure it's not folklore related.

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On 02.07.2021 at 8:55 PM, Hayley said:

Basically

Hi, Hayley! I have the difficulties with this book again. The first is like this. "I was born in the year 1638", Godwin says. Is this the old manner when the word of the "year" is put before the date? The second difficulty is like this. I can't conceive the meaning of these words: "Every man who was anxious for his state in the future world, could not fail to feel strongly excited, to appropriate a part of his possessions for the delivery of his soul". I can't understand what is the "fail" meaning here. The words are in this peace: "The doctrine of purgatory, and of masses for the dead, was another admirable machine, for raising to the utmost height the power of the church. Every man who was anxious for his state in the future world, could not fail to feel strongly excited, to appropriate a part of his possessions for the delivery of his soul; and every child or heir to an estate would be influenced by the same motive, whetlier out of affection to his predecessor, or from ostentation, that he might appear to have that grace of piety and natural affection, to which he was really a stranger".

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7 hours ago, Fife said:

"I was born in the year 1638", Godwin says. Is this the old manner when the word of the "year" is put before the date?

Yes, we'd just cut out the words 'the year' in modern English, so it would say 'I was born in 1638' :).

 

7 hours ago, Fife said:

I can't understand what is the "fail" meaning here.

'could not fail to' means you can't not do something. So the men can't not feel strongly exited, therefore they do feel strongly excited. 

 

I hope that helps!

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14 hours ago, Hayley said:

Yes, we'd just cut out the words 'the year' in modern English,

I mean, if you the English used to write in the good old times the "in the year something" in a place of modern "in something year".

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1 hour ago, Fife said:

I mean, if you the English used to write in the good old times the "in the year something" in a place of modern "in something year".

You just don't really need to include the word year at all, because it doesn't add anything to your understanding of the sentence. 

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On 03.09.2021 at 5:28 PM, Hayley said:

You just don't really need to include the word year at all, because it doesn't add anything to your understanding of the sentence. 

Hi Hayley. I have one more diffilulty. What is the "out of secret"? The whole peace is like this. The Godwin says here of the King Charles who had been conducted then to London to put him to the death. "People had but a confused idea why the king was conducted to London on the present occasion. It was sufficiently known, that the power was at this time in the hands of his bitterest enemies. But so many negociations had been entered into by all parties in turn, for his being restored with a limited power, that no one, out of the secret, could prevail upon himself to look upon him as any other than the king.

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2 hours ago, Fife said:

no one, out of the secret, could prevail upon himself to look upon him as any other than the king.

I believe it means no one who doesn't know about the secret (I assume the secret here is that King Charles is being bought to London to be put to death). Some people are 'out of' the secret because they are not involved in it; they don't know that he's going to be killed, so they still see him as the king. 

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