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Georges Dodds'
The Ape-Man: his Kith and Kin
A collection of texts which prepared the advent of Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Selected 19thCentury Simian Fiction (1830-1914)
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1. Thomas de Yriarte - transl. R.R.: The Ape and the Juggler
Thomas de Yriarte (1750-1791) transl. R.R.
The Ape and the Juggler
from Literary Fables - Blackwood's Magazine
46: 204-205
A fable regarding an ape and a juggler

..The Ape and the Juggler

Good father Joltered, who lost his brains
  By overstudying of natural history --
For authors often take the greatest pains
  To turn the plainest matter to a mystery --
Who wrote a score of volumes to describe
  Some score of beasts that Adam never saw,
Of phoenix, unicorn, or griffin tribe,
  And gave their very likeness to a claw;
In short, who rummaged continent and cape
For creatures of the strangest size and shape:
  This reverend writer tells, in pond'rous prose
  A certain story, which I'll re-compose
In light and careless verse, about an ape.

According to his kind, this ape possess'd
  The faculty of imitation strongly,
(A faculty that's dangerous at the best,
  For apes are very apt to use it wrongly,)
And being bound apprentice -- by a chain --
Unto a juggler, had contrived to gain
A smattering of a trick or two, which made
  The creature think himself beyond all doubt
A perfect master of the mystic trade;
  So one day, when his master had gone out,
He seized the opportunity with glee
  To get up a performance of his own,
And ask'd the neighbouring beasts to come and see
  How great a conjurer he had really grown.

They came -- and, first a chequer'd harlequin
  He moved his magic wand; and then a clown
He poised a lengthy ladder on his chin,
  And whistled as he bore it up and down.
A figuranté next, with nodding plume,
  Upon a rope that stretch'd across the room
He danced, unto the music of a pair
  Of castanets, along its slender length,
Then headlong cast himself with all his strength,
And swung, suspended by his tail, in air: --
A sight at which his friends were so much aw'd
They hardly had the courage to applaud.
In short, as juggler, mountebank, or mime,
His style of acting was pronounced sublime;
And even when he made, by sleight of hand,
The cards to come and vanish at command,
You would have sworn, if you had seen the trick,
That he had dealt directly with old Nick.

At length the ape, ambitious to complete
His triumph, undertook the crowning feat --
  His master's masterpiece -- which so surpass'd
The others, that the juggler, as a treat,
  On all occasions kept it to the last.
A sheet was hung between his friends and him,
The lights extinguished and the room made dim;
When after a confused preamble, which
Awoke attention to the highest pitch,
He took a magic lantern from its place,
  And drawing through the groove each pictured glass,
With an exceeding gravity of face
  Announced the different figures that should pass.
"Here comes a king," he cried, "and there a queen;"
But not a glimpse of either could be seen.
"Now stately towers," "now ships upon the main;"
But still the keenest optics stared in vain.
No mystic ring expanded in the gloom,
No form of glory flitted through the room,
But all was darkness; and the blundering ape
Had wellnigh got into a serious scrape:
For, disappointed by his incapacity,
  The friends of pug proceeded in their rage
To show some striking symptoms of pugnacity,
  And pelt him with derision from the stage.
But, in the very thickest of the din,
The juggler, who had luckily come in,
Rebuked the ape's stupidity, and cried,
  "No wonder that the audience are benighted,
And all thy boasted visions undescried;
  For, lo, the magic lantern is not lighted!"

Thus let me drop into each author's ear
A piece of counsel -- "Keep your meaning clear,
Your statements lucid; for of this be sure,
That dulness only ever is obscure."

Comments/report typos to
Georges Dodds
William Hillman

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