"'Arry" an elegaic satirising the habit of the plebs of the time of aspirating consonants and vowels. This practice was evident among NCOs of the British army around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, albeit merely with vowels. The text:
Chommoda dicebat, si quando commoda vellet
dicere, et insidias Arrius hinsidias,
et tum mirifice sperabat se esse locutum,
cum quantum poterat dixerat hinsidias.
credo, sic mater, sic Liber avunculus eius,
sic maternus avus dixerat avia.
hoc misso in Syriam requierant omnibus aures:
audibant eadem haec leniter et leviter,
nec sibi postilla metuebant talia verba,
cum subito affertur nuntius horribilis,
Ionios fluctus, postquam illic Arrias isset,
iam non Ionios esse, sed Hionios.
My verse translation, attempting to preserve some of the vulgarity of the original.
'Hextras' he said, when he meant 'extras',
Or 'Arry would say 'hambush' for 'ambush',
And thought he spoke wonderfully
whenever he emphasised: Hambush.
I expect his mother and his freedman uncle
and his maternal grandfather and mother spoke thus.
When he was sent to Syria, ears began to calm:
They heard these sounds lightly and quietly,
nor did they fear such words' return.
Then suddenly came the horrible message;
The Ionian sea, since Arrius was there,
is now not Ionian, but Hionian.
As one might expect, this poem has inspired many, not least C M Fanshawe
, whose "Enigma on the Letter 'H'"
is included below for your enjoyment. It was originally written as a riddle
, but its solution will be obvious to anyone who has read the source of its inspiration. I apologise for spoiling the fun.
'Twas whispered in heaven, 'twas muttered in hell,
And echo caught faintly the sound as it fell;
On the confines of earth 'twas permitted to rest,
And the depth of the ocean its presence confessed...
Yet in shade let it rest, like a delicate flower,
Ah, breathe on it softly, -it dies in an hour.