The English Gipsies and Their Language eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 247 pages of information about The English Gipsies and Their Language.

Probably the most universal error in the world is the belief that all men, due allowance being made for greater or less knowledge, or “talents,” have minds like our own; are endowed with the same moral perception, and see things on the whole very much as we do.  Now the truth is that a Chinese, whose mind is formed, not by “religion” as we understand it, but simply by the intense pressure of “Old Custom,” which we do not understand, thinks in a different manner from an European; moralists accuse him of “moral obliquity,” but in reality it is a moral difference.  Docility of mind, the patriarchal principle, and the very perfection of innumerable wise and moral precepts have, by the practice of thousands of years, produced in him their natural result.  Whenever he attempts to think, his mind runs at once into some broad and open path, beautifully bordered with dry artificial flowers, {21} and the result has been the inability to comprehend any new idea—­a state to which the Church of the Middle Ages, or any too rigidly established system, would in a few thousand years have reduced humanity.  Under the action of widely different causes, the gipsy has also a different cast of mind from our own, and a radical moral difference.  A very few years ago, when I was on the Plains of Western Kansas, old Black Kettle, a famous Indian chief said in a speech, “I am not a white man, I am a wolf.  I was born like a wolf on the prairies.  I have lived like a wolf, and I shall die like one.”  Such is the wild gipsy.  Ever poor and hungry, theft seems to him, in the trifling easy manner in which he practises it, simply a necessity.  The moral aspects of petty crime he never considers at all, nor does he, in fact, reflect upon anything as it is reflected on by the humblest peasant who goes to church, or who in any way feels himself connected as an integral part of that great body-corporate—­Society.


The Old Fortune-Teller and her Brother.—­The Patteran, or Gipsies’ Road-Mark .—­The Christian Cross, named by Continental Gipsies Trushul, after the Trident of Siva.—­Curious English-Gipsy term for the Cross.—­Ashwood Fires on Christmas Day.—­Our Saviour regarded with affection by the Rommany because he was like themselves and poor.—­Strange ideas of the Bible.—­The Oak.—­Lizards renew their lives.—­Snails.—­Slugs.—­Tobacco Pipes as old as the world.

“Duveleste; Avo.  Mandy’s kaired my patteran adusta chairuses where a drum jals atut the waver,” which means in English—­“God bless you, yes.  Many a time I have marked my sign where the roads cross.”

I was seated in the cottage of an old Gipsy mother, one of the most noted fortune-tellers in England, when I heard this from her brother, himself an ancient wanderer, who loves far better to hear the lark sing than the mouse cheep when he wakes of a morning.

It was a very small but clean cottage, of the kind quite peculiar to the English labourer, and therefore attractive to every one who has felt the true spirit of the most original poetry and art which this country has produced.  For look high or low, dear reader, you will find that nothing has ever been better done in England than the pictures of rural life, and over nothing have its gifted minds cast a deeper charm.

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The English Gipsies and Their Language from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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