On the scutcheon we’ll have a bend or in the dexter base,
A saltire murrey in the fess, with a dog, couchant, for common charge,
And under his foot a chain embattled, for slavery,
With a chevron, vert in a chief engrailed,
And three invected lines on a field azure,
With the nombril points rampant on a dancette indented;
Crest, a runaway nigger, sable, with his bundle over his shoulder on a bar sinister;
And a couple of gules for supporters, which is you and me,
Motto, Maggiore fretta, minore atto.
Got it out of a book – means the more haste, the less speed.
I read this once, then went back and read it a few more times, each time trying to imagine what in the world this crest must look like. I could pull the meanings of a few words, thanks to recently studying heraldry and the Middle Ages with my daughters, and perhaps a few colors such as sable and azure (black and blue, right?), but on the whole, it was just one confusing muddle. But I WANTED to be able to picture it, so I kept trying. No luck. Eventually I realized that it seemed more like Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky – “Twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe…”
Was that perhaps Twain’s intent? It did seem like he pulled out all sorts of interesting words to throw in here. Words that Tom, despite his rudimentary education, could not possibly have known the meaning of. Twain obviously loves language, his adventure in dialects being one of the most fun things about this novel, in my opinion. (Still looking for a good recommendation for a read-aloud on this one – wouldn’t it be fun?!)
So, I decided to post this coat of arms written as a poem, above. I’ll appreciate it for the sounds and words, if not for the meanings. (Although I did find the above diagram – apparently some artist attempted to read with understanding! Good for him.)