The Coat of Arms

13 Mar

coat of armsChapter 37 – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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.)


3 responses to “The Coat of Arms

  1. Ruth @ Experiment with The Well-Educated Mind

    March 13, 2013 at 9:30 am

    Out of curiosity, I did a search to see if anyone had tried to construct the coat of arms from Tom’s description, but I only found two, including the one you posted. So I tried to do one myself since my kids and I had to study blazon last year to make our family crest for our Medieval year. I came up with this: It is really not possible to do some of the things Tom suggests, but it was just as well b/c I think Twain’s intent was for Tom to be absolutely out of his mind, just like his plan to rescue Jim.

    • Jeannette

      March 13, 2013 at 1:29 pm

      Ruth! You are an artist! I am so impressed. Nicely done. Knowing my artistic talents, I did not even try to duplicate it myself. 🙂


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