Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Matthew Buckinger - the Human Trunk


An Elegy on the much lamented Death of Matthew Buckinger, 

the famous little Man (without Arms or Legs,) who departed this life at Edinburgh. (after 1733?)

Poor Buckinger, at last is dead and gone!
A lifeless Trunk, who was a living one:
Trunk did I say, wherein all Virtues met?
I should ha’ call’d him a rich Cabinet.
No wonder in Life’s Warfare he should die,
Who wanted Hands to fight, and Feet to flie.

Nature to form so great a Life to come,
Wisely took care to maim him in the Womb.
So when we take young Eagles, 'tis thought best
To clip their Wings and Talons in the Nest,
For lop the Limbs, and then the Soul confin’d,
Collects it self, and double mans the mind.
So Suckors prun’d, and Fibres from the Root,
Make the tree not die, but flourish in their Fruit.
He was, altho’ he had not e’er Limb,
A Man, I’ll prove it, every Inch of him:
No huge two handed Man! but when he dy’d,
‘Twas a good Body, ev’ry mortal cry’d.
Pious he was, as holiest Devotees;
For sure he always was upon his knees;
And that he us’d to pray, his Widow knows,
As often as he Fingers had and Toes.
So blameless, he defy’d the World to rail,
Or any Man to say, Black was his Nail.
He never made one False Step all his Life,
Except, in marrying his second Wife:
And, tho’ they went together in pure Love,
They did not hit it, nor were Hand-and-Glove:
Altho’ he suffer’d from her many Ills,
A Clog he could not call her at his Heels;
But sure he might have quitted her in haste,
If Spitting in his Hand was holding fast.
Some call’d him Vagabond, and said they knew’t.
How could he strole, who never stirr’d a Foot?
He of his Pen had very great Command;
If he wrote any, ‘twas no running Hand.
He play’d all Games with Skill, but was most nice,
Tho’ without Slight of Hand, at Cards and Dice;
And tho’ he won at Play, yet no one can
Say, That he made a Hand of any Man.
He practis’d Musick too; it did appear,
Tho’ he no Finger had, he had an Ear.
He visited most Places in the Land,
And rode, but never kept a Bridle-Hand.
Nor Galls on either Side his Horse did feel
His Spur was in his Head, not in his Heel.
He was a Manager, we may believe,
For he was ne’er thurst his Arm beyond his Sleeve.
And tho’ his Bread was but of daily Growth,
No Man cou’d say, He liv’d from Hand to Mouth.
Not spiteful, for, altho’ provok’d a-deal,
He ne’er oppos’d a Man both Tooth and Nail.
He wou’d be reconcil’d with small Amends,
And, tho’ he shook not Hands, he would be-friends.
Some envious Men thought him dishonest, but
He was not light of Finger or of Foot.
He never pick’d Mens Pockets or their Locks;
Or, if he had, he might defy the Stocks.
The Papist wont believe his Pardon seal’d;
Because he liv’d, and dy’d too, unanneal’d.
He was no Flatterer, nor apt t’applaud,
Spoke civilly to all Men, never claw’d.
Kind in his Actions too, as well as Speech,
And ne’er gave Box o’th’Ear, or Kick o’th’Breech;
Courteous to all, up to the highest Peg;
If you would kiss his hand, he’d make y’a Leg.
Inimitable both Alive and Dead,
No man could ever in his Footsteps tread.
Compliance with all Humours he has shown,
Any Man’s Shoe would fit him as his own.
And yet not to reflect upon his Dust,
He knew not where his own Shoe pinch’d him most.
No Confidence in cunning Men he put,
No Man could get the Measure of his Foot.
And yet some Men did with him grow so bold,
He could not keep ‘em at Arms length, I’m told.
Bookish he was, I speak it to his Praise,
But yet he ne’er thumb’d a Book in all his Days;
And that which very much his sense commends.
His learning was not at his Finger’s Ends.
He could n’t do a Hand’s Turn with Ease,
But what he did was all with Elbow-grease.
As his old Grannam bid him do, he’d cry,
I always with my Elbow scratch my Eye.
He was no Rambler he, but kept the House,
And wealthy grew, but never scrap’d a sous,
Nor was close-fisted more than you or I.
Nor had his Hand upon his Ha’penny;
And yet for fear of debt, or being dipt,
His Money never thro’ his Fingers slipt.
‘Thus safe to trust him, for he never show’d,
A Pair of Heels for what he justly ow’d;
Nor could it welll be said, with any Face,
That being on his last legs was his Case.
Sincere he was, and void of Care and Art;
But never laid his Hand upon his Heart.
And was so little mov’d with Lies or Tales,
He never, for Vexation, bit his Nails.
Some Men, who did not love him, us’d to think,
That, till he cou’d not stand on’s Legs, he’d drink.
But tho’ he never palm’d his Glass, yet some,
Can prove he never drank Supernaculam.
And tho’ in Liquor he some Money spent,
His Legs ne’er cut Indentures as he went.
Some that he lov’d his Gut, for Reason gave,
He only with his Teeth could dig his Grave.
In short time little Failings well might pass,
Since he, ad Unguem, factus Homo, was.

The Epitaph

Here sleeps among good Christians dead,
One. who vi’lent Hand ne’er laid
Upon himself, nor any other;
But was a peaceful harmless Brother:
He neither injur’d Life nor Limb.
Why then should Death lay Hands on him,
But I mistake, Death took no Grip
Of him, nor up his Heels did trip;
But at a Distance shot a Rover,
And tipp’d him (like his Nine pin) over.
One poor Escutcheon in his Due,
Who in his Time so many drew:
Thus, more than when alive he’ll have
Arms and Supporters to his Grave.

Further Information:

James Caulfield's Portraits, Memoirs, and Characters of remarkable persons,
from the Revolution in 1688 to the end of the reign of George II.

(1819-20). 4 vols.

Want to know more? See

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