"Smoked Like A Chimney"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The Ingoldsby Legends is a collection of tales in verse and prose, purporting to be relics and records of the Ingoldsby family as compiled by Thomas Ingoldsby. However, they are in reality the light-hearted compositions of the Reverend Richard Barham. Much of the humor is derived through the use of informal and colloquial expressions. "The Lay of St. Odille" is the story of a beautiful girl, Odille; she is the daughter of Count Otto, Lord of Alsace. She has many suitors but will take no interest in any of them: she intends to take the veil at St. Ermengarde's convent instead. Finally one Count Herman appears on the scene and plies her father with good strong beer, whereupon the old man waxes mellow and wishes him luck in his efforts to win Odille. Odille, feeling her position untenable, runs away in the direction of the convent. "When he found she'd levanted, the Count of Alsace/ At first turn'd remarkably red in the face;/ He anathematized, with much unction and grace,/ Every soul who came near, and consign'd the whole race/ Of runaway girls to a very warm place. . . ." Of course everyone rushes off in pursuit, and Odille is presently trapped on top of a hill. She prays to St. Ermengarde, who claps her into a cave and then reveals herself to Count Otto and his companions. "All at the sight, From the knave to the knight,/ Felt a very unpleasant sensation, call'd fright;/ While the Saint, looking down, With a terrible frown,/ Said, 'My Lords, you are done most remarkably brown!–'" Otto's choice is clear: he must let Odille have her way and be a nun or else lose her forever. He sensibly says to himself, "I can't do as I would,–I must do as I can;" and surrenders handsomely: "'They shall build a new convent,–I'll pay the whole bill/ (Taking discount),–its Abbess shall be my Odille.'" The poem concludes with the description of a hill near Friberg, split from top to bottom, from which Odille was presumably released. The moral, according to Barham, is that a woman is bound to get her own way–but that fortunately there are not enough saints to save them all. On the other hand, one can scarcely blame Odille for trying to get away:

Lords, Dukes, and Electors, and Counts Palatine
Came to seek her in marriage from both sides the Rhine;
But vain their design, They are all left to pine,
Their oglings and smiles are all useless; in fine
Not one of these gentlefolks, try as they will,
Can draw, "Ask my papa" from the cruel Odille.
At length one of her suitors, a certain Count Herman,
A highly respectable man as a German,
Who smoked like a chimney, and drank like a Merman,
Paid his court to her father, . . .