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There was once a great Italian painter
the same who had a hand in painting the
stanze and loggie of the Vatican, and in building
Saint Peter'swho, when he came to be
nearly eighty years of age, when he was
justly considered and renowned throughout
Europe as the most learned artist living, as a
man who knew by heart every bone, ligament,
muscle, and vein, and could pourtray them
with the most recondite foreshortening and
the most erudite symmetrywhich, indeed,
he coulddesigned a rough pencil sketch,
representing a very old man (himself) seated
in a go-cart, drawn by a little child; while,
underneath the drawing, these words were
written: "Ancora impara"—"Still he
learns."  The octogenarian sagethe oracle
of artwas wise and modest enough to
confess how little he knew, and how much he
had yet to learn.

Now, though I do not pretend to the
learning of Michael Angelo, orI say it in
all modestyto know much about anything,
I did flatter myself that I was passably well
read in "public" lorethat, as I once
foolishly boasted in this journal, I had
graduated in beer. Flippantly, as men of
superficial acquirements are prone to do, I
summed up the phases of "public" life in
three chapters. Fatuitous scribe!  I had
but broken the ground with the point of my
spade. Insensate!  I had thought to do in a
day what it would take years to accomplish
a moiety of.  Impotent!  I had essayed to dip
the Mississippi dry with a salt-spoon!

Consider the contemplative man's recreation.
The fishing public-house!  On the banks
of a suburban stream, or by the towing-path of
a canal, or by the mud-compelling, stream-
restraining portals of a lock shall we find
the piscatorial public: the Jolly Anglers,
maybe, or the Izaak Walton, or very
probably the Swan. What connection there
can be between a Swan and the gentle craft
I know not; but it is a fact no less strange
than incontrovertible, that the Swan is the
favourite sign for fishing-houses:  the White
Swan, the Old Swan, the Silver Swan, the
Swan and Hook, but the Swan, always.

The Swan, my Swanon the little fishing
river Spree (which has been playing some
astonishing freaks of lateoverflowing its
banks and depositing roach and dace in back
kitchens and dustbins)—always puts me in
mind of a very old man with very young legs;
for whereas it is above, as far as regards its
upper and garret story, a quaint, moss-covered,
thatched-roofed edifice with crooked gable
ends, and an oriel window with lozenge-panes,
it is below an atrociously modern erection of
staring yellow brick with an impertinent
stuccoed doorway, and the usual rhetorical
conventionalities in golden flourishes about
neat wines, fine ales, good accommodation,
and the rest of it. This doorway faces the
high omnibus road, and is a sixpenny ride
from the Banka great convenience to anglers
whose everyday occupations are of a City or
commercial cast. The sign of the Swan
formerly stood in this high road, or at least
creaked and swung within an iron frame
affixed to a post standing there. This Swan
was a brave bird, with a neck like a corkscrew,
and a head like the griffin's in the City Arms.
There were faint vestiges of a gold-laced
cocked hat, and a rubicund red nose gleaming
through the whity brown plumage of the
bird, and old folks said that before the house
had been the Swan, it was known as the
General Ligonier. Other old folks held out
stoutly that the cocked hat and rubicund nose
belonged to the publican's friend, the Marquis
of Granby, while a third party swore hard
that they were the property of Admiral Byng,
and that he was dissignified after they had
shot him. When Groundbait, the present
landlord of the Swan, took the house, he
caused the sign to be removed as too shabby
and tarnished, and agreed with Joe Copal,
the journeyman decorator, to paint a new one
for a crown and a bottle of wine. Unfortunately
he paid the money and the liquor in
advance, and Joe soon after emigrated to
Texas, leaving not only the sign unpainted,
but a considerable score for malt liquors and
tobacco unsettled; whereupon Groundbait
grew moody and abstracted on the subject of
signs; refusing to have a new one painted,
and replying haughtily to such friends as
pressed him on the subject that "the gentlemen
as used the Swan knew his 'ouse was the
Swan without a swan being painted up
outside like a himage, and that if they didn't
they might go to any other swan or goose,"