28 Februaury 2017

The Rommany

This is by Borrow I believe, from his Lavengro, an introdiction dated 1872, about the Rommany, a little history of.

The Rommany "first attracted notice in Germany, where they appeared in immense numbers in the early part of the fifteenth century, a period fraught with extraordinary events: the coming of the Black Death; the fortunes and misfortunes of the Emperor Sigismund; the quarrels of the Three Popes—the idea of three Popes at one time—the burning alive of John Huss; the advance of the Crescent, and the battle of Agincourt. They were of dark complexion, some of them of nearly negro blackness, and spoke a language of their own, though many could converse in German and other tongues. They called themselves Zingary and Romany Chals, and the account they gave of themselves was that they were from Lower Egypt, and were doing penance, by seven years' wandering, for the sin of their forefathers, who of old had refused hospitality to the Virgin and Child. They did not speak truth, however: the name they bore, Zingary, and which, slightly modified, is still borne by their descendants in various countries, shows that they were not from Egypt, but from a much more distant land, Hindostan; for Zingaro is Sanscrit, and signifies a man of mixed race, a mongrel; whilst their conduct was evidently not that of people engaged in expiatory pilgrimage; for the women told the kosko bokht, the good luck, the buena ventura; kaured, that is, filched money and valuables from shop-boards and counters by a curious motion of the hands, and poisoned pigs and hogs by means of a certain drug, and then begged, and generally obtained the carcases, which cut up served their families for food; the children begged and stole; whilst the men, who it is true professed horse-clipping, farriery and fiddling, not unfrequently knocked down travellers and plundered them. The hand of justice of course soon fell heavily upon them; men of Egypt, as they were called, were seized, hung, or maimed; women scourged and branded; children whipped; but no severity appeared to have any effect upon the Zingary; wherever they went (and they soon found their way to almost every country in Europe), they adhered to their evil practices. Before the expiration of the fifteenth century, bands of them appeared in England with their horses, donkeys, and tilted carts. How did they contrive to cross the sea with their carts and other property? By means very easy to people with money in their pockets, which Gypsies always have, by paying for their passage; just as the Hungarian tribe did, who a few years ago came to England with their horses and vehicles, and who, whilst encamping with their English brethren in the loveliest of all forests, Epping Wesh, exclaimed 'Sore simensar simen.' [1]

"The meaning of Zingary, one of the names by which the pseudo penitents from Lower Egypt called themselves, has been given above. Now for that of the other, Romany Chals, a name in which the English Gypsies delight, who have entirely dropped that of Zingary. The meaning of Romany Chals is lads of Rome or Rama; Romany signifying that which belongs to Rama or Rome, and Chal a son or lad, being a Zingaric word connected with the Shilo of Scripture, the meaning of which may be found in the Lexicon of the brave old Westphalian Hebraist, Johannes Buxtorf.

"The Gypsies of England, the Zigany, Zigeuner, and other tribes of the Continent, descendants of the old Zingary and Romany Chals, retain many of the same characteristics of their forefathers, and, though differing from each other in some respects, resemble each other in many. They are much alike in hue and feature; speak amongst themselves much the same tongue; exercise much the same trades, and are addicted to the same evil practices. There is a little English Gypsy gillie, or song, of which the following quatrain is a translation, containing four queries, to all of which the English Romano might by Ava, and the foreign Chal by the same affirmative to the three first, if not to the last:—

"Can you speak the Roman tongue?
Can you make the fiddle ring?
Can you poison a jolly hog?
And split the stick for the linen-string?

"So much for the Gypsies."

We are all relations, all alike; all who are with us are ourselves.

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