The great Ipswich fright.
Life's tragedy and comedy are never far apart. The ludicrous and the sublime, the grotesque and the pathetic, jostle each other on the stage; the jester, with his cap and bells, struts alongside of the hero; the lord mayor's pageant loses itself in the mob around Punch and Judy; the pomp and circumstance of war become mirth-provoking in a militia muster; and the majesty of the law is ridiculous in the mock dignity of a justice's court. The laughing philosopher of old looked on one side of life and his weeping contemporary on the other; but he who has an eye to both must often experience that contrariety of feeling which Sterne compares to ‘the contest in the moist eyelids of an April morning, whether to laugh or cry.’ The circumstance we are about to relate may serve as an illustration of the way in which the woof of comedy interweaves with the warp of tragedy. It occurred in the early stages of the American Revolution, and is part and parcel of its history in the northeastern section of Massachusetts.
The Frere into the dark gazed forth;
The sounds went onward towards the north;
The murmur of tongues, the tramp and tread
Of a mighty army to battle led.Ballad of the Cid.