Johnson derives this cant term, as he calls it, from black and guard, without attempting to explain their combination. Cant-words, above all others, have their origin in some strong figure of speech, or striking metaphor, and I believe the etymology of this is accidentally given by that strangest of all strange writers Stanihurst, in his explanation of an analogeous word among his own countrymen. “Kerne, he says, signifieth (as noble men. of deep judgement informed me) a shower of hell, because they are taken for no better than for rakehells, or the devil’s black guard, by reason of the stinking stir they keep, wheresoever they be.”
Holinshed, vol. 6, p. 68.
As Chaucer has been called the well of English undefiled, so might Stanihurst be denominated the common sewer of the language. He is, however, a very entertaining, and to a philologist, a very instructive writer. His version of the 193four first books of the Æneid, is exceedingly rare, and deserves to be reprinted for its incomparable oddity. It seems impossible that a man could have written in such a style without intending to burlesque what he was about, and yet it is certain that Stanihurst seriously meant to write heroic poetry.