De beroemdste gekleurde pagina is natuurlijk de ‘black page’ in The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman van Laurence Sterne.
Sterne is een post-moderne schrijver avant la lettre, vooral in zijn gebruik van typografische trucjes. Zelfs de lengte van zijn liggende streepjes hebben een betekenis.
De melodramatisch zwarte bladzijde nodigt de lezer uit om te treuren over de dood van Yorick.
De bewuste scene:
A few hours before Yorick breath’d his last, Eugenius stept in with an intent to take his last sight and last farewell of him: Upon his drawing Yorick’s curtain, and asking how he felt himself, Yorick, looking up in his face, took hold of his hand,—and, after thanking him /[Page 68]/ for the many tokens of his friendship to him, for which, he said, if it was their fate to meet hereafter,—he would thank him again and again.—He told him, he was within a few hours of giving his enemies the slip for ever.—I hope not, answered Eugenius, with tears trickling down his cheeks, and with the tenderest tone that ever man spoke,—I hope not, Yorick, said he.—Yorick replied, with a look up, and a gentle squeeze of Eugenius’s hand, and that was all,—but it cut Eugenius to his heart.—Come,—come, Yorick, quoth Eugenius, wiping his eyes, and summoning up the man within him,—my dear lad, be comforted,—let not all thy spirits and fortitude forsake thee at this crisis when thou most wants them;——who knows what resources are in store, and what the power of God may yet do for thee? ——Yorick /[Page 69]/ laid his hand upon his heart, and gently shook his head;—for my part, continued Eugenius, crying bitterly as he uttered the words,—I declare I know not, Yorick, how to part with thee,——and would gladly flatter my hopes, added Eugenius, chearing up his voice, that there is still enough left of thee to make a bishop,—and that I may live to see it.——I beseech thee, Eugenius, quoth Yorick, taking off his night-cap as well as he could with his left hand,——his right being still grasped close in that of Eugenius,——I beseech thee to take a view of my head.—I see nothing that ails it, replied Eugenius. Then, alas! my friend, said Yorick, let me tell you, that ‘tis so bruised and mis-shapen’d with the blows which ***** and *****, and some others have so unhandsomely given me in the dark, that I might say /[Page 70]/ with Sancho Pança, that should I recover, and “Mitres thereupon be suffer’d to rain down from heaven as thick as hail, not one of ‘em would fit it.”——Yorick’s last breath was hanging upon his trembling lips ready to depart as he uttered this;—yet still it was utter’d with something of a cervantick tone;—and as he spoke it, Eugenius could perceive a stream of lambent fire lighted up for a moment in his eyes;—faint picture of those flashes of his spirit, which (as Shakespear said of his ancestor) were wont to set the table in a roar!
Eugenius was convinced from this, that the heart of his friend was broke; he squeez’d his hand,——and then walk’d softly out of the room, weeping as he walk’d. Yorick followed Eugenius with his eyes to the door,—he then /[Page 71]/ closed them,—and never opened them more.
He lies buried in a corner of his church-yard, in the parish of ——, under a plain marble slabb, which his friend Eugenius, by leave of his executors, laid upon his grave, with no more than these three words of inscription serving both for his epitaph and elegy.
Alas, poor YORICK!
Ten times in a day has Yorick’s ghost the consolation to hear his monumental inscription read over with such a variety of plaintive tones, as denote a general /[Page 72]/ pity and esteem for him;——a footway crossing the church-yard close by the side of his grave,——not a passenger goes by without stopping to cast a look upon it,——and sighing as he walks on,
Alas, poor YORICK