« AnteriorContinuar »
BY WILLIAM E. AYTOUN.
HERMOtimUS, the hero of this ballad, was a philosopher, or rather a prophet, of Clazomenæ, who possessed the faculty, now claimed by the animal inagnetists, of effecting a voluntary separation between his soul and body ; for the former could wander to any part of the universe, and even hold intercourse with supernatural beings, whilst the senseless frame remained at home. Hermotimus, however, was not insensible to the risk attendant upon this disunion, since, before attempting any of these aerial flights, he took the precaution to warn his wife, lest, upon the return of his soul, the body should be rendered an untit or useless receptacle. This accident, which he so much dreaded, at length occurred; for the lady, wearied out by a succession of trances, each of longer duration than the preceding, one day committed his body to the flames, and thus effectually put a stop to such unconnubial conduct. He received divine honours at Clazomenæ, but must nevertheless remain as a terrible example and warning to all husbands who carry their scientific or spiritual pursuits so far as to neglect their duty to their wives.
It is somewhat curious that llermotimus is not the only person (putting the disciples of Mesmer and Dupotet altogether out of the question) who has possessed this miraculous power. Another and much later instance is recorded by Dr George Cheyne, in his work entitled, The English Malady, or a I reatise of Nervous Diseases, as having come under his own observation; and, as this case is exactly similar to that of the Prophet, it may amuse the reader to see how far an ancient fable may be illustrated, and in part explained, by the records of modern science. Dr Cheyne's patient was probably cataleptic; but the worthy physician must be allowed to tell his own story.
“ Colonel Townshend, a gentleman of honour and integrity, had for many years been afllicted with a nephritic complaint. His illness increasing, and his strength decaying, he came from Bristol to Bath in a litter, in autumn, and lay at the Bell Inn. Dr Baynard and I were called to liim, and attended him twice a day; but his vomitings continuing still incessant and obstinate against all remedies, we despaired of his recovery. While he was in this condition, he sent for us one morning; we waited on him with Mr Skrine, his apothecary. We found his senses clear, and his mind calm : his nurse and several servants were about him. He told us he had sent for us to give him an account of an odil sensation he had for some time observed and felt in himself; which was, tbat, by composing himself, he could die or expire when he pleased; and yet by an effort, or somehow, he could come to life again, which he had sometimes tried before he sent for us. We heard this with surprise ; but, as it was not to be accounted for upon common principles, we could hardly believe the fact as he related it, much less give any account of it; unless he should please to make the experiment before us, which we were unwilling he should do, lest, in his weak condition, he might carry it too far. He continued to talk very distinctly and sensibly above a quarter of an hour about this surprising sensation, and insisted so much on our seeing the trial made, that we were at last forced to comply. We all three felt his pulse first-it was distinct, though small and thready, and his heart had its usual beating. He composed himself on his back, and lay in a still posture for some time, while I held his right hand, Dr Baynard laid his hand on his heart, and Mr Skrine held a clean looking-glass to his mouth. I found his pulse sink gradually, till at last I could not find any by the most exact and nice touch. Dr Baynard could not feel the least motion in his heart, nor Mr Skrine the least soil of breath on the bright mirror he held to his mouth; then each of us by turns examined his arm, heart, and breath, but could not by the nicest scrutiny discover the least symptom of life in him. We reasoned a long time about this odd appearance as well as we could, and all of us judging it inexplicable and unaccountable; and, finding he still continued in that condition, we began to conclude that he had indeed carried the experiment too far; and at last were satisfied he was actually dead, and were just ready to leave him. This continued about half an hour. As we were going away we observed some motion about the body; and, upon examination, found his pulse and the motion of his heart gradually returning. He began to breathe gently and speak softly. We were all astonished to the last degree at this unexpected change; and, after some further conversation with him, and among ourselves, went away fully satisfied as to all the particulars of this fact, but confounded and puzzled, and not able to form any rational scheme that might account for it.”—CHEYNE's English Malady.
It may be proper to state, that the metrical form of this ballad, although hitherto unemployed by English writers, is well known in Germany, and was exhibited in perfection by Goethe, in the composition of that beautiful poem 6. The Bride of Corinth." It never can become a favourite metre with our poets, on account of the paucity of double rhymes in our language, or at least of such double rhymes as can be used without exciting ludicrous associations. Still it is well worth a trial ; and any German scholar willing to carry the experiment further, is recommended to try his powers upon Goethe's ballad, which has always as yet assumed a very different shape in passing through the alembic of translation.
“ Wilt not lay thee down in quiet slumber?
Weary dost thou seem, and ill at rest;
Midnight now is past
Husband ! come at last-
“ Weary am I, but my soul is waking;
Fain I'd lay me gently by thy side,
Every thing forgot,
What would be thy lot,
“Lo! the cressets of the night are waning
Old Orion hastens from the sky; Only thou ef all things art remaining Unrefresh'd by slumber—thou and I.
Sound and sense are still ;
Even the distant rill
VII. “ Come and rest thee, husband !"_and no longer
Could the young man that fond call resist; Vainly was he warn'd, for love was stronger, Warmly did he press her to his breast.
Warmly met she his;
Kiss succeeded kiss,
Soon Aurora left her early pillow,
And the heavens grew rosy-rich, and rare ; Laugh'd the dewy plain and glassy billow, For the Golden God himself was there;
And the vapour screen
Rose the hills betweell,
Marble-like and marble-hued he lay;
And so white his brow
White and cold as snow“ Husband ! Gods ! his soul hath pass'd away !".
Raise ye up the pile with gloomy shadow
Heap it with the mournful cypress boughAnd they raised the pile upon the meadow, And they heap'd the mournful cypress too,
And they laid the dead
On his funeral bed,
the flames below.
Swiftly rose they, and the corse surrounded,
Spreading out a pall into the air ;
Soon their force was spent,
And the body blent
Night again was come; but oh, how lonely
To the mourner did that night appear! Peace nor rest it brought, but sorrow only, Vain repinings and unwonted fear.
Dimly burn'd the lamp,
Chill the air and damp,