Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

string on which the star was to slide, walked two men in long white robes and blue hoods, with parchment folios in their hands. These were the Wise Men of the East, as one might readily know from their solemn air, and the mysterious glances which they cast towards all quarters of the heavens.

“In a little while, a company of women on the platform, concealed behind a curtain, sang an angelic chorus to the tune of O pescator dell'onda.' At the proper moment, the Magi turned towards the platform, followed by the star, to which a string was conveniently attached, that it might be slid along the line. The three kings followed the star till it reached the manger, when they dismounted, and inquired for the sovereign whom it had led them to visit. They were invited upon the platform and introduced to Herod, as the only king; this did not seem to satisfy them, and, after some conversation, they retired. By this time the star had receded to the other end of the line, and commenced moving forward again, they following. The angel called them into the manger, where, upon their knees, they were shown a small wooden box, supposed to contain the sacred infant; they then retired, and the star brought them back no more. After this departure, King Herod declared himself greatly confused by what he had witnessed, and was very much afraid this newly-found king would weaken his power. Upon consultation with his Prime Minister, the Massacre of the Innocents was decided upon as the only means of security.

"The angel, on hearing this, gave warning to the Virgin, who quickly got down from the platform, mounted her bespangled donkey, and hurried off. Herod's Prime Minister directed all the children to be handed up for execution. A boy, in a ragged sarape, was caught and thrust forward ; the Minister took him by the heels in spite of his kicking, and held his head on the table. The little brother and sister of the boy, thinking he was really to be decapitated, yelled at the top of their voices in an agony of terror, which threw the crowd into a roar of laughter. King Herod brought down his sword with a whack on the table, and the Prime Minister, dipping his brush into a pot of white paint which stood before him, made a flaring cross on the boy's face. Several other boys were caught and served likewise ; and finally, the two harlequins, whose kicks and struggles nearly shook dowu the platform. The procession then went off up the hill, followed by the whole population of the village. All the evening there were fandangos in the méson, bonfires and rockets on the plaza, ringing of bells, and high mass in the church, with the accompaniment of two guitars, tinkling to lively polkas.”

In 1852 there was a representation of this kind by Germans in Boston ; and I have now before me the copy of a playbill, announcing the performance on June 10, 1852, in Cincinnati, of the “Great Biblico-Historical Drama, the Life of Jesus Christ,” with the characters and the names of the performers.

Page 214. THE SCRIPTORIUM. A most interesting volume might be written on the Calligraphers and Chrysographers, the transcribers and illuminators of manuscripts in the Middle Ages. These men were for the most part monks, who laboured sometimes for pleasure and sometimes for penance, in multiplying copies of the classics and the Scriptures.

“Of all bodily labours which are proper for us," says Cassiodorus, the old Calabrian monk, “that of copying books has always been more to my taste than any other. The more so, as in this exercise the mind is instructed by the reading of the Holy Scriptures, and it is a kind of homily to the others, whom these books may reach. It is preaching with the hand, by converting the fingers into tongues : it is publishing to men in silence the words of salvation ; in fine, it is fighting against the demon with pen and ink. As many words as a transcriber writes, so many wounds the demon receives. In a word, à recluse, seated in his chair to copy

books, travels into different provinces, without moving from the spot, and the labour of his hands is felt even where he is not."

Nearly every monastery was provided with its Scriptorium. Nicholas de Clairvaux, St. Bernard's secretary, in one of his letters, describes his cell, which he calls Scriptoriolum, where he copied books. And Mabillon, in his Études Monastiques, says that in his time were still to be seen at Citeaux “ many of those little cells where the transcribers and bookbinders worked.”

Silvestre's Paléographie Universelle contains a vast number of fac-similes of the most beautiful illuminated manuscripts of all ages and all countries ; and Montfaucon in his Palæographia Græca gives the names of over three hundred calligraphers. He also gives an account of the books they copied, and the colophons, with which, as with a satisfactory flourish of the pen, they closed their longcontinued labours. Many of these are very curious ; expressing joy, humility, remorse; entreating the reader's prayers and pardon for the writer's sins; and sometimes pronouncing a malediction on any one who should steal the book. A few of these I subjoin :

“As pilgrims rejoice, beholding their native land, so are transcribers made glad, beholding the end of a book.”

“Sweet is it to write the end of any hook.”

“Ye who read, pray for me, who have written this book, the humble and sinful Theodulus."

“As many, therefore, as shall read this book, pardon me, I beseech you, if aught I have erred in accent acute and grave, in apostrophe, in breathing soft or aspirate; and may God save you all. Amen."

“If anything is well, praise the transcriber, if ill, pardon his unskilfulness." “Ye who read, pray for me, the most sinful of all men, for the Lord's sake."

“The hand that has written this book shall decay, alas ! and become dust, and go down to the grave, the corrupter of all bodies. But all ye who are of the portion of Christ, pray that I may obtain the pardon of my sins. Again and again I beseech you with tears, brothers and fathers, accept my miserable supplication, O holy choir ! I am called John, woe is me! I am called Hiereus, or Sacerdos, in name only, not in unction.”

“Whoever shall carry away this book, without permission of the Pope, may be incur the malediction of the Holy Trinity, of the Holy Mother of God, of Saint John the Baptist, of the one hundred and eighteen holy Nicene Fathers, and of all the Saints; the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah ; and the halter of Judas; anathema, amen.”

“Keep safe, 0 Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, my three fingers, with which I have written this book.”

"Mathusalas Machir transcribed this divinest book in toil, infirmity, and dangers many."

"Bacchius Barbardorius and Michael Sophianus wrote this book in sport and laughter, being the guests of their noble and common friend Vincentius Pinellus, and Petrus Nunnius, a most learned man."

This last colophon, Montfaucon does not suffer to pass without reproof. "Other calligraphers," he remarks, “demand only the prayers of their readers, and the pardon of their sins ; but these glory in their wantonness."

Page 220. Drink down to your peg. One of the canons of Archbishop Anselm, promulgated at the beginning of the twelfth century, ordains “that priests go not to drinking bouts, nor drink to pegs." In the times of the hard-drinking Danes, King Edgar ordained that “pids or nails should be fastened into the drinking-cups or horns at stated distances, and whosoever shall drink beyond those marks at one draught should be obnoxious to a severe punishment."

Sharpe, in his “History of the Kings of England,” says: “Our ancestors were formerly famous for compotation ; their liquor was ale, and one method of amusing themselves in this way was with the peg-tankard. I had lately one of them in my hand. It had on the inside a row of eight pins, one above another, from top to bottom. It held two quarts, and was a noble piece of plate, so that there was a gill of ale, half a pint, Winchester measure, between each peg. The law was, that every person that drank was to empty the space between pin and pin, so that the pins were so many measures to make the company all drink alike, and to swallow the same quantity of liquor. This was a pretty sure method of making all the company drunk, especially if it be considered that the rule was, that whosoever drank short of his pin, or beyond it, was obliged to drink again, and even as deep as to the next pin."

Page 221. The Convent of St. Gildas de Rhuys. Abelard, in a letter to his friend Philintus, gives a sad picture of this monastery. I live," he says, “in a barbarous country, the language of which I do not understand ; I bave no conversation, but with the rudest people. My walks are on the inaccessible shore of a sea, which is perpetually stormy. My monks are only known by their dissoluteness, and living without any rule or order. Could you see the abbey, Pbilintus, you would not call it one. The doors and walls are without any ornament, except the heads of wild boars and hinds' feet, which are nailed up against them, and the hides of frightful animals. The cells are hung with the skins of deer. The monks have not so much as a bell to wake them, the cocks and dogs supply that defect. In short, they pass their whole days in hunting : would to Heaven that were their greatest fault, or that their pleasures terminated there! I endeavour in vain to recall them to their duty; they all combine against me, and I only expose myself to continual vexations and dangers. I imagine I see every moment a naked sword bang over my head. Sometimes they surround me, and load me with infinite abuses ; sometimes they abandon me, and I am left alone to my own tormenting thoughts. I make it my endeavour to merit by my sufferings, and to appease an angry God. Sometimes I grieve for the loss of the house of the Paraclete, and wish to see it again. Ah, Philintus, does not the love of Heloise still burn in my heart ? I have not yet triumphed over that unhappy passion. In the midst of my retirement I sigh, I weep, I pine, I speak the dear name Heloise, and am pleased to hear the sound."- Letters of the celebrated Abelard and Heloise. Translated by Mr. John Hughes. Glasgow, 1751.

Page 235. Were it not for my magic garters and staff. The method of making the Magic Garters and the Magic Staff is thus laid down in “Les Secrets Merveilleux du Petit Albert,” a French translation of “Alberti Parvi Lucii Libellus de Mirabilibus Naturæ Arcanis."

“Gather some of the berb called motherwort, when the sun is entering the first degree of the sign of Capricorn ; let it dry a little in the shade, and make some garters of the skin of a young hare ; that is to say, having cut the skin of the hare into strips two inches wide, double them, sew the before-mentioned herb between, and wear them on your legs. No horse can long keep up with a man on foot who is furnished with these garters.”—P. 128.

Gather, on the morrow of All Saints, a strong branch of willow, of which you will make a staff, fashioned to your liking. Hollow it out, by removing the pith from within, after having furnished the lower end with an iron ferrule. Put into the bottom of the staff the two eyes of a young wolf, the tongue and heart of a dog, three green lizards, and the hearts of three swallows. These must all be dried in the sun, between two papers, having been first sprinkled with finely-pulverised saltpetre. Besides all these, put into the staff seven leaves of vervain, gathered on the eve of St. John the Baptist, with a stone of divers colours, which you will find in the nest of the lapwing, and stop the end of the staff with a pomel of box, or of any other material you please, and be assured, that this staff will guarantee you from the perils and mishaps which too often befall travellers, either from robbers, wild beasts, mad dogs, or venomous animals. It will also procure you the good will of those with whom you lodge."-P. 130.

Page 240. Saint Elmo's stars. So the Italian sailors call the phosphorescent gleams that sometimes play about the masts and rigging of ships.

Page 243. THE SCHOOL OF SALERNO. For a history of the celebrated schools of Salerno and Monte-Cassino, the reader is referred to Sir Alexander Croke's introduction to the Regimen Sanitatis Salerni. tanum ; and to Kurt Sprengel's Geschichte der Arzneikunde, i. 463, or Jourdan's French translation of it, Histoire de la Médecine, ii. 354.

THE SONG OF HIAWATHA.-This Indian Edda-if I may so call it—is founded on a tradition prevalent among the North American Indians, of a personage of miraculous birth who was sent among them to clear their rivers, forests, and fishinggrounds, and to teach them the arts of peace. He was known among different tribes by the several names of Michabou, Chiabo, Manabozo, Tarenyawagon, and Hiawatha. Mr. Schoolcraft gives an account of him in his Algic Researches, vol. i. p. 134; and in his History, Condition, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States, part iii. p. 314, may be found the Iroquois form of the tradition, derived from the verbal narrations of an Onondaga chief.

Into this old tradition I have woven other curious Indian legends, drawn chiefly from the various and valuable writings of Mr. Schoolcraft, to whom the literary world is greatly indebted for his indefatigable zeal in rescuing from oblivion so much of the legendary lore of the Indians.

The scene of the poem is among the Ojibways on the southern shore of Lake Superior, in the region between the Pictured Rocks and the Grand Sable.

Page 254. In the Vale of Tawasentha.
This valley, now called Norman's Kill, is in Albany County, New York.

Page 255. On the Mountains of the Prairie. Mr. Catlin, in his Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians, vol. ii. p. 160, gives an interesting account of the Côteau des Prairies, and the Red Pipe-stone Quarry. He says :

“Here (according to their traditions) happened the mysterious birth of the red pipe, which has blown its fumes of peace and war to the remotest corners of the continent; which has visited every warrior, and passed through its reddened stem the irrevocable oath of war and desolation. And here, also, the peace-breathing calamet was born, and fringed with the eagle's quills, which has shed its thrilling fumes over the land, and soothed the fury of the relentless savage.

“The Great Spirit at an ancient period here called the Indian Nations together, and, standing on the precipice of the red pipe-stone rock, broke from its wall a

piece, and made a huge pipe by turning it in his hand, which he smoked over them, and to the North, the South, the East, and the West, and told them that this stone was red-that it was their flesh-that they must use it for their pipes of peace—that it belonged to them all, and that the war-club and scalping-knife must not be raised on its ground. At the last whiff of his pipe his head went into a great cloud, and the whole surface of the rock for several miles was melted and glazed ; two great ovens were opened beneath, and two women (guardian spirits of the place) entered them in a blaze of fire ; and they are heard there yet (Tso-mec-cos-tee and Tso-mecos-te-won-dee), answering to the invocations of the high-priests or medicine-men, who consult them when they are visitors to this sacred place.”

Page 257. Hark you, Bear! you are a coward. This anecdote is from Heckewelder. In his account of the Indian Nations, he describes an Indian hunter as addressing a bear in nearly these words. “I was present," he says, “at the delivery of this curious invective; when the hunter had despatched the bear, I asked him how he thought that poor animal could under stand what he said to it? 'Oh,' said he in answer, 'the bear understood me very well; did you not observe how ashamed he looked while I was upbraiding him?'" -Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, vol. i. p. 240.

Page 261. Hush ! the Naked Bear will get thee ! Heckewelder, in a letter published in the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, vol. iv. p. 260, speaks of this tradition as prevalent among the Mobicans and Delawares.

“Their reports," he says, “run thus : that among all animals that had been formerly in this country, this was the most ferocious ; that it was much larger than the largest of the common bears, and remarkably long-bodied ; all over (except a spot of hair on its back of a white colour) naked. . . . . .

“The history of this animal used to be a subject of conversation among the Indians, especially when in the woods a-hunting. I have also heard them say to their children when crying: 'Hush ! the naked bear will hear you, be upon you, and devour you.''

Page 265.. Where the Falls of Minnehaha, &c. “The scenery about Fort Snelling is rich in beauty. The Falls of St. Anthony are familiar to travellers, and to readers of Indian sketches. Between the fort and these falls are the 'Little Falls,' forty feet in height, on a stream that empties into the Mississippi. The Indians call them Mine-hah-bah, or laughing waters.'» - Mrs. Eastman's Dacotah, or Legends of the Sioux, Introd. p. ii.

Page 280. Sand Hills of the Nagow Wudjoo. A description of the Grand Sable, or great sand dunes of Lake Superior, is given in Foster and Witney's Report on the Geology of the Lake Superior Land District, part ï. p. 131.

“The Grand Sable possesses a scenic interest little inferior to that of the Pictured Rocks. The explorer passes abruptly from a coast of consolidated sand to one of loose materials ; and although in the one case the cliffs are less precipitous, yet in tie other they attain a higher altitude. He sees before him a long reach of coast, resembling a vast sand-bank, more than three hundred and fifty feet in height, without a trace of vegetation. Ascending to the top, rounded hillocks of blown sand are observed, with occasional clumps of trees, standing out like oases in the desert."

« AnteriorContinuar »