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was baptized by Ananias, who also baptized Saint Paul, and was called Joseph.'-pp. 6-7.
Of this Joseph the Armenian Bishop went on to say that he dwelt in Armenia and the East, greatly affected the society of Bishops and prelates, was circumspect, silent, and charitable, and did not speak except when spoken to, and then only to tell of Christ's death, suffering, and resurrection.
He was very tenacious as to the character and rank of his questioners, and very indifferent in the matter of gifts, food, and raiment. Of this Jew, or his double, Mr. Baring-Gould collects many and various accounts from the Netherlands, from Bohemia, and from Arabia, where he seems to have passed for Elijah, but none of these present any considerable discrepancy from the account of the Armenian Bishop, until we come to the testimony of Paul Von Eitzen, Doctor of the Holy Scriptures and Bishop of Schleswig, who declared that when he was young, in the winter of 1547 A.D., ' on Sunday, in church, he observed a tall man, with his hair hanging over his shoulders, standing barefoot during the sermon, over against the pulpit, listening with deepest attention to the discourse; and whenever the name of Jesus was mentioned, bowing himself profoundly and humbly, with sighs and beating of the breast. He had no other clothing in the bitter cold of winter except a pair of hose which were in tatters about his feet, and a coat with a girdle which reached to his feet; and his general appearance was that of a man of fifty years.:
After church, the Doctor obtained an interview with the stranger, and elicited information, which, though more circumstantial than the Armenian Bishop's story, differed from it materially. The Jew gave his name as Ahasuerus, and professed that he had been an unbelieving cobbler, at the time of the crucifixion. Gazing from his door-step at the sad procession to Calvary, he had tried to curry favour with the Jews, by hurrying Jesus forward, when he fain would have rested a moment from his heavy burden. Jesus looking upon him, rebuked him in the words, I shall stand and rest, but thou shalt go to the last day.
The doom presently began to work. He was constrained to go forth into foreign lands, and on revisiting Jerusalem after the lapse of years, found not one stone left standing on another. In this account, as in the others, great stress is laid on the Jew's never smiling; and in Von Eitzen's narrative, he is made to interpret the purpose of God in this judgment upon him, and to confirm the truth of his tale of many wanderings by submitting to have his knowledge of eastern geography and history tested
by by the Rector of the Hamburgh University. Another new feature is his strong indignation at profane use of Christ's name.
This was in 1547. He is spoken to at Madrid and Vienna in the same century, but, as the world waxes older, writers evince a care to say little of him on their personal testimony. Bulenger, in his History of his own Time, takes especial pains to guard hiinself against the suspicion of belief in this story. In 1610 two burghers of Brussels fall in with this ubiquitous Jew, or one who answers his description, and (it does not exactly appear why) conclude that their companion is · Isaac Laquedom, the Jew who would not let Christ rest on his door-step' (p. 21). He turns up in London at the beginning of the 18th century, and seems to have won the ear of the ignorant, but only the ridicule of the wealthy. The curious however would appear to have questioned him pretty rigidly over a range of history extending from the Crucifixion to the Crusades. He did not think much of Arabic history, he professed acquaintance with Mahomet and his father, and said he was sojourning in Rome, when Nero set it on fire.
Mr. Baring-Gould's account of the appearances of this mythic personage in England may be supplemented by an account to be found in Peck's History of Stamford,' contributed to Notes and Queries'* by Mr. Sternberg. By this it appears that he visited that town on Whit-Sunday, 1658, and there wrought a miraculous cure upon one Samuel Wallis in return for a cup of small beer! The patient deposed that the stranger's coat was purple, and buttoned down to the waist, and his britches of the same colour all new to see to.' Though the day was rainy, he had not a speck of dirt on his clothes. Contributors to the • Athenaeum't give second-hand evidence as to the appearance of one answering the Wandering Jew's description in 1818, 1824, 1830. Brand, under the head of vulgar errors, & notes having seen in Newcastle one of these impostors, who went about muttering, · Poor John alone! alone! Poor John alone!'
The result of our author's speculations touching the origin of this myth is to refer it to the question, What is Life? is it necessarily limited to fourscore years, or can it be extended indefinitely?' and he quotes a string of legends in point (p. 26). It may be so, though we question the need of an interpretation so recondite. As far as we can see, the birthplace of the myth was a monastery, its tutors and guardians mostly monkish chroniclers. May it not be a myth of the saintly ideal, designed to bring home
* «Notes and Queries,' Ist ser. vol. xii. p.
504. † Athenæum,' Nov. 3, 1866, p. 561.
# Vol. iii., 192.
to unlettered consciences as by a living witness's mouth the peril of them that crucifye
· Their Saviour Christe againe ?
had seene his death, saith he,
His torments think upon;
Of torments, and all woes.
When as be comes or goes.' Mr. Baring-Gould makes a likelier guess at the root of the • Prester John' myth, when he discovers it in the wonderful successes of Nestorianism in the East. Three early writers between 1135 and 1200 A.D. speak to the existence of a mighty priest-king in the far East, of strong Christian sympathies, and of might enough to make those sympathies felt in the struggle between Cross and Crescent. Their geographical data, as might be expected, will not bear inspection, but this was not discovered until after Pope Alexander III. had sent his physician Philip with a letter to Prester John in 1177, for the purpose of effecting a union with his 'exaltedness. It is not clear whether the Pope sent this em bassage in reply to a letter, addressed to him and other European potentates by this mysterious personage, which is found in the Chronicle of Albericus Trium Fontium. For a choice sample of brag and rhodomontade, perhaps for an early instance of an elaborate hoax, this letter can have few rivals. Numbers, natural history, mineralogy, theology, history, politics, geography, tread each on the other's heels in this memorable epistle--not the slightest marvel in connection with which is the evidence it affords that credulity could be found, capable of swallowing the fable of a mighty nation having its abode amidst beasts and monsters, which must speedily have obliterated the memorials of it.
"Our home,' runs this notable epistle, “is the home of elephants, dromedaries, camels, crocodiles, meta-collinarum, cametennus, tensevetes, wild asses, white and red lions, white bears, white merules, crickets, griffins, tigers, lamias, hyenas, wild horses, wild oxen, and wild men, men with horns, one-eyed, men with eyes before and behind, centaurs, fauns, satyrs, pigmics, forty-ell-high giants, cyclopses, and similar women. It is the home too of the phenix, and of nearly all living animals. We have some people subject to us who feed on the flesh of men, and of prematurely-born animals, and who never fear
Percy's · Reliques,' p. 330. Routledge.
death. When any of these people die, their friends and relations eat them ravenously, for they regard it as a main duty to munch human flesh. Their names are Gog and Magog, Anie, Agit, Azenath, Fommeperi, Befari, Conei-Samante, Agrimandri, Vintefolei, Casbei, Alanei.'--p. 37.
No wonder that Philip, the physician, never returned from his embassy;* more especially if we suppose him to have seen this letter before setting out. It makes no secret of its writer's unfriendliness to Papal pretensions, or of Prester John's intention to send his tributary nations to overrun all the abodes of the saints, as well as the great city, Rome, 'which, by the way,' he adds, 'we are prepared to give to our son, who will be born, along with all Italy, Germany, the two Gauls, Britain, and Scotland. We shall also give him Spain and all the land as far as to the Icy Sea.'—(Ibid.)
When a more accurate geographical knowledge arose out of the communications of the missionaries of Pope Innocent IV. with the Mongol hordes, the result failed to dispel the popular superstition about a vast Christian empire in far-off regions, but simply changed its locale to Abyssinia. Marco Polo, however, maintained its eastern localisation, and concurred with Rubruquis the Franciscan (1253), and the Jacobite patriarch, Gregory BarHebræus in his Syriac Chronicle, which is nearly contemporaneous, in identifying Prester-John with Unk-Khan, a real Nestorian shepherd-ruler.
A suggestion has been made that the origin of this myth is to be sought in the forms and institution of Buddhism, so akin in many respects to those of Romanism: but it will be agreed, after a perusal of Mr. Baring-Gould's succinct sketch of the rise and spread of the heretical Nestorian sect, that his claim to have traced it home to Nestorianism is exceedingly plausible.
' It is probable that the foundation of the whole Prester-John myth lay in the report which reached Europe of the wonderful successes of Nestorianism in the East; and there seems reason to believe that the famous letter given above was a Nestorian fabrication. It certainly looks un-European ; the gorgeous imagery is throughout Eastern, and the disparaging tone in which Rome is spoken of could hardly have been the expression of Western feelings. The letter has the object in view of exalting the East to an undue eminence in arts and religion at the expense
of the West, and it manifests some ignorance of European geography when it speaks of the land extending from Spain to the Polar Sea. Moreover, the sites of the patriarchates, and the dignity
* He seems to have found the service which Benedick volunteers in Much Ado About Nothing,' viz., bringing his prince the length of Prester John's foot,' somewhat difficult of performance.-See. Much Ado About Nothing,' Act ii. Sc. 1.
conferred on that of S. Thomas, are indications of a Nestorian bias.'
- p. 45.
So much for the myth of Prester-John. We turn to another class of myths more in the nature of vulgar errors, and find how amusingly Mr. Baring-Gould can gossip about the ‘Divining Rod,' and discourse of the Man in the Moon. His chapter on the first of these will perplex the sober-minded not a little, though Wiltshire men, as he tells us, have long been cognizant of this resource in the discovery of water-springs; and though readers of De Quincey may recall his respectful mention of the Somersetshire · Jowsers,' in treating the subject of rabdomancy,' which he localizes in and around Wrington.*
Like many of its fellows this myth springs from a perversion of the facts of Scripture. Aaron's rod that budded was used to divine God's will; and this use had been turned to abuse before the days of the prophet Hosea, who in his prophecy (iv. 12) says, My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them. The divining rod is alluded to by Cicero in his ‘Offices' as a mode of divination generally, and also, it would seem, in his De Divinatione.' Tacitus indicates its existence among the Germans, and Ammianus Marcellinus traces it among the Alains.
In the middle ages it seems to have found full development not only as regards springs of water, but as a mcans of discovering hid treasure and precious metals; and even of denouncing, as by the finger of God, the murderer and the thief. Benedictine Monks and Jesuit writers from the fifteenth century downwards are cited by our author as having discussed the virtues of the Virgula divinatoria,' a disagreement between the doctors being the not infrequent result. The preponderance of testimony is in favour of ascribing to the rod some power of indicating subterranean springs, a power of which we shall bring together some striking instances over and above those cited by Mr. BaringGould, as avouched by respectable testimony in these latter days. But the famous case of Jacques Aymar and the Lyons murder, in 1692, has been fixed upon by the author of •Curious Myths as the grand field on which to try this superstition on its merits. We have striven to condense the narrative given in the text.
* De Quincey's' Collected Works,' iii. 322.
† It is a pity that writers should cite their authorities without the ghost of a reference. The passage from the 'De Officiis' is to be found in Book i. c. 44. The reference to Tacitus is ‘German.' c. x. ; to Ammianus Marcellinus, xxxi. 2. Mr. Baring-Gould might have cited also Herodot. iv. 67 (see Blakesley's note, to show that rabdomancy existed among the Scythians. His allusion to the passage from Ennius, in the 'De Divinatione,' is so slipshod that it wants revision.