Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]


i serts ;

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

are phantom-baunted in the wilderness, “Of calling shapes, and beckoning shaThe old Venetian traveller Marco dows dire, Polo states them well: he speaks, in- And aery tongues that syllable men's deed, of the Eastern or Tartar de.

the steppes which stretch from On sands, and shores, and desert wilderEuropean Russia to the footsteps of

nesses.” the Chinese throne; but exactly the But the most remarkable of thiese same creed prevails amongst the Arabs, desert superstitions, as suggested by from Bagdad to Suez and Cairo—from the mention of Lord Lindsay, is one Rosetta to Tunis–Tunis to Timbucs

which that young nobleman, in some too or Mequinez. “ If, during the day; place which we cannot immediately time," says he, “ any person should

find, has noticed, but which he only remain behind until the caravan is no

was destined by a severe personal loss longer in sight, he hears himself un.

immediately to illustrate. Lord L. expectedly called to by name, and in quotes from Vincent le Blanc an anec.

a voice with which he is familiar. Not dote of a man in his own caravan, the I doubting that the voice proceeds from companion of an Arab merchant, who

some of his comrades, the unhappy disappeared in a mysterious manner. man is beguiled from the right direc

Four Moors, with a retaining fee of 100 * tion; and soon finding himself utterly ducats, were sent in quest of him, but. confounded as to the path, he roams came back re infectâ.

" And 'tis un. about in distraction until he perishes certain,” adds Le Blanc, “ whether miserably. If, on the other hand, this he was swallowed up in the sands, or perilous separation of himself from the met his death by any other misfortune ; caravan should happen at night, he is

as it often happens, by the relation of sure to hear the uproar of a great ca. a merchant then in our company, who valcade a mile or two to the right or told us, that two years before, traversleft of the true track. He is thus ing the same journey, a comrade of seduced on one side: and at break of his, going a little aside from the comday finds himself far removed from

pany, saw three men who called him man. Nay, even at noon-day, it is by his name ; and one of them, to his well known that grave and respectable thinking, favoured very much his commen to all appearance will come up to panion; and, as he was about to fol. a particular traveller, will bear the low them, his real companion calling look of a friend, and will gradually bim to come back to his company, he lure him by earnest conversation to a found himself deceived by the others, distance from the caravan; after which and thus was saved. And all travellers the sounds of men and camels will be in these parts hold, that in the deserts heard continually at all points but the are many such phantasms seen, that true one ; whilst an insensible turning strive to seduce the traveller. Thus by the tenth of an inch at each sepa- far it is the traveller's own fault, warned rate step from the true direction will

as he is continually by the extreme very soon suffice to set the traveller's anxiety of the Arab leaders or guides, face to the opposite point of the com- with respect to all who stray to any pass from that which his safety re- distance, if he is duped or enticed by quires, and which his fancy represents these pseudo-men: thongh, in the case to him as his real direction. Marvel- of Lapland dogs, who ought to have a lous, indeed, and almost passing belief, surer instinct of detection for counterare the stories reported of these desert feits, we know from Sir Capel de phantoms, which are said at times to Broke and others, that they are confill the air with choral music from all tinually wiled away by the wolves who kinds of instruments, from drums, and roam about the nightly encampments the clash of arms : so that oftentimes of travellers. But there is a secondary a whole caravan are obliged to close disaster, according to the Arab superup their open ranks, and to proceed stition, awaiting those whose eyes are in a compact line of march."

once opened to the discernment of Lord Lindsay, in his very interest- these phantoms. To see them, or to ing travels in Egypt, Edom, &c., hear them, even where the traveller is agrees with Warton in supposing (and careful to refuse their lures, entails the probably enough) that from this ac. certainty of death in no long time. count of the desert traditions in Marco This is another form of that universal Polo was derived Milton's fine passage faith which made it impossible for any ,

man to survive a bodily.commerce, by

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

in Comus :


whatever sense, with a spiritual being. Wady Araba, that most ancient chanWe find it in the Old Testament, nel of communication between the where the expression, “ I have seen Red Sea and Judea, &c., Mr Ram. God and shall die," means simply a say saw, to his own entire conviction, supernatural being ; since no Hebrew a party of horse moving amongst some believed it possible for a nature purely sand-hills. Afterwards it became cerhuman to sustain for a moment the tain, froin accurate information, that sight of the Infinite Being. We find this must have been a delusion. It the same faith amongst ourselves, in was established, that no horsemen case of doppelgänger becoming appar could have been in that neighbourent to the sight of those whom they hood at that time. Lord Lindsay counterfeit ; and in many other varieties. records the case as an illustration of We modern Europeans, of course, “ that spiritualized tone the imaginalaugh at these superstitions; though, as tion naturally assumes, in scenes preLa Place remarks, (Essai sur les Pro senting so little sympathy with the babilités,) any case, however appar. ordinary feelings of humanity;" and ently incredible, if it is a recurrent case, he reports the case in these pointed is as much entitled to a fair valuation terms :-“ Mr Ramsay, a man of reas if it had been more probable before. markably strong sight, and by no hand.* This being premised, we, means disposed to superstitious crewho connect superstition with the per- dulity, distinctly saw a party of horse sonal result, are more impressed by the moving among the sand-bills; and I disaster which happened to Lord Linda do not believe he was ever able to say, than his lordship, who either failed divest himself of that impression." to notice the nexus between the events, No-and, according to Arab interpre. or possibly declined to put the case too tation, very naturally so; for, accord. forward in his reader's eye, from the ing to their faith, he really had seen solemnity of the circumstances, and the horsemen ; phantom horsemen the private interest to himself and his certainly, but still objects of sight. own family, of the subsequent event. The sequel remains to be told—by The case

was this :--Mr William the Arabian hypothesis, Mr Ramsay Wardlaw Ramsay, the companion (and had but a short time to live—he was we believe relative) of Lord Lindsay, under a secret summons to the next a man whose honourable character, world. And accordingly, in a few and whose intellectual accomplishments weeks after this, whilst Lord Lindsay speak for themselves, in the posthu- had gone to visit Palmyra, Mr Rammus memorabilia of his travels publish- say died at Damascus. ed by Lord L., had seen an array of This was a case exactly correspondobjects in the desert, which facts im- ing to the Pagan nympholepsis—he mediately succeeding demonstrated to had seen the beings whom it is not have been a mere ocular lusus, or lawful to see and live. Another case (according to Arab notions) phantoms. of Eastern superstition, not less deterDuring the absence from home of an mined, and not less remarkably fulArab sheikh, who had been hired as con- filled, occurred some years before to ductor of Lord Lindsay's party, a hos- Dr Madden, who travelled pretty tile tribe (bearing the name of Tella- much in the same route as Lord Lindheens) had assaulted and pillaged his say. The doctor, as a phrenologist, tents. Report of this had reached the had been struck with the very singuEnglish travelling party ; it was known lar conformation of a skull which he that the Tellalieens were still in motion,

saw amongst many others on an altar and a hostile rencounter was looked for in some Syrian convent. He offered for some days. At length, in cross- a considerable sum in gold for it ; but ing the well-known valley of the it was by repute the skull of a saint;

*Is as much entitled to a fair valuation under the laws of induction as if it had been more probable beforehand : "-one of the cases which La Place notices as entitled to a grave consideration, but which would most assuredly be treated as a trivial phenomenon, unworthy of attention, by common-piace spectators, is-- when a run of success, with no apparent cause, takes place on heads or tails, (pile ou croix.) Most people dismiss such a case as pure accident. But La Place insists on its being duly valued as a fact, however unaccountable as an effect. So again, if, in a large majority of experiences like those of Lord Lindsay's party in the desert, death should follow, such a phenomenon is as well entitled to its separate valuation as any other.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]


and the monk with whom Dr M. collation of numbers, we should pass attempted to negotiate, not only re- to that of quality, it is a matter of fused his offers, but protested that notoriety, that from the very philoeven for the doctor's sake, apart from sophy of Paganism, and its slight root the interests of the convent, he could in the terrors or profounder mysteries not venture on such a transfer: for of spiritual nature, no comparison that, by the tradition attached to it, the could be sustained for a moment skull would endanger any vessel car- between the true religion and any rying it from the Syrian shore: the mode whatever of the false. Ghosts vessel might escape ; but it would we have purposely omitted, because never succeed in reaching any but a that idea is so peculiarly Christian* as Syrian harbour. After this, for the to reject all counterparts or affinities credit of our country, which stands so from other modes of the supernatural. high in the East, and should be so The Christian ghost is too awful a punctiliously tended by all English- presence, and with too large a substramen, we are sorry to record that Dr tum of the real, the impassioned, the Madden (though otherwise a man of human, for our present purposes. We scrupulous honour) yielded to the deal chiefly with the wilder and more temptation of substituting for the aerial forms of superstition ; not so far saint's skull another less remarkable off from fleshly nature as the purely from his own collection. With this allegoric-not so near as the penal, saintly relic he embarked on board a the purgatorial, the penitential. In Grecian ship ; was alternately pure this middle class, “ Gabriel's hounds" sued and met by storms the most - the “phantom ship”—the gloomy violent; larboard and starboard, on legends of the charcoal burners in the every quarter, he was buffeted: the German forests-and the local or wind blew from every point of the epichorial superstitions from every compass; the doctor honestly con- district of Europe, come forward by fesses that he often wished this bale- thousands, attesting the high activity ful skull back in safety on the quiet of the miraculous and the hyperphysialtar from which he took it; and cal instincts, even in this generation, finally, after many days of anxiety, wheresoever the voice of the people he was too happy in finding himself makes itself heard. again restored to some oriental port, But in Pagan times, it will be ob. from which he secretly vowed neverjected, the popular superstitions again to sail with a saint's skull, or blended themselves with the highest with any skull, however remarkable political functions, gave a sanction to phrenologically, not purchased in an national counsels, and oftentimes gave open market.

their starting point to the very primary Thus we have pursued, through movements of the state. Prophecies, many of its most memorable sections, omens, miracles, all worked concurthe spirit of the miraculous as it rently with senates orprinces. Wheremoulded and gathered itself in the as in our days, says Charles Lamb, superstitions of Paganism; and we the witch who takes her pleasure with have shown that, in the modern su- the moon, and summons Beelzebub to perstitions of Christianity, or of Ma- her sabbaths, nevertheless trembles hometanism, (often enough borrow. before the beadle, and hides herself ed from Christian sources, there is a

from the overseer. Now, as to the pretty regular correspondence. Speak witch, even the horrid Canidia of Ho. ing with a reference to the strictly race, or the more dreadful Erichtho popular belief, it cannot be pretend- of Lucan, seems hardly to have been ed for a moment, that miraculous much respected in any era.

But for agencies are slumbering in modern the other modes of the supernatural, ages. For one superstition of thať they have entered into more frequent nature which the Pagans had, we can combinations with state functions and produce twenty. And if, from the state movements in our modern ages

[ocr errors]

*Because that idea is so peculiarly Christian.”—One reason, additional to the main one, why the idea of a ghost could not be conceived or reproduced by Pagan. ism, lies in the fourfold resolution of the human nature at death, viz. :-1. corpus ; 2. manes ; 3. spiritus ; 4. anima. No reversionary consciousness, no restitution of the total nature, sentient and active, was thus possible. Pliny has a story which looks like a ghost story; but it is all moonshine-a piere simulucrum.


than in the classical age of Paganism. believe a little after the brief reign of Look at prophecies, for example: the Francis II., arose Nostradamus, the Romans had a few obscure oracles great prophet of the age. All the afloat, and they had the Sibylline children of Henry II. and of Catharine books under the state seal. These de Medici, one after the other, died books, in fact, had been kept so long, in circumstances of suffering and horthat, like port wine superannuated, . ror, and Nostradamus pursued the they had lost their flavour and body.* whole with ominous allusions. Charles On the other hand, look at France. IX., though the authorizer of the BarHenry the historian, speaking of the tholomew massacre, was the least fifteenth century, describes it as a na. guilty of his party, and the only one tional infirmity of the English to be who manifested a dreadful remorse. prophecy-ridden. Perhaps there never Henry 111., the last of the brothers, was any foundation for this as an ex- died, as the reader will remember, clusive remark; but assuredly not in by assassination. And all these tragic the next century. There had been successions of events are still to be read with us British, from the twelfth cen. more or less dimly prefigured in verses tury, Thomas of Ercildoune in the of which we will not here discuss the north, and many monkish local pro- dates. Suflice it, that many authenphets for every part of the island; but tic historians attest the good faith of latterly England had no terrific pro- the prophets; and finally, with respect phet, unless indeed Nixon of the Vale to the first of the Bourbon dynasty, . Royal in Cheshire, who uttered his Henry IV., who succeeded upon the dark oracles sometimes with a merely assassination of his brother-in-law, we Cestrian, sometimes with a national re- bave the peremptory assurance of ference. Whereas, in France, through. Sully and other Protestants, counterout the sixteenth century, every prin- signed by writers both historical and cipal event was foretold successively, controversial, that not only was he with an accuracy that still shocks and prepared, by many warnings, for his confounds us. Francis the First, who own tragical death-not only was the opens the century, (and by many is day, the hour, pre-fixed—not only was held to open the book of modern his. an almanack sent to him, in which the tory, as distinguished from the middle bloody summer's day of 1610 was or feudal history,) had the battle of pointed out to his attention in bloody Pavia foreshown to him, not by name, colours ; but the mere record of the but in its results—by his own Spanish king's last afternoon shows beyond a captivity-by the exchange for his doubt the extent and the punctual li

. own children upon a frontier river of mitation of his anxieties." In fact, it Spain-finally, by his own disgraceful is to this attitude of listening expectadeath, through an infamous disease tion in the king, and breathless waitconveyed to him under a deadly cir- ing for the blow, that Schiller alludes cuit of revenge. This king's son,

in that fine speech of Wallenstein to Henry the Second, read some years his sister, where he notices the funeral before the event a description of that knells that sounded continually in tournament, on the marriage of the Henry's ears, and, above all, his proScottish Queen with his eldest son, phetič instinct, that caught the sound Francis II., which proved fatal to from a far distance of his murderer's himself, through the awkwardness of motions, and could distinguish, amidst the Compte de Montgomery and his all the tumult of a mighty capital, own obstinacy. After this, and we

those stealthy steps

* " Like port wine superannuated, the Sibylline books had lost their flavour and their body.—There is an allegoric description in verse, by Mr Rogers, of an ice-house, in which winter is described as a captive, &c., which is memorable on this account, that a brother poet, on reading the passage, mistook it, (from not understanding the allegoric expressions,) either sincerely or maliciously, for a description of the housedog. Now, this little anecdote seems to embody the poor Sibyl's history—from a stern icy sovereign, with a petrific mace, she lapsed into an old toothless mastiff. She continued to snore in her ancient kennel for above a thousand years. The last person who attempted to stir her up with a long pole, and to extract from her paralytic dreaming some growls or snarls against Christianity, was Aurelian, in a moment of public panic. But the thing was past all tampering. The poor creature could neither be kicked nor coaxed into vitality.




-“ Which even then were seeking him land-it was St George's day, the 23d Throughout the streets of Paris."

of April, and entitled, even on a sepaWe profess not to admire Henry the rate account, to be held a sacred day Fourth of France, whose secret cha. as the birthday of Shakspeare in 1564, racter we shall, on some other occasion, and his deathday in 1616. The King attempt to expose. But his resignation saved a sum of sixty thousand pounds to the appointments of Heaven, in dis- by cutting off the ordinary cavalcade missing his guards, as feeling that from the Tower of London to Westagainst a danger so domestic and so minster. Even this was imprudent. mysterious, all fleshly arms

It is well known that, amongst the vain, has always struck us as the most lowest class of the English, there is an like magnanimity of any thing in his obstinate prejudice (though unsanctionvery theatrical life.

ed by law) with respect to the obligaPassing to our own country, and to tion imposed by the ceremony

of the times immediately in succession, nation. So long as this ceremony is we fall upon some striking prophecies, delayed, or mutilated, they fancy that not verbal but symbolic, if we turn their obedience is a matter of mere pru. from the broad highway of public his. dence, liable to be enforced by arms, tories, to the by-paths of private but not consecrated either by law or by memoirs. Either Clarendon, it is, in religion. The change made by James his Life (not his public history,) or else was, therefore, highly imprudent; shorn Laud, who mentions an anecdote con- of its antique traditionary usages, the nected with the coronation of Charles yoke of conscience was lightened at a I., (the son-in-law of the murdered moment when it required a double raBourbon,) which threw a gloom upon tification. Neither was it called for on the spirits of the royal friends, already motives of economy, for James was saddened by the dreadful pestilence unusually rich. This voluntary arwhich inaugurated the reign of this rangement was, therefore, a bad begin. ill

. fated prince, levying a tribute of one ning; but the accidental omens were life in sixteen from the population of

They are thus reported by the English metropolis. At the coro- Blennerhassett, (History of England nation of Charles, it was discovered to the end of George I., vol. iv., p. that all London would not furnish the 1760, printed at Newcastle-upon. quantity of purple velvet required for Tyne : 1751.) “The crown, being the royal robes and the furniture of too little for the King's head, was often the throne. What was to be done in a tottering condition, and like to Decorum required that the furniture fall off.” Even this was observed should be all en suite. Nearer than attentively by spectators of the most Genoa no considerable addition could opposite feelings. But there was ano. be expected. That would impose a ther simultaneous omen, which affected delay of 150 days. Upon mature con- the Protestant enthusiasts, and the sideration, and chiefly of the many superstitious, whether Catholic or Proprivate interests that would suffer testant, still more alarmingly. amongst the multitudes whom such a same day the king's arms, pompously solemnity had called up from the coun. painted in the great altar window of a try, it was resolved to robe the King London church, suddenly fell down in white velvet. But this, as it after. without apparent cause, and broke to wards occurred, was the colour in which pieces, whilst the rest of the window victims were arrayed. And thus, it remained standing.” Blennerhassett was alleged, did the King's council mutters the dark terrors which posestablish an augury of evil. Three sessed himself and others.” “ These," other ill omens, of some celebrity, oc- says he, “ were reckoned ill omens to curred to Charles I., viz. on occasion the king.” of creating his son Charles a knight of In France, as the dreadful crimi. the Bath; at Oxford some years after; nality of the French sovereigns through and at the bar of tha tribunal which the 17th century began to tell powersat in judgment upon him.

fully, and reproduce itself in the mi. The reign of his second son, James series and tumults of the French poII., the next reign that could be con- pulace through the 18th century, it is sidered an unfortunate reign, was in- interesting to note the omens which augurated by the same evil omens. The unfolded themselves at intervals. A day selected for the coronation (in volume might be written upon them. 1685) was a day memorable for Eng. The French Bourbons renewed the


[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »