« AnteriorContinuar »
than in the classical age of Paganism. Look at prophecies, for example: the Romans had a few obscure oracles afloat, and they had the Sibylline books under the state seal. These books, in fact, had been kept so long, that, like port wine superannuated, they had lost their flavour and body.* On the other hand, look at France. Henry the historian, speaking of the fifteenth century, describes it as a national infirmity of the English to be prophecy-ridden. Perhaps there never was any foundation for this as an exclusive remark; but assuredly not in the next century. There had been with us British, from the twelfth cen. tury, Thomas of Ercildoune in the north, and many monkish local prophets for every part of the island; but latterly England had no terrific prophet, unless indeed Nixon of the Vale Royal in Cheshire, who uttered his dark oracles sometimes with a merely Cestrian, sometimes with a national reference. Whereas, in France, throughout the sixteenth century, every principal event was foretold successively, with an accuracy that still shocks and confounds us. Francis the First, who opens the century, (and by many is held to open the book of modern his. tory, as distinguished from the middle or feudal history,) had the battle of Pavia foreshown to him, not by name, but in its results-by his own Spanish captivity-by the exchange for his own children upon a frontier river of Spain-finally, by his own disgraceful death, through an infamous disease conveyed to him under a deadly circuit of revenge. This king's son, Henry the Second, read some years before the event a description of that tournament, on the marriage of the Scottish Queen with his eldest son, Francis II., which proved fatal to himself, through the awkwardness of the Compte de Montgomery and his own obstinacy. After this, and we
believe a little after the brief reign of Francis II., arose Nostradamus, the great prophet of the age. All the children of Henry II. and of Catharine de Medici, one after the other, died in circumstances of suffering and horror, and Nostradamus pursued the whole with ominous allusions. Charles 1X., though the authorizer of the Bartholomew massacre, was the least guilty of his party, and the only one who manifested a dreadful remorse. Henry III., the last of the brothers, died, as the reader will remember, by assassination. And all these tragic successions of events are still to be read more or less dimly prefigured in verses of which we will not here discuss the dates. Suffice it, that many authentie historians attest the good faith of the prophets; and finally, with respect to the first of the Bourbon dynasty, Henry IV., who succeeded upon the assassination of his brother-in-law, we have the peremptory assurance of Sully and other Protestants, countersigned by writers both historical and controversial, that not only was he prepared, by many warnings, for his own tragical death-not only was the day, the hour, pre-fixed-not only was an almanack sent to him, in which the bloody summer's day of 1610 was pointed out to his attention in bloody colours; but the mere record of the king's last afternoon shows beyond a doubt the extent and the punctual li mitation of his anxieties. In fact, it is to this attitude of listening expectation in the king, and breathless waiting for the blow, that Schiller alludes in that fine speech of Wallenstein to his sister, where he notices the funeral knells that sounded continually in Henry's ears, and, above all, his prophetic instinct, that caught the sound from a far distance of his murderer's motions, and could distinguish, amidst all the tumult of a mighty capital, 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 Throughout the streets of Paris."
We profess not to admire Henry the Fourth of France, whose secret character we shall, on some other occasion, attempt to expose. But his resignation to the appointments of Heaven, in dismissing his guards, as feeling that against a danger so domestic and so mysterious, all fleshly arms vain, has always struck us as the most like magnanimity of any thing in his very theatrical life.
Passing to our own country, and to the times immediately in succession, we fall upon some striking prophecies, not verbal but symbolic, if we turn from the broad highway of public histories, to the by-paths of private memoirs. Either Clarendon, it is, in his Life (not his public history,) or else Laud, who mentions an anecdote connected with the coronation of Charles I., (the son-in-law of the murdered Bourbon,) which threw a gloom upon the spirits of the royal friends, already saddened by the dreadful pestilence which inaugurated the reign of this ill-fated prince, levying a tribute of one life in sixteen from the population of the English metropolis. At the coronation of Charles, it was discovered that all London would not furnish the quantity of purple velvet required for the royal robes and the furniture of the throne. What was to be done? Decorum required that the furniture should be all en suite. Nearer than Genoa no considerable addition could be expected. That would impose a delay of 150 days. Upon mature consideration, and chiefly of the many private interests that would suffer amongst the multitudes whom such a solemnity had called up from the country, it was resolved to robe the King in white velvet. But this, as it afterwards occurred, was the colour in which victims were arrayed. And thus, it was alleged, did the King's council establish an augury of evil. Three
other ill omens, of some celebrity, occurred to Charles I., viz. on occasion of creating his son Charles a knight of the Bath; at Oxford some years after; and at the bar of that tribunal which sat in judgment upon him.
The reign of his second son, James II., the next reign that could be considered an unfortunate reign, was inaugurated by the same evil omens. The day selected for the coronation (in 1685) was a day memorable for Eng
land-it was St George's day, the 23d of April, and entitled, even on a separate account, to be held a sacred day as the birthday of Shakspeare in 1564, and his deathday in 1616. The King saved a sum of sixty thousand pounds by cutting off the ordinary cavalcade. from the Tower of London to Westminster. Even this was imprudent. It is well known that, amongst the lowest class of the English, there is an obstinate prejudice (though unsanctioned by law) with respect to the obligation imposed by the ceremony of coronation. So long as this ceremony is delayed, or mutilated, they fancy that their obedience is a matter of mere prudence, liable to be enforced by arms, but not consecrated either by law or by religion. The change made by James was, therefore, highly imprudent; shorn of its antique traditionary usages, the yoke of conscience was lightened at a moment when it required a double ratification. Neither was it called for on motives of economy, for James was unusually rich. This voluntary arrangement was, therefore, a bad beginning; but the accidental omens were worse. They are thus reported by Blennerhassett, (History of England to the end of George I., vol. iv., p. 1760, printed at Newcastle-uponTyne: 1751.) "The crown, being too little for the King's head, was often in a tottering condition, and like to fall off." Even this was observed attentively by spectators of the most opposite feelings. But there was ano. ther simultaneous omen, which affected the Protestant enthusiasts, and the superstitious, whether Catholic or Protestant, still more alarmingly. "The same day the king's arms, pompously painted in the great altar window of a London church, suddenly fell down without apparent cause, and broke to pieces, whilst the rest of the window remained standing.' Blennerhassett mutters the dark terrors which possessed himself and others." "These," says he, "were reckoned ill omens to the king."
In France, as the dreadful criminality of the French sovereigns through the 17th century began to tell powerfully, and reproduce itself in the miseries and tumults of the French populace through the 18th century, it is interesting to note the omens which unfolded themselves at intervals. volume might be written upon them. The French Bourbons renewed the
picture of that fatal house which in Thebes offered to the Grecian observers the spectacle of dire auguries, emerging from darkness through three generations, à plusieurs reprises. Every body knows the fatal pollution of the marriage pomps on the reception of Marie Antoinette in Paris; the numbers who perished are still spoken of obscurely as to the amount, and with shuddering awe for the unparalleled horrors standing in the background of the fatal reign-horrors
"That, hush'd in grim repose, await their evening prey."
But in the life of Goethe is mentioned a still more portentous (though more shadowy) omen in the pictorial decorations of the arras which adorned the pavilion on the French frontier: the first objects which met the Austrian Archduchess on being hailed as Dauphiness was a succession of the most tragic groups from the most awful section of the Grecian theatre. The next alliance of the same kind between the same great empires, in the persons of Napoleon and the Archduchess Marie Louisa, was overshadowed by the same unhappy omens, and, as we all remember, with the same unhappy results, within a brief period of five years.
Or, if we should resort to the fixed and monumental rather than to these auguries of great nations-such, for instance, as were embodied in those Palladia, or protesting talismans, which capital cities, whether Pagan or Christian, glorified through a period of twenty-five hundred years, we shall find a long succession of these enchanted pledges, from the earliest precedent of Troy (whose palladium was undoubtedly a talisman) down to that equally memorable, and bearing the same name, at Western Rome. We may pass, by a vast transition of two and a half millennia, to that great talisman of Constantinople, the triple serpent, (having perhaps an original reference to the Mosaic serpent of the wilderness, which healed the infected by the simple act of looking upon it, as the symbol of the Redeemer, held aloft upon the Cross for the deliverance from moral contagion.) This great
consecrated talisman, venerated equally by Christian, by Pagan, and by Mahometan, was struck on the head by Mahomet the Second, on that same day, May 29th of 1453, in which he mastered by storm this glorious city, the bulwark of eastern Christendom, and the immediate rival of his own European throne at Adrianople. But mark the superfetation of omensomen supervening upon omen, augury engrafted upon augury. The hour was a sad one for Christianity: just 720 before the western horn of years Islam had been rebutted in France by the Germans, chiefly under Charles Martel. But now it seemed as though another horn, even more vigorous, was preparing to assault Christendom and its hopes from the eastern quarter. At this epoch, in the very hour of triumph, when the last of the Cæsars had glorified his station, and sealed his testimony by martyrdom, the fanatical Sultan, riding to his stirrups in blood, and wielding that iron mace which had been his sole weapon, as well as cognizance, through the battle, advanced to the column, round which the triple serpent soared spirally upwards. He smote the brazen talisman; he shattered one head; he left it mutilated as the record of his great revolution; but crush it, destroy it, he did not-as a symbol prefiguring the fortunes of Mahometanism, his people noticed, that in the critical hour of fate, which stamped the Sultan's acts with efficacy through ages, he had been prompted by his secret genius only to" scotch the snake," not to crush it. Afterwards the fatal hour was gone by; and this imperfect augury has since concurred traditionally with the Mahometan prophecies about the Adrianople gate of Constantinople, to depress the ultimate hopes of Islam in the midst of all its insolence. The very haughtiest of the Mussulmans believe that the gate is already in existence, through which the red Giaours (the Russi) shall pass to the conquest of Stamboul; and that everywhere, in Europe at least, the hat of Frangistan is destined to surmount the turban the crescent must go down before the
Edinburgh: Printed by Ballantyne and Hughes, Paul's Work.
THE DEAD MAN OF ST ANNE'S CHAPEL. A CRIMINAL STORY.
IN FOUR PARTS.
FROM THE GERMAN OF OTTO LUDWIG.*
On the top of an eminence forming the outskirts of a mountainous and woody region in the south of Germany, stands a small chapel dedicated to St Anne, rarely visited except by passing peasants, or on the festivals of the saint or other holidays, when crowds of pilgrims are in the habit of resorting to it. Early in the morning of the 26th of August 1816, a peasant from a village at some distance was ascending the narrow footpath leading to the chapel. His little boy, who accompanied him, had run on before. As he reached the immediate neighbourhood of the chapel, the child turned back with breathless haste, and in accents of terror urged his father to advance. The old man hastened forward in alarm; and his first glance, as he reached the level of the chapel, rested upon a corpse. Steeped in blood, and stripped to the shirt, the lower part of the body covered with long, loose, and lightcoloured pantaloons, covering boots with spurs-there lay upon the steps of the chapel the body of a well-shaped young man his right hand rested on his breast, and on his finger sparkled a heavy gold seal-ring.
The peasant instantly dispatched the boy to the nearest village to communicate the discovery, while he himself remained by the body. It struck him as singular, that so little blood should be found beside it. If a murder had taken place, this surely had not been the spot where it had been
perpetrated. The trace of footsteps, still visible,though evidently artificially obliterated, pointed sideways into the wood, above which, at some distance, rose a rugged and lofty peak of rock called the Raubstein, on the summit of which the fragments of an old building were still visible, to which the usual traditionary tales of superstitious terror were attached. The direction which the enquiry was likely to take was quite sufficient to deter the peasant from further investigation, till the arrival of the juge de paix and the surgeon of the village, who, accompanied by a numerous tribe of those idlers who are always in attendance on such occasions, soon after made their appearance.
The body was examined, on which slight symptoms of incipient decay were already perceptible. Under the shirt a particoloured bandage, apparently the fragment of a woman's shawl, was found carefully wrapped around the breast. Beneath it, and on the left breast, lay a second roll of cloth, adhering closely to the body by means of coagulated blood, and covering a broad and deep wound penetraing to the heart, and evidently inflicted with a sharp two-edged instrument, apparently a knife. The dissection of the body led to the conclusion that death had taken place after indulgence in wine, and probably to excess.
While the examination was proceeding, one of the spectators who had
* We have taken the liberty of condensing throughout, and in some respects altering the German original;—we venture to say with no disadvantage to the story.
NO. CCXCV. VOL. XLVII.
followed the traces of the footsteps in the direction of the Raubstein, returned and announced to the judge that the crime had undoubtedly been committed within the ruined building on the summit. The judge, the physician, and the spectators immediately hastened to the spot, which all appearances indicated to have been the scene of the murder. Blood besmeared the floor and was sprinkled along the walls; round about lay the remains of a recent meal; crusts of bread, parings of fruit, and the remains of a broken bottle, in which some drops of a sweet and heavy wine were still left. The traces of footsteps leading from the chapel towards the ruin were-indistinct, but in the opposite direction lead ing from the ruin towards the highroad to Hilgenberg, they were plainly discernible; not far from the building was found another stripe of the same particoloured silk which was wrapped round the body, and deeper in the underwood, suspended on a low bush, a long woman's glove, of Danish leather, finely wrought and quite new, but stained with some dark spots, in which the physician recognised the appearance of blood. By degrees the footprints became less distinct, and were at last lost in the beaten highway leading to Hilgenberg.
In the hope that it might lead to a recognition, the spectators who thronged to the spot were allowed to view the corpse without impediment. The examination, however, led to no result, and with the approach of evening the body was conveyed to its last resting place in the churchyard of the neighbouring village of Hoffstede.
Next morning, however, the landlord of a small forest inn at a little distance made his appearance before the judge, who had seen the dead man the evening before, after the body had been put into the coffin. He had recognised in him a stranger who had lodged in his house, the night before the 24th August, and had left it early that morning. Of his name, his rank, his former residence, or his destination, he was ignorant. His own conjecture -which, however, rested on nothing more conclusive than that the deceased wore boots and spurs-was, that he was an officer of some of the corps which were cantoned in the neighbourhood. Being urged still farther to describe any
other articles of dress belonging to the stranger, the landlord mentioned a gold watch with a chain and key; a red pocketbook, a green silk double purse which he had put into the landlord's hand before going to sleep, and had received from him again next morning; and two rings, one of which was a seal-ring, the other a slender hoop-ring. The seal-ring, which had been found-upon the finger of the deceased, being shown to him, was re cognised by him as that which had been worn by his guest.
For some time no further clue was found, either to the person of the victim, or the cause of his death, though the investigation was actively pursued by the Ober- Procurator* of the crimi nal tribunal, which then held its sittings at Hainburg. In the course of the month of November, however, a communication was made to the tribunal from the president of the police of the department of K—, to this effect: that a certain Herr Von Breisach, said to be a native of the province of B―, who had for some time resided as a private individual at K, and was in the habit of making excursions from thence-sometimes for days at a time
into the mountains, had disappeared towards the end of August, and had never returned. His housekeeper, who, alarmed at his absence, had made ap plication to the police, was now sum. moned to Hainburg; and, from her information, there seemed little reason to doubt that the deceased and Von Breisach were the same person. She came, accompanied by an invalid soldier, who had been for some time in the service of Breisach, and who at once recognised the boots as having frequently passed through his hands. Both of them, of their own accord, particularized the gold watch and the two rings of which the landlord had spoken though they could not absolutely identify the seal-ring, they thought it the same which their master had worn; the other ring they described as a plain one, resembling a marriage-ring.
The accounts given by them and others as to the habits of Breisach were far from favourable. He had led a retired, but, as it appeared, discreditable life in KReport spoke of his connexion with an actress of that theatre; a connexion which had ab
* Public Prosecutor.