Imágenes de página

seus and his enchanted mirror; the winged cap and shoes of Mercury; the helmet of Pluto, which rendered the wearer invisible; the Stygian river, which provided those who were immersed in it with an invulnerable coat of mail; or the thousand other charms and magical wonders of that happy epoch.

For all these grim and potent stimulants we possessed indeed no mean substitute at a later period in the fortunate prevalence of witchcraft. What could startle us with a more harrowing thrill than the belief that every old woman we encountered, especially if she happened to possess a black cat, had unhallowed dealings with the prince of darkness, with whom in her midnight conjurations she concocted every species of unutterable abomination; that she had imps whom she secretly suckled, was incapable of repeating the Lord's Prayer (except backwards), and unable to weep more than three tears, and those only out of the left eye? How profound an interest attached to the different and most judicious modes of trial, either by weighing her against the church Bible, by swimming her cross-bound in a deep pond, or by direct torture; and how fine must have been the crowning horror of the scene, when the miserable victim was slowly and publicly burnt to death! In spite of King James, and all the judges of the land, this laudable practice has been discontinued, and we are now endeavouring to excite a poor and posthumous sympathy by recalling the ingenious devices of the old Witch-finders, and publishing novels upon the subject. Horace, however, informed us long ago that we are much less powerfully affected by hearsay than by ocular demonstration; and, alas! there is little chance that any of us shall again behold the faggots raised, and an old lady involuntarily enacting the part of Dido, because she could not shed more than three tears out of her left eye!

In the modern mania for enlightening mankind and subjecting every thing to the test of reason and philosophy, we have also lost all the manifold advantages to be derived from the practice of sorcery. Every body knows that, so late as the seventeenth century, one Evans, having raised a spirit at the request of Sir Kenelm Digby and Lord Both well, and omitting the necessary process of fumigation, was seized by the spectre he had conjured up, torn from the magic circle, and carried from his house in the Minories into a field near Battersea Causeway. We have no such doings in our days; we are no conjurers. Pretenders, indeed, lay claim to that august appellation; but their spirits are of the still; they deal with cards instead of the devil; their incantations are of no deeper mystery than the old hocus-pocus, with which every schoolboy is familiar; and in the absence of more legitimate information, we are obliged to content ourselves with reviving the old diablerie of Dr. Faustus and the Freyschutz of the Germans.

Where will all this imagined advancement of reason end, and how far will our philosophical scepticism carry us in the renunciation of all our pleasing horrors? We have no longer any interesting goblins or spectres, spirits or apparitions, to harrow up our feelings; our ghosts have " turned their backs upon themselves" and given up the ghost. That of Cock-lane and its kinsman of Sampford, (so strenuously patronised by the author of Lacon,) have each been duly exorcised and transported to the Red Sea; Lord Lyttelton's has been quoted and remembered till it is forgotten; and the times regretted by Macbeth, that "when the brains were out the man would die," have at length returned to Ub. Nothing provokes the buried portion of this sluggish generation to "burst their cearments," neither the discovery of the murder which sent them prematurely from the world, nor the desire of removing their bones to consecrated ground, nor the revealment of hidden treasures, nor the procurement of justice to the defrauded widow or orphan. We encounter nothing now, particularly of the female sort, that cannot speak till it be spoken to; our candles no longer burn blue; it is Christmas eve with us all the year through; and we have no other consolation than to sit round the fire of a winter's night relating true and circumstantial stories of these supernatural visitants as they appeared in the olden time, or singing to one another the authentic ballads of William and Margaret, and Giles Scroggins's ghost.

Nor are we better provided with animal monstrosities. Where shall we search for an incubus to give birth to another enchanter Merlin, who, as Spenser expressly informs us,

"Was not the sonne

Of mortal syre, or other living wight,
But wondrously begotten and begonne
By false illusion of a guileful sprite
On a faire lady Nonne."

How can we expect magicians in the land, when we have neither incubi nor nuns to breed them? Arthur Pendragon and Cunobeline the Briton made sad havock with the Hydras and Pythons which still infested our island in those days. Moore of Moore Hall, by the assistance of his very judicious armour, provided

"With spikes all about
Not within but without,"

extirpated the famous dragon of Wantley, the last of his species. "The laidly worm," described with such appalling minuteness in old ballads, was finally destroyed by a Cornish Apollo; Guy, Earl of Warwick, and Tom Thumb, have each been the death of a stupendous and preternatural cow, since when the race has not been revived; and Jack the giant-killer, dissipated the last of the ogres who was any way formidable; for it is well known that the modern Irish giants are a very harmless breed, who may at any time be tamed by a shilling given to their keeper. We have the night-mare, indeed, left to us, but it is a grim, shadowy abstraction, only visible in Fuseli's picture; and we occasionally exhume the bones of the mammoth and megatherion; but we are miserably in want of a good, living, tangible, and horrible monster. The American sea-serpent will not be coaxed into eyesight of any thing more trust-worthy than a Yankee captain, and though it must be confessed that we were latterly gratified with the exhibition of a mermaid, she was soon detected to be an impostor, and it is much to be apprehended that the merman, now submitted to the public, will not prove of more legitimate birth.

Nothing has occurred of late years more interestingly revolting than the story of the pig-faced lady, which in these dull days of common place, should not really be allowed to slip into oblivion. Her relations were publicly mentioned, the house in which she resided at Chelsea, with the blinds perpetually drawn down, was pointed out to every passenger; the high salary paid to her lady companion was upon record; the tradesman who made the silver trough, out of which she took her victuals, was universally known ; several of the neighbours had repeatedly heard her squeaking and grunting, and one having unwarrantably placed some choice hogwash under her window, declared that its odours had no sooner reached her snout, than there was such a riotous scampering, snorting, and snuffing upstairs as if a whole herd of swine had scented out their approaching dinner. And shall such "special wonders overcome us like a summer's cloud and pass away 1" Forbid it, ye lovers of the marvellous; forbid it, ye journalists and caterers to the public taste of every thing that is hideous and appalling.

During the dog-days of last summer, the town was happily enabled to " sup full of horrors," of the most harrowing and transcendant nature, by the prevailing dread of the hydrophobia, and the terrific narratives which bristled in our newspapers. Goldsmith, in his Citizen of the World, says, "that the English are subject to epidemic terrors which periodically take possession of all ranks ;" and this alarm affords a striking illustration of his assertion. One of our journals gravely assured us that an individual under the influence of this disease, not only barked and howled like a dog, but joined a pack of hounds in full cry, outstripped them all, and caught the hare they were hunting with his teeth; adding that even his clothes were so caninely affected by the malady, that upon some one throwing him a bone the tail of his coat wagged backward and forward, just like that of a dog. This, however, is no subject for waggery. To this pantophobia all the dogs found in our streets have been sacrificed, and the panic so bewildered the imagination of several of our fellow creatures, that they have been seized with an ideal hydrophobia, and actually fallen victims to their dread of a dread of water.

The gloomy month of November has now arrived, when the minds of our blue-devilish and hypochondriacal countrymeri are peculiarly predisposed to the reception of whatever is hideous and melancholy, and as we are all in a profound peace, the country flourishing, the ministry popular, and the metropolis singularly unprovided with monstrosities of any sort, I call upon your readers, Mr. Editor, to exert themselves in the getting up of some good stimulating horror, one that may interestingly fill the long columns of our newspapers during the vacation of Parliament, and afford us a good shudder at our firesides during the long evenings of the approaching winter. H.


The landscape laughs in Spring, and stretches on

Its growing distance of refreshmg dyes;

From plover-haunted flats the floods are gone,

And like a carpet the green meadow lies

In merry hues; and edged with yellow flowers

The trickling brook veins sparkling to the sun;

And, like young May-flies dancing with the hours,

The noisy children mid the young grass run, .

Gathering, with village dames, from baulk and lee

The swarming cowslips in commingling play,

Who make praise-worthy wine and savoury tea

To drink a winter-memory of May,

When all the season's joys have ceased to be,

And flowers and sunny hours have pass'd away. P.


Mount Sinai.

We left Cairo on the 29th of October, in the afternoon, and after proceeding a few miles from the city, our conductors stopped an hour or two near a small caravan that had halted close to some barren hills. Three of our camels were loaded with skins of water, sacks of charcoal, and an excellent tent. The sensation is singular at first finding yourself on the back of the camel; the situation is sufficiently elevated, and not the most soft or comfortable, and the trot of the animal shakes you almost to a mummy, till you get somewhat accustomed to it. The general rate of travelling is a long walk of three miles an hour, which is the caravan pace. At sunset we went on for about four hours, and then stopped for the night in the midst of the desert. A fire was lighted and supper-cooked, but, on putting up the tent, the pole broke, and this obliged us to sleep in the open air. The tent was repaired at Suez, but we never used it during the whole journey, being generally so fatigued on halting for the night, and exposed to start agiin at such uncertain hours, that we did not care to be at the trouble of fixing and taking it down. The next day passed without any thing deserving notice, save that our route, as far as the eye could reach, was utterly barren—a vast plain of sand with little undulation of surface. The third day we were to set out very early. I chanced to awake before it was light, and perceiving the Arabs seated round a good fire, could not help joining them. This was one of the scenes that one often loves to picture. Jouma, the chief, had just kneaded and placed a flat cake among the embers, and the Arabs were seated in a group around, smoking and sipping coffee, and enjoying themselves highly, for the deserts were to them as a home. There is surely a charm in this wild and wandering life, for one soon grows attached to it. These Arabs were very lively and civil, but a wild race, living among the rocks near Mount Sinai in tents. They always carry their coffee, and a pot to boil it in, with them; having first roasted it in a small pan, they pound it with a stick, and a bag of flour to make cakes is their sole provision for a journey besides, for they seldom eat any flesh; they each carried a musquet with a matchlock. There was not the least verdure to be seen till we arrived near Adjerud, a wretched village about four miles from Suez. Here a few scattered trees were visible, but the village was concealed behind a range of rocky hills, at the foot of which we took up our abode for the night. This part of the country was the haunt of robbers, and our guides were very unwilling to halt here, and, fearful lest we might be attacked in the night, they kept watch throughout the whole of it, but all passed off quietly. Mr. W. however, who was conveying a large chest of Bibles to Mount Sinai, was extremely agitated, lest the robbers, on attacking us, should carry away his chest, as in that case all the hopes of his journey would perish, but the Bedouins would probably quite as soon have left it behind. The next day we arrived at Suez in the forenoon, and having a letter for the Consul for our nation there, who was a Greek, we were received by his son, who spoke some English. The father, a very fine old man, with a white beard, soon made his appearance. Some cakes and wine, the latter from Jerusalem, were brought, and dinner ordered to be ready in

an hour. In the mean time we walked down to the shore of the Red Sea. This can only be called a corner of it, as it is narrow and shallow, and its termination is about three miles above. A range of mountains forms the shore on the right; the opposite coast of Arabia is flat and sandy. Suez is a wretched town, and surrounded by a low wall. The old consul gave us an excellent dinner, and at night we returned to our rude resting-place without the walls : yet it was not without its comforts, for, having procured some delicious fish out of the Red Sea, we formed a circle on the sand, supped in high spirits, and sipped our coffee with greater zest than we should have done in a luxurious drawing-room at home. Having passed round the termination of the sea the next morning, we bent our course towards the wilderness of Sinai, and came in a few hours to four or five pools of water, called the Fountains of Moses, but at which it is not probable he could ever have been.

The weather continued beautiful, scarcely a cloud to be seen in the sky, and not a living thing on earth; and this deep solitude and silence, with the uncommon purity of the air, have a strong effect on the imagination. You feel as if you ruled in this vast and inanimate scene, and possess a buoyant and joyous spirit amidst its savage sands and rocks, and feel the truth of a remark of Lord B.'s of a young French renegade, who resided many years in the East, and who said that often when riding alone in a boundless desert, he has felt a delight that was indescribable. On the morning of the third day our water-skins were exhausted, and we had to push on for five or six hours ere we arrived at the next fountain; it was situated at the edge of the wilderness of Paran. One of the Arabs had gone on before to the spot, and it being by this time very hot, we sprang from our camels, boiled our coffee, and though the water was rather brackish, no breakfast was ever more welcome. The desert now assumed a bolder character. Hitherto it had been a waste of sand, generally hard, and varied with some hills and high rocks towards the horizon. These were now increased to mountains, which rose also on each side the path, and gave it a fine and romantic character. Mr. W.'s servant, Franco, afforded us some amusement. He was very artful, and a great glutton, though he persuaded his master he half-starved himself; and when he came to a meal, generally cast on it such a look as the good St. Bruno did on his bread mixed with ashes, when he wept at the thought that man should take such trouble about the body; but when Franco found himself alone, cheese, rice, and coffee disappeared like magic. He had a nose and chin like a hatchet, and settling himself on the camel's back in the position of one of the granite statues of Memnon, used to sing pious German psalms through the desert half the day long. Towards evening, Franco was generally most melodious, but the tunes were mostly mournful ; his voice had a sort of nasal twang, and the rugged German cadence used to strike the Arabs with dismay. It was good sport afterwards to desire Franco to sing in a numerous circle of these people; he had hardly finished three or four stanzas before some laughed, others vehemently desired him to stop, with many expressions of displeasure.

Leaving the valley of Paran, the path led over a rocky wilderness, to render which more gloomy the sky became clouded, and a shower of rain fell. By moonlight we ascended the hills, and after some hours' progress, rested for the night on the sand. The dews hail fallen heavy

« AnteriorContinuar »