« ZurückWeiter »
NO SORCERER, ONLY A SAGE
CAMDEN, in his Britannia, treating of Michael Scott and his connection with the abbey of Ulme, or Holme Cultram, in Cumberland, says of that alleged wizard, “ He was a monk of this place about the year 1290, and applied himself so closely to the mathematics and other abstruse parts of learning, that he was generally looked on as a conjuror; and a vain credulous humour has handed down I know not what miracles done by him.” And in this respect Sir Michael is a representative man. No sorcerer, after all, it seems, but only a savant. Many are the sages and sarants-one Pope at least among them—who have passed for sorcerers. Gabriel Naudé was not writing without cause to show for it, when he drewup his Apologie pour les grands Personnages faussement accusés de Magie.
Referring to the skill in divination ascribed to St. Athanasius, Gibbon remarks, that some fortunate conjectures of future events, which impartial reasoners might impute to his experience and judgment, were attributed by his friends to heavenly inspiration, and by his enemies to infernal magic. The ascendency acquired by Hosius, bishop of Cordova, over the mind of the Emperor Constantine, was imputed by the pagans to the art of magic; but the prelate might with a good conscience have replied, as Molière's Célie does to Trufaldin :
"Truf. Quoi ! te mêlerais-tu d'un peu de diablerie ?
Célie. Non, tout ce que je sais n'est que blanche magie.” Strong minds have undoubtedly an ascendant over weak ones, says my Lord Chesterfield, “as Galigai Maréchale d'Ancre very justly observed, when, to the disgrace and reproach of those times, she was executed for having governed Mary of Medicis by the arts of witchcraft and magic." The profound devotion of “ that lofty female," as Dean Milman calls her, the Countess Matilda, to her spiritual father, Hildebrand, was attributed to magic by some, by others to as bad or worse. But, at the worst, the ascendency was gained
" With witchcraft of his wit.
So to seduce !" That only was the witchcraft he had used. So with the Platonic philosopher Apuleius, whose marriage with a rich widow, Pudentilla, provoked the lady's relations to set-up a charge against him of bringing about the match by sorcery. The spirited defence he made is still extant in his Apology, or Oratio de Magia.
quote Lord Chesterfield again : “ The most graceful and best-bred men, and the handsomest and genteelest women, give the most philtres, and, as I verily believe, without the least assistance of the devil.” The too-celebrated Countess of Essex, who had recourse to Simon Forman, wizard and astrologer, for certain powders to be administered to her husband and to Somerset, is said to have credulously observed with admiration the effect of them; although, as Mr. Kemp remarks, the licentious passion of the one which she encouraged, and her coldness towards the other, were quite sufficient to fan the lawless flame on one side, and extinguish conjugal affection on the other, without the aid of the Sidrophel of Lambeth.
Of Mary Stuart's infatuation for Bothwell, in 1567,—when, instead of opening her eyes to the perils of her position, she seems to have resigned herself to the influence of that one engrossing passion,- Mr. Tytler observes, that “her history at this moment hurried forward with something so like an irresistible fatality, as to make it currently reported amongst the people that Bothwell was dealing in love-philtres, and had employed the sorceries of his old paramour, the Lady Buccleuch." But that old sorceress knew better, and so did the bold bad man by whom Mary was bewitched.
When the ministers of the kirk, enjoined to proclaim the banns of the queen's marriage with Bothwell, peremptorily refused, and when the undaunted Craig denounced the match from the pulpit of the High Church as “odious and slanderous to the world," the same historian remarks that “this solemn warning, with the deep and general detestation of Bothwell, appeared to produce so little effect upon the queen, that the people considered the whole events
, as strange and supernatural : the report revived of this abandoned man having employed witchcraft, no uncommon resource in that age; and it was currently asserted that the marriage-day had been fixed by sorcerers.”
It is noteworthy that Queen Mary herself accused John Knox of accomplishing his seditious purposes to the prejudice of her authority, and the disquieting of her realm, by magical arts. To this “ heavy charge" Knox answered, that “the slander of practising magic—an art which he had always condemned—he could more easily bear, when he recollected that his Master had been defamed as one in league with Beelzebub."
In a subsequent interview with the reformer, we find Mary telling him, in a conversation betokening, says Dr. M'Crie, “the greatest familiarity and apparent confidence," that “Lord Ruthven had offered her a ring ; but she could not love that nobleman. She knew that he used enchantment.” Knox's biographer appends to his record of the reformer's
." second marriage, with Margaret Stewart, an account of the splenetic reports raised at the time by “the popish writers," who “envied the honours of the Scottish reformer," and who " are quite clear,
, too, that he gained the heart of the young lady by means of sorcery and the assistance of the devil." The fascination exercised at will by Mary herself, when long past her prime, was of a kind which set one of our foremost essayists to work out the problem, how is it that the belle of eighteen is often deserted for the woman of forty, and that the patent witchery of youth and prettiness goes for nothing against the latent witchery of a mature siren ? What is the secret ? he asks : how is it done? The world, even of silly girls, has got past any belief in spells and talismans, such as Charlemagne's mistress wore, and yet the man's fascination seems to them quite as miraculous and almost as unholy as if it had been brought about by the black art. “ If they had any analytical power, they would understand the diablerie of the mature sirens clearly enough, for it is not so difficult to understand when one puts one's mind to it." Riper knowledge of the world, a suavity of manner and “moral flexibility, wholly wanting to the young," enlarged sympathy, and cultivated tact, and colloquial ease and skill,—these, and such as these, are the witchcrafts the elder charmers use; such as these, if not these only.
Glancing here and there at the miscellanies of history for examples to our purpose, we think of the submission of Attila to Pope Leo, whose dauntless confidence and venerable aspect made so profound an impression upon him, as attributed by legend to à visible apparition of the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, who “menaced the trembling heathen with a speedy divine judgment if he repelled the proposals of their successor. But this materialising view, to adopt the objections of the historian of Latin Christianity, though it may have heightened the beanty of Raffaelle's painting, by the introduction of preterhuman forms, lowers the moral grandeur of the whole transaction. The simple faith in his God, which, says Dean Milman, “gave the Roman pontiff courage to confront" the barbarian king, “is far more christianly sublime than this unnecessarily-imagined miracle.” Applicable, again, from another point of view, is the instance of St. Dominic's rare power of infusing a profound and enduring devotion to one object. “ Once within the magic circle, the enthralled disciple lost all desire to leave it,” so potent was the master's holy art, which was believed to be miracle. So, again, with his rival saint, the founder of the Franciscan order, and to whom so many miracles are ascribed, but the moral miracle of whose self-sacrificing love is now recognised as the mainspring of success. As one of Corneille's heroes puts it,
“ Tout miracle est facile où mon amour s'applique." When the Scheldt bridge was completed, in 1585, the famous bridge of Parma, which has been advantageously compared with the celebrated Rhine-bridge of Julius Cæsar, the citizens of Antwerp could hardly believe that the structure had been reared by human
agency, but loudly protested that invisible demons had been summoned to plan and perfect this fatal and preterhuman work. “ They were wrong,” says Mr. Motley. “There had been but one demon -one clear lofty intelligence, inspiring a steady and untiring hand. The demon was the intellect of Alexander Farnese;" which, however, had been assisted in its labour by the hundred devils of envy and discord rife in the ranks of his foes.
The same accomplished historian, having to treat of Lerma's influence over Philip III., says, “the people thought their monarch bewitched.” But the all-grasping favourite was no wizard; only an adventurer with his wits about him. Sorcerer he was not, nor much of a sage, but very much a shrewd man of business, with a will of his own, and tact to enforce it on one who had none. The unbounded rapacity of the duke is the evil element in this case. Had he been a disinterested minister, his ascendency might have been as salutary to Spain as in fact it was the reverse ; and then it might have been said of it, with Leontes in the statue scene,
“ If this be magic, let it be an art
Lawful as eating." The celebrated Thomas Hamilton, earl of Haddington, president of the Court of Session, and Secretary of State for Scotland, was nicknamed by his sovereign, from the place of his residence, . Tam o' the Cowgate,' under which title he is said to be now better remembered than by any other. Him James I. visited, when in
, Scotland in 1617; and very rich the king found the old statesman, whom, on that account, popular rumour accredited with the actual possession of the philosopher's stone; there being " no other feasible mode of accounting for his immense wealth, which rather seemed the effect of supernatural agency than of worldly prudence or talent.” It seems that King James was vastly tickled with the idea of the philosopher's stone, and of so enviable a talisman having fallen into the hands of a Scottish judge; so his majesty took care to let his trusty old friend and gossip know of the rumours afloat. The lord president, we are told, immediately invited the king, and the rest of the company present, to come and dine with him next day, when he would lay open to them the mystery of the talisman in question. Next day saw his Cowgate palazzo thronged with the invited guests, all of whom his lordship gratified with a dainty repast. That over, James reminded Tam of his philosopher's stone, and declared himself to be on the tenterhooks of expectation till the mystery should be solved. The president then addressed king and courtiers in a
. pithy speech, whereof the peroration explained that his whole secret lay in two simple and familiar maxims: “Never put-off till tomorrow what can be done to-day ;” and “ Never trust to another's hand what your own can execute.”
French traders are said to have a proverb about English luck,' and to believe that in commerce we are specially fortunate; nay, some of the more pious among them have been quoted as going so far as to say that, since we renounced the pope, the devil has made us exceptionally “lucky,' he being the prince of this wor! 1. our hard-working long-sighted merchants know much better: their theory of chance is, that the best ship takes merchandise the most safely and most quickly, and that the best seamanship saves the ship from being wrecked much more than “luck' does.” Harapha, the giant of Gath, in Samson Agonistes, twits the blinded hero with having gained his miraculous strength by “black enchantments, some magician's art," and is thus answered:
“I know no spells, use no forbidden arts;
At my nativity this strength." Urbain Grandier, as the shrewd soldier says in Vingt Ans après, was not a sorcerer; he was a sarant, and that is quite another thing. " Urbain Grandier did not foretell the future; he was acquainted with the past, which is sometimes much worse. One of the nuns who were implicated in the dismal Grandier proces, on avowing solemnly the innocence of the condemned priest, was taunted by M. de Laubordemont with speaking at the instigation of the devil. But, remorseful at her share in bringing about Grandier's condemnation, she answered that she had never been possessed of any demon—as all the nuns of Loudun on their own showing were -excepting the demon of revenge, and that it was no magical compact, but her own evil thoughts, which had led to at least her demoniacal possession.
Fiction must not be altogether left out in this cold collation of scraps and sundries.
The admiring Parisians, in Victor Hugo's masterpiece, see absolute magic in the miraculous tricks of Esmeralda's goat--one of those learned animals which, in the Middle Ages, brought their instructors in peril of the stake. The sorceries of poor golden-hoofed Djali, however, are explained to be very innocent tricks, it being sufficient, in most cases, to hold the tambourine to the animal in such or such a way, to make it do what yon wished.
Rebecca the Jewess, in Iranhoe, is tried for unlawful correspondence with mystical powers, and divers weighty charges are preferred against her, supported by circumstances either altogether fictitious or trivial, and natural in themselves, but rendered pregnant. with suspicion by the exaggerated manner in which they are told, and the sinister commentaries which the witnesses add to the facts. She has bewitched the Templar, and the credulity of the assembly greedily swallows every allegation in proof, however incredible. But when Rebecca, at the grand master's command, unveils, and looks