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On the Antiquity of Usages. Who have been the greatest fools, and who the most ancient fools? Ourselves? or the Egyptians? or the Syrians? or some other people? What was signified by our misletoe?' Who first consecrated a cat ? -- It must have been he who was the most troubled with mice. In what nation did they first dance. under boughs of trees in honour of the gods? Who first made processions, and placed fools, with caps and bells, at the head of them? Who first carried a Priapus through the streets, and fixed one like a knocker at the door ?. What Arab first took it into his head to hang his wife's drawers out at the window, the day after his marriage? All nations have formerly danced at the time of the
Did they then give one another the word? No: no more than they did to rejoice at the birth of a son, or to mourn, or seem to mourn, at the death of a father. Every one is very glad to see the moon again, after having lost her for several nights. There are a hundred usages so natural to all men, that it cannot be said the Biscayans taught them to the Phrygians, or the Phrygians to the Biscayans.
Fire and water have been used in temples. This custom needed no introduction. A priest did not choose always to have his hands dirty. Fire was necessary to cook the immolated carcases, and to burn slips of resinous wood and spices, in order to combat the odour of the sacerdotal shambles. .
But the mysterious ceremonies which it is so difficult to understand, the usages which nature does not teach, -in what place, when, where, how, why, were they invented? Who communicated them to other nations? It is not likely that it should, at the same time, have entered the head of an Arab and of an Egyptian, to cut off one end of his son's prepuce; nor that a Chinese and a Persian should, both at once, have resolved to castrate little boys.
It can never have been that two fathers, in different countries, have, at the same moment, formed the idea of cutting their son's throats to please God. Some nations must have communicated to others their follies, serious, ridiculous, or barbarous.
In this antiquity men love to search, to discover, if possible, the first madman and the first scoundrel who perverted human nature.
But, how are we to know whether Jehu, in Phænicia, by immolating his son, was the inventor of sacri. fices of human blood ?
How can we be assured that Lycaon was the first who ate human flesh, when we do not know who first began to eat fowls?
We seek to know the origin of ancient feasts. The most ancient and the finest is that of the Emperors of China tilling and sowing the ground, together with their first mandarins. The second is, that of the Thesmophoria at Athens. To celebrate at once agriculture and justice, to show men how necessary they both are, to unite the curb of law with the art which is the source of all wealth-nothing is more wise, more pious, or more useful.
There are old allegorical feasts to be found everywhere, as those of the return of the seasons. not necessary that one nation should come from afar off, to teach another that marks of joy and friendship for one's neighbours may be given on the first day of the year. This custom has been that of every people, The Saturnalia of the Romans are better known than those of the Allobroges and the Picts; because there are many Roman writings and monuments remaining, but there are none of the other nations of western Europe.
The feast of Saturn was the feast of Time. He had four wings; Time flies quickly. His two faces evidently signified the concluded and the commencing year.
The Greeks said that he had devoured his father, and that he devoured his children. No allegory is more reasonable: Time devours the past and the present, and will devour the future.
Why seek for vain and gloomy explanations of a feast so universal, so gay, and so well known? When I look well into antiquity, I do not find a single annual festival of a melancholy character; or, at least, if they begin with lamentations, they end in dancing and revelry. If tears are shed for Adoni or Adonai, whom we call Adonis, he is soon resuscitated, and rejoicing takes place. It is the same with the feasts of Isis, Osiris, and Horus. The Greeks, too, did as much for Ceres as for Proserpine. The death of the serpent Python was celebrated with gaiety. A feast day and a day of joy were one and the same thing. At the feasts of Bacchus this joy was only carried too far.
I do not find one general commemoration of an unfortunate event. The institutors of the feasts would have shown themselves to be devoid of common sense, if they had established at Athens a celebration of the battle lost at Cheronea, and at Rome another of the battle of Cannæ.
They perpetuated the remembrance of what might encourage men, and not of that which might fill them with cowardice or despair. This is so true, that fables were invented for the purpose of instituting feasts. Castor and Pollux did not fight for the Romans near Lake Regillus; but, at the end of three or four hundred years, some priests said so, and all the people danced. Hercules did not deliver Greece from a hydra' with seven heads; but Hercules and his hydra were sung.
Festivals founded on Chimeras. I do not know that, there was, in all antiquity, a single festival founded on an established fact. - It has been elsewhere remarked how extremely ridiculous those schoolmen appear,
with a magisterial, air: Here is an ancient hymn in honour of Apollo, who visited Claros; therefore, Apollo went to Claros :. a. chapel was erected to Perseus; therefore, he delivered Andromeda. Poor men! you should rather say, therefore, there was no Andromeda.
who say to you,
But what, then, will become of that learned antiquity which preceded the olympiads ?-It will become what it is, an unknown time, a time lost, a time of allegories and lies, a time regarded with contempt by the wise, and profoundly discussed by blockheads, who like to float in a void, like Epicurus's atoms.
There were everywhere days of penance, days of expiation in the temples; but these days were never called by a name answering to that of feasts. Every feast-day was sacred to diversion : so true is this, that the Egyptian priests fasted on the eve, in order to eat the more on the morrow,-a custom which our monks have preserved. There were, no doubt, mournful ceremonies. It was not customary to dance the Greek brawl while interring or carrying to the funeral pile a son or a daughter; this was a public ceremony, but certainly not a feast.
On the Antiquity of Feasts, which, it has been asserted,
were always mournful. Men of ingenuity, profound searchers into antiquity, who would know how the earth was made a hundred thousand years ago, if genius could discover it, have asserted that mankind, reduced to a very small number in both continents, and still terrified at the innumerable revolutions which this sad globe had undergone, perpetuated the remembrance of their calamities by dismal and mournful commemorations.
Every feast," say they, “was a day of horror, instituted to remind men that their fathers had been destroyed by the fires of the volcanoes, by rocks falling from the mountains, by eruptions of the sea, by the teeth and claws of wild beasts, by war, pestilence, and famine.” * Then we are not made as men were then. There was never so much rejoicing in London as after the plague and the burning of the whole city, in the reign of Charles II. We made songs while the massacres of St. Bartholomew were still going on. Some pasquinades have been preserờed, which were made the day after the assassination of Coligni: there was printed in Paris, Passio Domini nostri Gaspardi Colignii secundum Bartholomæum.
It has a thousand times happened that the Sultan, who reigns at Constantinople, has made his eunuchs and odalisks dance in apartments stained with the blood of his brothers and his viziers.
What do the people of Paris do, on the very day that they are apprised of the loss of a battle and the death of a hundred brave officers? They run to the play and the opera.
What did they when the wife of Marshal D'Ancre was given up in the Grève to the barbarity of her persecutors ?--When Marshal De Marillaç was dragged to execution in a waggon, by virtue of a paper signed by robed lackies in Cardinal De Richelieu's anti-chamber?—When a lieutenant-general of the army,*. a foreigner, who had shed his blood for the state, condemned by the cries of his infuriated enemies, was led to the scaffold in a dung-cart, with a gag in his mouth ?—When a young man of nineteen, full of candour, courage, and modesty, but very imprudent, was carried to the most dreadful of punishments ? They sang vaudevilles.
Such is man, at least man on the banks of the Seine. Such has he been at all times, for the same reason that rabbits have always had hair, and larks feathers.
On the Origin of the Arts. What! we would know the precise theology of Thoth, Zerdusht, or Sanchoniathon, although we know not who invented the shuttle. The first weaver, the first mason, the first smith, were undoubtedly great geniuses; yet no account has been made of them. And why? Because not one of them invented a perfect art. He who first hollowed the trunk of an oak for the purpose of crossing a river, did not build
* Count Lally.-T. + The Chevalier de la Barre.-T.