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who became one of the constellations known to the most remote antiquity. This constellation was named Orion by the ancient Chaldeans; it is spoken of in the Book of Job. It would be hard to discover a rational allegory in this pretty story, unless we are to infer from it that nothing was impossible to the gods.
There were in Greece two young rakes, who were told by the oracle to beware of the melampygos or sable posteriors. One day Hercules took them, and tied them by the feet to the end of his club, so that they hung down his back with their heads downwards like a couple of rabbits, having a full view of his person. Ah! said they, the oracle is accomplished; this is the melampygos. Hercules fell a laughing, and let them go. Here again it would be rather difficult to divine the moral sense.
Among the fathers of mythology, there were some who had only imagination; but the greater part of them possessed understandings of no mean order. Not all our academies, not all our makers of devices, not even they who compose the legends for the counters of the royal treasury, will ever invent allegories more true, more pleasing, or more ingenious, than those of the Nine Muses, of Venus, the Graces, the God of Love, and so many others, which will be the delight and instruction of all ages.
The ancients, it must be confessed, almost always spoke in allegories. The earlier fathers of the church, the greater part of whom were Platonists, imitated this method of Plato's. They have, indeed, been reproached with having carried this taste for allegories and allusions a little too far.
St. Justin, in his Apology, says, that the sign of the cross is marked in the limbs and features of man ;that, when he extends his arms, there is a perfect cross; and that his nose and eyes form a cross upon his face.
According to Origen's explanation of Leviticus, the fat of the victims signifies the Church, and the tail is a symbol of perseverance.
St. Augustin, in his sermon on the difference and
agreement of the two genealogies of Christ, explains to his auditors why St. Matthew, although he reckons forty-two generations, enumerates only forty-one. It is, says he, because Jechonias must be reckoned twice, Jechonias having gone from Jerusalem to Babylon. This journey is to be considered as the corner-stone; and if the corner-stone is the first of one side of a building, it is also the first of the other side; consequently this stone must be reckoned twice; and therefore Jechonias must be reckoned twice. He adds that, in the forty-two generations, we must dwell on the number forty, because that number signifies life. The number ten denotes blessedness, and ten multiplied by four, which represents the four elements and the four seasons, produces forty.
In his fifty-third sermon, the dimensions of matter have astonishing properties. Breadth is the dilation of the heart, length is long-suffering, height is hope, and depth is faith. So that, besides the allegory, we have four dimensions of matter instead of three.
It is clear and indubitable (says he in his sermon on the 6th psalm) that the number four denotes the human body, because of the four elements, and the four qualities of hot, cold, moist and dry; and as four relates to the body, so three relates to the soul; for we must love God with a triple love-with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our minds. Four also relates to the Old Testament, and three to the New. Four and three make up the number of seven days, and the eight is the day of judgment.
One cannot but feel that there is in these allegories an affectation but little compatible with true eloquence. The Fathers, who sometimes made use of these figures, wrote in times and countries in which nearly all the arts were degenerating. Their learning and fine genius were warped by the imperfections of the age in which they lived. St. Augustin is not to be respected the less for having paid this tribute to the bad taste of Africa and the fourth century.
The discourses of our modern preachers are not dis'figured by similar faults. Not that we dare prefer them
to the Fathers; but the present age is to be preferred to the ages in which they wrote. Eloquence, which became more and more corrupted, and was not revived until later times, fell, after them, into still greater extravagances; and the languages of all barbarous nations were alike ridiculous until the age of Louis XIV. Look at all the old collections of sermons; they are far below the dramatic pieces on the Passion, which used to be played at the Hôtel de Bourgogne. But the spirit of allegory, which has never been lost, may be traced throughout these barbarous discourses. The celebrated Ménot, who lived in the reign of Francis I. did more honour, perhaps, than any other to the allegorical style. "The worthy administrators of justice," said he, are like a cat set to take care of a cheese, lest it should be gnawed by the mice. One bite of the cat does more damage to the cheese than 'twenty mice can do."
Here is another very curious passage-"The woodmen, in a forest, cut large and small branches, and bind them in faggots; just so do our ecclesiastics, with dispensations from Rome, heap together great and small benefices. The cardinal's hat is garnished with bishoprics, the bishoprics are garnished with abbeys and priories, and the whole is garnished with devils. All these church possessions must pass through the three links of the Ave Maria; for benedicta tu stands for fat abbeys of Benedictines, in mulieribus for monsieur and madame, and fructus ventris for banquets and gormandisers."
The sermons of Barlet and Maillard are all framed after this model, and were delivered half in bad Latin, and half in bad French. The Italian sermons were in the same taste; and the German were still worse. This monstrous medley gave birth to the macaroni style, the very climax of barbarism. This species of oratory, worthy only of the Indians on the banks of the Missouri, prevailed even so lately as the reign of Louis XIII. The jesuit Garasse, one of the most distinguished enemies of common sense, never preached in any other style. He likened the celebrated Theo
phile to a calf, because Theophile's family name was Viaud, something resembling veau (a calf). But," said he, “the flesh of a calf is good to roast and to boil, whereas thine is good for nothing but to burn."
All these allegories, used by our barbarians, fall infinitely short of those employed by Homer, Virgil, and Ovid; which proves, that if there be still some Goths and Vandals who despise ancient fable, they are not altogether in the right.
IT is of little moment to know whether we have the word almanack from the ancient Saxons, who could not write, or from the Arabs, who are known to have been astronomers, and to have had some acquaintance with the courses of the planets, while the western nations were still wrapped in an ignorance as great as their barbarism. I shall here confine myself to one short observation.
Let an Indian philosopher, who has embarked at Meliapour, come to Bayonne. I shall suppose this philosopher to be a man of sense; which, you will say, is rare among the learned of India; to be divested of all scholastic prejudices-a thing which was very rare everywhere not long ago; and I shall suppose him to meet with a blockhead in our part of the world-which is not quite so great a rarity.
Our blockhead, in order to make him conversant with our arts and sciences, presents him with a Liege almanack, composed by Matthew Lansberg, and the Lame Messenger (Messager-boiteux) by Anthony Souci, astrologer and historian, printed every year at Basle, and sold to the number of 20,000 copies in eight days. There you behold the fine figure of a man, surrounded by the signs of the Zodiac, with certain indications most clearly demonstrating that the scales preside over the posteriors, the ram over the head, the fishes over the feet, &c.
Each day of the moon informs you when you must take Le Lievre's balm of life, or Keiser's pills; when you must be bled, have your nails cut, wean your children, plant, sow, go a journey, or put on a pair of new shoes. The Indian, when he hears these lessons, will
do well to say to his guide, that he will have none of his almanacks.
So soon as our simpleton shall have shown the philosopher a few of our ceremonies, which every wise man disapproves, but which are tolerated in order to amuse the populace, through pure contempt for that populace, the traveller, seeing these mummeries, followed by a tambourine dance, will not fail to pity us and take us for madmen, who are, nevertheless, very amusing and not absolutely cruel. He will write home to the President of the Grand College of Benares, that we have not common sense; but that if His Paternity will send enlightened and discreet persons among us, something may, with the blessing of God, be made of us.
It was precisely in this way that our first missionaries, especially St. Francis Xavier, spoke of the people inhabiting the peninsula of India. They even fell into still grosser mistakes respecting the customs of the Indians, their sciences, their opinions, their manners, and their worship. The accounts which they sent to Europe were extremely curious. Every statue was a devil; every assembly, a sabbath; every symbolical figure, a talisman; every Brahmin, a sorcerer; and these are made the subject of never-ending lamentations. They hope that the harvest will be abundant; and add, by a rather incongruous metaphor, that they will labour effectually in the vineyard of the Lord, in a country where wine has always been unknown. Thus, or nearly thus, have every people judged, not only of distant nations, but even of their neighbours.
The Chinese are said to be the most ancient almanack-makers. The finest of their emperor's privileges is that of sending his Calendar to his vassals and neighbours; their refusal of which would be considered as a bravado, and war would forthwith be made upon them, as it used to be made in Europe on feudal lords who refused their homage.
If we have only twelve constellations, the Chinese have twenty-eight, the names of which have not the least affinity with ours-a sufficient proof that they