Imágenes de páginas

Then bow'd her to the sword of * martyrdom.

Her eye averting from the storied woe,
The delegated damsel knelt and pour'd
To Heaven the earnest prayer.

* Such is the legend of St. Catharine, Princess of Alexandria, whose story has been pictured upon sign-posts and in churches, but whose memory will be preserved longer by the ale-house than by the altar. The most extravagant perhaps of Dryden's Plays is upon this subject. In my former edition I had, ignorantly, represented Catharine as dying upon the wheel, and the description of her sufferings was too painfully minute. Dryden has committed the last fault in a far greater degree; the old Martyrologies particularize no cruelties more revolting to the reader than he has detailed in the speech of Maximin when he orders her to execution.

From a passage in the Jerusalen Conquistada it should seem that St. Catharine was miraculously betrothed to her heavenly spouse. As the Crusaders approach Jerusalem, they visit the holy places on the way,

Qual visita el lugar con llanto tierno,

Donde la hermosa virgen Caterina
Se desposo con el Esposo eterno,

La Angelica Rachel siendo madrina;

A trophied tomb Close to the altar rear'd its ancient bulk. Two pointless javelins and a broken sword, Time-mouldering now, proclaim'd some warrior slept The sleep of death beneath. A massy stone

Aquel Esposo, que el nevado invierno

Se cubrio con escarcha matutina,
El que tiene los ojos de palomas
Y del labio de lirio vierte aromas.

Lope de Vega. The marginal note adds La Virgen fue Madrina en los desporios de Caterina y Christo.

Of St. Margaret, the other favourite Saint of the Maid, I find recorded by Bergomensis, that she called the Pagan Præfect an impudent dog, that she was thrown into a dungeon, where a horrible dragon swallowed her, that she crossed herself, upon which the dragon immediately burst and she came out safe, and that she saw the Devil standing in the corner like a black man, and seized him and threw him down.

Absurd as this legend is, it once occasioned a very extraordinary murder. A young Lombard after hearing it, prayed so earnestly for an opportunity of fighting with the Devil like St. Margaret, that he went into the fields in full expectation


And rude-ensculptur'd effigy o'erlaid
The sepulchre. In silent wonderment
The expectant multitude with eager eye
Gaze, listening as the mattock's heavy stroke
Invades the tomb's repose : the heavy stroke
Sounds hollow ; over the high-vaulted roof
Roll the repeated echoes : soon the day
Dawns on the grave's long night, the slant sun-beam
Beams on the inshrined arms, the crested helm,
The bauldrick's strength, the shield, the sacred*sword.

that his desire would be gratified. A hideous old dumb woman came by, he mistook her for the Tempter, her inarticulate noises confirmed him in this opinion, and he knocked her down and trampled upon her. The poor wretch died of her bruises, but a miracle was wrought to save her murderer in consideration that his madness was a pious madness, and before she died, she spoke to excuse his mistake. This tale is told in that strange collection of ludicrous stories upon religious subjects the Pia Hilaria. The authority referred to is Petr. Rausani hist. lib. 35.

* Puella petiit gladium, quem divinitus uti aiebat, erat facta certior in templo divæ Catherinæ in Turonibus, inter antiqua donaria pendere. Miratus Carolus, gladium inquiri, ac in. ventum protinus Puellæ afferri jussit.

Polydore Vergil.

A sound of awe-repress'd astonishment
Rose from the crowd. The delegated Maid
Over her robes the hallowed breast-plate threw,
Self-fitted to her form ; on her helmd head
The white plumes nod, majestically slow;
She lifts the buckler and the sacred sword,
Gleaming portentous light.

The amazed crowd Raise the loud shout of transport. “God of Heaven, The Maid exclaim'd, “ Father all merciful ! “ Devoted to whose holy will, I wield The sword of Vengeance, go before our host! “ All-just avenger of the innocent, “ Be thou our Champion! God of Love, preserye. “ Those whom no lust of glory leads to arms."

She ceas'd, and with an eager hush the crowd Still listen'd; a brief while throughout the dome Deep silênce dwelt; then with a sudden burst Devout and full, they rais’d the choral hymn

“ Thee Lord we praise, our God!" the throng without Catch the strange tidings, join the hymn of joy, And thundering transport peals along the heavens.

As thro' the parting crowd the virgin pass'd, He who from Orleans on the yesternight Demanded succour, clasp'd with warmth her hand, And with a bosom-thrilling voice exclaim'd, “ Ill-omen'd Maid ! vi&im of thine own worth, " Devoted for the king-curst realm of France ! “ Ill-omen'd Maid, I pity theel" so saying, He turn'd into the crowd. At his strange words Disturb'd, the warrior virgin pass'd along, And much revolving in her troubled mind, Retreads the court.

And now the horn announced The ready banquet; they partook the * feast,

* Cette cérémonie chez les Grands s'annonçait au son du oor, ou au son d'une cloche; coutume qui subsiste encore

« AnteriorContinuar »