« ÎnapoiContinuați »
the death of Maximinus. Pausanias (in Messe) relates that before the destruction of the Messenians, the dogs brake out into a more fierce howling than ordinary βιοτέρα τῇ κραυγῆ Xpúμevo: and we read in Fincelius that, in the year 1553, some weeks before the overthrow of the Saxons, the dogs in Mysinia flocked together, and used strange howlings in the woods and fields. The like howling is observed by Virgil, presaging the Roman calamities in the Pharsalick war:
'Obscænique canes, importunæque volucres
"So Lucan, to the same purpose: Flebile sævi latravere canes; and Statius, Nocturnique cænum gemitus.''
To one inquiring in the British Apollo, 1708, i. No. 26, "Whether the dogs howling may be a fatal prognostic, or no?" it is answered, "we cannot determine, but 'tis probable that out of a sense of sorrow for the sickness or absence of his master, or the like, that creature may be so disturbed."
In the Memoirs of Mr. Duncan Campbell, we read, p. 76: "I have some little faith in the howling of a dog, when it does not proceed from hunger, blows, or confinement. As odd and unaccountable as it may seem, those animals scent death, even before it seizes a person."
Douce's Notes say: "It was formerly believed that dogs saw the ghosts of deceased persons. In the Odyssey, b. xvi., the dogs of Eumæus are described as terrified at the sight of Minerva, though she was then invisible to Telemachus. The howling of dogs has generally been accounted a sign of approaching death."
Armstrong in his History of the Island of Minorca, p. 158, says: "We have so many owls, that we are everywhere entertained with their note all night long.
Solaque culminibus ferali carmine bubo
Visa queri, et longas in fletum ducere noctes.
Virg. Æn. iv. 1. 462.
The ass usually joins in the melody, and when the moon is about the full, the dog likewise intrudes himself as a performer in the concert, making night hideous."
CATS, RATS, AND MICE.
OMENS were drawn by ancient superstition from the coming in and going out of strange cats, as the learned Moresin informs us. Melton, in his Astrologaster, p. 45, tells us: "29. That when the cat washes her face over her eares, wee shall have great store of raine."2
Lord Westmoreland, in a poem "To a Cat bore me company in Confinement," says:
"scratch but thine ear,
Then boldly tell what weather's drawing near."
And we read in Peele's play of the Novice:
The cat sneezing appears to have been considered as a lucky omen to a bride who was to be married the next day.3
In Southey's Travels in Spain, we read: "The old woman promised him a fine day to-morrow, because the cat's skin looked bright."
It was a vulgar notion that cats, when hungry, would eat coals. In the Tamer tamed, or Woman's Pride, Izamo says to Moroso, "I'd learn to eat coals with an hungry cat:" and, in Bonduca, the first daughter says, "They are cowards: eat coals like compell'd cats.'
Herrick, in his Hesperides, p. 155, mentions,
"True calendars, as pusses eare
Wash't o're to tell what change is neare."
"Felium perigrinarum egressum, ingressum. . . Ex felis vel canis transcursu qui inauspicati habebantur." Casaubonus, p. 341, ad Theophrasti Characteres. Fabricii Bibliogr. Antiq. p. 421, edit. 1716.
2 In Pet Molinæi Vates, p. 155, we read: "Apud Romanos soricis vox audita, turbabat comitia. Domitores orbis ex stridore muris pendebant. Valerius Maximus, lib. i. cap. 3, hæc habet. Occentus soricis auditus, Fabio Maximo Dictaturam, Caio Flaminio Magisterium, equitum deponendi causam præbuit;" and again, p. 219, "Homines qui ex salino, aut muribus aut cineribus capiunt omina, Deum in scriptura loquentem non audiunt."
"Crastina nupturæ lux est prosperrima sponsæ :
Roberti Keuchenii Crepundia, p. 413.
Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and Puzzel'd, p. 181, ranks "the cats licking themselves," among "Vain Observations and Superstitious Ominations thereupon." In Willsford's Nature's Secrets, &c., 1658, p. 131, speaking of the weather's prediction, he says: "Cats coveting the fire more than ordinary, or licking their feet and trimming the hair of their heads and mustachios, presages rainy weather."
Mr. Park's Notes in his copy of Bourne and Brand's Popular Antiquities, p. 92, say: "Cats sitting with their tails to the fire, or washing with their paws behind their ears, are said to foretell a change of weather."
In the Supplement to the Athenian Oracle, p. 474, we are told: "When cats comb themselves (as we speak) 'tis a sign of rain; because the moisture which is in the air before the rain, insinuating itself into the fur of this animal, moves her to smooth the same and cover her body with it, that so she may the less feel the inconvenience of winter; as, on the contrary, she opens her fur in summer that she may the better receive the refreshing of the moist season.' It is added, "The crying of cats, ospreys, ravens, and other birds, upon the tops of houses, in the night-time, are observed by the vulgar to pre-signify death to the sick."
[Sailors, as I am informed on the authority of a naval officer, have a great dislike to see the cat, on board ship, unusually playful and frolicsome: such an event, they consider, prognosticates a storm: and they have a saying on these occasions, that "the cat has a gale of wind in her tail." There may, in this, be something better than mere superstition. The fur of the cat is known to be highly electrical; possibly, therefore the change which takes place in the state of the atmosphere, previously to a storm, may have some powerful effect on the animal's body, and elate her spirits to a more than usual degree. The playfulness of the cat, therefore, may perhaps be a natural sign of the coming weather, and to be accounted for on just and philosophical principles.]
Rats gnawing the hangings of a room, says Grose, is reckoned the forerunner of a death in the family. He mentions also the following to the like purport: "If the neck of a child remains flexible for several hours after its decease, it portends that some person in that house will die in a short time."
Melton, in his Astrologaster, p. 45, tells us: "24. That it is a great signe of ill lucke if rats gnaw a man's cloathes."
Burton, in his Anatomy of Melancholy, edit. 4to. 1621, p. 214, says: "There is a feare, which is commonly caused by prodigies and dismal accidents, which much troubles many of us, as if a mouse gnaw our clothes."
Willsford, in his Nature's Secrets, p. 134, says: "Bats or flying mice, coming out of their holes quickly after sunset, and sporting themselves in the open air, premonstrates fair and calm weather."
It is a lucky sign to have crickets in the house.2 Grose says it is held extremely unlucky to kill a cricket, perhaps from the idea of its being a breach of hospitality, this insect taking refuge in houses. Melton, in his Astrologaster, p. 45, says: "17. That it is a signe of death to some in that house where crickets have been many yeares, if on a sudden they
'Cicero, in his Second Book on Divination, § 27, observes: "Nos autem ita leves, atque inconsiderati sumus, ut, si mures corroserint aliquid, quorum est opus hoc unum, monstrum putemus? Ante vero Marsicum bellum quod Clypeos Lanuvii-mures rosissent, maxumum id portentum haruspices esse dixerunt. Quasi vero quicquam intersit, mures, diem noctem aliquid rodentes, scuta an cribra corroserint. Nam si ista sequimur; quod Platonis Politian nuper apud me mures corroserint, de republica debui pertimescere: aut si Epicuri de Voluptate liber corrosus esset, putarem Annonam in macello cariorem fore. Cum vestis a soricibus roditur, plus timere suspicionem futuri mali, quam præsens damnum dolere. Unde illud eleganter dictum est Catonis, qui cum esset consultus a quodam, qui sibi erosas esse Caligas diceret a soricibus respondit, non esse illud monstrum; sed verè monstrum habendum fuisse, si sorices a Caligis roderentur." Delrio, Disquisit. Magic. p. 473.
Bourne, Poematia, edit. 1764, p. 133.
forsake the chimney." Gay gives the following, in his Pastoral Dirge, among the rural prognostications of death:
"And shrilling crickets in the chimney cry'd."
So also in Reed's Old Plays:
"And the strange cricket i' th' oven sings and hops." The voice of the cricket, says the Spectator, has struck more terror than the roaring of a lion.
The following line occurs in Dryden's and Lee's Edipus: "Owls, ravens, crickets, seem the watch of death."
Pliny, in his Natural History (book xxix.), mentions the cricket as much esteemed by the ancient magicians; there is no doubt but that our superstitions concerning these little domestics have been transmitted to us from his times.
Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and Puzzel'd, p. 181, mentions, among other vain observations and superstitious ominations thereupon, "the crickets chirping behind the chimney stock, or creeping upon the foot-pace."
Ramesey says, in his Elminthologia, 8vo. Lond. 1668, p. 271: "Some sort of people, at every turn, upon every accident, how are they therewith terrified! If but a cricket unusually appear, or they hear but the clicking of a death-watch, as they call it, they, or some one else in the family, shall die."
In White's Selborne, p. 255, that writer, speaking of crickets, says: "They are the housewife's barometer, foretelling her when it will rain; and are prognostic sometimes, she thinks, of ill or good luck, of the death of a near relation, or the approach of an absent lover. By being the constant companions of her solitary hours, they naturally become the objects of her superstition. Tender insects that live abroad either enjoy only the short period of one summer, or else doze away the cold uncomfortable months in profound slumber but these residing, as it were, in a torrid zone, are always alert and merry: a good Christmas fire is to them like the heat of the dog-days.... Though they are frequently heard by day, yet is their natural time of motion in the night."
Dr. Nathaniel Home, in his Dæmonologie, 1650, p. 59, after saying that, "by the flying and crying of ravens over their houses, especially in the dusk of evening, and where one is sick, they conclude death," adds, "the same they conclude