Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

the denunciation of death, vibrated with extreme velocity. The Canadian now began to play upon his flute : the serpent started with surprise, and drew back its head. In proportion as it was struck with the magic effect, its eyes lost their fierceness, the vibrations of its tail became slower, and the sound which it emitted gradually became weaker and ceased. The folds of the fascinated serpent became less perpendicular upon their spiral line, expanded by degrees, and sunk one after another upon the ground, forming concentric circles. The colours recovered their brilliancy on its quivering skin; and slightly turning its head, it remained motionless in the attitude of attention and pleasure. At this moment the Canadian advanced a few steps, producing with his flute sweet and simple notes. The reptile inclining its variegated neck, opened a passage with its head through the high grass, and began to creep after the musician, stopping when he stopped, and following him again as soon as he moved forward.”

"I have seen many serpent-charmers,” says a traveller in Palestine, “who do really exercise some extraordinary power over these reptiles. They carry enormous snakes, generally black, about them, allow them to crawl all over their persons and into their bosoms, always, however, with certain precautions, either necessary or pretended to be so. They repeatedly breathe strongly into the face of the serpent, and occasionally blow spittle, or some medicated composition upon them. It is needless to describe the mountebank tricks which they perform. That which I am least able to account for, is the power of detecting the presence of serpents in a house, and of enticing or 'charming' them out of it. The thing is far too common to be made a matter of scepticism. The following account by Mr. Lane, is a fair statement of this matter:“The charmer professes to discover, without ocular perception (but perhaps he does so by a peculiar smell), whether there be any serpents in the house; and if there be, to attract them to him, as the fowler, by the fascination of his voice, allures the bird into his net. As the serpent seeks the darkest place in which to hide himself, the charmer has, in most cases, to exercise his skill in an obscure chamber, where he might easily take a serpent from his bosom, bring it to the people without the door, and affirm that he had found it in the apartment; for no one would venture to enter with him, after having been assured of the presence of one of these reptiles within. But he is often required to perform in the full light of day, surrounded by spectators; and incredulous persons have searched him beforehand, and even stripped him naked; yet his success has been complete. He assumes an air of

[graphic]

Fig. 119.

[ocr errors]

mystery, strikes the walls with a short palm stick, whistles, makes a
clucking noise with his tongue, and spits upon the ground, and gene-
rally says—I adjure you by God, if ye be above, or if ye be below, that
ye come forth. I adjure you by the most great Name: if ye be
obedient, come forth; and if ye be disobedient, die! die ! die! The
serpent is generally dislodged by his stick from a fissure in the wall or
from the ceiling of the room. I have
heard it asserted that a serpent-charmer,
before he enters a house in which he is
to try his skill, always employs a servant
of that house to introduce one or more
serpents; but I have known instances
in which this could not be the case,
and am inclined to believe that the
dervishes above mentioned are generally
acquainted with some physical means
of discovering the presence of serpents
without seeing them, and of attracting
them from their lurking-places. What
these physical means may be is yet a secret, as also the means
by which persons can handle live scorpions, and can put them into
their bosom without fear or injury. I have seen this done again
and again, even by small boys. This has always excited my curi-
osity and astonishment, for scorpions are the most malignant and
irascible of all reptiles. The Hindoos, and after them the Egyptians,
are the most famous snake-charmers, scorpion-eaters, &c., &c., although
gipsies, Arabs, and others are occasionally found who gain a vagabond
livelihood by strolling round the country and confounding the ignorant
with these feats.?” But it is also true that “the serpent will bite
without enchantment,” or in spite of all the efforts which may be made
to charm it (Eccles. x. 11). “Roberts mentions the case of a serpent-
charmer in India, who came to a gentleman's house to exhibit tame
snakes. He was told that a cobra was in a cage in the house, and was
asked if he could charm it. He replied in the affirmative. The
serpent was released from the cage, and, doubtless, in a state of great
irritation; the man began his incantations, and repeated his charms :
they, however, produced no effect on the snake; it refused to hear the
voice of the charmer; it darted at him, and fastened upon

his
arm;

ha was dead before night.”

Snail,” Heb. shavlul. In Leviticus x. 30, the word hhomet is

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

rendered snail, but is properly a species of lizard. In the word used here, reference is made to the trail of the animal. The shining, glutinous slime, which marks the track over which it has gone, was regarded as the wasting away of the snail. Thus the expression—"Let them melt away as a snail melteth.” The description answers any of the slugs (Limacide), as Limax, Helix, Arion, Zonites, Testacella, &c. See Plate XVIII., figs. 1, 2, 1, 1, 2. The two best known are the slug proper, and the common garden snail. Several species of the former are widely distributed, as the black slug (Limax ater), the milk slug (L. agrestis), the black-striped slug (L. maximus). Of the former we have the true garden snail (Helix aspera), and the wood snail (H. nemoralis). The slugs have four highly sensitive feelers, which are concealed when in repose. One pair is longer than the other. At the end of the longer pair the eyes are placed. Their eggs are like little bags, of semi-transparent, whitish, or yellowish jelly. The snails are also produced from eggs laid in heaps in the earth, amounting in number from twenty to eighty, globular and whitish. . They carry their shells with them, and have the power of enlarging them from their own secretions. The waste noticed by the Psalmist, is only apparent. The popular impression is used to illustrate a great truth—the wicked may prosper for a time, but the day will come when they will melt away, when there shall not be, as in the case of the snail, a provision made for them renewing opportunities. They shall melt away, every one of them shall pass away.

Psalm 1xv.—“The blessedness of the man whom God chooses," is celebrated in this psalm. He tastes the goodness of God in his courts, and is led forth to witness his ways in providence, and his sovereignty over the soil. The picture opened up to us from the middle of verse 8 to the end of the psalm, is one of exceeding beauty. The "rejoicing of the morning and the evening,” suggests the chorus of birds meeting the dawn, and welcoming the season of rest by prolonging their notes into the twilight. “The river of God,” is the rain given by him to fertilize the soil, and make the fields glad.

Psalm lxviii. — The tribes of Israel are marshalled on an occasion of national joy, and amidst all the evidences of the favour and friendship of their covenant God. They are reminded of what they had been (ver. 13)—see under Psalm lv. 6. The exultant shout is now

“Bless ye God in the congregations,

Even the Lord from the fountain of Israel", (ver. 26). The chosen people were regarded as under special blessing, because

they were of him who is the fountain of Israel. They were monuments of his grace, and they found their strength in him. And thus they were ranked before him :

“There is little Benjamin with their ruler,
The princes of Judah and their council;

The princes of Zebulun, and the princes of Naphtali” (ver. 27). When they are all before the Lord, and when all equally feel blessed, they put God in remembrance of his promises—they ask him to fulfil his word concerning the nations. These nations would not turn to him until every other help had been found vain, when they were under

sorrow.

“Rebuke the company of spearmen,
The multitude of bulls, with the calves of the people,
Till every one submit himself with silver :
Scatter them that delight in war.
Princes shall come out of Egypt;

Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God" (ver. 30, 31). The expression, “company of spearmen," is more correctly and literally rendered in the margin, “ beast of the reeds.” “The king of Egypt is," says Horsley, “described under the image of the hippopotamus, the wild beast that lodges in the rushes on the banks of the Nile.” It is much more likely that the crocodile (Croc. vulgaris, Plate IX., fig. 2), was the animal in the thoughts of the Psalmist, when he referred to Pharaoh. So Ezekiel—"I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers" (xxix. 3).

In the same verse the great ones of the earth are spoken of as “bulls,” and the princes are characterized as “calves of the people.” For “calf,” see above, 1 Kings xii. 28. The Hebrew word for bull (abbīr) literally means strong, mighty, valiant: “He draweth also the mighty with his power” (Job xxiv. 22). “Why are the valiant men swept away ? they stood not because the Lord did drive them” (Jer. xlvi. 15). The original meaning of the word has been applied to an animal of great strength-the bull; as here, “the multitude of bulls.” But the association is not limited to bulls. It is sometimes connected with the horse : “Then were the horse hoofs broken by means of the prancings, the prancings of the mighty ones (abbīri)” (Judg. v. 22). “At the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his strong horses, at the rushing of his chariots, and at the rumbling of his wheels, the fathers shall not look back to their children for feebleness of hands” (Jer. xlvii. 3). The abbīri were not only the “bulls,” but the head shepherds who waited on them. When David went to see Abimelech, the priest at Nob, he found there “a certain man of the servants of Saul; his name was Doeg the Edomite, the chiefest (abbīr) of the herdsmen that belonged to Saul” (1 Sam. xxi. 7). In the Book of Psalms itself, it is used in different connections:

“The stout- (abbiri) hearted are spoiled, they have slept their sleep;

And none of the men of might have found their hands” (lxxvi. 5). In recounting the great doings of God for his people, the Psalmist says

"Man did eat angels' (abbirim) food :

He sent them meat to the full” (lxxviii. 25). Literally, "every one did eat of the bread of the mighty.” The company of the mighty, “Herod and his men of war," who surrounded the Saviour when he hung on the cross, are compared to bulls, and strong ones of Bashan :

"Many bulls (parim) have compassed me:

Strong (abbiri) bulls of Bashan have beset me" (xxii. 12). In the verse now under notice, the other images used show the suitableness of the rendering, "multitude of bulls." The reference to Bashan points out the locality, whose deep forests and rich pasturelands made it to be celebrated for its flocks and herds. “It was,' says Dr. Stanley, “the forest-land, the pasture-land of Palestine. The smooth downs received a special name, expressive of their contrast with the rough and rocky soil of the west. The 'oaks’ of Bashan, which still fill the traveller with admiration, were to the prophets and psalmists of Israel the chief glory of the vegetation of their common country. The vast herds of wild cattle which then wandered through the woods, as those of Scotland through its ancient forests, were, in like manner, at once the terror and pride of the Israelite—the fat bulls of Bashan.' The king of Moab was but a great sheepmaster,' and "rendered' for tribute 'an hundred thousand lambs, and an hundred thousand rams with the wool.' And still the countless herds and flocks may

be

seen, droves of cattle moving on like troops of soldiers, descending at sunset to drink of the springs—literally, in the language of the prophet, ‘rams, and lambs, and goats, and bullocks, all of them fatlings of Bashan.' It is striking to remember, that with this land in their possession—a land of which travellers say, that in beauty and fertility, it as far surpasses western Palestine as Devonshire surpasses Cornwall -the Israelites nevertheless pressed forwards through the Jordan

« VorigeDoorgaan »