And again, in the Second Part of Antonio and Mellida ;


"Now barkes the wolfe against the full cheekt moone,
Now lyons halfe-clam'd entrals roare for food.

Now croaks the toad, and night crowes screech aloud,

Fluttering 'bout casements of departing soules.

Now gapes the graves, and through their yawnes let loose
Imprison'd spirits to revisit earth."

The following passages from old English poets on this subject are found in Poole's English Parnassus, v. Omens.


-"Which seldom boding good, Croak their black auguries from some dark wood."

And again:

"Night jars and ravens, with wide stretched throats,
From yews aud hollies send their baleful notes-
The om'nous raven with a dismal chear

Through his hoarse beak of following horror tells,
Begetting strange imaginary fear,

With heavy echoes like to passing bells."

Alexander Ross informs us, that "by ravens, both publick and private calamities and death have been portended. Jovianus Pontanus relates two terrible skirmishes between the ravens and the kites in the fields lying between Beneventum and Apicium, which prognosticated a great battle that was to be fought in those fields. Nicetas speaks of a skirmish between the crowes and ravens, presignifying the irruption of the Scythians into Thracia. Appendix to Arcana Microcosmi, p. 219. He adds, p. 220: "Private men have been forewarned of their death by ravens. I have not only heard and read, but have likewise observed divers times. A late example I have of a young gentleman, Mr. Draper, my intimate friend, who, about five or six years ago, being then in the flower of his age, had, on a sudden, one or two ravens in his chamber, which had been quarrelling upon the top of the chimney; these he apprehended as messengers of his death, and so they were; for he died shortly after. Cicero was forewarned, by the noise and fluttering of ravens about him, that his end was He that employed a raven to be the feeder of Elias, may employ the same bird as a messenger of death to others. We read in histories of a crow in Trajan's time that in the Capitoll spoke (in Greek) all things shall be well."



Macaulay, in his History of St. Kilda, p. 165, tells us: "The truly philosophical manner in which the great Latin poet has accounted for the joyful croakings of the raven species, upon a favourable chaunge of weather, will in my apprehension (see Georgics, b. i. v. 410, &c.) point out at the same time the true natural causes of that spirit of divination, with regard to storms of wind, rain, or snow, by which the sea-gull, tulmer, cormorant, heron, crow, plover, and other birds, are actuated some time before the change comes on." He observes, p. 174: "Of inspired birds, ravens were accounted the most prophetical. Accordingly, in the language of that district, to have the foresight of a raven, is to this day a proverbial expression, denoting a preternatural sagacity in predicting fortuitous events. In Greece and Italy, ravens were sacred to Apollo, the great patron of augurs, and were called companions and attendants of that god." Ibid. p. 176: he says that, "according to some writers, a great number of crows fluttered about Cicero's head on the very day he was murdered by the ungrateful Popilius Lænas, as if to warn him of his approaching fate; and that one of them, after having made its way into his chamber, pulled away his very bed-clothes, from a solicitude for his safety."

Bartholomæus, De Proprietatibus, by Berthelet, 27 Hen. VIII. f. 168, says: "And as divinours mene the raven hath a maner virtue of meanyng and tokenynge of divination. And therefore among nations, the raven among foules was halowed to Apollo, as Mercius saythe."


Pennant, in his Zoology, ut supra, p. 220, speaking of the carrion crow, tells us : Virgil says that its croaking foreboded rain. It was also thought a bird of bad omen, especially if it happened to be seen on the left hand :

Sæpe sinistra cava prædixit ab ilice cornix.'"

[ocr errors]

Thus also Butler, in his Hudibras:

"Is it not om'nous in all countries
When crows and ravens croak upon trees?"
Part ii. canto iii. 1. 707.

"If a crow cry," says Bourne, p. 70, "it portends some evil." In Willsford's Nature's Secrets, p. 133, we read: "Ravens and crows, when they do make a hoarse, hollow, and sorrowful noise, as if they sobbed, it presages foul wea

ther approaching. Crows flocking together in great companies, or calling early in the morning with a full and clear voice, or at any time of the day gaping against the sun, foreshews hot and dry weather: but if at the brink of ponds they do wet their heads, or stalk into the water, or cry much towards the evening, are signs of rain.'

In the Earl of Northampton's Defensative against the Poyson of supposed Prophesies, 1583, we read: "The flight of many crowes upon the left side of the campe made the Romans very much afrayde of some badde lucke: as if the greate God Jupiter had nothing else to doo (sayd Carneades) but to dryve jacke dawes in a flock together."

Bartholomæus says, f. 168, of the crowe-" Divynours tell, that she taketh hede of spienges and awaytynges, and teacheth and sheweth wayes, and warneth what shal fal. But it is ful unleful to beleve, that God sheweth his prevy counsayle to crowes as Isidore sayth. Among many divynacions divynours meane that crowes token reyne with gredynge and cryenge, as this verse meaneth,

'Nunc plena cornix pluviam vocat improba voce:

That is to understonde,

Nowe the crowe calleth reyne with an eleynge voyce.""

In the Supplement to the Athenian Oracle, p. 476, we are informed that "people prognosticate a great famine or mortality when great flocks of jays and crows forsake the woods; because these melancholy birds, bearing the characters of Saturn, the author of famine and mortality, have a very early perception of the bad disposition of that planet."


In the Secret Memoirs of Mr. Duncan Campbell, p. 60, it is said: "Some will defer going abroad, though called by business of the greatest consequence, if, happening to look out of the window, they see a single crow.' Ramesey, in his Elminthologia, 1668, p. 271, says: "If a crow fly but over the house and croak thrice, how do they fear, they, or some one else in the family, shall die?"

"The woodpecker's cry denotes wet. Buzards, or kites, when they do soar very high and much to lessening them

1 Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and Puzzel'd, p. 181, inserts among vain observations and superstitious ominations thereupon, “A crow lighting on the right hand or the left."

selves, making many plains to and again, foreshews hot weather, and that the lower region of the air is inflamed, which for coolnesse makes them ascend."

In the Dialogue of Dives and Pauper, fol. 1493, first precepte, 46th chapter, we read: "Some bileve that yf the kyte or the puttock fle ovir the way afore them that they should fare wel that daye, for sumtyme they have farewele after that they see the puttock so fleynge; and soo they falle in wane by leve and thanke the puttocke of their welfare and nat God, but suche foles take none hede howe often men mete with the puttok so fleynge and yet they fare nevir the better: for there is no folk that mete so oft with the puttoke so fleynge as they that begge their mete from dore to dore. Cranes soaring aloft, and quietly in the air, foreshews fair weather; but if they do make much noise, as consulting which way to go, it foreshews a storm that's neer at hand. Herons, in the evening, flying up and down, as if doubtful where to rest, presages some evill approaching weather."

Nash, in his Christ's Teares over Jerusalem, 1613, p. 185, speaking of the plague in London, says: "The vulgar menialty conclude therefore it is like to increase, because a hearnshaw (a whole afternoone together) sate on the top of Saint Peter's Church in Cornehill. They talk of an oxe that told the bell at Wolwitch, and howe from an oxe he transformed himselfe to an old man, and from an old man to an infant, and from an infant to a young man. Strange prophetical reports (as touching the sicknes) they mutter he gave out, when in truth they are nought els but cleanly coined lies, which some pleasant sportive wits have devised to gull them most grossely."

Werenfels says, p. 6: "If the superstitious man has a desire to know how many years he has to live, he will enquire of the cuckoo." See Halliwell's Popular Rhymes, p. 221.

The chattering of a magpie is ranked by Bourne, p. 71, among omens. "It is unlucky," says Grose, "to see first one magpie, and then more: but to see two, denotes marriage or merriment; three, a successful journey; four, an unexpected piece of good news; five, you will shortly be in a great company." See the verses in Halliwell, ibid. p. 168.

In the Dialogue of Dives and Pauper, fol. Pynson, 1493, signat. e. 2, among superstitious practices then in use, and

censured by the author, we find the following: "Divynaciones by chyterynge of byrdes, or by fleyinge of foules."

The ancient augurs foretold things to come by the chirping or singing of certain birds, the crow, the pye, the chough, &c.: hence perhaps the observation, frequent in the mouths of old women, that when the pye chatters we shall have strangers.

It is very observable, that, according to Lambarde, in his Topographical Dictionary, p. 260, Editha persuaded her husband to build a monastery at Oseney, near Oxford, upon the chattering of pies. Magpies are ranked among omens by Shakespeare'. Reginald Scot, in his Discovery of Witchcraft, p. 95, says: "That to prognosticate that guests approach to your house, upon the chattering of pies or haggisters (haggis. ter in Kent signifies a magpie) is altogether vanity and super


In Lancashire, among the vulgar, it is accounted very unlucky to see two magpies (called there pynots, in Northum

Also in Macbeth:

"The raven rook'd her on the chimney's top,
And chattering pies in dismal discords sung."
Henry VI. act v. sc. 6.

[ocr errors]

Augurs, and understood relations, have

By magot-pies, and choughs, and rooks, brought forth
The secretst man of blood."

On which Steevens observes: "In Cotgrave's Dictionary a magpic is called magatapie." So in the Night Raven, a Satirical Collection, &c.: "I neither tattle with jackdaw

Or maggot-pye on thatch'd house straw."

Magot-pie is the original name of the bird; magot being the familiar appellation given to pies, as we say Robin to a redbreast, Tom to a titmouse, Philip to a sparrow, &c. The modern mag is the abbreviation of the ancient magot, a word which we had from the French. See Halliwell, p. 536.

In the Supplement to Johnson and Steevens's Shakespeare, 8vo. Lond. 1780, ii. 706, it is said that the magpie is called, in the west, to this hour, a magatipie, and the import of the augury is determined by the number of the birds that are seen together: "One for sorrow; two for mirth; three for a wedding; four for death." Mr. Park, in a note in his copy of Bourne and Brand's Popular Antiquities, p. 88, says that this regulation of the magpie omens is found also in Lincolnshire. He adds that the prognostic of sorrow is thought to be averted by turning thrice round.

« VorigeDoorgaan »