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noise they assisted the sun or moon, and prevented the cælestial dragon from devouring such useful planets. Though the learned, and people of quality, are quite free from this ancient error, and are persuaded that eclipses are owing to a natural cause, yet such a prevalence has custom over them, that they will not leave their ancient ceremonies : these ceremonies are practised in the same manner in all parts of the empire.”
The subsequent passage is in Osborne's Advice to his Son, 8vo. Oxford, 1656, p. 79: “The Irish or Welch, during eclipses, run about beating kettles and pans, thinking their clamour and vexations available to the assistance of the higher orbes."
From a passage, Dr. Jamieson says, in one of Dunbar's poems, it should appear to have been customary, in former times, to swear by the moon :
“ Fra Symon saw it ferd upon this wyse,
Freyr Robert has richt weil his devoir done.”
“O, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon,
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.”
“ How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank !
Here will we sit, and let the sounds of music
This is one of the most ancient as well as one of the most popular superstitions. It is supposed to have originated in the account given in the book of Numbers, iv. 32 et seq., of
a man punished with death for gathering sticks on the Sabbath-day.
In Ritson's Ancient Songs, 8vo. 1790, p. 34, we read : “ The man in the moon is represented leaning upon a fork, on which he carries a bush of thorn, because it was for 'pycchynde stake' on a Sunday that he is reported to have been thus confined. In the Midsummer Night's Dream, Peter Quince, the carpenter, in arranging his dramatis personæ for the play before the duke, directs that One must come in with a bush of thorns and a lantern, and say, he comes in to disfigure, or to present, the person of moonshine,' which we afterwards find done. * All that I have to say,' concludes the performer of this strange part, ‘is, to tell you that the lantern is the moon; 1, the man in the moon ; this thorn bush, my thorn bush ; and this dog, my dog.' And such a character appears to have been familiar to the old English stage. Vide also Tempest, act ii. sc. 2.”
The man in the moon is thus alluded to in the second part of Dekker's Honest Whore, 4to. Lond. 1630, signat. D. 2: “ Thou art more than the moone, for thou hast neither changing quarters, nor a man standing in thy circle with a bush of thornes.” Bucler, describing an astrologer, says :
“ He made an instrument to know
Cape Snout's from Promontory Tail.” A complete collection of the old superstitions connected with the man in the moon, with all the ballads on the subject, will be found in Halliwell's Introduction to A Midsummer Night's Dream, 8vo. 1841.
I RANK this among omens, as it is an indication of some future thing, which the persons to whom it is communicated get, as it were, by accident, and without their seeking for, as is always the case in divination. Dr. Johnson, who, a few years before his death, visited the scene of the declining influence of second sight, has superseded every other account of it by what he has left us on the subject. * We should have had little claim," says he, "to the praise of curiosity, if we had not endeavoured with particular attention to examine the question of the second sight. Of an opinion received for centuries by a whole nation, and supposed to be confirmed through its whole descent by a series of successive facts, it is desirable that the truth should be established, or the fallacy detected.
“The second sight is an impression made either by the mind upon the
eye, or by the eye upon the mind, by which things distant or future are perceived and seen as if they were present. A man on a journey, far from home, falls from his horse; another, who is perhaps at work about the house, sees him bleeding on the ground, commonly with a landscape of the place where the accident befalls him. Another seer, driving home his cattle, or wandering in idleness, or musing in the sunshine, is suddenly surprised by the appearance of a bridal ceremony, or funeral procession, and counts the mourners or attendants, of whom, if he knows them, he relates the names; if he knows them not, he can describe the dresses. Things distant are seen at the instant when they happen. Of things future I know not that there is any rule for determining the time between the sight and the event.
“This receptive faculty, for power it cannot be called, is neither voluntary nor constant. The appearances have no dependence upon choice: they cannot be summoned, detained, or recalled. The impression is sudden, and the effect often painful. By the term second sight seems to be meant a mode of seeing superadded to that which nature generally bestows. In the Erse it is called taisch; which signifies likewise a spectre or a vision. I know not, nor is it likely that the Highlanders ever examined, whether by taisch, used for second sight, they mean the power of seeing or the thing
“I do not find it to be true, as it is reported, that to the second sight nothing is presented but phantoms of evil. Good seems to have the same proportion in those visionary scenes as it obtains in real life.
“ That they should often see death is to be expected, because death is an event frequent and important. But they see likewise more pleasing incidents. A gentleman told me that, when he had once gone far from his own island, one of his labouring servants predicted his return, and described the livery of his attendant, which he had never worn at home; and which had been, without any previous design, occasionally given him.
“ It is the common talk of the Lowland Scots, that the notion of the second sight is wearing away with other superstitions; and that its reality is no longer supposed but by the grossest people. How far its prevalence ever extended, or what ground it has lost, I know not. The islanders of all degrees, whether of rank or understanding, universally admit it, except the ministers, who universally deny it, and are suspected to deny it in consequence of a system, against conviction. One of them honestly told me that he came to Sky with a resolution not to believe it.
Strong reasons for incredulity will readily occur. This faculty of seeing things out of sight is local, and commonly useless. It is a breach of the common order of things, without any visible reason or perceptible benefit. It is ascribed only to a people very little enlightened ; and among them, for the most part, to the mean and ignorant.
“ To the confidence of these objections it may be replied, that, by presuming to determine what is fit and what is beneficial, they presuppose more knowledge of the universal system than man has attained, and therefore depend upon principles too complicated and extensive for our comprehension ; and that there can be no security in the consequence, when the premises are not understood : that the second sight is only wonderful because it is rare, for, considered in itself, it involves no more difficulty than dreams, or perhaps than the regular exercises of the cogitative faculty that a general opinion of communicative impulses, or visionary representa
tions, has prevailed in all ages and all nations; that particular instances have been given, with such evidence as neither Bacon por Boyle has been able to resist; that sudden impressions, which the event has verified, have been felt by more than own or publish them : that the second sight of the Hebrides implies only the local frequency of a power which is nowhere totally unknown; and that, where we are unable to decide by antecedent reason, we must be content to yield to the force of testimony.
“By pretension to second sight, no profit was ever sought or gained. It is an involuntary affection, in which neither hope nor fear are known to have any part. Those who profess to feel it do not boast of it as a privilege, nor are considered by others as advantageously distinguished. They have no temptation to feign, and their hearers have no motive to encourage the imposture. To talk with any of these seers is not easy. There is one living in Sky, with whom we would have gladly conversed; but he was very gross and ignorant, and knew no English. The proportion in these countries of the poor to the rich is such, that, if we suppose the quality to be accidental, it can rarely happen to a man of education ; and yet on such men it has sometimes fallen.
« To collect sufficient testimonies for the satisfaction of the public or ourselves would have required more time than we could bestow. There is against it, the seeming analogy of things confusedly seen and little understood ; and for it, the indistinct cry of national persuasion, which may perhaps be resolved at last into prejudice and tradition.” He concludes with observing : “I never could advance my curiosity to conviction; but came away, at last, only willing to believe.” This question of second sight has also been discussed by Dr. Beattie in his Essays, 8vo. Edinb. 1776, pp. 480-2.
In Macculloch's Western Islands of Scotland, 1819, ii. 32, the author says: “To have circumnavigated the Western Isles without even mentioning the second sight would be unpardonable. No inhabitant of St. Kilda pretended to bave been forewarned of our arrival. In fact it has undergone the fate of witchcraft; ceasing to be believed, it has ceased to exist."
Jamieson (Etymolog. Dict. Supplement) defines second sight, a power believed to be possessed by not a few in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, of foreseeing future events,