Imatges de pÓgina

their heroes. The Jews and the early christians restricted the name of Demon to beings of a malignant nature, or to devils properly so called; and it is to the early notions entertained by this people, that the outlines of later systems of demonology are to be traced.

If it

It is a question, we believe, not yet set at rest by the learned in these sort of matters, whether the word devil be singular or plural, that is to say, whether it be the name of a personage so called, standing by himself, or a noun of multitude. be singular, and used only personal as a proper name, it consequently implies one imperial devil, monarch or king of the whole clan of heil, justly distinguished by the term DEVIL, or as our northern neighbours call him "the muckle horned deil," and poetically, after Burns "auld Clootie, Nick, or Hornie," or, according to others, in a broader set form of speech, "the devil in hell," that is, the devil of a devil," or in scriptural phraseology, the great red dragon," the "Devil or Satan." But we shall not cavil on this mighty potentate's name; much less dispute his identity, notwithstanding the doubt that has been broached, whether the said devil be a real or an imaginary personage, in the shape, form, and with the faculties that have been so miraculously ascribed to him; for

[ocr errors]


If it should so fall out, as who can tell,
But there may be a God, a heav'n and hell?
Mankind had best consider well,-for fear
It be too late when their mistakes appear.

The devil has always, it would seem, been particularly partial to old women; the most ugly and hideous of whom he has invariably selected to do his bidding. Mother Shipton, for instance, our famous old English witch, of whom so many funny stories are still told, is evidently very much wronged in her picture, if she was not of the most terrible aspect imaginable; and, if it be true, Merlin, the famous Welch fortune-teller, was a most frightful figure. If we credit another story, he was begotten by "old nick" himself. To return,

however, to the devil's agents being so infernally ugly, it need merely be remarked, that from time immemorial, he has invariably preferred such rational creatures as most belied the "human form divine."

The sybils, of whom so many strange prophetic things are recorded, are all, if the Italian poets are to be credited, represented as very old women; and as if ugliness were the ne plus ultra of beauty in old age, they have given them all the hideousness of the devil himself. It will be seen, despite of all that has been said to the disadvantage of the devil, that he has very much improved in his management of worldly affairs; so much so, that, instead of an administration of witches, wizzards, magicians, diviners, astrologers, quack doctors, pettifogging lawyers, and boroughmongers, he has selected some of the wisest men as well as greatest fools of the day to carry his plans into effect. His satanic majesty seems also to have considerably improved in his taste; owing, no doubt, to the present improving state of society, and the universal diffusion

of useful knowledge. Indeed, we no longer hear of cloven-footed devils, only in a metaphorical sensefire and brimstone are extinct or nearly so; the embers of hell and eternal damnation are chiefly kept alive and blown up by ultras among the sectaries who are invariably the promoters of religious fanaticism. Beauty, wit, address, with the less shackled in mind, have superseded all that was frightful, and terrible, odious, ugly, and deformed. This subject is poetically and more beautifully illustrated in the following demonological stanzas, which are so appropriate to the occasion, that we cannot resist quoting them as a further prelude to our subjects:

When the devil for weighty despatches

Wanted messengers cunning and bold,
He pass'd by the beautiful faces

And picked out the ugly and old.

Of these he made warlocks and witches
To run of his errands by night,

Till the over-wrought hag-ridden wretches
Were as fit as the devil to fright.

But whoever has been his adviser,

As his kingdom increases in growth,
He now takes his measures much wiser,
And trafics with beauty and youth.

Disguis'd in the wanton and witty,

He haunts both the church and the court;

And sometimes he visits the city,

Where all the best christians resort.

Thus dress'd up in full masquerade,

He the bolder can range up and down
For he better can drive on his trade,

In any one's name than his own.

To be brief, the devil, it appears, is by far too cunning still for mankind, and continues to manage things in his own way, in spite of bishops, priests, laymen, and new churches. He governs the vices and propensities of men by methods peculiarly his own; though every crime or extortion, subterfuge or design, whether it be upon the purse or the

person, will not make a man a devil; it must nevertheless be confessed, that every crime, be its magnitude or complexion what it may, puts the criminal, in some measure, into the devil's power, and gives him an ascendancy and even a title to the delinquent, whom he ever afterwards treats in a very magisterial manner.

We are told that every man has his attendant evil genius, or tutelary spirit, to execute the orders of the master demon-that the attending evil angel sees every move we make upon the board; witnesses all our actions, and permits us to do mischief, and every thing that is pernicious to ourselves ; -that, on the contrary, our good spirit, actuated by more benevolent motives, is always accessary to our good actions, and reluctant to those that are bad. If this be the case, it may be fairly asked, how does it happen that those two contending spirits do not quarrel and give each other black eyes and broken heads during their rivalship for pre-eminence ?

And why does the evil tempting spirit so often prevail?

Instead of literally answering these difficult questions, it may be resolved into a good argument, as an excellent allegory to represent the struggle in the mind of man between good and evil inclinations. But to take them as they actually are, and merely to talk by way of natural consequence-for to argue from nature is certainly the best way to get to the bottom of the devil's story,-if there are good and evil spirits attending us, that is to say, a good angel and a devil, then it is no unjust reproach to say, when people follow the dietates of the latter, that the devil's in them, or that they are devils! or, to carry the simile a point farther, that as the generality, and by far the greatest number of people follow and obey the evil spirit and not the good one, and that the power predominating is allowed to be the nominating power, it must then of course be allowed that the greater part of mankind have the devil in them, which brings us to the conclusion of our argument; and in support of which the following stanzas come happily to our recollection.

To persons and places he sends his disguises,
And dresses up all his banditti,

Who, as pickpockets flock to country assizes,
Crowd up to the court and the city.

They're at every elbow, and every ear,
And ready at every call, Sir;

The vigilant scout, plants his agents about,
And has something to do with us all, Sir.

« AnteriorContinua »