Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

in Rome, because it was considered the principal ingredient. This, however, is not probable.

In Paris, the famous poudre de succession (also a secret poison) was at one time supposed to consist of diamond dust, powdered exceedingly fine; and at another time, to contain sugar of lead as the principal ingredient. Haller was of this last opinion. In the casket of St. Croix were found sublimate, opium, regulus of antimony, vitriol, and a large quantity of poison ready prepared, the principal ingredients of which the physicians were not able to detect. Garelli, physician to Charles VI, King of the Two Sicilies, at the time when Tofania was arrested, wrote to the celebrated Hoffman, that the Aqua Tofania was nothing else than crystallized arsenic, dissolved in a large quantity of water by decoction, with the addition, (but for what purpose we know not) of the herb Cymbalaria, (probably the Antirrhinum Cymbalaria). And this information he observes, was communicated to him by his imperial majesty himself, to whom the judicial procedure, confirmed by the confession of the criminal, was transmitted. But it was objected to this opinion, that it differed from the ordinary effects of arsenic, in never betraying itself by any particular action on the human body.

The Abbé Gagliani, on the other hand, asserts that it is a mixture of opium and cantharides, and that the liquor obtained from its composition, is as limpid as rock water, and without taste. Its effects are slow, and almost imperceptible. Beckman appears to favour this idea, and suggests that a similar poison

is used in the East, under the name of powst, being water that had stood a night over the juice of poppies. It is given to princes, whom it is wished to despatch privately; and produces loss of strength and understanding, so that they die in the end, torpid and insensible.*

The following extract will show that secret poisoning has penetrated into the forests of America. “The celebrated chief, Blackbird of the Omawhaws, gained great reputation as a medicine man; his adversaries fell rapidly before his potent spells. His medicine was arsenic, furnished him for this purpose by the villainy of the traders."†

*Beckman, vol 1, p. 74 to 103.

+ See Major Long's expedition, vol. 1. p. 226.

CHAPTER XIX.

ON THE ORIGIN AND SUPERSTITIOUS INFLUENCE
OF RINGS.

THE ancient magicians, among other pretended extraordinary powers of accomplishing wonderful things by their superior knowledge of the secret powers of nature, of the virtues of plants and minerals, and of the motions and influence of the stars, attached no small degree of mystic importance to rings, the origin of which, their matter and uses, together with the supposed virtues of the stones set in them, afford a subject squaring so much with our design, and so deserving of notice from the curious, that no apology need be made for discoursing on them.

According to the accounts of the heathen mythologists, Prometheus, who, in the first times, had discovered a great number of secrets, having been delivered from the charms, by which he was fastened to mount Caucasus for stealing fire from heaven, in memory or acknowledgment of the favour he received from Jupi. ter, made himself of one of those chains, a ring, in whose collet he represented the figure of part of the rock where he had been detained-or rather, as Pliny

says, set it in a bit of the same rock, and put it on his finger. This was the first ring and the first stone. But we otherwise learn, that the use of rings is very ancient, and the Egyptians were the first inventors of them; which seems confirmed by the person of Joseph, who, as we read (Genesis, chap, xi.) for having interpreted Pharoah's dream, received not only his liberty, but was rewarded with his prince's ring, a collar of gold, and the superintendancy of Egypt.

Josephus, in the third book of Jewish antiquities says, the Israelites had the use of them after passing the Red Sea, because Moses at his return from Mount Sinai, found that they had forged the golden calf from their wives' rings, enriched with precious stones. The same Moses, upwards of 400 years before the wars of Troy, permitted the priests he had established, the use of gold rings, enriched with precious stones. The high priest wore upon his ephod, which was a kind of camail, rich rings, that served as clasps; a large emerald was set and engraved with mysterious names. The ring he wore on his finger was of inestimable value and celestial virtue. Had not Aaron, the high priest of the Hebrews, a ring on his finger, whereof the diamond, by its virtues, operated prodigious things? For it changed its vivid lustre into a dark colour, when the Hebrews were to be punished by death for their sins. When they were to fall by the sword it appeared of a blood colour; if they were innocent it sparkled as usual.

It is observable that the ancient Hebrews used rings even in the time of the wars of Troy. Queen Jezebel, to destroy Nabath, as it is related in the first

Book of Kings, made use of the ring of Ahab, King of the Israelites, her husband, to seal the counterfeit letters that ordered the death of that unfortunate man. Did not Judah, as mentioned in the 38th chapter of Genesis, abuse his daughter-in-law, Thamar, who had disguised herself, by giving her his ring and bracelets, as a pledge of the faith he had promised her?

Though Homer is silent in regard to rings, both in his Iliad and Odyssey, they were, notwithstanding, used in the time of the Greeks and Trojans; and from them they were received by several other nations. The Lacedemonians, as related by Alexander, ab. Alexandro, pursuant to the orders of their king, Lycurgus, had only iron rings, despising those of gold; either their king was thereby willing to retrench luxury, or to prohibit the use of them.

The ring was reputed, by some nations, a symbol of liberality, esteem, and friendship, particularly among the Persians, none being permitted to wear any, except they were given by the king himself. This is what may also be remarked in the person of Apollonius Thyaneus, as a token of singular esteem and liberality, received one from the great Iarchas, prince of the Gymnosophists, who were the ancient priests of India and dwelt in forests, as our ancient bards and druids, where they applied themselves to the study of wisdom, and to the speculation of the heaven and stars. This philosopher, by the means of that ring, learned every day the secrets of nature.

Though the ring found by Gyges, shepherd to the King of Lydia, has more of fable than of truth in it,

« AnteriorContinua »