Page images
PDF
EPUB

temple of Diana lasted so many hundred years. The wood of the ark and olive rod of Aaron were older at the captivity; but the cypress of the ark of Noah was the greatest vegetable antiquity, if Josephus were not deceived by some fragments of it in his days. To omit the moor-logs and firtrees found underground, in many parts of England, the undated ruins of winds, floods, or earthquakes, and which in Flanders still show from what quarter they fell, as generally lying in a north-east position. (83)

But though we found not these pieces to be wood, according to first apprehension, yet we missed not altogether of some woody substance, for the bones were not so clearly picked but some coals were found amongst them. A way to make wood perpetual, and a fit associate for metal, whereon was laid the foundation of the great Ephesian temple, and which were made the lasting tests of old boundaries and landmarks. Whilst we look on these we admire not observations of coals found fresh, after four hundred years. (84) In a longdeserted habitation even egg-shells have been found fresh, not tending to corruption. (85)

In the monument of King Childerick the iron relics were found all rusty and crumbling to pieces;

(83) Gorop. Becanus in Niloscopio. The petrified woods, which I saw overthrown on the western shore of the Red Sea, had all their roots towards the east, and their top towards Egypt. Whether the cause of their overthrow, therefore, was storms or the overflowing of the sea, it is probable they fell altogether. They are now completely petrified.-ED,

(84) Of Beringuccio nella pyrotechnia. (85) At Elmeham,

but our little iron pins, which fastened the ivory works, held well together, and lost not their magnetical quality, though wanting a tenacious moisture for the firmer union of parts, although it be hardly drawn into fusion, yet that metal soon submitteth unto rust and dissolution. In the brazen pieces we admired not the duration but the freedom from rust and ill savour, upon the hardest attrition; but now exposed unto the piercing atoms of air, in the space of a few months they begin to spot and betray their green entrails. We conceive not these urns to have descended thus naked as they appear, or to have entered their graves without the old habit of flowers. The urn of Philopœmen was so laden with flowers and ribbons that it afforded no sight of itself. (8) The rigid Lycurgus allowed olive and myrtle. The Athenians might fairly except against the practice of Democritus, to be buried up in honey, as fearing to embezzle a great commodity of their country, and the best of that kind in Europe. But Plato seemed too frugally politic, who allowed no larger monument than would contain four heroic verses, and designed the most barren ground for sepulture;(7) though

(86) Here the author forgets his locality, a usual custom with an exuberant fancy.-DOUGLAS.

(67) And this I conceive to be the reason why the Britons selected the moor and waste lands for their dead. Vid. Næn.-DOUGLAS. Plato may probably have borrowed the hint from Egypt, where, very judiciously, all tombs are in the desert, bordering the valley of the Nile. Had it been otherwise, they would soon have disappeared; but, hewn as they are, in rocks, or sunk in the waste, they will probably prove colasting with the world.-ED.

we cannot commend the goodness of that sepulchral ground, which was set at no higher rate than the mean salary of Judas. Though the earth had confounded the ashes of these ossuaries, yet the bones were so smartly burnt that some thin plates of brass were found half melted among them, whereby we apprehend they were not of the meanest carcases, perfunctorily fired, as sometimes in military, and commonly in pestilence burnings; or after the manner of abject corpses, huddled forth and carelessly burnt, without the Esquiline Port at Rome, which was an affront contrived upon Tiberius, while they half burnt his body;(8) and in the Amphitheatre, according to the custom in notable malefactors; whereas Nero seemed not so much to fear his death, as that his head should be cut off, and his body not burnt entire.

Some, finding many fragments of skulls in these urns, suspected a mixture of bones. In none we searched was there cause of such conjecture, though sometimes they declined not that practice. The ashes of Domitian were mingled with those of Julia; of Achilles with those of Patroclus. All urns contained not single ashes. Without confused burnings they affectionately compounded their bones; passionately endeavouring to continue their living unions. And when distance of death denied such conjunctions, unsatisfied affections conceived some satisfaction to be neighbours in the grave, to lie urn by urn, and touch but in their

(88) Sueton. in vità Tib. c. 73. et in amphitheatro semiustulandum. Not. Casaub. And below concerning Domitian see Sueton. in vitâ.

names. And many were so curious to continue their living relations, that they contrived large and family urns, wherein the ashes of their nearest friends and kindred might successively be received, at least some parcels thereof, while their collateral memorials lay in minor vessels about them.(89)

Antiquity held too light thoughts from objects of mortality, while some drew provocatives of mirth from anatomies, (°) and jugglers showed tricks with skeletons; when fiddlers made not so pleasant mirth as fencers, and men could sit with quiet stomachs while hanging was played (9) before them. Old considerations made few mementoes by skulls and bones upon their monuments. In the Egyptian obelisks and hieroglyphical figures, it is not easy to meet with bones. The sepulchral lamps speak nothing less than sepulture; and in their literal draughts prove often obscene and antic pieces :(92) where we find D. M.(93) it is obvious to meet with sacrificing pateras, and vessels

(89) See the most learned and worthy Mr. M. Casaubon upon Antoninus.

(90) Sic erimus cuncti, &c. Ergo dum vivimus vivamus.

(91) Avxóvnv πailεv. A barbarous pastime at feasts, when men stood upon a rolling globe, with their necks in a rope, and a knife in their hands, ready to cut it when the stone was rolled away, wherein if they failed they lost their lives to the laughter of the spectators. Athenæus, IV. 42. p. 155. Casaub.

(9×) The same remark may be applied to the paintings found in the ancient tombs of Etruria and Egypt. Some of these are of a nature not to be described; but, after all, the majority are always of a different character. The object seems to have been to represent the whole circle of the deceased's history, his vices no less than his virtues, and generally, to judge from the paintings, the latter greatly outnumbered the former.-ED.

(93) Diis Manibus.

of libation, upon old sepulchral monuments. In the Jewish Hypogæum (94) and subterranean cell at Rome, was little observable besides the variety of lamps, and frequent draughts of the holy candlestick. In authentic draughts of Anthony and Jerome, we meet with thigh-bones and death's-heads : but the cemeterial cells of ancient Christians and martyrs were filled with draughts of Scripture stories; not declining the flourishes of cypress, palms, and olive: and the mystical figures of peacocks, doves, and cocks; but iterately affecting the portraits of Enoch, Lazarus, Jonas, and the vision of Ezekiel, as hopeful draughts, and hinting imagery of the resurrection; which is the life of the grave, and sweetens our habitations in the land of moles and pismires.

Gentile inscriptions precisely delivered the extent of men's lives, seldom the manner of their deaths, which history itself so often leaves obscure in the records of memorable persons. There is scarce any philosopher but dies twice or thrice in Laertius; nor almost any life without two or three deaths in Plutarch; which makes the tragical ends of noble persons more favourably resented by compassionate readers, who find some relief in the election of such differences.

1

The certainty of death is attended with uncertainties, in time, manner, place. The variety of monuments hath often obscured true graves, and cenotaphs confounded sepulchres. For, beside their real tombs, many have found honorary and empty sepulchres. The variety of Homer's monu(94) Bosio.

« PreviousContinue »