Saturday, May 26, 2018
Lilith and Ancient Demonology by Moncure Daniel Conway, M.A. 1879
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The attempt of the compilers of the Book of Genesis to amalgamate the Elohist and Jehovist legends, ignoring the moral abyss that yawns between them, led to some sufficiently curious results. One of these it may be well enough to examine here, since, though later in form than some other legends which remain to be considered, it is closely connected in spirit with the ancient myth of Eden and illustrative of it.
The differences between the two creations of man and woman critically examined in the previous chapter were fully recognised by the ancient rabbins, and their speculations on the subject laid the basis for the further legend that the woman created (Gen. i.) at the same time with Adam, and therefore not possibly the woman formed from his rib, was a first wife who turned out badly.
To this first wife of Adam it was but natural to assign the name of one of the many ancient goddesses who had been degraded into demonesses. For the history of Mariolatry in the North of Europe has been many times anticipated: the mother’s tenderness and self-devotion, the first smile of love upon social chaos, availed to give every race its Madonna, whose popularity drew around her the fatal favours of priestcraft, weighing her down at last to be a type of corruption. Even the Semitic tribes, with their hard masculine deities, seem to have once worshipped Alilat, whose name survives in Elohim and Allah. Among these degraded Madonnas was Lilith, whose name has been found in a Chaldean inscription, which says, when a country is at peace ‘Lilith (Lilatu) is not before them.’ The name is from Assyr. lay’lâ, Hebrew Lil (night), which already in Accadian meant ‘sorcery.’ It probably personified, at first, the darkness that soothed children to slumber; and though the word Lullaby has, with more ingenuity than accuracy, been derived from Lilith Abi, the theory may suggest the path by which the soft Southern night came to mean a nocturnal spectre.
The only place where the name of Lilith occurs in the Bible is Isa. xxxiv. 14, where the English version renders it ‘screech-owl.’ In the Vulgate it is translated ‘Lamia,’ and in Luther’s Bible, ‘Kobold;’ Gesenius explains it as ‘nocturna, night-spectre, ghost.’
The rabbinical myths concerning Lilith, often passed over as puerile fancies, appear to me pregnant with significance and beauty. Thus Abraham Ecchelensis, giving a poor Arabic version of the legend, says, ‘This fable has been transmitted to the Arabs from Jewish sources by some converts of Mahomet from Cabbalism and Rabbinism, who have transferred all the Jewish fooleries to the Arabs.’ But the rabbinical legend grew very slowly, and relates to principles and facts of social evolution whose force and meaning are not yet exhausted.
Premising that the legend is here pieced together mainly from Eisenmenger, who at each mention of the subject gives ample references to rabbinical authorities, I will relate it without further references of my own.
Lilith was said to have been created at the same time and in the same way as Adam; and when the two met they instantly quarrelled about the headship which both claimed. Adam began the first conversation by asserting that he was to be her master. Lilith replied that she had equal right to be chief. Adam insisting, Lilith uttered a certain spell called Schem-hammphorasch—afterwards confided by a fallen angel to one of ‘the daughters of men’ with whom he had an intrigue, and of famous potency in Jewish folklore—the result of which was that she obtained wings. Lilith then flew out of Eden and out of sight. Adam then cried in distress—‘Master of the world, the woman whom thou didst give me has flown away.’ The Creator then sent three angels to find Lilith and persuade her to return to the garden; but she declared that it could be no paradise to her if she was to be the servant of man. She remained hovering over the Red Sea, where the angels had found her, while these returned with her inflexible resolution. And she would not yield even after the angels had been sent again to convey to her, as the alternative of not returning, the doom that she should bear many children but these should all die in infancy.
This penalty was so awful that Lilith was about to commit suicide by drowning herself in the sea, when the three angels, moved by her anguish, agreed that she should have the compensation of possessing full power over all children after birth up to their eighth day; on which she promised that she would never disturb any babes who were under their (the angels’) protection. Hence the charm (Camea) against Lilith hung round the necks of Jewish children bore the names of these three angels—Senói, Sansenói, and Sammangelóf. Lilith has special power over all children born out of wedlock for whom she watches, dressed in finest raiment; and she has especial power on the first day of the month, and on the Sabbath evening. When a little child laughs in its sleep it was believed that Lilith was with it, and the babe must be struck on the nose three times, the words being thrice repeated—‘Away, cursed Lilith! thou hast no place here!’
The divorce between Lilith and Adam being complete, the second Eve (i.e., Mother) was now formed, and this time out of Adam’s rib in order that there might be no question of her dependence, and that the embarrassing question of woman’s rights might never be raised again.
But about this time the Devils were also created. These beings were the last of the six days’ creation, but they were made so late in the day that there was no daylight by which to fashion bodies for them. The Creator was just putting them off with a promise that he would make them bodies next day, when lo! the Sabbath—which was for a long time personified—came and sat before him, to represent the many evils which might result from the precedent he would set by working even a little on the day whose sanctity had already been promulgated. Under these circumstances the Creator told the Devils that they must disperse and try to get bodies as they could find them. On this account they have been compelled ever since to seek carnal enjoyments by nestling in the hearts of human beings and availing themselves of human senses and passions.
These Devils as created were ethereal spirits; they had certain atmospheric forms, but felt that they had been badly treated in not having been provided with flesh and blood, and they were envious of the carnal pleasures which human beings could enjoy. So long as man and woman remained pure, the Devils could not take possession of their bodies and enjoy such pleasures, and it was therefore of great importance to them that the first human pair should be corrupted. At the head of these Devils stood now a fallen angel—Samaël. Of this archfiend more is said elsewhere; at this point it need only be said that he had been an ideal flaming Serpent, leader of the Seraphim. He was already burning with lust and envy, as he witnessed the pleasures of Adam and Eve in Eden, when he found beautiful Lilith lamenting her wrongs in loneliness.
She became his wife. The name of Samaël by one interpretation signifies ‘the Left’; and we may suppose that Lilith found him radical on the question of female equality which she had raised in Eden. He gave her a splendid kingdom where she was attended by 480 troops; but all this could not compensate her for the loss of Eden,—she seems never to have regretted parting with Adam,—and for the loss of her children. She remained the Lady of Sorrow. Her great enemy was Machalath who presided over 478 troops, and who was for ever dancing, as Lilith was for ever sighing and weeping. It was long believed that at certain times the voice of Lilith’s grief could be heard in the air.
Samaël found in Lilith a willing conspirator against Jehovah in his plans for man and woman. The corruption of these two meant, to the troops of Samaël, bringing their bodies down into a plane where they might be entered by themselves (the Devils), not to mention at present the manifold other motives by which they were actuated. It may be remarked also that in the rabbinical traditions, after their Aryan impregnation, there are traces of a desire of the Devils to reach the Tree of Life.
Truly a wondrous Tree! Around it, in its place at the east of Eden, sang six hundred thousand lovely angels with happy hymns, and it glorified the vast garden. It possessed five hundred thousand different flavours and odours, which were wafted to the four sides of the world by zephyrs from seven lustrous clouds that made its canopy. Beneath it sat the disciples of Wisdom on resplendent seats, screened from the blaze of sun, moon, and cloud-veiled from potency of the stars (there was no night); and within were the joys referred to in the verse (Prov. viii. 21), ‘That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures.’
Had there been an order of female rabbins the story of Lilith might have borne obvious modifications, and she might have appeared as a heroine anxious to rescue her sex from slavery to man. As it is the immemorial prerogative of man to lay all blame upon woman, that being part of the hereditary following of Adam, it is not wonderful that Lilith was in due time made responsible for the temptation of Eve. She was supposed to have beguiled the Serpent on guard at the gate of Eden to lend her his form for a time, after which theory the curse on the serpent might mean the binding of Lilith for ever in that form. This would appear to have originated the notion mentioned in Comestor (Hist. Schol., 12th cent.), that while the serpent was yet erect it had a virgin’s head. The accompanying example is from a very early missal in the possession of Sir Joseph Hooker, of which I could not discover the date or history, but the theory is traceable in the eighth century. In this picture we have an early example of those which have since become familiar in old Bibles. Pietro d’Orvieto painted this serpent-woman in his finest fresco, at Pisa. Perhaps in no other picture has the genius of Michæl Angelo been more felicitous than in that on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, in which Lilith is portrayed. In this picture the marvellous beauty of his first wife appears to have awakened the enthusiasm of Adam; and, indeed, it is quite in harmony with the earlier myth that Lilith should be of greater beauty than Eve.
An artist and poet of our own time (Rossetti) has by both of his arts celebrated the fatal beauty of Lilith. His Lilith, bringing ‘soft sleep,’ antedates, as I think, the fair devil of the Rabbins, but is also the mediæval witch against whose beautiful locks Mephistopheles warns Faust when she appears at the Walpurgis-night orgie.
The rose and poppy are her flowers; for where
Is he not found, O Lilith, whom shed scent
And soft-shed kisses and soft sleep shall snare?
Lo! as that youth’s eyes burned at thine, so went
Thy spell through him, and left his straight neck bent,
And round his heart one strangling golden hair.
The potency of Lilith’s tresses has probably its origin in the hairy nature ascribed by the Rabbins to all demons (shedim), and found fully represented in Esau. Perhaps the serpent-locks of Medusa had a similar origin. Nay, there is a suggestion in Dante that these tresses of Medusa may have once represented fascinating rather than horrible serpents. As she approaches, Virgil is alarmed for his brother-poet:
‘Turn thyself back, and keep thy vision hid;
For, if the Gorgon show, and then behold,
’Twould all be o’er with e’er returning up.’
So did the master say; and he himself
Turned me, and to my own hands trusted not,
But that with his too he should cover me.
O you that have a sane intelligence,
Look ye unto the doctrine which herein
Conceals itself ’neath the strange verses’ veil.
If this means that the security against evil is to veil the eyes from it, Virgil’s warning would be against a beautiful seducer, similar to the warning given by Mephistopheles to Faust against the fatal charms of Lilith. Since, however, even in the time of Homer, the Gorgon was a popular symbol of terrors, the possibility of a survival in Dante’s mind of any more primitive association with Medusa is questionable. The Pauline doctrine, that the glory of a woman is her hair, no doubt had important antecedents: such glory might easily be degraded, and every hair turn to a fatal ‘binder,’ like the one golden thread of Lilith round the heart of her victim; or it might ensnare its owner. In Treves Cathedral there is a curious old picture of a woman carried to hell by her beautiful hair; one devil draws her by it, another is seated on her back and drives her by locks of it as a bridle.
In the later developments of the myth of Lilith she was, among the Arabs, transformed to a Ghoul, but in rabbinical legend she appears to have been influenced by the story of Lamia, whose name is substituted for Lilith in the Vulgate. Like Lilith, Lamia was robbed of her children, and was driven by despair to avenge herself on all children.5 The name of Lamia was long used to frighten Italian children, as that of Lilith was by Hebrew nurses.
It is possible that the part assigned to Lilith in the temptation of Eve may have been suggested by ancient Egyptian sculptures, which represent the Tree of Life in Amenti (Paradise) guarded by the Serpent-goddess Nu. One of these in the British Museum represents the Osirian on his journey to heaven, and his soul in form of a human-headed bird, drinking the water of Life as poured out to them from a jar by the goddess who coils around the sacred sycamore, her woman’s bust and face appearing amid the branches much like Lilith in our old pictures.
The Singhalese also have a kind of Lilith or Lamia whom they call Bodrima, though she is not so much dreaded for the sake of children as for her vindictive feelings towards men. She is the ghost of a woman who died in childbirth and in great agony. She may be heard wailing in the night, it is said, and if she meets any man will choke him to death. When her wailing is heard men are careful to stay within doors, but the women go forth with brooms in their hands and abuse Bodrima with epithets. She fears women, especially when they carry brooms. But the women have also some compassion for this poor ghost, and often leave a lamp and some betel leaves where she may get some warmth and comfort from them. If Bodrima be fired at, there may be found, perhaps, a dead lizard near the spot in the morning.
As protomartyr of female independence, Lilith suffered a fate not unlike that of her sisters and successors in our own time who have appealed from the legendary decision made in Eden: she became the prototype of the ‘strong-minded’ and ‘cold-hearted’ woman, and personification of the fatal fascination of the passionless. Her special relation to children was gradually expanded, and she was regarded as the perilous seducer of young men, each of her victims perishing of unrequited passion. She was ever young, and always dressed with great beauty. It would seem that the curse upon her for forsaking Adam—that her children should die in infancy—was escaped in the case of the children she had by Samaël. She was almost as prolific as Echidna. Through all the latter rabbinical lore it is repeated, ‘Samaël is the fiery serpent, Lilith the crooked serpent,’ and from their union came Leviathan, Asmodeus, and indeed most of the famous devils.
There is an ancient Persian legend of the first man and woman, Meschia and Meschiane, that they for a long time lived happily together: they hunted together, and discovered fire, and made an axe, and with it built them a hut. But no sooner had they thus set up housekeeping than they fought terribly, and, after wounding each other, parted. It is not said which remained ruler of the hut, but we learn that after fifty years of divorce they were reunited.
These legends show the question of equality of the sexes to have been a very serious one in early times. The story of Meschia and Meschiane fairly represents primitive man living by the hunt; that of Eden shows man entering on the work of agriculture. In neither of these occupations would there be any reason why woman should be so unequal as to set in motion the forces which have diminished her physical stature and degraded her position. Women can still hunt and fish, and they are quite man’s equal in tilling the soil.6
In all sex-mythology there are intimations that women were taken captive. The proclamation of female subordination is made not only in the legend of Eve’s creation out of the man’s rib, but in the emphasis with which her name is declared to have been given her because she was the Mother of all living. In the variously significant legends of the Amazons they are said to have burned away their breasts that they might use the bow: in the history of contemporary Amazons—such as the female Areoi of Polynesia—the legend is interpreted in the systematic slaughter of their children. In the hunt, Meschia might be aided by Meschiane in many ways; in dressing the garden Adam might find Lilith or Eve a ‘help meet’ for the work; but in the brutal régime of war the child disables woman, and the affections of maternity render her man’s inferior in the work of butchery. Herakles wins great glory by slaying Hyppolite; but the legends of her later reappearances—as Libussa at Prague, &c.,—follow the less mythological story of the Amazons given by Herodotus (IV. 112), who represents the Scythians as gradually disarming them by sending out their youths to meet them with dalliance instead of with weapons. The youths went off with their captured captors, and from their union sprang the Sauromatæ, among whom the men and women dressed alike, and fought and hunted together. But of the real outcome of that truce and union Tennyson can tell us more than Herodotus: in his Princess we see the woman whom maternity and war have combined to produce, her independence betrayed by the tenderness of her nature. The surrender, once secured, was made permanent for ages by the sentiments and sympathies born of the child’s appeal for compassion.
In primitive ages the child must in many cases have been a burthen even to man in the struggle for existence; the population question could hardly have failed to press its importance upon men, as it does even upon certain animals; and it would be an especial interest to a man not to have his hut overrun with offspring not his own,—turning his fair labour into drudgery for their support, and so cursing the earth for him. Thus, while Polyandry was giving rise to the obvious complications under which it must ultimately disappear, it would be natural that devils of lust should be invented to restrain the maternal instinct. But as time went on the daughters of Eve would have taken the story of her fall and hardships too much to heart. The pangs and perils of childbirth were ever-present monitors whose warnings might be followed too closely. The early Jewish laws bear distinct traces of the necessity which had arrived for insisting on the command to increase and multiply. Under these changed circumstances it would be natural that the story of a recusant and passionless Eve should arise and suffer the penalties undergone by Lilith,—the necessity of bearing, as captive, a vast progeny against her will only to lose them again, and to long for human children she did not bring forth and could not cherish. The too passionate and the passionless woman are successively warned in the origin and outcome of the myth.7
It is a suggestive fact that the descendants of Adam should trace their fall not to the independent Lilith, who asserted her equality at cost of becoming the Devil’s bride, but to the apparently submissive Eve who stayed inside the garden. The serpent found out the guarded and restrained woman as well as the free and defiant, and with much more formidable results. For craft is the only weapon of the weak against the strong. The submissiveness of the captive woman must have been for a long time outward only. When Adam found himself among thorns and briars he might have questioned whether much had been gained by calling Eve his rib, when after all she really was a woman, and prepared to take her intellectual rights from the Serpent if denied her in legitimate ways. The question is, indeed, hardly out of date yet when the genius of woman is compelled to act with subtlety and reduced to exert its influence too often by intrigue.
It is remarkable that we find something like a similar development to the two wives of Adam in Hindu mythology also. Káli and Dúrga have the same origin: the former is represented dancing on the prostrate form of her ‘lord and master,’ and she becomes the demoness of violence, the mother of the diabolical ‘Calas’ of Singhalese demonolatry. Dúrga sacrificed herself for her husband’s honour, and is now adored. The counterpart of Dúrga-worship is the Zenana system. In countries where the Zenana system has not survived, but some freedom has been gained for woman, it is probable that Káli will presently not be thought of as necessarily trampling on man, and Lilith not be regarded as the Devil’s wife because she will not submit to be the slave of man. When man can make him a home and garden which shall not be a prison, and in which knowledge is unforbidden fruit, Lilith will not have to seek her liberty by revolution against his society, nor Eve hers by intrigue; unfitness for co-operation with the ferocities of nature will leave her a help meet for the rearing of children, and for the recovery and culture of every garden, whether within or without the man who now asserts over woman a lordship unnatural and unjust.
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Friday, May 25, 2018
The Werewolf by Eugene Field 1911
In the reign of Egbert the Saxon there dwelt in Britain a maiden named Yseult, who was beloved of all, both for her goodness and for her beauty. But, though many a youth came wooing her, she loved Harold only, and to him she plighted her troth.
Among the other youth of whom Yseult was beloved was Alfred, and he was sore angered that Yseult showed favor to Harold, so that one day Alfred said to Harold: "Is it right that old Siegfried should come from his grave and have Yseult to wife?" Then added he, "Prithee, good sir, why do you turn so white when I speak your grandsire's name?"
Then Harold asked, "What know you of Siegfried that you taunt me? What memory of him should vex me now?"
"We know and we know," retorted Alfred. "There are some tales told us by our grandmas we have not forgot."
So ever after that Alfred's words and Alfred's bitter smile haunted Harold by day and night.
Harold's grandsire, Siegfried the Teuton, had been a man of cruel violence. The legend said that a curse rested upon him, and that at certain times he was possessed of an evil spirit that wreaked its fury on mankind. But Siegfried had been dead full many years, and there was naught to mind the world of him save the legend and a cunning-wrought spear which he had from Brunehilde, the witch. This spear was such a weapon that it never lost its brightness, nor had its point been blunted. It hung in Harold's chamber, and it was the marvel among weapons of that time.
Yseult knew that Alfred loved her, but she did not know of the bitter words which Alfred had spoken to Harold. Her love for Harold was perfect in its trust and gentleness. But Alfred had hit the truth: the curse of old Siegfried was upon Harold—slumbering a century, it had awakened in the blood of the grandson, and Harold knew the curse that was upon him, and it was this that seemed to stand between him and Yseult. But love is stronger than all else, and Harold loved.
Harold did not tell Yseult of the curse that was upon him, for he feared that she would not love him if she knew. Whensoever he felt the fire of the curse burning in his veins he would say to her, "To-morrow I hunt the wild boar in the uttermost forest," or, "Next week I go stag-stalking among the distant northern hills." Even so it was that he ever made good excuse for his absence, and Yseult thought no evil things, for she was trustful; ay, though he went many times away and was long gone, Yseult suspected no wrong. So none beheld Harold when the curse was upon him in its violence.
Alfred alone bethought himself of evil things. "'T is passing strange," quoth he, "that ever and anon this gallant lover should quit our company and betake himself whither none knoweth. In sooth 't will be well to have an eye on old Siegfried's grandson."
Harold knew that Alfred watched him zealously, and he was tormented by a constant fear that Alfred would discover the curse that was on him; but what gave him greater anguish was the fear that mayhap at some moment when he was in Yseult's presence, the curse would seize upon him and cause him to do great evil unto her, whereby she would be destroyed or her love for him would be undone forever. So Harold lived in terror, feeling that his love was hopeless, yet knowing not how to combat it.
Now, it befell in those times that the country round about was ravaged of a werewolf, a creature that was feared by all men howe'er so valorous. This werewolf was by day a man, but by night a wolf given to ravage and to slaughter, and having a charmed life against which no human agency availed aught. Wheresoever he went he attacked and devoured mankind, spreading terror and desolation round about, and the dream-readers said that the earth would not be freed from the werewolf until some man offered himself a voluntary sacrifice to the monster's rage.
Now, although Harold was known far and wide as a mighty huntsman, he had never set forth to hunt the werewolf, and, strange enow, the werewolf never ravaged the domain while Harold was therein. Whereat Alfred marvelled much, and oftentimes he said: "Our Harold is a wondrous huntsman. Who is like unto him in stalking the timid doe and in crippling the fleeing boar? But how passing well doth he time his absence from the haunts of the werewolf. Such valor beseemeth our young Siegfried."
Which being brought to Harold his heart flamed with anger, but he made no answer, lest he should betray the truth he feared.
It happened so about that time that Yseult said to Harold, "Wilt thou go with me to-morrow even to the feast in the sacred grove?"
"That can I not do," answered Harold. "I am privily summoned hence to Normandy upon a mission of which I shall some time tell thee. And I pray thee, on thy love for me, go not to the feast in the sacred grove without me."
"What say'st thou?" cried Yseult. "Shall I not go to the feast of Ste. Aelfreda? My father would be sore displeased were I not there with the other maidens. 'T were greatest pity that I should despite his love thus."
"But do not, I beseech thee," Harold implored. "Go not to the feast of Ste. Aelfreda in the sacred grove! And thou would thus love me, go not—see, thou my life, on my two knees I ask it!"
"How pale thou art," said Yseult, "and trembling."
"Go not to the sacred grove upon the morrow night," he begged.
Yseult marvelled at his acts and at his speech. Then, for the first time, she thought him to be jealous—whereat she secretly rejoiced (being a woman).
"Ah," quoth she, "thou dost doubt my love," but when she saw a look of pain come on his face she added—as if she repented of the words she had spoken—"or dost thou fear the werewolf?"
Then Harold answered, fixing his eyes on hers, "Thou hast said it; it is the werewolf that I fear."
"Why dost thou look at me so strangely, Harold?" cried Yseult. "By the cruel light in thine eyes one might almost take thee to be the werewolf!"
"Come hither, sit beside me," said Harold tremblingly, "and I will tell thee why I fear to have thee go to the feast of Ste. Aelfreda to-morrow evening. Hear what I dreamed last night. I dreamed I was the werewolf—do not shudder, dear love, for 't was only a dream.
"A grizzled old man stood at my bedside and strove to pluck my soul from my bosom.
"'What would'st thou?' I cried.
"'Thy soul is mine,' he said, 'thou shalt live out my curse. Give me thy soul—hold back thy hands—give me thy soul, I say.'
"'Thy curse shall not be upon me,' I cried. 'What have I done that thy curse should rest upon me? Thou shalt not have my soul.'
"'For my offence shalt thou suffer, and in my curse thou shalt endure hell—it is so decreed.'
"So spake the old man, and he strove with me, and he prevailed against me, and he plucked my soul from my bosom, and he said, 'Go, search and kill'—and—and lo, I was a wolf upon the moor.
"The dry grass crackled beneath my tread. The darkness of the night was heavy and it oppressed me. Strange horrors tortured my soul, and it groaned and groaned, gaoled in that wolfish body. The wind whispered to me; with its myriad voices it spake to me and said, 'Go, search and kill.' And above these voices sounded the hideous laughter of an old man. I fled the moor—whither I knew not, nor knew I what motive lashed me on.
"I came to a river and I plunged in. A burning thirst consumed me, and I lapped the waters of the river—they were waves of flame, and they flashed around me and hissed, and what they said was, 'Go, search and kill,' and I heard the old man's laughter again.
"A forest lay before me with its gloomy thickets and its sombre shadows—with its ravens, its vampires, its serpents, its reptiles, and all its hideous brood of night. I darted among its thorns and crouched amid the leaves, the nettles, and the brambles. The owls hooted at me and the thorns pierced my flesh. 'Go, search and kill,' said everything. The hares sprang from my pathway; the other beasts ran bellowing away; every form of life shrieked in my ears—the curse was on me—I was the werewolf.
"On, on I went with the fleetness of the wind, and my soul groaned in its wolfish prison, and the winds and the waters and the trees bade me, 'Go, search and kill, thou accursed brute; go, search and kill.'
"Nowhere was there pity for the wolf; what mercy, thus, should I, the werewolf, show? The curse was on me and it filled me with a hunger and a thirst for blood. Skulking on my way within myself I cried, 'Let me have blood, oh, let me have human blood, that this wrath may be appeased, that this curse may be removed.'
"At last I came to the sacred grove. Sombre loomed the poplars, the oaks frowned upon me. Before me stood an old man—'twas he, grizzled and taunting, whose curse I bore. He feared me not. All other living things fled before me, but the old man feared me not. A maiden stood beside him. She did not see me, for she was blind.
"Kill, kill,' cried the old man, and he pointed at the girl beside him.
"Hell raged within me—the curse impelled me—I sprang at her throat. I heard the old man's laughter once more, and then—then I awoke, trembling, cold, horrified."
Scarce was this dream told when Alfred strode that way.
"Now, by'r Lady," quoth he, "I bethink me never to have seen a sorrier twain."
Then Yseult told him of Harold's going away and how that Harold had besought her not to venture to the feast of Ste. Aelfreda in the sacred grove.
"These fears are childish," cried Alfred boastfully. "And thou sufferest me, sweet lady, I will bear thee company to the feast, and a score of my lusty yeomen with their good yew-bows and honest spears, they shall attend me. There be no werewolf, I trow, will chance about with us."
Whereat Yseult laughed merrily, and Harold said: "'T is well; thou shalt go to the sacred grove, and may my love and Heaven's grace forefend all evil."
Then Harold went to his abode, and he fetched old Siegfried's spear back unto Yseult, and he gave it into her two hands, saying, "Take this spear with thee to the feast to-morrow night. It is old Siegfried's spear, possessing mighty virtue and marvellous."
And Harold took Yseult to his heart and blessed her, and he kissed her upon her brow and upon her lips, saying, "Farewell, oh, my beloved. How wilt thou love me when thou know'st my sacrifice. Farewell, farewell forever, oh, alder-liefest mine."
So Harold went his way, and Yseult was lost in wonderment.
On the morrow night came Yseult to the sacred grove wherein the feast was spread, and she bore old Siegfried's spear with her in her girdle. Alfred attended her, and a score of lusty yeomen were with him. In the grove there was great merriment, and with singing and dancing and games withal did the honest folk celebrate the feast of the fair Ste. Aelfreda.
But suddenly a mighty tumult arose, and there were cries of "The werewolf!" "The werewolf!" Terror seized upon all—stout hearts were frozen with fear. Out from the further forest rushed the werewolf, wood wroth, bellowing hoarsely, gnashing his fangs and tossing hither and thither the yellow foam from his snapping jaws. He sought Yseult straight, as if an evil power drew him to the spot where she stood. But Yseult was not afeared; like a marble statue she stood and saw the werewolf's coming. The yeomen, dropping their torches and casting aside their bows, had fled; Alfred alone abided there to do the monster battle.
At the approaching wolf he hurled his heavy lance, but as it struck the werewolf's bristling back the weapon was all to-shivered.
Then the werewolf, fixing his eyes upon Yseult, skulked for a moment in the shadow of the yews and thinking then of Harold's words, Yseult plucked old Siegfried's spear from her girdle, raised it on high, and with the strength of despair sent it hurtling through the air.
The werewolf saw the shining weapon, and a cry burst from his gaping throat—a cry of human agony. And Yseult saw in the werewolf's eyes the eyes of some one she had seen and known, but 't was for an instant only, and then the eyes were no longer human, but wolfish in their ferocity. A supernatural force seemed to speed the spear in its flight. With fearful precision the weapon smote home and buried itself by half its length in the werewolf's shaggy breast just above the heart, and then, with a monstrous sigh—as if he yielded up his life without regret—the werewolf fell dead in the shadow of the yews.
Then, ah, then in very truth there was great joy, and loud were the acclaims, while, beautiful in her trembling pallor, Yseult was led unto her home, where the people set about to give great feast to do her homage, for the werewolf was dead, and she it was that had slain him.
But Yseult cried out: "Go, search for Harold—go, bring him to me. Nor eat, nor sleep till he be found."
"Good my lady," quoth Alfred, "how can that be, since he hath betaken himself to Normandy?"
"I care not where he be," she cried. "My heart stands still until I look into his eyes again."
"Surely he hath not gone to Normandy," outspake Hubert. "This very eventide I saw him enter his abode."
They hastened thither—a vast company. His chamber door was barred.
"Harold, Harold, come forth!" they cried, as they beat upon the door, but no answer came to their calls and knockings. Afeared, they battered down the door, and when it fell they saw that Harold lay upon his bed.
"He sleeps," said one. "See, he holds a portrait in his hand—and it is her portrait. How fair he is and how tranquilly he sleeps."
But no, Harold was not asleep. His face was calm and beautiful, as if he dreamed of his beloved, but his raiment was red with the blood that streamed from a wound in his breast—a gaping, ghastly spear wound just above his heart.
Schopenhauer on the Importance of Latin
For a list of all of my disks, with links click here
See also Learn the Latin Language - 60 Books on CDrom and 350 Books on German Philosophy on DVDrom (Kant, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Hegel etc)
The abolition of Latin as the universal language of learned men, together with the rise of that provincialism which attaches to national literatures, has been a real misfortune for the cause of knowledge in Europe. For it was chiefly through the medium of the Latin language that a learned public existed in Europe at all—a public to which every book as it came out directly appealed. The number of minds in the whole of Europe that are capable of thinking and judging is small, as it is; but when the audience is broken up and severed by differences of language, the good these minds can do is very much weakened. This is a great disadvantage; but a second and worse one will follow, namely, that the ancient languages will cease to be taught at all. The neglect of them is rapidly gaining ground both in France and Germany.
If it should really come to this, then farewell, humanity! farewell, noble taste and high thinking! The age of barbarism will return, in spite of railways, telegraphs and balloons. We shall thus in the end lose one more advantage possessed by all our ancestors. For Latin is not only a key to the knowledge of Roman antiquity; its also directly opens up to us the Middle Age in every country in Europe, and modern times as well, down to about the year 1750. Erigena, for example, in the ninth century, John of Salisbury in the twelfth, Raimond Lully in the thirteenth, with a hundred others, speak straight to us in the very language that they naturally adopted in thinking of learned matters.
They thus come quite close to us even at this distance of time: we are in direct contact with them, and really come to know them. How would it have been if every one of them spoke in the language that was peculiar to his time and country? We should not understand even the half of what they said. A real intellectual contact with them would be impossible. We should see them like shadows on the farthest horizon, or, may be, through the translator's telescope.
It was with an eye to the advantage of writing in Latin that Bacon, as he himself expressly states, proceeded to translate his Essays into that language, under the title Sermones fideles; at which work Hobbes assisted him.
[Footnote 1: Cf. Thomae Hobbes vita: Carolopoli apud Eleutherium
Anglicum, 1681, p. 22.]
Here let me observe, by way of parenthesis, that when patriotism tries to urge its claims in the domain of knowledge, it commits an offence which should not be tolerated. For in those purely human questions which interest all men alike, where truth, insight, beauty, should be of sole account, what can be more impertinent than to let preference for the nation to which a man's precious self happens to belong, affect the balance of judgment, and thus supply a reason for doing violence to truth and being unjust to the great minds of a foreign country in order to make much of the smaller minds of one's own! Still, there are writers in every nation in Europe, who afford examples of this vulgar feeling. It is this which led Yriarte to caricature them in the thirty-third of his charming Literary Fables.
[Footnote 1: Translator's Note.—Tomas de Yriarte (1750-91), a Spanish poet, and keeper of archives in the War Office at Madrid. His two best known works are a didactic poem, entitled La Musica, and the Fables here quoted, which satirize the peculiar foibles of literary men. They have been translated into many languages; into English by Rockliffe (3rd edition, 1866). The fable in question describes how, at a picnic of the animals, a discussion arose as to which of them carried off the palm for superiority of talent. The praises of the ant, the dog, the bee, and the parrot were sung in turn; but at last the ostrich stood up and declared for the dromedary. Whereupon the dromedary stood up and declared for the ostrich. No one could discover the reason for this mutual compliment. Was it because both were such uncouth beasts, or had such long necks, or were neither of them particularly clever or beautiful? or was it because each had a hump? No! said the fox, you are all wrong. Don't you see they are both foreigners? Cannot the same be said of many men of learning?]
In learning a language, the chief difficulty consists in making acquaintance with every idea which it expresses, even though it should use words for which there is no exact equivalent in the mother tongue; and this often happens. In learning a new language a man has, as it were, to mark out in his mind the boundaries of quite new spheres of ideas, with the result that spheres of ideas arise where none were before. Thus he not only learns words, he gains ideas too.
This is nowhere so much the case as in learning ancient languages, for the differences they present in their mode of expression as compared with modern languages is greater than can be found amongst modern languages as compared with one another. This is shown by the fact that in translating into Latin, recourse must be had to quite other turns of phrase than are used in the original. The thought that is to be translated has to be melted down and recast; in other words, it must be analyzed and then recomposed. It is just this process which makes the study of the ancient languages contribute so much to the education of the mind.
It follows from this that a man's thought varies according to the language in which he speaks. His ideas undergo a fresh modification, a different shading, as it were, in the study of every new language. Hence an acquaintance with many languages is not only of much indirect advantage, but it is also a direct means of mental culture, in that it corrects and matures ideas by giving prominence to their many-sided nature and their different varieties of meaning, as also that it increases dexterity of thought; for in the process of learning many languages, ideas become more and more independent of words. The ancient languages effect this to a greater degree than the modern, in virtue of the difference to which I have alluded.
From what I have said, it is obvious that to imitate the style of the ancients in their own language, which is so very much superior to ours in point of grammatical perfection, is the best way of preparing for a skillful and finished expression of thought in the mother-tongue. Nay, if a man wants to be a great writer, he must not omit to do this: just as, in the case of sculpture or painting, the student must educate himself by copying the great masterpieces of the past, before proceeding to original work. It is only by learning to write Latin that a man comes to treat diction as an art. The material in this art is language, which must therefore be handled with the greatest care and delicacy.
The result of such study is that a writer will pay keen attention to the meaning and value of words, their order and connection, their grammatical forms. He will learn how to weigh them with precision, and so become an expert in the use of that precious instrument which is meant not only to express valuable thought, but to preserve it as well. Further, he will learn to feel respect for the language in which he writes and thus be saved from any attempt to remodel it by arbitrary and capricious treatment. Without this schooling, a man's writing may easily degenerate into mere chatter.
To be entirely ignorant of the Latin language is like being in a fine country on a misty day. The horizon is extremely limited. Nothing can be seen clearly except that which is quite close; a few steps beyond, everything is buried in obscurity. But the Latinist has a wide view, embracing modern times, the Middle Age and Antiquity; and his mental horizon is still further enlarged if he studies Greek or even Sanscrit.
If a man knows no Latin, he belongs to the vulgar, even though he be a great virtuoso on the electrical machine and have the base of hydrofluoric acid in his crucible.
There is no better recreation for the mind than the study of the ancient classics. Take any one of them into your hand, be it only for half an hour, and you will feel yourself refreshed, relieved, purified, ennobled, strengthened; just as though you had quenched your thirst at some pure spring. Is this the effect of the old language and its perfect expression, or is it the greatness of the minds whose works remain unharmed and unweakened by the lapse of a thousand years? Perhaps both together. But this I know. If the threatened calamity should ever come, and the ancient languages cease to be taught, a new literature will arise, of such barbarous, shallow and worthless stuff as never was seen before.
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Thursday, May 24, 2018
May 24 2018
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Dennis Prager Says the Fight for Free Speech Online Is ‘the Big Battle’
Libraries see uptick in e-book usage
Penn Area Library has seen its digital content usage jump "by leaps and bounds" since switching over to a new system for lending electronic books
Tom Wolfe dead; 'New Journalism' pioneer and bestselling author was 88
Are ebooks too expensive in 2018?
Amazon is certainly not a fan of higher e-book prices. When the company was very publicly battling Hachette over a new contract in 2014, they made some very critical remarks. “With an e-book there’s no printing, no overprinting, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out-of-stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books,” the company wrote. “E-books can be and should be less expensive.”
Are E-books Too Expensive?
After all, how do publishers expect to charge $14.99 for e-books when they cost much less to publish in comparison to regular books. Could Wired.com be right about consumers overestimating cost savings for e-book publishers?
E-book Prices Too High, Amazon Says Customers Shouldn't Pay More Than $9.99 Amid Hachette Dispute
Why we still prefer 'real' books: Researchers find 'no sense of ownership' or emotional attachment with e-books
Scribd brings back its unlimited ebooks and audiobooks subscription
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eBook Piracy is on the rise in 2018
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The Mystery Buffs in the White House
The president-mystery bond began with Abraham Lincoln and Edgar Allan Poe, who were born within a month of each other in 1809...Lincoln made an exception for Poe, reading his pioneering detective stories soon after their publication; he could quote full passages from classics like “The Gold-Bug.”
Tom Wolfe, RIP
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Jared Taylor and Paul Kersey remember the remarkable life and work of Tom Wolfe, who wrote novels to “document contemporary society” and saw through the sham and futility of “diversity.”
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Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Albert Einstein is supposed to have said:
Never memorize what you can look up in a book."
In Einstein’s days, books were unequaled as a source of information. We, on the other hand, live in an age where nearly everything can be accessed through the magic vehicle of the internet.
Following Einstein’s logic, then, nothing is worth memorizing anymore, because everything can be looked up.
But, of course, that is probably not what old Albert was getting at. Most likely, the advice he wanted to dispense was that you should not waste your time by committing unimportant details to memory. Rather, your focus should be on understanding the bigger picture—on how things relate to each other.
This reminds me of Elon Musk’s approach to learning. He recommends viewing knowledge as a tree:
Make sure you understand the fundamental principles, the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.”
To "learn" we need to do more than merely feeding ourselves new information. Expanding our intelligence requires connecting new materials to what we already knew. That, in turn, requires something to connect to. There’s no adding branches without a solid trunk.
The very possibility of genuine insight requires a memorized base. Without it, data you consume will not be added to your tree of knowledge. Rather, they will float in the air for a couple of weeks or so, before being taken away by the wind.
Knowledge, gone. Time wasted.
To learn how to live, we need to (among other things) discover patterns between behavior and consequences. Likewise, if we acquire knowledge of this sort it needs to be connected to what we already knew in order to be a lasting addition to our tree of knowledge.
The problem is that we only accumulate such knowledge very slowly: the occasions on which we truly learn something about why our behavior had the results it had are rare. Hence, building a solid trunk of practical knowledge is a lengthy process.
To speed this up, we should study history.
Just Names and Dates?
You might be skeptical about the life-improving value of knowing when the second world war ended or about the point of being cognizant of the date on which the French Revolution took place.
You should refrain from allocating large fractions of your memory to storing historical data.
These are legitimate doubts.
First, unless you’re a historian, and apart from having a generally accurate mental model of the history of mankind, remembering dates is not very likely to aid you in attaining your goals. Secondly, dates can be very easily looked up.
Hence, you should refrain from allocating large fractions of your memory to storing historical data.
That, however, does not mean that the study of history is useless. By contrast, it can be extremely useful.
As it happens, it involves a lot more than memorizing dates.
Give Me Your Experience
Almost 2,500 years ago, the Chinese philosopher Mengzhi (372 BC–289 BC)—a follower of the famous sage Confucius—had some useful insights about how we can learn from history.
When done right, studying history yields two kinds of advantages, he argued.
Stories from history offer possible directions for our lives; they provide us with scripts and encourage us to try these out.
One, studying historical examples from different times and places allows us to identify the likely effects of different types of conduct. How did those heroes accomplish all these great things, and how can I become like that?
What precisely is it that Nelson Mandela did that makes us admire him and how can we emulate his conduct?
Two, stories from history offer possible directions for our lives; they provide us with scripts and encourage us to try these out.
These people are not dead yet, but without the examples of Tim Urban (the philosopher behind WaitButWhy) and Alain de Botton (the philosopher behind The School of Life) the script of the academically trained philosopher who writes blogs like these would not have occurred to me as a possible way of living.
Like that of most ancient Eastern philosophers, Mengzhi’s prose is rather vague. Let’s embrace the interpretive freedom that grants us—isn’t it lovely how philosophy isn’t a science?—and take him to say that reading history is not a detached intellectual activity but can be done with an eye to optimizing ourselves. After all, the benefits Mengzi identifies are clearly relevant outside of the classroom.
When done properly, the study of history is about self-improvement.
Another Kind of Knowledge
History is not just about which battle took place on what day. On top of what happened, it also seeks to understand why these events unfolded as they did. On top of collecting historical data, it involves explaining the past.
Understanding the motivations and upshot of human behavior is no easy task.
To do so, it investigates why certain deeds had the consequences that they had. And this—the study of the results of different decisions in different contexts—places the study of history in the very center of our daily lives. For, if there is one thing we all have reasons to be interested in, it is why our acts give rise to the sequence of follow-up reactions that they cause.
Understanding the motivations and upshot of human behavior is no easy task. Consider this example:
Why did Julius Caesar decide to cross the Rubicon with a part of his army in 49 BCE? Why did that have the consequences it did?
To answer such questions, we need to think about how larger contexts impinge on the impact of behavior.
Doing so will improve our understanding of why things happen as they do, without having to undergo the events ourselves. We gain practical knowledge, "for free."
Studying history, then, helps in acquiring a solid trunk for our knowledge-tree of life.
What Is Education?
"Public schools were not only created in the interests of industrialism — they were created in the image of industrialism.” — Ken Robinson
Now, the final step of the argument for the value of studying history.
The way we educate our children is broken.
Please consider this question: what, in our civilization, does an educational degree stand for? What, supposedly, is indicated by possessing such a qualification? What skills or abilities does one gain by successfully going through the compulsory schools? (If you think the answer is "intelligence" put on your philosophers-hat and ask the follow-up question: what does that supposedly signify?)
In his TED-talk-went-viral, Ken Robinson points out that our educational system was designed to serve the needs of an industrializing world. It teaches kids to do the job they’re supposed to do in the way it’s supposed to be done according to the script of the big factory that is society. Schools groom us to be a properly-functioning cog.
The problem is that the contemporary economy is no longer industrializing but globalizing. There are plenty of countries where people are willing to be obedient and work harder for less money than us. We cannot out-obedience the competition.
Training cogs has become a sucker’s game. (As Nassim Taleb would say.)
The way we educate our children is broken.
What Education Should Be
(It turns out the final step of the argument is two-phased step.)
Look at the bright side: that means that there are plenty of opportunities for improvement.
Let’s think about that together.
Please consider this question: in today’s world, what abilities should one gain by successfully going through the mandatory schools?
According to Seth Godin, we should teach our kids two things: how to lead and how to solve interesting problems. If we cannot out-obedience the competition, we should out-lead and out-solve them.
If we study history like Mengzi told us to, history will give us some of that experience for free.
How do we learn how to do that?
To start building our knowledge-tree for these abilities, we normally would need real-life experience. However, if we study history like Mengzi told us to, history will give us some of that experience for free.
Examining why this action done in that socio-cultural context had the effects it had improves our understanding of how the world works and contributes to our practical knowledge—understanding behavior makes us better leaders and better problem-solvers.
Therefore, in a globalizing economy, the study of history is more relevant than ever.
Some questions to start you off:
How did Caesar get his army to join him in his illegal act? How did Caesar fix the malfunctionings he diagnosed in the Roman political system?
What would you have done?
This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.