Death in Romantic Fiction by Edward Yardley 1880
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DEATH is generally personified as a skeleton. Milton's conception of it is more imposing. He describes it as shapeless, unsubstantial, shaking a dreadful dart, and having the likeness of a kingly crown on what seemed its head. Death is a personage in Fouque's 'Sintram,' which is rather a weak romance, having been written for the purpose of illustrating a picture. In the 'Castle of Otranto' a skeleton appears in the garb of a monk; but this is rather the apparition of a dead man than the image of Death itself. In a drama by Calderon on the 'Purgatory of Patrick,' a figure uncloaks itself, and reveals to Lodovico Enio the form of a skeleton. In Slavonic folk-tales the plague is personified as a woman of hideous aspect. That the wounds of a murdered man should bleed afresh, whenever the murderer approaches the corpse, is a common superstition. In the 'Nibelungen Lied' the body of Siegfried thus proves the guilt of Gunther. Southey has a ballad, founded on one of the lays of Marie de France, on the subject of Sir Owen's descent into Purgatory. Sir Owen himself is alive, but he sees the place where the dead are. He gets very much frozen and very much burnt; and finally awakes to life at the entrance of the cavern into which he had descended. The aborigines of Mexico believed that the souls of the good became clouds or beautiful birds, or precious stones, and that the souls of the bad become beetles, rats, and other vile animals. The souls of defunct Mussulmans (Muslims) are supposed to inhabit green birds. Lord Byron, in the 'Bride of Abydos,' passes the soul of Selim into a bulbul, and that of Zuleika into a rose. The following story may perhaps here find its right place. A Spanish cavalier was in the habit of visiting a nun, with whom he had an intrigue. One night, on his way to her, he passed a church, where burial service was being performed for the dead. He asked the priest for the name of the dead person. To his horror and dismay, they mentioned his own name. He mounted his horse, and returned home, but was accompanied by two strange dogs. Immediately when he dismounted at his house, the dogs strangled him. As the circumstances could only be divulged by himself, it is not apparent how they were made known. The story is told by Alexandre Dumas, and is also mentioned by the Abbe Bordelon, in the 'Adventures of Monsieur Oufle,' as coming from the 'Hexameron.'
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