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memorials of the public shows, games, &c. by which this season was distinguished by our forefathers.
It is well known that fire has in the infancy of most nations been held in high esteem; and, among some of them, even accounted worthv of veneration. Religion, having ever been used as the vehicle and coverlid to superstition, and fire and water having been looked upon as the most efficient means of purification, we shall not feel at a loss to account for the origin and design of the Easter fire. The “ Lustrationes per ignem,” were, with the Romans, a sort of expiatory sacrifice offered, in deprecation and atonement, to an offended Deity, and resting upon the maxim that "fire purifies.” Moses himself prohibited the Jews (Deuteronomy xviii. 10.) from making their sons or daughters pass through the fire as a means of purification ;* and Pliny tells us the reverence for this element was carried so far among the Romans, that the Hirpii, in consideration of their skill in passing over ignited piles of wood, were absolved by the senate from military service, and endowed with other exclusive immunities. And again, if by any neglect the fire sacred to Vesta became extinguished, we are told by Festus and Plutarch that the bowl, or crawia, being filled with tinder, sulphur, and other combustible materials, was exposed in a certain direction before the sun, until its concentrated rays ignited the contents. It would be curious to trace in how far the holy lamp used in Catholic churches is the offspring of “ Vestal fire;" however, this at least appears evident, that the igneous superstitions common to Paganism, imperceptibly crept into Christian observance. And these superstitions must have made a violent inroad among our Christian predecessors, since it became necessary for the Sixth General Assembly of the church, which was held in the year 680, under Constantine Pogonatus, to prohibit “ the practice of lighting fires in front of the houses or shops, and leaping over them at the time of the new moon."
The Easter fire in particular, which has not fallen into disuse even in our own times in some parts of the south of Germany, is probably of Pagan origin : and its institution, like that of so many other of the corruptions which disfigured the primitive churches, seems not to have been altogether foreign to sound policy: for “ the most respectable bishops had persuaded themselves, that the ignorant rustics would more cheerfully renounce the superstitions of Paganism, if they found some resemblance, some compensation, in the bosom of Christianity.” The old chronicles record a twofold celebration of the Easter fire: the one held within, and the other outside of, the sacred edifice. Some particulars of the first may be gleaned from a letter written by Pope Zachary to Boniface, archbishop of Mentz: wherein the pontiff says, in allusion to this ceremony, “ As to your inquiry about the Easter fire, let it serve for answer, that this thing has been ordained by the Holy Fathers ever since the time when, by the grace of God and our Lord Jesus Christ, and with bis dear blood, the fifth Easter day was insti. tuted, on which the holy ointment is consecrated. Three large lamps,
Some idea of the cruel observance of this rite may be gathered from Sonnerat's account of the “ Feast of Fire” in honour of Darma Rajah. † Hist. Nat. vii. 2.
Gibbon's Decl and Fall, vol. v. c. xxviü.
in which the oil shall be collected from others in the church, shall unfailingly burn in a secret spot, as well as in the sanctuary, and oil be poured into them, such as shall suffice until the third day. From these lights shall the fire required for baptism on the Holy Sunday be renewed."* Leo the Fourth left this ordinance unaltered ; merely adding in his Curâ Pastorali, that on Easter day the old fire should be extinguished, a new one consecrated, and distributed among the people. This usage seerns unquestionably to be derived from a Roman prototype: for the everlasting Vestal fire (as it was called) was annually put out in the month of March, and a fresh one kindled by means of the solar rays. The fire was distributed to the Christian congregation through the medium of what were denominated “Easter Tapers,” to which a label was attached, designating the number of the new year then celebrated, as computed from the period of the sufferings and death of Christ. The new year, it should be observed, commenced at the feast of Easter among the earlier Christians: in the same way as it began the holy year with the Israelites.
The great exterior tire was subsequently instituted in commemoration of the resurrection of our Saviour, as the light of the world : and this ceremony consists in the lighting of a bonfire upon an adjoining eminence or mountain, on the first day of Easter. The people are encamped around the fire; the younger classes jump over it, and as it burns out, every one carries a stake from it home with him, as a certain talisman against the effects of lightning. It was the custom of the Western church, under an ordinance of Constantine the Great, to celebrate the chanting of the vigils of Easter Eve, accompanied by the splendour of immense wax tapers, which Eusebiust calls s waxen pillars:" and the whole city of Constantinople was illuminated by thousands of lamps throughout the night.
On Easter Eve it was usual for the Jews also to make a bonfire in the open air, into which all leavened bread was cast, with the following formula: “All leaven, which I have either seen or not seen, and which I have wholly expelled or not expelled from under my roof, shall henceforth be scattered out, destroyed, and be as nought but dust of the earth.” And they grounded this custom on Exodus xii. v. 10. though this text has reference only to the paschal lamb.
In respect to the origin of the Easter Fire, we may still be permitted to add that Timeus, à Lutheran clergyman, would derive it from the Old Testament, 2 Kings, c. xxiii. where Josiah orders all the idols, altars, groves, &c. which the Jews had used in worshipping Baal and other false gods, to be destroyed; and thereupon celebrates the Passover. Josiah’s example was followed by Charlemagne in his extirpation of the Saxon idols, which was succeeded by the celebration of Easter; when the people assembled round an immense fire, made in commemoration of the destruction of Pagan worship, sang hymns in remembrance of our Saviour's resurrection, and then bent their steps homewards in Christian soberness and peace.
• Sertarii Reb. Moguntiac.
Cujus quisque capit torrem molimine summo
Succensa cæli plaga sit tutus ab omni.
THE SILESIAN TRAVELLERS. *
“ Miseris succurrere disco." When I was returning from Russia into France, I found myself, ou entering the post-coach which runs between Riga and Breslaw, in company with a considerable number of travellers of different nations. We were arranged, two and two, upon wooden benches, with our portmanteaus at our feet, and without any covering but the heavens. We travelled night and day, exposed to the inclemency of the weather, and finding nothing in the inns on the route but black bread, malt brandy, and coffee. This is the common mode of travelling in Russia, Prussia, Poland, and the greater part of the northern states.
After having traversed enormous forests of pines and birch trees, alternating with extensive plains of sand, we entered upon the mountains clothed with beech and oak, which separate Poland from Silesia. Although my companions understood French well (for it has now.become almost the universal language of Europe), they had hitherto spoken but little. One morning at break of day, we arrived at a hill, which overlooked a castle, remarkable for the beauty of its situation. Several small streams wound through its long avenues of limes, and formed a number of islands, which were laid out in orchards and in meadows. In the distance, as far as the eye could reach, the rich plains of Silesia extended themselves, covered with harvests, villages, and country-houses, and watered by the Oder; which, as it crossed the country, sparkled in the distance like a bandeau of silver and blue.
“What an enchanting view !" cried an Italian painter, who was on his road to Dresden. "] could fancy myself in the Milanese."
An astronomer of the Berlin Academy replied, “ Yes, those are fine plains! What a base might be traced on them! while the steeples would serve to form a magnificent series of triangles.”
An Austrian baron, smiling contemptuously on the geometrician, observed, “Know, Sir, that this is the inost noble district in all Germany; all the steeples you see are its dependencies.”
Then, Sir," said a Swiss, “the people must be serfs; what an unfortunate land !"
A Prussian officer of hussars, who was smoking his pipe, took it with great gravity from his mouth, and in a tone of decision replied, “Not a man here depends upon any one, except on the King of Prussia. He has delivered the Silesians from the yoke of Austria and of its nobles. I remember when he encamped us on this spot four years ago. They are famous plains for giving a battle upon. I would fix my magazines in the castle, and plant my artillery on its terraces; I would line the river with my infantry, place my cavalry on its wings; and
* This ingenious trifle was originally written by Bernardin de St. Pierre, when the author was professor of morality in the écoles normales, as a lesson of tole, rance, but by the premature dissolution of those establishments was not employed in their service. It was, however, read before the Institute with considerable applause; and was afterwards printed by the author, rather, I believe, for private distribution, than for publication. At all events, being but little known in England, it cannot but prove agreeable to the readers of the New Monthly Magazine, as an additional trait of the amiable disposition and philosophic turn of mind of the author of the Chaumière Indienne.
thus posted, I would take my stand with thirty thousand men against all the forces of the Empire. Frederick for ever! say I.”
This gentleman had scarcely resumed his pipe, when a Russian officer took possession of the conversation. "I should be very sorry," said he, “to inhabit such a country as Silesia, which is open to all sorts of attacks. Our Cossacks ravaged it in the last war; and but for the interference of our regular troops, they would not have left a cabin standing. Now, however, things are still worse; for the peasants have acquired the right of pleading against their masters, and the citizens in their municipalities enjoy still greater privileges. For my part, give me the environs of Moscow.”
A young student of Leipsic followed the two officers, inquiring, “How can you gentlemen bear to talk of war, amidst such lovely scenery? How much wiser to exclaim with Virgil, Oh Lycoris, hic tecum consumerer ævo—Oh Lycoris, how willingly would I here wear away my life in your company.” At these words, which were spoken with great animation, a pretty little milliner from Paris, who had fallen asleep with the fatigue of travelling, awoke; and at the sight of the fine landscape, cried out in her turn, “Oh, the lovely country! it wants nothing but Frenchmen to inhabit it.” “What are you sighing for?” said she to a young Rabbin who was seated beside her.
“Look,” replied the Jewish Doctor, “Do you not see a mountain there with a peaked top? that is the very picture of Mount Sinai.”.
All the company burst into a loud and long laugh. But an old Lutheran minister, of Erfurt, in Saxony, contracting his forehead into a furious frown, exclaimed in a voice of great rage, “Silesia is an accursed country; truth is banished from it. It is under the heavy yoke of Papacy. You will see, on entering Breslaw, the palace of the ancient Dukes of Silesia, which serves now for a college of Jesuits, although that race is driven out of every other country of Europe."
A fat Dutch merchant, a purveyor of the Prussian army during the last war, replied to him, by asking, “ How can you, Sir, call that country accursed, which is covered with such immense riches ? The King of Prussia has done very wisely in conquering Silesia. It is the brightest jewel in his crown. I would rather have an acre of good gardenground in it, than a square mile of the sandy marsh of Brandenburgh."
Amidst these disputes we arrived at Breslaw, and alighted at a very comfortable inn. While the dinner was in preparation, the conversation turned upon the Lord of the Castle which we had passed in the morning. The Saxon minister declared that “ he was the rascal who commanded the Prussian artillery at the siege of Dresden; and had battered with poisoned bombs that unfortunate city, the half of the houses of which are still in ruins ;” and he added, that “ the man had paid for his castle with the contributions he had levied in Saxony."
“ You mistake,” said the Baron. He acquired the estate by marriage with an Austrian Countess, who degraded herself by marrying him. Poor lady! she is much to be pitied! None of her children can ever enter into the noble chapters of Germany; for their father is but a soldier of fortune.”
“ What you say of him,” rejoined the Prussian hussar, “ does him the greatest honour; and he would still be held in the highest esteem in Prussia, if he had not forfeited bis reputation, by quitting the
King's service at the peace. He cannot, however, now show his face there."
The innkeeper, who was serving the dinner, observed, “ It is very clear, gentlemen, that you do not know the person you are talking of. He is just the most beloved and highly esteemed man in the world. He has not a single beggar on his estate. Though himself a Catholic, he relieves the poor of all nations and creeds, that pass through his estates. If they be Saxons, he lodges and feeds ihem for three days, in compensation for the evil he was obliged to do their country during the war. He is adored too by his wife and children.”
“ Learn, Sir, to know,' cried the Lutheran minister, “that there can be neither charity nor any other virtue within the pale of his communion. All he does is pure hypocrisy, like all the virtues of Pagans and Papists.”—We had several Catholics among our number, who were upon the point of commencing a terrible dispute ; when the landlord, taking his place at the head of the table, as is customary in Germany, began to help the dinner. A profound silence ensued. Each one applied himself to eat and drink, with a traveller's appetite. The dinner was excellent; a dessert of peaches, grapes, and melons, followed it. The host, while coffee was in preparation, desired his wife to bring some bottles of Champagne, with which he expressed his determination of regaling the company, in honour of the Lord of the Castle, to whom he was under particular obligations. The bottles being arrived, he placed them before the Frenchwoman, begging of her to do the honours by them. Joy displayed itself in every face ; and the conversation became once more animated. My countrywoınan presented our host with the first glass, and informed him “ that the fare was as good as in the very best inns in Paris, and that she knew no Frenchman who exceeded himself in gallantry.”
The Russian officer agreed, that fruit was more plentiful at Breslaw than at Moscow. He compared Silesia with Livonia for fertility; and added, that the liberty of the peasants caused the ground to be better tilled, and the landlord to be much happier.
The Astronomer remarked, that Moscow is in the same latitude nearly as Breslaw, and consequently susceptible of the same productions. The Hussar said, that “in truth, the Lord of the Castle, whose estate we had passed, did not do ill in quitting the service; since even the great Frederick himself, having gloriously finished the war, passed a part of his time in gardening, and cultivating with his own hands his inelons, at Sans Souci.”
All the party was of the Hussar's opinion; and even the Saxon mi.' nister allowed that Silesia was a fine and a good province. “ It is a thousand pities,” he said, " that it should be plunged in error, but, liberty of conscience having been established in all the states of the King of Prussia, I have little doubt that all its inhabitants, and especially the Lord of the Castle, will yield to the truth, and embrace the confession of Augsburg. For God will not leave a good action without recompense; and certainly it is a good action, which cannot sufficiently be praised, in a soldier who has injured my country during the war, to do it all the good he can in time of peace.
The host then proposed to drink the health of the worthy Lord of the Castle, which was done amidst the applauses of all the company. Not even the young Rabbin refused the toast. He had dined misera