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Müller, Friedrich. Lectures on the Science of Language. Second Series – T12

Lecture XII.
Modern Mythology.

What I mean by Modern Mythology is a subject
so vast and so important, that in this, my last
Lecture, all I can do is to indicate its character, and
the wide limits within which its working may be
discerned. After the definition which on several
occasions I have given of Mythology, I need only
repeat here that I include under that name every case
in which language assumes an independent power, and
reacts on the mind, instead of being, as it was intended
to be, the mere realization and outward embodiment of
the mind.

In the early days of language the play of mythology
was no doubt more lively and more widely
extended, and its effects were more deeply felt, than
in these days of mature speculation, when words are
no longer taken on trust, but are constantly tested by
means of logical definition. When language sobers
down, when metaphors become less bold and more
explicit, there is less danger of speaking of the sun
as a horse, because a poet had called him the heavenly
racer, or of speaking of Selene as enamoured of Endymion,
because a proverb had expressed the approach
of night by the longing looks of the moon after
the setting sun. Yet under a different form Language
retains her silent charm; and if it no longer
525creates gods and heroes, it creates many a name that
receives a similar worship. He who would examine
the influence which words, mere words, have exercised
on the minds of men, might write a history of the
world that would teach us more than any which we
yet possess. Words without definite meanings are at
the bottom of nearly all our philosophical and religious
controversies, and even the so-called exact sciences
have frequently been led astray by the same Siren

I do not speak here of that downright abuse of
language when writers, without maturing their
thoughts and arranging them in proper order, pour
out a stream of hard and misapplied terms which are
mistaken by themselves, if not by others, for deep
learning and height of speculation. This sanctuary
of ignorance and vanity has been wellnigh destroyed;
and scholars or thinkers who cannot say what they
wish to say consecutively and intelligibly have little
chance in these days, or at least in this country, of
being considered as depositaries of mysterious wisdom.
Si non vis intelligi debes negligi. I rather think of
words which everybody uses, and which seem to be so
clear that it looks like impertinence to challenge them.
Yet, if we except the language of mathematics, it is
extraordinary to observe how variable is the meaning
of words, how it changes from century to century,
nay, how it varies slightly in the mouth of almost
every speaker. Such terms as Nature, Law, Freedom,
Necessity, Body, Substance, Matter, Church, State, Revelation,
Inspiration, Knowledge, Belief, are tossed
about in the wars of words as if everybody knew
what they meant, and as if everybody used them
exactly in the same sense; whereas most people, and
526particularly those who represent public opinion, pick up
these complicated terms as children, beginning with
the vaguest conceptions, adding to them from time to
time, perhaps correcting likewise at haphazard some of
their involuntary errors, but never taking stock, never
either inquiring into the history of the terms which they
handle so freely, or realizing the fullness of their
meaning according to the strict rules of logical definition.
It has been frequently said that most controversies
are about words. This is true; but it implies
much more than it seems to imply. Verbal differences
are not what they are sometimes supposed to be —
merely formal, outward, slight, accidental differences,
that might be removed by a simple explanation, or by
a reference to ‘Johnson's Dictionary.’ *1 They are
differences arising from the more or less perfect, from
the more or less full and correct conception attached
to words: it is the mind that is at fault, not the tongue

If a child, after being taught to attach the name of
gold to anything that is yellow and glitters, were to
maintain against all comers that the sun is gold, the
child no doubt would be right, because in his mind
the name ‘gold’ means something that is yellow and
glitters. We do not hesitate to say that a flower is
edged with gold — meaning the colour only, not the
substance. The child afterwards learns that there are
other qualities, besides its colour, which are peculiar
to real gold, and which distinguish gold from similar
substances. He learns to stow away every one of
527these qualities into the name gold, so that at last
gold with him means no longer anything that glitters,
but something that is heavy, malleable, fusible,
and soluble in aqua regia; *2 and he adds to these
any other quality which the continued researches of
each generation bring out. Yet in spite of all these
precautions, the name gold, so carefully defined by the
philosophers, will slip away into the crowd of words,
and we may hear a banker discussing the market value
of gold in such a manner that we can hardly believe
he is speaking of the same thing which we last saw in
the crucible of the chemist. You remember how the
expression ‘golden-handed.’ as applied to the sun, led
to the formation of a story which explained the sun's
losing his hand, and having it replaced by an artificial
hand made of gold. That is Ancient Mythology.
Now if we were to say that of late years the supply
of gold has been very much increased, and if from this
we were to conclude that the increase of taxable property
in this country was due to the discovery of gold
in California, this would be Modern Mythology, We
should use the name gold in two different senses. We
should use gold in the one case as synonymous with
realized wealth, in the other as the name of the circulating
medium. We should commit the same mistake
as the people of old, using the same word in two
slightly varying senses, and then confounding one
meaning with the other.

For let it not be supposed that even in its more
naked form mythology is restricted to the earliest
ages of the world.

Though one source of mythology, that which arises
528from radical and poetical metaphor, is less prolific
in modern than in ancient dialects, there is another
agency at work in modern dialects which, though in
a different manner, produces nearly the same results,
namely, phonetic decay, followed by popular etymology.
By means of phonetic decay many words have
lost their etymological transparency; nay, words,
originally quite distinct in form and meaning, assume
occasionally the same form. Now, as there is
in the human mind a craving after etymology, a wish
to find out, by fair means or foul, why such a thing
should be called by such a name, it happens constantly
that words are still further changed in order
to make them intelligible once more; or, when two
originally distinct words have actually run into one,
some explanation is required, and readily furnished,
in order to remove the difficulty.

‘La Tour sans venin’ is a case in point, but it is
by no means the only case.

From Anglo-Saxon blót, sacrifice, blotan, to kill for
sacrifice, was derived blessian, to consecrate, to bless.
In modern English, to bless seems connected with
bliss, the Anglo-Saxon blis, joy, with which it had
originally nothing in common.

Sorrow is the Anglo-Saxon sorh, the German
Sorge; its supposed connection with sorry is merely
imaginary, for the Anglo-Saxon for sorry is sárig,
from sár, a wound, a sore.

In German, most people imagine that Sündfluth,
the deluge, means the sin-flood; but Sündfluth is but
a popular etymological adaptation of sinfluot, the
great flood.

Many of the old signs of taverns contain what
we may call hieroglyphic mythology. There was a
529house on Stoken Church Hill, near Oxford, exhibiting
on its sign -board, ‘Feathers and a Plum.’ The house
itself was vulgarly called the Plum and Feathers: *3
it was originally the Plume of Feathers, from the crest
of the Prince of Wales.

A Cat with a Wheel is the corrupt emblem of
St. Catherine's Wheel; the Bull and Gate was originally
intended as a trophy of the taking of Boulogne
by Henry VIII., it was the Boulogne Gate; and the
Goat and Compasses have taken the place of the fine
old Puritan sign-board. ‘God encompasseth us.’ 4

There is much of this kind of popular mythology
floating about in the language of the people, arising
from a very natural and very general tendency,
namely, from a conviction that every name must
have a meaning. If the real and original meaning
has once been lost, chiefly owing to the ravages of
phonetic decay, a new meaning is at first tentatively,
but very soon dogmatically, assigned to the changed

At Lincoln, immediately below the High Bridge,
there is an inn bearing now the sign of the Black
Goats. It formerly had the sign of the Three Goats,
a name derived from the three gowts or drains by
which the water from the Swan Pool, a large lake
which formerly existed to the west of the city, was
conducted into the bed of the Witham, below. A
public-house having arisen on the bank of the principal
530of these three gowts, in honour, probably, of the
work when it was made, the name became corrupted
into the Three Goats — a corruption easily accomplished
in the Lincolnshire dialect. *5

In the same town, a flight of steps by which the
ascent is gained from about midway of what is called
the New Road to a small ancient gateway, leading towards
the Minster Yard, is called the Grecian Stairs.
These stairs were originally called the Greesen, the
early English plural of a gree or step. When Greesen
ceased to be understood, Stairs was added by way
of explanation, and the Greesen Stairs were, by the
instinct of popular etymology, changed into Grecian
. 6531

One of our Colleges at Oxford is now called and
spelt Brasenose. Over the gate of the College there
is a Brazen Nose, and the arms of the College display
the same shield, and have done so for several centuries.
I have not heard of any legend to account
for the startling presence of that emblem over the
gate of the College, but this is simply owing to the
want of poetic imagination on the part of the Oxford
Ciceroni. In Greece, Pausanias would have told us
ever so many traditions commemorated by such a
monument. At Oxford, we are simply told that the
College was originally a brewhouse, and that its
original name, brasen-huis (braserie), was gradually
changed to brazenose.

Brasenose was founded in the commencement of
the reign of Henry VIII., by the joint liberality of
William Smyth, Bishop of Lincoln, and Sir Richard
Sutton. The foundation-stone was laid on June 1,
1509, and the charter entitling it ‘The King's Hall
and College of Brasenose.’ is dated January 15,
1512. This college stands upon the site of no less
than four ancient halls, viz., Little University Hall,
described by some antiquaries as one of those built
by Alfred, and which occupied the north-east angle
near the lane; Brasenose Hall, whence the name
of the College, situated where the present gateway
now stands; Salisbury Hall, the site of a part of the
present library; and Little St. Edmund Hall, which
was still more to the southward, about where is now
the chapel. The name of Brasenose is supposed, with
the greater probability, to have been derived from a
Brasinium, Brasen-huis, or brewhouse, attached to
the hall built by Alfred; more vulgarly, from some
students removed to it from the temporary University
532of Stamford, where the iron ring of the knocker was
fixed in a nose of brass. *7

Instances of the same kind of popular etymology —
which occasionally leads to popular mythology — are
to be found in proverbs. There is an English proverb,
‘to know a hawk from a handsaw.’ which was
originally, ‘to know a hawk from a hernshaw.’ a kind
of heron. 8

The French buffetier, a man who waits at the buffet,
which was a table near the door of the dining-hall for
poor people, travellers, and pilgrims, to help themselves
to what was not wanted at the high table, has been
changed in English into a beef-eater; 9 and it is no
doubt a vulgar error that these tall stalwart fellows
are chiefly fed on beef.

One of the most curious instances of the power of
popular etymology and mythology is seen in the
English Barnacle. It is not often that we can trace
a myth from century to century through the different
stages of its growth, and it may be worth while to
analyse this fable of the Barnacle more in detail.

Barnacles, in the sense of spectacles, seem to be
connected with the German word for spectacles, namely,
Brille. §10 This .German word is a corruption of beryllus.
In a Vocabulary of 1482 we find brill, parill, a masculine,
533a precious stone, shaped like glass or ice (eise),
berillus item or bernlein *11 Sebastian Frank, in the
beginning of the sixteenth century, still uses barill for
eye-glass. The word afterwards became a feminine,
and, as such, the recognised name for spectacles.

In the place of beryllus, in the sense of precious
stone, we find in Provençal berille; 12 and in the
sense of spectacles, we find the Old French beride. 13
Bericle was afterwards changed to besides, §14 commonly,
but wrongly, derived from bis-cyclus.

In the dialect of Berri 15 we find, instead of bericle or
beside, the dialectic form berniques, which reminds us
of the German form Bern-lein. 16 An analogous form
is the English barnacle, originally spectacles fixed on
the nose, and afterwards used in the sense of irons put
on the noses of horses to confine them for shoeing,
bleeding, or dressing. **17 Brille in German is used in
a similar sense of a piece of leather with spikes, put
on the noses of young animals that are to be weaned.
The formation of bernicula seems to have been beryllicula,
and, to avoid the repetition of l, beryllicula.
As to the change of l into n, see melanconico, filomena,
&c. Diez. ‘Grammatik.’ p. 190.

Barnacle, in the sense of cirrhopode, can hardly be
534anything but the diminutive of the Latin perna;
pernacula being changed into bernacula. *18 Pliny 19
speaks of a kind of shells called pernæ, so called from
their similarity with a leg of pork.

The bodies of these animals are soft, and enclosed
in a case composed of several calcareous plates; their
limbs are converted into a tuft of jointed eirrhi or
fringes, which can be protruded through an opening
in the sort of a mantle which lines the interior of the
shell. With these they fish for food, very much like
a man with a casting-net; and as soon as they are
immersed in sea-water by the return of the flood, their
action is incessant. They are generally found fixed
on rocks, wooden planks, stones, or even on living
shells; and after once being fixed, they never leave
their place of abode. Before they take to this settled
life, however, they move about freely, and, as it would
seem, enjoy a much more highly organized state of
life. They are then furnished with eyes, antennæ, and
limbs, and are as active as any of the minute denizens
of the sea.

There are two families of Cirrhopodes. The first,
the Lepadidæ, are attached to their resting-place by a
535flexible stalk, which possesses great contractile power.
The shell is usually composed of two triangular pieces
on each side, and is closed by another elongated piece
at the back, so that the whole consists of five pieces.

The second family, the Balanidæ, or sea-acorn, has
a shell usually composed of six segments, the lower
part being firmly fixed to the stone or wood on which
the creature lives.

These creatures were known in England at all
times, and they went by the name of Barnacles, i. e.
Bernaculm, or small muscles. Their name, though
nearly identical in sound with Barnacles, in the sense
of spectacles, had originally no connection whatever
with that term, which was derived, as we found,
from beryllus.

But now comes a third claimant to this name of
Barnacle, namely, the famous Barnacle Goose. There
is a goose called Bernicla; and though that goose has
sometimes been confounded with a duck (the Anas
niger minor
, the Scoter, the French Macreuse), yet
there is no doubt that the Barnacle goose is a real
bird, and may be seen drawn and described in any
good Book on Birds. *20 But though the bird is a real
bird, the accounts given of it, not only in popular,
but in scientific works, form one of the most extraordinary
536chapters in the history of Modern Mythology.

I shall begin with one of the latest accounts, taken
from the ‘Philosophical Transactions.’ No. 137, January
and February 1677-8. Here, in ‘A Relation
concerning Barnacles, by Sr. Robert Moray, lately
one of His Majesties Council for the Kingdom of
Scotland,’ we read (p. 925): —

‘In the Western Islands of Scotland much of the
Timber, wherewith the Common people build their
Houses, is such as the West-Ocean throws upon their
Shores. The most ordinary Trees are Firr and Ash.
They are usually very large, and without branches;
which seem rather to have been broken or worn off,
than cut; and are so Weather-beaten, that there is no
Bark left upon them, especially the Firrs. Being in
the Island of East, I saw lying upon the shore a cut
of a large Firr-tree of about 21 foot diameter, and 9
or 10 foot long; which had lain so long out of the
water that it was very dry: And most of the Shells,
that had formerly cover'd it, were worn or rubb'd off.
Only on the parts that lay next the ground, there still
hung multitudes of little Shells; having within them
little Birds, perfectly shap'd, supposed to be Barnacles.

The Shells hung very thick and close one by
another, and were of different sizes. Of the colour
and consistence of Muscle-Shells, and the sides or
joynts of them joyned with such a kind of film as
Muscle-Shells are; which serves them for a Hing to
move upon, when they open and shut….

The Shells hang at the Tree by a Neck longer than
the Shell. Of a kind of Filmy substance, round, and
hollow, and creassed, not unlike the Wind-pipe of a
Chicken; spreading out broadest where it is fastened
to the Tree, from which it seems to draw and convey
537the matter which serves for the growth and vegetation
of the Shell and the little Bird within it.

This Bird in every Shell that I opened, as well the
least as the biggest, I found so curiously and compleatly
formed, that there appeared nothing wanting,
as to the internal parts, for making up a perfect Seafowl:
every little part appearing so distinctly, that
the whole looked like a large Bird seen through a
concave or diminishing Glass, colour and feature being
every where so clear and neat. The little Bill like
that of a Goose, the Eyes marked, the Head, Neck,
Breast, Wings, Tail, and Feet formed, the Feathers
every where perfectly shap'd, and blackish coloured;
and the Feet like those of other Water-fowl, to my
best remembrance. All being dead and dry, I did
not look after the Internal parts of them….
Nor did I ever see any of the little Birds alive, nor
met with any body that did. Only some credible persons
have assured me they have seen some as big as
their fist.’

Here, then, we have so late as 1677 a witness who,
though he does not vouch to having seen the actual
metamorphosis of the Barnacle shell into the Barnacle
goose, yet affirms before a scientific public that he saw
within the shell the bill, the eyes, head, neck, breast,
wings, tail, feet, and feathers of the embryo bird.

We have not, however, to go far back before we
find a witness to the actual transformation, namely,
John Gerarde, of London, Master in Chirurgerie.
At the end of his ‘Herball.’ published in 1597, we
have not only a lively picture of the tree, with birds
issuing from its branches, swimming away in the sea
or falling dead on the land, but we also read the following
description (p. 1391): —538

‘There are founde in the north parts of Scotland,
and the Hands adjacent, called Orchades, certaine
trees, whereon doe growe certaine shell fishes, of a
white colour tending to russet; wherein are conteined
little living creatures: which shels in time of maturitie
doe open, and out of them grow those little living
foules, whom we call Barnakles, in the north of England
Brant Geese, and in Lancashire tree Geese; but
the other that do fall upon the land, perish and come
to nothing: thus much by the writings of others, and
also from the mouths of people of those parts, which
may very well accord with truth.

But what our eies have seene, and hands have
touched, we shall declare. There is a small Ilande
in Lancashire called the Pile of Foulders, wherein
are found the broken peeces of old and brused ships,
some whereof have beene cast thither by shipwracke,
and also the trunks or bodies with the branches of old
and rotten trees, cast up there likewise: whereon is
found a certaine spume or froth, that in time breedeth
unto certaine shels, in shape like those of the muskle,
but sharper pointed, and of a whitish colour; wherein
is conteined a thing in forme like a lace of silke finely
woven, as it were togither, of a whitish colour; one
ende whereof is fastened unto the inside of the shell,
even as the fish of Oisters and Muskles are; the other
ende is made fast unto the belly of a rude masse or
lumpe, which in time commeth to the shape and
forme of a Bird: when it is perfectly formed, the
shel gapeth open, and the first thing that appeereth
is the foresaid lace or string; next come the legs of
the Birde hanging out; and as it groweth greater, it
openeth the shell by degrees, till at length it is all
come foorth, and hangeth only by the bill; in short
539space after it commeth to full maturitie, and falleth
into the sea, where it gathereth feathers, and groweth
to a foule, bigger then a Mallard, and lesser then a

Fig. 29.


Copied from Gerarde's ‘Herbal.’

Goose; having blacke legs and bill or beake, and
feathers blacke and white, spotted in such manner as
is our Magge-Pie, called in some places a Pie-Annet,
540which the people of Lancashire call by no other name
then a tree Goose; which place aforesaide, and all
those parts adjoining, do so much abound therewith,
that one of the best is bought for three pence: for the
truth heerof, if any doubt, may it please them to repaire
unto me, and I shall satisfie them by the testimonie of
good witnesses

That this superstition was not confined to England,
but believed in by the learned all over Europe, we
learn from Sebastian Munster, in his Cosmographia
, 1550, dedicated to Charles V. He tells
the same story, without omitting the picture; and
though he mentions the sarcastic remark of Æneas
, about miracles always flying away to more remote
regions, he himself has no misgivings as to the
truth of the bird-bearing tree, vouched for, as he remarks,
by Saxo Grammaticus. This is what he writes:
— ‘In Scotia inveniuntur arbores, quæ producunt fructum
foliis conglomeratum: et is cum opportuno temporedecidit
in subjectam aquam, reviviscit convertiturque
in avem vivam, quam vocant anserem arboreum.
Crescit et hæc arbor in insula. Pomonia, quæ haud
procul abest a Scotia versus aquilonem. Veteres
quoque Cosmographi, præsertim Saxo Grammaticus
mentionem faciunt hujus arboris, ne putes esse figmentum
a novis scriptoribus excogitatum.’ *21

The next account of these extraordinary geese I
shall take from Hector Boece (1465-1536), who in
1527 wrote his history of Scotland in Latin, which soon
after was translated into English. The history is preceded
by a Cosmography and Description of Albion,
and here we read, in the fourteenth chapter: 22541

‘Of the nature of claik geis, and of the syndry
maner of thair procreation, And of the He of Thule,
capitulo xiiii.

Restis now to speik of the geis generit of the see
namit clakis. Sum men belevis that thir clakis
growis on treis be the nebbis. Bot thair opinioun is
vane. And becaus the nature and procreatioun of thir
clakis is strange, we have maid na lytyll lauboure
and deligence to serche ye treuth and verite yairof,
we have salit throw ye seis quhare thir clakis ar bred,
and I fynd be gret experience, that the nature of the
seis is mair relevant caus of thair procreatioun than
ony uthir thyng. And howbeit thir geis ar bred
mony syndry wayis, thay ar bred ay allanerly by
nature of the seis. For all treis that ar cassin in the
seis be proces of tyme apperis first wormeetin, and in
the small boris and hollis thairof growis small wormis.
First thay schaw thair heid and feit, and last of all
thay schaw thair plumis and wyngis. Finaly quhen
thay ar cumyn to the just mesure and quantite of
geis, thay fle in the aire, as othir fowlis dois, as was
notably provyn in the yeir of god ane thousand iiii
hundred lxxxx in sicht of mony pepyll besyde the
castell of Petslego, ane gret tre was brocht be alluvion
and flux of the see to land. This wonderfull tre was
brocht to the lard of the ground, quhilk sone efter
gart devyde it be ane saw. Apperit than ane multitude
of wormis thrawing thaym self out of syndry hollis
and boris of this tre. Sum of thaym war rude as
542thay war bot new schapin. Sum had baith heid, feit,
and wyngis, bot thay had no fedderis. Sum of thaym
war perfit schapin fowlis. At last the pepyll havand
ylk day this tre in mair admiration, brocht it to the
kirk of Sanct Androis besyde the town of Tyre, quhare
it remanis yit to our dayis. And within two yeris
efter hapnit sic ane lyk tre to cum in at the firth of
Tay besyde Dunde wormeetin and hollit full of young
geis in the samyn maner. Siclike in the port of Leith
beside Edinburgh within few yeris efter hapnit sic ane
lyke cais. Ane schip namit the Christofir (efter that
scho had lyin iii yeris at ane ankir in ane of thir His,
wes brocht to leith. And becaus hir tymmer (as apperit)
failyeit, sho was brokin down. Incontinent
apperit (as afore) al the inwart partis of hir wormeetin,
and all the hollis thairof full of geis, on the
samyn maner as we have schawin. Attoure gif ony
man wald allege be sane argument, that this Christofer
was maid of fir treis, as grew allanerly in the His, and
that all the rutis and treis that growis in the said His,
ar of that nature to be fynaly be nature of the seis
resolvit in geis, We preif the cuntre thairof be ane
notable example schawin afore our ene. Maister
Alexander Galloway person of Kynkell was with ws
in thir His, gevand his mynd with maist emist besynes
to serche the verite of thir obscure and mysty
dowtis. And be adventure liftit up ane see tangle
hyngand full of mussill schellis fra the rute to the
branchis. Sone efter he opnit ane of thir mussyll
schellis, bot than he was mair astonist than afore.
For he saw na fische in it bot ane perfit schapin
foule smal and gret ay effering to the quantite of
the schell. This clerk knawin ws richt desirus of
sic uncouth thingis, come haistely with the said tangle,
543and opnit it to ws with all circumstance afore
rehersit. Be thir and mony othir reasonis and examplis
we can not beleif that thir clakis ar producit
be ony nature of treis or rutis thairof, bot allanerly
by the nature of the Occeane see, quhilk is the caus
and production of mony wonderful thingis. And
becaus the rude and ignorant pepyl saw oftymes the
frutis that fel of the treis (quhilkis studeneir the see)
convertit within schort tyme in geis, thai belevit that
thir geis grew apon the treis hingand be thair nebbis
siclik as appillis and uthir frutis hingis be thair stalkis,
bot thair opinioun is nocht to be sustenit. For als
sone as thir appillis or frutis fallis of the tre in the
see flude, thay grow first wormeetin. And be schort
process of tyme ar alterat in geis.’

Let us now go back to the twelfth century, and we
shall find, in the time of Henry II. (1154-89), exactly
the same story, and even then so firmly established
that Giraldus Cambrensis found it necessary to protest
against the custom then prevailing of eating these
Barnacle geese during Lent, because they were not
birds, but fishes. This is what Giraldus says in
his ‘Topographia Hiberniæ:’ *23544

‘There are in this place many birds which are called
Bernacæ: against nature, nature produces them in a
most extraordinary way. They are like marsh-geese,
but somewhat smaller. They are produced from
fir timber tossed along the sea, and are at first like
gum. Afterwards they hang down by their beaks
as if from a seaweed attached to the timber, surrounded
by shells, in order to grow more freely.
Having thus, in process of time, been clothed with a
strong coat of feathers, they either fall into the water
or fly freely away into the air. They derive their
food and growth from the sap of the wood or the sea,
by a secret and most wonderful process of alimentation.
I have frequently, with my own eyes, seen
more than a thousand of these small bodies of birds,
hanging down on the sea-shore from one piece of timber,
enclosed in shells, and already formed. They
do not breed and lay eggs, like other birds; nor do
they ever hatch any eggs; nor do they seem to build
nests in any corner of the earth. Hence bishops and
clergymen in some parts of Ireland do not scruple to
dine off these birds at the time of fasting, because
they are not flesh, nor born of flesh. But these are
545thus drawn into sin; for if a man during Lent had
dined off a leg of Adam, our first parent, who was
not born of flesh, surely we should not consider him
innocent of having eaten what is flesh.’

Then follows more to the same effect, which we
may safely leave out. What is important is this, that
in the twelfth century the belief in the miraculous
transformation of the Barnacle-shell into the Barnacle-goose
was as firmly established as in the seventeenth
century; and that on that belief another belief had
grown up, namely, that Barnacle-geese might safely
be eaten during Lent.

How long before Giraldus the fable existed, I cannot
tell; but it must not be supposed that, during the five
centuries through which we have traced its existence,
it was never contradicted. It was contradicted by
Albertus Magnus (died 1280), who declares that he saw
these birds lay eggs and hatch them. *24 It was contradicted
by Roger Bacon (died 1294). Æneas Sylvius 25
546(afterwards Pope Pius II., 1458-64), when on a visit to
King James (1393-1437; reigned 1424-37), inquired
after the tree, and he complains that miracles will
always flee farther and farther; for when he came to
Scotland to see the tree, he was told that it grew
farther north in the Orchades. In 1599, Dutch sailors,
who had visited Greenland, gave a full description of
how they found there the eggs of the Barnacle-geese
(whom they in Dutch called rotgansen); how they saw
them hatching, and heard them cry rot, rot, rot; how
they killed one of them with a stone, and ate it,
together with sixty eggs. *26

Nevertheless, the story appeared again and again,
and the birds continued to be eaten by the priests
during Lent without any qualms of conscience. Aldrovandus,
in his ‘Ornithologia’ 1603, (lib. xix.), tells
us of an Irish priest, of the name of Octavianus,
who assured him with an oath on the Gospel that he
had seen the birds in their rude state and handled
them. And Aldrovandus himself, after weighing all
the evidence for and against the miraculous origin of
the Barnacle goose, arrives at the conclusion that it is
better to err with the majority than to argue against
so many eminent writers. 27 In 1629 a Count Maier
547published at Frankfort a book. ‘De Volucri Arborea’
(On the Tree-bird), in which he explains the whole
process of its birth, and indulges in some most absurd
and blasphemous speculations. *28

But how did this extraordinary story arise? Why
should anybody ever have conceived the idea that a
bird was produced from a shell; and this particular
bird, the Barnacle-goose, from this particular shell,
the Barnacle-shell? If the story was once started,
there are many things that would keep it alive; and
its vitality has certainly been extraordinary. There
are certain features about this Barnacle-shell which to

Fig. 30.


a careless observer might look like the first rudiments
of a bird; and the feet, in particular, with which these
animals catch their food and convey it into the shell,
are decidedly like very delicate feathers. The fact,
again, that this fable of the shell-geese offered an
excuse for eating these birds during Lent would, no
548doubt, form a strong support of the common belief,
and invest it, to a certain extent, with a sacred character.
In Bombay, where, with some classes of
people, fish is considered a prohibited article of food,
the priests call it sea-vegetable, under which name it
is allowed to be eaten. No one would suspect Linnæus
of having shared the vulgar error; nevertheless,
he retained the name of anatifera, or duck-bearing, as
given to the shell, and that of Bernicla, as given to
the goose.

I believe it was language which first suggested this
myth. We saw that the shells were regularly and
properly called bernaculæ. We also saw that the
Barnacle-geese were caught in Ireland. It was against
the Irish bishops that Giraldus Cambrensis wrote,
blaming them for their presumption in eating these
birds during Lent; and we learn from later sources
that the discovery made by the Irish priests was readily
adopted in France. Now Ireland is called Hibernia;
and I believe these birds were originally called Hibernicæ,
or Hiberniculæ. The first syllable was dropped,
as not having the accent, just as it was dropped in the
Italian il verno, winter, instead of il iverno. This
dropping of the first syllable is by no means unusual
in Latin words which, through the vulgar Latin of
the monks, found their way into the modern Eomance
dialects; *29 and we actually find in the mediæval Latin
dictionaries the word hybernagium in the truncated
form of bernagium. 30 The birds, therefore, being called
Hiberniculæ, then Berniculæ, were synonymous with
549the shells, equally called Bernaculæ; and as their
names seemed one, so the creatures were supposed to
be one. Everything afterwards seemed to conspire
to confirm the first mistake, and to invest what was
originally a good Irish canard with all the dignity of
scientific, and the solemnity of theological truth.

It should be mentioned, however, that there is another
derivation of the name Bernacula, which was suggested
to Gesner by one of his correspondents. ‘Joannes
Caius.’ he says, ‘writes to me in a letter: “I believe
that the bird which we call Anser brendinus, others
Bernaclus, ought to be called Berndacus; for the old
Britons and the modern Scots called, and call, the wild
goose Clake. Hence they still retain the name which
is corrupted with us, Lake or Fenlake, i. e. lake-goose,
instead of Fencklake; for our people frequently change
letters, and say hern for bren.”’ (‘Historia Animalium,’
lib. iii. p. 110.)

His idea, therefore, was, that the name was derived
from Scotch; that in Scotch the bird was called
Bran clake; that this was pronounced Bernclake,
and then Latinized into bernclacus. There is, however,
this one fatal objection to this etymology, that
among the very numerous varieties of the name Bernicula, *31
not one comes at all near to Bernclacus.
550Otherwise clake or claik certainly means goose; and
the Barnacle-goose, in particular, is so called. *32 As to
Bran, it means in compounds dark, such as the A. S.
branwyrt, blackberry, different from brunewyrt, brownwort,
water betony; and Jamieson gives us as Scotch
branded, brannit, adj., having a reddish-brown colour,
as if singed by fire; a branded cow being one almost
entirely brown. A brant-fox is a fox with black feet.
Branta, we saw, was a name given to the Barnacle-goose;
and it was said to be given to it on account of
its dark colour.

How easily in cases like this a legend grows up to
remove any difficulty that might be felt at names no
longer understood, can be proved by many a mediæval
legend, both sacred and profane. The learned editor
of the ‘Munimenta Gildhallæ Londinensis.’ Mr. H.
551T. Riley, tells us in his Preface (p. xviii.) that, in
the fourteenth and beginning of the fifteenth century,
trading, or buying and selling at a profit, was
known to the more educated classes under the French
name achat, which in England was written, and probably
pronounced, acat. To acat of this nature,
Whittington was indebted for his wealth; and as, in
time, the French became displaced here by the modern
English, the meaning of the word probably became
lost, and thereby gave the opportunity to some inventive
genius, at a much later period, of building a new
story on the double meaning of an old and effete
word. *33

You know the story of St. Christopher. The
‘Legenda Aurea’ 34 says of him that he was a Canaanite,
very tall and fearful to look at. ‘He would not
serve anybody who had himself a master; and when
he heard that his lord was afraid of the devil, he left
him and became himself the servant of the devil.
One day, however, when passing a Cross, he observed
that his new master was afraid of the Cross, and
learning that there was one more powerful than the
devil, he left him to enter the service of Christ. He
was instructed by an old hermit, but being unable to
fast or to pray, he was told to serve Christ by carrying
travellers across a deep river. 35 This he did,
552until one day he was called three times, and the third
time he saw a child that wished to be carried across
the river. He took him on his shoulders, but his
weight was such that he could hardly reach the
opposite shore. When he had reached it, the Child
said to him that he had earned Christ Himself on his
shoulders, in proof whereof, the stick which he had
used for many years, when planted in the earth, grew
into a tree.’ Many more miracles are said to have
happened to him afterwards, till at last he suffered
the death of a martyr.

It is clear, and it is not denied even by Roman
Catholic writers, that the whole legend of St. Christopher
sprang from his name, which means ‘he who
bears Christ.’ That name was intended in a spiritual
sense, just as St. Ignatius took the name of Theophorus *36
‘he who bears God.’ namely, in his heart,
feut, as in-the case of St. Ignatius, the people who
martyred him, when tearing out his heart, are said to
have found it miraculously inscribed with the name
of God, so the name of Christophorus led to the legend
just quoted. Whether there was a real Christophorus
who suffered martyrdom under Decius, in Lycia,
250 a.d., we cannot tell; but even Alban Butler, in
his ‘Lives of the Saints.’ admits that ‘there seem to
553be no other grounds than his name for the vulgar
notion of his great stature, the origin of which seems
to have been merely allegorical, as Baronius observes,
and as Vida has expressed in an epigram on this
saint’: —

‘Christophore, infixum quod eum usque in corde gerebas,
Pictores Christum dant tibi ferri humeris.’ *37

‘The enormous statues of St. Christopher, still
to be seen in many Gothic cathedrals, expressed
his allegorical wading through the sea of tribulations,
by which the faithful meant to signify
the many sufferings through which he arrived at
eternal life.’ Before he was called Christophorus his
name was Keprobus; so says the ‘Legenda Aurea.’
Others, improving on the legend, represent his original
name to have been Offerus, 38 the second part of
Christoferus, thus showing a complete misunderstanding
of the original name.

Another legend, which is supposed to owe its origin
to a similar misunderstanding, is that of Ursula and
the 11,000 Virgins, whose bones are shown to the
present day in one of the churches of Cologne. This
extravagant number of martyred virgins, which is not
specified in the earlier legends, is said to have arisen
from the name of one of the companions of Ursula
being Undecimella 39 — an explanation very plausible,
554though I must confess that I have not been able to
find any authority *40 for the name Undecimella.

It would be a great mistake to suppose that these
and other legends were invented and spread intentionally.
They were the natural productions of the
intellectual soil of Europe, where the seeds of Christianity
had been sown before the wild weeds of the
ancient heathen mythology were rooted up and burnt.
They are no more artificial, no more the work of
individuals, than the ancient fables of Greece, Rome,
or India; nay, we know that the Church, which has
sometimes been accused of fostering these superstitions,
endeavoured from time to time to check their
rapid growth, but in vain. What happened at that
time was what will always happen when the great
masses are taught to speak the language before they
have learnt to think the thoughts of their rulers,
teachers, apostles, or missionaries. What in the mind
of the teacher is spiritual and true becomes in the
mouth of the pupil material and frequently false.
Yet, even in their corrupt form, the words of the
teachers retain their sacred character; they soon form
an integral part of that foundation on which the
religious life of a whole nation is built up, and the
very teachers tremble lest in trying to place each
stone in its right position, they might shake the structure
which it took centuries to build up. St. Thomas
(died 1274) asked Bonaventura (died 1271) whence
he received the force and unction which he displayed
555in all his works. Bonaventura pointed to a crucifix
hanging on the wall of his cell. ‘It is that image.’ he
said, ‘thich dictates all my words to me.’ What can
be more simple, more true, more intelligible? But the
saying of Bonaventura was repeated, the people took
it literally, and, in spite of all remonsti-ances, they
insisted that Bonaventura possessed a talking crucifix.
A profane miracle took the place of a sacred
truth; nay, those who could understand the truth, and
felt bound to protest against the vulgar error, were
condemned by the loud-voiced multitude as disbelievers
of miracles. Pictures frequently added a new sanction
to these popular superstitions. Zurbaran painted
a saint (Pierre Nolasque) before a speaking crucifix.
Whether the artist meant it literally or symbolically,
we do not know. But the crowds took it in the
most literal sense, and who was the bold preacher
who would tell his congregation the plain, though, no
doubt, the more profound, meaning of the miraculous
picture which they had once learnt to worship?

It was a common practice of early artists to represent
martyrs that had been executed by the sword, as
carrying their heads in their hands. *41 The people who
saw the sculptures could read them in one sense only,
and they firmly believed that certain martyrs miraculously
carried their heads in their hands after they
had been beheaded, 42 Several saints were represented
556with a dove either at their side or near their
ear. The artist intended no more than to show that
these men had been blessed with the gifts of the Holy
Ghost; but the people who saw the images firmly
believed that the Holy Ghost had appeared to their
saint in the form of a dove. *43 Again, nothing was
more usual for an artist than to represent sin and
idolatry under the form of a serpent or a dragon. A
man who had fought bravely against the temptations
of the world, a pagan king who had become a convert
to Christianity, 44 was naturally represented as a
St. George fighting with the dragon, and slaying it.
A missionary who had successfully preached the
Gospel and driven out the venómōus brood of heresy
or idolatry, became at once a St. Patrick, driving
away every poisonous creature from the Hibernian
island. 45

Now it should be observed how in all these cases
the original conception of the word or the picture is
far higher, far more reverend, far more truly religious
than the miraculous petrifaction which excites the
superstitious interest of the people at large. If
Constantine or Clovis, at the most critical moments of
their lives, felt that-the victory came from the hands
of the Only True God, the God revealed by Christ,
and preached in the cities of the whole Eoman
Empire by the despised disciples of a crucified Lord,
surely this shows the power of Christianity in a
far more majestic light than when we are told that
these royal converts saw, or imagined they saw, a flag
557with a Cross, or with the inscription, ‘In hoc signo
.’ *46

If Bonaventura felt the presence of Christ in his
lonely cell, if the heart of Ignatius was instinct with
the spirit of God, we can understand what is meant, we
can sympathize, we can admire, we can love. But if
we are told that the one' merely possessed a talking
crucifix, and that the heart of the other was inscribed
with the four Greek letters, ΘΕΟΣ, what is that
to us?

Those old pictures and carved images of saints
fighting with dragons, of martyrs willing to lay down
their lives for the truth, of inspired writers listening
intently to the voice of God, lose all their meaning
and beauty if we are told that they were only men
of bodily strength who chanced to kill a gorilla-like
monster, or beings quite different from ourselves, who
did not die even though their heads had been severed
from their trunks, or old men carrying doves on each
shoulder. Those doves whispering into the ears of
the prophets of old were meant for the Spirit of God
descending like a dove and lighting upon them; and
the pious sculptors of old would have been horrified
at the idea that these birds could ever be mistaken
for real animals in a bodily shape, dictating to the
prophets the words they should write down.

Everything is true, natural, significant, if we enter
with a reverend spirit into the meaning of ancient
558art and ancient language. Everything becomes false,
miraculous, and unmeaning, if we interpret the deep
and mighty words of the seers of old in the shallow
and feeble sense of modern chroniclers.

There is a curious instance of mistaken interpretation
which happened long before the days of Galileo.
Earthquakes in later Greek were called Theomēnía,
which literally means the Anger of God. The
expression was probably suggested by the language
of the Bible, where we meet with passages such as
(Psalm civ. 32). ‘He looketh on the earth, and it
trembleth; he toucheth the hills, and they smoke.’
It was in itself a most appropriate term, but it very
soon lost its etymological significancy, and became
the conventional and current name for earthquake.
Nevertheless it kept up in people's mind the idea that
earthquakes were more immediately produced by the
wrath of God, and differed in this way from thunderstorms,
or famine, or pestilence. Here was the source
of mischief. The name of Theomēnía *47 which was
qutrue in i is original conception, became falsified
559by an inadequate interpretation. And what happened?
People who, like Photius, ventured to assign natural
causes that produced earthquakes, were cried down
by a thoughtless multitude as unbelievers and heretics.

We have lastly to consider one class of words
which exercise a most powerful influence on the
mind. They rule the mind instead of being ruled
by it, and they give rise to a kind of mythology, the
effects of which are most widely extended, even at
the present day. I pointed out in a former Lecture
that, besides such abstract names as virtue, fortune,
felicity, peace, and war, there are others of a slightly
different character, which equally lend themselves to
mythological personification. A name like the Latin
virtus was originally intended to express a quality,
manliness, the quality of a man, or rather every good
quality peculiar to man. As long as this noun was
used merely as a noun of quality, as an adjective
changed into a substantive, no mischief could arise.

Abstract nouns were originally collective nouns,
and the transition is very easy from a plural, such as
‘the clercs’ (clerici), to a collective or abstract noun,
such as ‘the clergy’ (clericatus). Humanitas meant
originally ‘all men,’ ‘mankind;’ but kind, literally
genus, came, like genus, to express what constitutes
kind, the qualities which all members of a kind share
in common, and by which one particular kind or kin
is distinguished from all other kinds or kins.

But when the mind, led away by the outward
semblance of the word virtus, conceived what was
intended merely as a collective predicate, as a personal
subjective essence, then the mischief was done:
an adjective had become a substantive, a predicate
560had been turned into a subject; and as there could
not be any real and natural basis on which this
spurious being could rest, it was placed, almost involuntarily,
on the same pedestal on which the statues
of the so-called divine powers had been erected; it
was spoken of as a supernatural or a divine being.
Virtus, manliness, instead of being possessed by man,
was herself spoken of as possessing, as ruling, as inciting
man. She became a power, a divine power, and
she soon received temples, altars, and sacrifices, like
other more ancient gods. Many of those more ancient
gods owed their origin to exactly the same intellectual
confusion. We are apt to imagine that Day, Night,
Dawn, Spring, Heaven, Earth, River, are substantial
beings, more substantial at least than Virtue or Peace.
But let us analyse these words, let us look for the substantial
basis on which they rest, and we shall find that
they evade our touch almost as much as the goddesses
of Virtue and Peace. We can lay hold of something
in everything that is individual, we can speak of a
pebble, a daisy, a horse, or of a stone, a flower, an
animal, as independent beings; and although their
names are derived from some general quality peculiar
to each, yet that quality is substantiated in something
that exists, and resists further, analysis. But if we
speak of the Dawn, what do we mean? Do we mean
a substance, an individual, a person? Certainly not.
We mean the time which preædes the rising of the
sun. But then, again, what is Time? what is there
substantial, individual, or personal in time, or any
portion of time? Yet Language cannot help herself;
all the nouns which she uses are either masculine
or feminine — for neuters are of later date — and if the
name of the Dawn has once been formed, that name
561will convey to every one, except to the philosopher,
the idea of a substantial, if not of an individual and personal
being. We saw that one name of the dawn in
Sanskrit was Saraṇyû, and that it coincided literally
with the Greek Erînys, It was originally a perfectly
true and natural saying that the rays of the Dawn
would bring to light the works of darkness, the sins
committed during the night. We have a proverb in
German: —

‘Kein Faden ist so fein gesponnen,
Er koramt doch endlich an der Sonnen.’

No thread on earth so fine is spun,
But comes at last before the sun.

The expression that the Erinys, Saraṇyû, the Dawn,
finds out the criminal, was originally quite free from
mythology; it meant no more than that crime
would be brought to light some day or other. It
became mythological, however, as soon as the etymological
meaning of Erinys was forgotten, and as
soon as the Dawn, a portion of time, assumed the
rank of a personal being.

The Weird Sisters sprang from the same source.
Weird meant originally the Past *48 It was the name
given to the first of the three Nornas, the German
Parcæ. They were called Urđr, Verđandi, and
Skuld, Past, Present, and Future, 49 ‘das Gewordene,’
‘das Werdende.’ ‘das (sein) Sollende.’ They
expressed exactly the same idea which the Greeks expressed
by the thread which has been spun, the thread
that passes through the fingers, and the thread that
562is still on the distaff; or by Lachesis, singing what
has been (tà gegonóta), Klotho, what is (tà ónto), and
Atropos, what will be (tà méllonta).

In Anglo-Saxon, Wyrd occurs frequently in the
sense of Destiny or Fate.

Beowulf, v. 915: — ‘Gæđ â wyrd swâ hiô sceal,’
Fate goes ever as it must.

The Weird Sisters were intended either as destiny
personified, or as fatidicæ, prophesying what is to befal
man. Shakespeare retains the Saxon name, Chaucer
speaks of them as ‘the fatal sustrin.’

Again, when the ancient nations spoke of the Earth,
they no doubt meant originally the soil on which they
stood; but they soon meant more. That soil was
naturally spoken of as their mother, that is to say,
as supplying them with food; and this one name,
Mother, applied to the Earth, was sufficient to impart
to it the first elements of personality, if not of humanity.
But this Earth, when once spoken of as an
individual, was felt to be more than the soil enclosed
by hurdles, or walls, or mountains.

To the mind of the early thinkers the Earth became
an infinite being, extending as far as his senses and
his thoughts could extend, and supported by nothing,
not even by the Elephant and the Tortoise of later
Oriental philosophy. Thus the Earth grew naturally
and irresistibly into a vague being, real, yet not finite;
personal, yet not human; and the only name by which
the ancient nations could call her, the only category
of thought under which she could be comprehended,
was that of a goddess, a bright, powerful, immortal
being, the mother of men, the beloved of the sky, the
Great Mother.

Now, it is perfectly true that we in our modern
563languages do not speak any more of gods and goddesses
; but have we in our scientific and unscientific
vocabularies none of those nondescript beings, like
Earth, or Dawn, or Future? Do we never use terms
which, if rigorously analysed, would turn out to be
without any substantial basis, resting like the Earth
on the Elephant, and the Elephant on the Tortoise —
but the Tortoise swinging in infinite space?

Take the word Nature. Natura, etymologically,
means she who gives birth, who brings forth! But
who is she, or he, or it? The ancient nations made
a goddess of her — and this we consider a childish
mistake — but what is Nature with us? We use the
word readily and constantly, but when we try to think
of Nature as a being, or as an aggregate of beings,
or as a power, or as an aggregate of powers, our mind
soon drops: there is nothing to lay hold of, nothing
that exists or resists.

What is meant by the expression, that fruits are
produced by Nature? Nature cannot be meant here
as an independent power, for we believe no longer
in a Gæa or Tellus, a Mother Earth, bringing forth the
fruits on which we live (zeidoros). Gæa was one of
the many names of the Divine; — is Nature more or
less to us?

Let us see what naturalists and philosophers can
tell us about Nature.

Buffon says: ‘I have always spoken of the Creator,
but you have only to drop that word, and put in its
place the power of Nature.’

‘Nature.’ he says again, ‘is not a thing, for it would
be all; Nature is not a being, for that being would be

‘Nature is a living power,’ he adds, ‘immense, all-embracing,
564all-vivifying; subject to the first Being,
it has commenced to act at His command alone, and
continues to act by His consent.’

Is this more intelligible, more consistent, than the
fables of Gæa, the mother of Uranos, the wife of

Cuvier thus speaks of Nature: *50

‘By one of those figures of speech to which all
languages are liable, Nature has been personified;
all beings that exist have been called “the works of
Nature;” the general relations of these beings among
themselves have been called “the laws of Nature.”
By thus considering Nature as a being endowed with
intelligence and will, though secondary and limited in
its powers, people have brought themselves to say
that she watches constantly over the support of her
works, that she does nothing in vain, that she always
acts by the simplest means. It is easy to see the
puerility of those philosophers who have conferred on
Nature a kind of individual existence, distinct from
the Creator, from the laws which He has imposed on
the movement, and from the properties and forms
which He has given to His creatures; and who represent
Nature as acting on matter by means of her own
power and reason. As our knowledge has advanced in
astronomy, physics, and chemistry, those sciences have
renounced the paralogisms which resulted from the
application of figurative language to real phenomena.
Physiologists only have still retained this habit, because
with the obscurity in which physiology is still
enveloped, it was not possible for them to deceive themselves
or others as to their profound ignorance of vital
565movements, except by attributing some kind of reality
to the phantoms of their imagination.’

Nature, if we believed all that is said of her, would
be the most extraordinary being. She has horrors
(horror vacui), she indulges in freaks (lusus naturæ),
she commits blunders (errores natural, monstra). She
is sometimes at war with herself, for, as Giraldus told
us, ‘Nature produced barnacles against Nature;’ and
of late years we have heard much of her power of

Nature is sometimes used as meaning simply matter,
or everything that exists apart from spirit. Yet
more frequently Nature is supposed to be itself endowed
with independent life, to be working after
eternal and invariable laws. Again, we sometimes
hear Nature used so as to include the spiritual life
and the intellectual activity of man. We speak of the
spiritual nature of man, of the natural laws of thought,
of natural religion. Even the Divine Essence is not
necessarily excluded, for the word nature is sometimes
used so as to include that First Cause of which everything
else is considered as an emanation, reflection, or

But while nature seems thus applicable promiscuously
to things material and spiritual, human and
divine, language certainly, on the other hand, helps us
to distinguish between the works of nature and the
works of man, the former supplying materials for the
physical, the latter for the historical sciences; and it
likewise countenances the distinction between the
works both of nature and of man on one side, and the
Divine agencies on the other: the former being
called natural and human, the latter supernatural and

But now consider the havoc which must needs
follow if people, without having clearly perceived the
meaning of Nature, without having agreed among
themselves as to the strict limits of the word, enter
on a discussion upon the Supernatural, People will
fight and call each other very hard names for denying
or asserting certain opinions about the Supernatural.
They would consider it impertinent if they were
asked to define what they mean by the Supernatural:
and yet it is as clear as anything can be that these
antagonists connect totally different ideas, and ideas
of the vaguest character, with this term.

Many attempts have been made to define the supernatural
or the miraculous, but in every one of these
definitions the meaning of nature or the natural is
left undefined.

Thus Thomas Aquinas explained a miracle as that
which happens out of the order of nature (præter
ordinem naturæ), while St. Augustine had worded
his definition far more carefully in saying that we
call miracles what God performs out of the usual
course of nature, as known to us (contra cognitum
nobis cursum solitumque naturæ). Others defined
miracles as events exceeding the powers of nature
(opus excedens naturæ vires); but this was not considered
enough, because miracles should not only
exceed the powers of nature, but should violate
the order of nature (cum ad miraculum requiratur,
nedum ut excedat vires naturæ, sed præterea ut sit
prseter ordinem naturæ). Miracles were divided into
three classes — 1. Those above nature (supra naturam);
2. Those against nature (contra naturam); 3. Those
beyond nature (præter naturam). But where nature
ended and the supernatural began was never explained.
567Thomas Aquinas went so far as to admit
miracles quoad nos, and St. Augustine maintained
that, according to human usage, things were said to be
against nature which are only against the course of
nature, as known to mortals. (Dici autem humano
more contra naturam esse quod est contra naturæ
usum mortalibus notum.) All these fanciful definitions
may be seen carefully examined by Benedict
XIV, in the first part of the fourth book of his work
‘De Servorum Dei Beatificatione et Beatorum Canonizatione:’
yet should we look in vain either there or
anywhere else for a definition of what is natural. *51

Here a large field is open to the student of language.
It is his office to trace the original meaning of each
word, to follow up its history, its changes of form and
meaning in the schools of philosophy or in the market-place
and the senate. He ought to show how frequently
different ideas are comprehended under one
and the same term, and how frequently the same idea is
expressed by different terms. These two tendencies in
language, Homonymy and Polyonymy, which favoured,
as we saw, the abundant growth of early mythology,
are still asserting their power in fostering the growth
of philosophical systems. A history of such terms as
to know and to believe, Finite and Infinite, Real and
Necessary, would do more than anything else, to clear
the philosophical atmosphere of our days.

The influence which language exercises over our
thoughts has been felt by many philosophers, most of
all by Locke. Some thought that influence inevitable,
whether for good or evil; others supposed that it
568could be checked by a proper definition of words, or
by the introduction of a new technical language.
A few quotations may be useful to show how independent
thinkers have always rebelled against the
galling despotism of language, and yet how little it
has been shaken. Thus Bacon says: —

‘And lastly, let us consider the false appearances
that are imposed upon us by words, which are framed
and applied according to the conceit and capacities of
the vulgar sort; and although we think we govern
our words, and prescribe it well, — loquendum ut
vulgus, sentiendum ut sapientes, — yet certain it is,
that words, as a Tartar's bow, do shoot back upon the
understanding of the wisest, and mightily entangle
and pervert the judgment. So as it is almost necessary
in all controversies and disputations to imitate
the wisdom of the mathematicians, in setting down
in the very beginning the definitions of our words
and terms, that others may know how we accept and
understand them, and whether they concur with us or
no. For it cometh to pass, for want of this, that we
are sure to end there where we ought to have begun,
which is in questions and differences about words.’

Locke says: —

‘I am apt to imagine that, were the imperfections of
language, as the instruments of knowledge, more
thoroughly weighed, a great many of the controversies
that make such a noise in the world would of
themselves cease; and the way to knowledge, and
perhaps peace too, lie a great deal opener than it

Wilkins, when explaining the advantages of his
philosophical language, remarks: —

‘This design will likewise contribute much to the
569clearing of some of our modern differences in religion;
by unmasking many wild errors, that shelter themselves
under the disguise of affected phrases; which,
being philosophically unfolded, and rendered according
to the genuine and natural importance of
words, will appear to be inconsistencies and contradictions.
And several of those pretended mysterious
profound notions, expressed in great swelling words,
whereby some men set up for reputation, being this
way examined, will appear to be either nonsense, or
very flat and jejune. And though it should be of no
other use but this, yet were it in these days well worth
a man's pains and study; considering the common
mischief that is done, and the many impostures and
cheats that are put upon men, under the disguise of
affected insignificant phrases.’

Among modern philosophers, Brown dwells most
strongly on the same subject: —

‘How much the mere materialism of our language
has itself operated in darkening our conceptions of
the nature of the mind, and of its various phenomena,
is a question which is obviously beyond our power to
solve, since the solution of it would imply that the
mind of the solver was itself free from the influence
which he traced and described. But of this, at least,
we may be sure, that it is almost impossible for us to
estimate the influence too highly, for we must not
think that its effect has been confined to the works of
philosophers. It has acted much more powerfully, in
the familiar discourse and silent reflections of multitudes,
that have never had the vanity to rank themselves
as philosophers, — thus incorporating itself, as it
were, with the very essence of human thought.

In that state of social life, in which languages had
570their origin, the inventor of a word probably thought
of little more than the temporary facility which it
might give to himself and his companions in communicating
their mutual wants and concerting their
mutual schemes of co-operation. He was not aware
that with this faint and perishing sound, which a
slight difference of breathing produced, he was
creating that which was afterwards to constitute one
of the most imperishable of things, and to form, in
the minds of millions, during every future age, a part
of the complex lesson of their intellectual existence, —
giving rise to lasting systems of opinions, which,
perhaps, but for the invention of this single word,
never could have prevailed for a moment, and modifying
sciences, the very elements of which had not
then begun to exist. The inventor of the most
barbarous term may thus have had an influence on
mankind, more important than all which the most
illustrious conqueror could effect by a long life of
fatigue, and anxiety, and peril, and guilt.

A few phrases of Aristotle achieved a much more
extensive and lasting conquest; and are perhaps even
at this moment exercising no small sway on the very
minds which smile at them with scorn.’ *52

Sir W. Hamilton, in his ‘Lectures on Metaphysics.’
ii. p. 312, remarks: — ‘To objects so different as the
images of sense and the unpicf urable notions of intelligence,
different names ought to be given; and,
accordingly, this has been done wherever a philosophical
nomenclature of the slightest pretensions to
perfection has been formed. In the German language,
which is now the richest in metaphysical expressions
571of any living tongues, the two kinds of
objects are carefully distinguished. In our language,
on the contrary, the terms idea, conception, notion,
are used almost as convertible for either; and the
vagueness and confusion which is thus produced, even
within the narrow sphere of speculation to which the
want of the distinction also confines us, can be best
appreciated by those who are conversant with the
philosophy of the different countries.’

I shall, in conclusion, give two or three instances to
indicate the manner in which I think the Science of
Language might be of advantage to the philosopher.

Knowledge, or to know, is used in modern languages
in at least three different senses.

First, we may say, a child knows his mother, or a
dog knows his master. This means no more than that
they recognise one present sensuous impression as
identical with a past sensuous impression. This kind
of knowledge arises simply from the testimony of the
senses, or sensuous memory, and it is shared in common
by man and animal. The absence of this knowledge
we call forgetting — a process more difficult to
explain than that of remembering. Locke has treated
of it in one of the most eloquent passages of his ‘Essay
concerning Human Understanding’ (ii. 10, 5): —
‘The memory of some men, it is true, is very tenacious,
even to a miracle; but yet there seems to be a
constant decay of all our ideas, even of those which
are struck deepest, and in minds the most retentive;
so that if they be not sometimes renewed by repeated
exercise of the senses, or reflection on those kind of
objects which, at first, occasioned them, the print
wears out, and, at last, there remains nothing to be
seen. Thus the ideas, as well as children of ou
572youth, often die before us; and our minds represent
to us those tombs to which we are approaching; where
though the brass and marble remain, yet the inscriptions
are effaced by time, and the imagery moulders away.
The pictures drawn in our minds are laid in fading
colours; and if not sometimes refreshed, vanish and
disappear. How much the constitution of our bodies,
and the make of our animal spirits, are concerned in
this, and whether the temper of the brain make this
difference, that in some it retains the characters
drawn on it like marble, in others like freestone, and
in others little better than sand, I shall not here
inquire: though it may seem probable that the constitution
of the body does sometimes influence the
memory; since we oftentimes find a disease quite
strip the mind of all its ideas, and the flames of a
fever, in a few days, calcine all those images to dust
and confusion, which seemed to be as lasting as if
graved in marble.’

Secondly, we may say, I know this to be a triangle.
Here we have a general conception, that of triangle,
which is not supplied by the senses alone, but elaborated
by reason, and we predicate this of something
which we perceive at the time by our senses. We
recognise a particular sensuous impression as falling
under the general category of triangle. Here you
perceive the difference. We not only recognise what
we see, as the same thing we had seen before, but we
must previously have gathered certain impressions
into one cluster, and have given a name to this
cluster, before we can apply that name whenever the
same cluster presents itself again. This is knowledge
denied to the animal, and peculiar to man as a reasoning
being. All syllogistic knowledge falls under this
573head. The absence of this kind of knowledge is
called ignorance.

Thirdly, we say that man knows there is a God.
This knowledge is based neither on the evidence of
the senses, nor on the evidence of reason. No man
has ever seen God, no man has ever formed a general
conception of God. Neither sense nor reason can
supply a knowledge of God. What are called the
proofs of the existence of God, whether ontological,
teleological, or kosmological, are possible only after
the idea of God has been realized within us. Here,
then, we have a third kind of knowledge, which
imparts to us what is neither furnished by the organs
of sense, nor elaborated by our reason, and which
nevertheless possesses evidence equal, nay, superior,
to the evidence of sense and reason. The absence of
this knowledge is sometimes called spiritual darkness.

Unless these three kinds of knowledge are carefully
distinguished, the general question, How we know,
must receive the most contradictory answers.

‘To believe’ likewise expresses in modern English
several very different kinds of assent. When we
speak of our belief in God, or in the immortality of
the soul, or in the divine government of the world,
or in the sonship of Christ, we want to express a
certainty independent of sense-evidence and reason,
yet more convincing than either, evidence not to be
shaken either by the report of the senses or by the
conclusion of logical arguments. It is the strongest
assent which creatures made as we are can give.

But when we say that we believe that Our Lord
suffered under Pontius Pilate, or lived during the
reign of Augustus, we do not intend to say that
574we believe this with the same belief as the existence
of God, or the immortality of the soul. The
assent we give to these events is based on historical
evidence, which is only a subdivision of sense*evidence,
supplemented by the evidence of reason. If facts
could be brought forward to show that our chronology
was wrong, and that Augustus was emperor
fifty years sooner or later, we should willingly
give up our belief that Christ and Augustus were
contemporaries. Belief in these cases means no
more than that we have grounds, sensuous or argumentative,
for admitting certain facts. I saw the
revolution at Paris in February 1848: this is senseevidence.
I saw men who had seen the revolution
at Paris in July 1830: this is sense-evidence, supplemented
by argumentative evidence. I saw men
who had seen men that had seen the revolution at
Paris in July 1789: this is again sense-evidence,
supplemented by argument. The same chain carries
us back to the remotest times, but where its links
are weak or broken, no power of belief can restore
them. It is impossible to assent to any historical
facts, as such, without the evidence of sense or reason.
We may be as certain of historical facts as of our
own existence, or we may be uncertain. We may
either give or deny our assent, or we may give our
assent provisionally, conditionally, doubtfully, carelessly.
But we can as little believe a fact, using to
believe in its first sense, as we can reason with our
senses, or see with our reason. If, nevertheless, to
believe is used to express various degrees of assent
to historical facts, it is of great importance to bear
in mind that the word thus used does not express
that supreme certainty which is conveyed in our
575belief in God and Immortality (credo in), a certainty
never attainable by ‘cumulative probabilities.’ *53

To believe is used in a third sense when we say,
‘I believe it is going to rain.’ ‘I believe’ here means
no more than ‘I guess.’ The same word, therefore,
conveys the highest as well as the lowest degree of
certainty that can be predicated of the various experiences
of the human mind, and the confusion
produced by its promiscuous employment has caused
some of the most violent controversies in matters of
religion and philosophy.

The Infinite, we have been told over and over
again, is a negative idea, it excludes only, it does not
include anything; nay, we are assured, in the most
dogmatic tone, that a finite mind cannot conceive the
Infinite. A step farther carries us into the very
abyss of Metaphysics. There is no Infinite, we are
told, for as there is a Finite, the Infinite has its limit
in the Finite, it cannot be Infinite. Now all this
is mere playing on words without thoughts. Why
is infinite a negative idea? Because infinite is derived
from finite by means of the negative particle
in! But this is a mere accident, it is a fact in the
history of language, and no more. The same idea
may be expressed by the Perfect, the Eternal, the
Self-existing, which are positive terms, or contain
at least no negative element. That negative words
may express positive ideas was known perfectly to
Greek philosophers such as Chrysippus, and they
would as little have thought of calling immortal a
negative idea as they would have considered blind
positive. The true idea of the Infinite is neither a
576negation nor a modification of any other idea. *54 The
Finite, on the contrary, is in reality the limitation or
modification of the Infinite, nor is it possible, if we
reason in good earnest, to conceive of the Finite in
any other sense than as the shadow of the Infinite.
Even Language will confess to this, if we crossexamine
her properly. For whatever the etymology
of fînis may be, whether it be derived from findere or
figere, 55 whether it means that which cuts or that which
is fixed, it is clear that it stands for something which
by means of the senses is inapprehensible. We admit
in mathematical reasoning that points, lines, and
planes can never be presented to the eye. It is the
same in the world at large. No finger, no razor,
has ever touched the end of anything: no eye has
laid hold of the horizon which divides heaven and
earth, or of the line which separates green from
yellow, or unites yellow with white. No ear has
ever caught the point where one key enters into
another. Our senses never convey to us anything
finite or definite, their impressions are always relative,
measured by degrees, but by degrees of an infinite
scale. It is maintained by some authorities 56 that the
ear can take in 38,000 vibrations in one second.
This is the highest note. The lowest number of
577vibrations producing musical sound is sixteen in one
second. Between these two points lies the sphere
of our musical perceptions, but there is in reality
a progressus ad infinitum on either side. The same
applies to colour. Wherever we look, we never find
a real end, a seizable finis. Finis, therefore, and
the Finite express something which the senses by
themselves do not supply, something that in our
sensuous experience is purely negative, a name of
something which, in the language of the senses, has
no existence at all. But it has existence in the language
of reason. Reason, which has as much right as
the senses, postulates the Finite in spite of the senses;
and when we speak reasonably, the Finite, i. e. the measures
of space and time, the shades of colour, the keys
of sound, &c., all these become to us the most positive
elements of thought. Now it is our reason on which
we pride ourselves most, we like to be called rational
beings, and we are apt to look down on the two other
organs of knowledge as of less importance. But there
are, besides Reason, the two other organs of knowledge,
Sense and Faith, all three together constituting
our being, neither subordinate to the other, but all
coequal. Faith, for I can find no better name in
English, is that organ of knowledge by which we
apprehend the Infinite, i. e. whatever transcends the
ken of our senses and the grasp of our reason. The
Infinite is hidden from the senses, it is denied by
Reason, but it is perceived by Faith, and it is perceived,
if once perceived, as underlying both the
experience of the senses and the combinations of
reason. What to our reason is merely negative, the
In-finite, becomes to our faith positive, the Infinite,
and if our eyes are once opened, we see even with our
578senses straight into that endless All by which we
are surrounded on every side, and without which the
fleeting phenomena of the senses and the wonderful
cobwebs of our reason would be vanity, and nothing
but vanity.

Not even the Natural Sciences, which generally pride
themselves on the exactness of their language, are free
from words which, if rigorously analysed, would turn
out to be as unsubstantial as Nemesis and the Erinys.
Naturalists used to speak of Atoms, things indivisible,
which are mere conceptions of the mind, as if they
were real, in the sensuous sense of the word, whereas
it is impossible for the senses to take cognizance of
anything that cannot be divided, or is incommensurable.
Chymists speak of imponderable substances,
which is as impossible a conception as that of atoms.
Imponderable means what cannot be weighed. But
to weigh is to compare the gravity of one body with
that of another. Now, it is impossible that the
weight of any body should be so small as to defy
comparison with the weight of some other body; or,
if we suppose a body without weight and gravity, we
speak of a thing which cannot exist in the material
world in which we live, a world governed without
mercy by the law of gravity.

Every advance in physical science seems to be
marked by the discarding of some of these mythological
terms, yet new ones spring up as soon as the
old ones are disposed of. Till very lately, Caloric
was a term in constant use, and it was supposed to
express some real matter, something that produced
heat. That idea is now exploded, and heat is understood
to be the result of molecular and ethereal vibrations.
All matter is supposed to be immersed in a
579highly elastic medium, and that medium has received
the name of Ether. No doubt this is a gTeat advance
— yet what is Ether, of which everybody now speaks
as of a substance — heat, light, electricity, sound, being
only so many different modes or modifications of it?
Ether is a myth — a quality changed into a substance —
an abstraction, useful, no doubt, for the purposes of
physical speculation, but intended rather to mark the
present horizon of our knowledge than to represent
anything which we can grasp either with our senses
or with our reason. As long as it is used in that
sense, as an algebraic x, as an unknown quantity, it
can do no harm — as little as to speak of the Dawn as
Erinys, or of Heaven as Zeus. The mischief begins
when language forgets itself, and makes us mistake
the Word for the Thing, the Quality for the Substance,
the Nomen for the Numen.580

1* ‘Half the perplexities of men are traceable to obscurity of
thought, hiding and breeding under obscurity of language.’ —
Edinb. Review, Oct. 1862, p. 378.

2* Cf. Locke, iii. 9, 17.

3* Brady, Clavis Calendaria, vol. ii. p. 13.

4 Trench, English Past and Present, p. 223: —

‘The George and Cannon = the George Canning.
The Billy Ruffian = the Bellerophon (ship).
The Iron Devil = the Hirondelle.
Rose of the Quarter Sessions = la rose des quatre saisons.’

5* See the Rev. Francis C. Massingberd, in the Proceedings of
the Archæological Institute
, Lincoln, 1848, p. 58. Gowt is the
same word as the German Gosse, gutter.

6 See the Rev. Francis C. Massingberd, in the Proceedings of
the Archæological Institute
, Lincoln, 1848, p. 59. The learned
antiquary quotes several passages in support of the plural
greesen. Thus Acts xxi. 40, instead of ‘And when he had
given him license, Paul stood on the stairs,’ Wickliffe has: ‘Poul
stood on the greezen.’ Shakespeare paraphrases grize (as he writes)
by steps: —

Let me speak like yourself; and lay a sentence
Which, as a grize or step, may help these lovers
Into your favour. Othello, Act 1, Sc. iii.

In Hackluyt's Voyages, vol. ii. p. 57, we read: ‘The king of
the said land of Java hath a most brave and sumptuous palace,
the most loftily built that I ever saw, and it hath most high
greesses, or stayers, to ascend up to the rooms therein contained.’

‘In expensis Stephani Austeswell, equitantis ad Thomam
Ayleward, ad loquendum cum ipso apud Havant, et inde ad
Hertynge, ad loquendum cum Domina ibidem, de evidenciis scrutandis
de Pe de Gre progenitorum hæredum de Husey, cum
vino dato eodem tempore, xx. d. ob.’ From the Rolls of Winchester
College, temp. Hen. IV., communicated by Rev. W.
Gunner, in Proceedings of Archæolog. Inst., 1848, p. 64.

7* Parker, Handbook of Oxford, p. 79.

8 Wilson, Pre-historic Man, p. 68. Cf. Pott, Doppelung, p. 81.
Förstemann, Deutsche Volksetymologie, in Kuhn's Zeitschrift,
vol. i. Latham, History of the English Language.

9 Cf. Trench, English Past and Present, p. 221.

10§ Cf. Grimm, D. W. s. v. Brill. Mr. Wedgwood derives
barnacles, in the sense of spectacles, from Limousin bourgna, to
squinny; Wall. boirgni, to look through one eye in aiming; Lang.
borni, blind; bornikel, one who sees with difficulty; berniques.
spectacles. Vocab. du Berri.

11* ‘Berillus (gemma, speculum presbiterorum aut veterum, d. i.
brill).’ Diefenbach, Glossarium Latino-Germanicum. ‘Eise’ may
be meant for crystal.

12 Raynouard, Lexique Roman.

13 Dict. du vieux Français, Paris, 1766, s. v.

14§ Dict. Prov.-Français, par Avril, 1839, s. v.

15 Voc. du Berri, s. v.

16 In the Dict. du vieux Français, Paris, 1766, bernicles occurs
in the sense of rien, nihil.

17** Skinner derives barnacle, ‘frænum quod equino rictui injicitur,’
from bear and neck.

18* Cf. Diez, Grammatik, p. 256. Bolso (pulsus), brugna and
prugna (prunum), &c. Berna, instead of Perna, is actually
mentioned in the Glossarium Latino-Germanicum, mediæ et infimæ
ætatis, ed. Diefenbach; also in Du Cange, berna, suuinbache.
Skinner derives barnacle from bearn, filius, and A. S.
aac, oak. Wedgwood proposes the Manx bayrn, a cap, as the
etymon of barnacle; also barnagh, a limpet, and the Gaelic
bairneach, barnacle; the Welsh brenig, limpet.

19 Plin. H. Nat. 32, 55: ‘Appellantur et pernæ concharum
generis, circa Pontias insulas frequentissimæ. Stant velut suillo
crure longo in arena defixæ, hiantesque, qua limpitudo est, pedali
non minus spatio, cibum venantur.’

20* Linnæus describes it, sub ‘Aves, Anseres,’ as ‘No. 11, Bernicla,
A. fusca, capite collo pectoreque nigris, collari albo.
Branta s. Bernicla. Habitat in Europa boreali, migrat super

Willoughby, in his Ornithology, book iii., says: ‘I am of opinion
that the Brant-Goose differs specifically from the Bernacle, however
writers of the History of Birds confound them, and make
these words synonymous.’ Mr. Gould, in his ‘Birds of Europe,’
vol. v., gives a drawing of the Anser leucopsis, Bernacle Goose,
l'oie bernache, sub No. 350; and another of the Anser Brenta,
Brent Goose, l'oie cravant, sub No. 352.

21* Seb. Munster, p. 49.

22 ‘The hystory and Croniclis of Scotland, with the Cosmography
and dyscription thairof, compilit be the noble clerk
maister Hector Boece channon of Aberdene. Translatit laitly in
our vulgar and commoun langage, be maister Johne Bellenden
Archedene of Murray, And Imprentit in Edinburgh, be me Thomas
Davidson, prenter to the Kyngis nobyll grace’ (about 1540).

23* Silvester Giraldus Cambrensis, Topographia Hiberniæ, in
Anglica, Normannica, Hibernica, Cambrica, a veteribus scripta.
Frankofurti, 1603, p. 706 (under Henry II., 1154-89).

‘Sunt et aves hie multæ quæ Bernacæ vocantur: quas mirum
in modum contra naturam natura producit: Aucis quidem palustribus
similes, sed minores. Ex lignis namque abiegnis per
sequora devolutis, primo quasi gummi nascuntur. Dehinc tamquam
ab alga ligno cohærente conchylibus testis ad liberiorem
formationem inclusæ, per rostra dependent: et sic quousque processu
temporis firmam plumarum vestituram indutæ vel in aquas
decidunt, vel in aëris libertatem volatu se transferunt, ex succo
ligneo marinoque occulta nimis admirandaque seminii ratione
alimenta simul incrementaque suscipiunt. Vidi multoties oculis
meis plusquara mille minuta hujusmodi aviura corpuscula, in littore
raaris ab uno ligno dependentia testis inclusa et jam formata.
Non ex harum coitu (ut in avibus assolet) ova gignuntur, non
avis in earum procreatione unquam ovis incubat: in nullis
terrarum angulis vel libidini vacare vel nidificare videntur. Unde
et in quibusdam Hiberniæ partibus, avibus istis tamquam non
carneis quia de carne non natis, episcopi et viri religiosi jejuniorum
tempore sine delictu vesci solent. Sed hi quidem scrupulose
moventur ad delictum. Si quis enim ex primi parentis
carnei quidem, licet de carne non nati, femore comedisset, eum a
carnium esu non immunem arbitrarer.’

24* ‘Barbates mentiendo quidam dicunt aves: quas vulgus bonngas
(baumgans?) vocat: eo quod ex arboribus nasci dicuntur a quibus
stipite et ramis dependent: et succo qui inter corticem est
nutritæ: dicunt etiam aliquando ex putridis lignis hæc animalia in
mari generari: et prsecipue ex abietum putredine, afferentes
quod nemo unquam vidit has aves coire vel ovare: et hoc omnino
absurdum est: quia ego et multi mecum de sociis vidimus eas et
coire et ovare et pullos nutrire sicut in ante habitis diximus:
hsee avis caput habet quasi pavonis. Pedes autem nigros ut
cygnus: et sunt membrana conjuncti digiti ad natandum: et sunt
in dorso cinerese nigredinis: et in ventre subalbidas, aliquantum
minores anseribus.’ — De Animalibus, lib. xxiii. p. 186.

25 ‘Scribit tamen Eneas Sylvius de hac arbore in hunc modum:
“Audiveramus nos olim arborem esse in Scotia, quæ supra ripam
fluminis enata fructus produceret, anetarum formam habentes, et
eos quidem cum maturitati proximi essent sponte sua decidere,
alios in terrain, alios in aquam, et in terrain dejectos putrescere, in
aquam vero demersos, mox animatos enatare sub aquis et in ærem
plumis pennisque evolare. De qua re cum avidius invesiigaremus
dum essemus in Scotia apud Jacobura regem, hominem quadratum
et multa pinguedine gravem, didicimus miracula semper remotius
fugere, famosamque arborem non in Scotia, sed apud Orchades
insulas inveniri.”’ — Seb. Munster, Cosmographia, p. 49.

26* Trois Navigations faites par les Hollandais au Septentrion,
par Gerard de Vora. Paris, 1599, p. 112.

27 ‘Malim tamen cum pluribus errare quam tot scriptoribus clarissimis
oblatrare quibus præter id quod de ephemero dictum est,
favet etiam quod est ab Aristotele proditum, genus scilicet testatum
quoddam navigiis putrescente fæce spumosa adnasci.’ (P.
173, line 47).

28* The fourth chapter has the following heading: ‘Quod finis
proprius hujus volucris generationis sit ut referat duplici sua
natura, vegetabili et animali, Christum Deum et hominem, qui
quoque sine patre et matre, ut ille, existit.’

29* Cf. Diez, Rom. Gr. p. 162: rondine = hirundo.
vescovo = epi scopus.
chiesa = ecclesia.

30 Cf. Du Cange. ‘Bernagium, pro Hybernagium, ni fallor,
miscellum frumentum.’

31* The name even in Latin varies. In ornithological works the
following names occur, all intended for the same bird, though I do
not wish to vouch for their correctness or authenticity: —

English: Bernacle, Scoth goose.

Scotch; Clakis or claiks, clak-guse, claik-gees, Barnacle.

Orcades: Rodgans.

Dutch: Ratgans.

German: Baumgans.

Danish: Ray-gaas, Radgaas.

Norwegian: Raatne-gans, goul, gagl.

Iceland: Helsingen.

French: Bernache, Cane à collier. Nonnette, Keligieuse;
Macquerolle, (?) Macreuse. (?)

Latin: Bernicula, Bernacula, Bernacla, Bernicla, Bernecla,
Bernecela (Fred. II. Imp., de Arte Venandi), Bernaca, Bernicha,
Bernecha, Berneca, Bernichia, Branta (ab atro colore anser
scoticus), Bernesta, Barnaces (Brompton, p. 1072), Barliata (Isidorus),
Barbata (Albertus Magnus).

Cf. Ducange, s. v. Menage, s. v. Bernache. Diefenbach, Glossarium
: ‘Galli has aves Macquerolles et
Macreuses appellant, et tempore Quadragesimali ex Normannia
Parisios deferunt. Sed revera deprehensum est a Batavis, anseres
hosce ova parere,’ &c. (Willoughby).

Another name is given by Scaliger. Julius Cæsar Scaliger,
ad Arist. de Plantis, libr. i.: — ‘Anates (inquit, melius dixisset
Anseres) Oceani, quas Armorici partim Crabrans, partim Bernachias
vocant. Eæ creantur ex putredine naufragiorum, pendentque
rostro a matrice, quoad absolutæ decidant in aubjectas
aquas, unde sibi statim victum quærunt: visendo interea spectaculo
pensiles, motitantesque turn pedes, turn alas.’

32* Brompton, Chronicle of Ireland, col. 1072, ap. Jun.

33* Rerum Britannicarum Medii Ævi Scriptores, Munimenta
Gildhallæ Londinensis
, vol. i. Liber Albus. London, 1859. As
I have not been able to trace the story of Whittington to its
earliest form, I must leave to Mr. Riley all the credit and responsibility
of this explanation.

34 Legenda Aurea, cap. 100.

35 According to a late Latin hymn, it was the Red Sea through
which Christopher carried the travellers.

‘O sancte Christophore,
Qui portasti Jesum Christum,
Per mari rubrum,
Nee franxisti crurum,
Et hoc est non mirum,
Quia fuisti magnum virum.’

36* * The accent placed on the penultima of Seo^opoc, as the word
is written in the saint's acts, denotes it of an active signification, one
that carrieth God; but of the passive, carried of God, if placed on
the antepenultima.' — Alban Butler, Lives of the Saints, vol. ii. p. 1.

37* Vida, Hymn. 26, t. ii. p. 150.

38 Maury, Légendes Pieuses, p. 53.

39 ‘L'Histoire de sainte Ursule et des onze mille vierges doit
son origine à l'expression des vieux calendriers, Ursula et Undecimella,
V.V. MM., c'est-à-dire sainte Ursule et sainte Undecimelle,
vierges et martyres.’ — Maury, p. 214.

40* Jacobus a Voragine, Legenda Aurea, cap. 158. Galfredus,
Monumetensis, lib. v. cap. 16. St. Ursula und ihre Gesellschaft.
Eine kritisch-historische Monographic, von Johann Hubert Kessel.
Köln, 1863.

41* Maury, p. 207.

42 Ibid., Légendes Pieuses, p. 287: ‘Cette légende se trouve
dans les vies de saint Denis, de saint Ovide, de saint Firmin
d'Amiens, de saint Maurice, de saint Nicaise de Reims, de saint
Soulange de Bourges, de saint Just d'Auxerre, de saint Lucain,
de sainte Esperie, de saint Didier de Langres, et d'une foule

43* Maury, p. 182.

44 Ibid., 135. Eusebius, de Vita Const., ed. Heinicher, Lipsiæ,
1830, p. 150.

45 Ibid., p. 141.

46* Similar stories are told of Alfons, the first King of Portugal,
who is said to have seen a brilliant cross before the battle of
Ourique, in 1139, and of Waldemar II., of Denmark. The red
cross of Denmark, the Danebrog, dates from Waldemar's victory
over the Esthonians in 1219. See Dahlmann, Geschichte von
, vol. i. p. 368.

47* θεομηνία, ira divina [Eustath. p. 891, 24]: τὴν θεομηνίαν Διὸς
λέγει μάστιγα (Stephani Thesaurus, Didot).

Tzetzes, Historiarum variarum Chiliades, ed. Kiesseling, Lipsiæ,
1826, v. 727 (cf. Grote, vol. i. p. 539): —

ἂν συμφορὰ κατέλαβε πόλιν θεομηνίᾳ, εἴτ᾿ οὖν λιμὸς, εἲτε λοιμὸς,
εἴτε καὶ βλάβος ἄλλο

Theophanes Contin. (p. 673), (Symeon Magister, De Michaele
et Theodora

Ἐν μιᾷ νυκτὶ συνέβη γενέσθαι σεισμοὶ μεγάλοι· καὶ αὐτὸς ὁ Φώτιος
ἀναβὰς ἐπὶ τοῦ ἄμβωνος δημηγορῆσαι εἶπεν ὅτι οἱ σεισμοὶ οὐκ ἐκ
πλήθους ἁμαρτιῶν ἀλλ' ἐκ πλησμονῆς ὕδατος γίνονται
. Joannes
Malalas (Bonnæ, 1831), p. 249: τῆς αὐτῆς πόλεως Ἀντιοχείας
ληφθείσης ὑπὸ ἐναντίων, ὡσαύτως δὲ καὶ θεομηνίας γενομένης καὶ
διαφόρων σεισμῶν καὶ ἐμπρησμῶν

48* Grimm, D. M. p. 376. Geschichte der Deutschen Sprache,
p. 665.

49 Is Elysium another name for future, Zukunft, avenir, and
derived from ἔρχομαι, ἤλυθον?

50* See some excellent articles by M. Flourens, in the Journal
des Savants
, October 1863, p. 623.

51* See an excellent article lately published in the Edinburgh
, ‘On the Supernatural,’ ascribed to one of our most eminent

52* Brown, Works, i. p. 341.

53* Dr. Newman, Apologia pro vita sua, p. 324.

54* On the different kinds of infinity, see Roger Bacon, Opus
, cap. 51 (ed. Brewer, p. 194). Of the positive infinite
he says: ‘et dicitur infinitum non per privationera terminorum
quantitatis, sed per negationem corruptionis et non esse.’
Oxford of the nineteenth century need not be ashamed, as far
as metaphysics are concerned, of Oxford of the thirteenth.

55 Bopp, Vergleichende Grammatik, iii. p. 248. Schweizer, in
Kuhn's Zeitschrift, iii. p. 357.

56 See p. 103.