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FATAL TORCHES.

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to the castle in a circle, keep close together, and surround it on every side. He then went and dug out a very deep hole, as deep as a well, in the place where Shiribadatt's horse used to alight, and covered it with green boughs. The next day he received information that the torches were ready. He at once ordered the villagers gradually to draw near the fort in the manner which he had already indicated.

King Shiribadatt was then sitting in his castle; near him his treacherous daughter, who was so soon to lose her parent. All at once he exclaimed, 'I feel very close; go out, dearest, and see what has happened. The girl went out, and saw torches approaching from a distance; but fancying it to be something connected with the plans of her husband, she went back and said it was nothing. The torches came nearer and nearer, and the tyrant became exceedingly restless. ‘Air, air,' he cried, 'I feel very ill; do see, daughter, what is the matter.' The dutiful lady went, and returned with the same answer as before. At last the torch-bearers had fairly surrounded the fort, and Shiribadatt, with a presentiment of impending danger, rushed out of the room, saying, “that he felt he was dying. He then ran to the stables and mounted his favourite charger, and with one blow of the whip made him jump over the wall of the castle. Faithful to its habit the noble animal alighted at the same place, but, alas! only to find itself engulfed in a treacherous pit. Before the king had time to extricate himself the villagers had run up with their torches. «Throw them upon him,' cried Azru. With one accord all the blazing wood was thrown upon Shiribadatt, who miserably perished.'

Azru was then most enthusiastically proclaimed king, celebrated his nuptials with the fair traitor, and, as sole tribute, exacted the offering of one sheep annually, instead of the human child, from every one of the natives. VOL. I.

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THE HEARTLESS SUPPLANTED.

When Azru had safely ascended the throne he ordered the tyrant's place to be levelled to the ground. The willing peasants, manufacturing spades of iron, flocked to accomplish a grateful task, and sang whilst demolishing his castle :

My nature is of a hard metal,' said Shiri and Badatt. •Why hard ? I, Koto, the son of the peasant Dem Singh, am alone hardy; with this iron spade I raze to the ground thy kingly house. Behold now, although thou art of race accursed, of Shatsho Malika, I, Dem Singh's son, am of a hard metal; for with this iron spade I level thy very palace; look out! look out!'1

An account of the Feast of Torches, instituted as a memorial of this tradition, has already been given in another connection. The legend, the festival, and the song just quoted constitute a noble human epic. That startling defiance of the icy-hearted god by the humanhearted peasant, that brave cry of the long cowering wretch who at last holds in his spade an iron weapon to wield against the hardness of nature, are the sublime pæan of the Dragon-slayer. Look out, ye snow-gods! Man's heart is there, and woman's heart; their courage, plus the spade, can level your palaces; their love will melt you, their arts and sciences kill you : so fatal may be torches!

All great religions were born in this grand atheism. As the worship of Herakles meant the downfall of Zeus, the worship of Christ meant the overthrow of both Jove and Jehovah. Every race adores the epoch when their fathers grew ashamed of their gods and identified them as dragons -the supreme cruelties of nature—welcoming the man CHRISTIAN DRAGON-MYTHS.

1. Results of a Tour in Dardistan, Kashmir,' &c., by Chevalier Dr. G. W. Leitner, Lahore, vol. i. part iii. Trübner & Co.

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who first rose from his knees and defied them. But in the end the Priests of the Dragon manage to secure a compromise, and by labelling him with the name of his slayer, manage to resuscitate and re-enthrone him. For, as we shall presently see, the Dragon never really dies.

Christianity did not fail to avail itself of the Dragonslayer's prestige, which had preceded it in Europe and in Africa. It could not afford to offer for popular reverence saints less heroic than pagan warriors and demigods. The old Dragon-myths, especially those which made the fame of Herakles, were appropriated to invest saintly forms. St Michael, St. Andrew, St. Margaret, and many another, were pictured subduing or treading on Dragons. Christ was shown crushing the serpent Sin, spearing the dragon Death, or even issuing from its impotent jaws, like Jason from the Dragon. But in this competition for the laurels of dead Dragon-slayers, and fierce hostility to dragons already slain, the real Dragon was left to revive and flourish in security, and in the end even inherited the mantle and the palm of his own former conqueror.

The miscarriage of canonisation in the case of St. George is a small and merely curious thing in itself; but it is almost mystical in its coincidence with the great miscarriage which brought the cross of Christ to authorise the crucifixions of the men most like him for a thousand years.

Mr. John Ruskin has sharply challenged Ralph Waldo Emerson's penetrating touch on the effigy that decorates the escutcheons of England and Russia. "George of Cappadocia,' says Emerson, ‘born at Epiphania in Cilicia, was a low parasite, who got a lucrative contract to supply the army with bacon. A rogue and an informer, he got rich and was forced to run from justice. He saved his

1 In the Etruscan Museum at Rome there is a fine representation of this. The old belief was that a dragon could only be attacked successfully inside.

404 RUSKIN AND EMERSON ON ST. GEORGE.

money, embraced Arianism, collected a library, and got promoted by a faction to the episcopal throne of Alexandria. When Julian came, A.D. 361, George was dragged to prison. The prison was burst open by the mob, and George was lynched as he deserved. And this precious knave became in good time Saint George of England, patron of chivalry, emblem of victory and civility, and the pride of the best blood of the modern world. Whereon Emerson further remarks that 'nature trips us up when we strut.'

It is certainly rather hard for the founder of the St. George Association to be told that his patron was no Dragon-slayer at all, but the Dragon's ally. Mr. Ruskin may be right in contending that whatever may have been the facts, they who made George patron saint of England still meant their homage for a hero, or at any rate not for a rogue; but he is unsatisfactory in his argument that our St. George was another who died for his faith seventy years before the bacon-contractor. Even if the Ruskin St. George, said to have suffered under Diocletian, could be shown historical, his was a very commonplace martyrdom compared with that of a bishop torn in pieces by a 'pagan' mob. The distant christian nations would never have listened to the pagan version of the story even had it reached them. A bishop so martyred would have been the very man to give their armies a watchword. The martyr was portrayed as a Dragon-slayer only as a title might be added to the name of one knighted, or the badge of an order set upon his breast; the heraldic device grew into a variant of the common legend which suggests the origin of the mythical George. *The magician Athanasius, successively an opponent of Christianity, a convert, and a martyr, is his chief antagonist; and the city of Alexandria appears as the Empress Alexandria, the wife of Diocletian,

A FICTITIOUS DRAGON-SLAYER.

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and herself a convert and a martyr.' 'This sentence from Smith's · Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography' tells more than Professor Ruskin's seventeenth-century authority. The Dragon is the same Athanasius whose creed sends forth its anathemas in churches dedicated to the Arian canonised for having slain him !

Though it be granted that they who made George of Cappadocia the ideal hero of England really intended their homage for a martyr and hero, it must equally be acknowledged that his halo was clearly drawn from Dragon-fire. He was a man who had taken to the sword, and by it perished; so much was known and announced in his canonisation. He was honoured as 'the Victor' among the Greeks, therefore to-day patron of Russia; as protector of Crusaders, therefore now patron of England; thus is he saint of a war waged by the strong against the weak, in interest of a church and priesthood against human freedom; therefore George was taking the side of the Dragon against Christ, restoring the priestly power he had assailed, and delivering up his brave brothers in all history to be nailed to Christianity as a cross.

Let George remain! Whether naming fashionable temples or engraved on gold coins, the fictitious Dragonslayer will remain the right saint in the right place so long as the real Dragon-slayer is made to name every power he hated, and to consecrate every lie in whose mouth he darted his spear.

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