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In the end the prince managed to have the wicked Queen transformed into a toad, which in memory thereof, as every Northumbrian boy knows, spits fire to this day: but it is notable that the sorceress was not transformed into a dragon, as the story would probably have run if the dragon form had not already been detached from its original character, and by many noble associations been rendered an honourable though fearful shape for maidens like this princess and like Melusina. In the same direction point the legends which show dragons as sometimes victorious over their heroic assailants. Geoffrey of Monmouth so relates of King Morvidus of Northumbria, who encountered a dragon that came from the Irish Sea, and was last seen disappearing in the monster's jaws ‘like a small fish.’ A more famous instance is that of Beowulf, whose Anglo-Saxon saga is summed up by Professor Morley as follows:—‘Afterward the broad land came under the sway of Beowulf. He held it well for fifty winters, until in the dark night a dragon, which in a stone mound watched a hoard of gold and cups, won mastery. It was a hoard heaped up in sin, its lords were long since dead; the last earl before dying hid it in the earth-cave, and for three hundred winters the great scather held the cave, until some man, finding by chance a rich cup, took it to his lord. Then the den was searched while the worm slept; again and again when the dragon awoke there had been theft. He found not the man but wasted the whole land with fire; nightly the fiendish air-flyer made fire grow hateful to the sight of men. Then it was told to Beowulf. . . . He sought out the dragon's den and fought with him in awful strife. One wound the poison-worm struck in the flesh of Beowulf.' Whereof Beowulf died. Equally significant is the legend that when King Arthur
PEAVORA GOAV, 369
had embarked at Southampton on his expedition against Rome, about midnight he saw in a dream “a bear flying in the air, at the noise of which all the shores trembled ; also a terrible dragon, flying from the west, which enlightened the country with the brightness of its eyes. When these two met they had a dreadful fight, but the dragon with its fiery breath burned the bear which assaulted him, and threw him down scorched to the earth.’ This vision was taken to augur Arthur's victory. The father of Arthur had already in a manner consecrated the symbol, being named Uther Pendragon (dragon's head). On the death of his brother Aurelius, it was told ‘there appeared a star of wonderful magnitude and brightness, darting forth a ray, at the end of which was a globe of fire, in form of a dragon, out of whose mouth issued two rays, one of which seemed to stretch out itself towards the Irish Sea, and ended in seven lesser rays.” Merlin interpreted this phenomenon to mean that Uther would be made king and conquer various regions; and after his first victory Uther had two golden dragons made, one of which he presented to Winchester Cathedral, retaining the other to attend him in his wars. In the legend of Merlin and Vortigern we find the Dragon so completely developed into a merely warrior. like symbol that its moral character has to be determined by its colour. As in the two armies of serpents seen by Zoroaster, in Persian legends, which fought in the air, the victory of the white over the black foreshowing the triumph of Ormuzd over Ahriman, the tyranny of Vortigern is represented by a red dragon, while Aurelius and Uther are the two heads of a white dragon. Merlin, about to be buried alive, in pursuance of the astrologer's declaration to Vortigern that so only would his ever-falling wall
stand firm, had revealed that the recurring disaster was VOL. I. 2 A
caused by the struggle of these two dragons underground. When the monsters were unearthed they fought terribly, until the white one
Hent the red with all his might,
The white dragon vanished and was seen no more; but the tyrant Vortigern fulfilled the fate of the red dragon, being burnt in his castle near Salisbury. These two dragons met again, however, as red and white roses. Many developments corresponding to these might be cited. One indeed bears a startling resemblance to our English legends. Of King Nuat Meiamoun, whose conquest of Egypt is placed by G. Maspero about B.C. 664–654, the Ethiopian ‘Stele of the Dream' relates:—‘His Majesty beheld a dream in the night, two snakes, one to his right, the other to his left, (and) when His Majesty awoke . . he said: “Explain these things to me on the moment,’ and lo! they explained it to him, saying: ‘Thou wilt have the Southern lands, and seize the Northern, and the two crowns will be put on thy head, (for) there is given unto thee the earth in all its width and its breadth.' These two snakes were probably suggested by the uraei of the Egyptian diadem. Beyond the glory reflected upon a monster from his conqueror, there would be reason why the alchemist and the wizard should encourage that aspect of the dragon. The more perilous that Gorgon whose blood Esculapius used, the more costly such medicament; while, that the remedy may be advantageous, the monster must not be wholly destructive. This is so with the now destructive
MED/C/WAZ DRAGONS. 3.71
now preservative forces of nature, and how they may blend in the theories, and subserve the interests, of pretenders is well shown in a German work on Alchemy (1625) quoted by Mr. Hardwicke. ‘There is a dragon lives in the forest, who has no want of poison; when he sees the sun or fire he spits venom, which flies about fearfully. No living animal can be cured of it; even the basilisk does not equal him. He who can properly kill this serpent has overcome all his danger. His colours increase in death; physic is produced from his poison, which he entirely consumes, and eats his own venomous tail. This must be accomplished by him, in order to produce the noblest balm. Such great virtue as we will point out herein that all the learned shall rejoice.” It will be readily understood that these traditions and fables would combine to ‘hedge about a king' by ascribing to him familiarity with a monster so formidable to common people, and even investing him with its attributes. The dragon's name, 8páków, derived from the Sanskrit word for serpent (drig-visha), came to mean ‘the thing that sees.” While this gave rise to many legends of praeternatural powers of vision gained by tasting or bathing in a dragon's blood, as in the poem of Siegfried; or from waters it guarded, as ‘Eye Well,’ in which Guy's dragon dipped its tail to recover from wounds; the Sanskrit sense of eye-poisoning was preserved in legends of occult and dangerous powers possessed by kings, one of the latest being the potent evil eye popularly ascribed in Italy to the late Pius IX. But these stories are endless; the legends adduced will show the sense of all those which, if unexplained, might interfere with our clear insight into the dragon itself, whose further analysis will prove it to be wholly bad, the concentrated terrors of nature.
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CHA PT E R VIII.
THE DRAGON'S EYE.
The Eye of Evil–Turner's Dragons—Cloud-phantoms—Paradise and the Snake—Prometheus and Jove—Art and Nature—Dragon forms : Anglo-Saxon, Italian, Egyptian, Greek, German—The modern conventional Dragon.
THE etymologies of the words Dragon and Ophis given in the preceding chapter, ideally the same, both refer to powers of the serpent which it does not possess in nature, —the praeternatural vision and the glance that kills. The real nature of the snake is thus overlaid; we have now to deal with the creation of another world. There are various conventionalised types of the Dragon, but through them all one feature is constant, the idealised serpent. Its presence is the demonic or supernatural sign. The heroic dragon-slayer must not be supposed to have wrestled with mere flesh and blood, in whatever powerful form. The combat which immortalises him is waged with all the pains and terrors of earth and heaven concentrated and combined in one fearful form. Impossible and phantasmal as was this form in nature, its mystical meaning in the human mind was terribly real. It was this Eye of anti-human nature which filled man with dismay, and conjured up the typical phantom. It was this Pain, purposed and purposing, the Agony of far-searching vision, subtlest skill, silently creeping, winged, adapted to