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378 ART AAVD NATURE.
Deep horror seizes ev'ry Grecian breast, Their force is humbled, and their fear confest. So flies a herd of oxen, scattered wide, No swain to guard them, and no day to guide, When two fell lions from the mountain come, And spread the carnage thro’ the shady gloom. . . The Grecians gaze around with wild despair, Confused, and weary all their pow'rs with prayer." A generation whose fathers remembered the time when men educated in universities regarded Franklin with his lightning-rod as ‘heaven-defying, can readily understand the legend of Vulcan—type of the untamed force of fire— being sent to bind Prometheus, master of fire.” How much fear of the forces of nature, as personified by superstition, levelled against the first creative minds and hands the epithets which Franklin heard, and which still fall upon the heads of some scientific investigators' Storm, lightning, rock, ocean, vulture, these blend together with the intelligent cruelty of Jove in the end ; and behold, the Dragon The terrors of nature, which drive cowards to their knees, raise heroes to their height. Then it is a flame of genius matched against mad thunderbolts. Whether the jealous nature-god be Jehovah forbidding sculpture, demanding an altar of unhewn stone, and refusing the fruits of Cain's garden, or Zeus jealous of the artificer's flame, they are thrown into the Opposition by the artist; and when the two next meet, he of the thunderbolt with all his mob will be the Dragon, and Prometheus will be the god, sending to its heart his arrow of light. The dragon forms which have become familiar to us through mediaeval and modern iconography are of comparatively little importance as illustrating the social or spiritual conditions out of which they grew, and of which they became emblems. They long ago ceased to be descriptive, and in the rude periods or places a very few
* Pope's “Homer,' Book xv. - * See p. 59.
DRAGO/W FORMS. 379
scratches were sometimes enough to indicate the dragon; such mere suggestions in the end allowing large freedom to subsequent designers in varying original types.
Fig. 26.-Swan-DRAGoN (French).
As to external form, the various shapes of the more primitive dragons have been largely determined by the mythologic currents amid which they have fallen, though their original basis in nature may generally be traced. In the far North, where the legends of swan-maidens, pigeonmaidens, and vampyres were paramount in the Middle Ages, we find the bird-shaped dragon very common. Sometimes the serpent-characteristics are pronounced, as in this ancient French SwanDragon (Fig. 26); but, again, and especially in
regions where serpents
38o ANGLO-SAXOW AND SOUTHERW DRAGONS:
Caedmon Manuscript, tenth century (Fig. 27), a fair example of the ornamental Anglo-Saxon dragon. The cuttlefish seems to have suggested the animalised form of the Hydra, which in turn helped to shape the Dragon of the Apocalypse. Yet the Hydra in pictorial representation appears to have been influenced by Assyrian ideas; for although the monster had nine heads, it is often given seven (number of the Hathors, or Fates) by the engravers, as in Fig. 6. The conflicts of Hercules with the Hydra repeated that of Bel with Tiamat (‘the Deep'), and had no doubt its
counterpart in that of Michael with the Dragon,-the finest representation of which, perhaps, is the great fresco by Spinello (fourteenth century) at Arezzo, a group from which is presented in Fig. 28. In this case the wings represent those always attributed in Semitic mythology to the Destroying Angel. The Egyptian Dragon, of which the crocodile is the basis, at an early period entered into christian symbolism, and gradually effaced most of the pagan monsters. The crocodile and the alligator, besides being susceptible of many horrible varia
tions in pictorial treatment, were particularly acceptable to the christian propaganda, because of the sanctity attached to them by African tribes, a sanctity which continues to this day in many parts of that country, where to kill one of these reptiles is believed to superinduce dangerous inundations. In Semitic traditions, also, Leviathan was generally identified as a demonic crocodile, and the feat of destroying him was calculated to impress the imaginations of all varieties of people in the Southern countries for which Christianity struggled so long. This form contributed
some of its characters to the lacertine dragons which were so often painted in the Middle Ages, with what effect may be gathered from the accompanying design by Albert Durer (Fig. 29). In this loathsome creature, which seeks to prevent deliverance of ‘the spirits in prison, we may remark the sly and cruel eye: the praeternatural vision of such monsters was still strong in the traditions of the sixteenth century. In looking at this lizardguard at the mouth of hell we may realise that it has been by some principle of psychological selection that
the reptilian kingdom gradually gained supremacy in these portrayals of the repulsive. If we compare with Fig. 29 the well-known form of the Chimaera (Fig. 30), most of us will be conscious of a sense of relief; for though the reptilian form is present in the latter, it is but an appendage—almost an ornament—to the lion. It is impossible to feel any loathing towards this spirited Trisomatos, and one may recognise in it a different animus from that which depicted the christian dragon. One was meant to
attest the boldness of the hero who dared to assail it; the other was meant, in addition to that, to excite hatred and horror of the monster assailed. We may, therefore, find a very distinct line drawn between such forms as the Chimaera and such as the Hydra, or our conventional Dragon. The hairy inhabitants of Lycia, human or bestial, whom Bellerophon conquered," were not meant to be such an abstract expression of the evil principle in nature as the Dragon, and while they are generalised, the