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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
* 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 EMERSOAV 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,
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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THE DRAGON'S BREATH.
Medusa-Phenomena of recurrence—The Brood of Echidna and their survival—Behemoth and Leviathan—The Mouth of Hell—The Lambton Worm—Ragnar—The Lambton Doom—The Worm's Orthodoxy—The Serpent, Superstition, and Science.
ASURA has already been mentioned as the most ancient Aryan name for deity. The meaning of it is, the Breather. It has also been remarked that in the course of time the word came to signify both the good and the evil spirit. What this evil breath meant in nature is told in Leonardo da Vinci's picture of the expiring Medusa, referred to on p. 386, from whose breath noxious creatures are produced. It may have been that the artist meant only to interpret the Gorgon as a personification of the malarious vapours of nature and their organic kindred; if so, he painted better than he knew, and has suggested that fatal vitality of the evil power which raised it to its throne as a principle coeternal with good. The phenomena of recurrence in things evil made for man the mystery of iniquity. The darkness may be dispersed, but it returns; the storm may clear away, but it gathers again ; inundations, sickly seasons, dog-days, Cain-winds, they go and return; the cancer is cut out and grows again; the tyrant may be slain, tyranny survives. The serpent slipping from one skin to another coils steadily into the symbol of endlessness. In another expression it
PHEAVOMEMA OF RECURREAVCE. 407
is the poisonous breath of the Dragon. It is this breath that cannot be killed; the special incarnations of it, any temporary brood of it, may be destroyed, but the principle in nature which produces them cannot be exterminated. Dragon fables have this undertone to their brave strain. In the Rig Veda (v. 32) it is said that when Indra slew Ahi, ‘another more powerful was generated.’ Isaiah (xiv. 29) cries, ‘Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken : for out of the serpent's root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.' Herakles struggles with the giant robber, Antaeus, only to find the demon's strength restored by contact with the earth. He kills one head of the Hydra only to see two grow in its place ; and even when he has managed to burn away these, the central head is found to be immortal, and he can only hide it under a rock. That one is the selfmultiplying principle of evil. The vast brood of Echidna in mythology expresses the brood of evil in nature. Echidna, daughter of Ge and Tartarus, Earth and Hell— phonetic reappearance of Ahi—is half-serpent, half-woman, with black eyes, fearful and bloodthirsty. She becomes the mother of fire-breathing Typhon, buried beneath the earth by Jove's lightning when he aspired to scale Olympus; of the Dragon that guarded the Hesperian garden; of the Sphinx which puzzled and devoured; of threeheaded Cerberus; of the eagle that preyed on rock-bound Prometheus; of the Nemasan lion which Herakles slew ; of Chimaera ; and of Scylla the monster whom Homer describes sitting between two large rocks waylaying mariners on the way from Italy to Sicily,–possessing twelve feet, six long necks and mouths, each with three rows of rushing teeth. The Dragon that Cadmus slew also had terrible teeth;