Oracles of Nostradamus, by Charles A. Ward, , at sacred-texts.com
THIS is no doubt a strange book. An attempt to gather a meaning out of a few of the involved, crabbed, and mystical quatrains of the great seer of France, the greatest perhaps that the world has ever seen, must of necessity be strange. My treatment, too, may possibly seem to many no less strange than the subject-matter itself. I will speak specially as to this latter point towards the close of the preface.
In last December treating upon Nostradamus in the Gentleman's Magazine, I had occasion to remark that every honest man of awakened powers is a kind of prophet, and has to do with the future, or eternity, as it is usually styled. Since then I have come upon the same idea in the writings of Philo Judæus. He thinks that the Scriptures testify in some sort that every good man is a prophet:
"For a prophet says nothing of his own, but everything that he says is strange, and prompted by some one else; and it is not lawful for a wicked man to be an interpreter of God, as also no wicked man can be properly said to be inspired; but this statement is only appropriate to the wise man alone, since he alone is a sounding instrument of God's voice."--PHILO, Heir of Divine Things, § 52, Bohn, ii. 146.
Again, at page 30 of this book, it will be seen that I have described the faculty of anticipating the future, a thing so remarkably developed in Nostradamus, as being, if once we admit its existence in him, a perceptive endowment of the whole human race, that must be classified as a sixth sense. I have since found, with no little delight, that Coleridge, in
his "Table Talk" (ed. 1836, p. 19), designated such faculty as "an inner sense," for, speaking of ghosts and dreams, he says;
'It is impossible to say whether an inner sense does not really exist in the mind, seldom developed, indeed, but which may have a power of presentiment. All the external senses have their correspondents in the mind; the eye can see an object before it is distinctly apprehended; why may there not be a corresponding power in the soul? The power of prophecy might have been merely a spiritual excitation of this dormant faculty." 1
In the matter of prophecy, Photius says, in his "Amphilochia," that prophecy is by no means necessarily connected with virtue: for that Herod pre-announced, as it were, that the Gentile magi, Judæa, and the world were about to recognize Christ for King, and so he desired to make away with him. In this way he played the part of prophet to the whole human race. Caiaphas, he thinks, was not conscious of what he said; in the mania of a desire to kill, his lips prophesied that it was right that one should die to save the whole world. "Let his blood be upon us and upon our children," is a foreboding instinct of the same description. In the council of the Pharisees (John xi. 48), it was prophetic, "If we let him alone, the Romans will come and take away our place and nation;" and though they followed out then own counsel, this is just what happened. "And see," he adds, "the ass in the Old Testament could forecast future things." He was an heretical writer, Photius, but he was evidently not so far away, as the world is now, from believing that prophetic endowment is a sense widely distributed to humanity in general. These hints alone may furnish us with food for useful meditation.
Now, with all this a reader will very likely say, Supposing we grant you the prophetic as a sixth sense, to be henceforth reckoned as a permanent though generally latent endowment of the race, what is the good of such a sense, supposing, with you, that your prophet can never be understood till after the event has taken place, and then only when some drudging interpreter has untwisted his tortuous language and thrown it into the intelligible vernacular?
There are several ways of replying to this. First, are there not thousands of objects in the domain of nature that man has not yet discovered the use of? Anatomists are still at a stand to tell us what is the use of the spleen. What naturalist can say for what reason the noxious serpent is sent into the world? Why was the Georgium Sidus only discovered by Herschel in 1781, instead of by Pythagoras, a much greater man? Sensible men have commonly to content themselves with simply ascertaining the existence of a fact, and they have to rest all the while in total ignorance of why this fact exists. Again, suppose you believe, as the majority do, in the Christian revelation; how can you account for the multiplicity of sects who read the Bible each in its own way? Can you account for a divine revelation that reveals one thing to one man and a contrary thing to another? Obviously, then, there are many things that exist as facts, and yet no man living can assign the reason for them. With regard to any fact that can be asserted, the first thing to establish is, Is it a fact? That once settled, you may wait for the rest of it until you can get it.
But again, and with special regard to Nostradamus, you will see (and by referring to the index you may find the various places at which I treat of it) that he must have had the whole sequence of visions passing clearly before his eyes, with some vocal utterances occasionally accompanying
them, by which the names of men and places and things were announced to him. His method was to set this down in prose narration, either during the sitting or instantly afterwards. On inspection, at cooler intervals, and when he had descended from the heat and ecstasy of fatidical rapture, he would discern at once that the sequence must be broken and the names concealed. If, as it stood in prose, it had been understood by the world, it would have fallen not as a prophecy but as a thunderbolt; not as a thing in book-form, but as an earthquake, that must have changed or shaken the face of Europe, and so have interfered perpetually with its own realization.
Seeing this, he followed the practice of the elder oracles of Delphi, Dodona, and the rest. He broke up the sequence, threw the utterances into metre, mingled much learning linguistic to darken them, and obscured the names, of the great men introduced, under the impenetrable mask of the anagram. Thus regarded, it is not a subject for wonder that he did this: it would have been akin to madness to have done anything else.
It now becomes desirable that I should furnish some clue to enable a reader to arrive rapidly at the pith of this book and its oracular forecasts, so that he may discern for himself in a few minutes, whether, or whether not, the topics treated of have for him a sufficient interest to lead him on to make a thorough study of the book, or to decline it altogether. There is a huge prejudice in this our day that sets in strongly with the multitude against anything that endeavours to deal seriously, or by mystical insight, with things occult, spiritual, or future.
The reader, first of all, should glance over the life of Nostradamus. It will be for him to determine whether my vindication of his name from imposture be adequate or not.
[paragraph continues] Dr. Cobham Brewer is the most recent writer who asperses him as a "charlatan" (see his "History of Germany," p. 164). The reader will see that Nostradamus is of Jewish birth. Coleridge remarks ("Table Talk," p. 31) that all other nations
"Seem to look backwards, and also to exist for the present; but in the Jewish scheme everything is prospective and preparatory; nothing, however trifling, is done for itself alone, but all is typical of something yet to come."
Further than this, Thomas Burnet, in his eloquent Latinity, tells us ("Archæ. Philos," Book I. chap. vii. p. 59, ed. 1727) that Apollonius said bitterly of the Jews that they were the most inept of barbarians, and never invented a single thing useful to mankind. That they were what Bacon would call a people of "no fruit." They taught nothing in their schools, says Burnet, of the circle of the sciences, "ad encyclopædiæ studia," as we do now, but that no race in the world so abounds with prophets, and men endowed with the celestial spirit, as "the Jews."
Those who care anything for the occult processes, that incite to prophetic utterance, would now do well to read the chapter on magic, commencing at p. 67. It gives a few hints as to the practices of adepts, and of the Roman superstitions about tripods, alphabetic interrogatories, and so forth; and it becomes tolerably clear from all this, that Nostradamus was skilled in all the known methods of incantation, astral, pharmaceutic, or electrical, and that he practised them in all their fulness, though with reticent circumspection, and very reluctant and enigmatic avowal. The account of the conspirators against Valens (p. 77) strongly resembles the modern table-turning. But, as this chapter is more curious by far than necessary, it may be passed over by all those who merely wish to appraise quickly the value of Nostradamus
as a figure in history with claims to prophetic faculty hanging on to it.
From the Historical Fragments, commencing at p. 81, it will be seen that he clearly prophesied the violent death of Henri II., to whom he dedicates his "Luminary Epistle." The historical context is very interesting, as showing not only the exact fulfilment of the forecast of Nostradamus; but, that another astrologer, who was consulted by the king, had forewarned him in almost the same words of the same danger threatening, that he should die "in duel." We see the king adhering to the literal word duel, and out of court etiquette feeling the manifest impossibility of the prophecy being fulfilled. We get also the gossip of the court about it, and about the value of horoscopes, from the Princesse de Clèves; furthermore, we learn about the obstinate blindness with which the king forced on his own destruction at the very close of the day and tournament, by the indulgence of a pure whim against the advice and wish of everybody around him. The murder of Henri III., in like manner, is announced, together with the death of his father, at p. 88; at p. 110 it is foreshadowed again as proceeding from the hand of a young monk; and at p. 111 the name of Clement is hinted by a play upon the French words signifying mild and clement. The massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day, at p. 94, stands out in all its vivid horror, and as proceeding from the very hands of le roi farouche; but, compressed into four lines only.
The coming of Henri IV. to the French throne is introduced with the very name of his family, Vendôme, figured in the anagram Mendosus. Here we find also (p. 116) the execution of the Marshal de Biron; his name is actually given as Robin, which yields it letter for letter in anagram. This, too, is concerning a man not probably born when the
stanza was devised. The name of the marshal is disguised, because it would have marked him out too distinctly when he came upon the stage of public life; but, the name of Lafin is given, the subordinate individual who betrayed Biron to the King. It occupies pages to describe this event, but with the terseness, reappearing constantly, which is so remarkable a feature in the style of Nostradamus, he compresses the whole event, and all that he has to say upon it, into six lines.
The chapter on Louis XIV. (p. 132) teems with curiosities of the same inscrutable order; though less startling than what we have already pointed out, yet is it quite sufficient to have made the reputation of an ordinary man.
We may now pass to England (p. 146), and the quatrain relating to its seven governmental changes, throughout a period of two hundred and ninety years; this is as startling as anything of the kind can well be. The next instance, that on the Stuart Dynasty (p. 149), conveying, as it does, the struggle between Charles I. and Cromwell, is simply miraculous; and it should challenge the attention of a listening world. This would seem to be the inevitable result, unless the learned of all orders and degrees can, singly or combined, do away with the interpretation put upon it. Lonole is now for the first time pointed to as being the anagram of Old Noll, or Oliver Cromwell. But before this transpired, M. le Pelletier had none the less applied the quatrain to Charles and Cromwell. If this fails to convince a reader that he is in the presence of a seer and worker of wonders, I do not know what can bring recognition home to him. The single line (p. 152)--
"Senat de Londres mettront à mort leur Roy."
has, as presenting the execution of Charles I., made, in former
but forgotten days, the round of the world, and from time to time has served to keep alive a sort of dumb admission that there had once been a fatidical diviner of note called Nostradamus. Burns remarks, what we all know, that "the passion of prying into futurity, makes a striking part of the history of human nature." It does not look much like it, though, when such a prophecy as this has been allowed to pass out of memory; so that few even of educated men could re-syllable it to you, or furnish you with any better criticism on the man who penned it, than that he was an old French impostor and astrologer. They know ten times as much about Mother Shipton, concerning whom little or nothing is authentic; whilst Nostradamus's book has been probably in print for nearly three hundred and fifty years.
The next is a quatrain on Cromwell exclusively (p. 156), "more butcher than king," as Nostradamus calls him; and he will be found to regard Napoleon (p. 206) in very much the same light. He gives England an ascendancy of the seas (p. 159) for a stretch of more than three hundred years,--a term which, I think, will be found to be on the point of expiring now. Of course his quatrains relating to England are, on the whole, much inferior in interest to those relating to France. What stands collected under the heading of "England" will, nevertheless, well repay perusal. The Battle of Dunbar, for instance (p. 179) is in its way as vivid, though conveyed in but four lines of verse, as Carlyle's famous account of the engagement which is given in the Cromwell Letters. He prophesies the death of Cromwell (p. 184) to fall on the 3rd of September, seven years later than the battle of Worcester. It is true we gather this by implication, but with all the other wonders duly weighed, a candid reader will admit this to be the probable intention
and true meaning here. The Fire of London is given as falling out in 1666 (at p. 187).
His name for the French Revolution is Le Commun Advenement, which I render The Vulgar Advent. This, right up to the very end, is the most astounding part of all that has been recorded by Nostradamus, or brought into intelligibility by his commentators. This preface would run to far too great length were I to attempt even to touch upon all of the points of interest, that we here find to be so strangely dealt with. Take merely the first stanza (p. 198). Napoleonism is spoken of, almost before it has been announced, as proscribed; and, to spring up again as it did in 1848; and then to sink finally seventy-three years after. At that passage (at p. 198) the reader may see how, out of the mouth of Napoleon himself, the exact term of seventy-three years proves to be the correct period. This has never been so much as hinted before. If anything be miraculous, in the accuracy of prevision, I think this may,--and with but little superstition,--be deemed to be so.
There is a remark to be made of some importance, to my thinking, because it establishes the subtle analogy that sometimes subsists in the relation between things, that are not generally reckoned to have any connection one with the other. Now, the Vulgar Advent, of course, is signalized by the usurpation of government by the people; but is it not highly significant that, out of the natural fountain of speech, and with no particular or conscious intention accompanying, the low proletarian rabble, that bring it about in blood, are spontaneously designated by themselves and others as the Rouges? The abhorrent many, when they play the despot, don the colour red, and doff for ever, as they hope, the royal purple. They may hope what they please; but, when their vices ripen, they must fall under the empire of one,--
who is iron-shod, sword-girt, and rat-eaten as to the heart,--who will trample them into order. Call him Lonole, Olestant, or clement Cæsar, which you will; a beast from the abyss must arise to rule the bestial. This is the truly representative man who emerges at the epochs. Rousseau, the red-head, with the curse of Iscariot upon him, may begin the series. A red philosopher first introduces his Pandemonium as order; secondly, Les rouges rouges le rouge assomeront (p. 239); and thirdly, the destroyer, the Napoleon, or Apollyon, introduces and then crowns himself with his own hand. A red series in a red sequel so scaled, so shuts the same.
As we are upon analogies, another curious one may here be noted. The colours of the tricoloured flag symbolize revolution by the reversal of the order of nature. The primary colours in the solar spectrum are, as well as in the primary arc of the rainbow, red, yellow, blue (p. 289); whilst in the tricolour the succession is blue, white, red. Out of this flag, or bow, in the political heavens there is no hope to come, for it yields no promise but that of a deluge,--rouge.
The sanguinary death of Louis XVI. is foreshown at p. 211. In the "Luminary Epistle" to Henry II. (p. 62) the very year is given (1792) to which the quatrain of Louis's death refers. Take next the arrest at Varennes (p. 215), and then another miracle of precision shines forth; for Saulce, the grocer's name in that little town, is pregiven (p. 217). The Tuileries are mentioned by name,--a place where burnt a tile-kiln, when Nostradamus was inditing for us the prophecy.
Now refer to the Napoleonic rule (p. 250). See Napoleon horn in the west of Europe, and the way he could seduce, in a language not his own, is pointed out to you; and, his name is to be a name that the Fates know (p. 251).
Take, again, that strange identification of the Gallic Hercules with his analogue Napoleon. How, as a jay taught by Talma, he at the Tuileries apes the fine birds and court splendour of the old régime (p. 257). Then read the quatrain at p. 259, where the simple soldier reaches empire, and so strikes close analogy again with Cromwell. Then read (p. 262) that awful curse fulminated, when counsel shall die out of the shaven head; see Sclavonia gather (p. 265), and old Moscow burn, whilst the eagle (p. 266) is beaten back with a swarm of birds, and hovers to its fall at Leipsic. 1
I do not deem it necessary to particularize any further; for if all this gathered into one conspectus is not enough to carry conviction home to the mind of any one; and, make the reader know that at Salon, three hundred and odd years since, there lived a Frenchman, who saw all this in visions of the night, interpretative speech accompanying, and set it down at first in too clear prose, and secondly in rythmic riddles afterwards; why, then, I think that fifty times more evidence, thrown in upon the top, could carry no conviction with it.
I have said many things about science and its modern tendencies that will be deemed foolish by some, and by others undeservedly severe, so that a few words upon it
seem necessary here. If the word "science" merely means the study of nature, it has my admiration as a pursuit. But if it means knowledge, I say it is an absolute misnomer. There is no true knowledge out of wisdom, and all that is wisdom in man is comprised in his veneration of Deity. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." It is evident, that what we call science in this day, does not tend that way at all.
But, to take it briefly another way, if you do not know the first cause of anything, you can only attain to a knowledge of relativities, but never of anything as it is in itself. Your methods can have neither beginning nor end. Hence a man can only attain to relative knowledge which, in the strict meaning of words, is not knowledge at all. Thus science is impossible.
Those, who pretend to science, talk much now about an Atomic Theory. They speak of their atom, contrary to its etymology, as being a thing infinitely divisible. This they adopt as a subterfuge, that no one may be able to drive them home. But if you leave them to their own devices,--their own chemical analyses, quantitative and qualitative, when they get beyond vapour, leave them in possession of a nothing to divide. It is then they approach Deity in minimis; but for the cloud upon their sight they cannot see Him. Such men apprehend nothing except through the intellect; but the perfect intellect yields only half the man. It can only deal with the subject-matter furnished to it by the senses. There is, high-placed above it, the spirit of life; which possesses a sense of its own, and by this the heart and head are interlinked. When the ideas (for lack of a better word) of these two are thought into harmony,--or, what Coleridge would call "unity,"--then, and then only, is the comment of the whole man perfect. Take this for an axiom: If you
believe your sense, you may be right; if you believe your senses, you are out of them.
Cogito ergo sum ("I think therefore I am") has been accredited to Descartes as wisdom for a long time. It is nonsense. It is a proof gathered from the action of the intellect alone, and is a critique physical, rather than metaphysical, and here can afford no proof of anything.
Another word about Atoms, and I must have done, or this will not be a preface, but a metaphysical treatise; and though that may be greatly wanted, this is not the place for it. Yet, as I have arraigned science, it becomes advisable that I should furnish to the competent reader a spot or foothold, where being placed, he may, if he will, command my meaning. In the Chaldaic oracles there occur two curious lines; I quote them below that there may be no equivocation possible. 1 "Now, these fabricate individual things (τὰ ἄτομα, atoms), and sensible objects, and corporeal things, and things classed under matter." The Neoplatonists said that ideas were an emanation of the divine fire. Plato said very much the same thing of the human soul itself. An atom thus becomes a fiery individuality (atomic); not, observe, what the nonsensical chemist of to-day calls it,--when by his terrene fire he has reached vapour,--an infinitely divisible atom, but a particle indivisible; that, having traversed all the forms, goes out at the other end of matter; or back again in a chariot of fire to the idea it started from. The world's Opifex made it by fire, and the tradition of Elias is that it will be dissolved by fire at last; but what, friend, should it prove that it is every day doing so always? A fiery idea began it, and in an idea of fire it ends. Also
man's life is nothing but a leap through matter from fire to fire. The ordeal by fire was a type of this.
The professional critic and expert must, after this sketch, be left to himself to judge of everything here set down according to the established rules of art, and the interests multifarious of the special literary organ he may write for and derive emolument from. I expect but little recognition from such criticism; yet, as it is often the result of a life devoted to study and of wide learning, its indifference, or even its hostility, is likely to prove useful,--whether by its fault-finding or in its discovery of actual error. Whatever its sagacity may in this way show to be wrong, I hope to receive with equanimity and thankfulness, and to put right should a second edition by asked for. So much for the professional critics.
What remains to be said touching my method of treatment will probably have no interest whatever for such critic, nor yet for the general reader. It purely, and I think solely, concerns the thoughtful and capable reader. The exceptional man, who finally, and all the world over, is the best friend of the true writer; and who, banded with others like himself, determines solidly the value of, and ultimate position to be given to, every new book, that is a book at all, born into the world of letters.
Such a reader I would only forewarn against two preliminary objections, that might at a hasty first glance tend to excite some prejudice in his mind. The episodes indulged in, and the apparent self-sufficiency of utterance exhibited on questions of moment, that seemingly wise men are divided upon still; or that men of supposed authority have in general estimation settled long ago. Many such things will here be found to have been laid bare again to the very roots, and challenged to show a reason. This is absolute arrogance
everywhere in the estimation of the multitude, learned and unlearned. Reader, gentle and capable, let me give you my view on these two points: could I make it also your view, how well rewarded should I be.
As to episodes: my own view of a book is this, that it should furnish a stimulus to thought if possible at every page; that nothing should enter into it for the sake of bookmaking; and that, so long as the subject of the book is clearly and consecutively advanced, anything else, that can vitally be thrown in without interruption, is so much the more gained to the world in the study of itself, or, in other words, in the study of man; this Pope has, I incline to think rightly, ruled to be his proper vocation here. Very close and consecutive treatment of a difficult matter must always, when long continued, weigh down the spirits, and somewhat fatigue the attention of the reader. At such a time an interesting episode happily introduced will rally the spirits; and, by a momentary diversion, will renew the attention, enabling the reader to attach himself again with vigour to the main thread. There are episodes of course, as there are other things, good and bad. The episode that is dull in itself and distracts attention is bad; that which is in itself interesting and relieves fatigue, carrying the mind back to the main subject refreshed, is entirely good. The episodes in the following pages the reader will judge to be good or bad as they fall under the rule given above or transgress it.
The charge of arrogancy is a little more difficult to deal with, and also to rebut. But even here I do not despair of being exonerated by the capable reader, whom alone, on this point, it is requisite to address. Many years ago I came upon a passage in Coleridge to the effect that he had always pursued light, believing that it must lead to truth, and truth to happiness; but that, let it consummate in joy or not, follow
it he would, for truth's sake. Truth attracted, and he, in fact, must draw to it. I shut the book up, and said, So will I; and, with certain failures, much interruption by necessary duties, and innumerable personal shortcomings, so I have. The result has been an ever-increasing solitude, 1 until at last no eremite of the desert is more alone than I for years have been. Thus placed, I have thought on many questions, with books and without them, caring but little what the greatest said, so only I kept moving onward towards that spot where the light of morning dawned, or where the still rathelier twilight promised dawning. My attention always lay between things and thoughts, keeping clean aloof from vain opinion, which leads to nothing, though she be, according to Pascal, Regina del mondo. As no renown of genius could bring me to respect any man's opinion; so I strove that no self-seeking, nor hope out of some novelty or strangeness to win originality, might bring me to adopt any principle soever that fell short of justness in the least, or of sacred truth anyhow attainable by man. As I sank others, so have I sunk myself and all personal belongings, striving, if I might, to make myself a trumpet of smooth passage or clear mouthpiece to the truth that lies behind us all,--behind every man that cometh into the world,--though haply there be but few who can allow it free enough scope and exit through them. As in this way I have grown nearly dead both to myself and others, and want little of emolument and less of glory (accurrent from without), it seemed not unlikely that so epurated a voice-piece might utter more of
less adulterate truth, than it falls in common to the lot of most to do. So much am I a mere person (persona), mask, thing sounded through, as that the voice at last seems scarcely to be mine at all, but something larger, higher, better much, than I pretend to be. I do not even claim a perfect utterance, or out-put, for what remains of me,--call it trumpet, mask, person, or what not,--must remain, I know, always beset with some earth and earthiness that mars a pure transmission. Yet, weak as it may be and is, the weak things of the world are those that most confound the mighty ones established of authority by man. Where is any boasting, I ask, in this; or what of arrogance is here? Will any man spend thirty years thus to become a voice-tube merely? None the less is it at last a voice crying in the wilderness, "Desolate are those who in the earth lack vision of wisdom, or call gold wealth." Capable and gentle reader, test this prologue, and try it, believing, that if there be any good thing in it, solitude and The Alone have wrought it. With them, as by seraphic marshalling,--with tent pitched, or travelling on, under the night-star or by day,--you may safely thread the pages following, assured that nothing but good can issue or accrue therefrom to you. Most excellent reader, let Vale Valete! fall as the benediction of an eremite upon your ear to-day; as also upon your pilgrimage hereafter, till the hour vespertine of sleep drop down, that closes all for each.
WALTHAMSTOW, E., 1891.
viii:1 This noble and enlarged thought is worthy of Coleridge, who is the greatest thinker of our century, whether you take him as poet or philosopher. Nobody has yet claimed for him the pre-eminence which, I believe, to be his. The peculiar, nay, unique frailties of the man have blinded the men of his own time to the super-eminent, intellectual, practical, and imaginative endowments with which he was so affluently furnished. By the middle of next century, some hundred or so years from his death, the fact will have dawned upon the world, if not before. It will then be recognized that such a personality as his, was "a great birth of time," and to be registered as such in the deathless calendar of genius. Saint, seer, and sage was that man. Not "spoilt in the making," as the witty Lamb put it, with all the lambent malice of a friend jocose. We must admit, of course, some damage that hindered general currency, as also the attainment of such now worthless cash-results as fell to beings distinctly inferior to himself, such as Byron, Southey, Wordsworth, Moore, great as some estimate them to be; and this failure shut Coleridge out from social success,--that success which most of us so ignorantly and greedily covet here, because it makes the present comfortable. But the chief reason, of any shortcoming hurtful to success, that may be observable in Coleridge, no doubt arose from his being far too great to be adequately measured by any of his fellow-men. Many of them were, it is true, highly capable men as the world goes. Even Carlyle, however, who has disparaged him, when placed beside him, dwarfs to a man of Lilliput. We have to bear in mind always that excellent remark of La Bruyère, "Celui qui ne prévoit rien, est souvent dupe; celui qui prévoit trop, est toujours malheureux." This is true of all prophets, and especially true of Coleridge.
But, another thing there is that helps to diminish Coleridge in the general estimation. He has not completed work enough, in well set and fixed form, for posterity to be quite able to fender him adequate, that is to say, resplendent justice. His unexampled conversational gifts have somewhat barred the way to a due appreciation of his equally unexampled literary potentialities. His conversational aptitudes have perished in the moment of their triumphant display. Being without record in this respect, he suffers precisely as the greatest actor does. Triumphs of the table and the salon p. ix are like the triumphs of the stage, we can only revive them in spirit, or the basis of some felicitously appreciative sentence, chance embalmed in print, that some competent contemporary has ejaculated. I, for instance, know the overwhelming power of Kean only through my mother, and the burning phrases left behind by Byron and Coleridge. But the next generation can have no cognizance of him beyond those phrases. It is for this precise reason I indite so long a note as this on Coleridge, out of the pure respect I bear him for his stupendous intelligence and incommensurable soul. I have, indeed, tried to put on record elsewhere my impression of his poetry; but, I have not yet been able to get it printed. Should it ever be so, it would at least acquire some value from the fact of its representing, in a limited and qualified degree, Coleridge's vivid influence upon one who may partially stand on the footing of a contemporary. Coleridge is a spirituality in the world, and his modes of revealing himself are such as lead the run of mankind to esteem him visionary; but it will be found that it is they, not he, that must be reckoned "such stuff as dreams are made of."
xviii:1 Touching this curse to fall on Napoleon, a somewhat singular analogy arises in comparing with it the axiom laid down by Thomasius, quoted in Bruncker's "Hist. Crit. Philos.," v.488. He says that the spirit is, as it were, resident in the centre of all bodies, and thence emits rays, so extending matter. But where it draws back the rays from the circumference of the material to the centre, it soon dissolves and corrupts the body. Si vero radios ex circumferentia materiæ spiritus attrahat ad centrum, resolvitur corpus et corrumpitur. If we suppose this to have taken place at the epileptic seizure of Napoleon, the mental attack becomes an image or antitype of the battle of Leipsic, when the swarm of birds beat back the eagle. An interpreter, such as Joseph, could have told him the meaning of the dream or swoon. The defeat was first of all rehearsed in the soldier's own brain.
Οἱ δὲ τὰ ἄτομα καὶ αἰσθητὰ δημιουργοῦσι
Καὶ σωματοειδῆ καὶ κατατεταγμένα εἰς ὕλην·
STANLEY'S "Hist. Chald. Phil.," p. 43.
xxiii:1 To get one thing, one must always forego some other. Jupiter did not give prescience to Tiresias till Juno had struck him blind. And for our own great Milton it was necessary he should have wisdom at one entrance quite shut out, before, in "Paradise Lost," he could make men's memory a prisoner to his name for ever, in a willing though perpetual serfdom.