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of their dietary employment imparted to | Disinherited, exiled from its proper abode, them an idea of sacredness; or, possibly, without function, sense, or memory, it because the slightness of the nourishment survived, a vaporous image, a mere castthey afforded was judged suitable to the away residuum of what once had been a maintenance of the unsubstantial life of man. Teiresias, the Theban soothsayer, ghosis. At any rate, the custom became alone, by special privilege of Persephone, firmly established of planting graves with retained the use of reason; the rest were asphodel, with a view to making provision vain appearances, escaping annihilation by for their silent and helpless, yet still needy a scarcely perceptible distinction. No inmates. With changed associations the wonder that life should have been darkcustom still exists in Greece, and, very ened by the prospect of such a destiny remarkably, has been found to prevail in or worse. For there were, in the HoJapan, where a species of asphodel is meric world to come, awful possibilities stated to be cultivated in cemeteries, and of torment, though none of blessedness. placed, blooming in pots, on gravestones. Deep down in Tartarus, those who had We can scarcely doubt that the same train sinned against the gods Sisyphus, of thought, here as in Greece, originally Ixion, Tantalus — were condemned to treprompted its selection for sepulchral uses. mendous, because unending punishment; Unquestionably some of the natives of while the haunting sense of loss, which the Congo district plant manioc on the seems to have survived every other form graves of their head, with no other than a of consciousness, giving no rest, nor so provisioning design.* The same may be much as exemption from fear, pursued said of the cultivation of certain fruit trees good and bad alike. Nowhere does the in the burying-grounds of the South Sea utter need of mankind for the hope Islanders. One of these is the Cratava brought by Christianity appear with such religiosa, bearing an insipid but eatable startling clearness as in the verses of fruit, and held sacred in Otaheite under Homer, from the contrast of the vivid pic. the name of “Purataruru.” The Termi- tures of life they present with the appallnalia glabrosa fills (or filled a century ing background of despair upon which ago) an analogous position in the Society they are painted. Islands. It yields a nut resembling an
Its relation to the unseen world natualmond, doubtless regarded as acceptable rally brought to the asphodel a host of to phantasmal palates.
occult or imaginary qualities. Of true We now, see quite clearly why the Ho- medicinal properties it may be said to be meric shades dwell in meadows of aspho-devoid, and it accordingly finds no place del. These were, in the fundamental in the modern pharmacopæia. Anciently, conception, their harvest fields. From however, it was known, from its manifold them, in some unexplained subsensual powers, as the “
“heroic herb. It was way, the atteruated nutriment they might sovereign against witchcraft, and was require must have been derived. But this planted outside the gates of villas and primitive idea does not seem to have been farmhouses to ward off malefic influences. explicitly present to the poet's mind. It It restored the wasted strength of the had been already, we can infer, to a great consumptive; it was an antidote to the extent lost sight of before his time. It venom of serpents and scorpions; it enwas enough for him that the plant was tered as an ingredient into love-potions, popularly associated with the dusky re- and was sovereign against evil spirits ; gions out of sight of the sun. He did not children round whose necks it was hung stop to ask why, his business being to see, cut their teeth without pain, and the terand to sing of what he saw, not to reason. rors of the night flew from its presence. He accordingly made his Hades to bloom Briefly, its faculties were those of (in for all time with the tall white flowers of Zoroastrian phraseology) a
"smiter of the king's spear, and so perpetuated a fiends;" yet" from it we moderns distil connection he was not concerned to ex- alcohol. plain.
And sweet is moly, but his root is ill, Homer cannot be said to have attained to any real conception of the immortality wrote Spenser in one of his sonnets. But of the soul. The shade which fitted to it may be doubted whether he would have subterranean spaces when the breath left committed himself to this sentiment had the body, resembled an animal principle of he realized that the gift of Hermes was life rather than a true spiritual essence. neither more nor less than a clove of gar
lic. • Unger, Die Pflanze als Todtenschmuck, p. 23. Ulysses, approaching the house of Circe
in search of his companions (already, as naked, smooth, thick stalk of two cubits high, he found out later, transformed into swine), as strong as is a small walking staff. At the was met on the road by the crafty son of top of the stalk standeth a bundle of fair Maia, and by him forewarned and fore. whitish flowers, dashed over with a wash of armed against the wiles of the enchant- purple color, smelling like the flowers of Skilled in drugs as she was, a more
onions. When they be ripe there appeareth potent herb than any known to her had The root is great and bulbous, covered with a
a black seed wrapt in a white skin or husk. been procured by the messenger of the blackish skin on the outside, and white within, gods." Therewith,” the hero continued and of the bigness of a great onion. in his narrative to the Phæacian king, “the slayer of Argos gave me the plant that So much for the question in its matter. he had plucked from the ground, and he of-fact aspect. We may now look at it showed me the nature thereof. It was from its fabulous side. black at the root, but the flower was like And first, it is to be remembered that to milk. The gods call it moly, but it is moly was not a charm, but a counterhard for mortal men to dig; howbeit, with charm. Its powers were defensive, and the gods all things are possible.” It is presupposed an attack. It was as a shield thus evident that. the Homeric moly is against the thrust of a spear. Now if any compounded of two elements -- a botani- clear notion could be attained regarding cal, so to speak, and a mythological. A the kind of weapon of which it bad eftisubstratum of fact has received an embel- cacy thus to blunt the point, we should be lishment of fable. Before the mind's eye perceptibly nearer to its individualization. of the poet, when he described the white But we are only told that the magic draught flowers and black root of the vegetable of Circe contained pernicious drugs. The snatched from the reluctant earth by poet either did not know, or did not care Hermes, was a specific plant, which he to tell more. chose to associate, or which had already There is, however, a plant round which become associated, with floating legendary a crowd of strange beliefs gathered from lore, widely and anciently diffused among the earliest times. This is the Atropa
The identification of that plant mandragora, or mandrake, probably idenhas often been attempted, and not unsuc- tical with the dudaim of Scripture, and cessfully
called. by classical writers Circæa, from The earliest record of such an effort is its supposed potency in philtres. The contained in Theophrastus's “ History of rude resemblance of its bifurcated root to Plants.” He there asserts the moly of the lower half of the human frame started the Odyssey to have been a kind of garlic its career as an object of credulity and an (Allium nigrum, according to Sprengel), instrument of imposture. It was held to growing on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia, and be animated with a life transcending the of supreme efficacy as an antidote to poi- obscure vitality of ordinary vegetable exsons; but he, unlike Homer, adds that istence, and occult powers of the most there is no difficulty in plucking it. We remarkable kind were attributed to it. The shall see presently that this difficulty was little images formed of the mandrakepurely mythical. The language of Theo- root, consulted as oracles in Germany un. phrastus suggests that the association of der the name of Alrunen, and imported moly with the Arcadian garlic was tradi- with great commercial success into this tional in his time; and the tradition has country during the reign of Henry the been perpetuated in the modern Greek Eighth, were credited with the power of name molyzu, of a member of the same multiplying money left in their charge, family.
and generally of bringing luck to their John Gerard, in his “Herbal,” calls moly possessors, especially when their original (of which he enumerates several species) seat had been at the foot of a gallows, and the “sorcerer's garlic," and describes as their first vesture a fragment of a winding. follows the Theophrastian, assumed as sheet. But privilege, as usual, was here identical with the epic, kind.
also fraught with peril. The operation of Homer's moly hath very thick leaves, broad formidable consequences ensuing upon its
uprooting a ma toward the bottom, sharp at the point, and clumsy or negligent execution. These hollowed like a trough or gutter, in the bosom of which leaves near unto the bottom cometh were only to be averted by a strict observforth a certain round bulb or ball of a green ance of forms prescribed by the wisdom color; which being ripe and set in the ground, of a very high antiquity. According to groweth and becometh a fair plant, such as is Pliny, three circles were to be drawn the mother. Among those leaves riseth up a round the plant with a sword, within which
ake was a critical one,
the digger stood, facing west. This posi- | It was laid on beds against nightmare; it tion had to be combined, as best it might, cured the poisoned bites of reptiles ; it with an approach from the windward side, was eaten to avert the evil effects of digupon his uncanny prey. Through the ging hellebore ; while, in Cuba, immunity pages of Josephus the device gained its from jaundice was secured by wearing, earliest publicity of employing a dog to during thirteen days, a' collar consisting receive the death penalty, attendant, in of thirteen cloves of garlic, and throwing his belief, on eradication. It was widely it away at a cross-road, without looking adopted, and by mediæval sagacity forti- behind, at midnight on the expiration of fied with the additional prescriptions that that term. All the properties of this the canine victim should be black without savory root, it may be remarked, are bea white hair, that the deed should be done neficent, whereas all those of the mandrake before dawn on a Friday, and that the (regarded as an herb, not as an idol) are ears of the doer should be carefully stuffed maleficent. Later folk-lore, however, has with cotton-wool. For, at the instant of not brought them into direct competition. leaving its parent earth, a fearful sound, Each is thought of as supreme in its own which no mortal might hear and sanely line. Only in the Odyssey (on the supposurvive, issued from the uptorn root. This sition here adopted) they were permitted superstition found a familiar place in En- to meet, with the result of signal defeat glish literature down to the seventeenth for the powers of evil. century.
Thus we see that the identification of Thus Suffolk, alleging the futility of bad moly with garlic is countenanced by whatlanguage in apology for the backwardness ever scraps of botanical evidence are at in its use with which he has just been band, fortified by a constant local tradition, reproached by the gentle queen of Henry no less than by the fantastic prescriptions the Sixth, exclaims,
of superstitious popular observance. The Would curses kill, as doth the mandrake's difficulty or peril of uprooting, which made groan,
the prophylactic plant obtained by Hermes I would invent as bitter-searching terms,
all but unattainable to mortals, is a comAs curst, as harsh, and horrible to hear, mon feature in vegetable mythology. It Deliver'd strongly through my fixed teeth, figures as the price to be paid for someWith full as many signs of deadly hate, thing rarely precious, enhancing its value As lean-fac'd Envy in her loathsome cave. and at the same time affixing a scarce
And poor Juliet enumerates among the tolerable penalty to its possession. It behorrors of the charnel-house,
longed, for instance, in varying degrees,
to hellebore and mistletoe, as well as to Shrieks like mandrakes’ torn out of the earth, mandragora. With the last it most likely That living mortals hearing them, run mad.
originated, and from it was transferred by The persuasion was, moreover, included Homer, in the exercise of his poetical amongst the “ vulgar errors "gravely com- license, to moly. bated by Sir Thomas Browne.
From the adventure in the Ææan isle, Mandragora, then, is the most ancient as from so many others, Ulysses comes and the most widely famous of all magic out unsca ed. The leading motive of his herbs; and the old conjecture is at least a character is found in his multiform expeplausible one that from its exclusive pos- rience. He is appointed to see and to session were derived the evil powers of suffer all that comes within the scope of the daughter of Perse.
Greek humanity. No experience, howMoly, on the other hand, must be sought ever perilous, is spared him. Protection for amongst the herbaceous antidotes of from the extremity of evil must and does fable. Perhaps the best known of these content him. For his keen curiosity falls is the plant so repugnant to the fine senses in with the design of his celestial paof Horace, and smelling abominably in troness, in urging him to drink to the dregs the nostrils of the gallants of the Eliza- the costly draught of the knowledge of bethan epoch. The name of garlic in good and evil. Yet it is to be noted that Sanskrit signifies “slayer of monsters." from the house of the enchantress there It was invoked as a divinity in ancient is no exit save through the gates of hell. Egypt. The Eddic valkyr, Sigurdrifa, Within the spacious confines of the sang of its unassailable virtue. As a sure universe there is perhaps but one race of preservative from witchcraft it was, by beings whose implanted instincts and mediæval Teutons, infused in the drink of whose visible destiny are irreconcilably at cattle and horses, hung up in lonely shep- war. Man is born to suffer; but suffering herds' huts, and buried under thresholds. I has always for him the poignancy of sur
prise. The long record of multiform trib- signifies the negation of sorrow; and we ulation which he calls his history, has learn that it grew in Egypt, and that its been moulded, throughout its many vicis- administration was followed by markedly situdes, by a keen and ceaseless struggle soothing effects.
see whither for enjoyment. Each man and woman these scanty indications as to its nature born into the world looks afresh round the will lead us. horizon of life for pleasure, and meets Many of the ancients believed nepen. instead the ever fresh outrage of pain. thes to have been a kind of bugloss, the Our planet is peopled with souls disin- leaves of which, infused in wine, were herited of what they still feel to be an affirmed by Dioscorides, Galen, and other inalienable heritage of happiness. No authorities, to produce exhilarating effects. wonder, then, that quack medicines for is certain that in Plutarch's time the the cure of the ills of life, should always hilarity of banquets was constantly sought have been popular. Of such nostrums, to be increased by this means. But this the famous Homeric drug nepenthes is an was done in avowed imitation of Helen's early example, and may serve for a type. hospitable expedient. It was, in other
We read in the Odyssey that Telem- words, a revival, not a survival; and posachus had no sooner reached man's es. sesses for us, consequently, none of the tate than he set out from Ithaca for Pylus instructiveness of an unbroken tradition. and Lacedæmon, in order to seek news A new idea was struck out by the Roof his father from Nestor and Menelaus, man traveller, Pietro della Valle, who the two most eminent survivors of the visited Persia and Turkey early in the expedition against Troy. But he learned seventeenth century. He'suspects the only that Ulysses had vanished from the true nepenthean draught to have been known world. The disappointment was coffee. 'From Egypt, according to the severe, even to tears, notwithstanding that antique narrative, it was brought by Hel. the banquet was already spread in the en; and by way of Egypt the best Mocha radiant palace of the Spartan king. The reached Constantinople, where it served remaining guests, including the illustrious to recreate the spirits, and pass the heavy host and hostess, caught the infection of hours of the subjects of Achmet. Of grief, and the pleasures of the table were this hypothesis we may say, in the phrase overclouded.
of Sir Thomas Browne, that it is “false Then Helena the child of Zeus strange things below confute." The next, that of honest Devised, and mixed a philter in their wipe, Petrus la Seine, has even less to recomWhich so cures heartache and the inward mend it. His erudite conclusion was that stings,
in nepenthes the long-sought aurum That men forget all sorrow wherein they potabile, the illusory ornament of the Pa
pine. He who hath tasted of the draught divine
racelsian pharmacopeia, made its first
historical appearance. Egypt, he argued, Weeps not that day, although his mother die And father, or cut off before his eyne
was the birthplace of chemistry, and the Brother or child beloved fall miserably,
great chemical desideratum from the earHewn by the pitiless sword, he sitting silent liest times had been the production of a by.
drinkable solution of the most perfect Drugs of such virtue did she keep in store,
among metals. Nay, its supreme worth
had lent its true motive to the famous Given her by Polydamna, wife of Thôn, In Egypt, where the rich glebe evermore
Argonautic expedition, which had been Yields herbs in foison, some for virtue fitted out for the purpose of securing, not known,
a golden fleece in the literal sense, but a Some baneful. In that climate each doth parchment upon which the invaluable re
cipe was inscribed. The virtues of the Leech-craft beyond what mortal minds at- elixir were regarded by the learned disSince of Pæonian stock their race hath in which exalted position we willingly
sertator as superior to proof or discussion, grown.
leave them. She the good philter mixed to charm their pain,
More enthusiastic than critical, Madame And bade the wine outpour, and answering Dacier looked at the subject from a point spake again. *
of view taken up, many centuries earlier, Such is the story which has formed the by Plutarch. Nepenthes, according to basis of innumerable conjectures. The
both these authorities, had no real exist.
The effects ascribed to it were name of the drug administered by Helen ence,
merely a figurative way of expressing the • Odyssey, iv. 219-232, Worsley's translation, charms of Helen's conversation.
But this was to endow the poet with a Herodotus. He states that it grew in the subtlety which he was very far from pos- country of the Scythians, that from its sessing Simple and direct in thought, he fibres garments closely resembling linen invariably took the shortest way open to in texture were woven in Thrace, and that him in expression ; and circuitous routes the fumes from its burning seeds furof interpretation will invariably lead astray nished the nomad inbabitants of what is from his meaning. It is clear accordingly now southern Russia with vapor baths, that a real drug, of Egyptian origin, was serving them as a substitute for washing. supposed to have soothed and restored Marked intoxicating effects attended this appetite to the guests of Menelaus — a original method of ablution. drug. quite possibly known to Homer only In China, from the beginning of the by the rumor of its qualities, which he third century of our era, if not earlier, a ingeniously turned to account for the pur- preparation of hemp was used (it was said, poses of his story. Now, since those with perfect success) as an anæsthetic; qualities were undoubtedly narcotic, the and it is mentioned as a remedy under the field of our choice is a narrow one. We name of b'hanga, in Hindu medical works have only to inquire whether any, and, if of probably still earlier date. Its identity so, what, preparations of the kind were with nepenthes was first suggested in anciently in use the inhabitants of the 1839, and has since been generally, acNile valley
quiesced in. But there are two objecUnfortunately our information does not tions. go very far back. A certain professor The practice of eating or smoking of botany, from Padua, however, named hemp, for the sake of its exalting effects Prosper Alpinus, has left a remarkable upon consciousness, appears to have origaccount of his personal observations on inated on the slopes of the Himalayas, to the point towards the close of the six- have spread thence to Persia, and to have teenth century. The vulgar pleasures of been transmitted farther west by Arab intoxication appear to have been (as was agency. It was not, then, primitively an fitting in a Mohammedan country) little in Egyptian custom, and was assuredly unrequest; among all classes their place was known to the wife of Thôn. Moreover, taken by the raptures of solacing dreams hemp is not indigenous on the banks of and delightful visions artificially produced. the Nile. It came thither as an immiThe means employed for the purpose grant, most probably long after the buildwere threefold. There was first an elec. ing of the latest pyramid. Herodotus tuary of unknown composition imported includes no mention of it in his curious from India called bernavi. But this may and particular account of the country; at once be put aside, since the “medicine and, which is still more significant, no for a mind diseased " given by Polydamna relic of its textile use survives. to Helen, was, as we have seen, derived hempen fibre has ever been found in any from a home-grown Egyptian herb. There of the innumerable mummy-cases examremain of the three soothing drugs men- ined by learned Europeans. The ancient tioned by Alpinus, hemp and opium. Egyptians, it may then be concluded, Each was extensively consumed; and the were unacquainted with this plant, and we practice of employing each as a road to must look elsewhere for the chief ingre. pleasurable sensations was already, in dient of the comfort-bringing draught dis1580, of immemorial antiquity. One of tributed by the daughter of Zeus. them was almost certainly the true Ho- There is only opium left.
If the case meric nepenthes. We have only to decide for identity fail here, nothing remains but which.
to throw up the brief. But so extreme a The first, as being the cheaper form of measure is happily not needed. No seriindulgence, was mainly resorted to, our ous discrepancy starts up to shake our Paduan informant tells us, amongst the belief that we have indeed reached the lower classes. From the leaves of the truth. All the circumstances correspond herb Cannabis sativa was prepared a to admiration; the identification runs“on powder known as assis, made up into all fours." The physical effects indicated boluses and swallowed, with the result of agree perfectly with those resulting from inducing a lethargic state of dreamy beati- a sparing use of opium. They tend to tude. Assis was fundamentally the same just so much elevation of spirits as would with the Indian bhang, the Arabic hashish impart a roseate tinge to the landscape of - one of the mainstays of Oriental sen- life. The intellect remains unclouded and aual pleasure.
The Nemesis of indulgence, howe The earliest mention of hemp is by lever moderate, is still behind the scenes.