Page images

that in the course of three thousand years man had diminished and lost one hundred and eighteen feet nine inches of his stature.

The Siamese and other Asiatic people have a religious belief that corresponds with the ingenious Frenchman's hard-laboured 3cale; they say that since the loss of his primitive innocence man has gradually become less and less, and that in the end he will not be higher than a magpie. But all people, all religions, all superstitions have acknowledged the existence in former times of a gigantic race, and have delighted to dwell upon the visionary picture of days when we were purer in heart, stronger in frame and mind, " more blest, more wise," than we now are. Some of the gods and heroes of the Hindu mythology are of the most prodigious dimensions; and the Greek3 and Romans had their Titans.their Orion, their Polyphemus, their Theseus, and Hercules Virgil takes care to indicate the diminution of human strength, by telling us that it would take twelve such men as lived in his days, and these twelve chosen from among the strongest, to lift the rock which Turnus threw at JEneas' head. The ancient romance of Antar shows the notions that prevailed on this subject in the burning deserts of Arabia. In the frozen regions of the North, the Runic or Scandinavian mythology had Thor, with his mighty hammer, and a long progeny of demigods, heroes, and horses, all immeasurably surpassing the dimensions and vigour of modern nature. We need not multiply instances; but the same dream about the gigantic stature of the human race at some former period is found among the aboriginal red men of America.

Until a comparatively very recent date, the sciences of geology and comparative anatomy w ere so very little cultivated, that all the huge bones of the largest of living creatures and of those monstrous animals that have so long disappeared from the face of the earth, were taken for human bones. People seem to have forgotten that the world had ever had any other than human inhabitants. The scattered bones of whales, rhinoceroses, hippopotami, elephants, nay, even the fossile remains of the iguanadon, the ichthyosaurus, the mastodon, and the megatherium, were picked up and shown as fractional parts of the bodies of ancient races of men; and when ribs were found three feet in circumference, and thighbones six feet long, no wonder they believed there had been enormous giants in the land. These remains strongly confirmed the vulgar error; for when men can say of anything wonderful that they have seen it with their own eyes, there is no hope of convincing them. The evidence of human skeletons found entire, of mummies, three thousand years old, no ways larger, or differing in proportion from living men and women, had no weight on these large believers in the marvellous, who could swallow an ante-diluvian monster for a man.

La Bibliotheca Rabbinica del Padre Bartolocci, tom, i. Histoire deVAcademie ties Belles Lettres, t. i. p. 125. and t. iii. p. 16.


The learned and laborious Pasquier remarks, in one of his books, that the fashion of wearing bonnets quarres, or caps with square tops or crowns, was introduced shortly before his time, or about the year 1500; and he adds facetiously, that they thus found out what mathematicians had been so long looking for; namely, the quadrature of the circle.


The Turks, in common with all the Eastern nations we are acquainted with, are wonderfully addicted to proverb, both in their writings and their common conversation. The Spaniards, who are fonder of proverbs than any other European people, derived the use of such citations, and an immense number of their proverbs, from the Moors or Arabs, who have left an Oriental impress on nearly the whole of Spain, with the exception of the Biscayan provinces. The great repertory of Spanish proverb is that immortal work Don Quixote, and the Coryphaeus of all adage-mongers is without doubt Sancho Panza, who has a proverb for almost every possible circumstance or occurrence of life, and "wise saws" perpetually on the tip of his tongue. But these proverbs, to be properly enjoyed, ought to be read in the original, many of them being wholly untranslatable.

As far as this constant use of proverbs is concerned, many a Sancho Panza is to be found in every Arab tribe and in every Turkish town; and the generality of Turks really seem to make moral wisdom consist in the extent of a man's collection of this kind of things, the strength of his memory, and his readiness in applying proverbs.

Many of these proverbs, which the Turks in all probability borrowed from their ancestors, or congeners in the remote regions of the East, are exactly like or closely resemble old proverbs of our own. The following are a few examples:—

Turhish.—1. When the cat is absent, the mice lift up their heads.

Enqlish,—1. When the cat's away the mice will play. 2. We never look at the teeth of a horse that is given us.

2. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

3. Far from the eyes farther from the heart. 3 Out of sight out of mind.

4. He who gives to the poor gives to God,

4. He who gives to the poor lends to the Lord.

5. The tongue kills more people than the sword.

5. The tongue is sharper than the sword.

6. The egg to-day is worth more than the hen tomorrow.

6. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

7. Is it when the horse is stolen that you shut the stable-door?

7. Idem.

8. Strike the iron while it is hot.

8. Idem.

9. "It is a fast-day to-day, and I must not eat," says the cat, on seeing a piece of liver she cannot reach.

9. "Sour grapes," says the fox, &c,

10. Honey is a good thing, but the price of honey is another thing!

10. What a pity 'tis that honey

Can't be got without hard money.

In a short collection of Turkish proverbs now before us, we see several which are precisely the same as some in use in Italy, and a few that closely resemble common French proverbs. The Italians in the middle ages, and particularly the Venetians, the Genoese, the Pisans, and the Amalfitans, kept up a constant intercourse with the people of the East, from whom they introduced not only proverbs, but many fables, apologues, anecdotes, stories, and short romances. It is evident, however, that some of these things did not depend on a transmission from one people to another ; but that they sprang up spontaneously (or from the existence of material objects common to nearly all countries) in different countries and at different times, being, thus far, original in several countries or among several people. Wherever, for example, there grew a rose-bush, men were just as likely as the Turks or Persians to see " that there is no rose without a thorn;" and the moral application, the forcible illustration to be derived from such things, would become evident at the first dawn of civilization. It is during this dawn and twilight that proverbs best flourish; the full meridian light, and a high civilization, are fatal to them. In Europe, the Turks of Roumelia, the Greeks, the scarcely more civilized Spaniauds, and Portuguese, and the Neapolitans, seem to be the people who have most proverbs, and make the greatest use of them.

The Turks say,—

"The eye of the master in the stable is as good lor the horse as a rubbing down." The Italians,—

"L'occhio del padrone ingrassa il cavailo."

(The eye of the master fattens the horse.)

Some of the Turkish proverbs are highly poetical. We think the fastidious Chesterfield could scarcely have objected to the following:—

"Where the horse of a Kurd has struck the soil, the grass ceases to grow."

"Death is a black camel that kneels before every door."

"Here great ships have foundered: what comest thou to do in such a sea with thy weak skiff?"

"The night is pregnant with the morrow; God knows what the dawn will shine upon."

Others of these proverbs again have considerable point and finesse. The Turks say,—

"If you present yourself at a great man's house with empty hands, they will tell you ' his lordship is asleep but if you go with a present, they will say, 'My lord, condescend to enter.'"

"Every thing finishes here below except enmity."

"He who seeks a friend exempt from all faults remains without friends."

"The lazy man says, I have no strength."

"The wounds of a knife are cured, but those inflicted by the tongue are often incurable."

"Patience is the key to joy."

"Fame is not acquired on a feather-bed."

"The crow was asked, which were the most beautiful of birds? 'My little ones,' replied she."

"Every occurrence that makes us weep, is accompanied by something to make us laugh."

"If it were possible for us to do all that we desire should be done, every poor faquir would be a great pasha."

The two last are counterparts to Shakspere's. "The thread of life is of a mingled yarn," &c.; and,—

"If to do were as easy as to know what ought to be done, poor men's cottages would be princes' palaces," &c.

That excellent traveller, the late J. L. Burckhardt, during his residences at Cairo, collected a great many Arabic proverbs, concluding very justly that the manners

« PreviousContinue »