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Nothing in palæontology is, at present, taken on trust. Every statement and every opinion relating to the science undergoes the strictest scrutiny by acute and accurate critics.

The bony framework of the old bygone-world dragon is now as satisfactorily demonstrated as that of the human skeleton which hangs beside the lecturer of the Royal Academy.

That is a striking scene. There stands the professor in all the pride of intellect surrounded by the rising and risen pictorial talent of the day. He has to illustrate a proposition in his discourse and turns to a tall, shrouded figure behind him. The mantle is dropped, and a naked, living man in the bloom of health and strength starts forward, throwing his muscular and well proportioned body and limbs into the required attitude. Every being in the room is alive and attentive, all is in suppressed activity but the ghastly pendant form, and as the lecturer raises the dry bones to explain the action of the living model, and they drop from his warm hand like wooden cylinders, we almost fancy that the grim feature smiles as who should say

To this complexion, you must come at last. Nor is the osseous system of the bygone dragons the only portion of their history clearly unfolded. Their muscular development, their organs of sense and of motion, their respiratory and circulating systems, the colour and quality of their blood, their digestive organs, their food, their integument, and, for the most part, their habits, are now as well known as the organization and natural history of the little agile lizard, that basks on the sandy heath in the neighbourhood of Poole.

With all due respect for the learned who usually monopolize that title, your geologist is the true antiquary. He deals with the relics of a former world; his statues and coins are the shells and bones stored

up,

in many cases before the creation of man; and with these he deciphers the annals of the earth. A thousand years in the history of man and his institutions present an accumulation of facts and doubts sufficient to daunt the stoutest Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries; but what are a million of years in the sight of the geologist?

Before we enter upon the zoological, anatomical, and geological history of these fossil reptiles, the only real dragons on a grand scale, and which we shall endeavour to give in future chapters in a popular manner, encumbered with as few learned terms as possible, it will be necessary for us, in this, to feel our way for awhile in the mists of antiquity, and point out to those who may be interested in the inquiry, as well as the twilight of the time will permit, some of the traditions relating to dragons handed down to us.

If the infant Hercules, in his eighth month, as some say, but according to the exquisite twenty-fourth Idyll of Theocritus, in his tenth, strangled the two dragons sent by Juno for his destruction, Apollo, as soon as he was born, seized his bow and slew with his arrows the Python which the same jealous goddess she had, in truth, some cause for jealousy—had sent to persecute his mother. And here let us pause for a moment, to pick up what information we can concerning this Python. The monster was said to have sprung from the mud and stagnant water that blotted the earth's surface after Deucalion's deluge, and although another legend states that it was produced from the earth, and sent upon the persecuting errand above alluded to, we pray our readers to bear in mind the first of these traditions.

Old stories tell how Hercules

A dragon slew at Lerna,
With seven heads and fourteen eyes,

To see and well discern-a.

Now what was this Lerna? It was said to be the lake into which the daughters of Danaus threw the heads of their slaughtered bridegrooms : here, according to many, harboured the hydra; and although some held with Hesiod that this bydra was the daughter of Echidna and Typhon, its origin was attributed by most to the putrescent contents of the lake. The ballad above quoted has been very sparing in the number of heads which it bestows on the Lernæan hydra. Alcæus gave that renowned dragon nine, Simonides fifty, and Diodorus one hundred. Sharp work for Hercules with his arrows and club, and his assistant, Iolas, with his actual cautery, if Diodorus be correct in his numbers.

The Megalauna of Pausanias, dragons or serpents thirty cubits long, inhabiting India and Africa, were Pythons of the modern nomenclature, probably, but none of your true crested dragons, which appear to have been divisible into five classes :

1st. Those without either wings or legs, oi rollo.

2d. Those with two feet and no wings. The Lernæan hydra and the dragon that laid Rhodes waste, seem to have belonged to this class. These wingless bipeds evidently took a step considerably beyond the legless.

3d. Those with four feet of a still higher grade, and somewhat

rare.

4th. Those with two feet and two wings, yet more exalted; and 5th. Those with two wings and four feet, which seem to have soared to the highest pitch of dragon aristocracy.

These dragons were not all cruel destroyers and worthless ravagers; some of them were worthy creatures, taking pleasure in doing good. Such were those two that licked the eyes of Plutus at the temple of Æsculapius with such happy effect that he began to see ; but the dragons unfortunately died, and he had a relapse from which he does not seem likely to recover in our days. Others again were trustworthy, and suffered accordingly: for the hydra was not the only dragon against which the adult Hercules was pitted. There was that terrible sleepless one sprung from Typhon, that kept watch

All amidst the garden fair
Of Hesperus and his daughters three

That sang around the golden treewith its hundred heads and as many voices. We are quite aware that some reformers have reduced the heads to one, and that on the shoulders of the shepherd who kept the flocks,uña,-oh, those ambiguous Greek words—of his good masters or mistresses. And so because uñov signifies a sheep as well as an apple, we are to lose our Hesperian dragon ? No, by St. George!

Well, this honest dragon, if all tales be true, was basely murdered by Hercules while doing his golden-apple-watching duty, and the demi-god immediately proceeded to rob the orchard : the poor dragon went to heaven, where he may be seen to this day by those who know where to look for him, with the foot of the murderer, who from his high connexions contrived to get there too, upon the head or heads of his victim.

Notwithstanding these exceptions, however, your dragon, generally speaking, was a most cantankerous monster.

Of the crowned basilisk, the terror of all other dragons, and general destroyer of animal and vegetable life, who could slay with its eye, and make the weapon that smote it the conductor of its deadly poison to the withering arm that wielded it, whether in its apod form or octopod shape, we must only observe that it has sunk into a very harmless, but somewhat terrible looking lizard. A whole chapter might be occupied with the marvellous stories connected with this horror ; but we have dragons more than enough on our hands and spare the infliction.

According to Philostratus, your mountain dragon had in his youth a moderate crest, which increased as he grew older, when a beard of saffron colour was appended to his chin; but the dragons of the marsh had no crests. They attained to an enormous size, so that they easily killed elephants. Ælian and others make their length from thirty or forty to a hundred cubits. Posidonius described one a hundred and forty feet long that haunted the neighbourhood of Damascus; and another, whose lair was at Macra, near Jordan, was an acre in length, and of such bulk that two men on horseback, with the monster between them, could not see each other. Then, was there not in the library of Constanti. nople, according to Ignatius, the intestine of a dragon one hundred and twenty feet long, on which were written the Iliad and Odyssey in letters of gold ?

A subject so pregnant with the wild and wonderful was not likely to be missed by the Scalds of the Gothic nations, nor by the bards of the ancient British. Before the revival of letters these were the historians of the time, and they interwove among their facts the embellishments of dragons, giants, dwarfs, and the like, fit machinery for arresting the attention of their audience. Firm believers, for the most part, in enchantment and the existence of those romantic beings, they delighted in astonishing their hearers with recitals of combats with monsters such as Schiller's "Kampf mit dem drachen," so admirably illustrated by Retzsch.

Sometimes a true story was veiled under the allegory. Thus, the youth of the pirate king, Regner Ludbrog, who ruled in Denmark in the year 800, or thereabout, was marked by a gallant exploit. The story ran that the lovely daughter of a Swedish prince was intrusted by her father during his absence on a distant expedition to the care of one of his strongest castles, and one of his most tried officers. But

You may train the eagle

To stoop to your fist;
Or you may inveigle

The Phoenix of the east;
The lioness ye may move her

To give o'er her prey ;
But you'll ne'er stop a lover

He will find out the wayand the guardian fell in love with his beautiful ward, bearded the prince, her father, from his almost impregnable fortress, and held her against all comers.

The prince, after stamping and raving according to the most approved forms of the eighth century, put forth a proclamation promising his daughter in marriage to him who should conquer the treacherous guard and deliver her from thraldom. Many were the competitors for the prize, but the castle stood strong, and he who held it was an experienced captain. All the adventurers

was

failed till Regner buckled on his armour. The fortress could not resist his fierce attack: he carried it by storm, delivered the lady, and obtained her as the reward of his valour. How did the Scalds relate this action? The name of the traitor

Orme,” and “Orm” in the Swedish language signifies a serpent, so they by a slight poetical license represented

the fair daughter as detained from the agonised father by a ruthless dragon which Regner slew and set her free. Regner himself, who was a poet of celebrity, strengthened this version by adopting it in his own Runic rhyme, recording the exploits of his life.

Nor were the nations of the south less credulous upon the subject of dragons. So late as 1557 we find in the Portraits de quelques animaux, poissons, serpents, herbes et arbres, hommes et femmes d’Arabie, Egypte, et Asie, observez par P. Belon du Mans,” under a terrific figure of a winged biped dragon superscribed “ Portrait du Serpent ællé,” the following quatrain,

Dangereuse est du Serpent la nature,
Qu'on voit voler pres le mont Sinai.
Qui ne seroit, de le voir, esbahy,

Si on a peur, voyant sa pourtraiture ? Gesner copies this likeness of the dragon which, it appears, was also in the habit of flying out of Arabia into Egypt, and he adds three other cuts of formidable dragons, one apod and wingless, another apod and winged, and a third in a most rampant state, winged, stinged, biped, and clawed. Aldrovandi (1610) has cuts of many large flying dragons from Paré, Grevinus, and others, and Jonston (1657) collects most of the portraits of basilisks and dragons given by Aldrovandi and others up to his time.

It is hardly to be wondered at that monsters of which so much had been said and sung, to say nothing of pictorial representation, should have become desiderata for the cabinets of the curious, and it seems to have been no bad speculation to manufacture specimens for collectors. The skates or rays among the fishes offered admirable materials for this purpose, and a very little ingenuity in cropping, drying, and distorting, soon transformed them into most desirable dragons. Others were made up with much greater

Such were the biped seven-headed hydras figured by Gesner, Aldrovandi, and Jonston, one of which was brought from Turkey to Venice “ Anno a Christo incarnato tricesimo supra sesqui millesimum mense Januario," and afterwards given “ Francorum regi.” It was valued at six thousand ducats and appears to have been put together even more skilfully than the mermaid that beguiled the good cockneys of their shillings some years

care.

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