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since. The museums of the Cokeltops of former days were nothing without their dragon, and as the rage for collecting increased, the market was supplied with some monster more hideous than the last purchase, and well worthy of a place on the standard of the Brother of the Sun and Moon. Of course every collector's dragon was the real Simon Pure, and above all suspicion. Tradescant's museum (1656) boasted of “Two feathers of the Phænix tayle,” and “ A natural dragon above two inches long.”
In the early literature of our own country, especially in the ancient ballad and broadside, dragons shot forth in all their glory, only to be eclipsed by the valour of our champions. Nobody was anybody in the old chivalry days who had not slain his dragon.
One of the oldest, if not the oldest of these poetical legends, well known in Chaucer's time, was that which set forth the deeds of “Syr Bevis of Hampton.” The following is the description of the dragon in that canticle:
Whan the dragon, that foule is,
The fight was long and fearful :
There was a well, so have I wynne,
The dragon then fainted sore,
It was venomous y-wis. This well gave Syr Bevis the victory; for, whenever he was hurt sore, he went to the well, washed, and came forth
as hole as any man,
He smote off his head forth right. This, as the Bishop of Dromore remarks, is evidently the parent of the dragon in the “ Seven Champions,” slain by St. George, as any one may satisfy himself by comparing the two descriptions. Nor is it uninteresting to turn from the dragon of the old romance to that in Spenser's “ Faery Queen,” with its “wyngeslike sayls, cruel-rending clawes, yron teeth, and breath of smothering smoke and sulphur;” and then to that most striking passage in the “Pilgrim's Progress,” descriptive of the battle between Christian and Apollyon, who spake like a Dragon, and when at last, says Bunyan in his dream, Christian gave him a deadly thrust, “ spread forth his dragon's wings, and sped him away that I saw him no more.
Sir Guy of Warwick had slain more than one dragon in his time. Read his own account of the feats.
I went into the souldan's hoast,
Being thither on embassage sent,
I having slain him in his tent.
Most fiercelye mett me by the way
As hee a lyon did pursue,
Which I myself did alsoe slay. When he came home he did greater actions ; for, in addition to killing the dun cow, he demolished a monstrous bore—what a
d-send a Sir Guy would be at the clubs !-and sent him to Coventry :
But first, near Winsor, I did slaye
A bore of passing might and strength;
For hugeness both in bredth in length.
Within the castle there doe lye:
Hangs in the city of Coventrye.
A dragon in Northumberland,
I also did in fight destroye,
And all the countrye sore annoye.
This dragon is thus portrayed in the old metrical romance:
A messenger came to the king,
* A sumpter horse.
In the ballad of " Guy and Amarant,” Sir Guy alludes to his former victories when he says to the thirsty giant,
Goe drinke thy last,
But never think to drinke cold water more;
Bid him receive thee in his earthen house.
A blowe that brought him with a vengeance downe.
And from his shoulders did his head divide,
Noe dragon's jawes were ever seene so wide
Then Guy tooke keyes and to the castle went. The giant's miserable captives are then delivered, and among them some “ tender ladyes, who
had noe other dyett every day, Than flesh of human creatures for their food. It was hard that one who thus went about doing good, should have met with so ill a reward : all these brilliant actions could not save poor Sir Guy from being crossed in love, nor from the tragic end which the reader will find, if so disposed, recorded in his “ Legend.” St. George's dragon was eminently pestiferous
Against the Sarazens so rude,
Fought he full long and many a day;
In honour of the Christian way:
Within that country there did rest
Whereby they were full sore opprest :
That every day in heaps they dye;
The living scarce could bury the dead. The rest of this legend is so well known, that it would be need. lessly occupying space to dwell further upon the subject of it.
We would only observe that the dragon's poisonous breath did the principal mischief.
But the time was at hand when the coup de grace was to be given to these dragon tragedies by the comic verse, showing how
More of More Hall, with nothing at all,
He slew the dragon of Wantley. This clever performance was, as has been well observed, to the old metrical romaunts and ballads of chivalry what Don Quixote was to prose narratives of the same kind; and whether the witty author made his dragon out of a bloated Yorkshire attorney who had stripped three orphans of their inheritance, and had become intolerable by his encroachments and rapacity till a neighbouring gentleman took up the cause of the oppressed, went to law with him, and broke his hard heart; or some other passages in local history are therein alluded to, no dragon could be brought before the public thereafter without ridicule.
Thus much for the fabulous part of our subject, as far as it regards terrestrial dragons. We constantly find allusions to the malaria that surrounded these monsters and their localities. It is not unworthy of remark, that the crass air which the real extinct dragons breathed, would, as has been satisfactorily established, have been fatal to man if he had then been upon the earth which now holds their remains. That earth is one vast grave of cities, of nations, of creations.