Gesta Romanorum Vol. I (1871)/Of lifting up the Mind to Heaven

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Gesta Romanorum Vol. I  (1871) 
Anonymous, translated by Charles Swan
Of lifting up the Mind to Heaven



Pliny (34) mentions the story of an eagle that had built her nest upon a lofty rock, whose young a kind of serpent called Perna (35) attempted to destroy. But finding that they were beyond her reach, she stationed herself to windward and emitted a large quantity of poisonous matter, so as to infect the atmosphere and poison the young birds. But the eagle, led by the unerring power of instinct, took this precaution. She fetched a peculiar sort of stone called Achates, (36) which she deposited in that quarter of the nest, which was opposite to the wind; and the stone, by virtue of certain occult properties which it possessed, prevented the malicious intentions of the serpent from taking effect.


My beloved, the eagle is any man of quick perception and aspiring mind. The young birds are good works, which the devil—that is, the serpent—endeavours to destroy by temptation. The rock on which the eagle built, is Christ.

Note 34.Page 143.

This story does not appear in Pliny.

Note 35.Page 144.

"Serpent called Perna."

There is no such monster in Pliny. He uses the word for a scion or graft, book 17. c. x. and it also signifies a kind of shell-fish, according to Basil. Faber.

Note 36.Page 144.


Achates is the Latin name for agate. "Found it was first in Sicilie, near unto a river called likewise Achates; but afterwards in many other places." "People are persuaded that it availeth much against the sting of venomous spiders and scorpions: which propertie I could very well believe to be in the Sicilian agaths, for that so soone as scorpions come within the aire, and breath of the said province of Sicilie, as venomous as they bee otherwise, they die thereupon." "In Persia, they are persuaded, that a perfume of agathes turneth away tempests and all extraordinarie impressions of the aire, as also staieth the violent streame and rage of rivers. But to know which be proper for this purpose, they use to cast them into a cauldron of seething water: for if they coole the same, it is an argument that they bee right."—Pliny Nat. Hist. xxxvii. 10.