Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/349

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277
POPULAR SUPERSTITION

these are referred to in the plays of Shakespeare alone.

Convulsions of nature on the grand scale were particularly apt of interpretation. They always heralded great events of world-wide importance, but were not always indicative of calamity. The births of great persons, Owen Glendower, for instance, were heralded by storms. "Every peer's birth sticks a new star in heaven." (Dekker, The Whore of Babylon.) A great storm with monstrous phenomena accompanying it preceded the murder of Cæsar and of Duncan. The madness of Lear occurred simultaneously with a tremendous upheaval of the elements. That such signs generally, though not always, foretold disaster, is expressed in the lines:

"For I have heard the meteors in the air.
Of lesser form, less wonderful than these.
Rather foretell of dangers imminent
Than flatter us with future happiness."

"The sky is overcast, and there is a porspice [porpoise] even now seen at London Bridge, which is always the messenger of tempests." (Jonson, Eastward Ho, iii. 3.) Untimely storms were an indication of dearth.

People spoke of blood-drinking sighs, referring to the superstition that every sigh cost one a drop of blood. Sudden bleeding at the nose was an