Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/351

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279
POPULAR SUPERSTITION

The raven was one of the most ominous of birds. It is mentioned in connection with Duncan's death. Ravens appear in Edward IV. before the battle of Poitiers. If ravens sat on a hen's eggs the chicks would be black. "O, it comes o'er my memory As doth the raven o'er the infected house, Boding to all." (Othello, iv. 1.) "Came he right now to sing a raven's note whose dismal tune bereft my vital power." (2 Henry VI., iii. 2.) And again Marlowe, in The Jew of Malta, says:—

"Thus like the sad presaging raven, that tolls
The sick man's passport in her hollow beak
And in the shadow of the silent night
Doth shake contagion from her sable wings."

Touching for the king's evil, so emphatically brought to our attention in Macbeth, was revived during the reign of James I. The interesting ceremony is circumstantially described in the following words by John Ernest, Duke of Saxe-Weimar, 1613: "When it [the service] concluded, his majesty stood up, his chair was removed to the table, and he seated himself in it. Then immediately the royal physician brought a little girl, two boys, a tall strapping youth, who were afflicted with incurable diseases, and bade them kneel down before his majesty; and as the physician had already examined the desease (which he is always obliged to do, in order that no deception