Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/398

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.


the appearance of corpse candles before death. When a person was about to die a pale flame would appear at the window of the room in which he lay. It would hover there for a moment, then disappear in the direction of the churchyard, traversing the same path along which the body would subsequently be carried. It would stop and burn more brightly for a while over the spot to be occupied by the grave. Sometimes this apparition took the form of a procession. Laveterius, who has already been quoted, says: "There have been seen some in the night when the moon shined, going solemnly with the corpse, according to the custom of the people, or standing before the doors, as if some body was to be carried to the church to burying."

Blue candles are often mentioned by those in the presence of death. This grew out of a superstition that the presence of unearthly beings changed the colour of flame. Thus, in Richard III.:—

"The lights burn blue—it is now dead midnight;
Cold fearful drops stand on my trembling flesh.—
Methought the souls of all that I had murdered.
Came to my tent."

Less poetic but more specific is the following quotation from Lyly's Gallathea (ii. 3): "That's a stinking spirit. I thought there was some