Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 2.djvu/532

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488
[CANTO IV.
CHILDE HAROLD’S PILGRIMAGE.

12.

For the true laurel-wreath which Glory weaves
Is of the tree no bolt of thunder cleaves.

Stanza xli. lines 4 and 5.

The eagle, the sea calf, the laurel, and the white vine,[1] were amongst the most approved preservatives against lightning: Jupiter chose the first, Augustus Cæsar the second, and Tiberius never failed to wear a wreath of the third when the sky threatened a thunder-storm.[2] These superstitions may be received without a sneer in a country where the magical properties of the hazel twig have not lost all their credit; and perhaps the reader may not be much surprised that a commentator on Suetonius has taken upon himself gravely to disprove the imputed virtues of the crown of Tiberius, by mentioning that a few years before he wrote a laurel was actually struck by lightning at Rome.[3]


13.

Know, that the lightning sanctifies below.

Stanza xli. line 8.

The Curtian lake and the Ruminal fig-tree in the Forum, having been touched by lightning, were held sacred, and the memory of the accident was preserved by a pateal, or altar resembling the mouth of a well, with a little chapel covering the cavity supposed to be made by the thunder-bolt. Bodies scathed and persons struck dead were thought to be incorruptible;[4] and a stroke not fatal conferred perpetual dignity upon the man so distinguished by heaven.[5]

Those killed by lightning were wrapped in a white garment, and buried where they fell. The superstition was not confined to the worshippers of Jupiter: the Lombards believed in the omens furnished by lightning; and a Christian priest confesses that, by a diabolical skill in interpreting thunder,

  1. Plin., Hist. Nat., lib. ii. cap. 55.
  2. Columella, De Re Rustica, x. 532, lib. x.; Sueton., in Vit. August., cap. xc., et in Vit. Tiberii, cap. lxix.
  3. Note 2, p. 409, edit. Lugd. Bat. 1667.
  4. Vid. J. C. Boulenger, De Terræ Motu et Fulminib., lib. v. cap. xi., apud J. G. Græv., Thes. Antiq. Rom., 1696, v. 532.
  5. Οὐδεὶς κεραυνωθεὶς ἄτιμός ἐστι, ὅθεν καὶ ὡς θεὸς τιμᾶται. Artemidori Oneirocritica, Paris, 1603, ii. 8, p. 91.