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Title: The Place of Animals in Human Thought

Author: Contessa Evelyn Lilian Hazeldine Carrington Martinengo-Cesaresco

Release Date: June 29, 2021 [eBook #65720]

Language: English

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The Emperor Akbar personally directing the tying up of a wild Elephant.
Tempera painting by Abu’l Fazl. (1597-98.)
Photographed for this work from the original in the India Museum.

“On ne connait rien que par bribes.”—M. Berthelot

“C’est l’éternel secret qui veut être gardé.”
(All rights reserved.)



AT the Congress held at Oxford in September, 1908, those who heard Count Goblet d’Alviella’s address on the “Method and Scope of the History of Religions” must have felt the thrill which announces the stirring of new ideas, when, in a memorable passage, the speaker asked “whether the psychology of animals has not equally some relation to the science of religions?” At any rate, these words came to me as a confirmation of the belief that the study which has engaged my attention for several years, is rapidly advancing towards recognition as a branch of the inquiry into what man is himself. The following chapters on the different answers given to this question when extended from man to animals, were intended, from the first, to form a whole, not complete, indeed, but perhaps fairly comprehensive. I offer them now to the public with my warmest acknowledgments to the scholars whose published works and, in some cases, private hints have made my task possible. I also wish to thank the Editor of the Contemporary Review for his kindness 6in allowing me to reprint the part of this book which appeared first in that periodical.

Some chapters refer rather to practice than to psychology, and others to myths and fancies rather than to conscious speculation, but all these subjects are so closely connected that it would be difficult to divide their treatment by a hard-and-fast line.

With regard to the illustrations, I am glad to bear grateful testimony to the facilities afforded me by the Directors of the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Hague Gallery, the National Museum at Copenhagen, the Egypt Exploration Fund, and by the Secretary of State for India. H.E. Monsieur Camille Barrère, French Ambassador at Rome, has allowed me to include a photograph of his remarkably fine specimen of a bronze cat; and I have obtained the sanction of Monsieur Marcel Dieulafoy for the reproduction of one of Madame Dieulafoy’s photographs which appeared in his magnificent work on “L’Art Antique de la Perse.” Messrs. Macmillan & Co., Limited, and Messrs. Chapman and Hall, Limited, have permitted photographs to be taken of two plates in books published by them. Finally, Dr. C. Waldstein and Mr. E. B. Havell have been most kind in helping me to give the correct description of some of the plates.

Salò, Lago di Garda.

February 15, 1909.






THE EMPEROR AKBAR PERSONALLY DIRECTING THE TYING UP OF A WILD ELEPHANT. Tempera painting in the “Akbar Namah,” by Abu’l Fazl (1597-98). India Museum. Photographed for this work. Frontispiece
DEER WORSHIPPING THE WHEEL OF THE LAW. Tope of Sanchi, drawn by Lieut.-Col. Maisey
From Fergusson’s “Tree and Serpent Worship.” By permission of the India Office.
From a painting on silk by Ko-Tō in the British Museum. Photographed for this work.
In Japanese Buddhism the Tiger is the type of Wisdom.
Fresco found at Pompeii. (Sommer.)
Athens Museum.
(Bruckmann.) Bronze statue. Early Etruscan style. The twins are modern.
From the mosaic pavement of a Roman villa at Nennig.
Mosaic found at Pompeii. (Sommer.)
From the Collection of H.E. Monsieur Camille Barrère, French Ambassador at Rome
Found in a cave at Thayngen in Switzerland.
National Museum at Copenhagen.
Found in 1906 by Dr. Édouard Naville at Deir-el-bahari. By permission of the Egypt Exploration Fund.
Assyrian Relief. British Museum. (Mansell.)
British Museum. (Mansell.)
Egyptian Fresco. British Museum. (Mansell.)
Relief in Palace of Darius at Persepolis. Photographed by Jane Dieulafoy. From “L’Art Antique de la Perse.” By permission of M. Marcel Dieulafoy.
Bronze Statuette found at Susa. Louvre. From Perrot’s “History of Art in Ancient Persia.” By permission of Messrs. Chapman & Hall, Ltd.
Græco-Buddhist sculpture from a ruined monastery at Takt-i-Bahi. India Museum. Photographed for this work.
Ancient Southern Indian sculpture. From a photograph in the India Museum.
Reliefs on two gold cups found in a tomb at Vapheio near Amyclae. Fifteenth century B.C. (possibly earlier). From Schuckhardt’s “Schliemann’s Excavations.” By permission of Messrs. Macmillan & Co., Ltd.
By Rubens. Hague Gallery. (Bruckmann.)
Loggie di Raffaello. In the Vatican. Drawn by N. Consoni.
From an early Christian Sarcophagus in S. Vitale, Ravenna. (Alinari.)
Inlaid marble work panel originally surmounting a doorway in the Great Hall of Audience in the Mogul Palace at Delhi (about 1650). Photographed for this work from a painting by a native artist in the India Museum. Imitated from a painting by Raphael.
From life.
By Hubert van Eyck. Naples Museum. (Anderson.)
By Vittore Pisano. National Gallery. (Hanfstängl.)
Designed and drawn by Maurice Sand.
From a relief in the British Museum. (Mansell.)
From life.
From “Stûpa of Bharhut.” By General Cunningham. By permission of the India Office. (Griggs.)
Mural painting in British Museum. (Mansell.)
British Museum. (Mansell.) The King’s reservations for big game were called “paradises.”
Relief on a fifth century tomb at Ravenna. (Alinari.)
Mosaic in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia at Ravenna.

Tope of Sanchi.

11The Place of Animals in Human Thought


IN one of these enigmatic sayings which launch the mind on boundless seas, Cardinal Newman remarked that we know less of animals than of angels. A large part of the human race explains the mystery by what is called transmigration, metempsychosis, Samsara, Seelenwanderung; the last a word so compact and picturesque that it is a pity not to imitate it in English. The intelligibility of ideas depends much on whether words touch the spring of the picture-making wheel of the brain; “Soul-wandering” does this.

Ancient as the theory is, we ought to remember what is commonly forgotten—that somewhere in the distance we catch sight of a time when it was unknown, at least in the sense of a procession of the soul from death to life through animal forms. 12Traces of it are to be found in the Sutras and it is thoroughly developed in the Upanishads, but if the Sutras belong to the thirteenth century and the Upanishads to about the year 700 before Christ, a long road still remains to the Vedas with their fabulous antiquity.

In the Vedas it is stated that the soul may wander, even during sleep, and that it will surely have a further existence after death, but there is nothing to show that in this further existence it will take the form of an animal. Man will be substantially man, able to feel the same pleasures as his prototype on earth; but if he goes to a good place, exempt from the same pains. What, then, was the Vedic opinion of animals? On the whole, it is safe to assume that the authors of the Vedic chants believed that animals, like men, entered a soul-world in which they preserved their identity. The idea of funeral sacrifices, as exemplified in these earliest records, was that of sending some one before. The horse and the goat that were immolated at a Vedic funeral were intended to go and announce the coming of the man’s soul. Wherever victims were sacrificed at funerals, they were originally meant to do something in the after-life; hence they must have had souls. The origin of the Suttee was the wish that the wife should accompany her husband, and among primitive peoples animals were sacrificed because the dead man might have need of them. Not very long ago an old Irish woman, on being remonstrated with for having killed her dead husband’s horse, replied with the words, “Do you think I would let my man go on foot in the 13next world?” On visiting that wonderfully emotion-awakening relic, the Viking ship at Christiania, I was interested to see the bones of the Chief’s horses and dogs as well as his own. Did the Norsemen, passionately devoted to the sea as they were, suppose, that not only the animals, but also the vessel in which they buried their leader, would have a ghostly second existence? I have no doubt that they did. Apart from what hints may be gleaned from the Vedas, there is an inherent probability against the early Aryans, any more than the modern Hindu, believing that the soul of man or beast comes suddenly to a full stop. To destroy spirit seems to the Asiatic mind as impossible as to destroy matter seems to the biologist.

Leaving the Vedas and coming down to the Sutras and Upanishads, we discover the transmigration of souls at first suggested and then clearly defined. Whence came it? Was it the belief of those less civilised nations whom the Aryans conquered, and did they, in accepting it from them, give it a moral complexion by investing it with the highly ethical significance of an upward or downward progress occasioned by the merits or demerits of the soul in a previous state of being?

A large portion of mankind finds it as difficult to conceive a sudden beginning as a sudden end of spirit. We forget difficulties which we are not in the habit of facing; those who have tried to face this one have generally stumbled over it. Even Dante with his subtle psychophysiological reasoning hardly persuades. The ramifications of a life before stretched 14far: “Whosoever believes in the fabled prior existence of souls, let him be anathema,” thundered the Council of Constantinople, A.D. 543. Which shows that many Christians shared Origen’s views on this subject.

From the moment that soul-wandering became, in India, a well-established doctrine, some three thousand years ago, the conception of the status of animals was perfectly clear. “Wise people,” says the Bhagavad Gita, “see the same soul (Atman) in the Brahman, in worms and insects, in the outcasts, in the dog and the elephant, in beasts, cows, gadflies, and gnats.” Here we have the doctrine succinctly expounded, and in spite of subtleties introduced by later philosophers (such as that of the outstanding self) the exposition holds good to this day as a statement of the faith of India. It also described the doctrine of Pythagoras, which ancient traditions asserted that he brought from Egypt, where no such doctrine ever existed. Pythagoras is still commonly supposed to have borrowed from Egypt; but it is strange that a single person should continue to hold an opinion against which so much evidence has been produced; especially as it is surely very easy to explain the tradition by interpreting Egypt to have stood for “the East” in common parlance, exactly as in Europe a tribe of low caste Indians came to be called gypsies or Egyptians. Pythagoras believed that he had been one of the Trojan heroes, whose shield he knew at a glance in the Temple of Juno where it was hung up. After him, Empedocles thought that he had passed through many forms, 15amongst others those of a bird and a fish. Pythagoras and his fire-spent disciple belong to times which seem almost near if judged by Indian computations: yet they are nebulous figures; they seem to us, and perhaps they seemed to men who lived soon after them, more like mysterious, half Divine bearers of a word than men of flesh and blood. But Plato, who is real to us and who has influenced so profoundly modern thought, Plato took their theory and displayed it to the Western world as the most logical explanation of the mystery of being.

The theory of transmigration did not commend itself to Roman thinkers, though it was admirably stated by a Roman poet:—

“Omnia mutantur: nihil interit. Errat, et illinc
Huc venit, hinc illuc, et quoslibet occupat artus
Spiritus, eque feris, humana in corpora transit,
Inque feras noster, nec tempore deperit ullo.
Utque novis facilis signatur cera figuris,
Nec manet ut fuerat, nec formas servat easdem,
Sed tamen ipsa eadem est: animam sic semper eandem

This description is as accurate as it is elegant; but it remains a question whether Ovid had anything deeper than a folk-lorist’s interest in transmigration joined to a certain sympathy which it often inspires in those who are fond of animals. The enthusiastic folk-lorist finds himself believing in all sorts of things at odd times. Lucian’s admirers at Rome doubtless enjoyed his ridiculous story of a Pythagorean cock which had been a man, a woman, a prince, a subject, a fish, a horse and a frog, and which summed up its 16varied experience in the judgment that man was the most wretched and deplorable of all creatures, all others patiently grazing within the enclosures of Nature while man alone breaks out and strays beyond those safe limits. This story was retold with great gusto by Erasmus. The Romans were a people with inclusive prejudices, and they were not likely to welcome a narrowing of the gulf between themselves and the beasts of the field. Cicero’s dictum that, while man looks before and after, analysing the past and forecasting the future, animals have only the perception of the present, does not go to the excess of those later theorists who, like Descartes, reduced animals to automata, but it goes farther than scientific writers on the subject would now allow to be justified.

It is worth while asking, what was it that so powerfully attracted Plato in the theory of transmigration? I think that Plato, who made a science of the moral training of the mind, was attracted by soul-wandering as a scheme of soul-evolution. Instead of looking at it as a matter of fact which presupposed an ethical root (which is the Indian view), he looked upon it as an ethical root which presupposed a matter of fact. He was influenced a little, no doubt, by the desire to get rid of Hades, “an unpleasant place,” as he says, “and not true,” for which he felt a peculiar antipathy, but he was influenced far more by seeing in soul-wandering a rational theory of the ascent of the soul, a Darwinism of the spirit. “We are plants,” he said, “not of earth but of heaven,” but it takes the plants of heaven a long time to grow.

We ought to admire the Indian mind, which first 17seized the idea of time in relation to development and soared out of the cage of history (veritable or imaginary) into liberal æons to account for one perfect soul, one plant that had accomplished its heavenly destiny. But though the Indian seer argues with Plato that virtue has its own reward (not so much an outward reward of improved environment as an inward reward of approximation to perfection), he disagrees with the Greek philosopher with regard to the practical result of all this as it affects any of us personally. Plato found the theory of transmigration entirely consoling; the Indian finds it entirely the reverse. Can the reason be that Plato took the theory as a beautiful symbol while the Indian takes it as a dire reality?

The Hindu is as much convinced that the soul is re-born in different animals as we are that children are born of women. He is convinced of it, but he is not consoled by it. Let us reflect a little: does not one life give us time to get somewhat tired of it; how should we feel after fifteen hundred lives? The wandering Jew has never been thought an object of envy, but the wandering soul has a wearier lot; it knows the sorrows of all creation.

“How many births are past I cannot tell,
How many yet may be no man may say,
But this alone I know and know full well,
That pain and grief embitter all the way.”[1]

1.  “Folk-Songs of Southern India,” by Charles E. Gover, a fascinating but little-known work.

Rather than this—death. How far deeper the gloom revealed by these lines from the folk-songs of 18an obscure Dravidian tribe living in the Nilgiri Hills, than any which cultured Western pessimism can show! Compared with them, the despairing cry of Baudelaire seems almost a hymn of joy:—

“’Tis death that cheers and gives us strength to live,
’Tis life’s chief aim, sole hope that can abide,
Our wine, elixir, glad restorative
Whence we gain heart to walk till eventide.
Through snow, through frost, through tempests it can give
Light that pervades th’ horizon dark and wide;
The inn which makes secure when we arrive
Our food and sleep, all labour laid aside.
It is an Angel whose magnetic hand
Gives quiet sleep and dreams of extasy,
And strews a bed for naked folk and poor.
’Tis the god’s prize, the mystic granary,
The poor man’s purse and his old native land,
And of the unknown skies the opening door.”

Folk-songs are more valuable aids than the higher literature of nations in an inquiry as to what they really believe. The religion of the Dravidian mountaineers is purely Aryan (though their race is not); their songs may be taken, therefore, as Aryan documents. They are particularly characteristic of the dual belief as to a future state which is, to this day, widely diffused. How firmly these people believe in transmigration the quatrain quoted above bears witness; yet they also believe that souls are liable to immediate judgment. This contradiction is explained by the theory that a long interval may elapse between death and 19re-incarnation and that during this interval the soul meets with a reward or punishment. To say the truth, the explanation sounds a rather lame one. Is it not more likely that the idea of immediate judgment, wherever it appears, is a relic of Vedic belief which has to be reconciled, as best it can, with the later idea of transmigration? The Dravidian songs are remarkable for their strong inculcation of regard for animals. In their impressive funeral dirge which is a public confession of the dead man’s sins, it is owned that he killed a snake, a lizard and a harmless frog. And that not mere lifetaking was the point condemned, is clearly proved by the further admission that the delinquent put the young ox to the plough before it was strong enough to work. In a Dravidian vision of Heaven and Hell certain of the Blest are perceived milking their happy kine, and it is explained that these are they who, when they saw the lost kine of neighbour or stranger in the hills, drove them home nor left them to perish from tiger or wolf. Surely in this, as in the Jewish command which it so closely resembles, we may read mercy to beast as well as to man.

It is sometimes said that there is as much cruelty to animals in India as anywhere. Some of this cruelty (as it seems to us) is caused directly by reluctance to take life; of the other sort, caused by callousness, it can be only said that the human brute grows under every sky. One great fact is admitted: children are not cruel in India: Victor Hugo could not have written his terrible poem about the tormented toad in India. I think it a mistake to attribute the 20Indian sentiment towards animals wholly to transmigration; nevertheless, it may be granted that such a belief fosters such a sentiment. Indeed, if it were allowable to look upon the religion of the many as the morality of the one, it would seem natural to suppose that the theory of transmigration was invented by some creature-loving sage on purpose to give men a fellow-feeling for their humbler relations. Even so, many a bit of innocent folk-fable has served as “protective colouration” to beast or bird: the legend of the robin who covered up the Babes in the Wood; the legend of the swallow who did some little service to the crucified Saviour, and how many other such tender fancies. Who invented them, and why?

If Plato had wished simply to find a happy substitute for Hades, he might have found it—had he looked far enough—in the Vedic kingdom of the sun, radiant and eternal, where sorrow is not, where the crooked are made straight, ruled over by Yama the first man to die and the first to live again, death’s bright angel, lord of the holy departed—how far from Pluto and the “Tartarean grey.” It would not have provided a solution to the mystery of being, but it might have made many converts, for after a happy heaven all antiquity thirsted.

British Museum.
(From a painting on silk by Ko-Tō.)

It is not sure if the scheme of existence mapped out in soul-wandering is really more consoling for beast than for man. It is a poor compliment to some dogs to say that they have been some men. Then again, it is recognised as easier for a dog to be good than for a man to be good, but after a dog has passed his little life in well-doing he dies with the prospect that his 21spirit, which by his merits becomes again a man, will be sent down, by that man’s transgressions, to the society of jackals. According to the doctrine of soul-wandering, animals are, in brief, the Purgatory of men. Just as prayers for the dead (which means, prayers for the remission to them of a merited period of probation) represent an important branch of Catholic observances, so prayers for the remission of a part of the time which souls would otherwise spend in animal forms constitute the most vital and essential feature in Brahmanical worship.

Of course, this is also true of Buddhism, to which many people think that the theory of soul-wandering belongs exclusively, unmindful that the older faith has it as well. The following hymn, used in Thibet, shows how accurately the name of Purgatory applies to the animal incarnations of the soul:—

“If we [human beings] have amassed any merit
In the three states,
We rejoice in this good fortune when we consider
The unfortunate lot of the poor [lower] animals,
Piteously engulphed in the ocean of misery;
On their behalf, we now turn the Wheel of Religion.”

There are grounds for thinking that the purgatorial view of animals was part of the religious beliefs of the highly civilised native races of South America. The Christianised Indians are very gentle in their ways towards animals, while among the savage tribes in Central Peru (which are probably degraded off-shoots from the people of the Incas) the belief still survives that good men become monkeys or 22jaguars, and bad men parrots or reptiles. For the rest, soul-wandering has an enduring fascination for the human mind.

In January, 1907, Leandro Improta, a young man well furnished with worldly goods, shot himself in a café at Naples. His pocket was found to contain a letter in which he said that the act was prompted by a desire to study metempsychosis; much had been written on the subject, but it pleased him better to discover than to talk: “so I determined to die and see whether I shall be re-born in the form of some animal. It would be delightful to return to this world as a lion or a rat.” It might not prove delightful after all!



“THE heralds brought a sacred hecatomb to the gods through the city and the long-haired Grecians were assembled under the shady grove of far-darting Apollo, but when they had tasted the upper flesh and had drawn it out, having divided the shares, they made a delightful feast.” In this description the poet of the Odyssey not only calls up a wonderfully vivid picture of an ancient fête-day, but also shows the habit of mind of the Homeric Greeks in regard to animal food. They were voracious eaters—although the frequent reference to feasts ought not to make us suppose that meat was their constant diet; rather the reverse, for then it would not have been so highly rated. But when they had the chance, they certainly did eat with unfastidious copiousness and unashamed enjoyment. It is not pleasant to read about, for it sets one thinking of things by no means far away or old; for instance, of the disappearance of half-cooked beef at some Continental tables d’hôte. We find that Homer is painfully near us. But in Homeric times the ghost of a scruple had to be laid before the feast could be 24enjoyed. Animal food was still closely connected with the idea of sacrifice. Sacrifice lends distinction to subject as well as object; it was some atonement to the animal to dedicate him to the gods. He was covered with garlands and attended by long-robed priests; his doom was his triumph. The devoted heifer or firstling of the flock was glorified beyond all its kind. Some late sceptic of the Anthology asked what possible difference it could make to the sheep whether it were devoured by a wolf or sacrificed to Herakles so that he might protect the sheepfold from wolves? But scepticism is a poor thing. From immolation to apotheosis there is but a step; how many human victims willingly bowed their heads to the knife!

The sacrificial aspect of the slaughter of domestic animals took a strong hold of the popular imagination. It is still suggested by the procession of garlanded beasts which traverses the Italian village on the approach of Easter: the only time of year when the Italian peasant touches meat. In the tawdry travesty of the Bœuf gras, though the origin is the same, every shred of the old significance is lost, but among simple folk south of the Alps, unformed thoughts which know not whence they come still contribute a sort of religious glamour to that last pageant. Far back, indeed, stretches the procession of the victims, human and animal—for wherever there was animal sacrifice, at some remote epoch, “the goat without horns” was also offered up.

The Homeric Greeks had no butchers; they did the slaying of beasts themselves or their priests did it 25for them. Agamemnon kills the boar sacrificed to Zeus with his own hands, which are first uplifted in prayer. The commonest meat was the flesh of swine, as may be seen by the pig of Æsop which replied, on being asked by the sheep why he cried out when caught, “They take you for your wool or milk, but me for my life.” In Homer, however, there is much talk of fatted sheep, kids and oxen, and there is even mention of killing a cow. The Athenians had qualms about slaughtering the ox, the animal essential to agriculture—though they did it—but the Homeric Greek was not troubled by such thoughts. He was not over nice about anything; he was his own cook, and he did not lose his appetite while he roasted his bit of meat on the spit. A Greek repast of that age would have shocked the abstemious Indian as much as the Hindu reformer, Keshub Chunder Sen, confessed to have been shocked by the huge joints on English sideboards.

Putting aside his meat-eating proclivities, for which we cannot throw stones at him, the Greek of the Iliad and of the Odyssey is the friend of his beast. He does not regard it as his long-lost brother, but he sees in it a devoted servant; sometimes more than human in love if less than human in wit. His point of view, though detached, was appreciative. Practically it was the point of view of the twentieth century. Homer belongs to the Western world, and in a great measure to the modern Western world. He had no racial fellow-feeling with animals; yet he could feel for the sparrow that flutters round its murdered young ones and for the vulture that rends the air with cries 26when the countryman takes its fledglings from the nest. He could shed one immortal tear over the faithful hound that recognises his master and dies. “There lay the dog Argus, full of vermin.” If it had not been a living creature, what sight could have more repelled human eyes? But with dog as with man, the miserable body is as naught beside—what in the man we call the soul. “He fawned with his tail and laid down both his ears, but he could no more come nearer his master.” All the sense of disgust is gone and there is something moist, perhaps, in our eyes too, though it is not the ichor of immortality.

Giving names to animals is the first instinctive confession that they are not things. What sensible man ever called his table Carlo or his inkpot Trilby? Homer gives his horses the usual names of horses in his day; this is shown by the fact that he calls more than one horse by the same name. Hector’s steeds were Xanthus, Æthon and noble Lampus; often would Andromache mix wine for them even before she attended to the wants of her husband, or offer them the sweet barley with her own white hands. Æthe is the name of Agamemnon’s graceful and fleet-footed mare. Xanthus and Balius, offspring of Podarges, are the horses which Achilles received from his father. He bids them bring their charioteer back in safety to the body of the Greeks—and then follows the impressive incident of the warning given to him of his impending fate. The horse Xanthus bends low his head: his long mane, which is collected in a ring, droops till it touches the ground. Hera 27gives him power of speech and he tells how, though the steeds of Achilles will do their part right well, not all their swiftness, not all their faithful service can save their master from the doom that even now is drawing near. “The furies restrain the voice”: the laws which govern the natural order of things must not be violated. “O Xanthus,” cries Achilles, “O Xanthus, why dost thou predict my death?... Well do I know myself that it is my fate to perish here, far away from my dear father and mother!” It is the passionate cry of the Greek, the lover of life as none has loved it, the lover of the sweet air gladdened by the sun.

Many a soldier may have spoken to his horse, half in jest, as Achilles spoke to Xanthus and Balius: “bring me safely out of the fray.” The supernatural and terrible reply comes with the shock of the unforeseen, like a clap of thunder on a calm day. This incident is a departure from the usual Homeric conventionality, for it takes us into the domain of real magic. The belief that animals know things that we know not, and see things that we see not, is scattered over all the earth. Are there not still good people who feel an “eerie” sensation when a cat stares fixedly into vacancy in the twilight? “Eerie” sensations count for much in early beliefs, but what counts for more is the observation of actual facts which are not and, perhaps, cannot be explained. The uneasiness of animals before an earthquake, or the refusal of some animals to go to sea on ships which afterwards come to grief—to refer to only two instances of a class of phenomena the 28existence of which cannot be gainsaid—would be sufficient to convince any savage or any primitive man that animals have foreknowledge. If they know the future on one point, why should they not know it on others? The primitive man generally starts from something which he deems certain; he deals in “certainties” far more than in hypotheses, and when he has seized a “certainty” in his own fashion he draws logical deductions from it. Savages and children have a ruthless logic of their own.

The prophetic power of animals has important bearings on the subject of divination. In cases of animal portents the later theory may have been that the animal was the passive instrument or medium of a superior power; but it is not likely that this was the earliest theory. The goddess did not use Xanthus as a mouthpiece: she simply gave him the faculty of speech so that he could say what he already knew. The second sight of animals was believed to be communicable to man through their flesh, and especially through their blood. Porphyry says plainly that diviners fed on the hearts of crows, vultures, and moles (the heart being the fountain of the blood), because in this manner they partook of the souls of these animals, and received the influence of the gods who accompanied these souls. The blood conveyed the qualities of the spirit. In my opinion the Hebrew ordinance against partaking of the blood was connected with this idea; the soul was not to be meddled with. I do not know if attention has been paid to the remarkable juxtaposition of the blood prohibition with enchantment 29in Leviticus xix. 26. The Institutes of Manu clearly indicate that the blood was not to be swallowed because, by doing so, could be procured an illicit mixing up of personality: the most awful of sins, more awful because so much more mysterious than our mediæval “pact,” or selling the soul to the devil. A knowledge of magic is essential to the true comprehension of all sacred writings.

That animals formerly talked with human voices was the genuine belief of most early races, but there are few traces of it in Greek literature. A hint of a real folk-belief is to be found, perhaps, in the remark of Clytemnestra, who says of Cassandra, when she will not descend from the car that has brought her, a prisoner, to Agamemnon’s palace:—

“I wot—unless like swallows she doth use
Some strange barbarian tongue from over sea,
My words must bring persuasion to her soul.”

But such hints are not frequent. The stories of “talking beasts” which enjoyed an immense popularity in Greece were founded on as conscious “make-believe” as the Beast tales of the Middle Ages. From the “Battle of the Frogs and Mice” to Æsop’s fables, and from these to the comedies of Aristophanes, the animals are meant to hold up human follies to ridicule or human virtues to admiration. The object was to instruct while amusing when it was not to amuse without instructing. Æsop hardly asks the most guileless to believe that his stories are of the “all true” category—which is why children rarely quite take them to their hearts. At the same 30time, he shows a close study of the idiosyncrasies of animals, so close that there is little to alter in his characterisation. Out of the mass of stories in the collection attributed to him, one or two only seem to carry us back to a more ingenuous age. The following beautiful little tale of the “Lion’s Kingdom” is vaguely reminiscent of the world-tradition of a “Peace in Nature.”

“The beasts of the field and forest had a lion as their king. He was neither wrathful, cruel, nor tyrannical, but just and gentle as a king could be. He made during his reign a proclamation for a general assembly of all the birds and beasts, and drew up conditions for an universal league in which the Wolf and the Lamb, the Panther and the Kid, the Tiger and the Stag, the Dog and the Hare, should live together in perfect peace and amity. The Hare said, ‘Oh, how I have longed to see this day, in which the weak shall take their place with impunity by the side of the strong.’”

The temper of a people towards animals can be judged from its sports. It has been well said, Who could imagine Pericles presiding over a “Roman holiday”? Wanton cruelty to animals seemed to the Greeks an outrage to the gods. The Athenians inflicted a fine on a vivisector of the name of Xenocrates (he called himself a “philosopher”) who had skinned a goat alive. In Greece, from Homeric times downwards, the most favourite sport was the chariot-race which, at first, possessed the importance of a religious event, and always had a dignity above that of a mere pastime. The horses received their 31full share of honour and glory; for many centuries the graves of Cimon’s mares, with which he had thrice conquered at the Olympian games, were pointed out to the stranger, near his own tomb.

In the ancient Greek as in the modern world, while the majority held the views about animals which I have briefly sketched, a small minority held views of quite a different kind. It may be that no outward agency is required to cause the periodical appearance of men who are driven from the common road by the nostalgia of a state in which the human creature had not learnt to shed blood. The earliest tradition agrees with the latest science in testifying that man did not always eat flesh. It seems as if sometimes, in every part of the earth, an irresistible impulse takes hold of him to resume his primal harmlessness. It is natural, however, that students should have sought some more definite explanation for the introduction of the Orphic sect into Greece, where it can be traced to about the time generally given to Buddha—the sixth century B.C. Some have conjectured that dark-skinned, white-robed missionaries from India penetrated into Europe as we know that they penetrated into China, bringing with them the gospel of the unity of all sentient things. Others agree with what seems to have been thought by Herodotus: that wandering pilgrims brought home treasured secrets from the temple of Ammon or some other of those Egyptian shrines with which the Greeks constantly kept up certain rapports. It may be, now, that these two theories will be abandoned in 32favour of a third which would refer the origin of the Orphists to Ægean times and suppose them to be the last followers of an earlier faith. When they do come into history, it is as poor and ignorant people—like the Doukhobors of to-day—whose obscurity might well account for their having remained long unobserved. But this is no reason for concluding that their beginnings were obscure.

What is best understood about them is that they abstained rigorously from flesh except during the rare performance of some rite of purification, in which they tasted the blood of a bull which was supposed to procure mystic union with the divine. As happened with the performers of other cruel or horrid rites, the transcendent significance they ascribed to the act paralysed their power of recognising its revolting nature. A diseased spiritualism which ignores matter altogether is the real key to such phenomena. It is too soon to say whether any link can be established between the Orphic practices and the so-called “bull-fights” of which traces have been found in Crete. Despised and tabooed though they were in historical Greece, the Orphists are still held to have exercised some sure though undefined influence on the development of the greatest spiritual fact of Hellenic civilisation, the Eleusinian Mysteries.

(Photo: Sommer)
(Fresco at Pompeii.)

The popular description of Orpheus as founder of the Orphists must be taken for what it is worth. The sect may have either evolved or borrowed the legend. Christianity itself appropriated the myth of Orpheus, pictorially, at least, in those rude tracings in 33the Roman catacombs showing the Good Shepherd in that character, which inspired Carlyle to write one of the most impassioned passages in English prose. The sweet lute-player who held entranced lion and lamb till the one forgot his wrath and the other his fear, was the natural symbol of the prototype of a humane religion.

Out of the nebulous patches of Greek enthusiasts who cherished tender feelings towards animals, emerges the intellectual sun of the Samian sage. It is difficult not to connect Pythagoras in some way with the Orphists, nor would such a connexion make it the less probable that he journeyed to the sacred East in search of fuller knowledge. Little, indeed, do we know about this moulder of minds. He passed across the world’s stage dark “with excess of light”—an influence rather than a personality. Yet he was as far as possible from being only a dreamer of dreams; he was the Newton, the Galileo, perhaps the Edison and Marconi of his epoch. And it was this double character of moral teacher and man of science which caused the extraordinary reverence with which he was regarded. Science and religion were not divorced then; the Prophet could present no credentials so valid as an understanding of the laws which govern the universe. Mathematics and astronomy were revelations of divine truth. It was the scientific insight of Pythagoras, the wonderful range and depth of which is borne out more and more by modern discoveries, that lent supreme importance to whatever theories he was known to have held. The doctrine of transmigration had not been treated seriously 34while it was only preached by the Orphists, but after it was adopted by Pythagoras it commanded a wide attention, though it never won a large acceptance. One expounder it had, who was too remarkable an original thinker to be called a mere disciple—the greatly-gifted Empedocles, who denounced the eaters of flesh as no better than cannibals, which was going further than Pythagoras himself had ever gone.

Even in antiquity, there were some who suspected that at the bottom of the Pythagorean propaganda was the wish to make men more humane. Without taking that view, it may be granted that a strong love of animals prepares the mind to think of them as not so very different from men. A thing that tends in the same direction is the unfavourable comparison of some men with some beasts: the sort of sentiment which made Madame de Staël say that the more she knew of men the more she liked dogs. Did not Darwin declare that he would as soon be descended from that heroic little monkey who braved his dreaded enemy to save the life of his keeper, or from that old baboon who, descending from the mountains, carried away in triumph his young comrade from a crowd of astonished dogs, as from various still extant races of mankind? Darwinism is really the theory of Pythagoras with the supernatural element left out. The homogeneity of living things is one of the very old beliefs from which we strayed and to which we are returning.

Among the Greeks, sensitive and meditative minds which did not place faith in the Pythagorean system 35of life were attracted, nevertheless, by its speculative possibilities which they bent to their own purposes. Thus Socrates borrowed from Pythagoras when he suggested that imperfect and earth-bound spirits might be re-incorporated in animals whose conventionally ascribed characteristics corresponded with their own moral natures. Unjust, tyrannical, and violent men would become wolves, hawks, and kites, while good commonplace people—virtuous Philistines—would take better forms, such as ants, bees, and wasps, all of which live harmoniously in communities. It is pleasant to find that Socrates did justice to that intelligent insect, the undeservedly aspersed wasp. Men who are good in all respects save the highest, may re-assume human forms. Socrates does not explain why it is that humanity progresses so slowly if it is always being recruited from such good material? He passes on from these righteous men to the super-excellent man to whom alone he allots translation into a divine and wholly immaterial sphere; he it is who departs from this world completely pure of earthly dross; who cannot be moved by ill-fortune, poverty, disgrace; who has “overcome the world” in the Pauline sense, who has died while living, in the Indian sense. Though Socrates does not say so, it is this super-excellent man who really convinces him of the immortality of the soul according to the meaning which we attach to these words.

That the more tender and poetic aspects of Pythagorean speculations had deeply impressed Socrates can be seen by the fact that they recurred to his mind in the most solemn hour of his life. From 36these he drew the lovely parable with which he gently reproved the friends who were come to take leave of him for their surprise at finding him no wise depressed. He asks if he appears to them inferior in divination to the swans, who, when they perceive that they must die, though given to song before, then sing the most of all, delighted at the prospect of their departure to the deity whose ministers they are. Mankind has said falsely of the swans that they sing through dread of death and from grief. Those who say this do not reflect that no bird sings when it is hungry or cold or afflicted with any other pain, not even the nightingale or swallow or hoopoe, which are said to sing a dirge-like strain, “but neither do they appear to me to sing for grief nor do the swans, but as pertaining to Apollo they are skilled in the divining art, and having a foreknowledge of the bliss in Hades, they express their joy in song on that day rather than at any previous time. But I believe myself to be a fellow-servant of the swans and consecrated to the same divinity, and that I am no less gifted by my master in the art of divination, nor am I departing with less good grace than they.”

Socrates would not have been “the wisest of men” if he had dogmatised about the unknowable; to insist, he says, that things were just as he described them, would not become an intelligent being; he only claimed an approximate approach to the truth. In appearance Plato went nearer to dogmatic acceptance of the theory of the transmigration of souls, but probably it was in appearance only. Like his master, he thought it reasonable to suppose that the 37human soul ascended if it had done well, and descended if it had done ill, and of this ascent and descent he took as symbol its attirement in higher or lower corporeal forms till, freed from the corruptible, it joined the incorruptible.

The Greeks were the first people to have an insatiable thirst for exact knowledge; they showed themselves true precursors of the modern world by their researches into scientific zoology, which were carried on with zeal long before Aristotle took the subject in hand. We cannot judge of these early researches because they are nearly all lost; but Aristotle’s “History of Animals,” even after the revival of learning, was still consulted as a text-book, and perhaps nothing that he wrote contributed more to win for him the fame of

“... maestro di color che sanno.”

The story goes that this work was written by desire of Alexander the Great or, as some say, Philip of Macedon, and that the writer was given a sum which sounds fabulous in order that he might obtain the best available information. What interest most the modern reader are the “sayings by the way” on the moral qualities or the intelligence of animals. “Man and the mule,” says Aristotle, “are always tame”—a classification not very complimentary to man. The ox is gentle, the wild boar is violent, crafty the serpent, noble and generous the lion. Except in the senses of touch and taste, man is far surpassed by the other animals—a remark that was endorsed 38by St. Thomas Aquinas, who inferred from the limitation of man’s senses that he would have made bad use of them if they had been more acute. Aristotle laid down the axiom that man alone can reason, though other animals can remember and learn, but he never pursued this theory as far as it was pushed by Descartes, much less by Malebranche. He believed that the soul of infants differed in no respect from that of animals. All animals present traces of their moral disposition, though these distinctions are more marked in man. Animals understand signs and sounds, and can be taught. The females are less ready to help the males in distress than the males are to help the females. Bears carry off their cubs with them if they are pursued. The dolphin is remarkable for the love of its young ones; two dolphins were seen supporting a small dead dolphin on their backs, that was about to sink, as if in pity for it, to keep it from being devoured by wild creatures. In herds of horses, if a mare dies, other mares will bring up the foal, and mares without foals have been known to entice foals to follow them and to show much affection to them, though they die for want of their natural sustenance.

Aristotle says that music attracts some animals; for instance, deer can be captured by singing and playing on the pipe. Animals sometimes show fore-thought, as the ichneumon, which does not attack the asp till it has called others to help it—which reminds one of the dog whose master took him to Exeter, where he was badly treated by the yard-dog of the inn; on this, he escaped and went to London, whence 39he returned with a powerful dog-friend who gave the yard-dog a lesson which he must have long remembered. Hedgehogs are said by Aristotle and other ancient authors to change the entrance of their burrows according as the wind blows from north or south; a man in Byzantium got no small fame as a weather prophet by observing this habit. He thinks that small animals are generally cleverer than larger ones. A tame woodpecker placed an almond in a crevice of wood so as to be able to break it, which it succeeded in doing with three blows. Aristotle does not mention the similar ingenuity of the thrush which I have noticed myself; it brings snails to a good flat stone on which it breaks the shell by knocking it up and down. He admired the skill of the swallow in making her nest. Although he knew of the migrations of birds, and declared that cranes go in winter to the sources of the Nile, “where there is a race of pigmies—no fable, but a fact,” he was not free from the erroneous idea (which is to be found in modern folk-lore) that some birds hybernate in caves, out of which they emerge, almost featherless, in the spring. Of the nightingale, he says that it sings ceaselessly for fifteen days and nights when the mountains are thick with leaves.

The spider’s art and graceful movements receive due praise, as do the cleanly habits of bees, which are said to sting people who use unguents because they dislike bad smells. “Bright and shiny bees” Aristotle asserts to be idle, “like women.”

Of all animals his favourites are the lion and the elephant. The lion is gentle when he is not hungry 40and he is not jealous or suspicious. He is fond of playing with animals that are brought up with him, and he gets to have a real affection for them. If a blow aimed at a lion fails, he only shakes and frightens his attacker, and then leaves him without hurting him. He never shows fear or turns his back on a foe. But old lions that are unable to hunt sometimes enter villages and attack mankind. This is the first observation of the “man-eating” lion or tiger, and the reason given for his perverse conduct is still believed to be the right one.

Aristotle assigned the palm of wisdom to the elephant, a creature abounding in intellect, tame, gentle, teachable, and one which can even learn how to “worship the king”—which is what many of us saw the elephants do at the Delhi Durbar.

Athens Museum.

In a later age, Apollonius of Tyana confirmed from personal observation all Aristotle’s praise; he watched with admiration the crossing of the Indus by a herd of thirty elephants which were being pursued by huntsmen; the light and small ones went first, then the mothers, who held up their cubs with tusk and trunk, and lastly the old and large elephants. Pliny gave a similar account of the way in which elephants cross rivers, and it is, I believe, still noticed as a fact that the old ones send the young ones before them. The officer whose duty it was to superintend the embarcation of Indian elephants for Abyssinia during the campaign of Sir Robert Napier told me how a very fine old elephant, who perfectly understood the business in hand, drove all the others on board, but after performing this useful service, when it came 41to be his turn, he refused resolutely to move an inch, and had to be left behind. The sympathy with animals for which Apollonius was remarkable made him feel for these great beasts brought into subjection; he declares that at night they mourn over their lost liberty with peculiar piteous sounds unlike those which they make usually; if a man approaches, however, they cease their wailing out of respect for him. He speaks of their attachment to their keeper, how they eat bread from his hand like a dog and caress him with their trunks. He saw an elephant at Taxila which was said to have fought against Alexander the Great three hundred and fifty years before. Alexander named it Ajax, and it bore golden bracelets on its trunk with the words: “Ajax. To the Sun from Alexander son of Jove.” The people decked it with garlands and anointed it with precious salves. Several classical writers bore witness to the pleasure which elephants took in music; they could be made to dance to the pipe. It was also said that they could write. Their crowning merit—that of helping away wounded comrades, which is vouched for by no less an authority than Mr. F. C. Selous—does not seem to have been observed in ancient times.

In Greek mythology the familiar animals of the gods occupy a place half-way between legend and natural history. Viewed by one school as totems, as the earlier god of which the later is only an appendix, to more conservative students they may appear to be, in the main, the outgrowth of the same fondness for coupling man and beast and fitting man with a beast-companion suited to his character, which gave 42St. Mark his lion and St. John his eagle. The panther of Bacchus is the most attractive of the divine menagerie, because Bacchus, in this connexion, is generally shown as a child and the friendships of beasts and children are always pleasing.

The affection of Bacchus for panthers has been attributed to the fact that he wore a panther-skin, but there seems no motive for deciding that the one tradition was earlier than the other; the rationale of a myth is often evolved long after the myth itself. Perhaps, after all, the stories of gods and animals often originated in the simple belief that gods, like men, had a weakness for pets!

In the Pompeian collections at Naples there are several designs of Bacchus and his panther; one of them shows the panther and the ass of Silenus lying down together; in another, a very fine mosaic, the winged genius of Bacchus careers along astride of his favourite beast; in a third, a chubby little boy, with no signs of godhead about him, clambers on to the back of a patient panther, which has the long-suffering look of animals that are accustomed to be teased by children. It may be noticed that children and animals, both somewhat neglected in the older art, attained the highest popularity with the artists of the age of Pompeii. Children were represented in all sorts of attitudes, and all known animals, from the cat to the octopus and the elephant to the grasshopper, were drawn not only with general correctness but with a keen insight into their humours and temperaments.

It is said that a panther was once caught in Pamphylia 43which had a gold chain round its neck with the inscription in Armenian letters: “Arsaces the king to the Nysæan god.” Oriental nations called Bacchus after Nysa, his supposed birthplace. It was concluded that the king of Armenia had given its freedom to this splendid specimen to do honour to the god. The panther became very tame and was fondled by every one, but when the spring came it ran away, chain and all, to seek a mate in the mountains and never more came back.



ROME, the eternal, begins with a Beast-story. However much deeper in the past the spade may dig than the reputed date of the humanitarian She-wolf, her descendant will not be expelled from the grotto on the Capitol, nor will it cease to be the belief of children (the only trustworthy authorities when legends are concerned) that the grandeur that was Rome would have never existed but for the opportune intervention of a friendly beast!

The fame of the She-wolf shows how eagerly mankind seizes on some touch of nature, fact or fable, that seems to make all creatures kin. Rome was as proud of her She-wolf as she was of ruling the world. It was the “luck” of Rome; even now, something of the old sentiment exists, for I remember that during King Edward’s visit old-fashioned Romans were angry because this emblem was not to be seen in the decorations.

(Photo: Bruckmann.)

The story did not make such large demands on credulity as sceptics pretend. The wolf is not so much the natural enemy of man as the cat is of the mouse: yet cats have been known to bring up families of mice or rats which they treated with affection. 45In recent times a Russian bear was stated to have carried away to the woods a little girl whom it fed with nuts and fruits. The evidence seemed good, though the story did sound a little as if it were suggested by Victor Hugo’s “Épopée du Lion.” But in India there are stories of the same sort—stories actually of She-wolves—which appear to be impossible to set aside. In a paper read before the Bombay Natural History Society, the well-known Parsi scholar, Jivanji Jamsedji Modi, described how he had seen one such “wolf-boy” at the Secundra Orphanage: the boy had remained with wolves up to six years old when he was discovered and captured, not without vigorous opposition from his vulpine protectors.

The historical record of Rome as regards animals is not a bright one. The cruelty of the arena does not stain the first Roman annals; the earliest certified instance of wild-beast baiting belongs to 186 B.C., and after the practice was introduced it did not reach at once the monstrous proportions of later times. Still, one does not imagine that the Roman of republican times was very tender-hearted towards animals. Cato related, as if he took a pride in it, that when he was Consul he left his war-horse in Spain to spare the public the cost of its conveyance to Rome. “Whether such things as these,” says Plutarch, who tells the story, “are instances of greatness or littleness of soul, let the reader judge for himself!” When the infatuation for the shows in the arena was at its height, the Romans felt an enormous interest in animals: indeed, there were moments when they thought of nothing else. It was an interest which went along with indifference to 46their sufferings; it may be said to have been worse than no interest at all, but it existed and to ignore it, as most writers have done, is to make the explicable inexplicable. If the only attraction of these shows had been their cruelty we should have to conclude that the Romans were all afflicted with a rare though not unknown form of insanity. Much the same was true of the gladiatorial shows. Up to a certain point, what led people to them was what leads people to a football match or an assault-at-arms. Beyond that point—well, beyond it there entered the element that makes the tiger in man, but for the most part it was inconscient.

(Nennig Mosaic.)

When we see Pola or Verona or Nîmes; when we tread the crowded streets to the Roman Colosseum or traverse the deserted high-road to Spanish Italica; most of all, when we watch coming nearer and nearer across the wilderness between Kairouan and El Djem the magnificent pile that stands outlined against the African sky—we all say the same thing: “What a wonderful race the Romans were!” It is an exclamation that forces itself to the lips of the most ignorant as to those of the scholar or historical student. At such moments, it may be true, that the less we think of the games of the arena the better; the remembrance of them forms a disturbing element in the majesty of the scene. But they cannot be put out of mind entirely, and if we do think of them, it is desirable that we should think of them correctly. It so happens that it is possible to reconstruct them into a lifelike picture. There exists one, though, as far as I know, only one, faithful, vivid, and complete contemporary representation 47of the Roman Games. This is the superb mosaic pavement which was discovered in the middle of the last century by a peasant striking on the hard surface with his spade, at the village of Nennig, not far from the Imperial city of Treves. The observer of this mosaic perceives at once that the games were of the nature of a “variety” entertainment. There was the music which picturesque-looking performers played on a large horn and on a sort of organ. (The horn closely resembles the pre-historic horns which are preserved in the National Museum at Copenhagen, where they were blown with inspiring effect before the members of the Congress of Orientalists in 1908.) There was the bloodless contest between a short and tall athlete, armed differently with stick and whip. In the central division, because the most important, is shown the mortal earnest of the gladiatorial fight, strictly controlled by the Games-master. In the sexagion above this is a hardly less deadly struggle between a man and a bear: the bear has got the man under him but is being whipped off so that the “turn” may not end too quickly, and, perhaps, also to give the more expensive victim another chance. To the right hand, a gladiator who has run his lance through the neck of a panther, holds up his hand to boast the victory and claim applause: the dying panther tries vainly to free itself from the weapon. To the left is a fight between a leopard and an unfortunate wild ass, which has already received a terrible wound in its side and is now having its head drawn down between the fore-paws of the leopard. I hear that in beast-fights organised by Indian princes, these unequal combatants are still pitted against each 48other. Lastly, the Nennig Mosaic depicts a fat lion that has also conquered a wild ass, of which the head alone seems to remain: it has been inferred, though I think rashly, that the lion has eaten up all the rest; at any rate he now seems at peace with the world and is being led back to his cage by a slave.

Everything is quiet, orderly, and a model of good management. The custodian of the little museum told me that the (surprisingly few) visitors to Nennig were in the habit of remarking of this representation of the Roman Games that it made them understand for the first time how the cultivated Romans could endure such sights. Unhappily, conventional propriety joined to the sanction of authority will make the majority of mankind endure anything that causes no danger or inconvenience to themselves.

Except with a few, at whom their generation looks askance, the sense of cruelty more than any other moral sense is governed by habit, by convention. It is even subject to latitude and longitude; in Spain I was surprised to find that almost all the English and American women whom I met had been to, at least, one bull-fight. Insensibility spreads like a pestilence; new or revived forms of cruelty should be stopped at once or no one can say how far they will reach or how difficult it will be to abolish them. One might have supposed that the sublime self-sacrifice of the monk who threw himself between two combatants—which brought the tardy end of gladiatorial exhibitions in Christian Rome—would have saved the world for ever from that particular barbarity; but in the fourteenth century we actually 49find gladiatorial shows come to life again and in full favour at Naples! This little-known fact is attested in Petrarch’s letters. Writing to Cardinal Colonna on December 1, 1343, the truly civilised poet denounces with burning indignation an “infernal spectacle” of which he had been the involuntary witness. His gay friends (there has been always a singular identity between fashion and barbarism) seem to have entrapped him into going to a place called Carbonaria, where he found the queen, the boy-king, and a large audience assembled in a sort of amphitheatre. Petrarch imagined that there was to be some splendid entertainment, but he had hardly got inside when a tall, handsome young man fell dead just below where he was standing, while the audience raised a shout of applause. He escaped from the place as fast as he could, horror-struck by the brutality of spectacle and spectators, and spurring his horse, he turned his back on the “accursed spot” with the determination to leave Naples as soon as possible. How can we wonder, he asks, that there are murders in the streets at night when in broad daylight, in the presence of the king, wretched parents see their sons stabbed and killed, and when it is considered dishonourable to be unwilling to present one’s throat to the knife just as if it were a struggle for fatherland or for the joys of Heaven?

Very curious was the action of the Vatican in this matter; Pope John XXII. excommunicated every one who took part in the games as actor or spectator, but since nobody obeyed the prohibition, it was rescinded by his successor, Benedict XII., to prevent 50the scandal of a perpetual disregard of a Papal ordinance. So they went on cutting each other’s throats with the tacit permission of the Church until King Charles of the Peace succeeded in abolishing the “sport.”

The action of the Church in respect to bull-fights has been much the same; local opinion is generally recognised as too strong for opposition. The French bishops, however, did their best to prevent their introduction into the South of France, but they failed completely.

I have strayed rather far from the Roman shows, but the savagery of Christians in the fourteenth century (and after) should make us wonder less at Roman callousness. All our admiration is due to the few finer spirits who were repelled by the slaughter of man or beast to make a Roman’s holiday. Cicero said that he could never see what there was pleasurable in the spectacle of a noble beast struck to the heart by its merciless hunter or pitted against one of our weaker species! For a single expression of censure such as this which has come down to us, there must have been many of which we have no record. Of out-spoken censure there was doubtless little because violent condemnation of the arena would have savoured of treason to the State which patronised and supported the games just as Queen Elizabeth’s ministers supported bull-baiting.

Rome must have been one vast zoological garden, and viewing the strange animals was the first duty of the tourist. Pausanias was deeply impressed by 51the “Ethiopian bulls which they call rhinoceroses” and also by Indian camels in colour like leopards. He saw an all-white deer, and very much surprised he was to see it, but, to his subsequent regret, he forgot to ask where it came from. He was reminded of this white deer when he saw white blackbirds on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia. I remember a white blackbird which stayed in the garden of my old English home for more than two years: a wretched “sportsman” lay in wait for it when it wandered into a neighbouring field and shot it.

The feasibility of the transport of the hosts of animals destined to the arena will always remain a mystery. At the inauguration of the Colosseum, five thousand wild beasts and six thousand tame ones were butchered, nor was this the highest figure on a single occasion. Probably a great portion of the animals was sent by the Governors of distant provinces who wished to stand well with the home authorities. But large numbers were also brought over by speculators who sold them to the highest or the most influential bidder. One reason why Cassius murdered Julius Cæsar was that Cæsar had secured some lions which Cassius wished to present to the public. Every one who aimed at political power or even simply at being thought one of the “smart set” (the odious word suits the case) spent king’s ransoms on the public games. For vulgar ostentation the wealthy Roman world eclipsed the exploits of the modern millionaire. If any one deem this impossible, let him read, in the Satyricon of Petronius, the account of the fêtes to be given by a leader of fashion of the 52name of Titus. Not merely gladiators, but a great number of freedmen would take part in them: it would be no wretched mock combat but a real carnage! Titus was so rich that he could afford such liberality. Contempt is poured upon the head of a certain Nobarnus who offered a spectacle of gladiators hired at a low price and so old and decrepit that a breath threw them over. They all ended by wounding themselves to stop the contest. You might as well have witnessed a mere cock-fight!

I should think that not more than one animal in three survived the voyage. This would vastly increase the total number. The survivors often arrived in such a pitiable state that they could not be presented in the arena, or that they had to be presented immediately to prevent them from dying too soon. Symmachus, last of the great nobles of Rome, who, blinded by tradition, thought to revive the glories of his beloved city by reviving its shame, graphically describes the anxieties of the preparations for one of these colossal shows on which he is said to have spent what would be about £80,000 of our money. He began a year in advance: horses, bears, lions, Scotch dogs, crocodiles, chariot-drivers, hunters, actors, and the best gladiators were recruited from all parts. But when the time drew near, nothing were ready. Only a few of the animals had come, and these were half dead of hunger and fatigue. The bears had not arrived and there was no news of the lions. At the eleventh hour the crocodiles reached Rome, but they refused to eat and had to be killed all at once in order that they might not die of hunger. It was even worse with the gladiators, 53who were intended to provide, as in all these beast shows, the crowning entertainment. Twenty-nine of the Saxon captives whom Symmachus had chosen on account of the well-known valour of their race, strangled one another in prison rather than fight to the death for the amusement of their conquerors. And Symmachus, with all his real elevation of mind, was moved to nothing but disgust by their sublime choice! Rome in her greatest days had gloried in these shows: how could a man be a patriot who set his face against customs which followed the Roman eagles round the world? How many times since then has patriotism been held to require the extinction of moral sense!

Sometimes the humanity of beasts put to shame the inhumanity of man. There was a lion, commemorated by Statius, which had “unlearnt murder and homicide,” and submitted of its own accord to a master “who ought to have been under its feet.” This lion went in and out of its cage and gently laid down unhurt the prey which it caught: it even allowed people to put their hands into its mouth. It was killed by a fugitive slave. The Senate and people of Rome were in despair, and Imperial Cæsar, who witnessed impassible the death of thousands of animals sent hither to perish from Africa, from Scythia, from the banks of the Rhine, had tears in his eyes for a single lion! In later Roman times a tame lion was a favourite pet: their masters led them about wherever they went, whether much to the gratification of the friends on whom they called is not stated.

Another instance of a gentle beast was that of a 54tiger into whose cage a live doe had been placed for him to eat. But the tiger was not feeling well and, with the wisdom of sick animals, he was observing a diet. So two or three days elapsed, during which the tiger made great friends with the doe and when he recovered his health and began to feel very hungry, instead of devouring his fellow-lodger he beat with his paws against the bars of the cage in sign that he wanted food. These stories were, no doubt, true, and there may have been truth also in the well-known story of the lion which refused to attack a man who had once succoured him. Animals have good memories.

One pleasanter feature of the circus was the exhibition of performing beasts. Though the exhibitors of such animals are now sometimes charged with cruelty, it cannot be denied that the public who goes to look at them is composed of just the people who are most fond of animals. All children delight in them because, to their minds, they seem a confirmation of the strong instinctive though oftenest unexpressed belief, which lurks in every child’s soul, that between man and animals there is much less difference than is the correct, “grown-up” opinion; this is a part of the secret lore of childhood which has its origins in the childhood of the world. The amiable taste for these exhibitions—in appearance, at least, so harmless—strikes one as incongruous in the same persons who revelled in slaughter. Such a taste existed, however, and when St. James said that there was not a single beast, bird or reptile which had not been tamed, he may have been thinking of the itinerant showmen’s 55“learned” beasts which perambulated the Roman empire.

Horses and oxen were among the animals commonly taught to do tricks. I find no mention of monkeys as performing in the arena, though Apuleius says that in the spring fêtes of Isis, the forerunners of the Roman carnival, he saw a monkey with a straw hat and a Phrygian tunic—we can hardly keep ourselves from asking: what had it done with the grind-organ? But in spite of this startlingly modern apparition, monkeys do not seem to have been popular in Rome; I imagine even, that there was some fixed prejudice against them. The cleverest of all the animal performers were, of course, the dogs, and one showman had the ingenious idea of making a dog act a part in a comedy. The effects of a drug were tried on him, the plot turning on the suspicion that the drug was poisonous, while, in fact, it was only a narcotic. The dog took the piece of bread dipped in the liquid, swallowed it, and began to reel and stagger till he finally fell flat on the ground. He gave himself a last stretch and then seemed to expire, making no sign of life when his apparently dead body was dragged about the stage. At the right moment, he began to move very slightly as if waking out of a deep sleep; then he raised his head, looked round, jumped up and ran joyously to the proper person. The piece was played at the theatre of Marcellus in the reign of old Vespasian, and Cæsar himself was delighted. I wonder that no manager of our days has turned the incident to account; I never yet saw an audience serious enough not to become 56young again at the sight of four-footed comedians. Even the high art-loving public at the Prince Regent’s theatre at Munich cannot resist a murmur of discreet merriment when the pack of beautiful stag-hounds led upon the stage in the hunting scene in “Tannhäuser” gravely wag their tails in time with the music!

The pet lions were only one example of the aberrations of pet-lovers in ancient Rome. Maltese lap-dogs became a scourge: Lucian tells the lamentable tale of a needy philosopher whom a fashionable lady cajoles into acting as personal attendant to her incomparable Mirrhina. The Maltese dog was an old fad; Theophrastus, in the portrait of an insufferable élégant, mentions that, when his pet dog dies, he inscribes “pure Maltese” on its tombstone.

Many were the birds that fell victims to the desire to keep them in richly ornamented cages in which they died of hunger, says Epictetus, sooner than be slaves. The canary which takes more kindly to captivity was unknown till it was brought to Italy in the sixteenth century. Parrots there were, but Roman parrots were not long-lived: they shared the common doom: “To each his sufferings, all are pets.” The parrots of Corinna and of Melior which ought to have lived to a hundred or, at any rate, to have had the chance of dying of grief at the loss of their possessors (as a parrot did that I once knew), enjoyed fame and fortune for as brief a span as Lesbia’s sparrow. Melior’s parrot not only had brilliant green feathers but also many accomplishments which are described by its master’s friend, the poet Statius. On one occasion, it sat up half the night at a banquet, hopping from one 57guest to another and talking in a way that excited great admiration; it even shared the good fare and on the morrow it died—which was less than surprising. I came across an old-fashioned criticism of this poem in which Statius is scolded for showing so much genuine feeling about ... a parrot! The critic was right in one thing—the genuine feeling is there; those who have known what a companion a bird may be, will appreciate the little touch: “You never felt alone, dear Melior, with its open cage beside you!” Now the cage is empty; it is “la cage sans oiseaux” which Victor Hugo prayed to be spared from seeing. Some translator turned this into “a nest without birds,” because he thought that a cage without birds sounded unpoetical, but Victor Hugo took care of truth and left poetry to take of itself. And whatever may be the ethics of keeping cage birds, true it is that few things are more dismal than the sight of the little mute, tenantless dwelling which was yesterday alive with fluttering love.

We owe to Roman poets a good deal of information about dogs, and especially the knowledge that the British hound was esteemed superior to all others, even to the famous breed of Epirus. This is certified by Gratius Faliscus, a contemporary of Ovid. He described these animals as remarkably ugly, but incomparable for pluck. British bull-dogs were used in the Colosseum, and in the third century Nemesianus praised the British greyhound. Most of the valuable dogs were brought from abroad; it is to be inferred that the race degenerated in the climate of Rome, as it does now. Concha, whose epitaph was 58written by Petronius, was born in Gaul. While Martial’s too elaborate epitaph on “The Trusty Lydia” is often quoted and translated, the more sympathetic poem of Petronius has been overlooked. He tells the perfections of Concha in a simple, affectionate manner; like Lydia, she was a mighty huntress and chased the wild boar fearlessly through the dense forest. Never did chain hamper her liberty and never a blow fell on her shapely, snow-white form. She reposed softly, stretched on the breast of her master or mistress, and at night a well-made bed refreshed her tired limbs. If she lacked speech, she could make herself understood better than any of her kind—yet no one had reason to fear her bark. A hapless mother, she died when her little ones saw the light, and now a narrow marble slab covers the earth where she rests.

Cicero’s tribute to canine worth is well known: “Dogs watch for us faithfully; they love and worship their masters, they hate strangers, their powers of tracking by scent is extraordinary; great is their keenness in the chase: what can all this mean but that they were made for man’s advantage?” It was as natural to the Roman mind to regard man as the lord of creation as to regard the Roman as the lord of man. For the rest, his normal conception of animals differed little from that of Aristotle. Cicero says that the chief distinction between man and animals, is that animals look only to the present, paying little attention to the past and future, while man looks before and after, weighs causes and effects, draws analogies and views the whole path of life, 59preparing things needful for passing along it. Expressed in the key of antique optimism instead of in the key of modern pessimism, the judgment is the same as that of Burns in his lines to the field-mouse:

“Still thou art blest, compared wi’ me!
The present only touches thee:
But, och! I backward cast my e’e
On prospects drear!
And forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess and fear.”

And of Leopardi in the song of the Syrian shepherd to his flock:—

“O flock that liest at rest, O blessed thou
That knowest not thy fate, however hard,
How utterly I envy thee!”

Cicero’s more virile mind would have spurned this craving to renounce the distinguishing human privilege for the bliss of ignorance.

Wherever we fix the limits of animal intelligence, there is no question of man’s obligation to treat sentient creatures with humanity. This was recognised by Marcus Aurelius when he wrote the golden precept: “As to animals which have no reason ... do thou, since thou hast reason, and they have none, make use of them with a generous and liberal spirit.” Here we have the broadest application of the narrowest assumption. From the time, at least, that Rome was full of Greek teachers, there were always some partisans of a different theory altogether. What Seneca calls “the illustrious but unpopular school of Pythagoras” had a little following which made up 60by its sincere enthusiasm for the fewness of its members. Seneca’s own master Sotio was of this school, and his teaching made a deep impression on the most illustrious of his pupils, who sums up its chief points with his usual lucidity: Pythagoras gave men a horror of crime and of parricide by telling them that they might unawares kill or devour their own fathers; all sentient beings are bound together in a universal kinship and an endless transmutation causes them to pass from one form to another; no soul perishes or ceases its activity save in the moment when it changes its envelope. Sotio took for granted that the youths who attended his classes came to him with minds unprepared to receive these doctrines, and he aimed more at making them accept the consequences of the theory than the theory itself. What if they believed none of it? What if they did not believe that souls passed through different bodies and that the thing we call death is a transmigration? That in the animal which crops the grass or which peoples the sea, a soul resides which once was human? That, like the heavenly bodies, every soul traverses its appointed circle? That nothing in this world perishes, but only changes scene and place? Let them remember, nevertheless, that great men have believed all this: “Suspend your judgment, and in the meantime, respect whatever has life.” If the doctrine be true, then to abstain from animal flesh is to spare oneself the committal of crimes; if it be false, such abstinence is commendable frugality; “all you lose is the food of lions and vultures.”

Sotio himself was a thorough Pythagorean, but 61there was another philosopher of the name of Sestius who was an ardent advocate of abstinence from animal food without believing in the transmigration of souls. He founded a sort of brotherhood, the members of which took the pledge to abide by this rule. He argued that since plenty of other wholesome food existed, what need was there for man to shed blood? Cruelty must become habitual when people devour flesh to indulge the palate: “let us reduce the elements of sensuality.” Health would be also the gainer by the adoption of a simpler and less various diet. Sotio used these arguments of one whom he might have called an unbeliever, to reinforce his own.

Seneca does not say if many of his schoolfellows were as much impressed as he was by this teaching. For a year he abstained from flesh, and when he got accustomed to it, he even found the new diet easy and agreeable. His mind seemed to grow more active. That he was allowed to eat what he liked without encountering interference or ridicule shows the considerable freedom in which the youth of Rome was brought up: this made them men. But at the beginning of the reign of Tiberius there went forth an edict against foreign cults, and abstinence from flesh was held to show a leaning towards religious novelties. For this reason the elder Seneca advised his son to give up vegetarianism. Seneca honestly confesses that he went back to better fare without much urging; yet he always remained frugal, and he seems never to have felt quite sure that his youthful experiment did not agree best with the counsels of perfection.



PLUTARCH was the Happy Philosopher—and there were not many that were happy. A life of travel, a life of teaching, an honoured old age as the priest of Apollo in his native village in Bœotia: what kinder fate than this? He was happy in the very obscurity which seems to have surrounded his life at Rome, for it saved him from spite and envy. He was happy, if we may trust the traditional effigies, even in that thing which likewise is a good gift of the gods, a gracious outward presence exactly corresponding with the soul within. A painter who wished to draw a type of illimitable compassionateness would choose the face attributed to Plutarch. Finally, this gentle sage is happy still after eighteen hundred years in doing more than any other writer of antiquity to build up character by diffusing the radiance of noble deeds. Nevertheless, were he to come back to life he would have one disappointment, and that would be to find how few people read his essays on kindness to animals: they would stand a better chance of being read if they were printed alone, but to arrive at them you must dive in the formidable depths of the Moralia: a very storehouse of 63interesting things, but hardly attractive to the general in a hurried age. Some of its treasures have been revealed by Dr. Oakesmith in his admirable monograph on “The Religion of Plutarch.” The mine of nobly humane sentiment remains, however, almost unexplored.

The essays devoted to animals are three in number, with the titles: “Whether terrestrial or aquatic animals are the more intelligent?” “That animals have the use of Reason”; “On the habit of eating flesh.” The two first are in the form of dialogues, and the third is a familiar discourse, a conférence, such as those which now form a popular feature of the Roman season. Through these studies there runs a vein of transparent sincerity: we feel that they were composed not to show the author’s cleverness or to startle by paradoxes, but with the real wish to make the young men for whom they were intended a little more humane. Plutarch did not take up the claims of animals because good “copy” could be made out of them. As his wish is to persuade, he does not ask for the impossible. It is the voice of the highly civilised Greek addressing the young barbarians of Rome: for to the Greek’s inmost mind the Roman must have always remained somewhat of a barbarian. There is great restraint: though Plutarch must have loathed the games of the arena, he speaks of them with guarded deprecation. He makes one of his characters say that the chase (which he did not himself like) was useful in keeping people from worse things, “such as the combats of gladiators.” He is genuinely anxious by all means to persuade some, and for this 64reason he refrains from scaring away his hearers or readers by extreme demands. Though he has a strong personal repugnance to flesh-eating, he does not insist on every one sharing it. Anyhow, he says, Be as humane as you can; cause as little suffering as is possible; no doubt it is not easy, all at once, to eradicate a habit which has taken hold of our sensual nature, but, at least, let us deprive it of its worst features. Let us eat flesh if we must, but for hunger, not for self-indulgence; let us kill animals but still be compassionate—not heaping up outrages and tortures “as, alas, is done every day.” He mentions how swans were blinded and then fattened with unnatural foods, which is only a little worse than things that are done now. What is certain is, that extreme and habitual luxury in food has spelt decadence from the banquets of Babylon downwards.

Plutarch goes on to ask whether it is impossible to amuse ourselves without all these excesses? Shall we expire on the spot, are the resources of men totally exhausted, if the table be not supplied with pâtés de foies gras? Is life not worth living without slaughter to make a feast, slaughter to find a pastime; cannot we exist without asking of certain animals that they show courage, and fight in spite of themselves, or that they massacre other animals which have not the natural energy to defend themselves? Must we for our sport tear the mother from the little ones which she suckles or hatches? Plutarch implores us not to imitate the children of whom Bion speaks, who amused themselves by throwing stones at the frogs, but the frogs were not at all amused—they 65simply died. “When we take our recreation, those who help in the fun ought to share in it and be amused as well.” Thus does the kind Greek philosopher exhort us

“Never to blend our pleasure or our pride
With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels.”

Did Wordsworth know that his thought had been expressed so long before? It matters little; the counsels of mercy never grow old.

With good sense and in that spirit of compromise which is really the basis of morality, Plutarch argued that cruelty to animals does not lie in the use but in the abuse of them; it is not cruel to kill them if they are incompatible with our own existence; it is not cruel to tame and train to our service those made by nature gentle and loving towards man which become the companions of our toil according to their natural aptitude. “Horse and ass are given to us,” as Prometheus says, “to be submissive servants and fellow-workers; dogs to be guardians and watchers, goats and sheep to give us milk and wool.” (Cow’s milk seems to have been rarely drunk, as is still the case in the Mediterranean islands and in Greece.)

“The Stoics,” says Plutarch, “made sensibility towards animals a preparation to humanity and compassion because the gradually formed habit of the lesser affections is capable of leading men very far.” In the “Lives” he insists on the same point: “Kindness and beneficence should be extended to creatures of every species, and these still flow from 66the breast of a well-natured man as streams that issue from the living fountain. A good man will take care of his horses and dogs not only when they are young, but when old and past service.... We certainly ought not to treat living creatures like shoes or household goods, which, when worn out with use, we throw away, and were it only to learn benevolence to human kind, we should be merciful to other creatures. For my own part I would not sell even an old ox.”

Here I may say that Plutarch should have thanked Fate which made him a philosopher and not a farmer. For how, alas, can the farmer escape from becoming the accomplice of that which the Italian poet apostrophizes in the words—

“Natura, illaudabil maraviglia,
Che per uccider partorisci e nutri!”

How can well-cared-for old age be the lot of more than a very few of the animals that serve us so faithfully? The exception must console us for the rule. The beautiful story of one such exception is told by both Plutarch and Pliny the Elder. When Pericles was building the Parthenon a great number of mules were employed in drawing the stones up the hill of the Acropolis. Some of them became too old for the work, and these were set at liberty to pasture at large. But one old mule gravely walked every day to the stone-yard and accompanied, or rather led, the procession of mule-carts to and fro. The Athenians were delighted with its devotion to duty, and decided that it should be supported at the expense of the 67State for the rest of its days. According to Pliny, the mule of the Parthenon lived till it had attained its eightieth year, a record that seems startling even having regard to the proverbial longevity of pensioners. Plutarch does not mention it, perhaps, because he had some doubts about its accuracy. In other respects the story may be accepted as literally true; and does it not do us good to think of it, as we look at the most glorious work of man’s hands bathed in the golden afterglow? Does it not do us good to think that at the zenith of her greatness Athens

“... Mother of arts
And eloquence, native to famous wits”

stooped—nay, rose—to generous appreciation of the willing service of an old mule?

In dealing with animal psychology Plutarch makes a strong point of the inherent improbability that, while feeling and imagination are the common share of all animated beings, reason should be apportioned only to a single species. “How can you say such things? Is not every one convinced that no being can feel without also possessing understanding, that there is not a single animal which has not a sort of thought and reason just as he comes into the world with senses and instinct?” Nature, which is said to make all things from one cause and to one end, has not given sensibility to animals simply in order that they should be capable of sensations. Since some things are good for them, and others bad, they would not exist for a single instant if they did not know how to seek the good and shun the bad. 68The animal learns by his senses what things are good and what are bad for him, but when, in consequence of these indications, of his senses, it is a question of taking and seeking what is useful and of avoiding and flying from what is harmful, these same animals would have no means of action if Nature had not made them up to a certain point capable of reason, of judgment, of memory, and of attention. Because, if you completely deprived them of the spirit of conjecture, memory, foresight, preparation, hope, fear, desire, grief, they would cease to derive the slightest utility from the eyes or ears which they possess. Plutarch might have added that a mindless animal would resemble not a child or a savage, but an idiot. He does point out that they would be better off with no senses at all than with the power of feeling and no power of acting upon it. But, he adds, could sensation exist without intelligence? He quotes a line from I do not know what poet:—

“The spirit only hears and sees—all else
Is deaf and blind.”

If we look with our eyes at a page of writing without seizing the meaning of a word of it, because our thoughts are preoccupied, is it not the same as if we had never seen it? But even were we to admit that the senses suffice to their office, would that explain the phenomena of memory and foresight? Would the animal fear things, not present, which harm him, or desire things, not present, which are to his advantage? Would he prepare his retreat or shelter or devise snares by which to catch other animals? Only 69one theory can be applied to mind in man and mind in animals.

It will be seen from this summary that Plutarch traversed the whole field of speculation on animal intelligence which has not really extended its boundaries since the time when he wrote, though it is possible that we are now on the verge, if not of new discoveries, at least of the admission of a new point of view. The study of the dual element in man, the endeavour to establish a line of demarcation between the conscious and subliminal self, may lead to the inquiry, how far the conscious self corresponds with what was meant, when speaking of animals, by “reason,” and the subliminal self with what was meant by “instinct”? But the use of a new terminology would not alter the conclusion: call it reason, consciousness, spirit; some of it the “paragon of animals” shares with his poor relations. The case is put in a homely way but not without force by the heroine of a forgotten novel by Lamartine: the speaker is an old servant who is in despair at losing her goldfinch: “Ah! On dit que les bêtes n’ont pas l’âme,” she says. “Je ne veux pas offenser le bon Dieu, mais si mon pauvre oiseau n’avait pas d’âme, avec quoi done n’aurait-il tant aimée? Avec les plumes ou avec les pattes, peut-être?”

Plutarch reviews—to reject—the “Automata” argument, which had already some supporters. Certain naturalists, he says, try to prove that animals feel neither pleasure nor anger nor yet fear; that the nightingale does not meditate his song, that the bee has no memory, that the swallow makes no preparations, 70that the lion never grows angry, nor is the stag subject to fear. Everything, according to these theorists, is merely delusive appearance. They might as well assert that animals cannot see or hear; that they only appear to see or hear; that they have no voice, only the semblance of a voice; in short, that they are not alive but only seem to live.

The moral aspects of any problem are those which to a moralist seem the most important, and Plutarch did not seek to deny the force of the objection: If virtue be the true aim of reason, how can Nature have bestowed reason on creatures which cannot direct it to its true object? But he denied the postulate that animals have no ethical potentialities. If the love of men for their children is granted to be the corner-stone of all human society, shall we say that there is no merit in the affection of animals for their offspring? He sums up the matter by remarking that the limitation of a faculty does not show that it does not exist. To pretend that every being not endowed at birth with perfect reason is, by its nature, incapable of reason of any kind, would be to ignore the fact that although reason is a natural gift the degree in which it is possessed by any individual depends on his training and on his teachers. Perfect reason is possessed by none because none has perfect rectitude and moral excellence.

Animals exhibit examples of sociability, courage, resource, and again, of cowardice and viciousness. Why do we not say of one tree that it is less teachable than another, as we say that a sheep is less teachable than a dog? It is, of course, because 71plants cannot think, and where the faculty of thought is wholly wanting, there cannot be more or less quickness or slowness, more or less of good qualities or of bad.

Yet it must be allowed that man’s intelligence is amazingly superior to that of animals. But what does that prove? Do not some animals leave man far behind in the keenness of their sight and the sharpness of their hearing? Shall we say, therefore, that man is blind or deaf? We have some strength in our hands and in our bodies although we are not elephants or camels. In the same way, we should be careful not to infer that animals lack all reasoning faculties from the fact that their intelligence is duller and more defective than man’s. “Boatfuls” of true stories can be cited to show the docility and special aptitudes of the different children of creation. And a very amusing occupation it is, says Plutarch, for young people to collect such stories. In the course of his work, he sets them a good example, for he brings together a real “boatful” of anecdotes of clever beasts, but at this point he contents himself with observing that madness in dogs and other animals would be alone sufficient to show that they had some mind: otherwise, how could they go out of it?

The stoics who taught the strictest humanity to animals rejected, nevertheless, the supposition that animals had reason, for how, they asked, can such a theory be reconciled with the idea of eternal justice? Would it not make abstinence from their flesh imperative and entail consequences which would make our life impracticable? If we were to give 72up using animals for our own purposes, we should be reduced ourselves almost to the condition of brutes. “What works would be left for us to do by land or sea, what industries to cultivate, what embellishments of our way of living, if we regarded animals as reasonable beings and our fellow-creatures, and hence adopted the rule (which, clearly, would be only proper) to do them no harm and to study their convenience.”

Many a sensitive modern soul has pondered over this crux without finding a satisfactory solution. Plutarch says that Empedocles and Heraclites admitted the injustice, and laid it to the door of Nature which permits or ordains a state of war and necessity, in which nothing is accomplished without the weaker going to the wall. For himself, he would propose to those “who, instead of disputing, gently follow and learn” the better way out of the difficulty—which was introduced by the Sages of Antiquity, then long lost, and found again by Pythagoras. This better way is to use animals as our helpers but to refrain from taking life.

Plutarch here evades a stumbling-block which he does not remove. The dialogue, as it has come down to us, breaks off suddenly after one final objection: how can beings have reason which have no notion of God? Some scholars imagine that Plutarch hurried the dialogue to a close because this query completely baffled him; others (and they are the majority) attribute the abrupt finish to the loss of the concluding part. Would Plutarch have contented himself with citing the analogy of young children 73who, although not without the elements of reason, know very little of theology, or would not he rather have contended with Celsus, that animals do possess religious knowledge? If he took the last course, it may well be that the disappearance of the end of the dialogue was not accidental. At Ravenna there is a terrible mosaic, alive with wrath and energy, which shows a Christ we know not (for He looks like a grand Inquisitor) thrusting into the flames heretical books. As I looked at it, I thought how many valuable classical works, vaguely suspected on the score of faith or morals, must have shared the fate of “unorthodox” polemics in the merry bonfires which this mosaic holds up for imitation!

The argument “that it sounds unnatural to ascribe reason to creatures ignorant of God,” suggests familiarity with a passage in Epictetus (Plutarch’s contemporary), where he says that man alone was made to have the understanding which recognises God—a recognition which he elsewhere explains by the hypothesis that every man has in him a small portion of the divine. Having this intuitive sense, man is bound, without ceasing, to praise his Creator, and, since others are blind and neglect to do it, Epictetus will do it on behalf of all: “for what else can I do, a lame old man, than sing hymns to God? If I was a nightingale, I should do the part of a nightingale; if I were a swan, I would do like a swan; but now I am a rational creature, and I ought to praise God: this is my work; I do it, nor will I desert this post so long as I am allowed to keep it, and I exhort you to join in this song.”

74The words are among the sweetest and most solemn that ever issued from human lips; yet those who care to pursue the subject farther may submit that there was some one before Epictetus, who called upon the beasts, the fishes and the fowls to join him in blessing the name of the Lord, and there was some one after him who commanded the birds of the air to sing the praises of their Maker and Preserver! It is strange that, despite the hard-and-fast line which the moulders of the Catholic Faith were at pains to trace between man and beast, if we would find the most emphatic assertion of their common privilege of praising God, we must leave the Pagan world and take up the Bible and the “Fioretti” of St. Francis!

(Photo: Sommer.)
Naples Museum.
(Mosaic found at Pompeii.)

Of the anecdotes with which Plutarch enlivens his pages, he says himself that he puts on one side fable and mythology, and limits his choice to the “all true” category, and if he appears to be at times a little credulous, one may well believe that he is always candid. Just as in his “Lives” he tried to ennoble his readers by making noble deeds interesting, so in his writings on animals, he tried to make people humane by making his dumb clients interesting. He did not start with thinking the task an easy one, for he was convinced that man is more cruel than the most savage of wild beasts. But he aims at pouring, if not a full draught of mercy, at least some drops, into the heart that never felt a pang, the mind that never gave a thought. Many of his stories are taken straight from the common street life of the Rome of his day, as that of the 75elephant which passed every day along a certain street where the schoolboys teased it by pricking its trunk with their writing stylets (men may come and go, but the small boy is a fixed quantity!). At last, the elephant, losing patience, picked up one of his tormentors and hoisted him in the air; a cry of horror rose from the spectators, no one doubted that in another moment the child would be dashed to the ground. But the elephant set the offender down very gently and walked away, thinking, no doubt, that a good fright had been a sufficient punishment. The Syrian elephant, of whom Plutarch tells how he made his master understand that in his absence he had been cheated of half his rations, was not cleverer than some of his kind on service in India, who would not begin to eat till all three cakes which formed their rations were set before each of them—a fact that was told me by the officer whose duty it was to preside at their dinner. Plutarch speaks of counting oxen that knew when the number of turns was finished which constituted their daily task at a saw-mill: they refused to perform one more turn than the appointed figure. As an instance of the discrimination of animals, he tells how Alexander’s horse, Bucephalus, when unsaddled, would allow the grooms to mount him, but when he had on all his rich caparisons, no one on earth could get on his back except his royal master. There is no doubt that animals take notice of dress. I have been told that when crinolines were worn, all the dogs barked at any woman not provided with one. Plutarch was among the earliest to observe 76that animals discover sooner than man when ice will not bear, which he thinks that they find out by noticing if there is any sound of running water. He says truly that to draw such an inference presupposes not only sharp ears, but a real power of weighing cause and effect. Plutarch mentions foxes as particularly clever in this respect, but dogs possess the same gift. The French Ambassador at Rome—who, like all persons of superior intelligence, is very fond of animals—told me the following story. One winter day, when he was French Minister at Munich, he went alone with his gun and his dog to the banks of the Isar. Having shot a snipe, he ordered the dog to go on to the ice to fetch it, but, to his surprise, the animal, which had never disobeyed him, refused. Annoyed at its obstinacy, he went himself on to the ice, which immediately gave way, and had he not been a good swimmer he might not be now at the Palazzo Farnese.

The two creatures that have been most praised for their wisdom are the elephant and the ant, but of the ant’s admirers from Solomon to Lord Avebury, not one was ever so enthusiastic as Plutarch. Horace, indeed, had discoursed of her foresight: “She carries in her mouth whatever she is able, and piles up her heap, by no means ignorant or careless of the future; then, when Aquarius saddens the inverted year, never does she creep abroad, wisely making use of the stores which were provided beforehand.” But such a tribute sounds cold beside Plutarch’s praise of her as the tiny mirror in which the greatest marvels of Nature are reflected, a drop of the purest water, 77containing every Virtue, and, above all, what Homer calls “the sweetness of loving qualities.” Ants, he declares, show the utmost solicitude for their comrades, alive and dead. They exhibit their ingenuity by biting off the ends of grains to prevent them from sprouting and so spoiling the provender. He speaks, though not from his own observation, of the beautiful interior arrangements of ant-hills which had been examined by naturalists who divided the mount into sections, “A thing I cannot approve of!” Tender-hearted philosopher, who had a scruple about upsetting an ant-hill! Of other insects, he most admires the skill of spiders and bees. It is said that the bees of Crete, when rounding a certain promontory, carried tiny stones as ballast to avoid being blown away by the wind. I have seen more than once a tiny stone hanging from the spider-threads which crossed and re-crossed an avenue—it seemed to me that these were designed to steady the suspension bridge.

Plutarch insists that animals teach themselves even things outside the order of their natural habits, a fact which will be confirmed by all who have observed them closely. Just as no two animals have the same disposition, so does each one, though in greatly varying degree, display some little arts or accomplishments peculiar to itself. Plutarch mentions a trained elephant that was seen practising its steps when it thought that no one was looking. But he allots the palm of self-culture to an incomparable magpie that belonged to a barber whose shop faced the temple called the Agora of the Greeks. The bird 78could imitate to perfection any sort of sound, cry or tune; it was renowned in the whole quarter. Now it happened one morning that the funeral of a wealthy citizen went past, accompanied by a very fine band of trumpeters which performed an elaborate piece of music. After that day, to every one’s surprise, the magpie grew mute! Had it become deaf or dumb or both! Endless were the surmises, and what was not the general amazement when, at last, it broke its long silence by bursting forth with a flood of brilliant notes the exact reproduction of the difficult trills and cadences executed by the funeral band! Evidently it had been practising it in its head all that while, and only produced it when it had got it quite perfect. Several Romans and several Greeks witnessed the facts and could vouch for the truth of the narrative.

The swallow’s nest and the nightingale’s song make Plutarch pause and wonder; he believes, with Aristotle, that the old nightingales teach the young ones, remarking that nightingales reared in captivity never sing so well as those that have profited by the parental lessons. He gives a word to the dove of Deucalion which returned a first time to the ark because the deluge continued, but disappeared when it was set free again, the waters having subsided. Plutarch confesses, however, that this is “mythical,” and though he admits that birds deserved the name by which Euripides calls them of “Messengers of the gods,” he is inclined to attribute their warnings to the direct intervention of an over-ruling deity of whom they are the inconscient agents.

79It is a pleasure to find that Plutarch had a high appreciation of the hedgehog—the charming “urchin” which represents to many an English child an epitome of wild nature, friendly yet untamed, familiar yet mysterious. He does not say that it milks cows—a calumny which is an article of faith with the British ploughman—but he relates that when the grapes are ripe, the mother urchin goes under the vines and shakes the plants till some of the grapes fall off; then, rolling herself over them, she attaches a number of grapes to her spines and so marches back to the hole where she keeps her nurslings. “One day,” says Plutarch, “when we were all together, we had the chance of seeing this with our own eyes—it looked as if a bunch of grapes was shuffling along the ground, so thickly covered was the animal with its booty.”

Dogs that threw themselves on their masters’ pyre, dogs that caused the arrest of assassins or thieves, dogs that remained with and protected the bodies of their dead masters, clever dogs, devoted dogs, magnanimous dogs—these will be all found in Plutarch’s gallery. How high-minded, he says, it is in the dog when, as Homer advises, you lay down your stick, even an angry dog ceases to attack you. He praises the affectionate regard which many have shown in giving decent burial to the dogs they cherished, and recalls how Xantippus of old, whose dog swam by his galley to Salamis when the Athenians were forced to abandon their city, buried the faithful creature on a promontory which “to this day” is known as the Dog’s Grave. Very desolate 80was the case of the other animals that ran up and down distraught when their masters embarked, like the poor cats and dogs which helped the English soldiers in the block-houses to while away the weary hours, and which, by superior orders, were left to their fate, though their comrades in khaki were anxious enough to carry them away. As a proof of the affection of the Greeks for their dogs Plutarch might have spoken of the not uncommon representation of them on the Stelæ in the family group which brings together all the dearest ties between life and death.

One animal is missing from Plutarch’s portrait gallery—the cat, to which he only concedes the ungracious allusion “that man had not the excuse of hunger for eating flesh, like the weasel or cat.” Can we make good the omission from other sources?

There is a general notion that cats “were almost unknown to Greek and Roman antiquity”—these are the words of so well-informed a writer as M. S. Reinach. Yet instances exist of paintings of cats on Greek vases of the fifth century, and I was interested to see in the Museum at Athens a well-carved cat on a stele. Aristotle, who, like Plutarch, mentions cats in connexion with weasels (both, he says, catch birds), reckons the time they live at six years, less than half the life of an average modern cat; this may indicate that though known, they were not then acclimatised in Europe. Æsop has four fables of cats: 1. A cat dressed as a physician offers his services to an aviary of birds; they are declined. 812. A cat seeks an excuse for eating a cock; he fails to find the excuse, but eats the cock all the same. 3. A cat pretends to be dead so that mice may come near her. 4. A cat falls in love with a handsome young man and induces Venus to change her into a lovely maiden. But on a mouse coming into the room, she scampers after it. Venus, being displeased, changes her back into a cat. This belongs to a large circle of folk-tales, and probably all these fables came from the East.

Herodotus tells as a “very marvellous thing” that cats are apt to rush back into a burning house, and that the Egyptians try to save them, even at the risk of their lives, but rarely succeed: hence great lamentation. Also, that if a cat die in a house all the dwellers in it shave their eyebrows; “the cats, when they are dead, they carry for burial to the city of Bubastis.” The Egyptian name for light (and for cat) is Mau, and the inference is irresistible, that the Egyptians supposed the cat to be constantly apostrophizing the sacred light of which she was the symbol. Nothing shows the strength of tradition better than the existence of an endowment at Cairo for the feeding and housing of homeless cats.

If the cat in Europe had been a rarity so great as most people think, it would have been more highly prized. It seems nearer the truth to say that it was not admired. Its incomplete domestication which attracts us, did not attract the ancient world. Tame only so far as it suits their own purposes, cats patronize man, looking down upon him from a higher 82plane, which, if only the house-top, they make a golden bar.

“Chat mystérieux,
Chat séraphique, chat étrange ...
Peut-être est-il fée, est-il dieu?”

Greeks and Romans preferred a plain animal to this half-elf, half-god.

The Greek comic writer, Anaxandrides, said to the Egyptians: “You weep if you see a cat ailing, but I like to kill and skin it.” The fear lest cats should be profanely treated in Europe led the Egyptians to do all they could to prevent their exportation; they even sent missions to the Mediterranean to ransom the cats borne into slavery and carry them back to Egypt. But these missions could not have reached the cats that had been taken inland, and as the animal increases rapidly, it may have been fairly common from early times. There is no doubt, however, that the number went up with a bound when Egypt became Christian, and every monk who came to Europe brought shoals of cats, the date corresponding with that of the first invasion of the rat in the trail of the Huns.

(Collection of H.E. Monsieur Camille Barrère, French Ambassador at Rome.)

Antiquity regarded the cat, before all things, as a little beast of prey. Nearly every reference to it gives it this character. In the stele at Athens the cat is supposed to be looking at a bird-cage to which the man is pointing; the man holds a bird in his left hand, presumably the pet of the child who stands by him. It seems as if the cat meditated if it had not performed some fell deed. Seneca observed that young chickens feel an instinctive fear of the cat but 83not of the dog. The fine mosaic at Pompeii shows a tabby kitten in the act of catching a quail.

Only one ancient poet, by a slight magician-like touch, calls up a different vision: Theorcitus makes the voluble Praxinœ say to her maid: “Eunœ, pick up your work, and take care, lazy girl, how you leave it lying about again; the cats find it just the bed they like.” There—at last—is the cat we know! But after all, it is an Egyptian cat: a cat sure of her privileges, a cat who relies on her goddess prototype, and has but a modicum of respect for the chattering little Syracusan woman in whose house she condescends to reside. Such were not cats of ancient Greece and Rome, who, from being un-appreciated, fell back to the morals of the simple ravager.



TRADITIONAL beliefs are like the coco de mer which was found floating, here and there, on the sea, or washed up on the shore, and which gave birth to the strangest conjectures; it was supposed to tell of undiscovered continents or to have dropped from heaven itself. Then, one day, some one saw this peculiar cocoanut quietly growing on a tall palm-tree in an obscure islet of the Indian Ocean. All we gather of primitive traditions is the fruit. Yet the fruit did not grow in the air, it grew on branches and the branches grew on a trunk and the trunk had a root. To get to the root of even the slightest of our own prejudices—let alone those of the savage—we should have to travel back far into times when history was not.

Lucretius placed at the beginning of the ages of mankind a berry-eating race, innocent of blood. The second age belonged to the hunter who killed animals, at first, and possibly for a long time, for their skins, before he used their flesh as food. In the third age animals were domesticated; first the sheep, because that was gentle and easily tamed (which one may see 85by the moufflons at Monte Carlo), then, by degrees, the others.

This classification was worthy of the most far-seeing mind of antiquity. Had not human originally meant humane we should not have been here to tell the tale. The greater traditions of a bloodless age are enshrined in sacred books; minor traditions of it abound in the folk-lore of the world. Man was home-sick of innocence; his conscience, which has gone on getting more blunted, not more sensitive, revolted at the “daily murder.” So mankind called upon heaven to provide an excuse for slaughter.

The Kirghis of Mongolia say that in the beginning only four men and four animals were made: the camel, the ox, the sheep, and the horse, and all were told to live on grass. The animals grazed, but the men pulled up the grass by the roots and stored it. The animals complained to God that the men were pulling up all the grass, and that soon there would be none left. God said: “If I forbid men to eat grass, will you allow them to eat you?” Fearing starvation, the animals consented.

From the first chapter of Genesis to the last of the “Origin of Species” there is one long testimony to our vegetarian ancestor, but beyond the fact that he existed, what do we know about him? We may well believe that he lived in a good climate and on a plenteous earth. Adam and Eve or their representatives could not have subsisted in Greenland. I think that the killing of wild animals, and especially the eating of them, began when man found himself confronted by extremes of cold and length of winter 86nights. The skins of animals gave him the only possibility of keeping warm or even of living at all, if he was to brave the outer air, while their flesh may have been often the only food he could find. He was obliged to eat them to keep alive, as Arctic explorers have been obliged to eat their sledge-dogs. Not preference, but hard necessity, made him carnivorous.

These speculations are confirmed by the doings of the earliest man of whom we have any sure knowledge; not the proto-man who must have developed, as I have said, under very different climatic conditions. Perhaps he sat under the palm-trees growing on the banks of the Thames, but though the palm-trees have left us their fruit, man, if he was there, left nothing to speak of his harmless sojourn. By tens of thousands of years the earliest man with whom we can claim acquaintance is the reindeer hunter of Quartenary times. He hunted and fed upon the reindeer, but he had not tamed them. He wore reindeer skins, but he could not profit by reindeer milk; no children were brought up by hand, possibly to the advantage of the children. It is likely, by the by, that the period of human lactation was very long. The horse also was killed for food at a time infinitely removed from the date of his first service to man.

Older Stone Age.

Older Bronze Age.

The reindeer hunter was a most intelligent observer of animals. He was an artist and a very good one. The best of his scratchings on reindeer horn and bone of horses and reindeer in different attitudes are admirable for freedom, life, and that intuition of character which makes the true animal painter. For 87a time which makes one dizzy to look down upon, no such draughtsman appeared as the pre-historic cave dweller. The men of the age of Polished Stone and of the early ages of metals produced nothing similar in the way of design. They understood beauty of form and ornament or, rather, perhaps, they still shared in that Nature’s own unerring touch; it took millenniums of civilisation for man to make one ugly pot or pan. But these men had not the gift or even the idea of sitting down to copy a grazing or running animal.

We need not go far, however, to find a man who, living under nearly the same conditions as the reindeer hunter of Southern France, has developed the same artistic aptitude. I shall always recall with pleasure my visit to a Laplander’s hut; it was in the broad daylight of Arctic midnight—no one slept in the hut, except an extraordinarily small baby in a canoe-shaped cradle. The floor was spread with handsome furs, and its aspect was neither untidy nor comfortless. I reflected that this was how the cave dweller arranged his safe retreat. Much more strongly was he brought to my mind by the domestic objects of every sort made of reindeer horn and adorned with drawings. As I write I have one of them before me, a large horn knife, the sheath of which ends with the branching points. It is beautifully decorated with graffiti, showing the good and graceful creature without whom the Laplander cannot live. The school of art is distinctly Troglodite.

A theory has been started that the man of the Quartenary age drew his horses and his reindeer 88solely as a magical decoy from the idea that the pictures “called” the game as whistling (i.e., imitating the sound of the wind) “calls” the wind. I do not know that the Lapps, though practised in magic, have any such purpose in view. It is said that it would be absurd to attribute a motive of mere artistic pleasure to the Troglodite. Why? Some races have as natural a tendency to artistic effort as the bower-bird has to decorate its nest. Conditions of climate may have given the hunter periods of enforced idleness, and art, in its earliest form, was, perhaps, always an escape from ennui, a mode of passing the time. That the early hunter dealt in magic is likely enough; he is supposed, though not on altogether conclusive grounds, to have been a fetich-worshipper, and fetich-worship is akin to some kinds of magic. But it does not follow that all his art had this connexion. How animals appeared to his eyes we know; what he thought about them he has not told us. The Eskimo, the modern pre-historic man who is believed to be a better-preserved type than even the Lapp, may be asked to speak for him.

The Eskimo can say that he had a friendly feeling towards all living things, notwithstanding that he fed on flesh, and that wild beasts sometimes fed on him. Not that he had ever talked of wild beasts, for he had no tame ones. He had not a vocabulary of rude terms about animals. He was inclined to credit every species with many potential merits. The Eskimo is afraid—very much afraid—of bears. Yet he is the first to admit that the bear is capable of acting like the finest of fine gentlemen. A woman was in a 89fright at seeing a bear and so gave him a partridge; that bear never forgot the trifling service, but brought her newly killed seals ever after. Another bear saved the life of three men who wished to reward him. He politely declined their offer, but if, in winter time, they should see a bald-headed bear, will they induce their companions to spare him? After so saying, he plunged into the sea. Next winter a bear was sighted and they were going to hunt him, when these men, remembering what had happened, begged the hunters to wait till they had had a look at him. Sure enough it was “their own bear”! They told the others to prepare a feast for him, and when he had refreshed himself, he lay down to sleep and the children played around him. Presently he awoke and ate a little more, after which he went down to the sea, leapt in, and was never seen again.

Even such lovely imaginings, we may believe, without an excessive stretch of fancy, gilded the mental horizon of the Troglodite. He had long left behind the stage of primal innocence, but no supernatural chasm gaped between him and his little brothers.

The reindeer hunters were submerged by what is more inexorable than man—Nature. The reindeer vanished, and with him the hunter, doomed by the changed conditions of climate. He vanished as the Lapp is vanishing; the poignantly tragic scene which was chronicled by two lines in the newspapers during the early summer of 1906—the suicide of a whole clan of Lapps whose reindeer were dead and who had nothing to do but to follow them—may 90have happened in what we call fair Provence. Thousands of men paid with their lives for its becoming a rose garden.

The successors of the reindeer hunters, Turanian like them, but far more progressive, were the lake dwellers, the dolmen-builders, with their weaving and spinning, their sowing and reaping, their pottery and their baskets, their polished flints and their domestic animals. Man’s greatest achievement, the domestication of animals, had been reached in the unrecorded ages that divide the rough and the polished stone. Man, “excellent in art,” had mastered the beast whose lair is in the wilds; “he tames the horse of shaggy mane, he puts the yoke upon its neck; he tames the tireless mountain bull.” The great mind of Sophocles saw and saw truly that these were the mighty works of man; the works which made man, man. We know that when the Neolithic meat-eater of what is now Denmark threw away the bones after he had done his meal, these bones were gnawed by house-dogs. A simple thing, but it tells a wondrous tale. Did these dogs come with their masters from Asia, or had they been tamed in their Northern home? The answer depends on whether the dog is descended from jackal or wolf. In either case it is unlikely that the most tremendous task of domestication was the first.

Not everywhere has man domesticated animals, though we may be sure that he took them everywhere with him after he had domesticated them. If man walked on dry land across the Atlantic as 91some enthusiastic students of sub-oceanic geography now believe that he did, he led no sheep, no horses, no dogs. In America, when it was discovered, there was only one domestic animal, and in Australia there was none. Of native animals, the American buffalo could have been easily tamed. It may be said that in Australia there was no suitable animal, but the dog’s ancestor could not have seemed a suitable animal for a household protector; a jackal is not a promising pupil, still less a wolf, unless there was some more gentle kind of wolf than any which now survives. Might not a good deal have been made out of the kangaroo? Possibly the whole task of domestication was the work of one patient, intelligent and widely-spread race, kindred of the Japanese, who in making forest trees into dwarfs show the sort of qualities that would be needed to make a wild animal not only unafraid (that is nothing), but also a willing servant.

The Neolithic man’s eschatology of animals and of himself was identical. He contemplated for both a future life which reproduced this one. “The belief in the deathlessness of souls,” said Canon Isaac Taylor, “was the great contribution of the Turanian race to the religious thought of the world.” This appears to claim almost too much. Would any race have had the courage to start upon its way had it conceived death as real?

“It is a modest creed and yet
Pleasant if one considers it,
To own that death itself must be
Like all the rest, a mockery.”

92It is a creed which springs from the very instinct of life. Two pelicans returning to their nest found their two young ones dead from sunstroke. The careful observer who was watching them has recorded that they did not seem to recognise the inert, fluffy heap as what was their fledglings; they hunted for them for a long while, moving the twigs of the nest, and at last threw one of the dead birds out of it. So the primitive man in presence of the dead knows that this is not he and he begins to ask: where is he?

But if every race in turn has asked that question, it was asked with more insistence by some peoples than by others, and above all, it was answered by some with more assurance. The Neolithic Turanians had nothing misty in their vision of another world. It was full of movement and variety: the chase, the battle, the feast, sleep and awakening, night and day—these were there as well as here. Animals were essential to the picture, and it never struck the Neolithic man that there was any more difficulty about their living again than about his living again. If he philosophised at all, it was probably after the fashion of the Eskimo who holds the soul to be the “owner” of the body: the body, the flesh, dies and may be devoured, but he who kills the body does not kill its “owner.”

Vast numbers of bones have been found near the dolmens in Southern France. The steed of the dead man galloped with him into the Beyond. The faithful dog trotted by the little child, comrade and guardian. In the exquisite Hebrew idyll Tobias has his dog as well as the angel to accompany him 93on his adventurous earthly journey. The little Neolithic boy had only the dog and his journey was longer; but to some grieving fathers would it not be a rare comfort to imagine their lost darlings guarded by loving four-footed friends along the Path of Souls?

The Celtic conquerors of the dolmen-builders took most of their religious ideas. When successful aid in mundane matters was what was chiefly sought in religion, a little thing might determine conversion en masse. If the divinities of one set of people seemed on some occasion powerless, it was natural to try the divinities of somebody else. When success crowned the experiment, the new worship was formally adopted. This is exactly what happened in the historic case of Clovis and “Clothilde’s God,” and it doubtless happened frequently before the dawn of history. Druidism is believed to have arisen in this way in a grafting of the new on the old. The Celts had the same views about the next world as the dolmen-builders. They are thought to have taken them from the conquered with the rest of their religious system, but to me it seems unlikely that they had not already similar views when they arrived from Asia. In the early Vedas goats and horses were sacrificed to go before and announce the coming of the dead; Vedic animals kept their forms, the renewed body was perfect and incorruptible, but it was the real body. A celebrated racehorse was deified after death. Such beliefs have a strong affinity to the theory that animals (or slaves) killed at the man’s funeral will be useful to him in 94the after-life. However derived, our European ancestors embraced that theory to the full.

Only a few years ago a second Viking ship was found at Oseberg, in Norway, in which were the remains of ten horses, four dogs, a young ox, and the head of an old ox. Three more horses were found outside. The dogs had on their own collars with long chains. There were also sledges with elaborately carved animals’ heads. It was a queen’s grave; her distaff and spinning-wheel told of simple womanly tasks amidst so much sepulchral splendour. In those late times the law by which religious forms grow more sumptuous as the faith behind them grows less, may have come into operation. Lavish but meaningless tributes may have taken the place of a provision full of meaning for real wants.

So the sacrifices to the gods may have been once intended to stock the pastures of heaven. It cannot be doubted that the victim was never killed in the mind of the original sacrificer, it was merely transferred to another sphere. The worser barbarity comes in when the true significance of the act is lost and when it is repeated from habit.

After animals were domesticated they were not killed at all for a long time—still less were they eaten. Of this there can be no shadow of doubt. The first domestic animals were far too valuable possessions for any one to think of killing them. As soon would a showman kill a performing bull which had cost him a great deal of trouble to train. Besides this, and more than this, the natural man, who is much better than he is painted, has a natural 95horror of slaying the creature that eats out of his hand and gives him milk and wool and willing service.

There are pastoral tribes now in South Africa which live on the milk, cheese and butter of their sheep, but only kill them as the last necessity. In East Africa the cow is never killed, and if one falls ill, it is put into a sort of infirmary and carefully tended. We all know the divinity which hedges round the Hindu cow. The same compunction once saved the labouring ox. When I was at Athens for the Archæological Congress of 1905, Dr. R. C. Bosanquet, at that time head of the British school, told me that he had observed among the peasants in Crete the most intense reluctance to kill the ox of labour. In several places in Ancient Greece all sorts of devices were resorted to in order that the sacrificial knife might seem to kill the young bull accidentally, and the knife—the guilty thing—was afterwards thrown into the sea. This last custom is important; it marks the moment when the slaughter of domestic animals, even for sacrificial purposes, still caused a scruple. The case stands thus: at first they were not killed at all; then, for a long time, they were killed only for sacrifice. Then they were killed for food, but far and wide relics of the original scruple may be detected as in the common invocation of divine permission which every Moslem butcher utters before killing an animal.

Animal and human sacrifices are one phenomenon of early manners, not two. The people who sacrificed domestic animals to accompany their dead 96generally, if not always, also sacrificed slaves for the same purpose, and the sacrifice of fair maidens at the funerals of heroes was to give them these as companions in another world.

I am not aware that Gift Sacrifice ever led to cannibalism nor, in its primitive forms, did it lead to eating the flesh of the animal victim which was buried or burnt with the body of the person whom it was intended to honour. This is what was done by the dolmen-builders. The earlier reindeer hunters had no domestic animals to sacrifice, and it is unlikely that they sacrificed men. At all events, they were not cannibals.

On the other hand, cannibalism is closely connected with Pact Sacrifice, which there is a tendency now to regard as antecedent to Gift Sacrifice, especially among those scholars who think that the whole human race has passed through a stage of Totemism. Psychologically the Totemist’s sacrifice of a reserved animal to which all the sanctity of human life is ascribed, resembles the sacrifice by some African tribes of a human victim—as in both cases not only is a pact of brotherhood sealed, but also those who partake of the flesh are supposed to acquire the physical, moral, or supersensual qualities attributed to the victim. Indeed, it would be possible to argue that the Totem was a substitute for a human victim, and a whole new theory of Totemism might be evolved from that postulate, but it is wiser to observe such affinities without trying to derive one thing from another which commonly proves a snare and a delusion. It is sufficient to note that among 97fundamental human ideas is the belief that man grows like what he feeds upon.

The sacrifice of the Totem, though found scattered wherever Totemism prevails, is not an invariable or even a usual accompaniment of it. When it does occur, the Totem is not supposed to die, any more than the victim was supposed to die in the primitive Gift Sacrifice. It changes houses or goes to live with “our lost others,” or returns to eternal life in the “lake of the dead.” The death of the soul is the last thing that is thought of. The majority of Totemists do not kill their Totems under any circumstances, and when the Totem is a wild beast they believe that it shows a like respect for the members of its phratry. If one dies they deplore its loss; in some parts of East Africa where the Totem is a hyena not even the chief is mourned for with equal ceremony.

Totemism is the adoption of an animal (or plant) as the visible badge of an invisible bond. The word Totem is an American Indian word for “badge,” and the word Taboo a Polynesian term meaning an interdiction. The Totemist generally says that he is descended from his Totem: hence the men and the beasts of each Totem clan are brothers. But the beast is something more than a brother, he is the perpetual reincarnation of the race-spirit. Numerical problems never trouble the natural human mind; all the cats of Bubastis were equally sacred, and all the crows of Australia are equally sacred to the clans who have a crow for Totem. To the mass of country folks every cow is the cow, every 98mouse is the mouse; the English villager is practically as much convinced of this as the American Indian or the Australian native is convinced that every Totem is the Totem.

Men and women of the same Totem are taboo: they cannot intermarry. But I need not speak of Totemism here as a social institution. My business with it is limited to its place in the history of ideas about animals.

In Totemism we find represented not one idea, but an aggregation of most of the fundamental ideas of mankind. This is why the attempt to trace it to one particular root has failed to dispose of the question of its origin in a final and satisfactory manner. For a time there seemed to be a general disposition to accept what is called the “Nickname theory” by which Totemism was attributed to the custom of giving animal nicknames. We have a peasant called Nedrott (in the Brescian dialect “duck”); I myself never heard his real name—his wife is “la Nedrott” and his children are “i Nedrotti.” It is alleged that his father or grandfather had flat feet. But I never heard of a confusion between the Nedrotti and their nicknamesakes. It may be said that this would be sure to happen were they less civilised. How can we be sure that it would be sure to happen? An eminent scholar who objects to the nickname theory on the ground that it assigns too much importance to “verbal misunderstanding,” proposes as an alternative the “impregnation theory.” A woman, on becoming aware of approaching motherhood, mentally connects the 99future offspring with an animal or plant which happens to catch her eye at that moment. This is conceivable, given the peculiar notions of some savages on generation, but if all Totemism sprang from such a cause, is it not strange that in Australia there are only two Totems, the eagle-hawk and crow?

As a mere outward fact, the Totem is what its name implies, a badge or sign; just as the wolf was the badge of Rome, or as the lion is taken to represent the British Empire. The convenience of adopting a common badge or sign may have appeared to men almost as soon as they settled into separate clans or communities. Besides public Totems there exist private and secret Totems, and this suggests that the earliest communities may have consisted of a sort of freemasonry, a league of mutual help of the nature of a secret society. Around the outward and so to speak heraldic fact of Totemism are gathered the impressions and beliefs which make it a rule of life, a morality and a religion.

The time may come when the desire to give a reason for an emotion will be recognised as one of the greatest factors in myth-making. The Totemist thinks that he spares his Totem because it is his Totem. But man is glad to find an excuse for sparing something. Altruism is as old as the day when the first bird took a succulent berry to its mate or young ones instead of eating it. Where men see no difference between themselves and animals, what more natural than that they should wish to spare them? When it was found difficult or impossible to spare all, it was a katharsis of the wider sentiment 100to spare one, and Totemism gave a very good excuse. It appealed to a universal instinct. This is not the same as to say that it had its origin in keeping pets; it would be nearer the truth to describe the love of pets as a later birth of the same instinctive tendency which the Totemist follows when he cherishes and preserves his Totem.

The primitive man is a child in the vast zoological garden of Nature; a child with a heart full of love, curiosity and respect, anxious to make friends with the lion which looks so very kind and the white bear who must want some one to comfort him. The whole folk-lore of the world bears witness to this temper, even leaving Totemism out of the question.

The Bechuanas make excuses to the lion before killing him, the Malays to the tiger, the Red Indians to the bear—he says that his children are hungry and need food—would the bear kindly not object to be killed? Some writers see Totemism in all this, and so it may be, but there is something in it deeper than even Totemism—there is human nature.

Take the robin—has any one said it was a Totem? Yet Mrs. Somerville declared she would as soon eat a child as a robin, a thoroughly Totemist sentiment. A whole body of protective superstition has crystallised around certain creatures which, because of their confiding nature, their charming ways, their welcome appearance at particular seasons, inspired man with an unusually strong impulse to spare them. I was interested to find the stork as sacred to the Arabs in Tunis and Algeria as he is to his German friends in the North. A Frenchman remarked that “sacred 101birds are never good to eat,” but he might have remembered the goose and hen of the ancient Bretons which Cæsar tells us were kept “for pleasure” but never killed; not to speak of the pigeons of Moscow and of Mecca.

It should be observed how quickly the spared or cherished bird or beast becomes “lucky.” In Germany and Scandinavia it is lucky to have a stork’s nest on the roof. The regimental goat is the “luck of his company.”

M. S. Reinach’s opinion that in Totemism is to be found the secret of the domestication of animals offers an attractive solution to that great problem, but it has not been, nor do I think that it will ever be, generally accepted. It, is however, plain, that where population is sparse, and dogs and guns undreamt of, wild animals would be far less wild than in countries with all the advantages of civilisation; the tameness of birds on lonely islands when the explorer first makes his descent is a case in point. No doubt, therefore, with the encouragement they received, the animal Totems acquired a considerable degree of tameness, but from that to domestication there is a long step. Our household “Totem,” the robin, is relatively tame; he will even eat crumbs on the breakfast-table, but he flies away in springtime and we see him no more.

Besides being a social institution and a friendly bond between man and beast, Totemism is an attempt to explain the universe. Its spiritual vitality depends on the widely rooted belief in archetypes; the things seen are the mirror of the things unseen, the material 102is unreal, the immaterial the only reality. We are ourselves but cages of immortal birds. The real “I” is somewhere else; it may be in a fish, as in the Indian folk-tale, or it may be in a god. I do not know, by the by, if it has been remarked that a man can be a Totem: the incarnation of the indwelling race-spirit. The Emperor of Japan corresponds exactly to this description. The deified Cæsar was a Totem. A god can be a Totem: among the Hidery (islanders of the North Pacific whose interesting legends were published by the Chicago Folk-lore Association) the raven, which is their Totem, is the manifestation of the god Ne-kilst-lass who created the world. Here Totemism approaches till it touches Egyptian zoomorphism. Was this form an earlier or a later development than that in which the Totem is merely an ancestor? Our inability to reply shows our real want of certainty as to whether Totemism is a body of belief in a state of becoming or in a state of dissolution.

Photo: Egypt Exploration Fund.
Cairo Museum.
(Found in 1906 by Dr. E. Naville at Deir-el-bahari.)

We do know that Egyptian zoomorphism is not old, at least in the exaggerated shape it assumed in the worship of the bull Apis. It is a cult which owed its success to the animistic tendency of the human mind, but its particular cause is to be looked for in crystallised figurative language. The stupendous marble tombs of the sacred bulls that seem to overpower us in the semi-obscurity of the Serapeum remind one of how easy it is to draw false conclusions relative to the past if we possess only half-lights upon it: had Egyptian hieroglyphics never yielded up their secret we might have judged 103the faith of Egypt to have been the most material, instead of one of the most spiritual of religions.

In Egyptian (as in Assyrian) cosmogony the visible universe is the direct creation of God. “The god who is immanent in all things is the creator of every animal: under his name of Ram, of the sheep, Bull, of the cows: he loves the scorpion in his hole, he is the god of the crocodile who plunges in the water: he is the god of those who rest in their graves. Amon is an image, Atmee is an image, Ra is an image: HE alone maketh himself in millions of ways.” Amon Ra is described in another grand hymn as the maker of the grass for the cattle, of fruitful trees for men yet unborn; causing the fish to live in the river, the birds to fill the air, giving breath to those in the egg, giving food to the bird that perches, to the creeping thing and to the flying thing alike, providing food for the rats in their holes, feeding the flying things in every tree. “Hail to thee, say all creatures. Hail to thee for all these things: the One, Alone with many hands, awake while all men sleep, to seek out the good of all creatures, “Amon Sustainer of all!” This is, indeed, a majestic psalm of universal life.

Contrary to what was long the impression, the Wheel of Being was not an Egyptian doctrine, but the dead, or rather some of them, were believed to have the power of transforming themselves into animals for limited periods. It was a valued privilege of the virtuous dead: the form of a heron, a hawk or a swallow was a convenient travelling dress. Four-footed beasts were reserved to gods.

104There was no prejudice against sport if carried on with due regard to vested sacred rights. The first hunting-dog whose name we know was Behkaa, who was buried with his master, his name being inscribed over his picture on the tomb. The injury of animals sacred to the gods was, of course, a grave sin. Among the protests of innocence of a departing soul we read: “I have not clipped the skins of the sacred beasts; I have not hunted wild animals in their pasturages; I have not netted the sacred birds; I have not turned away the cattle of the gods; I have not stood between a god and his manifestation.”

The Egyptian mind, which was essentially religious, saw the “god who is immanent in all things” yet standing outside these things to sustain them with a guiding providence; the highly trained Chinese mind, with its philosophic trend, saw the divine indivisible intelligence without volition illuminating all that lived: “The mind of man and the mind of trees, birds and beasts, is just the one mind of heaven and earth, only brighter or duller by reflection: as light looks brighter when it falls on a mirror than when it falls on a dark surface, so divine reason is less bright in cow or sheep than in man.” This fine definition was given by Choo-Foo-Tsze, the great exponent of Confucianism, who, when he was four years old, surprised his father by asking, on being told that the sky was heaven, “What is above it?” Choo-Foo-Tsze in the thirteenth century anticipated some modern conclusions of geology by remarking that since sea shells were found on lofty mountains as if generated in the middle of stones, it was plain “that what was 105below became lifted up, what was soft became hard”; it was a deep subject, he said, and ought to be investigated. Long before the Nolan, Confucius had conceived the idea of the great Monad: “one God who contains and comprehends the whole world.” It was an idea entirely incomprehensible to all but a few educated men in any age. Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism left the Chinese masses what they found them—a people whose folk-lore was their religion. Were they asked to believe in the Wheel of Being? They made that folk-lore too. Dr. Giles tells the folk-tale of a certain gentleman who, having taken a very high degree, enjoyed the privilege (which is admitted to be uncommon) of recollecting what happened between his last death and birth. After he died, he was cited before a Judge of Purgatory and his attention was attracted by a quantity of skins of sheep, dogs, oxen, horses, which were hanging in a row. These were waiting for the souls which might be condemned to wear them; when one was wanted, it was taken down and the man’s own skin was stripped off and the other put on. This gentleman was condemned to be a sheep; the attendant demons helped him on with his sheep-skin when the Recording Officer suddenly mentioned that he had once saved a man’s life. The Judge, after looking at his books, ruled that such an act balanced all his misdoings: then the demons set to work to pull off the sheep-skin bit by bit, which gave the poor gentleman dreadful pain, but at last it was all got off except one little piece which was still sticking to him when he was born again as a man.

106This story is amusing as showing what a mystical doctrine may come to when it gets into the hands of the thoroughgoing realist. For the Chinese peasant the supernatural has no mystery. To him it is a mere matter of ordinary knowledge that beasts, birds, fishes and insects not only have ghosts but also ghosts of ghosts—for the first ghost is liable to die. If any of these creatures do not destroy life in three existences, they may be born as men—a belief no doubt due to the Buddhists, who in China seem to have concentrated all their energies on humanitarian propaganda and let metaphysics alone. Taoism has been called an “organised animism.” Organised or unorganised, animism is still the popular faith of China. It is too convenient to lightly abandon, for it explains everything. For instance, whatever is odd, unexpected, very lucky, very unlucky, can be made as plain as day by mentioning the word “fox.” Any one may be a fox without your knowing it: the fox is a jinnee, an elf who can work good or harm to man; who can see the future, get possession of things at a distance, and generally outmatch the best spiritualist medium. In Chinese folk-lore the fox has, as it were, made a monopoly of the world-wide notion that animals have a more intimate knowledge of the supernatural than men. Soothsayers are thought to be foxes because they know what is going to happen.

Man’s speculations about himself and the universe arrange themselves under three heads: those which have not yet become a system, those which are a system, those which are the remains of a system. It 107is impossible that any set of ideas began by being a system unless it were revealed by an angel from heaven. But no sooner do ideas become systematic than they pass into the stage of dogma which is accepted not discussed. Everything is made to fit in with them. Thus to find the free play of the human mind one must seek it where there are the fewest formulæ, written or unwritten, for tradition is as binding as any creed or code. There are savage races which, if they ever had Totemism, have preserved few if any traces of it. To take them one by one and inquire into their views on animals would be well worth doing, but it is beyond my modest scope. I will say this, however—show me a savage who has not some humane and friendly ideas about animals! The impulse to confess brotherhood with man’s poor relations is everywhere the same: the excuses or reasons given for it vary a little. The animal to be kindly treated is the sanctuary of a god, the incarnation of a tribe, or simply the shelter of a poor wandering ghost.

The Amazulu, one of the finest of savage races, believe that some snakes are Amatongo—some, not all. In fact, these snakes which are dead men are rather rare. One kind is black and another green. An Itongo does not come into the house by the door, nor does it eat frogs or mice. It does not run away like other snakes. Some say, “Let it be killed.” Others interfere, “What, kill a man?” If a man die who had a scar and you see a snake with a scar, ten to one it is that man. Then, at night, the village chief dreams and the dead man speaks to him. 108“Do you now wish to kill me? Do you already forget me? I thought I would come and ask you for food, and do you kill me?” Then he tells him his name.

Without any teaching, without any system, the savage thinks that the appearances which stand before him in sleep are real. If they are not real, what are they? The savage may not be a reasonable being, but he is a being who reasons.

In the morning the village chief tells his dream and orders a sin-offering to the Itongo (ghost) lest he be angry and kill them. A bullock or a goat is sacrificed and they eat the flesh. Afterwards they look everywhere for the snake, but it has vanished.

A snake that forces its way rapidly into a house is known to be a liar and he is a liar still. Do they turn him out of doors with a lecture on the beauty of veracity? Far from that. “They sacrifice something to such an Itongo.” A few men turn into poisonous snakes, but this is by no means common. If offended, the Amatongo cause misfortune, but even if pleased they do not seem to confer many benefits; perhaps they cannot, for surely it is easier to do evil than good. Once, however, a snake which was really the spirit of a chief, placed its mouth on a sore which a child had; the mother was in a great fright, but happily she did not interfere and the snake healed the sore and went silently away.

Photo: Mansell.
British Museum.
(Assyrian Relief.)

Other animals are sometimes human beings as well as snakes. The lizard is often the Itongo of an old woman. A boy killed some lizards in a cattle-pen with stones. Then he went and told his grandmother, 109who said he had done very wrong—those lizards were chiefs of the village and should have been worshipped. I think the grandmother was a humane old person; I even suspect that she said the lizards were chiefs and not old women to make the admonition more awful. The man who told this story to Canon Callaway (from whose valuable work on the Amazulu I take these notes) added that, looking back to the incident, he doubted if the lizards were Amatongo after all, because no harm came of their murder. He thought that they must have been merely wild animals which had become tame owing to people mistakenly thinking that they were Amatongo.

What can one say to boys who ill-treat lizards? I own that I have threatened them with ghostly treatment of the same sort. I even tried the supernatural argument with a little Arab boy, otherwise a nice intelligent child, who was throwing stones at a lizard which was moving at the bottom of the deep Roman well at El Djem: I did not know then that the persecution of lizards in Moslem lands is supposed (I hope erroneously) to have been ordered by Mohammed “because the lizard mimics the attitude of the Faithful at prayer.”

The lizard, one of the most winsome of God’s creatures, has suffered generally from the prejudice which made reptile a word of reproach. It is the more worthy of remark, therefore, that in a place where one would hardly expect it, protective superstition has done its work of rescue: Sicilian children catch lizards, but let them go unhurt to intercede for them before the Lord, as the lizard is held to be “in 110the presence of the Lord in heaven.” One wonders if this is some distant echo of the text about the angels of the children (their archetypes) who always see God.

Not always were reptiles scorned, but, possibly, they were always feared. Man’s first idea is to worship what he fears; his second idea, which may not come for many thousand years, is to throw a stone at it. The stone, besides representing physical fear, at a given moment also represents religious reprobation of what had been an object of worship in a forsaken faith. Primitive man took the interest of a wondering child in the great Saurian tribe. How did he know that they flew, that there were “dragons” on the earth? How did he know that the snake once had legs?—for if the snake of Eden was ordered to go on its belly, the inference seems to be that he was thought once to have moved in another way. The snake has lost his legs and the lizard his wings, and how the ancient popular imagination of the world made such accurate guesses about them must be left a riddle, unless we admit that it was guided by the fossil remains of extinct monsters.

The serpent of the Biblical story was, says Dr. H. P. Smith, “simply a jinnee—a fairy if you will—possessed of more knowledge than the other animals, but otherwise like them.” Here, again, we meet in the most venerable form, the belief that animals know more than men. Can we resist the conclusion that to people constantly inclined towards magic like the old-world Jews, it must have appeared that Eve was 111dabbling in magic—by every rule of ancient religion, the sin of sins?

The cult of the serpent in its many branches is the greatest of animal cults, and it is the one in which we see most clearly the process by which man from being an impressionist became a symbolist, and from being a symbolist became a votary. We have only to read the Indian statistics of the number of persons annually killed by snake-bite to be persuaded that fear must have been the original feeling with which man regarded the snake. Fear is a religious feeling in primitive man, but other religious feelings were added to it—admiration, for the snake, as all who have had the good luck to observe it in its wild state must agree, is a beautiful, graceful, and insinuating creature; a sense of mystery, a sense of fascination which comes from those keen eyes fixed fearlessly upon yours, the simple secret, perhaps, of the much discussed power of snakes to fascinate their prey. What wonder if man under the influence of these combined impressions, symbolised in the serpent a divine force which could be made propitious by worship!

In the forming of cults there has always been this unconscious passage from impressions to symbols, from symbols to “manifestations.” But there has been also the conscious use of symbols by the priests and sages of ancient religions, in imparting as much of divine knowledge to the uninitiated as they thought that the uninitiated could bear. The origin of serpent worship has a probable relationship with this conscious use of symbols as well as with their unconscious growth.

112Besides the prejudice against reptiles, modern popular superstition has placed several animals under a ban, and especially the harmless bat and the useful barn owl. Traditional reasons exist, no doubt, in every case; but stronger than these are the associations of such creatures with the dark in which the sane man of a certain temperament becomes a partial lunatic; a prey to unreal terrors which the flap of a bat’s wing or the screech of an owl is enough to work up to the point of frenzy. It is a most unfortunate thing for an animal if it be the innocent cause of a frisson, a feeling of uncanny dread. The little Italian owl, notwithstanding that it too comes out at dusk, has escaped prejudice. This was the owl of Pallas Athene and of an earlier cult. As in the case of the serpent, its wiles to fascinate its prey were the groundwork of its reputation for wisdom. Of this there cannot be, I think, any doubt, though the droll bobs and curtesies which excite an irresistible and fatal curiosity in small birds, have suggested in the mind of the modern man a thing so exceedingly far from wisdom as civetteria, which word is derived from civetta—“the owl of Minerva” as Italian class-books say. The descent from the goddess of wisdom to the coquette is the cruellest decadence of all!



THE Zoroastrian theory of animals cannot be severed from the religious scheme with which it is bound up. It is not a side-issue, but an integral part of the whole. It would be useless to attempt to treat it without recalling the main features in the development of the faith out of which it grew.

In the first place, who were the people, occupying what we call Persia, to whom the Sage, who was not one of them, brought his interpretation of the knowledge of good and evil? The early Iranians must have broken off from the united body of the Aryans at a time when they spoke a common language, which though not Sanscrit, was very like it. The affinities between Sanscrit and the dialect called with irremediable inaccuracy “Zend” are of the strongest. From this we conclude that, on their establishment in their new home, the Iranians differed little from the race of whose customs the Rig-Veda gives—not a full picture—but a faithful outline. Pastoral folk, devoted to their flocks and herds, but not unlearned in the cultivation of the earth and the sowing of grain, they had reached what may be called the highest stage 114of primitive civilisation. Though milk, butter and cooked corn formed their principal food, on feast days they also ate meat, chiefly the flesh of oxen and buffaloes, which they were careful to cook thoroughly. The progressive Aryans, who called half-raw meat by a term exactly corresponding to the too familiar “rosbif saignant,” denounced the more savage peoples who consumed it as “wild men” or “demons.” They kept horses, asses and mules; horses were sacrificed occasionally; for instance, kings sacrificed a horse to obtain male issue. The wild boar was hunted, if not in the earliest, at least in very early times. The dog was prized for its fidelity as guardian of the house and flocks, but there is no trace of its having been protected by extraordinary regulations such as those which later came into force in Iran. On the other hand, the name of dog had never yet been used in reproach. It seems to have been among Semitic races that the contempt for man’s best friend arose, but it is morally certain that it arose nowhere till dogs became scavengers of cities. It was the homeless pariah cur that gave the dog the bad name from which have sprung so many ugly words registered in modern vocabularies. Even now, when Jew or Moslem uses “dog” in a bad sense, he means “cur”; he knows quite well the other kind of dog—he knows Tobit’s dog, which, bounding on before the young man and the angel, told the glad tidings of his master’s return; Tobit’s dog which was one of the animals admitted by Mohammed into highest heaven. But “pariah dog” became synonymous of pariah, and notwithstanding the present tendency to 115attribute the opprobrium of the pig to original sanctity (and consequent reservation), I am inclined to think that the pig likewise came to be scorned because he was a scavenger. In some Indian cities herds of wild pigs still enter the gates just before they are closed at dusk, to pass out of them as soon as they are opened in the morning: during the night they do their work excellently, and by day they take a well-earned sleep in the jungle. They deserve gratitude, for they keep the cities free from disease, but, like other public servants, they scarcely get it.

In Vedic times every home had its watch-dog, whose warning bark was as unwelcome to lovers as it was to robbers. The Rig-Veda preserves the prayer of a young girl who asks that her father, her mother, her grandfather, and the watch-dog may sleep soundly while she meets her expected lover: a charming glimpse of the chaste freedom of early Aryan manners. The newly-wedded wife enters her husband’s house as mistress, not as slave; the elders say to the young couple: “You are master and mistress of this house; though there be father-in-law and mother-in-law, they are placed under you.” If that was not quite what happened, yet the principle was granted, and there is much in that. The bride rode to her new home in a car drawn by four milk-white oxen; when she alighted at the threshold, these golden words were spoken to her: “Make thyself loved for the sake of the children that will come to thee; guard this house, be as one with thy husband; may you grow old here together. Cast no evil looks, hate not thy spouse, be gentle in thought and deed even 116to the animals of this home.” Bride and bridegroom are exhorted to be of one heart, of one mind, “to love each other as a cow loves her calf,” a simple and true metaphor full of the country-side, full of the youth of the world.

If these were the customs and this was the life which the Iranians may be supposed to have taken with them, what was the religion? The early Aryans had a Nature-cult more spiritualised under the form of Varuna and more materialised under the form of Indra. Some students of the Avesta have thought that here could be found the elements of the Dualism which formed the essential doctrine of Mazdaism. But it is almost certain that no real Dualism existed in oldest Iran. The Avesta once contrasts the worshippers of God with the worshippers of Daevas, of those who breed the cow and have the care of it with those who ill-treat it and slaughter it at their sacrifices. But Indra-worship has no connexion with devil-worship, nor does this or similar texts prove that devil-worship, properly so called, ever flourished in Iran. Other religious reformers than Zoroaster have named the devotees of former religions “devil-worshippers.” For the rest, there is reason to think that in the Avesta the term was applied to Turanian raiders, not to true Iranians.

Photo: Mansell.
British Museum.

In an Assyrian inscription, Ahura Mazda is said to have created joy for all creatures: a belief which Mazdean Dualism impugns. So far as can be guessed, the earliest Iranian faith was the worship of good spirits—of a Good Spirit. Less pure extra-beliefs may, or rather must, have existed contemporaneously, but 117they remained in the second rank. The cult of good spirits was the home-cult of shepherd and herdsman offered to the genii of their flocks and herds. While these genii answered the purpose of the lares or little saints everywhere dear to humble hearts, it is probable that in character they already resembled the Fravashis or archetypes that were to play so great a part in Mazdean doctrine. The cult of the Good Spirit, the national and kingly cult, was the worship of one God whose most worthy symbol, before Zoroaster as after, was the sun and whose sacrament with men was fire. The early Iranian had no temple, no altar: he went up into a high place and offered his prayer and sacrifice without priest or pomp. If we wish to trace his faith back to an Indian source, instead of bringing on the scene Varuna and Indra, it will be better to inquire whether there were elements of the same faith underlying the unwieldy fabric of Vedic religion. The answer is, that there were. The grandest text in the Rig-Veda, the one text recognised from farthest antiquity as of incalculable value, is the old Persian religion contained in a formula: “That Sun’s supremacy—God—let us adore Which may well direct.”

“Enable with perpetual light,
The dulness of our blinded sight.”

So great a virtue was attributed to the Gayatri that the mind which thought it was supposed to unite with the object of thought: the eyes of the soul looked on Truth, of which all else is but the shadow. This is the spirit in which it is still repeated every day by 118every Hindu. The sacrosanct words were “Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva,” or, yet more often, they are described as “the mother of the Vedas,” which, if it means anything, means that they are older than the Vedas. The point most to be noticed about the Gayatri is that its importance cannot be set aside by saying that this text is to be explained by Henotheism: the habit of referring to each god immediately addressed as supreme. Nor was the text selected arbitrarily by Western monotheists: for thousands of years before any European knew it, the natives of India had singled it out as the most solemn affirmation of man’s belief in the Unseen.

It is open to argument, though not to proof, that the Gayatri crystallises a creed which the Iranians took with them in their migration. Peoples then moved in clans, not in a motley crowd gathered on an emigrant steamer. The clan or clans to which the Iranians belonged may have clung to a primordial faith, not yet overlaid by myths which materialised symbols and mysteries which made truth a secret.

Such speculations are guess-work, but that the primitive religion of Persia was essentially monotheistic is an opinion which is likely to survive all attacks upon it. On less sure grounds stands the identification of that primitive religion with Zoroastrianism. The great authorities of a former generation, and amongst them my distinguished old friend, Professor Jules Oppert, believed that Cyrus was a Mazdean. But there is a good deal to support the view that Zoroastrianism did not become the 119State religion till the time of the Sásánians, who, as a new dynasty, grasped the political importance of having under them a strong and organised priesthood. Before that time the Magians seem to have been rather a sort of Salvation Army or Society of Jesus than the directors of a national Church.

As late as the reign of Darius the Persians frequently buried their dead, a practice utterly repugnant to the Mazdean. Again, from Greek sources we know that the Persian kings sacrificed hecatombs of animals; thousands of oxen, asses, stags, &c., were immolated every day. Darius ordered one hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs to be given to the Jews on the dedication of the new Temple (as well as twelve he-goats as sin-offerings for the twelve tribes) so that they might offer “sacrifices of sweet savours unto the God of heaven and pray for the life of the king and his sons.” Evidently Darius considered profuse animal sacrifices as a natural part of any great religious ceremony. Can it be supposed that such slaughter would have pleased a strict Zoroastrian? The Mazdeans retained the sacrifice of flesh as food: a small piece of the cooked meat eaten at table was included in the daily offering with bread, grain, fruits and the Homa juice, which was first drunk by the officiating priest, then by the worshippers, and finally thrown on the sacred fire. The small meat-offering was not animal sacrifice or anything at all like it. The Parsis substitute milk even for this small piece of meat, perhaps because the meat was usually beef, which would have caused offence to their Hindu fellow-citizens. I asked a 120Parsi High Priest who lunched with me at Basle during the second Congress for the History of Religions, what viands were eschewed by his community? He replied that they avoided both beef and the flesh of swine, but only out of respect for their neighbours’ rules: to them oil alone was forbidden—probably because of its virtue as a light-giver. In the Zoroastrian sacrifice it was never lost sight of that the outward act was but one of piety and obedience; the true sacrifice was of the heart: “I offer good thoughts, good words, good deeds.” It is hardly needful to say that the Mithraic taurobolium was in sheer contradiction to Mazdean law. Heretical sects were the bane of Zoroastrianism, and with one of these sprang up the strange practices which the Romans brought into Europe. Possibly its origin should be sought in some infiltration from the West, for it is more suggestive of Orphic rites than of any form of Eastern ceremonies. A Christian writer of the name of Socrates, who lived in the fifth century, said that at Alexandria, in a cavern consecrated to Mithra, human skulls and bones were found, the inference being that human sacrifice was the real rite, symbolised by the slaying of the bull. The source of this information is suspect, but even if not guilty of such excesses, the Mithra-worshippers of Western Persia must have been rank corrupters of the faith. In the Avesta, Mithra is the luminous æther; sometimes he appears as an intercessor; sometimes he dispenses the mercy or wields the vengeance of God. But in reality he is an attribute, about the nature of which members of the faith had 121less excuse for making mistakes than we have. It is difficult for the Indian or Japanese not to make analogous mistakes concerning some forms of worship in Southern Europe.

In Old Iran the Sacred Fire was kept perpetually alight. Sweet perfumes were spread around the place of prayer, for which a little eminence was chosen, but there were no images and no temples. Archæologists have failed to find traces of a building set apart for religious worship among the splendid ruins of Persepolis: the “forty towers” only tell of the pleasure-palace of an Eastern king. Was it that the profound spirituality of this people shrank not only from carving a graven image of the deity, but also from giving him a house made with hands? What could the maker of the firmament want with human fanes? Some such thought may have caused the Iranians to suppress for so long a time the instinct which impels man to build temples. In any case, it seems as if Cyrus and after him Darius threw themselves into the scheme for rebuilding the Hebrew temple with all the more enthusiasm from the fact that immemorial custom held them back from temple-building at home. The cuneiform inscriptions bear witness that these kings were monotheists: they believed in one sole creator of heaven and earth, by whose will kings reign and govern, and if they invoked the aid of heavenly hierarchs they never confused the creatures, however powerful, with the creator. That Creator they called by the name of Ahura Mazda, but they recognised that he was one, whatever the name might be by which he was called. 122“Thus saith Cyrus, king of Persia: the Lord God of Heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He hath charged me to build Him a house at Jerusalem, which is Judah.” In the uncanonical Book of Esdras, it is said more significantly that King Cyrus “commanded to have the house of the Lord in Jerusalem built where they should worship with eternal fire.” The recently deciphered Babylonian inscriptions have been brought forward to show that the Jews were mistaken in thinking that Cyrus was a monotheist, because he honoured Merodach in Babylon just as he had honoured Jehovah at Jerusalem. He was, it is said, a “polytheist at heart.” If he was, his honouring Merodach does not prove it. To my mind it proves exactly the reverse. Cyrus understood the monotheism which was at the bottom of the Babylonian religious system and which these very tablets have revealed to modern scholarship. He understood that “however numerous and diversified the nations of the earth may be, the God who reigns over them all can never be more than one.”[2]

2.  Words written by a Japanese reformer named Okubo about fifty years ago.

He was governed by expediency in his respect for the faiths of his subject peoples, but he was governed also by something higher than expediency. That Darius Hystaspis, who is allowed to have been a monotheist, continued his policy, shows that it was not thought to involve disloyalty to Ahura Mazda since of such disloyalty Darius would have been incapable.

If we grant that the Iranians were, in the main, 123monotheistic at a date when not more than a part of the population professed Zoroastrianism, the question follows, of what was the difference between the reformed and the unreformed religion? To answer this satisfactorily, we must remember that the paramount object of Zoroaster was less change than conservation. Like Moses whom an attractive if not well-founded theory makes his contemporary, he saw around a world full of idolatry, and he feared lest the purer faith of Iran should be swamped by the encroachments of polytheism and atheism (for, strangely enough, the Avesta abounds in references to sheer negation). The aim of every doctrine or practice which he introduced was to revivify, to render more comprehensible, more consistent, the old monotheistic faith.

With regard to practice, the most remarkable innovation was that which concerned the disposal of the dead. It cannot be explained as a relic of barbarism: it was introduced with deliberation and with the knowledge that it would shock human sensibility then, just as much as it does now. The avowed reason for giving the dead to vultures or animals is that burial defiles the earth. It was recognised that this argument was open to the objection that birds or beasts were likely to drop portions of dead bodies on the earth. The objection was met with scholastic resourcefulness not to say casuistry: it was declared that “accidents” do not count. Though so strongly insisted on in the Avesta, the practice only became general at a late period: even after Mazdeism had made headway, bodies were often enveloped in 124wax to avoid defilement of the earth while evading the prescribed rite. Cremation, the natural alternative to burial, would have polluted the sacred fire. It was observed, no doubt, that the consumption of the dead by living animals was the means employed by Nature for disposing of the dead. Why do we so rarely see a dead bird or hare or rabbit or squirrel? The fact is not mysterious when we come to look into it. It may have been thought that what Nature does must be well done. The Parsis themselves seem to suppose that this and other prescriptions of their religious law were inspired by sanitary considerations, and they attribute to them their comparative immunity from plague during the recent epidemics at Bombay. Defilement of water by throwing any impurity into rivers is as severely forbidden as the defilement of the earth. Possibly another reason against burial was the desire to prevent anything like the material cult of the dead and the association of the fortunes of the immortal soul with those of the mortal body, such as prevailed among the Egyptians, whose practices doubtless were known to the Magi by whom, rather than by any one man, the Mazdean law was framed. Finally, the last rites provided a recurrent object-lesson conducive to the mental habit of separating the pure from the impure. They reminded the Mazdean that life is pure because given by Ormuzd; death impure because inflicted by Ahriman. The rule of every religion is designed largely, if not chiefly, as a moral discipline.[3]

3.  Among the Buddhists of Thibet the dead are given to dogs and birds of prey as a last act of charity—to feed the hungry.

125The true originality of Zoroastrianism as a religious system lies in the dualistic conception of creation which is the nexus that connects all its parts. This was seen at once, when the Avesta became known in Europe, but the idea was so entirely misunderstood and even travestied, that Zoroaster was represented as a believer in two gods whose power was equal, if, indeed, the power of the evil one were not the greater. Recently among the manuscripts of Leopardi were found these opening lines of an unfinished “Hymn to Ahriman”:—

“Re delle cose, autor del mondo, arcana
Malvagità, sommo potere e somma
Intelligenza, eterno
Dator de’ mali e regitor del moto....”

They are fine lines, but if Anro-Mainyus might fitly be called “arcana malvagità” and “dator de’ mali,” nothing could be farther removed from the Zoroastrian idea than the rest of the description. Ahriman possessed neither supreme power nor supreme intelligence, nor was he author of the world, but only of a small portion of it. To this day, however, it has pleased pessimists to claim Zoroaster, the most optimist of prophets, as one of their fraternity.

The real Ahriman gains in tremendous force from the vagueness of his personality. Sometimes he acts as a person: as in the Temptation of Zoroaster when he offers him the kingdoms of the world if he will but serve him. But no artist would have dared to give him human form. And surely no one in Iran would have alluded to him by mild or good-humoured euphemisms. 126He shares this, however, with the mediæval devil, that he works at an eternally pre-destined disadvantage. He is fore-doomed to failure. Good is stronger than Evil, and Good is lasting, Evil is passing. In the end, Evil must cease to be.

Though not immortal, Ahriman was primordial. Unlike the fallen star of the morning, what he is, that he was. He did not choose Evil: he is Evil as Ormuzd is Good. He can create, but only things like himself. The notion that both Ormuzd and Ahriman proceeded from a prior entity, Boundless Time, is a late legend. Ormuzd and Ahriman existed always, the one in eternal light, the other in beginningless darkness. An immense vacuum divided the light from the darkness and Ahriman knew not Ormuzd, Evil knew not Good, till Good was externalised in the beneficent creation.

“Young life lowed through the meadows, the woods and the echoing mountains,
Wandered bleating in valleys and warbled on blossoming branches.”

The sight of created things gave Ahriman the will to create corresponding things, evil instead of good. He made sin, disease, death, the flood, the earthquake, famine, slaughter, noxious animals. So the pieces were set down on the chess-board of being, and, as in all religions, man’s soul was the stake.

The difference from other religions lay in the determined effort to grapple with the problem of the origin of evil. The tribe of divine students among whom Mazdeism sprang up saw in that unsolved 127problem the great cause of unbelief, and they set themselves to solve it by the theory which J. S. Mill said was the only one which could reconcile philosophy with religion—the theory of primal forces at war. The Indian did not attempt to fathom it; the Egyptian and Assyrian set it aside; we know the offered Hebrew solution: “I form the light and create darkness; I make peace and create evil, I, the Lord, do all these things.” But this is a statement, not a solution, because though it may be believed, it cannot be thought. The attraction of the dualistic conception is shown by nothing more clearly than by the extraordinary vitality of Manichæism in the face of every kind of persecution both in the East and West, although Manichæism, with its ascription of the creation of mankind to the Evil Principle, its depreciation of woman, its out-and-out asceticism which included abstinence from animal food (a rule borrowed by Mani from the Buddhists in his journey in India) contrasts unfavourably with the faith that did not make a single demand on human nature except to be good, even as its Creator was good.

The origin of the Magians was Semitic, or, as some think, præ-Semitic and præ-Aryan. Travellers brought tales of them to the ancient world which listened with a fascinated interest, while it failed to see the importance of the mighty religious phenomenon of Israel. The “Wise men of the East” had a charm for antiquity, as they were to have for the Infant Church which never tired of depicting them in its earliest art. Mention of the “Persarum 128Magos” is frequent from Herodotus to Cicero, who speaks of them under that name. According to Herodotus the Magi sang the Theogony, and Pausanias describes them as reading from a book which was certainly the Avesta, though it must not be overlooked that never but once does it contain the smallest reference to them. This tribe of divine students enjoyed a high reputation at the Babylonian Court, which seems less unexpected by the light of recent research than it did when the Babylonians and Assyrians were thought to be destitute of any trace of an esoteric religion tending to monotheism. That the Magians were monotheists cannot be disputed. Probably they were skilled in astronomy and in medicine, the two sciences which almost covered what was meant then by learning in the East. Probably also they were astrologers like other searchers of the heavens, but they were not magic-workers, a calling that had a bad name. The Magi in the Gospel story are supposed to have been guided by astronomical calculations; whatever these may have been, they could not have been ignorant of the prophecy in their own Scriptures of a Virgin who should give birth to the Saviour and Judge of men. The ante-natal soul of this Virgin had been venerated for centuries in Iran. An infiltration of Messianic prophecies might induce them to conclude that the Child would be “King of the Jews.” It was not likely that they would take so long a journey to do homage to any new-born earthly king, but it was quite possible that they might go in search of the promised Saviour.

Photo: Mansell.
British Museum.
(Egyptian Fresco.)

129In Media we know that the people lived at one time in tribes, without kings. In one form or another, the tribal organisation existed and exists everywhere in the East. What is caste but a petrified tribal system? The first discovery which a European makes on landing on the skirts of the East, is that everything is done by tribes. The Algerian conjurors who swallow fire, drive nails into their heads and do other gruesome feats are a semi-religious tribe which has thrived from time immemorial on the exercise of the same profession. The dwarfs of the late Bey of Tunis, whom I saw at Bardo, belonged to a tribe which does nothing but furnish dwarfs. Apply to a high or worthy end this corporate pursuit of a given object and it must produce remarkable results.

The unanimous belief of the Greeks that Zoroaster was founder of the Magians is held no longer, but he is still thought to have been one of them. Moslem tradition made him the servant of a Hebrew prophet, and even serious Western students were inclined to trace Mazdeism to the Jewish prisoners who were brought into Media by the Assyrians. It is unnecessary to say that at present the Jews are regarded as the debtors.

There is no figure of a religious teacher so elusive as that of Zoroaster, and they are all elusive. But in the case of Zoroaster it is not only the man that eludes us—it is also his environment. Brahmanical India of to-day reflects as in a glass the society into which Sakya Muni cast his seed; in fact, we understand the seed-sowing better than the 130harvest; Buddhism at its apogee seems of the nature of an interlude in the history of the changeless East. China still throws light on its passionless sage, passionless in a sense so far deeper than the Indian recluses, who, though they knew it not, did but substitute for the passion of the flesh the more inebriating passion of the spirit. From the splendid treasury of præ-Islamic poetry, we know that the Arab race had acquired its specialised type before the Muezzin first called the faithful to prayer. The moral petrifaction of the many and the religious and patriotic ferment of the few which formed the milieu of nascent Christianity, can be realised without any stretch of the imagination. Buddha, Confucius, and He that was greater than they, came into highly civilised societies in organised states; Mohammed came into an unorganised state which lacked political and religious cohesion, but the unity of race was already developed: the Emirs of the Soudan whose star set at Omdurman were the living pictures of the Arabs who first rallied to the Prophet’s banner. Of the society of Old Iran to which Zoroaster spoke, it is difficult to form a distinct idea and to judge how far it had moved away from early Aryan simplicity. We gather that it was still a society in which sheep-raising and dairy-farming played a preponderant part. Those modern expressions may serve us better than to say “shepherds” and “herdsmen,” since fixity of dwelling with the possession of what then was considered wealth seems to have been a very common case. Nomadic life lasted on, but it was held in disrepute. There appears to have been 131nothing like a national or warlike spirit such as that possessed by the Jews, though occasional Turanian incursions had to be repelled. There were few towns and many scattered villages and homesteads. We are conscious that these impressions derived from the Avesta may be partially erroneous. Teachers of religion only take note of political or other circumstances so far as it suits their purpose.

Zoroaster (the Greek reading of Zarathustra, which in modern Persian becomes Zardusht), was born, as far as can be guessed, in Bactria, which became the stronghold of Avestic religion and the last refuge of the national monarchy on the Arab invasion. There was a time when his existence was denied, but no one doubts it now. Eight hundred years before Christ is the date which most modern scholars assign to him, though some place him much farther back, while others think they discern reasons for his having appeared after Buddha. The legend of his life (not to be found in the Avesta) begins in the invariable way: he was descended from kings; as a young man he retired to a grotto in the desert, where he lived an austere life of reflection for seven years. Zoroaster never taught asceticism, but tradition attributes to him the season of solitude and self-collection without which perhaps, in fact as well as in fable, the supreme power over other men’s minds was never wielded by man.

Various marvellous particulars are related: he was suckled by two ewes; wild animals obeyed his voice; when thrown under the feet of oxen and horses, they avoided hurting him. In his seven years’ 132retirement he meditated on idol-worship, on false gods and false prophets. The people of Iran, substantially monotheist but prone to sliding into degrading superstition, offered a field for his mission. He took to him a few disciples and began to preach to as many as would hear, but he met with great difficulties. At last, he found favour with a king by curing his favourite horse, and he might have ended his days in peace but the spirit urged him to continue his apostolate. Not to princes but to peasants did he chiefly address himself; he did not call them away from their work but exhorted them to pursue it diligently. “He who cultivates the earth will never lack, but he who does not, will stand idly at the doors of others to beg food.” Labour is not an evil, man who earns his bread by the sweat of his brow is not under a curse: he is the fellow-worker with God! This was the grandest thing that Zoroaster taught. It is singular to note the affinity between his teaching and the Virgilian conception of the husbandman as half a priest. In the Middle Ages the same thought arose where one would not look for it: among those religious orders which had the luminous inspiration that in work not in indolence lay the means of salvation: “Laborare est orare.

The care of the God-created animals brought with it a special blessing: it was actually a way to heaven. If a friend gave us a cherished animal, should not we treat it well for that friend’s sake as well as for its own value? Would not it remind us of the giver? Would not we be anxious that he should find it in good health if by chance he came on a visit? This 133is how Zoroaster wished man to feel about the cow, the sheep, the dog. Auguste Comte considered domestic animals as a part of humanity. Zoroaster considered them as a trust from God.

Moslem traditions finish the story of the Mazdean prophet by telling that he was beaten to death by “devil-worshippers,” probably Turanian raiders. Zoroastrian authorities are silent about his end, which is thought to bear out the legend that it was unfortunate.

The Parsis hold that the whole Avesta was the work of Zoroaster. Much of the original material has disappeared, and although Western writers are disposed to throw all the blame on the Moslem invaders, the steady Persian tradition which accuses “Alexander the Rûman” of having caused the destruction of an important part of it, cannot be well answered by saying that such barbarism was not likely to be committed by the Macedonian conqueror. When Persepolis was reduced to ruins some of the sacred books “written with gold ink on prepared cow-skins” may have been destroyed by accident, but as it was certain that the Zoroastrian priests would do all they could to foment resistance to the hated idolater, we cannot be too sure that the deed was not done on purpose. The way of disposing of the dead set the Greeks against the Zoroastrians, and they even thought or affected to think that the dying as well as the dead were given to dogs. The Arabs, no doubt, burnt what they could lay their hands on of what was left, and it tells much for the devotion of the faithful few, the 134persecuted remnant in Persia, and the band of exiles who found a happier fate in India, that nevertheless the Avesta has been preserved in a representative though incomplete form, to take its place in among the sacred literatures of the world. When the Parsis return, as they hope to do, to a free Persia, they may carry the Avesta proudly before them as the Sikhs carried the Granth to the prophet-martyr’s tomb at Delhi: they have done more than keep the faith, they have lived it.

The present Avesta consists of five books. The Gâthâs or hymns alone really claim to have been composed by Zoroaster himself, and this claim is admitted by European scholars who disagree with the Parsis in denying that the other four books are by the same author. They are: the “Yasna,” a ceremonial liturgy, the “Vispered,” a work resembling the “Yasna,” but apparently less ancient; the “Vendîdâd,” which contains the Mazdean religious law, and the “Khordah Avesta,” a household prayer-book for the laity. The original text was written in an Aryan dialect related to Sanscrit; after a time, this tongue was understood by no one but the priests and not much by them; it was decided, therefore, to make a translation, which was called the “Zend,” or “interpretation,” or, as we should say, “the authorised version.” At first Europeans thought that “Zend” meant the original tongue in which the work was written. Curiously enough, the language into which the Scriptures were rendered was not Iranian or Old Persian, but Pahlavi, a lingua franca full of Semitic words, which had been coined 135for convenience in communicating with the Assyrians and Syrians when they were under one king. Pahlavi was also used for official inscriptions, for coinage, for commerce; it was a sort of Esperanto. The text and the translation enjoyed equal authority, but the former was called “the Avesta of Heaven” and the latter “the Avesta of Earth.”

The first fragment of the “Avesta” that reached Europe was a copy of the “Yasna” brought to Canterbury by an unknown Englishman in 1633. Other scraps followed, but no real attempt to translate it was made till the adventurous Anquetil Duperron published in 1771 the version which he had made with the assistance of Parsi priests and which was rejected in unwise haste by Sir William Jones as a supercherie littéraire, chiefly on the score that its contents were for the most part pure nonsense, and hence could not be the work of Zoroaster. Germany at once was more just than England to the man who, though he had not succeeded in making a good translation, deserved the highest honour as a pioneer.

Even now that better translations are available, the Avesta is apt to dishearten the reader on his first acquaintance with it. Many passages have remained obscure, and the desire to be literal in this as in some other Oriental works has hindered the translators from writing their own languages well. It needs a Sir Richard Jebb to produce a translation which is a classic and is yet microscopically accurate. I once asked Professor F. C. Burkitt why the Septuagint did not make more impression on the Hellenic 136and Roman students of Alexandria by mere force of the literary power of the Bible? He replied that he thought it was to be explained by the poor degree of literary skill possessed by the Greek translators or by most of them. Another reminiscence comes to my mind here: I recollect that eminent scholar and deeply religious-minded man, Albert Réville, saying to me: “The Bible is so much more amusing than the Koran!” I am afraid one must confess that the Koran is so much “more amusing” than the Avesta. It is a good rule, however, to approach all religious books with patience and with reverence, for they contain, even if concealed under a bushel, the finest thoughts of man.

When we have grown accustomed to the outward frame of the Avesta, the inner sense becomes clearer. It is like a piece of music by Tschaikowsky: at first the modulations seem bizarre, the themes incoherent; then, by degrees, a consecutive plan unwinds itself and we know that what appeared meaningless sound was divine harmony.

The essential teaching of the Avesta is summed up in the text: “Adore God with a pure mind and a pure body, and honour Him in His works.” Force, power, energy, waters and stagnant pools, springs, running brooks, plants that shoot aloft, plants that cover the ground, the earth, the heavens, stars, sun, moon, the everlasting lights, the flocks, the kine, the water-tribes, those that are of the sky, the flying, the wild ones—“We honour all these, Thy holy and pure creatures, O Ahura Mazda, divine artificer!”

“The Voice said: Call My works thy friends.”

137If the lyric note of great religious expression is rarely reached (only, perhaps, in a few pieces, such as the noble hymn to the sun-symbol), the sustained exposition of life is so reasonable and yet so lofty that to contemplate it after gazing at the extravagances of pillar-saints and Indian Yogi, signals, as it were, a return to sanity and health after the nuit blanche of fever.

The “Khordah Avesta” contains this counsel or good wish: “Be cheerful; live thy life the whole time which thou wilt live.” Man is not asked to do the impossible or even the difficult: he is asked to enjoy. To the extreme spirituality which shrank from making even a mental image of God is joined a “this worldliness” which saw in rational enjoyment a religious duty. Instead of choosing poverty, man was ordered to make good use of wealth; instead of mortifying the flesh, he was to avoid calumny, evil-speaking, quarrels, to give clothes to the poor, to pray not only for himself but for others. If he does wrong, let him repent honestly in his heart and do some practical good work as a pledge of his repentance. The soul which grieves for its wrongdoing and sins no more comes back into the light of “God the giver, Forgiver, rich in Love, who always is, always was, always will be!” When it was asked, “What is in the first place most acceptable to this earth?” the answer came: “When a holy man walks on it, O Zarathustra!” Good men work with God, who, sure of ultimate triumph, is yet Himself struggling now against the Power of Darkness. There is no religion without a good 138life: “All have not the Faith who do not hear it; all hear it not who are unclean; all are unclean who are sinners.” God did not send calamities to His servants, but He compassionates them in their trials: “The voice of him weeping, however low, mounts up to the star-lights, comes round the whole world.” It is no sin to desire riches: “Thy kingdom come, O Ahura, when the virtuous poor shall inherit the earth.” In spite of the sufferings of good people, even on this fair earth there is more of pleasantness for the good than for the wicked, and in the next world there is bliss eternal. I do not think that Robert Browning studied the Avesta, but to the thoroughly Zoroastrian line quoted above I am tempted to add this other which is not less so:—

“Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph.”

For the individual, as for the universe, Right must triumph. If the prophet of optimism has a harder task than the oracle of despair, it is, perhaps, a more profitable task.

The Parsi repeats daily, as his ancestors did before him, the so-called Honover or “Ahuna-Vairya,” or logos which brings God down to man as the Gayatri lifts man up to God: “One Master and Lord, all holy and supreme; one teacher of His Law, appointed by God’s almighty will as shepherd to the weak.” The Mazdean “law” was a thought-out system to prevent idolatry and atheism, and to make men lead good lives. There is no racial exclusiveness in it: the Mazdeans had no shibboleth or peculiar sign; 139Zoroaster, himself a foreigner, did not appeal to a chosen people or to a miraculously evolved caste: he only knew of good men and bad. A really good man, truthful and charitable in all his ways, had three heavens open to him even though he “offered no prayers and chanted no Gâthâs”; only the fourth heaven, a little nearer the presence of God, was reserved for those who had devoted their lives to religion. Temperance was enjoined, as without temperance there could not be health. The family was sacred and marriage meritorious: children, the gift of Ahura Mazda, were recruits for the great Salvation Army of the future. Immorality was severely censured, but the victims of it were befriended. Stringent and most humane religious laws protected the fille-mère from being driven “by her shame” to destroy herself or her offspring. Girls were married at sixteen: the address to young brides may be compared with that in the Rig-Veda: “I speak these words to you, maidens who wed. I say them unto you—imprint them on your hearts. Learn to know the world of the Holy Spirit according to the Law. Even so, let one of you take the other as the Law ordains, for it will be to you a source of perfect joy.”

At the time when Zoroastrianism was the State religion, the Sásánian period, we find that the kings frequently had harems. It is certain, however, that if in this as in other things the priests were complacent, they were untrue to orthodox Zoroastrian doctrine and custom, which only permitted the taking of a second wife in some rare cases, as when there was no issue by the first.

140Even then, it does not seem to have been encouraged. The blot on Avestic morality is the strange recommendation of consanguineous marriages, which the Parsis interpret as far as possible in a figurative sense, but it must have been intended to be followed, though it is plain that such unions were never popular. The declared object was the hypothetical maximum purity of race: exactly the same object as that contemplated in the union of Siegemund and Siegelind in the Nibelungenlied—a curious parallel. To my mind, the desire to keep agricultural property together may have had something to do with it. The present moral ideas of the Parsis do not differ from those of Europeans, and when they requested to be placed under the English instead of the Hindu marriage law, their wish was granted.

In Avesta times the priests both married and toiled like the rest of the people. When their prosperity under the Sásánians tended to make them a class apart, they seem to have become less faithful to the ideals of their master, less stern in opposing evil in high places. It is a common experience of history. Originally they were true citizen-priests, mixing with the people as being of them. There was no life better or holier than the common life of duty and work. Isolation of any kind was contrary to the central Zoroastrian view of man as a social being. Among the wicked souls in hell, each one thinks itself utterly alone: it has no sight or knowledge of the host around it. Nothing could illustrate more powerfully than this the saying of a great French writer: “Seul a un synonyme: mort!” Solitude is the death of the soul.



NO investigator of early Iran can afford to neglect the Shahnameh of Firdusi, which was as good history as he could make it; that is to say, it was founded on extremely old legendary lore collected by him with a real wish to revive the memory of the past. Firdusi sang the glories of the “fire-worshippers” with such enthusiasm that one cannot be surprised if, when he died, the Sheikh of Tús doubted whether he ought receive orthodox Moslem burial: a doubt removed by an opportune dream in which the Sheikh saw the poet in Paradise. In Firdusi’s epic we are told that the earliest Persian king (who seems to have been not very far off the first man) lived in peace with all creation. Wild animals came round and knew him for their lord. He had a son who was killed by demons and a grandson named Húsheng, who, as soon as he was old enough, made war on the demons (Turanians?) 142to avenge his father’s murder. Every species of wild and tame beast obeyed Húsheng:—

“The savage beasts, and those of gentler kind,
Alike reposed before him and appeared
To do him homage.”

In his war on the demon’s brood, Húsheng was helped by wolf, tiger, lion, and even by the fowls of the air. All this while mankind had lived on fruit and the leaves of trees. Húsheng taught his people to bake bread. He was succeeded by his son Taliumen, in whose reign panthers, hawks, and falcons were tamed. The next king introduced weaving and the use of armour. His successor was remembered for having kept a herd of 1,000 cows whose milk he gave to the poor. Then came Zorák, who owned 10,000 horses. Zorák was seduced by Iblís, the evil spirit, who, in order to accomplish it, became his chief cook. Iblís was the real founder of the culinary art; till then, people lived still almost entirely on bread and fruit, but the king’s new chef prepared the most savoury dishes, for which he used the flesh of all kinds of birds and beasts. Finally, he sent to table a partridge and a pheasant, after which Zorák promised the devil to grant him any request he might make.

Photo: J. Dieulafoy.
Palace of Darius.
(By permission of M. Marcel Dieulafoy.)

Here there are fugitive reminiscences of parallel legends in the Bundehesh, a Parsi religious book belonging to post-Avestic times. The first human couple served God faithfully till, for some unexplained reason, they were induced to ascribe creation and supreme power to the daevas. This was the “unforgivable 143sin,” the ascription of the miraculous power of God to the devil. Ahriman rejoiced at their treason, though it is not said that he was the cause of it: man could choose between good and evil. After their defection, the man and the woman clothed themselves in leaves and took to hunting. Ahriman put it into their heads to kill a goat and then to light a fire by rubbing two sticks: they blew on the fire to fan the flame and roasted a piece of the goat. One bit they threw in the air as a sacrifice to the Nature spirits, saying, “This for the Yazatas!” A kite flew past and carried off the sacrifice. Afterwards, the man and woman dressed in skins and told innumerable lies. Going from bad to worse, they engendered a large family whence sprang the twenty-five races of mankind.

How this story got into the Bundehesh I do not know, but I am sure that Zoroaster would have disowned it. He knew of no collective “fall of man,” whether in connexion with partridges, pheasants, or goat-flesh.

The Avesta, in its sober cosmogony, is content to speak of the proto-man, Gayo Marathan (mortal life), and the proto-good-animal, Geus Urva, from whom all human beings and all animals of the good creation are derived. Nevertheless, Ahura Mazda is described frequently as creating each animal; the proto-creature was only the modus operandi of the divine power. As in biology, divided sex was a secondary development. From the bull, Geus Urva, proceeded first his own species, and then sheep, camels, horses, asses, birds, water-animals.

144The distinguishing qualification given him of good and laborious is the most striking proof of the originality of Magian ideas: instead of the strong bulls of Basan roaring in their might, the bull we have here is one with the ploughing ox:—

“T’amo, o pio bove; e mite un sentimento
Di vigore e di pace al cor m’infondi....”

—the patient, the long-suffering, the gentle, though strong-limbed helper of man in his daily toil, good in his vigour, good in his mildness, but good most of all in his labour, for Zoroaster called labour a holy thing. The animal which did most to cultivate God’s earth and make the desert flower like a rose, was the paragon of creatures. It must not be thought that to the Geus Urva or his kind was ever rendered the homage due to their Creator. If there was one thing more abhorrent, to the Zoroastrian mind than idolatry it was zoolatry: when Cambyses killed a new Apis with many of his followers in Egypt, he had no reason to fear Mazdean criticism.

The soul of the bull receives dulia not latria. “We honour the soul of the bull ... and also our own souls and our cattle’s souls who help to preserve our life; the souls by which they exist and which exist for them.” So runs one of the Gâthâs, one of the hymns of Zoroaster himself. “We honour the souls of the swift, wild animals; we honour the souls of just men and women in whatever place they are born, whose pure natures have overcome evil. We honour saintly men and saintly women, living immortal, always living, always increasing in glory—all 145man and woman souls faithful to the Spirit of God.”

In this song of praise we have brought before us vividly a fundamental doctrine of the Avesta which pervades every page of it: the belief in the Fravashi, the soul-partner, the double or angel, which exists before birth as during life and after death. This belief has a great interest for us as it would seem that it was only by chance that it did not pass into the body of Christian dogma. The Jews of the new school had held it for quite two hundred years before Christ. Besides other allusions, are the three distinct references to the soul-partner in the New Testament. Christ Himself speaks of the angels of the children who are always in the presence of God and who complain to Him if the children are ill-treated. Secondly, when Peter issued from prison, those who saw him said, “It is his angel.” Thirdly, it is stated that the Sadducees believed that there was no resurrection, “neither angel nor Spirit,” but that the Pharisees, of whom Paul was one, “confessed both.” These three references become intelligible for the first time after reading the Gâthâs. True it is that he who knows only one religion, knows none.

Ahriman inflicted every sort of suffering on the primal creature—this was the beginning of cruelty to animals. At last, he caused its death. The soul of the Bull dwells in the presence of God, and to it, as intercessor, all suffering creatures lift their plaints. Why were they made to suffer wrath, ill-usage, hunger? Will no one lead them to sweet pastures? 146The creature-soul carries the cry of the creatures to God. Ahura Mazda promises the advent of Zoroaster, redresser of all wrongs. But the Bull-soul weeps and complains: how can the voice of one weak man avail to help? It invokes stronger and more effectual aid.

The hymn is really a litany of suffering animals, the grandeur of the thought flashing across obscurities which make it almost impossible to translate. Very mysterious is the expression of incredulity in the efficacy of the help of Zoroaster, an expression which stands quite alone, and in which some have seen a proof that this hymn was not written by the Prophet. But would any one else have dared to question his power or to call him “one weak man”? Can it be that Zoroaster was distressed to find his efforts to prevent cruelty so unavailing, and that he here covertly invokes the “strong arm of the law” to do what he had failed in doing?

In the pages of the Avesta everything is tried to enforce humanity: hopes of reward, threats of punishment, appeals to religious obedience, common gratitude, self-interest. It cannot but appear singular that among an Eastern pastoral and agricultural people such reiterated admonitions should have been needful. The cow and the horse, “animals manifestly pure which bring with them words of blessing,” inflict terrible anathemas on their tormentors:—

The cow curses him who keeps her: “Mayest thou remain without posterity, ever continuing of evil report, thou who dost not distribute me food, and yet causest me to labour for thy wife, thy children and thy own sustenance.”

147The horse curses his owner: “Mayest thou not be he who harnesses swift horses, not one of those who sit on swift horses, not one who makes swift horses hasten away. Thou dost not wish strength to me in the numerous assembly, in the circle of many men.”

The cow which is led astray by robbers calls to Mithra “ever with unlifted hands, thinking of the stall,” and Mithra, here figuring as the vengeance of God, destroys the house, the clan, the confederacy, the region, the rule of him who injured her. She is the type of prosperity: “O thou who didst create the cow, give us immortal life, safety, power, plenty.” She is dear to her Creator: “Thou hast given the earth as a sweet pasture for the cow.” She is praised because she furnishes the offerings, flesh, milk, and butter.

This reminds us of the differences of point of view between the Persian and the Indian humanitarian. The Indian, in theory at least, simply forbade taking animal life. He had the great advantage of the argument of the straight line. The Zoroastrian was handicapped by his moderation. It is easier far to teach extraordinary than ordinary well-doing; every moralist who has set out to improve mankind has found that. Zoroaster had not the smallest doubt about his contention that man has imperative duties in regard to what used to be called “the brute creation.” Man could not live as man at all without it: we who have harnessed steam and trapped the electric spark might entertain such a possibility, but to Zoroaster the idea would have seemed absurd. As we owe so much to animals, the least we can do 148is to treat them well. Yet, though he included wanton and useless slaughter in “ill-treatment,” he allows the killing of animals for food. Herodotus remarked that, unlike the Egyptians, the Magian priests did not think it pollution to kill animals with their own hands—except dogs and oxen.

It is to be supposed that the framers of Zoroastrian law believed that animal food was necessary for man’s health and strength, perfect health being the state most acceptable to the Creator. Believing this, they could not forbid the temperate use of it. Gargantuan feasts were not dreamt of; if they had been, they would have received the condemnation given to all excesses. We are apt to fall into the way of thinking of sacred books which is that of their own adepts; we think of them as written by unpremeditated impulse. But commonly this was not the case. The Avesta, especially, bears signs of conclusions reached by patient reasoning. While, however, the Magians permitted the slaughter of animals, they bowed to the original scruple which has no race-limits, by ordering that such slaughter should be accompanied by an expiatory rite without the performance of which it was unlawful. This was the offering of the head of the animal to Homa: regarded, in this instance, as the archetype of the “wine of life”—the sacred or sacramental juice of the plant which has been identified with the Indian Soma. The Homa juice was much the most sacred thing that could be eaten or drunk; if it is true that it contained alcohol, the little jet of flame that would start upwards as it was thrown on the sacrificial fire might seem actually to bear with 149it the spirit of the offering. Whatever was the exact idea implied by the dedication of slaughtered animals to Homa, the fact that they were killed for food did not, of course, in any way affect their extra-mortal destiny. The “souls of our cattle”—their archetypes—could not suffer death.

As a careful observer, which he is now allowed to have been, Herodotus remarked that not only might the priests take animal life, but that they thought it highly meritorious to take the life of certain animals such as ants, serpents, and some kinds of birds. It required no profound knowledge of the East to notice something unusual in this. Even the Jews, with their classification of clean and unclean beasts, cast no moral slur on the forbidden category, and if the serpent of Eden was cursed, later snakes regained their character and inspired no loathing; the snake-charmer with his crawling pupils was a well known and popular entertainer. Farther East, every holy man respected the life of an ant as much as of an elephant. Zoroaster alone banned the reptile and the major part of the insect world. No penance was more salutary than to kill ten thousand scorpions, snakes, mosquitoes, ants that walk in single file, harvesting ants, wasps, or a kind of fly which was the very death of cattle. The innocent lizard suffered by reason of his relationship with the crocodile; the harmless frog and tortoise excited a wrath which they had done nothing to merit. Among mammals, the mouse is singled out for destruction: although the wolf is a legionary of Ahriman, he is more often classed with the “wicked two-legged one”—perverse man—than with the evil 150creation properly so called. In one place Ahriman is said to have created “devouring beasts,” but on closer examination these devouring beasts proved to be only the harvesting ants which were reckoned deadly foes of the agriculturist. Any one who has seen how much newly-sown grass seed these favourites of Solomon will remove in a shining hour will understand the prejudice, though he will not, I hope, share it. Roughly speaking, the diligent, old-fashioned gardener who puzzles his pious mind as to why “those things” were ever created, is a born Zoroastrian. To tell him with Paul that “every creature of God is good” does not comfort him much. Zoroaster’s answer is as philosophically complete as it is scientifically weak. Certain creatures are noxious to man; a good Creator would not have made creatures noxious to men, ergo, such creatures were not made by a good Creator. Besides the scientific objection to any hard-and-fast line of division between animals, there is another: the pity of it. I wonder that some velvet-coated field-mouse, approaching softly on tip-toe as Zoroaster lay in his grotto, did not inquire with its appealing eyes: “Do you really think that I look as if I were made by the Evil One?” In spite of the numerous advantages of a theory which, in a literal sense, makes a virtue of necessity (a sad necessity to some of us), the theological ban of creatures for no other reason than that they are inconvenient to man detracts from the ideal beauty of Zoroastrian faith.

Darwin, in a letter to Asa Gray, the American botanist, said that the sufferings of caterpillars and 151mice made him doubt the existence of “a beneficent and omnipotent Creator.” How often does doubt seem more religious than belief!

The eschatology of the creatures deemed of darkness is not clear, but I believe there is no mention of their Fravashis: it is permissible to suppose, therefore, that, all along, they are rather appearances than realities: things that cannot feel, though Ahriman feels defeat in their destruction. For the rest, though Zoroaster treated wasps or mice much as Torquemada treated heretics, he made it no merit to torment them: he simply desired their extermination as every fruit-grower or farmer desires it to this day.

Students of Zoroastrianism have been mystified by the seeming detachment of the dog from the other “good” animals and the separate jurisdiction designed for it. In my opinion this arose only from the fact that the dog was not a food-providing animal. Hence it could be made penal (by religious, not by civil, law, it must be remembered) to kill a dog, and it was natural that his body should be disposed of in the same way as a man’s. What else could be done with it? It was natural also that since his death was inflicted by Ahriman (since it came of itself), purification ceremonials should be performed to remove the pollution. The religious scope of such ceremonials was like that of reconsecrating a church in which suicide or murder has been committed. That the dog was highly appreciated, that he was valued as an essential helper in the existing conditions of life, is amply proved, but that he was “reverenced” more than some other animals—e.g., the cow—is open 152to doubt. The dog was recognised as more human which made him more liable to err. It was the celebrated chapter on the dog which convinced Sir W. Jones that Anquetil Duperron’s translation was a forgery. It should have struck him that this was not how a European would have made Zoroaster speak about the favoured animal. In the comparisons of canine qualities with those of certain human beings, there is more of satire than of panegyric. The whole Fargard XIII. has been interpreted as purely mystical: the dog symbolising the “will,” a meaning which, according to this argument, fits the term “Dog” in all passages of the scriptures of Iran. This is a hard saying. More reasonable is the supposition that Fargard XIII. formed part of a treatise on animals and got into the Vendîdâd by chance. However that may be, the “eight characters” of the dog show observation though not reverence: he loves darkness like a thief, and at times has been known to be one; he fawns like a slave, he is a self-seeker like a courtezan, he eats raw meat like a beast of prey. The words relative to his “chasing about the well-born cow” have been interpreted to mean that he chased her back home when she had strayed, but I seem to have seen dogs chasing about well-born cows from no such benevolent motive. Some of the comparisons are neither flattering nor critical but descriptive: the dog loves sheep like a child, he runs here and there in front, like a child; he dodges in and out like a child.

(By permission of Messrs. Chapman & Hall, Ltd.)

The jeu d’esprit of the “eight characters” is followed by what appears to be a serious statement of how 153to treat the dog which misconducts himself. There is no capital punishment, nothing like the stoning of the ox which gores a man or woman, in the Bible. If a dog attacks man or cattle he is to lose an ear; if he does it a third time his foot is to be cut off, or, as Bleeck humanely suggests, he is to be rendered so far lame that it is easy to escape from him. The “dumb dog” of vicious disposition is to be tied up. If a dog is no longer sane in his mind and has become dangerous on that account, you are to try and cure him as you would a man, but if this fails, you must chain him up and muzzle him, using a sort of wooden pillory which prevents him from biting. This passage is curious, because, while it seems to allude plainly to hydrophobia, it contains no hint of the worser consequences to man than a simple bite.

We find that there were four if not more breeds of dogs, each of which was carefully trained for its work. The house-dog, the personal dog (which may have been a blood-hound), sheep and herd-dogs are all mentioned, but there is no mention of sporting-dogs or of sport in the Avesta. The dogs must have been powerful, as they were required to be a match for the wolf, “the growing, the flattering, the deadly wolf,” which was the dread of every homestead in Iran. There were also “wolves with claws” (tigers), but they were comparatively few. The kinship of wolf and dog was recognised, and there was an impression that the most murderous wolf was the half-breed of a wolf and a bitch. Perhaps the wolf of dog-descent came more boldly to the dwelling of man, having no instinctive fear of him. It is said, too, that the 154deadliest kind of dog was the dog that had a wolf-mother. Possibly such cross-breeding was tried experimentally in the hope of obtaining dogs which could best resist the wolf.

If the dog is never represented as a creature of faultless perfection, it yet remains an established truth that “dwellings would not stand fast on the earth created by Ahura Mazda were there not dogs which pertain to the cattle and to the village.” It is the Lord of Creation who says: “The dog I have made, O Zarathustra, with his own clothing and his own shoes; with keen scent and sharp teeth, faithful to men, as a protector to the folds. For I have made the dog, I who am Ahura Mazda!” To attack the dog was like an attack on the police. Slitting the ear of the house or sheep-dog out of malice, or cutting off his foot, or belabouring him so that thieves got at the sheep, were not unfrequent crimes and they are dealt with no more severely than they deserve. Who killed a house-dog outright, or a sheep-dog or personal dog or well-trained dog, was warned that in the next world his soul would go howling worse than a wolf in the depths of the forest; shunned by all other souls, growled at by the dogs that guard the bridge Chinvat. Eight hundred blows with a horse-goad are adjudged to the wretch who so injures a dog that it die. To strike or chase a bitch with young brings a dreadful curse. Much is said about the proper care of the mother and the puppies. To give a dog too hot food or too hard bones is as bad as turning apostate. His right food is milk and fat and lean meat. “Of all known creatures that 155which ages soonest is the dog left foodless among people who eat—who seeks here and there his food and finds it not.”

As a rule unnamed wild animals may be supposed to have been protected. The fox was considered a powerful daeva-scarer, which shows that not only in China did the fox seem an “uncanny” beast. In Iran his supernatural services made him highly esteemed. There seem to have been no cats though so many mice. The later Iran was destined to be a great admirer of cats, witness the praise of them by Persian poets, but it is not easy to fix the date when they were introduced. Monkeys were known and were attributed by a post-Avestic superstition to the union of human women and daevas. Vultures were sacred because they devoured good Mazdeans. On the whole, not much attention was paid to wild nature, with one striking exception: the extraordinary respect for the water-dog, beaver or otter. Suddenly the solid utilitarian basis of Zoroastrian zoology gives way and we behold a fabric of dreams. We might understand it better could we know the early animistic beliefs of Iran, though the trend of the Avesta apparently ran counter to old popular credences far more than with them. It should be remembered that water was only a little less sacred than fire in the Zoroastrian system; the defilement of rivers was strictly forbidden. The Udra, or beaver, became the “luck” of the rivers: to destroy it would provoke a drought. If it was found roaming on the land, the Mazdean was bound to carry it to the nearest stream. In later legend, the Udra, even more than the fox, 156was a daeva-foe. But by far its most important characteristic is its mythical connexion with the dog. To the question: “What becomes of the aged dog when his strength fails him and he dies?” follows the answer: “He goes to the dwelling in the water, where he is met by two water-dogs.” These are his conductors to the dogs’ paradise. A fair sward beneath the waters, cool and fresh in the summer heat, is at least a pleasant idea, but when the two water-dogs are described as consisting of one thousand male and one thousand female dogs, the myth seems to lose its balance which no proper myth ought to do. Myths have the habit of proceeding rationally enough in their own orbit. Later commentators reject this fantastic interpretation and suppose the verse to mean that the dog-soul is received, not by two, but by two thousand water-dogs, which in Oriental hyperbole would mean merely “a great many.”

Be this as it may, Udra-murder was a frightful sin, and frightful were the penalties attached to it. Besides undergoing the usual blows with a horse-goad (to be self inflicted?) the murderer must kill ten thousand each of some half-dozen insects and reptiles: this, at least, is how it looks, but as a matter of fact the long lists of penalties in the Vendîdâd must be taken not as cumulative, but as alternative. This is evident, though it is never stated, and it explains many things. A large number of the alternative punishments for beaver-killing take the form of offerings to the priests. Arms, whips, grindstones, handmills, house-matting, wine and food, a team of oxen, cattle both small and large, a suitable wife—the young 157sister of the sinner—these are among the specified offerings. The culprit may also build a bridge, or breed fourteen dogs as an act of expiation; in short, he may do any kind of meritorious deed, but something he must do, or it will be the worse for him in the world to come.

The Vendîdâd was not a code of criminal law enforced by the civil power, but an adjugation of penances for the atonement of sin. This was not understood at first, which caused the selection of punishments to appear more extravagant than it really is. For the most part the penances were active good works or things which were reckoned as such. Charity and alms-giving were always contemplated among the means of grace, and if they were not dwelt upon more continually, it was because there existed nothing comparable to modern destitution. Moreover, it was understood better than in other parts of the East that not every beggar was a saint: too often he was a lazy fellow who had shirked the common obligation of labour. The repetition of certain prayers was another practice recommended to the repentant sinner. But no good work or pious exercise was of any avail unless accompanied by sincere sorrow for having done wrong. The Law opened the door of grace, but to obtain it the heart must have become changed. God forgives those who truly desire His forgiveness. It is impossible to doubt that the spurious Mazdeism which got into Europe, distorted though it was, yet took with it the two great Mazdean doctrines of repentance and the remission of sin. Great ideas conquer, and it was by these two doctrines 158that Mithraism so nearly conquered the Western world—not by its unlovely rites.

On one or two points the human eschatology of Zoroastrianism is associated with dogs. A dog is brought into the presence of the dying man. This has been explained by reference to the dogs of Yama, the Vedic lord of death, and the European superstition about the howling of a dog being a death-portent is explained in the same way, but in both instances the immediate cause seems nearer at hand. An Indian officer once remarked to me that any one who had heard the true “death-howl” of a dog would never need any recondite reason for the uncomfortable feeling which it arouses. As regards the Zoroastrian dog, the immediate cause of the belief that he drives away evil spirits lies in the fact that he drives away thieves and prowlers in the night. Death being a pollution as the work of Ahriman, evil spirits beset the dying, but they flee at the sight of the dog, created by Ahura Mazda to protect man. The dead wander for three days near the tenantless body: then they go to the bridge Chinvat, where the division takes place between the good and the wicked. The bridge is guarded by dogs, who drive away all things evil from the path of the righteous, but do nothing to prevent bad spirits from tripping up sinners so that they fall into the pit.

The good go into light, sinners into darkness, where Ahriman, “whose religion is evil,” mocks them, saying: “Why did you eat the bread of Ahura Mazda and do my work? and thought not of your own Creator but practised my will?” Nothing is told of the punishment 159of Ahriman—the doom of Evil is to be Evil—but in the end he will be utterly extinguished. Through time, but not through eternity the wicked remain in his power. In the Khordah Avesta it is said that God, after purifying all the obedient, will purify the wicked out of hell. In the words of a living Parsi writer: “The reign of terror, at the end of the stipulated time, vanishes into oblivion, and its chief factor, Ahriman, goes to meet his doom of total extinction, whilst Ahura Mazda, the Omnipotent Victor, remains the Great All in All.”

The Zoroastrian was as free as Socrates himself from the materialism which looks upon the body after death as if it were still the being that tenanted it. Some kind of renewed body the dead will have: meanwhile, this is not they! The hope of immortality was so firm that it was thought an actual sin to give way to excessive mourning: the wailing and keening of the Jews seem to be here condemned, though they are not mentioned, there being no direct allusion to the religions of other peoples in the Avesta. There is a river of human tears which hinders souls on their way to beatitude: the dead would fain that the living check their tears which swell the river and make it hard to cross over in safety. The same idea is to be found in one of the most beautiful of Scandinavian folk-songs.

The small work known as the Book of Ardâ Vîrâf is a document of priceless worth to the student of Mazdean eschatology, and it is also of the greatest interest in its relation to ideas about animals. If printed in a convenient form, every humane person 160would carry it in his pocket. Like the vision of the Seer of Patmos this work is purely religious; it attempts no criticism of life and man such as that embodied in the “Divina Commedia,” but in spite of this difference in aim, there is an astonishing resemblance between its general plan and that of the poem of Dante. Without going into this subject, I may say that I cannot feel convinced that with the geographical, astronomical, and other knowledge of the East which is believed to have reached Dante by means of conversations with merchants, pilgrims and perhaps craftsmen (for that Italian artists worked in India at an early date the Madonna-like groups in many a remote Hindu temple bear almost certain testimony), there did not come to him also some report of the travels of the Persian visitant to the next world.

The author of the Persian vision was a pious Mazdean whose whole desire was to revive religious feeling amid growing indifference. He is supposed to have lived not earlier than 500, and not later than 700 A.D. The former is the likelier date. Had the assault of Islam begun, the book must have borne traces of the struggle with invaders who threatened to annihilate the faith. The author states that the work was intended as an antidote in the first place to atheism and in the second to “the religions of many kinds” that were springing up. This probably contains a reference to Christian sects, but it is not the way that allusion would have been made to propagandists with a sword in their hands. Christian sects managed to recover from the first persecution in 344 A.D., after which they were more often than not 161tolerated, though the Zoroastrian priesthood feared a Church that possessed an organisation so much like their own. They were accused, moreover, as at Rome, of being anti-national: everywhere the sentiment against the Christians took a form closely resembling the anti-Semiticism of our days. Such accusations can hardly fail to create, to some extent, the thing they predicate, and it is no great wonder if in the end the Persian Christians received the Moslem invaders with favour. Though the essence of Mazdeism is peace to men of good-will, it is to be feared that the Zoroastrian priests (like others) were less tolerant than their creed, and that the harassing of the Christians generally originated with them. They are known to have counselled this policy to Homizd IV., who gave them the memorable answer that his royal throne could not stand on its front legs alone, but needed the support of the Christians and other sectaries as well as of the faithful. It was one of the wisest sayings that ever fell from the lips of a king and more Mazdean than all the bigotry of Zoroastrian clericalism.

The author of Ardâ Vîrâf tried the perfectly legitimate means of persuasion in rallying his countrymen to their own religion. He tells the story of how, in an age of doubt, it was agreed that the best thing would be to send some one into the next world to see if Mazdeism were, indeed, the true religion. Lots fell on a very virtuous man named Ardâ Vîrâf, who was commissioned to make the journey in a trance-state produced by the administration of a narcotic. Even now, in India, children and others 162are given narcotics, sometimes of a dangerous sort, in order to obtain knowledge which is supposed to come to them whilst insensible. To a Mazdean the ordeal would be particularly terrible, because sleep, like death, was created by Ahriman. The calm fortitude with which Ardâ Vîrâf submits, while his family break into loud weeping, almost reminds one of the bearing of Socrates on the eve of a similar departure but one with no return. “It is the custom that I should pray to the departed souls and make a will,” he says; “when I have done that, give me the narcotic.” His body was treated as though dead, being kept at the proper distance from fire and other sacred things, but priests stayed near it night and day, praying and reading the Scriptures, that the powers of ill might not prevail.

At the end of seven days the wandering spirit of Ardâ Vîrâf re-entered his inanimate form, and after he had taken food and water and wine he called for a ready writer, to whom he dictated the tale of what he had seen. Guided by Srosh the Pious and Ataro the Angel (Virgil and Beatrice) the traveller visited heaven and hell. At the outset he saw the meeting of a righteous soul and its Fravashi. This soul crosses the Chinvat bridge in safety, and on the other side passes into an atmosphere laden with an ineffably sweet perfume which emanates from the direction of the presence of God. Here it meets a damsel more wondrously fair than aught it has beheld in the land of the living. Enraptured at the sight, it asks her name and receives the answer: “I am thine own good actions.” Every good deed embellishes the 163human soul’s archetype, every evil deed mars and stains it with the hideousness of sin. This poetic and beautiful conception was not due to the author of Ardâ Vîrâf: it is taken from the venerable pages of the Avesta itself.

In the abode of Punishment the most impressive penalties are those undergone by the souls which have tortured helpless infants or dumb animals. The mother who feeds another’s child from greed and starves her own, is seen digging into an iron hill with her breasts while the cry of her child for food comes ever from the other side of the hill, “but the infant comes not to the mother nor the mother to the infant.” Here the supreme anguish is mental: it is caused by the awakening of that maternal instinct which the woman stifled on earth. Has the Inferno any thought so luminously subtle as this? The woman-soul will never reach her child “till the renewal of the world.” Till the renewal of the world! Across the hell-fog penetrates the final hope!

The unfaithful wife who destroys the fruit of her illicit love suffers a horrible punishment. It is strange that if we wish to find an analogy to these severe judgments on offences against infancy, we must go to a small tribe of Dravidian mountaineers in the Nilgiri hills, among whose folk-songs is one which describes a vision of heaven and hell. In this a woman is shown who is condemned to see her own child continually die, because she refused help to a stranger’s child, saying: “It is not mine!”

Those who treated their beasts cruelly, who overworked them, overloaded them, gave them insufficient 164food, continued to work them when they suffered from sores caused by leanness instead of trying to cure the sores, are seen by Ardâ Vîrâf hung up head downwards while a ceaseless rain of stones falls on their backs. Those who wantonly killed animals have a knife driven ceaselessly into their hearts. Those who muzzled the ox which ploughed the furrows are dashed under the feet of cattle. The same punishment falls to those who forget to give water to the oxen in the heat of the day or who worked them when hungry and thirsty. Demons like dogs constantly tear the man who kept back food from shepherds’-dogs and house-dogs or who beat or killed them: he offers bread to the dogs, but they eat it not and only tear the more.

Ardâ Vîrâf tells a story which belongs to the cycle of “Sultan Murad,” immortalised by Victor Hugo. A certain lazy man named Davânôs, who never did any other thing of good during all the years when he governed many provinces, once cast a bundle of grass with his right foot to within the reach of a ploughing-ox. Hence his right foot is exempted from torment while the rest of his body is gnawed by noxious creatures.

It is easy to imagine that the realistic picture of heaven and hell by a poet of no little power produced the deepest effect on the minds of people, who for the most part took it to be literally true. No Oriental work ever became more popular or was more widely read and translated. People still living can remember the time when it was the habit of the Parsis at Bombay to have public readings of Ardâ Vîrâf, on 165which occasions the audience, especially the feminine part of it, broke into violent sobbing from the excitement caused by the description of the punishment of the wicked. The Parsis have abandoned now the theory that the book is other than a work of imagination, but it may be hoped that they will not cease to regard it as a cherished legacy from their fathers and a precious bequest to their children.



AN Englishman who went to see a Hindu saint was deterred from entering the cave where the holy man lived by the spectacle of numerous rats. The hermit, observing his hesitation, inquired what was the matter? “Don’t you see them?” answered his visitor. “Yes,” was the brief reply. “Why don’t you kill them?” asked the Englishman. “Why should I kill them?” said the native of the land. Finding the whole onus of the discussion thrown on his shoulders, the English traveller felt that it would be difficult with his limited knowledge of the language to express a European’s ideas about rats. He thought to sum up the case in one sentence: “We people kill them.” To which the saint answered: “We people don’t kill them.”

In another country, but still among a race which has inherited the habit of looking at questions between man and animals not exclusively from the man’s point of view, a learned professor proposed to an old gardener at Yezd that they should dig up an ant-hill to ascertain if the local prejudice were true which insisted that inside each ant-hill there lodged two scorpions. The old Persian declined to be a 167party to any such proceeding. “As long as the scorpions stay inside,” he said with decision, “we have no right to molest them and to do so would bring ill-luck.”

These anecdotes show, amusingly and convincingly, the wall of demarcation between Eastern and Western thought by which the son of the West is apt to find his passage barred. They serve my purpose in quoting them the better because they are not connected with the religious sect whose precepts I am going to sketch. They illustrate what I believe to be true, namely, that this sect and Buddhism itself would not have made their way in so wonderful a manner, seemingly almost without effort, had they not found the ground prepared by a racial tendency to fly to the doctrine of Ahimsa, or “non-killing,” which forms part of their systems.

No religion prevails unless it appeals to some chord, if not of the human heart everywhere, at least of the particular human hearts to which it is directed. In the West a religion based on Vegetarianism would not have a chance. Not that there exists no trace of the life-preserving instinct among Western peoples—far from that. All nice children have it and all saints of the type of him of Assisi. Other people have it who are neither children, nor saints, nor yet lunatics (“though by your smiling you seem to say so”). I know an old hero of the Siege of Delhi who to this day would stoop to lift a worm from his path. But the sentiment, which in the West is rather a secret thing, forming a sort of freemasonry among those who feel it, asserts its sway in the East 168in the broad light of day. No one there would mind giving the fullest publicity to his opinion that the scorpion has as good a right to live undisturbed in his domestic ant-hill as you have in your suburban villa.

Long before the Jainas made Ahimsa a gateway to perfection, innumerable Asiatics practised and even preached the very same rule. It was the bond of union between all the religious teachers and ascetics who constituted a well-defined feature in Indian life from remote if not from the earliest antiquity. The founders of Jainism and of Buddhism, too, were Gurus like the rest, only they possessed an intensified magnetic influence and, at least in Buddha’s case, an unique genius. Every Eastern religion has been taught by a Guru, not excepting the most divine of them all.[4]

4.  “It is stated of the Divine Founder of the Christian religion that without a parable spoke He not to the people. Christ, in fact, acted and taught as an Oriental Guru, a character which none of the European writers of Christ’s life has invested Him with” (Rev. J. Long: v. “Oriental Proverbs” in the Report of the Proceedings of the Second Congress of Orientalists).

In the occurrence of a new religious evolution much depends on the individual, but much also on the fulness of time. When Buddhism and Jainism arose, the psychological moment was come for a change or modification in the current faith. To some degree, both were a revolt against Sacerdotalism. Men were told that they could work out their salvation without priestly aid or intervention. The new teachers, though each springing from the class of the feudal nobility, won to their side the 169surging wave of the only kind of democratic yearning which, till now, Asia has known—the yearning for religious equality. Professor Hermann Jacobi (the foremost authority on Jainism, to whom all who study the subject owe an unbounded debt) suggests that there was a certain friction between the highly meritorious of the noble and the priestly castes because the priests were inclined to look down on the layman saint. To this category belonged Sakya Muni, who was the younger son of a prince, or, as we should say, a feudal lord, and who renounced rank and riches to become a recluse. The same family history is told of Mahavira, whom the Jainas claim to be their founder. For a long time Europeans believed the two religions to have but one source, and Jainism was dismissed as a Buddhist sect. The Jainas, however, always strongly held that they had a founder of their own, namely, Mahavira, and they even declared that Buddha was not his master but his disciple. After much research, Professor Jacobi decided the case in their favour by assigning to them a separate origin. Both Sakya Muni and Mahavira are generally believed to have flourished in the sixth century B.C.

The confusion of the Jainas with the Buddhists and even with the Brahmans has made it difficult to reckon their present numbers: in the census of 1901 they are estimated at 1,334,138, chiefly living in the Bombay Presidency, but this does not tell us their real number. Jainas are to be found almost everywhere in Upper India, in the West and South and along the Ganges. They inhabit the towns 170more than the country. In treating ancient Indian religions the living document is always round the corner, ready to be called into the witness-box, and the Jainas of to-day can give a good account of themselves. Every one has a good word for them; a friend of mine, than whom few know India better, describes them thus: “A tall, fair, handsome, good and humble lot they are and terribly bullied they are by their more bellicose fellow-countrymen, who all look on Jainas as made for them to pilfer, but the Jainas never turn on their persecutors.” In spite of their meekness, they are good men of business, which is proved by their remarkable success in commerce. Perhaps it is not such bad policy to be peaceful, and helpful, and honest as a cynical century supposes.

The Jainas say of Mahavira that he was one of a long line of holy ascetics twenty-four of whom are venerated in their temples under the name of Tirthakaras or Jinas, “Conquerors” in the sense of having conquered the flesh. Needless to point out that the founders of great religious systems invariably accept this principle of evolution: they complete what others began, and in due time a new manifestation will arrive either in the form of a more perfect revelation of themselves or in that of a fore-destined successor. The Buddhists now await Matreya, or “the Buddha of kindness.” The Jainas have not added to their twenty-four glorified beings, but there is nothing to prevent them from doing so. To these specimens of perfected humanity they have raised some of the most glorious temples ever lifted by the hand of 171man towards heaven. Tier on tier mount the exquisitely beautiful towers of the Jaina cathedrals in the most lonely part of the Muklagerri hills. They seem like the Parsifal music turned into stone: an allegory of the ascent of the soul from corruption to incorruption, from change to permanency. The desire to worship something finds a vent in the reverence paid to the Tirthakaras, but the Jaina religion admits neither relics nor the iteration of prayers. The building of splendid shrines and of refuges for man and beast are the particular means of grace open to the Jaina who cannot comply in all respects with the exacting demands of his scriptures, which, were they literally fulfilled, would leave no one on the world but ascetics. The wealthy Jaina is only too glad to avail himself of the chance of acquiring some merit, however far it must fall short of the highest. Besides this, in moments of religious fervour temple-building becomes a frenzy: whole races are swept along by the blind impulse to incarnate their spiritual cravings in spires or pagodas or minarets pointing to the sky—the eternal symbol. The greatest of Jaina temples mark the epoch of some such wave of spiritual emotion.

The Jaina scriptures, which were first collected from aural report and written down by a learned man in the sixth century A.D., are really a Rule of Discipline for monks, and not a guide for the mass of mankind. If we could imagine the only Christian Scripture being the immortal book of Thomas à Kempis, we should form the idea of a very similar state of things. It is surprising not how little but how much of this 172rigid rule is followed by every Jaina to this day, be he monk or layman. The vegetarian principle involved in Ahimsa is observed rigorously by all—clearly with no bad effect on health after a trial of about twenty-four centuries, for the Jainas’ physique is excellent, and they are less subject to disease than the other communities. They strain and boil water before drinking, and whatever may be said of the motive, the practice must be highly commended. They are also often to be seen wearing a mouth-cloth to prevent them from swallowing flies, and they carry little brooms with which they sweep insects out of their path. The hospitals for sick animals begin to be better managed than formerly, when they incurred much censure as mere conglomerations of hopeless suffering to relieve which practical means were not taken. A folly adopted by the more fanatical Jainas at the time of their origin was that of going “sky-clad,” which makes it probable that they were the gymnosophists known to the Greeks. They saw well later to limit this practice to certain times and occasions or to abandon it for the far more pleasant one of wearing white garments. Buddha warned his followers against the “sky-clad” aberration. He disagreed with the Jainas on a more vital point in the view he took of penance and self-inflicted torture. It shows the high intellectuality of the man that towards the end of his life he pronounced penance, though he had gone through much of it himself, to be vanity of vanities. The Jainas took the opposite view: “Subdue the body just as fire consumes old wood.” They hold that merit is bound up with a 173certain definite and tangible thing: the Buddhist, more philosophically, makes it consist in intention. This is the chief doctrinal difference between Jaina and Buddhist, and though each is bound to charity and the Jaina is particularly enjoined by his scriptures not to turn other people’s religion into ridicule, it has to be confessed that in their frequent disputes they spare no pains and neglect no arts of Socratic reasoning to reduce each other’s theories to an absurdity. Irony is a weapon always used in Indian religious discussion.

Mahavira himself “fulfilled the law” by allowing gnats, flies, and other things to bite him and crawl over him for four months without ever once losing his equanimity. It is told that he met all sorts of pleasant or unpleasant events with an even mind whether they arose from divine powers, men, or animals. The Jainas did not deny that there were divine powers: there might be any number of them, and the influence they wielded for good or for ill (I think especially for ill) was not inconsiderable. Only they were not morally admirable like a man victorious through suffering. The greater willingness of the Jainas to admit gods into the wheel of being, and even to allow some homage to be paid to them, was one reason why they clashed less with the Brahmans. After the subsidence of Buddhism the Jainas managed to go on existing, somewhat despised and annoyed, but tolerated.

While both Buddhists and Jainas place the prohibition to take life at the head of their law, its application is infinitely more thoroughgoing among the Jainas, 174who also attach to it ideas which have no place in Buddhist metaphysics. From the Jaina position, it seems to imply a tendency to primitive animism, though it is hard to say whether this comes from a real process of retrogression or simply from the Indo-Aryan desire for a synthesis—the more easily attained the more you assume. It is startling to hear that in the last census over eight millions were returned as animists—it proves that the old credences die hard. The Jainas took into their soul-world fire, water, wind, shooting plants and germinating seeds. The disciplinary results must have been inconvenient, but a religion was never less popular because it put its devotees to inconvenience. Those who still clung to animistic beliefs were already prepared to see a soul in the flickering fire, the rushing water, the growing blade. We all have odds and ends of animism; did not Coventry Patmore say: “There is something human in a tree?” With more detail the Jaina observes that trees and plants are born and grow old; they distinguish the seasons, they turn towards the sun, the seeds grow up: how, then, shall we deny all knowledge to them? “The asoka buds and blossoms when touched by a fair girl’s feet.” Can we help recalling the familiar lines in the “Sensitive Plant?”—

“I doubt not the flowers of that garden sweet
Rejoiced in the sound of her gentle feet;
I doubt not they felt the spirit that came
From her glowing fingers thro’ all their frame.”

Now, Science, which is on the way to becoming very kind to man’s early beliefs, comes forward in the 175person of Mr. Francis Darwin to tell us that plants have “mind” and “intelligence,” especially the hop and the bryony. All fairy-tales will come true if we wait long enough.

Once, and once only, in Jaina writings I have noticed it given as a distinct reason for sparing plants and trees, that they may contain the transmigrated soul of a man. Even in the case of animals the doctrine of transmigration is rarely adduced as the reason for not killing them, though it is fully accepted by Jainas in common with all the Indian sects sprung from Brahmanism by which it was started. Coming to the Indian views of animals from those which antiquity represented as the preaching of Pythagoras, we expect to see this argument put forward at every turn, but it is not. In Jaina writings the incentive is humanity: to do to others as we would be done by. It is true that as an aid to this incentive, the cruel are threatened with the most awful punishments. In Indian sacred writings one is wearied by the nice balance constantly drawn between every deed and its consequences to the doer for a subsequent millennium. In mediæval monkish legends we find exactly the same device for keeping the adept in the paths of virtue, but wherever we find it, we sigh for the spontaneous emotion of pity of the Good Samaritan who never reflected “If I do not get off my ass and go to help that Jew, how very bad it will be for my Karman!”

We ought not to forget in this connexion that rewards and punishments have not the same meaning to the Indian as to us: they are not extraneous prizes 176or penalties, but the working out of a mathematical problem which we both set and solve for ourselves. It is utterly impossible to escape from the consequences of our evil acts: they are debts which must be paid, though we may set about performing good acts which will make our future happiness exceed our future misery in time and extent. The highest good comes of itself, automatically, to him who merits it, as is illustrated with great beauty in the Jaina story of the White Lotus. This flower, the symbol of perfection, bloomed in the centre of a pool and was descried by many who made violent efforts to reach it, but they were all set fast in the mud. Then came a holy ascetic who stood motionless on the bank. “O white Lotus, fly up!” he said, and the White Lotus flew to his breast. Even among Indian sects which all abound in this kind of composition the Jainas are remarkable for their wealth of moral tales and apothegms. As is well known, they possess a parable called “The Three Merchants,” closely resembling the parable of the Talents as told by Matthew and Luke, and still more exactly agreeing with the version given in the so-called “Gospel according to the Hebrews.”

The theory of Karman suggests several modern scientific speculations such as the idea that the brain retains an ineffaceable print of every impression received by it, and again, the extreme view of heredity which makes the individual the moral and physical slave of former generations. It is a theory which has the advantage of disposing of many riddles. Different sects have slightly varying opinions 177about the nature of the Karman: the Jainas see in this receptacle of good and evil deeds a material, though supersensual, reality with a physical basis. Each individual consists of five parts: the visible body, the vital energy thought to consist of fire, or, as we might say, of electricity, the Karman and two subliminal selves which appear to be only latent in most persons, but by which, when called into activity, the individual can transform himself, travel to distances and do other unusual things. That each man is provided with a wraith or double is an old and widely-spread belief; but in Western lore the double does not seem to be commanded by its pair: it rather moves like an unconscious, wandering photograph of him.

The Jainas have the same word for the soul and for life: gîva, and this name they bestow on the whole range of things which they consider as living: the elements, seeds, plants, animals, men, gods. One would think that the sense of personal identity would become vague in the contemplation of voyages over so vast a sea of being, but, on the contrary, this identity is the one thing about which the individual seems perfectly sure. We have frequently such utterances as: “My own self is the doer and the undoer of misery and happiness; my own self is friend and foe.” A sort of void seems spread round the individual which even family affection, very strong though it has always been in India, is powerless to bridge. A lovely testimony to this affection, and at the same time an avowal of its unavailingness, is to be found in the one single exception to the Jaina 178law that the wholly virtuous man must desire nothing, not even Nirvana must he desire, much less earthly love or friendship. But he may desire to take upon him the painful illness of one of his dear kindred. It is added sadly, however, that never has such a desire been fulfilled, for one man cannot take upon him the pains of another, neither can he feel what another feels.

“Man is born alone, he dies alone, he falls alone, he rises alone. His passions, consciousness, intellect, perceptions and impressions belong to him exclusively. Another cannot save him or help him. He grows old, his hair turns white, even this dear body he must relinquish—none can stay the hour.”

Again it is written:—

“Man! thou art thy own friend, why wishest thou for a friend beyond thyself?”

The isolation of the soul with its paramount importance to its owner (that is to say, to itself) makes it obligatory to pursue its interests even at the expense of the most sacred affections. The Pagan, the Jew, the Moslem could not have been brought to yield assent to this doctrine, but it meets us continually in Catholic hagiology; for instance, St. François de Sales told Madame de Chantal that she ought, if needful, to walk into the cloister over the dead body of her son. So in a Jaina story, father, mother, wife, child, sister, brother try in vain to wrest a holy young man from his resolve to leave them. In vain the old people say: “We will do all the work if you will only come home; come, child! We will pay your debts; you need not stay longer 179than you like—only come home!” The quite admirable young man (who sets one furiously wishing for a stout birch rod) proceeds on his way unmoved. But it is remarked, “At such appeals the weak break down like old, worn-out oxen going up hill.” We prefer the weak.

Who was the first anchorite? Perhaps in very early states of society a few individuals got lost in the mountain or forest, where they lived on fruits and nuts, and then, after a long time, some of them were re-discovered, and, because they seemed so strange and mysterious after their long seclusion, they were credited with supernatural gifts. Animals do not go away alone except in the rare case of being seized with mania, or in the universal case of feeling the approach of death. The origin of hermits cannot, therefore, be explained by analogy with animals.

One can conceive that a hermit’s life may have great attractions, but scarcely that of a Jaina hermit, who is expected to employ his leisure in the most painful mortification of the flesh. Though other-worldly advantages form the great object which spurs men to choose such a lot we must not forget that this sort of life is held to confer powers which are, by no means, other-worldly. By it the Brahman becomes superior to caste, being incapable of pollution: if he wished he could drink after the most miserable Western had touched the cup.

The theory of asceticism is very much alike everywhere, and the extraordinary faculties claimed by the Jainas for their holy men are the portion, more or less, of the Indian holy man in general. These 180faculties may be briefly described as an abnormal development of the subliminal self, but that is not an adequate account of the vastness of their range. One feels often inclined to ask—without granting revelation or, indeed, the existence of an omniscient being who could give it—how does the Buddhist or Jaina acquire perfect certainty that he knows all about his own and man’s destiny? The question of authority is of primary importance in all religions: in what way does Buddhist or Jaina solve it? It is evident that scepticism based on this very ground does sometimes harass the soul of the Jaina novice: “The weak,” we are told, “when bitten by a snarling dog or annoyed by flies and gnats, will begin to say: ‘I have not seen the next world, all may end with death.’” It startles one to hear from the mouth of the devil’s advocate in an ancient Eastern homily a cry so modern, so Western:—

“Death means heaven, he longs to receive it,
But what shall I do if I don’t believe it?”[5]

5.  “Verses written in India,” p. 13.

Sir Alfred Lyall’s questioner found none to answer him, but the Jaina has an answer which, if accepted, must prove entirely satisfactory. The superlatively virtuous individual possesses an effortless certainty about the secrets of life. In a state superinduced by means which, though arduous, are at the disposal of all, the soul can view itself, read its history, past, present and to come, know the souls of others, remember what happened in former births, understand the heavenly bodies and the universe. Here is 181nothing miraculous: a veil is lifted, and hidden things become plain. It is as if a man who had cataract in both eyes underwent a successful operation—after which he sees.

The supersensual perception of Jaina, or Joghi, or Guru is much akin to the “infused knowledge” ascribed to the saints of the Thebaid. He knows—because he knows. By the devout, information derived from these persons is accepted as readily as we should accept information about radium from a qualified scientific man. The most confident of all that the information is true is he who gives it: fraud must be dismissed finally as the key to any such phenomena.

The Indian mind has grasped a great idea in referring what we call spirit to fixed laws no less than what we call matter. But in spirit it sees a force infinitely exceeding the force of matter. “The holy monk,” say the Jaina scriptures, “might reduce millions to ashes by the fire of his wrath.” Besides such tremendous powers as these he has all the minor accomplishments of the spiritualist or hypnotist: thought-reading, levitation, clairvoyance, &c., and he can always tame wild beasts. He is under strict obligations to use his powers with discretion. It is not right to make profit out of them: that man is anathema who lives by divination from dreams, diagrams, sticks, bodily changes, the cries of animals. The Jainas denounce magic not less strongly than the other religious teachers of the East. This is interesting because the reasons are lacking which are commonly held to explain the 182world-wide prejudice against magic: the Jainas do not attribute it to the agency of evil spirits, nor can their dislike of it be attributed to the professional jealousy of priests in regard to rival thaumaturgists. For the Jaina the power of magic-working lies in every one, and those who have developed their other spiritual powers have also this one at their command, but to avail themselves of it is an enormous sin. There is a weird story showing what infamies a magic-working “ascetic” may perpetrate. A monk carried off, by magical arts, all the women he met, till the king of that country trapped him in a hollow tree and had him put to death. The women were set free and returned to their husbands, except one, who refused to go back because she had fallen desperately in love with her seducer. A very wise man suggested that the monk’s bones should be pounded and mixed with milk, and then given to the woman to drink: this was done and she was cured of her passion.

Over the whole East, the report that some one was working miracles, even the most beneficent, raised both suspicion and jealousy. This was why secrecy was recommended about all such acts.

How far the belief in the extraordinary gifts of the ascetic rests on hallucination, and how far men in an artificially created abnormal condition can do things of which hypnotic manifestations are but the outer edge, it is not my purpose to inquire. The Jaina monks are said sometimes to fast for four days, and no doubt the stimulus of starvation (especially when the brain has not been weakened by long disease), produces an ecstatic state which men 183have everywhere supposed to indicate religious perfection. This may be observed even in birds, which from some difficulty in swallowing, die of starvation: I had a canary that sang for days before it died a sweet incessant song, the like of which I never heard: it seemed not earthly.

The best side in Eastern religions is not their thaumaturgy but the steady ethical tendency which pushes itself up out of the jungle of extravagance and self-delusion. Though we may not have much sympathy with the profession of a “houseless” saint, it is impossible to deny the moral elevation of such a picture of him as is drawn in the Jaina conversion story of “The True Sacrifice.” A holy man, born in the highest Brahmanical caste, but who had found wisdom in Jaina vows, went on a long journey and walked and walked till he came to Benares, where he found a very learned Brahman who was deeply versed in astronomy and in the Vedas. When the “Houseless” arrived, the priest was about to offer up sacrifice, and perhaps because he did not wish to be disturbed at such a moment, he told him rudely to go away—he would have no beggars there. The holy man was not angry; he had not come to extort food or water, but from the pure desire to save souls. He quietly told the priest that he was ignorant of the essence of the Vedas, of the true meaning of sacrifice, of the government of the heavenly bodies. There must have been a peculiar effluence of sanctity flowing from the “Houseless” as the priest took his rebukes with meekness, and merely asked for enlightenment. Then the seer delivered his message. It is not the 184tonsure that makes the priest or repetition of the sacred syllable om that makes the saint. It is not by dwelling in woods or by wearing clothes of bark or grass that salvation may be reached. Equanimity, chastity, knowledge, and penance are the ways to holiness. His actions alone colour a man’s soul: as his works are, so is he. Persuaded of the truth, the priest addressed the “Houseless” as the truest of sacrificers, the most learned of all who know the Vedas, the inspired exponent of Brahmanhood, and begged him to accept his alms. But the mendicant refused: he only conjured the priest out of pity for his own soul to join the order of the “Houseless.” After having been rightly schooled in Jaina precepts, the Brahman followed his advice, and in due time he became a very great saint like his instructor.

As the Jaina scriptures are in effect a manual of discipline for monks, it is natural that they should be severe on womankind. Not that a woman’s soul is worth less than a man’s or, rather, since spirit is sexless, the distinction does not exist. A woman may be as good a saint as a man; a nun may be as meritorious as a monk. The identity of mysticism independent of creed was never more apparent than in the beautiful saying of a Jaina nun: “As a bird dislikes the cage, so do I dislike the world,” which might have been uttered by any of the self-consumed spirits of the Latin Church from St. Teresa downwards. I have never come across an allusion to being born again as a woman as a punishment. But though the fullest potentiality of merit is allowed to woman in the abstract, the Eternal Feminine is 185looked upon in the concrete as man’s worst snare. “Women are the greatest temptation in the world.” The Jaina books are Counsels of Perfection and not a Decalogue framed for common humanity: they give one the idea of being intended for preternaturally good people, and never more so than in the manner in which they treat the dreadful snares and temptations for which women are answerable: instead of a Venusberg, we are shown—the domestic hearth! The story in question might be called “The Woes of the Model Husband!” A girl who vowed that she would do anything rather than be parted from the dear object of her affections, has no sooner settled the matter once for all by marriage than she begins to scold and trample on the poor man’s head. Her spouse is sent on a thousand errands, not one moment can he call his own. Countless are the lady’s wants and her commands keep pace with them: “Do look for the bodkin; go and get some fruit; bring wood to cook the vegetables; why don’t you come and rub my back instead of standing there doing nothing? Are my clothes all right? Where is the scent-bottle? I want the hair-dresser. Where is my basket to put my things in? And my trinkets? There, I want my shoes and my umbrella. Bring me my comb and the ribbon to tie up my hair. Get the looking-glass and a tooth-brush. I must have a needle and thread. You really ought to look after the stores, the rainy season will be here in no time.” These and many more are the young wife’s behests, the appalling list of which might well intimidate those about to marry, but there is worse to come. 186When “the joy of their lives, the crown of their wedded bliss” arrives in the shape of a baby, it is the unfortunate husband who is set to mind it: he has to get up in the night to sing lullabies to it “just as if he were a nurserymaid,” and ashamed though he is of such a humiliation, he is actually put to wash the baby-linen! “All this has been done by many men who for the sake of pleasure have stooped so low; they become the equals of slaves, animals, beasts of burden, mere nobodies.” Would not most readers take this for a quotation from one of Ibsen’s plays rather than from a sacred volume which was composed a considerable time before the beginning of our era?

The Indian pessimist is withheld from suicide by the dread of a worse existence beyond the pyre. He is the coward of conscience to a much greater extent than the weary Occidental, because his sense of the unseen is so much stronger. In the Jaina system, however, suicide is permitted under certain circumstances. After twelve years of rigorous penance a man is allowed the supreme favour of “a religious death”—in other words, he may commit suicide by starvation. This is called Itvara. The civilised Indian does not seem to have the power of dying when he pleases without the assistance of starvation which is possessed by some of the higher savage races.

The soul may be re-born in any earthly form from the lowest to the highest, but there are other possibilities before it when it leaves its mortal coil. Those who are very bad, too bad to disgrace the earth 187again—above all, the cruel—are consigned to an Inferno more awful than Dante’s, though not without points of striking resemblance to it. The very good who abounded in charity and in truth, but who yet lived in the world the life of the world, become gods, glorified beings enjoying a great measure of happiness and power, but not eternal. Far beyond the joys of this heaven, which are still thinkable, is the unthinkable bliss of the Perfect, of the Conquerors, of the Changeless. The human mind could not adjust the idea of evolution more scientifically to the soul’s destiny.

It is unnecessary to say that the number who become even gods is very small. A great deal is achieved if a man is simply born again as a man, for though Jaina and Buddhist thinks that man’s lot is wretched (or, at least that it ought to be when we consider its inherent evils), yet it must be distinctly remembered that he thinks the life of beasts far more wretched. Leopardi’s “Song of the Nomadic Shepherd in Asia,” in which he makes the world-weary shepherd envy the fate of his sheep, is steeped in Western not in Eastern pessimism: only in the last lines, which really contradict the rest, we find the true Eastern note:—

“Perchance in every form
That Nature may on everything bestow
The day of birth brings everlasting woe.”

The Indian seems never to be struck by what to us seems (perhaps in error, but I hope not) the inconscient joy of creatures, nor yet that of children. 188He is constantly sure that all creation groaneth and travaileth. Nothing is young in Asia, all is very old. Every one is tired. In our minds thoughtless joy is connected with innocency, and in these Indian creeds there is no innocency as there is no effortless All-Good. Perfection is the result of labour. No other religious teacher spoke of little children as Christ did—Christ, whose incomprehensible followers were one day to consign the larger part of them, as a favour, “to the easiest room in hell.” Ardently as children are desired and lovingly as they are treated in the East, something essential to the charm of childhood eludes the Oriental perception of it.

In the sacred books of those Indian communities which concern themselves most about animals, they are very rarely shown in an attractive light. The horse, almost alone, is spoken of with genuine admiration; for instance, there is this simile: “As the trained Kambôga steed whom no noise frightens, exceeds all other horses in speed, so a very learned monk is superior to all others.” An elephant is extolled for having knelt down before a holy recluse though only newly tamed, and we hear that Mahavira’s words were understood by all animals. Folk-lore tells much that scriptures do not tell, and if we had a collection of Jaina folk-lore we should find, no doubt, records of charming friendships between beasts and saints, but in the Jaina sacred books pity, not love, is the feeling shown towards animals.

India Museum.

As a rule, Indian philosophical writers shirk the question of how far the soul which was and may 189be again a man’s retains its consciousness during its residence in lower forms. Probably the answer, were it given, would be: “Not very far,” but the higher animals are credited with a fuller share of reflection than in the West. Hence it is preferable to assume the shape of one of the higher than of one of the lower organisms, but still it is far better to be re-born as the lowest of men than as the highest of animals.

If it is something to be re-born as a man at all, it is a great deal to be re-born as a fortunate man, healthy, wealthy, and surrounded by troops of friends: at least, to the simple-minded such a prospect must appear to hold out a very splendid hope. It is remarkable what good care the framers of the intensely ascetic Jaina faith took of people who could not pretend to walk in the path of the elect. The mere “householder” (so called to distinguish him from the more admirable “Houseless”) has the promise of an ample recompense if he is only truthful, and humane, and liberal in alms-giving and temple-building. He may win very great promotion on earth or even a place in the Jaina heaven, the abode of light, where happy beings live long and enjoy great power and energy, and never grow old. Such a state agrees with the logical evolution of a virtuous but still this-worldly man. Could he aspire sincerely to a more spiritual state, and can the soul outsoar its own aspirations? The Jaina heaven is not eternal, but does every one wish for eternity? Most people wish for ten or fifteen years of tolerable freedom from care on this side of the grave. If they 190knew for certain that they were going to enjoy one thousand years of heaven, they would not think much of what would happen at the end of that time.

There remain the pure and separated spirits who in this present life have climbed beyond the plane of mortality. They are in the world, not of it, and they, indeed, “have a glimpse of incomprehensibles and thoughts of things which thoughts but tenderly touch.” For these, the Jaina, like the Buddhist, keeps Nirvana.

The extreme reticence of Buddha and even of Buddhist commentators on the inner significance of this word—meaning literally “liberation”—is not observed by the Jainas, though it must not be inferred that there was any doctrinal difference of it in the view taken by the two sects. The Jainas show a great anxiety to tell what Nirvana is; if they fail it is because it baffles all description. They repudiate the idea that it signified annihilation, but admit that the subject oversteps the bounds of the thinkable. “The liberated soul perceives and knows, but there is no analogy by which to describe it—without body, re-birth, sex, dimensions.” We think of the wonderful lines in the Helena of Euripides:—

“... the mind
Of the dead lives not, but immortal sense
When to immortal ether gone, possesses;”

lines which, like not a few others in Euripides, seem to reflect a light not cast from Grecian skies.

Like every stage in the history of the life-soul (giva) Nirvana is governed by an immutable law of 191evolution. When all the dross is eliminated only pure spirit is left: a distilled essence not only indestructible, for spirit is always indestructible, but also changeless. All the rest dies, which means that it changes, that it is re-born: this part can die no more, and hence can be born no more. It has gained the liberty of which the soul goes seeking in the Dantesque sense. It has gained safety, rest, peace.

How familiar the words sound! Here am I in Asia, and I could dream myself back under the roof of the village church where generations of simple folk had sought a rest-cure for their minds: where I, too, first listened to those words safety, rest, peace, with the strange home-sickness they awaken in young children or in the very old who have preserved their childhood’s faith. There are words that, by collecting round them inarticulate longings and indefinite associations, finally leave the order of language and enter that of music; they evoke an emotion, not an idea. The emotions which sway the human heart are few, and they are very much alike. The self-same word-music transports the English child to the happy land, far, far away, and the Indian mystic to Nirvana.

Almost everything which the Jainas say of Nirvana might have been said by any follower of any spiritual religion who attempted to suggest a place of final beatitude. “There is a safe place in view of all, but hard to approach, where there is no old age, nor death, nor pain, nor disease. This place which is in view of all is called Nirvana or freedom from pain, 192or it is called perfection; it is the safe, happy, quiet place. It is the eternal haven which is in view of all, but is difficult to approach.”

Nirvana is the getting-well of the soul. “He will put away all the misery which always afflicts mankind; as it were, recovered from a long illness, he becomes infinitely happy and obtains the final aim.”

We are told that the Buddhas that were and the Buddhas that will be, have peace for their foundation, even as all things have the earth for their foundation. (The term Buddha, or “Enlightened,” is used by Jainas as well as by Buddhists for super-excellent beings.)

Nirvana may or rather must be possessed before the death of the visible body: it must be obtained by the living if it is to be enjoyed by the dead. Detachment from the world, self-denial, selflessness, help the soul on its way, but the two moral qualities which are absolutely essential are kindness and veracity. Ruth and truth are written over the portals of eternity. “He should cease to injure living things whether they move or not, on high, below or on earth, for this has been called Nirvana, which consists in peace.” “A sage setting out for Nirvana should not speak untruth: this rule comprises Nirvana and the whole of carefulness.”

If a novice does anything wrong, he should never deny it: if he has not done it he should say, “I have not done it.” A lie must never be told—“not even in jest or in anger.” Were there nothing else of good in Jaina discipline this devotion to truth would place it high on mankind’s mountain.

Photo in India Museum.
(Southern India.)

193The law of Ahimsa, “non-killing,” which stands at the head of the precepts of both Buddhist and Jaina, is not only far more rigidly observed by the Jaina, but also invested by him with a greater positive as well as relative value. One might say that with the Buddhists it is more a philosophic deduction, with the Jainas more a moral necessity. The position of Buddhists in this matter of Ahimsa is one of compromise. There never was a Buddhist who did not think cruelty to animals an abominable sin, there is no compromise on that point, but, in respect to animal food, the usual Buddhist layman is not really more strict than any very humane person in the West; he abjures sport, he will not kill animals himself, but he does not refuse to eat meat if it is set before him. The Buddhists declare that the Lord Buddha was prayed to forbid animal food absolutely, but he would not. It is argued that in the flesh itself, when the life is gone from it, there is nothing particularly sacred: therefore it is permissible to sustain life on it. Your servants may buy meat ready for sale in the market: it would be there just the same if you did not send to buy it, but you ought not to tell them to give an order for some sort of meat which is not on sale; still less should you incite people to snare or shoot wild animals for your table. The Buddhists of to-day say with the opponents to vegetarianism in Europe, that total abstention from the flesh of animals would lead to the disappearance of the chief part of them; though it might be answered that sheep would still be wanted for their wool, goats and cows for their 194milk, oxen for ploughing. But a harder question is, What would happen to these animals when they grew old? The Jainas seek to settle this crux by building hospitals for them, but the result has been indifferently encouraging.

In Siam even monks are allowed animal food within certain limits, but as a rule what I have said of the Buddhist view of Ahimsa does not apply to the religious, who leans to the strictest Jaina principle of having nothing to do with shedding blood on any pretence. The Buddhist monks in China teach the virtue of “fang sheng” (“life-saving”) by object-lessons in the shape of tanks built near the convents to which people bring tortoises, fishes and snakes to save them from death, and the monks also keep homes for starving or lost animals. Favoured European visitors are invited to witness the custom of feeding the wild birds before the morning meal is served: the brothers sit silently at the refectory-table with their bowls of rice and vegetables in front of them, but none begins to eat till one brother rises, after a sort of grace has been said, and goes to the door with a little rice in his hands which he places on a low stone pillar. All the birds are waiting on the roofs and fly down delighted to partake of their breakfast.

Fra Odoric, the Venetian Franciscan who dictated an account of his travels in 1330, describes a convent scene which was shown to him as a most interesting thing, so that when he went home he might say that he had seen “this strange sight or novelty.” To win the consent of the monks his native friend, 195who acted as cicerone, informed them that this Raban Francus, this religious “Frenchman” (Europeans were all “Frenchmen”) was going to the city of Cambaleth to pray for the life of the great Can. Thus recommended he was admitted, and the “religious man” with whom they had spoken “took two great basketsful of broken relics which remained on the table and led me into a little walled park, the door whereof he unlocked with his key, and there appeared unto us a pleasant fair green plot, into the which we entered. In the said green stands a little mount in form of a steeple, replenished with fragrant herbs and fine shady trees. And while we stood there, he took a cymbal or bell and rang therewith, as they use to ring to dinner or bevoir in cloisters, at the sound thereof many creatures of divers kinds came down from the mount, some like apes, some like cats, some like monkeys, and some having faces like men. And while I stood beholding of them, they gathered themselves together about him, to the number of 4,200 of these creatures, putting themselves in good order, before whom he set a platter and gave them the said fragments to eat. And when they had eaten he rang upon his cymbal a second time and they all returned to their former places. Then, wondering greatly at the matter, I demanded what kind of creatures those might be. They are (quoth he) the souls of noble men which we do here feed for the love of God who governeth the world, and as a man was honourable or noble in this life, so his soul after death entereth the body of some excellent beast or other, but the souls of simple and rustical people 196do possess the bodies of more vile and brutish creatures.”

Odoric’s informant was in error if he really said that distinctions of rank influenced the soul’s destiny, as this is no Buddhist doctrine. The charming description of the “strange sight or novelty” was imitated by Mandeville, who adds, with a sympathetic tolerance which is very characteristic of him, that the monks were “good religious men after their faith and law.”

That the stricter was also the more primitive Buddhist rule seems probable, and it may be that Buddha’s alleged defence of meat-eating was an invention meant to cover later latitudinarianism. Nevertheless, Ahimsa was, from the first, a more integral part of the Jaina religion than of the Buddhist. The true keynote of either faith can be detected in their respective conversion stories. In all outbursts of religious revivalism (of which nature both Buddhism and Jainism largely partook) the moment of conversion is the hinge on which everything turns.

In the Buddhist story, a young prince, born on the steps of the throne, nursed in luxury and happily wedded, sees consecutively a broken-down old man, a man with a deadly disease, and a decomposing corpse. These dreadful and common realities were brought home to his mind with intolerable force. We seem to hear the despairing cry of R. L. Stevenson: “Who would find heart to begin to live if he dallied with the consideration of death”? We live because we drug ourselves with the waters of a new 197Lethe which make us forget future as well as past. Sakya Muni could not forget what he had seen or the lesson which it taught: the rest of his life was devoted to freeing himself and others from being endlessly subject to a like doom.

Now let us recall the Jaina conversion story. The son of a powerful king was on his way to marry a beautiful princess. At a certain place he saw a great many animals in cages and enclosures looking frightened and miserable. He asked his charioteer why all those animals which desired to be free and happy were penned up in cages and enclosures? The charioteer replied that they were not to be pitied, they were “lucky animals” which were to furnish a feast for a great multitude at His Highness’s wedding. (This is the very thing that an English poor man would have said.) Full of compassion, the future “saviour of the world” reflected: “If for my sake all these living creatures are killed, how shall I obtain happiness in another world?” Then and there he renounces the pomps and vanities of human existence, and he means it, too. The poor little bride, forsaken in this life, and not much comforted by promised compensation in the next, “not knowing what she could do,” cuts off her pretty hair and goes to a nunnery. In time she becomes a model of perfection, and many of her kindred and servants are persuaded by her to join the order.

In this story the revulsion is caused by pity, not by loathing. The instant he sees these poor animals, the kind-hearted prince feels sorry for them; then comes that unlucky word “lucky” which to the man of 198ignorance seems to be so particularly appropriate; it jars on Mahavira’s nerves as it would on the nerves of any sensitive or refined person. Nothing moves men to tears or laughter so surely as the antithetical shock of the incongruous. A rush of emotion overpowers Mahavira: he will not be happy at the cost of so much misery; he would become odious in his own sight. So he renounces all for the eternity of one moment of self-approving joy.

The Jainas carefully exclude every excuse for taking animal life: none is valid. Animals must not be killed for offering up in sacrifice, not for their skin, flesh, tail feathers, brush, horns, tusks, sinews, bones. They must not be killed with a purpose or without a purpose. If we have been wounded by them, or fear to be wounded by them, or if they eat our flesh or drink our blood, still we should not only bear it, but also feel no anger. “This is the quintessence of wisdom, not to kill anything whatever: know this to be the legitimate conclusion from the principle of reciprocity.”

No one denies that the principle of reciprocity is the basis of all morality, and by extending it from men to sentient things, the Jainas have safeguarded their doctrine of Ahimsa with a stronger wall of defence than any built on the fantastic fear of devouring one’s ancestors. Nor can it be said of the Jainas that to a superstitious repugnance to taking life they join indifference to causing suffering: inflicting suffering is hardly distinguished from inflicting death. “All breathing, existing, living, sentient creatures should not be slain nor treated with violence, nor 199abused, nor tormented, nor driven away. This is the pure unchangeable law.” “Indifferent to worldly objects, a man should wander about treating all the creatures in the world as he himself would be treated.”

Perhaps the most remarkable of Jaina stories is a real masterpiece of wit and wisdom in which this theory of reciprocity is enforced. For the whole of it I must refer the reader to Professor Jacobi’s translation; I can only give the leading points. Once upon a time three hundred and sixty-three philosophers, representing a similar number of philosophical schools, and differing in character, opinions, taste, undertakings and plans, stood round in a large circle, each one in his place. They discussed their various views, and at last one man took a vessel full of red-hot coals which he held at a distance from him with a pair of tongs. “Now, you philosophers,” said he, “just take this for a moment and hold it in your hands. No trickery, if you please; you are not to hold it with the tongs or to put the fire out. Fair and honest!”

With extreme unanimity the three hundred and sixty-two drew back their hands as fast as they could. Then the speaker continued: “How is this, philosophers; what are you doing with your hands?” “They will be burnt,” said the others. “And what does it matter if they are burnt?” “But it would hurt us dreadfully.” “So you do not want to suffer pain?” Well, this is the case with all animals. This maxim applies to every creature, this principle, this religious reflection, holds good of all living things. Therefore 200those religious teachers who say that all sorts of living things may be beaten or ill-treated, or tormented, or deprived of life will, in time, suffer in the same way themselves, and have to undergo the whole round of the scale of earthly existence. They will be whirled round, put in irons, see their mothers, fathers, children die, have bad luck, poverty, the society of people they detest, separation from those they love, “they will again wander distraught in the beginningless and endless wilderness.”

Like a true orator the Jaina member of this early Congress of Religions, who has drifted from irony to fierce denunciation, does not leave his hearers with these visions of terror, but with the consoling promise to the merciful of everlasting beatitude.

Reliefs on two gold cups found at Vapheio.
(From Schuckhardt’s “Schliemann’s Excavations.” By permission of Messrs. Macmillan & Co., Ltd.)



THE Adi Granth, or sacred Book of the Sikhs of the Punjab, was composed by the founder of their religion and their nationality, Baba Nanak (b. 1469), who abolished caste and idolatry, and established a pure monotheism. A striking incident at the Coronation Durbar was the arrival of the Sikh mission in charge of the Adi Granth, which was brought on a pilgrimage from its shrine in the exquisitely beautiful golden temple at Amritsar to the tomb of the disciple of Nanak, who, before suffering martyrdom at Delhi during the Mogul Empire, prophesied the advent of a fair race destined to sweep the Mogul power to the winds. I take these few sentences to show the essential continuity of Indian thought about animals. In the faith of Nanak none remains of the particular tenets of Buddhism or Jainism or Hinduism, but the animal is still inside, not outside, the pale of what may be called Pan-humanity: the whole family of earth-born creatures.


Say not that this or that distasteful is,
In all the dear Lord dwells,—they all are His
202Grieve not the humblest heart; all hearts that are,
Are priceless jewels, all are rubies rare.
Ah! If thou long’st for thy Beloved, restrain
One angry word that gives thy brother pain.


All creatures, Lord, are Thine, and Thou art theirs,
One bond Creator with created shares;
To whom, O Maker! must they turn and weep
If not to Thee their Lord, who dost all keep?
All living creatures, Lord, were made by Thee,
Where Thou hast fixed their station, there they be.
For them Thou dost prepare their daily bread,
Out of Thy loving-kindness they are fed;
On each the bounties of Thy mercy fall,
And Thy compassion reaches to them all.


One understanding to all flesh He gives,
Without that understanding nothing lives;
As is their understanding,—they are so;
The reckoning is the same. They come and go.
The faithful watch-dog that does all he can,
Is better far than the unprayerful man.
203Birds in their purse of silver have no store,
But them the Almighty Father watches o’er.
They say who kill, they do but what they may,
Lawful they deem the bleating lamb to slay;
When God takes down the eternal Book of Fate,
Oh, tell me what, what then will be their state?
He who towards every living thing is kind,
Ah! he, indeed, shall true religion find!


Great is the warrior who has killed within
Self,—Self which still is root and branch of sin.
“I, I,” still cries the World, and gads about,
Reft of the Word which Self has driven out.


Thou, Lord, the cage,—the parrot, see! ’Tis I!
Yama the cat: he looks and passes by.
By Yama bound my mind can never be,
I call on Him who Yama made and me.
The Lord eternal is: what should I fear?
However low I fall, He still will hear.
He tends his creatures as a mother mild
Tends with untiring love her little child.


I do not die: the world within me dies:
Now, now, the Vivifier vivifies;
Sweet is the world,—ah! very sweet it is,
But through its sweets we lose the eternal bliss!
Perpetual joy, the inviolate mansion, where
There is no grief, woe, error, sin, nor care;
Coming and going and death, enter not in;
The changeless only there an entrance win.
Whosoe’er dieth, born again must be,
Die thou whilst living, and thou wilt be free!


He, the Supreme, no limit has nor end,
And what HE is how can we comprehend?
Once did a wise man say: “He only knows
God’s nature to whom God His mercy shows.”




... “About them frisking played
All beasts of the earth, since wild, and of all chase
In wood or wilderness, forest or den;
Sporting the lion ramped, and in his paw
Dandled the kid; bears, tigers, ounces, pards,
Gambolled before them; the unwieldy elephant,
To make them mirth, used all his might, and wreathed
His lithe proboscis.”
Paradise Lost, Book IV.

THE idea of a condition of existence in which all creatures are happy and at peace implies a protest against the most patent fact of life as we see it. Western civilisation inherited from the Roman Empire the hardness of heart towards animals of which the popularity of beast-fights in the Arena was the characteristic sign. It was, however, a Roman poet who first pointed out in philosophical language that the sufferings of animals stand written in the great indictment against Nature no less than the sufferings of men. Not only man 206is born to sorrow, said Lucretius; look at the cow whose calf bleeds before some lovely temple, while she wanders disconsolate over all the fields, lowing piteously, uncomforted by the image of other calves, because her own is not.

Eighteen hundred years later Schopenhauer said that by taking a very high standard it was possible to justify the sufferings of man but not those of animals. Darwin arrived at the same conclusion. “It has been imagined,” he remarks, “that the sufferings of man tend to his moral improvement, but the number of men in the world is nothing compared with the number of other sentient beings which suffer greatly without moral improvement.” To him, the man of the religious mind whom men lightly charged with irreligion, it was “an intolerable thought” that after long ages of toil all these sentient beings were doomed to complete annihilation.

Yes, and to the young conscience of mankind this was also an intolerable thought. And since it was intolerable the human conscience in the strength of its youth shook it off, cast it aside, awoke from it as we awake from a nightmare. Religion has been regarded too exclusively as a submission to Nature. At times it is a revolt against Nature, a repudiation of what our senses report to us, an assertion that things seen are illusions, and that things unseen are real. Religion is born of Doubt. The incredibility of the Known forced man to seek refuge in the Unknown. From that far region he brought back solutions good or bad, sublime or trivial, to the manifold problems which beset man’s soul.

207A poet, doomed to early death, who looked into Nature on a summer’s day and could discern nothing but “an eternal fierce destruction,” wrote, in his despair—

“Things cannot to the will
Be settled, but they tease us out of thought.
... It is a flaw
In happiness to see beyond our bourn;
It forces us in summer skies to mourn,
It spoils the singing of the nightingale.”

But when the world was young things could be settled to the will. We are, of course, constantly regulating our impressions of phenomena by a standard of higher probability. If we see a ship upside down, we say, “This is not a ship, it is a mirage.” When the primitive man found himself face to face with seeming natural laws which offended his sense of inherent probability, he rejected the hypothesis that they were actual or permanent, and supposed them to be either untrustworthy appearances or deviations from a larger plan.

Every basic religion gave a large share of thought to animals. The merit, from a humane point of view, of the explanation of the mystery offered by the religious systems of India has been praised even to excess. In contrast to this, it was often repeated that the Hebrew religion ignored the claims of animals altogether. I wish to show that even if this charge were not open to other disproof, no people can be called indifferent to those claims which believes in a Nature Peace.

Traces of such a belief spread from the Mediterranean 208to the Pacific, from the Equator to the Pole. But the Peace is not always complete; there are reservations. In the glowing prediction of a Peace in Nature in the Atharva-Veda, vultures and jackals are excluded. Mazdeans would exclude the “bad” animals. The Hebrew Scriptures, on the other hand, declare that all species are good in the sight of their Maker. Every beast enjoyed perfect content according to the original scheme of the Creator. But man fell, and all creation was involved in the consequences of his fall.

I remember seeing at the Hague an impressive painting by a little-known Italian artist[6] which represents Adam about to take the apple from Eve while at their feet a tiger tenderly licks the wool of a lamb. Adam’s face shows that he is yielding—yielding for no better reason than that he cannot say “No”—to the beautiful woman at his side; and there, unconscious and happy, lie the innocent victims of his act: love to be turned to wrath, peace to war. The Nature Peace has been painted a hundred times, but never with such tragic significance.

6.  Cignani. A singular sixteenth-century “Nature War” may be observed in a graffito on the pavement of the Chapel of St. Catherine in the church of St. Domenico, at Siena. A nude youth, resembling Orpheus, sits on a rock in a leafy grove, in the midst of various animals; with a disturbed air he looks into a mirror at the back of which is an eye, a leopard shows his teeth at him, while a vulture screams at a monkey, and another bird snatches a surprised rabbit or squirrel; the other creatures, unicorn, wolf, eagle, display signs of uneasiness. Endeavours to read this fable have not proved satisfactory.

Photo: Bruckmann.
(By Rubens.)
Hague Gallery.

209The Miltonic Adam sees in the mute signs of Nature the forerunners of further change:—

“The bird of Jove, stooped from his airy tour,
Two birds of gayest plume before him drove;
Down from a hill the beast that reigns in woods,
First hunter then, pursued a gentle brace,
Goodliest of all the forest, hart and hind.”

In an uncanonical version of Genesis which was translated from an Armenian manuscript preserved at Venice, by my dear and sadly missed friend, Padre Giacomo Issaverdens, a still more dramatic description is given of the manner in which the Peace ended. When Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden they met a lion, which attacked Adam. “Why,” asked Adam, “do you attack me when God ordered you and all the animals to obey me?” “You disobeyed God,” replied the lion, “and we are no longer bound to obey you.” Saying which, the noble beast walked away without harming Adam. But war was declared.

War was declared, and yet the scheme of the Creator could not be for ever defeated. Man who had erred might hope—and how much more must there be hope for those creatures that had done no harm.

When the Prophets spoke of a Peace in Nature in connexion with that readjustment of the eternal scales which was meant by the coming of the Messiah, it cannot be doubted that they spoke of what was already a widely accepted tradition. But without their help we should have known nothing 210of it and we are grateful to them. Of all the radiant dreams with which man has comforted his heart, aching with realities, is there one to be compared with this? It is of the earth earthly, and that is the beauty of it. “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion together; and a little child shall lead them; the cow and the bear shall feed; and their young ones lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.”

“For behold I create new heavens and a new earth. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, saith the Lord.”

Is not this the best of promised lands, the kindest of Elysiums, which leaves none out in the cold of cruelty and hatred? The importunate questioner may inquire, How can this primal and ultimate happiness compensate for the intervening ages of pain? About this, it may be observed that in religious matters people ought not to want to know too much. This is true of the faithful and even of the unfaithful. Scientific researches in the great storehouse which contains the religions of the world are more aided by a certain reserve, a certain reverence, than by the insatiable curiosity of the scalpel. Religions sow abroad idées mères; they tell some things, others they leave untold. They take us up into an Alpine height whence we see the broad configuration of the country and lose sight of the woods and the tortuous ravines among which we so often missed the track. Now, from the Alpine 211height of faith, the idea of an original and final Nature Peace makes the intervening discord seem of no account—a false note between two harmonies.

The Nature Peace as the emblem of perfect moral beauty became nearly the first Christian idea carried out in art. I remarked a rude but striking instance of it on one of the funereal monuments which have been found lately at Carthage, belonging to a date when Christian and pagan commemorated their dead in the same manner, the former generally only adding some slight symbolical indication of his faith. In this stele Christ, carrying the lamb across His shoulders, is attended by a panther and a lion. All such primitive attempts to represent a Nature Peace are chiefly interesting (and from this point of view their interest is great) from the fact that in child-like, stammering efforts they reveal the intrinsic idiosyncrasy of Christian thought after the Church had parted from the realities of proximity with its Founder, and had not reached the realities of a body corporate striving for supremacy. Christ the Divine Effluence was the faith which made men willing to face the lions.

Doubtless many of those martyrs clung to the sublime conception of a final Peace, the complement of the first. That this was accepted as no allegory by the later spiritualised Jews, and especially by the Pharisees, seems to be a well-established fact. It is difficult to interpret in any other way the solemn statement of St. Paul, that the “whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now,” 212waiting for redemption; or the beatific vision of Josephus: “The whole Creation also will lift up a perpetual hymn ... and shall praise Him that made them together with the angels and spirits and men, now freed from all bondage.” Homines et jumenta salvabis Domine.


What was the view taken of animals by the Jewish people, apart from the fundamental ideas implied by a primordial Peace in Nature?

It was the habit of Hebrew writers to leave a good deal to the imagination; in general, they only cared to throw as much light on hidden subjects as was needful to regulate conduct. They gave precepts rather than speculations. There remain obscure points in their conception of animals, but we know how they did not conceive them: they did not look upon them as “things”; they did not feel towards them as towards automata.

After the Deluge, there was established “the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.” Evidently, you cannot make a covenant with “things.”

N. Consoni.
(Loggie di Raffaello.)

That the Jews supposed the intelligence of animals to be not extremely different from the intelligence of man is to be deduced from the story of Balaam, for it is said that God opened the mouth—not the mind—of the ass. The same story illustrates the ancient belief that animals see apparitions which are concealed from the eyes of man. The great interest 213to us, however, of the Scriptural narrative is its significance as a lesson in humanity. When the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, what did the ass say? She asks her master why he had smitten her three times? Balaam answers, with a frankness which, at least, does him credit, because he was enraged with the ass for turning aside and not minding him, and he adds (still enraged, and, strange to say, nowise surprised at the animal’s power of speech) that he only wishes he had a sword in his hand, as he would then kill her outright. How like this is to the voice of modern brutality! The ass, continuing the conversation, rejoins in words which it would be a shame to disfigure by putting them into the idiom of the twentieth century: “Am I not thine ass upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? Was I ever wont to do so unto thee?” Balaam, who has the merit, as I have noticed, of being candid, replies, “No, you never were.” Then, for the first time, the Prophet sees the angel standing in the path with a drawn sword in his hand—an awe-inspiring vision! And what are the angel’s first words to the terrified prophet who lies prostrate on his face? They are a reproof for his inhumanity. “Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times?” Then the angel tells how the poor beast he has used thus has saved her master from certain death, for had she not turned from him, he would have slain Balaam and saved her alive. “And Balaam said unto the angel of the Lord, I have sinned.”

Balaam was not a Jew; but the nationality of the 214personages in the Bible and the origin or authorship of its several parts are not questions which affect the present inquiry. The point of importance is, that the Jews believed these Scriptures to contain Divine truth.

With regard to animals having the gift of language, it appears from a remark made by Josephus that the Jews thought that all animals spoke before the Fall. In Christian folk-lore there is a superstition that animals can speak during the Christmas night: an obvious reference to their return to an unfallen state.

Solomon declares that the righteous man “regardeth the life of his beast”; a saying which is often misquoted, “merciful” being substituted for “righteous,” by which the proverb loses half its force. The Hebrew Scriptures contain two definite injunctions of humanity to animals. One is the command not to plough with the ox and the ass yoked together—in Palestine I have seen even the ass and the camel yoked together; their unequal steps cause inconvenience to both yoke-fellows and especially to the weakest. The other is the prohibition to muzzle the ox which treads out the corn: a simple humanitarian rule which it is truly surprising how any one, even after an early education in casuistry, could have interpreted as a metaphor. There are three other commands of great interest because they show how important it was thought to preserve even the mind of man from growing callous. One is the order not to kill a cow or she-goat or ewe and her young both on the same day. The second is the analogous order not to seethe the kid in its mother’s milk. 215The third refers to bird-nesting: if by chance you find a bird’s nest on a tree or on the ground and the mother bird is sitting on the eggs or on the fledglings, you are on no account to capture her when you take the eggs or the young birds (one would like bird-nesting to have been forbidden altogether, but I fear that the human boy in Syria had too much of the old Adam in him for any such law to have proved effectual!). Let the mother go, says the sacred writer, and if you must take something, take only the young ones. This command concludes in a very solemn way, for it ends with the promise (for what may seem a little act of unimportant sentiment) of the blessing promised to man for honouring his own father and mother—that it will be well with him and that his days will be long in the land.

In the law relative to the observance of the Seventh Day, not only is no point insisted on more strongly than the repose of the animals of labour, but in one of the oldest versions of the fourth commandment the repose of animals is spoken of as if it were the chief object of the Sabbath: “Six days shalt thou do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest” (Exodus xxiii. 12). Moreover, it is expressly stated of the Sabbath of the Lord, the seventh year when no work was to be done, that all which the land produces of itself is to be left to the enjoyment of the beasts that are in the land. The dominant idea was to give animals a chance—to leave something for them—to afford them some shelter, as in the creation of bird-sanctuaries in the temples.

216In promises of love and protection to man, to the Chosen People, animals are almost always included. “The heavens shall tremble: the sun and moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining” (Joel ii. 10). “Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig-tree and the vine do yield their strength. Be glad, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God” (Joel ii. 22, 23).

The wisdom of animals is continually praised. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” So said the wisest of the Jews. I am tempted to quote here a passage from the writings of Giordano Bruno: “With what understanding the ant gnaws her grain of wheat lest it should sprout in her underground habitation. The fool says this is instinct, but we say it is a species of understanding.” If Solomon did not make the same reflection, it was only because that wonderful word “instinct” had not yet been invented.

Photo: Alinari.
(Early Christian Sarcophagus at Ravenna.)

We have seen that the Jews supposed animals to be given to men for use not for abuse, and the whole of Scripture tends to the conclusion that the Creator—who had called good all the creatures of His hand—regarded none as unworthy of His providence. This view is plainly endorsed by the saying of Christ that not a sparrow falls to the ground without the will of the Father (or “not one of them is forgotten in the sight of God”), and by the saying of Mohammed, who likewise believed himself the 217continuer of Jewish tradition: “There is no beast that walks upon the earth but its provision is from God.”

But there is something more. Every one knows that the Jews were allowed to kill and eat animals. The Jewish religion makes studiously few demands on human nature. “The ways of the Lord were pleasant ways.” Since men craved for meat or, in Biblical language, since they lusted after flesh, they were at liberty to eat those animals which, in an Eastern climate, could be eaten without danger to health. But on one condition: the body they might devour—what was the body? It was earth. The soul they might not touch. The mysterious thing called life must be rendered up to the Giver of it—to God. The man who did not do this, when he killed a lamb, was a murderer. “The blood shall be imputed to him; he hath shed blood, and that man shall be cut off from among his people.”

The inclination must be resisted to dispose of this mysterious ordinance as a mere sanitary measure. It was a sanitary measure, but it was much besides. The Jews believed that every animal had a soul, a spirit, which was beyond human jurisdiction, with which they had no right to tamper. When we ask, however, what this soul, this spirit, was, we find ourselves groping in the dark. Was it material, as the soul was thought to be by the Egyptians and by the earliest doctors of the Christian Church? Was it an immaterial, impersonal, Divine essence? Was its identity permanent, or temporary? We can give no decisive answer; but we may assume with considerable 218certainty that life, spirit, whatever it was, appeared at least to the majority of the Jews to possess one nature, whether in men or in animals. When a Jew denied the immortality of the soul, he denied it both for man and for beast. “I said in my heart,” wrote the author of Ecclesiastes, “concerning the estate of the sons of men that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them; as the one dieth so the other dieth; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no pre-eminence above a beast.”

The mist which surrounds the Hebrew idea of the soul may proceed from the fact that they did not know themselves what they meant by it, or from the fact that they once knew what they meant by it so well as to render elucidation superfluous. If the teraphim represented the Lares or family dead, then the archaic Jewish idea of the soul was simple and definite. It is possible that in all later times two diametrically opposed opinions existed contemporaneously, as was the case with the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Jewish people did not feel the pressing need to dogmatise about the soul that other peoples have felt; they had one living soul which was immortal, and its name was Israel!

Still, through all ages, from the earliest times till now, the Jews have continued to hold sacred “the blood which is the life.”

In Hindu religious books, where similar ordinances are enforced, there are hints of a suspicion which, as 219I have said elsewhere, could not have been absent from the minds of Hebrew legislators—the haunting suspicion of a possible mixing-up of personality. Here we tread on the skirts of magic: a subject which belongs to starless nights.

We come back into the light of day when we glance at the relations which, according to Jewish tradition, existed between animals and their Creator. We see a beautiful interchange of gratitude on the one side and watchful care on the other. As the ass of Balaam recognised the angel, so do all animals—except man—at all times recognise their God. “But ask now the beasts and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee.... Who knoweth not of all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.”

I will only add to these words of Job a few verses taken here and there from the Psalms, which form a true anthem of our fellow-creatures of the earth and air:—

“Beasts and all cattle, creeping things and flying fowl, let them praise the name of the Lord.
He giveth to the beast his food and to the young ravens which cry.
He sendeth the springs into the valleys which run among the hills;
They give drink to every beast of the field, the wild asses quench their thirst.
By them shall the fowls of heaven have their habitation which sing among the branches:
The trees of the Lord are full of sap, the cedars of Lebanon which He hath planted,
220Where the birds make their nests; as for the stork, the fir-trees are her house.
The great hills are a refuge for the wild goats and the rocks for the conies.
Thou makest darkness, and it is night, wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth;
The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God;
The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together and lay them down in their dens.
... Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself where she may lay her young.
Even thine altars, O Lord of Hosts, my King and my God!”



A FRIEND who was spending the winter at Tunis asked me if it were true that there was any teaching of kindness to animals in the religion of Islam? She had seen with pain the little humanity practised by the lower class of Arabs, and she had difficulty in believing that such conduct was contrary to the law of the Prophet. I replied, that if men are sometimes better than their creeds, at other times they are very much worse. At the head of every chapter of the Koran, it is written: “In the name of the most merciful God.” If God be merciful, shall man be unmerciful? Alas, that the answer should have been so often “yes”!

Inhumanity to animals is against the whole spirit of the Koran, and also against that of Moslem tradition. In the “Words of Mohammed,” of which one thousand four hundred and sixty-five collections exist, and which are looked upon as “the Moslem’s dictionary of morals and manners,” the Apostle is described as saying: “Fear God in these dumb animals, and ride them when they are fit to be rode, and get off them when they are tired.” Mohammed 222was asked by his disciples: “Verily, are there rewards for our doing good to quadrupeds and giving them water to drink? “He said: “There are rewards for benefiting every animal having a moist liver” (every sentient creature). He said again: “There is no Moslem who planteth a tree or soweth a field, and man, birds or beasts eat from them, but it is a charity for him.” Like all other religious teachers, he was made by legend the central figure of a Nature Peace. He had miraculous authority over beasts as well as over man, and beasts, more directly than man, knew him to be from God. Once he was standing in the midst of a crowd when a camel came and prostrated itself before him. His companions exclaimed, “O Apostle of God! Beasts and trees worship thee, then it is meet for us to worship thee.” Mohammed replied, “Worship God, and you may honour your brother—that is, me.”

Those who know nothing else about Mohammed know the story of how he cut away his sleeve rather than awaken his cat, which was sleeping upon it. He is reported to have told how a woman was once punished for a cat: she tied it till it died of hunger—she gave that cat nothing to eat, nor did she allow it to go free, so that it might have eaten “the reptiles of the ground.” (Cats do eat lizards and snakes too, even when they have plenty of food—very bad for them it is.) Mohammed’s fondness of cats has been suggested as the reason why two or three of them usually go with the Caravan which takes the Sacred Carpet from Cairo to Mecca, but perhaps the origin of that custom is far more remote.

Royal Palace at Delhi.
(Imitated from a painting by Raphael.)

223In the words of Mohammed there is this beautiful version of the “Sultan Murad” cycle: an adulteress was passing by a well when she saw a dog which was holding out its tongue from the thirst which was killing him. The woman drew off her shoe and tied it to the end of her garment; then she drew up water and gave the dog to drink. The dog fawned on her and licked her hands. Now the Sultan was passing that way, and he saw the woman and the dog and inquired into the matter. When he had heard all, he told the guards to undo her chain and give her back her veil and lead her to her own home.

On one occasion the Prophet met a man who had a nest of young doves, and the mother fluttered after and even down about the head of him that held it. The Prophet told him to put the nest back where he found it, for this wondrous love comes from God.

The verse which gives the keynote to Moslem ideas about animals occurs in the sixth chapter of the Koran, and runs thus: “There is no beast on earth nor bird which flieth with its wings but the same is a people like unto you, we have not omitted anything in the Book of our decrees; then unto their Lord shall they return.” In other texts where the word “creatures” is used there is a strong presumption that animals, as well as men, genii and angels, are included; as, for instance, “unto Him do all creatures which are in heaven and earth make petition,” and again, “all God’s creatures are His family, and he is the most beloved of God who trieth 224to do the most good to God’s creatures”—which is almost word for word—

“He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.”

The common grace after eating is “Praise be to the Lord of all creatures!” Moslem hunters and butchers have the custom, called the Hallal, of pronouncing a formula of excuse (Bi’sm-illah!) before slaying any animal. The author of “Malay Magic” mentions, that if a Malay takes a tiger in a pitfall, the Pawang, or medicine-man, has to explain to the quarry that it was not he that laid the snare but the Prophet Mohammed.

By orthodox Moslem law hunting was allowed, provided it was for some definite end or necessity. It was legitimate to hunt for food, or for clothing, as when the skin was the object. Dangerous wild beasts, the incompatible neighbours of all but saints, might be hunted to protect the more precious lives of men. Beyond this, from an orthodox point of view, hunting was regarded as indefensible. Such was the rule, and there is no greater mistake than to undervalue the moral standard because every one does not attain to it. Perhaps few Moslems keep this rule rigidly, but it is true now as it was when Lane wrote on the subject, that a good Moslem who hunts for amusement does not seek to prolong the chase: he tries to take the game as quickly as he can, and if it is not dead when taken, it is instantly killed by having its throat cut. Such amusements 225as shooting pigeons, or the unspeakable abomination of firing at wild birds from ships, which makes certain tourist steamers a curse in the Arctic regions, would inspire even the not too orthodox Moslem with profound disgust.

There were some Moslems who went far beyond the law—for whom taking life, when the fact of doing so came rudely before them, was a thing revolting in itself. Such sensibility was manifest in the Persian poets, and it has been attributed to their inherited Zoroastrian tendencies; but to think this is to misunderstand the groundwork of Mazdean humane teaching, which was not based on sensitiveness about taking life. Such sensitiveness is rarely found, except among Aryan races, and Zoroastrianism, though it spread among an Aryan people, was not an Aryan religion. It is more likely to be true that the Persian peculiar tenderness for animals was an atavistic revival of the old Aryan temperament. Renan said that Sufism was a racial Aryan reaction against l’effroyable simplicité de l’esprit sémitique. Sensitiveness about animals was a necessary ingredient, so to speak, of Sufism. Sadi, the Sufic poet par excellence, poured blessings on the departed spirit of Firdusi for the couplet which Sir William Jones translated so well and loved so much:—

“Ah, spare yon emmet, rich in hoarded grain;
He lives with pleasure, and he dies with pain.”

That birds and many, if not all, animals have a language by which they can interchange their 226thoughts is a belief shared by Moslems, both learned and ignorant. The Koran says that the language of birds was understood by Solomon, and folk-lore gives many other persons credit for the same accomplishment. A person believed to have such powers could turn the belief, if not the powers, to uses both good and bad. An Arabian tale relates how a pleasure-loving Persian king summoned a Maubadz, a head Magian, to tell him what two owls were chattering about. The Maubadz told with considerable detail the plan which the female owl was unfolding to the male owl, of how each of their future numerous offspring might be set up in life as sole possessor of a forsaken village, if only the present “fortunate king” lived long enough. The monarch understood the rebuke, and resolved to mend his ways, and to encourage tillage and agriculture, instead of devoting himself to idle pastimes.


Bird-trills mean sentences or words, chiefly religious. The pigeon cries continually, “Alláh! Alláh!” The common dove executes this long sentence: “Assert the unity of your Lord who created you, so will He forgive you your sin.” There was a parrot who could repeat the whole Koran by heart and could never be put out so as to make mistakes. I knew of an old priest who repeated the Divina Commedia from the first line to the last, and the knowledge of the whole of the Iliad was common in ancient Athens, where people were laughed at who gave themselves the airs of scholars on the ground of such feats of memory. But in the bird-world the Moslem parrot surely 227stands alone, though we hear of a pious raven who could say correctly the thirty-second chapter and who always made the proper prostration when it came to the words: “My body prostrateth itself before Thee, and my heart confideth in Thee.”

The chapter of the Koran entitled “the Ant” is full of charming zoology. God bestowed knowledge on David and Solomon, and Solomon, who was “David’s heir,” said to the people: “O men, we have been taught the speech of birds, and have had all things bestowed on us: this is manifest excellence.” The armies of Solomon consisted of men and genii and birds: they were arrayed in proper order on an immense carpet of green silk: the men were placed to the right, the genii to the left, and the birds flew overhead, making a canopy of shade from the burning rays of the sun. Solomon sat in the middle on his throne, and when it was desired to move, the wind transported the carpet with all on it from one place to another. This account, however, is not in the Koran, and need not be believed. But that the armies were of the three species of beings we have the highest authority for asserting. They arrived, one day, in the Valley of Ants. A sentinel ant beheld the approaching host and called to her companions to hasten into their habitations for fear that Solomon and his armies should crush them underfoot without perceiving it. This made Solomon smile, but while he laughed at her words, he yet remembered to thank the Lord for the favour wherewith He had favoured him: the privilege of knowing the language 228of beasts. After blessing God, and praying that in the end He would take him into paradise among His righteous servants, the king looked around at his feathered army and lo! he missed the lapwing. Some say that the reason why he noticed her absence was because in that place water was lacking for the ablution, and, as every one knows, the lapwing is the water-finder. Be that as it may (it is not stated in the Koran), he cried in displeasure: “What is the reason I do not see the lapwing? Is she absent? Verily I will chastise her with a severe punishment, or I will put her to death unless she bring me a just excuse.” Not long did he have to wait before the lapwing appeared, nor was the just excuse wanting. She had seen a country which the king had not seen, and she brought hence a remarkable piece of news. In the land of Saba (Sheba) a woman reigned who received all the honour due to a great prince. She had a magnificent throne of gold and silver; she and her people worshipped the Sun besides God. Satan, added the lapwing, becoming controversial, had turned them away from the truth lest they should worship the true God, from whom nothing is hid. And then this little bird of a story like a fairy-tale ends her discourse with one of those sharp, sudden, antithetical organ-blasts which again and again lift the mind of the reader of the Koran into the highest regions of poetry and religion: “God! there is no God but He; the Lord of the Magnificent Throne!” What wonderful art there is in the repetition of the words which had 229been applied just before to earthly splendour! The effect is the same as that of the words in Arabic which we see carved at every turn in the splendid halls of the Alhambra: “God only is conqueror.” What is the splendour or the power of earthly kings?

The story resumes its course. Solomon tells the lapwing that they will see, by and by, if she has told the truth or is a liar. He writes a letter (which tradition says was perfumed with musk and sealed with the king’s signet), and he commands the bird to take it to the land of Saba. Some say that the lapwing delivered the letter by throwing it into the queen’s bosom as she sat surrounded by her army; others that she brought it to her through an open window when she was sitting in her chamber: at any rate, it reached its destination, and the lapwing’s character was completely rehabilitated. With regard to Queen Balkis, the Bible, the Koran, and the Emperor Menelek may be consulted.

One of the beasts most esteemed by Moslems, one of those who, with Balaam’s ass, Jonah’s whale, Abraham’s ram, Solomon’s ant, and several other favourite animals, are known to have been admitted into the highest heaven, is the dog in the Moslem version of the “Seven Sleepers of Ephesus,” the legend of the seven young men who hid in a cave and slept safely through a long period of persecution. The dog has a Divine command to say to the young men, “I love those who are dear to God, and I will guard you.” He lay stretched across the mouth 230of the cave during the whole time that the persecution lasted. Moslems say of a very avaricious man, “He would not give a bone to the dog of the Seven Sleepers.” The dog’s name was Katmîr (though some said it was Al Rakîm), and people wrote it as a talisman on important letters sent to a distance or oversea, to make sure of their arriving safely: it was like registration without the fee. He appears to have slept, as did his masters, while he guarded the entrance to the cave: the protection which he afforded must be attributed to his supernatural gifts as a devil-scarer rather than to the watch he kept. Dogs were believed to see “things invisible to us”—i.e., demons. If a dog barks in the night the Faithful ask God’s aid against Satan. The cock is also a devil-scarer and sees angels as well as demons: when he crows it is a sign that he has just seen one.

Sometimes genii take the form of certain animals such as cats, dogs, and serpents (animals which are not eaten). If a man would kill one of the animals in which genii often appear, he must first warn the genii to vacate its form. This means that there is a greater prejudice against taking the life of such animals than in the case of animals slaughtered for food, when it is sufficient (though necessary) to say “If it pleases God.” While non-mystical Moslems did not respect life as such, nevertheless they realised the great scientific truth that life is the supreme mystery. “The idols ye invoke besides God,” says the Koran, “can never create a single fly although they were all assembled for that purpose, and if the fly snatch 231anything from them” (such as offerings of honey) “they cannot recover the same from it.” Moslems are fond of the legend from the Gospel of the Infancy of how the Child Jesus, when He and other children were playing at making clay sparrows, breathed on the birds made by Him and they flew away or hopped on His hands. The parents of the other children forbade them to play any more with the Holy Child, whom they thought to be a sorcerer. That the Jews really imagined the unusual things done by Christ to be magic-working, and that this belief entered more into their wish to compass His death than is commonly supposed, a knowledge of Eastern ideas on magic inclines one to think. Moslems readily admit the truth of the miracle of the sparrows as of the other miracles of Jesus; they add, however, that life came into the clay figures “by permission of God.”

Towards the end of the world, animals will speak with human language. Before this happens will have come to pass the reign of the “Rooh Allah,” the Spirit of God, as all Moslems call Christ. It is told that He will descend near the White Tower east of Damascus and will remain on earth for forty (or for twenty-four) years, during which period malice and hatred will be laid aside and peace and plenty will rejoice the hearts of men. While Jesus reigns, lions and camels and bears and sheep will live in amity and a child will play with serpents unhurt.

A kind of perpetual local Nature Peace prevails at Mecca; no animals are allowed to be slaughtered within a certain distance of the sacred precinct. It 232should be noted also that pilgrims are severely prohibited from hunting; the wording of the verse in the Koran which establishes this rule seems to imply the possibility that wild animals themselves are doing the pilgrimage; hence they must be held sacred.

The law forbidding Moslems to eat the flesh of swine was copied from the Jewish ordinance, without doubt from the conviction that it was unwholesome. Those who were driven by extreme hunger to eat of it were not branded as unclean. There is a curious Indian folk-tale which gives an account of why swine-flesh was forbidden. At the beginning Allah restrained man from eating any animals but those which died a natural death. As they did not die as quickly as they wished, men began to hasten their deaths by striking them and throwing stones at them. The animals complained to Allah, who sent Gabriel to order all the men and all the animals to assemble so that He might decide the case. But the obstinate pig did not come. So Allah said: “The pigs, the lowest of animals, are disobedient; let no one eat them or touch them.” There is no record whatever of the pigs having signed a protest.

It is by no means clear when the prejudice against dogs took hold of the Moslem mind. At first their presence was even tolerated inside the Mosque, and the report that the Prophet ordered all the dogs at Medina to be killed, especially those of a dark colour, is certainly a fable. The Caliph Abu Djafar al Mausur asked a learned man this very question: why dogs were treated with scorn? The learned man was so worthy of that description that he had 233the courage to say he did not know. “Tradition said so.” The Caliph suggested that it might be because dogs bark at guests and at beggars. There is a modern saying that angels never go into a house where there is a dog or an image. Still, the ordinary kindness of the Turks to the pariah dogs at Constantinople, where the beggar shares his last crust with them, shows that the feeling belongs more to philology than to nature. The pariah dog is the type of the despised outcast, but when a European throws poisoned bread to him the act is not admired by the Moslem more than it deserves to be.

Several savants have thought that the dog is scorned by Moslems because he was revered by Mazdeans; that he suffered indignity at the hands of the new believers as a protest against the excess of honour he had received from the old. This theory, though ingenious, does not seem to be borne out by facts. The comparisons of the qualities of the good dervish and the dog, which is a sort of vade mecum of dervishes everywhere, was almost certainly suggested by the “Eight Characteristics” of the dog in the Avesta. It is singular that the dog gets far better treatment in the Moslem comparisons than in the Mazdean. “The dog is always hungry: so is it with the faithful; he sleeps but little by night: so is it with those plunged in divine Love; if he die, he leaves no heritage: so is it with ascetics; he forsakes not his master even if driven away: so is it with adepts; he is content with few temporal goods: so is it with the pursuers of temperance; if he is expelled from one place he 234seeks another: so is it with the humble; if he is chastised and dismissed and then called back he obeys: so is it with the modest; if he sees food he remains standing afar: so is it with those who are consecrated to poverty; if he go on a journey he carries no refreshment for the way: so is it with those who have renounced the world.” Some of these “Characteristics” are flung back in irony at the dervishes by those who bitterly deride them, as the friars in the ages of Faith were derided in Europe—without its making the least difference to their popularity—but the homily itself is quite serious and meant for edification. Hasan Basri, who died in 728 A.D., was the author or adapter. Its wide diffusion is due to the accuracy with which it depicts the wandering mystic, whether he be called a dervish or a Fakeer, or, in the Western translation of Fakeer, a “Poverello” of St. Francis.

A certain rich man apologised to a Dervish because his servants, without his knowledge, had often driven him away: the holy man showed, he said, great patience and humility in coming back after such ill-treatment. The dervish replied that it was no merit but only one of the “traits of the dog,” which returns however often it is driven off. The worst enemies to the dervish have ever been the Ulemas, for whom he is a kind of dangerous lunatic strongly tinged with heresy. Among his unconventional ideas was sure to penetrate, more or less, the neoplatonist or Sufic view of animals. Wherever transcendental meditations on the union of the created with the 235Creator begin to prevail, men’s minds take the direction of admitting a more intimate relation of all living things with God. We might be sure that the dervishes would follow this psychological law even if we could not prove it. To prove it, however, we need go no further than the great prayer, one of the noblest of human prayers, which is used by many of the Dervish orders. There we read: “Thy science is everlasting and knows even the numbers of the breaths of Thy creatures: Thou seest and hearest the movements of all Thy creatures; thou hearest even the footsteps of the ant when in the dark night she walks on black stones; even the birds of the air praise Thee in their nests; the wild beasts of the desert adore Thee; the most secret as well as the most exposed thoughts of Thy servants Thou knowest....”

In the same way, it was natural that the Dervishes should be supposed to have the power attributed to all holy (or harmless) men over the kings of the desert and forest. It could not be otherwise. Bishop Heber heard of two Indian Yogis who lived in different parts of a jungle infested by tigers in perfect safety; indeed, it was reported that one of these ascetics had a nightly visit from a tiger, who licked his hands and was fondled by him. This is a Hindu jungle story, but it would be just as credible if it were told of a Dervish. Of the credibility of the first part of it, and probably of the last also, there is not a single wandering ascetic of any sort who would entertain a doubt. Some years ago a Moslem recluse deliberately put his arm into the 236cage of Moti, the tiger in the Lahore Zoological Gardens. The tiger lacerated the arm, and the poor man died in the hospital after some days’ suffering, during which he showed perfect serenity. He had made a mistake; the tiger, brought up as a cub by British officers and deprived of his liberty, was not endowed with the power of discrimination possessed by a king of the wild. This, I hope, the Fakeer reflected, but it is more likely that he deemed that cruel clutch a sign of his own unworthiness and accepted death meekly, hoping not for reward but for pardon.

One would like to know more of a book which Mr. Charles M. Doughty found a certain reputed saint “poring and half weeping over,” the argument of which was “God’s creatures the beasts,” while its purpose was to show that every beast yields life-worship unto God. Even if this Damascus saint was not very saintly (as the author of “Arabia Deserta” hints), yet it is interesting to note that this subject should have appeared to a would-be new Messiah the most important he could choose for his Gospel.

A Persian poet, Azz’ Eddin Elmocadessi, advises man to learn from the birds,

“Virtues that may gild thy name;
And their faults if thou wouldst scan,
Know thy failings are the same.”

The recognition in animals of most human qualities in a distinct though it may be a limited form underlies all Eastern animal-lore and gives it a force and a reality even when it deals with extravagant fancies. 237There is a broad difference between the power of feeling for animals and the power of feeling with them. The same difference moulds the sentiments of man to man: nine men in ten can feel for their fellow-humans, but scarcely one man in ten can feel with them. They even know it, and they say ungrammatically, “I feel the greatest sympathy for so and so.” An instance of true mitempfindung, of insight into the very soul of a creature, exists in an Arabian poem by Lebid, who was one of the most interesting figures of the period in which the destinies of the Arab race were cast. He was the glory of the Arabs, not only on account of his faultless verse, but also because of his noble character. It is told of him that whenever an east wind blew, he provided a feast for the poor. Himself a pre-Islamic theist, he hailed the Prophet as the inspired enunciator of the creed he had held imperfectly and in private. All his poems were composed in the “Ignorance”; on being asked for a poem after his conversion at ninety years of age, he copied out a chapter of the Koran, and said, “God has given me this in exchange for poesy.” I do not think this meant that he despised the poet’s art, but that now, when he could no longer exercise it, he had what was still more precious.

The passage in question is one of several which show Lebid’s surprisingly close acquaintance with the ways and thoughts of wild animals. It is one of those elaborate similes which were the pride of Arabian poets, who often preferred to take comparisons already in use than to invent new ones. Wherever literature became a living entertainment, something of 238this kind happened: witness the borrowings from the Classics by the poets of the Renaissance; people liked to recognise familiar ideas in a new dress. Lebid’s similes have been turned and re-turned by other poets, but none approached the art and truth he infused into them. I am indebted to Sir Charles Lyall for the following version, which is not included in his volume of splendid translations of early Arabian poetry. The subject of the passage is the grief of a wild cow that has lost her calf:—

“Flat-nosed is she—she has lost her calf and ceases not to roam
About the marge of the sand meadows and cry
For her youngling, just weaned, white, whose limbs have been torn
By the ash-grey hunting wolves who lack not for food.
They came upon it while she knew not, and dealt her a deadly woe:
—Verily, Death, when it shoots, misses not the mark!
The night came upon her, as the dripping rain of the steady shower
Poured on and its continuous flow soaked the leafage through and through.
She took refuge in the hollow trunk of a tree with lofty branches standing apart
On the skirts of the sandhills where the fine sand sloped her way.
The steady rain poured down, and the flood reached the ridge of her back,
In a night when thick darkness hid away all the stars;
And she shone in the face of the mirk with a white, glimmering light
Like a pearl born in a sea-shell, that has dropped from its string.
239Until, when the darkness was folded away and morning dawned,
She stood, her legs slipping in the muddy earth.
She wandered distracted about all the pools of So’âid
For seven nights twinned with seven whole long days,
Until she lost all hope, and her udders shrunk—
The udders that had not failed in all the days of the suckling and weaning,
Then she heard the sound of men and it filled her heart with fear,
Of men from a hidden place; and men, she knew, were her bane.
She rushed blindly along, now thinking the chase before,
And now behind her: each was a place of dread.
Until, when the archers lost hope, they let loose on her
Trained hounds with hanging ears, each with a stiff leather collar on its neck;
They beset her and she turned to meet them with her horns
Like to spears of Semhar in their sharpness and their length.
To thrust them away: for she knew well, if she drove them not off,
That the fated day of her death among the fates of beasts had come;
And among them, Kesâb was thrust through and slain and rolled in blood lay there,
And Sukhâm was left in the place where he made his onset.”

There the description breaks off. In spite of the haunting cry of the cow of Lucretius, in spite of the immortal tears of Shakespeare’s “poor sequester’d stag”—no vision of a desperate animal in all literature seems to me so charged with every element of pathos and dramatic intensity as this cow of Lebid. How fine is the altogether unforeseen close, which leaves 240us wondering, breathless: Will she escape? Will no revengeful arrow reach her? Will the archers do as Om Piet did to the wildebeest?—

“A wildebeest cow and calf were pursued by Om Piet with three hunting-dogs. The Boer hunter tells the tale: ‘The old cow laid the first dog low; the calf is now tired. The second dog comes up to seize it; the cow strikes him down. Now the third dog tries to bite the little one, who can run no more, but the cow treats him so that there’s nothing to be done but to shoot him. Then Om Piet stands face to face with the wildebeest, who snorts but does not fly. Now though I come to shoot a wildebeest yet can I not kill a beast that has so bravely fought and will not run away; so Om Piet takes off his hat, and says, “Good-day to you, old wildebeest. You are a good and strong old wildebeest.” And we dine off springbuck that night at the farm.’”[7]

7.  “A Breath from the Veldt,” by Guille Millais, 2nd edition, 1899.

I ought to explain that, like the “cow” of Om Piet, Lebid’s “cow” is an antelope—the Antilope defassa—of which a good specimen may be seen in the Natural History Museum at South Kensington. The old Boer’s hunting yarn brings an unexpected confirmation of the Arabian poet’s testimony to its courage and maternal love.

Since the chase began, down to the blind brutality of the battue (which wiped it out) chivalry has been a trait of the genuine sportsman. In the golden legend of hunter’s generosity should be inscribed for ever the tale—the true tale as I believe it to be—of the Moslem prince Sebectighin, who rose from slave-birth to the greatest of Persian thrones—and more honour to him, notwithstanding the slur which Firdusi, stung 241by Mahmoud’s want of appreciation, cast, in a foolish moment, on his father’s origin. Sebectighin was a horseman in the service of the Sultan and as a preparation for greater things he found a vent for his pent-up energies in the chase. One day he remarked a deer with her little fawn peacefully grazing in a glade of the forest. He galloped to the spot, and in less than a second he had seized the fawn, which, after binding its legs, he placed across his saddle-bows. Thus he started to go home, but looking back, he saw the mother following, with every mark of grief. Sebectighin’s heart was touched; he loosened the fawn and restored it to its dam. And in the night he had a vision in his dreams of One who said to him, “The kindness and compassion which thou hast this day shown to a distressed animal has been approved of in the presence of God; therefore in the records of Providence the kingdom of Ghusni is marked as a reward against thy name. Let not greatness destroy thy virtue, but continue thy benevolence to man.”

Among the Afghan ballads collected by James Darmesteter, of which it has been aptly said that they give an admirable idea of Homer in a state of becoming, there is one composed in a gentler mood than the songs of war and carnage which has a gazelle for heroine and the Prophet as Deus ex machina. As there is no translation of it into English I have attempted the following version:—

“The Son of Abu Jail he set a snare for a gazelle,
Without a thought along she sped, and in the snare she fell.
242‘O woe is me!’ she weeping cried, ‘that I to look forgot!
Fain would I live for my dear babes, but hope, alas! is not.’
Then to the Merciful she made this short and fervent prayer:
‘I left two little fawns at home; Lord, keep them in Thy care!’
The son of Abu Jail he came, in haste and glee he ran,
‘Ah, now I’ve got you in my net, and who to save you can?’
He grasped her by her tender throat, his fearsome sword did draw,
When lo! the Lord held back his hand! The Prophet’s self he saw!
‘The world was saved for love of thee, save for thy pity’s sake!’
So breathed the trembling doe, and then the holy Prophet spake:
‘Abu, my friend, this doe let go, and hark to my appeal;
She has two tender fawns at home who pangs of hunger feel,
‘Let her go back one hour to them, no longer will she stay,
And when she comes, O heartless man, then mayest thou have thy way!
But if, by chance, she should not come, then by my faith will I
Be unto thee a bonded slave until the day I die.’
Then Abu the gazelle let go; to her dear young she went,
‘Quick, children, take my breast,’ she said, ‘my life is almost spent;
243‘The Master of the Universe for me a pledge I gave,
But I must swift return and then no man my life can save.’
Then said the little ones to her, ‘Mother, we dare not eat;
Go swiftly back, redeem the pledge, fast as can fly thy feet.’
One hour had scarce run fully out when, panting, she was there;
Now, Abu, son of Abu, thou mayest take her life or spare!
Said Abu, ‘In the Prophet’s name, depart, I set you free ...
But thou, our Helper, at God’s throne, do thou remember me!’
So have I told, as long ago my father used to tell,
How Pagan Abu Moslem turned and saved his soul from hell.”

This brief sketch will suffice to show that if the Moslem is not humane to animals it is his own fault, as I think it is his own fault if he is not humane to man. Teaching humanity to animals must always imply the teaching of humanity to men. This was perfectly understood well by all these Oriental tellers of beast-stories: they would all have endorsed the saying of one of my Lombard peasant-women (dear, good soul!), “Chi non è buono per le bestie, non è buono per i Cristiani”; Cristiano meaning, in Italian popular speech, a human being. Under the most varied forms, in fiction which while the world lasts, can never lose its freshness, the law of kindness is brought home. Perhaps the most beautiful of all humane legends is one preserved in a poem by Abu Mohammed ben Yusuf, Sheikh Nizan-eddin, 244known to Europeans as Nizami. This Persian poet, who died sixty-three years before Dante was born, may have taken the legend from some collection of Christ-lore, some uncanonical book impossible now to trace; it is unlikely that he invented it. As Jesus walks with His disciples through the market-place at evening, He comes upon a crowd which is giving vent to every expression of abhorrence at the sight of a poor dead dog lying in the gutter. When they have all had their say, and have pointed in disgust to his blear eyes, foul ears, bare ribs, torn hide, “which will not even yield a decent shoe-string,” Jesus says, “How beautifully white his teeth are!” No story of the Saviour outside the Gospels is so worthy to have been in them.



IN Hindu mythology Gunádhya attracts a whole forestful of beasts by reciting his poems to them. The power of Apollo and of Orpheus in taming beasts depended on a far less surprising modus operandi; like the greater part of myths, this one was not spun from the thin air of imagination. Music has a real influence on animals; in spite of theories to the contrary, it is probable that the sweet flute-playing of the snake-charmer—his “sweet charming” in Biblical phrase—is no mere piece of theatrical business, but a veritable aid in obtaining the desired results. I myself could once attract fieldmice by playing on the violin, and only lately, on the road near our house at Salò, I noticed that a goat manifested signs of wishing to stop before a grind-organ; its master pulled the string by which it was led, but it tugged at it so persistently that, at last, he stopped, and the goat, turning round its head, listened with evident attention. Independently of the pleasure music may give to animals, it excites their curiosity, a faculty which is extremely 246alive in them, as may be seen by the way in which small birds are attracted by the pretty antics of the little Italian owl; they cannot resist going near to have a better view, and so they rush to their doom upon the limed sticks.

Legends have an inner and an outer meaning; the allegory of Apollo, Lord of Harmony, would have been incomplete had it lacked the beautiful incident of a Nature Peace—partial indeed, but still a fairer triumph to the god than his Olympian honours. For nine years he watched the sheep of Admetus, as Euripides described:—

“Pythean Apollo, master of the lyre,
Who deigned to be a herdsman and among
Thy flocks on hills his hymns celestial sung;
And his delightful melodies to hear
Would spotted lynx and lions fierce draw near;
They came from Othry’s immemorial shade,
By charm of music tame and harmless made;
And the swift, dappled fawns would there resort,
From the tall pine-woods and about him sport.”

When Apollo gave Orpheus his lyre, he gave him his gift “to soothe the savage breast.” In the splendid Pompeian fresco showing a Nature Peace, the bay-crowned, central figure is said to be Orpheus, though its god-like proportions suggest the divinity himself. At any rate, nothing can be finer as the conception of an inspired musician: the whole body sings, not only the mouth. A lion and a tiger sit on either side; below, a stag and a wild boar listen attentively, and a little hare capers near the stream. In the upper section there are other wild beasts 247sporting round an elephant, while oxen play with a tiger; an anticipation of the ox and tiger in Rubens’ “Garden of Eden.”

The power of Orpheus to subdue wild beasts was the reason why the early Christians took him as a type of Christ. Of all the prophecies which were believed to refer to the Messiah none so captivated the popular mind as those which could be interpreted as referring to His recognition by animals. The four Gospels which became the canon of the Church threw no light on the subject, but the gap was filled up by the uncanonical books; one might think that they were written principally for the purpose of dwelling on this theme, so frequently do they return to it. In the first place, they bring upon the scene those dear objects of our childhood’s affection, the ass and the ox of the stable of Bethlehem. Surely many of us cherish the impression that ass and ox rest on most orthodox testimony: an idea which is certainly general in Catholic countries, though, the other day, I heard of a French priest who was heartless enough to declare that they were purely imaginary. “Alas,” as Voltaire said, “people run after truth!” As a matter of fact, it appears evident that the ass and the ox were introduced to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah: “The ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master’s manger, but Israel knoweth Me not.” But there arose what was thought a difficulty: the apocryphal Gospels, in harmony with the earliest traditions, place the birth of Christ, not in a stable, but in the grotto which is still shown to travellers. To reconcile this with the legend of 248the ass and ox and also with the narrative of St. Luke, it was supposed that the Holy Family moved from the grotto to a stable a few days after the Child was born. This is a curious case of finding a difficulty where there was none, for it is very likely that the caves near the great Khan of Bethlehem were used as stables. In every primitive country shepherds shelter themselves and their flocks in holes in rocks; I remember the “uncanny” effect of a light flickering in the depths of a Phœnician tomb near Cagliari; it was almost disappointing to hear that it was only a shepherd’s fire.

Thomas, “the Israelite philosopher,” as he called himself, author of the Pseudo-Thomas which is said to date from the second century, appears to have been a Jewish convert belonging to one of the innumerable “heretical” sects of the earliest times. It may be guessed, therefore, that the Pseudo-Thomas was first written in Syriac, though the text we possess is in Greek. It is considered the model on which all the other Gospels of the Infancy were founded, but the Arabic variant contains so much divergent matter as to make it probable that the writer drew on some other early source which has not been preserved. Mohammed was acquainted with this Arabian Gospel, and Mohammedans did not cease to venerate the sycamore-tree at Matarea under which the Arabian evangelist states that the Virgin and Child rested, till it died about a year ago. The Pseudo-Thomas contains some vindictive stories, which were modified or omitted in the other versions: probably they are all to be traced to Elisha and his she-bears: 249a theory which I offer to those who cannot imagine how they arose. A curious feature in these writings is the scarcity of anything actually original; the most original story to be found in them is that of the clay sparrows, which captivated the East and penetrated into the folk-lore even of remote Iceland. Notwithstanding the fulminations of Councils, the apocryphal Gospels were never suppressed; they enjoyed an enormous popularity during the Middle Ages, and many details derived solely from these condemned books crept into the Legenda Aurea and other strictly orthodox works.

The “Little Child” of Isaiah’s prophecy was the cause of troops of wild beasts being convoked to attend the Infant Christ. Lions acted as guides for the flight into Egypt, and it is mentioned that not only did they respect the Holy Family, but also the asses and oxen which carried their baggage. Besides, the lions, leopards, and other creatures “wagged their tails with great reverence” (though all these animals are not of the dog species, but of the cat, in which wagging the tail signifies the reverse of content).

This is the subject of an old English ballad:—

“And when they came to Egypt’s land,
Amongst those fierce wild beasts,
Mary, she being weary,
Must needs sit down to rest.
‘Come, sit thee down,’ said Jesus,
‘Come, sit thee down by Me,
And thou shall see how these wild beasts
Do come and worship Me.’”

250First to come was the “lovely lion,” king of all wild beasts, and for our instruction the moral is added: “We’ll choose our virtuous princes of birth and high degree.” Sad rhymes they are, nor, it will be said, is the sense much better; yet, hundreds of years ago in English villages, where, perhaps, only one man knew how to read, this doggerel served the end of the highest poetry: it transported the mind into an ideal region; it threw into the English landscape deserts, lions, a Heavenly Child; it stirred the heart with the romance of the unknown; it whispered to the soul—

“The Now is an atom of sand,
And the Near is a perishing clod;
But Afar is a Faëry Land,
And Beyond is the bosom of God.”

The pseudo-gospel of Matthew relates an incident which refers to a later period in the Holy Childhood. According to this narrative, when Jesus was eight years old He went into the den of a lioness which frightened travellers on the road by the Jordan. The little cubs played round His feet, while the older lions bowed their heads and fawned on Him. The Jews, who saw it from a distance, said that Jesus or His parents must have committed mortal sin for Him to go into the lion’s den. But coming forth, He told them that these lions were better behaved than they; and then He led the wild beasts across the Jordan and commanded them to go their way, hurting no one, neither should any one hurt them till they had returned to their own 251country. So they bade Him farewell with gentle roars and gestures of respect.

These stories are innocent, and they are even pretty, for all stories of great, strong animals and little children are pretty. But they fail to reveal the slightest apprehension of the deeper significance of a peace between all creatures. Turn from them to the wonderful lines of William Blake:—

“And there the lion’s ruddy eyes
Shall flow with tears of gold,
And pitying the tender cries
And walking round the fold
Saying: Wrath by His meekness,
And by His health sickness,
Are driven away
From our mortal day.
And now beside thee, bleating lamb,
I can lie down and sleep,
Or think on Him who bore thy name,
Graze after thee, and weep;
For, washed in life’s river,
My bright mane for ever
Shall shine like the gold
As I guard o’er the fold.”

No one but Blake would have written this, and few things that he wrote are so characteristic of his genius. The eye of the painter seizes what the mind of the mystic conceives, and the poet surcharges with emotion words which, like the Vedic hymns, infuse thought rather than express it.

A single passage in the New Testament connects Christ with wild animals; in St. Mark’s Gospel we 252are told that after His baptism in the Jordan Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness, where “He was with the wild beasts, and the angels ministered unto Him.” In the East the idea of the anchorite who leaves the haunts of men for the haunts of beasts was already fabulously old. In the Western world of the Roman Empire it was a new idea, and perhaps on that account, while it excited the horror of those who were faithful to the former order of things, it awoke an extraordinary enthusiasm among the more ardent votaries of the new faith. It led to the discovery of the inebriation of solitude, the powerful stimulus of a life with wild nature. Many tired brain-workers have recourse to mountain ascents as a restorative, but these can rarely be performed alone, and high mountains with their immense horizons tend to overwhelm rather than to collect the mind. But to wander alone in a forest, day after day, without particular aim, drinking in the pungent odours of growing things, fording the ice-cold streams, meeting no one but a bird or a hare—this will leave a memory as of another existence in some enchanted sphere. We have tasted an ecstasy that cities cannot give. We have tasted it, and we have come back into the crowded places, and it may be well for us that we have come back, for not to all is it given to walk in safety alone with their souls.

Photo: Anderson.
(By Hubert van Eyck.)
Naples Museum.

Of one of the earliest Christian anchorites in Egypt it is related that for fifty years he spoke to no one; he roamed in a state of nature, flying from the monks who attempted to approach him. 253At last he consented to answer some questions put by a recluse whose extreme piety caused him to be better received than the others. To the question of why he avoided mankind, he replied that those who dwelt with men could not be visited by angels. After saying this, he vanished again into the desert. I have observed that the idea of renouncing the world was not a Western idea, yet, at the point where it touches madness, it had already penetrated into the West—we know where to find its tragic record:—

“Ego vitam agam sub altis Phrygiae columinibus,
Ubi cerva silvicultrix, ubi aper nemorivagus?”

The point of madness would have been reached more often but for the charity of the stag and the wild boar and the lion and the buffalo, who felt a sort of compassion for the harmless, weak human creatures that came among them, and who were ready to give that response which is the sustaining ichor of life.

The same causes produce the same effects—man may offer surprises but never men. Wherever there are solitaries there are friendships between the recluse and the wild beast. All sorts of stories of lions and other animals that were on friendly terms with the monks of the desert have come down to us in the legends of the Saints. The well-known legend of how St. Jerome relieved a lion of a thorn which was giving him great pain, and how the lion became tame, was really told of another saint, but Jerome, if he did not figure in a lion story, is the authority 254for one: in his life of Paul the Hermit he relates that when that holy man died, two lions came out of the desert to dig his grave; they uttered a loud wail over his body and knelt down to crave a blessing from his surviving companion—none other than the great St. Anthony. He also says that Paul had subsisted for many years on food brought to him by birds, and when he had a visitor the birds brought double rations.

As soon as the hermit appears in Europe his four-footed friends appear with him. For instance, there was the holy Karileff who tamed a buffalo. Karileff was a man of noble lineage who took up his abode with two companions in a clearing in the woods on the Marne, where he was soon surrounded by all sorts of wild things. Amongst these was a buffalo, one of the most intractable of beasts in its wild state, but this buffalo became perfectly tame, and it was a charming sight to see the aged saint stroking it softly between its horns. Now it happened that the king, who was Childebert, son of Clovis, came to know that there was a buffalo in the neighbourhood, and forthwith he ordered a grand hunt. The buffalo, seeing itself lost, fled to the hut of its holy protector, and when the huntsmen approached they found the monk standing in front of the animal. The king was furious, and swore that Karileff and his brethren should leave the place for ever; then he turned to go, but his horse would not move one step. This filled him with what was more likely panic fear than compunction; he lost no time in asking the saint for his blessing, and he presented him with the whole 255domain, in which an abbey was built and ultimately a town, the present Saint-Calais. On another occasion the same Childebert was hunting a hare, which took refuge under the habit of St. Marculphe; the king’s huntsman rudely expostulated, and the monk surrendered the hare, but, lo and behold! the dogs would not continue the pursuit and the huntsman fell off his horse!

A vein of more subtle sensibility runs through the story of St. Columba, who, not long before his death, ordered a stork to be picked up and tended when it dropped exhausted on the Western shore of Iona. After three days, he said, the stork would depart, “for she comes from the land where I was born and thither would she return.” In fact, on the third day, the stork, rested and refreshed, spread out its wings and sailed away straight towards the saint’s beloved Ireland. When Columba was really dying the old white horse of the convent came and laid its head on his shoulder with an air of such profound melancholy that it seemed nigh to weeping. A brother wished to drive it away, but the saint said No; God had revealed to the horse what was hidden from man, and it was come to bid him goodbye.

Evidently there is only a slight element of the marvellous in these legends and none at all in others, such as the story of Walaric, who fed little birds and told the monks not to approach or frighten his “little friends” while they picked up the crumbs. To the same order belong several well-authenticated stories of the Venerable Joseph of Anchieta, apostle of Brazil. He protected the parrots that alighted 256on a ship by which he was travelling from the merciless sailors who would have caught and killed them. Whilst descending a river he would have saved a monkey which some fishermen shot at with their arrows, but he was not in time; the other monkeys gathered round their slain comrade with signs of mourning: “Come near,” said the holy man, “and weep in peace for that one of you who is no more.” Presently, fearing not to be able longer to restrain the cruelty of the men, he bade them depart with God’s blessing.

Here is no marvel; only sympathy which is sometimes the greatest of marvels. It needed the mind of a Shakespeare to probe just this secret recess of feeling for animals:—

“—— What dost thou strike at, Marcus, with thy knife?
—— At that I have killed, my Lord, a fly.
—— Out on thee, murderer, thou killest my heart;
Mine eyes are cloyed with view of tyranny;
A deed of death done on the innocent,
Becomes not Titus’ brother; get thee gone,
I see thou art not for my company.
—— Alas! my Lord, I have but killed a fly.
—— But how if that fly had a father and mother?
How would he hang his slender gilded wings
And buz lamented doings in the air?
Poor harmless fly!
That with his pretty buzzing melody
Came here to make us merry, and thou hast killed him.”

If St. Bernard saw a hare pursued by dogs or birds threatened by a hawk he could not resist making the sign of the cross, and his benediction always brought safety. It is to this saint that we owe the 257exquisite saying, “If mercy were a sin I think I could not keep myself from committing it.”

Photo: Hanfslängl.
(By Vittore Pisano.)
National Gallery.

Apart from the rest, stands one saint who brought the wild to the neighbourhood of a bustling, trafficking little Italian town of the thirteenth century and peopled it with creatures which, whether of fancy or of fact, will live for ever. How St. Francis tamed the “wolf of Agobio” is the most famous if not altogether the most credible of the animal stories related of him. That wolf was a quadruped without morals; not only had he eaten kids but also men. All attempts to kill him failed, and the townsfolk were afraid of venturing outside the walls even in broad daylight. One day St. Francis, against the advice of all, went out to have a serious talk with the wolf. He soon found him and, “Brother Wolf,” he said, “you have eaten not only animals but men made in the image of God, and certainly you deserve the gallows; nevertheless, I wish to make peace between you and these people, brother Wolf, so that you may offend them no more, and neither they nor their dogs shall attack you.” The wolf seemed to agree, but the saint wished to have a distinct proof of his solemn engagement to fulfil his part in the peace, whereupon the wolf stood up on his hind legs and laid his paw on the saint’s hand. Francis then promised that the wolf should be properly fed for the rest of his days, “for well I know,” he said kindly, “that all your evil deeds were caused by hunger”—upon which text several sermons might be preached, for truly many a sinner may be reformed by a good dinner and by nothing else. The contract 258was kept on both sides, and the wolf lived happily for some years—“notricato cortesemente dalla gente”—at the end of which he died of old age, sincerely mourned by all the inhabitants.

If any one decline to believe in the wolf of Gubbio, why, he must be left to his invincible ignorance. But there are other tales in the Fioretti and in the Legenda Aurea which are nowise hard to believe. What more likely than that Francis, on meeting a youth who had wood-doves to sell, looked at the birds “con l’occhio pietoso,” and begged the youth not to give them into the cruel hands that would kill them? The young man, “inspired by God,” gave the doves to the saint, who held them against his breast, saying, “Oh, my sisters, innocent doves, why did you let yourselves be caught? Now will I save you from death and make nests for you, so that you may increase and multiply according to the commandment of our Creator.” Schopenhauer mentions, with emphatic approval, the Indian merchant at the fair of Astrachan who, when he has a turn of good luck, goes to the market-place and buys birds, which he sets at liberty. The holy Francis not only set his doves free, but thought about their future, a refinement of benevolence which might “almost have persuaded” the humane though crusty old philosopher to put on the Franciscan habit.

(At this point I chance to see from my window a kitten in the act of annoying a rather large snake. It is a coiled-up snake; probably an Itongo. It requires a good five minutes to induce the kitten to abandon its quarry and to convey the snake to a safe 259place under the myrtles. This being done, I resume my pen.)

I have remarked that in some respects the Saint of Assisi stands apart from the other saints who took notice of animals. It was a common thing, for instance, for saints to preach to creatures, but there is an individual note in the sermon of Francis to the birds which is not found elsewhere. The reason why St. Anthony preached to the fishes at Rimini was that the “heretics” would not listen to him, and St. Martin addressed the water-fowl who were diving after fish in the Loire because, having compared them to the devil, seeking whom he may devour, he thought it necessary to order them to depart from those waters—which they immediately did, no doubt frightened to death by the apparition of a gesticulating saint and the wild-looking multitude. The motive of Francis was neither pique at not being listened to nor the temptation to show miraculous skill as a bird-scarer; he was moved solely by an effusion of tender sentiment. Birds in great quantities had alighted in a neighbouring field: a beautiful sight which every dweller in the country must have sometimes seen and asked himself, was it a parliament, a garden party, a halt in a journey? “Wait a little for me here upon the road,” said the saint to his companions; “I am going to preach to my sisters the birds.” And so, “having greeted them as creatures endowed with reason,” he went on to say: “Birds, my sisters, you ought to give great praise to your Creator, who dressed you with feathers, who gave you wings to fly with, who granted you 260all the domains of the air, whose solicitude watches over you.” The birds stretched out their necks, fluttered their wings, opened their beaks, and looked at the preacher with attention. When he had done, he passed in the midst of them and touched them with his habit, and not one of them stirred till he gave them leave to fly away.

The saint lifted worms out of the path lest they should be crushed, and during the winter frosts, for fear that the bees should die in the hive, he brought honey to them and the best wines that he could find. Near his cell at Portionuculo there was a fig-tree, and on the fig-tree lived a cicada. One day the Servant of God stretched out his hand and said, “Come to me, my sister Cicada”; and at once the insect flew upon his hand. And he said to it, “Sing, my sister Cicada, and praise thy Lord.” And having received his permission she sang her song. The biographies that were written without the inquisition into facts which we demand, gave a living idea of the man, not a photograph of his skeleton. What mattered if romance were mixed with truth when the total was true? We know St. Francis of Assisi as if he had been our next-door neighbour. It would have needed unbounded genius to invent such a character, and there was nothing to be gained by inventing it. The legends which represent him as one who consistently treated animals as creatures endowed with reason are in discord with orthodox teaching; they skirt dangerously near to heresy. Giordano Bruno was accused of having said that men and 261animals had the same origin; to hold such an opinion qualified you for the stake. But the Church that canonised Buddha under the name of St. Josephat has had accesses of toleration which must have made angels rejoice.

Some think that Francis was at one time a troubadour, and troubadours had many links with those Manichæan heretics whom Catholics charged with believing in the transmigration of souls. This may interest the curious, but the doctrine of metempsychosis has little to do with the vocation of the Asiatic recluse as a beast-tamer, and St. Francis of Assisi was true brother to that recluse. He was the Fakeer or Dervish of the West. When the inherent mysticism in man’s nature brought the Dervishes into existence soon after Mohammed’s death, in spite of the Prophet’s well-known dislike for religious orders, they justified themselves by quoting the text from the Koran, “Poverty is my pride.” It would serve the Franciscan equally well. The begging friar was an anachronism in the religion of Islam as he is an anachronism in modern society, but what did that matter to him? He thought and he thinks that he will outlive both.

The Abdâl or pre-eminently holy Dervish who lived in the desert with friendly beasts over whom he exercised an extraordinary power, became the centre of a legend, almost of a cult, like his Christian counterpart. There were several Abdâls of high repute during the reigns of the early Ottoman Sultans. Perhaps there was more confidence in their sanctity than in their sanity, for while the 262Catholic historian finds it inconvenient to admit the hypothesis of madness as accounting for even the strangest conduct of the saints of the desert or their mediæval descendants, a devout Oriental sees no irreverence in recognising the possible affinity between sainthood and mental alienation. In India the holy recluse who tames wild beasts is as much alive to-day as in any former time. Whatever is very old is still a part of the everyday life of the Indian people. Accordingly the native newspapers frequently report that some prince was attacked by a savage beast while out hunting, when, at the nick of time, a venerable saint appeared at whose first word the beast politely relaxed his hold. Those who know India best by no means think that all such stories are invented. Why should they be? Cardinal Massaia (who wore, by the by, the habit of Francis) stated that the lions he met in the desert had very good manners. A few years ago an old lady met a large, well-grown lioness in the streets of Chatres; mistaking it for a large dog, she patted it on the head and it followed her for some time until it was observed by others, when the whole town was seized with panic and barred doors and windows. Even with the provocation of such mistrust the lioness behaved well, and allowed itself to be reconducted to the menagerie from which it had escaped.

Those who try to divest themselves of human nature rarely succeed, and the reason nearest to the surface why, over all the world, the lonely recluse made friends with animals was doubtless his loneliness. On their side, animals have only to be 263persuaded that men are harmless for them to meet their advances half-way. If this is not always true of wild beasts, it is because (as St. Francis apprehended) unfortunately they are sometimes hungry; but man is not the favourite prey of any wild beast who is in his right mind. Prisoners who tamed mice or sparrows followed the same impulse as saints who tamed lions or buffaloes. How many a prisoner who returned to the fellowship of men must have regretted his mouse or his sparrow! Animals can be such good company. Still, it follows that if their society was sought as a substitute, they were, in a certain sense, vicarious objects of affection. We forget that even in inter-human affections much is vicarious. The sister of charity gives mankind the love which she would have given to her children. The ascetic who will never hear the pattering feet of his boy upon the stairs loves the gazelle, the bird fallen from its nest, the lion cub whose mother has been slain by the hunter. And love, far more than charity (in the modern sense), blesses him that gives as well as him that takes.

But human phenomena are complex, and this explanation of the sympathy between saint and beast does not cover the whole ground. Who can doubt that these men, whose faculties were concentrated on drawing nearer to the Eternal, vaguely surmised that wild living creatures had unperceived channels of communication with spirit, hidden rapports with the Fountain of Life which man has lost or has never possessed? Who can doubt that 264in the vast cathedral of Nature they were awed by “the mystery which is in the face of brutes”?

Beside the need to love and the need to wonder, some of them knew the need to pity. Here the ground widens, for the heart that feels the pang of the meanest thing that lives does not beat only in the hermit’s cell or under the sackcloth of a saint.



THE snake and the tiger are grim realities of Indian life. They mean a great deal—they mean India with its horror and its splendour; above all, with its primary attention given to things which for most Europeans are nil or are kept for Sunday. And Sunday, the day most calm, most bright, has only a little portion of them, only the light not the darkness of the Unknown.

To the despair of the English official, the Hindu, like his forefathers in remotest antiquity, respects the life of tiger and snake. In doing so he is not governed simply by the feeling that makes him look on serenely whilst all sorts of winged and fleet-footed creatures eat up his growing crops—another tolerance which exasperates the Western beholder: in that instance it is, in the main, the rule of live and let live which dictates his forbearance, the persuasion that it is wrong to monopolise the increase of the earth to the uttermost farthing’s-worth. His sentiment towards tiger and snake is of a more profound nature.

The Hindu will not kill a cobra if he can help it, 266and if one is killed he tries to expiate the offence by honouring it with proper funeral rites. The tiger, like the snake, gives birth to those ancient twins, fear and admiration. The perception of the beautiful is one of the oldest as it is one of the most mysterious of psychological phenomena in man and beast. Why should the sheen of the peacock’s tail attract the peahen? Why should the bower-bird and the lyre-bird construct a lovely pleasance where they may dance? Man perceived the beautiful in fire and wind, in the swift air, the circle of stars, the violent water, the lights of heaven: “being delighted with the beauty of these things, he took them to be gods”—as was said by the writer of the Wisdom of Solomon about two hundred years before Christ. He also perceived the beautiful in the lithe movements of the snake and in the tiger’s symmetry.

As to the sense of fear, how is it that this fear is unaccompanied by repulsion? To this question the more general answer would seem to be that Nature, if regarded as divine, cannot repel. But the snake and tiger are in some special way divine, so that they become still further removed from the range of human criticism. They are manifestations of divinity—a safer description of even the lowest forms of zoolatry than the commoner one which asserts that they are “gods.” Deity, if omnipresent, “must be able to occupy the same space as another body at the same time,” which was said in a different connexion, but it is the true base of all beliefs involving the union of spirit and matter from the lowest to the highest.

267The animal which is a divine agent, ought to behave like one. If it causes destruction, such destruction should have the fortuitous appearance of havoc wrought by natural causes. The snake or tiger should not wound with malice prepense, but only in a fine, casual way. This is just what, as a rule, they are observed to do. I have seen many snakes, but I never saw one run after a man, though I have seen men run after snakes. Now and then the Italian peasant is bitten by vipers because he walks in the long grass with naked feet. He treads on the snake or pushes against it, and it bites him. So it is with the Indian peasant. It is much the same in the case of the normal tiger; unless he is disturbed or wounded, he most rarely attacks. But there are abnormal tigers, abnormal beasts of every sort—there is the criminal class of beast. What of him? It might be supposed that primitive man would take such a beast to be an angry or vindictive spirit. By no means. He detects in him a fellow-human. The Indian forestalled Lombroso; the man-eating tiger is a degenerate, really not responsible for his actions, and still less is the god behind him responsible for them.

Little need be said of the natural history of the man-eating tiger; yet a few words may not be out of place. To his abnormality every one who has studied wild beasts bears witness. All agree that the loss of life from tigers is almost exclusively traceable to individuals of tiger-kind which prey chiefly or only on man. The seven or eight hundred persons killed annually by tigers in British India are 268victims of comparatively few animals. Not many years ago a single man-eating tigress was certified to have killed forty-eight persons. While the ordinary tiger has to be sought out with difficulty for the sport of those who wish to hunt him, the man-eater night after night waylays the rural postman or comes boldly into the villages in search of his unnatural food. During great scarcity caused by the destruction or disappearance of small game in the forests, the carnivora are forced out of their habits as the wolves in the Vosges are induced to come down to the plains in periods of intense cold. Such special causes do not affect the question of the man-eater, which eats man’s flesh from choice, not from necessity. Why he does so Europeans have tried to explain in various ways. One is, that the unfamiliar taste of human flesh creates an irresistible craving. In South America they say that a jaguar after tasting man’s flesh once becomes an incorrigible man-eater for ever after. Others think man-eating is a form of madness, a disease, and they point to the fact that the man-eater is always in bad condition; his skin is useless. But it is not sure if this be cause or effect, since man’s flesh is said to be unwholesome. A third and plausible theory would attribute man-eating to the easy capture of the prey: a tiger that has caught one man will hunt no other fleeter game. Especially in old age, a creature that has neither horns nor tusks nor yet swift feet must appear an attractive prey. This coincides with an observation made by Apollonius of Tyana: he says that lions caught 269and ate monkeys for medicine when they were sick, but that when they were old and unable to hunt the stag and the wild boar, they caught them for food. Aristotle said that lions were more disposed to enter towns and attack man when they grew old, as old age made their teeth defective, which was a hindrance to them in hunting.

Another possible clue may be deduced from a belief which exists in Abyssinia about the man-eating lion. In that country the people dislike to have Europeans hunt the lion, not only because they revere him as the king of beasts (though this is one reason, and it shows how natural to man is the friendly feeling towards beasts, and how it flourishes along with any sort of religion, provided the religion has been left Oriental and not Westernised), but also because they are convinced that a lion whose mate has been killed becomes ferocious and thirsts for human blood. This belief is founded on accurate observation of the capacity of wild beasts for affection. The love of the lion for his mate is no popular error. That noble hunter, Major Leveson, told a pathetic story of how he witnessed in South Africa a fight between two lions, while the lioness, palm and prize, stood looking on. A bullet laid her low, but the combatants were so hotly engaged that neither of them perceived what had happened. Then another bullet killed one of them: the survivor, after the first moment of surprise as to why his foe surrendered, turned round and for the first time saw the hunters who were quite near. He seemed about to spring on them, when he caught sight of the dead 270lioness: “With a peculiar whine of recognition, utterly regardless of our presence, he strode towards her, licked her face and neck with his great rough tongue and patted her gently with his huge paw, as if to awaken her. Finding that she did not respond to his caresses, he sat upon his haunches like a dog and howled most piteously....” Finally the mourning lion fled at the cries of the Kaffirs and the yelping of the dogs close at hand. He had understood the great, intolerable fact of death. Would any one blame him if he became an avenger of blood?

Supposing that this line of defence could be transferred to the tiger, instead of being branded as lazy, decrepit, mad, or bad, he might hope to appear before the public with a largely rehabilitated character.

The natives of the jungle resort to none of these hypotheses to account for the man-eater: a different bank of ideas can be drawn on by them to help them out of puzzling problems. The free force of imagination is far preferable, if admitted, as a solver of difficulties, to all our patient and plodding researches. The jungle natives tell many stories of the man-eater, of which the following is a typical example. It was told to a British officer, from whom I had it.

Once upon a time there was a man who had the power of changing himself into a tiger whenever he liked. But for him to change back into the shape of a man it was necessary that some human being should pronounce a certain formula. He had a friend who knew the formula, and to him he went 271when he wished to resume human shape. But the friend died.

The man was obliged, therefore, to find some one else to pronounce the formula. At last he decided to confide the secret to his wife; so, one day, he said to her that he should be absent for a short time and that when he came back it would be in the form of a tiger; he charged her to pronounce the proper formula when she should see him appear in tiger-shape, and he assured her that he would then, forthwith, become a man again.

In a few days, after he had amused himself by catching a few antelopes, he trotted up to his wife, hoping all would be well. But the woman, in spite of all that he had told her, was so dreadfully frightened when she saw a large tiger running towards her, that she began to scream. The tiger jumped about and tried to make her understand by dumb-show what she was to do, but the more he jumped the more she screamed, and at last he thought in his mind, “This is the most stupid woman I ever knew,” and he was so angry that he killed her. Directly afterwards he recollected that no other human being knew the right formula—hence he must remain for ever a tiger. This so affected his spirits that he acquired a hatred for the whole human race, and killed men whenever he saw them.

This diverting folk-tale shows a root-belief in the stage of becoming a branch-belief. In the present case the root is the ease with which men are thought to be able to transform themselves (or be transformed by others) into animals. The branch is the presumption 272that a very wicked animal must be human. The corresponding inference that a very virtuous animal must be human, throws its reflection upon innumerable fairy-tales. I think it was the more primitive of the two. Even the tiger is not everywhere supposed to be the worse for human influence. In the Sangor and Nerbrudda territories people say that if a tiger has killed one man he will never kill another, because the dead man’s spirit rides on his head and guides him to more lawful prey. Entirely primitive people do not take an evil view of human nature—which is proved by their confidence in strangers: the first white man who arrives among them is well received. Misanthropy is soon learnt, but it is not the earliest sentiment. The bad view of the man-tiger prevails in the Niger delta, where the negroes think that “some souls which turn into wild beasts give people a great deal of trouble.” Other African tribes hold that tailless tigers are men—tigers which have lost their tails in fighting or by disease or accident. I do not know if these are credited with good or bad qualities.

By the rigid Totemist all this is ascribed to Totemism. Men called other tribesmen by the names of their totems; then the totem was forgotten and they mistook the tiger-totem-man for a man-tiger et sic de ceteris. My Syrian guide on Mount Carmel told me that the ravens which fed Elijah were a tribe of Bedouins called “the Ravens,” which still existed. If this essay in the Higher Criticism was original it said much for his intelligence. But because such confusions may happen, and no 273doubt do happen, are they to be taken as the final explanation of the whole vast range of man and animal mutations? What have they to do with such a belief as that vouched for by St. Augustine—to wit, that certain witch innkeepers gave their guests drugs in cheese which turned them into animals? These witches had a sharp eye to business, for they utilised the oxen, asses, and horses thus procured, for draught or burden, or let them out to their customers, nor were they quite without a conscience, as when they had done using them they turned them back into men. Magic, the old rival of religion, lies at the bottom of all this order of ideas. Magic may be defined as the natural supernatural, since by it man unaided commands the occult forces of nature. The theory of demoniacal assistance is of later growth.

A story rather different from the rest is told by Pausanias, who records that, at the sacrifice of Zeus on Mount Lycæus, a man was always turned into a wolf, but if for nine years in wolf-shape he abstained from eating human flesh, he would regain his human form. This suggests a Buddhist source. The infiltration of Buddhist folk-lore into Europe is a subject on which we should like to know more. Buddhism was the only missionary religion before Christianity, and there is every probability that it sent missionaries West as well as East.

The early Irish took so favourable a view of wolves that they were accustomed to pray for their salvation, and chose them as godfathers for their children. In Druidical times the wolf and other animals were divine manifestations, and the Celts 274were so attached to their beast-gods that they did not maledict what they had worshipped, but found it a refuge somewhere. In the earliest Gallic sculpture the dispossessed animals are introduced as companions of the new Saints.

It will be noticed that in the Indian folk-tale, though the identification of the man with the man-eater is clear, a very lenient view is taken of him: he was not always so; even his excursions in tiger-skin were, at first, purely innocent; he was a good husband and a respectable citizen till his wife’s nerves made him lose his temper.

In early Christian times, the man-wolf might be not only innocent but a victim. He might be a particularly good man turned by a sorcerer into a wolf, and in such cases he preserves his good tendencies. In the seventh century such a man-wolf defended the head of St. Edward the Martyr from other wild beasts.

On the other hand, there are stories of Christian saints who turned evil-disposed persons into beasts by means of the magical powers which, at first, all baptized persons were thought to possess potentially if not actively. St. Thomas Aquinas believed in the possibility of doing this. In a Russian folk-tale the apostles Peter and Paul turned a bad husband and wife into bears.

In Europe by degrees the harmless were-wolf entirely disappeared but the evil one survived. The superstition of lycanthropy concentrated round one point (as superstitions often do): the self-transformation of a perverse man or sorcerer into an animal 275for nefarious purposes. The object of the transformation might be the opportunity for giving free range to sanguinary appetites; but there was another object lurking in the background, and this was the acquirement of second sight, which some animals (if not all) are supposed to be endowed with. Just as Varro and Virgil believed in lycanthropy, so the most highly educated Europeans in the time of Louis XIV. and after, believed in were-wolves. The choice of the animal was immaterial, but it fell naturally on the most prominent and feared wild animal which was locally extant. A fancy or exotic animal would not do, which illustrates the link there is between popular beliefs and facts; distorted facts, it may be, but real and not imaginary things. If a bear of bad morals appears in Norway, people declare that it can be “no Christian bear”—it must be a Lapp or a Finn, both these peoples, who are much addicted to magic, being supposed to have the power of changing into bears when they choose. Instead of seeking the wild beast in man, people sought the man in the wild beast.

As in Asia so in Europe, it was noticed and pondered that the normal wild beast is dangerous, perhaps, but not from a human point of view perverse. The normal wolf like the normal tiger does not attack or destroy for the love of destruction. Wolves attack in packs, but the instinct of the single individual is to keep out of man’s way. He does not kill even animals indiscriminately. In the last times when there were wolves in the Italian valleys of the Alps, the news spread that a wolf 276had killed a number of sheep. What had really happened was this, which an old hunter told at Edolo to a relative of mine. The wolf jumped down into a sheepfold sunk in the ground. He killed a sheep and ate some of it and then found, to his dismay, that he could not get up the wall of the sheepfold. Nothing daunted, however, he killed a sufficient number of sheep to form a mound, up which he climbed and so effected his escape. No one thought such a clever wolf as this a lupo manaro. But some wolves, like some dogs, are subject to fits of mental alienation, in which they slay without rhyme or reason. Sheep are found killed all over the countryside, and men or children may be among the victims. The question arises of who did it—a wolf, a man, or both in one? The material fact is there, and it is a fact calculated to excite terror, surprise, curiosity. That the fact may remain always a mystery recent experience shows. When the were-wolf mania was rampant in France, honestly conducted judicial inquiry succeeded in a few cases, in tracing the outrages to a real wolf or to a real man. At last, in 1603, a French court of law pronounced the belief in were-wolves to be an insane delusion, and from that date it slowly declined. Heretics were suspected of being were-wolves. As late as fifty years ago, a reminiscence of the loup garou existed in most parts of France, in the shape of the meneux des loups, who were supposed to charm or tame whole packs of wolves which they led across the waste lands on nights when the moon shone fitfully through rifts in hurrying clouds. The village recluse, 277the poacher, the man who simply “knew more than he should,” fell under the suspicion of being a “wolf-leader,” and, of course, the usual “eye-witness” was forthcoming to declare that he had seen the suspected individual out upon his midnight rambles with his wolves trotting after him. In some provinces all the fiddlers or bag-pipers were thought to be “wolf-leaders.”

Maurice Sand.

If the wolf turnskin died out sooner in England than in France, it was because there were no wolves to fasten it upon. Throughout the horrible witch-mania British sorcerers were supposed to turn into cats, weasels, or innocent hares! Italian witches still turn into cats. I remember how graphically C. G. Leland described to me a visit he had paid to a Tuscan witch; her cottage contained three stools, on one of which sat the witch, on the second her familiar jet-black cat, and on the third my old friend, who, I feel sure, had come to believe a good deal in the “old religion,” and who, in his last years, might have sat for a perfect portrait of a magician! The connexion of the witch and the cat is a form of turnskin-belief in which the feature of the acquirement of second sight is prominent. No witch without a cat! The essential fact in the superstition is the fondness of poor, old friendless women for cats—their last friends. A contributing fact lay in the mysterious disappearances and reappearances of cats and in their half-wild nature. The cat in Indian folk-lore is the tiger’s aunt.

The mode of effecting transformation into animals is various, but always connected with fixed magical 278procedure. A root or food, or still oftener an ointment, is resorted to: ointments played a great part in superstition; it was by ointments that the unlucky persons accused of being wizards were held to have spread the plague of Milan. But the surest method of transformation was a girdle made of the skin of the animal whose form it was desired to take. This is regarded as a makeshift for not being able to put on the whole skin. An old French record tells of a man who buried a black cat in a box where four roads met, with enough bread soaked in holy water and holy oil to keep it alive for three days. The man intended to dig the cat up and, after killing it, to make a girdle of its skin by which means he expected to obtain the gift of second sight; but the burial-place of the cat was discovered by some dogs that were scratching the earth, before the three days had elapsed. The man, put to the torture, confessed all. In this case, it will be noticed that the spiritual powers of the cat were to be obtained without assuming its outward form. The turnskin who wishes to go back into his human shape, has also to follow fixed rules: a formula must be pronounced by some one else, as in the jungle tiger story, or the man-beast must eat some stated food as in Lucian’s skit (if Lucian wrote it) of the man who, by using the wrong salve, turned himself into a donkey instead of into a bird as he had wished, and who could only resume his own form by eating roses, which he did not accomplish until he had undergone all sorts of adventures.

The belief that beasts were inhabited by depraved 279men has a certain affinity with the belief that depraved men were inhabited by demons. Dante maintains that some persons have actually gone to their account while their bodies are still above-ground, the lodgings of evil spirits.

The history of the turnskin leads up to several conclusions, of which the most important is, that superstitions often grow uglier as they grow older. They descend, they rarely ascend. This experience should make us pause before we pronounce hideous beliefs to be, in a true sense, primitive. The idea of transformation is one of the oldest of human ideas, much older than transmigration, but at the outset, far from lending itself to such repulsive applications as man-tigers and demon-men, it gave birth to some of the fairest passages in the poetry of mankind which he calls his religion. It is impossible to imagine a more beautiful myth than the Vedic belief in the swan-maidens, the Apsarases who, by putting on skirts of swan feathers, could become swans. Their swan-skirts stretch from the hot East to the cold North, for they are the same that are worn by the Valkyries. All these early legends of swans bring into particularly clear light the moral identity of the impressions received from things seen by man at the bottom and at the top of the ladder of intellectual progress. Natural objects, lovely or terrible, raise archetypal images of things lovely or terrible which in our minds remain shapeless but to which the primitive man gives a local habitation and a name. Swans, sailing on still waters or circling above our heads, inspire us with indefinite longings 280which took form in the myth of the Apsarases and appear again in the Vedic story of the sage who, by deep knowledge and holiness, became a golden swan and flew away to the sun. To this day, if the Hindu sees a flight of swans wending its mysterious way across the sky, he repeats the saying almost mechanically (as a Catholic crosses himself if he pass a shrine): “The soul flies away, and none can go with it.”



FIFTY years ago the knell of the horse was rung, with due solemnity, by the American statesman, Charles Sumner. The age of chivalry, he said, was gone—an age of humanity had come; “the horse, whose importance more than human, gave the name to that period of gallantry and war, now yields his foremost place to man.” As a matter of fact, the horse is yielding his foremost place to the motor-car, to the machine; and this is the topsy-turvy way in which most of the millennial hopes of the mid-nineteenth century are being fulfilled by the twentieth; the big dream of a diviner day ends in a reality out of which all that is ideal is fading. But the reason why I quote the passage is the service which it renders as a reminder of the often forgotten meaning of the word “chivalry.” The horse was connected with the ideals no less than with the realities of the phase in human history that was called after him; the mental consequences of the partnership between man and that noble beast were not less far reaching than the physical. There are a hundred types of human character, some of them of the highest, in 282the making of which the horse counts for nothing; but this type, this figure of the very perfect gentle knight, cannot be imagined in a horseless world. We hear of what man taught animals, but less of what animals taught man. In the unity of emotion between horse and rider something is exchanged. Even the epithets which it is natural to apply to the knightly hero, one and all fit his steed: defiant and gentle, daring and devoted, trusty and tireless, a scorner of obstacles, of a gay, brave spirit—the list could be lengthened at will. And the qualities and even the defects they had in common were not so much the result of accident as the true fruit of their mutual interdependence.

In the aftermath of chivalry which produced the song-writers and the splendid adventurers of the Elizabethan age, horsemanship came again to the fore as a passion rather than as a mere necessary pursuit. We know that, not satisfied with what England could provide, the fashionable young men frequented the schools of skilled Italians, generally of noble birth, such as Corte da Pavia, who was Queen Elizabeth’s riding-master. The prevailing taste is reflected in Shakespeare, who, though he was for all time, was yet, essentially of his own; his innumerable allusions to horses show, in the first place, that he knew all about them, as he did about most things, and in the second, that he knew that these allusions would please his audience, which no born dramatist ever treated as a negligible quantity, and the least of all Shakespeare. Even the performing or “thinking” horse does not 283escape his notice; “the dancing horse will tell you,” in “Love’s Labour Lost,” refers to the “Hans” or “Trixie” of the period who also attracted the attention of Ben Jonson, Downe, Sir Kenelm Digby, Sir Walter Raleigh, Hall, and John Taylor, the water-poet. This animal’s name was “Morocco” but he was often called “Bankes’ horse,” from his master who taught him to tell the number of pence in silver coins and the number of points in throws of dice, and on one occasion made him walk to the top of St. Paul’s. Alas, for the fate of “Morocco” and his master, “Being beyond the sea burnt for one witch,” as chronicled by Ben Jonson! Like Esmeralda and her goat, they were accused of magic, and the charge, first started at Orleans, was followed by condemnation and death in Rome. Greater tragedies of superstition hardly come with such a shock as this stupid slaughter of a poor showman and his clever beast.

In Elizabethan society interest in horses was directed chiefly to the turnings and windings, the “shapes and tricks” of the riding-school, and this lighter way of looking on them as affording man his most splendid diversion is, in the main, Shakespeare’s way—though he does not forget that, at times, a horse may be worth a kingdom. Not to him, however, or to any modern poet, do we go for the unique, incomparable description of the truly heroic horse, the uncowed charger of the East, created to awe rather than to be awed by man, whom no image of servility would fit. Here is this specimen of the world’s greatest poetry, in 284case any one be so unfortunate as not to know it by heart:—

“He paweth in the valley and rejoiceth in his strength; he goeth on to meet the armed men. He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword. The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield. He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet. He saith among the trumpets, Ha! ha! He smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains and the shouting.”

How the portrait leaps out of the page into life as Velasquez’s horse in the Prado leaps out of his frame! We feel the pulse of a passion which throbs through every vein from head to hoof. This Triumph of the War-horse is one of the points of affinity in the Book of Job with Arab rather than with Hebrew civilisation. The text itself is nearer Arabic than any other Biblical book, and the life of the protagonist is very like the life of an ancient Arabian chieftain. The Jews proper cared little for horses; when they fell into their hands they knew no better than to destroy them. They were a pastoral people, at no time fond of sport, which was hardly recognised as lawful by their religious ordinances. They do not seem to have ridden on horseback. Zechariah, indeed, speaks of the war-horse, but only to represent him as the beautiful image of peace, no more mixing in the fray, but bearing on his bell (which was meant to affright the foe) the inscription: “Holiness unto the Lord.”

Photo: Mansell.
British Museum.

285On the other hand, the Arab, and, most of all, the Nomadic Arab, has a dual existence with his horse. He could not live without it; it is a part of himself—of all that makes him himself and not another. The same is true of the Todas and their buffaloes, the Lapps and their reindeer. In summer when the reindeer are in the hills, to save them from what is there called the heat, a Lapp seems only half a Lapp; but his thoughts are still of reindeer and his fingers are busy with scratching its likeness on his spoons, his milk-bowls, his implements of all sorts, all of which are made of reindeer-horn. His songs are still of reindeer: “While the reindeer lasts, the Lapp will last; when the reindeer fails, the Lapp will fail,” as ran the infinitely pathetic ditty I heard sung by a Lapp woman who was shown to me as the best singer of the tribe.

With all these people the flesh of the beloved animal is esteemed the greatest delicacy; a fact in which there seems to lie suggestions of cannibalism in its real psychological aspect—the eating of the hero in order to acquire his attributes. Sometimes, however, the reason may be simply that they were for long periods in the impossibility of obtaining other meat; since the natural man prefers food to which he has grown familiar.

In what is probably the oldest version of Boccaccio’s Falcon story, the Emperor of Constantinople sends to ask a very generous præ-Islamic Arab Chief, by name Hatem Tai (celebrated as the type of chivalry over all the Moslem world), to give him a horse which Hatem is known to value 286beyond all his possessions. The object of the demand was to put his reputation for generosity to the test. The officer, who is the bearer of the Emperor’s request, is regaled sumptuously on the evening of his arrival; and, according to the laws of Oriental courtesy, he puts off speaking of the business in hand till next day. When he delivers his message Hatem replies that he would have complied gladly, but that the officer had eaten the horse last night for supper! The horse was the most costly and coveted food which the chief could offer his guest, and the story becomes thus more intelligible than when the victim is an uneatable bird like a hawk.

In Oriental poetry the camel “who asks but a thorn from the bed of roses of the world” takes a well-merited share of attention, but the animal which is before all others the Eastern poets’ beast is, of course, the horse: he might himself be called the poet as well as the prince among beasts, for if any living thing incarnates the poetry “of form, of motion, of glad devotion,” it is surely the high-bred Arab steed. Innumerable tributes credit him with three parts human qualities:—

“The courser looks his love as plainly as if he could speak,
He waves his mane, his paws, he curls his nostrils and his lips;
He makes half-vocal sounds, uprears or droops his neck and hips,
His deep and pensive eyes light up with lambent flame, then seem
As if they swam in the desires of some mysterious dream.”[8]

8.  Translated by W. R. Alger.

287Of the true Arab horse it is said that his foot is so light that he could dance on a woman’s breast without leaving a bruise. Some of the Arabian ballads of horses are among the very few Oriental poems which have acquired universal fame, as that which tells of how the peerless Lahla picked up his captured and bound master and carried him with his teeth back to the tribe, on reaching which he sinks dead, amidst the tears and lamentations of all. Horses, the Koran expressly says, were created for man’s use, but also “to be an ornament unto him”: all the romance, the valour, the deep-seated aristocratic instinct of the Arab, proudest of mankind, is bound up with his horse. The splendid Arab chief who stands aside motionless to let go by an automobile carrying a party of tourists across the Sahara reflects, as he draws his burnoose closer over his mouth, “This is the ‘ornament’ of Western man!” And, looking at his horse, which stands motionless as he (for the Arab steed fears nothing when his master is near), he adds to himself: “These pass—we remain.” False it may be as a prophecy, but he believes it because convinced of his superiority.

Still by the camp-fires in the desert they tell the old story of a great chief who, in præ-Gallic times, was taken prisoner by the Emir’s horsemen. He escaped, but hardly had he reached his tent when in the desert air, in which sounds are heard afar off, a clattering of hoofs could be distinguished—the Sultan’s men were coming! The chief sprang on his mare and fled. When the men came up they knew that only 288one horse could overtake the mare, her beautiful sister, not less swift than she. A soldier leapt from his own horse intending to mount her, but the chiefs son, yet a child, instantly shot her dead with a pistol. And so the chief was saved.

The Ulemas of Algeria say that when God wished to create the mare He spoke to the wind: “I will cause thee to bring forth a creature that shall bear all My worshippers, that shall be loved by My slaves, and that will cause the despair of all who will not follow My laws.” And when He had created her He said: “I have made thee without an equal: the goods of this world shall be placed between thy eyes; everywhere I will make thee happy and preferred above all the beasts of the field, for tenderness shall everywhere be in the heart of thy master; good alike for the chase and retreat, thou shalt fly though wingless, and I will only place on thy back the men who know me, who will offer ME prayers and thanksgivings; men who shall be My worshippers from one generation to another.”

For the Arab the horse was not only the means of performing great enterprises but the very object of life, the thing in itself most precious, the care, the preoccupation, and the prize. The Arab’s horse is his kingdom.


I suppose that there is no doubt that the knightly type was a flower transported from the East, though, like many other Eastern flowers, it grew to its best in European gardens. The Crusaders learnt more than they taught. Coming down later, the national hero of Spain, for all his pure Gothic blood, is an 289Eastern not a Western hero. He will be understood far better when he is tried by this standard. If we weigh him in Eastern rather than in Western scales, a more lenient and above all a juster judgment will be the result, and we shall see how the fine qualities with which legend credits him were not disproved by some acts which the modern Western conscience condemns. On the whole it may be taken for granted, in spite of all that has been said to the contrary, that tradition which easily errs about facts, is rarely wrong about character.

Ruy Diaz de Bivar was a hero after the Arab’s own heart:—

“Noble y leal, soldado y Caballero,
Señor te apellido la gente Mora,”

as the lines run on his coffin in the town-hall at Burgos. Nothing being sacred to a critic, it has been contested that he was first called “Myo Cid,” or “My Lord,” by the Moors, but tradition and etymology agree too well for this to be reasonably doubted. It is certain that both Moors and Christians called him by his other title of Campeador in Spanish and Al-kambeyator in the form the Arabic writers gave it. It was derived from his gallantry in single combats and did not mean, as some have thought, “Champion of the Christians.”

It is entirely in keeping with the Cid’s Arab affinities that his horse should have attained a fame almost as great as his own. From Bucephalus to Copenhagen never was there a European horse equal in renown to Bavieca. His glory, is it not 290writ in nearly every one of the hundred ballads of the Cid? The choosing of Bavieca is one of the most striking events in the Cid’s youth. The boy asked his godfather, a fat, good-natured old priest, to give him a colt. The priest took him to a field where the mares and their colts were being exercised and told him to take the best. They were driven past him and he let all the handsomest go by; then a mare came up with an ugly and miserable-looking colt—“This,” he cried, “is the one for me!” His godfather was angry and called him a simpleton, but the lad only answered that the horse would turn out well and that “Simpleton” (“Bavieca”) should be his name.

Horses which begin as ugly ducklings and end as swans are an extensive breed. Count de Gubernatis, in his valuable work on “Zoological Mythology,” mentions Hatos, the magical horse of the Hungarians, as belonging to this class. If as old as the oldest legend, they are, in a sense, as new as the “outsider” which carries off one of the greatest prizes of the Turf. The choosing of Bavieca was in the mind of Cervantes when he described in his inimitable way the choosing of Rozinante (“ex-jade”), who never became anything but a rozin in the most present tense, except in the imagination of his master, but who will live for ever in his company, to bear witness to the indivisible oneness of the knight and his horse.

Completely Oriental in sentiment is the splendid ballad which relates how the Cid offered Bavieca to his king because it was not meet that a subject 291should have a horse so far more precious than any possessed by his lord. There is in this not only the act of homage but also the absorbing pride which made the Arab who was overtaking a horse-stealer, shout to him the secret sign at which his stolen mare would go her best, preferring to lose her than to vanquish her.

“O king, the thing is shameful that any man beside
The liege lord of Castile himself should Bavieca ride.
For neither Spain nor Araby could another charger bring
So good as he, and certes, the best befits the king.”

The gorgeous simplicity of the original is missed by Lockhart in the succeeding verses, in which the Cid, before giving up the horse, mounts him to show his worth, his ermine mantle hanging from his shoulders. He will do, he says, in the presence of the king what he has not done for long except in battle with the Moor: he will touch Bavieca with his spurs. Then comes the maddest, wildest, yet most accomplished display of noble horsemanship that ever witched the world. One rein breaks and the beholders tremble for his life, but with ease and grace he guides the foaming and panting horse before the king and prepares to yield him up. Then Alfonso cries, God forbid that he should take him: he shall be accounted, indeed, as his, but shameful would it be

“That peerless Bavieca should ever be bestrid
By any mortal but Bivar—‘Mount, mount again, my Cid!’”

292There is a spot in Spain where we still seem to breathe the very air of chivalrous romance: the royal armoury at Madrid, in which the mail-clad knights with their plumes, their housings, their lances, their trophies, sit their fine horses as gallantly as if they were riding straight into the lists. There, and there alone, we can invoke the proper mise en scène for the gestes and jousts described in the Spanish ballads.

Historically, it seems certain that the Cid died at Valencia in July, 1099, an access of grief that his captains—who, owing to his ill-health, were obliged to replace him—had failed to hold the Moors in check. King Alfonso came to the assistance of his noble widow, Jimena, but finally Valencia had to be abandoned; all the Christians left the town and the Cid’s body was borne to his distant Northern home. Such is the historical outline, sufficiently pathetic in itself but adorned with additions, not all of them, perhaps, invented in the sublime legend of the Last Ride. It is said that the Cid, knowing that his last hour was near, refrained from any food except certain draughts of rose-water in which were dissolved the myrrh and balsam sent to him by the great Sultan of Persia. He gave particular instructions as to how his body was to be anointed with the myrrh and balsam which remained in the golden caskets, and how it was to be set upright on Bavieca, fully saddled and armed, to be still a terror to the Moors, who were to be kept in complete ignorance of his death. All this was done and a great victory was won over the Moors, who thought they saw their dreaded enemy once more commanding in person. 293Then the victors started on the long journey to San Pedro de Cardeña, near Burgos, the Cid riding his horse by day, supported by an artful contrivance, and by night placed on a dummy horse wrought by Gil Diaz, his devoted servitor. Jimena, with all the Cid’s men, followed in his train. On the way the procession is joined by the Cid’s two daughters and by a great mass of people who mourned in their hearts for Spain’s greatest hero, but they wore rich and gay apparel, for the Cid had forbidden the wearing of mourning. So Cardeña was reached, and tenderly and lovingly Ruy Diaz lifted the Cid’s body for the last time from Bavieca’s back—never more to bear a man. The glorious war-horse lived for two years, led to water each day by Gil Diaz. On his death, at more than forty years of age and leaving not unworthy descendants behind him, he was buried, according to the Cid’s express desire, in a deep and ample grave, “so that no dog might disturb his bones,” near the gate of the Convent, and two elms were planted to mark the spot. When Gil Diaz died, full of years and richly provided for by the Cid’s daughters, he was laid to rest beside the horse he had loved and tended so faithfully.

In this narrative, condensed from the Chronicles, the curious particular will have been noticed of the gift by the “Great Sultan of Persia” to the Christian warrior of those precious spices and aromatic gums which seem to have been the secret treasure of old Persia, forming a priceless offering reserved for the very greatest personages. The strangeness of bringing in the Sultan of Persia 294almost suggests that there was truth in the assertion that he had sent presents to the Cid. Over the sea and over the fruitful fields the radiance of noble deeds travels, as Pinder said of old. A little after the march of the Thousand, the Arabs of the desert were heard discussing round their camp-fires the exploits of Garibaldi. If the fame of the Cid reached Persia, as it is very likely that it did, he would have found fervent admirers among a people which was still electrified by the epic poem of Firdusi, who died within a year or two of the Cid’s birth. In that epic is told the story of the Persian Campeador—the Champion Rustem, who not only in his title but in all we know of his general bearings has so great a resemblance to the Cid that it is a wonder if no historical “discoverer” has derived one from the other, the more so since there have not been wanting writers who denied the Cid’s existence. And if Ruy Diaz de Bivar has his analogue in Rustem, has not Bavieca a perfect counterpart in Rakush?

It is the horse not his master that leads me into the mazes of the Shah Nameh, but something of Rustem must be told to make Rakush’s story intelligible. Like Siegfried, Rustem was of extraordinary size and strength: he looked a year old on the day of his birth. When he was still a child a white elephant broke loose and began trampling the people to death: Rustem ran to the rescue and slew it. A little time after this his father, whose name was Zal, called the boy and showed him all his horses, desiring him to choose that which pleased him best, but not one was powerful enough or spirited enough to satisfy 295him. Unlike the Cid, Rustem wanted a horse that looked as perfect as he really was. After examining them all and trying many, he noticed at a little distance a mare followed by a marvellously beautiful foal. Rustem got ready his noose to throw about the foal’s neck, and while he did so, a stable-man whispered to him that this foal was, indeed, worth anything to secure; the dam, named Abresh, was famous, while the sire had been no mortal creature but a djinn. The foal’s name was Rakush (“Lightning”), a name given to a dappled or piebald horse, and his coat, that was as soft as silk, looked like rose-leaves strewn on a saffron ground. Several persons who had tried already to capture the foal had been killed by the mare, who allowed no one to go near it.

In fact, no sooner has Rustem lassoed the foal than its mother rushes towards him ready to seize him with her white teeth, which glisten in the sun. Rustem utters a loud cry which so startles the mare that she pauses for an instant: then, with clenched fist, he rains blow on blow on her head and neck till she drops down to die. It was done in self-defence: still, it is a barbaric prelude.

Rustem continued to hold Rakush with his free hand while he conquered the mare, but now the colt drags him hither and thither like an inanimate object: the dauntless youth has to strive long for the mastery, but he does not rest till the end is achieved. The horse is broken in at one breath, after the fashion of American cow-boys. It should be noticed that legendary heroes always break in their own horses—no 296other influence has been ever brought to bear on the horse but their own. Rakush has found a master indeed, but a master worthy of him. He has recognised that there is one—only one—fit to rule him. Like all true heroes’ horses, he will suffer no other mortal to mount him: if Barbary really allowed Bolingbroke to ride him it was a sure sign that his poor royal master was no hero. This same characteristic belonged also to Julius Cæsar’s horse, which was a remarkable animal in more ways than one, as he was reported to have feet like a human being. I have no doubt that Soloman’s white mare, Koureen, followed the same rule as well as the angel Gabriel’s reputed steed, Haziûm, though I have not found record of the fact.

When the colt is broken in, he stands before his master perfect and without flaw. “Now I and my horse are ready to join the fighting-men in the field,” says Rustem as he places the saddle on his back, to the boundless joy of Zal, whose old, withered heart becomes as green as springtide with the thrill of fatherly pride.

So Rakush is richly caparisoned and Rustem rides away on him, beardless youth though he is, to command great armies, slay fearsome dragons, defeat the wiles of sorcerers, and do all the other feats with which the fresh fancy of a young nation embroidered the story of its favourite hero—for, it must be remembered, Firdusi did not invent Rustem any more than Tennyson invented Lancelot. I think there is every reason to believe that there was a real Rustem just as there was a real Cid; and 297that the first, like the second, was a combination of the guerrillero, the condottiere, the magnificent free-booter, with the knight-errant or paladin—a stamp which was impressed upon the other rôle by the personal quality of noble-mindedness possessed by the individual in each case. For years unnumbered the exploits of Rustem have entertained the Persian listener from prince to peasant, but the story will ever remain young because it is of those which reflect that which holds mankind spell-bound: the magnetic power of human personality.

One hears the clear, crisp clatter of the horse’s hoofs as they gallop through the epic. Docile as Rakush has become, his spirit is unbent; he is eager to fight his own battles and his master’s too. Like Baiardo, the horse in Ariosto, he uses his hoofs with deadly effect, and on one occasion there is a regular duel between him and another horse while Rustem is fighting its rider. His rashness inspires Rustem with much anxiety in their earlier journeys together. Quite at the beginning, when Rustem is on his way to liberate his captive king—his first “labour”—he lies down to sleep in a forest, leaving Rakush free to graze, and what is not his surprise when he wakes to find a large lion extended dead on the grass close by. Rakush killed the savage beast with teeth and heels while his master slept tranquilly. Rustem remonstrates with his too venturesome steed: Why did he fight the lion all alone? Why did he not neigh loudly and call for assistance? Had he reflected how terribly unfortunate it would be for Rustem if anything were 298to happen to him? Who would carry his heavy battle-axe and all his other accoutrements? He conjures Rakush to fight no more lions single-handed. Then and at other times Rustem talks to Rakush, but Rakush does not answer like the horse of Achilles. The Persians of the eleventh century had reached the stage of people who take their marvels with discrimination; they accepted Simurghs, white demons, phantom elks, giants, dragons, but they might have hesitated about a talking horse. Another of Rustem’s addresses to his horse was spoken after one of his first victories when the enemy was in full retreat: “My valued friend,” he said, “put forth thine utmost speed and bear me after the foe.” The noble animal certainly understood, for he bounded over the plain snorting as he flew along and tossing up his mane, and great was the booty which fell into his master’s hands. Rustem once said that with his arms and his trusty steed he would not mind fighting thirty thousand men. As a matter of fact, he never lacked followers, for he was of those captains who have only to stamp on the ground for there to spring up soldiers.

In the nineteenth century a “legendary hero” wandered with his horse over the plains of Uruguay much as Rustem wandered with Rakush. “In my nomad life in America,” writes Garibaldi, “after a long march or a day’s fighting, I unsaddled my poor tired horse and smoothed and dried his coat ... rarely could I offer him a handful of oats since those illimitable fields provide so little grain that oats are not often given to horses. Then, after leading 299him to water, I settled him for the night near my own resting-place. Well, when all this was done, which was no more than a duty to my faithful companion of toil and peril, I felt content, and if by chance he neighed, refreshed, or rolled on the green turf—oh, then I tasted la gentil voluttà d’esser pio!” Marvels are out of date, but feeling remains unchanged, and the “sweets of kindness” were known, surely, even to the earliest hero who made a friend of his horse and found him, in the solitude of the wild, no bad substitute for human friends.

In the story of Sohrab, one of the finest episodes in epic poetry, Rakush is introduced as the primary cause of it all. Tired with hunting in the forest, and perhaps inclined to sleep by a meal of roasted wild ass, which seems to have been his favourite game, Rustem lay down to rest under a tree, turning Rakush free to graze as was his wont. When he awoke the horse was nowhere to be seen! Rustem looked for his prints, a way of recovering stolen animals still practised with astonishing success in India. He found the prints and guessed that his favourite had been carried off by robbers, which was what had actually happened: a band of Tartar marauders lassoed the horse with their kamunds and dragged him home. Rustem followed the track over the border of the little state of Samengan, the king of which, warned of the approach of the hero of the age, went out to meet him on foot with great deference. The hero, however, was in no mood for compliments; full of wrath, he told the king that his horse had been stolen and that he had traced 300his footprints to Samengan. The king kept his presence of mind better than might have been expected; he made profuse excuses and declared that no effort should be spared to recover the horse—meanwhile he prayed Rustem to become his honoured guest.

Emissaries were sent in all directions in search of Rakush and a grand entertainment was prepared for his master. Pleased and placated, Rustem, who had spared little time for luxury in his adventurous life, finally lay down on a delightful and beautifully adorned bed. How poetic was sleep when it was associated, not with an erection on four legs, but with a low couch spread with costly furs and rich Eastern stuffs! So Rustem reposed, when his eyes opened on a living dream, a maiden standing by his side, her lovely features illuminated by a lamp which a slave girl held. “I am the daughter of the king,” says the fair vision; “no one man has ever seen my face or even heard my voice. I have heard of thy wondrous valour....” Rustem, still wondering if he slept or woke, asked her what was her will? She answered that she loved him for his fame and glory, and that she had vowed to God she would wed no other man. Behold, God has brought him to her! She desires him to ask her hand to-morrow of her father and so departs, lighted on her way by the little slave.

Was ever anything more chaste in its self-abandonment than the avowal of this love, holy as Desdemona’s and irresistible as Senta’s? Nowhere in fiction can be found a more convincing illustration 301of the truth that the essential spring of woman’s love for man is hero-worship. On which truth, in spite of the illusions it covers, what is best in human evolution is largely built.

The king gave glad assent to the marriage, which was celebrated according to the rites of that country. Rustem tarried but one night with his bride: in the morning with weeping eyes she watched him galloping away on the recovered Rakush. Long she grieved, and only when a son was born was her sad heart comforted. The grandfather gave the boy the name of Sohrab. Rustem had left an amulet to be placed in the hair if God gave her a daughter but bound round the arm if a son were born.

In due course Rustem sent a gift of costly jewels to his wife Tahmineh, with inquiries whether the birth of a child had blessed the marriage? And now the mother of Sohrab made the fatal mistake of a deception which led to all the evil that followed; she sent word that a girl had been born because she was afraid that if Rustem knew that he had a son, he would take him from her. Rustem, disappointed in his hopes, thought no more about Samengan.

There is no hint that Tahmineh’s fibbing, which, like very many other “white lies,” ended in dire disaster, was in the slightest degree the moral as well as the actual cause of the fatality. Herodotus said that every Persian child was taught to ride and to speak the truth; by Firdusi’s time the second part of the instruction seems to have been neglected, for in the Shah Nameh he makes everybody give full rein to his powers of invention without the slightest 302scruple. The bad consequences are attributed to blind fate, not to seeing Nemesis.

What is so agonising in the doom of Sohrab is precisely the lack of moral cause such as exists in the Greek tragedies. Though we do not accept as a reality the Greek theory of retribution, we do accept it as a point of view, and it helps us, as it helped them, to endure the unspeakable horror of the Ædipus story.

Sohrab goes forth, with a boy’s enthusiasm, to conquer Persia as a present to his unknown father. The two meet, and are incited to engage in single combat, each not knowing the other. After a Titanic contest, Sohrab falls fatally wounded, and only then does Rustem discover his identity. Matthew Arnold’s poem has familiarised English readers with this wonderful scene, and though the “atmosphere” with which he surrounded it, is rather classical than Eastern, his “Sohrab and Rustum” remains the finest rendering of an Eastern story in English poetry. Some blind guide blamed him for “plagiarising” Firdusi: in a few points he might have done wisely to follow his original still more closely; at least, it is a pity that he did not enshrine in his own beautiful poem Sohrab’s touching words of comfort to his distracted father: “None is immortal—why this grief?” Brave, spotless, kind, Firdusi’s hero-victim who “came as the lightning and went as the wind” will always rank with the highest in the House of the Youthful Dead.

Sohrab had a horse as well as Rustem. This sort of repetition or variation which is often met with 303in Eastern literature pleases children, who like an incident much the better if they are already acquainted with it, but to the mature sense of the West it seems a fault in art. No doubt for this reason Matthew Arnold does not mention Sohrab’s horse, while doing full justice to Rakush. But connected with the young man’s charger there is a scene of the deepest human interest and pathos, when it is led back to his mourning, sonless mother who had watched him ride forth on it, rejoicing in its strength and in his own. It was chosen by him and saddled by him for the first time in his glad boyhood; now it is led back alone, with his arms and trappings hanging from the saddle-bows. In an agony of grief Tahmineh presses its hoofs to her breast and kisses head and face, covering them with her tears.

The mother dies after a year of ceaseless heartbreak; the father and slayer grieves with a strong man’s mighty grief, but he lives to struggle and fight. He and his Rakush have many more wondrous adventures, passing through enchantments and disenchantments and undergoing wounds and marvellous cures both of men and beast, till their hour too comes. Rustem had a base-born half-brother, named Shughad, who was carefully brought up and wedded to a king’s daughter, though the astrologers had foretold that he would bring ruin to his house. This evil genius invites his invincible kinsman to a day’s hunting, having secretly prepared hidden pits bristling with swords. The wise Rakush stops short at the brink of the first pit, refusing to advance; Rustem 304is stirred to anger and strikes his favourite, who, urged thus, falls into the pit, but with superhuman energy, though cruelly cut about, emerges from it with his rider safely on his back. It is in vain, for another and another pit awaits them—seven times they come up, hacked about with wounds, but on rising out of the seventh pit they both sink dying at the edge. Faintness clouds Rustem’s brain; then, for a little space, it grows clear and cool and he utters the accusing cry, “Thou, my brother!” The wretch’s answer is no defence of him—there can exist none—but strangely, unexpectedly, in spite of the impure lips that speak it, it gives the justification of God’s ways. “God has willed Rustem’s end for all the blood he has shed.” From his own stern faith with its Semitic roots, Firdusi took this great, solemn conception of blood-guiltiness which allowed no compromise. “Thou hast shed blood abundantly and hast made great wars.” One thinks, too, of the wail of one who was of modern men, the most like the old Hebrew type: “All I have done,” said Bismarck in his old age, “is to cause many tears to flow.”

The king, who is the father-in-law of Shughad, offers to send for a magic balm to cure Rustem’s wounds, but the hero will have none of it. He is now quite collected, though his life-blood is ebbing away. In a quiet voice he asks Shughad to do him the kindness of stringing his bow and placing it in his hands, so that when dead he may be a scarecrow to keep away wolves and wild beasts from devouring his body. With a hateful smile of triumph Shughad complies; Rustem grasps the bow, and 305taking unerring aim lets go the arrow, which nails the traitor to the tree, whither he rushed to hide himself. So Rustem dies, thanking the Almighty for giving him the power to avenge his murder.

There are few better instances of the long survival of a traditional sentiment than the fact of the king’s (or the chief’s) stable being regarded in modern Persia as an inviolable sanctuary. This must have originated in the veneration once felt for the horse. The misfortunes which befell the grandson of Nadir Shah were attributed to his having put to death a man who took refuge in his stable. No horse will carry to victory a master who profanes his stable with bloodshed. Even political offenders or pretenders to the throne were safe if they could reach the stable for as long as they remained in it.



I WAS looking idly at the motley Damascus crowd behind whose outward strangeness to my eyes I knew there lay a deeper strangeness of ideas, when in the middle of a clearing I saw a monkey in a red fez which began to go through its familiar tricks. I thought to myself, “How very near that monkey seems to me!” It was like the well-known figure of an old friend. So it is with the animal-lore of Eastern fiction; it seems very near to us; its heroes are our familiar friends. Perhaps we would lose everything in the treasure-house of Oriental tales sooner than the stories of beasts. If those stories had a hidden meaning which escapes us we are not troubled by their hidden meaning. In their obvious sense they appeal to us directly, without any effort to call up conditions of life and mind far removed from our own. We take them to our hearts and keep them there.

Indeed, the West liked the Eastern stories of beasts so well that it borrowed not a few without any acknowledgment. We all know that the Welsh dog, Gellert, whose grave is shown to this day, had a near relative in the mungoose of a Chinese Buddhist story which 307exists in a collection dating from the fifth century. The same motive reappears in the Panchatantra, a Sanscrit collection to which is assigned a slightly later date. These are the earliest traces of it that have come to light, but its subsequent wanderings are endless. The theme does not vary much; a faithful animal saves a child from imminent peril: it is seen with marks of blood or signs of a struggle upon it, and on the supposition that it has killed or hurt the child, it is killed before the truth is discovered. The animal varies according to the locality, and amongst the other points of interest in this world-legend is that of reminding us of the universal diffusion of pet animals. We learn, too, which was the characteristically household animal with the people who re-tell the story: in Syria, Greece, Spain, as in Wales, and also (rather to our surprise) among the Jews, we hear of a dog. The weasel tribe prevails in India and China, the cat in Persia. Probably in India and in China dogs were not often admitted inside the houses; in a Chinese analogous tale, of which I shall speak presently, there is a dog, but the incidents take place on the highway. The mungoose was the traditional pet of India because its enmity to snakes must have gained for it admittance into dwelling-places from very early times, and wherever man lives in domesticity with any animal that he does not look upon as food, he cannot save himself from becoming attached to it only a little less than he is attached to the human members of his household. To this rule there are no exceptions.

308In the matter of folk-tales, even when we seem to have a clue to their origin, it is rash to be dogmatic. It has been remarked that the origin of this story was probably Buddhist, because it is unquestionable that Buddhist monks purposely taught humanity to animals. Supposing that the story was diffused with a fixed purpose over the vast area covered at one time or another by Buddhism, it would have started with a wide base whence to spread. Moreover, as I mentioned, we find it first in a Buddhist collection of stories. But I am far from sure that the story did not exist—nay, that the fact may not have happened—long before Gautama preached his humane morality. Why should not the fact have happened over and over again? It is one of those stories that are more true than truth. I can tell a perfectly true tale which, though not quite the same as “Gellert’s hound,” deserves no less to go round the world. A few years ago a man went out in a boat on a French river to drown his dog. In mid stream he threw the dog into the water and began to row away. The dog followed and tried to clamber up into the boat. The man gave it some severe blows about the head with the oar, but the dog still followed the boat. Then the man lost his temper and lost his balance: just as he aimed what he thought would be the final blow he tumbled into the water, and as he did not know how to swim he was on the point of being drowned. Then the dog played his part: he grasped the man’s clothes with his teeth and held him up till assistance came. That dog was never drowned!

Things are soon forgotten now, but if this had 309only happened on a Chinese canal three thousand years ago we might still have been hearing about it. More folk-tales arose in such a way than an unbelieving world suspects.

In the Chinese Buddhist version of Gellert we are told that a very poor Brahman who had to beg his bread possessed a pet mungoose, which, as he had no children, became as fondly loved as if it had been his son. How true is this touch which shows the love of animals as the katharsis of the heart-ache or heartbreak of the childless! But, by and by, to the great joy of the Brahman, his wife bore him a son; after this happy event he cherished the mungoose even more than ever, for he said to himself that it was the fact of his having treated it as if it had been his child which had brought him the unhoped-for good luck of having a real child of his own. One day the Brahman went out to beg, but before he went out he told his wife to be sure and take good care of the child and carry it with her if she left the house even for a minute. The woman fed the child with cream and then remembered that she had to grind some rice; she went into the garden to grind it and forgot to take the little boy with her. After she was gone, a snake, attracted by the smell of the cream, crept quite close to where the child lay and was going to bite it, when the mungoose perceived what was going on and reflected: “My father has gone out and my mother too and now this poisonous snake wishes to kill my little brother.” So the mungoose attacked the poisonous snake and tore it into seven pieces. Then it thought that, since it had killed the 310snake and saved the child, it ought to acquaint its father and mother of what had happened and rejoice their hearts. Therefore it went to the door and waited for them to return, its mouth still covered with blood. Just then the Brahman came home and he was not pleased to see his wife without the child in the out-house, where the mill was. Thus, though this is left for the hearer to infer, he was already vexed and anxious, when he met the mungoose waiting by the door with blood on its mouth. The thought rushed into his mind, “This creature, being hungry, has slain and eaten the child! “He took up a stick and beat the mungoose to death. (Such a little thing, it is so easily killed!) After that he went into the house, where he found the baby sitting up in his cradle playing merrily with his fingers, while the seven pieces of the dead snake lay beside him! Sorrow filled the Brahman now; alas, for his folly! The faithful creature had saved his child and he, thoughtless wretch that he was, had killed it!

Only in this version are we informed of just what the devoted animal thought; which may be a sign of its Buddhist origin. In the modern Indian variant, the mungoose, tied by a string, does not succeed in getting free till after the child has been bitten by the snake with which he had been playing, thinking it a new toy. The cobra took the play in good part till the child accidentally hurt it; then, angry with the pain, it bit him in the neck. When the mungoose got loose the deed was done and the cobra had slunk back into its hole. Off ran the mungoose into the jungle to find the antidote 311which the Indian natives believe that this creature always uses when it is itself bitten by snakes. The mother comes in at the moment when the mungoose is returning with the antidote: she sees the child lying motionless, and thinking that the mungoose has killed it she seizes it and dashes it to the ground. It quivers for a few seconds, then it dies. Only when it is dead, does the mother notice the snake-root which it still holds tightly in its mouth. She guesses the whole truth and quickly administers the antidote to the child, who recovers consciousness. The mungoose “had been a great pet with all the children and was greatly mourned for.”

In the Sanscrit version preserved in the Panchatantra collection the mother has brought up an ichneumon with her only child, as if it had been his brother; nevertheless, a sort of fear has always haunted her that the animal might hurt the child sooner or later. I must interrupt the story to remark how often the inglorious Shakespeare of these poor little folk-tales traces with no mean art the psychological process which leads up to the tragic crisis. What more true to life than the observation of the two opposing feelings balancing each other in the same mind till some accident causes one of them to gain uncontrollable mastery?

When the woman has killed her innocent little favourite she is bitterly unhappy, but instead of blaming her own hastiness, she says it was all her husband’s fault: what business had he to go out begging, “through a greedy desire of profit,” instead of minding the baby as she had told him 312to do, while she went to the well to fetch water? And now the reprobate has caused the death of the ichneumon, the darling of the house!

The touching trait of the creature, which runs to its master or mistress after saving the child, with the charming confidence and pride which any animal shows when it knows that it deserves praise, appears in nearly all the versions. Prince Llewellyn’s greyhound goes out to meet him “all bloody and wagging his tail.” The ichneumon ran joyously to meet its mistress, and the cat, in the Persian version, came up to its master “rubbing against his legs.” In the Persian tale the child’s mother dies at its birth, and it is stated that she was very fond of the cat, which made the man even more grieved that he had killed it.

In German folk-lore the story of the dog “Sultan” sounds as if it were invented by some happy-souled humorist who had the Llewellyn motive in his mind, but who wanted to tell a merry tale instead of a sad one. “Sultan” is so old that his master wishes to kill him, though much against the advice of his wife. So “Sultan” consults a wolf of his acquaintance, who proposes the stratagem of pretending that he is going to eat the good people’s child, while “Sultan” pretends to come up just at the nick of time to save it. The plan is carried out with complete success, and “Sultan” lives out his days surrounded by respect and gratitude.

There are several Eastern tales which are of the same family as Llewellyn’s hound, but in which the animal, instead of saving a child, confers some other 313benefit on its possessor. In a Persian fable a king kills his falcon because it spilled a cup of water which he is about to drink: of course, the water was really poisoned. A current folk-tale of Bengal makes a horse the victim of its devotion in preventing its master from drinking poisonous water.

Rather different is the following Chinese tale, which is to be found, told at more length, in Dr. Herbert H. Giles’s delightful book, “Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio”:—

There was a man of Lu-ngan who had scraped together enough money to release his father from prison, where he was like to die of all the untold miseries of Chinese durance. He got on a mule and set out for the town where his father was languishing, taking the silver with him. When he was well on his way, he was much annoyed to see that a black dog which belonged to the family was following him; he tried in vain to make it go back. After riding on for some time, he got off the mule to rest and he took the opportunity for throwing a large stone at the dog, which ran away, but as soon as he was on the road again the dog trotted up and took hold of the mule’s tail, as if trying to stop it. The man beat it off with the whip, but it only ran round in front of the mule, and barked frantically so as to impede its progress. The man now reflected, “This is a very bad omen,” and he got fairly into a rage and beat the dog off with such violence that it did not come back. So he continued his journey without further incidents, but when he reached the city in the dark of the 314evening, what was not his despair on finding about half his money gone! He did not doubt that he must have dropped it on the way, and after passing a night of terrible distress he remembered, towards dawn, the strange way in which the dog behaved, and he began to think that there might be some connexion between this and the loss of his money. Directly the gates were open he retraced his steps along the road, though he hardly hoped to find any clue to his loss, as the route was traversed by many travellers. But at the spot where, on the previous day he dismounted from his mule to rest, he saw the dog stretched dead on the ground, its hair still moist with perspiration, and when he lifted up the body by one of its ears, he found his lost silver safely concealed underneath it! His gratitude was great, and he bought a coffin, in which he placed the dog and then buried it. The place is known as “the Grave of the Faithful Dog.”

It is not true that every one in China eats dogs, but some do, and the trade in such animals is a recognised business. There are several cat and dog restaurants at Canton. This unenviable habit gives rise to the story of a merchant who had made a good stroke of business at Wu-hu and was going home in a canal boat, when he noticed on the bank a butcher who was tying up a dog previous to killing it. It is not stated if the merchant had always a tender heart or if his good fortune in the town made him wish to do a good turn to some living thing; anyhow, he proposed to buy the dog. The butcher was no fool; he guessed that the trader 315would never leave the dog to its fate after thinking about rescuing it—what dreadful sleepless nights such a proceeding would cost any of us! So he boldly asked a great deal more than the dog was worth, which was paid down, and the animal was untied and put on the boat with his new master. Now it so happened that the boatman had been a brigand, and, though partially reformed, the feeling that he had on board a traveller with a large sum of money was too strong a temptation for him. So he stopped the boat by running it among the rushes and drew out a long knife, with which he prepared to murder his passenger. The merchant begged the brigand not to mutilate him or cut off his head, because such treatment causes the victim to appear in the next world as no one would like to. Brigands are generally religious, and this one was no exception; he was willing to oblige the merchant and tied him up, quite whole, in a carpet, which he threw into the river. The dog, which had been looking on, was in the water in a moment, hugging and tugging at the bundle till he got it to a shallow place. Then he barked and barked till people came to see what was the matter, and they undid the carpet and found the trader still alive. The first thought of the rescued man was to track the thief, for which purpose he started at once to go back to Wu-hu. At the time of starting, much to his distress, he missed the dog. On arriving at Wu-hu he hunted among the endless boats and shipping for the boat by which he had travelled, but unfortunately he could see nothing of it, and 316at last he gave up the search and was going home with a friend when what should he see but his lost dog, which barked in a curious way as if to invite him to follow it. The merchant did so, and the dog led him to a boat that was lying close to the quay. Into this boat the dog jumped and seized hold of one of the boatmen by the leg. In spite of blows the animal would not let go, and then the merchant, on looking hard at the boatman, recognised him as the very man who tried to murder him, though he had a nice new suit of clothes and a new boat. The thief was arrested and the money found at the bottom of the boat. “To think,” says the story-teller, “that a dog could show gratitude like that!” To which Dr. Giles adds that dogs in China are usually “ill-fed, barking curs” which, if valued as guardians of house and chattels, are still despised. But beautiful moral qualities have the power to conquer loathing, and even in those countries where the dog is regarded generally with aversion it is still the chosen type of sublime fidelity and love.

I can never think of Chinese dogs without remembering a story told by my cousin, Lord Napier of Magdala, of an incident which, he said, gave him more pain than anything that had ever happened to him in his life. When he was in China he chanced to admire a dog, which was immediately offered to him as a gift. He could not accept the offer, and next day he heard that the owner of the dog with all his family, five persons, had drowned himself in a well. Probably they imagined that he was offended by their offering him a mere dog.

317In India, to return to that home of legend, the two most sublime Beast Stories are to be found in the Great Epic of the Hindu race, the Mahabharata. They are both stories of the faithfulness of man to beast, and they afford consolation for the sorry figure presented by the human actor in the martyred mungoose tale. The first of these stories is the legend of the Hawk and the Pigeon. A pigeon pursued by a hawk flies for protection to the precinct of sacrifice, where a very pious king is about to make his offering. It clings to the king’s breast, motionless with fright. Then up comes the hawk, which, perching on a near vantage-ground, begins to argue the case. All the princes of the earth declare the king to be a magnanimous chief; why, therefore, should he fly in the face of natural laws? Why keep its destined food from the hawk, which feels very hungry? The king answers that the pigeon came flying to him, overcome by fear and seeking to save its life. How can he possibly give it up? A trembling bird which enters his presence begging for its life? How ignoble it would be to abandon it! Surely it would be a mortal sin! In fact, that is exactly what the Law calls it!

The hawk retorts that all creatures must eat to live. You can sustain life on very little, but how are you going to live on nothing at all? If the hawk has nothing to eat, his vital breath will depart this very day “on the road where nothing more affrights.” If he dies, his wife and children will die too for want of their protector. Such an 318eventuality cannot be contemplated by the Law: a law which contradicts itself is a very bad law and cannot be in accordance with eternal truth. In theological difficulties one has to consider what seems just and reasonable and interpret the point in that sense.

“There is a great deal to be said for what you say, best of fowls,” replies the king, who is impressed by the hawk’s forensic skill and begins to think him a person not to be trifled with; “you are very well informed; in fact, I am inclined to think that you know everything. How can you suppose, then, that it would be a decent thing to give up a creature that seeks refuge? Of course, I understand that with you it is a question of a dinner, but something much more substantial than this pigeon can be prepared for you immediately; for instance, a wild boar, or a gazelle or a buffalo—anything that you like.”

The hawk answers that he never, by any chance, touches meat of that sort: why does the king talk to him about such unsuitable diet? By an immutable rule hawks feed on pigeons, and this pigeon is the very thing he wants and to which he has a perfect right. In a delicate metaphor he hints that the king had better leave off talking nonsense.

The king, who sees that arguments are no good, now declares that anything and everything he will give the hawk by way of compensation, but that as to the pigeon, he will not give it up, so it is no good going on discussing the matter.

The hawk says, in return, that if the king is so 319tenderly solicitous on the pigeon’s account, the best thing he can do is to cut out a piece of his own flesh and weigh it in the scales with the pigeon—when the balance is equal, then and then only will the hawk be satisfied. “As you ask that as a favour,” says the king, “you shall have what you wish”—a consent which seems to contain a polite hint that the hawk might have been a little less arrogant, for in the hawk’s demand there was no mention of favours.

The king himself cuts out the piece of his flesh (no one else would have dared do it). But, alas! when it is weighed with the pigeon, the pigeon weighs the most! The king went on cutting pieces of his flesh and throwing them into the scales, but the pigeon was still the heaviest. At last, all lacerated as he was, he threw himself into the scales. Then, with a blast of revelation, the esoteric sense of the story is made plain. There is something grand in the sudden antithesis.

The hawk said: “I am Indra, O prince, thou that knowest the Law! And this pigeon is Agni! Since thou hast torn thy flesh from thy limbs, O thou Prince of Men, thy glory shall shine throughout all worlds. As long as there be men on earth they will remember thee, O king. As long as the eternal realms endure thy fame shall not grow dim.”

So the gods returned to heaven, to which the pious Wusinara likewise ascended with his renovated body, luminously bright. He needs not to complete his sacrifice—himself has he offered up.

The listeners (Eastern stories are for listeners, 320not for readers) are exhorted to raise their eyes and behold with the mind’s vision that pure and holy abode where the righteous dwell with the gods in glory ineffable.

This beautiful fable belongs to the general class of the ancient stories of Divine visitants, but it has a more direct affinity with the lovely legends of the Middle Ages, in which pious people who give their beds to lepers or others suffering from loathsome disease find that it was Christ they harboured. Though the story of the Hawk and the Pigeon may be used simply as a fairy tale, the moral of it is what forms the essential kernel of other-worldly religions. Through the mazes of Indian thought emerges the constant conviction—like a Divine sign-post—that martyrdom is redemption. The gods themselves are less than the man who resigns everything for what his conscience tells him to be right. Indra bows before Wusinara and seeks to learn the Law from him. India’s gods are Nature-gods, and Nature teaches no such lesson:—

“There is no effort on my brow—
I do not strive, I do not weep,
I rush with the swift spheres and glow
For joy, and when I will, I sleep.”

Higher religions are a criticism of Nature: they “occupy the sphere that rational interpretation seeks to occupy and fails, and fails the more the more it seeks,” and if they change with the change of moral aspirations they are still the passionate endeavour of the soul to satisfy them.

321The Buddhists took the story of the Hawk and the Pigeon and adapted it to their own teaching. Indra, chief of the gods, feels that his god-life is waning—for the gods of India labour, too, under the sense of that mysterious fatality of doom which haunted Olympus and Walhalla. Indra, knowing his twilight to be near, desired to consult a Buddha, but there was not one at that time upon the earth. There was, however, a virtuous king of the name of Sivi, and Indra decides to put him to the ordeal, which forms the subject of the other story, because, if he comes out scathless, he will be qualified to become a full Buddha. King Sivi had a severe struggle with himself, but he conquered his weakness, and when he feels the scale sink under him he is filled with indescribable joy and heaven and earth shake, which always happens when a Buddha is coming into existence. A crowd of gods descended and rested on the air: the sight of Sivi’s endurance caused them to weep tears that fell like rain mingled with divine flowers, which the gods threw down on the voluntary victim.

Indra puts off the form of a dove and resumes his god-like shape. What, he asks, does the king desire? Would he be universal monarch? Would he be king of the Genii? Would he be Indra? There is a fine touch in this offer from the god of his godship to the heroic man, and, like most Buddhist amplifications of older legends, it might be justified from Brahmanical sources, as by incredible self-denial it was always held to be possible to dethrone a god and put oneself in his place. But Sivi replies that the only state 322he craves is that of a Buddha. Indra inquires if no shade of regret crosses the king’s mind when he feels the anguish reaching to his bones? The king replies, “I regret nothing.” “How can I believe it,” says Indra, “when thy body trembles and shivers so that thou canst hardly speak?” Sivi repeats that from beginning to end he has felt no shadow of regret; all has happened as he wished. In proof that he speaks truth, may his body be as whole as before! He had scarcely spoken when the miracle was effected, and in the same instant King Sivi became a Buddha.

There is a Russian folk-tale which seems to belong to this cycle. A horse which was ill-treated and half-starved saves the child of one of his masters from a bear. He has a friend, a cat, who is also half-starved. After he has saved the child he is better fed and he gives the cat part of his food. The masters notice this and again ill-treat him. He resolves to kill himself so that the cat may eat him, but the cat will not eat her friend and resolves to die likewise.

The second great story of man and beast contained in the Mahabharata is that of Yudishtira and his dog. Accompanied by his wife and by his brethren, the saintly king started upon a pilgrimage of unheard-of difficulty which he alone was able to complete, as, on account of some slight imperfections that rendered them insufficiently meritorious to reach the goal, the others died upon the way. Only a dog, which followed Yudishtira from his house, remains with him still. At the final stage he is 323met by Indra, who invites him to mount his car and ascend to heaven in the flesh. The king asks if his brethren and the “tender king’s daughter,” his wife, are to be left lying miserably upon the road? Indra points out that the souls of these have already left their mortal coil and are even now in heaven, where Yudishtira will find them when he reaches it in his corporeal form. Then the king says, “And the dog, O lord of what Is and Is to be—the dog which has been faithful to the end, may I bring him? It is not my nature to be hard.” Indra says that since the king has this day obtained the rank of a god together with immortality and unbounded happiness, he had better not waste thoughts on a dog. Yudishtira answers that it would be an abominably unworthy act to forsake a faithful servant in order to obtain felicity and fortune. Indra objects that no dogs are allowed in heaven; what is a dog? A rough, ill-mannered brute which often runs away with the sacrifices offered in the temples. Let Yudishtira only reflect what wretched creatures dogs are, and he will give up all idea of taking his dog to heaven. Yudishtira still asserts that the abandonment of a servant is an enormous sin; it is as bad as murdering a Brahman. He is not going to forsake his dog whatever the god may say. Besides, it is not violent at all, but a gentle and devoted creature, and now that it is so weak and thin from all it has undergone on the journey and yet so eager to live, he would not leave it, even if it cost him his life. That is his final resolve.

Arguing in rather a feminine way, Indra returns 324to the charge that dogs are rough, rude brutes and quite ignores the good personal character given to this dog by its master. He goes on to twit Yudishtira with having abandoned his beloved Draupadi and his brothers on the road down there, while he makes all this stand about a dog. He winds up with saying, “You must be quite mad to-day.”

Repelling the disingenuous charge of abandoning his wife and brethren, Yudishtira remarks with dignity that he left not them but their dead bodies on the road: he could not bring them to life again. He might have said that Indra himself had pointed out to him this very fact. The refusal of asylum, the murder of a woman, the act of kidnapping a sleeping Brahman, the act of deceiving a friend—there is nothing, says Yudishtira, to choose between these four things and the abandonment of a faithful servant.

The trial is over and the god admits his defeat. “Since thou hast refused the divine chariot with the words, ‘This dog is devoted,’ it is clear, O Prince of Men, that there is no one in heaven equal to thee.” Yudishtira, alone among mortals, ascends to bliss in his own body. And the dog—what of the dog? One is sorry to hear that the dog vanished and in his place stood Yama, King of Death.

To us, far away from the glamour of Eastern skies, the god-out-of-the-machine or out of the beast-skin is not always a welcome apparition. We cannot help being glad when, sometimes, the animals just 325remain what they are, as in the charming Indian fable of the Lion and the Vulture. A lion who lived in a forest became great friends with a monkey. One day the monkey asked the lion to look after its two little ones while it was away. But the lion happened to go to sleep and a vulture that was hovering overhead seized both the young monkeys and took them up into a tree. When the lion awoke he saw that his charges were gone, and gazing about he perceived the vulture holding them tight on the top branches of the nearest tree. In great distress of mind the lion said, “The monkey placed its two children under my care, but I was not watchful enough and now you have carried them off. In this way I have missed keeping my word. I do beg you to give them back; I am the king of beasts, you are the chief of birds: our nobility and our power are equal. It would be only fair to let me have them.” Alas! compliments, though they will go very far, do little to persuade an empty stomach. “You are totally unacquainted with the circumstances of the case,” replied the vulture; “I am simply dying of hunger: what is the equality or difference of rank to me?” Then the lion with his claws tore out some of his own flesh to satisfy the vulture’s appetite and so ransomed the little monkeys.

In this fable we have the Hawk and the Pigeon motive with the miraculous kept in but the mythological left out.

Like a great part of the Buddhist stories of which the Lion and the Vulture is one, we owe its 326preservation to the industrious Chinese translator. In the same work that contains it, the Tatchi-lou-lun, we are told how, when a bird laid her eggs on the head of the first Buddha which she mistook for the branch of a tree, he plunged himself into a trance so as not to move till the eggs were hatched and the young birds had flown. The Buddha’s humanity is yet again shown by the story of how he saved the forest animals that were fleeing from a conflagration. The jungle caught fire and the flames spread to the forest, which burnt fiercely on three sides; one side was safe, but it was bounded by a great river. The Buddha saw the animals huddling in terror by the water’s edge. Full of pity, he took the form of a gigantic stag and placing his fore-feet on the further bank and his hind-feet on the other, he made a bridge over which the creatures could pass. His skin and flesh were cruelly wounded by their feet, but love helped him to bear the pain. When all the other animals had passed over, and when the stag’s powers were all but gone, up came a panting hare. The stag made one more supreme effort; the hare was saved, but hardly had it crossed, when the stag’s backbone broke and it fell into the water and died. The author of the fable may not have known that hares swim very well, so that the sacrifice was not necessary, unless, indeed, this hare was too exhausted to take to the water.

We can picture the first Buddhist missionaries telling such stories over the vast Chinese empire to a race which had not instinctively that tender feeling for animals which existed from the most 327remote times in the Indian peninsula. A good authority attributes the present Chinese sensitiveness about animals wholly to those early teachers.

A Sanscrit story akin to the preceding ones tells how a saint in the first stage of Buddhahood was walking in the mountains with his disciple when he saw in a cavern in the rock a tigress and her newly-born little ones. She was thin and starving and exhausted by suffering, and she cast unnatural glances on her children as they pressed close to her, confident in her love and heedless of her cruel growls. Notwithstanding his usual self-control, the saint trembled with emotion at the sight. Turning to his disciple, he cried, “My son, my son, here is a tigress, which, in spite of maternal instinct, is being driven by hunger to devour her little ones. Oh! dreadful cruelty of self-love, which makes a mother feed upon her children!”

He bids the young man fly in search of food, but while he is gone he reflects that it may be too late when he returns, and to save the mother from the dreadful crime of killing her children, and the little ones from the teeth of their famished mother, he flings himself down the precipice. Hearing the noise, and curious as to what it might mean, the tigress is turned from the thought of killing her young ones, and on looking round she sees the body of the saint and devours it.

The most remarkable of all the many Buddhist animal stories is that of the Banyan Deer, which is in the rich collection of old-world lore known as the Jātaka Book. The collection is not so much 328an original Buddhist work as the Buddhist redaction of much older tales. It was made in about the third century B.C. The Banyan Deer story had the additional interest that illustrations of it were discovered among the bas-reliefs of the stupa of Bharhut. I condense the story from the version of it given in Professor T. W. Rhys Davids’ “Buddhist India.”

In the king’s park there were two herds of deer, and every day either the king or his cook hunted them for venison. So every day a great many were harassed and wounded for one that was killed. Then the golden-hued Banyan Deer, who was the monarch of one herd, went to the Branch Deer, who was king of the other herd, and proposed an arrangement by which lots were to be cast daily, and one deer on whom the lot fell should go and offer himself to the cook, voluntarily laying his head on the block. In this way there would be no unnecessary suffering and slaughter.

Photo: Griggs.
(From “Stûpa of Bharhut,” by General Cunningham.)

The somewhat lugubrious proposition met with assent, and all seems to have gone well till one day the lot fell to a doe of the Branch king’s herd, who was expecting soon to become a mother. She begged her king to relieve her of the duty, as it would mean that two at once should suffer, which could never have been intended. But with harsh words the Branch king bade her be off to the block. Then the little doe went piteously to the Banyan king as a last hope. No sooner had he heard her tale than he said he would look to the matter, and what he did was to go straight to the block himself and 329lay his royal head upon it. But as the king of the country had ordered that the monarchs of both herds should be spared, the cook was astonished to see King Banyan with his head on the block, and went off in a hurry to tell his lord. Mounted in a chariot with all his men around him, the sovereign rode straight to the place. Then he asked his friend, the king of the deer, why had he come there? Had he not granted him his life? The Banyan Deer told him all. The heart of the king of men was touched, and he commanded the deer to rise up and go on his way, for he gave him his life and hers also to the doe. But the Banyan Deer asked how it would be with all the others: were two to be saved and the rest left to their peril? The king of men said that they too should be respected. Even then the Banyan Deer had more to ask: he pleaded for the safety of all living, feeling things, and the king of men granted his prayer. (What will not a man grant when his heart is touched by some act of pure abnegation?)

There is a curious epilogue to the story. The doe gave birth to a most beautiful fawn, which went playing with the herd of the Branch Deer. To it the mother said:—

“Follow rather the Banyan Deer,
Cultivate not the Branch!
Death with the Banyan were better far
Than with the Branch long life.”

The verse is haunting in its vagueness, as a music which reaches us from far away. “Follow rather 330the Banyan Deer!” ... follow the ideal, follow the merciful, he who loses his life shall find it.

The Indian hermit of whatsoever sect has always been, and is still, good friends with animals, and when he can, he gives asylum to as many as he is able, around his hermitage. This fact, which is familiar to all, becomes the groundwork of many stories. One of the best is the elaborate Chinese Buddhist tale of Sama, an incarnation of Buddha, who chose to be born as a son to two old, blind, childless folks, in order to take care of their forlornness. When the child was ten years old he begged his parents respectfully to go with him into the solitary mountains where they might practise the life of religious persons who have forsaken the world. His parents agreed; they had been thinking about becoming hermits before his birth, but that happy event made them put the thought away. Now they were quite willing to go with him. So they gave their worldly goods to the poor and followed where he led.

Photo: Mansell.
British Museum.
(Mural painting.)

There is a beautiful description of the life in the mountains. Sama made a shelter of leaves and branches, and brought his old parents sweet fruits and cool water—all that they needed. The birds and beasts of the forest, showing no fear, delighted the blind couple with their song and friendship, and all the creatures came at Sama’s call and followed him about. Herds of deer and feathered fowl drank by the river’s bank while he drew water. Unhappily one day the king of Kasi was out hunting in those wilds and he saw the birds and the deer, but Sama he did not see and an arrow he aimed at the herd pierced 331the boy’s body. The wounded boy said to the king, “They kill an elephant for its ivory teeth, a rhinoceros for its horn, a kingfisher for its feathers, a deer for its skin, but why should I be killed?”

The king dismounted, and asked him who he was—consorting with the wild herds of the forest. Sama told him that he was only a hermit boy, living an innocent life with his blind parents. No tiger or wolf had harmed them, and now the arrow of his king laid him low.

The forest wailed; the wild beasts and birds, the lions, tigers, and wolves uttered dismal cries. “Hark, how the beasts of the forest cry!” Said the old couple to one another, “Never before have we heard it so. How long our son has been gone!”

Meanwhile, the king, overcome by sorrow and remorse, tried in vain to draw the arrow from the boy’s breast. The birds flew round and round screaming wildly; the king trembled with fear. Sama said, “Your Majesty is not to blame; I must have done ill in a former life, and now suffer justly for it: I do not grieve for myself but for my blind parents ... what will they do? May heavenly guardians protect them!”

Then the king said, “May I undergo the torments of hell for a hundred æons, but O! may this youth live!” It was not to be; Sama expired, while all the wood birds flocking together tried tenderly to staunch the blood flowing from his breast.

I cannot tell the whole story, which has a strong suggestion of some poetic fancy of Maeterlinck. In the end Sama is brought back to life, and the eyes 332of his parents are opened. The king is admonished to return to his dominions and no longer take life in the chase.

In a Jaina hermit story a king goes hunting with a great attendance of horses, elephants, chariots, and men on foot. He pursues the deer on horseback, and, keen on his sport, he does not notice, as he aims the arrow, that the frightened creature is fleeing to a holy ascetic who is wise in the study of sacred things. Of a sudden, he beholds the dead deer and the holy man standing by it. A dreadful fear seizes the king: he might have killed the monk! He gets off his horse, bows low, and prays to be forgiven. The venerable saint was plunged in thought and made no answer; the king grew more and more alarmed at his silence. “Answer me, I pray, Reverend Sir,” he said. “Be without fear, O king,” replied the monk, “but grant safety to others also. In this transient world of living things, why are you prone to cruelty?” Why should the king cling to kingly power, since one day he must part with everything? Life and beauty pass, wife and children, friends and kindred—they will follow no man in death: what do follow him are his deeds, good or evil. When he heard that, the king renounced his kingdom and became an ascetic. “A certain nobleman who had turned monk said to him, ‘As you look so happy, you must have peace of mind.’”

It may be a wrong conception of life that makes men seek rest on this side of the grave, but one can well believe that the finding of it brings a happiness beyond our common ken. For one thing, he 333who lives with Nature surely never knows ennui. The most marvellous of dramatic poems unfolds its pages before his eyes. Nor does he know loneliness; even one little creature in a prisoner’s cell gives a sense of companionship, and the recluse in the wild has the society of all the furred and feathered hosts. The greatest poet of the later literature of India, Kálidása, draws an exquisite picture of the surroundings of an Indian heritage:—

“See under yon trees the hallowed grains which have been scattered on the ground, while the tender female parrots were feeding their unfledged young ones in their pendant nests.... Look at the young fawns, which, having acquired confidence in man, and accustomed themselves to the sound of his voice, frisk at pleasure, without varying their course. See, too, where the young roes graze, without apprehension from our approach, on the lawn before yonder garden, where the tops of the sacrificial grass, cut for some religious rite, are sprinkled round.”[9]

9.  Sir William Jones’s translation.

In the play of Sacontala—which filled Goethe with a delight crystallised in his immortal quatrain—no scene is so impressed by genuine feeling and none so artistic in its admirable simplicity as that in which the heroine takes leave of her childhood’s pet.

The hermit, who has been the foster-father of Sacontala, is dismissing her upon her journey to the exalted bridegroom who awaits her. At the last moment she says to him: “My father, see you there my pet deer, grazing close to the hermitage? She expects soon to fawn, and even now the weight of 334the little ones she carries hinders her movements. Do not forget to send me word when she becomes a mother.”

The hermit, Canna, promises that it shall be done; then as Sacontala moves away, she feels herself drawn back, and turning round, she says, “What can this be fastened to my dress?”

Canna answers:—

“My daughter,
It is the little fawn, thy foster child.
Poor helpless orphan! It remembers well
How with a mother’s tenderness and love
Thou didst protect it, and with grains of rice
From thine own hand didst daily nourish it,
And ever and anon when some sharp thorn
Had pierced its mouth, how gently thou didst tend
The bleeding wound and pour in healing balm.
The grateful nursling clings to its protectress,
Mutely imploring leave to follow her.”

Sacontala replies, weeping, “My poor little fawn, dost thou ask to follow an unhappy wretch who hesitates not to desert her companions? When thy mother died, soon after thy birth, I supplied her place and reared thee with my own hands, and now that thy second mother is about to leave thee, who will care for thee? My father, be thou a mother to her. My child, go back and be a daughter to my father!”

It is the fatality of the dramatist that he cannot stamp with truth sentiments which are not sure of a response from his audience: he must strike the keyboard of his race. We can imagine how 335thoroughly an Indian audience would enter into the sentiment of this charming scene. To the little Indian girl, who was still only a child of thirteen or fourteen, the favourite animal did not appear as a toy, or even as a simple playmate. It was the object of grave and thoughtful care, and it received the first outpouring of what would one day be maternal love.



THE last age of antiquity was an age of yeast. Ideas were in fermentation; religious questions came to be regarded as “interesting”—just as they are now. The spirit of inquiry took the place of placid acceptance on the one hand, and placid indifference on the other. It was natural that there should be a rebound from the effort of Augustus to re-order religion on an Imperial, conventional, and unemotional basis. Then, too, Rome, which had never been really Italian except in the sublime previsions of Virgil, grew every day more cosmopolitan: the denizens of the discovered world found their way thither on business, for pleasure, as slaves—the influence of these last not being the least important factor, though its extent and character are not easy to define. Everything tended to foment a religious unrest which took the form of one of those “returns to the East” that are ever destined to recur: the spiritual sense of the Western world became Orientalised. The worship of Isis and Serapis and much more of 337Mithra proved to be more exciting than the worship of the Greek and Roman gods which represented Nature and law, while the new cults proposed to raise the veil on what transcends natural perception. No doubt the atmosphere of the East itself favoured their rapid development; the traveller in North Africa must be struck by the extraordinary frequency with which the symbols of Mithraism recur in the sculpture and mosaics of that once great Roman dependency. Evidently the birthland of St. Augustine bred in the matter-of-fact Roman colonist the same nostalgia for the Unknowable which even now a lonely night under the stars of the Sahara awakes in the dullest European soul. Personal immortality as a paramount doctrine; a further life more real than this one; ritual purification, redemption by sacrifice, mystical union with deity; these were among the un-Roman and even anti-Roman conceptions which lay behind the new, strange propaganda, and prepared the way for the diffusion of Christianity. With the Italian peasants who clung to the unmixed older faith no progress was made till persecution could be called in as an auxiliary.

Photo: Mansell.
British Museum.

In such a time it was a psychological certainty that among the other Eastern ideas which were coming to the fore, would be those ideas about animals which are roughly classed under the head of Pythagoreanism. The apostles of Christ in their journeys East or West might have met a singular individual who was carrying on an apostolate of his own, the one clear and unyielding point of which was the abolition of animal sacrifices. This was 338Apollonius, of Tyana, our knowledge of whom is derived from the biography, in part perhaps fanciful, written by Philostratus in the third century to please the Empress Julia Domna, who was interested in occult matters. Apollonius worked wonders as well attested as those, for instance, of the Russian Father John, but he seems to have considered his power the naturally produced result of an austere life and abstinence from flesh and wine which is a thoroughly Buddhist or Jaina theory. He was a theosophist who refrained from attacking the outward forms and observances of established religion when they did not seem to him either to be cruel or else incongruous to the degree of preventing a reverential spirit. He did not entirely understand that this degree is movable, any more than do those persons who want to substitute Gregorian chants for opera airs in rural Italian churches. He did not mind the Greek statues which appealed to the imagination by suggestions of beauty, but he blamed the Egyptians for representing deity as a dog or an ibis; if they disliked images of stone why not have a temple where there were no images of any kind—where all was left to the inner vision of the worshipper? In which question, almost accidentally, Apollonius throws out a hint of the highest form of spiritual worship.

Photo: Alinari.
(Relief on fifth century tomb at Ravenna.)

The keenly intellectual thinkers whom we call the Fathers of the Church saw that the majority of the ideas then agitating men’s minds might find a quietus in Christian dogma which suited them a great deal better than the vague and often grotesque shape they had worn hitherto. But there was a residuum 339of which they felt an instinctive fear, and peculiar notions about animals had the ill-luck of being placed at the head of these. It could not have been a fortunate coincidence that two of the most prominent men who held them in the early centuries were declared foes of the new faith—Celsus and Porphyry.

When the Church triumphed, the treatise written by Celsus would have been no doubt entirely destroyed like other works of the same sort, had not Origen made a great number of quotations from it for the purpose of confutation. Celsus was no borné disputant after the fashion of the Octavius of Minucius, but a man of almost encyclopædic learning; if he was a less fair critic than he held himself to be, it was less from want of information than from want of that sympathy which is needful for true comprehension. The inner feeling of such a man towards the Christian Sectaries was not near so much that of a Torquemada in regard to heretics as that of an old-fashioned Tory upholder of throne and altar towards dissent fifty years ago. It was a feeling of social aloofness.

Yet Celsus wished to be fair, and he had studied religions to enough purpose not to condemn as delusion or untruth everything that a superficial adversary would have rejected at once; for instance, he was ready to allow that the appearances of Christ to His disciples after the Crucifixion might be explained as psychical phenomena. Possibly he believed that truth, not falsehood, was the ultimate basis of all religions as was the belief of Apollonius before him. In some respects Celsus was more 340unprejudiced than Apollonius; this can be observed in his remarks on Egyptian zoomorphism; it causes surprise, he says, when you go inside one of the splendid Egyptian temples to find for divinity a cat, a monkey or a crocodile, but to the initiated they are symbols which under an allegorical veil turn people to honour imperishable ideas, not perishable animals as the vulgar suppose.

It may have been his recondite researches which led Celsus to take up the question of the intelligence of animals and the conclusions to be drawn from it. He only touches lightly on the subject of their origin; he seems to lean towards the theory that the soul, life, mind, only, is made by God, the corruptible and passing body being a natural growth or perhaps the handiwork of inferior spirits. He denied that reason belonged to man alone, and still more strongly that God created the universe for man rather than for the other animals. Only absurd pride, he says, can engender such a thought. He knew very well that this, far from being a new idea, was the normal view of the ancient world from Aristotle to Cicero; the distinguished men who disagreed with it had never won more than a small minority over to their opinion. Celsus takes Euripides to task for saying—

“The sun and moon are made to serve mankind.”

Why mankind? he asks; why not ants and flies? Night serves them also for rest and day for seeing and working. If it be said that we are the king of animals because we hunt and catch them or because 341we eat them, why not say that we are made for them because they hunt and catch us? Indeed, they are better provided than we, for while we need arms and nets to take them and the help of several men and dogs, Nature furnishes them with the arms they require, and we are, as it were, made dependent on them. You want to make out that God gave you the power to take and kill wild animals, but at the time when there were no towns or civilisation or society or arms or nets, animals probably caught and devoured men while men never caught animals. In this way, it looks more as if God subjected man to animals than vice versâ. If men seem different from animals because they build cities, make laws, obey magistrates and rulers, you ought to note that this amounts to nothing at all, since ants and bees do just the same. Bees have their “kings”; some command, others obey; they make war, win battles, take prisoner the vanquished; they have their towns and quarters; their work is regulated by fixed periods, they punish the lazy and cowardly—at least they expel the drones. As to ants, they practise the science of social economy just as well as we do; they have granaries which they fill with provisions for the winter; they help their comrades if they see them bending under the weight of a burden; they carry their dead to places which become family tombs; they address each other when they meet: whence it follows that they never lose their way. We must conclude, therefore, that they have complete reasoning powers and common notions of certain general truths, and that they have a language and 342know how to express fortuitous events. If some one, then, looked down from the height of heaven on to the earth, what difference would he see between our actions and those of ants and bees? If man is proud of knowing magical secrets, serpents and eagles know a great deal more, for they use many preservatives against poisons and diseases, and are acquainted with the virtues of certain stones with which they cure the ailments of their young ones, while if men find out such a cure they think they have hit on the greatest wonder in the world. Finally, if man imagines that he is superior to animals because he possesses notion of God, let him know that it is the same with many of them; what is there more divine, in fact, than to foresee and to foretell the future? Now for that purpose men have recourse to animals, especially to birds, and all our soothsayers do is to understand the indications given by these. If, therefore, birds and other prophetic animals show us by signs the future as it is revealed to them by God, it proves that they have closer relations with the deity than we; that they are wiser and more loved by God. Very enlightened men have thought that they understood the language of certain animals, and in proof of this they have been known to predict that birds would do something or go somewhere, and this was observed to come true. No one keeps an oath more religiously or is more faithful to God than the elephant, which shows that he knows Him.

Hence, concludes Celsus, the universe has not been made for man any more than for the eagle or 343the dolphin. Everything was created not in the interest of something else, but to contribute to the harmony of the whole in order that the world might be absolutely perfect. God takes care of the universe; it is that which His providence never forsakes, that which never falls into disorder. God no more gets angry with men than with rats or monkeys: everything keeps its appointed place.

In this passage Celsus rises to a higher level than in any other of the excerpts preserved for us by Origen. The tone of irony which usually characterises him disappears in this dignified affirmation of supreme wisdom justified of itself not by the little standards of men—or ants. It must be recognised as a lofty conception, commanding the respect of those who differ from it, and reconciling all apparent difficulties and contradictions forced upon us by the contemplation of men and Nature. But it brings no water from the cool spring to souls dying of thirst; it expounds in the clearest way and even in the noblest way the very thought which drove men into the Christian fold far more surely than the learned apologies of controversialists like Origen; the thought of the crushing unimportance of the individual.

The least attentive reader must be struck by the real knowledge of natural history shown by Celsus: his ants are nearly as conscientiously observed as Lord Avebury’s. Yet a certain suspicion of conscious exaggeration detracts from the seriousness of his arguments; he strikes one as more sincere in disbelieving than in believing. A modern writer 344has remarked that Celsus in the second half of the second century forestalled Darwin in the second half of the nineteenth by denying human ascendancy and contending that man may be a little lower than the brute. But it scarcely seems certain whether he was convinced by his own reasoning or was not rather replying by paradoxes to what he considered the still greater paradoxes of Christian theology.

The shadow of no such doubt falls on the pages of the neoplatonists Plotinus and Porphyry. To them the destiny of animals was not an academic problem but an obsession. The questions which Heine’s young man asked of the waves: “What signifies man? Whence does he come? Whither does he go?” were asked by them with passionate earnestness in their application to all sentient things. Plotinus reasoned, with great force, that intelligent beast-souls must be like the soul of man since in itself the essence of the soul could not be different. Porphyry (born at Tyre, A.D. 233), accepting this postulate that animals possess an intelligent soul like ours, went on to declare that it was therefore unlawful to kill or feed on them under any circumstances. If justice is due to rational beings, how is it possible to evade the conclusion that we are also bound to act justly towards the races below us? He who loves all animated nature will not single out one tribe of innocent beings for hatred; if he loves the whole he will love every part, and, above all, that part which is most closely allied to ourselves. Porphyry was quite ready to admit that animals in their own way made use of words, and he mentions Melampus 345and Apollonius as among the philosophers who understood their language. He quoted with approval the laws supposed to have been framed by Triptolemus in the reign of Pandion, fifth king of Athens: “Honour your parents; make oblations of your fruits to the gods; hurt not any living creature.”

Neoplatonism penetrated into the early Church, but divested of its views on animal destiny; even the Catholic neoplatonist Boëthius, though he was sensitively fond of animals (witness his lines about caged birds), yet took the extreme view of the hard-and-fast line of separation, as may be seen by his poem on the “downward head,” which he interpreted to indicate the earth-bound nature of all flesh save man. Birds, by the by, and even fishes, not to speak of camel-leopards, can hardly be said to have a “downward head.” Meanwhile, the other manner of feeling, if not of thinking, reasserted its power as it always will, for it belongs to the primal things. Excluded from the broad road, it came in by the narrow way—the way that leads to heaven. In the wake of the Christian Guru came a whole troop of charming beasts, little less saintly and miraculous than their holy protectors, and thus preachers of the religion of love were spared the reproach of showing an all-unloving face towards creatures that could return love for love as well as most and better than many of the human kind. The saint saved the situation, and the Church wisely left him alone to discourse to his brother fishes or his sister turtle-doves, without inquiring about the strict orthodoxy of the proceeding.

346Unhappily the more direct inheritors of neoplatonist dreams were not left alone. A trend of tendency towards Pythagoreanism runs through their different developments from Philo to the Gnostics, from the Gnostics, through the Paulicians to the Albigenses. It passes out of our sight when these were suppressed in the thirteenth century by the most sanguinary persecution that the world has seen, but before long it was to reappear in one shape or another, and we may be sure that the thread was never wholly lost.

(Mosaic at Ravenna.)

An effort has been made to prove that the official as well as the unofficial Church always favoured humanity to animals. The result of this effort has been wholly good; not only has it produced a delightful volume,[10] but, indirectly, it was the cause of Pope Pius X. pronouncing a blessing on every one who is working for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the world. Roma locuta est. To me this appears to be a landmark in ethics of first-class importance. Nevertheless, historically speaking, it is difficult to resist the conclusion that the diametrically opposite view expressed by Father Rickaby in a manual intended for use in the Jesuit College at Stonyhurst,[11] more correctly gives the measure of what had been the practical teaching of the Church in all these ages. Even now, authoritative Catholics, when enjoining humanity to animals, are careful to add that man has “no duties” towards them, though 347they may modify this by saying with Cardinal Manning (the most kind-hearted of men) that he owes “a sevenfold obligation” to their Creator to treat them well. Was it surprising that the Neapolitan peasant who heard from his priest that he had no duties to his ass went home, not to excogitate the sevenfold obligation but to belabour the poor beast soundly? Though the distinction is capable of philosophical defence, granted the premises, to plain people it looks like a juggling with words. When St. Philip Neri said to a monk who put his foot on a lizard, “What has the poor creature done to you?” he implied a duty to the animal, the duty of reciprocity. He spoke with the voice of Nature and forgot, for the moment, that animals were not “moral persons” nor “endowed with reason,” and that hence they could have “no rights.”

10.  “L’Église et la Pitié envers les animaux,” Paris, 1903. An English edition has been published by Messrs. Burns and Oates.

11.  “Moral Philosophy,” p. 250.

At an early date, in the heart of official Catholicism, an inconsistency appeared which is less easily explained than homilies composed for fishes or hymns for birds; namely, the strange business of animal prosecutions. Without inquiring exactly what an animal is, it is easy to bestow upon it either blessings or curses. The beautiful rite of the blessing of the beasts which is still performed once a year in many places involves no doctrinal crux. In Corsica the priest goes up to the high mountain plateaux where the animals pasture in the summer, and after saying Mass in presence of all the four-footed family, he solemnly blesses them and exhorts them to prosper and multiply. It is a delightful scene, but it does not affect the conception of the moral status of 348animals, nor would that conception be affected by a right-down malediction or order to quit. What, however, can be thought of a regular trial of inconvenient or offending animals in which great care is taken, to keep up the appearance of fair-play to the defendants? Our first impression is, that it must be an elaborate comedy; but a study of the facts makes it impossible to accept this theory.

The earliest allusions to such trials that seem to exist belong to the ninth century, which does not prove that they were the first of the kind. One trial took place in 824 A.D. The Council of Worms decided in 866 that if a man has been killed by bees they ought to suffer death, “but,” added the judgment, “it will be permissible to eat their honey.” A relic of the same order of ideas lingers in the habit some people have of shooting a horse which has caused a fatal accident, often the direct consequence of bad riding or bad driving. The earlier beast trials of which we have knowledge were conducted by laymen, the latter by ecclesiastics, which suggests their origin in a folk-practice. A good, characteristic instance began on September 5, 1370. The young son of a Burgundian swineherd had been killed by three sows which seemed to have feared an attack on one of their young ones. All members of the herd were arrested as accomplices, which was a serious matter to their owners, the inmates of a neighbouring convent, as the animals, if convicted, would be burnt and their ashes buried. The prior pointed out that three sows alone were guilty; surely the rest of the pigs ought to be acquitted. Justice 349did not move quickly in those times; it was on September 12, 1379, that the Duke of Burgundy delivered judgment; only the three guilty sows and one young pig (what had it done?) were to be executed; the others were set at liberty “notwithstanding that they had seen the death of the boy without defending him.” Were the original ones all alive after nine years? If so, would so long a respite have been granted them had no legal proceedings been instituted?

An important trial took place in Savoy in the year 1587. The accused was a certain fly. Two suitable advocates were assigned to the insects, who argued on their behalf that these creatures were created before man, and had been blessed by God, who gave them the right to feed on grass, and for all these and other good reasons the flies were in their right when they occupied the vineyards of the Commune; they simply availed themselves of a legitimate privilege conformable to Divine and natural law. The plaintiffs’ advocate retorted that the Bible and common sense showed animals to be created for the utility of man; hence they could not have the right to cause him loss, to which the counsel for the insects replied that man had the right to command animals, no doubt, but not to persecute, excommunicate and interdict them when they were merely conforming to natural law “which is eternal and immutable like the Divine.”

The judges were so deeply impressed by this pleading that to cut the case short, which seemed to be going against him, the Mayor of St. Julien 350hastened to propose a compromise; he offered a piece of land where the flies might find a safe retreat and live out their days in peace and plenty. The offer was accepted. On June 29, 1587, the citizens of St. Julien were bidden to the market square by ringing the church bells, and after a short discussion they ratified the agreement which handed over a large piece of land to the exclusive use of the insects. Hope was expressed that they would be entirely satisfied with the bargain. A right of way across the land was, indeed, reserved to the public, but no harm whatever was to be done to the flies on their own territory. It was stated in the formal contract that the reservation was ceded to the insects in perpetuity.

All was going well, when it transpired that, in the meantime, the flies’ advocates had paid a visit to that much-vaunted piece of land, and when they returned, they raised the strongest objection to it on the score that it was arid, sterile, and produced nothing. The mayor’s counsel disputed this; the land, he said, produced no end of nice small trees and bushes, the very things for the nutrition of insects. The judges intervened by ordering a survey to find out the real truth, which survey cost three florins. There, alas! the story ends, for the winding up of the affair is not to be found in the archives of St. Julien.

Records of 144 such trials have come to light. Of the two I have described, it will be remarked that one belongs, as it were, to criminal and the other to civil law. The last class is the most 351curious. No doubt the trial of flies or locusts was resorted to when other means of getting rid of them had failed; it was hoped, somehow, that the elaborate appearance of fair-play would bring about a result not to be obtained by violence. We can hardly resist the inference that they involved some sort of recognition or intuition of animals’ rights and even of animal intelligence.

In the dawn of modern literature animals played a large, though artificial, part which must not be quite ignored on account of its artificiality, because in the Bestiaries as in the Æsopic and Oriental fables from which they were mainly derived, there was an inextricable tangle of observations of the real creature and arbitrary ascription to him of human qualities and adventures. At last they became a mere method for attacking political or ecclesiastical abuses, but their great popularity was as much due to their outer as to their inner sense. There is not any doubt that at the same time floods of Eastern fairy-tales were migrating to Europe, and in these the most highly appreciated hero was always the friendly beast. In a romance of the thirteenth century called “Guillaume de Palerme” all previous marvels of this kind were outdone by the story of a Sicilian prince who was befriended by a were-wolf!

It is not generally remembered that the Indian or Buddhist view of animals must have been pretty well known in Europe at least as early as the fourteenth century. The account of the monastery “where many strange beasts of divers kinds do live upon a hill,” which Fra Odoric, of Pordenone, 352dictated in 1330, is a description, both accurate and charming, of a Buddhist animal refuge, and in the version given of it in Mandeville’s “Travels,” if not in the original, it must have been read by nearly every one who could read, for no book ever had so vast a diffusion as the “Travels” of the elusive Knight of St. Albans.

With the Italian Renaissance came the full modern æsthetic enjoyment of animals; the admiration of their beauty and perfection which had been appreciated, of course, long before, but not quite in the same spirit. The all-round gifted Leo Battista Alberti in the fifteenth century took the same critical delight in the points of a fine animal that a modern expert would take. He was a splendid rider, but his interest was not confined to horses; his love for his dog is shown by his having pronounced a funeral oration over him. We feel that with such men humanity towards animals was a part of good manners. “We owe justice to men,” said the intensely civilised Montaigne, “and grace and benignity to other creatures that are capable of it; there is a natural commerce and mutual obligation between them and us.” Sir Arthur Helps, speaking of this, called it “using courtesy to animals,” and when one comes to think of it, is not such “courtesy” the particular mark and sign of a man of good breeding in all ages?

The Renaissance brought with it something deeper than a wonderful quickening of the æsthetic sense in all directions; it also brought that spiritual quickening which is the co-efficient of every really upward 353movement of the human mind. Leonardo da Vinci, greatest of artist-humanists, inveighed against cruelty in words that might have been written by Plutarch or Porphyry. His sympathies were with the vegetarian. Meanwhile, Northern Churchmen who went to Rome were scandalised to hear it said in high ecclesiastical society that there was no difference between the souls of men and beasts. An attempt was made to convert Erasmus to this doctrine by means of certain extracts from Pliny. Roman society, at that time, was so little serious that one cannot believe it to have been serious even in its heterodoxy. But speculations more or less of the same sort were taken up by men of a very different stamp; it was to be foreseen that animals would have their portion of attention in the ponderings of the god-intoxicated musers who have been called the Sceptics of the Renaissance. For the proof that they did receive it we have only to turn to the pages of Giordano Bruno. “Every part of creation has its share in being and cognition.” “There is a difference, not in quality, but in quantity, between the soul of man, the animal and the plant.” “Among horses, elephants and dogs there are single individuals which appear to have almost the understanding of men.”

Bruno’s prophetic guess that instinct is inherited habit might have saved Descartes (who was much indebted to the Nolan) from giving his name an unenviable immortality in connexion with the theory which is nearly all that the ignorant know now of Cartesian philosophy. This was the theory that 354animals are automata, a sophism that may be said to have swept Europe, though it was not long before it provoked a reaction. Descartes got this idea from the very place where it was likely to originate, from Spain. A certain Gomez Pereira advanced it before Descartes made it his own, which even led to a charge of plagiarism. “Because a clock marks time and a bee makes honey, we are to consider the clock and the bee to be machines. Because they do one thing better than man and no other thing so well as man, we are to conclude that they have no mind, but that Nature acts within them, holding their organs at her disposal.” “Nor are we to think, as the ancients do, that animals speak, though we do not know their language, for, if that were so, they, having several organs related to ours, might as easily communicate with us as with each other.”

About this, Huxley showed that an almost imperceptible imperfection of the vocal chord may prevent articulated sounds. Moreover, the click of the bushmen, which is almost their only language, is exceedingly like the sounds made by monkeys.

Language, as defined by an eminent Italian man of science, Professor Broca, is the faculty of making things known, or expressing them by signs or sounds. Much the same definition was given by Mivart, and if there be a better one, we have still to wait for it. Human language is evolved; at one time man had it not. The babe in the cradle is without it; the deaf mute, in his untaught state, is without it; ergo the babe and the deaf mute cannot feel. Poor babes 355and poor deaf mutes should the scientific Loyolas of the future adopt this view!

I do not know if any one has remarked that rural and primitive folk can never bring themselves to believe of any foreign tongue that it is real human language like their own. To them it seems a jargon of meaningless and uncouth sounds.

Chanet, a follower of Descartes, said that he would believe that beasts thought when a beast told him so. By what cries of pain, by what looks of love, have not beasts told men that they thought! Man himself does not think in words in moments of profound emotion, whether of grief or joy. He cries out or he acts. Thought in its absolutely elementary form is action. The mother thinks in the kiss she gives her child. The musician thinks in music. Perhaps God thinks in constellations. I asked a man who had saved many lives by jumping into the sea, “What did you think of at the moment of doing it?” He replied: “You do not think, or you might not do it.”

The whole trend of philosophic speculation worthy of the name lies towards unity, but the Cartesian theory would arbitrarily divide even man’s physical and sensational nature from that of the other animals. To remedy this, Descartes admitted that man was just as much an automatic machine as other creatures. By what right, then, does he complain when he happens to have a toothache? Because, says Descartes triumphantly, man has an immortal soul! The child thinks in his mother’s womb, but the dog, which after scenting two roads takes the third 356without demur, sure that his master must have gone that way, this dog is acting “by springs” and neither thinks nor feels at all.

The misuse of the ill-treated word “Nature” cannot hide the fact that the beginning, middle, and end of Descartes’ argument rests on a perpetually recurrent miracle. Descartes confessed as much when he said that God could make animals as machines, so why should it be impossible that He had made them as machines? Voltaire’s clear reason revolted at this logic; he declared it to be absurd to imagine that God had given animals organs of feeling in order that they might not feel. He would have endorsed Professor Romanes’ saying that “the theory of animal automatism which is usually attributed to Descartes can never be accepted by common sense.”

On the other hand, while Descartes was being persecuted by the Church for opinions which he did not hold, this particular opinion of his was seized upon by Catholic divines as a vindication of creation. Pascal so regarded it. The miraculous element in it did not disturb him. Malebranche said though opposed by reason it was approved by faith.

Descartes said that the idea that animals think and feel is a relic of childhood. The idea that they do not think and feel might be more truly called a relic of that darkest side of perverse childhood, the existence of which we are all fain to forget. Whoever has seen a little child throwing stones at a toad on the highway—and sad because his hands are too small to take up the bigger stones to throw—will understand what I mean. I do not wish to 357allude more than slightly to a point which is of too much importance to pass over in silence. Descartes was a vivisector: so were the pious people at Port Royal who embraced his teaching with enthusiasm, and liked to hear the howls of the dogs they vivisected. M. Émile Ferrière, in his work “L’âme est la fonction du cerveau,” sees in the “souls” of beasts exactly the same nature as in the “soul” of man; the difference, he maintains, is one of degree; though generally inferior, it is sometimes superior to “souls” of certain human groups. Here is a candid materialist who deserves respect. But there is a school of physiologists nowadays which carries on an unflagging campaign in favour of belief in unconscious animal machines which work by springs, while denying that there is a God to wind up the springs, and in conscious human machines, while denying that there is a soul, independent of matter, which might account for the difference. “The wish is father to the thought.” Non ragionam di lor ma guarda e passa.

The strongest of all reasons for dismissing the machine theory of animals is their variety of idiosyncrasy. It is said that to the shepherd no two sheep look alike; it is certain that no two animals of any kind have the same characters. Some are selfish, some are unselfish, some are gentle, some irretrievably ill-tempered both to each other and to man. Some animals do not show much regret at the loss of their offspring, with others it is manifestly the reverse. Édouard Quinet described how on one occasion, when visiting the lions’ cage 358in the Jardin des Plantes, he observed the lion gently place his large paw on the forehead of the lioness, and so they remained, grave and still, all the time he was there. He asked Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, who was with him, what it meant. “Their lion cub,” was the answer, “died this morning.” “Pity, benevolence, sympathy, could be read on those rugged faces.” That these qualities are often absent in sentient beings what man can doubt? But they are not to be found in the best mechanical animals in all Nuremberg!

Nor do machines commonly act as did the dog in the following true story which relates to something that happened during the earthquake of Ash Wednesday, 1887. At a place called Ceriana on the Italian Riviera a poor man who earned his living as a milk-carrier was supposed to have gone on his ordinary rounds, on which he was used to start at four o’clock in the morning. No one, therefore, thought of inquiring about him, but the fact was, that having taken a glass or two of wine in honour of the last night of the Carnival, he had overslept himself, and was still asleep when his cottage fell down upon him. He had a large dog which drew the little cart bearing the milk up the mountain paths, and the dog by chance was outside and safe. He found out where his master lay and succeeded in clearing the masonry so as to uncover his head, which was bleeding. He then set to work to lick the wounds; but, seeing that they went on bleeding, and also that he could not liberate the rest of the body, he started in search of help, running up and down among 359the surrounding ruins till he met some one, whom he caught hold of by the clothes. The man, however, thought that the dog was mad and fled for his life. Luckily, another man guessed the truth and allowed himself to be guided to the spot. History repeats itself, at least the history of devoted dogs. The same thing happened after the greater earthquake at Messina, when a man, one of the last to be saved, was discovered through the insistence of his little dog, who approached a group of searchers and whined piteously till he persuaded them to follow him to the ruins which concealed his master.

Nor, again, do machines act like a cockatoo I heard of from a witness of the scene. A lady was visiting the zoological gardens in a German town with her daughter, when the little girl was seized with the wish to possess a pretty moulted feather which was lying on the ground in the parrots’ cage. She made several attempts to reach it, but in vain. Seeing which, an old cockatoo hopped solemnly from the back of the cage and taking up the feather in his beak, handed it to the child with an air of the greatest politeness.

One of the first upholders of the idea of legislative protection of animals was Jeremy Bentham, who asked why the law should refuse its protection to any sensitive being? Most people forget the degree of opposition which was encountered by the earlier combatants of cruel practices and pastimes in England. Cobbett made a furious attack on a clergyman who (to his honour) was agitating for the suppression of bull-baiting, “the poor man’s sport,” as Cobbett called it. That it demoralised 360the poor man as well as tormented the bull never entered into the head of the inimitable wielder of English prose, pure and undefiled, who took it under his (happily) ineffectual protection. “The common law fully sanctions the baiting of bulls,” he wrote, “and, I believe, that to sell the flesh of a bull which has not been baited is an offence which is punishable by that very law to which you appeal” (“Political Register,” June, 1802).

Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had, in their day, to undergo almost as much criticism and ridicule in England as they now meet with in some parts of the Continent. Even the establishment of the Dogs’ Home in London raised a storm of disapproval, as may be seen by any one who turns over the files of the Times for October, 1860. If the friends of humanity persevere, the change of sentiment which has become an accomplished fact in England will, in the end, triumph elsewhere.

Unfortunately, humane sentiment and humane practice do not progress on a level line. As long ago as 1782 an English writer named Soame Jenyns protested against the wickedness of shooting a bear on an inaccessible island of ice, or an eagle on the mountain’s top. “We are unable to give life and therefore ought not to take it away from the meanest insect without sufficient reason.” What would he say if he came back to earth to find whole species of beautiful winged creatures being destroyed to afford a barbarous ornament for women’s heads?

The “discovery” of Indian literature brought prominently forward in the West the Indian ideas 361of animals of which the old travellers had given the earliest news. The effect of familiarity with those ideas may be traced in many writers, but nowhere to such an extent as in the works of Schopenhauer, for whom, as for many more obscure students, they formed the most attractive and interesting part of Oriental lore. Schopenhauer cannot speak about animals without using a tone of passionate vehemence which was, without doubt, genuine. He felt the intense enjoyment in observing them which the lonely soul has ever felt, whether it belonged to saint or sinner. All his pessimism disappears when he leaves the haunts of man for the retreats of beasts. What a pleasure it is, he says, to watch a wild animal going about undisturbed! It shows us our own nature in a simpler and more sincere form. “There is only one mendacious being in the world, and that is man. Every other is true and sincere.” It strikes me that total sincerity did not shine on the face of a dog which I once saw trotting innocently away, after burying a rabbit he had caught in a ploughed field near a tree in the hedge—the only tree there was—which would make it easy for him to identify the spot. But about that I will say no more. The German “Friend of the Creature” was indignant at “the unpardonable forgetfulness in which the lower animals have hitherto been left by the moralists of Europe.” The duty of protecting them, neglected by religion, falls to the police. Mankind are the devils of the earth and animals the souls they torment.

Full of these sentiments, Schopenhauer was prepared 362to welcome unconditionally the Indian conception of the Wheel of Being and to close his eyes to its defects. Strauss, too, hailed it as a doctrine which “unites the whole of Nature in one sacred and mysterious bond”—a bond in which, he goes on to say, a breach has been made by the Judaism and dualism of Christianity. He might have observed that the Church derived her notions on the subject rather from Aristotle than from Semitic sources.

Schopenhauer came to the conclusion that the ill-treatment of animals arose directly from the denial to them of immortality, while it was ascribed to men. There is and there is not truth in this. When all is said, the well-conditioned man always was and always will be humane; “the righteous man regardeth the life of his beast.” And since people reason to fit their acts rather than act to fit their reasoning, he will even find a motive for his humanity where others find an excuse for the lack of it. Humphry Primatt wrote in 1776: “Cruelty to a brute is an injury irreparable because there is no future life to be a compensation for present afflictions.”

Mr. Lecky, in his “History of European Morals,” tells of a Cardinal who let himself be bitten by gnats because “we have heaven, but these poor creatures only present enjoyment!” Could Jaina do more?

Strauss thought that the rising tide of popular sentiment about animals was the direct result of the abandonment by science of the spiritualistic isolation of man from Nature. I suspect that those who have worked hardest for animals in the last 363half-century cared little about the origin of species, while it is certain that some professed evolutionists have been their worst foes. The fact remains, however, that by every rule of logic the theory of evolution ought to produce the effect which Strauss thought that it had produced. The discovery which gives its name to the nineteenth century revolutionises the whole philosophic conception of the place of animals in the Universe.

Lamarck, whom Cuvier so cruelly attacked, was the first to discern the principle of evolution. At one time he held the Chair of Zoology at the University of Paris; but the opposition which his ideas met with crushed him in body, though not in soul, and he died blind and in want in 1829, only consoled by the care of an admirable daughter. His last words are said to have been that it is easier to discover a truth than to convince others of it.

An Italian named Carlo Lessona was one of the first to be convinced. He wrote a work containing the phrase, “The intelligence of animals”—which work, by the rule then in force, had to be presented to the ecclesiastical Censor at Turin to receive his permit before publication. The canon who examined the book fell upon the words above mentioned, and remarked: “This expression, ‘intelligence of animals,’ will never do!” “But,” said Lessona, “it is commonly used in natural history books.” “Oh!” replied the canon, “natural history has much need of revision.”[12]

12.  See Dr. F. Franzolini’s interesting monograph on animal psychology from the point of view of science (“Intelligenza delle Bestie,” Udine, 1899).

364The great and cautious Darwin said that the senses, intuitions, emotions, and faculties, such as love, memory, attention, curiosity, imitation, reason, of which man boasts, may be found in an incipient, or even, sometimes, in a well-developed condition in the lower animals. “Man, with all his noble qualities, his God-like intellect, still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin. Our brethren fly in the air, haunt the bushes, and swim in the sea.” Darwin agreed with Agassiz in recognising in the dog something very like the human conscience.

Dr. Arnold said that the whole subject of the brute creature was such a painful mystery that he dared not approach it. Michelet called animal life a “sombre mystery,” and shuddered at the “daily murder,” hoping that in another globe “these base and cruel fatalities may be spared to us.” It is strange to find how many men of very different types have wandered without a guide in these dark alleys of speculation. A few of them arrived at, or thought they had arrived at, a solution. Lord Chesterfield wrote that “animals preying on each other is a law of Nature which we did not make, and which we cannot undo, for if I do not eat chickens my cat will eat mice.” But the appeal to Nature will not satisfy every one; our whole human conscience is a protest against Nature, while our moral actions are an attempt to effect a compromise. Paley pointed out that the law was not good, since we could live without animal food and wild beasts could not. He offered 365another justification, the permission of Scripture. This was satisfactory to him, but he must have been aware that it waives the question without answering it.

Some humane people have taken refuge in the automata argument, which is like taking a sleeping-draught to cure a broken leg. Others, again, look for justice to animals in the one and only hope that man possesses of justice to himself; in compensation after death for unmerited suffering in this life. Leibnitz said that Eternal Justice ought to compensate animals for their misfortunes on earth. Bishop Butler would not deny a future life to animals.

Speaking of her approaching death, Mrs. Somerville said: “I shall regret the sky, the sea, with all the changes of their beautiful colouring; the earth with its verdure and flowers: but far more shall I grieve to leave animals who have followed our steps affectionately for years, without knowing for certainty their ultimate fate, though I firmly believe that the living principle is never extinguished. Since the atoms of matter are indestructible, as far as we know, it is difficult to believe that the spark which gives to their union life, memory, affection, intelligence, and fidelity, is evanescent.”

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, seven or eight small works, written in Latin in support of this thesis, were published in Germany and Sweden. Probably in all the world a number, unsuspectedly large, of sensitive minds has endorsed the belief expressed so well in the lines which Southey wrote 366on coming home to find that a favourite old dog had been “destroyed” during his absence:—

... “Mine is no narrow creed;
And He who gave thee being did not frame
The mystery of life to be the sport
Of merciless man! There is another world
For all that live and move—a better one!
Where the proud bipeds, who would fain confine
Infinite Goodness to the little bounds
Of their own charity, may envy thee!”

The holders of this “no narrow creed” start with all the advantages from the mere point of view of dialectics. They can boast that they have placed the immortality of the soul on a scientific basis. For truly, it is more reasonable to suppose that the soul is natural than supernatural, a word invented to clothe our ignorance; and, if natural, why not universal?

They have the right to say, moreover, that they and they alone have “justified the ways of God.” They alone have admitted all creation that groaneth and travaileth to the ultimate guerdon of the “Love which moves the sun and other stars.”








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