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Indeed, the famous antiquary Hearne had such precise views in this matter that he left orders for his grave to be made straight by a compass, due east and west. This custom was practised by the ancient Greeks, and thus, as Mr. Tylor points out,' it is not to late and isolated fancy, but to the carrying on of ancient and widespread solar ideas, that we trace the well-known legend that the body of Christ was laid with the head towards the west, thus looking eastward, and the Christian usage of digging graves east and west, which prevailed through mediæval times, and is not yet forgotten. The rule of laying the head to the west, and its meaning that the dead shall rise looking towards the east, are perfectly stated in the following passage from an ecclesiastical treatise of the 16th century: "Debet autem quis sic sepeliri ut capite ad occidentem posito, pedes dirigat ad Orientem, in quo quasi ipsa positione orat: et innuit quod promptus est, ut de occasu festinet ad ortum: de mundo ad seculum."



Within old monuments and receptacles for the dead perpetual lamps were supposed to be lighted up, an allusion to which is made by Pericles (iii. 1), who, deploring the untimely death of Thaisa at sea, and the superstitious demand made by the sailors that her corpse should be thrown overboard, says:

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"Nor have I time

To give thee hallow'd to thy grave, but straight
Must cast thee, scarcely coffin'd, in the ooze;
Where, for a monument upon thy bones,

And aye-remaining lamps, the belching whale
And humming water must o'erwhelm thy corpse,
Lying with simple shells.”

1" Primitive Culture," 1873, vol. ii. p. 423.

2 Durandus," De Officio Mortuorum," lib. vii. chap. 35–39.

Dr. Johnson thought the words of the clown in "Hamlet" (v. 1), make her grave straight," meant, " make her grave from east to west, in a direct line parallel to the church." This interpretation seems improbable, as the word straight in the sense of immediately occurs frequently in Shakespeare's plays.

Again, in "Troilus and Cressida” (iii. 2), we find a further reference in the words of Troilus:

"O, that I thought it could be in a woman,

To feed for aye her lamp and flames of love."

Pope, too, in his "Eloisa to Abelard," has a similar allusion (1. 261, 262):

"Ah, hopeless lasting flames, like those that burn

To light the dead, and warm th' unfruitful urn!"

D'Israeli, in his "Curiosities of Literature," thus explains this superstition: "It has happened frequently that inquisitive men, examining with a flambeau ancient sepulchres which have just been opened, the fat and gross vapors engendered by the corruption of dead bodies kindled as the flambeau approached them, to the great astonishment of the spectators, who frequently cried out 'A miracle!' This sudden inflammation, although very natural, has given room to believe that these flames proceeded from perpetual lamps, which some have thought were placed in the tombs of the ancients, and which, they said, were extinguished at the moment that these tombs opened, and were penetrated by the exterior air." Mr. Dennis, however, in his "Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria" (1878, vol. ii. p. 404), says that the use of sepulchral lamps by the ancients is well known, and gave rise to the above superstition. Sometimes lamps were kept burning in sepulchres long after the interment, as in the case of the Ephesian widow described by Petronius ("Satyr," c. 13), who replaced the lamp placed in her husband's tomb.

A common expression formerly applied to the dead occurs in the "Winter's Tale" (v. 1), where Dion asks:

"What were more holy,

Than to rejoice the former queen is well?"

So in "Antony and Cleopatra" (ii. 5):

"Messenger. First, madam, he is well.


But, sirrah, mark, we use

To say, the dead are well." 1

Why, there's more gold.

Lastly, commentators have differed as to the meaning of the words of Julia in the "Two Gentlemen of Verona" (i. 2):

"I see you have a month's mind to them."

Douce says she refers to the mind or remembrance days of our popish ancestors; persons in their wills having often directed that in a month, or at some other specific time, some solemn office, as a mass or a dirge, should be performed for the repose of their souls. Thus Ray quotes a proverb: "To have a month's mind to a thing," and mentions the above custom. For a further and not improbable solution of this difficulty, the reader may consult Dyce's "Glossary" (p. 277).

1 See Malone's note, Variorum edition, xiv. 400.





FROM a very early period, rings and precious stones have held a prominent place in the traditionary lore, customs, and superstitions of most nations. Thus, rings have been supposed to protect from evil fascinations of every kind, against the evil eye, the influence of demons, and dangers of every possible character; though it was not simply in the rings themselves that the supposed virtues existed, but in the materials of which they were composed-in some particular precious stones that were set in them as charms or talismans, in some device or inscription on the stone, or some magical letters engraved on the circumference of the ring." Rings, too, in days gone by, had a symbolical importance. Thus, it was anciently the custom for every monarch to have a ring, the temporary possession of which invested the holder with the same authority as the owner himself could exercise. Thus, in "Henry VIII." (v. 1), we have the king's ring given to Cranmer, and presented by him (sc. 2), as a security against the machinations of Gardiner and others of the council, who were plotting to destroy him. Thus the king says:

"If entreaties

Will render you no remedy, this ring
Deliver them, and your appeal to us
There make before them."

This custom, too, was not confined to royalty, for in "Richard II." (ii. 2), the Duke of York gives this order

to his servant:

'Jones's "Finger-Ring Lore," 1877, p. 91.

"Sirrah, get thee to Plashy, to my sister Gloster;
Bid her send me presently a thousand pound :—
Hold, take my ring."

There is an interesting relic of the same custom still kept up at Winchester College.' When the captain of the school petitions the head-master for a holiday, and obtains it, he receives from him a ring, in token of the indulgence granted, which he wears during the holiday, and returns to the headmaster when it is over. The inscription upon the ring was, formerly, "Potentiam fero, geroque." It is now "Commendat rarior usus" (Juvenal, "Sat." xi. 208).

Token Rings date from very early times. Edward I., in 1297, presented Margaret, his fourth daughter, with a golden pyx, in which he deposited a ring, as a token of his unfailing love.

In "Richard III." (i. 2) when Gloster brings his hasty wooing to a conclusion, he gives the Lady Anne a ring, saying:

"Look, how my ring encompasseth thy finger,

Even so thy breast encloseth my poor heart;
Wear both of them, for both of them are thine."

In "Cymbeline" (i. 1) Imogen gives Posthumus a ring when they part, and he presents her with a bracelet in exchange:

"Look here, love;

This diamond was my mother's; take it, heart;
But keep it till you woo another wife,
When Imogen is dead.

Posthumus. How! how! another?—

You gentle gods, give me but this I have,

And sear up my embracements from a next

With bonds of death!

Remain, remain thou here,

(Putting on the ring)

While sense can keep it on."

Yet he afterwards gives it up to Iachimo (ii. 4)—upon a false representation-to test his wife's honor:

1 Wordsworth's "Shakespeare and the Bible," 1880, p. 283.

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