Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

In the middle ages, the same absence of the national bird is observable. It does not even appear amongst these symbolic animals which adorned, encircled by a motto, the personal coats of arms of the French kings.

Philippe-Auguste had chosen Lions.
Louis VIII., Wild Boars.

Saint Louis, Dragons.

Philip the Hardy, Eagles.

Charles le Bel, Leopards.

King John, Swans.

Charles V., Grey Hounds and Dolphins.
Charles VII, and Charles VIII., Winged Stags.
Louis XII., Sea Porcupine.

Francis L., Salamander.

Nobody selected the Cock.

In the seventeenth century the Cock appeared on some medals. In 1665, le Quesnoy having been delivered, some medals were struck on which were to be seen the city at the bottom, and in the foreground the lion fleeing (this was the Lion of Spain,) and a Cock in pursuit. This evidently represented France as the lion portrayed Spain. The French not having it amongst their national ensigns, determined to latinize the name, and discovering that Gallus signified at the same time. Gaulois and Coq, they adopted the cock to represent the Gauls. One thing contributed to make them choose this allegory: this was the belief, as related by Pliny, that the cry of the cock made the lion flee; this notion caused them to place round their medals this legend: Cantax, fugat.

Hence the cock has been adopted as a device. In 1679, he re-appeared on another medal, surmounting a globe, on which was written Luccia: it was represented with spread wings with these words: Gallus protector sub umbrá

alarum.

On a medal relative to the junction of Prince Eugene and of Marlborough, which caused the scattering of the French army in 1706, may be seen France represented by a Cock seeking with avidity a bait by which it is immediately secured. Amongst the Dutch principally was this symbol spread, being represented in various medals and in different forms, the Batavian or Belgic Lion following the French cock. On one of the medals we have these words: Nunc tu Galle jugis, dum leo Belga fremit. On a medal of 1712, we see the Cock demanding

peace from the Batavian Lion and the English Leopard, and meeting a refusal. Finally, on a medal of 1760, it is the Imperial Eagle who tears the Gallic Cock and plucks its feathers.

"In fact," it is related in a curious article from which we have derived much information for this brief sketch, " the Cock assumed to be Gallic is formed of the French Revolution, as it is from that era alone its origin can be dated as a national emblem."

"In effect it originated in 1789, with the National Guard. Whilst they deliberated on the choice of an emblem they never dreamed that the Cock was Gallic, they only remembered that it was the Bird of the God Mars, and this was sufficient to induce them to adopt it; yet, during a long period of French history it was not employed. Its image is only associated with the noblest pages in the annals of republicanism. It came with the glory and disappeared before slavery; the faggot, egalité and the bonnet rouge of sad memory soon replaced it. In all the long roll of constitutions it was but seldom exhibited until the year 1792, and we believe that before 1793 it was almost entirely abandoned."

The Eagle has been symbolized in the armories of all great warriors of every nation, it had consequently the right of place in the armories of France.

In all researches, whether of mythology or of history, the Eagle is discoverable everywhere. He embraces each fabulous trait within the folds of his extensive wings, always sacred, always venerated, even dreaded, for he carried the thunderbolt. But it was specially as a protecting bird he appeared, protecting and saving being the noblest rights of power and strength. He saved Helen, 'when the knives of the priests were raised against her as their victim; he saved Valeria whom they placed before the altar for immolation. Thus, strong and immortal he was above all the enemy of death, the winged symbol of that existence of which he was the prototype.

To behold him hovering over a funeral pile, was a token of deification and immortality: he came to re-gather the souls of heroes whose glory should never die, or rather he was the type of the spirit who re-ascended with them to the bosom of the Gods. It was the ancient belief that the moment the pyre was lighted an eagle was set loose who discharged in his

flight torrents of flame and smoke, as the soul became released from the clouds of death. There could be no apotheosis or deification of which the eagle was not minister. To immortalize the type of the divine honors rendered to Julius Cæsar, they had engraven on rings, of which only one has been preserved, the figure of an eagle raising the thunderbolt, his eye fixed on a star, and bearing round his neck the name of Julius. It is the eagle above all, which has been considered the bird of victory and of power. The Romans were not the first to conceive this idea. Long before it appeared on the summit of their standards he had been regarded as one who could pierce the clouds, looking fixedly at the sun, and hold the thunderbolt, meet emblem of sovereignty and of glory.

"In Egypt," writes a French author," he was the symbol of the Nile, the river god, and on some monuments we recognize him in his soaring flight analogous to the winged sphere, another emblem of the power adored by the Egyptians. Among the Persians, Mithridates, wishing to re-appear under a visible form, took the figure of an eagle, and it was a similar type carved in gold, that Cyrus placed at the summit of his standards. Ezechiel caught a glimpse through the shadowing of his visions of the eagle, when he nominated the sovereign princes under the name of the victorious bird. But why then do we not see it likewise a symbol of deliverance for his nation, since with the eagle hovering over Babylon, liberty returned to the Jewish people, as more than twenty centuries later it revived for us under our imperial eagle, under the wings of whose beneficent protection we calmly repose."

The Romans had early adopted it. At first, they wreathed the sceptre of their kings with it; then, the kings being banished, they ornamented with it the sceptres of their hero chiefs, and it was the only standard of their legions. Under the republic The Roman Eagle was composed of wood, then of silver with a golden thunderbolt in his claws. Cæsar the First wished to have it altogether gold, but he removed the thunderbolt on which the bird was perched. To mark his indefatigable activity and his unceasing aspirations towards new conquests, Cæsar had the Eagle always represented with spread wings. Each Legion had its golden eagle set on the point of the lance. They guarded it with the most religious veneration, they swore by it as by a divinity, and these oaths were held the most sacred. The warrior bird still maintained its char

acter as patron, the guilty soldier about to be struck by the battle axe of the centurions, the enemy menaced with death, in order to be spared, came to place himself under the protection of the eagle, holding in his embraces the lance of the standard bearer. On days of triumph they exhibited the eagle with all the coquetry of victory; they covered it with laurel crowns and garlands of flowers. When a legion was encamped, they placed the eagle in the centre of that quarter, and if it happened that two legions were encamped together, they placed then on the borders of the two camps a double eagle with heads and wings reversed. This explains, without any manner of doubt, the double eagle which we see on the column of Antoninus, and which it would be well to guard against considering as the prototype of that more recently adopted by the first Byzantian Emperors as an emblem of their double empire of the East and of the West.

On days of defeat, the eagle was never permitted to fall into the hands of the enemy; when the standard-bearer saw the commencement of the rout, he broke his lance in two, and concealed in the ground the eagle and the fragment which it surmounted. It was thus it happened at the fatal combat of Trasimenus, and we are indebted to a similar. precaution of a standard-bearer for the only eagle of the legion which has been preserved. It was found in Germany, on the lands of the Count D'Erlach; it is of gilt bronze, thirteen inches high, and does not weigh less than twenty-pounds. During an attack of the Germans, the legion, which is believed to have been the twenty-second, having had to fly, the standard-bearer before escaping had doubtless concealed in the ground the eagle of which he had the charge.

Thus, the enemies of Rome, notwithstanding their victories, had not the gratification of parading the noblest insignia of their conquests. Varus, nevertheless, experienced the dishonor of beholding his legions destroyed and of losing his eagles. It is a tradition amongst the people of the north, that the troops of Arminius having conquered bore away two of them the first, which was black, that is to say bronze, was given to the Germans, the other white, that is silver, was left to the Sarmatian auxiliaries; and it is added that the black eagle which figures in the arms of the empire, and the white eagle on the escutcheon of Poland, had no other origin. For our part we give no credit to this legend, and for many

reasons. It is true, however, that the empire which bears at the present day the double eagle on its coat of arms, had for a long period the single eagle. But, though unwilling to offend against tradition-this is not the eagle of Varus. It is a souvenir of the Roman Cæsars which the German Cæsars had taken. But they did not retain it long. Was it not the successors of Charlemagne, who, having taken it for their imperial standard, had a fragment of it borne every day to the throne of Paleologues of Constantinople, who labored to make the people believe by this double faced eagle that they still held the double crown of the East and of the West? Otho the Fourth caused it to be engraven on his regal seal, and in the fifteenth century Sigismond, more daring, had it made altogether the ground of the escutcheon of the empire.

The Russians, who were a more formidable power, became jealous of this emblem, and the Czar Ivan the Third, who coming to espouse the daughter of Michael Paleologues, conceived he had a night in consequence of his alliance to assume the same standard, ordered a double eagle to be engraven on the coin, in all points equal to that of the German and Grecian Emperors. But instead of having the wings ascending, as the eagle of the Cæsars, it had the wings lowered. Ivan had no sooner been apprised of the difference existing between the Muscovite eagle and that of the Cæsars, than he caused the designers and engravers of the monies to be executed. The Russian eagle remained with the wings lowered, which, however, did not prevent its overtaking and even distancing the German eagle whose wings were spread.

We give, finally, the following legend for what it is worth, and we also give these predictions, which some even amongst our heraldists seem to conceive reasonable, owing to the position of the French Imperial eagle. It was, say they, twisted, that is to say, having the head leaning towards the left side, which is the symbol of forfeiture. Now, the eagle which surmounts the French flag carries his head to the right. The Psalmist has said of the Eagle that he is like the Phonix, he has the gift of renewing his life, and, by a series of successive renovations, augments it in duration a hundred fold. This is, however, but a magnificent metaphor, and the King Prophet, in speaking thus, has undoubtedly wished to make nothing more than a beautiful allegory. We find in the fifteenth century a learned Italian, named Panciroli, who

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »