Page:Notes and Queries - Series 9 - Volume 9.djvu/238

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ix. MARCH 22, 1902.

insignia; the cloven hoof may become solid ungulous like that of the horse,. and instead of a pitchfork he may brandish a fiery sword. Not only have conquered gods and demigods contributed characteristic features to the vulgar conception of the devil, but trolls or giants have handed down to the same detested personage the stupidity and awkwardness of their kind. Hence the ludicrous stories told of Satan's discomfiture at the hands of old women and born idiots, to the scandal of many pious souls who have been taught to treat the devil with respect, like the clergyman of whom MR. MARCHANT tells us, and who cannot for the life of them see anything amusing in the author of all evil. The ease with which such a dummer Teufel is tricked by his intended victims contrasts indeed strangely with the character for consummate cunning attributed to the deceiver of mankind, whose very name of " the Old Serpent " is suggestive of his subtlety.*

Ancient Egypt, too, had its great serpent, Apap, the power of darkness opposed to the sun-gods, as well as Set (Typhon). So in Greek mythology Python is a mighty dragon or snake slain by the solar deity Apollo, and the Gigantes (not the Titans) are represented as ^monsters of Ophidian form below the waist, when attempting to storm the heavens.

"The quaint ideas of children" on the per- sonal behaviour of the devil are generally no more than a too literal belief in what they are told. A mother warns her little boy that Satan is everywhere seeking to destroy souls, and then relates with amusement how the child asked whether he ever travelled in a railway carriage, and got under the seats. Mere infants are taught to repeat

And Satan trembles when he sees The weakest saint upon his knees.

Yet it is thought odd that a triumph over some juvenile temptation is followed by a

crow over Satan's discomfiture," which at least shows that the pupil has grasped the meaning of the couplet better than the little maid who wanted to know why Satan should tremble to take a poor saint on his lap !

^he inclusive term "devil" for the infernal king, as well as for his inferior agents is unfortunately used in our English Bibles

The theory which was current in early patristic literature as to the method of man's redemption bv which the devil was ignominiousiy duped, may have had some influence in lowering the standard of

in Christian

(even in the text of the Revised Version), both for Ata/3oAo5, never found in the plural, and Satfiotv or SaiftovLov. The Latin Vul- gate with greater discrimination translates by diabolus and dcemonium respectively. There is one devil, but many demons. To the emissaries of Satan derived from foreign sources, like Beelzebub, were added, as Christianity prevailed over paganism, the fallen deities or demons of Greece and Rome, of Teuton and of Kelt, and even the fantastic denizens of fairyland (faerie), who, though called " the good people," perhaps to appease their malice, were nevertheless more often formidable than frolicsome in the days when they received real religious homage.

How the prince of darkness came to act "as an infernal bourreau" in popular imagi- nation is no very difficult matter to under- stand, when the gradual descent of Satan is studied from the dignity of one who is admitted into heaven itself with the sons of God, down to the contemptible position of an inveterate trickster and buffoon, some- times baffled and outwitted, sometimes suc- cessful, in his plots to get possession of a human soul. It is no long step from such a conception to that of the torturer gloating over his long-expected prey, with the lurid pictures of a material hell,

Where sinners must with devils dwell In darkness, fire, and chains,

such as the imagination of divines and poets and painters elaborated, to scare the wicked and warn the weak. Is it surprising that the devil and his angels should share the congenial task of chastising those com- mitted to their tender mercies by a superior power 1 ? Moreover, the earliest idea of the evil one seems to have been as an agent of Divine punishment, doing con amore the dirty work which no respectable angel would desire. This makes him hateful in the eyes of men, and his moral character deteriorates along with his dignity. He tempts mankind for his own ends, he thwarts instead of pro- moting the designs of Providence, he carries off his victims with delight, and torments them with the most savage ferocity. Though " their companion in misery," he wields the scourge with no less zest for that, any more than Sambo or Quimbo spared the back of Uncle Tom. But most probably the idea of the " infernal bourreau " belongs to a different pedigree from that of "the arch-rebel," and is an incongruous element in Divine justice.

In Psalm Ixxyiii. 49, quoted by MR. MARCHANT, "sending evil angels among them," the Revised Version renders "evil angels" as "angels of evil." Their mission was to