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the fields of corn. Now, it cannot be admitted, that so solemn a rite derived its origin from such an obscure beginning. Is it to be supposed, that because a single fox, wrapped in straw at Carseoli, set on fire a few spots of standing corn in his flight, every year, at Rome, on a certain day, a number of foxes were let loose with fire-brands on their tails? The truth seems to be, that the festive custom in Greece and Italy, was borrowed from the Phoenicians, the lineal descendants of the Philistines. It is well known to every classical scholar, that many peculiar customs of these two celebrated nations, were imported from Phænicia, where the inhabitants had some reason to commemorate the mischief which Samson's foxes had done to the property of their ancestors. The circumstances of the custom perfectly agree with the device of Samson, but seem to have very little relation to the incident at Car. seoli; for the foxes exhibited at Rome were not wrapped in straw, as the fox at Carseoli was, but had the firebrands bound to their tails, as in the story of Samson: for Ovid sings :
“junctis ardentia tædis Terga ferant vulpes.”—
Fast. lib. iv. And it is a most remarkable circumstance, that the foxes were let loose at Rome, not at the time of wheat harvest in Italy, but in Palestine, which falls about the middle of April. Let us hear Ovid himself :
“ Sed jam preteritas ubi quartus Lucifer idus," &c. The meaning of the passage is, the Hyades fall on the fourth day of the ides of April, that is, on the seventeenth day of that month, or, which is the same thing, on the fifteenth of the kalends of May; and on the third day after, that is, on the twentieth of April, the Curule games are celebrated in the circus, and the foxes are let loose.
But this is the time of sowing at Rome, not the time of harvest ; for Virgil says:
« Ante tibi Evæ Atlantides abscondantur
Debita quam sulcis committas semina.” Geor. lib. i, 1. 138. But, in Egypt and Palestine, it is quite different ; for, in those countries, the harvest begins in the month Abib, which answers to our March ; and by consequence, on the day after the passover, that is, in the middle of the month Abib or March, the sheaf of the first fruits was according to the law of Moses offered to God. But at the feast of Pentecost, fifty days after, the harvest was nearly finished; and for this reason it is called, in the twenty-third chapter of Exodus, the feast of harvest, not of harvest begun, but completed. These two feasts, therefore, the passover and Pentecost, included the time of harvest, which began with the first, and ended with the last. The barley harvest came on immediately after the passover; and the wheat harvest succeeded in the middle of April. This then, was the season of the year when Samson, provoked by the conduct of his father-in-law, turned loose the foxes among the standing corn of the Philistines. In this statement, we discover the reason that the sacred historian thus begins his narrative: “ And it came to pass within a whole year after, in the time of wheat harvest, that Samson visited his wife with a kid.” Part of the crop was then standing, and part was in the shock. It is therefore extremely probable, that the conflagration happened on the very day when the foxes were let loose into the circus, in commemoration of that burning which was first practised among the Phænicians, and afterwards borrowed from them by the Romans.
The fox is celebrated by every natural historian for his address and cunning. The ancients believed he could not
be taken with snares, traps or nets; for he is sufficiently cunning to perceive and avoid them ; he can gnaw asunder or untie the knots of the cords in which he is entangled, and by the most artful contrivances escape from destruction. What other beasts of prey accomplish by force, he performs by craft, and often with more success. Acute and circumspect, ingenious and prudent, he suits his conduct and operations to existing circumstances, and always reserves some art for unforeseen accidents. In securing his own safety, he is extremely vigilant. Although he possesses more agility and perseverance than the wolf, yet he trusts not entirely to the swiftness of his course, but endeavours to provide for himself an asylum, whither he retires from pressing dangers, where he dwells and brings up his young. “On the border of some wood, in the neighbourhood of a cottage, where he commonly fixes his abode, he listens to the shrill voice of the cock, and the crying of the poultry : he scents them at a distance; he chooses his time with judgment; he conceals his road, as well as his design; he steals forward with caution, sometimes even trailing his body, and seldom fails to accomplish his purpose. If he can leap the wall, or get in underneath, he ravages the court-yard, puts all to death, and then retires softly with his prey, which he either hides under the her. bage, or carries off to his kennel; he returns in a few mi. nutes for another, which he carries off, or conceals in the same manner, but in a different place. In this way he proceeds till the progress of the sun, or some movements perceived in the house, advertise him, that it is time to suspend his operations, and to retire to his den.” These facts illustrate the propriety of our Lord's reply to those who advised him to flee from the machinations of Herod : “ And he said unto them, Go ye and tell that fox, behold I cast out devils, and I do cures to-day, and to-morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.”y Herod was an insidious, crafty, and refined politician, and a cruel unfeeling prince. He recommended himself with great art to the Jews, by pretending a love for their religion ; whilst, intent on his own private interests, he servilely flattered the Roman emperor. It is known to all who are versant in the history of those times, by what arts he seduced his brother's wife, and with what cruelty, and in. justice he treated John the Baptist, who reproved him for his incestuous connection. The Herodians, it has been said, were his creatures and spies, who spread themselves over the country, to hear the conversation of the people concerning their master ; and were secretly sent to watch the discourses and proceedings of the Saviour. The title of fox, therefore, could not be applied with more propriety to any human character. But although Herod was confessedly artful and cruel as the fox, some have doubted if it was lawful for his subjects, of whom our Lord was one, to reproach him. But since the Saviour did reproach him, it was lawful; for he did always the things which pleased his heavenly Father: and the Spirit of inspiration attests him as the “ holy One and the just.” To this conclusive reply, may be added, that the objection is founded on the divine right of kings; a doctrine which cannot be suffi. ciently detested, and which has long been exploded by the most enlightened writers on jurisprudence.
w Bochart. Hieroz. lib. iii, cap. 13, p. 855.
* Buffon's Nat. Hist. vol. iv, p. 215. Aristotel. Hist. lib. i, cap. 1. Ælian de Nat. Animal. lib. iv, cap. 39; lib. vi, cap. 24; and lib. xiii, c. 11.
WILD INOFFENSIVE ANIMALS.
The Wild Ass.- The Hart.- The Ibex or Wild Goat.-The Antelope.
The Unicorn. The Coney. The Mouse.—The Badger - The Mole.. The Bat.
The Wild Ass. This animal was called ovos aygros among the Greeks, and onager by the Romans. Some natural historians consider it as a different species from the tame and domestic ass ; but others, among whom is the celebrated Buffon, affirm, that it differs from its unhappy relation, only in those particulars which are the proper effects of independence and liberty. Although more elegantly shaped, the general form of its body is the same ; but in temper and manners it is extremely dissimilar. Intended to fill a higher place in the kingdom of nature, than its abject and enslaved brother, it exhibits endowments, which in all ages have commanded the admiration of every observer. Animated by an unconquerable love of liberty, this high spirited animal submits his neck with great reluctance to the yoke of man; extremely jealous of the least restraint, he shuns the inhabited country, and steadily rejects all the delicacies it has to offer. His chosen haunt is the solitary and inhospitable desert, where he roves at his ease, exulting in the possession of unrestrained freedom. These are not accidental nor acquired traits in his character ; but instincts, * Bochart. Hieroz. lib. iii, p. 867. Buffon's Nat. Hist. vol. iii.—Onager.