Archives for: May 2007, 07

05/07/07

Permalink 06:03:37 pm, by sue Email , 451 words   English (CA)
Categories: History In The News, Folklore And Superstitions, British History

Earthquakes As Omens Of Doom

People no longer regard natural phenomena as omens of doom but they may not be any more sensible, Lisa Jardine writes. Read on:

We are used to turning on the radio to a report that a natural disaster has struck in some far away part of the world - a major earthquake has occurred in San Francisco, Los Angeles or Mexico City, along the San Andreas fault; a Tsunami threatens Indonesia, where four tectonic plates jostle one other off the coast of Sumatra.

The recent report of a sizeable earthquake which had rocked parts of Kent, damaging buildings and disrupting electricity supplies, was alarmingly closer to home. It was not, however, an unheard of event for the south of England.

At six o'clock on the evening of 6 April 1580, Gabriel Harvey - the self-important Cambridge Professor of Rhetoric, and friend of poet Edmund Spenser - was at the home of a gentleman friend in Essex, playing cards.

Without warning, everything around them began to rattle and pulsate. "The earth under us quaked," he reported, "and the house shaked above; besides the moving and rattling of the table and forms [benches] where we sat."

Concentrating as he was on the rather good hand he had been dealt, Harvey claims at first to have thought the effect was caused by noisy footsteps in an upstairs room. His host, however, soon came "stumbling into the Parlour, somewhat strangely affrighted, and in a manner all aghast", to tell them that he and all his servants had experienced a violent motion of the entire building.

Sending out to the nearest town, he had been informed that an earthquake had indeed taken place, causing extensive damage on either side of the English Channel.

The ladies present professed themselves "never so scared in their life". "I beseech you heartily," said one of them, "let us leave off playing, and fall a praying".

Superstitious riff-raff

Gabriel Harvey would have none of it. In characteristically professorial fashion, he proceeded to sit the household down and give them a stern lecture on how there was always a rational explanation for alarming natural phenomena.

He denounced the superstitious riff-raff who saw in every violent storm, comet, eclipse or earthquake a divine portent of some punishment about to befall the human race. He argued - at some length - that although the earthquake was clearly an act of God, it could still be explained in purely natural terms.

Although his science was limited, he made a stab at explaining the 'exhalations of wind' from beneath the earth's surface, which had given rise to it.


Full BBC Article Here

An interesting read that demonstrates how far we have come in our thinking, and again how far we seemingly have not!

Enditall

Pastime with Good Company

Pastyme With Good Companye

Welcome to the blog of amateur historians Matthew James Didier and Sue Darroch. Partners in life and in crime, we endeavor to entertain you with snippets from our combined historical research. Past time with good company indeed, as we shall introduce you to Kings and Knaves, Queens and Mistresses, Cons and Heroes, from our collective past......from events well known to those perhaps all but forgotten, we will do our best to bring you interesting historical factoids from around the globe. It is our belief that through understanding our past we will all gain a better perspective on our future.

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