WAS originally an emblem of life. It was used to adorn funeral monuments and sepulchres. The anterior part of this allegorical animal resembles the eagle, the king of the birds; and the rest the lion, as the king of beasts, implying that man, an inhabitant of the earth, who lives upon its produce, cannot subsist without air. But in latter times, it was supposod, that the Gryphon was posted as a jailor at the entrance of enchanted castles and caverns where subteraneous treasures were concealed. Milton compares Satan in his flight to the Gryphon, in the following most beautiful passage of his immortal poem:
“As when a Gryphon through the wilderness
With winged course, o’er bill or moory dale,
Pursues the Arimaspian, who, by stealth,
Had from his wakeful custody purloin’d
The guarded gold; so eagerly the fiend,
O’er bog or steep, through strait, rough, dense or rare,
With head, hands, wings, or feet pursues his way
And swims, or sinks, or wades, or creeps, or flies.”
——————————————————-P. L. B. II. v. 943.
The Arimaspians were supposed Asiatic wizzards, who, by strength of magic, used to obtain a knowledge of the places where the treasures lay hidden. Their incessant wranglings with the Gryphons about gold mines are mentioned by Herodotus and Pliny. Lucan says, that they inhabited Scythia, and adorned their hair with gold: that they had but one eye in the middle of the forehead, and lived on the banks of the gold-sanded river Arismapus.
Virgil, in his eighth Pastoral, mentions this animal, as if really existing, but does not give us any description of it; he says only: Jungentur jam Gryphes equis, as a sort of impossibility; and Claudian, in his Epistle to Serena, alludes to the supposed fact of their keeping watch over masses of gold in the bosom of northern mountains:
“From Hyperborean hills, and caverns drear,
From snow-capt Caucasus and secret springs,
To thee, the brightest crystal Lynxes bear,
And loads of gold the faithful Gryphon brings.”