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Ill Omens


Leotychʹidēs II., of Sparta, was told by his augurs that his projected expedition would fail, because a viper had got entangled in the handle of the city key. “Not so,” he replied. “The key caught the viper.”

When Julius Cæsar landed at Adrumeʹtum, in Africa, he happened to trip and fall on his face. This would have been considered a fatal omen by his army; but, with admirable presence of mind, he exclaimed, “Thus I take possession of thee, O Africa!” Told of Scipio also.

When William the Conqueror leaped upon the shore at Bulverhythe he fell on his face, and a great cry went forth that it was an ill-omen; but the duke exclaimed, “I have taken seisin of this land with both my hands.”

When the Duke was arming for the battle, his squire by accident handed him the back piece before the breast-plate, an evil omen, signifying flight. But the Duke, with ready wit, said, “Yes, the last shall be first”—i.e. the duke shall be king.

Napoleon III. did a graceful thing to avert an ill omen. Captain Jean Cœurpreux, in a ball given at the Tuileries, tripped and fell; but Napoleon held out his hand to help him up, saying as he did so, “Monsieur le Commandant, this is the second time I have seen you fall. The first time was by my side in the field of Magenta.” Then, turning to the lady, he added, “Henceforth Captain Cœurpreux is commandant of my Guides.”

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Entry taken from Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, edited by the Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL.D. and revised in 1895.

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Ignoramus Jury (An)
Il Pastor Fido [the Faithful Swain]
Iliad of Ills (An)
Ill-got, Ill-spent
Ill May-day
Ill Omens
Ill Wind
Illuminated Doctor
Illustrious (The)
Image of God
Images which fell from Heaven

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