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Marmor Norfolciense
by [?]

Marmor Norfolciense; or, an essay on an ancient prophetical inscription, in monkish rhyme, lately discovered near Lynn, in Norfolk. By Probus Britannicus.

In Norfolk, near the town of Lynn, in a field, which an ancient tradition of the country affirms to have been once a deep lake, or meer, and which appears, from authentick records, to have been called, about two hundred years ago, Palus, or the marsh, was discovered, not long since, a large square stone, which is found, upon an exact inspection, to be a kind of coarse marble of a substance not firm enough to admit of being polished, yet harder than our common quarries afford, and not easily susceptible of injuries from weather or outward accidents.

It was brought to light by a farmer, who, observing his plough obstructed by something, through which the share could not make its way, ordered his servants to remove it. This was not effected without some difficulty, the stone being three feet four inches deep, and four feet square in the superficies; and, consequently, of a weight not easily manageable. However, by the application of levers, it was, at length, raised, and conveyed to a corner of the field, where it lay, for some months, entirely unregarded; nor, perhaps, had we ever been made acquainted with this venerable relick of antiquity, had not our good fortune been greater than our curiosity.

A gentleman, well known to the learned world, and distinguished by the patronage of the Maecenas of Norfolk, whose name, was I permitted to mention it, would excite the attention of my reader, and add no small authority to my conjectures, observing, as he was walking that way, that the clouds began to gather, and threaten him with a shower, had recourse, for shelter, to the trees under which this stone happened to lie, and sat down upon it, in expectation of fair weather. At length he began to amuse himself, in his confinement, by clearing the earth from his seat with the point of his cane; and had continued this employment some time, when he observed several traces of letters, antique and irregular, which, by being very deeply engraven, were still easily distinguishable.

This discovery so far raised his curiosity, that, going home immediately, he procured an instrument proper for cutting out the clay, that filled up the spaces of the letters; and, with very little labour, made the inscription legible, which is here exhibited to the publick:


Cum lapidem hunc, magni
Qui nunc jacet incola stagni,
Vel pede equus tanget,
Vel arator vomere franget,
Sentiet aegra metus,
Effundet patria fletus,
Littoraque ut fluctu,
Resonabunt oppida luctu:
Nam foecunda rubri
Serpent per prata colubri,
Gramina vastantes,
Flores fructusque vorantes.
Omnia foedantes,
Vitiantes, et spoliantes;
Quanquam haud pugnaces,
Ibunt per cuncta minaces,
Fures absque timore,
Et pingues absque labore.
Horrida dementes
Rapiet discordia gentes;
Plurima tunc leges
Mutabit, plurima reges
Natio; conversa
In rabiem tunc contremet ursa


Cynthia, tunc latis
Florebunt lilia pratis;
Nec fremere audebit
Leo, sed violare timebit,
Omnia consuetus
Populari pascua laetus.
Ante oculos natos
Calceatos et cruciatos
Jam feret ignavus,
Vetitaque libidine pravus.
En quoque quod mirum,
Quod dicas denique dirum,
Sanguinem equus sugit,
Neque bellua victa remugit!

These lines he carefully copied, accompanied, in his letter of July 19, with the following translation.


Whene’er this stone, now hid beneath the lake,
The horse shall trample, or the plough shall break,
Then, O my country! shalt thou groan distrest,
Grief swell thine eyes, and terrour chill thy breast.
Thy streets with violence of woe shall sound,
Loud as the billows bursting on the ground.
Then through thy fields shall scarlet reptiles stray,
And rapine and pollution mark their way.
Their hungry swarms the peaceful vale shall fright,
Still fierce to threaten, still afraid to fight;
The teeming year’s whole product shall devour,
Insatiate pluck the fruit, and crop the flow’r;
Shall glutton on the industrious peasants’ spoil,
Rob without fear, and fatten without toil;
Then o’er the world shall discord stretch her wings;
Kings change their laws, and kingdoms change their kings.
The bear, enrag’d, th’ affrighted moon shall dread;
The lilies o’er the vales triumphant spread;
Nor shall the lion, wont of old to reign
Despotick o’er the desolated plain,
Henceforth th’ inviolable bloom invade,
Or dare to murmur in the flow’ry glade;
His tortur’d sons shall die before his face,
While he lies melting in a lewd embrace;
And, yet more strange! his veins a horse shall drain,
Nor shall the passive coward once complain.