The following are noted:- One by Albertus Magnus, which cost him thirty years' labour, and was broken into a thousand pieces by Thomas Aquinas, his disciple. One by Friar Bacon.
“Bacon trembled for his brazen head.”
Pope: Dunciad, iii. 104.
Quoth he, `My head's not made of brass, As Friar Bacon's noddle was.'
S. Butler: Hudibras, ii. 2.
The brazen head of the Marquis de Villena, of Spain. Another by a Polander, a disciple of Escotillo, an Italian. It was said if Bacon heard his head speak he would succeed; if not, he would fail. Miles was set to watch, and while Bacon slept the Head spoke thrice: “Time is”; half an hour later it said, “Time was.” In another half-hour it said, “Time's past,” fell down, and was broken to atoms. Byron refers to this legend.
“Like Friar Bacon's brazen head, I've spoken, `Time is,' `Time was,' `Time's past.' ”
Don Juan, i. 217.
Brazen Head. A gigantic head kept in the castle of the giant Ferragus, of Portugal. It was omniscient, and told those who consulted it whatever they required to know, past, present, or to come. (Valentine and Orson.)
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894