« ForrigeFortsæt »
the other. When all are caught, the game ends with a 'tug-ofwar,' the two sides pulling against each other, and the child who lets go and breaks the line is pointed at and derided.”
In Suabia, the two keepers of the “ Golden Bridge” are called respectively the “ Devil ” and the “ Angel," and the object is to decide who shall be devils and who angels.
In France the game is known as “ Heaven and Hell." The children who have made a good choice after the selection is finished pursue the devils, making the signs of horns with fingers extended from the forehead.
In Italy the name of the sport is “ Open the Gates.” The gates are those of the Inferno and of Paradise; St. Peter is the keeper of one, St. Paul of the other. The children choose between wine and water; but when the destiny of the last child is decided, the two girls who represent the keepers of the bridge break their arch of lifted hands, and move in different directions, followed by their subjects, “ while the cries and shrieks of the players condemned to the Inferno contrast with the pathetic songs and sweet cadences of those destined to the happiness of Paradise.”
The game is mentioned by Rabelais (about A.D. 1533), under the name of the “ Fallen Bridge.”
In German versions the keepers are called “ Devil and Angel," “ King and Emperor,” or “ Sun and Moon."
In this latter form the game has been one of the few kept up by the Germans of Pennsylvania, who call it the “ Bridge of Holland” (“ Die Holländisch Brück”).
As to the origin of this remarkable game, our citations have already made it clear that one of its features consists in a representation of the antagonism of celestial and infernal powers, and the final decision by which each soul is assigned a place on the one side or the other.
It was universally believed in the Middle Ages that the soul, separated from the body, had to cross a dangerous bridge, and subsequently undergo a literal weighing in the balance, according to the result of which its destiny was decided. It is in the nature of things that children conversant with these ideas should have dramatised them in their sports. We see no reason with the German writers to go back to ancient northern mythology ; nor do we find any ground for believing that our game is more likely to be of Teutonic than Romance descent.
An Irish domestic from Waterford gives the following account of the game:
An actual bridge was built up with sticks and boards, and surrounded by the ring of players, dressed in costume; without stood the “devil.” Little girls in variously coloured dresses represented the angels.
The repeated fall and rebuilding of the bridge was acted out, as described in the verses of the song. This fall was ascribed to the malice of the devil, who ruined it during the night (watching it, said the narrator, from the top of an ash-tree during the day).
The imprisonment of the child enclosed by the arms of the leaders was acted in a noteworthy fashion. A chain was taken and wrapped round the child in the form of a serpent (for the devil is a serpent, said the reciter); the captive was taken to a hut (representing apparently the entrance to the Inferno) built by the sea. Meantime, the rest of the train called on their leader for help; but he answered, “ The devil has five feet, and thirteen eyes, and is stronger than I!” The performance lasted five hours, and the name of the edifice was the “ Devil's Bridge.”
In this Irish game tests were employed to determine whether the captive should belong to the devil or not. One of these was the ability to walk on a straight line drawn on the ground.
Newell sums up his conclusions as follows:
“We suspect, however, that that part of the sport which relates to the warfare of good and evil powers does not belong to the original idea, but that a still more primitive game has taken on an ending which was common to many amusements in the Middle Ages. The central point of the whole is the repeated downfall of the structure. Now there is a distinct mythological reason for such a representation. In early times no edifice was so important. as a bridge, which renders intercourse possible between districts heretofore separated. Hence the sanctity attributed in mediæval times to the architects of bridges. The devil, or (in more ancient guise) the elemental spirit of the land, who detests any interference with the solitude he loves, has an especial antipathy to bridges. His repeated and successful attempts to interfere with such a structure, until he is bought off with an offering like that of Iphigenia, are recorded in legends which attach to numerous bridges in Europe. It is on such supernatural opposition that the English form of the game appears to turn. The structure, which is erected in the daytime, is ruined at night; every form of material—wood, stone, and gold, is tried in vain ; the vigilance of the watchman, or of the cock and the dog-guardian animals of the darkness—is insufficient to protect the edifice from the attack of the offended spirits.
“ The child arrested seems to be originally regarded as the price paid for allowing the structure to stand. In times when all men's thoughts were concerned about the final judgment, a different turn was given to the sport-namely, whether the prisoner should belong to the devils or to the angels, who wage perpetual warfare, and dispute with each other the possession of departed souls. Finally, in quite recent days, religious allusions were excluded, and the captive, now accused of mere theft, was sentenced to be locked up, not in the Inferno, but in a commonplace jail” (p. 211).
This mystical explanation of Mr. Newell's is extremely
ingenious, but there does not appear to be any good evidence to connect the foreign games, which look rather like degraded “ miracle plays,” with the English “ London Bridge” game; further, as Mrs. Gomme acutely points out, the tug-of-war incident does not come into the English game.
“ DRAW A PAIL OF WATER”: WATER WORSHIP
THIS game is usually played by eight girls, two of whom
face one another and stretch out their arms towards each other and join hands. Two others do the same, the four girls thus making a cross with their arms. They seesaw backwards and forwards, and sing a song, the following version of which is taken from Halliwell's Nursery Rhymes, Games, cclxxxvii. :
“ Draw a pail of water
For my lady's daughter:
One girl gets inside the enclosing arms, and they repeat the song until all four have“ popped under," when they “ jog" up and down till they fall on the ground.
Sometimes only two girls join hands, or the four may form a square with their extended arms, which they sway backwards and forwards, singing the lines. Two arms are then raised, and one girl comes under; this is repeated till