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farther known of her fate consists of these particulars : if by any means a piece were broken off Meg, the unfortunate lady would bleed; and if any person could number the stones correctly, or twice reckon them the same, he would disenchant the Dulcinea of the moor and her daughters, or her lovers, as it might prove to be. But, strange to say, though many persons have come expressly to amuse themselves with the hope of bringing relief to Meg and her family, no one has yet succeeded. Somebody, it is said, once made a purchase of cakes with the intention of laying one on each stone, but whether his cakes or his patience failed him, we are not informed.
One of the many etymological conjectures generally so worthless, supposing “Meg” to be the Latin magus, minus the flexion, is deserving of notice. Granting this theory, the word magus must have been obtained from the Christian missionaries, the long stone being the Arch-druid, petrified for his opposition to Christianity. This origin of the name, moreover, might be very easily forgotten, when the present traditional explanation would naturally follow.
Nine Standards, near Kirkby Stephen, standing as it does on the border of the county, is a very remarkable monument, probably of historical origin, that is, symbolically commemorative of some event now lost to the world. It was an Iberian custom, says Aristotle, to erect as many obelisks around a hero's monument as he had slain enemies. But the placing of these nine huge blocks of stone precludes the idea of their being sepulchral. And what says tradition of them now? They were put up in time of war, and clothed in military array, in order to make believe that they were the van of an advancing army of gigantic stature !
The late Colonel Lacy, it is said, conceived the idea of removing Long Meg and her Daughters by blasting. Whilst the work was being proceeded with under his orders, the slumbering powers of Druidism rose in arms against this violation of their sanctuary; and such a storm of thunder and lightning, and such heavy rain and hail ensued, as the Fell-sides never before witnessed. The labourers fled for their lives, vowing never more to meddle with Long Meg. If there be truth in this story, which already wears a
REMOVAL OF MONUMENTS.
traditional air, all lovers of antiquity must be thankful for the providential throwing of cold water on so wicked a design; and should it ever again be attempted, and that the heavens rain hot water on the perpetrators, we could only hope they would be, like the cat of the proverb, more cautious for the future.
The neighbourhood of Stainton is the scene of a more ancient tradition, but with a fatal termination. On the Keswick road, not far distant from the village, stood in former times a church or abbey; the fields now occupying the site thereof, are still called Kirk Garth, Kirk Syke, Kirk Rigg, etc. Human bones have at various times been disinterred from this ground, and except these, the names alone now indicate what it once has been. In the course of “reformation,” the lands belonging to this religious edifice fell into the hands of a certain baron, a man of reckless violence, who lived somewhere thereabouts. He had a number of men employed in the removal of the church, or what ruins remained thereof, probably with the intention of building a house fit to lodge a man of increased wealth; and one day, in consequence of some scruples of the labourers, or some hesitation in the execution of his commands, he came himself to the ground. His orders were very positive, and accompanied with various threats, and doubtless some profane language. Having delivered himself of these, he rode off in the direction of Penruddock, and had gained the summit of the rising ground, looking backwards as he went, when his horse fell under him, and he broke his neck. On the very spot from which the fool looked back to triumph, his soul was required of him. The place is called Baron's Hill; it is about half a mile out of Stainton.
The removal of cairns, or monumental piles of stones, is attended with no such dangers as those above-mentioned. Danish traditions, indeed, inform us of various mishaps that ensued from disturbing the old graves; yet in consequence of the belief that those places contained much treasure, the clandestine opening thereof, during the middle ages, formed a burglarious profession, the followers of which were called “hill-breakers.” On' the removal of a cairn near Castle Carrock, in 1775, there was found a human skeleton
in a sort of coffin made of stone;” but a visible alteration for the better in the appearance of the man, together with some mysterious expressions which he let fall, impressed his neighbours with the conviction that he had discovered something more generally current than human dust and bones.
In the south of Ireland, and other places, when a murder has been committed, every person who passes the spot is under an obligation to leave a stone, and the custom being continued for an indefinite time, a considerable heap is generally raised. It once happened that a man of brutal disposition, resident in a town, wantonly slew one of a number of persons who passed his house singing and shouting for their amusement. The blow, which was probably not intended to kill, proved fatal; the murderer escaped the punishment of the law, but for many weeks was obliged to keep a labourer in regular, occasional employment, to remove cairns from before his door. Some provinces of Spain have a similar custom, but to take the words of the writer, the stone is there thrown on
On the borders of Gallicia, says an English traveller, are found heaps of stones. Every Gallician who goes out of the province to seek work, either going or returning, throws a stone on the heap.
We thus come to a curious nutting custom of Westmorland, connected with no less personages than Robin Hood and Little John. In the neighbourhood of Orton are two heaps of stones, under which it is believed the outlaw of Sherwood Forest, and his lieutenant, are buried. It was once customary for every person who went a nutting in the wood, at the south end of which these heaps are situated, to throw a stone on Robin's grave, repeating the following rhyme:
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, here lie thy bones,
Whoever was the original of this famous outlaw, and whether he was properly Robin of the Wood, or Robin with the Hood, his name is now connected with mounds and stones innumerable in various parts of England. Lancashire has made him a giant, and
given him Blackstone Edge for a bed. Barrows in many places are called Robin Hood's butts. He has become a favourite ballad hero, and has been worked up with the celebration of the May festival; in Westmorland, as we see, he is the patron of nutters. And, in short, too much popularity has converted him, according to the view of critical investigators, into a myth. Near the village of Catterlen, in a retired part of the wood, is a spring called Robin Hood's well, but how it acquired the name is not now known.
The explanation of monumental stones as petrified human beings, is especially Gothic, and not Celtic, understanding that in such contrasts Hiberno-Celtic alone is insisted on with literal strictness. A puzzling kind of monument in Ireland—probably dilapidated burial-chambers-has received the name of the Hag’s Bed, but the hag herself has never been supposed to be present. The numerous stone circles of Gaelic Scotland are called chapels, and temples. Most probably to some monument of this kind (no longer in existence), Temple Sowerby owes its name. In the Danish traditions, we find that petrifaction has been the punishment for various sins, from that of the giants who withstood Christianity, to the perjury of those who had borne false witness at the courts. Stonehenge itself is a company of giants; and Carnac, the wonderful monument of Brittany, is said to be “King Cæsar” and his army, who were petrified whilst in pursuit of the patron saint of the district.
That the same superstition is current in Germany will appear from the popular story on which Wieland has founded his ballad, Der Mönch und die Nonne.
THE MONK AND THE Nun.*
On the hill near Eisenach stands the castle of Wartburg, in which, after the diet of Worms, Martin Luther was confined. Not far from thence are two stones, bearing some fancied resemblance to the human form, which are accounted for, according to ancient tradition, in the following tale :
* Translated from the Russian.
A young monk became enamoured of a nun. He struggled long against his love, and for a long time wished to subdue his passion by fasting and penance. But the delicate form of the nun was ever present to his mind. When he sought to pray, his tongue, obedient to his heart, would utter no words but “ I love! I love !" He frequently went to the convent in which was the fair recluse; he often looked upon her, shedding tears, and perceived in her face a burning blush, and in her eyes sympathetic tears. Their hearts were moved towards each other; they were alarmed at their feelings, but-they encouraged them. At length the monk, with trembling hand, conveyed to his beloved the following letter: “Dear sister,—Not far from the gate of the convent, on the right hand, rises a steep hill. I will be there at the fall of night. You will be there also, or I will throw myself from the precipice, and will die a temporal and an eternal death.” Should I see him, thought shewith beating heart-should I see him outside the convent walls ? Oh! I must save him from the dreadful crime of suicide.
She finds means by night to gain the outside of the conventshe goes forward in the darkness, terrified at every sound-she ascends the mountain, and suddenly finds herself in the embrace of her passionate admirer. Trembling with rapture, they forget everything—but suddenly their blood grows cold, their limbs stiffen, their hearts cease to beat, and the wrath of heaven tranforms them into two stones.
“You see them,” said the postillion to me, pointing to the summit of the mountain.