Billeder på siden
[blocks in formation]

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.

[ocr errors]


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.

А 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 feel. ings, 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.

[ocr errors]



MODERN European mythology, to account for the minor operations of nature, peopled the air, the sea, and the land with innumerable spirits, who held a middle place between the benevolent powers of the universe and the bad, and at one time inclined to good acts, at another to evil. But of all the intermediate creations of man's poiesis, none became so widely spread and so popular as the superstition of the fairies. There is very little in the mythology to account for the origin of these beings. Waldron (Description of the Isle of Man) informs us that “the Manks confidently assert that the first inhabitants of their island were fairies,” but that they now live in wilds and forests, and on mountains. This idea agrees with one of the theoretical explanations of the giants, and there is every appearance that a confusion of creeds has so far misled the Manks people.

According to another theory, and one much more consonant to the varying systems of Celts and Goths, the fairies are a species of the Devs. This view of their origin, which seems to be HibernoCeltic, is still current in Ireland, and is made to conform to the teachings of the Christian doctrine. When the rebellion of the angels brought about their expulsion from heaven, the archangel Michael, who was placed at the gate, after some time made intercession with these words, “O Lord,, the heavens are emptying !" The wrath of the Almighty ceased, and all were suffered to remain

[ocr errors][merged small]

in the state of the moment until the consummation of the world. At that precise time many of the fallen angels were already in the bottomless abyss, but some were still in the air, others on the earth, more in the sea. The spirits of the earth, which we now know as fairies, as well as those of the air and the sea, still hope for pardon, and though inclined to evil, are thus restrained from doing all the injury to mortals of which they are capable. This tradition is not very modern; it is told by Giraldus Cambrensis, on the authority of a bishop who received the information from one of themselves, that elves and fairies are fallen angels, but having been seduced, are less criminal than the rest. *

The most notable adventure of the fairies in these counties, is that concerning the loss of their glass drinking-cup, the well-known Luck of Edenhall. One night the butler having gone out to bring water from the well called St. Cuthbert's, which is near the Hall, surprised a company of fairies dancing on the lawn. They had probably been drinking at the well, for they had left their cup in a niche, or, as some say, lying on the grass. However that be, the butler seized the vessel, and though called upon; po used to restore it; when the queen of the fairies uttered the orious couplet:

If e'er that glass should break or fall,
Farewell the luck of Edenhall.

The Luck of Edenhall, as the cup is now called, has attained a world-wide celebrity, partly through the antiquity of the glass, but still more for the sake of the legend. Ludwig Uhland, a German poet of the “romantic school,” has made it the subject of a ballad, in which he adopts the idea that the glass was a present from the queen of the fairies to one of the Musgrave family, and represents the Luck as broken, determinedly hob-a-nobbed to pieces by some reckless “lord.” There is a banquet at the Hall, to which the

• Fairy has been supposed to be the Persian Peri, but this is by no means proved. H. C. sigh (sidh, a fairy hill), and G. elf (alb, a hill) both seem to imply an inhabitant of the hills. The Chinese character for genius, a "spirit,” is composed of man and hill.

[blocks in formation]

lord of the castle orders the fairies' cup to be brought. It is filled with wine, when with an insanity that would be quite unaccountable before dinner, he bids all the guests, according to the German custom,“ strike on," in order to test the Luck of Edenhall. The glass breaks; the guests are no longer to be seen.

Then in rush the enemy, climbing over the battlements; the lord is slain by the sword, and still holds in his hand a fragment of his broken Luck. Next morning the old butler is searching among the ruins for his lord's bones, and on finding some pieces of the fatal cup, he moralisingly consoles himself, inasmuch as the world itself must one day go to pieces, like the Luck of Edenhall.

This thoroughly German ballad has been translated by Longfellow, the American poet, who comforts his readers with the assurance that the goblet is not so entirely shattered as is represented, for that “ the tradition, and the shards of the Luck of Edenhall, still exist in England.” The information of the poet is fortunately not as correct as his translation; the fairy gift is in singular preservation, and carefully kept in a leathern case. Such care was however not always bestowed on it, as “it is a tradition in the Musgrave family that the Duke of Wharton, when feasting with one of the early baronets, was accustomed, after his revels and amidst his boon companions, to toss up the cup in the airwhen he, or some one in attendance, caught it again !"*

The cup is of Venetian manufacture, and one of the oldest glasses in England, for even the case in which it is preserved belongs to the fifteenth century. It is supposed to have been used as a chalice at a time when the vicinity of the Scottish border made the preservation of silver utensils in churches an unsafe speculation. After the cessation of border strife Edenball church was perhaps the only place at which one of those vessels remained: and the replacing thereof by a silver chalice might easily give rise


• The Luck of Edenhall, a poem in three canlos, by the Rer. B. Porteus, Notes-the latest tribute to the fairy chalice. This elegant little poem is described by the author as a "modern lay of the olden day.” A coloured engraving of the cup forms the frontispiece.

« ForrigeFortsæt »