תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

(even in those whose decided character gives them the aspect of parent dialects) is well known to bear a very small proportion to the wealth of its vocabulary; and at some stage of human existence, even these elementary terms must have been sufficient to express the wants, and effect an interchange of thought, between the several members of the community. As fresh necessities arose, and the bounds of knowledge became extended, the original types in their simple import would be unequal to the demands of every new occasion; and hence the introduction of a long roll of meanings to the primitives, and all the intricacies of analysis and synthesis, which have given wealth, dignity, and expression to language. There is however no fact more certain, within our knowledge of the past and our experience of the present, than that words neither have been nor are now invented; but that they always have been compounded from existing roots in the dialect requiring them, or borrowed from some collateral source; and for this very obvious reason, that any other mode of proceeding would wholly defeat the only end for which language was intended, the communication of our wishes, feelings and opinions. That the progress of popular fiction has followed a nearly similar course, a slight consideration of the subject will tend to assure

The extraordinary process already alluded to, which, by endowing inanimate objects with sense, feeling, and spirituality, robs man of his proudest distinction, is no new creation of elementary forms previously unknown, but a simple transference of peculiar properties, the characteristics of a more perfect class of beings, to others less perfectly constituted. The prophetic ship, the grateful ant, the courteous tree", et hoc genus omne, are none of them subjected to any mutation in their physical qualities; they merely receive an additional grant of certain

us.

* See Grimm's Kinder- und Haus-Märchen and Müller's Saga-Bibliothek, passim.

VOL. I.

ethical attributes, which, like secondary meanings in language, enlarge their power without varying their natural appearance. Even the personification of immaterial things, though approaching nearest to the plastic nature of a really creative power, is but an extension of the same principle. For though in these the external forms be wholly supplied by the fancy, the inherent qualities of the thing personified furnish the outline of all its moral endowments; and the contrast between the abstract property in its original state, and the living image representing it, is not more striking than between the different objects which are expressed in language by one common symbol. The wildest efforts of the imagination can only exhibit to us a fresh combination of well-known types drawn from the store-house of nature; and it is the propriety of the new arrangement, the felicitous juxtaposition of the stranger elements in their novel relation to each other, which marks the genius of the artist, which fixes the distance between a Boccacio and a Troveur, a Shakespeare and a Brooke”. The same chaste economy which has regulated the development of language, is equally conspicuous in the history of popular fiction; and, like the vocabulary of a nation once supplied with a stock of appropriate imagery, all its subsequent additions seem to have arisen in very slow progression. For this we must again refer to the prevailing state of society and the condition of those common agents by whom both subjects have been fostered. The more degraded the intellectual culture of a nation upon its first appearance in history, the poorer will be found its vocabulary, with reference to the innate resources of the language; and the subsequent wealth of every dialect will be discovered to have been attendant upon the pro

* The burning lava of Ætna was a cat, dog, horse, &c. made the type of Typhæus's fury; but 85 See Brooke's poem on the subject of the contrast here is not greater, than Romeo and Juliet in Malone's Shakebetween those objects of domestic use which are named after animals, such as

speare.

gress of civilization, and the acquisition of new ideas. The patrons of popular fiction, as the very name implies, belong to that class of the community which, amid all the changes and revolutions that are operating around it, always retains a considerable portion of its primitive characteristics. Among these may be reckoned the narrow circle of its necessities in the use of language and expression, and the modest demands of its intellectual tastes, so opposite to that later epicurism of the mind, a refined and learned taste, which is only to be appeased by an unceasing round of novelties. Unacquainted with the feverish joys occasioned by the use of strong and fresh excitements, popular taste only asks for a repetition of its favourite themes; and, blest with the pure and limited wants of infancy, it listens to the “twice-told tale” with the eagerness and simplicity of a child. It is on this principle that every country in Europe has invested its popular fictions with the same common marvels; that all acknowledge the agency of the lifeless productions of nature; the intervention of the same supernatural machinery; the existence of elves, fairies, dwarfs, giants, witches and enchanters; the use of spells, charms and amulets; and all those highly-gifted objects, of whatever form or name, whose attributes refute every principle of human experience, which are to conceal the possessor's person, annihilate the bounds of space, or command a gratification of all our wishes. These are the constantly-recurring types which embellish the popular tale, which hence have been transferred to the more laboured pages of romance; and which, far from owing their first appearance in Europe to the Arabic conquest of Spain, or the migration of Odin to Scandinavia, are known to have been current on its eastern verge long anterior to the

* « J'ai eu des idées nouvelles; il a tions,” says Montesquieu in the Adverbien fallu trouver des nouveaux mots, ou tisement to his Esprit des Loix. donner aux anciens de nouvelles accep

æra of legitimate history. The Nereids of antiquity, the daughters of the " sea-born seer,” are evidently the same with the Mermaids of the British and Northern shores; the habitations of both are fixed in crystal caves, or coral palaces, beneath the waters of the ocean ; and they are alike distinguished for their partialities to the human race, and their prophetic powers in disclosing the events of futurity. The Naiads only differ in name from the Nixen3 of Germany and Scandinavia (Nisser), or the Water-Elves of our countryman Ælfric; and the Nornæ, who wove the web of life and sang the fortunes of the illustrious Helga, are but the same companions who attended Ilithyia at the births of Iamos and Hercules. Indeed so striking is the resemblance between these divinities and the Grecian Mæræ, that we not only find them officiating at the birth of a hero, conferring upon him an amulet which is to endow him with a charmed existence, or cutting short the thread of his being, but, like their prototype or parallel, varying in their number—from three to nine, -as they figure in their various avocations, of Nornæ or Valkyriar, as Parcæ or Muses. In the Highland Urisks“, the Russian Le

77 It will be felt, that this intricate and flood, or dressing their hair in the meads copious subject could only be generally beside a running stream. Mone's connoticed here. More ample sources of tinuation of Creuzer's Symbolik, vol. i. information are to be found in the pre- p. 145. face and notes to the Kinder- und Haus

** Compare Helga quitha hin fyrsta, Märchen of Messrs. Jacob and William in Sæmund's Edda, with Pindar Ol. vi. Grimm, Sir W. Scott's Essay on the 72. and Anton. Liberalis, c. 29. Faeries of Popular Superstition, (Min 40 A further illustration of this substrelsy, vol. ii.) and some useful collec- ject must also be reserved for a future tions in Brand's Popular Antiquities, publication. vol.ii. A further consideration of the 4 The Urisk has a figure between a subject is reserved for another occasion; gồat and a man; in short, precisely that when the authorities for some opinions, of a Grecian Satyr.-Notes to the Lady which may appear either too bold or pas of the Lake, p. 356. There are few antiradoxical, and which could not be intro- quarian subjects requiring more revision duced here, will be given at length. than the modern nomenclature of this

* The Russian Rusalkis belong to sylvan family. This confusion of chathe same family. They are represented racter and name is no where more appa. as a race of beautiful virgins, with long rent than in the account of the ancient green hạir, living in lakes and rivers, monuments in the British Museum. The and who were generally seen swinging Grecian Satyr is perfectly human in the on the branches of trees, bathing in the lower extremities of his person; but the

schies, and the Pomeranian or Wendish Berstucs“, we perceive the same sylvan family, who, under the name of Panes and Panisci, presided over the fields and forests of Arcadia. The general meetings of the first were held on Ben-Venew, like the biennial assembly of the Fauns on mount Parnassus; and the Sclavonian hunter invoked the assistance of his Zlebog“, the Finn of his Wäinämöinen5, and the Laplander of his Storjunkare“, with the same solemnity as that with which the Greek Panes (for the ancients acknowledged divided by some chroniclers into Pommore than one Pan, as well as more than merania and Vandalia, an arrangement one Silenus) and Panisci preserved the which has caused the inhabitants of the legs and thighs of a goat.

latter to be confounded with the Teu** These Russian divinities had a hu- tonic invaders of the Empire. The term man body, horns on the head, project- in the text has been borrowed from the ing pointed ears, and a bushy beard. German to avoid this inaccuracy; but Below they were formed like a goat. Trevisa has shown that there was a name (Compare the well-known group of for it in England: “Wyntlandia, that Pan and Olympus in the Villa Albani, ilonde is by-west Denmark, and is a barand the representations of the same sub- ren londe; and men [go there) out of ject in the Pitture d'Ercolano.) They byleve, they selle wynde to the shypmen had the power of changing their stature that come to theyr portes and havenes, as as they pleased. When they walked it were closed under knottes of threde. through the grass, they were just seen And as the knottes be unknytte the wynde above it; in walking through forests, wexe at theyr wylle." f.32. In all their their heads ranged above the highest attributes, the Berstucs appear to have trees. Woods and groves were conse- been the same with the Russian Le crated to them, and no one dared offend chies. them, as they excited in the culprit's 44 The head of the Berstucs was Zlemind the most appalling terrors, or in a bog, usually explained The angry god. feigned voice seduced him through un Frencel de Diis Soraborum et aliorum known ways to their caves, where they Slavorum ap. Hoffmann Script. Rer. tickled him to death. Mone, p. 143. Lusat. tom. ii. p. 294–6. Care must be Among the Finns these practices were taken not to confound them with the attributed to a god Lekkio and a goddess Prussian dwarfs, called Barstuck; and Ajataa. The first assumed the form of who perhaps have usurped a name which a man, dog, crow, or some other bird, designates their form rather than their for the purpose of exciting terror; and occupation. In Durham and Newcastle, the latter led the traveller astray. Ib. 59. the English Puck is called Bar-quest. The reader will not fail to recognise in

45 Wäinämöinen was the inventor of this the Panic terrors of the Arcadian the kandele (a stringed instrument playgod; and to be reminded of the Olym- ed like the guitar), and the author of pian invocation, which called Pan Rhea's all inventions which have benefited the zúra tartodatór. Pind. Frag. ap. Aristot. human race. He was implored by Rhetor. ï. 24. The irritable tempera- the hunter, the fisherman and the birdment of these sylvan deities is also com catcher, to play upon his kandele, that mon to their parallel. Theocritus, Id. i. the game might fall into their nets. v. 15.

Mone, 54. 43 The worship of these deities appears 46 This name has been borrowed from to have been common to all the Sclavo the Norwegians. In Torneå Lapland nic tribes situated between the Vistula the same deity is called Seite. He is and the Elbe. This district has been supreme lord of the whole animal cre.

« הקודםהמשך »