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them in European fiction is preserved to us in the AngloSaxon poem of Beowulf. In this curious repository of genuine Northern tradition, by far the most interesting portion of the work is devoted to an account of the hero's combats with a male and female spirit, whose nightly ravages in the hall of Hrothgar are marked by all the atrocities of the Grecian fable.
Under the comprehensive name of Fairy, almost every member of the preceding catalogue has been indiscriminately mingled in the living recitals of the cotter's family circle, and the printed collections of our popular tales. A slight attention, however, to the distinctive marks established in the ancient world, will easily remedy the confusion; and few readers will require to be told, that the fairies who attend the birth and foretell the fortunes of a hero or heroine, who connect the destinies of some favoured object with the observance of a command or the preservation of an amulet, are the venerable Parcæ of antiquity. The same rule will hold good of the rest; and it therefore only remains to notice the Fairy of romance, and the Elf or Fairy of the mountain-heath. The former has been considered to have derived her origin from the same country which has supplied us with the name. For this hypothesis there is better reason than usually attaches itself to the solution of an antiquarian problem by the etymo. logist; and Warton has already shown that the titles of the most distinguished in European romance are borrowed almost to the letter from the fables of the East. The Persian Mergian and Urganda have unquestionably furnished Italian poetry with its Morgana and Urganda ; and there is considerable plaudertakes the task of subduing Grendel Liberalis. It may be worth noticing from a pure love of glory. The result in that a picture preserved at Temessa, both fables is the same. The dark dæmon representing the combat of Euthymus, is worsted and sinks into a lake, where he exhibited the dæmon clothed in a wolfafterwards is found dead of his wounds. skin, and the name of the northern hero The female spirit is Grendel's mother's, is Beo-wulf, the wolf-tamer. who answers to the description of A.
sibility in the assertion", that the Peri of the former country has been transmitted through the medium of the Arabic. But uniformity of name, even admitting an identity of character, is insufficient to prove that the idea attached to the new appellative is of no older date in the country to which it has been transferred than the period when the stranger term was first introduced. The Pelasgain priesthood recommended the adoption of Ægyptian titles for the unnamed divinities of Hellenic worship, on discovering that their secret had been divulged; and the adoration of the Bætyli precedes the annals of authentic history in Greece, while the name is of foreign extraction, and evidently borrowed at a very late period. If therefore the English fairy,' or the French . faërie,' have been imported from the East, the term itself must be of comparatively recent date; though the popular notion respecting the nature and attributes of the beings who bore it is wholly lost in the twilight of antiquity. There is no essential difference between the Persian Peri and the Grecian Nymph, however variedly the inventive genius of either country may have endowed them in points of minor consideration. They are both the common offspring of the same speculative opinion, which peopled the elements with a race of purer essences, as the connecting link between man and his Creator; and the modern Persian, in adopting those who hover in the balmy clouds 59, live in the colours of
58 This guarded mode of expression of the earliest French tales of "faerie". must not be mistaken for a love of pa- acknowledge a Breton source; may not radox; it has proceeded from doubts in the term itself be Celtic ? The “ Ionic the writer's mind, which at present he Pheres of Hesychius," which has been wants leisure to satisfy. The French mentioned as an apparent synonym with term for our fairy or fay is fée; and, like the Persian Peri, is but a different aspithe Italian fata, is said to be derived ration of the Attic Ing (Germ. "thier”); from fatua.
“ Faerie" was a general and which, whether applied to centaurs name for an illusion; a sense in which it or satyrs, could only have been given to is always used by Chaucer. As an ap- mark their affinity with the animal race. pellation for the elfin-race, in this coun 5* These aerial nymphs were not fotry, it is certainly of late date; and reign to the Grecian creed; at least the perhaps a mere corruption, a name given celestial nymphs of Mnesimachus can to the agent from his acts. It is cer- only be accounted for on this notion. tainly not of Northern origin. Some Schol. in Apollon. Rhod. iv. v. 1412.
the rainbow, and exist on the odour of flowers,” has only fixed his choice upon a different class from the ancient Greek. It will however be remembered, that in the particulars just enumerated, the Fairies of Italian romance bear no resemblance to the Peris of the East; and that, in almost every thing else except the name, they are, for the most part, only a reproduction of the Circe and Calypso of the Odyssey. The Fairies in the Lays of Lanval and Graelent, or in the romances of Melusina and Partenopex de Blois, have neither the gross propensities of the daughter of Helios, nor the power and exalted rank of the Ogygian enchantress. They approach nearer, both in character and fortunes, to the nymphs who sought the alliance or yielded to the importunities of Daphnis and Rhæcus 6, and, like their Grecian predecessors, were equally doomed to experience the hollow frailty of human engagements. The conditions imposed upon the heroes of Hellenic fable were the same in substance, though somewhat differing in form from those enjoined the knights of French romance, and were alike transgressed from motives of self-gratification, or a weak compliance with the solicitations of others. There is something more consolatory in the final catastrophe attached to the modern fictions; but this, as is well known, has been taken, in common with the general outline of the events, from the beautiful apologue of Apuleius. One of the earliest tales of faery in our own language, and perhaps the most important for the influence it seems to have had on later productions, is contained in the old romance of Orfeo and Heurodis. The leading incidents of this poem have been borrowed from the classical story of Orpheus and Eurydice, and Mr. Ritson has truly pronounced its character in saying, This lay or tale is a
* For Daphnis see Parthenius, c. 18; 61 It is to be regretted that Mr. Rit. for Rhæcus Schol. in Apoll. Rhod. ii. son chose to follow the Harleian MS. of V. 479. See also the history of Cau- this romance, which is so palpably innus in Conon, c. 2.; and of Philammon, ferior to the Auchinleck copy. Ib. c. 7.
Gothic metamorphosis of the episode so beautifully related by Ovid. A later writer, from whose authority it is rarely safe to deviate, and to whose illustrations of popular fiction the present sketch is so much indebted, has rejected this opinion, and produced it as an example of “Gothic mythology engrafted on the fables of Greece.” In support of this assertion, even Sir W. Scott's extensive knowledge of the subject might find it difficult to offer any thing like satisfactory proof.
The minor embellishments of the poem, the rank and quality of Orpheus, the picture of his court, the occupations of the Elfin king, and the fortunate issue of the harper's descent, are certainly foreign to the Grecian story, and have been either copied from the institutions of the minstrel's age, or are the ready suggestions of his own invention. But the whole machinery of the fable—the power of Pluto and his queen (for such Chaucer has instructed us to call the king of Faery), the brilliant description of Elfin land, its glorious abodes and delightful scenery, and the joyous revelry of those who had secured a residence in the regions of bliss, and the miseries
Of folke that were thidder ybrought,
And thought dead and were nought, are of legitimate Grecian origin, and may be read with little variety of style, though with less minuteness of detail, in the visions of Thespesius and Timarchus, recorded by Plutarch.
Essay on the Faeries &c. ut arity of these regions mentioned in the 63 De Sera Num. Vind. c. 22. (where Auchinleck MS. of Orfeo. The pothe text reads Soleus the Thespesian; pular view of the subject is discussed in but Wyttenbach has approved of Reiske's his usual manner by Lucian in his correction, which reverses the terms) several pieces, Ver. Hist. ii. Necyom. and De Genio Socrat. C. 22. If to Catapl. and Philops., and a compound these the reader will add Pindar's de- of esoteric and exoteric doctrines on the scription of the Elysian amusements same point is to be found in the Frogs (cited in Plut. Consol. ad Apoll. c. 35. of Aristophanes. Sir W. Scott justly and with some additions in his tract De considers the ymp-tree, a tree conseOcculte Vivendo, c. vii.) and the nar crated to some dæmon, rather than a rative of the Socratic Æschines (Axio- grafted tree, as interpreted by Mr. Ritchus, $ 20.) on the same subject, he will This point of popular superstition find a parallel for almost every peculi ems to be referred to by Socrates in
The history of such descents, whether professing to be made in person, or by a separation of the intelligent soul” from its grosser fellow, and the body , was a favourite topic in the ancient world; and many visions of the infernal regions which are made to figure in modern hagiology, from the narrative of Bede 65 to the metrical legend of Owain Miles, have borrowed largely from these pagan sources. It is however obvious, that Chaucer's “Pluto king of Fayrie” and his “ Queen Proserpina” have been derived from this or a similar source; and the confusion which has arisen between the Fairies of romance and the Elves of rural tradition, may in all probability be ascribed “to those poets who have adopted his phraseology.” By Dunbar, Pluto is styled “an elricke incubus in a clothe of grene,” the well-known elfin livery; and Montgomery confers upon the “king of Pharie” the same verdant garb, an elvish stature, and weds him to the Elf-queen.
“ All grathed into green, Some hobland on a hemp stalk, hovand to the hight, The king of Pharie and his court, with the Elf-queen,
With many elfish incubus was ridand that night.” There is nothing in the “Marchaunt's Tale” to justify this diminution of King Pluto's fair proportions, or to identify Queen Proserpina with the Elf-queen. But in another of Chaucer's tales, the practices of the latter and her followers
the Phædrus, where, with his accus p. 150.) The rock of entrance to the tomed style of irony, he ascribes a sud- fairy realm is the asuxáda riteny of the den fit of nympholepsy to the vicinage Odyssey, xxiv. 11.; and perhaps the of a plane-tree adorned with images, lapis manalis of Latium. and dedicated to the Nymphs. (Phædr. 64 See Wyttenbach's note to the vision 276.) But this idea of dæmoniacal trees of Thespesius, concerning this division enters deeply into Northern and Orien- of the soul into yolls and Yuxm, and the tal mythology. The lady Similt, while sources from whence Plutarch obtained seated beneath a lindentree, is carried it. off by king Laurin in the same clan 65 Historia Ecclesiastica, lib. v. c. 13. destine manner that the king of Faerie Compare also the vision or trance of the conveys away Heurodis. (See Weber's Pamphylian Er in Plato's Rep. lib. x. Illustrations of Northern Antiquities, in fine.