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are called “faeries” or illusive visions; and it will easily be felt, that the use of a common name to denote their respective actions, might eventually lead to the notion of a community of character.
In olde dayes of the king Artour-
WIFE OF BATH's TALE.
However this may be, there can be little doubt that at one period the popular creed made the same distinctions between the queen of Faerie and the Elf-queen, that were observed in Grecian mythology, between their undoubted parallels, Artemis and Persephone. At present the traces of this division are only faintly discernible; and in the Scottish ballad of Tamlane, (Minstrelsy, vol. ii.) the hero, though “a wee wee man,” declares himself a fairy both in “lyth and limb,” a communication which leaves us at no loss to divine the size of the fairy queen who had “borrowed him.” The beautiful ballad of Thomas the Rhymer, and even the burlesque
* The editor has already sinned too after contrasting the little we know of deeply against the fame of true Thomas, the real, with the fictitious history of (see vol. i. p. 181.) to make the con “auld Rymer," he has arrived at that cealment of his opinion respecting this conviction, which is easier felt than acmysterious personage a saving condition counted for, that the laird of Erceldoun on which he might build a hope of has usurped the honours and reputation forgiveness for his previous indiscretion. of some earlier seer, and gathered round He will therefore further state that, his name the local tradition of his birth
imitation of some forgotten romance by Chaucer in his “Rhyme of Sir Thopas," make the Elf-queen either joint or sole sovereign of fairy-land, while the locality, scenery and inhabitants of the country prove it to be the same district described in Sir Orfeo. In the former fiction she is represented, as only quitting the court of her grisly spouse, to chase the “wild fee” upon earth; her costume and attributes are of the same sylvan cast with those which distinguished the huntressqueen of antiquity; and the fame of her beauty inspires the lovelorn Sir Thopas with the same rash resolves which from a similar cause were said to have fired the bosom of Pirithous. In the remaining details of Thomas the Rhymer, she is clearly identified with the daughter of Demeter; and the description of the journey to Elf-land® will remind the reader of a story in Ælian respecting the fabled Anostos, or that country whose expressive name has been so aptly paraphrased,
The bourne from whence no traveller returns.
In the Grecian fiction, “the blude that's shed on earth” seems rather to have impregnated the atmosphere, than dyed "the springs of that countrie:” but the rivers that flowed around it,
place. The strong power of local as- lady's lap, is the same cross-way in sociation has been sufficiently manifested which Minos, Rhadamanthus, and in the character acquired by a recent Æacus, held their tribunal; one of resident at Erceldoune. See preface to whose roads led to the isles of the blest, Sir Tristram.
and the other to Tartarus. Plat. Gorg. 67 A very veracious gentleman in one p. 524. The forbidden fruit, whose of Lucian's dialogues, has borne testi- taste cut off all hope of return, is anmony to the hunting propensities
of the other version of the pomegranate-apple Queen of Hell, whom he calls Hecate. which figures so mysteriously in the his(Philops. c. 17.) The account of the tory of Proserpine. elf-queen and her followers while en * See Ælian, Vár. Hist, iii. 18. In gaged in the chase may be compared Lucian's Ver. Hist. ii. 3. (and which with Od. vii. 101. and Virgil's imitation contains only exaggerated statements of of the same passage, Æn. i. 498. popular opinion), one of the rivers
* Three days they travel through encompassing his region of torment darkness, up to their knees in water, and flows with blood. The bloody Acheonly hear the “swowyng of the flode." rousian rock in Aristophanes (Frogs, In this we have the ocean stream and 474.) appears to be connected with a Cimmerian darkness, Od. xi. 13. The similar notions spot where Thomas laid his head in the VOL. 1.
the waters of joy and grief, each produced a tree, whose fruits were as marvellous in their effects as the apple bestowed on “true Thomas.” Nor is the prophetic power acquired by the Rhymer in consequence of his visit to this unearthly region, a novel feature in the history of such fictions. In one of Plutarch's tracts 7, a certain Cleombrotus entertains the company with an account of an eastern traveller, whose character and fortunes are still more remarkable than those of the Scottish seer. Of this man we are told, that he only appeared among his fellow mortals once a year. The rest of his time was spent in the society of the nymphs and demons, who had granted him an unusual share of personal beauty, had rendered him proof against disease, and supplied him with a fruit, which was to satisfy his hunger, and of which he partook only once a month. He was moreover endowed with a miraculous gift of tongues, his conversation resembled a spontaneous flow of verse, his knowledge was universal, and an annual visitation of prophetic fervor enabled him to unfold the hidden secrets of futurity.
The Elves and Fairies of rural tradition who “ dance their ringlets to the whistling wind,” and the traces of whose midnight revels are still detected on the sward, seem originally to have been distinguished from the Fairies of romance, by their diminutive stature and the use of a common livery. In the former circumstance popular fiction has only been faithful to the earliest creed of nations, respecting the size and form of their domestic and inferior deities; and of which examples are to be found in the household gods of Laban, the Patæci of Phenicia, the Cabiri of Egypt and Samothrace, the Idæan Dactyli of Crete, the Anaces of Athens, the Dioscuri of Lacedæmon, the earth-god Tages of Etruria, and the Lares of La
o De Defectu Oraculorum, c. 21. Hist. ii. and Philops. For the use made Lucian plays upon the supposed know- of it by modern poets see Heyne's fourledge of future events gained by a vi- teenth Excursus to the sixth book of the sit to the infernal regions, in his Ver. Æneid.
tium. It would be out of place to enter here upon the probable causes which have led to this community of opinions as to the stature of these subordinate divinities; and it will be sufficient to remark, that the practice of romance in elevating them to the standard of “human mortals 7,” has only followed an ancient precedent already noticed in speaking of the dwarfs. There is even reason to believe, that the occasional adoption of a larger form, was not wholly inconsistent with the popular belief on the subject; since the fairy of Alice Pearson once appeared to her in “the guise of a lustie man,” and the ballad of Tamlane admits a change of shape to be a leading characteristic of the whole fairy race:
Our shape and size we can convert
To either large or small;
As is the lofty hall. 72
But the stature of the Elves and Fairies who presided over the mountain-heath, will find a parallel in a kindred race, the rural Lars of Italy; while their attributes, their habitations, their length of life, and even their name, will establish their affinity with the Grecian Nymphs. “Their drinkingcup or horn,” which was “to prove a cornucopia of good fortune to him who had the courage to seize it"},” is the sacred chalice of the Nymphs, whose inexhaustible resources
71 A distinction used by Titania in Little was king Laurin, but from many the Midsummer Night's Dream, Act ii. a precious gem Sc. 2.
His wondrous strength and power and
his bold courage came; 79 The minor details of this ballad wear too modern an aspect to make it Tall at times his stature grew, with
spells of grammary, of authority, unless supported by other Then to the noblest princes fellow might testimony. The story however is in
he be. disputably ancient. The same power has been already noticed in the Russian 73 See the Essay on the Fairies, &e. Leschies, and is also ascribed to king where mention is made of the goblet Laurin in the Little Garden of Roses, preserved in Eden-hall in Cumberland,
on which the prosperity of the Musgrave
are so frequently noticed in Grecian fable, and to which we shall again have occasion to refer. The places of their abode,the interior of green hills, or the islands of a mountain-lake, with all the gorgeous decorations of their dwellings,-are but a repetition of the Dionysic and Nymphæic caves described by Plutarch and Diodorus 74; and their term of life, like the existence of the daughters of Ocean, though extending to an immeasurable length 75 when compared with that of the human race, had still its prescribed and settled limits. To this it may be added, that the different appellations assigned them in Hellas and Northern Europe, appear to have arisen from a common idea of their nature; and that in the respective languages of these countries the words elf and nymphs convey a similar meaning
After this brief review of a most important subdivision of the elements of popular fiction, it will not be too much to affirm, that if their introduction into Europe, and their application to the embellishment of romantic poetry, had been dependent upon foreign agency, the national creed of Greece has the fairest claim to be considered as the parent source. But in this, as in so many other points of public faith com
family depended. Prætorius informs us, thousand seven hundred and twenty that a member of the house of Alvesch- years), Plutarch De Defectu Oraculor, leben received a ring from a Nixe, c. xi. Pindar gives the Dryads a much to which the future fortunes of his de- shorter term, or a life equivalent to that scendants were said to be attached. of the trees they inhabit. Ib. Anthropodemus Plutonicus, i. p. 113. 76 In the Northern languages elf Another German family, the Ranzaus, means a stream of running water, and held their prosperity by the tenure of a hence the name of the river Elbe. fairy spindle. Ib. p. 115. The Scholiast The Grecian wupon has the same import to Lucian's Rhet. Præcept. says, that with the Latin lympha, an idea which every prosperous person was supposed is also preserved in the Roman name to have Amalthæa's born in his pos- for the disease called Nympholepsy, session.
“Vulgo autem memoriæ proditum est, 74 See Plutarch de Sera Num. Vind., quicumque speciem quandam e fonte, and Diod. Sic. lib. iü. c. 68.
id est, effigiem nymphæ viderint, fu75 For the lives of the fairies, see Mr. rendi non fecisse finem, quos Græci Reed's note to the Midsummer Night's sovepoanatows, Latini lymphalos appelDream, in the variorum edition of lant.” Festus, ap. Salm. Exercit. Plin. Shakspeare; for that of the Nymphs 765. (which Hesiod makes equal to nine