« AnteriorContinuar »
"They are believed to inhabit certain round grassy eminences, where they celebrate their nocturnal festivities by the light of the moon. About a mile beyond the source of the Forth, above Lochcon, there is a place called Cuirshi'an, or the Cove of the Men of Peace, which is still supposed to be a favourite place of their residence. In the neighbourhood, are to be seen many round, conical eminences; particularly one, near the head of the lake, by the skirts of which many are still afraid to pass after sunset. It is believed, that if, on Hallow-eve, any person, alone, goes round one of these hills nine times, towards the left hand (sinistrorsum), a door shall open, by which he shall be admitted into their subterraneous abodes. Many, it is said, of mortal race, have been entertained in their secret recesses. There they have been received into the most splendid apartments, and regaled with the most sumptuous banquets, and delicious wines. Their females surpass the daughters of men in beauty. The seemingly happy inhabitants pass their time in festivity, and in dancing to notes of the softest music. But unhappy is the mortal who joins in their joys, or ventures to partake of their dainties. By this indulgence, he forfelts for ever the society of men, and is bound down irrevocably to the condition of a Shi'ich, or man of peace.
"A woman, as is reported in the Highland tradition, was conveyed, in days of yore, into the secret recesses of the men of peace. There she was recognized by one who had formerly been an ordinary mortal, but who had, by some fatality, become associated with the Shi'ichs. This acquaintance, still retaining some portion of human benevolence, warned her of her danger, and counselled her, as she valued her liberty, to abstain from eating and drinking with them, for a certain space of time. She complied with the counsel of her friend; and when the period assigned was elapsed, she found herself again upon earth, re stored to the society of mortals. It is added, that when she examined the viands which had been presented to her, and which had appeared so tempting to the eye, they were found, now that the enchantment was removed, to consist only of the refuse of the earth."-p. 107-111.
Why sounds yon stroke on beech and oak,
Our moonlight circle's screen?
Or who comes here to chase the deer,
Beloved of our Elfin Queen 7-St. XIII. p 129.
It has been already observed, that fairies, if not positively malevolent, are capricious, and easily offended. They are, like other proprietors of forests, peculiarly jealous of their rights of vert and venison, as appears from the cause of offence taken, in the original Danish ballad. This jealousy was also an attribute of the northern Duergar, or dwarfs, to
many of whose distinctions the fairies seem to have succeeded, if, indeed, they are not the same class of beings. In the huge metrical record of German chivalry, intitled the Helden-Buch, Sir Hildebrand, and the other heroes of whom it treats, are engaged in one of their most despe rate adventures, from a rash violation of the rose-garden of an Elfin, or Dwarf King. There are yet traces of a belief in this worst and most malicious order of fairies among the Border wilds. Dr. Leyden has introduced such a dwarf into his ballad intitled the Cout of Keeldar, and has not forgot his characteristic detestation of the chase.
The third blast that young Keeldar blew,
Still stood the limber fern,
And a wee man of swarthy hue,
Upstarted by a cairn.
His russet weeds were brown as heath,
That clothes the upland fell;
And the hair of his head was frizzly red
As the purple heather-bell.
An urchin, clad in prickles red,
The hounds they howl'd, and backward fled,
"Why rises high the stag-hound's cry,
Where stag-hound ne'er should be?
"Brown dwarf, that o'er the muirland strays,
Thy name to Keeldar tell!"—
"The Brown Man of the Muirs, who stays
Beneath the heather-bell.
""Tis sweet beneath the heather-bell
To live in autumn brown;
And sweet to hear the lav'rocks swell,
Far, far from tower and town.
"But woe betide the shrilling horn,
The chase's surly cheer!
And ever that hunter is forlorn,
Whom first at morn I hear."
The poetical picture here given of the Duergar corresponds exactly with the following Northumbrian legend, with which I was lately. favoured by my learned and kind friend, Mr. Surtees of Mainsforth, who has bestowed indefatigable labour upon the antiquities of the English
border counties. The subject is in itself so curious, that the length of the note will, I hope, be pardoned.
"I have only one record to offer of the appearance of our Northumbrian Duergar. My narratrix is Elizabeth Cockburn, an old wife of Offerton, in this county, whose credit, in a case of this kind, will not, I hope, be much impeached, when I add, that she is, by her dull neighbours, sup posed to be occasionally insane, but, by herself, to be at those times endowed with a faculty of seeing visions and spectral appearances, which shun the common ken.
"In the year before the great rebellion, two young men from Newcastle were sporting on the high moors above Elsdon, and, after pursuing their game several hours sat down to dine in a green glen near one of the mountain streams. After their repast, the younger lad ran to the brook for water, and after stooping to drink, was surprised, on lifting his head again, by the appearance of a brown dwarf, who stood on a crag covered with brackens, across the burn. This extraordinary personage did not appear to be above half the stature of a common man, but was un. commonly stout and broad built, having the appearance of vast strength. His dress was entirely brown, the colour of the brackens, and his head covered with frizzled red hair. His countenance was expressive of the most savage ferocity, and his eyes glared like a bull. It seems he ad. dressed the young man first, threatening him with his vengeance for having trespassed on his demesnes, and asking him if he knew in whose presence he stood? The youth replied, that he now supposed him to be the lord of the moors; that he offended through ignorance; and offered to bring him the game he had killed. The dwarf was a little mollified by this submission; but remarked that nothing could be more offensive to him than such an offer, as he considered the wild animals as his subjects, and never failed to avenge their destruction. He condescended further to inform him that he was, like himself, mortal, though of years far exceeding the lot of common humanity; and (what I should not have had an idea of) that he hoped for salvation. He never, he added, fed on any thing that had life, but lived, in the summer, on whortleberries, and, in winter, on nuts and apples, of which he had great store in the woods. Finally, he invited his new acquaintance to accompany him home, and partake his hospitality-an offer which the youth was on the point of accepting, and was just going to spring across the brook (which, if he had done, says Elizabeth, the dwarf would certainly have torn hin in pieces), when his foot was arrested by the voice of his companion, who thought he tarried long; and on looking round again, the wee brown man was fled. The story adds, that he was imprudent enough to slight the admonition, and to sport over the moors on his way homewards; but, soon after his return, he fell into a lingering disorder, and died within the year."
Or who may dare on wold to wear
The fairy's fatal green.-St. XIII. p. 129.
As the Daoine Shi', or men of peace, wore green habits, they were supposed to take offence when any mortals ventured to assume their favourite colour. Indeed, from some reason, which has been, perhaps, originally a general superstition, green is held in Scotland to be unlucky to particular tribes and counties. The Caithness men, who hold this belief, allege, as a reason, that their bands wore that colour when they were cut off at the battle of Flodden; and for the same reason they avoid crossing the Ord on a Monday, being the day of the week on which their ill-omened array set forth. Green is also disliked by those of the name of Ogilvy; but more especially is it held fatal to the whole clan of Grahame. It is remembered of an aged gentleman of that name, that when his horse fell in a fox-chase, he accounted for it at once, by observing that the whip-cord attached to his lash was of this unlucky
For thou wert christen'd man.-St. XIII. p. 130.
The Elves were supposed greatly to envy the privileges acquired by Christian initiation, and they gave to those mortals who had fallen into. their power, a certain precedence, founded upon this advantageous dis tinction. Tamlane, in the old ballad, describes his own rank in the fairy procession:
"For I ride on a milk-white steed,
And aye nearest the town;
They gie me that renown."
I presume that, in the Danish ballad, the obstinacy of the "Weiest Elf," who would not flee for cross or sign, is to be derived from the circumstance of his having been "christen'd man,"
How eager the elves were to obtain for their offspring the prerogatives of Christianity, will be proved by the following story:-"In the district called Haga, in Iceland, dwelt a nobleman called Sigward Forster, who had an intrigue with one of the subterranean females. The elf became pregnant, and exacted from her lover a firm promise that he would procure the baptism of the infant. At the appointed time, the mother came to the church-yard, on the wall of which she placed a golden cup, and a stole for the priest, agreeable to the custom of making an offering at baptism. She then stood a little apart. When the priest left the church, he inquired the meaning of what he saw, and demanded of Sigward if he avowed himself the father of the child; but Sigward,
ashamed of the connexion, denied the paternity. He was then interrogated if he desired that the child should be baptized; but this also he answered in the negative, lest, by such request, he should admit himself to be the father On which the child was left untouched, and unbaptized. Whereupon the mother, in extreme wrath, snatched up the infant and the cup, and retired, leaving the priestly cope, of which fragments are still in preservation. But this female denounced and imposed upon Sigward and his posterity, to the ninth generation, a singular disease, with which many of his descendants are afflicted at this day." Thus wrote Einar Gudmund, pastor of the parish of Garpsdale, in Iceland, a man profoundly versed in learning, from whose manuscript it was extracted by the learned Torfæus.-Historia Hrolfi Krakii. Hafniæ, 1715, prefatio. Note XI.
And gaily shines the fairy land;
But all is glistening show.-St. XV. p. 131.
No fact respecting Fairy-land seems to be better ascertained than the fantastic and illusory nature of their apparent pleasure and splendour. It has been already noticed, in the former quotations from Dr. Grahame's entertaining volume, and may be confirmed by the following Highland tradition:-"A woman, whose new-born child had been conveyed by them into their secret abodes, was also carried thither herself, to remain, however, only until she should suckle her infant. She, one day, during this period, observed the Shi'ichs busily employed in mixing various ingredients in a boiling cauldron; and, as soon as the composition was prepared, she remarked that they all carefully anointed their eyes with it, laying the remainder aside for future use. In a moment when they were all absent, she also attempted to anoint her eyes with the precious drug, but had time to apply it to one eye only, when the Daoine Shi returned; but with that eye she was henceforth enabled to see every thing as it really passed in their secret abodes. She saw every object, not as she hitherto had done, in deceptive splendour and elegance, but in its genuine colours and form. The gaudy ornaments of the apartment were reduced to the walls of a gloomy cavern. Soon after, having discharged her office, she was dismissed to her own home. Still, however, she retained the faculty of seeing, with her medicated eye, every thing that was done, any where in her presence, by the deceptive art of the order. One day, amidst a throng of people, she chanced to observe the Shi'ich, or man of peace, in whose possession she had left her child, though to every other eye invisible. Prompted by maternal affection, she inadvertently accosted him, and began to inquire after the welfare of her child. The man of peace, astonished at being thus recognised by one of mortal race, demanded how she had been en