Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

accompany him, and she has with her a butter-tub: in other localities she is replaced by a dog.'—p. 187.

Like many other myths, this popular superstition originates in endeavours to improve upon Scripture. In the Book of Numbers (xv. 32-6) there is a record of a man found gathering sticks on the Sabbath-day who was brought before Moses and Aaron, and put in ward until it was declared what should be done unto him. By the Divine order he was stoned with stones without the camp. Such being the basis of fact, superstition (Mr. Baring-Gould does not tell us when' or 'why) took occasion to alter the character of the punishment, and to doom the offender to perpetual punishment, and Moon-day,' because he had not valued his Sunday upon earth. According to German authorities he was allowed the choice of burning in the Sun, or of freezing in the Moon; and, preferring the latter, may evermore be descried at full-moon seated with his bundle of faggots on his back. In some accounts a woman keeps him company, but a more inseparable concomitant of the mannikin who stole wood' is a dog, which plays its part in both the passages in which Shakespeare refers to the superstition; the one where Quince gives directions for Pyramus and Thisbe, and the enacter of the part of Moonshine replies, 'all I have to say is, to tell you that this lantern is the moon: I the man in the moon: this thorn-bush is my thorn-bush ; and this dog my dog :' and the other where Caliban, in the “Tempest,' asserts his familiarity with the whole legend.* So far as we can learn from the volume before us the earliest reference to this myth is in the writings of Alexander Neckam, of St. Albans, who was born on the same night as Richard Cæur de Lion, and whose * De Naturis Rerum' has been very admirably edited for the • Chronicles and Memorials’ series by Mr. Thomas Wright, the antiquarian. Neckam, that writer tells us, believed that the spots on the moon were a sign to man from God that human nature also retained spots from the prevarication of our first parents ;' he did not, however, think it beneath him to notice the popular legend embodied in the rhyming jingle, which Mr. Baring-Gould translates

• See the rustic in the moon,
How his bundle weighs him down :
Thus his sticks the truth reveal,
It never profits man to steal.' †

* Midsummer Night's Dream,' Act v. sc. 1.:, : Tempest,' Act ii, sc. 2.

+ Alexandri Neckam De Naturis Rerum, libri duo,' edited by Thos. Wright, F.S.A., p. xviii. Pref.

*Rusticus in Luna, quem sarcina deprimit una,
Monstrat per spinas nulli prodesse rapinas.'

Mr.

Mr. Wright, in a note to the rhyming distich just translated, assigns to the period of Edward I. the first ancient song commencing Mon in the mone stond and strit.'

Many collateral sources might be quoted to supplement the information touching this legend which is contained in the work under review. It tells us, e. g., that Dante calls the luckless tenant of Moonland Cain, but it omits the more poetic and classic figment, that he is the boy Endymion, whose company the Moon loves so well that she carries him with her,'* or the statement from Clemens Alexandrinus that the face in the Moon is that of a Sibyl.t Neither has it given us another minute particular, unearthed by Southey from the writings of Swedenborg, namely, that the Moonites are about the size of children of seven years old, only more robust.'

We have, however, little right to complain, since Mr. BaringGould introduces us to the counterpart of our faggot-bearer and dog in the old man and hare' of Sanscrit fable, and traces the legend up to its Aryan source by examination of the Indian and Scandinavian legends. The last of these we shall give in his own words, that he may reap the whole sum of gratitude due to one who can invest nursery-myths with the prestige of remote antiquity.

‘Mani, the Moon, stole two children from their parents, and carried them up to Heaven. Their names were Hjuki and Bil. They had been drawing water from the well Byrgir, in the bucket Sægr, suspended from the pole Simul, which they bore on their shoulders. These children, pole, and bucket were placed in heaven, "where they could be seen from earth.” This undoubtedly refers to the spots in the moon, and so the Swedish peasantry explain these spots unto this day, as representing a boy and girl bearing a pail of water between them. Are we not thus reminded at once of our nursery rhyme ?

“ Jack and Jill went up the hill

To fetch a pail of water,
Jack fell down and broke his crown,

And Jill came tumbling after,” This verse, which to us seems at first sight nonsense, I have no hesitation in saying has a high antiquity, and refers to the Eddaic Hjuki and Bil. The names indicate as much. Hjuki in Norse would be pronounced Juki, which would readily become Jack, and Bil, for euphony, and in order to give a female name to one of the children, would become Jill. The fall of Jack and subsequent fall of Jill simply represent the vanishing of one moon-spot after another as the moon wanes.'-pp. 188-9.

* Bp. Wilkins's . Discovery of a New World,' p. 100 + Clemens Alex. 'Stromat.' 1.

2 G 2

After

[ocr errors]

After remarking that Hjuki, from ‘jakka,' to heap up, and Bil, from bila,' to dissolve, individualize the waxing and the waning moon respectively, while their function as water-bearers represents the dependence of the rainfall on the phases of the moon, our author sums up as follows his explanation of the legend generally :

“But though Jack and Jill became dissevered by degrees in the popular mind from the moon, the original myth went through a fresh phase, and exists still under a new form. The Norse superstition attributed theft to the moon, and the vulgar soon began to believe that the figure they saw in the moon was the thief. The lunar specks certainly may be made to resemble one figure, and only a lively imagination can discern two. The girl soon dropped out of popular mythology, the boy oldened into a venerable man, he retained his pole, and the bucket was transformed into the thing he had stolen-sticks or vegetables. The theft was in some places exchanged for sabbathbreaking, especially among those in Protestant countries, who were acquainted with the Bible story of the stick-gatherer.'--p. 190.

But what about the dog? We cannot afford to part with him, representing as he does to our mind a ghost of a slender prop to what may be called the casual coincidence theory. In the last three months, before we read these Curious Myths,' a child of six years has several times presented us with a rough drawing by himself, which, needing explanation, invariably elicits the answer

Oh! that's the boy in the moon!' “And what,' we ask, “is this following him?' Why, that's his lamb, or his dog!' The child could not have become acquainted with the myth, unless by some nurse's tale, or on the theory of metempsychosis. The dog, too, is equally essential to the theory of an Aryan descent for myths.

For the singularly-beautiful myth of the seven sleepers we must send our readers to Mr. Baring-Gould's volume; though we cannot help noticing a little indecision where—after adopting in p. 97 the legitimate inference from a plaster representation in the Museum Victorinum at Rome, that the seven suffered martyrdom under Decius, A.D. 250, and were buried in the cave of Mount Celion, and that the discovery and removal thence of their relics under Theodosius, in A.D. 479, gave rise to the fable—he avows in p. 102 his belief that the legend is not an exaggeration of facts, but a 'Christianized myth of paganism, the mythological core being the earth’s repose through the seven winter months. He is right, however, in drawing attention to the surpassing delicacy of the modern form of this myth, as seen in the poem of Trinius, which he has very gracefully translated in p. 103.

6

of

It is sorely against the grain to relegate Tell and the apple to the limbo of myths; and as Mr. Baring-Gould's reading convinced him that the conservative view of the case was hopeless, we know not how he could have better prepared his readers to join in throwing it overboard, than by the strange story he tells about Raleigh in prison.

• Sir Walter, in prison, was composing the second volume of his History of the World. Leaning on the sill of his window, he meditated on the duties of the historian to mankind, when suddenly his attention was attracted by a disturbance in the courtyard before his cell. He saw one man strike another whom he supposed by his dress to be an officer: the latter at once drew his sword, and ran the former through the body. The wounded man felled his adversary with a stick, and then sank upon the pavement. At this juncture the guard came up, and carried off the officer insensible, and then the corpse the man who had been run through. Next day, Raleigh was visited by an intimate friend, to whom he related the circumstances. To his astonishment his friend unhesitatingly declared that the prisoner had mistaken the whole series of incidents which had passed before his eyes. The supposed officer was not an officer at all, but the servant of a foreign ambassador ; it was he who had dealt the first blow; he had not drawn his sword, but the other had snatched it from his side, and had run him through the body before any one could interfere : whereupon a stranger among the crowd knocked the murderer down with his stick, and some of the ambassador's retinue carried off the corpse. Raleigh's friend added that the government had ordered the arrest and immediate trial of the murderer, as the man assassinated was a principal servant of the Spanish Ambassador.

* " Excuse me,” said Raleigh, “ but I cannot have been deceived as you suppose ; for I was eyewitness to the events, which took place under my own window, and the man fell there on that spot where you see a paving-stone standing up above the rest.”

• "My dear Raleigh," replied his friend, “I was sitting on that stone when the fray took place, and I received this slight scratch on my cheek in snatching the sword from the murderer; and upon my word of honour you have been deceived in every particular.”

‘Sir Walter, when alone, took up the second volume of his history, which was in MS., and contemplating it, thought—" If I cannot believe my own eyes, how can I be assured of the truth of a tithe of the events which happened ages before I was born ?" and he flung the manuscript in the fire.'-pp. 105–7.

Readers of these Curious Myths,' if we may judge them by ourselves, must feel a sense of relief when they find a note in p. 107 to say that this anecdote is taken from the “Journal de Paris,' of May 1787. One knows what a cloud is on French eyes, when they glance at English history. Yet we must rob our friends of even this slight ground for doubt, for an indefatigable contributor to Notes and Queries' has, in a note of March 9th, 1867, traced this same story to Letters on Literature, by Robert Heron' (a pseudonym for John Pinkerton, F.A.S.), which were published in 1785, and were probably the source whence the Journal de Paris' obtained it. After this, "What is truth?' or . What is history ?' We are not surprised that having thus prefaced his “Tellicide' chapter, our author should rekindle just one spark or so of reassurance at its close by his account of the French Abbé's ingenious argument to prove that Napoleon was only a mythical personification of the Sun. Such readers as have been fortunate enough to meet with a copy of the late Sir George C. Lewis's "Remarks on the Egyptological Method of Writing History,' will have enjoyed quite as admirable a quiz from a pen of not less infinite humour. It is only bare justice, however, to Mr. Baring-Gould, to say that he (or those whom he follows) has actually demolished Williain Tell,' as he has likewise the dog Gellert.

friends

The strange myth about 'tailed men,' we rejoice, for the sake of our Kentish neighbours, to find repudiated in this volume. It is not merely because the fact, if fact it were, would afford foundation for the charge of early rudeness to the Missionary Augustine, and in later days to Thomas A’Becket, but because in one of his sermons the famous Portuguese preacher Vieyra says, that Satan was

tailless until his fall, when that appendage grew to him 'as an outward and visible token that he had lost the rank of an angel and was fallen to the level of a brute. This might well give rise to a certain soreness at such an imputation. Accordingly Bailey, under the head of ·Kentish Long-tails,' in his Dictionary, tries hard to shift the charge to Dorsetshire; and Lambarde, in his 'Perambulation of Kent,' is equally touchy on the subject

. Mr. Baring-Gould's childish reminiscences attach the suspicion of a like "stigma' to Cornwall. A friend from the country in which Strood is situated, and which, on account of the Strood-men's outrage to Becket's horse, is, according to Polydore Vergil, saddled with what the reformer Bale designates a perpetual infamy of tayles,' evades our inquiries as to his interpretation of James Howell's proverb, • Essex Calfs, Kentish Long-tails, Yorkshire Tikes, and Norfolk Bumkins,' by declaring that he is not a Kentish man,' but

a man of Kent.' Seeing that this distinction is an old and accredited one, East Kent men being called Men of Kent,

even

* Howell's 'English Proverbs,' p. 21, in the 'Lexicon Tetraglotton.'

and

« AnteriorContinuar »