Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Popular Traditions.

heresy to mock or to abandon. The political circumstances which for such a lengthened period deprived this islet of the benefits which might accrue from an union of commercial interests, and a communication of intellectual improvement with its more potent neighbours-the total absence of learning, in even its humbler branches, from the lower classes of Manx society-and the severity of church discipline, with all the mistaken rigor and gloom of religion, but without its genial and generous influence-all these conspired to thicken the mists of delusion which had overspread the land, and while superstition had been driven from its throne of darkness in England, it still remained in undisputed possession of every thought and every feeling of the unenlightened Manx. We will in this and a subsequent number of the "Popular Traditions" confine ourselves to the most remarkable which have gained such credit among them.

Among our own peasantry we hear almost daily accounts of the feats and exertions of the fairies; but though we might collect much information on the subject without leaving our own shores, yet we must acknowledge that in this instance our credulity is completely surpassed. The isle of Man seems to be the birth place and heritage of the good people, and so numerous and so firmly credited are their traditions on the subject, that a gentleman who had spent twenty years among them in an official capacity under George the I. declared that " he knew not, idolizers as they are of the clergy, whether they would not be even refractory to them were they to preach against the existence of fairies, or even against their being commonly seen; for though the priesthood are a kind of gods among them, yet still tradition is a greater god than they."

Whatever early records these islanders possessed were lost in the troubles of the Norwegian invasions; and as this renders it impossible to ascertain what period has elapsed since the original colonization of their country, or who were its first inhabitants, they make up the deficiency of historical information, by stating, that, some centuries. before the christian æra, it was held by a certain species of supernatural beings whom they called fairies. order to preserve their possessions unmolested, these little gentry by keeping up a perpetual fire caused a blue mist to hang continually over the island, thus preventing the navigators of these seas from entertaining any suspicions of its existence but the fire happening once to be extinguished,

In

Popular Traditions.

the shore was seen by some fishermen, who imparted their discovery to their countrymen. The immediate consequence was an invasion of this fairyland; and the aggressors, after a fierce encounter with the little aborigines, possessed themselves of Castle Russin, and by degrees, as they received reinforcements, of the whole island. These new conquerors maintained their ground some time, but were at length beaten out by a race of giants, who were themselves extirpated in the reign of Prince Arthur by Merlin the famous British enchanter.

As the Manx thus confidently assert that the first inhabitants of their island were fairies, they also maintain that these little people still reside among them. They call them the good people, and say they live in wilds and forests, and that all the houses are blessed where they visit. When a family of believers go to bed, a pail of water is left for their nocturnal guests, who are reported to bathe themselves as soon sleep has visited the weary cottagers. If any thing which had been mislaid be found unexpectedly, a fairy had borrowed it and now restored it. If any person had fallen and hurt himself, a fairy had thus punished him for some secret crime. In fine, every accident is sufficiently accounted for by the supposition of their agency.

The instances they give to prove the real existence of fairies are in every respect the same as those which we every day hear from our own cottagers. One man was led by invisible musicians for several miles over hedge and ditch to a large common, where, sitting round a large table, a number of little people were eating and drinking most jovially. Among them were many whose faces were familiar to him from former acquaintance. He did not however seem to recognise his old friends, nor did they take any notice of him, until one of them, when a goblet of wine was offered to him, whispering forbad him to taste any thing lest he should become such as they, and return no more to his family. The poor man accordingly watched an opportunity of pouring the wine on the ground, and, soon after, the company disappeared, leaving the cup in his hand, as a real testimony of his adventure.

Another was travelling on a fine, dry, moonlight night, and, passing over a mountain, heard the noise of horses, the halloo of huntsmen and the winding of horns. Such sounds at such an hour surprised him very much, but his astonishment was increased when, in a few minutes, thirteen horsemen

Popular Traditions.

dressed in green and gallantly mounted, passed near him. He was so well pleased, he would gladly have kept pace with them but this was impossible. However he heard their horns for some time, When he reached his destination, his sister was rejoiced that he had arrived in safety, as it was well known that the huntsmen were fairies, among whom such nightly sports were frequent.

Another man was riding to market for the purpose of selling his horse, and in passing over the mountains was met by a little man in a plain dress, who asked him its price, and offered him seven pounds for it. The owner of the horse accepted the proposal and received the money; and the little man mounted his nag, and immediately sank into the earth, leaving the other in the utmost terror and consternation.

Such are the stories by which they support their belief. Like our countrymen, they have their fairy-rings and numberless impressions of fairy feet in every rocky district. Every birth is foretold by a fairy christening-every funeral is foretold by a fairy procession, and many affirm that they have seen these imaginary obsequies, which are so little different from reality that they are seldom known till both coffin and mourners vanish at the church-door. The arrival of a stranger is known among them some days before it occurs, by the trampling of horses at the gate; symphonies of sweet but supernatural music have been often heard; and in fact their stories have obtained such credit, that mothers are in continual terror of their infants being changed in their cradles.

The gentleman whom we have above quoted, half afraid to confess a belief which evidently influenced his words in many places, has thus described one of these changelings. "Nothing under heaven could have a more beautiful face; but though between five and six years old, and seemingly healthy, he was so far from being able to walk or stand, that he could not so much as move any one joint: his limbs were vastly long for his age, but smaller than an infant's of six months; his complexion was perfectly delicate, and he had the finest hair in the world; he never spoke or cried, ate scarce any thing, and was very seldom seen to smile; but if any one called him a fairy-elf he would frown, and fix his eyes so earnestly on those who said it, as if he would fix them through. His mother, or at least his supposed mother, being very poor, frequently went out a chairing, and left him a whole day together: the neighbors out of curiosity have

- De Winza.

often looked in at the window, to see how he behaved when alone; but whenever they did they were sure to find him laughing, and in the utmost delight. This made them judge that he was not without company more pleasing to him than any mortals could be; and what made this conjecture seem more reasonable was, that if he were left ever so dirty, the woman at her return saw him with a clean face, and his hair combed with the utmost exactness and nicety."

I shall conclude with an account taken from a woman to whose offspring the fairies seemed to have taken a particular fancy. Her first child, an infant, was lying at her side, when the family were alarmed with the cry of fire, and ran immediately from the house. The mother was unable to bear them company, nor did she perceive that her infant was taken away by an invisible hand; but when the family, ashamed of their causeless trepidation, were returning, they were prevented only by its cries from treading on the infant, which lay on the threshold. This could only have been done by the fairies, who were obliged to drop the infant at their unexpected return.

About a year after, the attempt was repeated in nearly the same manner, and with the same want of success. But this was insufficient to warn this devoted family. A third attempt was made the next year-the infant was irretrievably taken, and in its place was found a poor, lean, withered, deformed creature, which lived with them for nearly nine years, without the power of speech or motion.

When the human mind is uncultivated, its ignorance and credulity are almost inconceivable!

De Winza.

(Continued from page 363.)

66

and hope

Upon the shadows of futurity

Shone like the sun upon the morning mists,
When driven before his rising rays they roll,

And melt and leave the prospect bright and clear."-SOUTHEY.

[ocr errors]

WAR, with all its attendant evils, had continued to spread its ravages through the Peninsula; the armies of France,

De Winza.

headed by expert generals, and animated by the presence of their conquering Chief, were scattered through the country; every place of strength or importance was in their hands, and the only opposition they had to contend with, was from a body of English troops, commanded by Sir Arthur Wellesley. This gallant army, after suffering various privations from the want of provisions and other necessaries, and the carelessness and inactivity of the Spanish people, had bravely repulsed the united forces of France led by Joseph Buonaparte in person, and added another laurel to the garland of British heroism, on the heights of Talavera. Attached to this army was a body of Spanish troops who shewed themselves not unworthy the title of defenders of their country; while small detached parties, headed by resolute Chiefs, hovered round the enemy, and by making frequent incur. sions, and cutting off his resources, served more effectually to harrass him, than the united efforts of more regular attacks. After a siege of nearly three months, SARAGOSSA had fallen, and the whole of that part of Spain came within the power of the French, who still retained possession of the Capital. But the Spanish people were roused from the lethargy into which they had fallen, their eyes were opened to the danger of their situation, and they beheld, with maddening despair, the ruin and degradation which had fallen upon their country. Her towns were desolate her fields laid waste; her ancient constitution was destroyed, and her royal family captives in another land; all that gave her a title to rank in the list of nations seemed to be rapidly passing away, and a few short months would degrade her into a province of that empire which the boundless ambition of Buonaparte was rearing on the ruins of surrounding nations. The spirit of freedom went forth through the land, every heart was animated, every hand was raised, in the common cause; a noble emulation seemed to spring in the breast of every Spaniard, and no longer regardless of the national glory, he arose at the great call of freedom and independence, and rushed with enthusiastic devotion to rescue his country, from the slavery and oppression under which she laboured; while every mountain and valley echoed with the cry of

"Viacer o morir pro patria et pro Ferdinando septimo."

Such was the situation of affairs when DE WINZA received a private communication from his father, requiring him to

« AnteriorContinuar »