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Let kernels sweet increase the treat,
No voice be mute, and each shrill flute
When morning breaks, and man awakes
The flocks, the field, his house we yield,
While clad in green, unheard, unseen,
And give to man his little span-
Who does not admire the beautiful instruction, which is so pleasingly conveyed in this credulity? In a country so completely pastoral as Wales, something more than the sage precepts of mere experience and wisdom was necessary to inculcate in the minds of the people the more homely virtues adapted to their condition; and hence even superstition was rendered subservient to the purpose, in a manner at once mild, persuasive, and impressive. Thus, it is a common opinion, in many parts of the Principality, that if, on retiring to rest, the cottage hearth is made clean, the floor swept, and the pails left full of water, the fairies will come at midnight to a spot thus prepared for their reception, continue their harmless revels till day-break, sing the well-known strain of Toriad y Dydd, or the Dawn of Day-leave a piece of money upon the hearth, and disappear. The suggestions of intellect and the salutary precautions of prudence are easily discernible under this fiction: a safety from fire in the neatness of the hearth, a provision for its extinction in the replenished pails,-and a motive to perseverance and industry in the expected boon. Like the popular superstitions of Germany, there is always more or less of MORAL in the Fairy Tales of the Welsh; and the following curious narrative, related by Giraldus Cambrensis, was probably held forth as a warning against stealing. It affords also a good idea of the popular opinion of the "manners and customs" of the Tylwyth Têg of the twelfth century.
A short time before our days, a circumstance worthy of note occurred in those parts, (Neath, in Glamorganshire,) which Elidorus, a priest, most strenuously affirmed, had befallen himself. When a youth about twelve years of age, in order to avoid the severity of his preceptor, he ran away, and concealed
himself under the hollow bank of a river; and after fasting, in that situation, for two days, two little men, of pigmy stature, ("homunculi duo staturæ quasi pigmeæ," as the monk calls it,) appeared to him, and said-" If you will go with us, we will lead you into a country full of delights and sports." Assenting, and rising up, he followed his guides, at first, through a path, subterraneous and dark, into a most beautiful country, murky, however, and not illuminated with the full light of the sun. All the days were cloudy, and the nights extremely dark. The boy was brought before the king, and introduced to him in the presence of his court, when, having examined him for a long time, to the great admiration of the courtiers, he delivered him to his son, who was then a boy. These people were of the smallest stature; but very well proportioned; fair complexioned, with long hair, particularly the females, who wore it flowing over their shoulders. They had horses and hounds adapted to their size. They neither ate fish, nor flesh; but lived, for the most part, on milk and saffron. As often as they returned from our hemisphere, they reprobated our ambition, infidelities, and inconstancies; and although they had no form of public worship, they were, it seems, strict lovers and reverers of truthfor no one was so utterly detested by them as a liar.
The boy frequently returned to our world, sometimes by the way he had gone, sometimes by others; at first, in company, and afterwards alone, making himself known only to his mother, to whom he described what he had seen. Being desired by her to bring her a present of gold, with which that country abounds, he stole, while at play with the king's son, a golden ball, with which he used to divert himself, and brought it in haste to his mother: but not unpursued; for, as he entered the house, he stumbled at the threshold, let his ball drop, which two pigmies seized, and departed, shewing the boy every mark of contempt and derision. Notwithstanding every attempt for the space of a whole year, he never again could discover the track to the subterraneous passage; but after suffering many misfortunes, he did, at length, succeed in securing his intimacy with this mysterious race. He had, however, previously made himself acquainted with their language, which, observes Giraldus, was very conformable to the Greek idiom. When they asked for water, udor udorum, (idwę idwguu,) and when they wanted salt, Halgein udorum, (as vero Græcè Sal dicitur, et Haleu Britannicè.*)
We must now proceed to a brief description of the Ellyllon, or mischievous sprites. As the Tylwyth Tég usually fixed
* Girald. Cambrensis Itiner. Cambr. lib. i. cap. 8.
their abodes in "grassy glades," and on sunny knolls, so the Ellyllon frequented the rock and the mountain; and woe betide the luckless wight who encountered those merry and mischievous sprites in a mist! for they had a very inconvenient practice of seizing an unwary pilgrim, and of hurrying him through the air;-first, giving him the cption, however, of travelling above wind, under wind, or below wind. If he chose the former, he was borne to the region, with which Mr. Graham has recently become familiar in his balloon; if the latter, he had the full benefit of all the brakes, briars, and bogs in his way his reiterated contact with which, seldom failed to terminate in his discomfiture. Experienced travellers, therefore, always kept in mind the prudent advice of Apollo to Phaeton, (in medio tutissimus,) and selected the middle course, which ensured them a pleasant voyage at a moderate elevation, equally free from the brambles and the cloudsDafydd ab Gwilym, (the British Ovid,) who was contemporary with Chaucer, in a humourous description which he gives of his own abduction in one of these unlucky mists, says
"Yr ydoedd ym mhob gobant,
There were in every hollow-
and then proceeds to detail the mishaps which befell him, and which were all, no doubt, referable to the mischievous freaks of the Ellyllon. In addition to these propensities, they were gifted with all the attributes-whatever they may be of other elves, and never failed to exercise their malicious powers whenever an opportunity occurred.*
We have already intimated, that it is not our intention, on the present occasion, to enter very fully into the origin and rise of any of the superstitions we may notice; but the universal influence of a belief in Fairies in all European countries, has tempted us to offer a few observations on the supposed foundation of the superstition in our own country.
Our simple ancestors had reduced all their whimsical notions respecting these fabulous beings to a system as consistent and regular as many parts of the Heathen mythology; a sufficient proof of the extensive influence and great antiquity of the superstition. Mankind, indeed, and more especially the
* Cambro Briton, vol. i. p. 348.
common people, could not have been so unanimously agreed concerning these arbitrary notions, had they not prevailed among them for many ages. So ancient, indeed, is the superstition, that so far as regards its origin among the Saxons, we can only discover, that long before this people left their German forests, they believed in a kind of diminutive demons or spirits, which they denominated Duergar, or Dwarfs, and to which they attributed many wonderful performances, far above all human art and capability. These attributes did not degenerate as they floated down the stream of time, and for a long time they were implicitly believed by the simple and untutored peasantry. In a fine old song, attributed by Peck to Ben Jonson, although not to be found among that author's collected works, we have a tolerably succinct account, and at all events a very amusing one, of the credited capacities of the Fairy tribe. We quote a few of the verses: Robin Goodfellow loquitur ::
"More swift than lightning can I fly
About this aëry welkin soone,
Each thing that's done below the moone.
Or ghost shall wag,
Or cry-Ware goblin!' where I go;
Their feates will
And send them home with ho! ho! ho!
Whene'er such wanderers I meete,
As from their night-sportes they trudge home;
And call them on with me to roame
Through woodes, through lakes,
Or else, unseene, with them I go,
To play some tricke,
Sometimes I meete them like a man;
Sometimes an ox, sometimes a hound;
To trip and trot about them round:
By backe to stride,
More swift than winde away I go,
When lads and lasses merry be,
With possets and rich juncates fine,
I eat their cakes, and sip their wine.
And out the candle I do blow;
Yet, now and then, the maids to please,
Their malt up still,
I dress their hempe, and spin their tow;
And would me talke,
I wend me, laughing ho! ho! ho!
When men do traps and engines set
In loopholes where the vermines creepe;
Their ducks, and geese, and lambs, and sheepe;
I spy the gin,
And enter in,
And seeme a vermine taken so:
But when they theare
Approach me neare,
I leap out laughing, ho! ho! ho!"
In the earlier ages, fairies were undoubtedly subservient to no earthly power; but as men became more enlightened, the influence of the sorcerers extended, in some measure, to them, as well as to the more vulgar and debased sorts of spirits. In the Ashmolean MSS. there is a recipe for the conjuration of fairies, which will probably remind our readers of the incanta