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Under the title of Southern Europe, we comprise Greece and those nations whose languages are derived from the Latin ; Italy, France, and Spain. Of the Fairy-system, if ever there was one, of Portugal we have met nothing.
The reader will, in this part of our work, find nothing corresponding to the Gothic Dwarfs who have hitherto accompanied us. The only one of our former acquaintances that will still attend us is honest Hob-goblin, Brownie, Kobold, Nis, or however else he may style himself.
Ως τέτεινα Νύμφα δροσερών έσωθεν άντρων. .
Like a tender Nymph
The Grecian mythology, like its kindred systems, abounded in personifications. Modified by scenery so beautiful, rich, and various as Hellas presented, it in general assigned the supposed intelligences who presided over the various parts of external nature more pleasing attributes than they elsewhere enjoyed. They were mostly conceived to be of the female sex, and were denominated Nymphs, a word originally signifying a new-married young woman.
Whether it be owing to soil, climate, or to an original disposition of mind and its organ, the Greeks have above all other people possessed a perception of beauty of form, and a fondness for representing it. The Nymphs of various kinds were therefore always presented to the imagination, in the perfection of female youth and beauty. Under the various appellations of Oreades, Dryades, Naiades, Limpiades, Nereides, they dwelt in mountains, trees, springs, lakes, the sea, where, in caverns and grottos, they passed a life whose occupations resembled those of females of human
The Wood-nymphs were the companions and attendants of the huntress goddess Artemis; the Sea-nymphs averted shipwreck from pious navigators; and the Spring and River-nymphs poured forth fruitfulness on the earth. All of them were honoured with prayer and sacrifice; and all of them occasionally “ mingled in love” with favoured mortals.
In the Homeric poems, the most ancient portion of Grecian literature, we meet the various classes of Nymphs. In the Odyssey, they are the attendants of Calypso, herself a Goddess and a Nymph. Of the female attendants of Circe, the potent daughter of Helios, also designated as a goddess and a Nymph, it is said,
They spring from fountains and
Yet these Nymphs are of divine na
Zeus, the father of the gods, calls together his council,
None of the streams, save Ocean, stayed away,
The good Eumæus prays to the Nymphs to speed the return of his master, reminding them of the numerous sacrifices Ulysses had offered to them. In another part of the poem, their sacred cave is thus described:
But at the harbour's head a long-leafed olive
In it, too, are long looms
* Il. xx. 7. We believe there is no word in the English language which so nearly expresses the Greek zicea, as this old, now provincial word. The Anglo-Saxon slæd is certainly a valley; but all the spots denominated slades that we have seen were rich, grassy, irriguous, but somewhat depressed lands. Mr. Todd says, that Lye gives, in his AngloSaxon Dictionary, the Icelandic Slaed. Certainly not in the copy we consulted. In Danish, Slette is a plain.
That to the south more sacred is, and there
Yet though thus exalted in rank, the Homeric Nymphs frequently “ blessed the bed" of heroes; and many a warrior who fought before Troy could boast descent from a Naias or a Nereis.
The sweet, gentle, pious, Ocean-nymphs, who in the Prometheus of Æschylus appear as the consolers and advisers of its dignified hero, seemi to hold a nearly similar relation with man to the supernal gods. Beholding the misery inflicted on Prometheus by the power of Zeus, they cry,
May never the all-ruling
Against my thoughts;
Of father Ocëan :
And never fade away.
'Tis sweet, in bold confiding Hopes, long life to extend,
With joys serene,
* Προμηθεύς δεσμώτης, ν. 526.