Графични страници
PDF файл


Faune Nympharum fugientum amator,

Per meos fines et aprica rura
Lenis incedas, abeasque parvis
Equus alumnis.


UNFORTUNATELY for our knowledge of the ancient Italian mythology, the ballad-poetry of Rome is irrecoverably lost. A similar fate has befallen the literature of Etruria, Umbria, and other parts of the peninsula. The powerful influence exercised by Grecian genius over the conquerors of the Grecian states utterly annihilated all that was national and domestic in literature. Not but that Latin poetry abounds in mythological matter; but it is the mythology of Greece, not of Italy; and the reader of Virgil and Ovid will observe with surprise how little of what he meets in their works is Italian.

So much however of the population of ancient Italy, particularly of Latium, was Pelasgian, that it is natural to suppose a great similarity between the religious systems of Latium and Hellas. Like the Greeks, the old inhabitants

of Latium believed the woods and fields to be the abode of a species of inferior gods or genii. These the Latins called Fauns*. They were held to be the givers of fruitfulness and the guardians of the country, and early in the spring a festival was celebrated in their honour.

The Latins do not appear to have believed in choirs of Nymphs. Those we read of, such as Egeria, Anna Perenna, Juturna, are all solitary, all dwellers of fountains, streams, and lakes. The Italian Diana did not, like the Grecian Artemis, speed over the mountains attended by a train of buskined nymphs. No Dryads sought to avert the fate of their kindred trees-no Nereides sported on the waves.

Dwarfish deities they had none. We are indeed told of the Lars, particularly the rural Lars, as answering to the Gothic Dwarfs; but no proofs are offered except the diminutive size of their statues. This we hold, as in the case of the Cabeiri, to amount to nothing. Are we to suppose the following lines of Plautus to have been delivered by an "eyas?"

Lest any marvel who I am, I shall
Briefly declare it. I am the family Lar

*Lanzi, after writing a good deal about Fauns candidly acknowledges he does not know what a Faun is. The word is certainly akin to Pan.

Of this house whence you see me coming out.
'Tis many years now that I keep and guard
This family; both father and grandsire
Of him that has it now, I aye protected.
Now his grandsire intrusted me a treasure
Of gold, that I, unknown to all, should keep it.

He has one daughter, who each day with wine,
Or incense, or with something, worships me.
She gives me crowns, and I in recompense
Have now made Euclio find the treasure out,
That, if he will, he may more readily
Get her a match*.

The Lars were a portion of the Etrurian religion. In that language the word Lar signifies a Lord; and the Lars were regarded, like the Grecian heroes, as the souls of men who, after death, still hovered about their former abodes, averting dangers from, and bestowing blessings on, the inhabitants. They differed from the Penates, who were, properly speaking, Gods, beings of a higher nature, personifications of natural powers, the givers of abundance and wealth ‡.

The old Italians, it appears, believed in a being,

* Aulularia, Prologue.

↑ If, as is highly probable, the Etrurians were of Germanic origin, may not Lar, Lartis, and the Anglo-Saxon plaford, English Lord, be cognate terms? 'Hpws, Herus, and the German Herr, are cognate, and all signify the same. Creuzer, Symbolik, II. 878.

we know not of what size, called an Incubo, that watched over treasure.

"But what they say I know not; but I have heard how he snatched the cap of an Incubo and found a treasure *.'


Respecting the Fairy mythology of the modern Italians, what we have been able to collect is very little.

The people of Naples believe in a being very much resembling the Incubo, whom they call the Monaciello, or Little Monk. They describe him as a short, thick kind of little man, dressed in the long garments of a monk, with a broad-brimmed hat. He appears to people in the dead of the night, and beckons to them to follow him. If they have courage to do so, he leads them to some place where treasure is concealed. Several are said to have made sudden fortunes through him t. The Monaciello is, according to the Pentamerone, as fond of playing tricks as his cousins Nis and Brownie.

In the second tale of the first day of that work, when the prince in the night heard the noise

Petronius, Satyricon.

Italy and the Italians, vol. i. pp. 161, 162.

made by the Fairy in his room, "he thought it was some chamber-boy coming to lighten his purse for him, or some Monaciello to pull the clothes off him." And in the seventh tale of the third day of the same collection, when Corvetto had hidden himself under the Ogre's* bed to steal his quilt," he began to pull quite gently, when the Ogre awoke, and bid his wife not to pull the clothes that way, or she'd strip him, and he would get his death of cold." "Why, it's you that are stripping me," replied the Ogress," and you have not left a stitch on me.” "Where the devil is the quilt?" says the Ogre; and putting his hand to the ground, he happened to touch the

L'huorco, the Orco of Bojardo and Ariosto, probably derived from the Latin Orcus. In a late work, from which we have derived some information (Lettres sur les Contes des Fées, Paris, 1826), considerable pains are taken, we think, to little purpose, to deduce the French Ogre from the Oigours, a Tartar tribe, who with the other tribes of that people invaded Europe in the 12th century. In the Glossaire de la Langue Romane, Ogre is explained by Hongrois. Any one, however, that reads the Pentamerone will see that the ugly, cruel, man-eating Huorco is plainly an Ogre; and those expert at the tours de passe passe of etymology will be at no loss to deduce Ogre from Orco. We regret this piece of information has not been in time for Mr. Rose, as he might perhaps have taken advantage of it, even at the risk of approximating the Orlando to Puss in Boots and Little Poucet.

« ПредишнаНапред »