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Title: Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs (1886)
Author: Martinengo-Cesaresco, Countess Evelyn, 1852-1931
Language: English
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  Will no one tell me what she sings?
  Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
  For old, unhappy, far-off things,
  And battles long ago:
  Or is it some more humble lay,
  Familiar matter of to-day?
  Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
  That has been, and may be again!

  W. WORDSWORTH.



  ESSAYS IN THE
  STUDY OF FOLK-SONGS.


  BY THE
  COUNTESS EVELYN MARTINENGO-CESARESCO.

  LONDON:
  GEORGE REDWAY,
  YORK STREET, COVENT GARDEN.
  MDCCCLXXXVI.



CONTENTS


                                              PAGE

  INTRODUCTION                                 ix

  THE INSPIRATION OF DEATH IN FOLK-POETRY       1

  NATURE IN FOLK-SONGS                         30

  ARMENIAN FOLK-SONGS                          53

  VENETIAN FOLK-SONGS                          89

  SICILIAN FOLK-SONGS                         122

  GREEK SONGS OF CALABRIA                     152

  FOLK-SONGS OF PROVENCE                      177

  THE WHITE PATERNOSTER                       203

  THE DIFFUSION OF BALLADS                    214

  SONGS FOR THE RITE OF MAY                   249

  THE IDEA OF FATE IN SOUTHERN TRADITIONS     270

  FOLK-LULLABIES                              299

  FOLK-DIRGES                                 354



INTRODUCTION.


  Wo man singt da lass dich ruhig nieder,
  Böse Menschen haben keine Lieder.



INTRODUCTION.


It is on record that Wilhelm Mannhardt, the eminent writer on
mythology and folk-lore, was once taken for a gnome by a peasant he
had been questioning. His personal appearance may have helped the
illusion; he was small and irregularly made, and was then only just
emerging from a sickly childhood spent beside the Baltic in dreaming
over the creations of popular fancy. Then, too, he wore a little red
cap, which was doubtless fraught with supernatural suggestions. But
above all, the story proves that Mannhardt had solved the difficulty
of dealing with primitive folk; that instead of being looked upon as
a profane and prying layman, he was regarded as one who was more than
initiated into the mysteries--as one who was a mystery himself. And
for this reason I recall it here. It exactly indicates the way to
set about seeking after old lore. We ought to shake off as much as
possible of our conventional civilization which frightens uneducated
peasants, and makes them think, at best, that we wish to turn them
into ridicule. If we must not hope to pass for spirits of earth or
air, we can aim at inspiring such a measure of confidence as will
persuade the natural man to tell us what he still knows of those
vanishing beings, and to lend us the key to his general treasure-box
before all that is inside be reduced to dust.

This, which applies directly to the collector at first hand, has also
its application for the student who would profit by the materials when
collected. He should approach popular songs and traditions from some
other stand-point than that of mere criticism; and divesting himself
of preconcerted ideas, he should try to live the life and think the
thoughts of people whose only literature is that which they carry
in their heads, and in whom Imagination takes the place of acquired
knowledge.


I.

Research into popular traditions has now reached a stage at which
the English Folk-Lore Society have found it desirable to attempt a
classification of its different branches, and in future, students
will perhaps devote their labours to one or another of these branches
rather than to the subject as a whole. Certain of the sections thus
mapped out have plainly more special attractions for a particular
class of workers: beliefs and superstitions chiefly concern those who
study comparative mythology; customs are of peculiar importance to the
sociologist, and so on. But tales and songs, while offering points of
interest to scientific specialists, appeal also to a much wider class,
namely, to all who care at all for literature. For the Folk-tale is
the father of all fiction, and the Folk-song is the mother of all
poetry.

Mankind may be divided into the half which listens and the half which
reads. For the first category in its former completeness, we must
go now to the East; in Europe only the poor, and of them a rapidly
decreasing proportion, have the memory to recite, the patience to
hear, the faith to receive. It was not always or primarily an
affair of classes: down even to a comparatively late day, the pure
story-teller was a popular member of society in provincial France
and Italy, and perhaps society was as well employed in listening to
wonder-tales as it is at present. But there is no going back.
The epitaph for the old order of things was written by the great
philosopher who threw the last shovel of earth on its grave:

    O l'heureux temps que celui de ces fables
  Des bons démons, des esprits familiers,
  Des farfadets, aux mortels secourables!
  On écoutait tous ces faits admirables
  Dans son château, près d'un large foyer:
  Le père et l'oncle, et la mère et la fille,
  Et les voisins, et toute la famille,
  Ouvraient l'oreille à Monsieur l'aumônier,
  Qui leur fesait des contes de sorcier.
    On a banni les démons et les fées;
  Sous la raison les grâces etouffées,
  Livrent nous c[oe]urs à l'insipidité;
  Le raisonner tristement s'accrédite;
  On court, hélas! après la verité,
  Ah! croyez-moi, l'erreur a son mérite.[1]

Folk-songs differ from folk-tales by the fact of their making a more
emphatic claim to credibility. Prose is allowed to be more fanciful,
more frivolous than poetry. It deals with the brighter side; the hero
and heroine in the folk-tale marry and live happily ever after; in the
popular ballad they are but rarely united save in death. To the blithe
supernaturalism of elves and fairies, the folk-poet prefers the solemn
supernaturalism of ghost-lore.

The folk-song probably preceded the folk-tale. If we are to judge
either by early record or by the analogy of backward peoples, it seems
proved that in infant communities anything that was thought worth
remembering was sung. It must have been soon ascertained that words
rhythmically arranged take, as a rule, firmer root than prose. "As
I do not know how to read," says a modern Greek folk-singer, "I have
made this story into a song so as not to forget it."

Popular poetry is the reflection of moments of strong collective or
individual emotion. The springs of legend and poetry issue from the
deepest wells of national life; the very heart of a people is laid
bare in its sagas and songs. There have been times when a profound
feeling of race or patriotism has sufficed to turn a whole nation into
poets: this happened at the expulsion of the Moors from Spain, the
struggle for the Stuarts in Scotland, for independence in Greece. It
seems likely that all popular epics were born of some such concordant
thrill of emotion. The saying of "a very wise man" reported by Andrew
Fletcher of Saltoun, to the effect that if one were permitted to make
all the ballads, he need not care who made the laws, must be taken
with this reservation: the ballad-maker only wields his power for as
long as he is the true interpreter of the popular will. Laws may be
imposed on the unwilling, but not songs.

The Brothers Grimm said that they had not found a single lie in
folk-poetry. "The special value," wrote Goethe, "of what we call
national songs and ballads, is that their inspiration comes fresh
from nature: they are never got up, they flow from a sure spring." He
added, what must continually strike anyone who is brought in contact
with a primitive peasantry, "The unsophisticated man is more the
master of direct, effective expression in few words than he who has
received a regular literary education."

Bards chaunted the praises of head-men and heroes, and it may be
guessed that almost as soon and as universally as tribes and races
fell out, it grew to be the custom for each fighting chief to have
one or more bards in his personal service. Robert Wace describes how
William the Conqueror was followed by Taillefer, who

  Mounted on steed that was swift of foot,
  Went forth before the armed train
  Singing of Roland and Charlemain,
  Of Olivere, and the brave vassals
  Who died at the Pass of Roncesvals.

The northern skalds accompanied the armies to the wars and were
present at all the battles. "Ye shall be here that ye may see with
your own eyes what is achieved this day," said King Olaf to his skalds
on the eve of the Battle of Stiklastad (1030), "and have no occasion,
when ye shall afterwards celebrate these actions in song, to depend on
the reports of others." In the same fight, a skald named Jhormod died
an honourable death, shot with an arrow while in the act of singing.
The early Keltic poets were forbidden to bear arms: a reminiscence of
their sacerdotal status, but they, too, looked on while others fought,
and encouraged the combatants with their songs. All these bards served
a higher purpose than the commemoration of individual leaders: they
became the historians of their epoch. The profession was one of
recognised eminence, and numbered kings among its adepts. Then it
declined with the rise of written chronicles, till the last bard
disappeared and only the ballad-singer remained.


II.

This personage, though shorn of bardic dignity, yet contrived to hold
his own with considerable success. In Provence and Germany, itinerant
minstrels who sang for pay brought up the rank and file of the
troubadours and minnesingers; in England and Italy and Northern
France they formed a class apart, which, as times went, was neither
ill-esteemed nor ill-paid. When the minstrel found no better audience
he mounted a barrel in the nearest tavern, or

  At country wakes sung ballads from a cart.

But his favourite sphere was the baronial hall; and to understand how
welcome he was there made, it is only needful to picture country life
in days when books were few and newspapers did not exist. He sang
before noble knights and gracious dames, who, to us--could we be
suddenly brought into their presence--would seem rough in their
manner, their speech, their modes of life; but who were far from being
dead or insensible to intellectual pleasure when they could get it. He
sang the choicest songs that had come down to him from an earlier age;
songs of the Round Table and of the great Charles; and then, as he
sat at meat, perhaps below the salt, but with his plate well heaped up
with the best that there was, he heard strange Eastern tales from
the newly-arrived pilgrim at his right hand, and many a wild story of
noble love or hate from the white-haired retainer at his left.

I have always thought that the old ballad-singer's world--the world in
which he moved, and again the ideal world of his songs--is nowhere to
be so vividly realised as in the Hofkirche at Innsbruck, among that
colossal company who watch the tomb of Kaiser Max; huge men and women
in richly wrought bronze array, ugly indeed, most of them, but with
two of their number seeming to embody every beautiful quality that was
possessed or dreamt of through well nigh a millennium: the pensive,
graceful form of Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, and the erect
figure whose very attitude suggests all manly worth, all gentle
valour, under which is read the quaint device, "Arthur _von England_."

If not rewarded with sufficient promptitude and liberality, the
ballad-singer was not slow to call attention to the fact. Colin Muset,
a jongleur who practised his trade in Lorraine and Champagne in the
thirteenth century, has left a charming photograph of contemporary
manners in a song which sets forth his wants and deserts.

  Lord Count, I have the viol played[2]
  Before yourself, within your hall,
  And you my service never paid
  Nor gave me any wage at all;
                  'T was villany:

  By faith I to Saint Mary owe,
  Upon such terms I serve you not,
  My alms-bag sinks exceeding low,
  My trunk ill-furnished is, I wot.

  Lord Count, now let me understand,
  What 'tis you mean to do for me,
  If with free heart and open hand
  Some ample guerdon you decree
                  Through courtesy;
  For much I wish, you need not doubt,
  In my own household to return,
  And if full purse I am without,
  Small greeting from my wife I earn.

  "Sir Engelé," I hear her say,
  "In what poor country have you been,
  That through the city all the day
  You nothing have contrived to glean!
  See how your wallet folds and bends,
  Well stuffed with wind and nought beside;
  Accursed is he who e'er intends
  As your companion to abide."

  When reached the house wherein I dwell,
  And that my wife can clearly spy
  My bag behind me bulge and swell,
  And I myself clad handsomely
                   In a grey gown,
  Know that she quickly throws away
  Her distaff, nor of work doth reck,
  She greets me laughing, kind and gay,
  And twines both arms around my neck.

  My wife soon seizes on my bag,
  And empties it without delay;
  My boy begins to groom my nag,
  And hastes to give him drink and hay;
  My maid meanwhile runs off to kill
  Two capons, dressing them with skill
                   In garlic sauce;

  My daughter in her hand doth bear,
  Kind girl, a comb to smooth my hair.
  Then in my house I am a king,
  Great joyance and no sorrowing,
  Happier than you can say or sing.

Ballad-singing suffered by the invention of printing, but it was in
England that the professional minstrel met with the cruellest blow of
all--the statute passed in the reign of Queen Elizabeth which forbade
his recitations, and classed him with "rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy
beggars."

  "Beggars they are with one consent,
  And rogues by Act of Parliament."

On the other hand, it was also in England that the romantic ballad had
its revival, and was introduced to an entirely new phase of existence.
The publication of the _Percy Reliques_ (1765) started the modern
period in which popular ballads were not only to be accepted as
literature, but were to exercise the strongest influence on lettered
poets from Goethe and Scott, down to Dante Rossetti.

Not that popular poetry had ever been without its intelligent
admirers, here and there, among men of culture: Montaigne had said
of it, "La poësie populere et purement naturelle a des naïfvetez et
graces par où elle se compare à la principale beauté de la poësie
parfaicte selon l'art: comme il se voit es villanelles de Gascouigne
et aus chançons qu'on nous raporte des nations qui n'ont conoissance
d'acune science, ny mesme d'escripture." There were even ardent
collectors, like Samuel Pepys, who is said to have acquired copies of
two thousand ballads.[3] Still, till after the appearance of Bishop
Percy's book (as his own many faults of omission and commission
attest), the literary class at large did not take folk-songs quite
seriously. The _Percy Reliques_ was followed by Herder's _Volkslieder_
(1782), Scott's _Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border_ (1802), Fauriel's
_Chansons Populaires de la Grêce_ (1824), to mention only three of its
more immediate successors. The "return to Nature" in poetry became an
irresistible movement; the world, tired of the classical forms of
the eighteenth century, listened as gladly to the fresh voice of
the popular muse, as in his father's dreary palace Giacomo Leopardi
listened to the voice of the peasant girl over the way, who sang as
she plied the shuttle:

            Sonavan le quiete
  Stanze, e le vie dintorno.
  Al tuo perpetuo canto,
  Allor che all opre femminili intenta
  Sedevi, assai contenta
  Di quel vago avvenir che in mente avevi.
  Era il Maggio odoroso: e tu solevi
  Così menare il giorno.

       *       *       *       *       *

  Lingua mortal non dice
  Quel ch' io sentiva in seno.

The hunt for ballads led the way to the search for every sort
of popular song, and with what zeal that search has since been
prosecuted, the splendid results in the hands of the public now
testify.


III.

A brief glance must be taken at what may be called domestic
folk-poetry. In a remote past, rural people found delight or
consolation in singing the events of their obscure lives, or in
deputing other persons of their own station, but especially skilled
in the art, to sing them for them. Thus there were marriage-songs and
funeral-songs, labour-songs and songs for the culminating points of
the pastoral or agricultural year. It is beyond my present purpose to
speak of the vintage festivals, and of the literary consequences of
the cult of Dionysus. I will, instead, pause for a moment to consider
the ancient harvest-songs. Among the Greeks, particularly in Phrygia
and in Sicily, all harvest-songs bore the generic name of Lytierses,
and how they got it, gives an instructive instance of myth-facture.
Lytierses was the son of King Midas, and a king himself, but also a
mighty reaper, whose habit it was to indulge in trials of strength
with his companions, and with strangers who were passing by. He tied
the vanquished up in sheaves and beat them. One day he defied an
unknown stranger, who proved too strong for him, and by whom he was
slain. So died Lytierses, the reaper, and the first "Lytierses," or
harvest-song, was composed to console his father, King Midas, for his
loss.

Now, if we regard Lytierses as the typical agriculturist, and his
antagonist as the growth or vegetation genius, the fable seems to read
thus: Between man and Nature there is a continual struggle; man is
often victorious, but, if too presumptuous, a time comes when he must
yield. In harvest customs continued to this day, a struggle with or
for the last sheaf forms a common feature. The reapers of Western
France tie the sheaf, adorned with flowers, to a post driven strongly
into the ground, then they fetch the farmer and his wife and all the
farm folk to help in dragging it loose, and when the fastenings break,
it is borne off in triumph. So popular is this _Fête de la Gerbe_,
that, during the Chouan war, the leaders had to allow their peasant
soldiers to return to their villages to attend it, or they would have
deserted in a body. It may not be irrelevant to add that in Brittany
the great wrestling matches take place at the _fête_ of the "new
threshing floor," when all the neighbours are invited to unite in
preparing it for the corn. In North Germany, where the peasants still
believe that the last sheaf contains the growth-genius, they set it in
honour on the festive board, and serve it double portions of cake
and ale.[4] Thus appeased, it becomes a friend to the cultivator. The
harvest "man" or "tree" which used to be made by English reapers
at the end of the harvest, and presented to master and mistress,
obviously belonged to the same family.

We have one or two of the ancient Lytierses in what is most likely
very nearly their original and popular form. One, composed of
distiches telling the story of Midas' son, is preserved in a tragedy
by Sosibius, the Syracusian poet. The following, more general in
subject, I take from the tenth Idyl of Theocritus:--

  Come now hearken awhile to the songs of the god Lytierses.

  Demeter, granter of fruits, many sheaves vouchsafe to the cornfield,
  Aye to be skilfully tilled, and reaped, and the harvest abundant.

  Fasten the heaps, ye binders of sheaves, lest any one passing,
  Call out, "worthless clowns, you earn no part of your wages."

  Let every sheaf that the sickle has cut be turned to the north wind
  Or to the west exposed, for so will the corn grow fatter.

  Ye who of wheat are threshers, beware how ye slumber at mid-day,
  Then is the chaff from the stalk of the wheat, most easily parted.

  Reapers, to labour begin, as soon as the lark upriseth,
  And when he sleeps, leave off, yet rest when the sun overpowers.

  Blest, O youths, is the life of a frog, for he never is anxious
  Who is to pour him his drink, for he always has plenty.

  Better at once, O miserly steward, to boil our lentils;
  Mind you don't cut your fingers in trying to chop them to atoms.

  These are the songs for the toilers to sing in the heat of the harvest.

Most modern harvest songs manage, like that of Theocritus, to convey
some hint of thirst or hunger. "Be merry, O comrades!" sing the
girl reapers of Casteignano dei Greci, a Greek settlement in Terra
d'Otranto, "Be merry, and go not on your way so downcast; I saw things
you cannot see; I saw the housewife kneading dough, or preparing
macaroni; and she does it for us to eat, so that we may work like
lions at the harvest, and rejoice the heart of the husbandman." This
may be a statement of fact or a suggestion of what ought to be a fact.
Other songs, sung exclusively at the harvest, bear no outward sign of
connection with it; and the reason of their use on that occasion is
hopelessly lost.


IV.

I pass on to the old curiosity shop of popular traditions--the
nursery. Children, with their innate conservatism, have stored a
vast assemblage of odds and ends which fascinate by their very
incompleteness. Religion, mythology, history, physical science,
or what stood for it; the East, the North--those great banks of
ideas--have been impartially drawn on by the infant folk-lorists
at their nurses' knees. Children in the four quarters of the globe,
repeat the same magic formulæ; words which to every grown person seem
devoid of sense, have a universality denied to any articles of faith.
What, for example, is the meaning of the play with the snail? Why is
he so persistently asked to put his horns out? Pages might be filled
with the variants of the well-known invocation which has currency from
Rome to Pekin.

English:

I.

  Snail, snail, put out your horn,
  Or I'll kill your father and mother the morn.

  2.

  Snail, snail, come out of your hole,
  Or else I'll beat you as black as a coal.

  3.

  Snail, snail, put out your horn,
  Tell me what's the day t'morn:
  To-day's the morn to shear the corn,
  Blaw bil buck thorn.

  4.

  Snail, snail, shoot out your horn,
  Father and mother are dead;
  Brother and sister are in the back-yard
  Begging for barley bread.

Scotch:

  Snail, snail, shoot out your horn,
  And tell us it will be a bonnie day, the morn.

German:

  1.

  Schneckhûs, Peckhüs,
  Stäk du dîn ver Horner rût,
  Süst schmût ick dî in'n Graven,
  Da freten dî de Raven.

  2.

  Tækeltuet,
  Kruep uet dyn hues,
  Dyn hues dat brennt,
  Dyn Kinder de flennt:
  Dyn Fru de ligt in Wäken:
  Kann 'k dy nich mael spräken?
  Tækeltuet, u. s. w.

  3.

  Snaek, snaek, komm herduet,
  Sunst tobräk ik dy dyn Hues.

  4.

  Slingemues,
  Kruep uet dyn Hues,
  Stick all dyn veer Höern uet,
  Wullt du 's neck uetstäken,
  Wik ik dyn Hues tobräken.
  Slingemues, u. s. w.

  5.
  Kuckuch, kuckuck Gerderut,
  Stäk dîne vêr Horns herut.

French:

      Colimaçon borgne!
      Montre-moi tes cornes;
  Je te dirai où ta mère est morte,
  Elle est morte à Paris, à Rouen,
      Où l'on sonne les cloches.
          Bi, bim, bom,
          Bi, bim, bom,
          Bi, bim, bom.

Tuscan:

  Chiocciola, chiocciola, vien da me,
  Ti darò i' pan d' i' re;
  E dell'ova affrittellate
  Corni secchí e brucherate.

Roumanian:

  Culbecu, culbecu,
  Scóte corne boeresci
  Si te du la Dunare
  Si bé apa tulbure.

Russian:

  Ulitka, ulitka,
  Vypusti roga,
  Ya tebé dam piroga.[5]

Chinese:

  Snail, snail, come here to be fed,
  Put out your horns and lift up your head;
  Father and mother will give you to eat,
  Good boiled mutton shall be your meat.

Several lines in the second German version are evidently borrowed from
the Ladybird or Maychafer rhyme which has been pronounced a relic of
Freya worship. Here the question arises, is not the snail song also
derived from some ancient myth? Count Gubernatis, in his valuable work
on _Zoological Mythology_ (vol. ii. p. 75), dismisses the matter
with the remark that "the snail of superstition is demoniacal." This,
however, is no proof that he always bore so suspicious a character,
since all the accessories to past beliefs got into bad odour on the
establishment of Christianity, unless saved by dedication to the
Virgin or other saints. I ventured to suggest, in the _Archivio per lo
studio delle tradizioni popolari_ (the Italian Folklore Journal),
that the snail who is so constantly urged to come forth from his dark
house, might in some way prefigure the dawn. Horns have been from all
antiquity associated with rays of light. But to write of "Nature Myths
in Nursery Rhymes" is to enter on such dangerous ground that I will
pursue the argument no further.


V.

Children of older years have preserved the very important class
of songs distinguished as singing-games. Everyone knows the famous
_ronde_ of the Pont d'Avignon:

    Sur le Pont d'Avignon,
  Tout le monde y danse, danse,
    Sur le Pont d'Avignon
  Tout le monde y danse en rond.

  Les beaux messieurs font comme ça,
    Sur le Pont d'Avignon,
  Tout le monde y danse, danse,
    Sur le Pont d'Avignon,
  Tout le monde y danse en rond.

After the "messieurs" who bow, come the "demoiselles" who curtsey; the
workwomen who sew, the carpenters who saw wood, the washerwomen
who wash linen, and a host of other folks intent on their different
callings. The song is an apt demonstration of what Paul de
Saint-Victor called "cet instinct inné de l'imitation qui fait similer
à l'enfant les actions viriles"[6]--in which instinct lies the germ of
the theatre. The origin of all spectacles was a performance
intended to amuse the performers, and it cannot be doubted that
the singing-game throws much light on the beginnings of scenic
representations.

_Rondes_ frequently deal with love and marriage, and these, from
internal evidence, cannot have been composed by or for the young
people who now play them. There are in fact some which would be better
forgotten by everybody, but the majority are innocent little dramas,
of which it may truly be said, _Honi soit qui mal y pense_. It should
be noticed that a distinctly satirical vein runs through many of
these games, as in the "Gentleman from Spain,"--played in one form or
another all over Europe and the United States,--in which the suitor
would first give any money to get his bride, and then any money to
get rid of her. Or the Swedish _Lek_ (the name given in Sweden to
the singing-game), in which the companions of a young girl put her
sentiments to the test of telling her that father, mother,
sisters, brothers, are dead--all of which she hears with perfect
equanimity--but when they add that her betrothed is also dead, she
falls back fainting. Then all her kindred are resuscitated without the
effect of reviving her, but when she hears that her lover is alive and
well, she springs up and gives chase to her tormentors.

To my mind there is no more remarkable specimen of the singing game
than _Jenny Jones_--through which prosaic title we can discern the
tender _Jeanne ma joie_ that formed the base of it. The Scotch still
say _Jenny Jo_, "Jo" being with them a term of endearment (_e.g._,
"John Anderson, my Jo!"). The following variant of the game I took
down from word of mouth at Bocking in Essex:--

  We've come to see Jenny Jones, Jenny Jones, (_repeat_).
  How is she now?

  Jenny is washing, washing, washing,
  Jenny is washing, you can't see her now.

  We've come to see Jenny Jones.
  How is she now?

  Jenny is folding, folding, folding,
  You can't see her now.

  We've come to see Jenny Jones.
  How is she now?

  Jenny is starching, starching, starching,
  Jenny is starching, you can't see her now.

  We've come to see Jenny Jones.
  How is she now?

  Jenny is ironing, ironing, ironing,
  Jenny is ironing, you can't see her now.

  We've come to see Jenny Jones.
  How is she now?

  Jenny is ill, ill, ill,
  Jenny is ill, so you can't see her now.

  We've come to see Jenny Jones.
  How is she now?

    (_Mournfully._)
  Jenny is dead, dead, dead,
  Jenny is dead, you can't see her now.

  May we come to the funeral?
  Yes.

  May we come in red?
  Red is for soldiers; you can't come in red.

  May we come in blue?
  Blue is for sailors; you can't come in blue.

  May we come in white?
  White is for weddings; you can't come in white.

  May we come in black?
  Black is for funerals, so you can come in that.

Jenny is then carried and buried (_i.e._, laid on the grass) by two
of the girls, while the rest follow as mourners, uttering a low,
prolonged wail.

Perhaps the earliest acted tragedy--a tragedy acted before Æschylus
lived--was something like this. Anyhow, it may remind us of how early
a taste for the tragic is developed, if not in the life of mankind
at all events in the life of man. "What is the reason," asks St
Augustine, "that men wish to be moved by the sight of tragic and
painful things, which, nevertheless, they do not wish to undergo
themselves? For the spectators (at a play) desire to feel grieved,
and this grief is their joy: whence comes it unless from some strange
spiritual malady?"[7]

Dr Pitrè describes this Sicilian game: A child lies down, pretending
to be dead. His companions stand round and sing a dirge in the most
dolorous tones. Now and then, one of them runs up to him and lifts
an arm or a leg, afterwards letting it fall, to make sure that he is
quite dead. Satisfied on this point, they prepare to bury him, but
before doing so, they nearly stifle him with parting kisses. Tired, at
last, of his painful position, the would-be dead boy jumps up and gets
on the back of the most aggressive of his playmates, who is bound to
carry him off the scene.

To play at funerals was probably a very ancient amusement. No doubt
some such game as the above is alluded to in the text, "... children
sitting in the markets and calling unto their fellows and saying, We
have piped unto you and ye have not danced, we have mourned unto you
and ye have not lamented."


VI.

Mysteries and Miracle Plays must not be forgotten, though in their
origin they were not a plant of strictly popular growth. Some writers
consider that they were instituted by ecclesiastics as rivals to
the lay or pagan plays which were still in great favour in the first
Christian centuries. Others think with Dr Hermann Ulrici,[8] that they
grew naturally out of the increasingly pictorial celebration of
the early Greek liturgy,--painted scenes developing into _tableaux
vivants_, and these into acted and spoken interludes. It is certain
that they were started by the clergy, who at first were the sole
actors, assuming characters of both sexes. As time wore on, something
more lively was desired, and clowns and buffoons were accordingly
introduced. They appeared in the Innsbruck Play of the fourteenth
century; and again in 1427, in the performances given at Metz, while
the serious parts were acted by ecclesiastics, the lighter, or comic
parts, were represented by laymen. These performances were held in a
theatre constructed for the purpose, but mysteries were often played
in the churches themselves, nor is the practice wholly abandoned.
A Nativity play is performed in the churches of Upper Gascony on
Christmas Eve, of which the subjoined account will, perhaps, be read
with interest:--

    In the middle of the Midnight Mass, just when the priest has
    finished reading the gospel, Joseph and Mary enter the nave,
    the former clad in the garb of a village carpenter with his
    tools slung across his shoulder, the latter dressed in a robe
    of spotless white. The people divide so as to let them pass up
    the church, and they look about for a night's lodging. In one
    part of the church the stable of Bethlehem is represented
    behind a framework of greenery; here they take up their
    position, and presently a cradle is placed beside them which
    contains the image of a babe. The voice of an angel from on
    high now proclaims the birth of the Infant Saviour, and calls
    on the shepherds to draw near to the sound of glad music. The
    way in which this bit of theatrical "business" is managed, is
    by a child in a surplice, with wings fastened to his
    shoulders, being drawn up to the ceiling seated on a chair,
    which is supported by ropes on a pulley. The shepherds, real
    shepherds in white, homespun capes, with long crooks decked
    with ribbons, are placed on a raised dais, which stands for
    the mountain. They wake up when they hear the angel's song,
    and one of them exclaims:

      Diou dou cèou, quino vèro vouts!
      Un anjou mous parlo, pastous;
      Biste quieten noste troupet!
      Mes que dit l'anjou, si vous plaît?

      (Heavens! with how sweet a voice
      The angel calls us to rejoice;
      Quick leave your flocks: but tell me, pray,
      What doth the heavenly angel say?)

    The angel replies in French:

      Rise, shepherd, nor delay,
        'Tis God who summons thee,
      Hasten with zeal away
        Thy Saviour's self to see.
      The Lord of Hosts hath shown
        That since this glorious birth,
      War shall be no more known,
        But peace shall reign on earth.

    The shepherds, however, are not very willing to be disturbed:
    "Let me sleep! Let me sleep!" says one of them, and another
    goes so far as to threaten to drive away the angel if he does
    not let them alone. "Come and render homage to the new-born
    babe," sings the angel, "and cease to complain of your happy
    lot." They answer:

        A happy lot
      We never yet possest,
        A happy lot
      For us poor shepherd folk existeth not;
      Then wherefore utter the strange jest
      That by an infant's birth we shall be blest
        With happy lot?

    The shepherds begin to bestir themselves. One says that he
    feels overcome with fear at the sound of so much noise and
    commotion. The angel responds, "Come without fear; do not
    hesitate, but redouble your speed. It is in this village, in a
    poor place, near yonder wood, that you may see the Infant
    Lord." Another of the shepherds, who seems to have only just
    woke up, inquires:

        What do you say?
      This to believe what soul is able;
        What do you say?
      Where do these shepherds speed away?
      To see their God within a stable:
      This surely seems an idle fable;
        What do you say?

    "To understand how it is, go and behold with your own eyes,"
    replies the angel; to which the shepherd answers, "Good
    morrow, angel; pardon me if I have spoken lightly; I will go
    and see what is going on." Another, still not quite easy in
    his mind, observes that he cannot make out what the angel
    says, because he speaks in such a strange tongue. The angel
    immediately replies in excellent Gascon patois:

        Come, shepherds, come
      From your mountain home,
      Come, see the Saviour in a stable born,
        This happy morn.
        Come, shepherds, come,
      Let none remain behind,
      Come see the wretched sinners' friend,
        The Saviour of mankind.

    When they hear the good news, sung to a quaint and inspiriting
    air in their own language, the shepherds hesitate no longer,
    but set off for Bethlehem in a body. One of them, it is true,
    expresses some doubts as to what will become of the flocks in
    their absence; but a veteran shepherd strikes his crook upon
    the ground and sternly reproves him for being anxious about
    the sheep when a heavenly messenger has declared that "God has
    made Himself the Shepherd of mankind." They leave the dais,
    and march out of the church, the whole of which is now
    considered as being the stable. After a while the shepherds
    knock for admittance, and their voices are heard in the calm
    crisp midnight air chaunting these words to sweet and solemn
    strains:

      Master of this blest abode,
      O guardian of the Infant God,
      Open your honoured gate, that we
      May at His worship bend the knee.

    Joseph fears that the strangers may perchance be enemies, but
    reassured by an angel, he opens the door, only naïvely
    regretting that the lowly chamber "should be so badly
    lighted." They prostrate themselves before the cradle, and the
    choir bursts forth with:

      Gloria Deo in excelsis,
      O Domine te laudamus,
      O Deus Pater rex caelestis,
      In terra pax hominibus.

    The shepherdesses then render their homage, and deposit on the
    altar steps a banner covered with flowers and greenery, from
    which hang strings of small birds, apples, nuts, chestnuts,
    and other fruits. It is their Christmas offering to the curé;
    the shepherds have already placed a whole sheep before the
    altar, in a like spirit.

    The next scene takes us into Herod's palace, where the magi
    arrive, and are directed to proceed to Bethlehem. During their
    adoration of the Infant Saviour, Mass is finished, and the
    Sacrament is administered; after which the play is brought to
    a close with the flight into Egypt and the massacre of the
    Innocents.

This primitive drama gives a better idea of the early mysteries than
do the performances at Ober Ammergau, which have been gradually pruned
and improved under the eye of a critical public. But it is unusually
free from the absurdities and levities which abound in most miracle
plays; such as the wrangle between Noah and his wife in the old
Chester Mysteries, in which the latter declares "by St John" that the
Flood is a false alarm, and that no power on earth shall make her go
into the Ark. Noah ends with putting her on board by main force, and
is rewarded by a box on the ear.

The best surviving sample of a non-scriptural rustic play is probably
_Saint Guillaume of Poitou_, a Breton versified drama in seven acts.
The history of the Troubadour Count whose wicked manhood leads to a
preternaturally pious old age, corresponds to every requirement of the
peasant play-goer. Time and space are set airily at defiance; saints
and devils are not only called, but come at the shortest notice;
the plot is exciting enough to satisfy the strongest craving for
sensation, and the dialogue is vigorous, and, in parts, picturesque.
One can well believe that the fiery if narrow patriotism of a Breton
audience would be stirred by the scene where the reformed Count
William, who has withstood all other blandishments, is almost lured
out of his holy seclusion by the Evil One coming to him in the shape
of a fellow-townsman who represents his city as hard pressed by
overwhelming foes, and in its extremest need, imploring his aid; that
the religious fervour of Breton peasants would be moved by the
recital of the vision in which a very wicked man appears at the bar
of judgment: his sins out-number the hairs of his head, you would call
him an irredeemable wretch; yet it does so happen that once upon a
time he gave two pilgrims a bed of straw in a pig-stye, and now St
Francis throws this straw into the balance, and it bends down the
scale!

So in the Song of the Sun, in Sæmund's _Edda_, a fierce freebooter,
who has despoiled mankind, and who always ate alone, opens his door
one evening to a tired wayfarer, and gives him meat and drink. The
guest meditates evil; then in his sleep he murders his host, but he is
doomed to take on him all the sins of the man he has slain, while the
one-time evil-doer's soul is borne by angels into a life of purity,
where it shall live for ever with God. This motive is repeatedly
introduced into folk-lore, and was made effective use of by Victor
Hugo in _Sultan Mourad_, the infamous tyrant who goes to Heaven on the
strength of having felt momentary compassion for a pig.

In plays of the _Saint Guillaume_ class, the plain language in which
the vices and oppression of the nobles is denounced shows signs of
the slow surging up of the democratic spirit whose traces through the
middle ages are nowhere to be more fruitfully sought than in popular
literature--though they lie less in the rustic drama than in the great
mediæval satires, such as _Reynard the Fox_ and _Marcolfo_, the
latter of which is still known to the Italian people under the form of
_Bertoldo_, in which it was recast in the sixteenth century, by G. B.
Croce, the rhyming blacksmith of Bologna.


VII.

Epopees, _chansons de geste_, romantic ballads, occasional or
ceremonial songs, nursery rhymes, singing-games, rustic dramas; to
these must be added the great order of purely personal and lyrical
songs, of which the unique and exclusive subject is love. Popular love
songs have one quality in common: a sincerity which is not perhaps
reached in the entire range of lettered amorous poetry. Love is to
these singers a thing so serious that however high they fly, they do
not outsoar what is to them the atmosphere of truth. "La passion parle
là toute pure," as Molière said of the old song:

  Si le roi m'avoit donné
    Paris, sa grande ville,
  Et qu'il me fallût quitter
    L'amour de ma mie:
  Je dirois au roi Henri
  Reprenez votre Paris
  J'aime mieux ma mie, oh gay!
    J'aime mieux ma mie.

An immense, almost incredible, number of popular songs have been set
down during the last twenty years by collectors who, like Tigri in
Tuscany, and Pitrè in Sicily, have done honour to their birthlands,
and an enduring service to literature. It has been seen that Italy,
Portugal, and Spain have songs which, though differing in shape, are
yet materially alike. Where was the original fount of this lyrical
river? Some would look for it in Arabia, and cite the evident poetic
fertility of those countries where Arab influence once prevailed.
Others regard the existing passion-verse as a descendant of the
mediæval poetry associated with Provence. Others, again, while
admitting that there may have been modifications of form, find it
hard to believe that there was ever a time, since the type was first
established, when the southern peasant was dumb, or when he did not
sing in substance very much as he does now.

Whatever theory be ultimately accepted, it is certain that the popular
love-poetry of southern nations, such as it has been received direct
from peasant lips, is not the least precious gift we owe to the
untaught, uncultured poet, who after having been for long ages ignored
or despised, is now raised to his rightful place near the throne of
his illustrious brother, the perfect lettered poet. Pan sits unrebuked
by the side of Apollo.

       *       *       *       *       *

These introductory remarks are meant to do no more than to show the
principal landmarks of folk-poetry. The subject is a wide one, as
they best know who have given it the most careful attention. In
the following essays, I have dealt with a few of its less familiar
aspects. I would, in conclusion, express my gratitude to the
indefatigable excavators of popular lore whose large labours have
made my small work possible, and to all who have helped, whether by
furnishing unedited specimens or by procuring copies of rare books.
My cordial thanks are also due to the editors and publishers of the
_Cornhill Magazine_, _Fraser's Magazine_, the _National Review_,
the _British Quarterly Review_, the _Revue Internationale_, the
_Antiquary_, and the _Record_ and _Journal_ of the Folk-lore Society,
for leave to reprint such part of this book as had appeared in those
publications.

  SALÒ, LAGO DI GARDA,
  _January 15 1886_.



    [Footnote 1: Voltaire.]

    [Footnote 2:

      Sire cuens, j'ai vielé
      Devant vous, en vostre osté;
      Si ne m'avez, riens doné,
      Ne mes gages aquité
                C'est vilanie;

      Foi que doi Sainte Marie!
      Ainc ne vos sievrai je mie,
      M'aumosniere est mal garnie
      Et ma malle mal farsie.

      Sire cuens, quar comandez
      De moi vostre volonté.
      Sire, s'il vous vient à gré
      Un beau don car me donez
                 Par cortoisie.
      Talent ai, n'en dotez mie,
      De r'aler à ma mesnie.
      Quant vois borse desgarnie,
      Ma feme ne me rit mie.

      Ains me dit: Sire Engelé
      En quel terre avez esté,
      Qui n'avez rien conquesté
                    Aval la ville?
      Vez com vostre male plie,
      Ele est bien de vent farsie.
      Honi soit qui a envie
      D'estre en vostre compaignie.

      Quant je vieng à mon hosté
      Et ma feme a regardé
      Derier moi le sac enflé,
      Et ge qui sui bien paré
                    De robe grise,
      Sachiez qu'ele a tot jus mise
      La quenoille, sans faintise.
      Elle me rit par franchise,
      Les deux bras au col me lie.

      Ma feme va destrousser
      Ma male, sanz demorer.
      Mon garçon va abruver
      Mon cheval et conreer.
      Ma pucele va tuer
      Deux chapons por deporter
                  A la sause aillie;

      Ma fille m'apporte un pigne.
      En sa main par cortoisie
      Lors sui de mon ostel sire,
      A mult grant joie, sans ire,
      Plus que nus ne porroit dire.
    ]

    [Footnote 3: Not to speak of Charlemagne, who ordered a
    collection to be made of German songs.]

    [Footnote 4: A fuller description of German harvest customs,
    with remarks on their presumed meaning, will be found in the
    Rev. J. Van den Gheyn's "Essais de Mythologie et de Philologie
    comparée," 1885.]

    [Footnote 5: Mr W. R. S. Ralston has kindly communicated to me
    this Russian version, which he translates: "Snail, snail, put
    forth thy horns, I will give to thee cakes."]

    [Footnote 6: "Les deux Masques," tome i. p. 1.]

    [Footnote 7: "Confessions," book iii. chap. 11.]

    [Footnote 8: "Shakespeare's Dramatic Art," 1876.]



THE INSPIRATION OF DEATH IN FOLK-POETRY.


The Roumanians call death "the betrothed of the world:" that which
awaits. The Neapolitans give it the name of _la vedova_: that
which survives. It would be easy to go on multiplying the stock of
contrasting epithets. Inevitable yet a surprise, of daily incidence
yet a mystery, unvarying yet most various, a common fact yet incapable
of becoming common-place, death may be looked at from innumerable
points of view; but, look at it how we will, it moves and excites
our spiritual consciousness as nothing else can do. The first poet of
human things was perhaps one who stood in the presence of death.
In the twilight that went before civilization the loves of men were
prosaic, and intellectual unrest was remote, but there was already
Rachel weeping for her children and would not be comforted because
they are not. Death, high priest of the ideal, led man in his infancy
through a crisis of awe passing into transcendent exaltation, kindred
with the state which De Quincey describes when recalling the feelings
wrought in his childish brain by the loss of his sister. It set the
child-man asking why? first sign of a dawning intelligence; it told
him in familiar language that we lie on the borders of the unknown; it
opened before him the infinite spaces of hope and fear; it shattered
to pieces the dull round of the food-seeking present, and built up out
of the ruins the perception of a past and a future. It was the symbol
of a human oneness with the coming and going of day and night, summer
and winter, the rising and receding tide. It caused even the rudest
of men to speak lower, to tread more softly, revealing to him unawares
the angel Reverence. And above all, it wounded the heart of man. M.
Renan says with great truth, "Le grand agent de la marche du monde,
c'est la douleur." What poetry owes to the bread of sorrow has never
been better told than by the Greek folk-singer, who condenses it into
one brief sentence: "Songs are the words spoken by those who suffer."

The influence of death on the popular imagination is shown in those
ballads of the supernatural of which folk-poetry offers so great an
abundance as to make choice difficult. One of the most powerful as
well as the most widely diffused of the people's ghost stories is that
which treats of the persecuted child whose mother comes out of her
grave to succour him. There are two or three variants of this among
the Czech songs. A child aged eighteen months loses his mother. As
soon as he is old enough to understand about such things, he asks his
father what he has done with her? "Thy mother sleeps a heavy sleep, no
one will wake her; she lies in the graveyard hard by the gate." When
the child hears that, he runs to the graveyard. He loosens the earth
with a big pin and pushes it aside with his little finger. Then he
cries mournfully, "Ah! mother, little mother, say one little word to
me!" "My child, I cannot," the mother replies, "my head is weighed
down with clay; on my heart is a stone which burns like fire; go home
little one, there you have another mother." "Ah!" rejoins he, "she is
not good like you were. When she gives me bread she turns it thrice;
when you gave it me you spread it with butter. When she combs my hair
she makes my head bleed; when you combed my hair, mother, you fondled
it. When she bathes my feet she bruises them against the side of the
basin; when you bathed them you kissed them. When she washes my shirt
she loads me with curses; you used to sing whilst you washed." The
mother answers: "Go back to the house, my child, to-morrow I will come
for you." The child goes back to the house and lies down in his bed.
"Ah! father, my little father, make ready my winding-sheet, my
soul now belongs to God, my body to the grave, to the grave near my
mother--how glad her heart will be!" One day he was ill, the second he
died, the third day they buried him. The effect is heightened by the
interval placed between the mother's death and the child's awakening
to his own forlorn condition. When the mother died he was too young to
think or to grieve. He did not know that she was gone until he missed
her. Only by degrees, after years of harsh treatment, borne with the
patience of a child or a dumb animal, he began to feel intuitively
rather than to remember that it had not been always so--that he had
once been loved. Then, going straight to the point with the terrible
accusative power that lies in children, he said to the father, "What
have you done with my mother?" He had been able to live and to suffer
until he was old enough to think; when he thought, he died. Here
we have an instance, one of the many that exist, of a motive which,
having recurred again and again in folk-poetry, gets handled at last
by a master-poet, who gives it enduring shape and immortality. Victor
Hugo may or may not have known the popular legend. It is most likely
that he did not know it. Yet, stripped of the marvellous, and modified
in certain secondary points of construction, the story is the story
of "Petit Paul," little Paul, the child of modern France, who takes
company with Dante's Anselmuccio and Shakespeare's Arthur, and who
with them will live in the pity of all time. The Ruthenes affirm
that it was Christ who bade the child seek his mother's grave. The
Provençal folk-poet begins his tale: "You shall hear the complaint of
three very little children." The mother of these children was dead,
the father had married again. The new wife brought a hard time for the
children, and the day came when they were like to starve. The littlest
begged for a bit of bread, and he got a kick which threw him to the
ground. Then the biggest of the brothers said, "Get up and let us go
to our mother in the graveyard; she will give us bread." They set out
at once; on their way they met Jesus Christ.

  Et ount anetz, mes angis,
  Mes angis tant petits?

"Where are you going, my angels, my so very small angels?" "We go to
the graveyard to find our mother." Jesus Christ tells the mother to
come forth and give her children food. "How would you have me come
forth, when there is no strength left in me?" He answers that her
strength shall come back to her for seven years. Now, as the end of
the seven years drew near, she was always sobbing and sighing, and the
children asked why it was. "I weep, my children, because I have to go
away from you." "Weep no more, mother, we will all go together; one
shall carry the hyssop, another will take the taper, the last will
hold the book. We will go home singing." The Provençal poet does not
tell us what happened when the resuscitated wife came back to her
former abode; we have to go to Scandinavia for an account of that.
Dyring the Dane went to an island and wed a fair maiden. For seven
years they dwelt together and were blessed with children; but while
the youngest born was still a helpless babe, Death stalked through the
land and carried off the young wife in his clutches. Dyring went to
another island and married a girl who was bad and spiteful. He brought
her home to his house, and when she reached the door the six little
children were there crying. She thrust them aside with her foot, she
gave them no ale and no bread; she said, "You shall suffer thirst and
hunger." She took from them their blue cushions, and said, "You shall
sleep on straw." She took from them their wax candles, and said,
"You shall stay in the dark." In the evening, very late, the children
cried, and their mother heard them under the ground. She listened as
she lay in her shroud, and thought to herself, "I must go to my little
children." She begged our Lord so hard to let her go, that her prayer
was granted. "Only you must be back when the cock crows." She lifted
her weary limbs, the grave gaped, she passed through the village, the
dogs howled as she passed, throwing up their noses in the air. When
she got to the house, she saw her eldest daughter on the threshold.
"Why are you standing there, my dear daughter? Where are your brothers
and sisters?" The daughter knew her not. She said her mother was
fair and blithe, her face was white and pink. "How can I be fair and
blithe? I am dead, my face is pale. How can I be white and pink, when
I have been all this time in my winding-sheet?" Answering thus, the
mother hastened to her little children's chamber. She found them with
tears running down their cheeks. She brushed the clothes of one, she
tidied the hair of the second, she lifted the third from the floor,
she comforted the fourth, the fifth she set on her knee as though
she were fain to suckle it. To the eldest girl she said, "Go and tell
Dyring to come here." And when he came she cried in wrath, "I left you
ale and bread, and my little ones hunger; I left you blue cushions,
and my little ones lie on straw; I left you waxen candles, and my
little ones are in the dark. Woe betide you, if there be cause
I should return again! Behold the red cock crows, the dead fly
underground. Behold the black cock crows, heaven's doors are thrown
wide. Behold the white cock crows, I must begone." So saying she went,
and was seen no more. Ever after that night each time Dyring and his
wife heard the dogs bark they gave the children ale and bread; each
time they heard the dogs bay they were seized with dread of the dead
woman; each time they heard the dogs howl they trembled lest she
should come back. Two universal beliefs are introduced into this
variant: the disappearance of the dead at cock crow, and the
connection of the howling of dogs with death or the dead. The last
is a superstition which still obtains a wide acceptance even among
educated people. I was speaking of it lately to an English officer,
who stated that he had twice heard the death howl, once while on duty
in Ireland, and once, if I remember right, in India. It was, he said,
totally unlike any other noise produced by a dog. I observed that
all noises sound singular when the nerves are strained by painful
expectancy; but he answered that in his own case his feelings were not
involved, as the death which occurred, in one instance at least, was
that of a perfect stranger.

The interpretation of dreams as a direct intercourse with the
spiritual world is not usual in folk-lore; the people hardly see the
need of placing the veil of sleep between mortal eyes and ghostly
appearances. In a Bulgarian song, however, a sleeping girl speaks with
her dead mother. Militza goes down into the little garden where
the white and red roses are in bloom. She is weary, and she is soon
asleep. A small fine rain begins to fall, the wind rustles in the
leaves; Militza sighs, and having sighed, she awakes. Then she
upbraids the rain and the wind: "Whistle no more, O wind; thou, O
rain, descend no more; for in my dreams I found my mother. Rain, may
thy fount be dried; mayst thou be for ever silent, O wind: ye have
taken me from the counsel my mother gave me." The few lines thus
baldly summarized make up, as it seems to me, a little masterpiece of
delicate conception and light workmanship: one which would surprise us
from the lips of a letterless poet, were there not proof that no touch
is so light and so sure as that of the artificer untaught in our own
sense--the man or the woman who produces the intricate filigree, the
highly wrought silver, the wood carving, the embroidery, the lace, the
knitted wool rivalling the spider's web, the shawl with whose weft and
woof a human life is interwoven.

I have only once come upon the case of a father who returns to take
care of his offspring. Mr Chu, a worthy Chinese gentleman, revisited
this earth as a disembodied spirit to guard and teach his little boy
Wei. When Wei reached the age of twenty-two, and took his doctor's
degree, his father, Mr Chu, finally vanished. As a general rule, the
Chinese consider the sight of his former surroundings to be the worst
penalty that can befall a soul. Mr Herbert Giles, in his fascinating
work on the Liao-Chai of P'u Sing-Ling, gives a full account of the
terrible See-one's-home terrace as represented in the fifth court of
Purgatory in the Taoist Temples. Good souls, or even those who have
done partly good and partly evil, will never stand thereon. The souls
of the wicked only see their homes as if they were near them: they see
their last wishes disregarded, everything upside down, their substance
squandered, the husband prepares to take a new wife, strangers possess
the old estate, in their misery the dead man's family curse him, his
children become corrupt, lands are gone, the house is burnt, the wife
sees her husband tortured, the husband sees his wife stricken down
with mortal disease; friends forget: "some perhaps for the sake of
bygone times may stroke the coffin and let fall a tear, departing with
a cold smile." In the West, this gloomy creed is perhaps hinted at in
the French proverb, "Les morts sont bien mort." But Western thought at
its best, at its highest, imagines differently. It imagines that the
most gracious privilege of immortal spirits is that of beholding those
beloved of them in mortal life--

              I am still near,
  Watching the smiles I prized on earth,
  Your converse mild, your blameless mirth.

Happy and serene optimism!

The ghosts of folk-lore return not only to succour the innocent, they
come back also to convict the guilty. The avenging ghost shows himself
in all kinds of strange and uncanny ways rather than in his habit as
he lived. He comes in animal or vegetable shape; or perhaps he uses
the agency of some inanimate object. In the Faroe Isles there is a
story of a girl whose sister pushed her into the sea out of jealousy.
The blue waves cast ashore her body, which was found by two pilgrims,
who made the arms into a harp, and the flaxen locks into strings. Then
they went and played the harp at the wedding feast of the murderess
and the dead girl's betrothed. The first string said, "The bride is
my sister." The second string said, "The bride caused my death." The
third string said, "The bridegroom is my betrothed." The harp's notes
swelled louder and louder, and the guilty bride fell sick unto death;
before the pilgrims had done playing, her heart broke. This is much
the same story as the "Twa Sisters of Binnorie." A Slovack legend
describes two musicians who, as they were travelling together, noticed
a fine plane tree; and one said to the other, "Let us cut it down,
it is just the thing to make a violin of; the violin will be equally
yours and mine; we will play on it by turn." At the first blow the
tree sighed; at the second blow blood spurted out; at the third blow
the tree began to talk. It said: "Musicians, fair youths, do not cut
me down; I am not a tree, I am made of flesh and blood; I am a lovely
girl of the neighbouring town; my mother cursed me while I drew
water--while I drew water and chatted with my friend. 'Mayst thou
change into a plane tree with broad leaves,' said she. Go ye,
musicians, and play before my mother." So they betook themselves
to the mother's door and played a dirge over her child. "Play not,
musicians, fair youths," she entreated. "Rend not my heart by your
playing. I have enough of woe in having lost my daughter. Hapless the
mother who curses her children!" The well-known German tale of the
juniper tree belongs to the same class. A beautiful little boy is
killed by his step-mother, who serves him up as a dish of meat to his
father. The father eats in ignorance, and throws away the bones, which
are gathered up by the little half-sister, who puts them into her best
silk handkerchief and buries them under a juniper tree. Presently a
bird of gay plumage perches on the tree, and whistles as it flits from
branch to branch--

  Min moder de mi slach't,
  Min fader de mi att,
  Min swester de Marleenken
  Söcht alle mine Beeniken,
  Und bindt sie in een syden Dook
  Legst unner den Machandelboom;
  Ky witt! ky witt! Ach watt en schön vagel bin ich!

--a rhyme which Goethe puts into the mouth of Gretchen in prison. In
the German story the step-mother's brains are knocked out by the fall
of a mill-stone, and the bird-boy is restored to human form; but in
a Scotch variant the last event does not take place. It may have been
thrown in by some narrator who had a weakness for a plot which ends
well. All these wonder-tales had probably an original connection
with a belief in the transmigration of souls. In truth, the people's
_Märchen_ are rooted nearly always on some article of ancient faith:
that is why they have so long a life. Faith vitalizes poetry or legend
or art; and what once lived takes a great time to die. Now that the
beliefs which fostered them have gone into the lumber-room of disused
religions, the old wonder-tales still have a freshness and a horror
which cannot be found even in the best of brand-new "made-up" stories.

Another reason why the dead come back is to fulfil a promise. The
Greek mother of the Kleft song has nine sons and one only daughter.
She bathes her in the darkness, her hair she combs in the light, she
dresses her beneath the shining of the moon. A stranger from Bagdad
has asked her in marriage, and Constantine, one of the sons, counsels
his mother to give her to the stranger. "Thou art wont to be prudent,
but in this thou art senseless," says the mother. "Who will bring her
back to me if there be joy or sorrow?" Constantine gives her God as
surety, and all the saints and martyrs, that if there be sorrow or joy
he will bring her back. In two years all the nine sons die, and when
it is Constantine's turn, the mother leans over his body and tears
her hair. Fain would she have back her daughter Arete, and behold
Constantine lies dead. At midnight Constantine gets up and goes to
where his sister dwells, and bids Arete to follow him. She asks what
has happened, but he tells her nothing. While they journey along the
birds sing: "See you that lovely girl riding with the dead?" Then
Arete asks her brother if he heard what the birds said. "They are only
birds," he answers; "never mind them." She says her brother has such
an odour of incense that it fills her with fear, "It is only," he
says, "because we passed the evening in the chapel of St John." When
they reach their home, the mother opens the portal and sees the dead
and the living come in together, and her soul leaves her body. The
motive of a ride with the dead, made familiar by the "Erl König"
and Burgher's "Lenore," can be traced through endless variations in
folk-poesy.

In the Swedish ballad of "Little Christina," a lover rises from his
grave, not to carry off his beloved, but simply to console her. One
night Christina hears light fingers tapping at her door; she opens it,
and her dead betrothed comes in. She washes his feet with pure wine,
and for a long while they speak together. Then the cocks begin to
crow, and the dead get them underground. The young girl puts on her
shoes and follows her betrothed through the wide forest. When
they reach the graveyard, the fair hair of the young man begins to
disappear. "See, maiden," he says, "how the moon has reddened all at
once; even so, in a moment, thy beloved will vanish." She sits down on
the tomb and says: "I shall remain here till the Lord calls me." Then
she hears the voice of her betrothed saying to her: "Little Christina,
go back to thy dwelling-place. Every time a tear falls from thine eyes
my shroud is full of blood. Every time thy heart is gay, my shroud is
full of rose leaves."

If the display of excessive grief is thus shown to be only grievous to
the dead, yet they are held to be keenly sensible of a lack of due and
decorous respect. Such respect they generally get from rough or savage
natures, unless it be denied out of intentional scorn or enmity. There
is a factory in England where common men are employed to manipulate
large importations of bones for agricultural uses. Each cargo contains
a certain quantity of bones which are very obviously human. These the
workmen sort out, and when they have got a heap they bury it, and ask
the manager to read over it some passages from the Burial Service.
They do it of their own free will and initiative; were they hindered,
they would very likely leave the works. Shall it be called foolish or
sublime? Another curious instance of respect to the dead comes to my
mind. On board ship two cannon balls are ordinarily sewed up with a
body to sink it. Once a negro died at sea, and his fellows, negroes
also, took him in a boat and rowed a long way to a place where they
were to commit him to the deep. After a while the boat returned to
the ship, still with its burden. The explanation was soon made. The
negroes discovered that they had only one cannon ball, they had rowed
back for the other. One would have been quite enough to answer all
purposes; but it seemed to them disrespectful to their comrade to
cheat him out of half his due.

The dead particularly object to people treading carelessly on their
graves. So we learn from one of the songs of Greek outlawry.

  All Saturday we held carouse, and far through Sunday night,
  And on the Monday morn we found our wine expended quite.
  To seek for more without delay the captain made me go;
  I ne'er had seen nor known the way, nor had a guide to show.
  And so through solitary roads and secret paths I sped,
  Which to a little ivied church long time deserted led.
  This church was full of tombs, and all by gallant men possest;
  One sepulchre stood all alone, apart from all the rest.

  I did not see it, and I trod above the dead man's bones,
  And as from out the nether world came up a sound of groans.
  What ails thee, sepulchre? why thus so deeply groan and sigh?
  Doth the earth press, or the black stone weigh on thee heavily?
  "Neither the earth doth press me down, nor black stone do me scath,
  But I with bitter grief am wrung, and full of shame and wrath,
  That thou dost trample on my head, and I am scorned in death.
  Perhaps I was not also young, nor brave and stout in fight,
  Nor wont as thou, beneath the moon, to wander through the night."

Egil Skallagrimson, after his son was drowned, resolved to let himself
die of hunger. Thorgerd, his daughter, came to him and prayed hard of
him that he would sing. Touched by her affection, he made an effort,
gathered up his ideas, dressed them in images, expressed them in song;
and as he sang, his regrets softened, and in the end his soul became
so calm that he was satisfied to live. In this beautiful saga lies the
secret of folk-elegies. The people find comfort in singing. A Czech
maiden asks of the dark woods how they can be as green in winter as in
summer; as for her, she cannot help vexing her heart. "But who would
not weep in my place? Where is my father, my beloved father? The sandy
plain is his winding-sheet. Where is my mother, my good mother? The
grass grows over her. I have no brother and no sister, and they have
taken away my friend." Of a certainty when she had sung, her vexed
heart was lighter. "Seul a un synonym: mort." Yes, but he who sings
is scarcely alone, even though there be only the waving pine woods to
answer with a sigh. The most passionate laments of the Sclavonic race
are for father and mother. If a Little Russian loses both his parents
his despair is such that it often drives him forth a wanderer on the
face of the earth. One so bereft cries out, "Dear mother, why didst
thou suffer me to see the day? Why didst thou bring me into the world
without obtaining for me by thy prayers a portion of its blessings?
My father and my mother are dead, and with them my country. Why was I
left a wretched orphan? Oh, could I find a being miserable as myself
that we might sympathize one with the other!" The birth-ties of
kindred are reckoned the only strong ones. Some Russian lines,
translated by Mr Ralston, indicate the degrees of mourning:

  There weeps his mother--as a river runs;
  There weeps his sister--as a streamlet flows;
  There weeps his youthful wife--as falls the dew;
  The sun will rise and gather up the dew.

A Servian _pesma_ illustrates the same idea. Young Tövo has the
misfortune to break his arm. A doctor is fetched--no other than a Vila
of the mountain. The wily sprite demands in guerdon for the cure the
right hand of the mother, the sister's long hair, with the ribbons
that bind it, the pearl necklace of the wife. Quickly the mother
sacrifices her right hand, quickly the sister cuts off her much-prized
braid, but the wife says, "Give up my white pearls that my father gave
me? Not I!" The Vila waxes angry and poisons Tövo's blood. When he is
dead three women fall "a-kookooing"--one groans without ceasing; one
sobs at dawn and dusk; one weeps just now and then when it comes into
her head so to do. As the cuckoo is supposed to be a sister mourning
for her brother, kookooing has come to mean lamenting. The Servian
girl who has lately lost her brother cannot hear the cuckoo's note
without weeping. In popular poetry the love of sister for brother
takes precedence even of the love of mother for child. Not only does
Gudrun in the Elder Edda esteem the murder of her first lord, the
god-like Sigurd, to be of less importance than that of her brothers,
but also to avenge their deaths, she has no scruple in slaying both
her second husband and her own sons. A Bulgarian ballad shows in still
more striking light the relative value set on the lives of child
and brother. There was a certain man named Negul, whose head was in
danger. The folk-poet is careful to express no sort of censure upon
his hero, but the boasts he is made to utter are sufficient guides to
his character. Great numbers of Turks has he put to flight, and yet
more women has he killed of those who would not follow him meekly as
his wives. "And now," he adds plaintively, "a misfortune has befallen
me which I have done nothing at all to deserve." His sister Milenka
hears him bemoaning his fate, and at once she says to him, "Brother
Negul, Negul, my brother, do not disturb yourself, do not distress
yourself; I have nine sons, nine sons and one daughter; the youngest
of all is Lalo; him will I sacrifice to save you; I will sacrifice him
so that you may remain to me." This was the promise of Milenka. Then
she hastened to her own home and prepared hot meats and set flasks of
golden wine wherewith to feast her sons. "Eat and drink together,"
she said, "and kiss one another's hands, for Lalo is going away to be
groomsman to his Uncle Negul. Let your mother see you all assembled,
and serve you each in turn with ruddy wine and with smoking viands."
For the others she did not wholly fill the glass, but Lalo's glass
she filled to the brim. Meanwhile Elka, Lalo's sister, made ready his
clothes for the journey; and as she busied about it, the little girl
cried because Lalo was going to be groomsman, and they had not asked
her to be bridesmaid. Lalo said to Elka, "Elka, my little only sister,
do not cry so, sister; do not be so vexed; we are nine brothers, and
one of these days you will surely act as bridesmaid." The words were
hardly spoken when the headsmen reached the door. They took Lalo,
the groomsman, and they chopped off his head in place of his Uncle
Negul's.

A new and different world is entered when we follow the folk-poet
upon the wrestling-ground of Death and Love. If I have judged rightly,
there were songs of death before there were any other love songs than
those of the nightingale; but the folk-poet was still young when he
learnt to sing of love, and the love poet found out early that his
lyre was incomplete without the string of death. In all folk-poetry
can be plainly heard that music of love and death which may be
said almost to have been the dominant note that sounded through the
literature of the ages of romance. Sometimes the victory is given to
death, sometimes to love; in one song love, while yielding, conquers.
Folk-poetry has not anything more instinct with the quality of
intensity than is this "Last Request" of a Greek robber-lover--

  When thou shalt hear that I am ill,
    O my well-beloved! he said,
  O come to me, and quickly come,
    Or thou wilt find me dead.
  And when that thou hast reached the house,
    And the great gates passed through,
  Then, O my well-beloved, the braids
    Of thy bright hair undo.
  And to my mother say straightway,
    Tell me, where is your son?
  My son is lying on his bed
    In his chamber all alone.
  Then mount the stairs, O my well-beloved,
    And come your lover anigh,
  And smooth my pillow that I may
    Raise me a little high,
  And hold my head up in thy hands
    Till flies away my soul.
  And when thou seest the priest arrive,
    And dress him in his stole,
  Then place, my well-beloved, a kiss
    On my lips pale and cold;
  And when four youths shall lift me up,
    And on their shoulders hold,
  Then shalt thou, O my well-beloved,
    Cast at them many a stone.
  And when they reach thy neighbourhood
    And by thy house pass on,
  Then, O my well-beloved, thy hair,
    Thy golden tresses cut;
  And when they reach the church's gate,
    And there my coffin put,
  Then as the hen her feathers plucks,
    So pluck thy hair for me.
  And when my dirges all are done,
    And lights extinguished be,
  Then shall my heart, O well-beloved,
    Still be possessed of thee.

We hardly notice the adventitious part of it--the ancient custom of
tearing off the hair, the strange stone-casting at the youths who
represent Charon; our attention is absorbed by what is the essence
of the song: passion which has burned itself into pure fire. Greek
folk-poetry shows a blending together of southern emotions with an
imaginative fervour, a prophetic power that is rather of the East than
of the South. No Tuscan ploughman, for instance, could seize the idea
of the Greek folk-poet of possessing his living love in death. If the
Tuscan thinks of a union in the grave, it can only be attained by the
one who remains joining the one who is gone--

  O friendly soil,
  Soil that doth hold my love in thine embrace,
  Soon as for me shall end life's war and toil
  Beneath thy sod I too would have a place;
  Where my love is, there do I long to be,
  Where now my heart is buried far from me--
  Yes, where my love is gone I long to go,
  Robbed of my heart I bear too deep a woe.

This stringer of pretty conceits fails to convince us that he is
very much in earnest in his wish to die. Speaking in the sincerity of
prose, the Tuscan says, "Ogni cosa è meglio che la morte." He does
not believe in the nothingness of life. In his worst troubles he still
feels that all his faculties, all his senses, are made for pleasure.
Death is to him the affair of a not cheerful religious ceremony--a
cross borne before a black draped bier, and bells tolling dolefully.

  I hear Death's step, I see him at my side,
  I feel his bony fingers clasp me round;
  I see the church's door is open wide,
  And for the dead I hear the knell resound.
  I see the cross and the black pall outspread;
  Love, thou dost lead me whither lie the dead!
  I see the cross, the winding-sheet I see;
  Love, to the graveyard thou art leading me!

Going further south, a stage further is reached in crude externality
of vision. People of the South are the only born realists. To them
that comes natural which in others is either affectation or the
fruits of what the French call _l'amour du laid_--a morbid love of the
hideous, such as marred the fine genius of Baudelaire. At Naples death
is a matter of corruption naked in the sunlight. When the Neapolitan
takes his mandoline amongst the tombs he unveils their sorry secrets,
not because he gloats over them, but because the habit of a reserve
of speech is entirely undeveloped in him. He dares to sing thus of his
lost love--

  Her lattice ever lit no light displays.
  My Nella! can it be that you are ill?
  Her sister from the window looks and says:
  "Your Nella in the grave lies cold and still.
  Ofttimes she wept to waste her life unwed,
  And now, poor child, she sleeps beside the dead."
  Go to the church and lift the winding-sheet,
  Gaze on my Nella's face--how changed, alas!
  See 'twixt those lips whence issued flowers so sweet
  Now loathsome worms (ah! piteous sight!) do pass.
  Priest, let it be your care, and promise me,
  That evermore her lamp shall lighted be.

The song beats with the pulses of the people's life--the life of a
people swift in gesture, in action, in living, in dying: always in a
hurry, as if one must be quick for the catastrophe is coming. They are
all here: the lover waiting in the street for some sign or word; the
girl leaning out of window to tell her piece of news; the "poor
child" who had drunk of the lava stream of love; the dead lying
uncoffined in the church to be gazed upon by who will; the priest
to whom are given those final instructions: pious, and yet how
uncomforting, how unilluminated by hope or even aspiration! Here there
is no thought of reunion. A kind-hearted German woman once tried to
console a young Neapolitan whose lover was dead, by saying that they
might meet in Paradise. "In Paradise?" she answered, opening her large
black eyes; "Ah! signora, in Paradise people do not marry."

The coming back or reappearance of a lover, in whose absence his
beloved has died, is a subject that has been made use of by the
folk-poets of every country, and nothing can be more characteristic of
the nationalities to which they belong than the divergences which
mark their treatment of it. Northern singers turn the narrative of
the event into half a fairy tale. On the banks of the Moldau we are
introduced to a joyous youth, returning with glad steps to his native
village. "My pretty girls, my doves, is my friend cutting oats with
you?" he asks of a group of girls working in the fields near his home.
"Only yesterday," they reply, "his friend was buried." He begs them
to tell him by which path they bore her away. It is a road edged with
rosemary; everybody knows it--it leads to the new cemetery. Thither
he goes, thrice he wanders round the place, the third time he hears a
voice crying, "Who is it treads on my grave and breaks the rest of
the dead?" "It is I, thy friend," he says, and he bids her rise up
and look on him. She says she cannot, she is too weak, her heart is
lifeless, her hands and feet are like stones. But the gravedigger has
left his spade hard by; with it her friend can shovel away the earth
that holds her down. He does what she tells him; when the earth is
lifted he beholds her stretched out at full length, a frozen maiden
crowned with rosemary. He asks to whom has she bequeathed his gifts.
She answers that her mother has them; he must go and beg them of her.
Then shall he throw the little scarf upon a bush, and there will be an
end to his love. And the silver ring he shall cast into the sea, and
there will be an end to his grief. On the shores of the Wener it is
Lord Malmstein who wakes before dawn from a dream that his beloved's
heart is breaking. "Up, up, my little page, saddle the grey; I must
know how it fares with my love." He mounts the horse and gallops into
the forests. Of a sudden two little maids stand in his path; one wears
a dress of blue, and hails him with the words: "God keep you, Lord
Malmstein; what bale awaits you!" The other is dight in red, and of
her Lord Malmstein asks, "Who is ill, and who is dead?" "No one is
ill, no one is dead, save only the betrothed of Malmstein." He makes
haste to reach the village; on the way he meets the bier of his
betrothed. Swiftly he leaps from the saddle; he pulls from off his
finger rings of fine gold, and throws them to the gravedigger--"Delve
a grave deep and wide, for therein we will walk together." His face
turns red and white, and he deals a mortal blow at his heart. This
Swedish Malmstein not only figures as the reappearing lover; he
is also one of that familiar pair whom death unites. In an ancient
Romansch ballad the story is simply an episode of peasant life. A
young Engadiner girl is forced by her father to marry a man of the
village of Surselva, but all the while her troth is plighted to a
youth from the village of Schams. On the road to Surselva the lover
joins the bride and bridegroom unknown to the latter. When they reach
the place the people declare that they have never seen so fair a
woman as the youthful bride. Her husband's father and mother greet
her saying, "Daughter, be thou welcome to our house!" But she answers,
"No, I have never been your daughter, nor do I hope ever to be; for
the time is near when I must die." Then her brothers and sisters greet
her saying, "O sister, be thou welcome to our house!" "No," she says,
"I have never been your sister, nor do I ever hope to be; for the time
comes when I must die. Only one kindness I ask of you, give me a room
where I may rest." They lead her to her chamber, they try to comfort
her with sweet words; but the more they would befriend her, the more
does the young bride turn her mind away from this world. Her lover is
by her side, and to him she says, "O my beloved, greet my father and
my mother; tell them that perhaps they have rejoiced their hearts, but
sure it is they have broken mine." She turns her face to the wall and
her soul returns to God. "O my beloved," cries the lover, "as thou
diest, and diest for me, for thee will I gladly die." He throws
himself upon the bed, and his soul follows hers. As the clock struck
two they carried her to the grave, as the clock struck three they came
for him; the marriage bells rang them to their rest; the chimes of
Schams answering back the chimes of Surselva. From the grave mound of
the girl grew a camomile plant, from the grave mound of the youth a
plant of musk; and for the great love they bore one another even the
flowers twined together and embraced.

  Uoi, i sül tömbel da quella bella
  Craschiva sü üna flur da chiaminella;
  Uoi, i sül tömbel da que bel mat
  Craschiva sü üna flur nusch muschiat;
  Per tant grond bain cha queus dus as leivan,
  Parfin las fluors insemmel as brancleivan.

It is a sign of a natural talent for democracy when the people like
better to tell stories about themselves than to discuss the fortunes
of prince or princess. The devoted lovers are more often to be looked
for in the immediate neighbourhood of a court. So it is in the ballad
of Count Nello of Portugal. Count Nello brings his horse to bathe;
while the horse drinks, the Count sings. It was already very dark--the
King could not recognise him. The poor Infanta knew not whether to
laugh or to cry. "Be quiet, my daughter; listen and thou wilt hear a
beautiful song. It is an angel singing, or the siren in the sea." "No,
it is no angel in heaven, nor is it the siren of the sea; it is Count
Nello, my father, he who fain would wed me." "Who speaks of Count
Nella who dare name him, the rebel vassal whom I have exiled?" "My
Lord, mine only is the fault; you should punish me alone; I cannot
live without him; it is I who have made him come." "Hold thy peace,
traitress; before day dawns thou shalt see his head cut off." "The
headsman who slays him may prepare for me too; there where you dig his
grave dig mine also." For whom are the bells tolling? Count Nello is
dead; the Infanta is like to die. The two graves are open; behold!
they lay the Count near the porch of the church and the Infanta at
the foot of the altar. On one grave grows a cypress, on the other an
orange tree; one grows, the other grows; their branches join and kiss.
The king, when he hears of it, orders them both to be cut down. From
the cypress flows noble blood, from the orange tree blood royal; from
one flies forth a dove, from the other a wood-pigeon. When the
king sits at table the birds perch before him. "Ill luck upon their
fondness," he cries, "ill luck upon their love! Neither in life nor in
death have I been able to divide them." The musk and the camomile
of Switzerland, the cypress and the orange tree of Portugal, are the
cypress and the reed of the Greek folk-song, the thorn and olive of
the Norman _chanson_, the rose and the briar of the English ballad,
the vine and the rose of the Tristram and Iseult story. Through the
world they tell their tale--

  Amor condusse noi ad una morte.

The death of heroes has provided an inexhaustible theme for
folk-poets. The chief or partisan leader had his complement in the
skald or bard or roving ballad-singer; if the one acted, turned tribes
into nations, cut out history, the other sang, published his
fame, gave his exploits to the future, preserved to his people the
remembrance of his dying words. The poetry of hero-worship, beginning
on Homeric heights, descends to the "lytell gestes" of all sorts
and conditions of more or less respectable and patriotic outlaws and
_condottieri_, whose "passing" is often the most honourable point
in their career. On the principle which has been followed--that of
letting the folk-poet speak for himself, and show what are his ideas
and his impressions after his own manner and in his own language--I
will take three death scenes from amongst the less known of those
recorded in popular verse. The first is Scandinavian. What ails
Hjalmar the Icelander? Why is his face so pale? The Norse Warrior
answers: "Sixteen wounds have I, and my armour is shattered. All
things grow black in my sight; I reel in walking; the bloody sword of
Agantyr has pierced my heart. Had I five houses in the fields I could
not dwell in one of them; I must abide at Samsa, hopeless and mortally
wounded. At Upsal, in the halls of Josur, many Jarls quaff joyously
the foaming ale, many Jarls exchange hot words; but as for me, I am
here in this island, struck down by the point of the sword. The white
daughter of Hilmer accompanied my steps to Aganfik beyond the reefs;
her words are come true, for she said I should return no more. Draw
off my finger the ring of ruddy gold, bear it to my youthful Ingebrog,
it will remind her that she will see me never more. In the east
upsoars the raven; after him the mightier eagle wings his way. I will
be meat for the eagle and my heart's blood his drink." One backward
look to all that was the joy of his life--the feast, the fight, the
woman he loved--and then a calm facing of the end. This is how the
Norseman died. The Greek hero, who dies peaceably in the ripeness of
old age, meets his doom with even less trouble of spirit--

  The sun sank down behind the hill,
    And Dimos faintly said,
  'Go, children, fetch your evening meal--
    The water and the bread.
  Thou, Lamprakis, my brother's son,
    Come hither, by me stand,
  And arm me with my weapons,
    And be captain of the band.
  And, children, take my dear old sword
    That I no more shall sway,
  And cut the green boughs from the trees
    And there my body lay;
  And hither bring a priestly man
    To whom I may confess,
  That I may tell him all my sins,
    And he forgive and bless.
  For thirty years a soldier,
    Twenty years a kleft was I;
  Now death o'ertakes and seizes me,
    'Tis finished, I must die.
  And be ye sure ye make my grave
    Of ample height and large,
  That in it I may stand upright,
    Or lie my gun to charge.
  And to the right a lattice make,
    A passage for the day,
  Where the swallow, bringing springtide,
    May dart about and play,
  And the nightingale, sweet singer,
    Tell the happy month of May.

The slight natural touches--the eagle soaring against the sunrise, the
nightingale singing through the May nights--suggest an intuition of
the will-of-the-wisp affinity between nature and human chances which
seems for ever on the point of being seized, but which for ever eludes
the mental grasp. We think of the "brown bird" in the noble "Funeral
Song" of one who would have been a magnificent folk-poet, had he not
learnt to write and read--Walt Whitman.

My third specimen is a Piedmontese ballad composed probably about
a hundred and fifty years ago, and still very popular. Count Nigra
ascertained the existence of eight or more variants. A German soldier,
known in Italy as the Baron Lodrone, took arms under the house of
Savoy, in whose service he presently died. "In Turin," begins the
ballad, "counts and barons and noble dames mourn for the death of the
Baron Lodrone." The king went to Cuneo to visit his dying soldier;
drums and cannons greeted his approach. He spoke kind words to the
sick man: "Courage, thou wilt not die, and I will give thee the
supreme command." "There is no commander who can stand against death,"
answered the baron. Now Lodrone was a Protestant, and when the king
was convinced that he must die, he exhorted him to conversion, saying
that he himself would stand his sponsor. Lodrone replied that that
could not be. The king did not insist; he only asked him where he
would be buried, and promised him a sepulchre of gold. He answered--

  Mi lasserü për testament
  Ch 'a mi sotero an val d' Lüserna,
  An val d' Lüserna a m sotraran
  Dova l me cör s'arposa tan!

He does not care for a golden sepulchre, but he "leaves for testament"
that his body may lie in Val Luserna, "where my heart rests so well!"
The valley of Luserna was the seat of the Vaudois faith in the "alpine
mountains cold," watered with martyr blood only a little while before
Lodrone lived. To read these four simple lines after the fantasia of
wild or whimsical guesses, passionate longing, unresisted despair,
insatiable curiosity, that death has been seen to create or inspire,
is like going out of a public place with its multiform and voluble
presentment of men and things into the aisles of a small church which
would lie silent but that unseen hands pass over the organ keys.



NATURE IN FOLK-SONGS.


Nature, like music, does not initially make us think, it makes us
feel. A midnight scene in the Alps, a sunrise on the Mediterranean,
suspends at the moment of contemplating it all thought in pure
emotion. Afterwards, however, thought comes back and asks for a reason
for the emotion that has been felt. Man at an early age began to try
and explain, or give a tangible shape, to the feelings wrought in him
by Nature. In the first place he called the things that he saw gods,
"because the things are beautiful that are seen." Later on, seers and
myth-makers resigned their birthright into the hands of poets, who
became henceforth the interpreters between nature and man. A small
piece of this succession fell away from the great masters of the
world's song, and was picked up almost unconsciously by the obscure
and nameless folk-singer. Comparative folk-lore has shown that men
have everywhere the same customs, the same superstitions, the same
games. The study of folk-songs will go far to show that if they have
not likewise a complete community of taste and sentiment, yet even in
these, the finer fibres of their being, there is less of difference
and more of analogy than has been hitherto supposed. Folk-songs
prove, for instance, that the modern unschooled man is not so utterly
ignorant of natural beauty as many of us have imagined him to be. Only
we must not go from the extreme of expecting nothing to the extreme of
expecting too much; it has to be borne in mind that at best folk-poesy
is rather the stammering speech of children than a mature eloquence.

It is a common idea that, until the other day, mountains were looked
upon with positive aversion. Still we know that there were always men
who felt the power of the hills: the men who lived in the hills.
When they were kept too long in the plain without hope of return they
sickened and died; when a vivid picture of their mountains was of a
sudden brought up before them, they lost control over their actions.
By force of association the sound of the _Kuhreihen_ could doubtless
give the Switzer a vision of the white peak, the milky torrent, the
chalet with slanting roof, the cows tripping down the green Alp to
their night quarters. It is disappointing to find that the words
accompanying the famous cow-call are as a rule mere nonsense. The
first observation which the genuine folk-poet makes about mountains
is the sufficiently self-evident one, that they form a wall between
himself and the people on the further side. The old Pyrenean balladist
seized the political significance of this: "When God created those
mountains," he said, "He did not mean that men should cross them."
Very often the mountain wall is spoken of as a barrier which separates
lovers. The Gascon peasants have an adaptation of Gaston Phoebus'
romance:--

  Aqueros mountines
    Qui ta haoutes soun,
  M'empechen de bede
    Mas arnous oun soun.

In Bohemia the simple countryman poetises after much the same fashion
as the Gascon cavalier: "Mountain, mountain, thou art very high! My
friend, thou art far off, far beyond the mountains. Our love will fade
yet more and yet more; there is nothing left for me; in this world
no pleasantness remains." Another Czech singer laments that he is
not where his thought is; if only the mountains did not stand between
them, he would see his beloved walking in the garden and plucking blue
flowers. He tries what a prayer will do: "Mountains, black mountains,
step aside, so I may get my good friend for wife." In similar terms
the native of Friuli begs the dividing range to stoop so he may look
upon his love. Among Italian folk-poets the Friulian is foremost as
a lover of the greater heights; he turns to them habitually in his
moments of poetic inspiration, and, as he says, their echoes repeat
his sighs. It must be admitted that the Tuscan, on the contrary, feels
small sympathy with high mountains; if he speaks of one he is careful
to call it _aspra_, or rough and bitter. But he yields to no man
in his delight in the lesser hills, the _be' poggioli_ of his fair
birthland. Even if an intervening hillock divides him from his beloved
he speaks of the barrier tenderly rather than sadly: "O sun, thou that
goest over the hill-top, do me a kindness if thou canst--greet my
love whom I have not seen to-day. O sun, thou that goest over the
pear-trees, greet those black eyes. O sun, thou that goest over
the small ash-trees, greet those beautiful eyes!" A maiden sings
to herself, "I see what I see and I see not what I would; I see the
leaves flying in the air and I do not see my love turn back from the
hill-top. I do not see him turn back.... that beautiful face has gone
over the hill." A youth tells all his story in these few words: "As I
passed over the mountain-crest thy beautiful name came into my mind; I
fell upon my knees and I joined my hands, and to have left thee seemed
a sin. I fell upon my knees on the hard stones; may our love come back
as of yore!" These are pure love-songs; not by any means descriptions
of scenery, and yet how much of the Tuscan landscape lives in them!

Almost the only folk-song which is avowedly descriptive of a mountain,
comes from South Greenland:--

    The great Koonak Mount yonder south I do behold it. The great
    Koonak Mount yonder south I regard it. The shining brightness
    yonder south I contemplate. Outside of Koonak it is expanding;
    the same that Koonak towards the sea-side doth encompass.
    Behold how yonder south they tend to beautify each other;
    while from the sea-side it is enveloped in sheets still
    changing; from the sea-side it is enveloped to mutual
    embellishment.

At the first reading all this may seem incoherent; at the second or
third we begin to see the scene gradually rising before us; the masses
of sea-born cloud sweeping on and up at dawn or sunset, till, finding
their passage barred, they enwrap the obstacle in folds of golden
vapour. It is singular that the Eskimo is incessantly gazing
southwards; can it be that he, too, is dimly sensible of what a great
writer has called "_la fatigue du Nord_"?

Incidental mention of the varying aspects of peak and upland is common
enough in popular songs. The Bavarian peasant notices the clearness of
the heights while mist hangs over the valley:--

  Im Thal ist der Nebel
  Auf der Alm is schon klar ...

The Basque observes the "misty summits;" the Greek sees the cloud
hurrying to the heights "like winged messengers." There is the closest
intimacy between the Greek and his mountains. When he has won a
victory for freedom, they cry aloud, "God is great!" When he is in
sorrow he pines for them as for the society of friends: "Why am I not
near the hills? Why have I not the mountains to keep me company?" A
sick Kleft cries to the birds, "Birds, shall I ever be cured? Birds,
shall I recover my strength?" To which the birds reply just as might
a fashionable physician who recommends his patient to try Pontresina:
"If thou wouldst be cured, if thou wouldst have thy wounds close up,
go thou to the heights of Olympus, to the beautiful uplands where the
strong man never suffers, where the suffering regain their strength."
This fine figure of speech also occurs in a Kleft song: "The plains
thirst for water, the mountains thirst for snow."

The effect of light on his native ice-fields has not escaped the
Switzer: "The sun shines on the glacier, and in the heavens shine the
stars; O thou, my chiefest joy, how I love thee!" A Czech balladist
describes two chieftains travelling towards the sunrise, with
mountains to the right and to the left, on whose summit stands the
dawn. Again, he represents a band of warriors halting on the spurs of
the forest, while before them lies Prague, silent and asleep, with
the Veltava shrouded in morning mist; beyond, the mountains turn blue;
beyond the mountains the east is illuminated. In Bohemia mountains are
spoken of as blue or grey or shadowy; in Servia they are invariably
called green. Servians and Bulgarians cannot conceive a mountain that
is not a wood or a wood that is not a mountain; with them the two
words mean one and the same thing. The charm and beauty of the
combination of hill and forest are often dwelt upon in the Balkan
brigand songs; outlaws and their poets have been among the keenest
appreciators of nature. Who thinks of Robin Hood apart from the
greenwood tree? Who but has smelt the very fragrance of the woods as
he said over the lines?--

  "In somer when the shawes be sheyn
    And leves be large and long,
  Hit is full merry in feyre foreste
    To here the foulys song."

The Sclav or semi-Sclav bandit has not got the high moral qualities of
our "most gentle theefe," but, like him, he has suffered the heat, the
cold, the hunger, the fatigue of a life in the good greenwood,
and, like him, he has tasted its joys. Take the ballad called the
"Wintering of the Heidukes." Three friends sit drinking together in
the mountains under the trees; they sip the ruddy wine, and discuss
what they shall do in the coming winter, when the leaves have fallen
and only the naked forest is left. Each decides where he will go,
and the last one says: "So soon as the sad winter is passed, when the
forest is clad again in leaves and the earth in grass and flowers,
when the birds sing in the bushes on the banks of the Save and the
wolves are heard in the hills--then shall we meet as to-day." Spring
returns, the forest is decked again with leaves, the black earth with
flowers and grass, the bird sings in the bush, the wolves howl on
the rocky heights; two of the friends meet at the trysting place--the
third comes not; he has been slain. This is only one _Pesma_ out of
a hundred in which the mountain background is faithfully sketched.
Sometimes the forest figures as a personage. The Balkan mountaineer
more than half believes that as he loves it, so does it love him. The
instinct which insists that "love exempteth nothing loved from love"
has been a great myth-germinator, and when myths die out, it still
finds some niche in the mind of man wherein to abide. It may seem
foolish when applied to inanimate objects; it must seem false in its
human application: but reasoning will not kill it. Is there some truth
unperceived behind the apparent fallacy? The Balkan brigand cares
little for such speculations; all that he tells us is that when he
speaks to the greenwood, it most surely answers him in a soft low
voice. The Bulgarian "Farewell of Liben the brave" is a good specimen
of the dialogues between the forest and its wild denizens. Standing
on the top of the Hodja Balkan, Liben cries aloud, "Forest, O green
forest, and ye cool waters! dost thou remember, O forest, how often
I have roamed about thee with my following of young comrades bearing
aloft my red banner?" Many are the mothers, the wives, and the little
orphans whom Liben has made desolate so that they curse him. Now must
he bid farewell to the mountain, for he is going home to his mother
who will affiance him to the daughter of the Pope Nicholas. "The
forest speaks to no one, yet to Liben she replies." Enough has he
roamed with his braves; enough has he borne his red banner along the
summit of the old mountain, and under fresh and tufted shade, and
over moist green moss. Many are the mothers, the wives, and the little
orphans, who curse the forest for his sake. Till now he has had the
old mountain for mother; for love, the greenwood clothed in tufted
foliage and freshened by the cool breeze. The grass was his bed, the
leaves of the trees his coverlet; his drink came from the pure brook,
for him the wood-birds sang. "Rejoice," sang the wood-birds, "for thee
the wood is gay; the mountain and the cool brook!" But now Liben bids
farewell to the forest; he is going home that his mother may affiance
and wed him to the daughter of the Pope Nicholas.

Sea-views of the sea, rare in poetry of any sort, can scarcely be said
to exist in folk-poesy. Sailors' songs have generally not much to do
with the wonders of the deep; the larger part of them are known to be
picked up on land, and the few exceptions to the rule are mostly kept
from the ken of the outer and profane public. The Basque sailors have
certain songs of their own, but only a solitary fragment of one of
them has ever been set on record. Once when a Basque was asked to
repeat a song he had been heard singing, he quietly said that he only
taught it to those who sailed with him. The fragment just mentioned
speaks of the silver trumpet (the master's whistle?) sounding over
the waters at break of day, while the coast of Holland trembles in the
distance. The first glimpse of a level reach of land in the morning
haze could hardly be better described.

The sea impresses the dwellers on its shores chiefly by its depth and
vastness. In folk-songs there is a frequent recurrence of phrases such
as "the waters of the sea are vast, you cannot discern the bottom"
(Basque); "High is the starry sky, profound the abyss of ocean"
(Russian). The Greek calls the sea wicked, and watches the whitening
waves which roll over drowned sailors. For the Southern Sclav it is
simply a grey expanse. The Norseman calls it old, and blue--nature
having for him one sole chord of colour--blue sea, white sands and
snows, green pines. With Italian folk-singers it is a pretty point of
dispute whether the blue sea-and-sky colour is to be preferred to the
colour of the leaves and the grass. "Can you wear a lovelier hue than
azure?" asks one; "the waves of the sea are clothed therein and the
heavens when they are clear." The answer is that if the sky is clad in
a blue garment, green is the vesture of the earth, "E foro del verde
nasse ogni bel frutto." The arguments of the rival partisans remind
one of an amusing scene in a play of Calderon's; one character is made
to say, "Green is the earth's primal hue, the many-coloured flowers
are born out of a green cradle." "In short," says another, "it is a
mere earth-tint, while heaven is dressed in blue." "As to that," comes
the retort, "it is all an azure fiction; far to be preferred is the
veracious verdancy of the earth."

The Italian folk-poets' "castle in the air" is a castle in the sea.
From Alp to Ætna the love-sick rhymers are fain to go and dwell with
their heart's adoration "in mezzo al mar." But though agreed on
the locality where they intend setting up in life, they differ
considerably as to the manner of "castle" to be inhabited. The
Sicilian, who makes a point of wishing for something worth having
while he is about it, will only be satisfied with a palace built of
peacock's plumes, a stair of gold, and a balcony inlaid with gems. A
more modest minstrel, from the hither side of the straits of Messina,
gives no thought at all to housekeeping; a little wave-lapped garden,
full of pretty flowers, is all his desire. The Italian folk-poet sets
afloat an astonishing number of things for no particular reason; one
has planted a pear-tree, a second has heard a little wood-lark, a
third has seen a green laurel, a fourth has found a small altar "in
the sea-midst," a fifth discovers his own name "scritto all 'onne de
lu mar."

The Greek lover has no wish to leave the mainland, but he is fond of
picturing his beloved wandering by the shore at dawn to breathe the
morning air, or reclining on a little stone bench at the foot of a
hill, in the silence of solitude and the calm of the sea. For the
rest, he knows too well "the wicked sea" for it to suggest to him none
but pleasant images. If he is in despair, he likens himself to the
waves, which follow one another to their inevitable grave. If he grows
weary of waiting, he exclaims: "The sea darkens, the waves beat back
on the beach; ah! how long have I loved thee!" One or two specimens
have been already given of this particular kind of song; the
recollection of a passing moment in nature is placed text-wise to a
cry of human pain or love. A happy lover remembers in his transport
the glacier glistening in the sunshine; he who languishes from the
sickness of hope deferred, sees an affinity to his own mood in the
lowering storm.

In the South, light is loved for its own sake. "Il lume è mezza
compagnia," runs a Tuscan proverb: "Light is half company." In a
memorable passage, St Augustine unfolds and elaborates the same idea
of the companionship of light. A Tuscan countryman vows that if his
love to fly from him becomes the light, he, to be near her, will
become a butterfly. Perhaps so radiant an hyperbole would only have
occurred to one who had grown up in the air of the Tuscan hills; the
air to whose purity Michael Angelo ascribed all that his mind was
worth. Anyway, a keen poetic sensibility is argued by the mere fact of
thus joining, in a symbol of the indivisible, the least earth-clogged
of sentient things with the most impersonal of natural phenomena. It
is the more remarkable because, generally speaking, butterflies do
not attract the notice of the unlettered people, even as they did not
attract the notice of the objective and practical Greeks. It may be
that were spirits to be seen flitting noiselessly about the haunts
of men, they would, in time, be equally disregarded. To so few has it
happened to know a butterfly, to watch closely its living beauty,
to feel day by day the light feet or fluttering wings upon the hands
which minister to its unsubstantial wants. Butterflies, to most of us,
are but ethereal strangers; so by the masses they are not valued--at
least, not in Europe. A tribe of West African negroes have this
beautiful saying: "The Butterfly praises God within and without."

The folk-poet lives out of doors; he is acquainted with the home life
of the sun and stars, and day-break is his daily luxury. The Eskimo
tell a story of a stay-at-home man who dwelt in an island near the
coast of East Greenland. It was his chief joy to see the sun rising
in the morning, out of the sea, and with that he was content. But when
his son had come to years of discretion, he persuaded his father to
set out in a boat, so that he might see a little of the world. The
man started from the island; no sooner, however, had he passed Cape
Farewell than he saw the sun beginning to rise behind the land. It
was more than he could bear; and he set off at once for his home. Next
morning very early he went out of his tent; he did not come back. When
he was sought after, he was found quite dead. The joy of seeing the
sun rising again out of the sea had killed him. Most likely the story
is based on a real incident. The Aztec goes out upon his roof to see
the sunrise; it is his one religious observance. But of the cult of
the sun I must not begin to speak. It belongs to an immense subject
that cannot be touched here: the wide range of the unconscious
appreciation of nature which was worship.

There is nothing more graceful in all folk-poesy than a little Czech
star-poem:--

  Star, pale star,
  Didst thou know love,
  Hadst thou a heart, my golden star,
  Thou wouldst weep sparks.

Further north men do not willingly stay out abroad at night, but those
whose calling obliges them to do so are looked upon as wise in strange
lore. The first tidings of war coming reached the Esthonian shepherd
boy, the keeper of the lambs, "who knew the sun, and knew the moon,
and knew the stars in the sky." In Neo-Sanskrit speaking Lithuania
there abound star-legends which differ from the southern tales of the
same order, by reason of the pagan good faith that clings to them,
The Italian is aware that he is romancing when he speaks of the moon
travelling through the night to meet the morning star, or when he
describes her anger at the loss of one of her stars; the Lithuanian
has a suspicion that there may be a good deal of truth in his poets'
account of the sun's domestic arrangements--how the morning star
lights the fire for him to get up by, and the evening star makes his
bed. He will tell you that once there was a time when sun and moon
journeyed together, but the moon fell in love with the morning star,
which brought about sad mischief. "The moon went with the sun in the
early spring; the sun got up early; the moon went away from him. The
moon walked alone, fell in love with the morning star. Perkun, greatly
angered, stabbed her with a sword. 'Why wentest thou away from the
sun? Why walk alone in the night? Why fall in love with the morning
star? Your heart is full of sorrow.'" The Lithuanians have not wholly
left that stage in man's development when what is imagined seems
_primâ facie_ quite as likely to be real as what is seen. The
supernatural does not strike them as either mysterious or terrifying.
It is otherwise with the Teuton. His night phantasms treat of what is,
to man, of all things the most genuinely alarming--his own shadow.
Ghosts, wild huntsmen, erl-kings take the place of an innocuous
un-mortal race. No starry radiance can rob the night of its terrors.
"The stars shine in the sky, bright shine the rays of the moon, fast
ride the dead." Such is the wailing burden to the ballad which Burgher
imitated in his _Lenore_. There is a wide gulf between this and the
tender star-idylls of Lithuania, and a gulf still wider divides it
from the neighbourly familiarity with which the southerner addresses
the heavenly bodies. We go from one world to another when we turn back
to Italy and hear the country lads singing, "La buona sera, O stella
mattutina!" "Good evening to you, O matutinal star."

The West African negroes call the sky the king of sheds, and the sun
the king of torches; the twinkling stars are the little chickens, and
the meteor is the thief-star. "When day dawns, you rejoice," say
the Yorubas; "do you not know that the day of death is so much the
nearer?" The same tribe give this vivid description of a day-break
scene: "The trader betakes himself to his trade, the spinner takes his
distaff, the warrior takes his shield, the weaver bends over his sley,
the farmer awakes, he and his hoe-handle, the hunter awakes, with his
quiver and bow." Thoughtless of toil, the Tuscan joyfully cries, "Dawn
is about to appear, bells chime, windows open, heaven and earth sing."
The Greek holds that he who has not journeyed with the moon by night,
or at dawn with the dew, has not tasted the world. Folk-poets have
widely recognised the mysterious confusion between summer nights and
days. The dispute at Juliet's window is recalled by the Venetian's
chiding of the "Rondinella Traditora;" by the Berry peasants' vexation
at the "vilaine alouette;" by the reproach of the Navarrese lover,
"You say it is day, it is not yet midnight;" and most of all by the
Servian dialogue: "Dawn whitens, the cock crows: It is not the dawn,
but the moon. The cows low round the house: It is not the cows, it is
the call to prayer. The Turks call to the mosque: It is not the Turks,
it is the wolves." The observation of the swallow's morning song is
another point at which the master poet and the obscure folk-singer
meet. This time both are natives of sunny lands; there is a clear
reason why it should be so--in the north the swallow passes almost
for a dumb bird. Very rarely in England do we hear her notes, soft yet
penetrating, like the high-pitched whisper of the Æolian harp. Some
of us may, indeed, have first got acquainted with them in Dante's
beautiful lines:--

  Nell' ora che comincia i tristi lai
    La Rondinella presso alia mattina ...

Little suspecting that he is committing the sin of plagiarism,
the Greek begins one of his songs, "In the hour when the swallows,
twittering, awake the dawn."

The ancient swallow myth does not seem to have anywhere crept into
folk-lore; nor is there much trace of the old Scandinavian delusion
that swallows spent the winter under the ice on lakes, or hanging up
in caves like bunches of grapes. The swallow is taken simply as
the typical bird of passage, the spring-bringer, the messenger,
the traveller _outre mer_. She is the picked bird of countries, the
African explorer, the Indian pioneer. A Servian story reports of
her in the latter capacity. The small-leafed Sweet Basil complains,
"Silent dew, why fallest thou not on me?" "For two mornings," answers
the dew, "I fell on thee; this morning I amused myself by watching a
great marvel. A vila (a mountain spirit) quarrelled with an eagle over
yonder mountain. Said the vila, 'The mountain is mine.' 'No,' said the
eagle, 'it is mine.' The vila broke the eagle's wing, and the young
eaglets moaned bitterly, for great was their peril. Then a swallow
comforted them: 'Make no moan, young eaglets, I will carry you to the
land of Ind, where the amaranth grows up to the horses' knees, where
the clover reaches their shoulders, where the sun never sets.'" How,
it may be asked, did the poet come by that notion of an Asiatic Eden?
The folk-singer seldom paints foreign scenery in these glowing tints.
There may be something of a south-ward longing in the boast--

  I'll show ye how the lilies grow
    On the banks o' Italie.

But this is cold and colourless beside the empire of the unsetting
sun.

Next to the swallow, the grey gull has the reputation of being the
greatest traveller. Till lately the women of Croisic met on Assumption
Day and sang a song to the gulls, imploring them to bring back their
husbands and their lovers who were out at sea. Larks are often chosen
as letter-carriers for short distances. The Greek knows that it is
spring when pair by pair the turtle-doves swoop down to the brooks. He
is an accurate observer; in April or May any retired English pool will
be found flecked over with the down of the wood-pigeons that come
to drink and bathe in it. The cooing of doves is by general consent
associated with constancy and requited love. It is not always,
however, that nations are agreed as to the sense of a bird's song. The
"merrie cuckoo" is supposed by the Sclavs to be rehearsing an endless
dirge for a murdered brother. A Czech poet lays down yet another cause
for its conjectured melancholy: "Perched upon an oak tree, a cuckoo
weeps because it is not always spring. How could the rye ripen in the
fields if it were always spring? How could the apples ripen in the
orchard if it were always summer? How could the corn harden in the
rick if it were always autumn?" In spite of the sagacious content
shown by these inquiries, it is probable that the sadness which the
Sclav attributes to the cuckoo-cry is but an echo of the sadness, deep
and wide, of his own race.

Of the nightingale the Tuscan sings, in the spirit of one greater than
he,--

  Vedete là quel rusignol che canta
  Col suo bel canto lamentar si vuole,--

which is not, by the by, his only Miltonic inspiration; there is a
rustling of Vallombrosian leaves through the couplet, composed perhaps
in Vallombrosia:

  E quante primavera foglie adorna
  Che sì vaga e gentile a noi ritorna.

The Bulgarian sees a mountain _trembling_ to the song of three
nightingales. Like his Servian neighbours, he must always have a
story, and here is his nightingale story. Marika went into the garden;
she passed the pomegranate-tree and the apple-tree, and sat her down
under the red rose-tree to embroider a white handkerchief. In the
rose-tree was a nightingale, and the nightingale said: "Let us sing,
Marika; if you sing better than I, you shall cut off my wings at the
shoulders and my feet at the knee; if I sing better than you, I will
cut off your hair at the roots." They sang for two days, for three
days; Marika sang the best. Then the nightingale pleaded, "Marika,
fair young girl, do not cut off my feet, let me keep my wings, for I
have three little nightingales to rear, and of one of them I will make
you a gift." "Nightingale, sweet singer," said Marika, "I will give
thee grace of thy wings, and even of thy feet; go, tend thy little
ones, make me a gift of one to lull me to sleep, and of one to awake
me."

We may take leave of bird-lays with the pretty old Bourbonnaise
_chanson_:--

  Derrier' chez nous, il y a-t-un vert bocage,
    Le rossignol y chant' tous les jours;
  Là il y dit en son charmant langage:
    Les amoreux sont malheureux toujours!

Flowers, the green leaves and the grass, are suggestive of two kinds
of pathos. The individual flower, the grass or leaf of any one day
or spring-tide, becomes the type of the transitoriness of beauty and
youth and life. "Sing whilst ye are young and fair, soon you will be
slighted, as are sere lilies," is the song even of happy Tuscany. To
the Sclav it seems a question whether it be worth while that there
should be any flowers or morning gladness, since they must be gone
so soon. "O my garden," sings the Ruthenian, "O my little garden, my
garden and my green vine, why bloomest thou in the morning? Hardly
bloomed, thou art withered, and the earth is strewn with thy leaves."
The other kind of pathos springs from a deeper well. Man passes by,
each one hurries to his tragedy; Nature smiles tranquilly on. This
moving force of contrast was known to Lywarch Hen, and to those Keltic
bards who dived so deep into Nature's secrets that scarcely a
greater depth has been fathomed by any after-comers. It was perceived
involuntarily by the English ballad-singers, who strung a burden of
"Fine flowers" upon a tale of infanticide, and bade blackbird and
mavis sing their sweetest between a murder and an execution. And it is
this that gives its key-note to an Armenian popular song of singular
power. A bishop tells how he has made himself a vineyard; he has
brought stones from the valleys and raised a wall around it; he has
planted young vines and plentifully has he watered their roots. Every
morning the nightingale sings sweetly to the rose. Every morning
Gabriel says to his soul: "Rise and come forth from this vineyard,
from this newly-built vineyard." He has not eaten the fruit of the
vine; he has built a wine-vat, but the wine he has not tasted; he has
brought cool streams from the hills, but he has not drunk the water
thereof; he has planted red and white roses, but he has not smelt
their fragrance. The turtle-dove sings to the birds, and the spring is
come. Gabriel calls to his soul, the light of his eyes grows dim; "It
is time I leave my vineyard, my beautiful vineyard." There is hardly
another poem treating of death which is so un-illuminated by one ray
from a future dawn.

In the great mass of folk-songs flowers are dealt with simply as the
accessories to all beautiful things. The folk-poet learns from them
his alphabet of beauty. Go into any English cornfield after harvest;
whilst the elder children glean wheat ears, the children of two
and three years glean small yellow hearts-eases, vervaine, and blue
scabious. They are as surely learning to distinguish the Beautiful
as the student in the courts of the Vatican. Through life, when these
children think of a beautiful thing, the thought of a flower will not
be far off. Religion and love, after all the two chief embellishments
of the life of the poor, have been hung about with flowers from the
past of Persephone and Freya till to-day. Even in England the common
people are glad if they can find a lily of the valley to carry to
church at Whitsuntide, and the first sign that a country girl has
got a sweetheart is often to be read in the transformation of the
garden-plot before her door. In Italy you will not walk far among the
vineyards and maize-fields without coming upon a shrine which bears
traces of floral decoration. Some Italian villages and country towns
have their special flower festival, or _Infiorata_; Genzano, for
instance, where, on the eighth day after Corpus Domini, innumerable
flowers are stripped of their petals, which are sorted out according
to colour and then arranged in patterns on the way to the church,
the magnificence of the effect going far to make one condone the
heartlessness of immolating so many victims to achieve an hour's
triumph. A charge of stupid indifference to beauty has been brought
against the Italian peasant--it would seem partly on the score that he
has been known to root up his anemones in order to put a stop to the
inroads of foreign marauders. There are certain persons, law-abiding
in the land which gave them birth, who when abroad, adopt the ethics
of our tribal ancestors. A piece of ground, a tree, or a plant not
enclosed by a wall, is turned by this strange public to its own uses.
A walnut tree by the wayside has a stick thrown among its branches
to fetch down the walnuts. The peasant does what he can to protect
himself. He observes that flowers attract trespassers, and so he roots
up the flowers. There are Italian folk-songs which show a delight in
flowers not to be surpassed anywhere. Flower-loving beyond all the
rest are the Tuscan poets, whose love-lyrics have been truly described
as "tutti seminati di fiori"--all sown with lilies, clove pinks, and
jessamine. The fact fits in pleasantly with the legend of the first
Florentines, who are said to have called their city after "the great
basket of flowers" in which it was built. It fits in, too, with the
sentiment attached even now to the very name of Florence. The old
_Floraja_ in the overgrown straw hat at the railway station can
reckon on something more abiding than her long-lost charms to find her
patrons; and it is curious to note how few of the passengers reject
the proffered emblems of the flower town, or fail to earn the parting
wish "Felice ritorno!"

One point may be granted; in Italy and elsewhere the common people do
not highly or permanently value scentless flowers. A flower without
fragrance is to them almost a dead flower. I put the question to a
troop of English children coming from a wood laden with spoils, "What
makes you like primroses?" "The scent of them," was the answer. A
little further along the lane came another troop, and the question was
repeated. This time the answer was, "Because they smell so nice."
No flower has been more widely reverenced than the unassuming sweet
basil, the _Basilica odorato_ of Sicilian songs, the Tulasi plant of
India, where it is well-nigh worshipped in the house of every pious
Hindu. The scale is graduated thus: the flower which has no smell is
plucked in play, but left remorselessly to wither as children leave
their daisy chains; the flower which has a purely sweet and fresh
perfume is arranged in nosegays, set in water, praised and enjoyed
for the day; the flower which has a scent of spice and incense and
aromatic gums bears off honours scarcely less than divine.

The folk-poet sings because heaven has given him a sweet voice and a
fair mistress; because the earth brings forth her increase and the sun
shines, and the spring comes back, and rest at noontide and at evening
is lovely, and work in the oil-mill and in the vineyard is lovely too:
he sings to embellish his labour and to enhance his repose. He lives
on the shield of Achilles, singing, accompanied by a viol, to the
grape-pickers; he is crowned with flowers in the golden age of
Lucretius as he raises his sweet song at the _festa_. We have seen a
little of what he says about Nature, but, in truth, he is still
her interpreter when he says nothing. All folk-poesy is sung and
folk-songs are as much one of Nature's voices as the song of the
birds, the song of the brooks, the song of the wind in the pine-tops.
So it is likewise with the rude musical instruments which the
exigencies of his life have taught the peasant how to make; they utter
tones more closely in harmony with nature than those of the finest
Stradivarius. The Greeks were right when they made Pan with his
reed-pipe rather than Apollo with his lyre the typical Nature-god.
Anyone to whom it has chanced to hear a folk-song sung in its own home
will understand what is meant. You may travel a good deal and not have
that chance. The songs, the customs, the traditions of the people form
an arcanum of which they are not always ready to lift the veil. To
those, of course, whose lives are cast among a people that still
sings, the opportunity comes oftener. But if the song be sung
consciously for your pleasure its soul will hardly remain in it. I
shall always vividly remember two occasions of hearing a folk-song
sung. Once, long ago, on the Bidassoa. The day was closing in; the
bell was tolling in the little chapel on the heathery mountain-side,
where mass is said for the peace of the brave men who fell there.
Fontarabia stood bathed in orange light. It was low water, and the
boat got almost stranded; then the boatmen, an older and a younger
man, both built like athletes, began to sing in low, wild snatches
for the tide. Once, not very long since, at the marble quarry of Sant'
Ambrogio. Here also it was towards evening and in the autumn. The
vintage was half over; all day the sweet "Prenda! Prenda!" of the
grape-gatherers had invited the stranger to share in its purple
magnificence. The blue of the more distant Veronese hills deepened
against a coralline sky; not a dark thing was in sight except here or
there the silhouette of a cypress. Only a few workmen were employed in
the quarry; one, a tall, slight lad, sang in the intervals from labour
an air full of passion and tenderness. The marble amphitheatre
gave sonority to his high voice. Each time Nature would have seemed
incomplete had it lacked the human song.



ARMENIAN FOLK-SONGS.


Obscure in their origin, and for the most part having at first had no
such auxiliary as written record to aid their preservation, the single
fact of the existence of folk-songs may in general suffice to proclaim
them the true articulate voice of some sentiment or feeling, common to
the large bulk of the people whence they emanate. It is plain that the
fittest only can survive--only such as are truly germane to those who
say or sing them. A herdsman or tiller of the soil strings together
a few verses embodying some simple thought which came into his head
whilst he looked at the green fields or the blue skies, or it may
be as he acted in a humble way as village poet-laureate. One or two
friends get them by heart, and possibly sing them at the fair in
the next hamlet: if they hit, others catch them up, and so the song
travels for miles and miles, and may live out generations. If not, the
effusion of our poetical cowherd dies away quite silently--not much to
his distress, for had its fate been more propitious its author would
probably have been very little the wiser. One celebrated poet, and I
think but one, has in our own times begun his career in like manner
with the unknown folk-singer. The songs of Sandor Petöfi were popular
over the breadth of the Hungarian Puszta before ever they appeared in
print; and those who know him, know how faithfully he breathes forth
the soul of the Magyar race. In a certain sense it is true that every
real poet is the spokesman of his people. No two works, for instance,
are so characteristic of their respective countries as the _Divina
Commedia_ and _Faust_. Still, the hands of genius idealise what they
touch; the great poet personifies rather than reflects his people,
and if he serves them as representative, it is in an august, imperial
fashion within the Senate House of Fame, outside whose doors the
multitude hustles and seethes. When we want to see this multitude as
in a mirror, to judge its common instincts and impulses that go very
far to cast the nation in the type which makes it what it is, it is a
safer and surer plan to search out its own spontaneous and untutored
songs than to consult the master work attached to immortal names.

How far the individuality of a race is decided or modified by
the natural phenomena in which it is placed is a nice point for
discussion, and one not to be disposed of by off-hand generalities.
In what consists the sympathetic link, sometimes weak and scarcely
perceptible, at others visibly strong, between man and nature?
Why does the emigrated mountaineer, settled in comfort, ease,
and prosperity in some great metropolis, wake up one day with the
knowledge that he must begone to the wooden chalet with the threat of
the avalanche above and the menace of the flood below--or he must die?
Is it force of early association, habit, or fancy? Why is the wearied
town-tied brain-worker sensible of a nostalgia hardly less poignant
when he calls to mind how the fires of day kindled across some scene
of snow or sea with which his eyes were once familiar? Is it nothing
more than the return of a long ago experienced admiration? I think
that neither physicist nor psychologist--and both have a right to be
heard in the matter--would answer that the cause of these sensations
was to be thus shortly defined. Again ask the artist what the Athenian
owed to the purity and proportion of the lines of Grecian landscape,
what the Italian stole from the glow and glory of meridional light
and colour--what the Teuton learnt from the ascending spires of Alpine
ice? Was it that they saw and copied? Or rather, that Nature's spirit,
vibrating through the pulses of their being, moulded into form the
half-divine visions of master-sculptor, painter, architect?

It does not, however, require to go deeper than the surface of
things in order to understand that a peoples' songs must be largely
influenced by the accidents of natural phenomena, and especially where
climate and physical conformation are such as must perforce stir and
stimulate the imaginative faculties of the masses. We have an instance
to the point in the ballads of the "mountainous island" bounded by
seas and plains, which the natives call Hayasdan and we Armenia. The
wondering emotion aroused by a first descent from the Alps into Italy
is well known; to not a few of the mightiest of northern poets this
journey has acted like a charm, a revelation, an awakening to
fuller consciousness. In Armenia, the incantation of a like natural
antithesis is worked by the advent of its every returning spring: a
sluggard of a season that sleeps on soundly till near midsummer, but
comes forth at last fully clothed in the gorgeous raiment of a king.
In days gone by the Armenian spring was dedicated to the goddess
Anahid, and as it broke over the land the whole people joined in
joyful celebration of the feast of Varthavar or "Rose-blossoms,"
which since Christian times has been transformed into the three days'
festival of the Transfiguration. Beautiful is the face of the country
when the tardy sun begins to make up for lost time, as though his very
life depended on it; shooting down his beams with fiery force through
the rarefied ether, melting away the snows, and ripening all at once
the grain and grapes, the wild fig, apricot and olive, mulberry and
pomegranate. What wonder that the Armenian loves the revivifying lamp
of day, that he turns the dying man towards it, and will not willingly
commit his dead to the earth if some bright rays do not fall into the
open grave! At the sun's reveille there is a general resurrection of
all the buried winter population--women and children, cows and sheep,
pink-eyed lemmings, black-eyed caraguz, and little kangaroo-shaped
jerboas. Out, too, from their winter lairs come wolf and bear, hyena
and tiger, leopard and wild boar. The stork returns to his nest on the
broad chimney-pot, and this is what the peasant tells him of all that
has happened in his absence:

  Welcome, Stork!
    Thou Stork, welcome;
    Thou hast brought us the sign of spring,
    Thou hast made our heart gay.
  Descend, O Stork!
    Descend, O Stork, upon our roof,
    Make thy nest upon our ash-tree.
    I will tell thee my thousand sorrows,
    The sorrows of my heart, the thousand sorrows,
  Stork, when thou didst go away,
    When thou didst go away from our tree,
    Withering winds did blow,
    They dried up our smiling flowers.
  The brilliant sky was obscured,
    That brilliant sky was cloudy:
    From above they were breaking the snow in pieces:
    Winter approached, the destroyer of flowers.
  Beginning from the rock of Varac,
  Beginning from that rock of Varac,
    The snow descended and covered all;
    In our green meadow it was cold.
  Stork, our little garden,
    Our little garden was surrounded with snow;
    Our green rose trees
    Withered with the snow and the cold.

But now the rose trees in the garden are green again, and out abroad
wild flowers enamel the earth. Down pour the torrents of melted snow
off Mount Ararat, down crash the avalanches of ice and stones
let loose by the sun's might; wherever an inch of soil or rock is
uncovered it becomes a carpet of blossom. High up, even to 13,000 feet
above the sea-level, the deep violet aster, the saxifrage, and crocus,
and ranunculus, and all our old Alpine acquaintances, form a dainty
morsel for the teeth, or a carpet for the foot, of swift capricorn
or not less agile wild sheep. A little lower, amidst patches of yet
frozen snow, hyacinths scent the air, yellow squills and blue anemones
peep out, clumps of golden iris cluster between the rocks. There, too,
is the "Fountain's Blood," or "Blood of the Seven Brothers," as the
Turk would say, with its crimson, leafless stalk and lily-like bloom,
the reddest of all red flowers. Upon the trees comes the sweet white
_kasbé_, a kind of manna much relished by the inhabitants. Amongst the
grass grow the Stars of Bethlehem, to remind us, as tradition has it,
that hard by on Ararat--beyond question the great centre of Chaldean
Star-worship--the wise men were appointed to watch for the appearance
of a sign in the heavens, and that thence they started in quest of
the place "where the young child lay." Tulips also abound; if we
may credit the legend, they had their origin in the Armenian town
of Erzeroom, springing from the life-blood of Ferdad when he threw
himself from the rocks in despair at a false alarm of the death of his
beloved Shireen.

Erzeroom is by common consent in these parts the very site of the
Garden of Eden. For many centuries, affirms the Moslem, the flowers
of Paradise might yet be seen blossoming round the source of the
Euphrates not far from the town. But, alas! when the great Persian
King Khosref Purveez, the rival of the above-mentioned Ferdad, was
encamped in that neighbourhood, he was rash enough to spurn a message
from the young Prophet Mohammed, offering him protection if he
would embrace the faith of Islâm. What booted the protection of an
insignificant sectary to him? thought the Shah-in-Shah, and tossed the
letter into the Euphrates. But Nature, horrified at the sacrilegious
deed, dried up her flowers and fruits, and even parched the sources
of the river itself; the last relic of Eden became a waste. There is a
plaintive Armenian elegy composed in the person of Adam sitting at
the gate of Paradise, and beholding Cherubim and Seraphim entering the
Garden of which he once was king, "yea, like unto a powerful king!"
The poet puts into Adam's mouth a new line of defence; he did not eat
of the fruit, he says, until after he had witnessed its fatal effects
upon Eve, when, seeing her despoiled of all her glory, he was touched
with pity, and tasted the immortal fruit in the hope that the Creator
contemplating them both in the same wretched plight might with
paternal love take compassion on both. But vain was the hope; "the
Lord cursed the serpent and Eve, and I was enslaved between them." "O
Seraphim!" cries the exiled father of mankind:

    When ye enter Eden, shut not the gate of Paradise; place me
    standing at the gate; I will look in a moment, and then bring
    me back.

    Ah! I remember ye, O flowers and sweet-swelling fountains. Ah!
    I remember ye O birds, sweet-singing--and ye, O beasts:

    Ye who enjoy Paradise, come and weep over your king; ye who
    are in Paradise planted by God, elected from the earth of
    every kind and sort.

High above the hardiest saxifrage tower the three thousand feet of
everlasting snows that crown Mount Ararat. The Armenians call it
Massis or "Mother of the World," and old geographers held that it was
the centre of the earth, an hypothesis supported by various ingenious
calculations. The Persians have their own set of legends about it;
they say that Ararat was the cradle of the human race, and that at one
time it afforded pasture up to the apex of its dome; but upon man's
expulsion from Eden, Ahriman the serpent doomed the whole country to
a ten months' winter. As to the semi-scriptural traditions gathered
round the mountain, there is no end to them. "And the ark rested
in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the
mountains of Ararat," so says the Bible, and it is an article of faith
with the Armenian peasant that it is still somewhere up at the top,
only not visible. He is extremely loth to believe that anybody has
actually attained the summit. Parrot's famous ascent was long regarded
as the merest fable. At the foot of Ararat was a village named
Argoory, or "he planted the vine," where Noah's vineyard is pointed
out to this day, though the village itself was destroyed in 1840, when
the mountain woke up from its long slumbers and rolled down its side a
stream of boiling lava; but we are told that, owing to the sins of the
world, the vines no longer bear fruit. Close at hand is Manard, "the
mother lies here," alluding to the burial-place of Noah's wife, and
yonder is Eravan or "Visible," the first dry land which Noah perceived
as the waters receded. Armenian choniclers relate that when after
leaving the ark the descendants of Noah dispersed to different
quarters, one amongst them, by name Haig, the great-grandson of
Japhet, settled with his family in Mesopotamia, where he probably took
part in the building of the Tower of Babel. Later, however, upon Belus
acquiring dominion over the land, Haig found his rule so irksome to
himself and his clan that they migrated back in a body of 300 persons
to Armenia, much to the displeasure of Belus, who summoned them to
return, and when they refused, despatched a large army to coerce them
into obedience. Haig collected his men on the shores of Van, and thus
sagaciously addressed them:

    When we meet with the army of Belus, let us attempt to draw
    near where he lies surrounded by his warriors; either we shall
    be killed, and our camp equipments and baggage will fall into
    his hands, or, making a show of the strength of our arm, we
    shall defeat his army, and victory will be ours.

These tactics proved completely successful, and Belus fell mortally
wounded by an arrow from Haig's bow. Having in this way disposed of
his enemies, the patriarch was able before he died to consolidate
Hayasdan into a goodly kingdom, which he left to the authority of his
son Armenag.

After the reign of Haig the thread of Armenian annals continues
without break or hitch; it must be admitted that no people, not even
the Jews, boast a history which "begins with the beginning" in a more
thorough way, nor does the work of any chronicler proceed in a more
methodical and circumstantial manner than that of Moses of Khoren, the
Herodotus of Armenia. As is well known, Moses, writing in the fifth
century, founded his chronicle upon a work undertaken about five
hundred years before by one Marabas Cattina, a Syrian, at the request
of the great Armenian monarch Vagshaishag. Marabas stated that his
record was based upon a manuscript he had discovered in the archives
of Nineveh which bore the indorsement, "This book, containing the
annals of ancient history, was translated from the Chaldean into
Greek, by order of Alexander the Great." Whatever may be the precise
amount of credence to which the Chronicle of Moses is entitled,
all will agree that it narrates the story of a high-spirited and
intelligent people whom the alternating domination of Greek and
Persian could not cower into relinquishing the substance of their
liberties, and whose efforts, in the main successful, on behalf of
their cherished independence, were never more vigorous than at times
when their triumph seemed farthest off. For nearly a thousand years
after the date of Moses of Khoren, his people maintained their
autonomy, and whether we look before or after the flight of the last
Armenian king before the soldiers of the Crescent, we must acknowledge
that few nations have fought more valiantly for their political
rights, whilst yet fewer have suffered more severely for their
fidelity to their faith. It is the pride of the Armenians that theirs
was the first country which adopted the Christian religion; it may
well be their pride also, that they kept their Christianity in
the teeth of persecutions which can only find a parallel in those
undergone by the Hebrew race.

Armenia is naturally rich in early Christian legends, of which the
most curious is perhaps that of the correspondence alleged to have
occurred between Our Lord and Abgar, king of Hayasdan. The latter,
it is said, having sent messengers to transact some business with the
Roman generals quartered in Palestine, received on their return such
accounts of the miracles performed by Jesus of Nazareth as convinced
him either that Christ was God come down upon the earth, or that
he was the son of God. Suffering from a grave malady, and hearing,
moreover, that the Jews had set their hearts on doing despite to the
Prophet who had risen in their midst, Abgar wrote a letter beseeching
Christ to come to his capital and cure him of his sickness. "My city
is indeed small," this letter naïvely concludes, "but it is sufficient
to contain us both." The king also sent a painter to Jerusalem, so
that if Our Lord could not come to Edessa he might at least possess
his portrait. The painter was one day endeavouring to fulfil his
mission when he was observed by Christ, who passing a handkerchief
over his face, gave it to the Armenian impressed with the likeness of
his features. The response to Abgar's letter was written by St Thomas,
who said, on behalf of his Divine Master, that his work lay elsewhere
than in Armenia, but that after his Ascension he would send an Apostle
to enlighten the people of that country. This correspondence, though
now not accepted as authentic out of Armenia, was mentioned by some
of the earliest Church historians, and it is asserted that one of the
letters has been found written on papyrus in an Egyptian tomb.

Christianity seems to have made some way in Armenia in the second
century, but to what extent is unknown. What is certain is, that
in the third century, St Gregory the Illuminator, after having been
tortured in twelve different ways by King Tiridates for refusing
to worship the goddess Anahid, and kept at the bottom of a well for
fourteen years, was taken out of it in consequence of a vision of the
king's sister, and converted that monarch and all his subjects along
with him. St Gregory is held in boundless reverence by the Armenians;
he is almost looked upon as a divine viceroy, as will be seen from the
following canzonette which Armenian children are taught to sing:

  The light appears, the light appears!
    The light is good:
    The sparrow is on the tree,
    The hen is on the perch,
    The sleep of lazy men is a year,
    Workman, rise and begin thy work!
    The gates of heaven are opened,
    The throne of gold is erected,
    Christ is sitting on it;
    The Illuminator is standing,
    He has taken the golden pen,
    He has written great and small.
    Sinners are weeping,
    The just are rejoicing.

The poet of the people nowhere occupies himself with casting about for
a fine subject; he writes of what he feels and of what he sees.
The Armenian peasant sees the snow in winter; in summer he sees
the flowers and the birds--only birds and flowers are to him the
pleasanter sight, so he sings more about them. He rarely composes
any verse without a flower or a bird being mentioned in it; all his
similes are ornithological or botanical, and by them he expresses
the tenderest emotions of his heart. There is a pathos, a simplicity
really exquisite in the conception of some of these little
bird-and-flower pieces, as, for example, in the subjoined "Lament of a
Mother" over her dead babe:

  I gaze and weep, mother of my boy,
    I say alas and woe is me wretched!
    What will become of wretched me,
    I have seen my golden son dead!
  They seized that fragrant rose
    Of my breast, and my soul fainted away;
    They let my beautiful golden dove
    Fly away, and my heart was wounded.
  That falcon Death seized
    My dear and sweet-voiced turtle dove and wounded me.
    They took my sweet-toned little lark
    And flew away through the skies!
  Before my eyes they sent the hail
    On my flowering green pomegranate,
    My rosy apple on the tree,
    Which gave fragrance among the leaves.
  They shook my flourishing beautiful almond tree,
    And left me without fruit;
    Beating it they threw it on the ground
    And trod it under foot into the earth of the grave.
  What will become of wretched me!
    Many sorrows surrounded me.
    O, my God, receive the soul of my little one
    And place him at rest in the bright heaven!

The birds of Armenia are countless in their number and variety, from
vulture to wren; there are so many of them that a man (it is said
poetically) may ride for miles and miles and never see the ground,
which they entirely cover, except over the small space from which
they fly up with a deafening whizz to make a passage for his horse. At
times the plains have the appearance of being dyed rose-colour through
the swarms of the gorgeous red goose which congregate upon them,
whilst here and there a whitish spot is formed by a troop of his
grey-coated relatives. It seems that the Armenian has found out why
it was the wild goose and the tame one separated from each other. Once
upon a time, when all were wild and free, one goose said to another on
the eve of a journey, "Mind you are ready, my friend, for, Inshallah
(please God), I set out to-morrow morning." "And so will I," he
profanely replied, "whether it pleases God or not." Sure enough next
morning both geese were up betimes, and the religious one spread out
his wings and sailed off lightly towards the distant land. But, lo!
when the impious goose tried to do likewise, he flapped and flapped
and could not stir from the ground. So a countryman caught him, and he
and his children for ever fell into slavery.

The partridge is a great favourite of the Armenian, who does not tire
of inventing lyrics in its honour. Here is a specimen:

  The sun beats from the mountain's top,
    Pretty, pretty:
    The partridge comes from her nest;
    She was saluted by the flowers,
    She flew and came from the mountain's top.
      Ah! pretty, pretty,
      Ah! dear little partridge!

  When I hear the voice of the partridge
    I break my fast on the house-top:
    The partridge comes chirping
    And swinging from the mountain's side.
      Ah! pretty, pretty,
      Ah! dear little partridge!

  Thy nest is enamelled with flowers,
    With basilico, narcissus, and water-lily:
    Thy place is full of dew,
    Thou delightest in the fragrant odour.
      Ah! pretty, pretty,
      Ah! dear little partridge!

  Thy feathers are soft,
    Thy neck is long, thy beak little,
    The colour of thy wing is variegated:
    Thou art sweeter than the dove.
      Ah! pretty, pretty,
      Ah! dear little partridge!

  When the little partridge descends from the tree,
    And with his sweet voice chirps,
    He cheers all the world,
    He draws the heart from the sea of blood.
      Ah! pretty, pretty,
      Ah! dear little partridge.

  All the birds call thee blessed,
    They come with thee in flocks,
    They come around thee chirping:
    In truth there is not one like thee.
      Ah! pretty, pretty,
      Ah! beautiful little partridge!

Another song gives the piteous plaint of an unhappy partridge who was
snared and eaten. "Like St Gregory, they let me down into a deep
well; then they took me up and sat round a table, and they cut me into
little pieces, like St James the Intercised." The crane, who, with
the stork, brings the promise of summer on his wing, receives a warm
welcome, and when the Armenian sees a crane in some foreign country he
will say to him:--

    Crane, whence dost thou come? I am the servant of thy voice.
    Crane, hast thou not news from our country? Hasten not to thy
    flock; thou wilt arrive soon enough! Crane, hast thou not news
    from our country?

    I have left my possessions and vineyard and come hither. How
    often do I sigh; it seems that my soul is taken from me.
    Crane, stay a little, thy voice is in my soul. Crane, hast
    thou not news from our country? My God, I ask of thee grace
    and favour, the heart of the pilgrim is wounded, his lungs are
    consumed; the bread he eats is bitter, the water he drinks is
    tasteless. Crane, hast thou not news from our country?

    Thou comest from Bagdad, and goest to the frontiers. I will
    write a little letter and give it to thee. God will be the
    witness over thee; thou wilt carry it and give it to my dear
    ones.

    I have put in my letter that I am here, that I have never even
    for a single day been happy. O, my dear ones, I am always
    anxious for you! Crane, hast thou not news from our country?

    The autumn is near, and thou art ready to go: thou hast
    joined a large flock: thou hast not answered me, and thou art
    flown! Crane, go from our country and fly far away!

The nameless author of these lines has had Dante's thought:

  Tu proverai sì come sa di sale
    Lo pane altrui ...

It is strange that the Armenians should be at once one of the most
scattered peoples on the face of the earth, and one of the most
passionately devoted to their fatherland.

It should not be forgotten, when reading these Armenian bird-lays,
that an old belief yet survives in that country that the souls of the
blessed dead fly down from heaven, in the shape of beautiful birds,
and perching in the branches of the trees, look fondly at their dear
ones on earth as they pass beneath. When the peasant sees the birds
fluttering above overhead in the wood he will on no account molest
them, but says to his boy, "That is your dear mother, your little
brother, your sister--be a good child, or it will fly away and never
look at you again with its sweet little eyes."

The clear cool streams and vast treacherous salt lakes of Armenia
are not without their laureates. Thus sings the bard of a mountain
rivulet:

  "Down from yon distant mountain
    The water flows through the village, Ha!
    A dark boy comes forth,
    And washing his hands and face,
    Washing, yes washing,
    And turning to the water, asked, Ha!
    Water, from what mountain dost thou come?
    O my cool and sweet water! Ha!
    I came from that mountain,
    Where the old and new snow lie one on the other.
  Water, to what river dost thou go?
    O my cool and sweet water! Ha!
  I go to that river
    Where the bunches of violets abound. Ha!
  Water, to what vineyard dost thou go?
    O my cool and sweet water! Ha!
  I go to that vineyard
    Where the vine-dresser is within! Ha!
  Water, what plant dost thou water?
    O my cool and sweet water! Ha!
  I water that plant
    Whose roots give food to the lamb,
    The roots give food to the lamb,
    Where there are the apple tree and the anemone.
  Water, to what garden dost thou go?
    O my cool and sweet water! Ha!
  I go into that garden
    Where there is the sweet song of the nightingale! Ha!
  Water, into what fountain dost thou go?
    O my cool and sweet little water!
  I go to that fountain
    Where thy love comes and drinks.
    I go to meet her and kiss her chin,
    And satiate myself with her love.

The dwellers on the shores of Van--the largest lake in Armenia, which
is situated between 5000 and 6000 feet above the sea, and covers more
than 400 square miles--are celebrated for possessing the poetic gift
in a pre-eminent degree. Their district is fertile and picturesque,
so picturesque that when Semiramis passed that way she employed 12,000
workmen and 600 architects to build her a city on the banks of the
lake, which was named Aghthamar, and which she thereafter made her
summer residence. The business that brought Semiramis into Armenia
was a strange romance. Ara, eighth patriarch of Hayasdan, was famed
through all the East for his surpassing beauty, and the Assyrian queen
hearing that he was the fairest to look upon of all mortal men, sent
him a proposal of marriage; but he, staunch to the faith in the one
true God, which he believed had been transmitted to him from Noah,
would have nothing to say to the offer of the idolatrous ruler.
Semiramis, greatly incensed, advanced with her army into the heart of
Armenia, and defeated the forces of the Patriarch; but bitter were the
fruits of the victory, for Ara, instead of being taken alive, as
she had commanded, was struck down at the head of his men, and his
beautiful form, stiffened by death, was laid at the queen's feet.
Semiramis was plunged in the wildest despair; she endeavoured to bring
him to life by magic; that failing, she had his body embalmed and
placed in a golden coffin, which was set in her chamber; no one was
allowed to call him dead, and she spoke of him as her beloved consort.
A spot is pointed out to the traveller bearing the name of Ara Seni,
"Ara is sacrificed."

The favourite theme of the men of Van is, of course, the treacherous
element on which the lot of most of them is cast. One of their songs
gives the legend of the "Old Man and the Ship." Our Lord, as an old
man with a white beard, cried sweetly to the sailors to take him into
the ship. The sailors answer that the ship is freighted by a merchant,
and the passage-money is great. "Go away, white-bearded old man," they
say. But our Lord pays the money and comes into the ship. Presently
a gale blows up and the sailors are exceeding wroth, for they imagine
the strange passenger has brought them ill-luck. They ask, "Whence
didst them come, O sinful man? Thou art lost, and thou hast lost us!"
"I a sinner!" replies the Lord, "give me the ship, and go you to sweet
sleep." He made the sign of the cross with his right hand, with his
left he steered the helm. It was not yet mid-day when the ship safely
reached the shore.

    Brothers, arise from your sweet sleep, from your sweet sleep
    and your sad dreams. Fall at the feet of Jesus; here is our
    Lord, here is our ship.

"Sweet sleep and sad dreams"--he must have been a true poet who
thus crystallised the sense of poor humanity's unrest, even in its
profoundest repose. The whole little story strikes one as full of
delicate suggestiveness.

One more sample of the style of the Armenian "Lake-school."

ON ONE WHO WAS SHIPWRECKED ON THE LAKE OF VAN.

  We sailed in the ship from Aghthamar,
    We directed our ship towards Avan;
    When we arrived before Vosdan
    We saw the dark sun of the dark day.

  Dull clouds covered the sky,
    Obscuring at once stars and moon;
    The winds blew fiercely,
    And took from my eyes land and shore.

  Thundered the heaven, thundered the earth,
    The waters of the blue sea arose;
    On every side the heavens shot forth fire;
    Black terror invaded my heart.

  There is the sky, but the earth is not seen,
    There is the earth, but the sun is not seen;
    The waves come like mountains
    And open before me a deep abyss.

  O sea, if thou lovest thy God,
    Have pity on me, forlorn and wretched;
    Take not from me my sweet sun,
    And betray me not to flinty-hearted Death.

  Pity, O sea, O terrible sea!
    Give me not up to the cold winds;
    My tears implore thee
    And the thousand sorrows of my heart....

  The savage sea has no pity!
    It hears not the plaintive voice of my broken heart;
    The blood freezes in my veins,
    Black night descends upon my eyes....

  Go tell to my mother
    To sit and weep for her darkened son;
    That John was the prey of the sea,
    The sun of the young man is set!

Summer, with its flowers, and warmth, and wealth, never stays long
enough in Armenia for it to become a common ordinary thing. It is a
beautiful wonder-time, a brief, splendid nature-fair, which vanishes
like a dream before the first astonishment and delight are worn into
indifference. The season when "the nightingale sings to the rose at
dewy dawn" departs swiftly, and envious winter strangles autumn in its
birth.

What a winter, too! a winter which despotically governs the complete
economy of the people's system of life. Let us take a peep into an
Armenian interior on a December evening. Three months the snow has
been in possession of mountain and valley; for more than four months
more it will remain. Abroad it is light enough, though night has
fallen; for the moon shines down in wonderful brightness upon the
ice-bound earth. On the hill-slope various little unevennesses are
discernible, jutting out from the snow like mushrooms. In one part the
ground is cut away perpendicularly for a few feet; this is the front
of the homestead, the body of which lies burrowed in the slope of the
hill. When the house was made the floor was dug out some five feet
underground, while the ceiling beams rose three or four feet above it;
but all the dug-out soil was thrown about the roof and back and side
walls, and thus the whole is now embedded in the hillock. The roof was
neatly turfed over when the house was finished, so that in summer the
lambs and children play upon it, and not unfrequently, in the great
heats, the family sleep there--"at the moon's inn." What look like
mushrooms are in reality the broad-topped chimneys, on which the
summer storks build their nests. The homestead has but one entrance;
a large front door which leads through a long dark passage to a second
door that swings-to after you, and is hung with a rough red-dyed
sheepskin. This door opens upon the entrance-hall, whence you mount
half-a-dozen steps to a raised platform, under which the house dogs
are located. On two sides the platform is bounded by solid stone
walls, from which are suspended saddles, guns, pistols, and one or two
pictures representing the deeds of some Persian hero, and bought of
Persian hawkers. On the other two sides an open woodwork fence divides
it from a vast stable. Nearest the grating are fastened the horses
of the clan-chief; next are the donkeys, then the cows; sheep and
chickens find places where they can. The breath of these animals
materially contributes to the warmth of the house, which is at times
almost like an oven, even in the coldest weather. A clear hot fire
burns on the hearth; the fuel used is tezek, a preparation of cow-dung
pressed into a substance resembling peat turf. By day the habitation
is obscurely lighted through a small aperture in the roof glazed with
oiled silk, and supplemented by a sort of funnel, the wide opening
downwards. Now, in the evening, the oil burning in a simple iron lamp
over the hearth, affords a dim illumination.

The platform above described is the salemlik, or hall of reception. It
contains no chairs, but divans richly draped with Koordish stuffs; the
floor is carpeted with tekeke, a kind of grey felt. To the right of
the hearth sits the head of the family, a venerable old man, whose
word is incontrovertible law to every member of his house. He is also
Al Sakal, or "white beard" of the village, a dignity conferred on
him by the unanimous voice of his neighbours, and constituting him
intermediary in all transactions with government. When important
matters are at stake, he meets the elders of the surrounding hamlets,
who, resolved into committee, form the Commune. This ancient usage
bears witness to the essentially patriarchal and democratic basis of
Armenian society.

Our family party consists of three dozen persons, the representatives
of four generations. The young married women come in and out from
directing the preparations of the supper. Nothing is to be seen of
their faces except their lustrous eyes (Armenian eyes are famous for
their brilliancy), a tightly-fitting veil enclosing the rest of their
features. Without this covering they do not by any chance appear even
in the house; it is said they wear it also at night. One of them is
a bride; her dress is rich and striking--a close-fitting bodice,
fastening at the neck with silver clasps, full trousers of
rose-coloured silk gathered in at the ankles by a fillet of silver,
the feet bare, a silver girdle of curious workmanship loosely
encircling the waist, and a long padded garment open down the front
which hangs from the shoulders. Poor little bride! She has not uttered
a single word save when alone with her husband since she pronounced
the marriage vow. She may not hope to do so till after the birth of
her first-born child; then she will talk to her nursling, after a
while to her mother-in-law, sometime later she may converse with her
own mother, and by-and-by, in a subdued whisper, with the young girls
of the house. During the first year of her married life she may not
go out of the house except twice to church. Her disciplinary education
will not be complete for six years, after which she will enjoy
comparative liberty, but never in her life must she open her lips to
a person of the stronger sex not related to her. Turn from the silent
little bride to that bevy of young girls, merry and playful as the
kittens they are fondling--silky-haired snowballs, of a breed peculiar
to the neighbourhood of Van, their tails dyed pink with henna like the
tail of the Shah's steed. The girls are laughing and chatting together
without restraint--most probably about their love affairs, for they
are free to dispose of their hands as they choose. And they may walk
about unveiled, and show off their pretty faces and long raven plaits
to the fullest advantage.

Suddenly a knocking is heard outside; the dogs yell from under the
platform; the Whitebeard says whoever be the wanderer he shall have
bed and board, and he orders fresh tezek to be thrown on the fire; for
to-night it is bitter cold out abroad--were a man to stand still five
minutes, he would freeze in his shoes. One of the sons descends the
steps, pushes aside the sheep-skin, and leads the traveller in.
This one says he is the minstrel. What joy in the family! The blind
minstrel, who will sing the most exciting ballads and tell the most
marvellous tales. He is welcomed by all; only the young bride steals
out of the room--she may not remain in a stranger's presence. The
lively girls want to hear a story at once; but the Whitebeard says the
guest must first have rest and refreshment. But while they are waiting
for the meal to be laid out, the blind minstrel relates something of
his recent travels, which in itself is almost as good as a fairy tale.
He has just arrived from Persia, whither he will soon return; for he
has only come back to the snows of Armenia to breathe the air of home
for a little. Did he go to Teheran? No; to say the truth, he deemed it
wiser to keep at a discreet distance from that capital. Such a thing
had been heard of ere now as the Shah putting under requisition any
skilful musicians who came in his way to teach their art to the fair
ones of the harem; so that occasionally it was unpleasantly difficult
to get out of Teheran when once you were in it. Still he was by no
means without interesting news. In a certain part of Persia he had
met another blind master-singer, with whom he strove for the prize of
minstrelsy. Both were entertained by a great Persian prince. When
the day came they were led out upon an open grass-plot and seated one
facing the other. The prince took up his position, and five thousand
people made a circle round the competitors. Then the grand brain-fight
began; the rivals contended in song and verse, riddle and repartee.
Now one starts an acrostic on the prince's name, in which each side
takes alternate letters; then the other versifies some sacred passage,
which his opponent must catch up when he breaks off. The ball is kept
flying to and fro with unflagging zeal; the crowd is rapturous in its
plaudits. But at length our minstrel's adversary pauses, hesitates,
fails to seize the drift of his rival's latest sally, and answers at
random. A shout proclaims him beaten. The triumphant bard is led to
where he stands, and taking his lyre from him breaks it into atoms.
The vanquished retires discomfited to the obscurity of his native
village, where haply his humble talents will not be despised. The
victor is robed in the prince's mantle, and taken to the highest seat
in the banqueting-hall.

This is what the minstrel has to tell as he warms his hands over the
fire while the young married women serve the supper. A rush-mat is
placed upon the low round board, over that the table-cloth; then a
large tray is set in the middle, with the viands arranged on it in
metal dishes: onion soup, salted salmon-trout from the blue Gokschai,
hard-boiled eggs shelled and sliced, oil made from Kunjut seeds, which
does instead of butter; pilau, a dish resembling porridge; mutton
stewed with quinces, leeks, and various raw and preserved roots, cream
cheese, sour milk, dried apricots, and stoned raisins, form the bill
of fair. A can of golden wine is set out: there is plenty more in the
goatskins should it be wanted. The provisions are completed by an
item more important in Armenia than with us--bread. The flour-cake
or _losh_, a yard long and thin as paper, which is placed before each
guest, answers for plate, knives, forks, napkin, all of which are
absent. The Whitebeard says grace and the Lord's Prayer, everyone
crossing himself. The company wipe their mouths with a _losh_, and
proceed to help themselves with it to anything that tempts their fancy
on the middle tray. Some make a promiscuous sandwich of fish, mutton,
and leeks wrapped up in a piece of _losh_; others twist the _losh_
into the shape of a spoon and ladle out the sour milk, swallowing
both together. The members of the family watch the minstrel's least
gesture, so as to anticipate his wishes; one after the other they
claim the privilege of waiting on him. When the meal is done, a young
housewife gently washes the guest's head and feet, and the whole party
adjourn to the chimney-corner. The evening flies mirthfully away,
listening to the minstrel's tales and ballads, these latter being
mostly in Tartar, the Provençal of the eastern troubadour. Finally,
the honoured visitor is conducted to his room, the "minstrel's
chamber," which, in every well-ordered Armenian household, is always
kept ready.

Our little picture may be taken as the faithful reproduction of no
very extraordinary scene. Of ballad-singers such as the one here
introduced there are numbers in Armenia, where that "sixth sense,"
music, is the recognised vocation of the blind. Those who are
proficient travel within a very wide area, and are everywhere received
with the highest consideration.

In the East, the ballad-singer and the story-teller are just where
they were centuries ago. At Constantinople, the story-teller sits
down on his mat in the public place or at the _café_; listeners gather
round; he begins his story in a conversational tone, varying his voice
according to the characters; and soon both himself and his hearers are
as far away in the wondrous mazes of the "Arabian Nights" as if Europe
were still trembling before the sword of the Caliph.

With regard to the unique marriage customs of Armenia, I ought to say
that they are asserted to result in the happiest unions. The general
idea upon which they rest seems to be derived from a series of
conclusions logical enough if you grant the premisses--indeed,
curiously more like some pen and paper scheme evolved out of the inner
consciousness of a German professor than a working system of
actual life. The prevailing custom in the East, as in some European
countries, is for the young girl to know nothing whatever of her
intended husband; only in the one case this is followed by total
seclusion after marriage, and in the other by complete emancipation.
In Armenia, on the contrary, the young girl makes her own choice, and
love-matches are not uncommon; but the choice once made and ratified
by the priest, the order of things is so arranged as to cause her
husband to become the woman's absorbing thought, his society her sole
solace, his pleasure the whole business of her life. For the rest she
is treated with much solicitude; even the peasant will not let his
wife do out-door work.

Moses of Khoren gives the history of a wedding that took place about
one hundred years after Christ. In those days the tribes of the Alans,
in league with the mountaineers of the Caucasus and a part of the
people of Georgia, descended upon Armenia in considerable numbers.
Ardashes, the Armenian king, assembled his troops and advanced against
them. In a battle fought upon the confines of the two nations, the
Alans gave way, and having crossed the Cyrus, encamped on the northern
bank, the river dividing the contending forces. The son of the King of
the Alans had been taken prisoner and was conducted to Ardashes. His
father offered to conclude a peace on such conditions as Ardashes
might exact and under promise, guaranteed by a solemn oath, that the
Alans would attempt no further incursions on Armenian territory. As
Ardashes refused to surrender the young prince, the sister of the
youth ran to the edge of the river and climbing upon a lofty hillock,
caused these words to be addressed to the enemy's camp by the mouth
of interpreters: "Hear me, valorous Ardashes, conqueror of the brave
Alans; grant unto me the surrender of this young man--unto me, the
maiden with beautiful eyes. It is not worthy of a hero in order to
satisfy a desire for vengeance, to take the life of the sons of heroes
or to hold them in bondage and keep up an endless feud between two
nations." Ardashes, having heard these words, approached the river. He
saw the beautiful Sathinig, listened to her wise counsels, and fell
in love with her. Then, having called Sumpad, an aged warrior who
had watched over his childhood, he laid bare the wish of his heart to
marry the princess, make a treaty of amity with her nation and send
back the prince in peace. Sumpad, having approved of these projects,
sent to ask the King of the Alans for the hand of Sathinig. "What!"
replied her father, "will the valorous King Ardashes have ever
treasure enough to offer me in return for the noble damsel of the
Alans?"

A popular song, carefully preserved by Moses, celebrates the marriage
of Ardashes and Sathinig:--

  The valiant King Ardashes, astride of a sable charger,
  Drew forth a thong of leather, garnished with golden rings:
  And quick as fast-flying eagle he crossed the flowing river
  And the crimson leather thong, garnished with rings of gold,
  Cast he about the body of the Virgin of the Alans,
  Clasping in painful embrace the maiden's tender form:
  Even so he drew her swiftly to his encampment.

Once again Ardashes appears in the people's poetry. He is no longer
the triumphant victor in love and war; the hour of his death draws
near. "Oh!" says the dying king, "who will give me back the smoke of
my hearth, and the joyous New Year's morning, and the spring of the
deer, and the lightness of the roe?" Then his mind wanders away to the
ruling passion: "We sounded the trumpets; after the manner of kings we
beat the drums."

The Armenian princes were in the habit, when they married, of throwing
pieces of money from the threshold of their palace, whilst the royal
brides scattered pearls about the nuptial chamber. To this custom
allusion is made in two lines which used to be sung as a sort of
marriage chaunt:--

  A rain of gold fell at the wedding of Ardashes,
  A rain of pearls fell on the nuptials of Sathinig.

Armenian nuptial songs, like all other folk-epithalamiums, so far as I
am aware, seem to point to an early state of society when the girl was
simply carried off by her marauding lover by fraud or force. Exulting
in what relates to the bridegroom, the favourite song on this subject
is profoundly melancholy as concerns the bride. The mother was cajoled
with a pack of linen, the father with a cup of wine, the brother
with a pair of boots, the little sister with a finger of antimony--so
complains the dismal ditty of a new bride. There is great pathos in
the words in which she begs her mother not to sweep the sand off the
little plank, so that the slight trace of her girl's footsteps may not
be effaced.

Marriage is called in Armenian, "The Imposition of the Crown," from
the practice of crowning bride and bridegroom with fresh, white
flowers. I remember how, in one of the last marriages celebrated in
the little Armenian church in the Rue Monsieur (which was closed a
few years ago, when the Mekhitarist property in Paris was sold), this
ceremony was omitted by particular request of the bridegroom, a rising
French Diplomatist, who did not wish to wear a wreath of roses. The
Armenian marriage formulæ are extremely explicit. The priest, taking
the right hand of the bride, and placing it in that of the bridegroom,
says: "According to the Divine order God gave to our ancestors, I give
thee now this wife in subjection. Wilt thou be her master?" To which
the answer is, "Through the help of God, I will." The priest then asks
the woman: "Wilt thou be obedient to him?" She answers: "I am obedient
according to the order of God." The interrogations are repeated three
times, and three times responded to.

An Armenian author, M. Ermine, published at Moscow in 1850 a treatise
on the historical and popular songs of ancient Armenia.

Of popular songs current in more recent times there was not, till
lately, a single specimen within reach of the public, though it was
confidently surmised that such must exist. The Mekhitarist monks have
taken the lead in this as in every other branch of Armenian research,
and my examples are quoted from a small collection issued by their
press at Venice. I am not sure that I have chosen those that are
intrinsically the best, but think that those which figure in these
pages are amongst the most characteristic of their authors and origin.
The larger portion of these songs are printed from manuscripts in the
library of San Lazzaro; the date of their composition is thought
to vary from the end of the thirteenth to the end of the eighteenth
century. The language in which they are written is the vulgar
tongue of Armenia, but in several instances it attains a very close
approximation to the classical Armenian.

It may not be amiss if I conclude this sketch with a brief account
of the remarkable order of the Mekhitarists, which is so intimately
related with all that bears on the subject of Armenian literature.
Those who are well acquainted with it will not object to hear the
history of this order recapitulated; while I believe that many who
have visited the Convent of San Lazzaro have yet but vague notions
regarding the work and aims of its inmates. It is to be conjectured
that, as a matter of fact, the majority of Englishmen go to San
Lazzaro rather in the spirit of a Byron-pilgrimage than from any
definite interest in the convent; and without doubt were its only
attraction its association with the English poet it would still be
worth a visit. Byron's connection with San Lazzaro was not one of the
least interesting episodes of his life; and it is pleasant to remember
the tranquil hours he spent in the society of the learned monks, and
the fascination exercised over him by their sterling and unpretentious
merit. "The neatness, the comfort, the gentleness, the unaffected
devotion of the brethren of the order," he wrote, "are well fitted to
strike the man of the world with the conviction that there is 'Another
and a better even in this life.'" The desire to present himself with
an excuse for frequent intercourse with the brothers was probably at
the bottom of Byron's sudden discovery that his mind "wanted something
craggy to break upon, and that Armenian was just the thing to torture
it into attention." He says it was the most difficult thing to be
found in Venice by way of an amusement, and describes the Armenian
character as a very "Waterloo of an alphabet." The origin of this
character is exceedingly curious, it being the only alphabet known
to have been the work of a single man, with the exception of the
Georgian, and now obsolete Caucasian Albanian. St Mesrop, an Armenian,
invented all the three about A.D. 406. Byron informs Moore, with some
elation, of the fate that befell a French professorship of Armenian,
which had then been recently instituted: "Twenty pupils presented
themselves on Monday morning, full of noble ardour, ingenuous youth,
and impregnable industry. They persevered with a courage worthy of the
nation, and of universal conquest till Thursday, then _fifteen_ out
of the _twenty_ succumbed to the six-and-twentieth letter of the
alphabet." The poet himself mastered all thirty-three letters, and a
good deal more besides, under the superintendence of the librarian,
Padre Paschal Aucher, a man who combined great learning with much
knowledge of the world. As the result of these studies we have a
translation into Scriptural English of two apocryphal epistles of St
Paul, and an Anglo-Armenian grammar, of which, with characteristic
liberality, Byron defrayed the cost of publication.

The order was founded by Varthabed Mekhitar, who was born at Sebaste,
in Asia Minor, in 1676. Mekhitar was one of those men to whom it comes
quite naturally to go forth with David's sling and stone against the
Philistine and his host. He could have been scarcely more than twenty
years of age when fearlessly and steadfastly he set himself to the
gigantic task of raising his country out of the stagnant slough of
ignorance in which he saw it sunk. He was then a candidate for holy
orders, studying in an Armenian convent.

The monks he found no less ignorant than the rest of the population;
those to whom he broached his ideas greeted them with derision, and
this did not fail to turn to cruel persecution when he began to preach
against certain prejudices which appeared to him to keep the Armenians
from conforming with the Latin Church--a union he earnestly desired.
Mekhitar now went to Constantinople, where he set on foot a small
monastic society; presently he moved to Modon, in the Morea, then
under the rule of Venice, but before he had been there long, the place
was seized by the Turks. A few of the monks, with their head, managed
to escape to Venice; the others were taken prisoners, and sold into
a temporary slavery. At Venice, in 1717, the Signory made over to
the fugitives in perpetuity a small barren island in the Lagune, once
tenanted by the Benedictines, who had there established a hospital for
lepers, but which, since the disappearance of that disease, had been
entirely uninhabited. Mekhitar immediately organised a printing
press, and began making translations of standard works, which were
disseminated wherever Armenians were to be found, that is to say,
all over the East. When he died in 1747, the work of the society was
already placed on a solid foundation; but it received considerable
development and extension from the hands of the third abbot-general,
Count Stephen Aconzkover, Archbishop of Sinnia, by birth a member of
an Armenian colony in Hungary, who sought admittance into the order,
and lived in the retirement of San Lazzaro for sixty-seven years.
He was a poet, a scholar of no mean attainments, and the author of
a universal geography in twelve volumes. The Society is now
self-supporting, large numbers of its publications being sold in
Persia, and India, and at Constantinople. These publications consist
of numerous translations and of reproductions of the great part of
Armenian literature. Many works have been printed from MSS. which are
collected by emissaries sent out from San Lazzaro to travel over the
plains and valleys of Armenia for the purpose of rescuing the literary
relics which are widely scattered, and are in constant danger of loss
or destruction, and at the same time to distribute Armenian versions
of the Bible. Another of the undertakings of the convent is a school
exclusively for the education of Armenian boys. About one hundred
boys receive free instruction in the two colleges at Venice. What this
order have effected, both towards the enlightenment of their country
and in keeping alive the sentiment of Armenian nationality, is simply
incalculable. In their self-imposed exile they have nobly carried out
the precept of an Armenian folk-poet:

  Forget not our Armenian nation,
  And always assist and protect it.
  Always keep in thy mind
  To be useful to thy fatherland.

On my first visit I passed a long summer morning in examining all
the points of interest about the monastery--the house and printing
presses, the library with its beautiful Pali papyrus of the Buddhist
ordination service, and its illuminated manuscripts, the minaretted
chapel, and the silent little Campo Santo, under the direction of
the most courteous and accomplished of cicerones, Padre Giacomo,
Dr Issaverdenz: a name signifying "Jesus-given." I saw the bright,
intelligent band of scholars: "of these," said my conductor, "five or
six will remain with us." I was shown the page of the visitor's book
inscribed with Byron's signature in English and in Armenian. Later
entries form a long roll of royal and notable names. The little museum
contains Daniel Manin's tricolor scarf of office, given to the monks
by the son of that devoted patriot. Queen Margherita does not fail to
pay San Lazzaro a yearly visit, and has lately accepted the dedication
of a book of Armenian church music.

During this tour of inspection, various topics were discussed: the
tendencies of modern thought, the future of the church, with
other matters of a more personal nature--and upon each my guide's
observations displayed a singularly intellectual and tolerant attitude
of mind, together with a way of looking at things and speaking of
people in which "sweetness and light" were felicitously apparent. It
was difficult to tear oneself away from the open window in Byron's
little study. The day was one of those matchless Venetian days, when
the heat is tempered by a breeze just fresh enough to agitate the
awning of your gondola; and the Molo and Riva, and Fortune's golden
ball on the Dogana, the white San Giorgio Maggiore, the ships eastward
bound, the billowy line of the mountains of Vicenza against the
horizon, lie steeped in a bath of sunshine. But the outlook from the
convent window is not upon these. Beneath are the green berceaux of
a small vineyard, a little garden gay in its tangle of purple
convolvulus, a pomegranate lifting its laden boughs towards us--to
remind the Armenians of the "flowering pomegranates" of their beloved
country. Beyond the vineyard stretches the aquamarine surface of the
lagune--then the interminable reach of Lido--after that the ethereal
blue of the Adriatic melting away into the sky. Such is the scene
which till they die the good monks will have under their eyes. Perhaps
they are rather to be envied than compassionated; for it is manifest
that for them, duty--to use the eloquent expression of an English
divine--has become transfigured into happiness. "I shall stay here
whilst I live," Dr Issaverdenz said, "and I am happy--quite happy!"



VENETIAN FOLK-SONGS.


To the idealised vision that goes along with hereditary culture
a large town may seem an impressive spectacle. For Wordsworth,
worshipper of nature though he was, earth had not anything to show
more fair than London from Westminster Bridge, and Victor Hugo found
endless inspiration on the top of a Parisian omnibus. As shrines of
art, as foci of historic memories, even simply as vast aggregates of
human beings working out the tragi-comedy of life, great cities have
furnished the key-note to much fine poetry. But it is different
with the letterless masses. The student of literature, who turns to
folk-songs in search of a new enjoyment, will meet with little to
attract him in urban rhymes; if there are many that present points
of antiquarian interest, there are few that have any kind of poetic
worth. The people's poetry grows not out of an ideal world of
association and aspiration, but from the springs of their life. They
cannot see with their minds as well as with their eyes. What they do
see in most great towns is the monotonous ugliness which surrounds
their homes and their labour. Then again, it is a well-known fact that
with the people loss of individuality means loss of the power of
song; and where there is density of population there is generally a
uniformity as featureless as that of pebbles on the sea beach.
Still to the rule that folk-poesy is not a thing of town growth one
exception has to be made. Venice, unique under every aspect, has songs
which, if not of the highest, are unquestionably of a high order. The
generalising influences at play in great political centres have hardly
affected the inhabitants of the city which for a thousand years of
independence was a body politic complete in itself. Nor has Venetian
common life lacked those elements of beauty without whose presence the
popular muse is dumb. The very industries of the Venetians were
arts, and when they were young and spiritually teachable, their chief
bread-winning work of every day was Venice--her ducal chapel, her
campanile, her palaces of marble and porphyry. In the process of
making her the delight of after ages, they attended an excellent
school of poetry.

The gondolier contemporary with Byron was correctly described as
songless. At a date closely coinciding with the overthrow of Venetian
freedom, the boatmen left off waking the echoes of the Grand Canal,
except by those cries of warning which, no one can quite say why, so
thrill and move the hearer. It was no rare thing to find among the
Italians of the Lombardo-Venetian provinces the old pathetic instinct
of keeping silence before the stranger. I recollect a story told me
by one of them. When he was a boy, Antonio--that was his name--had to
make a journey with two young Austrian officers. They took notice of
the lad, who was sprightly and good-looking, and by and by they asked
him to sing. "Canta, canta, il piccolo," said they; "sing us the songs
of Italy." He refused. They insisted, and, coming to a tavern, they
gave him wine, which sent the blood to his head. So at last he said,
"Very well, I will sing you the songs of Italy." What he sang was one
of the most furiously anti-Austrian songs of '48. "Ah! taci, taci il
piccolo!" cried the officers, but the "piccolo" would not be quiet
until he had sung the whole revolutionary repertory. The Austrians
knew how to appreciate the boy's spirit, for they pressed on him a ten
franc piece at parting.

To return to Venice. In the year 1819 an English traveller asked for
a song of a man who was reported to have once chanted Tasso _alla
barcaruolo_; the old gondolier shook his head. "In times like these,"
he said, "he had no heart to sing." Foreign visitors had to fall back
on the beautiful German music, at the sound of which Venetians ran
out of the Piazza, lest they might be seduced by its hated sweetness.
Meanwhile the people went on singing in their own quarters, and away
from the chance of ministering to their masters' amusement. It is
even probable that the moral casemate to which they fled favoured the
preservation of their old ways, that of poetising included. Instead of
aiming at something novel and modern, the Venetian wished to be like
what his fathers were when the flags on St Mark's staffs were not
yellow and black. So, like his fathers, he made songs and sang songs,
of which a good collection has been formed, partly in past years,
and partly since the black-and-yellow standard has given place,
not, indeed, to the conquered emblems of the Greek isles, but to the
colours of Italy, reconquered for herself.

Venetian folk-poesy begins at the cradle. The baby Venetian, like
most other babies, is assured that he is the most perfect of created
beings. Here and there, underlying the baby nonsense, is a dash of
pathos. "Would you weep if I were dead?" a mother asks, and the child
is made to answer, "How could I help weeping for my own mamma, who
loves me so in her heart?" A child is told that if he asks his mother,
who is standing by the door, "What are you doing there?" she will
reply, "I am waiting for thy father; I wait and wait, and do not see
him coming; I think I shall die thus waiting." The little Venetian has
the failings of baby-kind all the world over; he cries and he laughs
when he ought to be fast asleep. His mother tells him that he was born
to live in Paradise; she is sure that the angels would rejoice in her
darling's beauty. "Sleep well, for thy mother sits near thee," she
sings, "and if by chance I go away, God will watch thee when I am
gone."

A christening is regarded in Venice as an event of much social as
well as religious importance. By canon law the bonds of relationship
established by godfatherhood count for the same as those of blood, for
which reason the Venetian nobles used to choose a person of inferior
rank to stand sponsor for their children, thus escaping the creation
of ties prohibitive of marriage between persons of their own class. In
this case the material responsibilities of the sponsor were slight--it
was his part to take presents, and not to make them. By way of
acknowledging the new connection, the child's father sent the
godfather a marchpane, that cake of mystic origin which is still
honoured and eaten from Nuremberg to Malaga. With the poor, another
order of things is in force. The _compare de l'anelo_--the person
who acted as groomsman at the marriage--is chosen as sponsor to the
first-born child. His duties begin even before the christening. When
he hears of the child's birth, he gets a piece of meat, a fowl, and
two new-laid eggs, packs them in a basket, and despatches them to
the young mother. Eight days after the birth comes the baptism. On
returning from the church, the sponsor, now called _compare de
San Zuane_, visits the mother, before whom he displays his
presents--twelve or fifteen lire for herself; for the baby a pair of
earrings, if it be a girl; and if a boy, a pair of boy's earrings,
or a single ornament to be worn in the right ear. Henceforth the
godfather is the child's natural guardian next to its parents; and
should they die, he is expected to provide for it. Should the child
die, he must buy the _zogia_ (the "joy"), a wreath of flowers now set
on the coffins of dead infants, but formerly placed on their heads
when they were carried to the grave-isle in full sight of the people.
This last custom led to even more care being given to the toilet of
dead children than what might seem required by decency and affection.
To dress a dead child badly was considered shameful. Tradition tells
of what happened to a woman who was so miserly that she made her
little girl a winding-sheet of rags and tatters. When the night of
the dead came round and all the ghosts went in procession, the injured
babe, instead of going with the rest, tapped at its mother's door and
cried, "Mamma, do you see me? I cannot go in procession because I
am all ragged." Every year on the night of the dead the baby girl
returned to make the same reproach.

Venetian children say before they go to bed:

  Bona sera ai vivi,
      E riposo ai poveri morti;
  Bon viagio ai naveganti
      E bona note ai tuti quanti.

There is a sort of touching simplicity in this; and somehow the wish
of peace to the "poor dead" recalls a line of Baudelaire's--

  Les morts, les pauvres morts, ont de grandes douleurs.

But as a whole, the rhymes of the Venetian nursery are not
interesting, save from their extreme resemblance to the nursery rhymes
of England, France, or any other European country. They need not,
therefore, detain us.

Twilight is of an Eastern brevity on the Adriatic shore, both in
nature and in life. The child of yesterday is the man of to-day, and
as soon as the young Venetian discovers that he has a heart, he takes
pains to lose it to a _Tosa_ proportionately youthful. The Venetian
and Provençal word _Tosa_ signifies maiden, though whether the
famous Cima Tosa is thus a sister to the Jungfrau is not sure, some
authorities believing it to bear the more prosaic designation
of baldheaded ("Tonsurata"). Our young Venetian may perhaps be
unacquainted with the girl he has marked out for preference. In any
case he walks up and down or rows up and down assiduously under her
window. One night he will sing to a slow, languorous air--possibly an
operatic air, but so altered as to be not easy of recognition--"I wish
all good to all in this house, to father and to mother and as many as
there be; and to Marieta who is my beloved, she whom you have in
your house." The name of the singer is most likely Nane, for Nane and
Marieta are the commonest names in Venice, which is explained by
the impression that persons so called cannot be bewitched, a serious
advantage in a place where the Black Art is by no means extinct. The
maiden long remembers the night when first her rest was disturbed
by some such greeting as the above. She has rendered account of her
feelings:

  Ah! how mine eyes are weighed in slumber deep!
  Now all my life it seems has gone to sleep;
  But if a lover passes by the door,
  Then seems it this my life will sleep no more.

It does not do to appropriate a serenade with too much precipitation.
Don Quixote gave it as his experience that no woman would believe that
a poem was written expressly for her unless it made an acrostic on her
name spelt out in full. Venetian damsels proceed with less caution:
hence now and then a sad disappointment. A girl who starts up all
pit-a-pat at the twanging of a guitar may be doomed to hear the cruel
sentence pronounced in Lord Houghton's pretty lyric:

  "I am passing--Premé--but I stay not for you!
                            Premé--not for you!"

Even more unkind are the literal words of the Venetian: "If I pass
this way and sing as I pass, think not, fair one, that it is for
you--it is for another love, whose beauty surpasses yours!"

A brother or a friend occasionally undertakes the serenading. He
is not paid like the professional Trovador whom the Valencian lover
engages to act as his interpreter. He has no reward in view but empty
thanks, and it is scarcely surprising if on damp nights he is inclined
to fall into a rather querulous vein. "My song is meant for the
_Morosa_ of my companion," says one of these accommodating minstrels.
"If only I knew where she was! But he told me that she was somewhere
in here. The rain is wetting me to the skin!" Another exclaims more
cheerfully, "Beautiful angel, if it pleases God, you will become my
sister-in-law!"

After the singing of the preliminary songs, Nane seeks a hint of the
effect produced on the beloved Marieta. As she comes out of church,
he makes her a most respectful bow, and if it be returned ever so
slightly, he musters up courage, and asks in so many words whether
she will have him. Marieta reflects for about three days; then she
communicates her answer by sign or song. If she does not want him, she
shuts herself up in the house and will not look out for a moment.
Nane begs her to show her face at the window: "Come, oh! come! If thou
comest not 'tis a sign that thou lovest me not; draw my heart out of
all these pangs." Marieta, if she is quite decided, sings back from
behind the half-closed shutters, "You pass this way, and you pass in
vain: in vain you wear out shoes and soles; expect no fair words from
me." It may be that she confesses to not knowing her own mind: "I
should like to be married, but I know not to whom: when Nane passes, I
long to say 'Yes;' when Toni passes, I am fain to look kindly at him;
when Bepi passes, I wish to cry, God bless you!" Or again, it may be
that her heart is not hers to give:

  Wouldst thou my love? For love I have no heart;
      I had it once, and gave it once away;
      To my first love I gave it on a day ...
  Wouldst thou my love? For love I have no heart.

In the event of the girl intimating that she is disposed to listen to
her _Moroso_ if all goes well, he turns to her parents and formally
asks permission to pay his addresses to their daughter. That
permission is, of course, not always granted. If the parents have
thoughts of a wealthier match, the poor serenader finds himself
unceremoniously sent about his business. A sad state of things ensues.
Marieta steals many a sorrowful glance at the despised Nane, who, on
his side, vents his indignation on the authors of her being in terms
much wanting in respect. "When I behold thee so impassioned," he
cries, "I curse those who have caused this grief; I curse thy papa and
thy mamma, who will not let us make love." No idea is here implied
of dispensing with the parental fiat; the same cannot be said of the
following observations: "When I pass this house, my heart aches. The
girl wills me well, her people will me ill; her people will not hear
of it, nor, indeed, will mine. So we have to make love secretly. But
that cannot really be done. He who wishes for a girl, goes and asks
for her--out of politeness. He who wants to have her, carries her
off." It would seem that the maiden has been known to be the first to
incite rebellion:

  Do, my beloved, as other lovers do,
  Go to my father, and ask leave to woo;
  And if my father to reply is loth,
  Come back to me, for thou hast got my troth.
When the parents have no _primâ facie_ objection to the youth, they
set about inquiring whether he bears a good character, and whether
the girl has a real liking for him. These two points cleared up
satisfactorily, they still defer their final answer for some weeks or
months, to make a trial of the suitor and to let the young people get
better acquainted. The lover, borne up by hope, but not yet sure of
his prize, calls to his aid the most effective songs in his repertory.
The last thing at night Marieta hears:--

  Sleep thou, most fair, in all security,
    For I have made me guardian of thy gate,
    Safe shalt thou be, for I will watch and wait;
  Sleep thou, most fair, in all security.

The first thing in the morning she is greeted thus:

  Art thou awake, O fairest, dearest, best?
    Raise thy blond head and bid thy slumbers fly;
    This is the hour thy lover passes by,
  Throw him a kiss, and then return to rest.

If she has any lurking doubts of Nane's constancy she receives the
assurance, "One of these days I will surely make thee my bride--be not
so pensive, fairest angel!" If, on the other hand, Nane lacks complete
confidence in her affection, he appeals to her in words resembling I
know not what Eastern love-song: "Oh, how many steps I have taken to
have thee, and how many more I would take to gain thee! I have taken
so many, many steps that I think thou wilt not forsake me."

The time of probation over, the girl's parents give a feast, to which
the youth and his parents are invited. He brings with him, as a first
offering, a small ring ornamented with a turquoise or a cornelian.
Being now the acknowledged lover, he may come and openly pay his court
every Sunday. On Saturday Marieta says to herself, "_Ancuo xe sabo,
doman xe festa_--to-morrow is fête day, and to-morrow I expect Nane!"
Then she pictures how he will come "dressed for the _festa_ with a
little flower in his hand;" and her heart beats with impatience.
If, after all, by some chance--who knows? by some faithlessness
perhaps--he fails to appear, what grief, what tears! Marieta's first
thought when she rises on Sunday morning is this: "No one works to-day
for it is _festa_; I pray you come betimes, dearest love!" Then comes
the second thought: "If he does not come betimes, it is a sign that he
is near to death; if later I do not see him, it is a sign that he is
dead." The day passes, evening is here--no Nane! "Vespers sound and
my love comes not; either he is dead, or" (the third and bitterest
thought of all) "a love-thief has stolen him from me!"

Some little while after the lover has been formally accepted, he
presents the maiden with a plain gold ring called _el segno_, and a
second dinner or supper takes place at her parent's house, answering
to the German betrothal feast; henceforth he is the _sposo_ and she
the _novizza_, and, as in Germany, people look on the pair as very
little less than wedded. The new bride gives the bridegroom a silk
handkerchief, to which allusion is made in a verse running, "What is
that handkerchief you are wearing? Did you steal it or borrow it? I
neither stole it nor borrowed it; my _Morosa_ tied it round my neck."
At Easter the _sposo_ gives a cake and a couple of bottles of Cyprus
or Malaga; at Christmas a box of almond sweetmeats and a little jug
of _mostarda_ (a Venetian _spécialité_ composed of quinces dressed in
honey and mustard); at the feast of St Martin, sweet chestnuts; at the
feast of St Mark, _el bocolo_--that is, a rosebud, emblematical of the
opening year. The lover may also employ his generosity on New Year's
day, on the girl's name-day, and on other days not specified, taking
in the whole 365. Some maidens show a decided taste for homage
in kind. "My lover bids me sing, and to please him I will do it,"
observes one girl, thus far displaying only the most disinterested
amiability. But presently she reveals her motives: "He has a ring with
a white stone; when I have sung he will give it to me." A less sordid
damsel asks only for a bunch of flowers; it shall be paid for with a
kiss, she says. Certain things there are which may be neither given
nor taken by lovers who would not recklessly tempt fate. Combs are
placed under the ban, for they may be made to serve the purposes of
witchcraft; saintly images and church-books, for they have to do
with trouble and repentance; scissors, for scissors stand for evil
speaking; and needles, for it is the nature of needles to prick.

Whether through the unwise exchange of these prohibited articles, or
from other causes, it does sometimes happen that the betrothed lovers
who have been hailed by everybody as _novizza_ and _sposo_ yet manage
to fall out beyond any hopes of falling in again. If it is the youth's
fault that the match is broken off, all his presents remain in the
girl's undisputed possession; if the girl is to blame, she must send
back the _segno_ and all else that she has received. It is said that
in some districts of Venetia the young man keeps an accurate account
of whatever he spends on behalf of his betrothed, and in the case of
her growing tired of him, she has to pay double the sum total, besides
defraying the loss incurred by the hours he has sacrificed to her, and
the boots he has worn out in the course of his visits.

It is more usual, as well as more satisfactory, for the betrothal
to be followed in due time by marriage. After the _segno_ has been
"passed," the _sposo_ sings a new song. "When," asks he, "will be the
day whereon to thy mamma I shall say 'Madona;' to thy papa 'Missier;'
and to thee, darling, 'Wife'?" "Madona" is still the ordinary term for
mother-in-law at Venice; in Tuscan songs the word is also used in that
sense, though it has fallen out of common parlance. Wherever it is
to be found, it points to the days when the house-mother exercised an
unchallenged authority over all members of the family. Even now the
mother-in-law of Italian folk-songs is a formidable personage; to say
the truth, there is no scant measure of self-congratulation when she
happens not to exist. "Oh! Dio del siel, mandeme un ziovenin senza
madona!" is the heartfelt prayer of the Venetian girl.

If the youth thinks of the wedding day as the occasion of forming new
ties--above all that dearest tie which will give him his _anzola bela_
for his own--the maiden dreams of it as the _zornada santa_; the day
when she will kneel at the altar and receive the solemn benediction of
the church upon entering into a new station of life. "Ah! when shall
come to pass that holy day, when the priest will say to me, 'Are you
content?' when he shall bless me with the holy water--ah! when shall
it come to pass?"

It has been noticed that the institution of marriage is not regarded
in a very favourable light by the majority of folk-poets, but Venetian
rhymers as a rule take an encouraging view of it. "He who has a wife,"
sings a poet of Chioggia, "lives right merrily _co la sua cara sposa
in compagnia_." Warning voices are not, however, wanting to tell the
maiden that wedded life is not all roses: "You would never want to be
married, my dear, if you knew what it was like," says one such;
while another mutters, "Reflect, girls, reflect, before ye wed these
gallants; on the Ponte di Rialto bird cages are sold."

The marriage generally comes off on a Sunday. Who weds on Monday
goes mad; Tuesday will bring a bad end; Wednesday is a day good for
nothing; Thursday all manner of witches are abroad; Friday leads to
early death; and, as to Saturday, you must not choose that, _parchè de
sabo piove_, "because on Saturday it rains!"

The bride has two toilets--one for the church, one for the wedding
dinner. At the church she wears a black veil, at the feast she appears
crowned with flowers. After she is dressed and before the bridegroom
arrives, the young girl goes to her father's room and kneeling down
before him, she prays with tears in her eyes to be forgiven whatever
grief she may have caused him. He grants her his pardon and gives her
his blessing. In the early dawn the wedding party go to church either
on foot or in gondolas, for it is customary for the marriage knot to
be tied at the conclusion of the first mass. When the right moment
comes the priest puts the _vera_, or wedding ring, on the tip of the
bride's finger, and the bridegroom pushes it down into its proper
place. If the _vera_ hitches, it is a frightfully bad omen. When once
it is safely adjusted, the best man steps forward and restores to
the bride's middle finger the little ring which formed the lover's
earliest gift; for this reason he is called _compare de l'anelo_, a
style and title he will one day exchange for that of _compare de San
Zuane_.

At the end of the service the bride returns to her father's house,
where she remains quietly till it is time to get ready for dinner. As
the clock strikes four, the entire wedding party, with the parents
of bride and bridegroom and a host of friends and relations, start in
gondolas for the inn at which the repast is to take place. The whole
population of the _calle_ or _campo_ is there to see their departure,
and to admire or criticise, as the case may be. After dinner, when
everyone has tasted the good wine and enjoyed the good fare, the feast
breaks up with cries of _Viva la novizza!_ followed by songs, stories,
laughter, and much flirtation between the girls and boys, who make the
most of the freedom of intercourse conceded to them in honour of
the day. Then the music begins, the table is whisked away, and the
assembled guests join lustily in the dance; the women perhaps, singing
at intervals, "Enôta, enôta, enìo!" a burden borne over to Venice
from the Grecian shore. The romance is finished; Marieta and Nane are
married, the _zornada santa_ wanes to its close, the tired dancers
accompany the bride to the threshold of her new home, and so adieu!

Before leaving the subject of Venetian love-songs it may be as well to
glance at a few points characteristic of the popular mind which it has
not been convenient to touch upon in following the Venetian youth and
maiden from the _prima radice_ of their love to its consecration at
the altar. What, for instance, does the Venetian singer say of poverty
and riches?--for there is no surer test of character than the way
of regarding money and the lack of it. It is taken pretty well for
granted at Venice as elsewhere, that inequality of fortune is a bar to
matrimony. The poor girl says to her better-to-do lover, "Thou passest
this way sad and grieving, thou thinkest to speak to my father, and
on thy finger thou dost carry a little ring. But thy thought does not
fall in with my thought, and thy thought is not worth a gazette. Thou
art rich and I am a poor little one!" Here the girl puts all faith in
the good intentions of her suitor: it is not his fault if her poverty
divides them; it is the nature of things, against which there is no
appeal. But there is more than one song that betrays the suspicion
that if a girl grows poor her lover will be only too eager and ready
to desert her. "My lady mother has always told me that she who falls
into poverty loses her lover; loses friend and loses hope. The purse
does not sing when there is no coin in it." Still, on the whole, a
more high-minded view prevails. "Do not look to my being a poor man,"
says one lover,

  Che povatà no guasta gentilissa,

--"for poverty does not spoil or prevent gentle manners." A girl
sings, "All tell me that I am poor, the world's honour is my riches; I
am poor, I am of fair fame; poor both of us, let us make love." One is
reminded of "how the good wife taught her daughter" in the old English
poem of the fifteenth century:

  I pray the, my dere childe, loke thou bere the so well
  That alle men may seyen thou art so trewe as stele;
  Gode name is golde worth, my leve childe!

A brave little Venetian maiden cries: "How many there are who desire
fortune! and I, poor little thing, desire it not. This is the fortune
I desire, to wed a youth of twenty-one years." One lover pines for
riches, but only that he may offer them to his beloved: "Fair Marieta,
I wish to make my fortune, to go where the Turk has his cradle, and
work myself nearly to death, so that afterwards I may come back to
thee, my fair one, and marry thee." Finally, a town youth says that if
his country love has but a milk-pail for her dowry, what matters?

  De dota la me dà quel viso belo!

The Venetian displays no marked enthusiasm for fair hair,
notwithstanding the fame of Giorgione's sunset heads and the
traditional expedients by which Venetian ladies of past times
sought to bring their dark locks into conformity with that painter's
favourite hue. In Venetian songs there is nothing about the "golden
spun silk" of Sicily; if a Venetian folk-poet does speak of fair hair,
he calls it by the common-place generic term of blond. The available
evidence goes rather to show that in his own heart he prefers a
brunette. "My lady mother always told me that I should never be
enamoured of white roses," says a sententious young man; "she told
me that I should love the little mulberries, which are sweeter than
honey." "Cara mora," _mora_, or mulberry, meaning brunette, is
an ordinary caressing term. Two frank young people carry on this
dialogue: "Will you come to me, fair maid?" "No; I will not come, for
I am fair." "If you are fair, I am no less so; if you are the rose, I
am the spotless lily." Beauty, therefore, is valued, especially by
the possessors of it. But the Venetian admits the possibility of that
which Keats found so hard to comprehend--the love of the plain. A
girl says, and it is a pretty saying, "Se no so bela, ghe piaso al
mio amore" ("If I am not fair, I please my beloved"). A soldier,
whose _morosa_ dies, does not weep for her beauty, for she was not
beautiful; nor for her riches, for she was not rich; he weeps for her
sweet manners and conversation--it was that that made him love her.
The universal weakness for a little flattery from the hand of the
portrait-painter is expressed in a sprightly little song:

  What does it matter if I am not fair,
    Who have a lover, who a painter is?
    He will portray me like a star, I wis;
  What does it matter if I am not fair?

We hear a good deal of lovers' quarrels, and of the transitoriness of
love. "Oh! God! how the sky is overcast! It seems about to rain, and
then it passes; so is it with a man in love; he loves a fair woman,
and then he leaves her." That is her version of the affair. He has
not anything complimentary to say: "If I get out of this squall alive,
never more shall woman in the world befool me. I have been befooled
upon a pledge of sacred faith: mad is the man who believes in women."
Another man says, with more serious bitterness: "What time have I not
lost in loving you! Had I lost it in saying so many prayers, I should
have found favour before God, and my mother would have blessed me." A
matter-of-fact girl remarks, "No one will grow thin on your account,
nor will any one die on mine." When her lover says that he has sent
her his heart in a basket, she replies that she sends back both basket
and heart, being in want of neither; and if he should really happen to
die, she unfeelingly meditates, "My love is dead, and I have not wept;
I had thought to suffer more torment. A Pope dies, another is made;
not otherwise do I weep for my love."

Certain vocations are looked upon with suspicion:

  Sailor's trade--at sea to die!
  Merchant's trade--that's bankruptcy;
  Gambler's trade in cursing ends,
  Thief's trade to the gallows sends.

But in spite of the second line about "l'arte del mercante," a girl
does not much mind marrying a merchant or shopkeeper; nay, it is
sometimes her avowed ambition:

  I want no fisher with a fishy smell,
  A market gardener would not suit me well;
  Nor yet a mariner who sails the sea:
  A fine flour-merchant is the man for me.

A miller seems to think that he stands a good chance: "Come to the
window, Columbine! I am that miller who brought thee, the other
evening, the pure white flour." Shoemakers are in very bad odour: "I
calegheri ga na trista fama." Fishermen are considered poor penniless
folk, and she who weds a sailor, does so at her peril:

  L'amor del mariner no dura un 'ora,
  La dove che lu el và, lu s' inamora.

And even if the sailor's troth can be trusted, is it not his trade "at
sea to die"? But the young girl will not be persuaded. "All say to me,
'Beauty, do not take the mariner, for he will make thee die;' if he
make me die, so must it be; I will wed him, for he is my soul." And
when he is gone, she sings: "My soul, as thou art beyond the port,
send me word if thou art alive or dead, if the waters of the sea have
taken thee?" She returns sadly to her work, the work of all Venetian
maidens:

  My love is far and far away from me,
  I am at home, and he has gone to sea;
  He is at sea, and he has sails to spread,
  I am at home, and I have beads to thread.

The boatman's love can afford to sing in a lighter strain; there is
not the shadow of interminable voyages upon her. "I go out on the
balcony, I see Venice, and I see my joy, who starts; I go out on the
balcony, I see the sea, and I see my love, who rows." Another song is
perhaps a statement of fact, though it sounds like a poetic fancy:

  To-night their boats must seek the sea,
    One night his boat will linger yet;
  They bear a freight of wood, and he
    A freight of rose and violet.

Who forgets the coming into Venice in the early morning light of the
boats laden with fresh flowers and fruit?

Isaac d'Israeli states that the fishermen's wives of the Lido,
particularly those of the districts of Malamocca and Pelestrina (its
extreme end), sat along the shore in the evenings while the men were
out fishing, and sang stanzas from Tasso and other songs at the
pitch of their voices, going on till each one could distinguish the
responses of her own husband in the distance.

At first sight the songs of the various Italian provinces appear to be
greatly alike, but at first sight only. Under further examination they
display essential differences, and even the songs which travel all
over Italy almost always receive some distinctive touch of local
colour in the districts where they obtain naturalisation. The Venetian
poet has as strongly marked an identity as any of his fellows. Not
to speak of his having invented the four-lined song known as the
"Vilota," the quality of his work unmistakably reflects his peculiar
idiosyncracies. An Italian writer has said, "nella parola e nello
scritto ognuno imita sè stesso;" and the Venetian "imitates himself"
faithfully enough in his verses. He has a well-developed sense of
humour, and his finer wit discerns less objectionable paths than
those of parody and burlesque, for which the Sicilian shows so fatal
a leaning. He is often in a mood of half-playful cynicism; if his
paramount theme is love, he is yet fully inclined to have a laugh at
the expense of the whole race of lovers:

  A feast I will prepare for love to eat,
    Non-suited suitors I will ask to dine;
  They shall have pain and sorrow for their meat,
    They shall have tears and sobs to drink for wine;
  And sighs shall be the servitors most fit
  To wait at table where the lovers sit.

As compared with the Tuscan, the Venetian is a confirmed egotist.
While the former well-nigh effaces his individual personality out
of his hymns of adoration, the latter is apt to talk so much of his
private feelings, his wishes, his disappointments, that the idol
stands in danger of being forgotten. There is, indeed, a single
song--the song of one of the despised mariners--which combines
the sweet humility of Tuscan lyrics with a glow and fervour truly
Venetian--possibly its author was in reality some Istriot seaman, for
the _canti popolari_ of Istria are known to partake of both styles.
Anyhow, it may figure here, justified by what seems to me its own
excellence of conception:

  Fair art thou born, but love is not for me;
  A sailor's calling sends me forth to sea.
  I do desire to paint thee on my sail,
  And o'er the briny deep I'd carry thee.
  They ask, What ensign? when the boat they hail--
  For woman's love I bear this effigy;
  For woman's love, for love of maiden fair;
  If her I may not love, I love forswear!

When he is most in earnest and most excited, the Venetian is still
homely--he has none of the Sicilian's luxuriant imagination. I may
call to mind a remark of Edgar Poe's to the effect that passion
demands a homeliness of expression. Passionate the Venetian poet
certainly is. Never a man was readier to "dare e'en death" at the
behest of his mistress--

  Wouldst have me die? Then I'll no longer live.
      Grant unto me for sepulchre thy bed,
      Make me straightway a pillow of thy head,
  And with thy mouth one kiss, beloved one, give.

At Chioggia, where still in the summer evenings _Orlando Furioso_ is
read in the public places, and where artists go in quest of the old
Venetian type, they sing a yet more impassioned little song.

  Oh, Morning Star, I ask of thee this grace,
    This only grace I ask of thee, and pray:
  The water where thou hast washed thy breast and face,
    In kindly pity throw it not away.
  Give it to me for medicine; I will take
  A draught before I sleep and when I wake;
  And if this medicine shall not make me whole,
  To earth my body, and to hell my soul!

It must be added that Venetian folk-poesy lacks the innate sympathy
with all beautiful natural things which pervades the poesy of the
Apennines. This is in part the result of outward conditions: nature,
though splendid, is unvaried at Venice. The temperament of the
Venetian poet explains the rest. If he alludes to the _bel seren con
tante stelle_, it is only to say that "it would be just the night to
run away with somebody"--to which assertion he tacks the disreputable
rider, "he who carries off girls is not called a thief, he is called
an enamoured young man."

Even in the most lovely and the most poetic of cities you cannot
breathe the pure air of the hills. The Venetian is without the intense
refinement of the Tuscan mountaineer, as he is without his love of
natural beauty. The Tuscan but rarely mentions the beloved one's
name--he respects it as the Eastern mystic respects the name of
the Deity; the Venetian sings it out for the edification of all the
boatmen of the canal. The Tuscan has come to regard a kiss as a thing
too sacred to talk about; the Venetian has as few scruples on the
subject as the poet of Sirmio. Nevertheless, it should be recognised
that a not very blameable unreservedness of speech is the most serious
charge to be brought against all save a small minority of Venetian
singers. I believe that the able and conscientious collector, Signor
Bernoni, has exercised but slight censorship over the mass of songs he
has placed on record, notwithstanding which the number of those that
can be accused of an immoral tendency is extremely limited. Whence it
is to be inferred that the looseness of manners prevailing amongst the
higher classes at Venice in the decadence of the Republic at no time
became general in the lower and sounder strata of society.

At the beginning of this century, songs that were called Venetian
ballads were very popular in London drawing-rooms. That they were sung
with more effect before those who had never heard them in their own
country than before those who had, will be easily believed. A charming
letter-writer of that time described the contrast made by the gay or
impassioned strain of the poetry to "the stucco face of the statue who
doles it forth;" whilst in Venice, he added, it is seconded by all the
nice inflections of voice, grace of gesture, play of features, that
distinguish Venetian women. One of the Venetian songs which gained
most popularity abroad was the story of the damsel who drops her ring
into the sea, and of the fisherman who fishes it up, refusing all
other reward than a kiss:

  Oh! pescator dell 'onda,
          Findelin,
  Vieni pescar in qua!
  Colla bella sua barca
  Colla bella se ne va
          Findelin! lin, la!

But this song is not peculiarly Venetian; it is sung everywhere on the
Adriatic and Mediterranean coasts. And the version used was in pure
Italian. Judged as poetry, the existing Venetian ballads take a
lower place than the _Vilote_. They are often not much removed from
doggerel, as may be shown by a lamentable history which confusedly
suggests Enoch Arden with the moral of "Tue-la:"

  "Who is that knocking at my gates?
    Who is that knocking at my door?"
  "A London captain 'tis who waits,
    Your very humble servitor."
  In deshabille the fair one ran,
    Straightway the door she opened wide:
  "Tell me, my fair one, if you can,
    Where does your husband now abide?"
  "My husband he has gone to France,
    Pray heaven that back he may not come;"
  --Just then the fair one gave a glance,
    It was her spouse arrived at home!
  "Forgive, forgive," the fair one cried,
    "Forgive if I have done amiss;"
  "There is no pardon," he replied,
    For women who have sinned like this."
  Her head fell off at the first blow,
    The first blow wielded by his sword;
  So does just Heaven its anger show
    Against the wife who wrongs her lord.

Venetian songs will serve as a guide to the character, but scarcely
to the opinions, of the Venetians. The long struggle with Austria has
left no other trace than a handful of rough verses dating from the
Siege--mere strings of _Evvivas_ to the dictator and the army. It may
be argued that the fact is not exceptional, that like the _Fratelli
d'ltalia_ of Goffredo Mameli, the war-songs of the Italian movement
were all composed for the people and not by them. Still there have
been genuine folk-poets who have discoursed after their fashion of
_Italia libera_. The Tuscan peasants sang as they stored the olives of
1859--

  L'amore l'ho in Piamonte,
  Bandiera tricolor!

There is not in Venetian songs an allusion to the national cause so
naïvely, so caressingly expressive as this. It cannot be that the
Venetian _popolano_ did not care; whenever his love of country was
put to the test, it was found in no way wanting. Was it that to his
positive turn of mind there appeared to be an absence of connection
between politics and poetry? Looking back to the songs of an earlier
period, we find the same habit of ignoring public events. A rhyme,
answering the purpose of our "Ride a cock horse," contains the sole
reference to the wars of Venice with the Porte--

  Andemo a la guera
  Per mare e per tera,
  E cataremo i Turchi,
  Li mazzaremo tuti, &c.

In the proverbs, if not in the songs, a somewhat stronger impress
remains of the independent attitude assumed by the Republic in its
dealings with the Vatican. The Venetians denied Papal infallibility
by anticipation in the saying, "The Pope and the countryman know more
than the Pope alone;" and in one line of a nursery ditty, "El Papa no
xè Rè," they quietly abolished the temporal power. When Paul V.
laid the city under an interdict, the citizens made answer, "Prima
Veneziani e poi cristiani," a proverb that survives to this day.
"Venetians first" was the first article of faith of these men, or
rather it was to them a vital instinct. Their patriotism was a kind of
magnificent _amour propre_. No modern nation has felt a pride of
state so absorbing, so convinced, so transcendent: a pride which lives
incarnate in the forms and faces of the Venetian senators who look
serenely down on us from the walls of the Art Gallery out of the
company of kings, of saints, of angels, and of such as are higher than
the angels.

A chance word or phrase now and then accidentally carries us back to
Republican times and institutions. The expression, "Thy thought is not
worth a _gazeta_," occurring in a love-song cited above, reminds us
that the term gazette is derived from a Venetian coin of that name,
value three-quarters of a farthing, which was the fee charged for the
privilege of hearing read aloud the earliest venture in journalism, a
manuscript news-sheet issued once a month at Venice in the sixteenth
century. The figure of speech, "We must have fifty-seven," meaning,
"we are entering on a serious business," has its origin in the
fifty-seven votes necessary to the passing of any weighty measure
in the Venetian Senate. The Venetian adapter of Molière's favourite
ditty, in lieu of preferring his sweetheart to the "bonne ville de
Paris," prefers her to "the Mint, the Arsenal, and the Bucentaur."
Every one is familiar with the quaint description of the outward
glories of St Mark's Square:

  In St Mark's Place three standards you descry,
  And chargers four that seem about to fly;
  There is a time-piece which appears a tower,
  And there are twelve black men who strike the hour.

Social prejudices creep in where politics are almost excluded. A group
of _Vilote_ relates to the feud--old as Venice--between the islanders
of San Nicolo and the islanders of Castello, the two sections of the
town east of the Grand Canal, in the first of which stands St Mark's,
in the last the arsenal. The best account of the two factions is
embodied in an ancient poem celebrating the fight that rendered
memorable St Simon's Day, 1521. The anonymous writer tells his tale
with an impartiality that might be envied by greater historians, and
he ends by putting a canto of peaceable advice into the mouth of a
dying champion, who urges his countrymen to dwell in harmony and love
one another as brothers. Are they not made of the same flesh and bone,
children alike of St Mark and his State?

  Tuti a la fin no semio patrioti,
  Cresciu in sti campi, ste cale e cantoni?

The counsel was not taken, and the old rivalry continued unabated,
fostered up to a certain point by the Republic, which saw in it,
amongst other things, a check on the power of the patricians. The
two sides represented the aristocratic and democratic elements of
the population: the Castellani had wealth and birth and fine palaces,
their upper classes monopolised the high offices of State, their lower
classes worked in the arsenal, served as pilots to the men-of-war, and
acted as rowers in the Bucentaur. The better-to-do Nicoloti came off
with a share of the secondary employs, whilst the larger portion of
the San Nicolo folk were poor fishermen. But their sense of personal
dignity was intense. They had a doge of their own, usually an old
sailor, who on high days and holidays sat beside the "renowned prince,
the Duke of Venice." This doge, or _Gastaldo dei Nicoloti_, was
answerable for the conduct of his people, of whom he was at once
superior and equal. "Ti voghi el dose et mi vogo col dose" ("You row
the doge, I row with the doge"), a Nicoloto would say to his rival.
It is easy to see how the party spirit engendered by the old feud
produced a sentiment of independence in even the poorest members
of the community, and how it thus became of great service to the
Republic. Its principal drawback was that of leading to hard blows,
the last occasion of its doing so being St Simon's Day, 1817, when a
fierce local outbreak was severely suppressed by the Austrians. Since
then the contending forces have agreed to dwell in harmony; whether
they love one another as brothers is not so clear. There are songs
still sung in which mutual recrimination takes the form of too strong
language for ears polite. "If a Nicoloto is born, a Count is born; if
a Castellan is born--set up the gallows," is the mildest dictum of a
son of San Nicolo, to which his neighbour replies, "When a Castellan
is born, a god is born; when a Nicoloto is born, a brigand is born."
The feud lingers on even in the matter of love. "Who is that youth who
passes so often?" inquires a girl; "if it be a Castellan, bid him be
off; if it be a Nicoloto, bid him come in."

On the night of the Redeemer (in July) still takes place what was
perhaps one of the most ancient of Venetian customs. A fantastic
illumination, a bridge of boats, a people's ball, a prize-giving to
the best gondolas, a promiscuous wandering about the public gardens,
these form some of the features of the festival. But its most
remarkable point is the expedition to the Lido at three o'clock in the
morning to see the dawn. As the sun rises from his cradle of eastern
gold, he is greeted by the shout of thousands. Many of the youths leap
into the water and disport themselves like wild creatures of the sea.

A word in conclusion as to the dialect in which Venetian songs are
composed. The earliest specimen extant consists in the distich--

  Lom po far e die in pensar
  E vega quelo che li po inchiontrar,

which is to be read on the façade of St Mark's, opposite the ducal
palace. The meaning is, Look before you leap--an adage well suited
to the people who had the reputation of being the most prudent in the
world. This inscription belongs to the twelfth century. There used to
be a song sung at Ascension-tide on the occasion of the marriage of
the doge with the Adriatic, of which the signification of the words
was lost and only the sound preserved. It is a pity that it was never
written out phonetically; for modern scholars would probably have
proved equal to the task of interpreting it, even as they have given
us the secret of the runes on the neck of the Greek lion at the
arsenal. We owe to Dante a line of early Venetian--one of those
tantalising fragments of dialect poems in his posthumous work, _De
Vulgari Eloquentia_--fragments perhaps jotted down with the intention
of copying the full stanzas had he lived to finish the treatise.
Students have long been puzzled by Dante's judgment on the Venetian
dialect, which he said was so harsh that it made the conversation of
a woman resemble that of a man. The greatest master of the Italian
tongue was ruthless in his condemnation of its less perfect forms,
to the knowledge of which he was all the same indebted in no slight
degree. But it must not be overlooked that the question in Dante's day
was whether Italy should have a language or whether the nation should
go on oscillating between Latin and _patois_. For reasons patriotic
and political quite as much as literary, Dante's heart was set on the
adoption of one "illustrious, cardinal, aulic and polite" speech by
the country at large, and to that end he contributed incalculably,
though less by his treatise than by his poem. The involuntary hatred
of _patois_ as an outward sign of disunion has reappeared again in
some of those who in our own time have done and suffered most for
united Italy. Thus I once heard Signor Benedetto Cairoli say: "When
we were children, our mother would on no account let us speak anything
but good Italian." It is possible that Dante's strong feeling on the
subject made him unjust. It is also possible that the Venetian and the
other dialects have undergone a radical change, though this is not so
likely as may at first be supposed. A piece of nonsense written in the
seventeenth century gives an admirable idea of what the popular idiom
was then and is now:

  Mi son tanto inamorao
    In dona Nina mia vesina
    Che me dà gran disciplina,
    Che me vedo desparao.
            Gnao bao, bao gnao,
            Mi son tanto inamorao!

  Mi me sento tanti afani
    (Tuti i porto per so amore!)
    Che par proprio che sia cani
    Ch'al mi cor fazza brusore;
    Che da tute quante l'ore
    Mi me sento passionao.
            Gnao bao, bao gnao,
            Mi son tanto inamorao!

In most respects Venetian would approach closely to standard Italian
were it not for the pronunciation; yet to the uneducated Venetian,
Italian sounds very strange. A maid-servant who had picked up a few
purely Italian words, was found to be under the delusion that she had
been learning English. The Venetian is unable to detect a foreigner by
his accent. An English traveller had been talking for some while to a
woman of Burano, when she asked in all seriousness, "Are you a Roman?"
A deficiency of grammar, a richness in expressive colloquialisms, and
the possession of certain terms of Greek origin, constitute the main
features of the Venetian dialect as it is known to us. It was used by
the Republic in the affairs of state, and it was generally understood
throughout Italy, because, as Evelyn records, all the world repaired
to Venice "to see the folly and madnesse of the Carnevall." With the
exception of Dante, every one seems to have been struck by its merits,
of which the chief, to modern ears, are vivacity and an exceeding
softness. It can boast of much elegant lettered poetry, as well as of
Goldoni's best comedies. To the reading of the latter when a child,
Alfieri traced his particular partiality for "the jargon of the
lagunes." Byron declared that its _naïveté_ was always pleasant in
the mouth of a woman, and George Sand mentions it approvingly as "ce
gentil parler Vénitien, fait à ce qu'il me semble pour la bouche des
enfants."



SICILIAN FOLK-SONG.


L'Isola del Fuoco--the Isle of Fire, as Dante named it--is singularly
rich in poetic associations. Acis, the sweet wood-born stream,
Galatea, the calm of the summer sea, and how many more flower-children
of a world which had not learned to "look before and after," of a
people who deified nature and naturalised deity, and felt at one with
both, send us thence across the ages the fragrance of their immortal
youth. Our mind's magic lantern shows us Sappho and Alcæus welcomed
in Sicily as guests, Pindar writing his Sicilian Odes, the mighty
Æschylus, burdened always perhaps with a sorrow--untainted by fretful
anger--because of that slight, sprung from the enthusiasm for the
younger poet, the heat of politics, we know not what, which drove him
forth from Athens: yet withal solaced by the homage paid to his grey
hairs, and not ill-content to die

  On the bank of Gela productive of corn.

To Sicily we trace the germs of Greek comedy, and the addition of the
epode to the strophe and anti-strophe. We remember the story of how,
when the greatness of Athens had gone to wreck off Syracuse, a few
of the starving slaves in the _latomiæ_ were told they were free men,
thanks to their ability to recite passages from Euripides; we remember
also that new story, narrated in English verse, of the adventure which
befell the Rhodian maid Balaustion, on these Sicilian shores, and of
the good stead stood her by the knowledge of _Alcestis_. We think
of Sicily as the birth-place of the Idyllists, the soil which bore
through them an aftermath of Grecian song thick with blossom as the
last autumn yield of Alpine meads. Then by a strange transformation
scene we get a glimpse of Arabian Kasîdes hymning the beauties of the
Conca d'Oro, and as these disappear, arise the forms of the poets of
whom Petrarch says--

  ... i Sicilian!
  Che fur già primi

--those wonderful poet discoverers, more wonderful as discoverers than
as poets, who found out that a new music was to be made in a tongue,
not Latin, nor yet Provençal--a tongue which had grown into life under
the double foster-fathership of Arabian culture and Norman rule, the
_lingua cortigiana_ of the palaces of Palermo, the "common speech" of
Dante. When we recollect how the earliest written essays in Italian
were composed in what once was styled Sicilian, it seems a trifle
unfair for the practical adaptator--in this case as often happens in
the case of individuals--to have so completely borne away the glory
from the original inventor as to cause the latter to be all but
forgotten. We now hear only of the "sweet Tuscan tongue," and even
the pure pronunciation of educated Sicilians is not admitted without
a comment of surprise. But whilst the people of Tuscany quickly
assimilated the _lingua cortigiana_ and made it their own, the people
of Sicily stuck fast to their old wild-flower language, and left
ungathered the gigantic lily nurtured in Palermitan hot-houses and
carried by the great Florentine into heaven and hell. They continued
speaking, not the Sicilian we call Italian, but the Sicilian we call
patois--the Sicilian of the folk-songs. The study of Italic dialects
is one by no means ill-calculated to repay the trouble bestowed
upon it, and that from a point of view not connected with their
philological aspect. How far, or it may be I should say, how soon they
will die out, in presence of the political unity of the country, and
of the general modern tendency towards the adoption of standard forms
of language, it is not quite easy to decide. Were we not aware of the
astonishing rapidity with which dialects, like some other things, may
give way when once the least breach is opened, we might suppose
that those of Italy were good for many hundred years. Even the
upper classes have not yet abandoned them: it is said that there
are deputies at Monte Citorio who find the flow of their ideas sadly
baulked by the parliamentary etiquette which expects them to be
delivered in Italian. And the country-people are still so strongly
attached to their respective idioms as to incline them to believe
that they are the "real right thing," to the disadvantage of all
competitors. Not long ago, a Lombard peasant-woman employed as nurse
to a neuralgic Sicilian gentleman who spoke as correctly as any
Tuscan, assured a third person with whom she chatted in her own
dialect--it was at a bath establishment--that her patient did not know
a single word of Italian! But it is reported that in some parts of
Italy the peasants are beginning to forget their songs; and when
a generation or two has lived through the æra of facile
inter-communication that makes Reggio but two or three days' journey
from Turin, when every full-grown man has served his term of military
service in districts far removed from his home, the vitality of the
various dialects will be put to a severe test. Come when it may, the
change will have in it much that is desirable for Italy: of this there
can be no question; nor can it be disputed that as a whole standard
Italian offers a more complete and plastic medium of expression than
Venetian, or Neapolitan, or Sicilian. Nevertheless, in the mouth of
the people the local dialects have a charm which standard Italian has
not--a charm that consists in clothing their thought after a
fashion which, like the national peasant costumes, has an essential
suitability to the purpose it is used for, and while wanting neither
grace nor richness, suggests no comparisons that can reflect upon it
unfavourably. The naïve ditty of a poet of Termini or Partinico is
too much a thing _sui generis_ for it to suffer by contrast with the
faultless finish of a sonnet in _Vita di Madonna Laura_.

Sicily is notoriously richer in songs than any province of the
mainland; Vigo collected 5000, and the number of those since written
down seems almost incredible. It has even been conjectured that Sicily
was the original fountain-head of Italian popular poetry, and that it
is still the source of the greater part of the songs which circulate
through Italy.[A] Songs that rhyme imperfectly in the Tuscan version
have been found correct when put into Sicilian, a fact which points
to the island as their first home. Dr Pitrè, however, deprecates
such speculations as premature, and when so distinguished and so
conscientious an investigator bids us suspend our judgment, we can do
no better than to obey. What can be stated with confidence is, that
popular songs are inveterate travellers, and fly from place to place,
no one knows how, at much the same electrical rate as news spreads
amongst the people--a phenomenon of which the more we convince
ourselves that the only explanation is the commonplace one that lies
on the surface, the more amazing and even mysterious does it appear.

    [Footnote A: "Noi crediamo ... che il Canto popolare italiano
    sia nativo di Sicilia. Nè con questo intendiamo asserire che
    le plebi delle altre provincie sieno prive di poetica facoltà,
    e che non vi sieno poesie popolari sorte in altre regioni
    italiane, ed ivi cresciute e di là diramate attorno. Ma
    crediamo che, nella maggior parte des casi, il Canto abbia per
    patria di origine l'Isola, e per patria di adozione la
    Toscana: che, nato con veste di dialetto in Sicilia, in
    Toscana abbia assunto forma illustre e comune, e con siffatta
    veste novella sia migrato nelle altre provincie."--_La Poesia
    Popolare Italiana: Studj di Alessandro d'Ancona_, p. 285.]

As regards the date of the origin of folk-songs in Sicily, the boldest
guess possibly comes nearest the truth, and this takes us back to a
time before Theocritus. Cautious students rest satisfied with adducing
undoubted evidence of their existence as early as the twelfth century,
in the reign of William II., whose court was famed for "good speakers
in rhyme of _every condition_." Moreover, it is certain that Sicilian
songs had begun to travel orally and in writing to the Continent
considerably before the invention of printing; and it is not unlikely
that many _canzuni_ now current in the island could lay claim to an
antiquity of at least six or seven hundred years. Folk-songs change
much less than might at first sight be expected in the course of their
transmission from father to son, from century to century; and some
among the songs still popular in Sicily have been discovered written
down in old manuscripts in a form almost identical to that in which
they are sung to-day. Although the methodical collection of folk-songs
is a thing but recently undertaken, the fact of there being such songs
in Sicily was long ago perfectly well known. An English traveller
writing in the last century remarks, that "the whole nation are poets,
even the peasants, and a man stands a poor chance for a mistress that
is not capable of celebrating her." He goes on to say, that happily in
the matter of serenades the obligations of a chivalrous lover are not
so onerous as they were in the days of the Spaniards, when a fair
dame would frown upon the most devoted swain who had not a cold in his
head--the presumed proof of his having dutifully spent the night "with
the heavens for his house, the stars for his shelter, the damp earth
for his mattress, and for pillow a harsh thistle"--to borrow the exact
words of a folk-poet.

One class of folk-songs may be fairly trusted to speak for themselves
as to the date of their composition, namely, that which deals with
historical facts and personages. Until lately the songs of Italy were
believed, with the exception of Piedmont, to be of an exclusively
lyrical character; but fresh researches, and, above all, the
unremitting and enthusiastic efforts of Signor Salvatore
Salomone-Marino, have brought to light a goodly quantity of Sicilian
songs in which the Greek, Arabian, Norman, and Angevin denominations
all come in for their share of commemoration. And that the authors
of these songs spoke of the present, not of the past, is a natural
inference, when actual observation certifies that such is the
invariable custom of living folk-poets. For the people events soon
pass into a misty perspective, and the folk-poet is a sort of people's
journalist; he makes his song as the contributor to a newspaper writes
his leading article, about the matter uppermost for the moment in
men's minds, whether it be important or trivial. In 1860 he sang
of "the bringers of the tricolor," the "milli famusi guirreri," and
"Aribaldi lu libiraturi." In 1868 he joked over the grand innovation
by which "the poor folk of the piazza were sent to Paradise in a fine
coach," _i.e._, the substitution, by order of the municipality of
Palermo, of first, second, and third class funeral cars in lieu of the
old system of bearers. In 1870 he was very curious about the eclipse
which had been predicted. "We shall see if God confirms this news that
the learned tell us, of the war there is going to be between the moon
and the sun," says he, discreetly careful not to tie himself down to
too much faith or too much distrust. Then, when the eclipse has
duly taken place, his admiration knows no bounds. "What heads--what
beautiful minds God gives these learned men!" he cries; "what grace
is granted to man that he can read even the thoughts of God!" The
Franco-German war inspired a great many poets, who displayed, at all
events in the first stages of the struggle, a strong predilection for
the German side. All these songs long survive the period of the events
they allude to, and help materially to keep their memory alive; but
for a new song to be composed on an incident ten years old, would
simply argue that its author was not a folk-poet at all, in the strict
sense of the word. The great majority of the historical songs are
short, detached pieces, bearing no relation to each other; but now and
then we come upon a group of stanzas which suggest the idea of their
having once formed part of a consecutive whole; and in one instance,
that of the historical legend of the Baronessa di Carini, the
assembled fragments approach the proportions of a popular epic. But
it is doubtful whether this poem--for so we may call it--is thoroughly
popular in origin, though the people have completely adopted it, and
account it "the most beautiful and most dolorous of all the histories
and songs," thinking all the more of it in consequence of the profound
secrecy with which it has been preserved out of fear of provoking
the wrath of a powerful Sicilian family, very roughly handled by its
author.

Of religious songs there are a vast number in Sicily, and the stock is
perpetually fed by the pious rhyme tournaments held in celebration of
notable saints' days at the village fairs. On such occasions the image
or relics of the saints are exhibited in the public square, and
the competitors, the assembled poetic talent of the neighbourhood,
proceed, one after the other, to improvise verses in his honour. If
they succeed in gaining the suffrage of their audience, which may
amount to five or six thousand persons, they go home liberally
rewarded. Along with these saintly eulogiums may be mentioned a style
of composition more ancient than edifying--the Sicilian parodies.
A pious or complimentary song is travestied into a piece of coarse
abuse, or a sample of that unblushing, astounding irreverence which
sometimes startles the most hardened sceptic, travelling in countries
where the empire of Catholicism has been least shaken--in Tyrol,
for instance, and in Spain. We cannot be sure whether the Sicilian
parodist deliberately intends to be profane, or is only indifferent as
to what weapons he uses in his eagerness to cast ridicule upon a rival
versifier--the last hypothesis seems to me to be the most plausible;
but it takes nothing from the significance of his profanity as it
stands. It is pleasant to turn from these several sections of Sicilian
verse, which, though valuable in helping us to know the people from
whom they spring, for the most part have but small merits when judged
as poetry, to the stream of genuine song which flows side by side with
them: a stream, fresh, clear, pure: a poesy always true in its artless
art, generally bright and ingenious in its imagery, sometimes tersely
felicitous in its expression. In his love lyrics, and but rarely save
in them, the Sicilian _popolano_ rises from the rhymester to the poet.

The most characteristic forms of the love-songs of Sicily are those of
the _ciuri_, called in Tuscany _stornelli_, and the _canzuni_, called
in Tuscany _rispetti_. The _ciuri_ (flowers) are couplets or triplets
beginning with the name of a flower, with which the other line
or lines should rhyme. They abound throughout the island, and
notwithstanding the poor estimation in which the peasants hold them,
and the difficulty of persuading them that they are worth putting
on record, a very dainty compliment--just the thing to figure on
a valentine--may often be found compressed into their diminutive
compass. To turn such airy nothings into a language foreign and
uncongenial to them, is like manipulating a soap-bubble: the bubble
vanishes, and we have only a little soapy water left in the hollow
of our hand: a simile which unhappily is not far from holding good of
attempts at translating any species of Italian popular poetry. It
is true that in _Fra Lippo Lippi_ there are two or three charming
imitations of the _stornello_; but, then, Mr Browning is the poet who,
of all others, has got most inside of the Italian mind. Here is an
_aubade_, which will give a notion of the unsubstantial stuff the
_ciuri_ are made of:

  Rosa marina,
  Lucinu l'alba e la stidda Diana:
  Lu cantu è fattu, addui, duci Rusina.

"Rose of the sea, the dawn and the star Diana are shining: the song is
done, farewell sweet Rosina."

One of these flower-poets, invoking the Violet by way of heading,
tells his love that "all men who look on her forget their sorrows;"
another takes his oath that she outrivals sun, and moon, and stars.
"Jasmine of Araby," cries a third, "when thou art not near, I am
consumed by rage." A fourth says, "White floweret, before thy door I
make a great weeping." A fifth, night and day, bewails his evil fate.
A sixth observes that he has been singing for five hours, but that
he might just as well sing to the wind. A seventh feels the thorns
of jealousy. An eighth asks, "Who knows if Rosa will not listen to
another lover?" A ninth exclaims,

  Flower of the night,
  Whoever wills me ill shall die to-night!

With which ominous sentiment I will leave the _ciuri_, and pass on
to the yet more interesting _canzuni_: little poems, usually in eight
lines, of which there are so many thousand graceful specimens that it
is embarrassing to have to make a selection.

Despite the wide gulf which separates lettered from illiterate poetry,
it is curious to note the not unfrequent coincidence between the
thought of the ignorant peasant bard and that of cultured poets. In
particular, we are now and then reminded of the pretty conceits of
Herrick, and also of the blithe paganism, the happy unconsciousness
that "Pan is dead," which lay in the nature of that most incongruous
of country parsons. Thus we find a parallel to "Gather ye Rosebuds:"

  Sweet, let us pick the fresh and opening rose,
    Which doth each charm of form and hue display:
  Hard by the margent of yon font it blows,
    Mid guarding thorns and many a tufted spray;
  And in yourself while springtide freshly glows,
    Dear heart, with some sweet bloom my love repay:
  Soon winter comes, all flowers to nip and close,
    Nor love itself can hinder time's decay.

No poet is more determined to deal out his compliments in a liberal,
open-handed way than is the Sicilian. While the Venetians and the
Tuscans are content with claiming seven distinctive beauties for
the object of their affection, the Sicilian boldly asserts that his
_bedda_ possesses no less than thirty-three _biddizzi_. In the same
manner, when he is about sending his salutations, he sends them
without stint:

  Many the stars that sparkle in the sky,
    Many the grains of sand and pebbles small;
  And in the ocean's plains the finny fry
    And leaves that flourish in the woods and fall,
  Countless earth's human hordes that live and die,
    The flowers that wake to life at April's call,
  And all the fruits the summer heats supply--
    My greetings sent to thee out-number all.

On some rare occasions the incident which suggested the song may be
gathered from the lips of the person who recites it. In one case we
are told that a certain sailor, on his return from a long voyage,
hastened to the house of his betrothed, to bid her prepare for the
wedding. But he was met by the mother-in-law elect, who told him to go
his way, for his love was dead--the truth being that she had meanwhile
married a shoemaker. One fine day the disconsolate sailor had the not
unmixed gratification of seeing her alive and well, looking out of her
husband's house, and that night he sang her a reproachful serenade,
inquiring wherefore she had hidden from him, that though dead to him
she lived for another? This deceived mariner must have been a
rather exceptional individual, for although there are baker-poets,
carpenter-poets, waggoner-poets, poets in short of almost every branch
of labour and humble trade, a sailor-poet is not often to be heard of.
Dr Pitrè remarks that sailors pick up foreign songs in their voyages,
mostly English and American, and come home inclined to look down upon
the folk-songs and singers of their native land.

The serenades and aubades are among the most delicate and elegant of
all the _canzuni d'amuri_; this is one, which contains a favourite
fancy of peasant lovers:

  Life of my life, who art my spirit and soul,
    By no suspicions be nor doubts oppressed,
  Love me, and scorn false jealousy's control--
    I not a thousand hearts have in my breast,
  I had but one, and gave to thee the whole.
    Come then and see, if thou the truth wouldst test,
  Instead of my own heart, my love, my soul,
    Thou wilt thine image find within my breast!

Another poet treats somewhat the same idea in a drolly realistic way--

  Last night I dreamt we both were dead,
  And, love! beside each other laid.
  Doctors and Surgeons filled the place
  To make autopsy of the case--
  Knives, scissors, saws, with eager zest
  Of each laid open wide the breast:--
  Dumfounded then was every one,
  Yours held two hearts, but mine had none!

The _canzuni_ differ very much as to adherence to the strict laws of
rhyme and metre; more often than not assonants are readily accepted in
place of rhymes, and their entire absence has been thought to cast a
suspicion of education on the author of a song. One truly illiterate
living folk-poet was, however, heard severely to criticise some of the
printed _canzuni_ which were read aloud to him, on just this ground of
irregularity of metre and rhyme. His name is Salvatore Calafiore, and
he was employed a few years ago in a foundry at Palermo, where he was
known among the workmen as "the poet." Being very poor, and having a
young wife and family to support, he bethought himself of appealing to
the proprietor of the foundry for a rise of wages, but the expedient
was hazardous: those who made complaints ran a great chance of getting
nothing by it save dismissal. So he offered up his petition in a
little poem to this effect: "As the poor little hungry serpent comes
out of its hole in search of food, heeding not the risk of being
crushed, thus Calafiore, timorous and hard-pressed, O most just sir,
asks of you help!" Calafiore was once asked what he knew about the
classical characters whose names he introduced into his poems: he
answered that some one had told him of them who knew little more of
them than he did. He added that "Jove was God of heaven, Apollo god of
music, Venus the planet of love, Cicero a good orator." On the whole,
the folk-poets are not very lavish in mythological allusion; when they
do make it, it is ordinarily fairly appropriate. "Wherever thou dost
place thy feet," runs a Borgetto _canzuna_, "carnations and roses,
and a thousand divers flowers, are born. My beautiful one, the goddess
Venus has promised thee seven and twenty things--new gardens, new
heavens, new songs of birds in the spot where thou dost take thy
rest." The Siren is one of the ancient myths most in favour: at
Partinico they sing:

  Within her sea-girt home the Siren dwells
    And lures the spell-bound sailor with her lay,
  Amid the shoals the fated bark compels
    Or holds upon the reef a willing prey,
  None ever 'scape her toils, while sinks and swells
    Her rhythmic chant at close and break of day--
  Thou, Maiden, art the Siren of the sea,
  Who with thy songs dost hold and fetter me.

It is rarely indeed that we can trace a couple of these lyrics to the
same brain--we may not say "to the same hand," for the folk-poet's
hand is taken up with striking the anvil or guiding the plough; to
more intellectual uses he does not put it--yet expressing as they do
emotions which are not only the same at bottom, but are here felt and
regarded in precisely the same way, there results so much unity of
design and execution, that, as we read, unawares the songs weave
themselves into slight pastoral idylls--typical peasant romances in
which real _contadini_ speak to us of the new life wrought in them
by love. Even the repeated mention of the Sicilian diminutives of
the names of Salvatore and Rosina helps the illusion that a thread of
personal identity connects together many of the fugitive _canzuni_.
Thus we are tempted to imagine Turiddu and Rusidda as a pair of lovers
dwelling in the sunny Conca d'Oro--he "so sweet and beautiful a youth,
that God himself must surely have fashioned him"--a youth with "black
and laughing eyes, and a little mouth from whence drops honey:" she a
maiden of

      ... quattordicianni,
  L'occhi cilestri e li capiddi biunni--

"fourteen years, celestial eyes, blonde hair;" to see her long tresses
"shining like gold spun by the angels," one would think "that she
had just fallen out of Paradise." "She is fairer than the foam of the
sea"--

  "My little Rose in January born,
    Born in the month of cold and drifted snow,
  Its whiteness stays thy beauty to adorn,
    Nought than thy velvet skin more white can show.
  Thou art the star that shines, tho' bright the morn,
    And casts on all around a silver glow."

But Rusidda's mother will have nothing to say to poor Turiddu; he
complains, "Ah! God, what grief to have a tongue and not to be able to
speak; to see her and dare not make any sign! Ah, God in heaven, and
Virgin Mary, tell me what I am to do? I look at her, she looks at me,
neither I nor she can say a word!" Then an idea strikes him; he gets a
friend to take her a message: "When we pass each other in the street,
we must not let the folk see that we are in love, but you will lower
your eyes and I will lower my head; this shall be our way of saluting
one another. Every saint has his day, we must await ours." Encouraged
by this stratagem, Turiddu grows bold, and one dark night, when none
can see who it is, he serenades his "little Rose:"

  "Sleep, sleep, my hope, yea sleep, nor be afraid,
    Sleep, sleep, my hope, in confidence serene,
  For if we both in the same scales be weighed,
    But little difference will be found between.
  Have you for me unfeignèd love displayed,
    My love for you shall greater still be seen.
  If we could both in the same scales be weighed,
    But small the difference would be found between."

He does not think the song nearly good enough for her: "I know not
what song I can sing that is worthy of you," he says: he wishes he
were "a goldfinch or a nightingale, and had no equal for singing;" or,
better still, he would fain "have an angel come and sing her a song
that had never before been heard of out Paradise," for in Paradise
alone can a song be found appropriate to her. One day (it is Rusidda's
fête-day), Turiddu makes a little poem, and says in it: "All in roses
would I be clad, for I am in love with roses; I would have palaces
and little houses of roses, and a ship with roses decked, and a little
staircase all of roses, which I the fortunate one would ascend; but
ere I go up it, I wish to say to you, my darling, that for you I
languish." He watches her go to church: "how beautiful she is! Her air
is that of a noble lady!" The mother lingers behind with her gossips,
and Turiddu whispers to Rusidda, "All but the crown you look like a
queen." She answers: "If there rode hither a king with his crown who
said, 'I should like to place it on your head,' I should say this
little word, 'I want Turiddu, I want no crown.'" Turiddu tells her he
is sick from melancholy: "it is a sickness which the doctors cannot
cure, and you and I both suffer from it. It will only go away the day
we go to church together."

But there seems no prospect of their getting married; Turiddu sends
his love four sighs, "e tutti quattru suspiri d'amuri:"

  "Four sighs I breathe and send thee,
    Which from my heart love forces;
  Health with the first attend thee,
    The next our love discourses;
  The third a kiss comes stealing;
    The fourth before thee kneeling;
  And all hard fate accusing
  Thee to my sight refusing."

And now he has to go upon a long journey; but before he starts he
contrives one meeting with Rusidda. "Though I shall no longer see
you, we yet may hope, for death is the only real parting," he says. "I
would have you constant, firm, and faithful; I would have you faithful
even unto death." She answers, "If I should die, still would my spirit
stay with you." A year passes; on Rusidda's _festa_ a letter arrives
from Turiddu: "Go, letter mine, written in my blood, go to my dear
delight; happy paper! you will touch the white hand of my love. I am
far away, and cannot speak to her; paper, do you speak for me."

At last Turiddu returns--but where is Rusidda? "Ye stars that are in
the infinite heavens, give me news of my love!"

Through the night "he wanders like the moon," he wanders seeking his
love. In his path he encounters Brown Death. "Seek her no more," says
this one; "I have her under the sod. If you do not believe me, my fine
fellow, go to San Francesco, and take up the stone of the sepulchre:
there you will find her." ... Alas! "love begins with sweetness and
ends in bitterness."

The Sicilian's "Beautiful ideal" would seem to be the white rose
rather than the red, in accordance, perhaps, with the rule that makes
the uncommon always the most prized; or it may be, from a perception
of that touch of the unearthly, that pale radiance which gives the
fair Southerner a look of closer kinship with the pensive Madonna
gazing out of her aureole in the wayside shrine, than with the dark
damsels of the more predominant type. Some such angelical association
attached to golden heads has possibly disposed the Sicilian
folk-poet towards thinking too little of the national black eyes and
olive-carnation colouring. Not that brunettes are wholly without
their singers; one of these has even the courage to say that since his
_bedda_ is brown and the moon is white, it is plain that the moon must
leave the field vanquished. One dark beauty of Termini shows that she
is quite equal to standing up for herself. "You say that I am black?"
she cries, "and what of that? Black writing looks well on white paper,
black spices are worth more than white curds, and while dusky wine
is drunk in a glass goblet, the snow melts away unregarded in the
ditch."[1] But the apologetic, albeit spirited tone of this protest,
indicates pretty clearly that the popular voice gives the palm to
milk-white and snowy faced maidens; the possessors of _capiddi biunni_
and _capidduzzi d'oru_ have no need to defend their charms, a hundred
canzuni proclaim them irresistible. "Before everything I am enamoured
of thy blonde tresses," says one lyrist. The luxuriant hair of the
Sicilian women is proverbial. A story is told how, when once Palermo
was about to surrender to the Saracens because there were no more
bowstrings in the town, an abundant supply was suddenly produced by
the patriotic dames cutting off their long locks and turning them to
this purpose. The deed so inspired the Palermitan warriors that they
speedily drove the enemy back, and the siege was raised. A gallant
poet adds: "The hair of our ladies is still employed in the same
office, but now it discharges no other shafts but those of Cupid, and
the only cords it forms are cords of love."

In the early morning, almost all the year round the women may be
seen sitting before their doors undoing and doing up again this long
abundant hair. The chief part of their domestic work they perform out
in the sunshine; one thing only, but that the most important of all,
has to be done in the house--the never finished task of weaving the
clothes of the family. From earliest girlhood to past middle age the
Sicilian women spend many hours every day at the loom. A woman
of eighty, Rosa Cataldi of Borgetto, made the noble boast to
Salomone-Marino: "I have clothed with stuff woven by my hands from
fourteen to fifty years, myself, my brothers, my children, and their
children." A girl who cannot, or will not, weave is not likely to
find a husband. As they ply the shuttle, the women hardly cease from
singing, and many, and excellent also, are the songs composed in
praise of the active workers. The girl, not yet affianced, who is
weaving perhaps her modest marriage clothes, may hear, coming up from
the street, the first avowal of love:

        Ciuri d'aranci.
  Bedda, tu tessi e tessennu mi vinci;
  Bedda, tu canti, e lu me' cori chianci.

It has been said that love begins with sweetness and ends in
bitterness. What a fine world it would be were Brown Death the only
agent in the bitter end of love! It is not so. Rusidda, who dies, is
possibly more fortunate than Rusidda who is married. When bride
and bridegroom return from the marriage rite, the husband sometimes
solemnly strikes his wife in presence of the assembled guests as a
sign of his henceforth unlimited authority. The symbol has but too
great appropriateness. Even in what may be called a happy marriage,
there is a formality akin to estrangement, once the knot is tied.
Husband and wife say "voi" to each other, talking to a third person,
they speak of one another as "he" and "she," as "mio cristiano," and
"mia cristiana," never as "my husband" and "my wife." The wife sits
down to table with the husband, but she scrupulously waits for him to
begin first, and takes tiny mouthfuls as if she were ashamed of eating
before him. Then, if the husband be out of humour, or if he thinks
that the wife does not work hard enough (an "enough" which can
never be reached), the nuptial blow is repeated in sad and miserable
earnest. The woman will not even weep; she bears all in silence,
saying meekly afterwards, "We women are always in the wrong, the
husband is the husband, he has a right even to kill us since we live
by him." These things have been recorded by one who loves the Sicilian
peasant, and who has defended him against many unfounded charges. A
hard case it would be for wedded Rusidda if she had not her songs and
the sun to console her.

All the _canzuni_ that have been quoted are, so far as can be judged,
of strictly popular origin, nor is there any sign of continental
derivation in their wording or shape. Several, however, are the
common property of most of the Italian provinces. There is a charming
Vicentine version of "The Siren," and the "Four Sighs" makes its
appearance in Tuscany under a dress of pure Italian. Has Sicily,
then, a right to the honour of their invention? There is a
strong presumption that it has. On the other hand, there are some
Sicilianized songs of plainly foreign birth, which shows that if the
island gave much to the peninsula, it has had at least something back
in return. There is a third category, comprising the songs of the
Lombard colonies of Piazza and San Fratello, which have a purely
accidental connection with Sicily. The founders of this community were
Lombards or Longobards, who were attracted to Sicily somewhere in
the eleventh century, either by the fine climate and the demand for
soldiers of fortune, or by the marriage of Adelaide of Monferrato with
Count Roger of Hauteville. But what is far more curious than how or
why they came, is the circumstance of the extraordinary isolation in
which they seem to have lived, and their preservation to this day of
a dialect analogous with that spoken at Monferrato. In this dialect
there exist a good many songs, but a full collection of them has yet
to be made.

Besides the _ciuri_ and _canzuni_, there is another style of
love-song, very highly esteemed by the Sicilian peasantry, and that
is the _aria_. When a peasant youth serenades his _'nnamurata_ with an
_aria_, he pays her by common consent the most consummate compliment
that lies in his power. The _arii_ are songs of four or more
stanzas--a form which is not so germane to the Sicilian folk-poet as
that of the _canzuna_; and, although he does use it occasionally,
it may be suspected that he more often adapts a lettered or foreign
_aria_ than composes a new one. An aria is nothing unless sung to a
guitar accompaniment, and is heard to great advantage when performed
by the barbers, who are in the habit of whiling away their idle hours
with that instrument. The Sicilian (lettered) poet, Giovanni Meli,
has written some admirable _arii_, many of which have become popular
songs.

Meli's name is as oddly yoked with the title of _abate_ as Herrick's
with the designation of clergyman. He does not seem, as a matter of
fact, to have ever been an _abate_ at all. Once, when dining with a
person influential at court, his host inquired why he did not ask to
be appointed to a rich benefice then vacant. "Because," he replied, "I
am not a priest." And it appeared that when a young man he had adopted
the clerical habit for no other reason than that he intended to
practise medicine, and wished to gain access to convents, and to make
himself acceptable to the nuns. It was not an uncommon thing to do.
The public generally dubbed him with the ecclesiastical title. Not
long before his death, in 1815, he actually assumed the lesser orders,
and in true Sicilian fashion, wrote some verses to his powerful friend
to beg him to get him preferment, but he died too soon after to profit
by the result. The Sicilians are very proud of Meli. It is for them
alone probably to find much pleasure in his occasional odes--to others
their noble sentiments will be rather suggestive of the _sinfonia
eroica_ played on a flute; but the charm and lightness of his
Anacreontic poems must be recognised by all who care for poetry. He
had a nice feeling for nature too, as is shown in a sonnet of rare
beauty:

  Ye gentle hills, with intercepting vales,
      Ye rocks with musk and clinging ivy dight;
  Ye sparkling falls of water, silvery pale,
      Still meres, and brooks that babble in the light;
  Deep chasms, wooded steeps that heaven assail,
      Unfruitful rushes, broom with blossoms bright,
  And ancient trunks, encased in gnarled mail,
      And caves adorned with crystal stalactite;
  Thou solitary bird of plaintive song,
      Echo that all dost hear, and then repeat,
  Frail vines upheld by stately elms and strong,
      And silent mist, and shade, and dim retreat;
  Welcome me! tranquil scenes for which I long--
      The friend of haunts where peace and quiet meet.

I must not omit to say a word about a class of songs which, in
Sicily as elsewhere, affords the most curious illustration of the
universality of certain branches of folk-lore--I mean the nursery
rhymes. One instance of this will serve for all. Sicilian nurses play
a sort of game on the babies' features, which consists in lightly
touching nose, mouth, eyes, &c., giving a caressing slap to the chin,
and repeating at the same time--

  Varvaruttedu,
  Vucca d'aneddu,
  Nasu affilatu,
  Occhi di stiddi,
  Frunti quatrata,
  E te' ccà 'na timpulata!

Now this rhyme has not only its counterpart in the local dialect of
every Italian province, but also in most European languages. In France
they have it:

  Beau front,
  Petits yeux,
  Nez cancan,
  Bouche d'argent,
  Menton fleuri,
  Chichirichi.

We find a similar doggerel in Germany, and in England, as most people
know, there are at least two versions, one being--

  Eye winker,
  Tom Tinker,
    Nose dropper.
  Mouth eater,
    Chinchopper,
    Chinchopper.

Of more intrinsic interest than this ubiquitous old nurse's nonsense
are the Sicilian cradle songs, in some of which there may also
be traced a family likeness with the corresponding songs of other
nations. As soon as the little Sicilian gets up in the morning he is
made to say--

  While I lay in my bed five saints stood by;
  Three at the head, two at the foot--in the midst was Jesus Christ.

The Greek-speaking peasants of Terra d'Otranto have a song somewhat
after the same plan:

    I lay me down to sleep in my little bed; I lay me down to
    sleep with my Mamma Mary: the Mamma Mary goes hence and leaves
    me Christ to keep me company.

Very tender is the four-line Sicilian hushaby, in which the proud
mother says--

    How beautiful my son is in his swaddling clothes; just think
    what he will be when he is big! Sleep, my babe, for the angel
    passes: he takes from thee heaviness, and he leaves thee
    slumber.

There is in Vigo's collection a lullaby so exquisite in its blended
echoes from the cradle and the grave that it makes one wish for two
great masters in the pathos of childish things, such as Blake and
Schumann, to translate and set it to music. It is called "The Widow."

  Sweet, my child, in slumber lie,
    Father's dead, is dead and gone.
    Sleep then, sleep, my little son,
  Sleep, my son, and lullaby.

  Thou for kisses dost not cry,
    Which thy cheeks he heaped upon.
    Sleep then, sleep, my pretty one,
  Sleep, my child, and lullaby.

  We are lonely, thou and I,
    And with grief and fear I faint.
    Sleep then, sleep, my little saint,
  Sleep, my child, and lullaby.

  Why dost weep? No father nigh.
    Ah, my God! tears break his rest.
    Darling, nestle to my breast,
  Sleep, my child, and lullaby.

Very scant information is to be had regarding the Sicilian folk-poets
of the past; with one exception their names and personalities have
almost wholly slipped out of the memory of the people, and that
exception is full three parts a myth. If you ask a Sicilian popolano
who was the chief and master of all rustic poets, he will promptly
answer, "Pietro Fullone;" and he will tell you a string of stories
about the poetic quarry-workman, dissolute in youth, devout in
old age, whose fame was as great as his fortune was small, and who
addressed a troop of admiring strangers who had travelled to Palermo
to visit him, and were surprised to find him in rags, in the following
dignified strain:

  Beneath these pilgrim weeds so coarse and worn
    A heart may still be found of priceless worth.
  The rose is ever coupled to the thorn.
    The spotless lily springs from blackest earth.
  Rubies and precious stones are only born
    Amidst the rugged rocks, uncouth and swarth.
  Then wonder not though till the end I wear
  Nought but this pilgrim raiment poor and bare.

Unfortunately nothing is more sure than that the real Pietro Fullone,
who lived in the 17th century, and published some volumes of poetry,
mostly religious, had as little to do with this legendary Fullone as
can well be imagined. It is credible that he may have begun life as
a quarry workman and ignorant poet, as tradition reports; but it is
neither credible that a tithe of the _canzuna_ attributed to him
are by the same author as the writer of the printed and distinctly
lettered poems which bear his name, nor that the bulk of the anecdotes
which profess to relate to him have any other foundation than that of
popular fiction. But though we hear but little, and cannot trust the
little we hear, of the folk-poet of times gone by, for us to
become intimately acquainted with him, we have only to go to his
representative, who lives and poetizes at the present moment. In
this or that Sicilian hamlet there is a man known by the name of "the
Poet," or perhaps "the Goldfinch." He is completely illiterate and
belongs to the poorest class; he is a blacksmith, a fisherman, or
a tiller of the soil. If he has the gift of improvisation, his
fellow-villagers have the satisfaction of hearing him applauded by the
Great Public--the dwellers in all the surrounding hamlets assembled at
the fair on St John's Eve. Or it may be he is of a meditative turn of
mind, and makes his poetry leisurely as he lies full length under
the lemon-trees taking his noontide rest. Should you pass by, it is
unlikely he will give himself the trouble of lifting his eyes: He
could not say the alphabet to save his life; but the beautiful earth
and skies and sea which he has looked on every day since he was born
have taught him some things not learnt in school. The little poem he
has made in his head is indeed a humble sort of poetry, but it is not
unworthy of the praise it gets from the neighbours who come dropping
into his cottage door, uninvited, but sure of a friendly welcome next
Sunday after mass, their errand being to find out if the rumour is
true that "the Goldfinch" has invented a fresh _canzuna_?

Such is the peasant poet of to-day; such he was five hundred or a
thousand years ago. He presents a not unlovely picture of a stage in
civilisation which is not ours. To-morrow it will not be his either;
he will learn to read and write; he will taste the fruit of the Tree
of the Knowledge of Good and Evil as it grows in our great centres
of intellectual activity; he will begin to "look before and after."
Still, he will do all this in his own way, not in our way, and so much
of his childhood having clung to him in youth, it follows that his
youth will not wholly depart from him in manhood. Through all the
wonderfully mixed vicissitudes of his country the Sicilian has
preserved an unique continuity of spiritual life; Christianity
itself brought him to the brink of no moral cataclysm like that which
engulfed the Norseman when he forsook Odin and Thor for the White
Christ. It may therefore be anticipated that the new epoch he is
entering upon will modify, not change his character. That he has
remained outside of it so long, is due rather to the conditions under
which he has lived than to the man; for the Sicilian grasps new ideas
with an almost alarming rapidity when once he gets hold of them;
of all quick Italians he is the quickest of apprehension. This very
intelligence of his, called into action by the lawlessness of his
rulers and by ages of political tyranny and social oppression, has
enabled him to accomplish that systemization of crime which at one
time bred the Society of the Blessed Pauls, and now is manifested in
the Mafia. You cannot do any business harmless or harmful, you
cannot buy or sell, beg or steal, without feeling the hand of an
unacknowledged but ever present power which decides for you what you
are to do, and levies a tax on whatever profit you may get out of
the transaction. If a costermonger sells a melon for less than the
established price, his fellows consider that they are only executing
the laws of their real masters when they make him pay for his temerity
with his life. The wife of an English naval officer went with her maid
to the market at Palermo, and asked the price of a fish which, it was
stated, cost two francs. She passed on to another stall where a fish
of the same sort was offered her for 1.50. She said she would buy it,
and took out of her purse a note for five _lire_, which she gave the
vendor to change. Meanwhile, unobserved, the first man had come up
behind them, and no sooner was the bargain concluded, than he whipped
a knife out of his pocket, and in a moment more would have plunged it
in the second man's breast, had not the lady pushed back his arm,
and cried by some sudden inspiration, "Wait, he has not given me my
change!" No imaginable words would have served their purpose so well;
the man dropped the knife, burst out laughing, and exclaimed: "Che
coraggio!" The brave Englishwoman nearly fainted when she returned
home. Her husband asked what was the matter, to which she answered: "I
have saved a man's life, and I have no idea how I did it."

Something has been done to lessen the hereditary evil, but the cure
has yet to come. It behoves the Sicilians of a near future to stamp
out this plague spot on the face of their beautiful island, and thus
allow it to garner the full harvest of prosperity lying in its mineral
wealth and in the incomparable fertility of its soil. That it is only
too probable that the people will lose their lyre in proportion as
they learn their letters is a poor reason for us to bid them stand
still while the world moves on; human progress is rarely achieved
without some sacrifices--the one sacrifice we may not make, whatever
be the apparent gain, is that of truth and the pursuit of it.

    [Footnote 1: So Virgil:

      "Alba ligustra cadunt, vaccinia nigra leguntur."
    ]



GREEK SONGS OF CALABRIA.


That the connecting link between Calabria and Greece was at one time
completely cut in two, is an assumption which is commonly made, but
it is scarcely a proved fact. What happened to the Italian Greeks on
their surrender to Rome? In a few instances they certainly disappeared
with extreme rapidity. Aristoxenus, the peripatetic musician, relates
of the Poseidonians--"whose fate it was, having been originally Greek,
to be barbarised, becoming Tuscans or Romans," that they still met to
keep one annual festival, at which, after commemorating their ancient
customs, they wept together over their lost nationality. This is
the pathetic record of men who could not hope. In a little while,
Poseidonia was an obscure Roman town famous only for its beautiful
roses. But the process of "barbarisation" was not everywhere so swift.
Along the coast-line from Rhegium to Tarentum, Magna Græcia, in the
strict use of the term, the people are known to have clung so long
to their old language and their old conditions of life that it is at
least open to doubt if they were not clinging to them still when it
came to be again a habit with Greeks to seek an Italian home. In the
ninth and tenth centuries the tide of Byzantine supremacy swept into
Calabria from Constantinople, only, however, to subside almost as
suddenly as it advanced. Once more history well-nigh loses sight of
the Greeks of Italy. Yet at a moment of critical importance to modern
learning their existence was honourably felt. Petrarch's friend and
master, Barlaam, who carried the forgotten knowledge of Homer across
the Alps, was by birth a Calabrian. In Barlaam's day there were large
communities of Greeks both in Calabria and in Terra d'Otranto. A
steady decrease from then till now has brought their numbers down to
about 22,800 souls in all. These few survivors speak a language which
is substantially the same as modern Greek, with the exceptions that it
is naturally affected by the surrounding Italic dialects and that it
contains hardly a Turkish or a Sclavonic word. Their precise origin is
still a subject of conjecture. Soon after Niebuhr had hailed them as
Magna Græcians pure and simple, they were pronounced offhand to be
quite recent immigrants; then the date of their arrival was assigned
to the reign of the first or second Basil; and lastly there is a
growing tendency to push it back still further and even to admit that
some strain of the blood of the original colonists may have entered
into the elements of their descent. On the whole, it seems easier to
believe that though their idiom was divided from the Romaic, it yet
underwent much the same series of modifications, than to suppose them
to have been in Greece when the language of that country was saturated
with Sclavonic phrases, which have only been partly weeded out within
the last thirty years.

Henry Swinburne visited the Greek settlements in 1780 or thereabouts,
but like most of his contemporaries he mixes up the Greek with the
Albanians, of whom there are considerable colonies in Calabria, dating
from the death of Skanderbeg. Even in this century a German savant
was assured at Naples that the so-called Greeks were one and all
Albanians. The confusion is not taken as a compliment. No one has
stayed in the Hellenic kingdom without noticing the pride that goes
along with the name of Greek--a pride which it is excusable to smile
at, but which yet has both its touching and its practical aspect, for
it has remade a nation. The Greeks of Southern Italy have always had
their share of a like feeling. "We are not ashamed of our race,
Greeks we are, and we glory in it," wrote De Ferraris, a Greek born
at Galatone in 1444, and the words would be warmly endorsed by the
enlightened citizens of Bova and Ammendolea, who quarrel as to which
of the two places gave birth to Praxiteles. The letterless classes do
not understand the grounds of the Magna Græcian pretensions, but they
too have a vague pleasure in calling themselves Greek and a vague idea
of superiority over their "Latin" fellow-countrymen. "Wake up," sings
the peasant of Martignano in Terra d'Otranto, "wake up early to hear a
Grecian lay, so that the Latins may not learn it."

  Fsunna, fsunna, na cusi ena sonetto
  Grico, na mi to matun i Latini.

Bova is the chief place in Calabria where Greek survives. The
inhabitants call it "Vua," or simply "Hora." The word "hora," _the
city_, is applied by the Greeks of Terra d'Otranto to that part of
their hamlets which an Englishman would call "the old village." It is
not generally known that "city" is used in an identical sense by old
country-folks in the English Eastern counties. The Bovesi make a third
of the whole Greek-speaking population of Calabria, and Bova has the
dignity of being an episcopal seat, though its bishop has moved his
residence to the Marina, a sort of seaside suburb, five miles distant
from the town. Thirty years ago the ecclesiastical authorities were
already agitating for the transfer, but the people opposed it till the
completion of the railway to Reggio and the opening of a station at
the Marina di Bova settled the case against them. The cathedral, the
four or five lesser churches, the citadel, even the Ghetto, all tell
of the unwritten age of Bova's prosperity. Old street-names perpetuate
the memory of the familiar spirits of the place; the Lamiæ who lived
in a particular quarter, the _Fullitto_ who frequented the lane under
the cathedral wall. Ignoring Praxiteles, the poorer Bovesi set faith
in a tradition that their ancestors dwelt on the coast, and that it
was in consequence of Saracenic incursions that they abandoned their
homes and built a town on the crags of Aspromonte near the lofty
pastures to which herds of cattle (_bovi_) were driven in the summer.
The name of Bova would thus be accounted for, and its site bears out
the idea that it was chosen as a refuge. The little Greek city hangs
in air. To more than one traveller toiling up to it by the old Reggio
route it has seemed suggestive of an optical delusion. There is
refreshment to be had on the way: a feast for the sight in pink and
white flowers of gigantic oleanders; a feast for the taste in the
sweet and perfumed fruit of the wild vine. Still it is disturbing
to see your destination suspended above your head at a distance that
seems to get longer instead of shorter. Some comfort may be got from
hearing Greek spoken at Ammendolea, itself an eyrie, and again at
Condufuri. A last, long, resolute effort brings you, in spite of your
forebodings, to Bova, real as far as stones and fountains, men and
women, and lightly-clothed children can make it; yet still half a
dream, you think, when you sit on the terrace at sunset and look
across the blue Ionian to the outline, unbroken from base to crown, of
"Snowy Ætna, nurse of endless frost, the prop of heaven."

There is plenty of activity among the Greeks of Calabria Ultra. Many
of them contrive to get a livelihood out of the chase; game of
every sort abounds, and wolves are not extinct. In the mountaineers'
cottages, which shelter a remarkable range of animals, an infant wolf
sometimes lies down with a tame sheep; whilst on the table hops a
domesticated eagle, taken when young from its nest in defiance of
the stones dropped upon the robber by the outraged parent-birds. The
peasants till the soil, sow corn, plant vegetables, harvest the olives
and grapes, gather the prickly pears, make cheese, tend cattle, and
are wise in the care of hives. It is a kind of wisdom of which their
race has ever had the secret. The Greek Calabrians love bees as they
were loved by the idyllic poets. "Ehi tin cardia to melissa" ("he has
the heart of a bee"), is said of a kindly and helpful man. Sicilian
Hybla cannot have yielded more excellent honey than Bova and
Ammendolea. It is sad to think of, but it is stated on good authority
that the people of those lofty cities quarrel over their honey as much
as about Praxiteles. Somehow envy, hatred, and all uncharitableness
find a way into the best of real idylls. You may live at the top of
a mountain and cordially detest your neighbour. The folk of Condufuri
greet the folk of Bova as Vutáni dogs, which is answered by the
epithet of Spesi-spásu, all the more disagreeable because nobody knows
what it means. In Terra d'Otranto the dwellers in the various Greek
hamlets call each other thieves, asses, simpletons, and necromancers.
The Italian peasants are inclined to class Greeks and Albanians alike
in the category of "Turchi," and though the word Turk, as used by
Italians, in some cases simply means foreign, it is a questionable
term to apply to individuals. The Greeks, with curious scorn, are
content to fling back the charge of Latin blood.

When the day's work is done, comes the frugal evening meal; a dish of
_ricotta_, a glass of wine and snow. Wine is cheap in Calabria, where
the finest variety is of a white sweet kind called _Greco_; and the
heights of Aspromonte provide a supply of frozen snow, which is a
necessary rather than a luxury in this climate. About the hour of
Avemmaria the bagpipers approach. In the mountains the flocks
follow the wild notes of the "Zampogna" or "Ceramedda," unerringly
distinguishing the music of their own shepherd. A visit from the
Zampognari to hill-town, or village sets all the world on the alert.
There is gossiping, and dancing, and the singing of songs, in which
expression takes the place of air. Two young men sing together,
without accompaniment, or one sings alone, accompanied by bagpipe,
violin, and guitar. So the evening passes by, till the moon rises and
turns the brief, early darkness into a more glorified day. The little
hum of human sound dies in the silence of the hills; only perhaps a
single clear, sweet voice prolongs the monotone of love.

The Italian complimentary alphabet is unknown to the Greek poets. The
person whom they address is not apostrophised as Beauty or Beloved,
or star, or angel, or _Fior eterno_, or _Delicatella mia_. They do not
carry about ready for use a pocketful of poetic-sugared rose-leaves,
nor have they the art of making each word serve as an act of homage or
a caress. It is true that "caxedda," a word that occurs frequently in
their songs, has been resolved by etymologists into "pupil of my eye;"
but for the people it means simply "maiden." The Greek Calabrian gives
one the impression of rarely saying a thing because it is a pretty
thing to say. If he treats a fanciful idea, he presents it, as it
were, in the rough. Take for instance the following:--

  Oh! were I earth, and thou didst tread on me,
    Or of thy shoe the sole, this too were sweet!
  Or were I just the dress that covers thee,
    So might I fall entangling round thy feet.
  Were I the crock, and thou didst strike on me,
    And we two stooped to catch the waters fleet;
  Or were I just the dress that covers thee,
    So without me thou couldst not cross the street.

Here the fancy is the mere servant of the thought behind it. The lover
does not figure himself as the fly on the cheek of his mistress, or
the flower on her breast. There is no intrinsic prettiness in the
common earth or the common water-vessel, in the sole of a worn shoe,
or in a workaday gown.

It cannot be pretended that the Greek is so advanced in untaught
culture as some of his Italian brothers; in fact there are specimens
of the _Sonetto Grico_ which are so bald and prosaic that the "Latins"
might not be at much pains to learn them even were they sung at
noonday. The Titianesque glow which illuminates the plain materials
of Venetian song must not be looked for. What will be found
in Græco-Calabrian poesy is a strong appearance of sincerity,
supplemented at times by an almost startling revelation of tender and
chivalrous feeling. To these Greek poets of Calabria love is another
name for self-sacrifice. "I marvel how so fair a face can have a heart
so tyrannous, in that thou bearest thyself so haughtily towards me,
while for thee I take no rest; and thou dost as thou wilt, because
I love thee--if needs be that I should pour out my blood with all my
heart for thee, I will do it." This is love which discerns in its own
depths the cause of its defeat. A reproach suggestive of Heine in
its mocking bitterness changes in less than a moment to a cry of
despairing entreaty--

  I know you love me not, say what you may,
    I'll not believe, no, no, my faithless one;
  With all the rest I see you laugh and play,
    'Tis only I, I only whom you shun.
  Ah, could I follow where you lead the way:
    The obstinate thoughts upon your traces run
    Make me a feint of love, though you have none,
  For I must think upon you night and day.

The scene is easily pictured: the bravery of words at meeting, all the
just displeasure of many a day bursting forth; then the cessation of
anger in the beloved presence and the final unconditional surrender. A
lighter mood succeeds, but love's royal clemency is still the text:

  Say, little girl, what have I done to thee,
    What have I done to thee that thou art dumb?
  Oft wouldst thou seek me once, such friends were we,
    But now thou goest away whene'er I come.
  If thou hast missed in aught, why quick, confess it,
    For thee this heart will all, yes all, forgive;
  If miss be mine, contrive that I should guess it;
    And soon the thing shall finish, as I live!

The dutiful lover rings all the changes on humble remonstrance:

  I go where I may see thee all alone,
    So I may kneel before thee on the ground,
  And ask of thee how is it that unknown
    Unto thy heart is every prick and wound?
  Canst thou not see that e'en my breath is flown,
    Thinking of thee while still the days go round?
  If thou wouldst not that I should quickly die,
  Love only me and bid the rest good-bye.

He might as well speak to the winds or to the stones, and he admits
as much. "Whensoever I pass I sing to make thee glad; if I do not come
for a few hours I send thee a greeting with my eyes. But thou dost act
the deaf and likewise the dumb: pity thou hast none for my tears."
If he fails to fulfil his prophecy of dying outright, at any rate he
falls into the old age of youth, which arrives as soon as the bank of
hope breaks:

  Come night, come day, one only thought have I,
    Which graven on my heart must ever stay;
  Grey grows my hair and dismal age draws nigh,
    Wilt thou not cease the tyrant's part to play?
  Thou seem'st a very Turk for cruelty,
    Of Barbary a very Turk I say;
  I know not why thy love thou dost deny,
    Or why with hate my love thou dost repay.

This may be compared with a song taken down from the mouth of a
peasant near Reggio, an amusing illustration of the kind of thing in
favour with Calabrian herdsmen:--

  Angelical thou art and not terrene,
    Who dost kings' wives excel in loveliness!
  Thou art a pearl, or Grecian Helen, I ween,
    For whom Troy town was brought to sore distress;
  Thine are the locks which graced the Magdalene,
    Lucrece of Rome did scarce thy worth possess:
  If thou art pitiless to me, oh, my Queen,
    No Christian thou, a Turk, and nothing less!

A glance at the daughter of Greek Calabria will throw some light on
the plaints of her devoted suitors. The name she bears = _Dihatera_,
brings directly to mind the Sanskrit _Duhita_; and the vocation of the
Græco-Calabrian girl is often as purely pastoral as that of the Aryan
milkmaid who stood sponsor for so large a part of maidenhood in
Asia and in Europe. She is sent out into the hills to keep sheep; a
circumstance not ignored by the shepherd lad who sits in the shade and
trills on his treble reed. Ewe's milk is as much esteemed as in the
days of Theocritus; it forms the staple of the inevitable _ricotta_.
In the house the Greek damsel never has her hands idle. She knows how
to make the mysterious cakes and comfits, for which the stranger is
bound to have as large an appetite in Calabria as in the isles of
Greece. A light heart lightens her work, whatever it be. "You sit on
the doorstep and laugh as you wind the reels, then you go to the
loom, _e ecínda magna travudia travudia_" ("and sing those beautiful
songs"). So says the ill-starred poet, who discovers to his cost that
it is just this inexhaustible merriment that lends a sharp edge to
maiden cruelty. "I have loved you since you were a little thing, never
can you leave my heart; you bound me with a light chain; my mind
and your mind were one. Now,"--such is the melancholy outcome of it
all--"now you are a perfect little fox to me, while you will join in
any frolic with the others." The fair tyrant develops an originality
of thought which surprises her best friends: "Ever since you were
beloved, you have always an idea and an opinion!" It is beyond human
power to account for her caprices: "You are like a fay in the rainbow,
showing not one colour, but a thousand." When trouble comes to her as
it comes to all--when she has a slight experience of the pain she
is so ready to inflict--she does not meekly bow her head and suffer.
"Manamu," cries a girl who seems to have been neglected for some one
of higher stature. "Mother mine, I have got a little letter, and all
sorts of despair. _She_ is tall, and _I_ am little, and I have not the
power to tear her in pieces!"--as she has probably torn the sheet of
paper which brought the unwelcome intelligence. She goes on to say
that she will put up a vow in a chapel, so as to be enabled to do
some personal, but not clearly explained damage to the cause of her
misfortunes. There is nothing new under the sun; the word "anathema"
originally meant a votive offering: one of those execratory tablets,
deposited in the sacred places, by means of which the ancient Greeks
committed their enemies to the wrath of the Infernal Goddesses. Mr
Newton has shown that it was the gentler sex which availed itself, by
far the most earnestly, of the privilege. Most likely our Lady of Hate
in Brittany would have the same tale to tell. Impotence seeks strange
ways to compass its revenge.

In some extremities the lover has recourse, not indeed to anathemas,
but to irony. "I am not a reed," he protests, "that where you bend me
I should go; nor am I a leaf, that you should move me with a breath."
Then, after observing that poison has been poured on his fevered
vitals, he exclaims, "Give your love to others, and just see if they
will love you as I do!" One poet has arrived at the conclusion that
all the women of a particular street in Bova are hopelessly false:
"Did you ever see a shepherd wolf, or a fox minding chickens, or a pig
planting lettuces, or an ox, as sacristan, snuffing out tapers with
his horns? As soon will you find a woman of Cuveddi who keeps her
faith." Another begins his song with sympathy, but ends by uttering a
somewhat severe warning:

  Alas, alas! my heart it bleeds to see
    How now thou goest along disconsolate;
  And in thy sorrow I no help can be--
    My own poor heart is in a piteous state.
  Come with sweet words--ah! come and doctor me,
    And lift from off my heart this dolorous weight.
  If thou come not, then none can pardon thee:
    Go not to Rome for shrift; it is too late.

The Calabrian Greek has more than his share of the pangs of unrequited
love; that it is so he assures us with an iteration that must prove
convincing. Still, some balm is left in Gilead. Even at Bova there
are maidens who do not think it essential to their dignity to act the
_rôle_ of Eunica. The poorest herdsman, the humblest shepherd, has a
chance of getting listened to; a poor, bare chance perhaps, but one
which unlocks the door to as much of happiness as there is in the
world. At least the accepted lover in the mountains of Calabria would
be unwilling to admit that there exists a greater felicity than his.
If he goes without shoes, still "love is enough:"

  Little I murmur against my load of woe--
    Our love will never fail, nor yet decline;
  For to behold thy form contents me so,
    To see thee laugh with those red lips of thine.
  Dost thou say not a word when past I go?
    This of thy love for me is most sure sign;
  Our love will no decline or failing know
    Till in the sky the sun shall cease to shine.

Karro, the day-labourer (to whom we will give the credit of inventing
this song), would not, if he could, put one jot of his burden on
Filomena of the Red Lips. Provided she laughs, he is sufficiently
blest. It so happens that Filomena is his master's granddaughter;
hence, alas! the need of silence as the sign of love. The wealthy old
peasant has sworn that the child of his dead son shall never wed a
penniless lad, who might have starved last winter if he had not given
him work to do, out of sheer charity. Karro comes to a desperate
resolution: he will go down to Reggio and make his fortune. When he
thinks it over, he feels quite confident of success: other folks have
brought back lots of money to Bova out of the great world, and why
should not he? In the early morning he calls Filomena to bid her a
cheerful farewell:

  Come hither! run! thy friend must go away;
    Come with a kiss--the time is flying fast.
  Sure am I thou thy word wilt not betray,
    And for remembrance' sake my heart thou hast.
  Weep not because I leave thee for a day--
    Nay, do not weep, for it will soon be past;
  And, I advise thee, heed not if they say,
    "Journeys like this long years are wont to last."

Down at Reggio, Karro makes much poetry, and, were it not for his
defective education, one might think that he had been studying Byron:

  If I am forced far from thine eyes to go,
    Doubt not, ah! never doubt my constancy;
  The very truth I tell, if thou wouldst know--
    Distance makes stronger my fidelity.
  On my sure faith how shouldst thou not rely?
    How think through distance I can faithless grow?
  Remember how I loved thee, and reply
    If distance love like mine can overthrow.

The fact is that he has not found fortune-making quite so quick a
business as he had hoped. To the sun he says, when it rises, "O Sun!
thou that travellest from east to west, if thou shouldst see her whom
I love, greet her from me, and see if she shall laugh. If she asks how
I fare, tell her that many are my ills; if she asks not this of thee,
never can I be consoled." One day, in the market place, he meets a
friend of his, Toto Sgrò, who has come from Bova with wine to sell.
Here is an opportunity of safely sending a _sonetto_ to the red-lipped
Filomena. The public letter-writer is resorted to. This functionary
gets out the stock of deep pink paper which is kept expressly in the
intention of enamoured clients, and says gravely "Proceed." "An ímme
lárga an' du lúcchiu tu dicússu," begins Karro. "Pray use a tongue
known to Christians," interposes the scribe. Toto Sgrò, who is
present, remarks in Greek that such insolence should be punished; but
Karro counsels peace, and racks his brains for a poem in the Calabrese
dialect. Most of the men of Bova can poetize in two languages. The
poem, which is produced after a moderate amount of labour, turns
chiefly on the idle talk of mischief-makers, who are sure to insinuate
that the absent are in the wrong. "The tongue of people is evil
speaking; it murmurs more than the water of the stream; it babbles
more than the water of the sea. But what ill can folks say of us if we
love each other? I love thee eternally. Love me, Filomena, and think
nothing about it."

  Amame, Filomena, e nu' pensare!

Towards spring-time, Karro goes to Scilla to help in the sword-fish
taking; it is a bad year, and the venture does not succeed. He nearly
loses courage--fate seems so thoroughly against him. Just then he
hears a piece of news: at the _osteria_ there is an _Inglese_ who has
set his mind on the possession of a live wolf cub. "Mad, quite mad,
like all _Inglesi_," is the comment of the inhabitants of Scilla.
"Who ever heard of taking a live wolf?" Karro, as a mountaineer, sees
matters in a different light. Forthwith he has an interview with the
Englishman; then he vanishes from the scene for two months. "Poveru
giuvinetto," says the host at the inn, "he has been caught by an
old wolf instead of catching a young one!" At the end of the time,
however, Karro limps up to the door with an injured leg, and hardly
a rag left to cover him; but carrying on his back a sack holding two
wolf cubs, unhurt and tame as kittens. The gratified _Inglese_ gives a
bountiful reward; he is not the first of his race who has acted as the
_deus ex machina_ of a love-play on an Italian stage. Nothing remains
to be done but for Karro to hasten back to Bova. Yet a kind of
uneasiness mixes with his joy. What has Filomena been doing and
thinking all this while! He holds his heart in suspense at the sight
of her beauty:

  In all the world fair women met my gaze,
    But none I saw who could with thee compare;
  I saw the dames whom most the Rhegians praise,
    And by the thought of thee they seemed not fair.
    When thou art dressed to take the morning air
  The sun stands still in wonder and amaze;
  If thou shouldst scorn thy love of other days,
    I go a wanderer, I know not where.

The story ends well. Filomena proves as faithful as she is fair;
Karro's leg is quickly cured, and the old man gives his consent to the
marriage--nay more, feeble as he is now, he is glad to hand over the
whole management of the farm to his son-in-law. Thus the young couple
start in life with the three inestimable blessings which a Greek poet
reckons as representing the sum total of human prosperity: a full
granary, a dairy-house to make cheese in, and a fine pig.

In collections of Tuscan and Sicilian songs it is common to find a
goodly number placed under the heading "Delle loro bellezze." The
Greek songs of Calabria that exactly answer to this description
are few. A new Zeuxis might successfully paint an unseen Tuscan or
Sicilian girl--local Anacreons by the score would give him the needful
details: the colour of the hair and eyes, the height, complexion,
breadth of shoulders, smallness of waist; nor would they forget to
mention the nobility of pose and carriage, _il leggiadro portamento
altero_, which is the crowning gift of women south of the Alps. It can
be recognized at once that the poets of Sicily and Tuscany have not
merely a vague admiration for beauty in general; they have an innate
artistic perception of what goes to constitute the particular form
of beauty before their eyes. Poorer in words and ideas, the Greek
Calabrian hardly knows what to say of his beloved, except that she is
_dulce ridentem_, "sweetly-laughing," and that she has small red lips,
between which he is sure that she must carry honey--

  To meli ferri s' ettunda hilúcia ...

He seems scarcely to notice whether she is fair or dark. Fortunately
it is not impossible to fill in the blank spaces in the picture. The
old Greek stamp has left a deep impression at home and abroad. Where
there were Greeks there are still men and women whose features are
cut, not moulded, and who have a peculiar symmetry of form, which is
not less characteristic though it has been less discussed. A friend
of mine, who accompanied the Expedition of the Thousand, was struck
by the conformity of the standard of proportion to be observed in the
women of certain country districts in Sicily with the rule followed in
Greek sculpture; it is a pity that the subject is not taken in hand
by some one who has more time to give to it than a volunteer on the
march. I have said "men _or_ women," for it is a strange fact that the
heritage of Greek beauty seems to fall to only one sex at a time. At
Athens and in Cyprus young men may be seen who would have done credit
to the gymnasia, but never a handsome girl; whilst at Arles, in
Sicily, and in Greek Calabria the women are easily first in the race.
The typical Græco-Calabrian maiden has soft light hair, a fairness of
skin which no summer heats can stain, and the straight outline of a
statue. There is another pattern of beauty in Calabria: low forehead,
straight, strongly-marked eyebrows, dark, blue, serious eyes, lithe
figure, elastic step. Place beside the women of the last type a man
dyed copper-colour, with black, lank locks, and the startled look of
a wild animal. The Greeks have many dark faces, and many ugly faces,
too; for that matter, uncompromising plainness was always amongst the
possibilities of an Hellenic physiognomy. But the beautiful dark girl
and her lank-locked companion do not belong to them. Whom they do
belong to is an open question; perhaps to those early Brettians who
dwelt in the forest of the Syla, despised by the Greeks as savages,
and docketed by the Romans, without rhyme or reason, as the
descendants of escaped criminals. Calabria offers an inviting field
to the ethnologist. It is probable that the juxtaposition of various
races has not led in any commensurate degree to a mixture of
blood. Each commune is a unit perpetually reformed out of the same
constituents. Till lately intermarriage was carried to such a pitch
that it was rare to meet with a man in a village who was not closely
related to every other inhabitant of it.

The Greeks of Terra d'Otranto bear a strong physical resemblance to
the Greeks of Calabria Ultra. It is fifty or sixty years since the
Hon. R. Keppel Craven remarked a "striking regularity of feature and
beauty of complexion" in the women of Martano and Calimera. At Martano
they have a pretty song in praise of some incomparable maid:

  My Sun, where art thou going? Stay to see
  How passing beautiful is she I love.
  My Sun, that round and round the world dost move,
  Hast thou seen any beautiful as she?
  My Sun, that hast the whole world travelled round,
  One beautiful as she thou hast not found!

Next to his lady's laughter, the South Italian Greek worships the sun.
It is the only feature in nature to which he pays much heed. In common
with other forms of modern Greek the Calabrian possesses the beautiful
periphrase for sunset, _o íglio vasiléggui_ ([Greek: ho hêlios
basileuei]). Language, which is altogether a kind of poetry, has not
anything more profoundly poetic. There is a brisk, lively ring in the
"Sun up!" of the American Far West; but an intellectual Atlantic flows
between it and the Greek ascription of kingship, of heroship, to the
Day-giver at the end of his course--

  Wie herrlich die Sonne dort untergeht,
  So stirbt ein Held! Anbetungswürdig!

When we were young, were not our hearts stirred to their inmost depths
by this?

The love-songs of Bova include one composed by a young man who had the
ill-luck to get into prison. "Remember," he says, "the words I spoke
to thee when we were seated on the grass; for the love of Christ,
remember them, so as not to make my life a torment. Think not that I
shall stay in here for ever; already I have completed one day. But if
it should happen that thou art forgetful of my words, beyond a doubt
this prison awaits me!" The singer seems to wish it to be inferred
that his line of conduct in the given case will be such as to entitle
him to board and lodging at the expense of the state for the rest of
his days. In times still recent, prisoners at Bova could see and be
seen, and hear and be heard, through the bars. Thus the incarcerated
lover had not to wait long for an answer, which must have greatly
relieved his mind: "The words that thou didst say to me on the tender
grass, I remember them--I forget them not. I would not have thee
say them over again; but be sure I love thee. Night and day I go to
church, and of Christ I ask this grace: 'My Christ, make short the
hours--bring to me him whom I love!'"

The Greeks have a crafty proverb, "If they see me I laugh; but if not,
I rob and run." A Græco-Italic word[1], _maheri_, or "poignard," has
been suggested as the origin of _Mafia_, the name of one of the two
great organisations for crime which poison the social atmosphere of
southern Italy. The way of looking upon an experience of the penalties
of the law, not as a retribution or a disgrace, but as a simple
mischance, still prevails in the provinces of the ex-kingdom of
Naples. "The prisons," says a Calabrian poet, "are made for honest
men." Yet the people of Calabria are rather to be charged with a
confusion of moral sense than with a completely debased morality. What
has been said of the modern Greek could with equal truth be said of
them, whether Greeks or otherwise: put them upon their point of honour
and they may be highly trusted. At a date when, in Sicily, no one
went unarmed, it was the habit in Calabria to leave doors and windows
unfastened during an absence of weeks or months; and it is still
remembered how, after the great earthquake of 1783, five Calabrians
who happened to be at Naples brought back to the treasury 200 ducats
(received by them out of the royal bounty) on learning, through
private sources, that their homesteads were safe. The sort of honesty
here involved is not so common as it might be, even under the best of
social conditions.

In that year of catastrophe--1783--it is more than possible that some
of the Greek-speaking communities were swallowed up, leaving no trace
behind. Calabria was the theatre of a series of awful transformation
scenes; heroism and depravity took strange forms, and men intent on
pillage were as ready to rush into the tottering buildings as men
intent on rescue. A horrid rejoicing kept pace with terror and
despair. In contrast to all this was the surprising calmness
with which in some cases the ordeal was faced. At Oppido, a place
originally Greek, a pretty young woman, aged nineteen years, was
immured for thirty hours, and shortly after her husband had extricated
her she became a mother. Dolomieu asked what had been her thoughts in
her living tomb; to which she simply answered, "I waited." The Prince
of Scilla and four thousand people were swept into the sea by a single
volcanic wave. Only the mountains stood firm. Bova, piled against the
rock like a child's card-city, suffered no harm, whilst the most solid
structures on the shore and in the plain were pitched about as ships
in a storm. Still, in the popular belief the whole mischief was brewed
deep down in the innermost heart of Aspromonte. It may be that
the theory grew out of the immemorial dread inspired by the Bitter
Mount--a dread which seems in a way prophetic of the dark shadow it
was fated to cast across the fair page of Italian redemption.

A thousand years ago every nook and cranny in the Calabrian mountains
had its Greek hermit. Now and then one of these anchorites descended
to the towns, and preached to flocks of penitents in the Greek idiom,
which was understood by all. Under Byzantine rule the people generally
adhered to the Greek rite; nor was it without the imposition of the
heavy hand of Rome that they were finally brought to renounce it. As
late as the sixteenth century the liturgies were performed in Greek
at Rossano, and perhaps much later in the hill-towns, where there
are women who still treasure up scraps of Greek prayers. Greek, in an
older sense than any attached to the ritual of the Eastern Church, is
the train of thought marked out in this line from a folk-song of Bova:
"O Juro pu en chi jerusia" ("The Lord who hath not age"). The Italian
imagines the Creator as an old man; witness, to take only one example,
the frescoes on the walls of the Pisan Campo Santo. A Tuscan
proverb, which means no evil, though it would not very well bear
translating--"Lascia fare a Dio che è Santo Vecchio"--shows how
in this, as in other respects, Italian art is but the concrete
presentation of Italian popular sentiment. The grander idea of "a
Divine power which grows not old" seems very like an exotic in Italy.
Without yielding too much to the weakness of seeking analogies,
one other coincidence may be mentioned in passing. The Greek mother
soothes her crying child by telling him that "the wild doves drink at
the _holy sea_." This "ago Thalassia" recalls the [Greek: hals dia] of
the greatest folk-poet who ever lived. _Thalassia_ is now replaced
in ordinary conversation by the Italian _mare_; indeed, in Terra
d'Otranto it is currently supposed to be the proper name of a saint.
The next step would naturally lead to the establishment of a cult of
St Thalassia; and this may have been the kind of way in which were
established a good many of those cults that pass for evidences of
nature-worship.

The language of the Græco-Calabrian songs, mixed though it is with
numberless Calabrese corruptions, is still far more Greek than the
actual spoken tongue. So it always happens; poetry, whether the
highest or the lowest, is the shrine in which the purer forms
of speech are preserved. The Greeks of Calabria are at present
bi-lingual, reminding one of Horace's "Canusini more bilinguis." It
is a comparatively new state of things. Henry Swinburne says that the
women he saw knew only Greek or "Albanese," as he calls it, which, he
adds, "they pronounce with great sweetness of accent." The advance
of Calabrese is attended by the decline of Greek, and a systematic
examination of the latter has not been undertaken a moment too soon.
The good work, begun by Domenico Comparetti and Giuseppe Morosi, is
being completed by professor Astorre Pellegrini, who has published one
volume of _Studi sui dialetti Greco-Calabro di Bova_, which will be
followed in due course by a second instalment. I am glad to be able
to record my own debt to this excellent and most courteous scholar.
He informs me that he hopes to finish his researches by a thorough
inspection of the stones and mural tablets in Calabrian graveyards.
The dead have elsewhere told so much about the living that the best
results are to be anticipated.

It need scarcely be said that the leavings of the past in the southern
extremity of Italy are not confined to the narrow space where a Greek
idiom is spoken. There is not even warrant for supposing them to lie
chiefly within that area. The talisman which the hunter or brigand
wears next to his heart, believing that it renders him invulnerable;
the bagpipe which calls the sheep in the hills, and which the wild
herds of swine follow docilely over the marshes; the faggot which the
youth throws upon his mother's threshold before he crosses it
after the day's toil; the kick, aimed against the house door, which
signifies the last summons of the debtor; the shout of "Barca!" raised
by boys who lie in wait to get the first glimpse of the returning
fishing fleet, expecting largess for the publication of the good
news; the chaff showered down by vine-dressers upon bashful maids
and country lads going home from market; the abuse of strangers who
venture into the vineyards at the vintage season--these are among the
things of the young world that may be sought in Calabria.

Other things there are to take the mind back to the time when the
coins the peasant turns up with his hoe were fresh from the mint at
Locri, and when the mildest of philosophies was first--

                 ... dimly taught
  In old Crotona;

wild flowers as sweet as those that made Persephone forsake the plain
of Enna; maidens as fair as the five beautiful virgins after whom
Zeuxis painted his _Helen_; grasshoppers as loudly chirping as
the "cricket" that saved the prize to Eunomus; and, high in the
transparent air, the stars at which Pythagoras gazed straining his
ears to catch their eternal harmonies.

    [Footnote 1: In classical Greek, [Greek: machaira].]



FOLK SONGS OF PROVENCE.


On a day in the late autumn it happened to me to be standing at a
window looking down into an untidy back street at Avignon. It was a
way of getting through the hours between a busy morning and a busy
evening--hours which did not seem inclined to go. If ever man be
tempted to upbraid the slowness of the flight of time, it is surely
in the vacant intervals of travel. The prospect at the window could
hardly be called enlivening; by-and-by, however, the dulness of
the outlook was lessened a little. The sounds of a powerful and not
unmusical voice came along the street; people hastened to their doors,
and in a minute or so a young lame man made his appearance. He was
singing Provençal songs. Here was the last of the troubadours!

If it needed some imagination to see in this humble minstrel the
representative of the courtly adepts in the gay science, still his
relationship to them was not purely fanciful. The itinerant singer
used to be the troubadour of the poor. No doubt his more illustrious
brother grudged him the name. "I am astonished," said Giraud Riquier
to Alfonso of Aragon, "that folks confound the troubadours with
those ignorant and uncouth persons who, as soon as they can play some
screeching instrument, go through the streets asking alms and singing
before a vile rabble;" and Alfonso answered that in future the noble
appellation of "joglaria" should be granted no longer to mountebanks
who went about with dancing dogs, goats, monkeys, or puppets,
imitating the song of birds, or for a meagre pittance singing before
people of base extraction, but that they should be called "bufos,"
as in Lombardy. Giraud Riquier was not benevolently inclined when he
embodied in verse his protest and the King's endorsement of it; yet
his words now lend an ancient dignity to the class they were meant
to bring into contempt. The lame young man at Avignon had no dancing
dogs, nor did he mimic the song of birds--an art still practised
with wonderful skill in Italy.[1] He helped out his entertainment by
another device, one suitable to an age which reads; he sold printed
songs, and he presented "letters." If you bought two sous' worth of
songs you were entitled to a "letter." It has to be explained that
"letters" form a kind of fortune-telling, very popular in Provence. A
number of small scraps of paper are attached to a ring; you pull off
one at hazard, and on it you find a full account of the fate reserved
to you. Nothing more simple. As to the songs, loose sheets containing
four or five of them are to be had for fifteen centimes. I have seen
on the quay at Marseilles an open bookstall, where four thousand of
these songs are advertised for sale. Some are in Provençal, some in
French; many are interlarded with prose sentences, in which case
they are called "cansounetto émé parla." Formerly the same style of
composition bore the name of _cantefable_. The subjects chosen are
comic, or sentimental, or patriotic, or, again, simply local. There
is, for example, a dialogue between a proprietor and a lodger.
"Workman, why are you always grumbling?" asks the "moussu," who speaks
French, as do angels and upper-class people generally in Provençal
songs. "If your old quarters are to be pulled down, a fine new one
will be built instead. Ere long the town of Marseilles will become a
paradise, and the universe will exclaim, 'What a marvel! Fine palaces
replace miserable hovels!'" For all that, replies the workman in
Provençal patois, the abandonment of his old quarter costs a pang to
a child _deis Carmes_ (an old part of Marseilles, standing where the
Greek town stood). It was full of attraction to him. There his father
lived before him; there his friends had grown with him to manhood;
there he had brought up his children, and lived content. The
proprietor argues that it was far less clean than could be
wished--there was too much insectivorous activity in it. He tells the
workman that he can find a lodging, after all not very expensive, in
some brand-new building outside the town; the railway will bring
him to his work. Unconvinced, the workman returns to his refrain,
"Regreterai toujour moun vieil Marsïo." If the rhymes are bad, if the
subject is prosaic, we have here at least the force of a fact
pregnant with social danger. Is it only at Marseilles that the grand
improvements of modern days mean, for the man who lives by his labour,
the break-up of his home, the destruction of his household gods, the
dispersion of all that sweetened and hallowed his poverty? The songs
usually bear an author's name; but the authors of the original pieces,
though they may enjoy a solid popularity in Provence, are rarely known
to a wider fame. One of them, M. Marius Féraud, whose address I hold
in my hands, will be happy to compose songs or romances for marriages,
baptisms, and other such events, either in Provençal or in French,
introducing any surname and Christian name indicated, and arranging
the metre so as to suit the favourite tune of the person who orders
the poem.

Street ditties occupy an intermediate place between literate and
illiterate poesy. Once the repertory of the itinerant _bufo_ was drawn
from a source which might be called popular without qualifying the
term. With the pilgrim and the roving apprentice he was a chief agent
in the diffusion of ballads. Even now he has a right to be remembered
in any account of the songs of Provence; but, having given him
mention, we must leave the streets to go to the well-heads of popular
inspiration--the straggling village, the isolated farm, the cottage
alone on the byeway.

When in the present century there was a revival of Provençal
literature, after a suspension of some five hundred years, the poets
who devoted their not mean gifts to this labour of love discerned,
with true insight, that the only Provençal who was still thoroughly
alive was the peasant. Through the long lapse of time in the progress
of which Provence had lost its very name--becoming a thing of French
departments--the peasant, it was discovered, had not changed much;
acting on which discovery, the new Provençal school produced two works
of a value that could not have been reached had it been attempted
either to give an archaic dress to the ideas and interests of the
modern world, or to galvanise the dry bones of mediæval romance into a
dubious animation. These works are _Mirèio_ and _Margarido_. Mistral,
with the idealising touch of the imaginative artist, paints the
Provence of the valley of the Rhone, whilst Marius Trussy photographs
the ruder and wilder Provence of mountain and torrent. Taken together,
the two poems perfectly illustrate the _Wahrheit und Dichtung_ of the
life of the people whose songs we have to study.

Since there is record of them the Provençals have danced and sung.
They may be said to have furnished songs and dances to all France, and
even to lands far beyond the border of France. A French critic relates
how, when he was young, he went night after night to a certain
theatre in Paris to see a dance performed by a company of English
pantomimists. The dancers gradually stripped a staff, or may-pole,
of its many-coloured ribbons, which became in their hands a sort
of moving kaleidoscope. This, that he thought at the time to be an
exclusively English invention, was the old Provençal dance of the
_olivette_. In the Carnival season dances of an analogous kind are
still performed, here and there; by bands of young men, who march in
appropriate costume from place to place, led by their harlequin and by
a player on the _galooubé_, the little pipe which should be considered
the national instrument of Provence. Harlequin improvises couplets
in a sarcastic vein, and the crowd of spectators is not slow to
apply each sally to some well-known person; whence it comes that Ash
Wednesday carries a sense of relief to many worthy individuals. May
brings with it more dances and milder songs. Young men plant a tree,
with a nosegay atop, before their sweethearts' doors, and then go
singing--

  Lou premier jour de mai,
            O Diou d'eime!
  Quand tout se renouvelo
            Rossignolet!
  Quand tout se renouvelo.

The great business of the month is sheep-shearing, a labour celebrated
in a special song. "When the month of May comes, the shearers come:
they shear by night, they shear by day; for a month, and a fortnight,
and three weeks they shear the wool of these white sheep." When the
shearers go, the washers come; when the washers go, the carders come;
then come the spinners, the weavers, the buyers, and the ragmen who
gather up the bits. Across the nonsense of which it is composed the
ditty reflects the old excitement caused in the lonely homesteads by
the annual visit of the plyers of these several trades, who turned
everything upside down and brought strange news of the world. At
harvest there was, and there is yet, a great gathering at the larger
farms. Troops of labourers assemble to do the needful work. Sometimes,
after the evening meal, a curious song called the "Reapers' Grace"
is sung before the men go to rest. It has two parts: the first is a
variation on the first chapter of Genesis. Adam and _nouestro maire
Evo_ are put into the Garden of Eden. Adam is forbidden to eat of the
fruit of life; he eats thereof, and the day of his death is foretold
him. He will be buried under a palm, a cypress, and an olive, and out
of the wood of the olive the Cross will be made. The second part, sung
to a quick, lively air, is an expression of goodwill to the master and
the mistress of the farm, every verse ending, "Adorem devotoment
Jesù eme Mario." A few years ago the harvest led on naturally to
the vintage. It is not so now. The vines of Provence, excellent
in themselves, though never turned to the same account as those
of Burgundy or Bordeaux, have been almost completely ruined by the
phylloxera. The Provençal was satisfied if his wine was good enough to
suit his own taste and that of his neighbours; thus he had not laid
by wealth to support him in the evil day that has come. "Is there no
help?" I asked of a man of the poorer class. "Only rain, much rain,
can do good," he answered, "and," he added, "we have not had a drop
for four months." The national disaster has been borne with the finest
fortitude, but in Provence at least there seems to be small faith in
any method of grappling with it. The vines, they say, are spoilt by
the attempt to submit them to an artificial deluge; so one after the
other, the peasant roots them up, and tries to plant cabbages or what
not. Three hundred years back the Provençals would have known what
measures to take: the offending insect would have been prosecuted.
Between 1545 and 1596 there was a run of these remarkable trials
at Arles. In 1565 the Arlesiens asked for the expulsion of the
grasshoppers. The case came before the Tribunal de l'Officialité, and
Maître Marin was assigned to the insects as counsel. He defended his
clients with much zeal. Since the accused had been created, he argued
that they were justified in eating what was necessary to them. The
opposite counsel cited the serpent in the Garden of Eden, and sundry
other animals mentioned in Scripture, as having incurred severe
penalties. The grasshoppers got the worst of it, and were ordered to
quit the territory, with a threat of anathematizatiom from the altar,
to be repeated till the last of them had obeyed the sentence of the
honourable court.

One night in the winter of 1819 there was a frost which, had it been a
few times repeated, would have done as final mischief to the olives
as the phylloxera has done to the vines. The terror of that night is
remembered still. Corn, vine, and olive--these were the gifts of the
Greek to Provence, and the third is the most precious of all. The
olive has here an Eastern importance; the Provençals would see a
living truth in the story of how the trees said unto it, "Reign thou
over us." In the flowering season the slightest sharpness in the air
sends half the rural population bare-foot upon a pilgrimage to the
nearest St Briggitte or St Rossoline. The olive harvest is the
supreme event of the year. It has its song too. In the warm days of St
Martin's summer, says the late Damase Arbaud, some worker in the olive
woods will begin to sing of a sudden--

  Ai rescountrat ma mio--diluns.

It is a mere nonsense song respecting the meeting of a lover and his
lass on every day of the week, she being each day on her way to buy
provisions, and he giving her the invariable advice that she had
better come back, because it is raining. Were it the rarest poetry the
effect could be hardly more beautiful than it is. When the first voice
has sung, "I met my love ..." ascending slowly from a low note, the
whole group of olive-gatherers take it up, then the next, and again
the next, till the country-side is made all musical by the swell and
fall of sound sent forth from every grey coppice; and even long after
the nearer singers have ceased, others unseen in the distance still
raise the high-pitched call, "Come back, my love, come back! ... come
back!"

On the first of November it is customary in Provence for families
to meet and dine. The fruits of the earth are garnered, the year's
business is over and done. The year has brought perhaps new faces into
the family; very likely it has taken old faces away. Towards evening
the bells begin to toll for the vigil of the feast of All Souls. Tears
come into the eyes of the older guests, and the children are hurried
off to bed. Why should they be present at this letting loose of grief?
To induce them to retire with good grace, they are allowed to take
with them what is left of the dessert--chestnuts, or grapes, or figs.
The child puts a portion of his spoils at the bottom of his bed for
the _armettes_: so are called the spirits of the dead who are still in
a state of relation with the living, not being yet finally translated
into their future abode. Children are told that if they are good the
_armettes_ will kiss them this night; if they are naughty, they will
scratch their little feet.

The Provençal religious songs, poor though they are from a literary
point of view, yet possess more points of interest than can be
commonly looked for in folk-songs which treat of religion. They
contain frequent allusions to beliefs that have to be sought either
in the earliest apocryphal writings of the Christian æra, or in the
lately unearthed records of rabbinical tradition. Various of them
have regard to what is still, as M. Lenthéric says, "one of the great
popular emotions of the South of France"--the reputed presence there
of Mary Magdalene. M. Lenthéric is convinced that certain Jewish
Christians, flying from persecution at home, did come to Provence
(between the ports of which and the East there was constant
communication) a short time after the Crucifixion. He is further
inclined to give credit to the impression that Mary Magdalene and her
companions were among these fugitives. I will not go into the reasons
that have been urged against the story by English and German scholars;
it is enough for us that it is a popular credence of very ancient
origin. One side issue of it is particularly worth noting. A little
servant girl named Sara is supposed to have accompanied the Jewish
emigrants, and her the gypsies of Provence have adopted as their
patroness. Once a year they pay their respects to her tomb at Saintes
Maries de la Mer. This is almost the only case in which the gypsy race
has shown any disposition to identify itself with a religious cultus.
The fairy legend of Tarascon is another offshoot from the main
tradition. "Have you seen the Tarasque?" I was asked in the course
of a saunter through that town one cold morning between the hours
of seven and eight. It seemed that the original animal was kept in a
stall. To stimulate my anxiety to make its acquaintance I was handed
the portrait of a beast, half hedgehog, half hippopotamus, out of
whose somewhat human jaw dangled the legs of a small boy. Later I
heard the story from the lips of the sister of the landlord at the
primitive little inn; much did it gain from the vivacious grace of the
narrator, in whom there is as surely proof positive of a Greek descent
as can be seen in any of the more famous daughters of Arles. "When
the friends of our Lord landed in Provence, St Mary Magdalene went
to Sainte Baume, St Lazarus to Marseilles, and St Martha came here to
Tarascon. Now there was a terrible monster called the Tarasque, which
was desolating all the country round and carrying off all the young
children to eat. When St Martha was told of the straits the folks were
in, she went out to meet the monster with a piece of red ribbon in her
hand. Soon it came, snorting fire out of its nostrils; but the saint
threw the red ribbon over its neck, and lo! it grew quite still and
quiet, and followed her back into the town as if it had been a good
dog. To keep the memory of this marvel, we at Tarascon have a wooden
Tarasque, which we take round the town at Whitsuntide with much
rejoicing. About once in twenty years there is a very grand _fête_
indeed, and people come from far, far off. I have--naturally--seen
this grand celebration only once." A gleam of coquetry lit up the
long eyes: our friend clearly did not wish to be supposed to have an
experience ranging over too long a period. Then she went on, "You must
know that at Beaucaire, just there across the Rhone, the folks have
been always ready to die of jealousy of our Tarasque. Once upon a
time they thought they would have one as well as we; so they made the
biggest Tarasque that ever had been dreamt of. How proud they were!
But, alas! when the day came to take it round the town, it was found
that it would not come out of the door of the workshop! Ah! those dear
Beaucairos!" This I believe to be a pure fable, like the rest; to the
good people of Tarascon it appears the most pleasing part of the whole
story. My informant added, with a merry laugh, "There came this way
an Englishman--a very sceptical Englishman. When he heard about the
difficulty of the Beaucairos he asked, 'Why did they not have recourse
to St Martha?'"

As I have strayed into personal reminiscence, the record of one other
item of conversation will perhaps be allowed. That same morning I went
to breakfast at the house of a Provençal friend to meet the ablest
exponent of political positivism, the Radical deputy for Montmartre.
Over our host's strawberries (strawberries never end at Tarascon) I
imparted my newly acquired knowledge. When it came to the point of
saying that certain elderly persons were credibly stated to have
preserved a lively faith in the authenticity of the legend, M.
Clémenceau listened with a look of such unmistakable concern that I
said, half amused, "You do not believe much in poetry?" The answer
was characteristic. "Yes, I believe in it much; but is it necessary
to poetry that the people should credit such absurdities?" Is it
necessary? Possibly Marius Trussy, who inveighs so passionately
against "lou progrê," would say that it is. Anyhow the Tarasques of
the world are doomed; whether they will be without successors is a
different question. Some one has said that mankind has always lived
upon illusions, and always will, the essential thing being to change
the nature of these illusions from time to time, so as to bring them
into harmony with the spirit of the age.

Provençal folk-songs have but few analogies with the literature which
heedlessly, though beyond recall, has been named Provençal. The poetry
of the Miejour was a literary orchid of the fabulous sort that has
neither root nor fruit. A chance stanza, addressed to some high-born
Blancoflour, finds its way occasionally into the popular verse of
Provence with the marks of lettered authorship still clinging to it;
but further than this the resemblance does not go. The love poets of
the people make use of a flower language, which is supposed to be a
legacy of the Moors. Thyme accompanies a declaration; the violet means
doubt or uneasiness; rosemary signifies complaint; nettles announce a
quarrel. The course of true love nowhere flows less smoothly than
in old Provence. As soon as a country girl is suspected of having a
liking for some youth, she is set upon by her family as if she were
guilty of a monstrous crime. A microscopic distinction of rank, a
divergence in politics, or a deficiency of money will be snatched
as the excuse for putting the lover under the ban of absolute
proscription. From the inexplicable obstacles placed in the way of
lovers it follows that a large proportion of Provençal marriages
are the result of an elopement. The expedient never fails; Provençal
parents do not lock up their runaway daughters in convents where no
one can get at them. The delinquents are married as fast as possible.
What is more, no evil is thought or spoken of them. To make assurance
doubly sure, a curious formality is observed. The girl calls upon two
persons, secretly convened for the purpose, to bear witness that she
carries off her lover, who afterwards protests that his part in the
comedy was purely passive. In less than twenty years the same drama
is enacted with Margarido, the daughter, in the _rôle_ of Mario the
mother.

  L'herbo que grio
  Toujours reverdilho;
  L'herbo d'amour
  Reverdilho toujours.

The plant of love grows where there are young hearts; but how comes
it that middle-aged hearts turn inevitably to cast iron? There is one
song which has the right to be accepted as the typical love-song of
Provence. Mistral adapted it to his own use, and it figures in his
poem as the "Chanson de Majali." My translation follows as closely
as may be after the popular version which is sung from the Comtat
Venaissin to the Var:

    Margaret! my first love,
        Do not say me nay!
    A morning music thou must have,
        A waking roundelay.
  --Your waking music irks me,
        And irk me all who play;
    If this goes on much longer
        I'll drown myself one day.
  --If this goes on much longer,
        And thou wilt drown one day,
    Why, then a swimmer I will be,
        And save thee sans delay.
  --If then a swimmer thou wilt be,
        And save me sans delay,
    Then I will be an eel, and slip
        From 'twixt thy hands away.
  --If thou wilt be an eel, and slip
        From 'twixt my hands away,
    Why, I will be the fisherman
        Whom all the fish obey.
  --If thou wilt be the fisherman
        Whom all the fish obey,
    Then I will be the tender grass
        That yonder turns to hay.
  --If thou wilt be the tender grass
        That yonder turns to hay,
    Why, then a mower I will be,
        And mow thee in the may.
  --If thou a mower then wilt be,
        And mow me in the may,
    I, as a little hare, will go
        In yonder wood to stray.
  --If thou a little hare wilt go
        In yonder wood to stray,
    Then will I come, a hunter bold,
        And have thee as my prey.
  --If thou wilt come a hunter bold
        To have me as thy prey,
    Then I will be the endive small
        In yonder garden gay.
  --If thou wilt be the endive small
        In yonder garden gay,
    Then I will be the falling dew,
        And fall on thee alway.
  --If thou wilt be the falling dew,
        And fall on me alway,
    Then I will be the white, white rose
        On yonder thorny spray.
  --If thou wilt be the white, white rose
        On yonder thorny spray,
    Then I will be the honey bee,
        And kiss thee all the day.
  --If thou wilt be the honey bee,
        And kiss me all the day,
    Then I will be in yonder heaven
        The star of brightest ray.
  --If thou wilt be in yonder heaven
        The star of brighest ray,
    Then I will be the dawn, and we
        Shall meet at break of day.
  --If thou wilt be the dawn, so we
        May meet at break of day,
    Then I will be a nun professed,
        A nun of orders grey.
  --If thou wilt be a nun professed,
        A nun of orders grey,
    Then I will be the prior, and thou
        To me thy sins must say.
  --If thou wilt be the prior, and I
        To thee my sins must say,
    Then will I sleep among the dead,
        While the sisters weep and pray.
  --If thou wilt sleep among the dead,
        While the sisters weep and pray,
    Then I will be the holy earth
        That on thee they shall lay.
  --If thou wilt be the holy earth
        That on me they shall lay--
    Well--since some gallant I must have,
        I will not say thee nay.

A distinguished French scholar thought that he heard in this an echo
of Anacreon's ode [Greek: k' eus korên]. The inference suggested is
too hazardous for acceptance; yet that in some sort the song may date
from Greek Provence would seem to be the opinion even of cautious
critics. Thus we are led to look back to those associations which,
without giving a personal or political splendour such as that attached
to Magna Græcia, lend nevertheless to Provençal memories the exquisite
charm, the "_bouquet_" (if the word does not sound absurd) of all
things Greek. The legend of Greek beginnings in Provence will bear
being once more told. Four hundred and ninety years before Christ a
little fleet of Greek fortune-seekers left Phocæa, in Asia Minor, and
put into a small creek on the Provençal coast, the port of the future
Marseilles. As soon as they had disembarked, deeming it to be of
importance to them to stand well with the people of the land, they
sent to the king of the tribes inhabiting those shores an ambassador
bearing gifts and overtures of friendly intercourse. When the
ambassador reached Arles, Nann, the king, was giving a great feast
to his warriors, from among whom his daughter Gyptis was that day to
choose a husband. The young Greek entered the banqueting-hall and
sat down at the king's board. When the feasting was over, fair-haired
Gyptis, the royal maiden, rose from her seat and went straightway to
the strange guest; then, lifting in her hands the cup of espousal,
she offered it to his lips. He drank, and Provence became the bride of
Greece.

The children of that marriage left behind them a graveyard to tell
their history. Desecrated and despoiled though it is, still the
great Arlesian cemetery bears unique witness as well to the civilised
prosperity of the Provençal Greeks as to their decline under the
influences which formed the modern Provence. Irreverence towards the
dead--a comparatively new human characteristic--can nowhere be more
fully observed than in the _Elysii Campi_ of Arles. The love of
destruction has been doing its worst there for some centuries. To any
king coming to the town the townsfolk would make a gift of a priceless
treasure stolen from their dead ancestors, while the peasant who
wanted a cattle trough, or the mason in need of a door lintel, went
unrebuked and carried off what thing suited him. Not even the halo of
Christian romance could save the Alyscamps. The legend is well known.
St Trefume, man or myth, summoned the bishops of Gaul and Provence to
the consecration of this burial-ground. When they were assembled and
the rite was to be performed, each one shrank from taking on himself
so high an office; then Christ appeared in their midst and made the
sign of the cross over the sleeping-place of the pagan dead. Out
of the countless stories of the meeting of the new faith and the
old--stories too often of a nascent or an expiring fanaticism, there
is not one which breathes a gentler spirit. It was long believed, that
the devil had little power with the dead that lay in Arles. Hence
the multitude of sepulchres which Dante saw _ove 'l Rodano stagna_.
Princes and archbishops and an innumerable host of minor folks left
instructions that they might be buried in the Alyscamps. A simple mode
of transport was adopted by the population of the higher Rhone valley.
The body, bound to a raft or bier, was committed to the current of the
river, with a sum of money called the "drue de mourtalage" attached
to it. These silent travellers always reached their destination in
safety, persons appointed to the task being in readiness to receive
them. The sea water washed the limits of the cemetery in the days of
the Greeks, who looked across the dark, calm surface of the immense
lagune and thought of dying as of embarkation upon a voyage--not the
last voyage of the body down the river of life, but the first voyage
of the soul over the sea of death--and they wished their dead [Greek:
euploi].

The Greek traces that exist in the living people of Provence are
few, but distinct. There is, in the first place, the type of beauty
particularly associated with the women of Arles. As a rule, the
Provençal woman is not beautiful; nor is she very willing to admit
that her Arlesian sisters are one whit more beautiful than she. The
secret of their fame is interpreted by her in the stereotyped remark,
"C'est la coiffe!" But the coif of Arles, picturesque though it is in
its stern simplicity, could not change an ugly face into a pretty one,
and the wearers of it are well entitled to the honour they claim as
their birthright. Scarcely due attention has been paid to the good
looks of the older and even of the aged women; I have not seen their
equals save among a face of quite another type, the Teutonic amazons
of the Val Mastalone. In countries where the sun is fire, if youth
does not always mean beauty, beauty means almost always youth. M.
Lenthéric thinks that he detects a second clear trace of the Greeks
in the horn wrestling practised all over the dried-up lagune which the
fork of the Rhone below Arles forms into an island. Astride of their
wild white steeds, the horsemen drive one of the superb black bulls of
the Camargue towards a group of young men on foot, who, catching him
by his horns, wrestle with him till he is forced to bend the knee and
bite the dust. The amusement is dangerous, but it is not brutal. The
horses escape unhurt, so does the bull; the risk is for the men alone,
and it is a risk voluntarily and eagerly run. So popular is the
sport that it is difficult to prevent children from joining in it. In
Thessaly it was called [Greek: keratisis], and the bull in the act of
submission is represented on a large number of Massaliote and other
coins.

Marseilles, which has lost the art and the type of Greece, has kept
the Greek temperament. It is no more French than Naples is Italian:
both are Greek towns, though the characteristics that prove them such
have been somewhat differentiated by unlike external conditions. Still
they have points in common which are many and strong. Marsalia can
match in _émeutes_ the proverbial _quattordici rebellioni_ of "loyal"
Parthenope; and quickness of intelligence, love of display, mobility
of feeling, together with an astounding vitality, belong as much
to Marseillais as to Neapolitan. The people of Marseilles, the most
thriftless in France, have thriven three thousand years, and are
thriving now, in spite of the readiness of each small middle-class
family to lay out a half-year's savings on a breakfast at Roubion's;
in spite of the alacrity with which each working man sacrifices a
week's wages in order to "demonstrate" in favour of, or still better
against, no matter whom or what. Nowhere is there a more overweening
local pride. "Paris," say the Marseillais, "would be a fine town if it
had our _Cannebière_." Nowhere, as has been made lamentably plain,
are the hatreds of race and caste and politics more fierce or more
ruthless. Even with her own citizens Marseilles is stern; only after
protest does she grant a monument to Adolphe Thiers--himself just
a Greek Massaliote thrown into the French political arena. There is
reason to think that Greek was a spoken tongue at Marseilles at least
as late as the sixth century A.D. The Sanjanen, the fisherman of St
John's Quarter, has still a whole vocabulary of purely Greek terms
incidental to his calling. The Greek character of the speech of the
Marseillais sailors was noticed by the Abbé Papon, who attributed
to the same source the peculiar prosody and intonation of the
street cries of Marseilles. The Provençal historian remarks, with an
acuteness rare in the age in which he wrote (the early part of the
last century), "I draw my examples from the people, because it is with
them that we must seek the precious remains of ancient manners and
usages. Amongst the great, amongst people of the world, one sees only
the imprint of fashion, and fashion never stands still."

The Sanjanens are credited with the authorship of this cynical little
song:

  Fisher, fishing in the sea,
  Fish my mistress up for me.

  Fish her up before she drowns,
  Thou shalt have four hundred crowns.

  Fish her for me dead and cold,
  Thou shalt have my all in gold.

The romantic ballads of Provence are of an importance which demands,
properly speaking, a separate study. Provence was, beyond a doubt,
one of the main sources of the ballad literature of France, Spain, and
Italy. That certain still existing Provençal ballads passed over into
Piedmont as early as the thirteenth century is the opinion of Count
Nigra, the Italian diplomatist, not the least of whose distinguished
services to his country has been the support he was one of the first
to give to the cause of popular research. In all these songs the
plot goes for everything, the poetry for little or nothing; I shall
therefore best economise my space by giving a rough outline of the
stories of two or three of them. "Fluranço" is a characteristic
specimen. Fluranço, "la flour d'aquest pays," was married when she was
a little thing, and her husband at once went away to the wars. Monday
they were wed, Tuesday he was gone. At the end of seven years the
knight comes back, knocks at the door, and asks for Fluranço. His
mother says that she is no longer here; they sent her to fetch water,
and the Moors, the Saracen Moors, carried her off. "Where did they
take her to?" "They took her a hundred leagues away." The knight makes
a ship of gold and silver; he sails and sails without seeing aught but
the washer-women washing fine linen. At last he asks of them: "Tell
me whose tower is that, and to whom that castle belongs." "It is the
castle of the Saracen Moor." "How can I get into it?" "Dress yourself
as a poor pilgrim, and ask alms in Christ's name." In this way he
gains admittance, and Fluranço (she it is) bids the servant set the
table for the "poor pilgrim." When the knight is seated at table,
Fluranço begins to laugh. "What are you laughing at, Madamo?" She
confesses that she knows who he is. They collect a quantity of fine
gold; then they go the stable, and she mounts the russet horse and he
mounts the grey. Just as they are crossing the bridge the Moor sees
them. "Seven years," he cries, "I have clothed thee in fine damask,
seven years I have given thee morocco shoes, seven years I have laid
thee in fine linen, seven years I have kept thee--for one of my sons!"
The carelessness or cruelty of a stepmother (the head-wife of Asiatic
tales) is a prolific central idea in Provençal romance. While the
husband was engaged in distant adventures--tournaments, feudal wars,
or crusading expeditions--the wife, who was often little more than a
child, remained at the mercy of the occasionally unamiable dowager who
ruled the masterless _château_. The case of cruelty is exemplified
in the story of Guilhem de Beauvoire, who has to leave his child-wife
five weeks after marriage. "I counsel you, mother," he says as he sets
out, "to put her to do no kind of work: neither to fetch water, nor
to spin, nor yet to knead bread. Send her to mass, and give her good
dinners, and let her go out walking with other ladies." At the end of
five weeks the mother put the young wife to keep swine. The swine girl
went up to the mountain top and sang and sang. Guilhem de Beauvoire,
who was beyond the sea, said to his page, "Does it not seem as though
my wife were singing?" He travels at all speed over mountain and sea
till he comes to his home, where no man knows him. On the way he meets
the swine girl, and from her he hears that she has to eat only that
which is rejected of the swine. At the house he is welcomed as an
honoured guest; supper is laid for him, and he asks that the swine
girl whom he has seen may come and sup with him. When she sits down
beside him the swine girl bursts into tears. "Why do you weep, swine
girl?" "For seven years I have not supped at table!" Then in the
bitterness of yet another outrage to which the vile woman subjects
her, she cries aloud, "Oh! Guilhem de Beauvoire, who art beyond
the sea, God help thee! Verily thy cruel mother has abandoned me!"
Secretly Guilhem tells her who he is, and in proof of it shows her the
ring she gave him. In the morning the mother calls the swine girl to
go after her pigs. "If you were not my mother," says Guilhem, "I would
have you hung; as you are my mother, I will wall you up between two
walls."

The antiquity of the ballads of _Fluranco_ and _Guilhem de Beauvoire_
is shown by the fact that they plainly belong to a time when such work
as fetching water or making bread was regarded as amongst the likely
employments of noble ladies--though, from excess of indulgence,
Guilhem did not wish his wife to be set even to these light tasks. A
ballad, probably of about the same date, treats the case of a man who,
through the weakness which is the cause of half the crimes, becomes
the agent of his mother's guilt. The tragedy is unfolded with almost
the sublime laconicism of the _Divina Commedia_. Françoiso was married
when she was so young that she did not know how to do the service, and
the cruel mother was always saying to her son that Françoiso must die.
One day, after the young wife had laid the table, and had set thereon
the wine and the bread, and the fresh water, her husband said to her,
"My Françoiso, is there not anyone, no friend, who shall protect thy
life?" "I have my mother and my father, and you, who are my husband,
very well will you protect my life." Then, as they sit at meat, he
takes a knife and kills her; and he lifts her in his arms and kisses
her, and lays her under the flower of the jessamine, and he goes to
his mother and says, "My mother, your greatest wish is fulfilled: I
have killed Françoiso."

The genuine Provençal does not shrink from violence. Old inhabitants
still tell tales of the savage brigandage of the Estérel, of the
horrors of the _Terreur blanche_. Mild manners and social amenities
have never been characteristic of fair Provence. Even now the peasant
cannot disentangle his thoughts without a volley of oaths--harmless
indeed, for the most part (except those which are borrowed from
the _franciots_), but in sound terrific. Yet if it be true that the
character of a nation is asserted in its songs, it must be owned that
the songs of Provence speak favourably for the Provençal people. They
say that they are a people who have a steady and abiding sympathy
with honest men and virtuous women. They say further that rough and
ruthless though they may be when their blood is stirred, yet have they
a pitiful heart. The Provençal singer is slow to utterly condemn;
he grasps the saving inconsistencies of human nature; he makes the
murderer lay his victim "souto lou flour dou jaussemin:" under the
white jessamine flower, cherished beyond all flowers in Provence,
which has a strange passion for white things--white horses, white
dogs, white sheep, white doves, and the fair white hand of woman. Many
songs deal directly with almsgivings, the ritual of pity. To no part
of the Bible is there more frequent reference than to the parable of
the rich man and Lazarus; no neocatholic legend has been more gladly
accepted than the story in which some tattered beggar proves to
be Christ--a story, by the by, that holds in it the essence of the
Christian faith. If a Greek saw a beautiful unknown youth playing his
pipe beside some babbling stream, he believed him to be a god; the
Christian of the early ages recognised Christ in each mendicant
in loathsome rags, in each leper succoured at the risk of mortal
infection.

The Provençal tongue is not a mixture (as is too often said) of
Italian and French; nor is physical Provence a less fair Italy or a
fairer France. A land wildly convulsed in its storms, mysteriously
breathless in its calms; a garden here, a desert there; a land of
translucent inlets and red porphyry hills; before all, a land of the
illimitable grey of olive and limestone--this is Provence. Anyone
finding himself of a sudden where the Provençal olives raise their
dwarf heads with a weary look of eternity to the rainless heaven,
would say that the dominant feature in the landscape was its exceeding
seriousness. Sometimes on the coast the prevailing note changes from
grey to blue; the blanched rocks catch the colour of the sea, and not
the sky only, but dry fine air close around seems of a blueness so
intense as to make the senses swim. Better suited to a Nature thus
made up of crude discords and subtle harmonies is the old Provençal
speech, howsoever corrupt, than the exquisite French of Parisian
_salons_. But the language goes and the songs go too. Damase Arbaud
relates how, when he went on a long journey to speak with a man
reported to have cognisance of much traditional matter, he met,
issuing from the house door, not the man, but his coffin. The fact
is typical; the old order of things passes away: _nouastei diou se'n
van_.

    [Footnote 1: I am told that the peasants of the country round
    Moscow have a natural gift for imitating birds, and that they
    intersperse the singing of their own sad songs with this sweet
    carolling.]



THE WHITE PATERNOSTER.


In a paper published under the head of "Chaucer's Night Spell" in the
Folk-lore Record (part i. p. 145), Mr Thoms drew attention to four
lines spoken by the carpenter in Chaucer's _Miller's Tale_:

  Lord Jhesu Crist, and seynte Benedyht
  Blesse this hous from every wikked wight,
  Fro nyghtes verray, the White Paternostre
  When wonestow now, seynte Petres soster.

("Verray" is commonly supposed to mean night-mare, but Mr Thoms
referred it to "Werra," a Sclavonic deity.)

Mention of the White Paternoster occurs again in White's _Way to the
True Church_ (1624):

  White Paternoster, Saint Peter's brother,
  What hast i' th t'one hand? white booke leaves,
  What hast i' th t'other hand? heaven gate keyes.
  Open heaven gates, and streike (shut) hell gates:
  And let every crysome child creepe to its own mother.
                                White Paternoster, Amen.

A reading of the formula is preserved in the _Enchiridion Papæ
Leonis_, a book translated into French soon after its first appearance
in Latin at Rome in 1502:

    Au soir, m'allant coucher, je trouvis trois anges à mon lit
    couchés, un aux pieds, deux au chevet, la bonne Vierge Marie
    du milieu, qui me dit que je me couchis, que rien ne doutis.
    Le bon Dieu est mon Père, la bonne Vierge est ma mère, les
    trois vierges sont mes s[oe]urs. La chemise où Dieu fut né,
    mon corps en est enveloppé; la croix Sainte Marguerite à ma
    poitrine est écrite; madame d'en va sur les champs à Dieu
    pleurant, rencontrit Monsieur Saint Jean. Monsieur Saint Jean,
    d'où venez vous? Je viens d' _Ave Salus_. Vous n'avez pas vu
    le bon Dieu; si est, il est dans l'arbre de la croix, les
    pieds pendans, les mains clouans, un petit chapeau d'épine
    blanche sur la tête.

    Qui la dira trois fois au soir, trois fois au matin, gagnera
    le Paradis à la fin.

Curious as are the above citations, they only go a little way towards
filling up the blanks in the history of this waif from the fabric
of early Christian popular lore. A search of some years has yielded
evidence that the White Paternoster is still a part of the living
traditional matter of at least five European countries. Most persons
are familiar with the English version which runs thus:

  Four corners to my bed,
  Four angels round my head,
  One to watch, one to pray,
  And two to bear my soul away.

A second English variant was set on record by Aubrey, and may also be
read in Ady's "Candle in the Dark" (1655):

  Matthew, Mark, Luke, John,
  Bless the bed that I lye on;
  And blessed guardian angel keep
  Me safe from danger while I sleep.

Halliwell suggests that the two last lines were imitated from the
following in Bishop Ken's Evening Hymn:

  Let my blest guardian, while I sleep,
  His watchful station near me keep.
But if there was any imitation in the case, it was the bishop who
copied from the folk-rhymer, not the folk-rhymer from the bishop.

The thought of the coming of death in sleep, is expressed in a prayer
that may be sometimes seen inscribed at the head and foot of the bed
in Norwegian homesteads:

HEAD.

  Here is my bed and sleeping place;
  God, let me sleep in peace
  And blithe open my eyes
  And go to work.

FOOT.

  Go into thy bed, take thee a slumber,
  Reflect now on the last hour;
  Reflect now,
  That thou mayest take thy last slumber.

Analogous in spirit is a quatrain that has been known to me since
childhood, but which I do not remember to have seen in print:

  I lay me down to rest me,
  And pray the Lord to bless me.
  If I should sleep no more to wake
  I pray the Lord my soul to take.

The _Petite Patenôtre Blanche_ lingers in France in a variety of
shapes. One version was written down as late as 1872 from the mouth of
an old woman named Cathérine Bastien, an inhabitant of the department
of the Loire. It was afterwards communicated to _Mélusine_.

                   Jésu m'endort,
  Si je trépasse, mande mon corps,
  Si je trépasse, mande mon âme,
  Si je vis, mande mon esprit.
  (Je) prends les anges pour mes amis,
        Le bon Dieu pour mon père,
        La Sainte Vierge pour ma mère,
        Saint Louis de Gonzague,
        Aux quatre coins de ma chambre,
        Aux quatre coins be mon lit;
        Preservez moi de l'ennemi,
        Seigneur, à l'heure de ma mort.

Quenot, in his _Statistique de la Charante_ (1818), gives the
subjoined:

              Dieu l'a faite, je la dit;
  J'ai trouvé quatre anges couchés dans mon lit;
              Deux à la tête, deux aux pieds,
              Et le bon Dieu aux milieu.
              De quoi puis-je avoir peur?
              Le bon Dieu est mon père,
                  La Vierge ma mère,
                  Les saints mes frères,
                  Les saints mes s[oe]urs;
                  Le bon Dieu m'a dit:
                  Lève-toi, couche-toi,
  Ne crains rien; le feu, l'orage, et la tempête
              Ne peuvent rien contre toi.
  Saint Jean, Saint Marc, Saint Luc, et St Matthieu,
              Qui mettez les âmes en repos,
              Mettez-y la mienne si Dieu veut.

In Provence many a worthy country woman repeats each night this
_preiro doou soir_:--

      Au liech de Diou
      Me couche iou,
  Sept anges n'en trouve iou,
      Tres es peds,
      Quatre au capet (caput--head);
  La Buoeno Mero es au mitan
  Uno roso blanco à la man.

The white rose borne by the Good Mother is a pretty and characteristic
interpolation peculiar to flower-loving Provence. In the conclusion
of the prayer the _Boueno Mero_ tells whosoever recites it to have no
fear of dog or wolf, or wandering storm or running water, or shining
fire, or any evil folk. M. Damase Arbaud got together a number of
other devotional fragments that may be regarded as offshoots from the
parent stem. St Joseph, "Nourricier de Diou," is asked to preserve the
supplicant from sudden death, "et de l'infer et de ses flammos."
St Ann, "mero-grand de Jésus Christ," is prayed to teach the way to
Paradise. To St Denis a very practical petition is addressed:

  Grand Sant Danis de Franço,
  Gardetz me moun bouen sens, ma boueno remembranço.

Another verse points distinctly to a desire for protection against
witchcraft. The Provençals, by the bye, are of opinion that the
_Angelus_ was instituted to scare away any ill-conditioned spirits
that might be tempted out by the approach of night.

In Germany the guardian saints are dispensed with, but the angels are
retained in force. I am indebted to Mr C. G. Leland for a translation
of the most popular German even-song:

  Fourteen angels in a band
  Every night around me stand.
      Two to my left hand,
        Two to my right,
      Who watch me ever
        By day and night.
      Two at my head,
        Two at my feet,
      To guard my slumber
        Soft and sweet;
      Two to wake me
        At break of day,
      When night and darkness
        Pass away;
      Two to cover me
        Warm and nice,
      And two to lead me
        To Paradise.

Passing on to Italy we find an embarrassing abundance of folk-prayers
framed after the self-same model. The repose of the Venetian is under
the charge of the Perfect Angel, the Angel of God, St Bartholomew, the
Blessed Mother, St Elizabeth, the Four Evangelists, and St John the
Baptist. Venetian children are taught to say: "I go to bed, I know not
if I shall arise. Thou, Lord, who knowest, keep good watch over me.
Before my soul separates from my body, give me help and good comfort.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, so be it.
Bless my heart and my soul!" The Venetians also have a "Paternoster
pichenin," and a "Paternoster grande," both of which are, in their
existing form, little else than nonsense. The native of the Marches
goes to his rest accompanied by our Lord, the Madonna, the Four
Evangelists, _l'Angelo perfetto_, four greater angels, and three
others--one at the foot, one at the head, one in the middle. The
Tuscan, like the German, has only angels around him: of these he has
seven--one at the head, one at the foot, two at the sides, one to
cover him, one to watch him, and one to bear him to Paradise. The
Sicilian says: "I lay me down in this bed, with Jesus on my breast. I
sleep and he watches. In this bed where I am laid, five saints I find:
two at the head, two at the feet, in the middle is St Michael."

Perhaps the best expression of the belief in the divine guardians of
sleep is that given to it by an ancient Sardinian poet:--

  Su letto meo est de battor cantones,
  Et battor anghelos si bie ponen;
  Duos in pes, et duos in cabitta,
  Nostra Segnora a costazu m'ista.
  E a me narat: Dormi e reposa,
  No hapas paura de mala cosa,
  No hapas paura de mala fine.
        S' Anghelu Serafine,
        S' Anghelu Biancu,
        S' Ispiridu Santu,
        Sa Vigine Maria,
  Tote siant in cumpagnia mea.
        Anghelu de Deu,
        Custodio meo,
        Custa nott' illuminame!
  Guarda e difende a me
  Ca eo mi incommando a tie.

    My bed has four corners and four angels standing by it. Two at
    the foot and two at the head; our Lady is beside me. And to me
    she says, "Sleep and repose; have no fear of evil things; have
    no fear of an evil end." The angel Serafine, the angel
    Blanche, the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary--all are here to
    keep me company. Angel of God, thou my guardian, illuminate me
    this night. Watch and defend me, for I commend myself to thee.

A Spanish verse, so near to this that it would be needless to give it
a separate translation, was sent by a friend who at that time was in
the Royal College of Santa Ysabel at Madrid:

  Quatro pirondelitas
    Tiene mi cama;
  Quatro angelitos
    Me la acompaña.
  La madre de dios
    Esta enmedio,
  Dicendome:
    Duerme y reposa,
  Que no te sucedera
    Ninguna mala cosa.

  Amen.

In harmony with the leading idea of the White Paternoster, the
recumbent figures of the Archbishops in Canterbury Cathedral have
angels kneeling at each corner of their altar tombs. It is worth
remarking, too, how certain English lettered compositions have become
truly popular through the fact of their introducing the same idea.
A former Dean of Canterbury once asked an old woman, who lived alone
without chick or child, whether she said her prayers? "Oh! yes," was
the reply, "I say every night of my life,

  "Hush, my babe, lie still in slumber,
  Holy angels guard thy bed!"

The White Paternoster itself, in the form of "Matthew, Mark, Luke,
John," was, till lately, a not uncommon evening prayer in the
agricultural parts of Kent. At present the orthodox night and morning
prayers of the people in Catholic countries are the Lord's Prayer,
_Credo_ and _Ave Maria_, but to these, as has been seen, the White
Paternoster is often added, and at the date of the Reformation--when
the "Hail Mary" had scarcely come into general use--it is probable
that it was rarely omitted. Prayers that partake of the nature of
charms, have always been popular, and people have ever indulged in
odd, little roundabout devices to increase the efficacy of even the
most sacred words. Boccaccio, for instance, speaks of "the Paternoster
of San Giuliano," which seems to have been a Paternoster said for
the repose of the souls of the father and mother of St Julian, in
gratitude for which attention, the Saint was bound to give a good
night's lodging. It remains to be asked, why the White Paternoster is
called white? In the actual state of our knowledge, the reason is not
apparent; but possibly the term is to be taken simply in an
apologetic sense, as when applied to a stated form of dealing with
the supernatural. White charms had a recognised place in popular
extra-belief. It was sweet to be able to compel the invisible powers
to do what you would, and yet to feel secure from uncomfortable
consequences. Of course, in such a case, the thing willed must be of
an innocent nature. The Breton who begs vengeance of St Yves, knows
tolerably well that what he is doing is very black indeed, even though
the saint were ten times a saint. Topsy-turvy as may be his moral
perceptions, he would not call this procedure a "white charm." He
has, however, white charms of his own, one of which was described with
great spirit by Auguste Brizeux, the Breton poet who wove many of the
wild superstitions of his country into picturesque verse. Brizeux'
poems are not very well known either in France or out of it, but they
should be dear to students of folk-lore. The following is a version of
"La Poussière Sainte:"

  Sweeping an ancient chapel through the night
  (A ruin now), built 'neath a rocky height,
  The aged Coulm's old wife was muttering,
  As if some secret strange abroad to fling.

  "I brave, thee tempest, and will do alone
  What by my grand-dame in her youth was done,
  When at her beck (of Leon's land, the pride),
  The ocean, lion-headed, curbed its tide.

  "Sweep, sweep, my broom, until my charm uprears
  A force more strong than sighs, more strong than tears:
  Charm loved of heaven, which forces wind and wave,
  Though fierce and mad, our children's lives to save.

  "My angel knows, a Christian true am I;
  No Pagan, nor in league with sorcery.
  Hence I dispense to the four winds of God,
  To quell their rage, dust from the holy sod.

  "Sweep on my broom; by virtues such as these
  Oft through the air I scattered swarms of bees.
  And you, old Coulm, to-morrow shall be prest,
  You, and my children three, against my breast."

  In Enn-Tell's port meanwhile, the pier along
  Pressed forward, mute, dismayed, the anxious throng.
  And as the billows howl, the lightnings flash,
  And skies, lead-black, to earth seem like to dash;
  Neighbours clasped hand to hand, and each one prayed,
  Through superstition, speechless, while afraid.
  Still as the port a sail did safely reach,
  All shouting hurried forward to the beach:
  "Father, is't you? Speak, father is it true?"
  Others, "Hast seen my son?" "My brother, you?"
  "Brave man, the truth, whate'er has happened, say,
  Am I a widow?" Night in such dismay
  Dragged 'neath a sky without a moon or star.
  Thank God! Meanwhile all boats in safety are,
  And every hearth is blazing--all save one,
  The Columban's. But that was void and lone.
  But you, Coulm's wife, still battle with the storm,
  Fixed on the rocks, your task you still perform,--
  You cast, towards east, towards west, and towards the north,
  And towards the south, your incantations forth.

  "Go, holy dust, 'gainst all the winds that fly.
  No sorceress, but a Christian true am I.
  By the lamp's light, when I the fire had lit,
  In God's own house, my hands collected it.

  "You from the statues of the saints I swept,
  And silken flags, still on the pillars kept,
  And the dark tombs, of those whose sons neglect,
  But you, with your white winding-sheet protect.

  "Go, holy dust! To stem the winds depart!
  Born beneath Christian feet, thou glorious art:
  When from the porch, I to the altar sped,
  I seemed upon some heavenly path to tread.

  "On you the deacons and the priests have trod,
  Pilgrims who live, forefathers 'neath the sod;
  Wood flowers, sweet grains of incense, saintly bones;
  By dawn you will restore my spouse and sons."

    She ceased her charm; and from the chapel then
    She saw approach four bare-foot fishermen.
    The aged dame in tears fell on her knees
    And cried, "I knew they would escape the seas!"
    Then cleansing sand and sea-weed o'er them spread,
    With happy lips she kissed each cherished head.



THE DIFFUSION OF BALLADS.

I.--LORD RONALD IN ITALY.


Several causes have combined to give the professional minstrel a more
tenacious hold on life in Italy than in France or Germany or England.
One of them is, that Italian culture has always been less dependent
on education--or what the English poor call "book-learning"--than the
culture of those countries.

To this day you may count upon finding a blind ballad-singer in every
Italian city. The connection of blindness with popular songs is a
noteworthy thing. It is not, perhaps, a great exaggeration to say
that, had there been no blind folks in the world, there would have
been few ballads. Who knows, indeed, but that Homer would not have
earned his bread by bread-making instead of by enchanting the children
and wise men of all after-ages, had he not been "one who followed
a guide"? Every one remembers how it was the singing of a "blinde
crowder, with no rougher voice than rude style," that moved the heroic
heart of Sidney more than the blare of trumpets. Every one may not
know that in the East of Europe and in Armenia, "blinde crowders"
still wander from village to village, carrying, wheresoever they go,
the songs of a former day and the news of the latest hour;
acting, after a fashion, as professors of history and "special
correspondents," and keeping alive the sentiment of nationality
under circumstances in which, except for their agency, it must almost
without a doubt have expired.

When the Austrians occupied Trebinje in the Herzegovina, they forbade
the playing of the "guzla," the little stringed instrument which
accompanies the ballads; but the ballads will not be forgotten.
Proscription does not kill a song. What kills it sometimes, if it have
a political sense, is the fulfilment of the hopes it expresses; then
it may die a natural death. I hunted all over Naples for some one who
could sing a song which every Neapolitan, man and boy, hummed through
the year when the Redshirts brought freedom: _Camicia rossa, camicia
ardente_. It seemed that there was not one who still knew it. Just as
I was on the point of giving up the search, a blind man was produced
out of a tavern at Posilippo; a poor creature in threadbare clothes,
holding a wretched violin. He sang the words with spirit and pathos;
he is old, however, and perhaps the knowledge of them will not survive
him.

Our present business is not with songs of a national or local
interest, but with those which can hardly be said to belong to any
country in particular. And, first of all, we have to go back to a
certain _Camillo, detto il Bianchino cieco fiorentino_, who sang
ballads at Verona in the year 1629, and who had printed for the
greater diffusion of his fame a sort of rhymed advertisement
containing the first few lines of some twenty songs that belonged to
his repertory. Last but one of these samples stands the following:

  "Dov' andastú jersera,
  Figlioul mio ricco, savio e gentil;
  Dov' andastú jersera?"

"When I come to look at it," adds Camillo, "this is too long; it ought
to have been the first to be sung"--alluding, of course, to the song,
not to the sample.

Later in the same century, the ballad mentioned above had the honour
of being cited before a more polite audience than that which was
probably in the habit of listening to the blind Florentine. On
the 24th of September 1656, Canon Lorenzo Panciatichi reminded
his fellow-academicians of the Crusca of what he called "a fine
observation" that had been made regarding the song:

  "Dov' andastú a cena figlioul mio
  Ricco, savio, e gentile?"

The observation (continued the Canon) turned on the answer the son
makes to the mother when she asks him what his sweetheart gave him for
supper. "She gave me," says the son, "_un' anguilla arrosto cotta
nel pentolin dell' olio_." The idea of a roasted eel cooked in an oil
pipkin offended the academical sense of the fitness of things; it had
therefore been proposed to say instead that the eel was hashed:

  "Madonna Madre,
  Il cuore stá male,
  Per un anguilla in guazzetto."

Had we nothing to guide us beyond these fragments, there could be no
question but that in this Italian ballad we might safely recognise
one of the most spirited pieces in the whole range of popular
literature--the song of Lord Ronald, otherwise Rowlande, or Randal, or
"Billy, my son:"

  "O where hae ye been, Lord Ronald, my son?
  O where hae ye been, my handsome young man?"
  "I hae been to the wood; mother, make my bed soon,
  For I'm weary wi' hunting, and fain would lie down."

  "Where gat ye your dinner, Lord Ronald, my son?
  Where gat ye your dinner, my handsome young man?"
  "I dined wi' my love; mother, make my bed soon,
  For I'm weary wi' hunting, and fain would lie down."

  "What gat ye to dinner, Lord Ronald, my son?
  What gat ye to dinner, my handsome young man?"
  "I gat eels boil'd in broo; mother, make my bed soon,
  For I'm weary wi' hunting, and fain would lie down."

  "And where are your bloodhounds, Lord Ronald, my son?
  And where are your bloodhounds, my handsome young man?"
  "O they swell'd and they died; mother, make my bed soon,
  For I'm weary wi' hunting, and fain would lie down."

  "O I fear ye are poison'd, Lord Ronald, my son!
  O I fear ye are poison'd, my handsome young man!"
  "O yes, I am poison'd! mother, make my bed soon,
  For I'm sick at the heart, and I fain would lie down."

This version, which I quote from Mr Allingham's _Ballad Book_ (1864),
ends here; so does that given by Sir Walter Scott in the _Border
Minstrelsy_. There is, however, another version which goes on:

  "What will ye leave to your father, Lord Ronald, my son?
  What will ye leave to your father, my handsome young man?"
  "Baith my houses and land; mither, mak' my bed sune
  For I'm sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie doun."

  "What will ye leave to your brither, Lord Ronald, my son?
  What will ye leave to your brither, my handsome young man?"
  "My horse and my saddle; mither, mak' my bed sune,
  For I'm sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie doun."

  "What will ye leave to your sister, Lord Ronald, my son?
  What will ye leave to your sister, my handsome young man?"
  "Baith my gold box and rings; mither, mak' my bed sune,
  For I'm sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie doun."

  "What will ye leave to your true love, Lord Ronald, my son?
  What will ye leave to your true love, my handsome young man?"
  "The tow and the halter, for to hang on yon tree,
  And let her hang there for the poisoning o' me."

Lord Ronald has already been met with, though somewhat disguised, both
in Germany and in Sweden, but his appearance two hundred and fifty
years ago at Verona has a peculiar interest attached to it. That
England shares most of her songs with the Northern nations is a fact
familiar to all; but, unless I am mistaken, this is almost the first
time of discovering a purely popular British ballad in an Italian
dress.

It so happens that to the fragments quoted by Camillo and the Canon
can be added the complete story as sung at the present date in
Tuscany, Venetia, and Lombardy. Professor d'Ancona has taken pains to
collate the slightly different texts, because few Italian folk-songs
now extant can be traced even as far back as the seventeenth century.
The learned Professor, whose great antiquarian services are well
known, does not seem to be aware that the song has currency out of
Italy. The best version is one set down from word of mouth in the
district of Como, and of this I subjoin a literal rendering:

      "Where were you yester eve?
  My son, beloved, blooming, and gentle bred,
      Where were you yester eve?"
      "I with my love abode;
  O lady mother, my heart is very sick:
      I with my love abode;
  Alas, alas, that I should have to die."

      "What supper gave she you?
  My son beloved, blooming, and gentle bred,
      What supper gave she you?"
      "I supped on roasted eel;
  O lady mother, my heart is very sick:
      I supped on roasted eel;
  Alas, alas, that I should have to die."

      "And did you eat it all?
  My son, beloved, blooming, and gentle bred,
      And did you eat it all?"
      "Only the half I eat;
  O lady mother, my heart is very sick:
      Only the half I eat;
  Alas, alas, that I should have to die."

      "Where went the other half?
  My son beloved, blooming, and gentle bred,
      Where went the other half?"
      "I gave it to the dog;
  O lady mother, my heart is very sick:
      I gave it to the dog;
  Alas, alas, that I should have to die?"

      "What did you with the dog?
  My son beloved, blooming, and gentle bred,
      What did you with the dog?"
      "It died upon the way;
  O lady mother, my heart is very sick:
      It died upon the way;
  Alas, alas, that I should have to die."

      "Poisoned it must have been!
  My son beloved, blooming, and gentle bred,
      Poisoned it must have been!"
      "Quick for the doctor send;
  O lady mother, my heart is very sick:
      Quick for the doctor send;
  Alas, alas, that I should have to die.

      "Wherefore the doctor call?
  My son beloved, blooming, and gentle bred,
      Wherefore the doctor call?"
      "That he may visit me;
  O lady mother, my heart is very sick:
      That he may visit me;
  Alas, alas, that I should have to die."

       *       *       *       *       *

      "Quick for the parson send;
  O lady mother, my heart is very sick:
      Quick for the parson send;
  Alas, alas, that I should have to die."

      "Wherefore the parson call?
  My son beloved, blooming, and gentle bred,
      Wherefore the parson call?"
      "So that I may confess;
  O lady mother, my heart is very sick:
      So that I may confess;
  Alas, alas, that I should have to die."

       *       *       *       *       *

      "Send for the notary;
  O lady mother, my heart is very sick:
      Send for the notary;
  Alas, alas, that I should have to die."

      "Why call the notary?
  My son beloved, blooming, and gentle bred,
      Why call the notary?"
      "To make my testament;
  O lady mother, my heart is very sick:
      To make my testament;
  Alas, alas, that I should have to die."

      "What to your mother leave?
  My son beloved, blooming, and gentle bred,
      What to your mother leave?"
      "To her my palace goes;
  O lady mother, my heart is very sick:
      To her my palace goes;
  Alas, alas, that I should have to die."

      "What to your brothers leave?
  My son beloved, blooming, and gentle bred,
      What to your brothers leave?"
      "To them the coach and team;
  O lady mother, my heart is very sick:
      To them the coach and team;
  Alas, alas, that I should have to die."

      "What to your sisters leave?
  My son beloved, blooming, and gentle bred,
      What to your sisters leave?"
      "A dower to marry them;
  O lady mother, my heart is very sick:
      A dower to marry them;
  Alas, alas, that I should have to die."

      "What to your servants leave?
  My son beloved, blooming, and gentle bred,
      What to your servants leave?"
      "The road to go to Mass;
  O lady mother, my heart is very sick:
      The road to go to Mass;
  Alas, alas, that I should have to die."

      "What leave you to your tomb?
  My son beloved, blooming, and gentle bred,
      What leave you to your tomb?"
      "Masses seven score and ten;
  O lady mother, my heart is very sick:
      Masses seven score and ten;
  Alas, alas, that I should have to die."

      "What leave you to your love?
  My son beloved, blooming, and gentle bred,
      What leave you to your love?"
      "The tree to hang her on;
  O lady mother, my heart is very sick:
      The tree to hang her on;
  Alas, alas, that I should have to die."

At first sight it would seem that the supreme dramatic element of the
English song--the circumstance that the mother does not know, but only
suspects, with increasing conviction, the presence of foul play--is
weakened in the Lombard ballad by the refrain, "Alas, alas, that I
should have to die." But a little more reflection will show that this
is essentially of the nature of an _aside_. In many instances the
office of the burden in old ballads resembles that of the chorus in
a Greek play: it is designed to suggest to the audience a clue to the
events enacting which is not possessed by the _dramatis personæ_--at
least not by all of them.

In the northern songs, Lord Ronald is a murdered child: a character
in which he likewise figures in the Scotch lay of "The Croodlin Doo."
This is the Swedish variant:

  "Where hast thou been so long, my little daughter?"
  "I have been to B[oe]nne to see my brother;
                                           Alas! how I suffer."

  "What gave they thee to eat, my little daughter?"
  "Roast eel and pepper, my step-mother.
                                           Alas! how I suffer."

  "What didst thou do with the bones, my little daughter?"
  "I threw them to the dogs, my step-mother.
                                           Alas! how I suffer."

  "What happened to the dogs, my little daughter?"
  "Their bodies went to pieces, my step-mother.
                                           Alas! how I suffer."

  "What dost thou wish for thy father, my little daughter?"
  "Good grain in the grange, my step-mother.
                                           Alas! how I suffer."

  "What dost thou wish for thy brother, my little daughter?"
  "A big ship to sail in, my step-mother.
                                           Alas! how I suffer."

  "What dost thou wish for thy sister, my little daughter?"
  "Coffers and caskets of gold, my step-mother.
                                           Alas! how I suffer."

  "What dost thou wish for thy step-mother, my little daughter?"
  "The chains of hell, step-mother.
                                           Alas! how I suffer."

  "What dost thou wish for thy nurse, my little daughter?"
  "The same hell, my nurse.
                                           Alas! how I suffer."

A point connected with the diffusion of ballads is the extraordinarily
wide adoption of certain conventional forms. One of these is the form
of testamentary instructions by means of which the plot of a song is
worked up to its climax. It reappears in the "Cruel Brother"--which, I
suppose, is altogether to be regarded as of the Roland type:

  "O what would ye leave to your father, dear?"
      _With a heigh-ho! and a lily gay._
  "The milk-white steed that brought me here,"
      _As the primrose spreads so sweetly._

  "What would ye give to your mother, dear?"
      _With a heigh-ho! and a lily gay._
  "My wedding shift which I do wear,"
      _As the primrose spreads so sweetly._

  "But she must wash it very clean,"
      _With a heigh-ho! and a lily gay_,
  "For my heart's blood sticks in every seam,"
      _As the primrose spreads so sweetly_.

  "What would ye give to your sister Anne?"
      _With a heigh-ho! and a lily gay._
  "My gay gold ring and my feathered fan,"
      _As the primrose spreads so sweetly_.

  "What would ye give to your brother John?"
      _With a heigh-ho! and a lily gay._
  "A rope and a gallows to hang him on!"
      _As the primrose spreads so sweetly_.

  "What would ye give to your brother John's wife?"
      _With a heigh-ho! and a lily gay._
  "Grief and sorrow to end her life!"
      _As the primrose spreads so sweetly_.

  "What would ye give to your own true lover?"
      _With a heigh-ho! and a lily gay._
  "My dying kiss, and my love for ever!"
      _As the primrose spreads so sweetly_.

The Portuguese ballad of "Helena," which has not much in common with
"Lord Roland"--except that it is a story of treachery--is brought into
relation with it by its bequests. Helena is a blameless wife whom a
cruel mother-in-law first encourages to pay a visit to her parents,
and then represents to her husband as having run away from him in
his absence. No sooner has he returned from his journey than he rides
irate after his wife. When he arrives he is met by the news that a son
is born to him, but unappeased he orders the young mother to rise
from her bed and follow him. She obeys, saying that in a well-ordered
marriage it is the husband who commands; only, before she goes, she
kisses her son and bids her mother tell him of these kisses when he
grows up. Then her husband takes her to a high mountain, where the
agony of death comes upon her. The husband asks: "To whom leavest thou
thy jewels?" She answers: "To my sister; if thou wilt permit it."
"To whom leavest thou thy cross and the stones of thy necklace?" "The
cross I leave to my mother; surely she will pray for me; she will
not care to have the stones, thou canst keep them--if to another thou
givest them, better than I, let her adorn herself with them." "Thy
substance, to whom leavest thou?" "To thee, my husband; God grant it
may profit thee." "To whom leavest thou thy son, that he may be well
brought up?" "To thy mother, and may it please God that he should make
himself loved of her." "Not to that dog," cries the husband, his eyes
at last opened, "she might well kill him. Leave him rather to thy
mother, who will bring him up well; she will know how to wash him with
her tears, and she will take the coif from her head to swaddle him."

A strange, wild Roumanian song, translated by Mr C. F. Keary
(_Nineteenth Century_, No. lxviii.), closes with a list of "gifts" of
the same character:

  "But mother, oh mother, say how
  Shall I speak, and what name call him now?"
  "My beloved, my step-son,
  My heart's love, my cherished one."
  "And her, O my mother, what word
  Shall I give her, what name?"
  "My step-daughter, abhorred,
  The whole world's shame."
  "Then, my mother, what shall I take him?
  What gift shall I make him?"
  "A handkerchief fine, little daughter,
  Bread of white wheat for thy loved one to eat,
  And a glass of wine, my daughter."
  "And what shall I take _her_, little mother,

  What gift shall I make _her_?"
  "A kerchief of thorns, little daughter;
  A loaf of black bread for her whom he wed,
  And a cup of poison, my daughter."

Before parting with "Lord Ronald" it should be noticed that the song
clearly travelled in song-shape, not simply as a popular tradition;
and that its different adaptators have been still more faithful to the
shape than to the substance. It is not so easy to decide whether the
victim was originally a child or a lover, whether the north or the
south has preserved the more correct version. Some crime of the middle
ages may have been the foundation of the ballad; on the other hand
it is conceivable that it formed part of the enormous accumulation of
literary odds and ends brought to Europe from the east, by pilgrims
and crusaders. Stories that, as we know them, seem distinctly
mediæval, such as Boccaccio's "Falcon," have been traced to India.
If a collection were made of the ballads now sung by no more widely
extended class than the three thousand ballad singers inscribed in the
last census of the North-Western Provinces and Oude, what a priceless
boon would not be conferred upon the student of comparative folk-lore!
We cannot arrive at a certainty even in regard to the minor question
of whether Lord Ronald made his appearance first in England or in
Italy. The English and Italian songs bear a closer affinity to
each other than is possessed by either towards the Swedish variant.
Supposing the one to be directly derived from the other--a supposition
which in this case does not seem improbable--the Italian was most
likely the original. There was a steady migration into England of
Italian literature, literate and probably also illiterate, from the
thirteenth to the sixteenth century. The English ballad-singers may
have been as much on the look-out for a new, orally communicated song
from foreign parts, as Chaucer was for a poem of Petrarch's or a tale
of Boccaccio's.


II.--THE THEFT OF A SHROUD.

The ballad with which we have now to deal has had probably as wide a
currency as that of "Lord Ronald." The student of folk-lore recognises
at once, in its evident fitness for local adaptation, its simple yet
terrifying motive, and the logical march of its events, the elements
that give a popular song a free pass among the peoples.

M. Allègre took down from word of mouth and communicated to the late
Damase Arbaud a Provençal version, which runs as follows:

  His scarlet cape the Prior donned,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  His scarlet cape the Prior donned,
      And all the souls in Paradise
      With joy and triumph fill the skies.

  His sable cape the Prior donned,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  His sable cape the Prior donned,
      And all the spirits of the dead
      Fast tears within the graveyard shed.

  Now, Ringer, to the belfry speed,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  Now, Ringer, to the belfry speed,
      Ring loud, to-night thy ringing tolls
      An office for the dead men's souls.

  Ring loud the bell of good St John:
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  Ring loud the bell of good St John:
      Pray all, for the poor dead; aye pray,
      Kind folks, for spirits passed away.

  Soon as the midnight hour strikes,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  Soon as the midnight hour strikes,
      The pale moon sheds around her light,
      And all the graveyard waxeth white.

  What seest thou, Ringer, in the close?
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  What seest thou, Ringer, in the close?
      "I see the dead men wake and sit
      Each one by his deserted pit."

  Full thousands seven and hundreds five,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  Full thousands seven and hundreds five,
      Each on his grave's edge, yawning wide,
      His dead man's wrappings lays aside.

  Then leave they their white winding-sheets,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  Then leave they their white winding-sheets,
      And walk, accomplishing their doom,
      In sad procession from the tomb.

  Full one thousand and hundreds five,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  Full one thousand and hundreds five,
      And each one falls upon his knees
      Soon as the holy cross he sees.

  Full one thousand and hundreds five,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  Full one thousand and hundreds five
      Arrest their footsteps, weeping sore
      When they have reached their children's door.

  Full one thousand and hundreds five,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  Full one thousand and hundreds five
      Turn them aside and, listening, stay
      Whene'er they hear some kind soul pray.

  Full one thousand and hundreds five,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  Full one thousand and hundreds five,
      Who stand apart and groan bereft,
      Seeing for them no friends are left.

  But soon as ever the white cock stirs,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  But soon as ever the white cock stirs,
      They take again their cerements white,
      And in their hands a torch alight.

  But soon as ever the red cock crows,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  But soon as ever the red cock crows,
      All sing the Holy Passion song,
      And in procession march along.

  But soon as the gilded cock doth shine,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  But soon as the gilded cock doth shine,
      Their hands and their two arms they cross,
      And each descends into his foss.

  'Tis now the dead men's second night,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  Tis now the dead men's second night:
      Peter, go up to ring; nor dread
      If thou shouldst chance to see the dead.

  "The dead, the dead, they fright me not,"
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  "The dead, the dead, they fright me not,
      --Yet prayers are due for the dead, I ween,
      And due respect should they be seen."

  When next the midnight hour strikes,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  When next the midnight hour strikes,
      The graves gape wide and ghastly show
      The dead who issue from below.

  Three diverse ways they pass along,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  Three diverse ways they pass along,
      Nought seen but wan white skeletons
      Weeping, nought heard but sighs and moans.

  Down from the belfry Peter came,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  Down from the belfry Peter came,
      While still the bell of good St John
      Gave forth its sound: barin, baron.

  He carried off a dead man's shroud,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  He carried off a dead man's shroud;
      At once it seemed no longer night,
      The holy close was all alight.

  The holy Cross that midmost stands,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  The holy Cross that midmost stands
      Grew red as though with blood 'twas dyed,
      And all the altars loudly sighed.

  Now, when the dead regained the close,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  Now, when the dead regained the close
      --The Holy Passion sung again--
      They passed along in solemn train.

  Then he who found his cerements gone,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  Then he who found his cerements gone,
      From out the graveyard gazed and signed
      His winding-sheet should be resigned.

  But Peter every entrance closed,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  But Peter every entrance closed
      With locks and bolts, approach defies,
      Then looks at him--but keeps the prize!

  He with his arm, and with his hand,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  He with his arm, and with his hand,
      Made signs in vain, two times or three,
      And then the belfry entered he.

  A noise is mounting up the stair,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  A noise is mounting up the stair,
      The bolts are shattered, and the door
      Is burst and dashed upon the floor.

  The Ringer trembled with dismay,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  The Ringer trembled with dismay,
      And still the bell of good St John
      For ever swung: barin, baron.

  At the first stroke of Angelus,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  At the first stroke of Angelus
      The skeleton broke all his bones,
      Falling to earth upon the stones.

  Peter upon his bed was laid,
      Ding dong, dong ding dong!
  Peter upon his bed was laid,
      Confessed his sin, repenting sore,
      Lingered three days, then lived no more.

It will be seen that, in this ballad, which is locally called "Lou
Jour des Mouerts," the officiating priest assumes red vestments in
the morning, and changes them in the course of the day for black.
The vestments appropriate to the evening of All Saints' Day are still
black (it being the Vigil of All Souls'), but in the morning the
colour worn is white or gold. An explanation, however, is at hand. The
feast of All Saints had its beginning in the dedication of the Roman
Pantheon by Boniface IV., in the year 607, to _S. Maria ad Martyres_,
and red ornaments were naturally chosen for a day set apart especially
to the commemoration of martyrdom. These were only discarded when the
feast came to have a more general character, and there is evidence
of their retention here and there in French churches till a date as
advanced as the fifteenth century. Thus, we gain incidentally some
notion of the age of the song.

Not long after giving a first reading to the Provençal ballad of the
Shroud-theft, I became convinced of its substantial identity with a
poem whose author holds quite another rank to that of the nameless
folk-poet. Goethe's "Todten Tanz" tends less to edification than "Lou
jour des Mouerts;" nor has it, I venture to think, an equal power.
We miss the pathetic picture of the companies of sad ghosts; these
kneeling before the wayside crosses; these lingering by their
children's thresholds; these listening to the prayers of the pious
on their behalf; these others weeping, _en vesent que n'ant plus
d'amics_. But the divergence of treatment cannot hide the fact that
the two ballads are made out of one tale.

  THE DANCE OF DEATH.

  The watcher looks down in the dead of the night
    On graves in trim order gleaming;
  The moon steeps the world all around in her light--
    'Tis clear as if noon were beaming.
  One grave gaped apart, then another began;
  Here forth steps a woman, and there steps a man,
    White winding-sheets trailing behind them.

  On sport they determine, nor pause they for long,
    All feel for the measure advancing;
  The rich and the poor, the old and the young;
    But winding-sheets hinder the dancing.
  Since sense of decorum no longer impedes,
  They hasten to shake themselves free of their weeds,
    And tombstones are quickly beshrouded.

  Then legs kick about and are lifted in air,
    Strange gesture and antic repeating;
  The bones crack and rattle, and crash here and there,
    As if to keep time they were beating.
  The sight fills the watcher with mirth 'stead of fear,
  And the sly one, the Tempter, speaks low in his ear:
    "Now go and a winding-sheet plunder!"

  The hint he soon followed, the deed it was done,
    Then behind the church-door he sought shelter;
  The moon in her splendour unceasingly shone,
    And still dance the dead helter-skelter.
  At last, one by one, they all cease from the play,
  And, wrapt in the winding-sheets, hasten away,
    Beneath the turf silently sinking.

  One only still staggers and stumbles along,
    The grave edges groping and feeling;
  'Tis no brother ghost who has done him the wrong;
    Now his scent shows the place of concealing.
  The church-door he shakes, but his strength is represt;
  'Tis well for the watcher the portals are blest
    By crosses resplendent protected.

  His shirt he must have, upon this he is bent,
    No time has he now for reflection;
  Each sculpture of Gothic some holding has lent,
    He scales and he climbs each projection.
  Dread vengeance o'ertakes him, 'tis up with the spy!
  From arch unto arch draws the skeleton nigh,
    Like lengthy-legged horrible spider.

  The watcher turns pale, and he trembles full sore,
    The shroud to return he beseeches;
  But a claw (it is done, he is living no more),
    A claw to the shroud barely reaches.
  The moonlight grows faint; it strikes one by the clock;
  A thunderclap burst with a terrible shock;
    To earth falls the skeleton shattered.

It needed but small penetration to guess that Goethe had neither seen
nor heard of the Provençal song. It seemed, therefore, certain that
a version of the Shroud-theft must exist in Germany, or near it--an
inference I found to be correct on consulting that excellent work,
Goethe's _Gedichte erläutert von Heinrich Viehoff_ (Stuttgart, 1870).
So far as the title and the incident of the dancing are concerned,
Goethe apparently had recourse to a popular story given in Appel's
_Book of Spectres_, where it is related how, when the guards of the
tower looked out at midnight, they saw Master Willibert rise from his
grave in the moonshine, seat himself on a high tombstone, and begin to
perform on his pocket pipe. Then several other tombs opened, and the
dead came forth and danced cheerily over the mounds of the graves. The
white shrouds fluttered round their dried-up limbs, and their bones
clattered and shook till the clock struck one, when each returned
into his narrow house, and the piper put his pipe under his arm
and followed their example. The part of the ballad which has to do
directly with the Shroud-theft is based upon oral traditions collected
by the poet during his sojourn at Teplitz, in Bohemia, in the summer
of 1813. Viehoff has ascertained that there are also traces of the
legend in Silesia, Moravia, and Tyrol. In these countries the story
would seem to be oftenest told in prose; but Viehoff prints a rhymed
rendering of the variant localised in Tyrol, where the events are
supposed to have occurred at the village of Burgeis:

  The twelve night strokes have ceased to sound,
  The watchman of Burgeis looks around,
    The country all in moonlight sleeps;
  Standing the belfry tower beneath
  The tombstones, with their wreaths of death,
    The wan moon's ghastly pallor steeps.

  "Does the young mother in child-birth dead
  Rise in her shroud from her lonely bed,
    For the sake of the child she has left behind?
  To mock them (they say) makes the dead ones grieve,
  Let's see if I cannot her work relieve,
    Or she no end to her toil may find."

  So spake he, when something, with movement slow,
  Stirs in the deep-dug grave below,
    And in its trailing shroud comes out;
  And the little garments that infants have
  It hangs and stretches on gate and grave,
    On rail and trellis, the yard about.

  The rest of the buried in sleep repose,
  That nothing of waking or trouble knows,
    For the woman the sleep of the grave is killed;
  Her leaden sleep, each midnight hour,
  Flees, and her limbs regain their power,
    And she hastes as to tend her new-born child.

  All with rash spite the watchman views,
  And with cruel laughter the form pursues,
    As he leans from the belfrey's narrow height,
  And in sinful scorn on the tower rails
  Linen and sheets and bands he trails,
    Mocking her acts in the moon's wan light.

  Lo, with swift steps, foreboding doom,
  From the churchyard's edge o'er grave and tomb
    The ghost to the tower wends its ways;
  And climbs and glides, ne'er fearing fall,
  Up by the ledges, the lofty wall,
    Fixing the sinner with fearful gaze.

  The watcher grows pale, and with hasty hand,
  Tears from the tower the shrouds and bands;
    Vainly! That threatening grin draws nigh!
  With a trembling hand he tolls the hour,
  And the skeleton down from the belfry-tower,
    Shattered and crumbling, falls from high.

This story overlaps the great cycle of popular belief which treats
of the help given by a dead mother to her bereaved child. They say
in Germany, when the sheets are ruffled in the bed of a motherless
infant, that the mother has lain beside it and suckled it. Kindred
superstitions stretch through the world. The sin of the Burgeis
watchman is that of heartless malice, but it stops short of actual
robbery, which is perhaps the reason why he escapes with his life,
having the presence of mind to toll forth the first hour of day,
when--

  Whether in sea or fire, in earth or air,
  The extravagant and erring spirit hies
  To his confine.

The prose legends which bear upon one or another point in the
Shroud-theft, are both numerous and important. Joseph Macé, a
cabin-boy of Saint Cast, in Upper Brittany, related the following to
the able collector of Breton folk-lore, M. Paul Sébillot. There was a
young man who went to see a young girl; his parents begged him not to
go again to her, but he replied: "Mind your own business and leave me
to mind mine." One evening he invited two or three of his comrades to
accompany him, and as they passed by a stile they saw a woman standing
there, dressed all in white. "I'll take off her coif," said the youth.
"No," said the others, "let her alone." But he went straight up to
her and carried off her coif--there only remained the little skullcap
underneath, but he did not see her face. He went with the others to
his sweetheart, and showed her the coif. "Ah!" said he, "as I came
here I met a woman all in white, and I carried off her coif." "Give
me the coif," replied his sweetheart; "I will put it away in my
wardrobe." Next evening he started again to see the girl, and on
reaching the stile he saw a woman in white like the one of the day
before, but this one had no head. "Dear me," he said to himself, "it
is the same as yesterday; still I did not think I had pulled off her
head." When he went in to his sweetheart, she said, "I wore to-day
the coif you gave me; you can't think how nice I look in it!" "Give it
back to me, I beg of you," said the young man. She gave it back, and
when he got home he told his mother the whole story. "Ah, my poor
lad," she said, "you have kept sorry company. I told you some ill
would befall you." He went to bed, but in the night his mother heard
sighs coming from the bed of her son. She woke her good man and said,
"Listen; one would say someone was moaning." She went to her son's
bed and found him bathed in sweat. "What is the matter with you?"
she asked. "Ah, my mother, I had a weight of more than three hundred
pounds on my body; it stifled me, I could bear it no longer." Next day
the youth went to confession, and he told all to the curate. "My boy,"
said the priest, "the person you saw was a woman who came from the
grave to do penance; it was your dead sister." "What can I do?" asked
the young man. "You must go and take her back her coif, and set it
on the neck on the side to which it leans." "Ah! sir, I should never
dare, I should die of fright!" Still he went that evening to the
stile, where he saw the woman who was dressed in white and had no
head; he set the coif just on the side the neck leant to; all at once
a head showed itself inside it, and a voice said, "Ah! my brother, you
hindered me from doing penance; to-morrow you will come and help me
to finish it." The young man went back to bed, but next day he did not
get up when the others did, and when they went to his bed he was dead.

At Saint Suliac a young man saw three young girls kneeling in the
cemetery. He took the cap off one of them, saying that he would not
give it back till she came to embrace him. Next day, instead of the
cap he found a death's head. At midnight he carried it back, holding
in his arms a new-born infant. The death's head became once more a
cap, the woman disappeared, and the young man, thanks to the child,
suffered no harm.

In a third Breton legend a child commits the theft, but without any
consciousness of wrong-doing. A little girl picked up a small bone in
a graveyard and took it away to amuse herself with it. In the evening,
when she returned home, she heard a voice saying:

  Give me back my bone!
  Give me back my bone!

"What's that?" asked the mother.

"Perhaps it is because of a bone I picked up in the cemetery."

"Well, it must be given back."

The little girl opened the door and threw the bone into the court, but
the voice went on saying:

  Give me back my bone!
  Give me back my bone!

"Maybe it is the bone of a dead man; take the candle, go into the
court and give it back to him."

It is most unfortunate to possess a human bone, even by accident.
It establishes unholy relations between the possessor and the spirit
world which render him defenceless against spells and enchantments. A
late chaplain to the forces in Mauritius told me that the witches,
or rather wizards, who have it all their own way in that island,
contrived, after a course of preparatory persecution, to
surreptitiously introduce into his house the little finger of a child.
He could not think what to do with it: at last he consulted a friend,
a Catholic priest, who advised him to burn it, which was done. We all
know "the finger of birth-strangled babe" in the witches' cauldron in
_Macbeth_; but it is somewhat surprising to find a similar "charm for
powerful trouble" in current use in a British colony.

A Corsican legend, reported by M. Frédéric Ortoli, should have a place
here. On the Day of the Dead a certain man had to go to Sartena to
sell chestnuts. Overnight he filled his panniers, so as to be ready to
start with the first gleam of daylight. The only thing left for him to
do was to go and get his horse, which was out at pasture not far from
the village. So he went to bed, but hardly had he lain down when a
fearful storm broke over the house. Cries and curses echoed all round:
"Cursed be thou! cursed be thy wife! cursed be thy children!" The
wretched man grew cold with fear; he got quite close to his wife, who
asked: "Did you put the water outside the window?" "Sangu di Cristu!"
cried the man, "I forgot!" He rose at once to put vessels filled with
water on the balcony. The dead--whose vigil it was--were in fact come,
and finding no water either to drink or to wash and purify their sins
in, they had made a frightful noise and hurled maledictions against
him who had forgotten their wants. The poor man went to bed again, but
the storm continued, though the cursing and blaspheming had ceased.

Towards three in the morning the man wished to get up, "Stay," said
his wife, "do not go."

"No, go I must."

"The weather is so bad, the wind so high; some mischief will come to
you."

"Never mind; keep me no more."

And so saying the husband went out to find his horse. He had barely
reached the crossway when by the path from Giufari, he saw, marching
towards him, the _squadra d'Arrozza_--the Dead Battalion. Each dead
man held a taper, and chanted the _Miserere_.

The poor peasant was as if petrified; his blood stood still in his
veins, and he could not utter a word. Meanwhile the troop surrounded
him, and he who was at its head offered him the taper he was carrying.
"Take hold!" he said, and the poor wretch took it.

Then the most dreadful groans and cries were heard. "Woe! woe! woe! Be
accursed, be accursed, be accursed."

The villager soon came to himself, but oh! horrid sight! in his hand
was the arm of a little child. It was that, and not a taper, that the
dead had given him. He tried to get rid of it, but every effort proved
fruitless. In despair, he went to the priest, and told him all about
it. "Men should never take what spirits offer them," said the priest,
"it is always a snare they set for us; but now that the mischief is
done, let us see how best we can repair it."

"What must I do?"

"For three successive nights the Dead Battalion will come under your
windows at the same hour as when you met it: some will cry, some
will sob, others will curse you, and ask persistently for the little
child's arm; the bells of all the churches will set to tolling the
funeral knell, but have no fear. At first you must not throw them the
arm--only on the third day may you get rid of it, and this is how.
Get ready a lot of hot ashes; then when the dead come and begin to cry
and groan, throw them a part. That will make them furious; they will
wish to attack your house--you will let them in, but when all the
spectres are inside, suddenly throw at them what is left of the hot
ashes with the child's arm along with it. The dead will take it away,
and you will be saved."

Everything happened just as the priest said; for three nights cries,
groans, and imprecations surrounded the man's house, while the bells
tolled the death-knell. It was only by throwing hot ashes on the
ghosts that he got rid of the child's arm. Not long after, he died.
"Woe be to him who forgets to give drink to the dead."

The Dead Battalion, or Confraternity of Ghosts, walk abroad dressed as
penitents, with hoods over their heads. The solitary night traveller
sees them from time to time, defiling down the mountain gorges; they
invariably try to make him accept some object, not to be recognised
in the dark--but beware, lest you accept! If some important person
is about to die, they come out to receive his soul into their dread
brotherhood.

Ghost stories are common in Corsica. What wilder tale could be desired
than that of the girl, betrayed by her lover to wed a richer bride,
who returns thrice, and lies down between man and wife--twice she
vanishes at cock-crow, the third time she clasps her betrayer in her
chilly arms, saying, "Thou art mine, O beloved! mine thou wilt be
forever, we part no more." While she speaks he breathes his last
breath.

The dead, when assembled in numbers, and when not employed in
rehearsing the business or calling of their former lives, are usually
engaged either in dancing or in going through some sort of religious
exercise. On this point there is a conformity of evidence. A spectre's
mass is a very common superstition. On All Soul's Eve an old woman
went to pray in the now ruined church of St Martin, at Bonn. Priests
were performing the service, and there was a large congregation, but
by and by the old woman became convinced that she was the only living
mortal in the church. She wished to get away, but she could not; just
as Mass was ending, however, her deceased husband whispered to her
that now was the time to fly for her life. She ran to the door, but
she stopped for one moment at the spot in the aisle where two of her
children were buried, just to say, "Peace be unto them." The door
swung open and closed after her: a bit of her cloak was shut in, so
that she had to leave it behind. Soon after she sickened and died; the
neighbours said it must be because a piece of her clothes had remained
in the possession of the dead.

The dance of the dead sometimes takes the form not of an amusement but
of a doom. One of the most curious instances of this is embodied in a
Rhineland legend, which has the advantage of giving names, dates, and
full particulars. In the 14th century, Freiherr von Metternich placed
his daughter Ida in a convent on the island of Oberwörth, in order
to separate her from her lover, one Gerbert, to whom she was secretly
betrothed. A year later the maiden lay sick in the nunnery, attended
by an aged lay sister. "Alas!" she said, "I die unwed though a
betrothed wife." "Heaven forefend!" cried her companion, "then you
would be doomed to dance the death-dance." The old sister went on to
explain that betrothed maidens who die without having either married
or taken religious vows, are condemned to dance on a grassless spot
in the middle of the island, there being but one chance of escape--the
coming of a lover, no matter whether the original betrothed or
another, with whom the whole company dances round and round till
he dies; then the youngest of the ghosts makes him her own, and may
henceforth rest in her grave. The old nun's gossip does not delay
(possibly it hastens) the hapless Ida's departure, and Gerbert,
who hears of her illness on the shores of the Boden See, arrives at
Coblentz only to have tidings of her death. He rows over to Oberwörth:
it is midnight in midwinter. Under the moonlight dance the unwed
brides, veiled and in flowing robes; Gerbert thinks he sees Ida
amongst them. He joins in the dance; fast and furious it becomes, to
the sound of a wild, unearthly music. At last the clock strikes, and
the ghosts vanish--only one, as it goes, seems to stoop and kiss the
youth, who sinks to the ground. There the gardener finds him on
the morrow, and in spite of all the care bestowed upon him by the
sisterhood he dies before sundown.

In China they are more practical. In the natural course of things the
spirit of an engaged girl would certainly haunt her lover, but there
is a way to prevent it, and that way he takes. He must go to the house
where she died, step over the coffin containing her body, and carry
home a pair of her shoes. Then he is safe.

A story may be added which comes from a Dutch source. The gravedigger
happened to have a fever on All Saints' Day. "Is it not unlucky?" he
said to a friend who came to see him, "I am ill, and must go to-night
in the cold and snow to dig a grave." "Oh, I'll do that for you," said
the gossip. "That's a little service." So it was agreed. The gossip
took a spade and a pick-axe, and cheered himself with a glass at the
alehouse; then, by half-past eleven, the work was done. As he
was going away from the churchyard he saw a procession of white
friars--they went round the close, each with a taper in his hand. When
they passed the gossip, they threw down the tapers, and the last flung
him a big ball of wax with two wicks. The gossip laughed quite loudly:
all this wax would sell for a pretty sum! He picked up the tapers and
hid them under his bed. Next day was All Souls'. The gossip went to
bed betimes, but he could not get to sleep, and as twelve struck he
heard three knocks. He jumped up and opened the door--there stood all
the white monks, only they had no tapers! The gossip fell back on his
bed from fright, and the monks marched into the room and stood all
round him. Then their white robes dropped off, and, only to think of
it! they were all skeletons! But no skeleton was complete; one lacked
an arm, another a leg, another a backbone, and one had no head.
Somehow the cloth in which the gossip had wrapped the wax came out
from under the bed and fell open; instead of tapers it was full of
bones. The skeletons now called out for their missing members: "Give
me my rib," "Give me my backbone," and so on. The gossip gave back all
the pieces, and put the skull on the right shoulders--it was what he
had mistaken for a ball of wax. The moment the owner of the head had
got it back he snatched a violin which was hanging against the wall,
and told the gossip to begin to play forthwith, he himself extending
his arms in the right position to conduct the music. All the skeletons
danced, making a fearful clatter, and the gossip dared not leave off
fiddling till the morning came and the monks put on their clothes and
went away. The gossip and his wife did not say one word of what had
happened till their last hour, when they thought it wisest to tell
their confessor.

Mr Benjamin Thorpe saw a link between the above legend, of which he
gave a translation in his "Northern Mythology," and the Netherlandish
proverb, "Let no one take a bone from the churchyard: the dead
will torment him till he return it." Its general analogy with our
Shroud-theft does not admit of doubt, though the proceedings of the
expropriator of wax lights are more easily accounted for than
are those of the Shroud-thief. Peter of Provence either stole the
winding-sheet out of sheer mischief, or he took it to enable him
to see sights not lawfully visible to mortal eyes. In any case a
well-worn shroud could scarcely enrich the thief, while the wax used
for ecclesiastical candles was, and is still, a distinctly marketable
commodity. A stranger who goes into a church at Florence in the
dusk of the evening, when a funeral ceremony is in the course of
performance, is surprised to see men and boys dodging the footsteps of
the brethren of the _Misericordia_, and stooping at every turn to the
pavement; if he asks what is the object of their peculiar antics, he
will hear that it is to collect

  The droppings of the wax to sell again.

The industry is time-honoured in Italy. At Naples in the last century,
the wax-men flourished exceedingly by reason of a usage described by
Henry Swinburne. Candidates for holy orders who had not money enough
to pay the fees, were in the habit of letting themselves out to attend
funerals, so that they might be able to lay by the sum needful. But as
they were often indisposed to fulfil the duties thus undertaken, they
dressed up the city vagrants in their clothes and sent them to pray
and sing instead of them. These latter made their account out of the
transaction by having a friend near, who held a paper bag, into which
they made the tapers waste plenteously. Other devices for improving
the trade were common at that date in the Neapolitan kingdom. Once,
when an archbishop was to be buried, and four hundred genuine friars
were in attendance, suddenly a mad bull was let loose amongst them,
whereupon they dropped their wax lights, and the thieves, who had laid
the plot, picked them up. At another great funeral, each assistant
was respectfully asked for his taper by an individual dressed like
a sacristan; the tapers were then extinguished and quietly carried
away--only afterwards it was discovered that the supposed sacristans
belonged to a gang of thieves. The Shroud-theft is a product of the
peculiar fascination exercised by the human skeleton upon the mediæval
fancy. The part played by the skeleton in the early art and early
fiction of the Christian æra is one of large importance; the horrible,
the grotesque, the pathetic, the humorous--all are grouped round the
bare remnants of humanity. The skeleton, figuring as Death, still
looks at you from the _façades_ of the village churches in the north
of Italy and the Trentino--sometimes alone, sometimes with other stray
members of the _Danse Macabre_; carrying generally an inscription to
this purport:

  Giunge la morte plena de egualeza,
  Sole ve voglio e non vostra richeza.
  Digna mi son de portar corona,
  E che signoresi ogni persona.

The _Danse Macabre_ itself is a subject which is well nigh
exhaustless. The secret of its immense popularity can be read in the
lines just quoted: it proclaimed equality. "Nous mourrons tous," said
the French preacher--then, catching the eye of the king, he politely
substituted "_presque_ tous." Now there is no "presque" in the Dance
of Death. Whether painted by Holbein's brush, or by that of any humble
artist of the Italian valleys, the moral is the same: grand lady and
milkmaid, monarch and herdsman, all have to go. Who shall fathom the
grim comfort there was in this vivid, this highly intelligible showing
forth of the indisputable fact? It was a foretaste of the declaration
of the rights of man. Professor Pellegrini, who has added an
instructive monograph to the literature of the _Danse Macabre_,
mentions that on the way to the cemetery of Galliate a wall bears the
guiding inscription: "Via al vero comunismo!"

The old custom of way-side ossuaries contributed no doubt towards
keeping strongly before the people the symbol and image of the great
King. I have often reflected on the effect, certainly if unconsciously
felt, of the constant and unveiled presence of the dead. I remember
once passing one of the still standing chapels through the gratings
of which may be seen neatly ranged rows of human bones, as I was
descending late one night a mountain in Lombardy. The moon fell
through the bars upon the village ancestors; one old man went by along
the narrow way, and said gravely as he went the two words: "È
tardi!" It was a scene which always comes back to me when I study the
literature of the skeleton.



SONGS FOR THE RITE OF MAY.


One of the first of living painters has pointed to the old English
custom of carrying about flowers on May Day as a sign that, in the
Middle Ages, artistic sensibility and a pleasure in natural beauty
were not dead among the common people of England. Nothing can be truer
than this way of judging the observance of the Rite of May. Whatever
might be the foolishness that it led to here and there, its origin lay
always in pure satisfaction at the returned glory of the earth; in the
wish to establish a link that could be seen and felt--if only that
of holding a green bough or of wearing a daffodil crown--between
the children of men and the new and beautiful growth of nature. The
sentiment is the same everywhere, but the manner of its expression
varies. In warmer lands it finds a vent long before the coming of
May. March, in fact, rather than May, seems to have been chosen as the
typical spring month in ancient Greece and Rome; and when we see the
almond-trees blooming down towards Ponte Molle in the earliest week in
February, even March strikes us as a little late for the beginning
of the spring festival. A few icicles next morning on the Trevi, act,
however, as a corrective to our ideas. In a famous passage Ovid tells
the reason why the Romans kept holiday on the first of March: "The
ice being broken up, winter at last yields, and the snow melts away,
conquered by the sun's gentle warmth; the leaves come back to the
trees that were stripped by the cold, the sap-filled bud swells with
the tender twig, and the fertile grass, that long lay unseen, finds
hidden passages and uplifts itself in the air. Now is the field
fruitful, now is the time of the birth of cattle, now the bird
prepares its house and home in the bough." (_Fastorum_, lib. iii.)

March day is still kept in Greece by bands of youngsters who go
from house to house in the hopes of getting little gifts of fruit or
cheese. They take with them a wooden swallow which they spin round to
the song:

  The swallow speeds her flight
      O'er the sea-foam white,
  And then a-singing she doth slake her wing.
      "March, March, my delight,
      And February wan and wet,
      For all thy snow and rain thou yet
  Hast a perfume of the spring."

Or perhaps to the following variant, given by Mr Lewis Sergeant in
_New Greece_:

  She is here, she is here,
  The swallow that brings us the beautiful year;
  Open wide the door,
  We are children again, we are old no more.

These little swallow-songs are worth the attention of the Folk-Lore
student, since they are of a greater antiquity than can be proved on
written evidence in the case, so far as I know, of any other folk-song
still current. More than two thousand years ago they existed in the
form quoted from Theognis by Athenæus as "an excellent song sung by
the children of Rhodes."

  The swallow comes! She comes, she brings
  Glad days and hours upon her wings.
          See on her back
          Her plumes are black,
          But all below
          As white as snow.
  Then from your well-stored house with haste,
  Bring sweet cakes of dainty taste,
  Bring a flagon full of wine,
  Wheaten meal bring, white and fine;
  And a platter load with cheese,
  Eggs and porridge add--for these
  Will the swallow not decline.
  Now shall we go, or gifts receive!
  Give, or ne'er your house we leave,
  Till we the door or lintel break,
  Or your little wife we take;
  She so light, small toil will make.
          But whate'er ye bring us forth,
          Let the gift be one of worth.
  Ope, ope your door, to greet the swallow then,
  For we are only boys, not bearded men.

In Ægina the children's prattle runs: "March is come, sing, ye hills
and ye flowers and little birds! Say, say, little swallow, where hast
thou passed? where hast thou halted?" And in Corfu: "Little swallow,
my joyous one, joyous my swallow; thou that comest from the desert,
what good things bringest thou? Health, joy, and red eggs." Yet
another version of the swallow song deals in scant compliments to the
month of March, which was welcomed so gladly at its first coming:

  From the Black Sea the swallow comes,
                          She o'er the waves has sped,
  And she has built herself a nest
                          And resting there she said:
  "Thou February cold and wet,
                          And snowy March and drear,
  Soft April heralds its approach,
                          And soon it will be here.
  The little birds begin to sing,
                          Trees don their green array,
  Hens in the yard begin to cluck,
                          And store of eggs to lay.
  The herds their winter shelter leave
                          For mountain-side and top;
  The goats begin to sport and skip,
                          And early buds to crop;
  Beasts, birds, and men all give themselves
                          To joy and merry heart,
  And ice and snow and northern winds
                          Are melted and depart.
  Foul February, snowy March,
                          Fair April will not tarry.
  Hence, February! March, begone!
                          Away the winter carry!"

When they leave off singing, the children cry "Pritz! Pritz!"
imitating the sound of the rapid flight of a bird. Longfellow
translated a curious Stork-carol sung in spring-time by the Hungarian
boys on the islands of the Danube:

  Stork! Stork! Poor Stork!
  Why is thy foot so bloody?
  A Turkish boy hath torn it,
  Hungarian boy will heal it,
  With fiddle, fife, and drum.

Before the sun was up on May-day morning, the people of Edinburgh
assembled at Arthur's Seat to "meet the dew." May-dew was thought to
possess all kinds of virtues. English girls went into the fields at
dawn to wash their faces in it, in order to procure a good complexion.
Pepys speaks of his wife going to Woolwich for a little change of air,
and to gather the May-dew. In Croatia, the women get from the woods
flowers and grasses which they throw into water taken from under a
mill-wheel, and next morning they bathe in the water, imagining that
thus the new strength of Nature enters into them. There is said to
also exist a singular rain-custom in Croatia. When a drought threatens
to injure the crops, a young girl, generally a gipsy, dresses herself
entirely in flowers and grasses, in which primitive raiment she is
conducted through the village by her companions, who sing to the skies
for mercy. In Greece, too, there are many songs and ceremonies in
connection with a desire for the rain, which never comes during the
whole pitiless summer.

If there be a part of the world where spring plays the laggard, it is
certainly the upper valley of the Inn. Nevertheless the children
of the Engadine trudge forth bravely over the snow, shaking their
cow-bells and singing lustily:

  Chalanda Mars, chaland'Avrigl
  Lasché las vachias our d'nuilg.

Were the cows to leave their stables as is here enjoined, they would
not find a blade of grass to eat--but that does not matter. The
children have probably sung that song ever since their forefathers
came up to the mountains; came up in all likelihood from sunny
Tuscany. The Engadine lads, after doing justice to their March-day
fare, set out for the boundaries of their commune, where they are met
by another band of boys, with whom they contend in various trials
of strength, which sometimes end in hand-to-hand fights. This may be
analogous to the old English usage of beating the younger generation
once a year at the village boundaries in order to impress on them a
lasting idea of local geography. By the Lake of Poschiavo it is the
custom to "call after the grass"--"chiamar l'erba"--on March-day.

In the end, as has been seen, March gets an ill-word from the Greek
folk-singer, who is not more constant in his praise of April. It is
the old fatality which makes the Better the Enemy of the Good.

  May is coming, May is coming, comes the month so blithe and gay;
  April truly has its flowers, but all roses bloom in May;
  April, thou accurst one, vanish! Sweet May-month I long to see;
  May fills all the world with flowers, May will give my love to me.

May is pre-eminently the bridal month in Greece; a strange
contradiction to the prejudice against May marriages that prevails
in most parts of Europe. "Marry in May, rue for aye." The Romans have
been held responsible for this superstition. They kept their festival
of the dead during May, and while it lasted other forms of worship
were suspended. To contract marriage would have been to defy the
fates. Traces of a spring feast of souls survive in France, where, on
Palm Sunday, _Pâques fleuries_ as it is called, it is customary to set
the first fresh flowers of the year upon the graves. Nor is it by any
means uninteresting to note that in one great empire far outside of
the Roman world the _fête des morts_ is assigned not to the quiet
close of the year but to the delightful spring. The Chinese festival
of Clear Weather which falls in April is the chosen time for
worshipping at the family tombs.

The marriage of Mary Queen of Scots and James Bothwell was celebrated
on the 16th of May; an unknown hand wrote upon the gate of Holyrood
Palace Ovid's warning:

           Si te proverbia tangunt,
  Mense malas Maio nubere vulgus ait.

Of English songs treating of that "observance" or "rite" of May to
which Chaucer and Shakespeare bear witness, there are unfortunately
few. The old nursery rhyme:

  Here we go a-piping,
  First in spring and then in May,

tells the usual story of house-to-house visiting and expected largess.
In Devonshire, children used to take round a richly-dressed doll; such
a doll is still borne in triumph by the children of Great Missenden,
Bucks, where a doggerel is sung, of which these are the concluding
verses:

  A branch of May I have you brought,
  And at your door I stand;
  'Tis but a spray that's well put out
  By the works of the mighty Lord's hand.

  If you have got no strong beer,
  We'll be content with small;
  And take the goodwill of your house,
  And give good thanks for all.

  God bless the master of this house,
  The mistress also;
  Likewise the little children
  That round the table go.

  My song is done, I must be gone,
  No longer can I stay;
  God bless you all, both great and small,
  And send you a joyful May.

The poets of Great Missenden not being prolific, the two middle
stanzas are used at Christmas as well as on May-day.

May-poles were prohibited by the Long Parliament of 1644, being
denounced as a "heathenish vanity generally abused to superstition and
wickedness." A long while before, the Roman Floralia, the feast when
people carried green boughs and wore fresh garlands, had been put
down for somewhat the same reasons. With regard to May-poles I am not
inclined to think too harshly of them. They died hard: an old Essex
man told me on his death-bed of how when he was a lad the young folks
danced regularly round the May-pole on May-day, and in his opinion it
was a good time. It was a time, he went on to say, when the country
was a different thing; twice a day the postillion's horn sounded down
the village street, the Woolpack Inn was often full even to the attics
in its pretty gabled roof, all sorts of persons of quality fell out
of the clouds, or to speak exactly, emerged from the London coach.
The life of the place seemed to be gone, said my friend, and yet "the
place" is in the very highest state of modern prosperity.

The parade of sweeps in bowers of greenery lingered on rather longer
in England than May-poles. It is stated to have originated in this
way. Edward Wortley Montagu (born about 1714), who later was destined
to win celebrity by still stranger freaks, escaped when a boy from
Westminster School and borrowed the clothes of a chimney sweep,
in whose trade he became an adept. A long search resulted in his
discovery and restoration to his parents on May 1; in recollection
of which event Mrs Elizabeth Montagu is said to have instituted
the May-day feast given by her for many years to the London
chimney-sweepers.

In the country west of Glasgow it is still remembered how once the
houses were adorned with flowers and branches on the first of May,
and in some parts of Ireland they still plant a May-tree or May-bush
before the door of the farmhouse, throwing it at sundown into a
bonfire. The lighting of fires was not an uncommon feature of May-day
observance, but it is a practice which seems to me to have strayed
into that connection from its proper place in the great festival of
the summer solstice on St John's Eve. Among people of English speech,
May-day customs are little more than a cheerful memory. Herrick wrote:

  Wash, dress, be brief in praying,
  Few beads are best when once we go a-maying.

People neglect their "beads" or the equivalents now from other
motives.

May night is the German Walpurgis-nacht. The witches ride up to the
Brocken on magpies' tails, not a magpie can be seen for the next
twenty-four hours--they are all gone and they have not had time to
return. The witches dance on the Brocken till they have danced away
the winter's snow. May-brides and May-kings are still to be heard of
in Germany, and children run about on May-day with buttercups or
with a twist of bread, a _Bretzel_, decked with ribbons, or holding
imprisoned may-flies, which they let loose whilst they sing:

  Maïkäferchen fliege,
  Dein Vater ist in kriege,
  Deine Mutter ist in Pommerland,
  Pommerland ist abgebrannt,
  Maïkäferchen fliege.

May chafer must fly away home, his father is at the wars, his mother
is in Pomerania, Pomerania is all burnt. May chafer in short is the
brother of our ladybird. Dr Karl Blind is of opinion that "Pommerland"
is a later interpolation for "Holler-land"--the land of Freya--Holda,
the Teutonic Aphrodite; and he and other German students of mythology
see in the conflagration an allusion to the final end and doom of the
kingdom of the gods. It is pointed out that the ladybird was Freya's
messenger, whose business it was to call the unborn from their
tranquil sojourn amongst celestial flowers, into the storms of human
existence. There is an airy May chafer song in Alsace--Teutonic in
tradition, though French in tongue:

      Avril, tu t'en vas,
      Car Mai vient là-bas,
  Pour balayer ta figure
  De pluie, aussi de froidure.
            Hanneton, vole!
            Hanneton, vole!

      Au firmament bleu
      Ton nid est en feu,
  Les Turcs avec leur épée
  Viennent tuer ta couvée.
            Hanneton, vole!
            Hanneton, vole!

Dr Blind recollects taking part, as a boy, in an extremely curious
children's drama, which is still played in some places in the open
air. It is an allegory of the expulsion of winter, who is killed and
burnt, and of the arrival of summer, who comes decked with flowers and
garlands. The children repeat:

  Now have we chased death away,
  And we bring the summer weather;
  Summer dear and eke the May,
  And the flowers all together:
  Bringing summer we are come,
  Summer tide and sunshine home.

With this may be compared an account given by Olaus Magnus, a Swedish
writer of the fifteenth century, of how May Day was celebrated in
his time. "A number of youths on horseback were drawn up in two lines
facing each other, the one party representing 'Winter' and the other
'Summer.' The leader of the former was clad in wild beasts' skins,
and he and his men were armed with snow-balls and pieces of ice.
The commander of the latter--'Maj Greve,' or Count May--was, on the
contrary, decorated with leaves and flowers, and his followers had
for weapons branches of the birch or linden tree, which, having been
previously steeped in water, were then in leaf. At a given signal, a
sham fight ensued between the opposing forces. If the season was cold
and backward, 'Winter' and his party were impetuous in their attack,
and in the beginning the advantage was supposed to rest with them;
but if the weather was genial, and the spring had fairly set in, 'Maj
Greve' and his men carried all before them. Under any circumstances,
however, the umpire always declared the victory to rest with 'Summer.'
The winter party then strewed ashes on the ground, and a joyous
banquet terminated the game." Mr L. Lloyd, author of "Peasant Life
in Sweden" (1870), records some lines sung by Swedish children when
collecting provisions for the _Maj gille_ or May feast, which recall
the "Swallow-song":

  "Best loves from Mr and Mrs Magpie,
  From all their eggs and all their fry,
  O give them alms, if ever so small,
  Else hens and chickens and eggs and all,
  A prey to 'Piet' will surely fall."

The Swedes raise their _Maj st[)a]ng_ or May-pole, not on May, but
on St John's Eve, a change due, I suspect, to the exigencies of the
climate.

German _Mailieder_ are one very much like the other; they are full of
the simple gladness of children who have been shut up in houses, and
who now can run about in the sunny air. I came across the following in
Switzerland:

  "Alles neu macht der Mai,
  Macht die Seele frisch und frei.
  Lasst dans Haus!
  Kommt hinaus!
  Windet einen Strauss!

  "Rings erglänzet Sonnenschein,
  Dustend pranget Flur und Hain.
  Vögel-sang,
  Lust'ger Klang
  Tönt den Wald entlang."

In Lorraine girls dressed in white go from village to village
stringing off couplets, in which the inhabitants are turned into
somewhat unmerciful ridicule. The girls of this place enlighten the
people of that as to their small failings, and so _vice versâ_. All
the winter the village poets harvest the jokes made by one community
at the expense of another, in order to shape them into a consecutive
whole for recital on May Day. The girls are rewarded for their part in
the business by small coin, cakes and fruit. The May-songs of Lorraine
are termed "Trimazos," from the fact that they are always sung to the
refrain,

  "O Trimazot, ç'at lo Maye;
             O mi-Maye!
  Ç'at lo joli mois de Maye,
             Ç'at lo Trimazot."

The derivation of _Trimazo_ is uncertain; someone suggested that _Tri_
stands for three, and _mazo_ for maidens; but I think _mazo_ is more
likely to be connected with the Italian _mazzo_, "nosegay." The word
is known outside Lorraine: at Islettes children say:

  "Trimazot! en nous allant
  Nous pormenés eddans les champs
  Nous y ons trouvé les blés si grands
  Les Aubépin' en fleurissant."

They beg for money to buy a taper for the Virgin's altar; for it
must not be forgotten that the month of May is the month of Mary.
The villagers add a little flour to their pious offering, so that the
children may make cakes. Elsewhere in Champagne young girls collect
the taper money; they cunningly appeal to the tenderness of the young
mother by bringing to her mind the hour "when she takes her pretty
child up in the morning and lays him to sleep at night." There was
a day on which the girls of the neighbourhood of Remiremont used to
way-lay every youth they met on the road to the church of Dommartin
and insist on sticking a sprig of rosemary or laurel in his cap,
saying, "We have found a fine gentleman, God give him joy and health;
take the May, the pretty May!" The fine gentleman was requested to
give "what he liked" for the dear Virgin's sake. In the department of
the Jura there are May-brides, and in Bresse they have a May-queen who
is attended by a youth, selected for the purpose, and by a little
boy who carries a green bough ornamented with ribands. She heads the
village girls and boys, who walk as in a marriage procession, and who
receive eggs, wine, or money. A song still sung in Burgundy recalls
the præ-revolutionary æra and the respect inspired by the seigneurial
woods:--

  "Le voilà venu le joli mois,
     Laissez bourgeonner le bois;
  Le voilà venu le joli mois,
     Le joli bois bourgeonne.
  Il faut laisser bourgeonner le bois,
     Le bois du gentilhomme."

The young peasants of Poitou betake themselves to the door of each
homestead before the dawn of the May morning and summon the mistress
of the house to waken her daughters:--

  "For we are come before hath come the day
  To sing the coming of the month of May."

But they do not ask the damsels to stand there listening to
compliments; "Go to the hen-roost," they say, "and get eighteen, or
still better, twenty new laid eggs." If the eggs cannot be had, they
can bring money, only let them make haste, as day-break is near and
the road is long. By way of acknowledgment the spokesman adds a sort
of "And your petitioners will ever pray;" they will pray for the
purse which held the money and for the hen that laid the eggs. If St
Nicholas only hears them that hen will eat the fox, instead of the fox
eating the hen. The gift is seemly. Now the dwellers in the homestead
may go back to their beds and bar doors and windows; "as for us, we go
through all the night singing at the arrival of sweet spring."

The antiquary in search of May-songs will turn to the Motets and
Pastorals of that six-hundred-year-old Comic Opera "Li gieus de
Robin et de Marion." Its origin was not illiterate, but in Adam de la
Halle's time and country poets who had some letters and poets who
had none did not stand so widely apart. The May month, the summer
sweetness, the lilies of the valley, the green meadows--these
constituted pretty well the whole idea which the French rustic had
formed to himself of what poetry was. It cannot be denied that he
came to use these things occasionally as mere commonplaces, a tendency
which increased as time wore on. But he has his better moods, and
some of his ditties are not wanting in elegance. Here is an old song
preserved in Burgundy:

  Voici venu le mois des fleurs
  Des chansons et des senteurs;
       Le mois qui tout enchante
       Le mois de douce attente.
  Le buisson reprend ses couleurs
       Au bois l'oiseau chante.

  Il est venu sans mes amours
  One j'attends, hélas, toujours;
       Tandis que l'oiseau chante
       Et que le mai l' on plante
  Seule en ces bois que je parcours
       Seule je me lamente.

In the France of the sixteenth century, the planting of the May took a
literary turn. At Lyons, for instance, the printers were in the habit
of setting up what was called "Le Mai des Imprimeurs" before the door
of some distinguished person. The members of the illustrious Lombard
house of Trivulzi, who between them held the government of Lyons
for more than twenty-five years, were on several occasions chosen as
recipients of the May-day compliment. "Le Grand Trivulce," marshal of
France, was a great patron of literature, and the encouragement of the
liberal arts grew to be a tradition in the family. In 1529 Theodore
de Trivulce had a May planted in his honour bearing a poetical address
from the pen of Clement Marot, and Pompone de Trivulce received a like
distinction in 1535, when Etienne Dolet wrote for the occasion an
ode in the purest Latin, which may be read in Mr R. C. Christie's
biography of its author.

Giulio Cesare Croce, the famous ballad-singer of Bologna (born 1550),
wrote a "Canzonetta vaga in lode del bel mese di maggio et delle
regine o contesse che si fanno quel giorno in Bologna," and in 1622, a
small book was published at Bologna, entitled: "Ragionamenti piacevoli
intorno alle contesse di maggio; piantar il maggio; nozze che si
fanno in maggio." The author, Vincenzo Giacchiroli, observes: "These
countesses, according to what I have read, the Florentines call Dukes
of May--perhaps because there they have real dukes." The first of May,
he continues, the young girls select one from among them and set her
on a high seat or throne in some public street, adorned and surrounded
with greenery, and with such flowers as the season affords. To
this maiden, in semblance like the goddess Flora, they compel every
passer-by to give something, either by catching him by his clothes, or
by holding a cord across the street to intercept him, singing at the
same time, "Alla contessa, alla contessa!" They who pass, therefore,
throw into a plate or receptacle prepared for the purpose, money, or
flowers, or what not, for the new countess. In some places it was the
custom to kiss the countess; "neither," adds the author, "is this
to be condemned, since so were wont to do the ancients as a sign of
honour."

Regarding a similar usage at Mantua, Merlinus Coccaius (Folengo)
wrote:

  "Accidit una dies qua Mantua tota bagordat
  Prima dies mensis Maii quo quisque piantat
  Per stradas ramos frondosos nomine mazzos." &c.

Exactly the same practice lingers in Spain. In the town of Almeria,
improvised temples are raised at the street corners and gateways,
where, on an altar covered with damask or other rich stuff, a girl
decked with flowers is seated, whilst around her in a circle stand
other girls, also crowned with flowers, who hold hands, and intone,
like a Greek chorus--

    "Un cuartito para la Maya,
  Que no tiene manto ni saya."

"A penny for the May who has neither mantle nor petticoat."

Lorenzo de' Medici says in one of his ballads:

  Se tu vuo' appiccare un maio.
  A qualcuna che tu ami....

In his day "Singing the May" was almost a trade; the country folk
flocked into Florence with their May trees and rustic instruments and
took toll of the citizens. The custom continues along the Ligurian
coast. At Spezia I saw the boys come round on May-day piping and
singing, and led by one, taller than the rest, who carried an Italian
flag covered with garlands. The name of the master of the house before
which they halt is introduced into a song that begins:

  Siam venuti a cantar maggio,
    Al Signore ----
  Come ogn' anno usar si suole,
    Nella stagion di primavera.

Since Chaucer, who loved so dearly the "May Kalendes" and the "See of
the day," no one has celebrated them with a more ingenuous charm than
the country lads of the island of Sardinia, who sing "May, May, be
thou welcome, with all Sun and Love; with the Flower and with the
Soul, and with the Marguerite." A Tuscan and a Pisan _Rispetto_ may be
taken as representative of Italian May-song:

    'Twas in the Calends of the month of May,
      I went into the garden for a flower,
    A wild bird there I saw upon a spray,
      Singing of love with skilled melodious power.
    O little bird, who dost from Florence speed
    Teach me whence loving doth at first proceed?
    Love has its birth in music and in songs
    Its end, alas! to tears and grief belongs.

  Era di maggio, se ben mi ricordo
        Quando c'incominciammo a ben volere
        Eran fiorite le rose dell'orto,
        E le ciliege diventavan nere;
          Ciliege nere e pere moscatelle,
        Siete il trionfo delle donne belle
          Ciliege nere e pere moscatate.
        Siete il trionfo delle innamorate
          Ciliege nere e pere moscatine.
        Siete il trionfo delle piu belline.

The child's or lover's play of words in this last baffles all attempt
at translation: it is not sense but sweetness, not poetry but music.
It is as much without rule or study or conventionality as the song of
birds when in Italian phrase, _fanno primavera_.

In the Province of Brescia the Thursday of Mid-Lent is kept by what
is called "Burning the old women." A doll made of straw or rags,
representing the oldest woman, is hung outside the window; or, if in
a street, suspended from a cord passed from one side to the other.
Everyone makes the tour of town or village to see _le Vecchie_ who at
sundown are consigned to the flames, generally with a distaff placed
in their hands. It is a picturesque sight at Salò, when the bonfires
blaze at different heights up the hills, casting long reflections
across the clear lake-water. The sacrifice is consummated--but what
sacrifice? I was at first disposed to simply consider the "old woman"
as a type of winter, but I am informed that by those who have studied
relics of the same usage in other lands, she is held to be a relative
of the "harvest-man" or growth-genius, who must be either appeased or
destroyed. Yet a third interpretation occurs to me, which I offer for
what it is worth. Might not the _Vecchia_ be the husk which must be
cast off before the miracle of new birth is accomplished? "The seed
that thou sowest shall not quicken unless it die." Hardly any idea has
furnished so much occasion for symbolism as this, that life is death,
and death is life.

Professor d'Ancona believes, that to the custom of keeping May by
singing from house to house and collecting largess of eggs or fruit or
cheese, may be traced the dramatic representations, which, under the
name of _Maggi_, can still be witnessed in certain districts of the
Tuscan Hills and of the plain of Pisa. These May-plays are performed
any Sunday in Spring, just after Mass; the men, women, and children,
hastening from the church-door to the roughly-built theatre which has
the sky for roof, the grey olives and purple hills for background.
The verses of the play (it is always in verse) are sung to a sort of
monotonous but elastic chant, in nearly every case unaccompanied
by instruments. No one can do more than guess when that chant was
composed; it may have been five hundred years ago and it may have been
much more. Grief or joy, love and hate, all are expressed upon the
same notes. It is possible that some such recitative was used in the
Greek drama. A play that was not sung would not seem a play to
the Tuscan contadino. The characters are acted by men or boys, the
peasants not liking their wives and daughters to perform in public.
A considerable number of _Maggi_ exist in print or in MS. carefully
copied for the convenience of the actors. The subjects range from
King David to Count Ugolino, from the siege of Troy to the French
Revolution. They seem for most part modern compositions, cast in a
form which was probably invented before the age of Dante.



THE IDEA OF FATE IN SOUTHERN TRADITIONS.


In the early world of Greece and Italy, the beliefs relating to
Fate had a vital and penetrative force which belonged only to them.
"Nothing," says Sophocles, "is so terrible to man as Fate." It was the
shadow cast down the broad sunlight of the roofless Hellenic life. All
Greece, its gods and men, bowed at that word which Victor Hugo saw,
or imagined that he saw, graven on a pillar of Nôtre Dame: [Greek:
Anankê]. Necessity alone of the supernatural powers was not made by
man in his own image. It had no sacred grove, for in the whole world
there was no place where to escape from it, no peculiar sect of
votaries, for all were bound equally to obey; it could not be bought
off with riches nor withstood by valour; no man worshipped it, many
groaned under its dispensation; but by all it was vaguely felt to be
the instrument of a pure justice. If they did not, with Herder, call
Fate's law "Eternal Truth," yet their idea of necessity carried these
men nearer than did any other of their speculative guesses to the idea
of a morally-governed universe.

The belief in one Fate had its train of accessorial beliefs. The
Parcae and the Erinnyes figured as dark angels of Destiny. Then, in
response to the double needs of superstition and materialism, the
impersonal Fate itself took the form of the Greek Tyche, and of that
Fortuna, who, in Rome alone, had no less than eight temples. There
were some indeed who saw in Fortune nothing else than the old _dira
necessitas_; but to the popular mind, she was nearer to chance than to
necessity; she dealt out the favourable accident which goes further
to secure success than do the subtlest combinations of men. The Romans
did not only demand of a military leader that he should have talent,
foresight, energy; they asked, was he _felix_--happy, fortunate? Since
human life was seen to be, on the whole, but a sorry business,
and since it was also seen that the prosperous were not always the
meritorious, the inference followed that Fortune was capricious,
changeable, and, if not immoral, at least unmoral. With this character
she came down to the Middle Ages, having contrived to outlive the
whole Roman pantheon.

So Dante found her, and inquired of his guide who and what she might
really be?

      Maestro, dissi lui, or mi di' anche:
  Questa Fortuna di che tu mi tocche,
  Che è, che i ben del mondo ha sì tra branche?

Dante had no wish to level the spiritual windmills that lay in his
path: he left them standing, only seeking a proper reason for their
being there. Therefore he did not answer himself in the words of the
Tuscan proverb: "Chi crede in sorte, non crede in Dio;" but, on the
contrary, tried to prove that the two beliefs might be perfectly
reconciled. "He whose knowledge transcends all things" (is the reply)
"fashioned the heavens, and gave unto them a controlling force in such
wise that each part shines upon each, distributing equally the
light. Also to worldly splendours he ordained a general minister, and
captain, who should timely change the tide of vain prosperity from
race to race and from blood to blood. Why these prevail, and those
languish, according to her ruling, is hidden, like the snake in the
grass; your knowledge has in her no counterpart; she provides,
judges, and pursues her governance, as do theirs the other gods. Her
permutations have no truce, necessity makes her swift; for he is swift
in coming who would have his turn. This is she who is upbraided
even by those who should praise her, giving her blame wrongfully and
ill-repute; but she continues blessed, and hearkens not; glad among
the other primal creatures, she revolves her sphere, and being
blessed, rejoices."

The peasants, the _pagani_ of Italy, did not give their name for
nothing to the entire system of antiquity. They were its last, its
most faithful adherents, and to this day their inmost being is
watered from the springs of the antique. They have preserved old-world
thoughts as they have preserved old-world pots and pans. In the
isolated Tuscan farm you will be lighted to your bed by a woman
carrying an oil lamp identical in form with those buried in Etruscan
tombs; on the Neapolitan hill-side a girl will give you to drink
out of a jar not to be distinguished from the amphoræ of Pompeii. A
stranger hunting in the campagna may often hear himself addressed with
the "Tu" of Roman simplicity. The living Italian people are the most
interesting of classical remains. Even their religion has helped
to perpetuate practices older than Italy. How is it possible, for
instance, to see the humble shrine by vineyard or maize field,
with its posy of flowers and its wreath of box hung before the mild
countenance of some local saint, without remembering what the chorus
says to Admetus: "Deem not, O king, of the tomb of thy wife as of
the vulgar departed; rather let it be kept in religious veneration,
a cynosure for the way-faring man. And as one climbs the slanting
pathway, these will be the words he utters: 'This was she who erewhile
laid down her life for her husband; now she is a saint for evermore.
Hail, blessed spirit, befriend and aid us!' Such the words that will
be spoken."

Can it be doubted that the Catholic honour of the dead--nay, even the
cult of the Virgin, which crept so mysteriously into the exercise
of Christian worship--had birth, not in the councils of priests and
schoolmen, but in the all-unconscious grafting by the people of Italy
of the new faith upon an older stock?

With this persistency of thought, observable in outward trifles, as in
the deepest yearnings of the soul, it would be strange if the Italian
mind had ceased to occupy itself with the old wonder about fate. The
folk-lore of the country will show the mould into which the ancient
speculations have been cast, and in how far these have undergone
change, whether in the sense of assimilating new theories or in that
of reverting to a still earlier order of ideas.

They tell at Venice the story of a husbandman who had set his heart
on finding _one who was just_ to be sponsor to his new-born child. He
took the babe in his arms and went forth into the public ways to seek
_El Giusto_. He walked and walked and met a man (who was our Lord) and
to him he said, "I have got this son to christen, but I do not wish
to give him to any one who is not just. Are you just?" To him the Lord
replied, "But I do not know if I am just." Then the husbandman went
a little further and met a woman (who was the Madonna), and to her he
said, "I have this son to christen, but I only wish to give him to one
who is just. Are you just?" "I know not," said the Madonna; "but go a
little further and you will meet one who is just." After that, he went
a little further, and met another woman who was Death. "I have been
sent to you," he said, "for they say you are just. I have a child to
christen, and I do not wish to give him except to one who is just.
Are you just?" "Why, yes; I think I am just," said Death; "but let us
christen the babe and afterwards I will show you if I am just." So
the boy was christened, and then this woman led the husbandman into a
long, long room where there were an immense number of lighted lamps.
"Gossip," said the man, who marvelled at seeing so many lamps, "what
is the meaning of all these lights?" Said Death: "These are the lights
of all the souls that are in the world. Would you like just to see,
Gossip? That is yours, and that is your son's." And the husbandman,
who saw that his lamp was going out, said, "And when there is no more
oil, Gossip?" "Then," replied Death, "one has to come to me, for I
am Death." "Oh! for charity," said the husbandman, "do let me pour a
little of the oil out of my son's lamp into mine!" "No, no, Gossip,"
said Death, "I don't go in for that sort of thing. A just one you
wished to meet, and a just one you have found. And now, go you to your
house and put your affairs in order, for I am waiting for you."[1]

In this parable, we see a severe fatalism, which is still more
oriental than antique.

  ... God gives each man one life, like a lamp, then gives
  That lamp due measure of oil....

The Mahomedans say that there are trees in heaven on each of whose
leaves is the name of a human being, and whenever one of these leaves
withers and falls, the man whose name it bears dies with it. The
conception of human life as of something bound up and incorporated
with an object seemingly foreign, lies at the very root of elementary
beliefs. In an Indian tale the life of a boy resides in a gold
necklace which is in the heart of a fish; in another a woman's life is
contained in a bird: when the bird is killed, the woman must perish.
In a third a prince plants a tree before he goes on a journey, saying
as he does so, "This tree is my life. When you see the tree green and
fresh, then know that it is well with me. When you see the tree fade
in some parts, then know that I am in an ill case. When you see the
whole tree fade, then know that I am dead and gone."

According to a legend of wide extension--it is known from Esthonia to
the Pyrenees--all men were once aware of the hour of their death. But
one day Christ went by and saw a man raising a hedge of straw. "That
hedge will last but for a short while," He said; to which the man
answered, "It will be good for as long as I live; that it should last
longer, matters not;" and forthwith Christ ordained that no man should
thereafter know when he should die.

The southern populations of Italy cling to the idea that from the
moment of a man's birth his future lot is decided, whether for good
or evil hap, and that he has but little power of altering or modifying
the irrevocable sentence. There are lucky and unlucky days to be born
on; lucky and unlucky circumstances attendant on an entry into the
world, which affect all stages of the subsequent career. He who is
born on the last day of the year, will always arrive late. It is very
unfortunate to be born when there is no moon. Anciently the moon was
taken as symbol both of Fortune, and of Hecate, goddess of Magic.
The Calabrian children have a song: "Moon, holy moon, send me good
fortune; thou shining, and I content, lustrous thou, I fortunate."
Also at Cagliari, in Sardinia, they sing: "Moon, my moon, give me
luck; give me money, so I may amuse myself; give it soon, so I may buy
sweetmeats." The changing phases of the moon doubtless contributed to
its identification with fortune; "Wind, women, and fortune," runs the
Basque proverb, "change like the moon." But yet more, its influence
over terrestrial phenomena, always mysterious to the ignorant observer
and by him readily magnified to any extent, served to connect it with
whatever occult, unaccountable power was uppermost in people's minds.

In Italy, nothing is done without consulting the _Lunario_. All kinds
of roots and seeds must be planted with the new moon, or they will
bear no produce. Timber must be cut down with the old moon, or it will
quickly rot. These rules and many more are usually followed; and it
is reported as a matter of fact, that their infringement brings the
looked-for results. In the Neapolitan province, old women go to the
graveyards by night and count the tombs illuminated by the moonlight;
the sum total gives them a "number" for the lottery. The extraordinary
vagaries of superstition kept alive by the public lotteries are of
almost endless variety and complexity. No well-known man dies without
thousands of the poorest Neapolitans racking their brains with abtruse
calculations on the dates of his birth, death, and so on, in the hope
of discovering a lucky number. Fortune, chance (what, after all, shall
it be called?) sometimes strangely favours these pagan devices. When
Pio Nono died, the losses of the Italian exchequer were enormous; and
in January 1884, the numbers staked on the occasion of the death of
the patriot De Sanctis, produced winnings to the amount of over two
million francs. During the last cholera epidemic, the daily rate of
mortality was eagerly studied with a view to happy combinations. Even
in North Italy such things are not unknown. At Venice, when a notable
Englishman died some years ago in a hotel, the number of his room was
played next day by half the population. Domestic servants are among
the most inveterate gamblers; they all have their cabalistic books,
and a large part of their earnings goes to the insatiable "lotto."

The feeling of helplessness in the hands of Fate is strongest in those
countries where there is the least control over Nature. The relations
between man and Nature affect not only the social life, but also the
theology and politics of whole races of men. A learned Armenian who
lives at Venice, came to London for a week in June to see some English
friends. It rained every day, and when he left Dover, the white
cliffs were enveloped in impenetrable fog. "I asked myself" (he wrote,
describing his experiences) "how it was possible that a great nation
should exist behind all that vapour?" It was suggested to him that
in the continual but, in the long run, victorious struggle with an
ungenial climate might lie the secret of the development of that great
nation. Different are the lands where the soil yields its increase
almost without the labour of man, till one fine day the whole is
swallowed up by flood or earthquake.

The songs of luck, or rather of ill-luck, nearly all come from the
Calabrias. There are hundreds of variations upon the monotonous
theme of predestined misery. "In my mother's womb I began to have no
fortune; my swaddling clothes were woven of melancholy; when we
went to church, the woman who carried me died upon the way, and the
godfather who held me at the font said, 'Misfortunate art thou born,
my daughter!'" Here is another: "Hapless was I born, and with a
darkened moon; never did a fair day dawn for me. Habited in weeds, and
attended by cruel fortune, I sail upon a sea of grief and trouble." Or
this: "Wretched am I, for against me conspired heaven and fortune and
destiny; and the four elements decreed that never should I prosper:
earth would engulf me; air took away my breath; water flowed with my
tears; fire burnt this poor heart." Again: "I was created under an
ill-star; never had I an hour's content. By my friends I saw myself
forsaken, and chased away by my mistress. The heavens moved against
me, the stars, the planets, and fortune; if there is no better lot
for me, open thou earth and give me sepulchre!" The luckless wretch
imagines that the sea, even where it was deepest, dried up at his
birth; and the spring dried up for that year, and all the flowers that
were in the world dried up; and the birds went singing: "I am the most
luckless wight on earth!" Human friendship is a delusion: "I was the
friend of all, and a true friend--for my friends I reckoned life as
little." But he is not served so by others: "Wretched is he who trusts
in fortune; sad is he who hopes in human friendship! Every friend
abandons thee at need, and walks afar from thy sorrow." No good can
come to him who is born for ill: "When I was born, it was at sea,
amongst Turks and Moors. A gipsy asked to tell my fortune; 'Dig,' she
said, 'and thou shalt find a great treasure.' I took the spade in my
hand to dig, but I found neither silver nor gold. Traitress gipsy who
deceived me! Who is born afflicted, dies disconsolate."

So continues the long tale of woe; childish in part, but withal tragic
by other force of iteration. This song of Nardò may be taken as its
epitome:

  The heavens were overcast when I was born;
  No luck for me, no, luckless and forlorn,
  E'en from my cradle, all forlorn was I;
  No luck for me, no, grief for ever nigh.
  I loved--my love was paid by fraud and scorn;
  No luck for me, no, luckless and forlorn.
  The stars and moon were darkened in the sky,
  No luck for me, no, naught but misery!

The Calabrians have a house-spirit called the _Auguriellu_, who
appears generally dressed as a little monk, and who has his post
especially by babies' cradles: he is thought to be one of the less
erring fallen angels, and is harmless and even beneficent if kindly
treated. The "house-women" (_Donne di casa_) of Sicily are also in the
habit of watching the sleep of infants. But in no part of Italy does
there seem to be any distinct recollection of the Parcae. In Greece,
on the other hand, the three dread sisters are still honoured by
propitiatory rites, and they figure frequently in the folk-lore of
Bulgaria and Albania. A Bulgarian song shows them weaving the destiny
of the infant Saviour. In M. Auguste Dozon's collection of Albanian
stories, there is one called "The sold child," which bears directly on
the survival of the Parcae. "There was an old man and woman who had no
children" (so runs the tale). "At last at the end of I do not know how
many years, God gave them a son, and their joy was without bounds that
the Lord had thus remembered them. Two nights had passed since the
birth, and the third drew nigh, when the Three Women would come to
assign the child his destiny.

"That night it was raining so frightfully that nobody dared put his
nose out of doors, lest he should be carried away by the waters and
drowned. Nevertheless, who should arrive through the rain but a Pasha,
who asked the old man for a night's lodging. The latter, seeing that
it was a person of importance, was very glad; he put him in the place
of honour at the hearth, lit a large fire, gave him to eat what he
could find; and putting aside certain objects, which he set in a
corner, he made room for the Pasha's horse--for this house was only
half covered in, a part of the roof was missing.

"The Pasha, when he was warmed and refreshed, had nothing more to do
but to go to sleep; but how can one let himself go to sleep when he
has I know not how many thousand piastres about him?

"That night, as we have said already, the Three Women were to come and
apportion the child his destiny. They came, sure enough, and sat down
by the fire. The Pasha, at the sight of that, was in a great fright,
but he kept quiet, and did not make the least sound.

"Let us leave the Pasha and busy ourselves with these women. The first
of the three said, 'This child will not live long; he will die early.'
The second said, replying to her who had just spoken, 'This child
will live many years, and then he will die by the hand of his father.'
Finally the third spoke as follows: 'My friends, what are you talking
about? This child will live sufficiently long to kill the Pasha you
see there, rob him of his authority, and marry his daughter.'"

How the Pasha froze with fear when he heard that sentence, how he
persuaded the old man to let him have the child under pretence of
adopting him, how he endeavoured by every means, but vainly, to put
him out of the way, and how, in the end, he fell into an ambush he
had prepared for his predestined successor, must be read in M. Dozon's
entertaining pages. Though not precisely stated, it would seem that
the mistaken predictions of the two first women arose rather from a
misinterpretation of the future than from complete ignorance. The
boy but narrowly escaped the evils they threatened. In Scandinavian
traditions a disagreement among the Norns is not uncommon. In one
case, two Norns assign to a newborn child long life and happiness, but
the third and youngest decrees that he shall only live while a lighted
taper burns. The eldest Norn snatches the taper, puts it out, and
gives it to the child's mother, not to be kindled till the last day of
his life.

In India it is the deity Bidhata-Purusha who forecasts the events of
each man's life, writing them succinctly on the forehead of the child
six days after birth. The apportionment of good and evil fortune
belongs to Lakshmi and Sani. Once they fell out in heaven, and Sani,
the giver of ill, said that he ranked higher than the beneficent
Lakshmi. The gods and goddesses were equally ranged on either side,
so the two disputants decided to refer the case to a just mortal. To
which end they approached a wise and wealthy man called Sribatsa. Now
Sribatsa means "the child of Fortune," Sri being one of the names of
Lakshmi. Sribatsa did not know what to do lest he should give offence
to one or the other of the celestial powers. At last he set out two
stools without saying a word; one was silver, and on that he bade Sani
sit; the other was gold, and to that he conducted Lakshmi. But Sani
was furious at having only the silver stool, so he swore that he would
cast his evil eye upon Sribatsa for three years, "and I should like to
see how you fare at the end of that time," he added. When he was gone,
Lakshmi said: "My child, do not fear; I'll befriend you." Needless to
say that after the three trial years were passed, Sribatsa became far
more prosperous than he had ever been before.

Among the Parsis, a tray with writing materials including a sheet of
blank paper is placed by the mother's bed on the night of the sixth
day. The goddess who rules human destiny traces upon the paper the
course of the child's future, which henceforth cannot be changed,
though the writing is invisible to mortal eyes.

In Calabria there is a plant called "Fortune's Grass," which is
suspended to the beams of the ceiling: if the leaves turn upwards,
Fortune is sure to follow; if downwards, things may be expected to go
wrong. The oracle is chiefly consulted on Ascension Day, when it is
asked to tell the secrets confided to it by Christ when He walked upon
the earth.

Auguries, portents, charms, waxen images, votive offerings, the evil
eye and its antidotes, happy "finds," such as horseshoes, four-leaved
shamrocks, and two-tailed lizards: these, and an infinite number of
kindred superstitions, are closely linked with what may be called
the Science of Luck. Fortune and Hecate come into no mere chance
contiguity when they meet in the moon. For the rest, there is hardly
any popular belief that has not points of contact with magic, and that
is not in some sort made the more comprehensible by looking at the
premises on which magical rites rest. Magic is the power admitted to
exist among all classes not so very long ago, of entering by certain
processes into relation with invisible powers. For modern convenience
it was distinguished into black magic, and natural, and white--the
latter name being given when the intention of the operant was only
good or allowable, and when the powers invoked were only such as
might be supposed, whether great or small, to be working in good
understanding with the Creator. The reason of existence of all magic,
which runs up into unfathomable antiquity, lies in the maxim of the
ancient sages, Egyptian, Hebrew, Platonist, that all things visible
and sensible are but types of things or beings immediately above
them, and have their origin in such. Hence, in magical rites, black
or white, men used and offered to the unseen powers those words or
actions or substances which were conceived to be in correspondence
with their character or nature, employing withal certain secret
traditional man[oe]uvres. The lowest surviving form is fetish;
sacrifice also had a similar source; so had the Mosaic prescriptions,
in which only innocent rites and pure substances were to be employed.
Whereas the most horrible practices and repulsive substances have
always been associated with witches, necromancers, &c., who are
reported to have put their wills at the absolute disposal of the
infernal and malevolent powers who work in direct counter-action of
the decrees and providence of the Deity. Hence the renunciation of
baptism, treading on holy things, the significant act of saying the
Lord's Prayer backwards, _i.e._, in the opposite intention to that of
the author. This is the consummate sin of _pacti_, or, as it is said,
"selling the soul," and is the very opposite of divine magic or the
way of the typical saint: "Present yourselves a living sacrifice (not
a dead carcase) in body, soul, and spirit." To persons in the last
condition unusual effects have been ascribed, as it was believed that
those who had put themselves at the absolute disposal of the malignant
powers were also enabled to effect singular things, on the wrong side,
indeed, and very inferior in order, so long as the agreement held
good.

The most sensible definition of magic is "an effect sought to be
produced by antecedents obviously inadequate in themselves." Certain
words, gestures, practices, have been recognised on the tradition of
ancient experience to have certain remedial or other properties or
consequents, and they are used in all simplicity by persons who can
find no other reason than that they are thought to succeed.

One of the most remarkable of early ideas still current about human
destiny is that which pictures each man coupled with a personal and
individualised fate. This fate may be beneficent or maleficent, a
guardian angel or a possessive fiend; or it may, in appearance at
least, combine both functions. The belief in a personal fate was
deeply rooted among the Greeks and Romans, and proved especially
acceptable to the Platonists. Socrates' dæmon comes to mind: but in
that case the analogy is not clear, because the inward voice to
which the name of dæmon was afterwards given, was rather a personal
conscience than a personal fate--a difference that involves the whole
question of the responsibility of man. But the evil genii of Dion the
Syracusan and of Brutus were plainly "personal fates." Dion's evil
genius appeared to him when he was sitting alone in the portico before
his house one evening; it had the form of a gigantic woman, like one
of the furies as they were represented on the stage, sweeping the
floor with a broom. It did not speak, but the apparition was followed
by the death of Dion's son, who jumped in a fit of childish passion
from the house-top, and soon after, Dion himself was assassinated.
Brutus' dæmon was, as every-one knows, a monstrous spectre that seemed
to be standing beside him in his tent one night, a little while before
he left Asia, and which, on being questioned, said to him, "I am thy
evil genius, Brutus, thou wilt see me at Philippi."

We catch sight again of the personal fate in the relations of
Antony with the young Octavius. Antony had in his house an Egyptian
astrologer, who advised him by all means to keep away from the young
man, "for your genius," he said, "is in fear of his; when it is alone
its port is erect and fearless, when his approaches it, it is dejected
and depressed." There were circumstances, says Plutarch, that carried
out this view, for in every kind of play, whether they cast lots or
cast the die, Antony was still the loser; in their cock fights and
quail fights, it was still "Cæsar's cock and Cæsar's quail."

In ancient Norse and Teutonic traditions, where Salida, or Frau Sælde,
takes the place of Fortuna, we find indications of the personal fate,
both kindly and unkindly. The fate appeared to its human turn chiefly
in the hour of death, that is, in the hour of parting company.
Sometimes it was attached not to one person, but to a whole family,
passing on from one to another, as in the case of the not yet extinct
superstition of the White Lady of the Hohenzollerns.

In a very old German story, quoted by Jacob Grimm, a poor knight is
shown, eating his frugal meal in a wood, who on looking up, sees
a monstrous creature among the boughs which cries, "I am thy
_ungelücke_!" The knight asks his "ill-luck" to share his meal, and
when it comes down, catches it, and shuts it up in a hollow oak.
Someone, who wishes to do him an ill-turn, lets out the _ungelücke_;
but instead of reverting to the knight, it jumps on the back of its
evil-minded deliverer.

In the Sicilian story of "Feledico and Epomata," one of those
collected by Fraülein Laura Gonzenbach,[2] a childless king and queen
desire to have children. One day they see a soothsayer going by: they
call him in, and he says that the queen will bear a son, but that he
will die when he is eighteen years of age. The grief of the royal pair
is extreme, and they ask the soothsayer for advice what to do. He can
only suggest that they should shut the child up in a tower till the
unlucky hour be past, after which his fate will have no more power
over him. This is accordingly done, and the child sees no one in the
tower but the nurse and a lady of the court, whom he believes to be
his mother. One day, when the lady has gone to make her report to the
queen, the boy hears his fate crying to him in his sleep, and asking
why he stays shut up there, when his real father and mother are king
and queen and live in a fine castle? He makes inquiries, and at first
is pacified by evasive answers, but after three visits of his fate,
who always utters the same words, he insists on going to the castle
and seeing his father and mother. "His fate has found him out, there
is no good in resisting it," says the queen. However, by the agency
of Epomata, the beautiful daughter of an enchantress, who had conveyed
the prince to her castle, and had provided for his execution on the
very day ordained by his fate, Feledico tides over the fatal moment
and attains a good old age.

Hahn states that the Greek name of [Greek: Moirai] is given by the
Albanians to what I have called personal fates, as well as to the
Parcae; but the Turkish designation of _Bakht_, meaning a sort of
protecting spirit, seems to be in more common use. The Albanian
story-teller mentions a negress who is in want of some sequins, and
who says, "Go and find my fortune (_Bakht_), but first make her a
cake, and when you offer it to her, ask her for a few gold pieces."


A like propitiatory offering of food to one's personal fate forms a
feature of a second Sicilian story which is so important in all its
bearings on the subject in hand, that it would not do to abridge it.
Here it is, therefore, in its entirety.

    There was a certain merchant who was so rich that he had
    treasures which not even the king possessed. In his audience
    chamber there were three beautiful arm-chairs, one of silver,
    one of gold, and one of diamonds. This merchant had an only
    daughter of the name of Caterina, who was fairer than the sun.
    One day Caterina sat alone in her room, when suddenly the door
    opened of itself, and there entered a tall and beautiful lady,
    who held a wheel in her hands. "Caterina," said she, "when
    would you like best to enjoy your life? in youth, or in age?"
    Caterina gazed at her in amazement, and could not get over her
    stupor. The beautiful lady asked again, "Caterina, when do you
    wish to enjoy your life in youth or in age?" Then Caterina
    thought, "If I say in youth, I shall have to suffer in age;
    hence I prefer to enjoy my life in age, and in youth I must
    get on as the Lord wills." So she said, "In age." "Be it unto
    you according to your desire," said the beautiful lady, who
    gave a turn to her wheel, and disappeared. This tall and
    beautiful lady was poor Caterina's fate. After a few days her
    father received the sudden news that several of his ships had
    gone down in a storm; again, after a few days, other of his
    ships met with the same fate, and to make a long story short,
    a month had not gone by before he saw himself despoiled of all
    his wealth. He had to sell everything, and remained poor and
    miserable, and finally he fell ill and died. Thus poor
    Caterina was left alone in the world, and no one would give
    her a home. Then she thought, "I will go to another city and
    will seek a place as serving-maid." She wandered a long way
    till she reached another city. As she passed down the street,
    she saw at a window a worthy-looking lady, who questioned her.
    "Where are you going, all alone, fair girl?" "Oh! noble lady,
    I am a poor girl, and I would willingly go into service to
    earn my bread. Could you, by chance, employ me?" The worthy
    lady engaged her, and Caterina served her faithfully. After a
    few days the lady said one evening, "Caterina, I am going out,
    and shall lock the house-door." "Very well," said Caterina,
    and when her mistress was gone, she took her work and began to
    sew. Suddenly the door opened, and her fate came in. "So!"
    cried this one, "you are here, Caterina, and you think that I
    shall leave you in peace!" With these words, she ran to the
    cupboards and turned out the linen and clothes of Caterina's
    mistress, and threw them all about the room. Caterina thought,
    "When my mistress returns and finds everything in such a
    state, she will kill me!" And out of fear she broke open the
    door and fled. But her fate made all the things right again,
    and gathered them up and put them in their places. When the
    mistress came home, she called Caterina, but she could not
    find her anywhere. She thought she must have robbed her, but
    when she looked at her cupboards, she saw that nothing was
    missing. She wondered greatly, but Caterina never came
    back--she ran and ran till she reached another city, when, as
    she passed along the street, she saw once more a lady at a
    window, who asked her, "Where are you going, all alone, fair
    girl?" "Ah! noble lady, I am a poor girl, and I wish to find a
    place so as to earn my bread. Could you take me?" The lady
    took her into her service, and Caterina thought now to remain
    in peace. Only a few days had passed, when one evening, when
    the lady was out, Caterina's fate appeared again, and spoke
    hard words to her, saying, "So you are here, are you? and you
    think to escape from me?" Then she scattered whatever she
    could lay hands on, and poor Caterina once more fled out of
    fright.

    To be brief, poor Caterina had to lead this terrible life for
    seven years, flying from city to city in search of a place.
    Whenever she entered service, after a few days her fate always
    appeared and disordered her mistress' things, and so the poor
    girl had to fly. As soon as she was gone, however, her fate
    repaired all the damage that had been done. At last, after
    seven years, it seemed as if the unhappy Caterina's fate was
    weary of persecuting her. One day she arrived in a city where
    she saw a lady at a window, who said, "Where go you, all
    alone, fair girl?" "Ah! noble lady, I am a poor girl, and
    willingly would I enter service to earn my bread; could you
    employ me?" The lady replied, "I will take you, but every day
    you will have to do me a certain service, and I am not sure
    that you have the strength." "Tell me what it is," said
    Caterina, "and if I can, I will do it." "Do you see that high
    mountain?" said the lady; "every morning you will have to
    carry up to the top a baker's tray of new bread, and then you
    must cry aloud, 'O fate of my mistress!' three times repeated.
    My fate will appear and will receive the bread." "I will do it
    willingly," said Caterina, and thereupon the lady engaged her.
    With this lady Caterina stayed many years, and every morning
    she carried the tray of fresh bread up the mountain, and after
    she had cried three times, "O fate of my mistress!" there
    appeared a beautiful, stately lady, who received the bread.
    Caterina often wept, thinking how she, who was once so rich,
    had now to work like any poor girl, and one day her mistress
    asked her, "Why are you always crying?" Caterina told her how
    ill things had gone with her, and her mistress said, "You
    know, Caterina, when you take the bread up the mountain
    to-morrow? Well, do you beg my fate to try and persuade yours
    to leave you in peace. Perhaps this may do some good." The
    advice pleased poor Caterina, and the following morning when
    she carried up the bread, she told her mistress' fate of the
    sore straits she was in, and said, "O fate of my mistress,
    pray ask my fate no longer to torment me." "Ah! poor girl,"
    the fate answered, "your fate is covered with a sevenfold
    covering, and that is why she cannot hear you. But to-morrow
    when you come, I will lead you to her." When Caterina had gone
    home, her mistress' fate went to her fate, and said, "Dear
    sister, why are you not tired of persecuting poor Caterina?
    Let her once again see happy days." The fate replied,
    "To-morrow bring her to me; I will give her something that
    will supply all her needs." The next morning, when Caterina
    brought the bread, her mistress' fate conducted her to her own
    fate, who was covered with a sevenfold covering. The fate gave
    her a skein of silk, and said, "Take care of it, it will be of
    use to you." After she had returned home, Caterina said to her
    mistress, "My fate has made me a present of a skein of silk;
    what ought I to do with it?" "It is not worth three grains of
    corn," said the mistress. "Keep it, all the same; who knows
    what it may be good for?"

    After some time, it happened that the young king was about to
    take a wife, and, therefore, he had himself made some new
    clothes. But when the tailor was going to make up one fine
    piece of stuff, he could not anywhere find silk of the same
    colour with which to sew it. The king had it cried through the
    land, that whosoever had silk of the right colour was to bring
    it to court, and would be well paid for his pains. "Caterina,"
    said her mistress, "your skein of silk is of that colour; take
    it to the king and he will make you a fine present." Caterina
    put on her best gown, and went to court, and when she came
    before the king, she was so beautiful that he could not take
    his eyes off her. "Royal Majesty," she said, "I have brought a
    skein of silk of the colour you could not find." "Royal
    majesty," cried one of the ministers, "we should give her the
    weight of her silk in gold." The king agreed, and the scales
    were brought in. On one side the king placed the skein of
    silk, and on the other a gold piece. Now, what do you think
    happened? The silk was always the heaviest, no matter how many
    gold pieces the king placed in the balance. Then he ordered a
    larger pair of scales, and he put all his treasure to the one
    side, but the silk remained the heaviest. Then he took his
    gold crown off his head and set it with the other treasure,
    and upon that the two scales became even.

    "Where did you get this silk?" asked the king. "Royal Majesty,
    my mistress gave it to me." "That is not possible," cried the
    king. "If you do not tell me the truth I will have your head
    cut off!" Caterina related all that had happened to her since
    the time when she was a rich maiden. At Court there was a very
    wise lady, who said: "Caterina, you have suffered much, but
    now you will see happy days, and since the gold crown made the
    balance even, it is a sign that you will live to be a queen."
    "She shall be a queen," cried the king, "I will make her a
    queen! Caterina and no other shall be my bride." And so it
    was. The king sent to his bride to say that he no longer
    wanted her, and married the fair Caterina, who, after much
    suffering in youth, enjoyed her age in full prosperity, living
    happy and content, whereof we have assured testimony.

The most suggestive passages in this ingenious story are those which
refer to the relative positions of a man and his fate, and of one fate
to another. On these points something further is to be gleaned from
an Indian, a Servian, and a Spanish tale, all having a family likeness
amongst themselves, and a strong affinity with our story. The Indian
variant is one of the collection due to the youthful energies of Miss
Maive Stokes, whose book of "Indian Fairy Tales" is a model of
what such a book ought to be. The Servian tale is to be found in
Karadschitsch's "Volksmaerschen der Serben;" the Spanish in Fernan
Caballero's "Cuentos y Poesias Populares Andaluses." The chief
characteristics of the personal fates, as they appear in folk-lore,
may be briefly summarised. In the first place, they know each other,
and are acquainted up to a given point with one another's secrets.
Thus, in the Servian story, a man who goes to seek his fate is
commissioned by persons he meets on the road to ask it questions
touching their own private concerns. A rich householder wants to know
why his servants are always hungry, however much food he gives them
to eat, and why "his aged, miserable father and mother do not die?"
A farmer would have him ask why his cattle perish; and a river, whose
waters bear him across, is anxious to know why no living thing dwells
in it. The fate gives a satisfactory answer to each inquiry.

The fates exercise a certain influence, one over the other, and hence
over the destinies of the people in their charge. Caterina's mistress'
fate intercedes for her with her own fate. The attention of the fates
is not always fixed on the persons under them: they may be prevented
from hearing by fortuitous circumstances, such as the "seven coverings
or veils" of Caterina's fate, or they may be asleep, or absent from
home. Their home, by the by, is invariably placed in a spot very
difficult to get at. In the Spanish variant, the palace of Fortune is
raised "where our Lord cried three times and was not heard"--it is up
a rock so steep that not even a goat can climb it, and the sunbeams
lose their footing when trying to reach the top. A personal fate is
propitiated by suitable offerings, or, if obdurate, it may be brought
to reason by a well-timed punishment. The Indian beats his fate-stone,
just as the Ostyak beats his fetish if it does not behave well and
bring him sport. The Sicilian story gives no hint of this alternative,
but it is one strictly in harmony with the Italian way of thinking,
whether ancient or modern. Statius' declaration:

  Fataque, et injustos rabidis pulsare querelis
  Cælicolas solamen erat ...

was frequently put into practice, as when, upon the death of
Germanicus, the Roman populace cast stones at the temples, and the
altars were levelled to the ground, and the Lares thrown into the
street. Again, Augustus took revenge on Neptune for the loss of his
fleet, by not allowing his image to be carried in the procession of
the Circensian games. It is on record that at Florence, in 1498, a
ruined gamester pelted the image of the Virgin with horse dung. Luca
Landucci, who tells the story, says that the Florentines were shocked;
but in the southern kingdom the incident would have passed without
much notice. The Neapolitans have hardly now left off heaping
torrents of abuse on San Gennaro if he fails to perform the miracle
of liquefaction quick enough. Probably every country could furnish an
illustration. In the grand procession of St Leonhard, the Bavarians
used from time to time to drop the Saint into the river, as a sort of
gentle warning.

The physical presentment of the personal fate differs considerably.
According to the Indian account, "the fates are stones, some standing,
and others lying on the ground." It has been said that this looks like
a relic of stock and stone worship: which is true if it can be said
unreservedly that anyone ever worshipped a stock or a stone.
The lowest stage of fetish worship only indicates a diseased
spiritualism--a mental state in which there is no hedge between the
real and the imagined. No savage ever supposed that his fetish was a
simple three-cornered stone and nothing more. If one could guess
the thoughts of the pigeon mentioned by Mr Romanes as worshipping a
gingerbeer bottle, it would be surely seen that this pigeon
believed his gingerbeer bottle to be other than a piece of unfeeling
earthenware. It is, however, a sign of progress when man begins to
picture the ruling powers not as stones, or even as animals, but as
men. This point is reached in the Servian narrative, where the hero's
fortune is a hag given to him as his luck by fate. In the Spanish
tale, the aspect of the personal fate varies with its character: the
fortunate man's fate is a lovely girl, the fate of the unfortunate
man being a toothless old woman. In the _Pentamerone_ of Giambattista
Basile, Fortune is also spoken of as an old woman, but this seems a
departure from the true Italian ideal, which is neither a stone nor a
luck-hag, nor yet a varying fair-and-foul fortune, but a "bella, alta
Signora:" the imposing figure that surmounts the wheel of fortune
on the marble pavement of the Cathedral of Siena. It is a graver
conception than the gracefully fickle goddess of Jean Cousin's "Liber
Fortunæ":

            ... On souloit la pourtraire,
  Tenant un voile afin d'aller au gré du vent
  Des aisles aux costez pour voler bien avant.

Shakespeare had the Emblematist's Fortune in his mind when he wrote:
"Fortune is painted blind, with a muffler afore her eyes, to signify
to you, which is the moral of it, that she is turning, and inconstant,
and mutability, and variation: and her foot, look you, is fixed upon a
spherical stone, which rolls, and rolls, and rolls."

In hands less light than Cousin's, it was easy for the Fortune of the
emblem writers to become grotesque, and to lose all artistic merit.
The Italian Fortuna does not in the least lend herself to caricature.
In Italy, the objects of thought, even of the common people, have
the tendency to assume concrete and æsthetic forms--a fact of great
significance in the history of a people destined to render essential
service to art.

The "tall, beautiful lady" of the Sicilian story, reappears in a
series of South Italian folk-songs which contains further evidence of
this unconsciously artistic instinct. The Italian folk-poet, for the
most part, lets the lore of tradition altogether alone. It does not
lie in his province, which is purely lyrical. But he has seized upon
Fortune as a myth very capable of lyrical treatment, and following the
free bent of his genius, he has woven out of his subject the delicate
fancies of these songs. A series in the sense of being designed to
form a consecutive whole, they, of course, are not. No two, probably,
had the same author; the perfect individuality of the figure
presented, only showing how a type may be so firmly fixed that the
many have no difficulty in describing it with the consistency of one
man who draws the creation of his own brain.

  I.

  Once in the gloaming, Fortune met me here;
  Fair did she seem, and Love was on me laid,
  Her hair was raised, as were it half a sphere,
  Flowered on her breast a rose that cannot fade.
  Then said I, "Fortune, thou without a peer,
  What rule shall tell the measure of thine aid?"
  "The pathway of the moon through all the year,
  The channel of the exhaustless sea," she said.

  II.

  One night, the while I slept, drew Fortune near,
  At once I loved, such beauty she displayed;
  A crescent moon did o'er her brows appear,
  And in her hand a wheel that never stayed.
  Then said I to her, "O my mistress dear,
  Grant all my wishes, mine if thou wilt aid."
  But she turned from me with dark sullen cheer
  And "Never!" as she turned, was all she said.

  III.

  I saw my Fortune midst the sounding sea
  Sit weeping on a rocky height and steep,
  Said I to her, "Fortune, how is't with thee?"
  "I cannot help thee, child" (so answered she),
  "I cannot help thee more--so must I weep."
  How sweet were those her tears, how sweet, ah me!
  Even the fishes wept within the deep.

  IV.

  One day did Fortune call me to her side,
  "What are the things," she asked, "that thou hast done?"
  Then answered I, "Dear mistress, I have tried
  To grave them upon marble, every one."
  "Ah! maddest of the mad!" so she replied,
  "Better hadst writ on sand than wrought in stone;
  He who to marble should his love confide,
  Loves when he loves till all his wits are gone."

  V.

  There where I lay asleep came Fortune in,
  She came the while I slept and bid me wake,
  "What dost thou now?" she said, "companion mine?
  What dost thou now? Wilt thou then love forsake?
  Arise," she said, "and take this violin,
  And play till every stone thereat shall wake."
  I was asleep when Fortune came to me,
  And bid me rise, and led me unto thee!

These songs come from different villages; from Caballino and Morciano
in Calabria, from Corigliano and Calimera in Terra d'Otranto; the two
last are in the Greek dialect spoken in the latter district. There are
a great many more, in all of which the same sweet and serious type
is preserved; but the above quintet suffices to give a notion of this
modern Magna-Græcian Idyll of Fortune.

    [Footnote 1: In a Breton variant the "Bon Dieu" is the first
    to offer himself as sponsor, but is refused by the peasant,
    "Because you are not just; you slay the honest bread-winner
    and the mother whose children can scarce run alone, and you
    let folks live who never brought aught but shame and sorrow on
    their kindred." Death is accepted, "Because at least you take
    the rich as well as the poor, the young as well as the old."
    The German tale of "Godfather Death" begins in the same way,
    but ends rather differently, as it is the godson and not the
    father who is shown the many candles, and who vainly requests
    Death to give him a new one instead of his own which is nearly
    burnt out. A poem by Hans Sachs (1553) contains reference to
    the legend, of which there are also Provençal and Hungarian
    versions.]

    [Footnote 2: Laura Gonzenbach was the daughter of the Swiss
    Consul at Messina, where she was born. At an early age she
    developed uncommon gifts, and she was hardly twenty when she
    made her collection of Sicilian stories, almost exclusively
    gathered from a young servant-girl who did not know how to
    write or read. It was with great difficulty that a publisher
    was found who would bring out the book. Fräulein Gonzenbach
    married Colonel La Racine, a Piedmontese officer, and died
    five or six years ago, being still quite young. A relation of
    hers, from whom I have these particulars, was much surprised
    to hear that the _Sicilianische Märchen_ is widely known as
    one of the best works of its class. It is somewhat singular
    that the preservation of Italian folk-tales should have been
    so substantially aided by two ladies not of Italian origin:
    Fräulein Gonzenbach and Miss R. H. Busk, author of "The
    Folk-lore of Rome."]



FOLK-LULLABIES.

       ... A nurse's song
  Of lullaby, to bring her babe asleep.


Infancy is a great mystery. We know that we each have gone over that
stage in human life, though even this much is not always quite easy to
realise. But what else do we know about it? Something by observation,
something by intuition; by experience hardly anything at all. We have
as much personal acquaintance with a lake-dwelling or stone age infant
as with our proper selves at the time when we were passing through the
"avatar" of babyhood. The recollections of our earliest years are at
most only as the confused remembrance of a morning dream, which at one
end fades into the unconsciousness of sleep, whilst at the other it
mingles with the realities of awaking. And yet, as a fact, we did not
sleep through all the dawn of our life, nor were we unconscious; only
we were different from what we now are; the term "thinking animal" did
not then fit us so well. We were less reasonable and less material.
Babies have a way of looking at you that makes you half suspect that
they belong to a separate order of beings. You speculate as to whether
they have not invisible wings, which drop off afterwards as do the
birth wings of the young ant. There is one thing, however, in which
the baby is very human, very manlike. Of all newborn creatures he is
the least happy. You may sometimes see a little child crying softly
to himself with a look of world woe on his face that is positively
appalling. Perhaps human existence, like a new pair of shoes, is very
uncomfortable till one gets accustomed to it. Anyhow the child, being
for some reason or reasons exceedingly disposed to vex its heart,
needs much soothing. In one highly civilised country a good many
mothers are in the habit of going to the nearest druggist for the
means to tranquillise their offspring, with the result that these
latter are not unfrequently rescued from the sea of sorrows in the
most final and expeditious way. In less advanced states of society
another expedient has been resorted to from time immemorial--to wit,
the cradle song.

Babies show an early appreciation of rhythm. They rejoice in measured
noise, whether it takes the form of words, music, or the jingle of a
bunch of keys. In the way of poetry I am afraid they must be admitted
to have a perverse preference for what goes by the name of sing-song.
It will be a long time before the infantine public are brought round
to Walt Whitman's views on versification. For the rest, they are not
very severe critics. The small ancient Roman asked for nothing better
than the song of his nurse--

  Lalla, lalla, lalla,
  Aut dormi, aut lacta.

This two-line lullaby constitutes one of the few but sufficing proofs
which have come down to us of the existence among the people of old
Rome of a sort of folk verse not by any means resembling the Latin
classics, but bearing a considerable likeness to the _canti popolari_
of the modern Italian peasant. It may be said parenthetically that
the study of dialect tends altogether to the conviction that there are
country people now living in Italy to whom, rather than to Cicero, we
should go if we want to know what style of speech was in use among
the humbler subjects of the Cæsars. The lettered language of the
cultivated classes changes; the spoken tongue of the uneducated
remains the same; or, if it too undergoes a process of change, the
rate at which it moves is to the other what the pace of a tortoise
is to the speed of an express train. About eight hundred years ago
a handful of Lombards went to Sicily, where they still preserve the
Lombard idiom. The Ober-Engadiner could hold converse with his remote
ancestors who took refuge in the Alps three or four centuries before
Christ; the Aragonese colony at Alghero, in Sardinia, yet discourses
in Catalan; the Roumanian language still contains terms and
expressions which, though dissimilar to both Latin and standard
Italian, find their analogues in the dialects of those eastward-facing
"Latin plains" whence, in all probability, the people of Roumania
sprang. But we must return to our lullabies.

There exists another Latin cradle song, not indeed springing from
classical times, but which, were popular tradition to be trusted,
would have an origin greatly more illustrious than that of the laconic
effusion of the Roman nurse. It is composed in the person of the
Virgin Mary, and was, in bygone days, believed to have been actually
sung by her. Authorities differ as to its real age, some insisting
that the peculiar structure of the verse was unknown before the 12th
century. There is, however, good reason to think that the idea of
composing lullabies for the Virgin belongs to an early period.

  Dormi, fili, dormi! mater
      Cantat unigenito:
  Dormi puer, dormi! pater
      Nato clamat parvulo:
  Millies tibi laudes canimus
      Mille, mille, millies.

  Lectum stravi tibi soli,
      Dormi, nate bellule!
  Stravi lectum foeno molli:
      Dormi mi animule.
  Millies tibi laudes canimus
      Mille, mille, millies.

  Dormi, decus et corona!
      Dormi, nectar lacteum!
  Dormi, mater dabo dona,
      Dabo favum melleum.
  Millies tibi laudes canimus
      Mille, mille, millies.

  Dormi, nate mi mellite!
      Dormi plene saccharo,
  Dormi, vita, meae vitae,
      Casto natus utero.
  Millies tibi laudes canimus
      Mille, mille, millies.

  Quidquid optes, volo dare;
      Dormi, parve pupule
  Dormi, fili! dormi carae,
      Matris deliciolae!
  Millies tibi laudes canimus
      Mille, mille, millies.

  Dormi cor, et meus thronus;
      Dormi matris jubilum;
  Aurium caelestis sonus,
      Et suave sibilum!
  Millies tibi laudes canimus
      Mille, mille, millies.

  Dormi fili! dulce, mater
      Duke melos concinam;
  Dormi, nate! suave, pater,
      Suave carmen accinam.
  Millies tibi laudes canimus
      Mille, mille, millies.

  Ne quid desit, sternam rosis,
      Sternam foenum violis,
  Pavimentum hyacinthis
      Et praesepe liliis.
  Millies tibi laudes canimus
      Mille, mille, millies.

  Si vis musicam, pastores
      Convocabo protinus;
  Illis nulli sunt priores;
      Nemo canit castius.
  Millies tibi laudes canimus
      Mille, mille, millies.

Everybody who is in Rome at Christmas-tide makes a point of visiting
Santa Maria in Ara C[oe]li, the church which stands to the right of
the Capitol, where once the temple of Jupiter Feretrius is supposed
to have stood. What is at that season to be seen in the Ara C[oe]li is
well enough known--to one side a "presepio," or manger, with the ass,
the ox, St Joseph, the Virgin, and the Child on her knee; to the other
side a throng of little Roman children rehearsing in their infantine
voices the story that is pictured opposite.[1] The scene may be taken
as typical of the cult of the Infant Saviour, which, under one form
or another, has existed distinct and separable from the main stem of
Christian worship ever since a Voice in Judæa bade man seek after the
Divine in the stable of Bethlehem. It is almost a commonplace to say
that Christianity brought fresh and peculiar glory alike to infancy
and to motherhood. A new sense came into the words of the oracle--

    Thee in all children, the eternal Child ...

And the mother, sublimely though she appears against the horizon of
antiquity, yet rose to a higher rank--because the highest--at the
founding of the new faith. Especially in art she left the second place
that she might take the first. The sentiment of maternal love, as
illustrated, as transfigured, in the love of the Virgin for her Divine
Child, furnished the great Italian painters with their master motive,
whilst in his humble fashion the obscure folk-poet exemplifies the
selfsame thought. I am not sure that the rude rhymes of which the
following is a rendering do not convey, as well as can be conveyed in
articulate speech, the glory and the grief of the Dresden Madonna:

  Sleep, oh sleep, dear Baby mine,
                   King Divine;
  Sleep, my Child, in sleep recline;
  Lullaby, mine Infant fair,
                   Heaven's King
                   All glittering,
  Full of grace as lilies rare.

  Close thine eyelids, O my treasure,
                   Loved past measure,
  Of my soul, the Lord, the pleasure;
  Lullaby, O regal Child,
                   On the hay
                   My joy I lay;
  Love celestial, meek and mild.

  Why dost weep, my Babe? alas!
                   Cold winds that pass
  Vex, or is 't the little ass?
  Lullaby, O Paradise;
                   Of my heart
                   Though Saviour art;
  On thy face I press a kiss.

  Wouldst thou learn so speedily,
                   Pain to try,
                   To heave a sigh?
  Sleep, for thou shalt see the day
                   Of dire scath,
                   Of dreadful death,
  To bitter scorn and shame a prey.

  Rays now round thy brow extend,
                   But in the end
  A crown of cruel thorns shall bend.
  Lullaby, O little one,
                   Gentle guest
                   Who for thy rest
  A manger hast, to lie upon.

  Born in winter of the year,
                   Jesu dear,
  As the lost world's prisoner.
  Lullaby (for thou art bound
                   Pain to know,
                   And want and woe),
  Mid the cattle standing round.

  Beauty mine, sleep peacefully;
                   Heaven's monarch! see,
  With my veil I cover thee.
  Lullaby, my Spouse, my Lord,
                   Fairest Child
                   Pure, undefiled,
  Thou by all my soul adored.

  Lo! the shepherd band draws nigh;
                   Horns they ply
  Thee their Lord to glorify.
  Lullaby, my soul's delight,
                   For Israel,
                   Faithless and fell,
  Thee with cruel death would smite.

  Now the milk suck from my breast,
                   Holiest, best,
  Thy kind eyes thou openest.
  Lullaby, the while I sing;
                   Holy Jesu
                   Now sleep anew,
  My mantle is thy sheltering.

  Sleep, sleep, thou who dost heaven impart
                   My Lord thou art;
  Sleep, as I press thee to my heart.
  Poor the place where thou dost lie,
                   Earth's loveliest!
                   Yet take thy rest;
  Sleep my Child, and lullaby.

It would be interesting to know if Mrs Browning ever heard any one of
the many variants of this lullaby before writing her poem "The Virgin
Mary to the Child Jesus." The version given above was communicated to
me by a resident at Vallauria, in the heart of the Ligurian Alps. In
that district it is sung in the churches on Christmas Eve, when out
abroad the mountains sleep soundly in their snows and a stray wolf
is not an impossible apparition, nothing reminding you that you are
within a day's journey of the citron groves of Mentone.

There are several old English carols which bear a strong resemblance
to the Italian sacred lullabies. One, current at least as far back as
the time of Henry IV., is preserved among the Sloane MSS.:

  Lullay! lullay! lytel child, myn owyn dere fode,
  How xalt thou sufferin be nayled on the rode.
                           So blyssid be the tyme!

  Lullay! lullay! lytel child, myn owyn dere smerte,
  How xalt thou sufferin the scharp spere to Thi herte?
                           So blyssid be the tyme!

  Lullay! lullay! lytel child, I synge all for Thi sake,
  Many on is the scharpe schour to Thi body is schape.
                           So blyssid be the tyme!

  Lullay! lullay! lytel child, fayre happis the befalle,
  How xalt thou sufferin to drynke ezyl and galle?
                           So blyssid be the tyme!

  Lullay! lullay! lytel child, I synge al beforn
  How xalt thou sufferin the scharp garlong of thorn?
                           So blyssid be the tyme!

  Lullay! lullay! lytel child, gwy wepy Thou so sore,
  Thou art bothin God and man, gwat woldyst Thou be more?
                           So blyssid be the tyme!

Here, as in the Piedmontese song, the "shadow of the cross" makes its
presence distinctly felt, whereas in the Latin lullaby it is wholly
absent. Nor are there any dark or sad forebodings in the fragment:

    Dormi Jesu, mater ridet,
  Quæ; tam dulcem somnum videt,
    Dormi, Jesu blandule.
    Si non dormis, mater plorat,
    Inter fila cantans orat:
    Blande, veni Somnule.

Many Italian Christmas cradle songs are in this lighter strain.
In Italy and Spain a _presepio_ or _nacimento_ is arranged in
old-fashioned houses on the eve of Christmas, and all kinds of songs
are sung or recited before the white image of the Child as it lies in
its bower of greenery. "Flower of Nazareth sleep upon my breast, my
heart is thy cradle," sing the Tuscans, who curiously call Christmas
"the Yule-log Easter." In Sicily a thousand endearing epithets are
applied to the Infant Saviour: "figghiu duci," "Gesiuzzi beddu,"
"Gesiuzzi picchiureddi." The Sicilian poet relates how once, when the
Madunazza was mending St Joseph's clothes, the Bambineddu cried in His
cradle because no one was attending to Him; so the archangel Raphael
came down and rocked Him, and said three sweet little words to Him,
"Lullaby, Jesus, Son of Mary!" Another time, when the Child was older
and the mother was going to visit St Anne, he wept because He wished
to go too. The mother let Him accompany her on condition that He would
not break St Anne's bobbins. Yet another time the Virgin went to the
fair to buy flax, and the Child said that He too would like to have
a fairing. The Virgin buys Him a tambourine, and angels descend to
listen to His playing. Such stories are endless; some, no doubt, are
invented on the spur of the moment, but the larger portion are scraps
of old legendary lore. Not a few of the popular beliefs, relating to
the Infant Jesus may be traced to the apocryphal Gospels, which were
extensively circulated during the earlier Christian centuries.
There is, for instance, a Provençal song containing the legend of an
apple-tree that bowed its branches to the Virgin, which is plainly
derived from this source. Speaking of Provence, one ought not to
forget the famous "Troubadour of Bethlehem," Saboly, who was born in
1640, and who composed more than sixty _noëls_. Five pretty lines of
his form an epitome of sacred lullabies:

  Faudra dire, faudra dire,
    Quauco cansoun,
      Au garçoun,
        A la façoun
  D'aquelo de _soum-soum_.

George Wither deserves remembrance here for what he calls a "Rocking
hymn," written about the year of Saboly's birth. "Nurses," he says,
"usually sing their children asleep, and through want of pertinent
matter they oft make use of unprofitable, if not worse, songs; this
was therefore prepared that it might help acquaint them and their
nurse children with the loving care and kindness of their Heavenly
Father." Consciously or unconsciously, Wither caught the true spirit
of the ancient carols in the verses--charming in spite, or perhaps
because of their demure simplicity--which follow his little exordium:

  Sweet baby, sleep: what ails my dear;
  What ails my darling thus to cry?
  Be still, my child, and lend thine ear,
  To hear me sing thy lullaby.
      My pretty lamb, forbear to weep;
      Be still, my dear; sweet baby, sleep.

  Thou blessed soul, what canst thou fear?
  What thing to thee can mischief do?
  Thy God is now thy Father dear,
  His holy Spouse thy mother too.
      Sweet baby, then forbear to weep;
      Be still, my babe; sweet baby, sleep....

  Whilst thus thy lullaby I sing,
  For thee great blessings ripening be;
  Thine eldest brother is a king,
  And hath a kingdom bought for thee.
      Sweet baby, then forbear to weep;
      Be still, my babe; sweet baby, sleep. &c., &c.

Count Gubernatis, in his "Usi Natalizj," quotes a popular Spanish
lullaby, addressed to any ordinary child, but having reference to the
Holy Babe:

  The Baby Child of Mary,
    Now cradle He has none;
  His father is a carpenter,
    And he shall make Him one.

  The lady good St Anna,
    The lord St Joachim,
  They rock the Baby's cradle,
    That sleep may come to Him.

  Then sleep thou too, my baby,
    My little heart so dear;
  The Virgin is beside thee,
    The Son of God is near.

When they are old enough to understand the meaning of words, children
are sure to be interested up to a certain point by these saintly
fables, but, taken as a whole, the songs of the South give us the
impression that the coming of Christmas kindles the imagination of the
Southern mother rather than that of the Southern child. On the north
side of the Alps it is otherwise; there is scarcely need to say that
in the Vaterland, Christmas is before all the children's feast. We,
who have borrowed many of the German yule-tide customs, have left out
the "Christkind;" and it is well that we have done so. Transplanted
to foreign soil, that poetic piece of extra-belief would have become a
mockery. As soon try to naturalise Kolyada, the Sclavonic white-robed
New-year girl. The Christkind in His mythical attributes is nearer to
Kolyada than to the Italian Bambinello. He belongs to the people, not
to the Church. He is not swathed in jewelled swaddling clothes; His
limbs are free, and He has wings that carry Him wheresoever good
children abide. There is about Him all the dreamy charm of lands where
twilight is long and shade and shine intermingle softly, and where the
earth's wintry winding-sheet is more beautiful than her April bride
gown. The most popular of German lullabies is a truly Teutonic mixture
of piety, wonder-lore, and homeliness. Wagner has introduced the
music to which it is sung into his "Siegfried-Idyl." I have to thank a
Heidelberg friend for the text:

  Sleep, baby, sleep:
  Your father tends the sheep;
          Your mother shakes the branches small,
          Whence happy dreams in showers fall:
  Sleep, baby, sleep.

  Sleep, baby, sleep:
  The sky is full of sheep;
          The stars the lambs of heaven are,
          For whom the shepherd moon doth care:
  Sleep, baby, sleep.

  Sleep, baby, sleep:
  The Christ Child owns a sheep;
          He is Himself the Lamb of God;
          The world to save, to death He trod:
  Sleep, baby, sleep.

  Sleep, baby, sleep:
  I'll give you then a sheep
          With pretty bells, and you shall play
          And frolic with him all the day:
  Sleep, baby, sleep.

  Sleep, baby, sleep:
  And do not bleat like sheep,
          Or else the shepherd's dog will bite
          My naughty, little, crying spright:
  Sleep, baby, sleep.

  Sleep, baby, sleep:
  Begone, and watch the sheep,
          You naughty little dog! Begone,
          And do not wake my little one:
  Sleep, baby, sleep.

In Denmark children are sung to sleep with a cradle hymn which is
believed (so I am informed by a youthful correspondent) to be "very
old." It has seven stanzas, of which the first runs, "Sleep sweetly,
little child; lie quiet and still; as sweetly sleep as the bird in the
wood, as the flowers in the meadow. God the Father has said,
'Angels stand on watch where mine, the little ones, are in bed.'" A
correspondent at Warsaw (still more youthful) sends me the even-song
of Polish children:

  The stars shine forth from the blue sky;
    How great and wondrous is God's might;
  Shine, stars, through all eternity,
    His witness in the night.

  O Lord, Thy tired children keep:
    Keep us who know and feel Thy might;
  Turn Thine eye on us as we sleep,
    And give us all good-night.

  Shine, stars, God's sentinels on high,
    Proclaimers of His power and might;
  May all things evil from us fly:
    O stars, good-night, good-night!

Is this "Dobra Noc" of strictly popular origin? From internal evidence
I should say that it is not. It seems, however, to be extremely
popular in the ordinary sense of the word. Before me lie two or three
settings of it by Polish musicians.

The Italians call lullabies _ninne-nanne_, a term used by Dante when
he makes Forese predict the ills which are to overtake the dames of
Florence:

  E se l'anteveder qui non m' inganna,
          Prima fien triste che le guance impeli
          Colui che mo si consola con _nanna_.

Some etymologists have sought to connect "nanna" with _neniæ_ or
[Greek: nênitos], but its most apparent relationship is with [Greek:
nannarismata], the modern Greek name for cradle songs, which is
derived from a root signifying the singing of a child to sleep.
The _ninne-nanne_ of the various Italian provinces are to be found
scattered here and there through volumes of folk poesy, and no attempt
has yet been made to collate and compare them. Signor Dal Medico did
indeed publish, some ten years ago, a separate collection of Venetian
nursery rhymes, but his initiative has not been followed up. The
difficulty I had in obtaining the little work just mentioned is
characteristic of the way in which Italian printed matter vanishes
out of all being; instead of passing into the obscure but secure limbo
into which much of English literature enters, it attains nothing
short of Nirv[=a]na--a happy state of non-existence. The inquiries of
several Italian book-sellers led to no other conclusion than that the
book in question was not to be had for love or money; and most likely
I should still have been waiting for it were it not for the courtesy
of the Baron Giovanni di Sardagna, who, on hearing that it was wanted
by a student of folk-lore, borrowed from the author the only copy in
his possession and made therefrom a verbatim transcript. The following
is one of Signor Dal Medico's lullabies:

  Hush! lulla, lullaby! So mother sings;
  For hearken, 'tis the midnight bell that rings.
  But, darling, not thy mother's bell is this:
  St Lucy's priests it calls to prayer, I wis.
  St Lucy gave thee eyes--a matchless pair--
  And gave the Magdalen her golden hair;
  Thy cheeks their hue from heaven's angels have;
  Her little loving mouth St Martha gave.
  Love's mouth, sweet mouth, that Florence hath for home,
  Now tell me where love springs, and how doth come?...
  With music and with song doth love arise,
  And then its end it hath in tears and sighs.

The question and answer as to the beginning and end of love run
through all the songs of Italy, and in nearly every case the reply
proceeds from Florence. The personality of the answerer changes:
sometimes it is a little wild bird; on one occasion it is a preacher.
And the idea has been suggested that the last is the original form,
and that the Preacher of Florence who preaches against love is none
other than Jeronimo Savonarola.

In an Istriot variant of the above song, "Santa Luceîa" is spoken of
as the Madonna of the eyes; "Santa Puluonia" as the Madonna of the
teeth: we hear also something of the Magdalene's old shoes and of the
white lilies she bears in her hands. It is not always quite clear
upon what principle the folk-poet shapes his descriptions of religious
personages; if the gifts and belongings he attributes to them are
at times purely conventional, at others they seem to rest on no
authority, legendary or historic. Most likely his ideas as to
the personal appearance of such or such a saint are formed by the
paintings in the church where he is accustomed to go to mass; it
is probable, too, that he is fond of talking of the patrons of his
village or of the next village, whose names are associated with the
_feste_, which as long as he can recollect have constituted the great
annual events of his life. But two or three saints have a popularity
independent of local circumstance. One of these is Lucy, whom the
people celebrate with equal enthusiasm from her native Syracuse to the
port of Pola. Perhaps the maiden patroness of the blessed faculty of
vision has come to be thought of as a sort of gracious embodiment
of that which her name signifies: of the sweet light which to the
southerner is not a mere helpmate in the performance of daily tasks,
but a providential luxury. Concerning the earthly career of their
favourite, her peasant votaries have vague notions: once when a
French traveller in the Apennines suggested that St Januarius might be
jealous of her praises, he received the answer, "_Ma che, excellenza_,
St Lucy was St Januarius' wife!"

In Greece we find other saints invoked over the baby's cradle. The
Greek of modern times has his face, his mind, his heart, set in an
undeviating eastward position. To holy wisdom and to Marina, the
Alexandrian martyr, the Greek mother confides her cradled darling:

    Put him to bed, St Marina; send him to sleep, St Sophia! Take
    him out abroad that he may see how the trees flower and how
    the birds sing; then come back and bring him with you, that
    his father may not ask for him, may not beat his servants,
    that his mother may not seek him in vain, for she would weep
    and fall sick, and her milk would turn bitter.

At Gessopalena, in the province of Chieti (Abruzzo Citeriore) there
would seem to be much faith in numbers. Luke and Andrew, Michael and
Joseph, Hyacinth and Matthew are called in, and as if these were not
enough to nurse one baby, a summons is sent to _Sant Giusaffat_, who,
as is well known, is neither more nor less than Buddha introduced into
the Catholic calendar.

Another of Signor Dal Medico's _ninne-nanne_ presents several points
of interest:

  O Sleep, O Sleep, O thou beguiler, Sleep,
  Beguile this child, and in beguilement keep,
  Keep him three hours, and keep him moments three;
  Until I call beguile this child for me.
  And when I call I'll call:--My root, my heart,
  The people say my only wealth thou art.
  Thou art my only wealth; I tell thee so.
  Now, bit by bit, this boy to sleep will go;
  He falls and falls to sleeping bit by bit,
  Like the green wood what time the fire is lit,
  Like to green wood that never flame can dart,
  Heart of thy mother, of thy father heart!
  Like to green wood, that never flame can shoot.
  Sleep thou, my cradled hope, sleep thou, my root,
  My cradled hope, my spirit's strength and stay;
  Mother, who bore thee, wears her life away;
  Her life she wears away, and all day long
  She goes a-singing to her child this song.

Now, in the first place, the comparison of the child's gradual falling
asleep with the slow ignition of fresh-cut wood is the common property
of all the populations whose ethnical centre of gravity lies in
Venice. I have seen an Istriot version of it, and I heard it sung by a
countrywoman at San Martino di Castrozza in the Trentino; so that, at
all event, _Italia redenta_ and _irredenta_ has a community of song.
The second thing that calls for remark is the direct invocation
of sleep. A distinct little group of cradle ditties displays this
characteristic. "Come, sleep," cries the Grecian mother, "come, sleep,
take him away; come sleep, and make him slumber. Carry him to the
vineyard of the Aga, to the gardens of the Aga. The Aga will give
him grapes; his wife, roses; his servant, pancakes." A second Greek
lullaby must have sprung from a luxuriant imagination. It comes from
Schio:

  Sleep, carry off my son, o'er whom three sentinels do watch,
  Three sentinels, three warders brave, three mates you cannot match.
  These guards: the sun upon the hill, the eagle on the plain,
  And Boreas, whose chilly blasts do hurry o'er the main.
  --The sun went down into the west, the eagle sank to sleep,
  Chill Boreas to his mother sped across the briny deep.
  "My son, where were you yesterday? Where on the former night?
  Or with the moon or with the stars did you contend in fight?
  Or with Orion did you strive--though him I deem a friend?"
  "Nor with the stars, nor with the moon, did I in strife contend,
  Nor with Orion did I fight, whom for your friend I hold,
  But guarded in a silver cot a child as bright as gold."

The Greeks have a curious way of looking at sleep: they seem absorbed
in the thought of what dreams may come--if indeed the word dream
rightly describes their conception of that which happens to the soul
while the body takes its rest--if they do not rather cling to some
vague notion of a real severance between matter and spirit during
sleep.

The mothers of La Bresse (near Lyons) invoke sleep under the name of
"le souin-souin." I wish I could give here the sweet, inedited melody
which accompanies these lines:

  Le poupon voudrait bien domir;
  Le souin-souin ne veut pas venir.
  Souin-souin, vené, vené, vené;
  Souin-souin, vené, vené, donc!

The Chippewaya Indians were in the habit of personifying sleep as an
immense insect called Weeng, which someone once saw at the top of a
tree engaged in making a buzzing noise with its wings. Weeng produced
sleep by sending fairies, who beat the foreheads of tired mortals with
very small clubs.

Sleep acts the part of questioner in the lullaby of the Finland
peasant woman, who sings to her child in its bark cradle: "Sleep,
little field bird; sleep sweetly, pretty redbreast. God will wake thee
when it is time. Sleep is at the door, and says to me, 'Is not there
a sweet child here who fain would sleep? a young child wrapped
in swaddling clothes, a fair child resting beneath his woollen
coverlet?'" A questioning sleep makes his appearance likewise in a
Sicilian _ninna_:--

  My little son, I wish you well, your mother's comfort when in grief.
  My pretty boy, what can I do? Will you not give one hour's relief?
  Sleep has just past, and me he asked if this my son in slumber lay.
  Close, close your little eyes, my child; send your sweet breath far
            leagues away.
  You are the fount of rose water; you are with every beauty fraught.
  Sleep, darling son, my pretty one, my golden button richly wrought.

A vein of tender reproach is sprung in that inquiry, "Ca n' ura ri
riposu 'un vuo rari?" The mother appeals to the better feeling, to
the Christian charity as it were, of the small but implacable tyrant.
Another time she waxes yet more eloquent. "Son, my comfort, I am not
happy. There are women who laugh and enjoy themselves while I chafe my
very life out. Listen to me, child; beautiful is the lullaby and all
the folk are asleep--but thou, no! My wise little son, I look about
for thy equal; nowhere do I find him. Thou art mamma's consolation.
There, do sleep just a little while." So pleads the Sicilian; her
Venetian sister tries to soften the obduracy of her infant by still
more plaintive remonstrances. "Hushaby; but if thou dost not sleep,
hear me. Thou hast robbed me of my heart and of all my sentiments. I
really do not know for what cause thou lamentest, and never will have
done lamenting." On this occasion the appeal seems to be made to some
purpose, for the song concludes, "The eyes of my joy are closing; they
open a little and then they shut. Now is my joy at peace with me and
no longer at war." So happy an issue does not always arrive. It may
happen that the perverse babe flatly refuses to listen to the mother's
voice, sing she never so sweetly. Perhaps he might have something
to say for himself could he but speak, at any rate in the matter of
mid-day slumbers. It must no doubt be rather trying to be called upon
to go straight to sleep just when the sunbeams are dancing round and
round and wildly inviting you to make your first studies in optics.
Most often the long-suffering mother, if she does not see things in
this light, acts as though she did. Her patience has no limit; her
caresses are never done; with untiring love she watches the little
wakeful, wilful culprit--

  Chi piangendo e ridendo pargoleggia....

But it is not always so; there are times when she loses all patience,
and temper into the bargain. Such a contingency is only too faithfully
reflected in a Sicilian _ninna_ which ends with the utterance of a
horrible wish that Doctor Death would come and quiet the recalcitrant
baby once for all. I ought to add that this same murderous lullaby is
nevertheless brimful of protestations of affection and compliments;
the child is told that his eyes are the finest imaginable, his cheeks
two roses, his countenance like the moon's. The amount of incense
which the Sicilian mother burns before her offspring would suffice
to fill any number of cathedrals. Every moment she breaks forth into
words such as, "Hush! child of my breath, bunch of jasmine, handful of
oranges and lemons; go to sleep, my son, my beauty: I have got to take
thy portrait." It has been remarked that a person who resembled an
orange would scarcely be very attractive, whence it is inferred that
the comparison came into fashion at the date when the orange tree was
first introduced into Sicily and when its fruit was esteemed a rare
novelty. A little girl is described as a spray of lilies and a bouquet
of roses. A little boy is assured that his mother prefers him to gold
or fine silver. If she lost him where would she find a beloved son
like to him? A child dropped out of heaven, a laurel garland, one
under whose feet spring up flowers? Here is a string of blandishments
prettily wound up in a prayer:

  Hush, my little round-faced daughter; thou art like the stormy sea.
  Daughter mine of finest amber, godmother sends sleep to thee.
  Fair thy name, and he who gave it was a gallant gentleman.
  Mirror of my soul, I marvel when thy loveliness I scan.
  Flame of love, be good. I love thee better far than life I love.
  Now my child sleeps. Mother Mary, look upon her from above.

The form taken by parental flattery shows the tastes of nations and of
individuals. The other day a young and successful English artist was
heard to exclaim with profound conviction, whilst contemplating his
son and heir, twenty-four hours old, "There is a great deal of _tone_
about that baby!"

The Hungarian nurse tells her charge that his cot must be of rosewood
and his swaddling clothes of rainbow threads spun by angels. The
evening breeze is to rock him, the kiss of the falling star to awake
him; she would have the breath of the lily touch him gently, and the
butterflies fan him with their brilliant wings. Like the Sicilian, the
Magyar has an innate love of splendour.

Corsica has a _ninna-nanna_ into which the whole genius of its people
seems to have passed. The village, _fêtes_, with dancing and music,
the flocks and herds and sheep-dogs, even the mountains, stars, and
sea, and the perfumed air off the _macchi_, come back to the traveller
in that island as he reads--

  Hushaby, my darling boy;
  Hushaby, my hope and joy.
  You're my little ship so brave
  Sailing boldly o'er the wave;
  One that tempests doth not fear,
  Nor the winds that blow from high.
  Sleep awhile, my baby dear;
  Sleep, my child, and hushaby.

  Gold and pearls my vessel lade,
  Silk and cloth the cargo be,
  All the sails are of brocade
  Coming from beyond the sea;
  And the helm of finest gold,
  Made a wonder to behold.
  Fast awhile in slumber lie;
  Sleep, my child, and hushaby.

  After you were born full soon
  You were christened all aright;
  Godmother she was the moon,
  Godfather the sun so bright;
  All the stars in heaven told
  Wore their necklaces of gold.
  Fast awhile in slumber lie;
  Sleep, my child, and hushaby.

  Pure and balmy was the air,
  Lustrous all the heavens were;
  And the seven planets shed
  All their virtues on your head;
  And the shepherds made a feast
  Lasting for a week at least.
  Fast awhile in slumber lie;
  Sleep, my child, and hushaby.

  Nought was heard but minstrelsy,
  Nought but dancing met the eye,
  In Cassoni's vale and wood
  And in all the neighbourhood;
  Hawk and Blacklip, stanch and true,
  Feasted in their fashion too.
  Fast awhile in slumber lie;
  Sleep, my child, and hushaby.

  Older years when you attain,
  You will roam o'er field and plain;
  Meadows will with flowers be gay,
  And with oil the fountains play,
  And the salt and bitter sea
  Into balsam changèd be.
  Fast awhile in slumber lie;
  Sleep, my child, and hushaby.

  And these mountains, wild and steep,
  Will be crowded o'er with sheep,
  And the wild goat and the deer
  Will be tame and void of fear;
  Vulture, fox, and beast of prey,
  From these bounds shall flee away.
  Fast awhile in slumber lie;
  Sleep, my child, and hushaby.

  You are savory, sweetly blowing,
  You are thyme, of incense smelling,
  Upon Mount Basella growing,
  Upon Mount Cassoni dwelling;
  You the hyacinth of the rocks
  Which is pasture for the flocks.
  Fast awhile in slumber lie;
  Sleep, my child, and hushaby.

At the sight of a new-born babe the Corsican involuntarily sets to
work making auguries. The mountain shepherds place great faith in
divination based on the examination of the shoulder-blades of animals:
according to the local tradition the famous prophecy of the greatness
of Napoleon was drawn up after this method. The nomad tribes of
Central Asia search the future in precisely the same way. Corsican
lullabies are often prophetical. An old woman predicts a strange sort
of millennium, to begin with the coming of age of her grandson:

    "There grew a boy in Palneca of Pumonti, and his dear
    grandmother was always rocking his cradle, always wishing him
    this destiny:--

    "Sleep, O little one, thy grandmother's joy and gladness, for
    I have to prepare the supper for thy dear little father, and
    thy elder brothers, and I have to make their clothes.

    "When thou art older, thou wilt traverse the plains, the grass
    will turn to flowers, the sea-water will become sweet balm.

    "We will make thee a jacket edged with red and turned up in
    points, and a little peaked hat, trimmed with gold braid.

    "When thou art bigger, thou wilt carry arms; neither soldier
    nor gendarme will frighten thee, and if thou art driven up
    into a corner, thou wilt make a famous bandit.

    "Never did woman of our race pass thirteen years unwed, for
    when an impertinent fellow dared so much as look at her, he
    escaped not two weeks unless he gave her the ring.

    "But that scoundrel of Morando surprised the kinsfolk,
    arrested them all in one day, and wrought their ruin. And the
    thieves of Palneca played the spy.

    "Fifteen men were hung, all in the market-place: men of great
    worth, the flower of our race. Perhaps it will be thou, O
    dearest! who shall accomplish the vendetta!"

An unexpected yet logical development leads from the peaceful
household cares, the joyous images of the familiar song, the playful
picture of the baby boy in jacket and pointed hat, to a terrible
recollection of deeds of shame and blood, long past, and perhaps
half-forgotten by the rest of the family, but at which the old dame's
breast still burns as she rocks the sleeping babe on whom is fixed her
last passionate hope of vengeance fulfilled.

In the mountain villages scattered about the borders of the vast Sila
forest, Calabrian mothers whisper to their babes, "brigantiellu miu,
brigantiellu della mamma." They tell the little ones gathered round
their knees legends of Fra Diavolo and of Talarico, just as Sardinian
mothers tell the legend of Tolu of Florinas. This last is a story
of to-day. In 1850, Giovanni Tolu married the niece of the priest's
housekeeper. The priest opposed the marriage, and soon after it had
taken place, in the absence of Tolu, he persuaded the young wife to
leave her husband's house, never to return. Tolu, meeting his enemy
in a lonely path, fired his pistol, but by some accident it did not
go off, and the priest escaped with his life. Arrest and certain
conviction, however, awaited Tolu, who preferred to take to the
woods, where he remained for thirty years, a prince among outlaws.
He protected the weak; administered a rude but wise justice to the
scattered peasants of the waste country between Sassari and the sea;
his swift horse was always ready to fly in search of their lost or
stolen cattle; his gun was the terror of the thieves who preyed upon
these poor people. In Osilo lived two families, hereditary foes, the
Stacca and the Achena. An Achena offered Tolu five hundred francs to
kill the head of the Stacca family. Tolu not only refused, he did
not rest till he had brought about a reconciliation between the two
houses. At last, in the autumn of 1880, the gendarmes, after thirty
years' failure, arrested Tolu without a struggle at a place where he
had gone to take part in a country _festa_. For two years he was kept
untried in prison. In September 1882 he was brought before the Court
of Assize at Frosinone. Not a witness could be found to testify
against him. "Tolu," they said, "è un Dio." When asked by the
President what he had to say in his defence, he replied: "I never
fired first. The carabineers hunted me like a wild beast, because a
price was set on my head, and like a wild beast I defended myself."
The jury brought in a verdict of acquittal; and if any one wishes to
make our hero's acquaintance, he has only to take ship for Sardinia
and then find the way to the village of Florinas, where he is now
peaceably living, beloved and respected by all who know him.

The Sardinian character has old-world virtues and old-world blemishes;
if you live in the wilder districts you may deem it advisable to keep
a loaded pistol on the table at meal-time; but then you may go all
over the island without letters of introduction, sure of a hearty
welcome, and an hospitality which gives to the stranger the best
of everything that there is. If the Sardinian has an imperfect
apprehension of the sacredness of other laws, he is blindly obedient
to that of custom; when some progressive measure is proposed, he does
not argue--he says quietly: "Custu non est secundu la moda nostra."
No man sweeps the dust on antique time less than he. One of his
distinctive traits is an overweening fondness of his children; the
ever-marvellous baby is represented not only as the glory of its
mother, but also as the light even of its most distant connexions--

  Lullaby, sweet lullaby,
  You our happiness supply;
  Fair your face, and sweet your ways,
  You, your mother's pride and praise.
  As the coral, rare and bright,
  In your life does father live;
  You, of all the dear delight,
  All around you pleasure give.

  All your ways, my pretty boy,
  Of your parents are the joy;
  You were born for good alone,
  Sunshine of the family!
  Wise, and kind to every one.
  Light of every kinsman's eye;
  Light of all who hither come,
  And the gladness of our home.
                Lullaby, sweet lullaby.

On the northern shore the people speak a tongue akin to that of the
neighbouring isle, and the dialect of the south is semi-Spanish; but
in the midland Logudoro the old Sard speech is spoken much as it is
known to have been spoken a thousand years ago. It is simply a rustic
Latin. Canon Spano's loving rather than critical labours have left
Sardinia a fine field for some future folk-lore collector. The
Sardinian is short in speech, copious in song. I asked a lad, just
returned to Venetia from working in Sardinian quarries, if the people
there had many songs? "Oh! tanti!" he answered, with a gesture more
expressive than the words. He had brought back more than a touch of
that malarious fever which is the scourge of the island and a blight
upon all efforts to develop its rich resources. A Sardinian friend
tells me that the Sard poet often shows a complete contempt for
metrical rules; his poesy is apt to become a rhythmic chant of which
the words and music cannot be dissevered. But the Logudorian
lullabies are regular in form, their distinguishing feature being an
interjection with an almost classical ring that replaces the _fa la
nanna_ of Italy--

  Oh! ninna and anninia!
      Sleep, baby boy;
  Oh! ninna and anninia!
      God give thee joy.
  Oh! ninna and anninia!
      Sweet joy be thine;
  Oh! ninna and anninia!
      Sleep, brother mine.

  Sleep, and do not cry,
      Pretty, pretty one,
  Apple of mine eye,
      Danger there is none;
  Sleep, for I am by,
      Mother's darling son.

  Oh! ninna and anninia!
      Sleep, baby boy;
  Oh! ninna and anninia!
      God give thee joy.
  Oh! ninna and anninia!
      Sweet joy be thine;
  Oh! ninna and anninia!
      Sleep, brother mine.

The singer is the little mother-sister: the child who, while the
mother works in the fields or goes to market, is left in charge of the
last-come member of the family, and is bound to console it as best
she may, for the absence of its natural guardian. The baby is to her
somewhat of a doll, just as to the children of the rich the doll is
somewhat of a baby. She may be met without going far afield; anyone
who has lived near an English village must know the curly-headed
little girl who sits on the cottage door-step or among the meadow
buttercups, her arms stretched at full length, round a soft,
black-eyed creature, small indeed, yet not much smaller than herself.
This, she solemnly informs you, is her baby. Not quite so often can
she be seen now as before the passing of the Education Act, prior to
which all truants fell back on the triumphant excuse, "I can't go
to school because I have to mind my baby," some neighbouring infant
brother, cousin, nephew, being producible at a moment's notice in
support of the assertion. In those days the mere sight of a baby
filled persons interested in the promotion of public instruction with
wrath and suspicion. Yet womanhood would lose a sweet and sympathetic
phase were the little mother-sister to wholly disappear. The songs
of the child-nurse are of the slenderest kind; the tether of her
imagination has not been cut by hope or memory. As a rule she dwells
upon the important fact that mother will soon be here, and when she
has said that, she has not much more to say. So it is in an Istriot
song: "This is a child who is always crying; be quiet, my soul, for
mother is coming back; she will bring thee nice milk, and then she
will put thee in the crib to hushaby." A Tuscan correspondent sends
me a sister-rhyme which is introduced by a pretty description of
the grave-eyed little maiden, of twelve or thirteen years perhaps,
responsible almost to sadness, who leans down her face over the baby
brother she is rocking in the cradle; and when he stirs and begins to
cry, sings softly the oft-told tale of how the dear mamma will come
quickly and press him lovingly to her breast:

  Che fa mai col volto chino,
      Quella tacita fanciulla?
      Sta vegliando il fratellino,
      Adagiato nella culla.

  Ed il pargolo se desta,
      E il meschino prorompe in pianto,
      La bambina, mesta, mesta,
      Vuol chetarlo col suo canto:

  Bambolino mio, riposa,
      Presto mamma tornerà;
      Cara mamma che amorosa
      Al suo sen ti stringerà.

The little French girl turns her thoughts to the hot milk and
chocolate that are being prepared, and of which she no doubt expects
to have a share:--

  Fais dodo, Colin, mon p'tit frère,
  Fais dodo, t'auras du lolo.
      Le papa est en haut, qui fait le lolo,
      Le maman est en bas, qui fait le colo;
  Fais dodo, Colin, mon p'tit frère
      Fais dodo.

In enumerating the rewards for infantine virtue--which is sleep--I
must not forget the celebrated hare's skin to be presented to Baby
Bunting, and the "little fishy" that the English father, set to be
nurse _ad interim_, promises his "babby" when the ship comes in; nor
should I pass over the hopes raised in an inedited cradle song of
French Flanders, which opens, like the Tuscan lullaby, with a short
narration:

  Un jour un' pauv' dentillière
  En amicliton ch'un petiot garchun,
  Qui d'puis le matin n'fesions que blaìre,
  Voulait l'endormir par une canchun.

In this barbarous _patios_, the poor lace-maker tells her "p'tit
pocchin" (little chick) that to-morrow he shall have a cake made of
honey, spices, and rye flour; that he shall be dressed in his best
clothes "com' un bieau milord;" and that at "la Ducasse," a local
_fête_, she will buy him a laughable Polchinello and a bird-organ
playing the tune of the sugar-loaf hat. Toys are also promised in a
Japanese lullaby, which the kindness of the late author of "Child-life
in Japan" has enabled me to give in the original:

  Nén-ne ko y[=o]--nén-né ko y[=o]
  Nén-né no mori wa--doko ye yuta
  Ano yama koyété--sato ye yuta
  Sato no miyagé ni--nani morota
  Tén-tén taiko ni--sh[=o] no fuyé
  Oki-agari koboshima--ìnu hari-ko.

Signifying in English:

  Lullaby, baby, lullaby, baby
  Baby's nursey, where has she gone
  Over those mountains she's gone to her village;
  And from her village, what will she bring?
  A tum-tum drum, and a bamboo flute,
  A "daruma" (which will never turn over) and a paper dog.

Scope is allowed for unlimited extension, as the singer can go on
mentioning any number of toys. The _Daruma_ is what English children
call a tumbler; a figure weighted at the bottom, so that turn it how
you will, it always regains its equilibrium.

More ethereal delights than chocolate, hare's skins, bird-organs, or
even paper dogs (though these last sound irresistibly seductive), form
the subject of a beautiful little Greek song of consolation: "Lullaby,
lullaby, thy mother is coming back from the laurels by the river, from
the sweet banks she will bring thee flowers; all sorts of flowers,
roses, and scented pinks." When she does come back, the Greek mother
makes such promises as eclipse all the rest: "Sleep, my child, and
I will give thee Alexandria for thy sugar, Cairo for thy rice, and
Constantinople, there to reign three years!" Those who see deep
meaning in childish things will look with interest at the young Greek
woman, who sits vaguely dreaming of empire while she rocks her babe.
The song is particularly popular in Cyprus; the English residents
there must be familiar with the melody--an air constructed on the
Oriental scale, and only the other day set on paper. The few bars of
music are like a sigh of passionate longing.

From reward to punishment is but a step, and next in order to the
songs that refer to the recompense of good, sleepy children, must be
placed those hinting at the serious consequences which will be
the result of unyielding wakefulness. It must be confessed that
retribution does not always assume a very awful form; in fact, in
one German rhyme, it comes under so gracious a disguise, that a child
might almost lie awake on purpose to look out for it:

  Sleep, baby, sleep,
  I can see two little sheep;
  One is black and one is white,
  And, if you do not sleep to-night,
  First the black and then the white
  Will give your little toes a bite.

The translation is by "Hans Breitmann."

In the threatening style of lullaby, the bogey plays a considerable
part. A history of the bogeys of all nations would be an instructive
book. The hero of one people is the bogey of another. Wellington and
Napoleon (or rather "Boney") served to scare naughty babies long after
the latter, at least, was laid to rest. French children still have
songs about "le Prince Noir," and the nurses sang during the siege of
Paris:

  As-tu vu Bismarck
    A la porte de Chatillon?
  Il lance les obus
    Sur le Panthéon.

The Moor is the nursery terror of many parts of Southern Europe;
not, however, it would seem of Sicily--a possible tribute to the
enlightened rule of the Kalifs. The Greeks do not enjoy a like
immunity: Signor Avolio mentions, in his "Canti popolari di Noto,"
that besides saying "the wolf is coming," it is common for mothers
to frighten their little ones with, "Zìttiti, ca viènunu i Riece; Nu
sciri ca 'ncianu ci sù i Rieci" ("Hush, for the Greeks are coming:
don't go outside for the Greeks are there.") Noto was the centre of
the district where the ancient Sikeli made their last stand against
Greek supremacy: a coincidence that opens the way to bold speculation,
though the originals of the bogey Greeks may have been only pirates of
times far less remote.

In Germany the same person distributes rewards and punishments: St
Nicholas in the Rhenish provinces, Knecht Ruprecht in Northern and
Central Germany, Julklapp in Pomerania. On Christmas eve, some one
cries out "Julklapp!" from behind a door, and throws the gift into the
room with the child's name pinned upon it. Even the gentle St Lucy,
the Santa Claus of Lombardy, withholds her cakes from erring babes,
and little Tuscans stand a good deal in awe of their friend the
Befana; delightful as are the treasures she puts in their shoes when
satisfied with their behaviour, she is credited with an unpleasantly
sharp eye for youthful transgressions. She has a relative in Japan of
the name of Hotii. Once upon a time Hotii, who belongs to the sterner
sex, lived on earth in the garb of a priest. His birthland was China,
and he had the happy fame of being extremely kind to children. At
present he walks about Japan with a big sack full of good things
for young people, but the eyes with which the back of his head is
furnished, enable him to see in a second if any child misconducts
itself. Of more dubious antecedents is another patron of the children
of Japan, Kishi Mojin, the mother of the child-demons. Once Kishi
Mojin had the depraved habit of stealing any young child she could lay
hands on and eating it. In spite of this, she was sincerely attached
to her own family, which numbered one thousand, and when the exalted
Amida Niorai hid one of its members to punish her for her cruel
practices, she grieved bitterly. Finally the child was given back on
condition that Kishi Mojin would never more devour her neighbours'
infants: she was advised to eat the fruit of the pomegranate whenever
she had a craving for unnatural food. Apparently she took the advice
and kept the compact, as she is honoured on the 28th day of every
month, and little children are taught to solicit her protection. The
kindness shown to children both in Japan and China is well known;
in China one baby is said to be of more service in insuring a safe
journey than an armed escort.

"El coco," a Spanish bogey, figures in a sleep-song from Malaga:
"Sleep, little child, sleep, my soul; sleep, little star of the
morning. My child sleeps with eyes open like the hares. Little baby
girl, who has beaten thee that thine eyes look as if they had been
crying? Poor little girl! who has made thy face red? The rose on the
rose-tree is going to sleep, and to sleep goes my child, for already
it is late. Sleep little daughter for the _coco_ comes."

The folk-poet in Spain reaps the advantage of a recognised freedom of
versification; with the great stress laid upon the vowels, a consonant
more or less counts for nothing:

  A dormir va la rosa
    De los rosales;
  A dormir va mi niña
    Porque ya es tarde.

All folk-poets, and notably the English, have recourse to an
occasional assonant, but the Spaniard can trust altogether to such.
Verse-making is thus made easy, provided ideas do not fail, and up to
to-day, they have not failed the Spanish peasant. He has not, like
the Italian, begun to leave off composing songs. My correspondent at
Malaga writes that at that place improvisation seems innate in the
people: they go before a house and sing the commonest thing they wish
to express. Love and hate they also turn into songs, to be rehearsed
under the window of the individual loved or hated. There is even an
old woman now living in Malaga who rhymes in Latin with extraordinary
facility. To the present section falls one other lullaby--coo-aby,
perhaps I ought to say, since the Spanish _arrullo_ means the cooing
of doves as well as the lulling of children. It is quoted by Count
Gubernatis:

  Isabellita, do not pine
    Because the flowers fade away;
    If flowers hasten to decay
  Weep not, Isabellita mine.

  Little one, now close thine eyes,
    Hark, the footsteps of the Moor!
    And she asks from door to door,
  Who may be the child who cries?

  When I was as small as thou
    And within my cradle lying,
    Angels came about me flying
  And they kissed me on my brow.

  Sleep, then, little baby, sleep:
    Sleep, nor cry again to-night,
    Lest the angels take to flight
  So as not to see thee weep.

"The Moor" is in this instance a benignant kind of bogey, not far
removed from harmless "wee Willie Winkie" who runs upstairs and
downstairs in his nightgown:

  Tapping at the window,
    Crying at the lock,
  "Are the babes in their beds?
    For it's now ten o'clock."

These myths have some analogy with a being known as "La Dormette" who
frequents the neighbourhood of Poitou. She is a good old woman who
throws sand and sleep on children's eyes, and is hailed with the
words:

  Passez la Dormette,
    Passez par chez nous!
  Endormir gars et fillettes
    La nuit et le jou.

Now and then we hear of an angel who passes by at nightfall; it is not
clear what may be his mission, but he is plainly too much occupied to
linger with his fellow seraphs, who have nothing to do but to kiss
the babe in its sleep. A little French song speaks of this journeying
angel:

  Il est tard, l'ange a passé,
  Le jour a déja baissé;
  Et l'on n'entend pour tout bruit
  Que le ruisseau qui s'enfuit.
  Endors toi,
  Mon fils! c'est moi.
  Il est tard et ton ami,
  L'oiseau blue, s'est endormi.

In Calabria, when a butterfly flits around a baby's cradle, it is
believed to be either an angel or a baby's soul.

The pendulum of good and evil is set swinging from the moment that the
infant draws its first breath. Angelical visitation has its complement
in demonial influence; it is even difficult to resist the conclusion
that the ministers of light are frequently outnumbered by the powers
of darkness. In most Christian lands the unbaptised child is given
over entirely to the latter. Sicilian women are loth to kiss a child
before its christening, because they consider it a pagan or a Turk. In
East Tyrol and Styria, persons who take a child to be baptised say on
their return--"A Jew we took away, a Christian we bring back." Some
Tyrolese mothers will not give any food to their babies till the rite
has been performed. The unbaptised Greek is thought to be simply
a small demon, and is called by no other designation than [Greek:
srakos] if a boy, and [Greek: srakoula] if a girl. Once when a
christening was unavoidably delayed, the parents got so accustomed to
calling their little girl by the snake name, that they continued doing
so even after she had been presented with one less equivocal.
Dead unchristened babes float about on the wind; in Tyrol they are
marshalled along by Berchte, the wife of Pontius Pilate; in Scotland
they may be heard moaning on calm nights. The state to which their
baby souls are relegated, is probably a lingering recollection of
that into which, in pagan days, all innocent spirits were conceived
to pass: an explanation that has also the merit of being as little
offensive as any that can be offered. There is naturally a general
wish to make baptism follow as soon as possible after birth--an
end that is sometimes pursued regardless of the bodily risks it may
involve. A poor woman gave birth to a child at the mines of Vallauria;
it was a bitterly cold winter; the snow lay deep enough to efface the
mountain tracks, and all moisture froze the instant it was exposed to
the air. However, the grandmother of the new-born babe carried it off
immediately to Tenda--many miles away--for the christening rite. As
she had been heard to remark that it was a useless encumbrance, there
were some who attributed her action to other motives than religious
zeal; but the child survived the ordeal and prospered. In several
parts of the Swiss mountains a baptism, like a funeral, is an event
for the whole community. I was present at a christening in a small
village lying near the summit of the Julier Pass. The bare, little
church was crowded, and the service was performed with a reverent
carefulness contrasting sharply with the mechanical and hurried
performance of a baptism witnessed shortly before in a very different
place, the glorious baptistry at Florence. It ended with a Lutheran
hymn, sung sweetly without accompaniment, by five or six young
girls. More than half of the congregation consisted of men, whose
weather-tried faces were wet with tears, almost without exception.
I could not find out that there was anything particularly sad in the
circumstances of the case; the women certainly wore black, but then,
the rule of attending the funerals even of mere acquaintances, causes
the best dress in Switzerland to be always one suggestive of mourning.
It seemed that the pathos of the dedication of a dawning life to the
Supreme Good was sufficient to touch the hearts of these simple folk,
starved from coarser emotion.

In Calabria it is thought unlucky to be either born or christened on
a Friday. Saturday is likewise esteemed an inauspicious day, which
points to its association with the witches' Sabbath, once the subject
of numerous superstitious beliefs throughout the southern provinces
of Italy. Not far from the battlefield near Benevento where Charles
of Anjou defeated Manfred, grew a walnut tree, which had an almost
European fame as the scene of Sabbatical orgies. People used to hang
upon its branches the figure of a two-headed viper coiled into a ring,
a symbol of incalculable antiquity. St Barbatus had the tree cut down,
but the devil raised new shoots from the root and so it was renewed.
Shreds of snake-worship may be still collected. The Calabrians hold
that the cast-off skin of a snake is an excellent thing to put under
the pillow of a sick baby. Even after their christening, children are
unfortunately most susceptible to enchantment. When a beautiful and
healthy child sickens and dies, the Irish peasant infers that the
genuine baby has been stolen by fairies, and this miserable sprite
left in its place. Two ancient antidotes have great power to
counteract the effect of spells. One is the purifying Fire. In
Scotland, as in Italy, bewitched children, within the memory of living
men, have been set to rights by contact with its salutary heat. My
relative, Count Belli of Viterbo, was "looked at" when an infant by a
_Jettatrice_, and was in consequence put by his nurse into a mild
oven for half-an-hour. One would think that the remedy was nearly as
perilous as the practice of the lake-dwellers of cutting a little hole
in their children's heads to let out the evil spirits, but in the case
mentioned it seems to have answered well.

The other important curative agent is the purifying spittle. In
Scotland and in Greece, any one who should exclaim, "What a beautiful
child!" is expected to slightly spit upon the object of the remark, or
some misfortune will follow. Ladies in a high position at Athens have
been observed to do this quite lately. The Scotch and Greek uneasiness
about the "well-faured" is by no means confined to those peoples; the
same anxiety reappears in Madagascar; and the Arab does not like you
to praise the beauty of his horse without adding the qualifying "an
it please God." Persius gives an account of the precautions adopted
by the friends of the infant Roman: "Look here--a grandmother or
superstitious aunt has taken baby from his cradle and is charming his
forehead and his slavering lips against mischief by the joint action
of her middle finger and her purifying spittle; for she knows right
well how to check the evil eye. Then she dandles him in her arms, and
packs off the little pinched hope of the family, so far as wishing can
do it, to the domains of Licinus, or to the palace of Cr[oe]sus. 'May
he be a catch for my lord and lady's daughter! May the pretty ladies
scramble for him! May the ground he walks on turn to a rose-bed.'"
(Prof. Conington's translation.)

One of the rare lullabies that contain allusion to enchantment is the
following Roumanian "Nani-nani":

  Lullaby, my little one,
  Thou art mother's darling son;
  Loving mother will defend thee,
  Mother she will rock and tend thee,
  Like a flower of delight,
  Or an angel swathed in white.

  Sleep with mother, mother well
  Knows the charm for every spell.
  Thou shalt be a hero as
  Our good lord, great Stephen, was,
  Brave in war, and strong in hand,
  To protect thy fatherland.

  Sleep, my baby, in thy bed;
  God upon thee blessings shed.
  Be thou dark, and be thine eyes
  Bright as stars that gem the skies.
  Maidens' love be thine, and sweet
  Blossoms spring beneath thy feet.

The last lines might be taken for a paraphrase of--

                            ....... puellae
  Hunc rapiant: quicquid calcaverit hic, rosa fiat.

The Three Fates have still their cult at Athens. When a child is three
days old, the mother places by its cot a little table spread with a
clean linen cloth, upon which she sets a pot of honey, sundry cakes
and fruits, her wedding ring, and a few pieces of money belonging
to her husband. In the honey are stuck three almonds. These are the
preparations for the visit of the [Greek: Moirai]. In some places the
Norns or Parcæ have got transformed into the three Maries; in others
they closely retain their original character. A perfect sample of the
mixing up of pagan and Christian lore is to be found in a Bulgarian
legend, which shows the three Fates weaving the destiny of the infant
Saviour during a momentary absence of the Virgin--the whole scene
occurring in the middle of a Balkan wood. In Sicily exists a belief
in certain strange ladies ("donni-di-fora"), who take charge of the
new-born babe, with or without permission. The Palermitan mother says
aloud, when she lifts her child out of the cradle, "'Nnome di Dio!"
("In God's name!")--but she quickly adds _sotto voce_: "Cu licenzi,
signuri miu!" ("By your leave, ladies").

At Noto, _Ronni-di-casa_, or house-women, take the place of the
_Donni-di-fora_. They inhabit every house in which a fire burns. If
offended by their host, they revenge themselves on the children:
the mother finds the infant whom she left asleep and tucked into the
cradle, rolling on the floor or screaming with sudden fright. When,
however, the _Ronni-di-casa_ are amiably disposed, they make the
sleeping child smile, after the fashion of angels in other parts of
the world. Should they wish to leave an unmistakable mark of their
good will, they twist a lock of the baby's hair into an inextricable
tress. In England, elves were supposed to tangle the hair during sleep
(_vide King Lear_: "Elf all my hair in knots;" and Mercutio's Mab
speech). The favour of the Sicilian house-women is not without its
drawbacks, for if by any mischance the knotted lock be cut off,
they will probably twist the child's spine out of spite. "'Ccussi lu
lassurii li Ronni-di-casa," says an inhabitant of Noto when he points
out to you a child suffering from spinal curvature. The voice is
lowered in mentioning these questionable guests, and there are
Noticiani who will use any amount of circumlocution to avoid actually
naming them. They are often called "certi signuri," as in this
characteristic lullaby:

  My love, I wish thee well; so lullaby!
  Thy little eyes are like the cloudless sky,
  My little lovely girl, my pretty one,
  Mother will make of thee a little nun:
  A sister of the Saviour's Priory
  Where noble dames and ladies great there be.
  Sleep, moon-faced treasure, sleep, the while I sing:
  Thou hadst thy cradle from the Spanish king.
  When thou hast slept, I'll love thee better still.
  (Sleep to my daughter comes and goes at will
  And in her slumber she is made to smile
  By certain ladies whom I dare not style.)
  Breath of my body, thou, my love, my care,
  Thou art without a flaw, so wondrous fair.
  Sleep then, thy mother's breath, sleep, sleep, and rest,
  For thee my very soul forsakes my breast.
  My very soul goes forth, and sore my heart:
  Thou criest; words of comfort I impart.
  Daughter, my flame, lie still and take repose,
  Thou art a nosegay culled from off the rose.

At Palermo, mothers dazzled their little girls with the prospect of
entering the convent of Santa Zita or Santa Chiara. In announcing the
birth of his child, a Sicilian peasant commonly says, "My wife has a
daughter-abbess." "What! has your wife a daughter old enough to be an
abbess?" has sometimes been the innocent rejoinder of a traveller from
the mainland. The Convent of the Saviour, which is the destination of
the paragon of beauty described in the above lullaby, was one of
the wealthiest, and what is still more to the point, one of the most
aristocratic religious houses in the island. To have a relation among
its members was a distinction ardently coveted by the citizens of
Noto; a town which once rejoiced in thirty-three noble families, one
loftier than the other. The number is now cut down, but according to
Signor Avolio such as remain are regarded with undiminished reverence.
There are households in which the whole conversation runs on the
_Barone_ and _Baronessa_, when not absorbed by the _Baronello_ and the
_Baronessella_. It is just possible that the same phenomenon might be
observed without going to Noto. _Tutto il mondo è paese_: a proverb
which would serve as an excellent motto for the Folk-lore Society.

Outside Sicily the cradle-singer's ideal of felicity is rather
matrimonial than monastic. The Venetian is convinced that who never
loved before must succumb to her daughter's incomparable charms. It
seems, by-the-by, that the "fatal gift" can be praised without fear or
scruple in modern Italy; the visitors of a new-born babe ejaculate in
a chorus, "Quant' è bellino! O bimbo! Bimbino!" and Italian lullabies,
far more than any others, are one long catalogue of perfections,
one drawn-out reiteration of the boast of a Greek mother of Terra
d'Otranto: "There are children in the street, but like my boy there is
not one; there are children before the house, but like my child there
are none at all." The Sardinian who wishes to say something civil of
a baby will not do less than predict that "his fame will go round the
world." The cradle-singer of the Basilicata desires for her nursling
that he may outstrip the sun and moon in their race. It has been seen
that the Roumanian mother would have her son emulate the famous hero
of Moldavia; for her daughter she cherishes a gentler ambition:

  Sleep, my daughter, sleep an hour;
  Mother's darling gilliflower.
  Mother rocks thee, standing near,
  She will wash thee in the clear
  Waters that from fountains run,
  To protect thee from the sun.

  Sleep, my darling, sleep an hour,
  Grow thou as the gilliflower.
  As a tear-drop be thou white,
  As a willow, tall and slight;
  Gentle as the ring-doves are,
  And be lovely as a star!

This _nani-nani_ calls to mind some words in a letter of Sydney
Dobell's: "A little girl-child! The very idea is the most exquisite of
poems! a child-daughter--wherein it seems to me that the spirit of all
dews and flowers and springs and tender, sweet wonders 'strikes
its being into bounds.'" "Tear drop" (_lacrimiòra_) is the poetic
Roumanian name for the lily of the valley. It may be needful to add
that gilliflower is the English name for the clove-pink; at least an
explanatory foot-note is now attached to the word in new editions of
the old poets. Exiled from the polite society of "bedding plants"--all
heads and no bodies--the "matted and clove gilliflowers" which Bacon
wished to have in his garden, must be sought for by the door of
the cottager who speaks of them fondly yet apologetically, as
"old-fashioned things." To the folk-singers of the small Italy on the
Danube and the great Italy on the Arno they are still the type of the
choicest excellence, of the most healthful grace. Even the long stalk,
which has been the flower's undoing, from a worldly point of view,
gets praised by the unsophisticated Tuscan. "See," he says, "with
how lordly an air it holds itself in the hand!" ("Guarda con quanta
signoria si tiene in mano!")

The anguish of the Hindu dying childless has its root deeper down in
the human heart than the reason he gives for it, the foolish fear lest
his funeral rites be not properly performed. No man quite knows what
it is to die who leaves a child in the world; children are more than a
link with the future--they _are_ the future: the portion of ourselves
that belongs not to this day but to to-morrow. To them may be
transferred all the hopes sadly laid by, in our own case, as
illusions; the "to be" of their young lives can be turned into a
beautiful "arrangement in pink," even though experience has taught us
that the common lot of humanity is "an Imbroglio in Whity-brown." Most
parents do all this and much more; as lullabies would show were there
any need for the showing of it. One cradle-song, however, faces
the truth that of all sure things the surest is that sorrow and
disappointment will fall upon the children as it has fallen upon the
fathers. The song comes from Germany; the English version is by Mr C.
G. Leland:

  Sleep, little darling, an angel art thou!
  Sleep, while I'm brushing the flies from your brow.
  All is as silent as silent can be;
  Close your blue eyes from the daylight and me.

  This is the time, love, to sleep and to play;
  Later, oh later, is not like to-day,
  When care and trouble and sorrow come sore
  You never will sleep, love, as sound as before.

  Angels from heaven as lovely as thou
  Sweep round thy bed, love, and smile on thee now;
  Later, oh later, they'll come as to-day,
  But only to wipe all the tear-drops away.

  Sleep, little darling, while night's coming round,
  Mother will still by her baby be found;
  If it be early, or if it be late,
  Still by her baby she'll watch and she'll wait.

The sad truth is there, but with what tenderness is it not hedged
about! These Teutonic angels are worth more than the too sensitive
little angels of Spain who fly away at the sight of tears. And the
last verse conveys a second truth, as consoling as the first is sad;
pass what must, change what may, the mother's love will not change or
pass; its healing presence will remain till death; who knows? perhaps
after. Signor Salomone-Marino records the cry of one, who out of the
depths blesses the haven of maternal love:

  Mamma, Mammuzza mia, vu' siti l'arma,
  Lu mè rifugiu nni la sorti orrenna,
  Vui siti la culonna e la giurlanna,
  Lu celu chi vi guardi e vi mantegna!

The soul that directs and inspires, the refuge that shelters, the
column that supports, the garland that crowns--such language would
not be natural in the mouth of an English labourer. An Englishman who
feels deeply is almost bound to hold his tongue; but the poor Sicilian
can so express himself in perfect naturalness and simplicity.

There is a kind of sleep-song that has only the form in common with
the rose-coloured fiction that makes the bulk of cradle literature. It
is the song of the mother who lulls her child with the overflow of
her own troubled heart. The child may be the very cause of her sorest
perplexity: yet from it alone she gains the courage to live, from it
alone she learns a lesson of duty:

  "The babe I carry on my arm,
  He saves for me my precious soul."

A Corsican mother says to the infant at her breast, "Thou art my
guardian angel!"--which is the same thought spoken in another way.

The most lovely of all sad lullabies is that written much more than
two thousand years ago by Simonides of Ceos. Acrisius, king of Argos,
was informed by an oracle that he would be killed by the son of his
daughter Danaë, who was therefore shut up in a tower, where Zeus
visited her in the form of a shower of gold. Afterwards, when she gave
birth to Perseus, Acrisius ordered mother and child to be exposed in
a wicker chest or coffin on the open sea. This is the story which
Simonides took as the subject of his poem:

    Whilst the wind blew and rattled on the decorated ark, and the
    troubled deep tossed as though in terror--her own fair cheek
    also not unwet--around Perseus Danaë threw her arms, and
    cried: "O how grievous, my child, is my trouble; yet thou
    sleepest, and with tranquil heart slumberest within this
    joyless house, beneath the brazen-barred, black-gleaming,
    musky heavens. Ah! little reckest thou, beloved object, of the
    howling of the tempest, nor of the brine wetting thy delicate
    hair, as there thou liest, clad in thy little crimson mantle!
    But even were this dire pass dreadful also to thee, yet lend
    thy soft ear to my words: Sleep on, my babe, I say; sleep on,
    I charge thee; nay, let the wild waters sleep, and sleep the
    immeasurable woe. Let me, too, see some change of will on thy
    part, Zeus, father! or if the speech be deemed too venturous,
    then, for thy child's sake, I pray thee pardon."

This is not a folk-song, but it has a prescriptive right to a place
among lullabies.

Passing over the beautiful Widow's Song, quoted in a former essay, we
come to some Basque lines, which bring before us the blank and vulgar
ugliness of modern misery with a realism that would please M. Zola:

  Hush, poor child, hush thee to sleep;
  (See him lying in slumber deep!)
  Thou first, then following I,
  We will hush and hushaby.

  Thy bad father is at the inn;
  Oh! the shame of it, and the sin!
  Home at midnight he will fare,
  Drunk with strong wine of Navarre.

After each verse the singer repeats again and again: _Lo lo, lo lo_,
on three lingering notes that have the plaintive monotony of the
chiming of bells where there are but three in the belfry.

Almost as dismal as the Basque ditty is the English nursery rhyme:

      Bye, O my baby!
      When I was a lady
  O then my poor baby didn't cry;
      But my baby is weeping
      For want of good keeping;
  Oh! I fear my poor baby will die!

--which may have been composed to fit in with some particular story,
as was the tearful little song occurring in the ballad of Childe
Waters:

  She said: Lullabye, mine own dear child,
    Lullabye, my child so dear;
  I would thy father were a king,
    Thy mother laid on a bier.

One feels glad that that story ends happily in a "churching and
bridal" that take place upon the same day.

I have the copy of a lullaby for a sick child, written down from
memory by Signor Lerda, of Turin, who reports it to be popular in
Tuscany:

  Sleep, dear child, as mother bids:
    If thou sleep thou shalt not die!
    Sleep, and death shall pass thee by.
  Close worn eyes and aching lids,
    Yield to soft forgetfulness;
    Let sweet sleep thy senses press:
  Child, on whom my love doth dwell,
  Sleep, sleep, and thou shalt be well.

  See, I strew thee, soft and light,
    Bed of down that cannot pain;
    Linen sheets have o'er it lain
  More than snow new-fallen white.
    Perfume sweet, health-giving scent,
    The meadows' pride, is o'er it sprent:
  Sleep, dear son, a little spell,
  Sleep, sleep, and thou shalt be well.

  Change thy side and rest thee there,
    Beauty! love! turn on thy side,
    O my son, thou dost not bide
  As of yore, so fresh and fair.
    Sickness mars thee with its spite,
    Cruel sickness changes quite;
  How, alas! its traces tell!
  Yet sleep, and thou shalt be well.

  Sleep, thy mother's kisses poured
    On her darling son. Repose;
    God give end to all our woes.
  Sleep, and wake by sleep restored,
    Pangs that make thee faint shall fly!
    Sleep, my child, and lullaby!
  Sleep, and fears of death dispel;
  Sleep, sleep, and thou shalt be well.

"Se tu dormi, non morrai!" In how many tongues are not these words
spoken every day by trembling lips, whilst the heart seems to stand
still, whilst the eyes dare not weep, for tears would mean the victory
of hope or fear; whilst the watcher leans expectant over the beloved
little wasted form, conscious that all that can be done has been done,
that all that care or skill can try has been tried, that there are no
other remedies to fall back upon, that there is no more strength left
for battle, and that now, even in this very hour, sleep or his brother
death will decide the issue.

When a Sicilian hears that a child is dead, he exclaims, "Glory
and Paradise!" The phrase is jubilant almost to harshness; yet the
underlying sentiment is not harsh. The thought of a dead child makes
natural harmonies with thoughts of bright and shining things. A mother
likes to dream of her lost babe as fair and spotless and little. If
she is sad, with him it is surely well. He is gone to play with the
Holy Boys. He has won the crown of innocence. There are folk-songs
that reflect this radiancy with which love clothes dead children;
songs for the last sleep full of all the confusion of fond epithets
commonly addressed to living babies.

Only in one direction did my efforts to obtain lullabies prove
fruitless. America has, it seems, no nursery rhymes but those which
are still current in the Old World.[2] Mr Bret Harte told me: "Our
lullabies are the same as in England, but there are also a few Dutch
ones," and he went on to relate how, when he was at a small frontier
town on the Rhine, he heard a woman singing a song to her child: it
was the old story,--if the child would not sleep it would be punished,
its shoes would be taken away; if it would go to sleep at once, Santa
Claus would bring it a beautiful gift. Words and air, said Mr
Bret Harte, were strangely familiar to him; then, after a moment's
reflection, he remembered hearing this identical lullaby sung amongst
his own kindred in the Far West of America.

    [Footnote 1: The "Preaching of the children" took place as
    usual in the Christmas week of 1885, but as the convent in
    connection with the church of Santa Maria is about to be
    pulled down, I cannot tell whether the pretty custom will be
    adhered to in future. The church, however, which was also
    threatened with demolition, is now safe.]

    [Footnote 2: This is confirmed by Mr W. Newell in his
    admirable book, "Games and Songs of American Children" (1885),
    which might be called with equal propriety, "Games and Songs
    of British Children." It is indeed the best collection of
    English nursery rhymes that exists. Thus America will have
    given the mother country the most satisfactory editions, both
    of her ballads (Prof. F. T. Child's splendid work, now in
    course of publication) and of her children's songs.]



FOLK-DIRGES.


There are probably many persons who could repeat by heart the greater
portion of the last scene in the last book of the _Iliad_, and who
yet have never been struck by the fact, that not its least excellence
consists in its setting before us a carefully accurate picture of a
group of usages which for the antiquity of their origin, the wide
area of their observance, and the tenacity with which they have been
preserved, may be fairly said to occupy an unique position amongst
popular customs and ceremonials. First, we are shown the citizens of
Troy bearing their vanquished hero within the walls amidst vehement
demonstrations of grief: the people cling to the chariot wheels, or
prostrate themselves on the earth; the wife and the mother of the dead
tear their hair and cast it to the winds. Then the body is laid on
a bed of state, and the leaders of a choir of professional minstrels
sing a dirge, which is at times interrupted by the wailing of the
women. When this is done, Andromache, Hecuba, and Helen in turn give
voice each one to the feelings awakened in her by their common loss;
and afterwards--so soon as the proper interval has elapsed--the body
is burnt, wine being poured over the embers of the pyre. Lastly,
the ashes are consigned to the tomb, and the mourners sit down to a
banquet. "Such honours paid they to the good knight Hector;" and such,
in their main features, are the funeral rites which may be presumed to
date back to a period not only anterior to the siege of Troy, granting
for the moment that event to have veritably taken place, but also
previous to the crystallisation of the Greek or any other of the
Indo-European nationalities which flowed westward from the uplands of
the Hindu Kush. The custom of hymning the dead, which is just now what
more particularly concerns us, once prevailed over most if not all
parts of Europe; and the firmness of its hold upon the affections
of the people may be inferred from the persistency with which they
adhered to it, even when it was opposed not only by the working of the
gradual, though fatal, law of decay to which all old usages must in
the end submit, but also by the active interposition of persons
in authority. Charlemagne, for instance, tried to put it down in
Provence--desiring that all those attending funerals, who did not know
by rote any of the appropriate psalms, should recite aloud the _Kyrie
eleison_ instead of singing "profane songs" made to suit the occasion.
But the edict seems to have met with a signal want of success; for
some five hundred years after it was issued, the Provençals still
hired Præficæ, and still introduced within the very precincts of their
churches, whole choirs of lay dirge-singers, frequently composed of
young girls who were stationed in two companies, that chanted songs
alternately to the accompaniment of instrumental music; and this
notwithstanding that the clergy of Provence showed the strongest
objection to the performance of observances at funerals, other than
such as were approved by ecclesiastical sanction. The custom in
question bears an obvious affinity to Highland coronachs and Irish
keens, and here in England there is reason to believe it to have
survived as late as the seventeenth century. That Shakespeare was
well acquainted with it is amply testified by the fourth act of
_Cymbeline_; for it is plain that the song pronounced by Guiderius
and Arviragus over the supposed corpse of Imogene was no mere poetic
outburst of regret, but a real and legitimate dirge, the singing or
saying of which was held to constitute Fidele's obsequies. In the
Cotton Library there is a MS., having reference to a Yorkshire village
in the reign of Elizabeth, which relates: "When any dieth, certaine
women sing a song to the dead bodie recyting the jorney that the
partye deceased must goe." Unhappily the English Neniæ are nearly all
lost and forgotten; I know of no genuine specimen extant, except the
famous Lyke Wake (_i.e._, Death Watch) dirge beginning:

  This ae nighte, this ae nighte,
    _Everie nighte and alle_,
  Fire and sleete and candle lighte,
    _And Christe receive thy saule_, &c.

To the present day we find practices closely analogous with those
recounted in the _Iliad_ scattered here and there from the shores of
the Mediterranean to the banks of Lake Onega; and the Trojan threnody
is even now reproduced in Ireland, in Corsica, Sardinia, and Roumania,
in Russia, in Greece, and South Italy. Students who may be tempted to
make observations on this strange survival of the old world, will
do well, however, to set about it at once, in parts which are either
already invaded or else threatened with an imminent invasion of
railways, for the screech of the engine sounds the very death-knell of
ancient customs. Thus the Irish practice of keening is becoming less
and less general. On recently making inquiries of a gentleman residing
in Leinster, I learnt that it had gone quite out in that province;
he added that he had once seen keeners at a funeral at Clonmacnoise
(King's County), but was told they came from the Connaught side of
the Shannon. The keens must not be confused with the peculiar wail or
death-cry known as the Ullagone; they are articulate utterances, in
a strongly marked rhythm, extolling the merits of the dead, and
reproaching him for leaving his family, with much more in the same
strain. The keeners may or may not be professional, and the keens are
more often of a traditional than of an improvised description. One
or two specimens in Gaelic have appeared in the _Journal of the Irish
Archæological Association_, but on the whole the subject is far from
having received the attention it deserves. The Irish keeners are
invariably women, as also are all the continental dirge-singers
of modern times. Whether by reason of the somewhat new-fashioned
sentiment which forbids a man to exhibit his feelings in public,
or from other motives not unconnected with selfishness, the onus of
discharging the more active and laborious obligations prescribed in
popular funeral rites has bit by bit been altogether shifted upon the
shoulders of the weaker sex; _e.g._, in places where scratching and
tearing of the face forms part of the traditional ritual, the women
are expected to continue the performance of this unpleasant ceremony
which the men have long since abandoned. Together with the dirge, a
more or less serious measure of self-disfigurement has come down from
an early date. An Etruscan funeral urn, discovered at Clusi, shows an
exact picture of the hired mourners who tear their hair and rend
their garments, whilst one stands apart, in a prophetic attitude, and
declaims to the accompaniment of a flute. Of the precise origin of
the employment of Public Wailers, or Præficæ, not much has been
ascertained. One distinguished writer on folk-lore suggests that it
had its rise not in any lack of consideration for the dead, but in the
apprehension lest the repose of their ghosts should be disturbed by a
display of grief on the part of those who had been nearest and dearest
to them in life; and his theory gains support in the abundant evidence
forthcoming to attest the existence of a widely-spread notion that
the dead are pained, and even annoyed and exasperated, by the tears
of their kindred. Traces of this belief are discoverable in Zend
and Hindu writings; also amongst the Sclavs, Germans, and
Scandinavians--and, to look nearer home, in Ireland and Scotland. On
the other hand, it is possible that the business of singing before the
dead sprang from the root of well-nigh every trade--that its duties
were at first exclusively performed by private persons, and their
passing into public hands resulted simply from people finding out
that they were executed with less trouble and more efficiency by a
professional functionary; a common-place view of the matter which is
somewhat borne out by the circumstance, that whenever a member of the
family is qualified and disposed to undertake the dirge-singing, there
seems to be no prejudice against her doing so. It is often far from
easy to determine whether such or such a death-song was composed by a
hired præfica who for the time being assumed the character of one of
the dead man's relatives, or by the latter speaking in her own person.

In Corsica, the wailing and chanting are kept up, off and on, from
the hour of death to the hour of burial. The news that the head of
a family has expired is quickly communicated to his relations and
friends in the surrounding hamlets, who hasten to form themselves
into a troop or band locally called the Scirrata, and thus advance in
procession towards the house of mourning. If the death was caused by
violence, the scirrata makes a halt when it arrives in sight of the
village; and then it is that the Corsican women tear their hair and
scratch their faces till the blood flows--just as do their sisters in
Dalmatia and Montenegro. Shortly after this, the scirrata is met by
the deceased's fellow-villagers, accompanied by all his near relatives
with the exception of the widow, to whose abode the whole party
now proceeds with loud cries and lamentations. The widow awaits the
scirrata by the door of her house, and, as it draws near, the leader
steps forward and throws a black veil over her head to symbolise her
widowhood; the term of which must offer a dreary prospect to a woman
who has the misfortune to lose her husband while she is still in the
prime of life, for public opinion insists that she remain for years in
almost total seclusion. The mourners and as many as can enter the
room assemble round the body, which lies stretched on a table or plank
supported by benches; it is draped in a long mantle, or it is clothed
in the dead man's best suit. Now begins the dirge, or Vocero. Two
persons will perhaps start off singing together, and in that case the
words cannot be distinguished; but more often only one gets up at a
time. She will open her song with a quietly-delivered eulogy of the
virtues of the dead, and a few pointed allusions to the most important
events of his life; but before long she warms to her work, and pours
forth volleys of rhythmic lamentation with a fire and animation that
stir up the women present into a frenzied delirium of grief, in which,
as the præfica pauses to take breath, they howl, dig their nails into
their flesh, throw themselves on the ground, and sometimes cover their
heads with ashes. When the dirge is ended they join hands and dance
frantically round the plank on which the body lies. More singing takes
place on the way to the church, and thence to the graveyard. After the
funeral the men do not shave for weeks, and the women let their hair
go loose and occasionally cut it off at the grave--cutting off the
hair being, by the way, a universal sign of female mourning; it was
done by the women of ancient Greece, and it is done by the women of
India. A good deal of eating and drinking brings the ceremonials to a
close. If the bill of fare comes short of that recorded of the funeral
feast of Sir John Paston, of Barton, when 1300 eggs, 41 pigs, 40
calves, and 10 nete were but a few of the items--nevertheless the
Corsican baked meats fall very heavily upon the pockets of such
families as deem themselves compelled to "keep up a position." Sixty
persons is not an extraordinary number to be entertained at the
banquet, and there is, over and above, a general distribution of bread
and meat to poorer neighbours. Mutton in summer, and pork in winter,
are esteemed the viands proper to the occasion. In happy contrast to
all this lugubrious feasting is the simple cup of milk drunk by each
kinsman of the shepherd who dies in the mountains; in which case his
body is laid out, like Robin Hood's, in the open air, a green sod
under his head, his loins begirt with the pistol belt, his gun at
his side, his dog at his feet. Curious are the superstitions of the
Corsican shepherds touching death. The dead, they say, call the living
in the night time, and he who answers will soon follow them; they
believe, too, that, if you listen attentively after dark, you may hear
at times the low beating of a drum, which announces that a soul has
passed.

A notable section of the voceri treats of that insatiable thirst
after vengeance which formerly provided as fruitful a theme to French
romancers as it presented a perplexing problem to French legislators.
In these dirges we see the vendetta in its true character, as the
outgrowth and relic of times when people were, in self-defence,
almost coerced into lawlessness through the perpetual miscarriage
of constituted justice, and they enable us to better understand the
process by which what was at the outset something of the nature of a
social necessity, developed into the ruling passion of the race, and
led to the frightful abuses that are associated with its name. All
that he held sacred in heaven or on earth became bound up in the
Corsican's mind with the obligation to avenge the blood of his
kindred. Thus he made Hate his deity, and the old inexorable spirit
of the Greek _Oresteia_ lived and breathed in him anew, the Furies
themselves finding no bad counterpart in the frenzied women who
officiated at his funeral rites. As is well known, when no man was to
be found to do the deed a woman would often come forward in his stead,
and this not only among the lower orders, but in the highest ranks of
society. A lady of the noble house of Pozzo di Borgo once donned
male attire, and in velvet-tasselled cap, red doublet, high sheepskin
boots, with pistol, gun, and dagger for her weapons, started off in
search of an assassin at the head of a band of partisans. When he was
caught, however, after the guns had been two or three times levelled
at his breast, she decided to give him his life. Another fair avenger
whose name has come down to us was Maria Felice di Calacuccia, of
Niolo. Her vocero may be cited here as affording a good idea of the
tone and spirit of the vendetta dirges in general.

"I was spinning at my distaff when I heard a loud noise; it was a
gun-shot, it re-echoed in my heart. It seemed to say to me: 'Fly! thy
brother dies.' I ran into the upper chamber. As I unlatched the door,
'I am struck to the heart,' he said; and I fell senseless to the
ground. If I too died not, it was that one thought sustained me. Whom
wouldst thou have to avenge thee? Our mother, nigh to death, or thy
sister Maria? If Lario was not dead surely all this would not end
without bloodshed. But of so great a race, thou dost only leave thy
sister: she has no cousins, she is poor, an orphan, young. Still be at
rest--to avenge thee, she suffices!"

A dramatic vocero, dealing with the same subject, is that of the
sister of Canino, a renowned brigand, who fell at Nazza in an
encounter with the military. She begins by regretting that she has not
a voice of thunder wherewith to rehearse his prowess. Alas! one early
morning the soldiers ("barbarous set of bandits that they are!")
sallied forth on his pursuit, and pounced upon him like wolves upon
a lamb. When she heard the bustle of folks going to and fro in the
street, she put her head out of window and asked what it was all
about. "Thy brother has been slaughtered in the mountains," they
reply. Even so it was; his arquebuse was of no use to him; no, nor his
dagger, nor his pistol, nor yet his amulet. When they brought him in,
and she beheld his wounds, the bitterness of her grief redoubled. Why
did he not answer her--did he lack heart to do so? "Canino, heart of
thy sister," she cries, "how thou art grown pale! Thou that wert
so stalwart and so full of grace, thou who didst appear like unto a
nosegay of flowers. Canino, heart of thy sister, they have taken thy
life. I will plant a blackthorn in the land of Nazza, that none of our
house may henceforth pass that way--for there were not three or four,
but seven men against one. Would I could make my bed at the foot of
the chestnut tree beneath whose shade they fired upon thy breast. I
desire to cast aside these women's skirts, to arm me with poniard, and
pistol, and gun, to gird me with the belt and pouch; Canino, heart of
thy sister, I desire to avenge thy death." In the lamentations over
one Matteo, a doctor who was murdered in 1745, we have an example of
the songs improvised along the road to the grave. This time there are
plenty of male relatives--brothers, brothers-in-law, and cousins--to
accomplish the vendetta. The funeral procession passes through the
village where the crime was committed, and one of the inhabitants,
perhaps as a peace-offering, invites the whole party to come in and
refresh themselves. To this a young girl replies: "We want none of
your bread and wine; what we do want is your blood." She invokes a
thunderbolt to exterminate every soul in the blood-guilty place. But
an aged dame interposes, for a wonder, with milder counsels; she bids
her savage sisters calm their wrath: "Is not Matteo in heaven with the
Lord? Look at his winding sheet," says she, "and learn from it that
Christ dwells above, who teaches forgiveness. The waters are troubled
enough already without your goading on your men to violence." It is
not unlikely that the Corsicans may have been in the habit, like the
Irish, of intentionally parading the coffin of a murdered man past the
door of the suspected murderer, in order that they might have a public
opportunity of branding the latter with infamy.

Having glanced at these hymns of the avenger, we will turn to the
laments expressive of grief unmixed with threats or anger. In these,
also, Corsica is very rich. Sometimes it is a wife who deplores her
husband struck down by no human hand, but by fever or accident. In one
such vocero the widow pathetically crowds epithet on epithet, in the
attempt to give words to her affection and her sorrow. "You were my
flower, my thornless rose, my stalwart one, my column, my brother, my
hope, my prop, my eastern gem, my most beautiful treasure," she says
to her lost "Petru Francescu!" She curses fate which in a brief moment
has deprived her of her paladin--she prayed so hard that he might
be spared, but it was all in vain. He was laid low, the greatly
courageous one, who seemed so strong! Is it indeed true, that he, the
clever-headed, the handy-handed, will leave his Nunziola all alone?
Then she bids Mari, her little daughter, come hither to where papa
lies, and beg him to pray God in paradise that she may have a better
lot than her little mother. She wishes her eyes may change into two
fountains ere she forgets his name; for ever would she call him her
Petru Francescu. But most of all she wishes that her heart might
break so that her poor little soul could go with his, and quit this
treacherous world where is no more joy. The typical keen given in
Carleton's _Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry_ is so like
Nunziola's vocero, that in parts it might be taken for a translation
of it. Sometimes it is a plaint of a mother whose child has met the
fate of those "whom the gods love." That saying about the gods has its
equivalent in the Corsican lines:

  Chi nasci pe u paradisu
  A stu mondu un po' imbecchia,

which occur in the lament of La Dariola Danesi, of Zuani, who mourns
her sixteen-year-old daughter Romana. Decked in feast-day raiment
the damsel sleeps in the rest of death, after all her sufferings. Her
sweet face has lost its hues of red and white; it is like a gone-out
sun. Romana was the fairest of all the young girls, a rose among
flowers; the youths of the country round were consumed by love of her,
but in her presence they were filled with decorous respect. She was
courteous to all, familiar with none; in church everybody gazed at
her, but she looked at no one; and the minute mass was over she would
say: "Mamma, let us go." Never can the mother be consoled, albeit she
knows her darling fares well up there in heaven where all things smile
and are glad. Of a surety this earth was not worthy to contain so fair
a face. "Ah! how much more beautiful Paradise will be now she is in
it!" cries the voceratrice, with the sublime audacity of maternal
love. In another dirge we have pictured a troop of girls coming early
to the house of Maria, their young companion, to escort her to the
Church of St Elia: for this morning the father of her betrothed has
settled the marriage portion, and it is seemly that she should hear
mass, and make an offering of wax tapers. But the maiden's mother
comes forth to tell the gladsome band that to-day's offering to
St Elia is not of waxen tapers; it is a peerless flower, a bouquet
adorned with ribands--surely the saint will be well pleased with such
a fine gift! For the bride elect lies dead; who will now profit by
her possessions--the twelve mattresses, the twenty-four lambs? "I will
pray the Virgin," says the mother, "I will pray my God that I may go
hence this morning, pressing my flower to my heart." The playfellows
bathe Maria's face with tears: sees she not those who loved her? Will
she leave them in their sadness? One runs to pluck flowers, a second
to gather roses; they twine her a garland, a bridal crown--will she
depart all the same, lying upon her bier? But, after all, why should
there be all this grief? "To-day little Maria becomes the spouse of
the Lord; with what honour will she not be greeted in paradise!"
Alas for broken hearts! they were never yet healed by that line of
argument. Up the street steals the chilling sound of the funeral
chant, _Ora pro eâ_. They are come to bear the maiden to St Elia's
Church; the mother sinks to the ground; fain would she follow the body
to the grave, but she faints with sorrow; only her streaming tears can
pay the tribute of her love.

It will be observed that it is usual for the survivors to be held up
as objects of pity rather than the dead, who are generally regarded
as well off; but now and then we come across less optimist presages of
the future life. A woman named Maddelè complains that they have taken
her blonde daughter, her snow-white dove, her "Chilì, cara di Mamma,"
to the worst possible of places, where no sun penetrates, and no fire
is lit.

Sometimes to a young girl is assigned the task of bewailing her
playmate. "This morning my companion is all adorned," begins a maiden
dirge-singer; "one would think she was going to be married." But the
ceremony about to take place differs sadly from that other. The
bell tolls slowly, the cross and banner arrive at the door; the dead
companion is setting out on a long journey, she is going to find their
ancestors--the voceratrice's father, and her uncle the curé--in the
land whither each one must go in his turn and remain for ever. Since
she has made up her mind thus to change country and climate (though
it be all too soon, for she has not yet done growing), will she at any
rate listen for an instant to her friend of other days? She wishes
to give her a little letter to carry to her father; and, besides the
letter, she would like her to take him a message, and give him news of
the family he left so young, all weeping round his hearth. She is to
tell him that all goes well; that his eldest daughter is married and
has a boy, a flowering lily, who already knows his father, and points
at him with his finger. The boy is called after the grandpapa, and old
friends declare him to be his very image. To the curé she is to say
that his flock flourish and do not forget him. Now the priest enters,
bringing the holy water; everyone lifts his hat; they bear the body
away: "Go to heaven, dear; the Lord awaits you."

It is hardly necessary to add that the voceri of Corsica are without
exception composed in the native speech of the country, which the
accomplished scholar, lexicographer, and poet, Niccolò Tommaseo, spoke
of with perfect truth as one of "the most Italian of the dialects
of Italy." The time may come when the people will renounce their own
language in favour of the idiom of their rulers, but it has not come
yet; nor do they show much disposition to abandon their old usages, as
may be guessed from the fact that even in their Gallicanised capital
the dead are considered slighted if the due amount of wailing is left
undone.

The Sardinian Attitido--a word which has been thought to have some
connection with the Greek [Greek: ototoi], and the Latin _atat_--is
made on exactly the same pattern as the Corsican vocero. I have been
told on trustworthy authority that in some districts in the island the
keening over a married man is performed not by a dirge-singer but by
his own children, who chant a string of homely sentences, such as:
"Why art thou dead, papa? Thou didst not want for bread or wine!" A
practice may here be mentioned which recalls the milk and honey and
nuts of the Roman Inferiæ, and which, so far as I am aware, lingers on
nowhere excepting Sardinia; the attidora whilst she sings, scatters
on the bier handfuls of almonds or--if the family is well-to-do--of
sweetmeats, to be subsequently buried with the body.

Very few specimens of the attitido have found their way into print;
but amongst these few, in Canon Spano's _Canti popolari Tempiesi_,
there is one that is highly interesting. Doubts have been raised as
to whether the bulk of the songs in Canon Spano's collection are of
purely illiterate origin; but even if the author of the dirge to which
I allude was guilty of that heinous offence in the eyes of the strict
folk-lore gleaner--the knowledge of the alphabet--it must still be
judged a remarkable production. The attidora laments the death of a
much-beloved bishop:--

"It was the pleasure of this good father, this gentle pastor," she
says, "at all hours to nourish his flock; to the bread of the soul he
joined the bread of the body. Was the wife naked, her sons starving
and destitute? He laboured unceasingly to console them all. The one he
clothed, the others he fed. None can tell the number of the poor whom
he succoured. The naked came to him that they might be clothed, the
hungry came to him that they might be fed, and all went their way
comforted. How many had suffered hunger in the winter's cold, had not
his tender heart proffered them help! It was a grand sight to behold
so many poor gathered together in his house--above, below, they were
so numerous there was no room to pass. And these were the comers of
every day. I do not count those to whom once a month he supplied
the needful food, nor yet those other poor to whose necessities he
ministered in secret. By the needy rogue he let himself be deceived
with shut eyes: he recognised the fraud, but he esteemed it gain so to
lose. Ah, dear father, father to us all, I ought not to weep for thee!
I mourn our common bereavement, for thy death this day has been a blow
to all of us, even to the strongest men."

It would be hard to conceive a more lovely portrait of the Christian
priest; it is scarcely surpassed by that of Monseigneur Bienvenu
in _Les Misérables_, of whose conduct in the matter of the silver
candlesticks we are not a little reminded by the good Sardinian
bishop's compassion for the needy rogue. Neither the one nor the other
realises an ideal which would win the unconditional approval of the
Charity Organisation Society, and we must perhaps admit that humane
proclivities which indirectly encourage swindling are more a mischief
than an advantage to the State. Yet who can be insensible to the
beauty of this unconquerable pity for the evil-doer, this charity that
believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things? Who can
say how much it has done to make society possible, to keep the world
on its wheels? It is the bond that binds together all religions. Six
thousand years ago the ancient Egyptian dirge-singers chanted before
their dead: "There is no fault in him. No answer riseth up against
him. In the truth he liveth, with the truth he nourisheth himself.
The gods are satisfied with all he hath done.... He succoured the
afflicted, he gave bread to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothes
to the naked, he sheltered the outcast, his doors were open to the
stranger, he was a father to the fatherless."

The part of France where dirge-singing stayed the longest seems to
have been the south-west. The old women of Gascony still preserve
the memory of a good many songs, some of which have been fortunately
placed on record by M. Bladé in his collection of Gascon folk-lore.
The Gascon dirge is a kind of prose recitative made up of distinct
exclamations that fall into irregular strophes. Each has a burden of
this description:

      Ah!
  Ah! Ah! Ah!
  Ah! Praube!
  Ah! Praube!
    Moun Diu!
  Moun Diu! Moun Diu!

The wife mourns for the loss of "Praube Jan;" when she was a young
girl she loved only him. "No, no! I will not have it! I will not have
them take thee to the graveyard!" "What will become of us?" asks the
daughter; "my poor mother is infirm, my brothers and sisters are too
small; there is only me to rule the house." The mother bewails her
boy: "Poor little one! I loved thee so much, thou wert so pretty, thou
wert so good. Thou didst work so well; all I bid thee do, thou didst;
all I told thee, didst thou believe; thou wert very young, yet already
didst thou earn thy bread. Poor little one, thou art dead; they carry
thee to the grave, with the cross going before. They put thee into
the earth.... Poor little one, I shall see thee no more; never! never!
never! Thou goest and I stay. My God! thou wilt be very lonely in the
graveyard this night; and I, I shall weep at home."

If we transport ourselves to the government of Olonetz, we discover
the first cousin of the Corsican voceratrice in the Russian Voplénitsa
("the sobbing one"). But the jurisdiction of this functionary is of
wider extent; she is mistress of the ceremonies at marriages as well
as at funerals, and in both cases either improvises new songs or
adapts old ones. Mr Ralston has familiarised English readers with some
excellent samples of the Russian neniæ in his work on the _Songs of
the Russian People_. In Montenegro dirge-singing survives in its
most primitive form. During the war of 1877 there were frequent
opportunities of observing it. One such occurred at Ostrog. A wounded
man arrived at that place, which was made a sort of hospital station,
with his father and mother, his sisters and a brother. Another
brother and a cousin had fallen by his side in the last fight--the
Montenegrins have always gone into battle in families--and the women
had their faces covered with scratches, self-inflicted in their
mourning for these kindred. The man was young, lively, and courageous;
he might have got well but there were no surgical instruments to
extract the ball in his back, and so in a day or two he was dead. At
three in the morning the women began shrieking in spite of the orders
given by the doctors in the interest of the other wounded; the noise
was horrible, and no sooner were they driven away than they came back
and renewed it. The Prince, who has tried to put down the custom as
barbarous, was quartered at Ostrog, and he succeeded in having the
wailers quieted for a moment, but when the body was borne to the
cemetery the uproar began again. The women beat their breasts,
scratched their faces, and screamed at a pitch that could be heard
a mile off. It is usual to return to the house where the person
died--they made their way therefore back into the hospital (the Prince
being absent), and it was only after immense efforts on the part of
the sisters of charity and those who were in authority that they were
expelled. Then they seated themselves in the courtyard, and continued
beating their breasts and reciting their death-song. An eyewitness of
the scene described the dirge as a monotonous chant. One of the dead
man's sisters had worked herself up into a state of hysterical frenzy,
in which she seemed to have lost all control over her words and
actions; she led the dirge, and her rhythmic ejaculations flowed forth
as if she had no power to contain them. The father and brother went to
salute the Prince the day after the funeral; the old man appeared to
be extremely cheerful, but was doggedly inattentive to the advice to
go home and fight no more, as his family had suffered enough losses.
He had a son of ten, he said, who could accompany him now as there was
a gun to spare, which before had not been the case. He wished he had
ten sons to bring them all to fight the Turks.

The Sclavs are everywhere very strict in all that regards the cult
of the dead, and the observances which have to be gone through by
Russians who have lost friends or relations are by no means confined
to the date of death and burial. Even when they have experienced
no personal loss, they are still thought called upon to visit the
cemeteries on the second Tuesday after Easter, and howl lustily over
the tombs of their ancestors. Nor would it be held sufficient to strew
flowers upon the graves, as is done on the Catholic All Souls'
day; the most orthodox ghosts want something more substantial, and
libations of beer and spirits are poured over their resting-places.
Furthermore, disagreeable consequences have been said to result upon
an omission of like marks of respect due to "the rude forefathers
of the hamlet;" there is no making sure that a highly estimable
individual will not, when thus incensed, re-enter an appearance
on life's stage in the shape of a vampire. A small volume might be
written on the preventive measures adopted to procure immunity from
such-like visitations. The people of Havellend and Altmark put a small
coin into the mouths of the dead in the hope that, so appeased, they
will not assume vampire form; but this time the superstition, like
a vast number of others, is clearly a later invention to explain a
custom, the original significance of which is forgotten. The peasants
of Roumelia also place pieces of money in the coffins, not as an
insurance against vampires--who they think may be best avoided by
burning instead of burying the mortal remains of any person they
credit with the prospect of becoming one--but to pay the entrance fee
into Paradise; a more authentic version of the old fable. The setting
apart of a day, fixed by the Church or varying according to private
anniversaries, for the special commemoration of the dead, is a
world-wide custom.

If, as Mr Herbert Spencer thinks, the rudimentary form of all religion
is the propitiation of dead ancestors who are supposed still to exist,
some kind of _fête des morts_ was probably the oldest of religious
feasts. A theory has been started, to the effect that the time of its
appointment has been widely influenced by the rising of the Pleiades,
in support of which is cited the curious fact that the Australians and
Society Islanders keep the celebration in November, though with
them November is a spring month. But this may be no more than a
coincidence. In ancient Rome, in Russia, in China, the tendency has
been to commemorate the dead in the season of resurrection.

The Letts and Esthonians observe the Feast of Souls, by spreading a
banquet of which they suppose their spirit relatives to partake; they
put torches on the graves to light the ghosts to the repast, and they
imagine every sound they hear through the day to be caused by the
movements of the invisible guests. Both these people celebrate
death-watches with much singing and drinking, the Esthonians
addressing long speeches to the dead, and asking him why he did
not stay longer, if his puddro (gruel) was not to his taste, &c.,
precisely after the style of the keeners of less remote parts. In
some countries the entire system of life would seem to be planned and
organised mainly with a view to honouring the dead. In Albania, for
example, one of the foremost objects pursued by the peasantry is
that of marrying their daughters near home; not so much from any
affectionate unwillingness to part with them, as in order to secure
their attendance at the _vaï_ or lamentations which take place on
the death of a member of the family; and so rigorous are the mourning
regulations, that even married women who have lost their fathers
remain year after year shut up in houses deprived of light and draped
in black--they may not even go out to church. The Albanian keens are
not always versified; they sometimes consist simply in the endless
reiteration of a single phrase. M. Auguste Dozon reports that he was
at one time constantly hearing "les hurlements" of a poor Mussulman
widow who bewailed two sons; on certain anniversaries she took their
clothes out of a chest, and, placing them before her, she repeated,
without intermission, [Greek: Chalasia mon]. The Greeks have the
somewhat analogous practice, on the recurrence of the death-days
of their dear ones, of putting their lips close to the graves and
whispering to their silent tenants that they still love them.

The near relations in Greece leave their dwelling, as soon as they
have closed the eyes of the dead, to take refuge in the house of a
friend, with whom they sojourn till the more distant connections have
had time to arrive, and the body is dressed in holiday gear. Then they
return, clothe themselves in white dresses, and take up their position
beside the bier. After some inarticulate wailing, which is strenuously
echoed back by the neighbours, the dirge is sung, the chief female
mourner usually leading off, and whosoever feels disposed following
wake. When the body is lowered into the earth, the best-beloved of the
dead--his mother or perhaps his betrothed--stoops down to the ground
and imploringly utters his name, together with the word "Come!" On his
making no reply, he is declared to be indeed dead, and the grave is
closed.[1] The usage points to a probability that all the exhortations
to awaken and to return with which the dirges of every nation
are interlarded are remnants of ancient makeshifts for a medical
certificate of death; and we may fancy with what breathless
excitement these apostrophes were spoken in former days when they were
accompanied by an actual, if faint, expectation that they would be
heard and answered. It is conceivable that the complete system of
making as much noise as possible at funerals may be derived from some
sort of notion that the uproar would wake the dead if he were not dead
at all, but sleeping. As elsewhere, so in Greece, the men take no part
in the proceedings beyond bidding one last farewell just before they
retire from the scene. Præficæ are still employed now and then; but
the art of improvisation seems to be the natural birthright of Greek
peasant women, nor do they require the inspiration of strong grief to
call their poetic gifts into operation; it is stated to be no unusual
thing to hear a girl stringing elegies over some lamb, or bird, or
flower, which may have died, while she works in the fields. The Greeks
send communications and even flowers by the dead to the dead: "Now
is the time," the folk-poet makes one say whose body is about to be
buried, "for you to give me any messages or commissions; and if your
grief is too poignant for utterance, write it down on paper and bring
me the letter." The Greek neniæ are marked by great vigour and variety
of imagery as is apparent in the subjoined extract from the dirge of a
poor young country-woman who was left a widow with two children:--

"The other day I beheld at our threshold a youth of lofty stature and
threatening mien; he had out-stretched wings of gleaming white, and in
his hand was a sword. 'Woman, is thy husband in the house?' 'Yes; he
combs our Nicos' hair, and caresses him so he may not cry. Go not in,
terrible youth; do not frighten our babe.' The white-winged would not
listen; I tried to drive him back, but I could not; he darted past
me, and ran to thy side, O my beloved. Hapless one, he smote thee; and
here is thy little son, thy tiny Nicos, whom likewise he was fain to
strike." ...

So vivid was the impression created by the woman's fantasy that
some of the spectators looked towards the door, half expecting the
white-winged visitant to advance in their midst; others turned to the
child, huddled by his mother's knees. She, coming down from flights
of imagination to the bitter realities of her condition, exclaimed,
as she flung herself sobbing upon the bier: "How can I maintain the
children? How will they be able to live? What will they not suffer in
the contrast between the rough lot in store for them and the tender
care which guarded them in the happy days when their father lived?" At
last, worn out by the force of her emotions, she sank senseless to the
floor. The laments of widows, which are very rare in some localities,
are often to be met with in Greece. In one of them we come upon an
original idea respecting the requirements of spirits: the singer prays
that her tears may swell into a lake or a sea, so they may trickle
through the earth to the nether regions, to moisten those who get
no rain, to be drink to those who thirst, and--to fill up the dry
inkstands of the writers! "Then will they be able to chronicle the
chagrins of the loved ones who cross the river, taste its wave, and
forget their homes and their poor orphans." Every species of Grecian
peasant-song abounds in classical reminiscences, which are easy to
identify, although they betray some mental confusion of the attributes
and functions belonging to the personages of antiquity. Of all the
early myths, that of the Stygian ferryman is the one which has shown
greatest longevity. Far from falling into oblivion, the son of Erebus
has gone on diligently accumulating honours till he has managed to get
the arbitrament of life and death into his power, and to enlist the
birds of the air as a staff of spies, to give him prompt information
should any unlucky individual refer to him in a tone of mockery or
defiance. Perhaps this is not development but reversion. Charon may
have been a great Infernal deity before he was a boatman. The Charun
of the Etruscans could destroy life and torment the guilty--the office
of conducting shades to the other world forming only one part of his
duties.

The opinion of Achilles, that it was better to be a slave amongst
men than a king over ghosts, is very much that which prevails in the
Greece of to-day. Visions of a Christian paradise above the skies
have much less hold on the popular mind than dread of a pagan Tartarus
under the earth; and that full conviction that after all it was a very
bad thing to die, that tendency to attach a paramount value to life,
_per se_, and _quand même_, which constituted so significant a
feature of the old Greeks, is equally characteristic of their modern
representatives. The next world of the Romaic songs is far from
being a place "where all smiles and is glad;" the forebodings of the
Corsican's Chilina's mother are common enough here in Greece. "Rejoice
in the present world, rejoice in the passing day," runs a [Greek:
myrologion], quoted by Fauriel; "to-morrow you will be under the sod,
and will behold the day no more." Down in Tartarus youths and maidens
spend their time dismally in asking if there be yet an earth and a
sky up above. Are there still churches and golden icons? Do people
continue to work at their several trades? "Blessed are the mountains
and the pastures," it is said, "where we meet not Charon." The parents
of a dying girl ask of her why she is resolved to hasten into the
other world where the cock crows not, and the hen clucks not;
where there is no water and no grass, and where the hungry find it
impossible to eat, and the tired are incapable of sleep. Why is
she not content to abide at home? The girl replies she cannot, for
yesterday, in the late evening, she was married, and her consort is
the tomb. That is the peasant elegist's way of speaking of a sudden
death, caused very likely by the chill of nightfall. Of another
damsel, who succumbed to a long illness, "who had suffered as none
before suffered under the sun," he narrates how she pressed her
father's hand to her heart, saying: "Alas! my father, I am about to
die." She clasped her mother's hand to her breast, saying: "Alas! my
mother, I am about to die." Then she sent for her betrothed, and she
bent over him and kissed him, and whispered softly into his ear: "Oh,
my friend, when I am dead deck my grave as you would have decked my
nuptial bed." We find in Greek poesy the universal legend of the lover
who kills himself on hearing of the death of his mistress; but, as
a rule, the regret of survivors is depicted as neither desperate nor
durable. Long ago, three gallant youths plotted together to contrive
an escape from Hades, and a fair-haired maiden prayed that they would
take her with them; she did so wish to see her mother mourning her
loss, her brothers weeping because she is no more. They answered: "As
to thy brothers, poor girl, they are dancing, and thy mother diverts
herself with gossiping in the street." The mournfully beautiful
music that Schubert wedded to Claudius's little poem _Der Tod und das
Mädchen_ might serve as melodious expression to many a one of these
Grecian lays of dead damsels. Death will not halt because he hears
a voice crying: "Tarry, I am still so young!" The future is as
irrevocably fixed as the past; and if fate deals hardly by mortals,
there is nothing to fall back upon but the sorry resignation of
despair; such is the sombre folk philosophy of the land of eternal
summer. Perhaps it is the very brightness of the sky and air that
makes the quitting of this mortal coil so unspeakably grievous. The
most horribly painful idea associated with death in the mind of the
modern as of the ancient Greek is the idea of darkness, of separation
from what Dante, yet more Greek than Italian in his passionate
sun-worship, describes in a line which seems somehow to hold incarnate
the thing it tells of--

       ... l'aer dolce che dal sol s'allegra.

It is worth noting that, whether the view entertained of immortality
be cheerful or the reverse, in the songs of Western nations the
disembodied soul is universally taken to be the exact duplicate of
the creature of flesh and blood, in wants, tastes, and semblance. The
European folk-singer could no more grasp a metaphysical conception of
the eternity of spirit, such as that implied in the grand Indian dirge
which craves everlasting good for the "unborn part" in man, than
he would know what to make of the scientific theory of the
indestructibility of matter shadowed forth in the ordinary Sanskrit
periphrases for death, signifying "the resolution of the body into its
five elementary constituents."

Among the Greek-speaking inhabitants of Southern Italy a peculiar
metre is set apart to the composition of the neniæ, and the office
of public wailer is transmitted from mother to daughter; so that the
living præficæ are the lineal descendants of the præficæ who lived
of old in the Grecian Motherland. Unrivalled in the matter of her
improvisations as in the manner of their delivery, the hereditary
dirge-singer no doubt, like a good actress, keenly realises at
the moment the sorrow not her own, of which she undertakes the
interpretation in return for a trifling gratuity, and to her hearers
she appears as the genius or high priestess of woe: she excites them
into a whirlwind of ecstatic paroxysms not greatly differing
from kindred phenomena vouched for by the historians of religious
mysticism. There are, however, one or two of the Græco-Italic
death-songs which bear too clear and touching a stamp of sincerity for
us to attribute them even to the most skilled of hired "sobbing ones."
There is no savour of vicarious mourning in the plaint of the desolate
girl, who says to her dead mother that she will wait for her, so that
she may tell her how she has passed the day: at eight she will await
her, and if she does not come she will begin to weep; at nine she will
await her, and if she comes not she will grow black as soot; at ten
she will await her, and if she does not come at ten she will turn to
earth, to earth that may be sown in. And it is difficult to believe
that aught save the anguish of a mother's broken heart could have
quickened the senses of an ignorant peasant to the tragic intensity of
the following lament:

  Now they have buried thee, my little one,
      Who will make thy little bed?
      Black Death will make it for me
      For a very long night.
  Who will arrange thy pillows,
      So thou mayst sleep softly?
      Black Death will arrange them for me
      With hard stones.
  Who will awake thee, my daughter,
      When day is up?
      Down here it is always sleep,
      Always dark night.
  This my daughter was fair.
  When I went (with her) to high mass,
  The columns shone,
  The way grew bright.

The neniæ of Terra d'Otranto and of Calabria are not uncommonly
composed in a semi-dramatic form. Professor Comparetti cites one, in
which the friend of a dead girl is represented as going to pay her a
visit, in ignorance of the misfortune that has happened. She sees a
crowd at the door, and she exclaims: "How many folks are in thy house!
they come from all the neighbourhood; they are bidden by thy mother,
who shows thee the bridal array!" But on crossing the threshold she
finds that the shutters are closed: "Alas!" she cries, "I deceive
myself--I enter into darkness." Again she repeats: "How many folks are
in thy house! All Corigliano is there." The mother says: "My daughter
has bidden them by the tolling of the bell." Then the daughter is made
to ask: "What ails thee, what ails thee, my mother? wherefore
dost thou rend thy hair?" The mother rejoins: "I think of thee, my
daughter, of how thou liest down in darkness." "What ails thee, what
ails thee, my mother, that all around one can hear thee wailing?" "I
think of thee, my daughter, of how thou art turned black as soot." A
sort of chorus is appended: "All, all the mothers weep and rend their
hair: let them weep, the poor mothers who lose their children." Here
are the last four lines as they were originally set on paper:

  Ole sole i mane i cluene
    Isirnune anapota ta maddia,
  Afi nà clapsune tio mane misere
    Pu ichannune ta pedia!

Professor Comparetti has shaped them into looking more like Greek:

  [Greek: Olais, holais ê manai êklaioune
  Êsyrnoune anapoda ta mallia
  Aphêse na klapsoune tais manais] _misere_
  [Greek: Pou êchanoune ta paidia!]

In his "Tour through the Southern Provinces of the Kingdom of Naples,"
the Hon. R. Keppel Craven gave an account of a funeral at Corigliano.
The deceased, a stout, swarthy man of about fifty, had been fond of
field sports; he was, therefore, laid on his open bier in the dress of
a hunter. When the procession passed the house of a friend of the dead
man, it halted as a mark of respect, and the friend got up from his
dinner and looked out for a few minutes, afterwards philosophically
returning to the interrupted meal. The busy people in the street,
carpenters, blacksmiths, cobblers, and fruitsellers, paused from their
several occupations--all carried on, as usual, in the open air, when
the dismal chant of the priests announced the approach of the funeral,
resuming them with redoubled energy as soon as it had moved on.
A group of weeping women led the widow, whose face was pale and
motionless as a statue; her black tresses descended to her knees,
and at regular intervals she pulled out two or three hairs--the women
instantly taking hold of her hands and replacing them by her side,
where they hung till the operation was next repeated.

The practice of plucking out the hair was so general in the last
century that even at Naples the old women had hardly a hair left from
out-living many relations. It was proper also to observe the day
of burial as a fast day. Two unlucky women near Salerno lost their
characters for ever because the dog of a visitor who had come to
condole, sniffed out a dish of tripe which had been hastily thrust
into a corner.

The Italian, or rather Calabrese-speaking population of Calabria,
call their preficæ--where they still have any--_Reputatrici_. Some
remarkable songs have been collected in the commune of Pizzo, the
place of dubious fame by whose peasants Murat was caught and betrayed.
There is something Dantesque in the image of Death as _'nu gran
levreri_ crouching in a mountain defile:

    Joy, I saw death; Joy, I saw her yesterday; I beheld her in a
    narrow way, like unto a great greyhound, and I was very
    curious. "Death, whence comest thou?" "I am come from Germany,
    going thence to Count Roger. I have killed princes, counts,
    and cavaliers; and now I am come for a young maiden so that
    with me she may go".

    Weep, mamma, weep for me, weep and never rest; weep for me
    Sunday, Easter, and Christmas Day; for no more wilt thou see
    thy daughter sit down at thy board to eat, and no more shalt
    thou await me.

One conclusion forced upon us incidentally by folk-dirges must seem
strange when we remember how few are the cultured poetesses who have
attained eminence--to wit, that with the unlettered multitude the
poetic faculty is equally the property of women as of men.

In various parts of Italy the funerals of the poor are conducted
exclusively by those of like sex with the dead--a custom of which I
first took note at Varese in the year 1879. The funeral procession
came up slowly by the shady paths near the lake; long before it
appeared one could hear the sound of shrill voices chanting a litany.
When it got near to the little church of S. Vittore, it was seen that
only women followed the bier, which was carried by women. "Una povera
donna morta in parto," said a peasant standing by, as she pointed to
the coffin with a gesture of sympathy. The mourners had black shawls
thrown over their heads and bore tapers. A sight yet stranger to
unaccustomed eyes is the funeral of a child at Spezia. A number of
little girls, none older than eleven or twelve, some as young as five,
carry the small coffin to the cemetery. Some of the children hold
candles; they are nicely dressed in their best frocks; the sun plays
on their bare black or golden curls. They have the little serious look
of children engaged in some business of work or play, but no look of
gloom or sadness. The coffin is covered with a white pall on which
lies a large nosegay. No priests or elder persons are there except one
man, walking apart, who has to see that the children go the right
way. About twenty children is the average number, but there may
be sometimes a hundred. When they return, running across the grass
between the road and the sea-wall, they tumble over one another in the
scramble to snatch daisies from the ground.

It is still common in Lombardy to ring the bells _d'allegrezza_ on the
death of an infant, "because its soul goes straight to Paradise." This
way of ringing, or, rather, chiming, consists in striking the bell
with a clapper held in the hand, when a light, dancing sound is
produced, something like that of hand-bells. On a high _festa_ all the
bells are used; for dead babies, only two. I have often heard the sad
message sounding gaily from the belfry at Salò.

Were I sure that all these songs of the Last Parting would have
for others the same interest that they have had for me, I should
be tempted to add a study dedicated solely to the dirges of savage
nations and of those nations whose civilization has not followed the
same course as ours. I must, at all events, indicate the wonderfully
strange and wild Polynesian "Death-talks" and "Evas" (dirges proper)
collected by the Rev. W. W. Gill. The South Pacific Islanders say of
the dying, "he is passing over the sea." Their dead set out in a canoe
on a long and perilous voyage to the regions of the sun-setting. When
they get there, alas!--when they reach the mysterious spirit-land,
a horrid doom awaits them: children and old men and women--all, in
short, who have not died in battle, are devoured by a dreadful deity,
and perish for ever. But this fate does not overtake them immediately;
for a time they remain in a shadowy intermediate state till their
turn comes. The spirit-journey is described in a dirge for two little
children, composed by their father about the year 1796:

  "Thy god,[2] pet-child, is a bad one;
  For thy body is attenuated;
  This wasting sickness must end thy days.
  Thy form, once so plump, now how changed!
  Ah! that god, that bad god!
  Inexpressibly bad, my child!

       *       *       *       *       *

  Thou hast entered the expanse;
  And wilt visit 'the land of red parrot feathers,'
  Where O[=a]rangi was once a guest.
  Thou feedest now on ocean spray,
  And sippest fresh water out of the rocks,
  Travelling over rugged cliffs,
  To the music of murmuring billows.
  Thy exile spirit is overtaken
  By darkness at the ocean's edge.
  Fourapapa[3] there sleeps. All three[4]
  Stood awhile to gaze wistfully
  At the glories of the setting sun."

There is much more, but this is perhaps sufficient to show the
particular note struck.

I will give, in its entirety, one more dirge--the death-chant of the
tribe of Badagas, in the Neilgherry Hills--because it is unique, so
far as I know, in reversing the rule _de mortius_, and in charging,
instead, the dead man with every sin, to make sure that none are
omitted of which he is actually guilty. It is accompanied by a
singular ceremony. An unblemished buffalo-calf is led into the midst
of the mourners, and as after each verse they catch up and repeat the
refrain, "It is a sin!" the performer of the dirge lays his hand upon
the calf, to which the guilt is transferred. At the end the calf is
let loose; like the Jewish scape-goat, it must be used for no secular
work; it bears the sins of a human being, and is sacred till death.
The English version is by Mr C. E. Gover, who has done so much for the
preservation of South-Indian folk-songs.

  INVOCATION.

  In the presence of the great Bassava,
  Who sprang from Banigé the holy cow.

  The dead has sinned a thousand times.
  E'en all the thirteen hundred sins
  That can be done by mortal men
  May stain the soul that fled to-day.
  Stay not their flight to God's pure feet.
                  Chorus--Stay not their flight.

  He killed the crawling snake
                            Chorus--It is a sin.

  The creeping lizard slew.
                                    It is a sin.

  Also the harmless frog.
                                    It is a sin.
  Of brothers he told tales.
                                    It is a sin.
  The landmark stone he moved.
                                    It is a sin.
  Called in the Sircar's aid.[5]
                                    It is a sin.
  Put poison in the milk.
                                    It is a sin.
  To strangers straying on the hills,
  He offered aid but guided wrong.
                                    It is a sin.
  His sister's tender love he spurned
  And showed his teeth to her in rage.
                                    It is a sin.
  He dared to drain the pendent teats
  Of holy cow in sacred fold.
                                    It is a sin.
  The glorious sun shone warm and bright
  He turned its back towards its beams.[6]
                                    It is a sin.
  Ere drinking from the babbling brook,
  He made no bow of gratitude.
                                    It is a sin.
  His envy rose against the man
  Who owned a fruitful buffalo.
                                    It is a sin.
  He bound with cords and made to plough
  The budding ox too young to work.
                                    It is a sin.
  While yet his wife dwelt in his house
  He lusted for a younger bride.
                                    It is a sin.
  The hungry begged--he gave no meat,
  The cold asked warmth--he lent no fire.
                                    It is a sin.
  He turned relations from his door,
  Yet asked unworthy strangers home.
                                    It is a sin.
  The weak and poor called for his aid,
  He gave no alms, denied their woe.
                                    It is a sin.
  When caught by thorns, in useless rage
  He tore his cloth from side to side.
                                    It is a sin.
  The father of his wife sat on the floor
  Yet he reclined on bench or couch.
                                    It is a sin.
  He cut the bund around a tank,
  Set free the living water's store.
                                    It is a sin.

  What though he sinned so much,
  Or that his parents sinned?
  What though the sins' long score
  Was thirteen hundred crimes?
  O let them every one,
  Fly swift to Bas'va's feet.
                              Chorus--Fly swift.

  The chamber dark of death
  Shall open to his soul.
  The sea shall rise in waves;
  Surround on every side,
  But yet that awful bridge
  No thicker than a thread,
  Shall stand both firm and strong.
  The dragon's yawning mouth
  Is shut--it brings no fear.
  The palaces of heaven
  Throw open wide their doors.
                  Chorus--Open wide their doors.

  The thorny path is steep,
  Yet shall his soul go safe.
  The silver pillar stands
  So near--he touches it.
  He may approach the wall
  The golden wall of heaven.
  The burning pillar's flame
  Shall have no heat for him.
                     Chorus--Shall have no heat.

  Oh let us never doubt
  That all his sins are gone,
  That Bassava forgives.
  May it be well with him!
                         Chorus--May it be well!
  Let all be well with him!
                        Chorus--Let all be well.

Surely an impressive burial service to have been found in use amongst
a poor little obscure tribe of Indian mountaineers!

It cannot be said that this moral attitude is often reached. Research
into funeral rites, of whatever nature, confronts us with much that
would be ludicrous were it not so very pitiful, for humanity has
displayed a fatal tendency to rush into the committal of ghastly
absurdities by way of showing the most sacred kind of grief. Yet, take
them all in all, the death laments of the people form a striking and
beautiful manifestation of such homage as "Life may give for love to
death."

    [Footnote 1: "Calling the dead" was without doubt once general
    amongst all classes--which may be true of all the customs that
    we are now inclined to associate with only the very poor. In
    the striking mediæval ceremonial performed at the entombment
    of King Alfonso in the vault at the Escurial, the final act
    was that of the Lord Chamberlain, who unlocked the coffin, and
    in the midst of profound silence shouted into the king's ear,
    "Señor, Señor, Señor." After which he rose, saying, "His
    majesty does not answer. Then it is true the king is dead."]

    [Footnote 2: The child's "personal fate."]

    [Footnote 3: The brother.]

    [Footnote 4: A little sister had died before.]

    [Footnote 5: He had recourse to the Rajahs, whose courts under
    the old régime, had become a byeword for oppression and
    corruption.]

    [Footnote 6: Compare _Inferno_, Canto vii.]



BOOKS OF REFERENCE.


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    Arbaud, Damase. Chants Populaires de la Provence. 2 vols 1864.

    Armana Provençau. 1870.

    Avolio, Corrado. Canti Popolari di Noto. 1875.

    Bernoni, Dom. Giuseppe. Canti Populari Veneziani. 1873.

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    Bladé, J. Poésies Populaires de la Gascogne. 3 vols.

    Boullier, Auguste. Le Dialecte et les Chants Populaires de la
    Sardaigne. 1864.

    Burton, Richard. Wit and Wisdom from West Arica. 1865.

    Cardona, Enrico. Dell' Antica Letteratura Catalana. 1878.

    Champfleury. Chansons Populaires des Provinces de France.
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    Comparetti, Prof. D. Saggi de' Dialetti Greci dell' Italia
    Meridionale. 1866.

    Constantinescu, Dr B. Probe de Limba si Literatura Tiganilor
    din Romania. 1878.

    Dalmedico, A. Canti del Popolo di Chioggia. 1872.

    ---- Ninne-Nanne e Giuochi Infantile Veneziani. 1871.

    Davies, William. The Pilgrimage of the Tiber. 1874. (Popular
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    D'Ancona, Prof. A. Origini del Teatro in Italia. 2 vols. 1877.

    ---- La Poesia Popolare Italiana. 1878.

    Day, Rev. Lal Behari. Folk-Tales of Bengal. 1883.

    Dorsa, Prof. V. La Tradizione Greco-Latina negli usi e nelle
    Credenze Popolari della Calabria Citeriore. 2d Ed. 1884.

    Dozon, Auguste. Poésies Populaires Serbes. 1859. ---- Chansons
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    Dumersan et Colet. Chants et Chansons Populaires de la France.

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    Ferraro, Dr G. Canti Popolari Monferrini. 1870.

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    Flugi, Alfons von. Die Volkslieder des Engadin. 1873.

    Gill, Rev. W.W. Myths and Songs from the South Pacific. 1876.

    Gonzenbach, Laura. Sicilianische Märchen. 1870.

    Gover, Charles E. The Folk-Songs of Southern India. 1872.

    Grimm, Jacob. Deutsche Mythologie. Vierte Ausgabe Besorgt von
    Elard Hugo Meyer. 3 vols. 1875-7-8.

    Gubernatis, Conte A. de. Storia Comparata degli usi Natalizi
    in Italia e presso gli altri Popoli Indo-Europei. 1878.

    Imbriani, V., and Casetti, A. Canti Popolari delle Provincie
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    Issaverdenz, Dr G. Armenian Popular Songs. 1867.

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    Kolberg, Oskar. Pièsni Luder Polskiego. 1857.

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    Symonds, T. Addington. Sketches in Italy and Greece.

    (Popular Songs of Tuscany.) 1874.

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    1841.


TURNBULL AND SPEARS, PRINTERS, EDINBURGH.



       *       *       *       *       *


Transcriber's Note:

This book contains some dialect and/or older grammatical constructions,
some old French (and bits of other languages), which have all been
retained.

For example:

Footnote 2, Page l (from p. xvii):
  "Sire cuens,"
    ...
          "C'est vilanie;" ('T was villany:)
    ...
  "Ma feme ne me rit mie."
    ...
  "Vez com vostre male plie,
  Ele est bien de vent farsie."
    ...
  Deux chapons por deporter
          A la sause aillie;
  etc.


Page 20: 'the girl leaning out of window to tell her piece of news' is
as printed. The transcriber does not know if 'a window' or 'the window'
or just 'window' was intended.

Page 24: 'Nella' would be the genitive of 'Nello'.
In some European languages, the Proper nouns are also declined.
["... it is Count Nello, my father, he who fain would wed
me." "Who speaks of Count Nella...."]

Page 145: "E te' ccà 'na timpulata!" occurs in another document as:
"E te 'ccà 'na timpulata!", and in another as "E te' 'ccà 'na timpulata!"

Many French accents are missing from the English text, e.g.
Page 181: "Mistral ... paints the Provence of the valley of the Rhone, ..."

Page 335: 'compact' is correct; = 'agreement'.
(Apparently she took the advice and kept the compact)

Page 348: "nni" in "Lu mè rifugiu nni la sorti orrenna," is as printed.
It may not be an error.


This book also contains some Greek words, and passages of Greek.
which have been transliterated into Latin text, e.g. [Greek: nênitos]


Errata:

Sundry damaged or missing punctuation has been repaired.

Page 62: 'portait' corrected to 'portrait'.
(he might at least possess his portrait).

Page 84: 'befel' corrected to 'befell'.
(the fate that befell a French professorship of Armenian)

Page 172: 'hushand' corrected to 'husband'.
(and shortly after her husband had extricated her she became a mother).

Page 226: 'daugher' corrected to 'daughter'.
("And a cup of poison, my daughter.")

Page 335: 'compact' is correct. = 'agreement'.
(Apparently she took the advice and kept the compact,)

Page 335: n[~i]na corrected to niña.
(A dormir va mi niña).

Page 337: "wee Willie Winkile" corrected to "wee Willie Winkie"
("wee Willie Winkie" who runs upstairs and downstairs in his nightgown:)

Page 341: 'cardle' corrected to 'cradle'.
(aunt has taken baby from his cradle)

Page 343: 'The' corrected to 'They'.
(They are often called "certi signuri,")





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we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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