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I would kiss them often under the sea,
We would live merrily, merrily. The most charming story connected with beings of the sea is that of Acis and Galatea ; the most wildly touching, that of the Neck, or Scandinavian Water-spirit, who wept when he was told he would not be “saved” (related in the fairy article above mentioned); the sublimest is the famous one of the voice which announced the death of the “Great Pan.” Plutarch relates it, in his essay on the
Cessation of Oracles," upon the authority of one Philippus, who said he had it from the hearer's own son, and who was corroborated in his report by several persons present. The original narrator alluded to gave the account as follows.* He said, “that, during a voyage to Italy, the wind fell in the night-time, as they were nearing the Echinades; and that, while almost all the people on board were on the watch, a great voice was heard from the Island of Paxos, calling upon one of them of the name of Thamnus; which voice, for the novelty of the thing, excited them all to great astonishment.” This Thamnus was an Egyptian, and master of the vessel. He was twice called and gave no answer. He was called a third time, and then he acknowledged the call ; upon which the voice, with much greater loudness than before, cried out, “When you come to the Marsh, announce that the Great Pan is dead,” a command which struck all the listeners with terror.
* We quote from Gesner, as above, p. 1198.
Accordingly, when they arrived off the Marsh, Thamnus, looking out from his rudder towards the land, cried, with a loud voice, “ The Great Pan is dead;” upon which there was suddenly heard a mighty groaning, as of many voices“yea, of voices innumerable, all wonderfully mixed up together.” And because there were many people in that ship, as soon as they came to Rome the rumor was spread through the whole city, and the Emperor Tiberius sent for Thamnus, and was so struck with his relation, that he applied to the philosophers to know what Pan it could be ; and the conjecture was that it must be the Pan who was the son of Mercury and Penelope.
The announcement of the death of Pan was awkward ; for Pan signifies all, and was the most universal of the gods; but luckily, by the help of the Platonists and others, every god was surrounded with minor intelligences of the same name, after the fashion of a Scottish clan ; so that the philosophers found a god convenient for the occasion in this particular Pan, the offspring of Mercury and Penelope. It has been supposed that the story was a trick to frighten the vicious and superstitious emperor, which is not very likely. There is no authority, beyond Plutarch's report, who lived long after, and was very credulous, for the story itself; and if a voice was actually heard, it does not follow that it said those exact words, or that the subsequent delivery of the message produced any thing more than a fancied acknowledgment. A sceptic at court might have resolved it into some common message, perhaps a watchword : perhaps some smugglers meant to tell their correspondent that “all was up with them!” Joking and scepticism apart, however, the story is a fine one; so much so, that it is surprising Milton did not make a more particular allusion to it in his noble juvenile ode on the “ Nativity," where he speaks of the voices heard at the cessation of the oracles :
“The lonely mountains o'er,
And the resounding shore,
ON GIANTS, OGRES, AND CYCLOPS.
T would be difficult to find an early national
history without a giant in it. Any thing great in its effects, and supposed not to be very tender-hearted, was a giant. A violent set
of neighbors were giants. An opposer of the gods was a giant, and threw mountains at them instead of sceptical essays. Evil genii were gigantic. The same Persian word came to signify a giant, a devil, and a magician. An older word, in the Persian language, meaning a giant, gave its name to the ancient dynasty of the Caianides. Kings, in ancient times, when physical more than moral dignity was in request, were sometimes chosen on account of their stature. Agamemnon is represented as taller, by the head and shoulders, than any man in his army; and probably it was as much on account of his height as his other supremacy that he was called Anax Andron, King of Men. An etymologist would even see in the word Anax a resemblance to the Anakites of Scripture. It is remarkable that Virgil, in his “Elysium,” has given the old poet Musæus a similar superiority over his brethren ; as if every kind of power in the early ages was associated with that of body. Moral enormity was naturally typified by physical. “ It may be observed," says
Mr. Hole, “that a giant, in Arabic or Persian fables, is commonly a negro or infidel Indian, as he is in our old romances a Saracen Paynim, a votary of Mahound and Termagaunt.”—“Were the negroes authors,” he pleasantly adds, “ they would probably characterize their giants by whiskers and turbans; or by hats, wigs, and a pale complexion.”
In like manner, if the English wrote allegorical storybooks nowadays, the oppressive lord or magistrate would be a giant. Fierce upholders of the old game-laws would be monsters of the woods, that devoured a man if he dared to touch one of their rabbits. “ In books of chivalry,” says Bishop Hurd, “the giants were oppressive feudal lords ; and every lord was to be met with, like the giant, in his stronghold or castle. Their dependants of the lower form, who imitated the violence of their superiors, and had not their castles, but their lurking places, were the savages of romance. The greater lord was called a giant, for his power; the less, a savage for his brutality. All this is shadowed out of the Gothic tales, and sometimes expressed in plain words. The objects of the knight's vengeance go indeed by the various names of giants, paynims, Saracens, and savages. But of what family they all are, is clearly seen from the poet's description :
'What, mister wight, quoth he, and how far hence
*“ Remarks on the Arabian Nights' Entertainments,” p. 80.
Through strong oppression of his powre extort;
“Here,” says the Bishop, “we have the great oppressive baron very graphically set forth. And the groom of evil guise is as plainly the baron's vassal. The romancers, we see, took no great liberty with these respectable personages, when they called the one a giant, and the other a savage.
That men of gigantic stature have existed here and there, we have had testimony in our own days. Some of them, probably not the tallest, have been strong. The others are weak and ill-formed, like children that have outgrown their strength. Whether giants ever existed as a body is still a question. The Patagonians of Commodore Byron have come down to a reasonable stature ; and the bones that used to be exhibited as proofs undeniable of enormous men, turn out to be those of the mammoth and the elephant. But this is the prose of gigantology. In poetry they are still alive and stalking.
The earliest giants were monstrous as well as huge. Those that warred with the gods, and heaped Ossa upon Pelion, had a multitude of heads and arms, with serpents instead of legs. Typhon, the evil principle, the dreadful wind (still known in the East under the same name, the
* Todd's “Spenser,” vol. vi. p. 7.