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young poet was writing to please young patricians. The “tassel” was for their nobility; the rest is for his own.
Stay, gentle swains; for though in this disguise,
ye, the breathing roses of the wood,
And turn the adamantine spindle round,
This is a passage to read at twilight; or before putting out the candles, in some old country house.
There is yet one more passage which we must quote from Milton, about a genius. It concerns also a very demoniacal circumstance, the cessation of the heathen oracles. See with what regret the poet breaks up the haunt of his winged beauties, and sends them floating away into dissolution with their white bodies out of the woods.
The oracles are dumb,
Runs through the arched roof in words deceiving.
With hollow shriek the steep of Delphos leaving.
The lonely mountains o'er,
A voice of weeping heard and loud lament;
The parting Genius is with sighing sent:
In consecrated earth,
The Lars, and Lemures, mourn with midnight plaint;
Affrights the Flamens at their service quaint;
He proceeds to dismiss the idols of Palestine, and the brute gods of Egypt,
Trampling the unshowered grass with lowings loud.
We do not feel for those, nor does he ; but the little household gods of Rome, trembling like kittens on the hearth, and the nymphs of Greece mourning their flowery shades, he loses with an air of tenderness. He forgets that he and the other poets had gathered them into their own Elysium.
HE word fairy, in the sense of little minia
ture being, is peculiar to this country, and is a southern appellation applied to a northern idea. It is the fee and fata of the French
and Italians; who mean by it an imaginary lady of any sort, not of necessity small and generally of the human size. With us, it is the elf of our northern ancestors, and means exclusively the little creature inhabiting the woods and caverns, and dancing on the grass.
The progress of knowledge, which humanizes everything, and enables our fancies to pick and choose, has long rendered the. English fairy a harmless being, rarely seen of eye and known quite as much, if not more, through the pleasant fancies of the poets, than the earthier creed of the common people. In Germany, also, the fairy is said to have become a being almost entirely benevolent. But among our kinsmen of the North, the Swedes and Danes, and especially the insular races of Iceland and Rugen, the old opinions appear to be in force; and, generally speaking, the pigmy world may be divided into four classes.
First, the white or good fairies, who live above ground, dancing on the grass, or sitting on the leaves of trees the fairy of our poets. They are fond of sunshine, and are ethereal little creatures.
Second, the dark or under-ground fairies (the dwarfs, trolls, and hill-folk of the continent), an irritable race, workers in' mines and smithies, and doing good or evil offices, as it may happen.
Third, the house or homestead fairy, our Puck, Robin Goodfellow, Hobgoblin, &c. (the Nis of Denmark and Norway, the kobold of Germany, the brownie of Scotland, and tomtegubbe, or old man of the house in Sweden). He is of a similar temper, but good upon the whole, and fond of cleanliness, rewarding and helping the servants for being tidy, and punishing them for the reverse.
And fourth, the water fairy, the kelpie of Scotland, and Nick, Neck, Nickel, Nickar, and Nix, of other countries, the most dangerous of all, appearing like a horse, or a mermaid, or a beautiful girl, and enticing people to their destruction. He is supposed by some, however, not to do it out of ill will, but in order to procure companions in the spirits of those who are drowned.
All the fairies have qualities in common; and for the most part, eat, drink, marry, and are governed like human beings; and all without exception are thieves, and fond of power. In other words, they are like the human beings that invented them. They do the same good and ill offices, are subject to the same passions, and are called guid folk and good neighbors, out of the same feelings of fear or gratitude. The better sort dress in gay clothes of green, and are handsome; the more equivocal are ugly, bignosed little knaves, round-eyed and humpbacked, like Punch, or the figures in caricatures. The latter dress in red or brown caps, which they have a great dread of losing, as they must not rest till they get another; and the hill-folk among them are great enemies to noise. They keep their promises, because if they did not, the Rugen people say they would be changed into reptiles, beetles, and other ugly creatures, and be obliged to wander in that shape many years. The ordinary German kobold, or house goblin, delights in a mess of grits or water-gruel, with a lump of butter in it. In other countries, as in England of old, he aspires to a cream bowl. Hear our great poet, who was as fond of a rustic supper as any man, and has recorded his roasting chestnuts with his friend Diodati.
Then to the spicy nut-brown ale,
crop full out of doors he flings,