Page images
PDF
EPUB

Genius becomes riotous instead of obedient, and is perhaps the death of you; and at least gives you a cuff of the ear, enough to fell a dromedary. They transport people whithersoever they please ; make nothing of building a house, full of pictures and furniture, in the course of a night; and will put a sultan in their pockets for you, if you desire it. But if not your servants, they are dangerous acquaintances, and it is difficult to be on one's guard against them. You must take care, for instance, how you throw the shells about when you are eating nuts, otherwise an unfortunate husk to put out the eye of one of their invisible children, and for this you will suffer death unless you can repeat poems or fine stories. Numbers of Genii have remained imprisoned in brazen vessels ever since the time of Solomon, and it is not always safe to deliver them. It is a moot point whether they will make a king of you for it, or kick you into the sea. The Genius whom the fisherman sets free in the “ Arabian Nights,” gives an account of his feelings on this matter, highly characteristic of the nature of these fairy personages :

6. During the first hundred years' imprisonment,' says he, “I swore, that if any one should deliver me before the hundred years expired, I would make him rich, even after his death, but the century ran out, and nobody did me that good office. During the second, I made an oath that I would open all the treasures of the earth to any one that should set me at liberty, but with no better success. In the third, I promised to make my deliverer a potent monarch, to grant him every day three requests, of whatever nature they might be; but this century ran out as the two former, and I continued in prison ; at last, being angry, or rather mad, to find myself a prisoner so long, I swore that, if afterwards any one should deliver me, I

would kill him without mercy, and grant him no other favor but to choose what kind of death he would have ; and, therefore, since you have delivered me to-day, I give you that choice.'”

The mode in which the Genii emerge from these brazen vessels is very striking. The spirit into which they have been condensed expands as it issues forth, and makes an enormous smoke, which again compresses into a body, black and gigantic; and the Genius is before you. He is in general a smoke of a weaker turn than our friend just alluded to. If we are to believe the story of the Brazen City in the “ New Arabian Nights," whole beds of vessels, containing genuine condensed spirits of Jinn, were to be found in a certain bay on the coast of Africa. Deevs were as plenty as oysters. A sultan had a few brought him, and opening one after the other, the giant vapor issued forth, crying out, “Pardon, pardon, great Solomon ; I will never rebel more.”

Kaf is Caucasus, the great stony girdle.” The Persians supposed it, and do so still, to run round the earth, enclosing it like a ring. The earth itself stands on a great sapphire, the reflection of which causes the blue of the sky; and when the sapphire moves there is an earthquake, or some other convulsion of nature. On this mountain the Jinns reign and revel after their respective fashions ; and there is eternal war between the good and the bad. Formerly the good Genii, when hard pressed, used to apply to an earthly hero to assist them. The exploits of Rustam, before mentioned, and of the ancient Tahmuras, surnamed Deev-Bend or the Deev-Binder, form the most popular subjects of Persian heroic poetry.

Kaf will gradually be undone, and the place of sapphire be not found; but the blue of the sky will remain ; and

till the Persian can expound the mystery of the cheek he loves, and know the first cause of the roses which make a bower for it, he will still, if he is wise, retain his Pari and his enchanted palace, and encourage his mistress to resemble the kind faces that may be looking at her..

THE SATYR OF MYTHOLOGY AND

THE POETS.

[ocr errors]

Fren E lay before our readers the portrait of a very

eminent half or four-fifths man, an old friend of the poets, particularly of the sequestered and descriptive order, and constantly alluded

to in all modern as well as ancient quarters poetical. He is alive, not only in Virgil, and Theocritus, and Spenser, but in Wordsworth, in Keats, and Shelley, and in the pages of “Blackwood” and the “ London Journal.”

We keep the public in mind, from time to time, that one of the objects of the “ London Journal” is to bring uneducated readers of taste and capacity acquainted with the pleasures of those who are educated; and we write articles of this description accordingly, in a spirit intended to be not unacceptable to either. Enter, therefore, the Satyr, — as in one of the Prologues to an old play. By and by, we shall give a Triton, a Nymph, &c., &c., and so on through all the gentle populace of fiction - plebe degli, dei, as Tasso calls them, — the “common people of the gods.”

Such, we hope, in future times, — or worthy, rather, of such appellation, — will be all the people of the earth, — their poetry in common, their education in common, knowledge and its divine pleasures being as cheap as daisies in the mead.

The Satyr (not always, but generally) is a goat below the waist, and a man above, with a head in which the two beings are united. He has horns, pointed ears, and a beard ; and there is just enough humanity in his face to make the look of the inferior being more observable. The expression is drawn up to the height of the salient and wilful. He is a merry brute of a demigod; and when not sleeping in the grass, is for ever in motion, dancing, after his quaint fashion, and butting when he fights. He goes in herds, though he is often found straying. His haunt is in the woods, where he makes love to the Dryads and other nymphs, not always with their good-will.

When he gets old he takes to drinking, grows fat, and is called a Silenus, after the most eminent gorbelly of his race: and then he becomes oracular in his drink, and disburses the material philosophy which his way of life has taught him. He is not immortal, but has a long life as well as a merry; some say a thousand years : others, many thousand. A thousand years, according to Aristotle, is the duration both of the Satyr and the Nymph.

The Faun, though often confounded with the Satyr, and supposed by some to be nothing but a Latin version of him, is generally taken by the moderns for a Satyr mitigated and more human. Goat's feet are not necessary to him. He can be content with a tail, and two little budding horns, like a kid.

“How the Satyrs originated," quoth the “serious ” but not very“ sage” Natalis Comes, “or of what parents they

were begotten, or where or when they began to exist, or for what reason they were held to be gods by antiquity ; neither have I happed upon any creditable ancient who can inform me, nor can I make it out myself.” He says he takes no heed of the opinion of those who suppose them to have been the children of Saturn or Faunus. Pliny, he tells us, speaks of Satyrs, as certain animals in the Indian Mountains, of great swiftness, going on allfours, but with a human aspect, and running upright. Furthermore, Pausanias mentions one Euphemus of Caria, who coming upon a cluster of “desert” islands in the extreme parts of the sea, and being forced by a tempest to alight on one of them called Satyras, found it inhabited by people of a red color, with tails not much inferior to those of horses. These gentlemen invaded the ships of their new acquaintance, and without saying a word, began helping themselves to what they liked. Finally, Pomponius Mela speaks of certain islands beyond Mount Atlas, in which lights were seen at night, and a great sound was heard of drums and cymbals and pipes, though nobody was to be seen by day; and these islands were said to be inhabited by Satyrs. To which beareth testimony the famous Hanno the Carthaginian.*

Boccaccio, in his treatise “De Montibus," appears to have transferred these islands to Mount Atlas itself; of which he says (dwelling upon the subject with his usual romantic fondness) that, “such a depth of silence is reported to prevail there by day, that none approach it without a certain horror, and a feeling of some divine presence; but at night-time, like heaven, it is lit up with many lights, and resounds with the songs and

* See all these authorities in Natalis Comes’ “Mythologia,” p. 304.

« PreviousContinue »