Page images
PDF
EPUB

concerned, in the paper on “Sirens and Mermaids ;” but as we extracted into that paper Mr. Tennyson's poem on the female of this genus, we cannot but indulge ourselves here with giving his companion-piece.

THE MERMAN.

Who would be
A merman bold,

Sitting alone,
Singing alone,

Under the sea,
With a crown of gold,

On a throne ?
I would be a merman bold.
I would sit and sing the whole of the day:

I would fill the sea-halls with a voice of power ;
But at night I would roam abroad and play
With the mermaids in and out of the rocks,

Dressing their hair with the white sea-flower;
And, holding them back by their flowing locks,

I would kiss them often under the sea,
And kiss them again, till they kiss'd me,

Laughingly, laughingly.
And then we would wander away, away,
To the pale-green sea-groves, straight and high,

Chasing each other merrily.

There would be neither moon nor star;
But the wave would make music above us afar-
Low thunder and light in the magic night -

Neither moon nor star.
We would call aloud in the dreamy dells, –
Call to each other, and whoop and cry

All night merrily, merrily.
They would pelt me with starry spangles and shells,
Laughing and clapping their hands between,

All night merrily, merrily.
But I would throw to them back in mine
Turkis, and agate, and almondine ;
Then leaping out upon them unseen,

I would kiss them often under the sea,
And kiss them again, till they kiss'd me,

Laughingly, laughingly.
Oh! what a happy life were mine,
Under the hollow-hung ocean green!
Soft are the moss-beds 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 6 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 — 6 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,
A voice of weeping heard, and loud lament."

ON GIANTS, OGRES, AND CYCLOPS.

r

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
Is he, that doth to travellers such harmes?
He is, said he, a man of great defence,
Expert in battell and in deedes of armes ;
And more emboldened by the wicked charmes
With which his daughter doth him still support:
Having great lordships got and goodly farmes

* “Remarks on the Arabian Nights' Entertainments," p. 80.

« PreviousContinue »