THE FAIRY MYTHOLOGY
There, renewed the vital spring,
Again he reigns a mighty king
And many a fair and fragrant clime,
Blooming in immortal prime,
By gales of Eden ever fanned,
Owns the monarch's high command.
AMONG all nations the mixture of joy and pain, of exquisite
delight and intense misery in the present state, has led the imagination to the conception of
regions of unmixed bliss destined for the repose of the good after the toils of this life, and
of climes where happiness prevails, the abode of beings superior to man. The imagination of the
Hindoo paints his Swergas as 'profuse of bliss,' and all the joys of sense are collected into the
Paradise of the Mussulman. The Persian lavished the riches of his fancy in raising the Cities of
Jewels and of Amber that adorn the realms of Jinnestân; the romancer erected castles and palaces
filled with knights and ladies in Avalon and in the land of Faerie; while the Hellenic bards,
unused to pomp and glare, filled the Elysian Fields and the Island of the Blest with tepid gales
and brilliant flowers. We shall quote without apology two beautiful passages from Homer and
Pindar, that our readers may at one view satisfy themselves of the essential difference between
classic and romantic imagination.
In Homer, Proteus tells Menelaus that, because he had had the honour of being the
son-in-law of Zeus, he should not die in "horse-feeding Argos."
But thee the ever-living gods will send
This passage is finely imitated by Pindar, and connected with that noble tone of
pensive morality, so akin to the Oriental spirit, and by which the 'Dircæan Swan' is distinguished
from all his fellows.
Unto the Elysian plain and distant bounds
Of Earth, where dwelleth fair-hair'd Rhadamanthus.
There life is easiest unto men; no snow,
Or wintry storm, or rain, at any time,
Is there; but evermore the Ocean sends
Soft-breathing airs of Zephyr to refresh
The habitants. - Od. iv. 563.
They speed their way
Lucretius has transferred these fortunate fields to the superior, regions, to form
the abode of his fainéans, gods; and Virgil has placed them, with additional poetic
splendour, in the bosom of the earth.
To Kronos' palace, where around
The Island of the Blest, the airs
Of Ocean breathe, and golden flowers
Blaze; some on land
From shining trees, and other kinds
The water feeds. Of these
Garlands and bracelets round their arms they bind,
Beneath the righteous sway
Of Rhadamanthus. - Ol. ii. 126.
Widely different from these calm and peaceful abodes of parted warriors are the
Faeries of the minstrels and romancers. In their eyes, and in those of their auditors, nothing
was beautiful or good divested of the pomp and pride of chivalry; and chivalry has, accordingly,
entered deeply into the composition of their pictures of these ideal realms.
The Feeries of romance may be divided into three kinds Avalon, placed in the ocean,
like the Island of the Blest; those that, like the palace of Pari Banou, are within the earth;
and, lastly, those that, like Oberon's domains, are situate 'in wilderness among the holtis
Of the castle and isle of Avalon1, the abode of Arthur and Oberon, and
Morgue la faye, the fullest description is to be seen in the romance of Ogier le
which, as we know no sure quarter but the work itself to refer to for the part connected with
the present subject, we will make some extracts.2
At the birth of Ogier several Fairies attended, who bestowed on him various gifts.
Among them was Morgue la Faye, who gave him that he should be her lover and friend. Accordingly,
when Ogier had long distinguished himself in love and war, and had attained his hundredth year,
the affectionate Morgue thought it was time to withdraw him from the toils and dangers of mortal
life, and transport him to the joys and the repose of the castle of Avalon. In pursuance of this
design, Ogier and king Caraheu are attacked by a storm on their return from Jerusalem, and their
vessels separated. The bark on which Ogier was "floated along the sea till it came near
the castle of loadstone, which is called the castle of Avalon, which is not far on this side of
the terrestrial paradise, whither were rapt in a flame of fire Enock and Helias; and where was
Morgue la Faye, who at his birth had endowed him with great gifts, noble and virtuous."3
The vessel is wrecked against the rock; the provisions are divided among the crew,
and it is agreed that every man, as his stock failed, should be thrown into the sea. Ogier's
stock holds out longest, and he remains alone. He is nearly reduced to despair, when a voice
from heaven cries to him "God commandeth thee that, as soon as it is night, thou go unto a castle
that thou wilt see shining, and pass from bark tobark till thou be in an isle which thou wilt
find. And when thou wilt be in that isle thou wilt find a little path, and of what thou mayest
see within be not dismayed at anything. And then Ogier looked, but he saw nothing."4
When night came, Ogier recommended himself to God, and seeing the castle of loadstone
all resplendent with light, he went from one to the other of the vessels that were wrecked there,
and so got into the island where it was. On arriving at the gate he found it guarded by two fierce
lions. He slew them and entered; and making his way into a hall, found a horse sitting at a table
richly supplied. The courteous animal treats him with the utmost respect, and the starving hero
makes a hearty supper. The horse then prevails on him to get on his back, and carries him into
a splendid chamber, where Ogier sleeps that night. The name of this horse is
Papillon, "who was
a Luiton, and had been a great prince, but king Arthur conquered him, so he was condemned to
be three hundred years a horse without speaking one single word, but after the three hundred
years he was to have the crown of joy which they wore in aerie."5
Next morning he cannot find Papillon, but on opening a door he meets a huge serpent,
whom he also slays, and follows a little path which leads him into an orchard
"tant bel et tant plaisant, que cestoit ung petit paradis a veoir." He plucks an apple from one of the trees and
eats it, but is immediately affected by such violent sickness as to be put in fear of speedy
death. He prepares himself for his fate, regretting "le bon pays de France, le roi Charlemaigne
... et principallement la bonne royne dangleterre, sa bonne espouse et vraie
amie, ma dame
Clarice, qui tant estoit belle et noble. "While in this dolorous state, happening to turn to
the east, he perceived "une moult belle dame, toute vestue de blanc, si bien et si richement
aornee que cestoit ung grant triumphe que de la veoir."
Ogier, thinking it is the Virgin Mary, commences an Ave; but the lady tells him
she is Morgue la Faye, who at his birth had kissed him, and retained him for her loyal
though forgotten by him. She places then on his finger a ring, which removes all infirmity,
and Ogier, a hundred years old, returns to the vigour and beauty of thirty. She now leads him
to the castle of Avalon, where were her brother king Arthur, and Auberon, and
luiton de mer."
"And when Morgue drew near to the said castle of Avalon, the Fays came to meet
Ogier, singing the most melodiously that ever could be heard, so he entered into the hall to
solace himself completely. There he saw several Fay ladies adorned and all crowned with crowns
most sumptuously made, and very rich, and evermore they sung, danced, and led a right joyous life,
without thinking of any evil thing whatever, but of taking their mundane pleasures."6
Morgue here introduces the knight to Arthur, and she places on his head a crown rich and
splendid beyond estimation, but which has the Lethean quality, that whoso wears it,
Forthwith his former state and being forgets,
for Ogier instantly forgot country and friends. He had no thought whatever
"ni de la dame
Clarice, qui tant estoit belle et noble," nor of Guyon his brother, nor of his nephew Gauthier,
"ne de creature vivante." His days now rolled on in never-ceasing pleasure. "Such joyous
pastime did the Fay ladies make for him, that there is no creature in this world who could
imagine or think it, for to hear them sing so sweetly it seemed to him actually that he was
in Paradise; so the time passed from day to day, from week to week, in such sort that a year
did not last a month to him."7
Forgets both joy and grief, pleasure and pain;
But Avalon was still on earth, and therefore its bliss was not unmixed. One day
Arthur took Ogier aside, and informed him that Capalus, king of the Luitons, incessantly attacked
the castle of Faerie with design to eject king Arthur from its dominion, and was accustomed to
penetrate to the basse court, calling on Arthur to come out and engage him. Ogier asked permission
to encounter this formidable personage, which Arthur willingly granted. No sooner, however, did
Capalus see Ogier than he surrendered to him; and the knight had the satisfaction of leading him
into the castle, and reconciling him to its inhabitants.
Two hundred years passed away in these delights, and seemed to Ogier but twenty:
Charlemagne and all his lineage had failed, and even the race of Ogier was extinct, when the
Paynims invaded France and Italy in vast numbers; and Morgue no longer thought herself justified
in withholding Ogier from the defence of the faith. Accordingly, she one day took the Lethean
crown from off his head: immediately all his old ideas rushed on his mind, and inflamed him with
an ardent desire to revisit his country. The Fairy gave him a brand which was to be preserved
from burning, so long as it was unconsumed, so long should his life extend. She adds to her gift
the horse Papillon and his comrade Benoist. "And when they were both mounted, all the ladies of
the castle came to take leave of Ogier, by the command of king Arthur and of Morgue la Faye, and
they sounded an aubade of instruments, the most melodious thing to hear that ever was listened
to; then, when the aubade was finished, they sung with the voice so melodiously, that it was a
thing so melodious that it seemed actually to Ogier that he was in Paradise. Again, when that
was over, they sung with the instruments in such sweet concordance that it seemed rather to be
a thing divine than mortal."8 The knight then took leave of all, and a cloud,
enveloping him and his companion, raised them, and set them down by a fair fountain near
Montpellier. Ogier displays his ancient prowess, routs the infidels, and on the death of the
king is on the point of espousing the queen, when Morgue appears and takes him back to Avalon.
Since then Ogier has never reappeared in this world.
Nowhere is a Faerie of the second kind so fully, and circumstantially described as
in the beautiful romance of Orfeo and Heurodis. There are, indeed, copious extracts from this
poem in Sir Walter Scott's Essay on the Fairies of Popular Superstition; and we have no excuse
to offer for repeating what is to be found in a. work so universally diffused as the Minstrelsy
of the Scottish Border, but that it is of absolute necessity for our purpose, and that romantic
poetry is rarely unwelcome.
Orfeo and Heurodis were king and queen of Winchester. The queen happening one day
to sleep under an ymp9 tree in the palace orchard, surrounded by her attendants, had
a dream, which she thus relates to the king:
As I lay this undertide (afternoon)
The fairy king orders her, under a dreadful penalty, to await him next morning
under the ymp tree. Her husband and ten hundred knights stand in arms round the tree to
To sleep under the orchard-side,
There came to me two faire knightes
Well arrayed allè righter,
And bade me come without letting
To speakè with their lord the king;
And I answer'd with wordes bolde
That I ne durstè ne I nolde
Fast again they can (did) drive,
Then came their kinge all so blive (quick)
With a thousand knights and mo,
And with ladies fifty also,
And riden all on snow-white steedes,
And also white were their weedes.
I sey (saw) never sith I was borne
So faire knightès me by forne.
The kingè had a crown on his head,
It was not silver ne gold red;
All it was of precious stone,
As bright as sun forsooth it shone.
All so soon he to me came,
Wold I, nold I he me name (took),
And made me with him ride
On a white palfrey by his side,
And brought me in to his palis,
Right well ydight over all ywis.
He shewed me castels and toures,
Meadows, rivers, fields and flowres,
And his forests everiche one,
And sith he brought me again home.
And yet amiddès them full right
Orfeo in despair abandons his throne, and retires to the wilderness, where he
solaces himself with his harp, charming with his melody the wild beasts, the inhabitants of
the spot. Often while here,
The queenè was away y-twight (snatched);
With Faëry forth y-nome (taken);
Men wilt never where she was become.
He mightè see him besides
Among the ladies he recognises his lost queen, and he determines to follow them,
and attempt her rescue.
Oft in hot undertides
The king of Faëry with his rout
Come to hunt him all about,
With dim cry and blowing,
And houndes also with him barking.
Ac (yet) no beaste they no nome,
Ne never he nist whither they be come;
And other while he might them see
As a great hostè by him te.10
Well atourned ten hundred knightes
Each well y-armed to his righter,
Of countenance stout. and fierce,
With many displayéd banners,
And each his sword y-drawe hold;
Ac never he nistè whither they wold.
And otherwhile he seigh (saw) other thing,
Knightès and levedis (ladies) come dauncing
In quaint attirè guisëly,
Quiet pace and softëly.
Tabours and trumpès gede (went) him by,
And alle manere minstracy.
And on a day he seigh him beside
Sixty levedis on horse ride,
Gentil and jolif as brid on ris (bird on branch),
Nought o (one) man amonges hem ther nix,
And each a faucoun on bond bare,
And riden on hauken by o rivér.
Of game they found well good haunt,
Mallardes, heron, and cormeraunt.
The fowlès of the water ariseth,
Each faucoun them well deviseth,
Each faucoun his preyè slough11 (slew).
In at a roche (rock) the levedis rideth,
Orfeo makes his way into this palace, and so charms the king with his minstrelsy,
that he gives him back his wife. They return to Winchester, and there reign, in peace and
And he after and nought abideth.
When he was in the roche y-go
Well three milès other (or) me,
He came into a fair countráy
As bright soonne summers day,
Smooth and plain and allè grene,
Hill no dale vas none y-seen.
Amiddle the lend a cartel he seigh,
Rich and real and wonder high.
Allè the utmostè wall
Was clear and shinè of cristal.
An hundred towers there were about,
Deguiselich and batailed stout.
The buttras come out of the ditch,
Of redè gold y-arched rich.
The bousour was avowed all
Of each manere diverse animal.
Within there werè wide wones
All of precious stones.
The worstè pillar to behold
Was all of burnished gold.
All that lend was ever light,
For when it should be therk (dark) and night,
The richè stonès lightè gonne (yield12)
Bright as doth at nonne the sonne,
No man may tell ne think in thought
The richè work that there was wrought.
Another instance of this kind of Feerie may be seen in Thomas the
restricted by our limits, we must omit it, and pass to the last kind.
Sir Thopas was written to ridicule the romancers; its incidents must therefore
accord with theirs, and the Feerie in it in fact resembles those in Huon de Bordeaux. It has
the farther merit of having suggested incidents to Spenser, and perhaps of having given the
idea of a queen regnante of Fairy Land. Sir Thopas is chaste as Graelent.
Full many a maidè bright in hour
He was therefore a suitable object for the love of a gentle elf-queen. So Sir
Thopas one day "pricketh through a faire forest" till he is weary, and he then lies down to
sleep on the grass, where he dreams of an elf-queen, and awakes, declaring
They mourned for him par amour;
When hem were bete to slepe;
But he was chaste and no lechour,
And sweet as is the bramble flour
That bereth the red hepe.
An elf-queen wol I love, ywis.
He determines to set out in quest of her.
All other women I forsake,
And to an elf-queen I me take
By dale and eke by down.
Into his sadel he clombe anon,
The "gret giaunt" Sire Oliphaunt, however, informs him that
And pricked over style and stone,
An elf-queue for to espie;
Till he so long had ridden and gone,
That he found in a privee wone
The countree of Faerie,13
Wherein he soughtè north and south,
And oft he spied with his mouth
In many a forest wilde;
For in that countree n'as there none
That to him dorst ride or gon,
Neither wif ne childe.
Here is the quene of Faërie,
Owing to the fastidiousness of "mine hoste," we are unable to learn how Sir Thopas
fared with the elf-queen, and we have probably lost a copious description of Fairy Land.
With harpe and pipe and simphonie,
Dwelling in this place.
From the glimmering of the morning star of English poetry, the transition is
natural to its meridian splendour, the reign of Elizabeth, and we will now make a few remarks
on the poem of Spenser.
1. Avalon was perhaps the Island of the Blest, of Celtic mythology,
and then the abode of the Fees, through the Breton Korrigan. Writers, however, seem to be
unanimous in regarding it and Glastonbury as the same place, called an isle, it is stated, as
being made nearly such by the "river's embracement." It was named Avalon, we are told,
from the British word Aval, an apple, as it abounded with orcbards; and Ynys gwydrin; Saxon
Glaytn-ey, glassy isle; Latin, Glastonia, from the green hue of the water surrounding it.
2. See Tales and Popular Fictions, ch. ix., for a further account of Ogier.
3. Tant nagea en mer qu'il arriva pres du chastel daymant quon nomme le chasteau davallon, qui
nest gueres deca paradis terrestre la ou furent ravis en une raye de feu Enoc et Helye, et la
ou estoit Morgue la faye, qui a sa naissance lui avoit donne de grands dons, nobles et vertueux.
4. Dieu te mande que si tost que sera nuit que to ailles en ung chasteau que tu verras luire,
et passe de bateau en bateau tant que to soies en une isle que to trouveras. Et quand to seras
en lisle tu trouveras une petite sente, et de chose que tu voies leans ne tesbahis de rien. Et
adonc Ogier regarda mais il ne vit rien.
5. Lequel estoit luiton, et avoit este ung grant prince; mais le roi Artus le conquist, si fust
condampne a estre trois cens ans cheval sans parler ung tout seul mot; mail apres les trois cens
ans, il devoit avoir la couronne de joye de laquelle ils usuient en faerie.
6. Et quand Morgue approcha du dit chasteau, les Faes vindrent au devant dogier, chantant le
plus melodieusement quon scauroit jamais ouir, si entra dedans la salle pour se deduire
totallement. Adonc vist plusieurs dames Faees aournees et toutes courronnees de couronnes
tressomptueusement faictes, et moult riches, et tout jour chantoient, dansoient, et menoient
vie tresjoyeuse, sans penser a nulle quelconque meschante chose, fors prandre leurs mondains
7. Tant de joyeulx passetemps lui faisoient les dames Faces, quil nest creature en ce monde quil
le sceust imaginer ne penser, car les ouir si doulcement chanter il lui sembloit proprement quil
fut en Paradis, si passoit temps de jour en jour, de sepmaiue en sepmaine, tellement que ung au
ne lui duroit pas ung mois.
8. Et quand ils furent tous deux montes, toutes lea dames du chasteau vindrent a la departie
dogier, par le commandement du roi Artus et de Morgue la fae, et sonnerent une aubade dinstrumeus,
la plus melodieuse chose a ouir que on entendit jamais; puis, l'aubade achevee, chanterent de
gorge si melodieusement que cestoit une chose si melodieuse que il sembloit proprement a Ogier
quil estoit en Paradia. De rechief, cela fini, ils chanterent avecques les instrumens par si
doulce concordance quil sembloit mieulx chose divine que humaine.
9. Imp tree is a grafted tree. Sir W. Scott queries if it be not a tree consecrated to the imps
or fiends. Had imp that sense so early? A grafted tree had perhaps the same relation to the
Fairies that the linden in Germany and the North had to the dwarfs.
10. Te or tew (Drayton, Poly-Olb. xxv.) is to draw, to march; from A. S. teozan, tuzan, teon
(Germ. ziehen), whence tug, team.
11. Beattie probably knew nothing of Orfeo and Heurodis, and the Fairy Vision in the Minstrel
(a dream that would never have occurred to any minstrel) was derived from the Flower and the
Leaf, Dryden's, not Chaucer's, for the personages in the latter are not called Fairies. In
neither are they Elves.
12. Gonnen, Germ.
13. The "countrie of Faerie," situated in a "privee wone," plainly accords rather with the
Feeries of Huon de Bordeaux than with Avalon, or the region into which Dame Heurodis was