A widow and her son, a little boy, lived, together in a cottage in
or near the village of Rothley, Northumberland. One winter's evening the child refused to go to bed with
his mother, as he wished to sit up for a while longer, "for," said he, "I am not sleepy.
" The mother finding remonstrance in vain, at last told him that if he sat up by himself the faries
would most certainly come and take him away. The boy laughed as his mother went to bed, leaving him
sitting by the fire; he had not been there long, watching the fire and enjoying its cheerful warmth, till
a beautiful little figure, about the size of a child's doll, descended the chimney and alighted on the
hearth! The little fellow was somewhat startled at first, but its prepossessing smile as it paced to and
fro before him soon overcame his fears, and he inquired familiarly, "What do they ca' thou?"
"Ainsel," answered the little thing haughtily, at the same time retorting the question,
"And what do they ca' thou?" "My ainsel'," answered the boy; and they commenced
playing together like two children newly acquainted. Their gambols continued quite innocently until the
fire began to grow dim; the boy then took up the poker to stir it, when a hot cinder accidentally fell
upon the foot of his playmate; her tiny voice was instantly raised to a most terrific roar, and the boy
had scarcely time to crouch into the bed behind his mother, before the voice of the old fary-mother was
heard shouting, "Who's done it? 'Who's done it?" "Oh! it was my ainsel!" answered
the daughter. "Why, then," said the mother, as she kicked her up the chimney, "what 's
all this noise for: there's nyon (i.e. no one) to blame."
Such is the sum of what we have been able to collect respecting the popular fairy-lore of
England, the largest and most complete collection that, to our knowledge, has ever been made. We might
venture to add that little more is ever likely to be collected, for the sounds of the cotton-mill, the
steam-engine, and, more than all, the whistle of the railway train, more powerful than any exorcists,
have banished, or soon will banish, the fairy tribes from all their accustomed haunts, and their name
and their exploits will in future be found in works like the present rather than in village tradition.
As the merry spirit, Puck, is so prominent an actor in the scenes forming our next division,
this may be deemed no unfitting place for the consideration of his various appellations; such as Puck,
Robin Good-fellow, Robin Hood, Hobgoblin.
Puck is evidently the same with the old word Pouke,1 the original meaning
of which would seem to be devil, demon, or evil spirit. We first meet with it in the Vision of Piers
Ploughman, where it undoubtedly signifies 'the grand adversary of God and man.'
When, in this poem,2 the Seer beholds Abraham, the personification of Faith,
with his "wide clothes," within which lay a Lazar,
Amonges patriarkes and prophetes,
and asks him what was there,
Loo! quod he, and leet me see.
Lord mercy! I seide;
This is a present of muche pris,
What prynce shal it have?
It is a precious present, quod he,
Ac the pouke it hath attached,
And me theremyde, quod that man,
May no wed us quyte,
Ne no buyrn be oure borgh,
Ne bringe us from his daunger;
Out of the pouke pondfold
No maynprise may us fecche,
Til he come that I carpe of,
Crist is his name,
That shall delivere us som day
Out of the develes power.
Golding also must have understood Pooke in the sense of devil, when in the ninth book of
his translation of Ovid, unauthorised however by the original, he applies it to the
The country where Chymsara, that same pooke
Hath goatish body, lion's head and brist, and dragon's tayle.
Spenser employs the word, and he clearly distinguishes it from hob-goblin:
Ne let housefires nor lightnings helpless harms,
Ne let the pouke3 nor other evil sprites,
Ne let mischievous witches with their charms,
No let hob-goblins, names whom sense we see not,
Fray us with things that be not--Epithalamion, v. 340.
These terms are also distinguished in the poem named The Scourge of Venus:
And that they may perceive the heavens frown,
The poukes and goblins pull the coverings down.
In Ben Jonson's play of The Devil is an Ass, the unlucky fiend who gives origin to its name
is called Pug, and in the same author's Sad Shepherd the personage named Puck-hairy is, as Gifford justly
observes, "not the Fairy or Oriental Puck, though often confounded with him."4 In
truth, it is first in Shakespeare that we find Puck confounded with the House-spirit, and having those
traits of character which are now regarded as his very essence, and have caused his name Pug to be given
to the agile mischievous monkey, and to a kind of little dog.
We will now discuss the origin of this far-famed appellation and its derivation.
In the Slavonic tongues, which are akin to the Teutonic, Bôg is God, and there are
sleights of etymology which would identify the two terms; the Icelandic Puki is an evil spirit, and such
we have seen was the English Pouke, which easily became Puck, Pug, and Bug; finally, in Friesland the
Kobold is called Puk, and in old German we meet with Putt or Butz as the name of a being not unlike the
original English Puck.5 The Devonshire fairies are called Pixies, and the Irish have their
Pooka, and the Welsh their Pwcca, both derived from Pouke or Puck. From Bug comes the Scottish
(which Gawin Douglas expressly distinguishes from the Brownie) and the Yorkshire Boggart.6
The Swedish language has the terms spöka, spöke; the Danish spöge, spögelse, the German,
spuken, spuk, all used of spirits or ghosts, and their apparitions. Perhaps the Scottish
pawkey, sly, knowing, may belong to the same family of words. Akin to Bogle was the old English
term Puckle, noticed above, which is still retained in the sense of mischievous, as in Peregrine Pickle
and Little Pickle. It has been conjectured7 that Picklehäring, the German term for zany
or merry-andrew, may have been properly Picklehärin, i.e. the hairy sprite, answering to
Jonson's Puck-hairy, and that he may have worn a vesture of hair or leaves to be rough like the Brownie
and kindred beings.
From Bug also come Bugbear, and Bugleboo, or Bugaboo. They owe their origin probably to the
Ho! Ho! Ho! given to Puck or Robin Goodfellow, as it was to the Devil (i.e.,
Pouke) in the Mysteries.
Bull-beggar may be only a corruption of Bugbear.8
The following passage from a writer of the present day proves that in some places the idea
of Puck as a spirit haunting the woods and fields is still retained. "The peasantry" says Mr.
Allies,9 "of Alfrick and those parts of Worcestershire, say that they are sometimes
what they call Poake-ledden, that is, that they are occasionally waylaid in the night by a
mischievous sprite whom they call Poake, who leads them into ditches, bogs, pools, and. other such
scrapes, and then sets up a loud laugh and leaves them quite bewildered in the lurch." This is
what in Devon is called being Pixy-led. We may observe the likeness here to the Puck of
Shakspeare and Drayton, who were both natives of the adjoining county.
A further proof perhaps of Puck's rural and extern character is the following rather trifling
circumstance. An old name of the fungus named puffball is puck-fist, which is plainly
Puck's-fist, and not puff-fist as Nares conjectured; for its Irish name is Cos-a-Phooka,
or Pooka's-foot, i.e., Puck's-foot. We will add by the way, that the Anglo-Saxon, Wolf's-fist, is rendered
in the dictionaries toadstool, mushroom, and we cannot help suspecting that as wolf and elf were
sometimes confounded, and wolf and fist are, in fact, incompatible terms, this was originally Elf's-fist,
and that the mushrooms meant were not the thick ugly toadstools, the "grislie
Spenser, but those delicate fungi called in Ireland fairy-mushrooms and which perhaps in England
also were ascribed to the fairies.10
So much then for Puck; we will now consider some other terms.
Robin Goodfellow, of whom we have given above a full account, is evidently a domestic spirit,
answering in name and character to the Nisse God-dreng of Scandinavia, the Knecht
Robin of Germany. He seems to unite in his person the Boggart and Barguest of Yorkshire.
Hob-goblin is, as we have seen, another name of the same spirit. Goblin is the French
gobelin, German Kobold; Hob is Rob, Robin, Bob; just as Hodge is Roger. We still have the proper
names Hobbs, Hobson, like Dix, Dixon, Wills, Wilson; by the way, Hick, i. e. Dick, from Richard, still remains in Hicks,
Robin Hood, though we can produce no instance of it, must, we think, also have been an
appellation of this spirit, and been given to the famed outlaw of merry Sherwood, from his sportive
character and his abiding in the recesses of the greenwood. The hood is a usual appendage of the domestic
Roguery and sportiveness are, we may see, the characteristics of this spirit. Hence it may
have been that the diminutives of proper names were given to him, and even to the Ignis
Fatuus, which in
a country like England, that was in general dry and free from sloughs and bog-holes, was mischievous
rather than dangerous.11 But this seems to have been a custom of our forefathers, for we find
the devil himself called Old Nick, and Old Davy is the sailor's familiar name for Death.
In the Midsummer Night's Dream the fairy says to Puck "Thou Lob of spirits; "Milton
has the lubber-fiend, and Fletcher says,12 "There is a pretty tale of a witch that
had a giant to be her son that was called Lob Lie-by-the-fire." This might lead us to suppose that
Lob, whence loby (looby), lubbard, lubber,13 and adding the diminutive
kin, Lubberkin, a name of one of the clowns in Gay's Pastorals, was an original name of some kind
of spirit. We shall presently see that the Irish name of the Leprechaun is actually
Lubberkin. As to
the origin of the name we have little to say, but it may have had a sense the very opposite of the present
one of lubber, and have been connected with the verb to leap.14
Grimm15 tells of a spirit named the Good Lubber, to whom the bones of animals used to be
offered at Mansfield in Germany; but we see no resemblance between him and our Lob of spirits; we might
rather trace a connexion with the French Lutin, Lubin.16 The phrase of being in or
getting into Lob's Pound (like the "Pouke's pondfold,") is easy of explanation, if we
suppose Lob to be a sportive spirit. it is equivalent to being Poake-ledden or Pixy-led.
Wight, answering to the German Wicht, seems to have been used in the time of Chaucer
for elf or fairy, most probably for such as haunted houses, or it may have had the signification of
witch, which is evidently another form of it. In the Miller's Tale the carpenter says,
I crouchè thee from elves and from wights.
Jesu Crist, and Seint Benedight,
Blisse this house from every wicked wight.17
Urchin is a term which, like elf and such like, we still apply to children, but which
seems formerly to have been one of the appellations of the fairies. Reginald Scott, as we have seen,
places it in his list, and we find it in the following places of the poets:
Shall for the vast of night that they may work
All exercise on thee.--Tempest, i. 2.
His spirits hear me,
And yet I needs must curse; but they'll not pinch
Fright me with urchin-shows, pitch me i' the mire,
Nor lead me like a fire-brand in the dark
Out of my way, unless he bid 'em.--lb. ii. 2.
Like urchins, ouphs, and fairies. Merry Wives of Windsor, iv. 4.
Elves, urchins, goblins all, and little fairyes. Mad Pranks, etc., p.38.
Great store of goblins, fairies, bugs, nightmares, Urchins, and elves, to many a house repairs. Old Poem, in Brand, ii. 514.
Trip it, litttle urchins all. Maid's Metamorphosis.
Helping all urchin-blasts and ill-luck signs,
That the shrewd meddling elfe delights to make. Comas, 845.
Urchin is a hedgehog, as Stevens has justly observed,18 and in these lines of
Titus Andronicus (ii. 3.)
A thousand fiends, a thousand hissing snakes,
Ten thousand swelling toads, as many urchins,
it probably has this sense. We still call the echinus marinus the Sea-urchin. Still
as we have no analogy, but rather the contrary, for transferring the name of an animal to the elves, we
feel inclined to look for a different origin of the term as applied to these beings. The best or rather
only hypothesis we have met with19 is that which finds it in the hitherto unexplained word
Orcneas in Beówulf which may have been Orcenas, and if, as we have supposed20
the Anglo-Saxons sometimes pronounced c before e and i in the Italian manner, we
should have, if needed, the exact word. We would also notice the old German urkinde, which Grimm
We now come to the poets.
In Beówulf, an Anglo-Saxon poem, supposed not to be later than the seventh century, we meet with the following verse,
"Eotenas, and Ylfe,
The first of these words is evidently the same as the Iötunn or Giants of the northern
mythology; the second is as plainly its Alfar, and we surely may be excused for supposing that the last
may be the same as its Duergar.
Layamon, in the twelfth century, in his poetic paraphrase of Wace's Brut,22 thus
expands that poet's brief notice of the birth of Arthur:
"Ertur son nom; de sa bunte
Ad grant parole puis este."
So soon he came on earth,
Elves received him.
They enchanted that child
With magic most strong.
They gave him might
To be the best of all knights.
They gave him another king.
They gave him the third
That he should long live.
They gave to that kingly child
Virtues most good.
That he was most generous
Of all men alive.
This the Elves him gave,
vv 19254: seq.
If we have made any discovery of importance in the department of romantic literature, it is
our identification of Ogier le Danois with the Eddaic Helgi.23 We have shown among other points
of resemblance, that as the Norns were at the birth of the one, so the Fées were at that of the other.
With this circumstance Layamon was apparently acquainted, and when he wished to transfer it to Arthur as
the Norns were no longer known and the Fées had not yet risen into importance, there only remained for
him to employ the Elves, which had not yet acquired tiny dimensions. Hence then we see that the progress
was Norns, Elves, Fées, and these last held their place in the subsequent Fairy tales of France and
These potent Elves are still superior to the popular Fairies which we first met with in
Yet nothing in the passages in which he speaks of them leads to the inference of his
conceiving them to be of a diminutive stature. His notions, indeed, on the subject seem very vague and
unsettled; and there is something like a confusion of the Elves and Fairies of Romance, as the following
passages will show:--
The Wife of Bathes Tale is evidently a Fairy tale. It thus commences:
In oldê dayès of the king Artoúr,
Of which that Bretons speken gret honoúr,
All was this lond fulfilled of faerie;24
The Elf-quene with her joly compagnie,
Danced ful oft in many a grenè mede.
This was the old opinion as I rede;
I speke of many hundred yeres ago.
But now can no man see non elvès mo,
For now the gretè charitee and prayéres
Of limitoures, and other holy freres,
That serchen every land and every streme,
As thikke as motes in the sonnè-beme,
Blissing halles, chambres, kichenès, and boures,
Citees and burghès, castles highe, and toures,
Thropès25 and bernès, shepenes and dairiés,
This maketh that there ben no faëries;
For there as wont to walken was an elf,
There walketh now the limitour himself,
In undermelès26, and in morweninges,
And sayth his matines and his holy thinges,
As he goth in his limitatioun.
Women may now go safely up and down;
In every bush and under every tree
There is none other incubus but he,
And he ne will don hem no dishonoúr.
The Fairies therefore form a part of the tale, and they are thus introduced:
The day was come that homward must he turne;
And in his way it happed him to ride,
In all his care, under a forest side,
Wheras he saw upon a dancè go
Of ladies foure and twenty, and yet mo:
Toward this ilke dance he drow ful yerne,
In hope that he som wisdom shuldè lerne;
But certainly, er he came fully there,
Yvanished was this dance, he n'iste not wher;
No creäture saw he that barè lif,
Save on the grene he saw sitting a wif,
A fouler wight ther may no man devise.
These ladies bear a great resemblance to the Elle-maids of Scandinavia. We need hardly
inform our readers that this "foul wight" becomes the knight's deliverer from the imminent
danger he is in, and that, when he has been forced to marry her, she is changed into a beautiful young
maiden. But who or what she was the poet sayeth not.
In the Marchantes Tale we meet the Faerie attendant on Pluto and
Proserpina, their king and
queen, a sort of blending of classic and Gothic mythology:
for to tell
The beautee of the gardin, and the well
That stood under a laurer alway grene;
Ful often time he Pluto, and his quene
Proserpina, and alle hir faerie27
Disporten hem, and maken melodie
About that well, and daunced, as men told.
Again, in the same Tale:
And so befel in that bright morwe tide,
That, in the gardin, on the ferther side,
Pluto, that is the king of Faerie,
And many a ladye in his compagnie,
Folwing his wif, the quene Proserpina,
Which that he ravisshed out of Ethná,
While that she gadred floures in the mede,
(In Claudian ye may the story rede,
How that hire in his grisely carte he fette);
This king of Faërie adoun him sette
Upon a benche of turvès, fresh and grene.
... to be continued ...
In the conversation which ensues between these august personages, great knowledge of
Scripture is displayed; and the queen, speaking, of the "sapient prince," passionately
I setè nat of all the vilanie
That he of women wrote a boterflie;
I am a woman nedès moste I speke,
Or swell unto that time min hertè breke.
Some might suspect a mystery in the queen's thus
emphatically styling herself a woman, but we lay no stress
upon it, as Faire Damoselle Pertelote, the hen, who was
certainly less entitled to it, does the same.
In the Man of Lawes Tale the word Elfe is employed, but whether as equivalent to witch or
fairy is doubtful.
This lettre spake, the quene delivered was
Of so horrible a fendliche creäture,
That in the castle, non so hardy was,
That any whilè dorste therein endure.
The mother was an elfe by áventure,
Y come, by charmès or by sorcerie,
And everich man hateth hire conlpagnie.28
The Rime of Sir Thopas has been already considered as belonging to romance.
It thus appears that the works of manners-painting Chaucer give very little information
respecting the popular belief in Fairies of his day. Were it not for the sly satire of the passage, we
might be apt to suspect that, like one who lived away from the common people, he was willing to represent
the superstition as extinct--" But now can no man see non elves mo." The only trait that he
gives really characteristic of the popular elves is their love of dancing.
In the poets that intervene between Chaucer and the Maiden Reign, we do not recollect to have
noticed anything of importance respecting Fairies, except the employment, already adverted to, of that
term, and that of Elves, by translators in rendering the Latin Nymphae. Of the size of these
beings, the passages in question give no information.
But in Elizabeth's days, "Fairies," as Johnson observes, "were much in
fashion; common tradition had made them familiar, and Spenser's poem had made them great." A just
remark, no doubt, though Johnson fell into the common error of identifying Spenser's Fairies with the
The three first books of the Faerie Queene were published in 1590, and, as Warton remarks,
Fairies became a familiar and fashionable machinery with the poets and poetasters.
acquainted, from the rural habits of his early life, with the notions of the peasantry respecting these
beings, and highly gifted with the prescient power of genius, saw clearly how capable they were of being
applied to the production of a species of the wonderful, as pleasing, or perhaps even more so, than the
classic gods; and in the Midsummer-Night's Dream he presented them in combination with the heroes and
heroines of the mythic age of Greece. But what cannot the magic wand of genius effect? We view with
undisturbed delight the Elves of Gothic mythology sporting in the groves of Attica,, the legitimate
haunts of Nymphs and Satyrs.
Shakspeare, having the Faerie Queene before his eyes, seems to have attempted a blending of
the Elves of the village with the Fays of romance. His Fairies agree with the former in their diminutive
stature,--diminished, indeed, to dimensions inappreciable by village gossips,--in their fondness for
dancing, their love of cleanliness, and their child-abstracting propensities. Like the Fays, they form
a community, ruled over by the princely Oberon and the fair Titania.29 There is a court and
chivalry: Oberon would have the queen's sweet changeling to be a "Knight of his train to trace the
forest wild." Like earthly monarchs, he has his jester, "the shrewd and knavish sprite, called
The luxuriant imagination of the poet seemed to exult in pouring forth its wealth in the
production of these new actors on the mimic scene, and a profusion of poetic imagery always appears in
their train. Such lovely and truly British poetry cannot be too often brought to view; we will therefore
insert in this part of our work several of these gems of our Parnassus, distinguishing by a different
character such acts and attributes as appear properly to belong to the Fairy of popular belief.
ACT II--SCENE I. Puck and a Fairy.
Puck. How now, spirit! whither wander you? Fai. Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough briar,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire.
I do wander every where,
Swifter than the moonès sphere,
And I serve the Fairy-queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green.
The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see.
Those be rubies, fairy favours,
In those freckles live their savours.
I must go seek some dew-drops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.30
Farewell, thou lob of spirits! I'll be gone;
Our queen and all her elves come here anon. Puck. The king doth keep his revels here to-night
Take heed the queen come not within his sight;
For Oberon is passing fell and wroth,
Because that she, as her attendant, hath
A lovely boy stolen from an Indian king,--
She never had so sweet a changeling;
And jealous Oberon would have the child
Knight of his train, to trace the forests wild;
But she, perforce, withholds the loved boy,
Crowns him with flowers, and makes him all her joy;
And now they never meet in grove or green,
By fountain clear, or spangled star-light sheen,
But they do square; that all their elves, for fear,
Creep into acorn cups, and hide them there. Fai. Either I mistake your shape and making quite,
Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite
Call'd Robin Good-fellow. Are you not he
That frights the maidens of the villagery,
Skims milk, and sometimes labours in the quern,
And bootless makes the breathless housewife churn;
And sometimes makes the drink to bear no barm;
Misleads night-wanderers, laughing at their harm?
Those that Hob-goblin call you, and sweet Puck.
You do their work, and they shall have good luck,
Are not you he? Puck. Thou speakest aright,
I am that merry wanderer of the night.
I jest to Oberon, and make him smile,
When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile,
Neighing in likeness of a filly-foal;
And sometimes lurk I in a gossip's bowl,
In very likeness of a roasted crab,
And when she drinks, against her lips I bob,
And on her withered dewlap pour the ale.
The wisest aunt, telling the saddest tale,
Sometimes for three-foot stool mistaketh me:
Then slip I from her bum,--down topples she,
And tailor cries, and falls into a cough;
And then the whole quire hold their hips and loffe,
And waxen in their mirth, and neeze, and swear
A merrier hour was never wasted there.
The haunts of the Fairies on earth are the most rural and romantic that can be selected.
On hill, in dale, forest or mead,
By paved fountain, or by rushy brook,
Or on the beached margent of the sea,
To dance their ringlets to the whistling wind.
And the place of Titania's repose is
A bank whereon the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with lush woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine.
There sleeps Titania, some time of the night
Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there the snake throws her enamell'd skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in.
The powers of the poet are exerted to the utmost, to convey an idea of their minute
dimensions; and time, with them, moves on lazy pinions. "Come," cries the queen,
Come now, a roundel and a fairy song,
Then for the third part of a minute hence:
Some to kill cankers in the musk-rose buds;
Some war with rear-mice for their leathern wings,
To make my small elves coats.
And when enamoured of Bottom, she directs her Elves that they should
Hop in his walks and gambol in his eyes;
Feed him with apricocks and dewberries,
With purple grapes, green figs, and mulberries.
The honey-bags steal from the humble-bees,
And for night-tapers crop their waxen thighs,
And light them at the fiery glow-worm's eyes;
To have my love to bed, and to arise
And pluck the wings from painted butterflies,
To fan the moon-beams from his sleeping eyes.
Puck goes "swifter than arrow from the Tartar's bow;" he says, "he'II put a
girdle round about the earth in forty minutes;" and "We," says Oberon--
We the globe can compass soon,
Swifter than the wandering moon.
They are either not mortal, or their date of life is indeterminately long; they are of a
nature superior to man, and speak with contempt of human follies. By night they revel beneath the light
of the moon and stars, retiring at the approach of "Aurora's harbinger,"31> but not
compulsively like ghosts and "damned spirits."
But we (says Oberon) are spirits of another sort;
I with the morning's love have oft made sport,
And like a forester the groves may tread,
Even till the eastern gate, all fiery red,
Opening on Neptune with fair blessed beams,
Turns into yellow gold his salt-green streams.
In the Merry Wives of Windsor, we are introduced to mock-fairies,
modelled, of course, after
the real ones, but with such additions as the poet's fancy deemed itself authorised to adopt.
Act IV., Scene IV., Mrs. Page, after communicating to Mrs. Ford her plan of making the fat
knight disguise himself as the ghost of Herne the hunter, adds--
Nan Page, my daughter, and my little son,
And three or four more of their growth, we'll dress
Like urchins, ouphes,31 and fairies, green and white,
With rounds of waxen tapers on their heads,
And rattles in their hands.
* * * *
Then let them all encircle him about,
And, fairy-like, to-pinch32 the unclean knight,
And ask him why that hour of fairy revel
In their so sacred paths he dares to tread
In shape profane.
My Nan shall be the queen of all the fairies,
Finely attired in a robe of white.
In Act V., Scene V., the plot being all arranged, the Fairy rout appears, headed by Sir
Hugh, as a Satyr, by ancient Pistol as Hobgoblin, and by Dame Quickly.
Quick. Fairies black, grey, green, and white,
You moonshine revellers and shades of night,
You orphan heirs of fixed destiny,33
Attend your office and your quality.
Crier Hob-goblin, make the fairy O-yes. Pist. Elves, list your names! silence, you airy toys! Cricket, to Windsor chimneys shalt thou leap; Where fires thou findest unraked, and hearthe waswept,
There pinch the maids as blue as bilberry:
Our radiant queen hates slats and sluttery.
Fals. They are fairies; he that speaks to them shall die.
I'll wink and couch; no man their works must eye. Pist. Where's Bead?--Go you, and where you find a maid
That, ere she sleep, has thrice her prayers said,
Raise up the organs of her fantasy,
Sleep she as sound as careless infancy;
But those as sleep and think not on their sins,
Pinch them, arms, legs, backs, shoulders, sides, and shins. Quick. About, about,
Search Windsor castle, elves, within and out; Strew good luck, ouphes, on every sacred room,
That it may stand till the perpetual doom,
In state as wholesome as in state 'tis fit;
Worthy the owner, and the owner it.
The several chairs of order look you scour
With juice of balm and every precious flower;
Each fair instalment, coat, and several crest,
With loyal blazon evermore be blest; And nightly, meadow-fairies, look, you sing,
Like to the Garter's compass, in a ring:
The expressure that it bears green let it be,
More fertile-fresh than all the field to see;
And "Hony soit qui mal y pense" write,
In emerald tufts, flowers, purple, blue, and white;
Like sapphire, pearl, and rich embroidery,
Buckled below fair knighthood's bending knee:
Fairies use flowers for their charactery.
Away--disperse!--but, till 'tis one o'clock,
Our dance of custom, round about the oak
Of Herne the hunter, let us not forget. Era. Pray you, lock hand in hand, yourselves in order set,
And twenty glow-worms shall our lanterns be,
To guide our measure round about the tree;
But stay, I smell a man of middle earth. Fal. Heaven defend me from that Welsh fairy, lest
He transform me to a piece of cheese. Pist. Vile worm! thou west o'erlook'd even in thy birth. Quick. With trial fire touch we his finger-end:
If he be chaste the flame will back descend,
And turn him to no pain; but if he start,
it is the flesh of a corrupted heart. Pist. A trial, come. Eva. Come, will this wood take fire? Fal'. Oh, oh, oh! Quick. Corrupt, corrupt, and tainted in desire:
About him, fairies, sing a scornful rime;
And, as you trip, still pinch him to your time.
In Romeo and. Juliet the lively and gallant Mercutio mentions a fairy personage, who has
since attained to great celebrity, and completely dethroned Titania, we mean Queen Mab,34 a
dame of credit and renown in Faëry.
"I dreamed a dream to-night," says Romeo.
"O then," says Mercutio:
O then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies' midwife; and she comes,
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the forefinger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies,
Over men's noses as they lie asleep:
Her waggon-spokes made of long spinners' legs;
The cover, of the wings of grasshoppers;
The traces, of the smallest spider's web;
The collars of the moonshine's watery beams:
Her whip of cricket's bone; the lash of film:
Her waggoner, a small gray-coated gnat,
Not half so big as a round little worm
Prick'd from the lazy finger of a maid;
Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut,
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out of mind the fairies' coachmakers.
* * * *
This is that very Mab That pleats the manes of horses in the night;
And bakes the elf-locks in foul sluttish hairs,
Which once untangled, much misfortune bode.
This is the hag, 35 when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them.
In an exquisite and well-known passage of the Tempest, higher and more awful powers are
ascribed to the Elves: Prospero declares that by their aid he has "bedimmed the noon-tide sun;"
called forth the winds and thunder; set roaring war "twixt the green sea and the azured vault;"
shaken promontories, and plucked up pines and cedars. He thus invokes them:--
Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes, and groves;36
And ye, that on the sands with printless foot
Do chase the ebbing Neptune, and do fly him,
When he comes back; you demi-puppets that By moonshine do the green-sour ringlets make,
Whereof the ewe not bites; and you whose pastime
Is to make midnight-mushrooms, that rejoice
To hear the solemn curfew.
The other dramas of Shakspeare present a few more characteristic traits of the Fairies,
which should not be omitted.
Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
This bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then they say no spirit dares stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planet strikes, No fairy tales,37 no witch hath power to charm,
So hallow'd and so gracious is that time. Hamlet,Act i.sc. 1.
King Henry IV. wishes it could be proved,
That some night-tripping fairy had exchanged
In cradle-clothes our children where they lay,
And called mine--Percy, his--Plantagenet!
The old shepherd in the Winter's Tale, when he finds Perdita, exclaims,
It was told me, I should be rich, by the fairies: this is some changeling.
And when his son tells him it is gold that is within the "bearing-cloth," he
This is fairy-gold, boy, and 'twill prove so. We are lucky, boy, and to be so still requires nothing but secresy.38
In Cymbeline, the innocent Imogen commits herself to sleep with these words:
To your protection I commit me, gods! From fairies and the tempters of the night,
Guard me, beseech ye!
And when the two brothers see her in their cave, one cries--
But that it eats our victuals, I should think
Here were a fairy.
And thinking her to be dead, Guiderius declares--
If he be gone, he'll make his grave a bed;
With female fairies will his tomb be haunted,
And worms will not come to thee.
The Maydes Metamorphosis of Lylie was acted in 1600, the year the oldest edition we possess
of the Midsummer Night's Dream was printed. In Act II. of this piece, Mopso,
Joculo, and Frisio are on
the stage, and "Enter the Fairies singing and dancing."
By the moon we sport and play,
With the night begins our day;
As we dance the dew doth fall--
Trip it, little urchins all,
Lightly as the little bee,
Two by two, and three by three;
And about go we, and about go we. Jo. What mawmets are these? Fris. O they be the faieries that haunt these woods. Mop. O we shall be pinched most cruelly! 1st Fai. Will you have any music, sir? 2d Fai. Will you have any fine music? 3d Fai. Most dainty music? Mop. We must set a face on it now; there is no flying.
No, sir, we very much thank you. 1st Fai. O but you shall, sir. Fris. No, I pray you, save your labour. 2d Fai. O, sir! it shall not cost you a penny. Jo. Where be your fiddles? 3d Fai. You shall have most dainty instruments, sir? Mop. I pray you, what might I call you? 1st Fai. My name is Penny. Mop. I am sorry I cannot purse you. Fris. I pray you, sir, what might I call you? 2d Fai. My name is Cricket. Fris. I would I were a chimney for your sake. Jo. I pray you, you pretty little fellow, what's your name? 3d Fai. My name is little little Prick. Jo. Little little Prick? O you are a dangerous faierie!
I care not whose hand I were in, so I were out of yours. 1st Fai. I do come about the coppes.
Leaping upon flowers' toppes;
Then I get upon a fly,
She carries me about the sky,
And trip and go. 2d Fai. When a dew-drop falleth down,
And doth light upon my crown.
Then I shake my head and skip,
And about I trip. 3d Fai. When I feel a girl asleep,
Underneath her frock I peep,
There to sport, and there I play,
Then I bite her like a flea,
And about I skip. Jo. I thought where I should have you. 1st Fai. Will 't please you dance, sir? Jo. Indeed, sir, I cannot handle my legs. 2d Fai. O you must needs dance and sing,
Which if you refuse to do,
We will pinch you black and blue;
And about we go.
They all dance in a ring, and sing as followeth:
Round about, round about, in a fine ring a,
Thus we dance, thus we dance, and thus we sing a;
Trip and go, to and fro, over this green a,
All about, in and out, for our brave queen a.
Round about, round about, in a fine ring a,
Thus we dance, thus we dance, and thus we sing a;
Trip and go, to and fro, over this green a,
All about, in and out, for our brave queen a.
We have danced round about, in a fine ring a,
We have danced lustily, and thus we sing a;
All about, in and out, over this green a,
To and fro, trip and go, to our brave queen a.
The next poet, in point of time, who employs the Fairies, is worthy, long-slandered, and
maligned Ben Jonson. His beautiful entertainment of the Satyr was presented in 1603, to Anne, queen of
James I. and prince Henry, at Althorpe, the seat of Lord Spenser, on their way from Edinburgh to London.
As the queen and prince entered the park, a Satyr came forth from a "little spinet" or copse,
and having gazed the "Queen and the Prince in the face" with admiration, again retired into the
thicket; then "there came tripping up the lawn a bevy of Fairies attending on
Mab, their queen,
who, falling into an artificial ring, began to dance a round while their mistress spake as
Mab. Hail and welcome, worthiest queen!
Joy had never perfect been,
To the nymphs that haunt this green,
Had they not this evening seen. Now they print it on the ground
With their feet, in figures round;
Marks that will be ever found
To remember this glad stound. Satyr (peeping out of the bush).
Trust her not, you bonnibell,
She will forty leasings tell;
I do know her pranks right well. Mab. Satyr, we must have a spell,
For your tongue it runs too fleet. Sat. Not so nimbly as your feet,
When about the cream-bowls sweet
You and all your elves do meet. (Here he came hopping forth, and mixing himself with the Fairies, skipped in, out, and about their
circle, while they made many offers to catch him.)
This is Mab, the mistress Fairy,
That doth nightly rob the dairy;
And can hurt or kelp the churning
As she please, without discerning. 1st Fai. Pug, you will anon take warning. Sat. She that pinches country wenches,
If they rub not clean their benches,
And, with sharper nail, remembers
When they roke not up their embers;
But if so they chance to feast her,
In a shoe she drops a tester.
2d Fai. Shall we strip the skipping jester? Sat. This is she that empties cradles,
Takes out children, puts in ladles;
Trains forth midwives in their slumber,
With a sieve the holes to number,
And then leads them from her burrows,
Home through ponds and water-furrows.39 1st Fai. Shall not all this mocking stir us? Sat. She can start our Franklin's daughters
In her sleep with shouts and laughters;
And on sweet St. Anna's40 night
Feed them with a promised sight
Some of husbands, some of lovers,
Which an empty dream discovers. 1st Fai. Satyr, vengeance near you hovers.
At length Mab is provoked, and she cries out,
Fairies, pinch him black and blue.
Now you have him make him rue. Sat. O hold, mistress Mab, I sue!
Mab, when about to retire, bestows a jewel on the Queen, and concludes with,
Utter not, we you implore,
Who did give it, nor wherefore.
And whenever you restore
Yourself to us you shall have more.
Highest, happiest queen, farewell,
But, beware you do not tell.
The splendid Masque of Oberon, presented in 1610, introduces the Fays in union with the
Satyrs, Sylvans, and the rural deities of classic antiquity; but the Fay is here, as one of them says,
The coarse and country fairy,
That doth haunt the hearth and dairy;
it is Oberon, the prince of Fairy-land, who, at the crowing of the cock, advances in a
magnificent chariot drawn by white bears, attended by Knights and Fays. As the car advances, the Satyrs
begin to leap and jump, and a Sylvan thus speaks:
Give place, and silence; you were rude too late--
This is a night of greatness and of state;
Not to be mixed with light and skipping sport--
A night of homage to the British court,
And ceremony due to Arthur's chair,
From our bright master, Oberon the Fair,
Who with these knights, attendants here preserved
In Fairy-land, for good they have deserved
Of yond' high throne, are come of right to pay
Their annual vows, and all their glories lay
Another Sylvan says,
Stand forth, bright faies and elves, and tune your lay
Unto his name; then let your nimble feet
Tread subtile circles, that may always meet
in point to him.
In the Sad Shepherd, Alken says,
There in the stocks of trees white fays41 do dwell,
And span-long elves that dance about a pool,
With each a little changeling in their arms!
The Masque of Love Restored presents us "Robin Good-fellow, he that sweeps the hearth
and the house clean, riddles for the country maids, and does all their other drudgery, while they are at
hot-cockles," and he appears therefore with his broom and his canles.
In Fletcher's Faithful Shepherdess we read of
A virtuous well, about whose flowery banks
The nimble-footed fairies dance their rounds,
By the pale moonshine; dipping oftentimes
Their stolen children, so to make them free
From dying flesh and dull mortality.
And in the Little French Lawyer (iii. 1), one says, "You walk like Robin Goodfellow all
the house over, and every man afraid of you."
In Randolph's Pastoral of Amyntas, or the Impossible Dowry, a "knavish boy,"
called Dorylas, makes a fool of a "fantastique sheapherd," Jocastus, by pretending to be
Oberon, king of Fairy. In Act i., Scene 3, Jocastus' brother, Mopsus, "a foolish augur," thus
Mop. Jocastus, I love Thestylis abominably,
The mouth of my affection waters at her.
Jo. Be wary, Mopsus, learn of me to scorn
The mortals; choose a better match: go love
Some fairy lady! Princely Oberon
Shall stand thy Mend, and beauteous Mab, his queen,
Give thee a maid of honour.
Mop. How, Jocastus?
Marry a puppet? Wed a mote i' the sun?
Go look a wife in nutshells? Woo a gnat,
That's nothing but a voice? No, no, Jocastus,
I must have flesh and blood, and will have Thestylis;
A fig for fairies!
Thestylis enters, and while she and Mopsus converse, Jocastus muses. At length he
Jo. It cannot choose but strangely please his highness.
The. What are you studying of Jocastus, ha?
Jo. A rare device; a masque to entertain
His Grace of Fairy with.
The. A masque! What is 't?
Jo. An anti-masque of fleas, which I have taught
To dance corrantos on a spider's thread.
* * * *
And then a jig of pismires
Enter Dorylas. He salutes Mossus, and then
Dor. Like health unto the president of the jigs.
I hope King Oberon and his joyall Mab
Jo. They are. I never saw their Graces
Eat such a meal before.
Dor. E'en much good do 't them!
Jo. They're rid a hunting.
Dor. Hare or deer, my lord?
Jo. Neither. A brace of snails of the first head.
Act I.--SCENE 6.
Jo. Is it not a brave sight, Dorylas? Can the mortals
Caper so nimbly?
Dor. Verily they cannot
Jo. Does not King Oberon bear a stately presence?
Mab is a beauteous empress.
Dor. Yet you kissed her
With admirable courtship.
Jo. I do think
There will be of Jocastus' brood in Fairy.
* * *
The. But what estate shall he assure upon me?
Jo. A royal jointure, all in Fairyland.
* * *
Dorylas knows it.
A curious park--
Dor. Paled round about with pickteeth.
Jo. Besides a house made all of mother-of-pearl,
An ivory tennis-court.
Dor. A nutmeg parlour.
Jo. A sapphire dairy-room.
Dor. A ginger hall.
Jo. Chambers of agate.
Dor. Kitchens all of crystal
Am. O admirable! This it is for certain.
Jo. The jacks are gold.
Dor. The spits are Spanish needles.
Jo. Then there be walks--
Dor. Of amber.
Jo. Curious orchards--
Dor. That bear as well in winter as in summer.
Jo. 'Bove all, the fish-ponds, every pond is full--
Dor. Of nectar? Will this please you! Every grove
Stored with delightful birds.
Act IlI--SCENE 2.
Have at Jocastus' orchard! Dainty apples,
How lovely they look! Why these are Dorylas' sweetmeats.
Now must I be the princely Oberon,
And in a royal humour with the rest
Of royal fairies attendant, go in state
To rob an orchard. I have hid my robes
On purpose in a hollow tree.
Act III--SCENE 4.
Dorylas with a bevy of Fairies.
Dor. How like you now, my Grace? Is not my countenance
Royal and full of majesty? Walk not I
Like the young prince of pygmies? Ha, my knaves,
We'll fill our pockets. Look, look yonder, elves;
Would not yon apples tempt a better conscience
Than any we have, to rob an orchard? Ha!
Fairies, like nymphs with child, must have the things
They long for. You sing here a fairy catch
In that strange tongue I taught you, while ourself
Do climb the trees., Thus princely Oberon
Ascends his throne of state.
Elves. Nos beata Fauni proles,
Quibus non eat magna moles,
Quamvis Lunam incolamus.
Hortos saepe frequentamus.
Furto cuncta magis bella,
Furto dulcior puella,
Furto omnia decora,
Furto poma dulciora.
Cum mortales lecto jacent,
Nobis poma noctu placent;
Illa tamen sunt ingrata
Nisi furto sint parata.
Jocastus and his man Bromius come upon the Elves while plundering the orchard: the latter is
for employing his cudgel on the occasion, but Jocastus is overwhelmed by the condescension of the princely
Oberon in coming to his orchard, when
His Grace had orchards of his own more precious
Than mortals can have any.
The Elves, by his master's permission, pinch Bromius, singing,
Quoniam per te violarnur,
Ungues hic experiamur;
Statim dices tibi datam
Cutem valde variatam.
Finally, when the coast is clear, Oberon cries,
So we are got clean off; come, noble peers
Of Fairy, come, attend our royal Grace.
Let's go and share our fruit with our queen Mab
And the other dairy-maids; where of this theme
We will discourse amidst our cakes and cream.
Cum tot poma habeamus,
Triumphos laeti jam canamus;
Faunos ego credam ortos,
Tantum ut frequentent hortos.
I domum, Oberon, ad illas,
Qum nos manent nunc, ancillas,
Quarum osculemur sinum,
Inter poma lac et vinum.
In the old play of Fuimus Troes are the following lines:42
Two foot tall,
With caps red
On their head,
On the ground.
The pastoral poets also employed the Fairy Mythology. Had they used it exclusively, giving
up the Nymphs, Satyrs, and all the rural rout of antiquity, and joined with it faithful pictures of the
scenery England then presented, with just delineations of the manners and character of the peasantry, the
pastoral poetry of that age would have been as unrivalled as its drama. But a blind admiration of classic
models, and a fondness for allegory, were the beset. ting sins of the poets. They have, however, left a
few gems in this way.
Britannia's Pastorals furnish the following passages:43
Near to this wood there lay a pleasant mead,
Where fairies often did their measures tread,
Which in the meadows made such circles green,
As if with garlands it had crowned been;
Or like the circle where the signs we track,
And learned shepherds call 't the Zodiac;
Within one of these rounds was to be seen
A hillock rise, where oft the fairy-queen
At twilight sate, and did command her elves
To pinch those maids that had not swept their shelves;
And, further, if by maiden's oversight,
Within doors water was not brought at night,
Or if they spread no table, set no bread,
They should have nips from toe unto the head;
And for the maid who had perform'd each thing,
She in the water-pail bade leave a ring.
Or of the faiery troops which nimbly play,
And by the springs dance out the summer's day,
Teaching the little birds to build their nests,
And in their singing how to keepen rests.
As men by fairies led fallen in a dream.
In his Shepherd's Pipe, also, Brown thus speaks of the Fairies:--
Many times he hath been seen
With the fairies on the green,
And to them his pipe did sound
While they danced in a round.
Mickle solace they would make him,
And at midnight often wake him
And convey him from his room
To a field of yellow-broom;
Or into the meadows where
Mints perfume the gentle air,
And where Flora spreads her treasure;
There they would begin their measure.
If it chanced night's sable shrouds
Mused Cynthia up in clouds,
Safely home they then would see him,
And from brakes and quagmires free him.
But Drayton is the poet after Shakespeare for whom the Fairies had the greatest attractions.
Even in the Polyobion he does not neglect them. In Song xxi., Ringdale, in Cambridgeshire, says,
For in my very midst there is a swelling ground
About which Ceres' nymphs dance many a wanton round;
The frisking fairy there, as on the light air borne,
Oft run at barley-break upon the ears of corn;
And catching drops of dew in their lascivious chases.
Do cast the liquid pearl in one another's faces.
And in Song iv., he had spoken of
The feasts that underground the faery did him (Arthur) make,
And there how he enjoyed the Lady of the Lake.
Nymphidia is a delicious piece of airy and fanciful invention. The description of Oberon's
palace in the air, Mab's amours with the gentle Pigwiggin, the mad freaks of the jealous Oberon, the
pygmy Orlando, the mutual artifices of Puck and the Fairy maids of honour, Hop, Mop, Pip, Trip, and
Co., and the furious combat of Oberon and the doughty Pigwiggin, mounted on their earwig chargers--
present altogether an unequalled fancy-piece, set in the very best and most appropriate frame of metre.
It contains, moreover, several traits of traditionary Fairy lore, such as in these lines:
Hence shadows, seeming idle shapes
Of little frisking elves and apes,
To earth do make their wanton skapes
As hope of pastime hastes them;
Which maids think on the hearth they see,
When fires well near consumed be,
There dancing hays by two and three,
Just as their fancy casts them.44
These make our girls their sluttery rue,
By pinching them both black and blue,
And put a penny in their shoe,
The house for cleanly sweeping;
And in their courses make that round,
In meadows and in marshes found,
Of them so call'd the fairy ground,
Of which they have the keeping.
These, when a child haps to be got,
That after proves an idiot,
When folk perceive it thriveth not,
The fault therein to smother,
Some silly, doating, brainless calf;
That understands things by the half;
Says that the fairy left this aulf;
And took away the other.
And in these:
Scarce set on shore but therewithal
He meeteth Puck, whom most men call
Hobgoblin, and on him doth fail
With words from frenzy spoken;
"Ho! ho!" quoth Puck, "God save your Grace!
Who drest you in this piteous case?
He thus that spoiled my sovereign's face,
I would his neck were broken.
This Puck seems but a dreaming dolt,
Still walking like a ragged colt,
And oft out of a bush doth bolt,
Of purpose to deceive us;
And leading us, makes us to stray
Long winter nights out of the way;
And when we stick in mire and clay,
He doth with laughter leave us.
In his Poet's Elysium there is some beautiful Fairy poetry, which we do not recollect to
have seen noticed any where. This work is divided into ten Nymphals, or pastoral dialogues. The Poet's
Elysium is, we are told, a paradise upon earth, inhabited by Poets, Nymphs, and the Muses.
The poet's paradise this is,
To which but few can come,
The Muses' only bower of bliss,
Their dear Elysium.
In the eighth Nymphal,
A nymph is married to a fay,
Great preparations for the day,
All rites of nuptials they recite you
To the bridal, and invite you.
The dialogue commences between the nymphs Mertilla and Claia:
M. But will our Tita wed this fay?
C. Yes, and to-morrow is the day.
M. But why should she bestow herself
Upon this dwarfish fairy elf?
C. Why, by her smallness, you may find
That she is of the fairy kind;
And therefore apt to choose her make
Whence she did her beginning take;
Besides he's deft and wondrous airy,
And of the noblest of the fairy,45
Chief of the Crickets,46 of much fame,
In Fairy a most ancient name.
The nymphs now proceed. to describe the bridal array of Tita: her jewels are to be
dew-drops; her head-dress the "yellows in the full-blown rose;" her gown
Of pansy, pink, and primrose leaves,
Most curiously laid on in threaves;
her train the "cast slough of a snake;" her canopy composed of "moons from the
peacock's tail," and. "feathers from the pheasant's head;"
Mix'd with the plume (of so high price),
The precious bird of paradise;
and it shall be
Borne o'er our head (by our inquiry)
By elfs, the fittest of the fairy.
Her buskins of the "dainty shell" of the lady-cow. The musicians are to be the
nightingale, lark, thrush, and other songsters of the grove.
But for still music, we will keep
The wren and titmouse, which to sleep
Shall sing the bride when she's alone,
The rest into their chambers gone;
And like those upon ropes that walk
On gossamer from stalk to stalk,
The tripping fairy tricks shall play
The evening of the wedding day.
Finally, the bride-bed is to be of roses; the curtains, tester, and all, of the "flower
imperial;" the fringe hung with harebells; the pillows of lilies, "with down stuft of the
For our Tita is to-day,
To be married to a fay.
In Nymphal iii.,
The fairies are hopping,
The small flowers cropping,
And with dew dropping,
Skip thorow the greaves.
At barley-break they play
Merrily all the day:
At night themselves they lay
Upon the soft leaves.
And in Nymphal vi. the forester says,
The dryads, hamadryads, the satyrs, and the fawns,
Oft play at hide-and-seek before me on the lawns;
The frisking fairy oft, when horned Cynthia shines,
Before me as I walk dance wanton matachines.
Herrick is generally regarded as the Fairy-poet, par excellence; but, in our opinion,
without sufficient reason, for Drayton's Fairy pieces are much superior to his. Indeed Herrick's Fairy-
poetry is by no means his best; and we doubt if he has anything to exceed. in that way, or perhaps equal,
the light and fanciful King Oberon's Apparel of Smith.47
Milton disdained not to sing
How faery Mab the junkets eat.
She was pinch'd and pull'd, she said;
And he, by friar's lantern led,48
Tells how the drudging Goblin sweat
To earn his cream bowl duly set,
When in one night, ere glimpse of morn,
His shadowy flail bath thresh'd the corn
That ten day-labourers could not end;
Then lies him down, the lubber fiend,
And stretch'd out all the chimney's length,
Beaks at the fire his hairy dtrength,
And, crop-full, out of doors he flings,
Era the first cock his matin rings.
Regardless of Mr. Gifford's sneer at "those who may undertake the unprofitable drudgery
of tracing out the property of every word, and phrase, and idea in Milton,"49 we will
venture to trace a little here, and beg the reader to compare this passage with one quoted above from
Harsenet, and to say if the resemblance be accidental. The truth is, Milton, reared in London, probably
knew the popular superstitions chiefly or altogether from books; and almost every idea in this passage
may be found in books that he must have read.
In the hands of Dryden the Elves of Chaucer lose their indefiniteness. In the opening of the
Wife of Bath her Tale,
The king of elves and little fairy queen
Gamboled on heaths and danced on every green.
In vain the dairy now with mint is dressed,
The dairy-maid expects no fairy guest
To skim the bowls, and after pay the feast.
She sighs, and shakes her empty shoes in vain,
No silver penny to reward her pain.
In the Flower and the Leaf, unauthorised by the old bard, he makes the knights and dames,
the servants of the Daisy and of the Agnus Castus, Fairies, subject, like the Italian Fate, to
Pope took equal liberties with his original, as may be seen by a comparison of the following
verses with those quoted above:
About this spring, if ancient fame say true,
The dapper elves their moonlight sports pursae:
Their pigmy king and little fairy queen
In circling dances gamboled on the green,
While tuneful sprites a merry concert made,
And airy music warbled through the shade.
January and May, 459.
It so befel, in that fair morning tide,
The fairies sported on the garden's side,
And in the midst their monarch and his bride.
So featly tripp'd the light-foot ladies round,
The knight so nimbly o'er the greensward bound,
That scarce they bent the flowers or touch'd the ground.
The dances ended, all the fairy train
For pinks and daisies search'd the flowery plain.50
With the Kensington Garden51 of Tickell, Pope's contemporary, our Fairy-poetry
may be said to have terminated.52 Collins, Beattie, and a few other poets of the last century
make occasional allusions to it, and some attempts to revive it have been made in the present century.
But vain are such efforts, the belief is gone, and divested of it such poetry can produce no effect. The
Fairies have shared the fate of the gods of ancient Hellas.
1. Probably pronounced Poke, as still in Worcestershire. Our ancestors
frequently used ou or oo for the long o while they expressed the sound of oc
by o followed by e, as rote root, coke cook, more moor, pole
2. Passus xvii. v. ll,323 seq. ed. 1842. Comp. vv. 8363, 9300, 10,902.
3. Mr. Todd is right, in reading pouke for ponke, an evident typographic error: wrong in
saying, " He is the Fairy, Robin Good-fellow, known by the name of Puck." Robin is the
"hob-goblin" mentioned two lines after.
4. We know nothing of the Oriental origin of Puck, and cannot give our full assent to the character of
our ancestry, as expressed in the remaining part of Mr. Gifford's note: "but a fiend engendered in
the moody minds, and rude and gloomy fancies of the barbarous invaders of the North." It is full
time to have done with describing the old Gothic race as savages.
5. Der Putz würde uns über berg und thäler tragen. To frighten children they say Der Butz
kommt! see Grimm, Deut. Mythol. p. 474.
6. The former made by adding the Anglo-Saxon and English el, ie; the latter by adding the English art.
7. By Sir F. Palgrave, from whose article In the Quarterly Review, we have derived many of the terms
named above. He adds that the Anglo-Saxon paecan is to deceive, seduce; the Low-Saxon
picken to gambol; pickeln to play the fool; pukra in lcelandic to make a murmuring
noise, to steal secretly; and pukke in Danish to scold. He further adds the Swedish poika
boy, the Anglo-Saxon and Swedish piga and Danish pige girl. If, however, Pouke is connected
with the Sclavonic Bog, these at the most can be only derivations from it. By the way boy itself
seems to be one of these terms; the Anglo-Saxon piga was probably pronounced piya,and a
is a masculine termination in that language.
8. In Low German, however, the Kobold is called Bullmann, Bullermann, Bullerkater, from bullen,
bullern, to knock: see Grimm, et sup. p.473.
9. Essay on the Ignis Fatuus, quoted by Thoms.
10. And you whose pastime
Is to make midnight mushrooms.--Tempest, v. 1.
11. Jack-o'-the-lanthorn, Will-o'-the-wisp. In Worcestershire they call it Hob-and-his-lanthorn, and
Hobany's--or Hobredy's-lanthorn. Allies, ut sup.
12. Knight of the Burning Pestle
13. Ard is the German hart, and is, like it, depreciatory. It is not an Anglo-Saxon
termination, but from the Anglo-Saxon dull, we have dullard. May not haggard be
hawk-ard, and the French hagard be derived from it, and not the reverse?
14. For in Anglo-Saxon áttorcoppe (Poison-head?) is spider, and from áttorcoppe-web, by
the usual aphoeresis of the two first syllables we put coppeweb, cobweb. May not the same have
been the case with lob? and may not the nasty bug be in a similar manner connected with
Puck? As dvergsnat is in Swedish a cobweb, one might be tempted to suppose that this last, for
which no good etymon has been offered, was lob-web; but the true etymon is cop-web, from
its usual site.
Upon the cop right of his nose he hedde
A wert .--Chaucer, Cant. Tales, v. 556.
15. Deut. Mythol. p. 492.
16. See France. In is a mere termination, perhaps. like on, a diminutive, as in
Catin Kate, Robin Bob. Lutin was also spelt. Luyton.
17. The two lines which follow
Fro the nightes mare the witè Paternoster!
Where wonest thou Seint Peter's suster?
are rather perplexing. We would explain them thus. Bergerac, as quoted by Brand (Pop. Antiq. i. 312.
Bohn's edit.) makes a magician say "I teach the shepherds the wolf's paternoster," i.e.
one that keeps off the wolf. Wite may then be i. q. wight, and wight paternoster
be a safeguard against the wights, and we would read the verse thus: "Fro the nightes mare the
wite paternoster" ac. blisse it or us. St. Peter's suster, i. e. wife (see
1 Cor. ix. 5) may have been canonised in the popular creed, and held to be potent against evil beings.
The term suster was used probably to obviate the scandal of supposing the first Pope to have been
a married man. This charm is given at greater length and with some variations by Cartwright in his
Ordinary, Act iii. sc.
18. He derives it from the French oursin.
19. Athenaeum, Oct. 9, 1847
20. Hist. of England, 1. 478, 8vo edit.
21. Deut. Mythol. p. 419
22. Layamon's Brut, etc., by Sir Frederick Madden.
23. Tales and Popular Fictions, ch. viii. We do not wonder that this should have eluded previous
observation, but it is really surprising that we should have been the first to observe the resemblance
between Ariosto's tale of Giocondo and the introductory tale of the Thousand and One Nights. It is also
strange that no one should have noticed the similarity between Ossian's Carthon and the tale of Soohrab
in the Shah-nameh.
24. Both here and lower down we would take faêrie in its first sense.
25. Thrope, thorpe, or dorp, is a village, the German dorf; Dutch dorp; we may
still find it in the names of places, as Althorpe. Dorp' occurs frequently in Drayton's
Polyolbion; it is also usell by Dryden, Hind and Panther, v. l905.
26. Undermeles, i. e. undertide (p. 51), aftermeal, afternoon.
27. This is the third sense of Faerie. In the next passage it is doubtful whether it be the second
or third sense; we think the latter.
This wife which is fairie,
Of such a childe delivered is,
Fro kindè which stante all amis.
Gower, Legende of Constance
29. The derivation of Oberon has been already given. The Shakspearean commentators have not thought fit
to inform us why the poet designates the Fairy-queen, Titania. It, however, presents no difficulty. It
was the belief of those days that the Fairies were the same as the classic Nymphs, the attendants of
Diana: "That fourth kind of spiritis," says King James, "quhilk be the gentilis was called
Diana, and her wandering court, and amongst us called the Phairie." The Fairy-queen was
therefore the same as Diana, whom Ovid (Met. iii. 173) styles Titania; Chaucer, as we have seen, calls
'Twas I that led you through the painted meads,
Where the light Fairies danced upon the flowers,
Hanging on every leaf an orient pearl.
Wisdom of Dr. Dodypoll, 1600. Stevens.
Men of fashion, in that age, wore earrings.
And the yellow-skirted Fayes
Fly after the night-steeds, leaving their moon-loved maze.
MILTON, Ode on the Nativity, 235.
32. Ouph, Steevens complacently tells us, in the Teutonic language, is a fairy; if by Teutonic he
means the German, and we know of no other, he merely showed his ignorance. Ouph is the same as oaf
(formerly spelt aulf), and is probably to be pronounced in the same manner. It is formed from
elf by the usual change of l into u.
33. After all the commentators have written, this line is still nearly unintelligible to us. It may
relate to the supposed origin of the fairies. For orphan, Warburton conjectured ouphen,
34. The origin of Mab is very uncertain; it maybe a contraction of Habundia, see below France.
"Mab," says Voss, one of the German translators of Shakspeare, "is not the Fairy-queen,
the same with Titania, as some, misled by the word queen, have thought. That word in old English,
as in Danish, designates the female sex." Voss is perhaps right and elf-queen may have been
used in the same manner as the Danish Elle-quinde, Elle-kone for the female Elf. We find Phaer
using Fairy-queen, as a translation for Nympha.
35. i. e, Night-mare. "Many times," says Gull the fairy, "I get on men and women,
and so lie on their stomachs, that I cause them great pain; for which they call me by the name of Hagge
or Night-mare." Merry Pranks, etc. p.42
Auraeque et venti, montesque, amnesque, lacuaque,
Dique omnes nemorum, dique omnes noctis, adeste.
Ovid, Met. 1. vii. 190.
Ye ayres and winds, ye elves of hills, of brooks, of woods, alone,
Of standing lakes, and of the night--approach ye everich one.
Golding seems to have regarded, by chance or with knowledge, the Elves as a higher species than the
Fairies. Misled by the word elves, Shakspeare makes sad confusion of classic and Gothic
37. Take signifies here, to strike, to injure.
And there he blasts the tree and takes the cattle.
Merry Wives of Windsor, iv. 4
Thou farest as fruit that with the frost is taken.
Surrey, Poems, p. 13, AId, edit.
In our old poetry take also signifies, to give.
But not a word of it,--'tis fairies' treasure,
Which but revealed brings on the blabber's ruin.
MASSINGER, Fatal Dowry, Act iv. sc. 1.
A prince's secrets are like fairy favours,
Wholesome if kept, but poison if discovered.
Honest Man's Fortune.
39. We do not recollect having met with any account of this prank; but Jonson is usually so correct, that
we may be certain it was a part of the popular belief.
40. Whalley was certainly right in proposing to road Agnes. This ceremony is, we believe, still practised
in the north of England on St. Agnes' night. See Brand, i. 34.
41. Shakespeare gives different colours to the Fairies; and in some places they are still thought to be
42. Act i. Sc. 5. Dodsley's Old Plays, vii. p. 394. We quote this as the first notice we have met of the
red caps of the fairies.
43. Brown, their author, was a native of Devon, the Pixy region; hence their accordance with the Pixy
legends given above.
44. This is perhaps the dancing on the hearth of the fairy-ladies to which Milton alludes: "Doth not
the warm zeal of an Englishman's devotion make them maintain and defend the social hearth as the
sanctuary and chief place of residence of the tutelary lares and household gods, and the only court where
the lady-fairies convene to dance and revel!"--Paradoxical Assertions, etc. 1664, quoted by
Brand, ii. p. 504.
45. The reader will observe that the third sense of Fairy is the most usual one in Drayton. It occurs in
its second sense two lines further on, twice in Nymphidia, and in the following passage of his third
For learned Colin (Spenser) lays his pipes to gage,
And is to Fayrie gone a pilgrimage,
The more our moan.
46. Mr. Chalmers does not seem to have known that the Crickets were a family of note in Fairy. Shakapeare (Merry Wives of Windsor) mentions a Fairy named Cricket; and no hint of Shakspeare's was lost
47. In the Musarum Deliciae.
48. This is a palpable mistake of the poet's. The Friar is the celebrated Friar Rush, who haunted houses,
not fields, and was never the same with Jack-o'-the-Lanthorn. It was probably the name Rush, which
suggested rushlight, that caused Milton's error. He is the Brüder Rausch of Germany, the Broder
Ruus of Denmark. His name is either as Grimm thinks, noise, or as Wolf (Von Bruodor Rauschen, p.
xxviii.) deems drunkenness, our old word, rouse. Sir Walter Scott in a note on Marmion,
says also "Friar Rush, alias Wili-o'-the-Wisp. He was also a sort of Robin Goodfellow and
Jack-o'-Lanthorn," which is making precious confusion. Reginald Scot more correctly describes him
as being "for all the world such another fellow as this Hudgin," i.e. Hödeken.
49. Ben jonson's Works, vol. ii. p. 499. We shall never cease to regret that the state to which literature
has come in this country almost precludes even a hope of our ever being able to publish our meditated
edition of Milton's poems for which we have been collecting materials these five and twenty years. It
would have been very different from Todd's. [Published in 1859.]
50. Evidently drawn from Dryden's Flower and Leaf.
51. We meet here for the last time with Fairy in its collective sense, or rather, perhaps, as the
All Fairy shouted with a general voice.
52. In Mr. Halliwell's Illustrations of Fairy Mythology, will be found a good deal of Fairy poetry, for
which we have not had space in this work.