The Origin of the Fairies.

I have heard a wondrous old relation,1
How the Fairies first came to our nation ;2
A tale of glamour, and yet of glee,3
Of fervour, of love, and of mystery.4
I do not vouch for its certain truth,5
But I know I believed it in my youth ;6
And envied much the enchanted Knight,7
Who enjoy’d such beauty and pure delight.8
I will tell it now, and interlard it9
With thoughts with which I still regard it,10
And feelings with which first I heard it.11
The Knight of Dumblane is a hunting gone, 12
With his hey ! and his ho ! and hallo !13
And he met a merry maid alone,14
In the light green and the yellow.15
That maiden’s eyes were the pearls of dew,16
And her cheek the moss-rose opening new ;17
Her smile was the sun-blink on the brae,18
When the shower is past, and the cloud away.19
And then her form was so light and fair,20
That it seem’d to lean on the ambient air ;21
So very blithesome and so boon,22
That the Knight was afraid it would fade too soon ;23
Mount on the ether from human ken,24
Or melt away in the breeze of the glen.25
His frame thrill’d to the very core26
When he saw that beauty stand him before,27
With the gleam of joy on her brow so meek,28
And the dimple on her damask cheek.29
And then so ripe was her honey lip,30
That the wild-bee, lingering, long’d to sip ;31
And the merl came by with an eye of guile,32
For he hover’d and lighted down a while33
On the snowy veil in which she was dress’d,34
To pick the strawberries from her breast.35
O was there aught below the heaven36
I would not have done, or would not have given,37
To have been the Knight of Dumblane that day !—38
But ’twas better for me that I was away.39
The Knight came nigh, and essay’d to speak,40
But the glamour of love was on his cheek ;41
And a single word he could not say,42
For his tongue in thirsty silence lay.43
But he doff’d his cap from his manly brow,44
And he bow’d as low as a knight could bow,45
Then stood with his velvet cap in hand,46
As waiting for the maiden’s command.47
Sure this was witless as could have been,48
I cannot conceive what the Knight could mean ;49
For had I been there, in right or wrong,50
As sure as I sing you this song,51
I would, as the most due respect,52
Have twined my arms around her neck ;53
And sure as man e’er woo’d a maid,54
Have row’d her in my shepherd plaid,55
And in token of my high regard,56
Have set her down on the flowery sward,57
And if some discourse had not begun,58
Either in quarrel or in fun,59
Take never a shepherd’s word again,60
And count my skill in wooing vain ;61
All this I would have done with speed62
But for ever would have rued the deed.63
Oh, never was knight so far o’ercome64
As he who now stood blushing and dumb65
Before this maid of the moorland brake,66
With the cherub eye and the angel make,67
At first no higher his glance was thrown68
Than the flowery heath that her foot stood on ;69
When by degrees it embraced her toe,70
But over the ankle durst not go ;71
Till at length he stammer’d out modestly,72
Pray—madam—have you—any commands for me ?”73
Shame fa’ the Knight !  I do declare74
I have no patience with him to bear ;75
For I would have look’d, as a man should do,76
From the shoe-tie to the glancing brow ;77
Nay, from the toe’s bewitching station78
Even to the organ of veneration.79
For what avails the loveliest face,80
Or form of the most bewitching grace,81
Which on earth are made for man alone,82
If they are not to be look’d upon ?83
Yes, I would have look’d till my sight had rack’d,84
And the very organs of vision crack’d,85
And I would have sworn, as a man should swear,86
That I never saw virgin half so fair :87
This I had done, despite all pain,88
But, ah ! I never had done it again !89
But the maid was delighted beyond expression90
To mark the young Knight’s prepossession,91
And with a smile that might have given92
Some pangs even to a thing of heaven,93
She took so moying a position94
That set his soul in full ignition :95
One limb alone scarce press’d the ground,96
The other twined her ankle round;97
Her lovely face was upward cast ;98
Her sunny locks waved in the blast ;99
And really she appear’d to be100
A being divine—about to flee101
Away from this world of self and sin,102
A lovelier, holier clime to win.103
No posture with that can ever compare104
What a mercy that I was not there !105
But he raised his eyes as hers withdrew,106
And of her form got one full view :107
The taper limb, and the slender waist,108
The modest mould of her virgin breast,109
The lips just opening with a smile,110
And that eye upraised to heaven the while ;111
The purple tides were seen to entwine112
In a thousand veins all crystalline !113
Enough !  The sequence is too true :114
For though the Knight got but one view,115
One full intoxicating look,116
It was more than his fond heart could brook ;117
For on the ground he fell as dead118
As he had been shot out through the head.119
Now this was rather a sad o’erthrow ;120
I don’t think I would have fallen so ;121
For though a lovely virgin face122
Has sometimes put me in piteous case,123
Has made me shed salt tears outright,124
And sob like the wind on a winter night,125
Nay, thrown me into a burning fever,126
Yet I never just went off altogether ;127
But I have reason, without a flam,128
Thankful to be—and so I am129
That I was spared the illusive sight130
That was seen by that enchanted Knight.131
Now it seems that the maiden to fear began132
For the life of that young and comely man ;133
And every art essay’d to try134
To make him uplift his amorous eye.135
But in reality, or in mime,136
The swoon continued a weary time.137
And better had it been if he had never138
Re-open’d his eyes, but slept for ever ; 139
For when next they awoke on the light of day,140
His cheek on the maiden’s bosom lay.141
He felt its warmth new life impart,142
And the gentle throbs of her beating heart ;143
He felt beneath his aching head,144
The enchanting mould that had laid him dead ;145
He felt her hand his temples chafing,146
And every tenderness vouchsafing ;147
He lifted his head—he hid his face148
And stole his cheek from that witching place ;149
Yet still he cast, though disinclined,150
A longing, lingering glance behind,151
Where he saw—but I dare not describe the view,152
For if you are a man it will kill you too ;153
If you are a woman, and lovely bride,154
You will turn up your nose in disdain and pride.155
If you are not, without a frown,156
You will laugh at the Knight till you fall down ;157
For true it is, when the Knight had seen158
The beauteous bed where his cheek had been,159
The blush, and the smile, and the lucid vein,160
He gave one shriek, with might and main,161
Then shiver’d a space—and died again !162
From that time forth, if I durst tell,163
Unto that Knight such hap befell,164
As never was own’d by mortal man,165
And never was told since tales began.166
He got his wish—It proved a dear one,167
It is an old story, and a queer one ;168
But free of fear, and free of fetter,169
I’ll tell it out even to the letter170
The wilder ’tis I love it the better171
We all have heard the maxim old,172
That a tale of truth should aye be told ;173
For nothing in nature happen can,174
That may not a lesson prove to man :175
Now this is true:—Yet things, we ken,176
Oft happen between the women and men,177
So wild, romantic, and precarious,178
So complicated, and contrarious ;179
So full of passion and of pain,180
They scarcely can bear to be told again.181
Then think of love ’twixt a mortal creature,182
And a being of another nature !183
The Knight was lost—that very morn,184
Rung the last peal of his hunting horn ;185
His comrades range the mountain reign,186
And call his name, but call in vain ;187
From his hawks and his hounds he is borne away,188
And lost for a twelvemonth and a day ;189
And all that time, he lived but to prove190
The new delights and the joys of love191
His mistress, a pattern of sweetness and duty,192
And her home a palace of splendour and beauty.193
But whether it was in the sinful clime194
That bounds mortality and time,195
In a land below, or a land above,196
In a bower of the moon, or the star of love,197
He never could fathom or invent,198
Or the way that he came, or the way that he went ;199
But he ween’d, from his love’s aerial nature,200
That she barely could be a mortal creature.201
And every night in his ears there rung202
The accents sweet of the female tongue ;203
Light sounds of joy through the dome were ringing204
There was laughing, dancing, harping, singing ;205
But foot of man in the halls was none,206
Nor sound of voice but his own alone :207
While every night his beloved dame208
In new array to his chamber came ;209
And, save herself, by day or night,210
No other form ever met his sight.211
So ween’d the Knight ; but his mind was shaken,212
And, alas ! how far he was mistaken !213
For love’s full overwhelming tide214
O’er the mind of man is hard to bide.215
Yet this full fraught of delirious joy,216
Without reverse and without alloy,217
I would once have liked to have essay’d,218
But at last—how I had been dismay’d !219
The times soon changed, for by slow decay,220
The sounds of joy were melted away221
To a tremulous strain of tender wailing222
Of sufferings for a former failing ;223
While something was sung, in a plaintive key,224
Of a most mysterious tendency,225
Of beings, who were not of the earth,226
To human creatures giving birth ;227
Of seven pure beings of purity shorn,228
Of seven babies that might be born,229
The nurslings of another clime,230
By creatures of immortal prime,231
Of the mother’s thrilling fears, and more232
Of the dark uncertainty before !233
The Knight then dreaded, as well might he,234
That things were not as things should be,235
And a hearty wish rose in his mind,236
That he were at the home he left behind.237
To wish, and to have, in the charmed ring238
Of that sweet dome, was the self-same thing ;239
For the Knight awaken’d, as from a dream,240
And he stood by the wild and mossy stream,241
Where first he felt the bewitching power242
Of the beauteous maid at the morning hour,243
Where he fell a victim to beauty’s charms,244
And died of love in a virgin’s arms !245
He sought his halls and-his stately bower,246
But a solemn stillness seem’d to lour247
Around his towers and turrets high :248
His favourite hound would not come nigh,249
But kept aloof with a murmuring growl,250
And a terror his heart could not control ;251
For he prick’d up his ears, and snuff’d the wind,252
Though he heard his master’s voice behind,253
Then fled with his bristles of dread unfurl’d,254
As from a thing of another world.255
And every maiden, and every man,256
Away from their master in terror ran ;257
While his aged mother, in weeds of wo,258
Conjured him solemnly to go.259
Back to his grave, and his place of rest !260
For her mind with terror was sore oppress’d.261
But there he remain’d, and once again262
Was hail’d as the true Knight of Dumblane.263
But, oh ! how changed in every feature,264
And all the vehemencies of his nature,265
As if an eagle from cliffs above266
Had been changed into a plaintive dove ;267
From a knight of courage and of glee,268
He was grown a thing of perplexity,269
Absent and moping, puling, panting,270
A vacant gaze, and the heart awanting :271
Earth had no pleasures for his eye,272
When he thought of the joys that were gone by.273
This to some natures may be genial,274
Or, as a failing, counted venial ;275
For me, I judge the prudent way,276
Let past time have been what it may,277
Is to make the most, with thankful mind,278
Of that which still remains behind.279
The Knight lived on as scarce aware,280
How long I neither know nor care,281
Till at the last, one lovely morn,282
The fairest lady that ever was born283
Came into his bower with courtesy bland,284
And a lovely boy was in either hand ;285
Two tiny elves alike, not less286
Than twin flowers of the wilderness.287
Thou art my lord, my own true knight,288
Whose love was once my sole delight.289
Oh, I recall—how can I not ?—290
That morning never to be forgot,291
When I met thee first. with horn and hound292
Upon the moor to the hunting bound,293
When thy steed like lightning fled away,294
And thy staghound howl’d and would not stay ;295
Thou stolest the heart that never had birth,296
The heart of a being not of this earth :297
And what is more, that heart to wring,298
The virtue of an immortal thing.299
Dost thou own these babes in the gold and green,300
The loveliest twins that the world has seen ;301
Wilt thou here acknowledge us as thine own,302
Or bear the brunt of our malison ?”303
Then the Knight shed tears of joy apace304
At seeing again that lovely face ;305
And his heart with love was sore oppress’d306
As he folded the fair dame to his breast :307
Thou art my lady love,” said he,308
And I never loved another but thee !’309
Alas, how blind are earthly eyes310
To those that are lighted by other skies,311
By other breezes, untainted by sin,312
And by other spirits that dwell within,313
Well might thy raptures of pleasures be314
Sublimed by creatures such as we :”315
The lady said with an eye of shame,316
When enter’d another most comely dame,317
As like to the first as she could be,318
As like as cherries on the same tree ;319
While hanging on either hand were seen320
Two lovely babies in gold and green.321
Thou art my own true lord and love,”322
The second said, “ and thou wilt approve323
This dear love-token, I changed with thee,324
When sitting in the bower upon thy knee.”325
The Knight acknowledged the token rare,326
And flew to embrace his lady fair ;327
But remembrance came with a thrilling pain,328
That instead of a lady he now had twain,329
And instead of two babies of beauty and grace,330
There were four all looking him in the face.331
He stood like a statue, of sense bereft,—332
He look’d to the right and then to the left,333
But one from the other he could not know,334
They were both the same, and yet there were two,335
While thus he stood prepared for shrift,336
In came a third—a fourth—a fifth337
A sixth—a seventh !  All round they stand,338
And each had a baby in either hand,—339
And each had her love-tokens to display,340
Which the Knight acknowledged without delay.341
But how that maid he met on the hill,342
And loved so dearly, and loved her still,343
Had thus the powers of nature outdone,344
And multiplied into twenty and one345
Why, that was more than he could believe,346
Than his head could frame, or his heart conceive ;347
And still he cast his eye to the door,348
Distrustful that there were not more.349
His lady mother at length attended,350
And her courtesies were with wonder blended,351
To see such beauty in such array,352
Seven dames all lovely as morns of May,353
With fourteen babies in a ring,354
And all like the children of a king ;355
And she laid on her son her quick behests,356
To tell her the quality of their guests.357
Why, mother, ’tis strange as strange can be,358
And yet it is truth I tell to thee,359
That all these dames of beauty so bright,360
Claim me for their own true lord and knight ;361
Nay, and I may not deny it neither,362
And all these children call me father.363
But I swear by my vows of morn and even,364
And I swear before the throne of Heaven,365
That I never knew of daughter nor son,366
Nor of a love save only one ;367
There is glamour abroad in moor and glen,368
And enchantment in all the walks of men.”369
Why, son, it has often been told to me,370
That you never could learn to multiply.371
Your bold advancement now I greet ;372
It is practice that makes the man complete.”373
This said, the dame with a sullen smile,374
And a gloom upon her brow the while ;375
For she soon perceived by dint of lore,376
That the seven weird sisters stood her before,377
Who had dwelt in enchanted bower sublime,378
From the ages of an early time,379
Condemn’d for an unhallow’d love380
Endless virginity to prove,381
And endless longings for bliss to be,382
In their palace of painful luxury,383
Unless a mortal knight should fall384
In their love-snares, and wed them all.385
And for all this numerous comely birth,386
She knew that her son was lost to earth,387
And perchance would be caught in enchantment’s thrall,388
And lost to heaven—the worst of all.389
My son,” she said, “ since so it be390
That all this comely progeny391
Are here acknowledged to be thine,392
Before they can be received as mine,393
I have lock’d the doors, the gates, and all394
And here within this stately hall395
They shall kneel before a sacred sign,396
And be christen’d by a name divine.”397
Then a shriek arose from the lovely train,398
Was never heard such a yell of pain,399
Till the gorgeous cieling that glow’d o’erhead400
Was shiver’d like an autumn reed,401
And the images all prostrate lay,402
And the casements of the tower gave way,403
And the lovely train, all three by three,404
Walk’d forth in beauty and in glee ;405
While many a glance they cast behind,406
As they trode the billows of the wind ;407
For they danced as lightly through the air408
As if heaved on the gilded gossamer,409
That play’d with a soft and silent motion,410
Like the gentlest swell that woos the ocean ;411
And many an eye beheld them fly,412
And heard this plaintive melody :413
Now we are free, now we are free,414
We seven sisters now are free,415
To fly where we long have wish’d to be ;416
And here we have these babies of ours,417
To dwell within our shady bowers,418
And play their pranks in the moonlight dell,419
With the human beings they love so well ;420
For O, they are babies of marvellous birth,421
They are neither of heaven nor yet of earth ;422
And whether they will live till time be done,423
Or fade away in a beam of the sun,424
Or mount on the polar heights sublime,425
And to worlds of unknown splendour climb,426
Is a mystery which no eye can pierce427
But His, the Lord of the universe :428
But this we know, that above or below,429
By the doors of death they shall never go.430
Adieu, our sweet little babies, for ever !431
Blithe be your lives, and sinful never ;432
You may play your pranks on the wicked and wild,433
But wrong not virtue’s sacred child,—434
So shall your frolics be lightsome and boon435
On the bridge of the rainbow or beam of the moon ;436
And so shall your loves in the bridal bowers437
Be sweeter still than your father’s and ours,438
And the breezes shall rock you to soft repose439
In the lap of the lily or breast of the rose,440
And your beauty every eve renew441
As you bathe your forms in the fragrant dew,442
That stands a heavenly crystal bell443
In the little dew-cup’s lovely well ;444
Your drink be the haze on the moonlight rill,445
And your food the odour which flowers distil,446
And never let robes your forms adorn447
That are not from the web of the rainbow shorn,448
Or the purple and green that shines afar449
In the breast of the eastern harvest star ;450
And then shall you ride o’er land and o’er tide,451
O’er cloud, and o’er foam of the firmament wide,452
O’er tree and o’er torrent, o’er flood and o’er flame,453
And The Fairies shall be your earthly name :454
In joy and in glee your revels shall be,455
Till a day shall arrive that we darkly foresee ;456
But note you well when these times commence,457
And prepare for your departure hence.458
When the psalms and the prayers are nightly heard459
From the mossy cave or the lonely sward ;460
When the hunters of men rise with the sun,461
And pursue their game till the day be done ;462
And the mountain burns have a purple stain463
With the blood of men in the moorland slain ;464
And the raven croaks in the darksome cloud,465
And the eagle yells in the heavens aloud,466
We you command, with heart and hand,467
To leave-the links of fair Scotland.468
Away ! dismiss ! and seek for bliss469
In a happier, holier sphere than this !470
Sweet babies, adieu ! and may you never rue471
The mingled existence we leave to you.472
There is part of virtue and part of blame,473
Part of spirit and part of flame,474
Part of body and passion fell,475
Part of heaven and part of hell.476
You are babies of beauty and babies of wonder,477
But fly from the cloud of the lightning and thunder,478
And keep by the moonbeam or twilight grey,479
For you never were made for the light of day.480
Long may you amid your offspring dwell,—481
Babies of beauty, kiss and farewell !”482
The Knight of Dumblane from that day forth483
Never utter’d word upon the earth ;484
But moved about like a spirit in pain485
For certain days, then vanish’d again,486
And was chosen, as my old legend says,487
The patriarch King of the Scottish Fays,488
With full command o’er these beings strange ;489
But his human nature never would change,490
Till, at the end of a thousand moons,491
All deck’d with garlands and gay festoons,492
He was borne away with lament and yell,493
And paid as kane to the Prince of Hell !494
From such unhallow’d love as this,495
With all its splendour and all its bliss,496
Its end of terror and its bane,497
The Lord preserve us all !— Amen.498