Reminiscences and the Bagpipe Chapter XX Ancient Myth and the Bagpipe
Imagination is one of
Gods chiefest gifts to man; to the Celt first, to the world afterwards,
through the Celt. Anon.
GENTLE reader, it has
been said, with what truth I know not, that there are more false facts
than false theories in this world.
If you are one of the
many who profess to love fact for its own sake, and look askance at
If you are one of those
who care not for the house beautiful, but only for a nights shelter
from the dews of heaven?
If you are one of those
who consider flowers as an extravagance, and the monies spent upon them
as worse than wasted, because the five per cent, comes not back to you
in hard cash? Then may you skip the two following chapters without loss,
and with a possible profit to yourself.
At the same time it is
perhaps worth while remembering that there are false facts many in this
world, and true imaginings not a few. I am about to make an excursion
into Mythland, where imagination, which has hitherto been kept under
with a tight curb, is given free play, and where theory flourishes,
while known facts for the time being will be at a discount.
Although we do not hold
this as proven, yet we believe that underneath many of these old-world
fables many rarebecause little suspectedtruths lie hidden.
Mythland, indeed, reminds
us very much of the Halls of Laughter, on entering which the stranger
finds his advances met half way by the most extraordinary looking
beings, unlike anything he has seen before, who excite his mirth by
their comicalities. Right in front he sees a man with head flattened out
in pancake fashion, supported upon the smallest of bodies, with the most
diminutive pair of legs attached. On the right hand is surely Don
Quixote come to life again ! with his solemn mien and thin lanthorn-shaped
jaws and pursed-up mouth; a bout of linked sweetness long-drawn out.
While on the left is a third creature, with the ceann cearc, or
hens-head, perched upon a corporation of sufficient dimensions to
satisfy the most greedy of London aldermen. These hideous-looking
caricatures of the human frame divine, peering out from every niche
and cranny in the Hall, beck and bow and nod, and turn now to right and
now to left, with every movement of the astonished onlooker, whose
gravity and sense of decorum, long undermined, at length give way in
peels of laughter, which, strangely enough, find no echo in all that
This awakens him to the
truth that has hitherto eluded his observation. He himself is the Dens
ex mcichinci the sole author of the show: the sole cause of the mirth.
Behind every queer figure stands himself; every feature, every movement,
is his own; his gentlest smile has been reflected back in broadest grin;
the laughter cannot be but silent in that shadow-land, of which he is
By means of numerous
mirrors, of different concavities and convexities, cunningly inserted
into the draped walls, the mans own face has been shewn to him in fifty
different ways; the truth has been so cleverly disguised as to be
unrecognisable even to himself.
In the mirror of
tradition or myth, then, we often find reflected for us in the same way
much of the prehistoric lore, previously learned from anthropology and
other learned ologies: the truth, distorted it is true, sometimes beyond
recognition : and in this way our knowledge of old-world affairs is
further confirmed and strengthened.
Now there are two myths,
both found in early Greek literature, which may perchance shed some
light on the origin and development of the Bagpipe ; and it is with some
such hope that we introduce them here.
The story of Pan and the
story of Athenes chanter areapart from any important knowledge to be
gleaned in their perusalentitled to a chapter of their own in any work
upon the Bagpipe, and will not, we are sure, be thought out of place.
In juxtaposition these
two old-world deities Athene and Panmight well stand for Beauty and
the Beast in the childrens fairy tale. The uncouth hairy body of the
old sylvan god, making a rare foil to the enchanting beauty of Athene:
both passionately fond of dancing and music, and both noted for their
performance upon the Pipe.
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