A non "Laughing" Summer—Rheumatic Pains—Old Gaelic
Incantation for Cattle Ailments.
thing, perhaps, that can be said of our summer up to this date [July
1872], is that it has, upon the whole, been amiable and summer-like;
has, after the manner of a love-lorn maiden, wept much and often smiled,
although, until within the last day or two, it has never actually
laughed. You loved it, and couldn't help yourself, but your love wanted
warmth and fervour, just because of its want
of jocundity and joyousness. Even in our climate, summer is not summer
by the mere reading of the thermometer, however sensitive and delicate
its mercurial indications ; one wants brilliant sunshine, with
cloudless, or almost cloudless skies, to make up a summer as a summer
proper ought to be. The poets of the East and South always speak of
summer and summer scenes as "laughing," while in more northern and less
favoured lands your poet is content to describe otherwise exactly
similar scenes and situations as simply "smiling," "gentle," "sweet,"
"quiet," and so forth, so that an acute critic, by attending to this
alone, could tell, were other proofs entirely wanting, whether a poet
was born under northern skies, or lived and loved, soared and sang, in
sunnier and more southern climes. Horace has—
—"rmhi angulus ridet."
His " corner," observe, does not merely smile ; it " laughs "
under the bright blue Italian sky. Lucretius has—
—"tibi rident æquora ponti;"
which Creech and Dryden, hards of a colder clime, have
rendered "smiles," hut which literally and truly is honest, open, joyous "laughter "
in the southern hard. Metaetasio has—
"A te fioriscono
Gli erbosi prati;
E i flutti ridono
Nel mar placati."
again—like his earlier countrymen, Horace and Lucretius. Our British
poets rarely venture to make spring or summer do more than smile; they
are afraid of the laughter of the south, as being quoad
over-bold hyperbole. "We can only quote at this moment two instances in
which the laughter of more favoured lands is boldly introduced. John
Langhorne, a poet and miscellaneous writer of the last century, author
of the Fables
of Flora, very
"Where Tweed's soft banks in liberal beauty lie,
And Flora laughs beneath
an azure sky."
And Chaucer, the father of English poetry, has the
"The busy larke, messager of daye,
Salueth in hire song the morwe gray;
And fyry Phebus ryseth up so brighte,
That al the orient laugheth of
finely modernised by Dryden thus :—
"The morning lark, messenger of day,
Saluted in her song the morning grey;
And soon the sun arose with beams so bright
That all the horizon laughed to
see the joyous sight."
Our summer, then, thus far, has not been a "laughing,"
but, at the best, a merely smiling summer. There has been but little
actual sunshine, rarely such a thing as a blue, unclouded sky ; but, if
we do not err, if the wish be not altogether father to the thought, a
splendid autumn, glad and golden—summer and autumn in one, like the
companion scenes in a stereoscope, in close and kindly combination—is in
store for us. Even as it is, the country is very beautiful, and the
rains of the west, if superabundant, are at least perfectly harmless to
any one in ordinary health, no matter how often you get drenched through
and through, as the saying is, provided always you do not idly saunter
or sit down for any length of time in wet clothes; neglect this
precaution, however, and you may look out for an attack of rheumatism,
and the taste of pains to which the tortures of the rack were but a
joke—pains as fiery and intense as those threatened against the
foul-mouthed Caliban in the Tempest. You
recollect what Prospero says—
Fetch us in fuel; and be quick, thou wert best
To answer other business.
Shrug'st thou, malice?
If thou neglect'st, or dost unwillingly
What I command, I'll
rack thee with old cramps;
Fill all thy bones with aches; make
That beasts shall tremble at thy din!"
Get wet, then, as often and as much as you like, in the
"West Highlands, but don't sit down or idle about in wet clothes, is a
friend's advice; otherwise, you will soon have a pretty correct idea of
the nature of the cramps and aches of which even the brutal Caliban had
such a horror that he exclaims :—
''No, 'pray thee!—
I must obey: his art is of such power,
It would control my dam's god, Setebos,
And make a vassal of him."
Supplementary to our last paper on the spells and
incantations of the Highlands, the following has been sent to us by our
kind correspondent, Mr. Carmichael, of the Inland Revenue, Island of
Uist, a gentleman of whom highly honourable mention is made in Mr.
and in some of the notes to the Rev Dr. Clerk's Ossian. Mr.
Carmichael is more conversant, perhaps, than anybody else with the
antiquities and folk-lore of the Outer Hebrides. The incantation that
follows was taken down by Mr. Carmichael from the recitation of " an
honest, unsophisticated old Banarach, or
dairymaid, in North TJist, who is even yet occasionally consulted about
sickly cows " :—
Incantation for Diseases in Cattle.
Christ and His Apostle and John,
These three of most excellent glory,
That ascended to make supplication
Through the gateway of the city,
Fast by the right knee of God's own Son.
As regards evil-eyed women;
As regards blighting-eyed men;
As regards swift-speeding elf-arrows;
Two to strengthen and renovate the joints,
And three to back (these two) as sureties—
The Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost.
To four-and-twenty diseases are the reins of man and beast (subject);
God utterly extirpate, sweep away, and eradicate them
From out thy blood and flesh, thy bones and marrow,
And as Christ uplifted its proper foliage
To the extremities of the branches on each tree-top,
So may He uplift from off and out of thee
Each (evil) eye, each frowning look, malice and envy—
From this day forth to the world's last day. Amen.
"It is not always an easy task," writes our
correspondent, "to write from the dictation of partially deaf and
toothless old women," and we perfectly agree with him. "Ostail," in the
first line of the above spell, we take to be an insular form of Abstol, voc.— Abstoil or Abstail—the Apostle par
Paul. Mr. Carmichael appends the following elucidatory note :—"This
spell can be used for either man or beast, and is guaranteed to effect a
cure in any case ! In the case of a four-footed animal a worsted thread
is tied round the tail, and the bra or
incantation repeated. The "snathaile" (snathainn, a
thread), as this charm is called, undergoes much mysterious spitting,
handling, and incantation by the woman from whom it is got. Therann or
spell is muttered over it at the time of "consecration." Usually two
are given, and if the first is not quite successful, the second is sure
to be effectual! "