Percy's Reliques - The Fairies Farewell.

The Fairies Farewell.

            This humorous old song fell from the hand of the witty Dr. Corbet (afterwards bishop of Norwich, &c.), and is printed from his Poėtica Stromata, 1648, 12mo. (compared with the third edition of his poems, 1672.) It is there called "A proper new Ballad, intitled, The Fairies Farewell, or God-a-mercy Will, to be sung or whistled to the tune of The Meddow Brow, by the learned: by the unlearned, to the tune of Fortune."

            The departure of Fairies is here attributed to the abolition of monkery: Chaucer has, with equal humour, assigned a cause the very reverse in his Wife of Bath's Tale.

In olde dayes of the king Artour,
Of which that Bretons speken great honour,
All was this lond fulfilled of faerie;
The elf-quene, with hire joly compagnie
Danced ful oft in many a grene mede.
This was the old opinion as I rede;
I speke of many hundred yeres ago;
But now can no man see non elves mo,
For now the grete charitee and prayers
Of limitoures and other holy freres,
That serchen every land and every streme,
As thikke as motes in the sonne beme,
Blissing halles, chambres, kichenes, and boures,
Citees and burghes, castles high, and toures,
Thropes and bernes, shepenes and dairies,
This maketh that ther ben no faeries:
For ther as wont to walken was an elf,
Ther walketh now the limitour himself,
In undermeles and in morweninges,
And sayth his Matines and his holy thinges,
As he goth in his limitatioun.
Women may now go safely up and doun,
In every bush, and under every tree,
Ther is non other incubus but he,
And he ne will don hem no dishonour."
                -- Tyrwhitt's Chaucer, i. p. 255.

            Dr. Richard Corbet, having been bishop of Oxford about three years, and afterwards as long bishop of Norwich, died in 1635, ętat 52.

FAREWELL rewards and Fairies!
Good housewives now may say;
For now foule sluts in dairies
Doe fare as well as they;
And though they sweepe their hearths no less
Than mayds were wont to doe,
Yet who of late for cleaneliness
Finds sixe-pence in her shoe?

Lament, lament old Abbies,
The fairies lost command;
They did but change priests babies,
But some have chang'd your land;
And all your children stoln from thence
Are now growne Puritanes,
Who live as changelings ever since,
For love of your demaines.

At morning and at evening both
You merry were and glad,
So little care of sleepe and sloth
These prettie ladies had.
When Tom came home from labour,
Or Ciss to milking rose,
Then merrily went their tabour,
And nimbly went their toes.

Witness those rings and roundelayes
Of theirs, which yet remaine;
Were footed in queene Maries dayes
On many a grassy playne.
But since of late Elizabeth
And later James came in;
They never danc'd on any heath,
As when the time hath bin.

By which wee note the fairies
Were of the old profession:
Their songs were Ave Maries,
Their dances were procession.
But now, alas! they all are dead,
Or gone beyond the seas,
Or farther for religion fled,
Or else they take their ease.

A tell-tale in their company
They never could endure;
And whoso kept not secretly
Their mirth, was punished sure;
It was a just and christian deed
To pinch such blacke and blue;
O how the common-welth doth need
Such justices as you!

Now they have left our quarters;
A register they have,
Who can preserve their charters;
A man both wise and grave.
An hundred of their merry pranks
By one that I could name
Are kept in store; con twenty thanks
To William for the same.

To William Churne of Staffordshire
Give laud and praises due,
Who every meale can mend your cheare
With tales both old and true:
To William all give audience,
And pray yee for his noddle:
For all the fairies evidence
Were lost, if it were addle.

*** After these Songs on the Fairies, the reader may be curious to see the manner in which they were formerly invoked and bound to human service. In Ashmole's collection of Manuscripts, at Oxford (No. 8259. 1406. 2.), are the papers of some alchymist, which contain a variety of incantations and forms of conjuring both Fairies, Witches, and Demons, principally, as it should seem, to assist him in his great work of transmuting metals. Most of them are too impious to be reprinted; but the two following may be very innocently laughed at.

            Whoever looks into Ben Jonson's Alchymist, will find that these impostors, among their other secrets, affected to have a power over Fairies; and that they were commonly expected to be seen in a crystal glass, appears from that extraordinary book, "The Relation of Dr. John Dee's Actions with Spirits, 1659," folio.

"AN EXCELLENT WAY to gett a FAYRIE. (For myself I call MARGARETT BARRANCE; but this will obteine any one that is not allready bownd.)

            "First, gett a broad square christall or Venice glasse, in length and breadth 3 inches. Then lay that glasse or christall in the bloud of a white henne, 3 Wednesdayes, or 3 Fridayes. Then take it out, and wash it with holy aq. and fumigate it. Then take 3 hazel sticks, or wands of an yeare groth; pill them fayre and white; and make them soe longe, as you write the SPIRITTS name, or FAYRIES name, which you call, 3 times on every sticke being made flatt on one side. Then bury them under some hill, where, as you suppose, FAYRIES haunt, the Wednesdaye before you call her; and the Fridaye followinge take them uppe, and call her at 8 or 3 or 10 of the clocke, which be good planetts and houres for that turne: but when you call, be in cleane life, and turne thy face towards the east. And when you have her, bind her to that stone or glasse."

"An UNGUENT to annoynt under the Eyelids, and upon the Eyelids eveninge and morninge; but especially when you call, or find your sight not perfect.

            "R. A pint of sallet-oyle, and put it into a viall glasse: but first wash it with rose-water, and marigold-water: the flowers to be gathered towards the east. Wash it till the oyle come white: then put it into the glasse, ut supra: and then put thereto the budds of holyhocke, the flowers of marygold, the flowers or toppes of wild thime, the budds of young hazle: and the thime must be gathered neare the side of a hille where FAYRIES use to be: and take the grasse of a fayrie throne, there. All these put into the oyle, into the glasse: and set it to dissolve 3 dayes in the sunne, and then keep it for thy use, ut supra."

            After this receipt for the Unguent follows a form of incantation, wherein the alchymist conjures a Fairy, named Elaby Gathon, to appear to him in that chrystal glass, meekly and mildly; to resolve him truly in all manner of questions; and to be obedient to all his commands, under pain of damnation, &c.

            One of the vulgar opinions about Fairies is, that they cannot be seen by human eyes, without a particular charm exerted in favour of the person who is to see them; and that they strike with blindness such as, having the gift of seeing them, take notice of them mal-a-propos.

            As for the hazel sticks mentioned above, they were to be probably of that species called the witch hazel, which received its name from this manner of applying it in incantations.

 

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