Contents

A FOREWORD

"Nescio quid certe est: et Hylax in limine latrat."

A FOREWORD

WHICH ASSERTS NOTHING

N Continental periodicals not more than a dozen articles in all would seem to have given accounts or partial translations of the Jurgen legends. N o thorough investigation of this epos can be said to have appeared in print, anywhere, prior to the publication, in 1913, of the monumental Synopses of Aryan Mythology by Angelo de Ruiz. It is unnecessary to observe that in this exhaustive digest Professo r de Ruiz has given (VII, P415 et sequentia) a summary of the greater part of these legends as contained in the collections of Verville and Bò lg; and has discussed at length and with much learning the esoteric meaning of these folk-stories and their bearing upon questions to which the "solar theory" of myth explanation has given rise. To his volumes, and to the pages of Mr. Lewistam's Key to the Popular Tales of Poictesme, must be referred a ll those who may elect to think of Jurgen as the resplendent, journeying and procreative sun.

Equally in reading hereinafter will the judicious waive all allegorical interpretation, if merely because the suggestions hitherto advanced are inconveniently various. Thus Verville finds the Nessus shirt a symbol of retribution, where Bò lg, with rather wide divergence, would have it represent the dangerous gift of genius. Then it may be remembered that Dr. Codman says, without any hesitancy, of Mother Sereda: "This Mother Midd le is the world generally (an obvious anagram of Erda es), and this Sereda rules not merely the middle of the working-days but the midst of everything. She is the factor of middleness, of mediocrity, of an avoidance of extremes, of the eternal compromise begotten by use and wont. She is the Mrs. Grundy of the Leshy; she is Comstockery: and her shadow is common-sense." Yet Codman speaks with certainly no more authority than Prote, when the latter, in his Origins of Fable, declares this epos is " a parable of . . . man's vain journeying in search of that rationality and justice which his nature craves, and discovers nowhere in the universe: and the shirt is an emblem of this instinctive craving, as . . . the shadow symbolizes conscience. Sereda ty pifies a surrender to life as it is, a giving up of man's rebellious self-centredness and selfishness: the anagram being se dare."

Thus do interpretations throng and clash, and neatly equal the commentators in number. Yet possibly each one of these unriddlings, with no doubt a host of others, is conceivable: so that wisdom will dwell upon none of them very seriousl y.

With the origin and the occult meaning of the folklore of Poictesme this book" at least is in no wise concerned: its unambitious aim has been merely to familiarize English readers with the Jurgen epos for the tale's sake. And this tale of old years is one which, by rare fortune, can be given to English readers almost unabridged, in view of the singular delicacy and pure-mindedness of the Jurgen mythos: in all, not more than a half-dozen deletions have seemed expedient (and have bee n duly indicated) in order to remove such sparse and unimportant outcroppings of mediaeval frankness as might conceivably offend the squeamish.

Since this volume is presented simply as a story to be read for pastime, neither morality nor symbolism is hereinafter educed, and no "parallels" and "authorities" are quoted. Even the gaps are left unbridged

by guesswork: whereas the historic and mythological problems perhaps involved are relinquished to those really thoroughgoing scholars whom erudition qualifies to deal with such topics, and tedium does not deter.

DUMBARTON GRANGE,

April, 1919 .

 
Chapter 1