Merry elves, their morrice pacing,
To aërial minstrelsy,
Emerald rings on brown heath tracing,
Trip it deft and merrily.
THE Fairy Mythology of England divides itself into two branches, that of the people and that of the poets. Under the former head will be comprised the few scattered traditions which we have been able to collect respecting a system, the belief in which is usually thought to be nearly extinct; the latter will contain a selection of passages, treating of fairies and their exploits, from our principal poets.
The Fairies of England are evidently the Dwarfs of Germany and the North, though they do not appear to have been ever so denominated. [a] Their appellation was Elves, subsequently Fairies; but there would seem to have been formerly other terms expressive of them, of which hardly a vestige is now remaining in the English language.
They were, like their northern kindred, divided into two classes--the rural Elves, inhabiting the woods, fields, mountains, and caverns; and the domestic or house-spirits, usua called Hobgoblins and Robin Goodfellows. But the Thames, the Avon, and the, other English streams, never seem to have been the abode of a Neck or Kelpie.
The following curious instances of English superstition, occur in the twelfth century.
[a] The Anglo-Saxon Dweorg, Dworh, and the English Dwarf; do not seem ever to have had any other sense than that of the Latin nanus.