JAHN TERGAGLE THE STEWARD.
THERE are numerous versions of this legend, and sundry statements I made as to the man who is supposed to have achieved the no very envious immortality which he enjoys.
One or two of these may interest the reader.
The following very characteristic narrative, from a much-esteemed correspondent, gives several incidents which have not a place in the legend as I have related it, which comprehends the explanation given for the appearance of Tregeagle at so many different parts of the county.
The Tregeagle, of whom mention occurs in the writings of Cornish legendary authors, was a real person: a member of a respectable family, resident during the seventeenth century at Trevorder, in the parish of St Breock, and identical probably with a John Tregeagle whose tombstone may yet be seen in the parish church there, close to the chancel.
Lingering one day amid the venerable arches of that same church, the narrator, a native of the parish, encountered, near a small transept called the Trevorder aisle, the sexton, a man then perhaps of about eighty years of age. The conversation turning not unnaturally on the "illustrious dead," the narrator was gratified in receiving from the lips of the old man the following characteristic specimen of folk-lore, the greater part of which has remained clearly imprinted in his memory after a Iapse of many years; though [he thinks he has had to supply the very last sentence of all from the general popular tradition] here and there he may have had to supply a few expressions:
"Theess Jahn Tergagle, I 'ye a heerd mun tell, sir, he was a steward to a lord. [a]
"And a man came fore to the court and paid ax rent: and Jahn Tergagle didn't put no cross to az name in the books.
"And after that Tergagle daied: and the lord came down to look after az rents: and when he zeed the books, he zeed this man's name that there wasn't no cross to ut.
"And he rent for the man, and axed 'n for az rent: and the man said he'd apaid az rent: and the lord said he hadn't, there warn't no cross to az name in the books, and he tould 'n that he 'd have the law for 'ii if he didn't pay.
"And the man, he didn't know what to do: and he went yore to the minister of Simonward; [b] and the minister axed 'n if he'd a got faith: and the man, he hadn't got faith, and he was obliged for to come homewards again.
"And after that the 'Zaizes was coming naigh, and he was becoming afeerd, sure enough: and he went yore to the minister again, and tould'n he'd a got faith; the minister might do whatever a laiked.
"And the minister draed a ring out on the floor: and he caaled out dree times, Jahn Tergagle, Jahn Tergagle, Jahn Tergagle I and (I 've a heerd the ould men tell ut, sir) theess Jahn Tergagle stood before mun in the middle of the ring.
"And he went yore wi' mun to the Ezaizes, and gave ax evidence and tould how this man had a paid az rent; and the lord he was cast.
"And after that they was come back to their own house, theess Jahn
Tergagle he gave mun a brave deal of trouble; he was knackin' about the place, and wouldn't laive mun alone at all.
"And they went yore to the minister, and axed he for to lay un. "And the minister zaid, thicky [c] was their look-out; they'd a brought'n up, and they was to gett 'n down again the best way they could. And I 've a heerd the ould men tell ut, sir. The minister he got dree hunderd pound for a layin' of un again.
"And first, a was bound to the old epping-stock [d] up to Churchtown; [e] and after that a was bound to the ould oven in T'evurder; James Wyatt down to Wadebridge, he was there when they did open ut.
"And after that a was bound to Dozmary Pool; and they do say that there he ez now emptying of it out with a lampet.shell, with a hole in the bottom of ut."
This is a very ancient idea, and was one of the torments of the classical Tartarus.The treacherous daughters of Danaus being condemned therein to empty Leth with a bottomless vessel:--
"Et Danai proles Veneris quae numma laesit,
In cava Lethaeas solia portat aquas."
Dosmare Pool is a small lake or tarn on the Bodmin Moors, a fit representative of Lethe, with its black water and desolate environs.--J. C. H.
Another correspondent to whom I am much indebted for valuable notes on the folk-lore of the Land's End district, sends me the following version:
You may know the story better than I do; however, I 'll give you the west-country version. A man in the neighbourhood of Redruth, I think (I have almost forgotten the story), lent a sum of money to another without receiving bond or note, and the transaction was witnessed by Tregagle, who died before the money was paid back. When the lender demanded the money, the borrower denied having received it. He was brought into a court of justice, when the man denied on oath that he ever borrowed the money, and declared that if Tregagle saw any such thing take place, he wished that Tregagle would come and declare it. The words were no sooner out of his mouth than Tregagle stood before him, and told him that it was easy to bring him, but that he should not find it so easy to put him away. Tregagle followed the man day and night, wouldn't let him have a moment's rest, until he got all the parsons, conjurors, and other wise men together, to lay him. The wise ones accomplished this for a short time by binding the spirit to empty Dosmery (or Dorsmery) Pool with a crogan (limpet-shell). He soon finished the job and came to the man again, who sent for Parson Corker, of Burrian, who was a noted hand for laying spirits, driving the devil from the bedside of old villains, and other kinds of jobs of the same kind. When the parson came into the room with the spirit and the man, the first thing the parson did was to draw a circle and place the man to stand within it; the spirit took the form of a black bull, and (roared as you may still hear Tregagle roar in Genvor Cove before a northerly storm) did all he could to get at the man with his horns and hoofs. The parson continued reading all the time. At first the reading seemed to make him more furious, but little by little he became as gentle as a lamb, and allowed the parson to do what he would with him, and consented at last to go to Genvor Cove (in Escols Cliff), and make a truss of sand, which he was to carry above a certain rock in Escols Cliff. He was many years trying, without being able to accomplish this piece of work, until it came to a very cold winter, when Tregagle, by taking water from the stream near by, and pouring oyer the sand, caused it to freeze together, so that he finished the task, came back 'to the man, and would have torn him in pieces, but the man happened to have a child in his arms, so the spirit couldn't harm him. The man sent for the parson without delay; Parson Corker couldn't manage him alone, this time; had to get some more parsons to help,--very difficult job;--bound Tregagle at last to the same task, and not to go near the fresh water. He is still there, making his truss of sand and spinning sand ropes to bind it. What some people take to be the "calling of the northern cleves" (cliffs) is the roaring of Tregagle because there is a storm coming from the north to scatter his sand. [f] W. B.
[a] Lord--i.e., a Iandlord.
[b] St Breward.
[c] Thicky, correctly written thilke -- i.e., the ilka, a true word frequent in Chaucer.
.[d] Perhaps Uppingstock, an erection of stone steps for the farmers' wives to get on their horses by.
[e] Not Chũrchtown, but Churchtówn.
[f] In connection with the incident given of Tregeagle and the child, the following is interesting--
I find in the Temple Bar Magazine for January 1862, "The Autobiography of an Evil Spirit," professing to be an examination of a strange story related by Dr Justinus Kerner. In this a woman is possessed by a devil or sometimes by devils. "Sometimes a legion of fiends appeared to take possession of her, and the clamour on such occasions is compared to that of a pack of hounds. Amid all these horrors her confinement occurred, which was the means of procuring her some respite, as the demon appeared to have no power over her while her innocent babe was in her arms." T,, this the author adds the following note:--
This ancient general and beautiful superstition is graphically illustrated in the legend of Swardowski, the Polish Faust. Satan, weary of the services the magician is continually requiring at his hands, decoys him to a house in Cracow, where, for some unexplained reason, he expects to have him at a disadvantage. Put on his guard by the indiscretion of a flock of ravens and owls, who cannot suppress their satisfaction at seeing him enter the house, Swardowski snatches a new-born child from the cradle and paces the room with it in his arms. In rushes the devil, as terrible as horns, tail, and hoofs can make hint; but confronted with the infant, recoils and collapses instanter. This suggests to him the propriety of resorting to "moral suasion;" and after a while he thus addresses the magician,--" Thou art a gentleman and knowest that verbum nobile debet esse stabile." Swardowski feels that he cannot break his word of honour as a gentleman, replaces the child in the cradle, and flies up the chimney with his companion. In the Confusion of his faculties, however, the demon would seem to have mistaken the way; at all events, the pair fly upwards instead of downwards,--Swardowski lustily intoning a hymn till suddenly he finds his companion gone, and himself fixed at an immeasurable height in the air, and hears a voice above him saying, "Thus shalt thou hang until the day of judgment!" He has, however, changed one of his disciples into a spider, and is in the habit of letting him down to collect the news of earth. When, therefore, we see any floating threads of gossamer, we may suspect that "a chiel's amang us taking notes," though it is not equally probable that he will ever "prent them."