THE WISH HOUNDS.
THE tradition of the Midnight Hunter and his headless hounds--always, in Cornwall, associated with Tregeagle--prevails everywhere.
The Abbot's Way on Dartmoor, an ancient road which extends into Cornwall, is said to be the favourite coursing ground of "the wish or wisked hounds of. Dartmoor," called also the "yell-hounds," and the "yeth-hounds." The valley of the Dewerstone is also the place of their midnight meetings. Once I was told at Jump, that Sir Francis Drake drove a hearse into Plymouth at night with headless horses, and that he was followed by a pack of "yelling hounds" without heads. If dogs hear the cry of the wish hounds they all die. May it not be that "wish" is connected with the west-country word "whist," meaning more than ordinary melancholy, a sorrow which has something weird surrounding it?
"And then he sought the dark-green lane,
Whose willows mourn'd the faded year,
Sighing (I heard the love-lorn swain),
'Wishness! oh, wishness! walketh here.'"
-- The Wishful Swain of Devon. By POLWHELE.
The author adds in a note, "An expression used by the vulgar in the north of Devon to express local melancholy. There is something sublime in this impersonation of wishness." The expression is as common in Cornwall as it is in Devonshire.
Mr Kemble has the following incorrect remarks on this word :
"In Devonshire to this day all magical or supernatural dealings go under the common name of wishtness. Can this have any reference to Woden's name 'wyse? " Mr Polwhele's note gives the true meaning of the word. Still Mr Kemble's idea is supported by the fact that "there are Wishanger (Wisehangre or Woden's Meadow), one about four miles south-west of Wanborough in Surrey, and another near Gloucester." [a] And we find also, "south-east of Pixhill in Tedstone, Delamere, there are Wishmoor and Inksmoor near Sapey Bridge in Whitbourn." [b]
[a] Kemble's "Saxons in England," vol. i., p. 346. Wistman's Wood on Dartmoor, no doubt derives it name from its extraordinary character. Carrington, in his "Dartmoor," well describes its oaks:--
But of this grove,
This pigmy grove, not one baa dimb'd the air,
So emulously that its loftiest branch
May brush the traveller's brow. The twisted roots
Have clasp'd, in search of nourishment, the rocks,
And straggled wide, and pierced the stony soil? "Around the boughs
Hoary and feebly, and around the trunks
With grasp destructive feeding on the life
That lingers yet, the ivy winds, and moss
--Dartmoor, a descriptive poem
By N. T. CARRINGTON,,1826. Murray.
[b] "The British, Roman, and Saxon Antiquities and Folk-lore of Worcestershire." By Jabez Allies.