ROMANCES OF THE ROCKS.
CROMLECH AND DRUID STONES.
"Among the rocks and stones, methinks I see
More than the heedless impress that belongs
To lonely nature's casual work: they bear
A semblance strange of power intelligent,
And of design not wholly worn away."
- The Excursion - WORDSWORTH
"Surely there is a hidden power that reigns
'Mid the lone majesty of untamed nature,
Controlling sober reason."
-- Caractacus.--WILLIAM MASON.
IT is a common belief amongst the peasantry over every part of Cornwall, that no human power can remove any of those stones which have been rendered sacred to them by traditionary romance. Many a time have I been told that certain stones had been removed by day, but that they always returned by night to their original positions, and that the parties who had dared to tamper with those sacred stones were punished in some way. When the rash commander of a revenue cutter landed with a party of his men and overturned the Logan Rock, to prove the folly of the prevalent superstition, he did but little service in dispelling an old belief; but proved himself to be a fool for his pains.
I could desire, for the preservation of many of our Celtic remains, that we could impress the educated classes with a similar reverence for the few relics which are left to us of an ancient and a peculiar people, of whose history we know so little, and from whose remains we might, by careful study, learn so much. Those poised stones and perforated rocks must be of high antiquity, for we find the Anglo-Saxons making laws to prevent the British people from pursuing their old pagan practices. [a]
The geologist, looking upon the Logan stones and other curiously-formed rock masses, dismisses at once from his mind the idea of their having been formed by the hand of man, and hastily sets aside the tradition that the Druid ever employed them, or that the old Celt ever regarded them with reverence. There cannot be a doubt but that many huge masses of granite are, by atmospheric causes, now slowly passing into the condition required for the formation of a Logan rock. It is possible that in some cases the "weathering" may have gone on so uniformly around the stone, as to poise it so exactly that the thrust of a child will shake a mass many tons in weight.
The result, however, of my own observations, made with much curiosity and considerable care, has been to convince me, that in by far the greatest number of instances the disintegration, though general around the line of a "bed-way" or horizontal joint, has gone on rapidly on the side exposed to the beat of the weather, while the opposite extremity has been but slightly worn; consequently, the stones have a tendency to be depressed on the sheltered side. With a little labour man could correct this natural defect, and with a little skill make a poised stone. We have incontrovertible evidence that certain poised stones have been regarded, through long periods of time, as of a sacred character. Whether these stones were used by the Druids, or merely that the ignorant people supposed them to have some peculiar virtue, I care not. The earliest inhabitants of Cornwall, probably Celts, [b] were possessed with some idea that these stones were connected with the mysteries of existence; and from father to son, for centuries, notwithstanding the introduction of Christianity, these stones have maintained their sacred character. Therefore, may we not infer that the leaders of the people availed themselves of this feeling; and finding many rocks of a gigantic size, upon which nature had begun the work, they completed them, and used the mighty moving masses to impress with terror--the principle by which they ruled--the untaught, but poetically constituted, minds of the people. Dr Borlase has been laughed at for finding rock-basins, the works of the Druids, in every granitic mass. At the same time, those who laugh have failed to examine those rock-masses with unprejudiced care, and hence they have erred as wildly as did the Cornish antiquary, but in a contrary direction. Hundreds of depressions are being formed by the winds and rains upon the faces of the granite rocks. With these no Druid ever perplexed himself or his people. But there are numerous hollows to be found in large flat rocks which have unmistakably been formed, if not entirely, partly by the hands of man. The Sacrificing Rock, or Cam Brea, is a remarkable example. The larger hollows on the Men-rock, in Constantine, several basins in the Logan Rock group, and at Cam Boscawen, may be referred to as other examples. With these remarks, I proceed to notice a few of the most remarkable rock-masses with which tradition has associated some tale.
[a] "Perforated stones must once have been common in England, and probably in Scotland also, as the Anglo-Saxon laws repeatedly denounce similar superstitious practices."--The Archaeology and Prehistoric Annals of Scotland, p. 97. DANIEL WILSON.
[b] "A Celtic race, however, continues to occupy the primeval districts of Cornwall, and preserved, almost to our own day, a distinct dialect of the Celtic tongue."--Prehistoric Annals a Scotland, p. 195 DANIEL WILSON. See Appendix N, 'in, Celts.