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In one of the old books called Welsh Triads, in which all things are classed by threes, there is a description of three men called "The Three Generous Heroes of the Isle of Britain." One of these--named Nud or Nodens, and later called Merlin--was first brought from the sea, it is stated, with a herd of cattle consisting of 21,000 milch cows, which are supposed to mean those waves of the sea that the poets often describe as White Horses. He grew up to be a king and warrior, a magician and prophet, and on the whole the most important figure in the Celtic traditions. He came from the sea and at last returned to it, but meanwhile he did great works on land, one of which is said to have been the building of Stonehenge.

This is the way, as the old legends tell, in which the vast stones of Stonehenge came to

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be placed on Salisbury Plain. It is a thing which has always been a puzzle to every one, inasmuch as their size and weight are enormous, and there is no stone of the same description to be found within hundreds of miles of Salisbury Plain, where they now stand.

The legend is that Pendragon, king of England, was led to fight a great battle by seeing a dragon in the air. The battle was won, but Pendragon was killed and was buried on Salisbury Plain, where the fight had taken place. When his brother Uther took his place, Merlin the enchanter advised him to paint a dragon on a flag and bear it always before him to bring good fortune, and this he always did. Then Merlin said to him, "Wilt thou do nothing more on the Plain of Salisbury, to honor thy brother?" The King said, "What shall be done?" Then Merlin said, "I will cause a thing to be done that will endure to the world's end." Then he bade Utherpendragon, as he called the new king, to send many ships and men to Ireland, and he showed him stones such as seemed far too large and heavy to

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bring, but he placed them by his magic art upon the boats and bore them to England; and he devised means to transport them and to set them on end, "for they shall seem fairer so than if they were lying." And there they are to this day.

This was the way in which Merlin would sometimes obtain the favor and admiration of young ladies. There was a maiden of twelve named Nimiane or Vivian, the daughter of King Dionas, and Merlin changed himself into the appearance of "a fair young squire," that he might talk with her beside a fountain, described in the legends as "a well, whereof the springs were fair and the water clear and the gravel so fair that it seemed of fine silver." By degrees he made acquaintance with the child, who told him who she was, adding, "And what are you, fair, sweet friend?" "Damsel," said Merlin, "I am a travelling squire, seeking for my master, who has taught me wonderful things." "And what master is that?" she asked. "It is one," he said, "who has taught me so much that I could here erect for you a castle,


''Merlin, changed into the appearance of a fair young squire, by degrees made acquaintance with Vivian, who told him who she was.''--p. 50
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''Merlin, changed into the appearance of a fair young squire, by degrees made acquaintance with Vivian, who told him who she was.''--p. 50


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and I could make many people outside to attack it and inside to defend it; nay, I could go upon this water and not wet my feet, and I could make a river where water had never been."

"These are strange feats," said the maiden, "and I wish that I could thus disport myself." "I can do yet greater things," said Merlin, "and no one can devise anything which I cannot do, and I can also make it to endure forever." "Indeed," said the girl, "I would always love you if you could show me some such wonders." "For your love," he answered, "I will show you some of these wondrous plays, and I will ask no more of you." Then Merlin turned and described a circle with a wand and then came and sat by her again at the fountain. At noon she saw coming out of the forest many ladies and knights and squires, holding each other by the hand and singing in the greatest joy; then came men with timbrels and tabours and dancing, so that one could not tell one-fourth part of the sports that went on. Then Merlin caused an orchard to grow, with all manner of fruit and

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flowers; and the maiden cared for nothing but to listen to their singing, "Truly love begins in joy, but ends in grief." The festival continued from mid-day to even-song; and King Dionas and his courtiers came out to see it, and marvelled whence these strange people came. Then when the carols were ended, the ladies and maidens sat down on the green grass and fresh flowers, and the squires set up a game of tilting called quintain upon the meadows and played till even-song; and then Merlin came to the damsel and asked if he had done what he promised for her. "Fair, sweet friend," said she, "you have done so much that I am all yours." "Let me teach you," he answered, "and I will show you many wonders that no woman ever learned so many."

Merlin and this young damsel always remained friends, and he taught her many wonderful arts, one of which was (this we must regret) a spell by which she might put her parents to sleep whenever he visited her; while another lesson was (this being more unexceptionable) in the use of three words, by saying which she

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might at any time keep at a distance any men who tried to molest her. He stayed eight days near her, and in those days taught her many of the most "wonderful things that any mortal heart could think of, things past and things that were done and said, and a part of what was to come; and she put them in writing, and then Merlin departed from her and came to Benoyk, where the king, Arthur, rested, so that glad were they when they saw Merlin."

The relations between Merlin and Arthur are unlike those ever held towards a king even by an enchanter in any legend. Even in Homer there is no one described, except the gods, as having such authority over a ruler. Merlin came and went as he pleased and under any form he might please. He foretold the result of a battle, ordered up troops, brought aid from a distance. He rebuked the bravest knights for cowardice; as when Ban, Bors, and Gawain had concealed themselves behind some bushes during a fight. "Is this," he said to King Arthur and Sir Bors, "the war and the help that you do to your friends who have put

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themselves in adventure of death in many a need, and ye come hither to hide for cowardice." Then the legend says, "When the king understood the words of Merlin, he bowed his head for shame," and the other knights acknowledged their fault. Then Merlin took the dragon banner which he had given them and said that he would bear it himself; "for the banner of a king," he said, "should not be hid in battle,--but borne in the foremost front." Then Merlin rode forth and cried with a loud voice, "Now shall be shown who is a knight." And the knights, seeing Merlin, exclaimed that he was "a full noble man"; and "without fail," says the legend, "he was full of marvellous powers and strength of body and great and long stature; but brown he was and lean and rough of hair." Then he rode in among the enemy on a great black horse; and the golden dragon which he had made and had attached to the banner gave out from its throat such a flaming fire that the air was black with its smoke; and all King Arthur's men began to fight again more stoutly, and Arthur himself held the bridle reins in his

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left hand, and so wielded his sword with his right as to slay two hundred men.

There was no end to Merlin's disguises--sometimes as an old man, sometimes as a boy or a dwarf, then as a woman, then as an ignorant clown;--but the legends always give him some object to accomplish, some work to do, and there was always a certain dignity about him, even when helping King Arthur, as he sometimes did, to do wrong things. His fame extended over all Britain, and also through Brittany, now a part of France, where the same poetic legends extended. This, for instance, is a very old Breton song about him:--


Merlin! Merlin! where art thou going
So early in the day, with thy black dog?
Oi! oi! oi! oi! oi! oi! oi! oi! oi! oi! oi!
Oi! oi! oi! oi! oi!

I have come here to search the way,
To find the red egg;
The red egg of the marine serpent,
By the seaside, in the hollow of the stone. p. 56

I am going to seek in the valley
The green water-cress, and the golden grass,
And the top branch of the oak,
In the wood by the side of the fountain.

Merlin! Merlin! retrace your steps;
Leave the branch on the oak,
And the green water-cress in the valley,
As well as the golden grass;
And leave the red egg of the marine serpent
In the foam by the hollow of the stone.
Merlin! Merlin! retrace thy steps;
There is no diviner but God.

Merlin was supposed to know the past, the present, and the future, and to be able to assume the form of any animal, and even that of a menhir, or huge standing stone. Before history began he ruled in Britain, then a delightful island of flowery meadows. His subjects were "small people" (fairies), and their lives were a continued festival of singing, playing, and enjoyment. The sage ruled them as a father, his familiar servant being a tame wolf. He also possessed a kingdom, beneath the waves, where everything was beautiful, the

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inhabitants being charming little beings, with waves of long, fair hair falling on their shoulders in curls. Fruits and milk composed the food of all, meat and fish being held in abhorrence. The only want felt was of the full light of the sun, which, coming to them through the water, was but faint, and cast no shadow.

Here was the famous workshop where Merlin forged the enchanted sword so celebrated by the bards, and where the stones were found by which alone the sword could be sharpened. Three British heroes were fated to wield this blade in turn; viz., Lemenisk the leaper (Leim, meaning leap), Utherpendragon, and his son King Arthur. By orders of this last hero, when mortally wounded, it was flung into the sea, where it will remain till he returns to restore the rule of his country to the faithful British race.

The bard once amused and puzzled the court by entering the hall as a blind boy led by a greyhound, playing on his harp, and demanding as recompense to be allowed to carry the king's banner in an approaching battle. Being

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refused on account of his blindness he vanished, and the king of Brittany mentioned his suspicions that this was one of Merlin's elfin tricks. Arthur was disturbed, for he had promised to give the child anything except his honor, his kingdom, his wife, and his sword. However, while he continued to fret, there entered the hall a poor child about eight years old, with shaved head, features of livid tint, eyes of light gray, barefooted, barelegged, and a whip knotted over his shoulders in the manner affected by horse-boys. Speaking and looking like an idiot, he asked the king's permission to bear the royal ensign in the approaching battle with the giant Rion. The courtiers laughed, but Arthur, suspecting a new joke on Merlin's part, granted the demand, and then Merlin stood in his own proper person before the company.

He also seems to have taught people many things in real science, especially the women, who were in those days more studious than the men, or at least had less leisure. For instance, the legend says of Morgan le fay (or la fée), King Arthur's sister, "she was a noble clergesse

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[paragraph continues] (meaning that she could read and write, like the clergy), and of astronomy could she enough, for Merlin had her taught, and she learned much of egromancy (magic or necromancy); and the best work-woman she was with her hands that any man knew in any land, and she had the fairest head and the fairest hands under heaven, and shoulders well-shapen; and she had fair eloquence and full debonair she was, as long as she was in her right wit; and when she was wroth with any man, she was evil to meet." This lady was one of Merlin's pupils, but the one whom he loved most and instructed the most was Nimiane or Vivian, already mentioned, who seems to have been to him rather a beloved younger sister than anything else, and he taught her so much that "at last he might hold himself a fool," the legend says, "and ever she inquired of his cunning and his mysteries, each thing by itself, and he let her know all, and she wrote all that he said, as she was well learned in clergie (reading and writing), and learned lightly all that Merlin taught her; and when they parted, each of them commended the other to God full tenderly."

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The form of the enchanter Merlin disappeared from view, at last--for the legends do not admit that his life ever ended--across the sea whence he came.

The poet Tennyson, to be sure, describes Nimiane or Vivian--the Lady of the Lake--as a wicked enchantress who persuaded Merlin to betray his secrets to her, and then shut him up in an oak tree forever. But other legends seem to show that Tennyson does great injustice to the Lady of the Lake, that she really loved Merlin even in his age, and therefore persuaded him to show her how to make a tower without walls,--that they might dwell there together in peace, and address each other only as Brother and Sister. When he had told her, he fell asleep with his head in her lap, and she wove a spell nine times around his head, and the tower became the strongest in the world. Some of the many legends place this tower in the forest of Broceliande; while others transport it afar to a magic island, where Merlin dwells with his nine bards, and where Vivian alone can come or go through the magic walls. Some legends describe

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it as an enclosure "neither of iron nor steel nor timber nor of stone, but of the air, without any other thing but enchantment, so strong that it may never be undone while the world endureth." Here dwells Merlin, it is said, with nine favorite bards who took with them the thirteen treasures of England. These treasures are said to have been:--

1. A sword; if any man drew it except the owner, it burst into a flame from the cross to the point. All who asked it received it; but because of this peculiarity all shunned it.

2. A basket; if food for one man were put into it, when opened it would be found to contain food for one hundred.

3. A horn; what liquor soever was desired was found therein.

4. A chariot; whoever sat in it would be immediately wheresoever he wished.

5. A halter, which was in a staple below the feet of a bed; and whatever horse one wished for in it, he would find it there.

6. A knife, which would serve four-and twenty men at meat all at once.

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7. A caldron; if meat were put into it to boil for a coward, it would never be boiled; but if meat were put in it for a brave man, it would be boiled forthwith.

8. A whetstone; if the sword of a brave man were sharpened thereon, and any one were wounded therewith, he would be sure to die; but if it were that of a coward that was sharpened on it, he would be none the worse.

9. A garment; if a man of gentle birth put it on, it suited him well; but if a churl, it would not fit him.

10, 11. A pan and a platter; whatever food was required was found therein.

12. A chessboard; when the men were placed upon it, they would play of themselves. The chessboard was of gold, and the men of silver.

13. The mantle of Arthur; whosoever was beneath it could see everything, while no one could see him.

It is towards this tower, some legends say, that Merlin was last seen by some Irish monks, sailing away westward, with a maiden, in a boat of crystal, beneath a sunset sky.

Next: VIII. Sir Lancelot of the Lake