« AnteriorContinuar »
to Freya, told her how her son bore unhurt the assaults of all the deities, and soon wormed himself into her confidence and won the secret of Balder's invulnerability. For to Loki's inquiry if all things had made the promise not to injure Balder the goddess replied that all things had taken the oath save the mistletoe, which was too feeble to hurt, if it would. Loki then left Freya, resumed his own shape, and, plucking up the mistletoe by its roots, fashioned it into an arrow as he went. On rejoining the assembly he found the gods still at their sports, but, looking around, spied blind Höder (the god of fate) standing silently apart from an amusement he could not share. Loki entreated him to do honor to Freya's offspring, placed the arrow in his hand, and guided his arm. It flew with fatal accuracy, and stretched the unhappy Balder dead before the startled gods. All nature mourned so bitterly the death of the sun-god that Hela agreed to restore him if it could be shown that everything lamented. Then every creature wept, and the trees even dropped their branches in token of their grief. Loki alone stood tearless. In holy rage the assembled gods rushed on the cause of the world's sorrow, bore him to the bottomless pit, and chained him fast. At this unexpected result of his evil work, Loki shed tears copiously, and, Hela's condition being thus fulfilled, Balder returned to life.
Professor Skeat explains why the mistletoe should be of all created things the slayer of the sun.god (Balder) by saying that the myth represents the tragedy of the solar year, the sun overwhelmed by the gloom of mid-winter. In Anglo-Saxon mist means “gloom,” and mistel is used for the plant “mis
In later stories the mistletoe still continues to be associated with love and death. Take, for instance, the famous ballad of “The Mistletoe Bough,” by Thomas Haynes Bayly, which has long enjoyed a wide popularity. Here is sufficient of it to give the story :
The mistletoe hung in the castle hall,
Oh, the mistletoe bough!
Oh, the mistletoe bough!
At length an oak chest that had long lain hid
Oh, the mistletoe bough!
This story is widely spread and has numerous locales. Rogers in his "Italy" tells the same tale, and calls his heroine Ginevra. In Florence in
an old castello there is shown the identical chest in which the unhappy lady is supposed to have secreted herself. In England many old houses have similar traditions connected with them; and, as the old oak chest or coffer was in former times an article of furniture in every mansion, and as from its size it was an inviting hiding-place, it may have been the cause of more than one tragedy. Collet in his “Relics of Literature" gives the story, and it is also to be found in the “Causes Célèbres."
But revenons à nos moutons. The gathering of the mistletoe was a most important ceremony among the ancient Druids. Five days after the new moon they went in stately procession to the forest and raised an altar of grass beneath the finest mistletoe-bearing oak they could find : the arch-Druid then ascended the oak and with a golden knife removed the sacred parasite, the inferior priests stood beneath and caught the plant upon a white cloth, for if a portion of it but touched the ground (Loki's empire) it was an omen of misfortune to the land. The mistletoe was distributed among the people on the first day of the new year. As it was supposed to possess the mystic virtue of giving fertility and a power to preserve from poison, the cereniony of kissing under the 'mistletoe may have some reference to this original belief.
Grant Allen in the Cornhill Magazine has another theory. “In many primitive tribes,” he says, “when the chief or king dies, there ensues a wild period of general license, an orgy of anarchy, till a new king is chosen and consecrated in his stead to replace him. During this terrible interregnum or lordship of misrule, when every man does that which is right (or otherwise) in his own eyes, all things are lawful; or rather there are no laws, no lawgiver, no executive. But as soon as the new chief comes to his own again, everything is changed: the community resumes at once its wonted respectability. Now, is it not probable that the mid-winter orgy is similarly due to the cutting of the mistletoe? perhaps even to the killing of the King of the Wood along with it? Till the new mistletoe grows, are not all things allowable? At any rate, I cast out this hint as a possible explanation of saturnalian freedom in general, and kissing under the mistletoe in particular. It may conceivably survive as the last faint memory of that wild orgy of license which accompanied the rites of so many slain gods,-Tammuz, Adonis, Dionysus, Attis. . Much mitigated and mollified by civilization and Christianity, we may still see in it, perhaps, some dim lineaments of the mad feasts which Herodotus describes for us over the dead gods of Egypt. So far back into the realms of savage thought does that seemingly picturesque and harmless mis. tletoe hurry us."
But, setting aside Druidical and pagan practices, let us see what part the mistletoe played in mediæval times. It seems pretty well established that it once had a place among the evergreens employed in the Christmas decoration of churches, but that it was subsequently excluded. Hone states that it was banished together with kissing in the church, which practice had established itself at a certain time of the service. Brand, however, asserts that the mistletoe never entered into sacred edifices except by mistake, and assigns it a place in the kitchen, where "it was hung up in great state, with its white berries; and whatever female chanced to stand under it, the young man present either had a right, or claimed one, of saluting her, and of plucking off a berry at each kiss.” Nares makes it ominous for the maid not so saluted, and says, “The custom longest preserved was the hanging up of a bush of mistletoe in the kitchen, or servants' hall, with the charm attached to it that the maid who was not kissed under it at Christmas would not be married in that year."
Whatever the origin of kissing under the mistletoe, the custom was a de. servedly popular one, and still retains its hold. An enthusiastic English minstrel sings,
Yet why should this holy and festival mirth
In the reign of old Christmas only be found?
And let us kiss under it all the year round. But there may be too much of a good thing, and then, too, there is a time for all things. Let us keep up the good old custom, however, at the Christmas season, for it is eminently worth preserving, especially when a pretty girl is in the question, and certainly its antiquity should be a guarantee for its respectability.
Mistress of the Adriatic. By this figure Venice, from her situation at the head of the sea of that name, and her commercial importance in the later Middle Ages as the entrepôt and chief factor in the trade between Europe and the Orient, is alluded to. The following extract is a reference to the fact that this commercial pre-eminence afterwards passed to the Dutch :
The nations of the Baltic and the farthest Ind now exchanged their products on a more extensive scale and with a wider sweep across the earth than when the Mistress of the Adri. atic held the keys of Asiatic commerce.-MOTLEY: Rise of the Dutch Republic.
Mitten, To give the, or the sack, in American slang, to refuse a pro. posal of marriage, to dismiss a lover. The phrase is probably derived from the French custom of presenting mitaines to an unsuccessful wooer,-a supposition strengthened by the fact that it comes to us from French Canada; but it was doubtless influenced by some reminiscence of the old custom of throwing the glove down as a sign of defiance. The suggestion that there is some allusion here to the Latin mittere, to "send” about one's business, seems hardly tenable.
Had I only got her glove-
The Sorrows of Sam “May I see you safe home?" he asked, as he had often asked her before, but never before with trepidation. "No," said Rachel, with an evident effort, and without looking at Tom's face. Such an answer is technically known as the sack and the mitten, though it would take a more inventive antiquary than I to tell how it got these epithets. But it was one of the points on which the moral etiquette of that day was rigorous and inflexible, that such a refusal closed the conversation and annihilated the beau without allowing him to demand any explanations or to make any further advances at the time.-Century Magazine, 1887, apud Farmer,"
Mock-Turtle. According to Dr. Kitchiner's “The Cook's Oracle," a famous book of recipes published in London in 1817, this savory fraud was invented by Elizabeth Lister, who is described as “late Cook to Dr. Kitchiner, Bread and Biscuit Baker, No. 6 Salcombe-place, York Terrace, Regent's Park,"_with the further information that she “goes out to dress dinners on reasonable terms." Of mock-turtle itself this authority states that it “is the Bonne Bouche which the officers of the Mouth' of Old England prepare when they choose to rival les Grands Cuisiniers de (sic) France in a Ragout sans Pareil.” The directions for making this soup fill altogether about four pages, and embedded among them comes the following outburst in praise of the dish (the italics and the capitals are the Doctor's): “Without its paraphernalia of subtle double Relishes a STARVED TURTLE has not more intrinsic sapidity than a FATTED CALF. Friendly Reader, it is really neither half so wholesome nor half so toothsome.” Later on he says, “ This is a delicious Soup within the range of those who eat to live,' but if it had been composed expressly for those who only live to eat,' I do not know how
it could have been made more agreeable ; as it is, the lover of good eating • will wish his throat a mile long, and every inch of it palate.""
Molly Maguires, a secret society among the coal-miners of Pennsylvania, which for many years prior to 1877 terrorized the entire coal-producing region, and even rose to be an important political factor in the State, through the numerous votes which it controlled. The name was originally that of a secret society organized in Ireland in 1843 for the purpose of terrorizing the officials employed by the landlords to distrain for rent. Stout, active young men, dressed in women's clothes, with faces blackened, or otherwise disguised, would pounce upon the grippers, bumbailiffs, process-servers, and drivers (persons who impounded cattle till the rent was paid), releasing the distress and roughly handling the distrainers, from the effects of which they not infre. quently died.
The Molly Maguires of the coal-regions were composed almost entirely of Irishmen, and they kept the forms and practices of the secret societies of the old country. They combined against mine-owners and overseers as the Irish society had combined against landlords and agents. But their crimes were worse, as their excuse was less, and their cruelty was as ferocious as the offence which caused it was petty. In committing their murders, the society took a course not unknown in the history of the brotherhoods of assassins, and had the deeds done by persons who were strangers in the sections where the victims lived. Returns of courtesies were arranged by which murders were exchanged. They pursued the same course in regard to terrorism of witnesses and to subornation of perjury, and consequently for a long time made trials a farce. With murder and incendiarism, matters came to such a pass that in 1875 the entire region was in a tremble of fear. After the total failure of the local constabulary, after even the militia had failed to establish more than temporary quiet, thé Pinkerton Agency of Chicago was ultimately set upon their track, and largely through the personal efforts and influence of Franklin B. Gowen, President of the Reading Railroad, the ringleaders were detected, arrested, convicted, and, in June, 1877, hanged, after which order was restored and the association broken up.
Moloch. Figuratively, a ruling passion or consuming vice, to which man sacrifices things most dear and sacred; it may be the Moloch of gambling, the Moloch of ambition, the Moloch of war, etc. The derivation is from Moloch, a god of the Ammonites, into whose bowels, being a furnace with a raging fire, the worshippers cast as sacrifices jewels, treasures, often even their own favorite children : this practice is alluded to in the Biblical reference to the god, to whom children were “made to pass through the fire" in sacrifice.
Money makes the mare go, an old English proverb of uncertain origin. It may be a far-off variant of the ancient phrase found in this form in Publius Syrus : “Money alone sets all the world in motion." (Maxim 656.) There is an old glee that contains the following lines :
“Will you lend me your mare to go a mile ?"
“Oh, ho! say you so?
Money will make the mare to go." There is no evidence, however, to show that the glee was not taken from the saw. In Caleb Bingham's “ American Preceptor," published in 1794, is a dialogue called “Sell-Interest," in which an English rustic, named Scrapewell, makes all sorts of false excuses to avoid lending his mare to a neighbor, but afterwards, finding that the loan is to be profitable to himself, he takes back all the excuses and lets the mare go. The author's name is given as Berquin. Probably it is a paraphrase from the French writer for children Arnauld Berquin (1749-91). The glee may have been founded on this dialogue, as it follows it in all essentials. And, as the proverb is not mentioned in the dialogue, the saw as well as the glee may have arisen therefrom.
Monkey's money, To make payment in,-i.e., in something of no value. The origin of the phrase is sought in an ordinance said to have existed in Paris, imposing a toll of four deniers upon any animal crossing the Petit Pont and brought into the city for sale ; if it was a showman's monkey, not intended for sale, an exception was made, and in such a case it would suffice if the monkey went through his antics and grimaces.
... Friar John bought him two rare pictures, ... an original, by master Charles Char. mois, principal painter to King Megistus; and he paid for them in court fashion, with monkey's money (with congé and grimace). - RABELAIS, Book iv., ch. ii.
A parallel figure is the English colloquialism “monkey's allowance.” The extract explains the meaning : You fellows worked like bricks, spent money, and got midshipman's half-pay (nothing a
purself) and monkey's allowance (more kicks than halfpence).-C. KINGSLEY: Letters, May, 1856.
Monograms are cabalistic-looking ciphers or figures, often utterly meaningless at first sight, which on closer inspection resolve themselves into let. ters fantastically intertwined the one with the other. These devices can be traced back to early ages, possibly to the Egyptians, and certainly to the Greeks, who used them on early coins, medals, and seals. They are found also on the family coins of Rome, but not on the coins of the Roman emperors until the time of Constantine, who used, there and elsewhere, the famous monogram of Christ, formed from the first two letters of the Greek XPIETOE, which was the most striking part of the labarum. (See In Hoc Signo VINCES.) Another famous Christian monogram is considered sub voce I. H. S. Charlemagne is thought to have revived in France the practice of placing monograms on coins, which was copied by most of the Carlovingian kings. And in order to hide his ignorance of the art of writing, Charlemagne was wont to use a monogram stamped on a seal as his signature. The “mer. chants' marks” of the Middle Ages were often monograms, as were the devices on tradesmen's tokens, and the signatures of old painters, engravers, and printers. The latter form the especial study of the bibliographer, who is thus enabled to fix the identity of the ancient éditions, German, Italian, and English, from the invention of printing down to the middle or end of the sixteenth century. But as a means of handing down one's name to posterity monograms can hardly be considered a success. Not many years ago a long controversy broke out in the pages of Notes and Queries concerning a monogram which different correspondents variously attributed to Peter Quast, Lewis Crosse, Sir Peter Lely, and others, and which to the uninstructed mind seemed to contain a P, a C, an L, and a D. Unfortunately, there are no rules for deciphering a monogram. All attempted rules, such as that which declares that in these combinations the initial of the surname should be the most prominent character, have been sacrificed to the exigencies of the occasion in hand. It is now generally held that the diphthong Æ, for example, is a true monogram in itself, embracing the initials A, E, F, L in any desired order, and standing either for Ebenezer Fitz-Adam Longshanks or Alexandria Letitia Frances Escobar. Shakespeare asks, What's in a name? With a deal more reason he might ask, “What's in a monogram?"
Monosyllable. The literary value of simplicity, of Saxon as against