Fireside Nursery Stories

: Popular Rhymes And Nursery Tales

The efforts of modern romance are so greatly superior to the best

fictions of a former age, that old wives' tales are not so readily

tolerated as they were in times past. We question whether any one in

these days, save a very grave antiquary, could read two chapters of the

Morte Arthure without a yawn. Let us, then, turn to that simpler class

of narratives which bears the same relation to novels that rural ballads

do t
the poem; and ascertain whether the wild interest which, in the

primitive tales erewhile taught by nurse, first awakened our

imagination, can be so reflected as to render their resuscitation

agreeable. We rely a good deal for the success of the experiment on the

power of association; for though these inventions may, in their

character, be suited to the dawn of intellect, they not infrequently

bear the impress of creative fancy, and their imperceptible influence

over the mind does not always evaporate at a later age.

Few persons, indeed, there are, even amongst those who affect to be

insignificantly touched by the imagination, who can be recalled to the

stories and carols that charmed them in their childhood wholly without

emotion. An affectation of indifference in such matters is, of course,

not unusual, for most thoughts springing from early associations, and

those on which so many minds love to dwell, may not be indiscriminately

divulged. It is impossible they should be generally appreciated or

understood. Most of us, however, are liable to be occasionally touched

by allusions breathing of happy days, bearing our memories downward to

behold the shadows of joys that have long passed away like a dream. They

now serve only "to mellow our occasions," like that "old and antique

song" which relieved the passion of the Duke Orsino.