The Story Of Merlin
: JAPANESE AND OTHER ORIENTAL TALES]
: Boys And Girls Bookshelf
Merlin was a King in early Britain; he was also an Enchanter. No one
knows who were his parents, or where he was born; but it is said that he
was brought in by the white waves of the sea, and that, at the last, to
the sea he returned.
When Merlin was King of Britain, it was a delightful island of flowery
meadows. His subjects were fairies, and they spent their lives in
singing, playing, and enjoyment. The
Prime Minister of Merlin was a tame
wolf. Part of his kingdom was beneath the waves, and his subjects there
were the mermaids. Here, too, everyone was happy, and the only want they
ever 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 Merlin's
workshop, where he forged the enchanted sword Excalibur. This was given
to King Arthur when he began to reign, and after his life was through it
was flung into the ocean again, where it will remain until he returns to
rule over a better kingdom.
Merlin was King Arthur's trusted counselor. He knew the past, present,
and the future; he could foretell the result of a battle, and he had
courage to rebuke even the bravest Knights for cowardice. On one
occasion, when the battle seemed to be lost, he rode in among the enemy
on a great white horse, carrying a banner with a golden dragon, which
poured forth flaming fire from its throat. Because of this dragon, which
became King Arthur's emblem, Arthur was known as Pendragon, and always
wore a golden dragon on the front of his helmet.
Merlin was always fond of elfin tricks. He would disguise himself--now
as a blind boy, again as an old witch, and once more as a dwarf. There
was a song about him all over Britain, which began as follows:
"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!"
This is the way the early British explained the gathering and
arrangement of the vast stones of Stonehenge. After a famous battle had
been won there, Merlin said: "I will now cause a thing to be done that
will endure to the world's end." So he bade the King, who was the father
of King Arthur, to send ships and men to Ireland. Here he showed him
stones so great that no man could handle, but by his magic art he placed
them upon the boats and they were borne to England. Again by his magic
he showed how to transport them across the land; and after they were
gathered he had them set on end, "because," he said, "they would look
fairer than as if they were lying down."
Now, strange to say, the greatest friend of Merlin was a little girl.
Her name was Vivian; she was twelve years old, and she was the daughter
of King Dionas. In order to make her acquaintance, Merlin changed
himself into a young Squire, and when she asked him who was his master,
he said: "It is one who has taught me so much that I could here erect
for you a castle, and I could make many people outside to attack it and
inside to defend it."
"I wish I could thus disport myself," answered Vivian. "I would always
love you if you could show me such wonders."
Then Merlin described a circle with his wand, and went back and sat down
beside her. Within a few hours the castle was before her in the wood,
Knights and ladies were singing in its courtyard, and an orchard in
blossom grew about.
"Have I done what I promised?" asked Merlin.
"Fair, sweet friend," said she, "you have done so much for me that I am
Vivian became like a daughter to the old magician, and he taught her
many of the most wonderful things that any mortal heart could think
of--things past, things that were done, and part of what was to come.
You have been told in Tennyson that Vivian learned so many of Merlin's
enchantments that in his old age she took advantage of him and put him
to sleep forever in the hollow of a tree. But the older legend gives us
better news. He showed her how to make a tower without walls so they
might dwell there together alone in peace. This tower was "so strong
that it may never be undone while the world endures." After it was
finished he fell asleep with his head in her lap, and she wove a spell
nine times around his head so that he might rest more peacefully.
But the old enchanter does not sleep forever. Here in the forest of
Broceliande, on a magic island, Merlin dwells with his nine bards, and
only Vivian can come or go through the magic walls. It was toward this
tower, so the legends say, that, after the passing of King Arthur,
Merlin was last seen by some Irish monks, sailing away westward, with
the maiden Vivian, in a boat of crystal, beneath the sunset sky.
THE WILLOW PATTERN
The plate of which this is a photograph was brought to America from
England about 1875; it had at that time been in the possession of one
family for a hundred years.]