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to pluck out the heart of its mystery; and the descriptions of certain ancient representatives of Yggdrasil do not lessen the difficulty. The great world-tree under which the gods assembled was, says the Edda, although an ash, an evergreen; and scattered over Northern Europe were many sacred trees, reverenced as representing Yggdrasil, which are said to have been green summer and winter. Such a tree, according to the Archbishop of Bremen, stood close to the great temple at Upsal; and there was a famous tree of the same kind in Dithmarsch, carefully protected by an entrenchment, and looked upon as bound up in some mysterious way with the fortunes of the country. When Dithmarsch lost her ancient liberty, the tree withered ; but a magpie, one of the chief Northern birds of augury, came and built on it, and her eggs produced five young ones, perfectly white-an omen that liberty should one day return. These trees may have been either solitary specimens of the Ilex, or more probably of the Turkey oak (Q. cerris), the chief oak of Southern Europe-a tree which holds on its leaves so long, that in the North it might well pass for an evergreen. A still more famous tree, described as an evergreen-that at Romowe, the old sacred centre of the Prussians
greeneritet med god that in the Europe - the Tur
was certaisomewhat F destroyedes, and woodulp
It is somewhat remarkable, considering that the roots of Yggdrasil were half destroyed by the serpents that lay nestled among them, to find the leaves and wood of the ash regarded throughout Northern Europe as a powerful protection from all manner of snakes and evil worms. Among the curious woodcuts which adorn the Roman edition of Olaus Magnus, that illustrating his chapter touching the keeping away of serpents from children in harvest time' represents the children comfortably slung in their cradles from the branches of great ashtrees, whilst their mothers are hard at work in the harvest-field below. Snakes, according to the gossiping old Swede, cannot abide the ash, and will not willingly go near it. If a circle be traced with an ashen staff, says a piece of Devonshire folk-lore, round a sleeping viper, the creature will be unable to pass beyond it. In such folk-lore as this, or in the shrew-ash' described in White's Selborne, it may not be possible to trace Yggdrasil; but Northern antiquaries insist that the world-tree has had, and has, its direct representatives. They find it, first in the maypole, with its garlands, its streaming ribbons, and its bird's-eggs, now almost as completely a relic of past ages as Yggdrasil itself; and also in the Christmas Tree, which, according to the learned Finn Magnussen, is descended in a straight line from the great ash, of all whose accompaniments--the stags, the eagle, and the squirrel--the ornaments which hang from the branches of the
modern tree are memorials. Into such weighty .questions as these we need not examine: but it is quite certain that the recollections of Yggdrasil did not fade away with the introduction of Christianity; and that they were interwoven in a remarkable manner with some of the mediæval traditions relating to the tree of the cross. Eilif, a Norwegian scald, who, before his conversion, had been a devoted servant of Thor, thus, after he had become a so-called Christian, speaks of Our Lord :
"They say he sitteth on a mount,
South at the Urdr well;
Hath power without bound.'* The Urdr well was that from which the Norns drew water to pour over Yggdrasil; and on a mount under the tree Thor and his brethren sat 'to give dooms.' Eilif must have been still more than half a heathen; but his verses show how readily the imagery of the former creed could be adapted after the change to Christianity; and some later mediaval poems, quoted in Grimm's great work on Teutonic Mythology, prove that the connexion with Yggdrasil, suggested in Eilif's verses, was long retained. The tree of the cross, says one of these singers,' is a noble tree, planted in a garden. Its roots pierce downward to hell; its top reaches to heaven; and on its branches, which spread over the world, sit birds that sing without ceasing.† The world-tree of the Ashmen has here become a world-tree with a far deeper significance. It is not clear, however, whether such descriptions as these (which occur also in graver writers) were meant to be accepted literally. It is more certain that a remarkable legend, of a different kind, was attached to the actual tree of the cross, and was generally believed throughout the middle ages.
It is unnecessary to discuss in this place the historical truth of the discovery of our Lord's cross by the Empress Helena, said to have been made in the year 326. The great argument against it is the silence of Eusebius, who died about A.D. 338 ; but it is at least certain that a cross, said to have been that of our Lord, was publicly shown and honoured in Jerusalem during the episcopate of St. Cyril (350-386). It was after this time, and probably as a natural result of the interest awakened by the asserted discovery, that the legend which told the history of the tree of the cross gradually took shape ; working into itself many older traditions, especially those which had made Hebron and its neighbourhood the chief resting-place of Adam after his expulsion from Paradise. With slight variations the story occurs in all the great mediæval legendaries, including the · Legenda Aurea' of Jacques de Voraigne. It was told also in verse, by trouvère and by troubadour; and formed the subject of many stained windows (it occurs for example in one of those which give an especial interest to the Cornish church of St. Neot), and of much ancient tapestry and wall painting. In its complete shape the legend is as follows.
* Finn Magnussen.
Nam ipsa crux magnum in se mysterium continet; cujus positio talis est, ut superior pars cælos petat, inferior terræ inhæreat, fixa infernorum ima contingat, latitudo autem ejus partes mundi appellat. From a treatise • De Divinis Officiis,' quoted by Grimm, p. 757. Q2
For four hundred and thirty-two years after his expulsion from Paradise, Adam had tilled the ground in the valley of Hebron, when he felt his end approaching, and determined to send his son Seth to the gates of Paradise, to demand from their keeper, * the angel called Cherubim,' the oil of mercy which had been promised to Adam when he was driven from the garden. Seth accordingly set forth, finding his way by the footprints of Adam and Eve, upon which no grass had grown since they passed from Paradise to Hebron. The angel, after hearing the message, ordered Seth to look beyond the gate into the garden, and to tell him what he saw. He beheld a place of inexpressible delight and beauty, with the four great rivers proceeding from a fountain in the centre; and, rising from the edge of the fountain, an enormous tree, with wide-spreading branches, but without either bark or leaves. He was ordered to look a second tiine, when he saw a serpent twisted round the tree ; and a third time, when the tree had raised itself to heaven, and bore on its summit a child wrapped in glittering vestments. It was this child, said the angel, who would give to Adam the oil of mercy when the due time should come. Meanwhile the angel gave Seth three seeds from the fruit of the tree of which Adam had eaten. These were to be placed in the mouth of Adam before his burial; and three trees would spring from them,-a cedar, a cypress, and a pine. The trees were symbolical of the Holy Trinity, not only by their number, but by the virtues which belonged to each separately.
It happened as the angel had foretold. The trees were hardly a foot above the ground in the days of Abrabam. Moses, to whom their true nature was revealed, took them up carefully, carried them with him during the years of wandering in the desert, and then replanted them in a mysterious valley named Comfrafort (“Comfort,' •Consolation ?'). From Comfrafort, David was directed to bring them to Jerusalem. He planted them close to a fountain ; and within thirty years they had grown together
so as to form a single tree of wonderful beauty, under the shade of which David composed his psalms, and wept for his sins. In spite of its beauty, Solomon cut it down in order to complete his temple; for which a single beam was wanted, of a size such as no other tree could furnish. But, in fitting the beam to its place, it was found, after repeated trials, either too long or too short ; and the marvel was accepted as a sign that it was not to be so employed. The iniraculous beam, however, was reverently preserved in the temple. A certain woman, named Maximilla, one day leant against it, when her clothes caught fire, and she cried out in a spirit of prophecy, “Jesus Christ, thou Son of God, help me! The Jews, when they heard her cry, took her for mad, and chased her from the city—the first martyr, says the legend, for Jesus Christ.
Thus far the more usual version. Another, which has been followed in a striking Provençal narration, quoted by M. Fauriel, * asserts that when the tree was found too short for the temple, it was flung aside into a certain marsh, where it served as a bridge. But when the Queen of Sheba came to Jerusalem to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and was about to cross the marsh, she saw in a vision how the Saviour of the world was to be suspended on that tree, and so would not walk over it, but forthwith adored it. It was afterwards, as all the versions agree, buried in the earth, on the spot where the Pool of Bethesda was afterwards made; so that it was not only the descent of the angel, but the virtues of the buried wood, which gave its healing qualities to the water. At the time of the Passion the wood rose and Aoated on the surface. The Jews took it to make the cross of our Lord.
Such is the remarkable legend which has at least the interest of having been very widely spread, and of having been generally received as authentic. It would be no easy task to trace the gradual steps of its formation, or to mark the period of its first introduction to Europe. The footprints of Adam, which left the ground bare, are still pointed out on the summit of Mount Gerizim. There was a very ancient tradition-more ancient apparently than the legend which has just been narrated—which asserted that the cross itself was fixed in the grave of Adam, and that his skull was thrown up in digging the ground to receive it-
Thou madest Death ; and lo, thy foot
Is on the skull which thou hast made.' Traditions such as these seem to have been worked into the later legend; and there may have been others relating to Adam pre
served in the neighbourhood of Hebron. The tree of the story,
withoni bark or leaves,' is possibly not unconnected with a pomarkable onk, which Sir John Mandeville, in the middle of the tomteenth century, thus describes :
And a lydilla tho bron is the Mount of Mambre, of the which dhe valley takoth hin name. And there is a tree of Oke, that the Manninen olopen (enll) Dirpo, that is of Abraham's tyme, the whiche molt clapen the dryo tree. And thei seye, that it hathe ben there within the beginnynge of the world ; and was sumtyme grene, and bare Ini unto the lyme that ouro Lord dyede on the cros; and thanne it roles and opilen alle the trees that waren thanne in the worlde. Ami n be home prophecyes, that a Lord, a prince of the west Mile the wwk, khulle won the land of promyssyoun, that ys the Nel lund with help of Cristalle men; and he schalle do synge a
* ** *app ner that year and then the tree schalle weren grene, and the thith no me ler And through that myracle manye NAIM Mon New hulle he turned to Cristene fevthe. And Phun thun namwhip thart and kepen it fully besyly. Auf w
i ll ha en arm matheles per he herethe gret vertue : V
i r And we had * halle haar mon him it heleth him HP har alle part i Ais dus halle not be s fomdred; And I were a barbe: wherefore nem bolda it fall