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a man so completely out of the pale of If the result of the negotiation, however, wedlock. He retails all the small talk and should happen not to fall in with his exscandal of the parish; knows all the new pectations-that is to say, if they do not songs, occasionally contributing one of his come up to his price-all he has to do is own; and is as full of stories, and tells to enter the house, draw a brand from the them as well as the mendicant: with this fire, and place it across the hearth. By difference, that the latter confines himself this action he indicates his intention of reto stories as melancholy as his own life, linquishing the alliance. while those of the tailor, better suited to his peculiar functions, are all glee and sunshine. In a word, the tailor is the scandalous chronicle, and high minister of the love affairs of his district.
On the other hand, if the terms be agreed upon, the ceremonial is proceeded with at the end of a stipulated period with extraordinary pomp and circumstance. Eight days before the wedding, the bride and He is at the height of his inspiration bridegroom invite their friends to the feast. when he is charged with a negotiation of The mode of invitation is curious. The marriage an undertaking which is usually young couple, forming separate procesmanaged through his agency. If he meets sions, with white wands, accompanied by a magpie on his way, he quickens his steps, their bridesmen and bridesmaids, proceed for it is considered an ill omen. His first to the houses of the persons they intend to object is to see the young lady alone. He invite, and stopping opposite to the doors, opens with some indifferent topic-the pronounce a regular speech, in which they weather-the crops-the state of the sky; engage them to the merry-making, anperhaps he hits upon the stars; then, natu- nouncing at the same time the name of the rally enough, compares them to her eyes; innkeeper who is to furnish the dinner. and so contrives to bring about the delicate This speech, which seems to be an affair question with the address of an accom- of inflexible tradition, is frequently interplished diplomatist. When he succeeds in rupted by prayers and signs of the cross. obtaining her consent, he applies to her At last the wedding-day arrives; and now parents, and a day is settled, when he brings the little tailor, elevated to the summit of the lover to the house, accompanied by his multifarious functions, assumes the ofhis nearest relative. This is called asking fice of a rimeur. He approaches the house leave. The young people retire to one end of the lady, followed by the friends of the of the house, while the old ones are settling bridegroom, and is met on the threshold by the preliminaries at the other, the tailor the rimeur of the opposite side. Here a vibrating like a pendulum between them. long inflated dialogue takes place between At last the lovers are summoned to the the bards, which ends by the admission of table, where they eat with the same knife, the expectant lover into the house. After drink out of the same glass, and indulge in this they go to the Mairie, and then to the white bread, wine, and brandy. A day is church. The bridal repast is often attendthen appointed for the assembling of the ed by five or six hundred persons. The two families at the house of the young lady; bridegroom sings a tristful song, which is this is called velladen, or the view. At this succeeded by a similar wail from the lady. preliminary meeting they are all dressed These songs are called complaintes, and the in their holiday suits. Great preparations burthen of them is the leave-taking of their are made in the house. The tables and single lives. These wild rhapsodies throw benches are highly polished; the drawers a shade of melancholy over the company, left half open with premeditated careless- and even draw tears from their eyes: the ness, to display a large stock of household effect of them is described as being singulinen; pieces of bacon are hung up pro-larly touching. But the sensation does not fusely in the chimney; the horses, if there last long. The effect of the wine and the be any, are paraded; all the plate that can cider begins to be felt, flushing the cheeks be mustered up is ostentatiously exhibited; and unloosening the tongues of the party. and every thing is done to give the bride Dinner is over, the patriarch of the asseman appearance of wealth, although, in most bly rises, and the guests all stand uncovcases, the majority of these luxurious equip-ered and respond to his solemn grace. This ments are borrowed for the occasion. At is followed by a dance, riotous, furious, like last the young man arrives; he steps over a whirlwind of leaves in a storm, like a the farm with an air of business; examines frantic dance of Indians under the maddenevery thing with his own eye; and then ing spell of a recent victory. The bride enters upon the question of property. The and bridegroom are then conducted to parents drive as hard a bargain as they can. their chamber; and, by an ancient and
strange custom of the country, two watchers | here. When a young woman of this class are appointed to sit up with them all night. is about to become a mother, presents pour The majority of these regular contracts in upon her from all sides; especially from are matters of calculation, into which love others similarly circumstanced. It is a never enters. And it is perhaps for this sort of festival amongst the mothers-expec very reason, that the Bretons are famous tant of the neighborhood. The birth itfor improvident marriages. In a country self is a solemn religious event, surrounded where wedlock is thus openly ratified by by many touching details. The infant is prudential considerations, it is not to be looked upon as an angel from heaven, and wondered at that the poor, who cannot all the mothers present offer their breasts reach the desiderated test, should often be in succession, regarding the sanctifying found plunging recklessly into the opposite contact of the new-born lips as a happy extreme. Besides, there is no surveillance portent. If the mother dies, the child is in the way of social opinion to warn them adopted by all the other mothers. The against the consequences; no status to be priest selects one to whom he confides it, maintained; no Mrs. Grundy to propitiate and she receives the sacred charge as a or outvie. The Breton is luckily exempt boon from the Almighty. If they are too from all the ordinary responsibilities of do- poor for any one of them to take the sole mestic indiscretion. He never stops to charge of the child, it is received amongst think about the danger of increasing the them in common. One lodges it, and the population. Political economy is as great rest watch over it, and tend it, hour by an enigma to him as the balance of Europe. hour, alternately. It is the invariable He never thinks of a provision for a family: usage of the nurse, when she takes her to do him justice, he never thinks about a turn, to make the sign of the cross, and provision for himself. He often marries sprinkle the linen with holy water. Every without a bed; sometimes without a house thing connected with infancy is associated to put one in; and it is not at all an un- with pious feelings, and fenced round by common occurrence for him to borrow the gracious safeguards. Nobody passes a nuptial couch from some compassionate woman carrying a child without exclaimfriend. But what of that? He is safe in ing, "God bless you!" If this salutation the eternal justice, the clemency, the pro- be omitted, the mother thinks you have tection of Heaven. What is the use of thrown an evil eye upon her offspring. human foresight, he argues, when he has Even inveterate hatreds are disarmed by the providence of God? this tender custom, and a man's most implacable enemy will never strike him while he has a child in his arms.
These marriages of the very poor are altogether unique. No country in the world furnishes a parallel to them. The Almost all the popular usages of the most extraordinary feature in them is, that Bretons have their spring either in relithe peasant not only marries without a gious notions, or in superstitions that penny in his pocket, but the happy-miser- claim a sort of poetical kindred with reliable couple invite all the surrounding fami- gion. The ceremonies of the church are lies to the marriage festival; and, what is more wonderful still, the greater the number of visitors the better enabled is the host to provide them with a becoming banquet. The solution of the difficulty is obvious enough. Every guest is a contributor to the feast. Some bring wine, some linen, others honey, corn, and even money. Thus a liberal supply is scrambled together, and the utmost hilarity prevails. The company are always dressed in their gayest attire, attracted by the dance and the revel. There are frequently no less than three hundred people assembled at these Dame-de-Bon-Secours, many of which joint-stock bridals; and it often happens that the contributions they furnish constitute the sum total of the worldly goods with which the new-married pair begin house-keeping!
Nor does this general sympathy end
here preserved with more gravity and strictness than in any other part of Europe. The fête days of saints are solemnized with a degree of pomp which could hardly be expected from a population so poor and scattered. Nor are they less remarkable for their picturesque effects. In some cases the people gather into such crowds, that the interior of the church, from the altar through the nave, and in every nook and cranny of the private chapels, becomes illuminated with a forest of candles. Their pilgrimages, especially that of Notre
take place at night, consisting of vast pro cessions through the least frequented parts of the country, resemble long trains of phantoms holding wax-lights in their hands. Every fête is marked by distinct features peculiar to itself. That of St. John is, per
haps, on the whole, the most striking. sparks from them they expelled every evil, Throughout the day, the poor children go a practice which is still followed in Cornabout begging contributions for lighting wall and other places: the dance itself, for the fires of Monsieur St. Jean; and, to which there is always, to be sure, a suffiwards evening, one fire is gradually fol- cient excuse in the animal spirits of the lowed by two, three, four; then a thousand revellers, had reference to the produce of gleam out from the hill tops, till the whole the vine and in some parts of Ireland the country glows under the conflagration. people still exhibit an implicit reverence Sometimes the priests light the first fire in for the old faith, by making their cattle the market-place; and sometimes it is pass through the fire for the purpose of lighted by an angel who is made to de- charming them against disorders. scend, by a mechanical device, from the The Pardons are the favorite points of top of the church with a flambeau in her meeting for the youth of both sexes. Here hand, setting the pile in a blaze, and flying they freely indulge in their national games, back again. The young people dance with and above all in the dance. The excitebewildering activity round these fires, for ment of these scenes can hardly be underthere is a superstition amongst them that stood by the civilized reader whose taste if they dance round nine fires before mid- is subdued by the refinements of the modnight, they will be married in the ensuing ern ball-room; nor, without having actually year. Seats are placed round the flaming witnessed a Breton festival is it possible to piles for the dead, whose spirits are sup conceive the frenzy of delight with which posed to come there for the melancholy it is enjoyed by the people. Their principleasure of listening once more to their pal dances are composed of popular channative songs, and contemplating the live-sons, played upon an ancient national inly measures of their youth. Fragments strument, the bombarde, accompanied by of the torches on those occasions are pre- the binion, a species of bag-pipe, which served as spells against thunder and ner- serves to mark the time with rude but emVous diseases, and the crown of flowers phatic precision. The form of the dance which surmounted the principal fire is in may be best described as consisting of a such request as to produce tumultuous succession of gyrations, the dancers whirljealousy for its possession. At Brest, ing themselves round in a circle, with linkwhere the crowd, swelled by sailors, is ed hands, at a rate of perilous rapidity. This considerably more riotous than elsewhere, is called the ronde, and is probably the most there is a wild torch dance which winds ancient of all known figures. Sometimes up the night with savage uproar. There they perform this dizzy evolution with their can be no doubt that this festival is a re- arms interlaced, when it takes a somewhat lique of Druidism, and that the fires had more complicated and dazzling aspect. In their origin in the worship of the sun. this shape it changes its name to the bal. They are, in every respect, identical with Something of the excess with which these the Beal teinidh of the Phoenicians. The pleasures are entered into may be account custom of kindling fires about midnight at ed for by the fact, that it is only in their the moment of the summer solstice, con-youth and girlhood the Breton females sidered by the ancients a season of divinations, was a custom of remote antiquity, and seems to have been grafted upon Christianity by a common movement of all modern nations. When the year began in June, there was a direct significance in this feu The Breton women, the de joie, which was intended to celebrate the themes of all their poets, the subjects of commencement of vegetation, and to pro- innumerable elegies, songs, and romances, pitiate the fruits of the year by vows and before marriage, are placed after marriage. sacrifices: but the usage still continued, as low down in the social scale as the woby the force of habit, after its symbolical men of the Asiatics. In the country they meaning had long ceased. That St. John hold an inferior rank; wait upon their husshould have inherited the fires of the sun bands at table; and never speak to them but is not half so curious as that the Christian in terms of humility and respect. Amongst festival should have retained some of the rites which were potent only in the Pagan interpretation. Thus the ancients used to carry away the burning flambeaux, in the belief that as they shook off showers of
have any chance of relaxation or enjoyment. It is the first joyous bound of the courser into the circus, when he is led round to be familiarized with the glittering scene: all the rest is severe exertion and hard work.
the lowest classes of all, they toil in the open fields and surrender up their lives to the most laborious drudgery. And so ends that dream of life, which begins in chansons and dances, and sets in squalid slavery!
with these enchanted herbs risks the perdition of his soul; a sufficient guarantee against the frequent use of so perilous a spell. It is the only instance in which the superstitions of the Bretons recognize the possibility of entering into a contract with
appear that any thing approaching to a specific admission of such a contract takes place; although the hazard avowedly annexed to the charm leaves the tacit understanding of some such responsibility clear enough.
But in the midst of their drudgery they are cheered by the voices of the young, in whom the games and romps and innocent sports of their childhood are renewed. Few countries have a greater variety of amusements, and it is not a little suggestive of the identity of the sources of pleasure-per- the powers of darkness. Nor does it even haps of their limitation-to find amongst these primitive people precisely the same class of plays and diversions which entertained the Greeks and Romans, and which entertain the English and most other nations to the present day. The children trundle hoops, embellished with rattles for bells, the trochus of the ancients; build card-houses; play at blindman's buff, odd or even, and head or tail; gallop upon sticks; and draw miniature chariots with miniature horses: every one of which are derived direct from classical examples. Then the grown-up people play at bowls, cards, chess, nine-pins, dice, and twenty other games of hazard that have come down to them in the same way.
A game formerly existed called la Soule, not unlike the English game of foot-ball, but it led to such violent disorders that it has been gradually abolished in most parts of the country. It now lingers chiefly in the environs of Vannes, where the people still retain much of their original barbaric taste for raids and bloodshed. It is occa sionally revived, also in the distant commune of Calvados, in the province of Normandy.* A healthier exercise and more inspiring pastime survives to the Bretons in their great wrestling matches, which are celebrated with all the popular ardor and ceremonial detail of one of the Olympic games.
In their preparations for their manly pastimes, they do not always rely upon natural means, but have recourse, not only to the miraculous waters of certain fountains, but to particular herbs, which they gather on the first Saturday of the month, and which they believe have the power of rendering them invincible in the lutte. The employment of a secret advantage, or what they suppose to be one, would imply a spirit of jockeyship wholly inconsistent with the general integrity of the Breton character; but the proceeding carries so heavy a penalty with it that it is very rarely acted upon. The wrestler who fortifies himself
The credulity of the Bretons is certainly not chargeable with melodramatic absurdities of this kind. They do not believe that a man can lease out his soul for a consideration. They have no witch-glen bazaars for the sale of inexhaustible riches, or parchment deeds scrawled in blood for reversionary interests in eternity. They are simply the passive recipients of that large class of influences which, from time immemorial, have been associated in the popular mind with the Elements and the Seasons, Night and the Grave, Life and Death. Their creed in this respect, embracing a variety of singular items peculiar to themselves, includes most of the superstitions common to other countries. To the peasant of Lower Brittany, the cries of crows and screech-owls convey a sinister presage. He believes in the fairies who come to warm themselves at his fireside, who dance in the light of the moon, or sit meditating on the sea-shore. He shudders at apparitions and at sounds in the air charged with messages from the world of spirits; and he yields implicit credence to the functions attached to hobgoblins, warewolves, and the demons that combat with guardian angels for the souls of men. Many of these superstitions are intimately interwoven with religion itself.
It is a generally received belief that two crows attend upon every house. When the head of a family is dying the ominous birds perch on the roof, and commence their dismal screaming, which never ceases till the body is carried out; whereon the birds vanish and are never seen again. The approach of death, heralded by numerous signs, is connected in one locality with a remarkable superstition. Between Quimper and Chateaulin, strange-looking men are occasionally encountered on the highAt a recent sitting of the Société d'Archéologie ways, habited in white linen, with long of Avranches, a paper was read by M. Mango- straggling hair and coal-black beards, armDelalande upon the game of Soule, in which he re-ed with heavy sticks, and carrying dingy ferred to it as an ancient Norman custom. Any wallets slung over their shoulders. Their of the Breton antiquaries could have set him right upon the point. aspect is in the last degree dark and sinis
ter. In the night time they take the least frequented routes. They never sing while they are walking, nor speak to any body they meet, nor put their hands to their slouched hats with that politeness which is so general in Brittany. Sometimes they are accompanied by large fawn-colored dogs. The custom-house officers tell you that these fellows are smugglers, who go about the country with salt and tobacco; but the peasantry, who know better, assert that they are demons, whose dreadful business it is to conduct doomed souls into the next world. Wherever there is a person at the point of death, they may be seen prowling about the house like hungry wolves. If the guardian angel of the dying man, summoned by repeated prayers, do not arrive in time, the white man pounces on the deathbed at the last gasp, seizes the departing soul, crams it into his wallet, and carries it off to the marshes of St. Michel, into which be flings it, and where it must remain until it is delivered by vows and
vious relic of the pagan custom of washing idols. The arbres à niches, trees converted into arcades by drawing the branches over into an arch, in which crosses or images are set up, are also derived from the Celts, who worshipped all natural objects, and trees amongst the rest, believing them to be animated by supernatural intelligences. Then the stones and monuments of the Druids have particular virtues ascribed to them. Some conceal buried treasures; some, like the forge of Wayland Smith in Berkshire, possess magical powers: and an immense stone, poised on its inverted apex, called by the French the pierre vacillante, which the finger of a child would easily shake, will not move if attempted by the whole strength of a man whose wife has deceived him. At Carnac, if you pass the cemetery at midnight, you find all the tombs open, the church illuminated, and two thousand spectres on their knees listening to Death delivering a sermon from the top of the choir, in the dress of a priest. Some of the peasants will confidently affirm that they have beheld from a distance the light of the numerous wax-tapers, and have even heard the confused voice of the preacher.
The belief, common to all catholic countries, that the souls of men who died without the benefits of absolution, are wandering about in excruciating misery supplicating for intercession, is varied in different The fairy lore of Brittany is literally localities according to circumstances.- located among these monuments. The There is a desolate plain between Auray Roches aux Fées (for there are many beand Pluviguer, a mournful stretch of un-sides the celebrated one near Rennes) must cultivated ground, formerly the scene of a not be approached after nightfall. It is sanguinary conflict between the houses of here the fairies hold their court, and dance Blois and Montfort. Many hundred sol- their elfish hays in the moonlight. The diers fell in the battle, and remains of ar- barrows are called the châteaux of the mor and mouldering bones have been fre- poulpicans. The poulpicans are no other quently turned up there. The tradition than the husbands of the fairies, and make runs that the souls of these poor fellows, a very prominent figure in the mischievous still compelled to haunt the dust they once gambols of "Fairy-Londe." The fairies inhabited, rise from the ground at a certain are fair, handsome women, conceived in hour every night, and run the whole length the most perfect French taste, but their of the funereal field. The moaning of the husbands are little squat ugly black men, winds over this exposed surface is regarded who take the utmost delight in all sorts of as the expression of the anguish of the un-whimsical and malicious jokes; playing shrived spirits, entreating for masses. The Will-o'-the-Whisp to the poor herdsmen in worst of it is, they are condemned to this the woods when they are looking after hopeless nightly exercise until doomsday, their strayed cattle, and seizing young girls and to gallop on in a straight line, no mat- by the neck as they are wending home at ter what obstacles they may encounter. night, when the offended damsels, horridly Woe to the traveller who falls in with one vexed at having such a freedom taken with of these unhappy ghosts. The touch is them, turn round in a furious passion to death. The remains of Celtic supersti- scold the supposed clown, but get nothing tions may be distinctly traced in some of for their pains but the far off laughter of the legendary usages, thinly disguised un- the frolick some poulpicans. A thousand der Christian forms. Thus in some places legends are related about these humorous they carry the statue of a saint in proces- sprites. Often in the winter nights, cries sion to the charmed fountains, and plunge of apparent agony are heard outside as the it into the water, by way of purifying them- family sit listening to the crackling of the selves of the sins of the past year: an ob-fire in the chimney nook. The children