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themselves from the skins within which they are inthralled, and assuming the most exquisite human forms that ever were opposed to earthly eyes, inhale the upper atmosphere destined for the human race, and, by the moon's bright beams, enjoy their midnight revels.
As the green-haired denizens of the ocean are mortal, the visits that they pay the upper world are not always unattended with peril. On the authority of Brand, it appears, that in making their way through the ocean, there was much danger in their being entangled among the meshes spread out for taking herring; in which case they were certain to obtain a sound beating from the fishermen. It often happened, therefore, that they would contrive to break through the nets, or, to the vexation of the Shetlanders, bear them away. Sometimes, however, a more disastrous fate attended these beings. A damsel, who, in swimming through the intermediate expanse of the ocean, had assumed the peculiar half-fishy form under which a mermaid in her disguise very frequently appears, was caught by a ling hook that had been laid, which, from the narrative of Brand, appears to have entered her chin, and come out at her upper lip. When she was brought to the side of the boat, one of the crew, fearing that her appearance denoted mischief, took out his knife, and stabbed her to the heart; the luckless mermaiden fell backwards, emitted a mournful cry, and disappeared for ever. The murderer never afterwards prospered in his affairs, but, until his death, was haunted by an old merman, who continually upbraided him with the crime he had committed. But the greatest dangers to which these rangers of the sea seem liable, are from the mortal hurts that they receive, upon taking on themselves the form of the larger seals or Haaf fish; for when shot under this shape, the blood no sooner issues forth from the wound, and mixes with the ocean's brine, than it possesses the supernatural power of causing an awful swell and break of the sea, in the vicinity of the spot where the victim, from a sense of the pain inflicted, has been seen to dive. On the Ve Skerries, the inhabitants of submarine depths
are liable to considerable peril, whenever the natives of Papa Stour repair thither, at certain times of the year, for the purpose of attacking the seals, as they lie in the hollow of a certain crag. A story is told of a boat's crew that landed with this design at one of the Stacks; -they stunned a number of these animals, and, in this state, stripped them of their skins, with the fat attached to them,-left the carcasses on the rock, and were about to set off for the shore of Papa Stour, when such a tremendous swell arose, that every one flew quickly to the boat, and were successful in entering it, except one man, who had imprudently lingered behind. The crew were unwilling to leave a companion to perish on the Skerries, but the surge increased so fast, that after many unsuccessful attempts to bring the boat close in to the Stack, the unfortunate wight was left to his fate. A stormy night came on, and the deserted Shetlander saw no prospect before him, but of perishing with cold and hunger, or of being washed into the sea by the breakers which threatened to dash over the rocks. At length, he perceived many of the seals, who, in their flight, had escaped the attack of the boatmen;-they approached the Skerry, disrobed themselves of their amphibious hides, and appeared like the sons and daughters of the ocean. Their first object was to assist in the recovery of their friends, who, having been stunned by clubs, had, in this state, been deprived of their skins. When the flayed animals had regained their sensibility, they assumed their proper form of mermen or merwomen, and began to lament in a mournful lay, wildly accompanied by the storm that was raging around, the loss of their sea-dress, which would prevent them from again enjoying their native azure atmosphere, and coral mansions that lay below the deep waters of the Atlantic. But their chief lamentation was for Ollavitinus, the son of Gioga, who, having been stripped of his seal's skin, would be for ever parted from his comates, and condemned to be an outcast inhabitant of the upper world. Their song was at length broken off, by observing one of their enemies, viewing, with shiver
ing limbs and looks of comfortless despair, the wild waves that dashed over the Stack. Gioga immediately conceived the idea of rendering subservient to the advantage of her son the perilous situation of the man. She addressed him with mildness, proposing to carry him safe on her back across the sea to Papa Stour, on condition of receiving the seal-skin of Ollavitinus. A bargain was struck, and Gioga clad herself in her amphibious garb; but the Shetlander, alarmed at the sight of the stormy main that he was to ride through, prudently begged leave of the matron, for his better preservation, that he might be allowed to cut a few holes in her shoulders and flanks, in order to procure, between the skin and the flesh, a better fastening for his hands and feet. The request being complied with, the man grasped the neck of the seal, and committing himself to her care, she landed him safely at Acres Gio in Papa Stour; from which place he immediately repaired to a sken at Hamna Voe, where the skin was deposited, and honourably fulfilled his part of the contract, by affording Gioga the means whereby her son could again revisit the ethereal space over which the sea spreads its green mantle.
Sometimes mermen and merwomen have formed connubial attachments, with the human race. A story is told of an inhabitant of Unst, who, in walking on the sandy margin of a voe, saw a number of these beings dancing by moonlight, and several seal-skins strewed beside them on the ground. At his approach they immediately fled to secure their garbs, and taking upon themselves the form of seals, plunged immediately into the sea. But as the Shetlander perceived that one skin lay close to his feet, he snatched it up, bore it swiftly away, and placed it in concealment. On returning to the shore, he met the fairest damsel that was ever gazed upon by mortal eyes, lamenting the robbery, by which she should become an exile from her submarine friends, and a tenant of the upper world. Vainly she implored the restitution of her property; the man had drunk
deeply of love, and was inexorable-but offered her protection beneath his roof as his betrothed spouse. The merlady, perceiving that she must become an inhabitant of the earth, found that she could not do better than accept of the offer. This strange connubial attachment subsisted for many years, and several children were the fruits of it, who retained no farther marks of their origin than in the resemblance which a sort of web between their fingers, and a particular bend of their hands, bore to the fore feet of a seal,-this peculiarity being possessed by the descendants of the family at the present day. The Shetlander's love for his merwife was unbounded; but his affection was coldly returned. The lady would often steal alone to the desert strand, and on a signal being given, a large seal would make his appearance, with whom she would hold, in an unknown tongue, an anxious conference. Years had thus glided away, when it happened that one of the children, in the course of his play, found concealed beneath a stack of corn a seal's skin, and delighted with the prize, ran with it to his mother. Her eyes glistened with rapture, she gazed upon it as her own,-as the means by which she could pass through the ocean that led to her native home,-she burst forth into an ecstasy of joy, which was only moderated when she beheld her children, whom she was now about to leave,—and after hastily embracing them, fled with all speed towards the sea-side. The husband immediately returned,-learned the discovery that had taken place,-ran to overtake his wife, but only arrived in time to see her transformation of shape completed,—to see her, in the form of a seal, bound from the ledge of a rock into the sea. The large animal of the same kind, with whom she had held a secret converse, soon appeared, and evidently congratulated her, in the most tender manner, on her escape. But, before she dived to unknown depths, she cast a parting glance at the wretched Shetlander, whose despairing looks excited in her breast a few transient feelings of commiseration. "Farewell," said she to him,
" and may all good attend you! I loved you very well when I resided upon earth, but I always loved my first husband much better."
These inhabitants of a submarine world were, in the later periods of christianity, regarded as fallen angels, who were compelled to take refuge in the sea: they had, therefore, the name of Sea-Trows given to them, as belonging to the dominion of the prince of darkness. Brand appears to have confirmed this view, by assenting to the opinion of the sailors, that it was the devil, who, in the shape of great rolling creatures, broke their nets; adding, "it seems to be more than probable that evil spirits frequent both land and sea."-Dr. Hibbert.
FRAGMENTS FROM THE WOODS.
"Lo, the poor Indian, whose untutor'd mind
He asks no angel's wing, no seraph's fire,
But thinks, admitted to that equal sky,
HAPPENING, a few days ago, to take up a volume of Lord Erskine's speeches, I was peculiarly struck with the passage in which he either invents or relates the speech of an American chieftain, justifying his animosity to the invaders of his country, and avowing his determination to defend it. Whether the speech be Lord Erskine's own, or the genuine production which it purports to be, I have no means of ascertaining; but be it which it may, there is a soul-stirring energy about it which few can peruse without excitement-it