TALE OF ELIDURUS
A SHORT time before our days, a circumstance worthy of note occurred in these parts, which Elidurus, a priest, most strenuously affirmed had befallen himself. When he was a youth of twelve years,--since, as Solomon says, "The root of learning is bitter, although the fruit is sweet,"--and was following his literary pursuits, in order to avoid the discipline and frequent stripes inflicted on him by his preceptor, he ran away, and concealed himself under the hollow bank of a river; and, after fasting in that situation for two days, two little men of pygmy stature appeared to him, saying, "If you will come with us, we will lead you into a country full of delights and sports." Assenting, and rising up, he followed his guides through a path, at first subterraneous and dark, into a most beautiful country, adorned with rivers and meadows, woods and plains, but obscure, and not illuminated with the full light of the sun. All the days were cloudy, and the nights extremely dark, on account of the absence of the moon and stars. The boy was brought before the king, and introduced to him in the presence of the court; when, having examined him for a long time, he delivered him to his son, who was then a boy. These men were of the smallest stature, but very well proportioned for their size. They were all fair-haired, with luxuriant hair falling over their shoulders, like that of women. They had horses proportioned to themselves, of the size of greyhounds. They neither ate flesh nor fish, but lived on milk diet, made up into messes with saffron. They never took an oath, for they detested nothing so much as lies. As often as they returned from our upper hemisphere, they reprobated our ambition, infidelities, and inconstancies. They had no religious worship, being only, as it seems, strict lovers and reverers of truth.
The boy frequently returned to our hemisphere, sometimes by the way he had first gone, sometimes by another; at first in company with others, and afterwards alone, and confided his secret only to his mother, declaring to her the manners, nature, and state of that people. Being desired by her to bring a present of gold, with which that region abounded, he stole, while at play with the king's son, the golden ball with which he used to divert himself, and brought it to his mother in great haste; and when he reached the door of his father's house, but not unpursued, and was entering it in a great hurry, his foot stumbled on the threshold, and, falling down into the room where his mother was sitting, the two Pygmies seized the ball, which had dropped from his hand, and departed, spitting at and deriding the boy. On recovering from his fall, confounded with shame, and execrating the evil counsel of his mother, he returned by the usual track to the subterraneous road, but found no appearance of any passage, though he searched for it on the banks of the river for nearly the space of a year. Having been brought back by his friends and mother, and restored to his right way of thinking and his literary pursuits, he attained in process of time the rank of priesthood. Whenever David the Second, bishop of St. David's, talked to him in his advanced state of life concerning this event, he could never relate the particulars without shedding tears.
He had also a knowledge of the language of that nation, and used to recite words of it he had readily acquired in his younger days. These words, which the bishop often repeated to me, were very conformable to the Greek idiom. When they asked for water, they said, Udor udorum, which signifies "Bring water;" for Udor, in their language, as well as in the Greek, signifies water; and Dwr also, in the British language, signifies water. When they want salt, they say, Halgein udorum, "Bring salt." Salt is called άλς in Greek, and Halen in British; for that language, from the length of time which the Britons (then called Trojans, and afterwards Britons from Brito, their leader) remained in Greece after the destruction of Troy, became, in many instances, similar to the Greek. [a]
"If," says the learned archdeacon, "a scrupulous inquirer should ask my opinion of the relation here inserted, I answer, with Augustine, 'admiranda fore divina miracula non disputatione discutienda;' nor do I, by denial, place bounds to the Divine power; nor, by affirming insolently, extend that power which cannot be extended. But on such occasions I always call to mind that saying of Hieronymus: "Multa," says he, 'incredibilia reperies et non verisimilia, quae nihilominus tamen vera sunt.' These, and any such that might occur, I should place, according to Augustine's opinion, among those things which are neither to be strongly affirmed nor denied.
David Powel, who edited this work in 1585, thinks that this legend is written in imitation of the relation of Eros the Armenian, in Plato, or taken from Polo's account of the garden of the Old Man of the Mountain. [b]
Again Giraldus writes,--" In these parts of Penbroch it has happed, in our times, that unclean spirits have conversed with mankind, not indeed visibly, but sensibly; for they manifested their presence at first in the house of one Stephen Wiriet, and some time after of William Not, by throwing dirt and such things as rather indicate an intention of mockery and injury. In the house of William, the spirit used to make rents and holes in both linen and woollen garments, to the frequent loss of both host and guest, from which injury no care and no bolts could protect them. In the house of Stephen, which was still more extraordinary, the spirit used to converse with people; and when they taunted him, which they frequently did out of sport, he used to charge them openly with those actions of theirs, from their birth, which they least wished to be heard or known by others. If you ask the cause and reason of this matter, I do not take on me to assign it; only this, that it, as is said, used to be the sign of a sudden change, either from poverty to riches, or rather from riches to desolation and poverty, as it was found to be a little after with both of these. But this I think worthy of remark, that places cannot be freed from illusions of this kind by the sprinkling of holy water, not merely of the ordinary, but even of the great kind; nor by the aid of any ecclesiastical sacrament. Nay, the priests themselves, when coming in with devotion, and fortified as well with the cross as with holy water, were forthwith among the first deified by the dirt thrown at them. From which it would appear that both sacramentals and sacraments defend from hurtful, not harmless things, and from injury, not from illusion." [c]
[a] Giraldus Cambrensis, Itinerarium Cambriae, l, i. c 8, translated by Sir R. C. Hoare.
[b] Very likely indeed that Elidurus, or Giraldus either, should know any thing of Plato or of Marco Polo, especially as the latter was not yet born!
[c] Book i. chap. 12.