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les uns dient le Roy Bertauld, les autres un Bérichot, les autres un Boeuf-de-Dieu. Aristote dit que, pour ce qu'il est nommé sénateur et roy, il a combat contre l'aigle. Le roytelet, de si petite stature, fait nuisance à l'aigle, qui maistrise touts autres oyseaux."
[On this subject the following occurs in the Literary Gazette, in an account of a meeting of the British Archæological Association :-" Reference was made to a French dictionary of the 16th century, as giving 'roitelet' (little king), 'roy des oiseaux' (king of the birds), and Roy Bertrand' for this bird. Now, roitelet is still the common, indeed the only familiar, French name for the wren: and the notion of his being a king runs through his appellations in many other languages beside. One's first impression, on learning this from a search through several dictionaries is, that the royal title must have been originally meant for the golden-crested wren, to which the names of Regulus' (Sylvia Regulus, Regulus cristatus) and 'roitelet' are now generally confined by naturalists, and have arisen from his crest, though several other larger and more important birds can boast a similar head-gear. The Greeks called both the wren and some kind of crested serpent (the cobra de capelho?) Cardiakos (little king); while the Spaniards term the former reyezuelo, and the latter reyecillo, both diminutives of rey (king). The Latin regulus (the same) seems till recent times to have included all kinds of wrens; and the following names from other tongues seem as generally applied: Italian reatino (little king); Swedish kungs-fogel (king's-fowl); Danish, fugle-konge (towl-king). Moroever, some of the kingly names given to the wren apply better to the Troglodytes, or common wren, than to the Regulus or golden-crest; such are the German zaun-könig (hedgeking), the Italian re di siepe, di macchia (king of the hedge, bush), the former being notoriously fond of sticking to his hedge, while the latter often sings on the top of a tree; the Dutch winter-koninkje (little winter-king) is applicable to both equally, if derived, as seems likely, from their singing in the winter. How the poor little wren, the most diminutive of birds,' either achieved this greatness, or came to have it thrust upon him, still remains to be explained; the superstition, like so many still kept up in Christian countries, probably dates from heathen times. Another Danish name for
the common wren, Elle-konge (the alder-king), (German, Erlkönig), and that for the wag-tail (motacilla alba, a kindred bird), Elle-kongens datter (the alder-king's daughter), give another glimpse of mythological allusion. The Swedes, I may add, also call the willow-wren (motacilla trochilus) sparfkung; the Danes spurre-konge (sparrow king). With regard to the hunting of the wren mentioned at the meeting in question as still kept up in Ireland, the Isle of Man, and France, it may be added, that in Surrey, and probably elsewhere in England, he is to this day hunted by boys in the autumn and winter, but merely 'for amusement and cruelty,' as my informant worded it, so that there the practice has not even the excuse of superstition; and the poor little 'king of birds' dies unwept, unhonored, and unsung.' It is curious that there should exist a very general contrary superstition, embodied in well-known nursery-lines, against killing a wren. Can this be a relic of the olden pagan notion of his kingly inviolability yet struggling with the Christian (?) command for his persecution at Christmas? In the child's distich, however, the wren is female, which it often is in provincial speech, Jenny or Kitty Wren; while the redbreast is as usual male, Robin. Mr. Halliwell gives the English version of the Hunting of the Wren in his Nursery Rhymes (2d ed. 1843), at page 180; and the Isle of Man Hunting of the Wran at page 249."]
I should suppose the name of "Troglodytes, c'est-à-dire entrants es cavernes," from the nature of this bird's nest, which Belon thus describes: "La structure du nid de ce roytelet, tel qu'il le fait communément, à la couverture de chaume, qui dedens quelque pertuis de muraille, est composé en forme ovale, couvert dessus et dessous, n'y laissant qu'un seul moult petit pertuis, par lequel il y peult entrer."
Pliny says: "Dissident-Aquila et Trochilus, si credimus, quoniam rex appellatur avium," edit. Harduin. i. 582, 27. He further tells us what a singular office the wren performs in Egypt to the crocodile : "Hunc (i. e. crocodilum) saturum cibo piscium, et semper esculento ore, in litore somno datum, parva avis, quæ Trochilos ibi vocantur, rex avium in Italia, invitat ad hiandum pabuli sui gratia, os primum ejus assultim repurgans, mox dentes, et intus fauces quoque ad hanc scabendi dulcedinem quam maxime hiantes."
Aubrey, in his Miscellanies, 2d edit. 8vo. p. 45, having mentioned the last battle fought in the north of Ireland between the Protestants and the Papists, in Glinsuly, in the county of Donegal says: "Near the same place a party of the Protestants had been surprised sleeping by the Popish Irish, were it not for several wrens that just wakened them by dancing and pecking on the drums as the enemy were ap proaching. For this reason the wild Irish mortally hate these birds to this day, calling them the devil's servants, and killing them wherever they can catch them; they teach their children to thrust them full of thorns; you'll see sometimes on holidays a whole parish running like madmen from hedge to hedge a wren-hunting."
In Sonnini's Travels in Upper and Lower Egypt, translated from the French, 4to. Lond. 1800, pp. 11, 12, we have the following account of Hunting the Wren: "While I was at La Ciotat, near Marseilles, in France, the particulars of a singular ceremony were related to me, which takes place every year at the beginning of Nivôse (the latter end of December); a numerous body of men, armed with swords and pistols, set off in search of a very small bird which the ancients call Troglodytes (Motacella Troglodytes, L. Syst. Nat, edit. 13, Anglicè the common wren), a denomination retained by Guénau de Montbellard, in his Natural History of Birds. When they have found it (a thing not difficult, because they always take care to have one ready), it is suspended on the middle of a pole, which two men carry on their shoulders, as if it were a heavy burthen. This whimsical procession parades round the town; the bird is weighed in a great pair of scales, and the company then sits down to table and makes merry. The name they give to the Troglodytes is not less curious than the kind of festival to which it gives occasion. They call it at La Ciotat, the Pole-cat, or père de la bécasse (father of the woodcock), on account of the resemblance of its plumage to that of the woodcock, supposed by them to be engendered by the polecat, which is a great destroyer of birds, but which certainly produces none.
["Hunting the wren has been a pastime in the Isle of Man from time immemorial. In Waldron's time it was observed on the 24th December, which I have adopted, though for a century past it has been observed on St. Stephen's day. This sin
gular ceremony is founded on a tradition, that in former times, a fairy, of uncommon beauty, exerted such undue influence over the male population, that she, at various times, induced by her sweet voice numbers to follow her footsteps, till by degrees she led them into the sea, where they perished. This barbarous exercise of power had continued for a great length of time, till it was apprehended that the island would be exhausted of its defenders, when a knight-errant sprung up, who discovered some means of countervailing the charms used by this syren, and even laid a plot for her destruction, which she only escaped at the moment of extreme hazard, by taking the form of a wren. But, though she evaded instant annihilation, a spell was cast upon her by which she was condemned, on every succeeding New Year's day, to reanimate the same form with the definitive sentence, that she must ultimately perish by human hand. In consequence of this wellauthenticated legend, on the specified anniversary, every man and boy in the island (except those who have thrown off the trammels of superstition) devote the hours between sunrise and sunset to the hope of extirpating the fairy, and woe be to the individual birds of this species who show themselves on this fatal day to the active enemies of the race; they are pursued, pelted, fired at, and destroyed, without mercy, and their feathers preserved with religious care, it being an article of belief, that every one of the relics gathered in this laudable pursuit is an effectual preservative from shipwreck for one year, and that fisherman would be considered as extremely foolhardy, who should enter upon his occupation without such a safeguard." When the chase ceases, one of the little victims is affixed to the top of a long pole with its wings extended, and carried in front of the hunters, who
1 [Mac Taggart makes the following characteristic allusion to this belief. "CUTTY WRAN.-The wren, the nimble little bird; how quick it will peep out of the hole of an old foggy dyke, and catch a passing butterfly. Manks herring-fishers dare not go to sea without one of these birds taken dead with them, for fear of disasters and storms. Their tradition is of a sea sprit that hunted the herring tack, attended always by storms, and at last it assumed the figure of a wren and flew away. So they think when they have a dead wren with them, all is snug. The poor bird has a sad life of it in that singular island. When one is seen at any time, scores of Manksmen start and hunt it down."-Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopædia, p. 157.]
march in procession to every house, chanting the following rhyme :
We hunted the wren for Robbin the Bobbin,
We hunted the wren for Robbin the Bobbin,
"After making the usual circuit and collecting all the money they could obtain, they laid the wren on a bier and carried it, in procession, to the parish churchyard, where, with a whimsical kind of solemnity, they made a grave, buried it, and sung dirges over it in the Manks language, which they called her knell. After the obsequies were performed, the company, outside the churchyard wall, formed a circle, and danced to music which they had provided for the occasion.
"At present there is no particular day for pursuing the wren; it is captured by boys alone, who follow the old custom, principally for amusement. On St. Stephen's day a group of boys go from door to door with a wren suspended by the legs, in the centre of two hoops, crossing each other at right angles, decorated with evergreens and ribands, singing lines called Hunt the Wren.
"If, at the close of this rhyme, they be fortunate enough to obtain a small coin, they gave in return a feather of the wren; and before the close of the day, the little bird may sometimes be seen hanging almost featherless. The ceremony of the interment of this bird in the church-yard, at the close of St. Stephen's day, has long since been abandoned; and the seashore or some waste ground was substituted in its place."?]
1 [In 1842, no less than four sets were observed in the town of Douglas, each party blowing a horn.]
2 [From Train's Isle of Man, a most interesting work, of which we shall have more to say under the article Charms.]