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This word is derived by the very learned Editor of Junius from the Anglo-Saxon Typ very, and Magan mighty.As this word had so sublime a derivation, and was so applicable to the true God, how shall we account for its being so degraded? Perhaps Typmagan or Termagant had been a name originally given to some Saxon idol, before our ancestors were converted to Christianity; or had been the peculiar attribute of one of their false deities; and therefore the first Christian missionaries rejected it as profane and improper to be applied to the true God. Afterwards, when the irruptions of the Saracens into Europe, and the Crusades into the East, had brought them acquainted with a new species of unbelievers, our ignorant ancestors, who thought all that did not receive the Christian law were necessarily Pagans and Idolaters, supposed the Mahometan creed was in all respects the same with that of their Pagan forefathers, and therefore made no scruple to give the ancient name of Termagant to the God of the Saracens: just in the same manner as they afterwards used the name of Sarazen to express any kind of Pagan or Idolator. In the ancient romance of Merline (in the editor's folio MS.) the Saxons themselves that came over with Hengist, because they were not Christians, are constantly called Sarazens.
However that be, it is certain that, after the times of the Crusades, both MAHOUND and TERMAGAUNT made their frequent appearance in the Pageants and religious Enterludes of the barbarous ages; in which they were exhibited with gestures so furious and frantic, as to become proverbial. Thus Skelton speaks of Wolsey:
“Like MAHOUND in a play,
Ed. 1736, p. 158. In like manner Bale, describing the threats used by some Papist magistrates to his wife, speaks of them as nyng upon her lyke TERMAGAUNTES in a playe."
[Actes of Engl. Votaryes, pt. 2. fo. 83. ed. 1550. 12mo. Accordingly in a letter of Edward Alleyn, the founder of Dulwich College, to his wife or sister,* who, it seems, with all her fellows (the players,) had been "by my Lorde Maiors officer[s] mad to rid in a cart," he expresses his concern that she should "fall "into the hands of suche TARMAGANTS." [So the orig. dated May 2, 1598, preserved by the care of the Rev. Thomas Jenyns Smith, Fellow of Dulw. Coll.]-Hence we may conceive the force of Hamlet's expression in Shakspeare, where, condemning a ranting player, he says, "I could have such a fellow whipt for ore"doing TERMAGANT: it out-herods Herod." A. iii. sc. 3. By degrees the word came to be applied to an outrageous turbulent person, and especially to a violent brawling woman; to whom alone it is now confined, and this the rather as, I suppose, the character of TERMAGANT was anciently represented on the stage after the eastern mode, with long robes or petticoats.
Another frequent character in the old pageants or enterludes of our ancestors was the sowDAN or SOLDAN, representing a grim eastern tyrant: This appears from a curious passage in Stow's Annals [p. 458. In a stage-play "the people know right well "that he that plaieth the sowDAIN is percase a sowter "[shoe-maker;] yet if one should cal him by his owne "name, while he standeth in his majestie, one of his "tormentors might hap to break his head." The sowdain, or soldan, was a name given to the Sarazen king (being only a more rude pronunciation of the word sultan,) as the soldan of Egypt, the soudan of Persia, the sowdan of Babylon, &c. who were generally represented as accompanied with grim Sarazens, whose business it was to punish and torment Christians.
I cannot conclude this short Memoir, without ob
* See Lysons's " Environs of London," 4to, vol. i.
serving that the French romancers, who had borrowed the word Termagant from us, and applied it as we in their old romances, corrupted it into TERVAGAUNTE: And from them La Fontaine took it up, and has used it more than once in his tales.- -This may be added to the other proofs adduced in these volumes of the great intercourse that formerly subsisted between the old minstrels and legendary writers of both nations, and that they mutually borrowed each others roman,
SIR PATRICK SPENCE,
A SCOTTISH BALLAD,
is given from two MS. copies transmitted from Scotland. In what age the hero of this ballad lived, or when this fatal expedition happened that proved so destructive to the Scots nobles, I have not been able to discover; yet am of opinion, that their catastrophe is not altogether without foundation in history, though it has escaped my own researches. In the infancy of navigation, such as used the northern seas were very liable to shipwreck in the wintry months: hence a law was enacted in the reign of James III, (a law which was frequently repeated afterwards) "That there be na schip frauched out of the realm with any "staple gudes, fra the feast of Simons day and Jude, "unto the feast of the purification of our Lady called "Candelmess." Jam. III. Parlt. 2. Ch. 15.
In some modern copies, instead of Patrick Spence hath been substituted the name of Sir Andrew Wood, a famous Scottish admiral who flourished in the time of our Edw. IV, but whose story hath nothing in common with this of the ballad. As Wood was the most noted warrior of Scotland, it is probable that, like the Theban Hercules, he hath engrossed the renown of other heroes.
THE king sits in Dumferling toune,
O quhar will I get guid sailòr,
Up and spak an eldern knicht,
Sir Patrick Spence is the best sailòr,
The king has written a braid letter,"
And signd it wi' his hand;
And sent it to Sir Patrick Spence,
Was walking on the sand.
This ill deid don to me;
To send me out this time o'the zeir,
To sail upon the se?
Mak hast, mak haste, my mirry men all,
Our guid schip sails the morne.
A braid Letter, i. e. open, or patent; in opposition to close
O say na sae, my master deir,
For I feir a deadlie storme.
Late late yestreen I saw the new moone
And I feir, I feir, my deir mastèr,
O our Scots nobles wer richt laith
O lang, lang, may thair ladies sit
O lang, lang, may the ladies stand
For they'll se thame na mair.
Have owre, have owre to Aberdour,*
It's fiftie fadom deip:
And thair lies guid Sir Patrick Spence,
Wi' the Scots lords at his feit.t
*A village lying upon the river Forth, the entrance to which is sometimes denominated De mortuo mari.
† An ingenious friend thinks the Author of HARDYKNUTE has borrowed several expressions and sentiments from the foregoing, and other old Scottish songs in this collection.