Page:Journal of American Folklore vol. 12.djvu/78
-o Journal of American Folk-Lore.
incident is the of a futile rope, twisted and untwisted in festival
custom in ek and Roman art eaten by an ass, made of sand
and in English legend. Further, in more than one ancient
monument the futile rope is associated with those futile water-carriers, the
■ ondemnation it was to carry water in sieves; and in
pirit who was set to weave ropes of sand had also to empty
a lake by the aid of a shell with a hole in it. What do these coincidences
In the hope of gaining further facts I quote, but make no attempt to value, the following rope-makers, ass, and water-carriers : " In the city of Acanthus, towards Libya beyond the Nile, about 120 furlongs from Mem- phis, there is a perforated pithos, 1 into which they say 360 of the priests water every day from the Nile. And the fable of Ocnus is repre- sented near at hand, on the occasion of a certain public festival. One man is twisting a long rope, and many behind him keep untwisting what he has plaited
In the painting by Polygnotus at Delphi, Pausanias describes, among other dwellers in Hades, " a man seated; an inscription sets forth that the man is Indolence (Oktws). He is represented plaiting a rope, and beside him stands a she-ass furtively eating the rope as fast as he plaits it. They say that this Indolence was an industrious man who had a spendthrift wife, and as fast as he earned money she spent it. Hence people hold that in this picture Polygnotus alluded to the wife of Indolence. I know, too, that when the Ionians see a man toiling at a fruitless task they say he is splicing the cord of Indolence." 3
In the mediaeval Arabic story, one of the tasks imposed by Pharaoh on ir the Sage is to make two ropes of sand. Haykar says : " ' Do thou prescribe that they bring me a cord from thy stores, that I twist one like hen they had done as he bade, Haykar fared forth arear of the palace and dug two round borings equal to the thickness of the cord ; then he collected sand from the river bed and placed it therein, so that, when the sun arose and entered into the cylinder, the sand appeared in the sun- light like unto ropes." 4
Of Michael Scott, a note to " The Lay of the Last Minstrel " says : " Michael Scott was, once upon a time, much embarrassed by a spirit, for whom he was under the necessity of finding constant employment. Two tasks were accomplished in two nights by the spirit. At length the enchanter conquered this indefatigable demon by employing him in the hopeless and endless task of making ropes out of sea-sand." 6
issage in the " Denham Tracts " speaks of Michael Scott as famed
of large size, used for stores, sometimes sunk in the ground liar.
2. See J. C. Fraser, Pausanias, v. 376 ; Edinburgh Review,
- umal Hellenic Studies, vol. xiv. p. 81.
t Burton Lib. ed. xii. 24 ; orig. ed. Suppl. Nights, vol. 32. ' The Lay 0/ the Last Minstrel, ed. 1869, note 15.