Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 3, 1892.djvu/246

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238
The Pied Piper of Hamelin.

interested did not engage the pens of the aforesaid writers, it may nevertheless have put in motion those of other scribes whose parchments have been less successful in the war with Time. When we reflect how strangely rare copies of whole editions of comparatively modern books have grown, we ought not to find it difficult to realise that hundreds of unique MSS. would utterly pass out of being through fire, water, and violence in the blustrous Middle Ages. With them would perish the sole record of some episodes which our after-times have never heard of, and likewise the only documentary evidence of others that, until the invention of printing, would be handed on to later ages by tradition. It is with these latter that I would have you class the Hameln story, if I should fail to show there is reason for thinking that its preservation was never for long, if indeed at all, confided to the popular memory alone.

From the 16th century, when men's minds were roused into fertility by great religious agitation and by the impulse of the new learning, and when the fresh faculty of multiplying copies had encouraged the making of books and lessened their chance of extermination, we have abundant testimony that concerns us. The earliest I can quote is that of Fincelius, a Doctor of Medicine, who—to translate the quaint German of his Wunderzeichen[1] (1556). says: "Of the Devil's power and wickedness will I here tell a true history. About 180 years ago, on S. Mary Magdalene's Day, it came to pass at Hammel on the Weser in Saxony, that the Devil went about the streets visibly in human form, piped and allured many children, boys and girls, and led them through the town-gate towards a mountain. When he arrived there he disappeared with the numerous children who had followed him, and nobody knew what became of the children. Thus did a girl who had followed them afar report to her parents, and thereupon diligent search and inquiry was soon made over

  1. C., v.