Fairy Tales

by Archibald Lampman

Edited by D.M.R. Bentley



In surveying the literary achievements of Archibald Lampman (1861-1899) during his years as a student at Trinity College, Toronto (1879-1882), a teacher at the high school in Orangeville (1882), and a clerk in the Savings Bank Branch of the Post Office Department in Ottawa (1883-1884), Carl Y. Connor observes that "Lampman the prose writer somewhat preceded Lampman the poet in the volume and the character of his earliest work"(15). Although Connor’s remarks refer primarily to Lampman’s "fluent essays and letters" of the early eighteen eighties, they are also applicable to the two fairy tales that he wrote during that period, "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" and "The Fairy Fountain," both of which are equal to the best of his early non-fictional prose in fluency and substance. Yet Connor’s discussion of "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" is restricted to a brief account of its publication history (it first appeared in Man [Toronto] in November 1885)1 and an even briefer summary of its plot ( "[i]t [is] the story of a German minstrel who became so bitter that he is changed into a frog until he...[finds] out the meaning of the song of the stream"[78]). Moreover, Connor makes no mention at all of "The Fairy Fountain," perhaps because he wished to confine himself largely to Lampman’s published work ("The Fairy Fountain" did not appear in print until 1975 in Barrie Davies’ edition of Lampman’s Selected Prose). That "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" and "The Fairy Fountain" deserve serious treatment has been recognized by several critics, however, none more clearly than L.R. Early, who aligns them with Lampman’s most accomplished long poem, The Story of an Affinity (written between 1892 and 1894) as "quest-narratives of an essentially Romantic kind" in which the hero can be assumed to represent aspects of the poet’s own journey towards "self-discovery" and "spiritual integration" (Archibald Lampman 38-39). Connor makes a more significant point than he realizes when he observes of "The Song of the Stream-drops" that indicates the minstrel’s coming to knowledge in "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" that it was subsequently published in Among the Millet, and Other Poems (1888).2 Lampman’s fairy tales and poems are related rather than separate manifestations of his development towards intellectual, artistic, and, indeed, psychological maturity in the years following his move to Ottawa in January 1883.


The few references to "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" and "The Fairy Fountain" in Lampman’s surviving correspondence indicate that the period in which the fairy tales were written—the period of Lampman’s adjustment to life as a poorly paid civil servant in The Post Office Department—was a time of troubled and painful soul-searching for the fledgling poet. Writing to his college friend John Almon Ritchie in a letter that Connor dates only to the "summer" of 1884 (77), Lampman notes that "[t]he ‘St. Nicholas [: a Monthly Magazine for Boys and Girls]’ [New York] has returned… ‘Hans Fingerhut’ with no acknowledgement but their ignominious printed form" and adds that this is "all [he had] expected" (qtd. in Connor 77). He then proceeds to describe his present psychological state and its creative consequences:

What a great assistance self-conceit is to diligent and effective writing! I have alternating periods—the period of vanity and the period of self-distrust. Sometimes for weeks together I get into my head mysteriously that I have power to do something and then I can work away— write at any time—make my fingers fly like ostriches. Then comes the opposite mood, and I can do nothing. The slightest self-distrust utterly unnerves me. The only condition in which one can write properly seems to be that of happy self-approval. I am in the barren wilderness at present. The only thing to do is to read and study myself back again. (qtd. in Connor 77-78)

Surrounding this account of vacillation between the Romantic poles of creative elation and dejection are references to various poetic achievements and schemes, including a "plan for a…Canadian poem… [set] in the Niagara district" that may well have been the basis for The Story of  an Affinity.3 Of greatest relevance to Lampman’s fairy tales, however, is his perception of "happy self-approval" as the cure for creative inactivity, for in both "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" and "The Fairy Fountain" happiness born of contentment with one’s life and work is seen as the secret and consequence of "spiritual integration": in the former, Hans Fingerhut’s discovery, while in the form of a frog, that "the song that [the water drops] sing is neither weary nor sad, but perfectly happy and peaceful"’ (267-69) enables him to regain his humanity and creativity, and, in the latter, Anders Christensen’s recovery of his lost appreciation of "life, and light, and the sound of mirth and business" (874) permits him to find contentment in life and love and to achieve renown as a poet and a benefactor.

Lampman’s surviving reference to "The Fairy Fountain" in a letter of January 29, 1885 to another friend, May McKeggie, are similarly embedded in comments about his psychological and creative condition:

I have been very dull and out of spirits—oppressed with innumerable things—debts; ill success in everything, incapacity to write and want of any hope of ever succeeding in it if I do.
     I cannot do anything—I believe I am the feeblest and most good-for-nothing mortal anywhere living. I am poor and in debt…. Where every blockhead’s work is accepted and paid for, mine is hardly treated with civility…. So I go on dragging through the days drearily enough, with a few, very few, sunny spaces here and there— just so many as to keep me from breaking down entirely….
     I wrote another fairy tale the other day—much to mother’s disgust;4 who is unlimited in her complaints of the impractical and outlandish character of my writings, which indeed fetch no money—or even respect. As to the story, I made it in a dull lifeless state of mind, so I dare say it is bad enough. I have also made 5 stanzas of a poem on winter—one stanza which is good—the rest bad—very good and very bad—the majority bad however.5

To judge by Lampman’s subsequent letters to McKeggie and Ritchie, the mood of gloom and doom that permeates such passages as this did not begin to lift until the spring of 1885. In May of that year, he still viewed his recent poems as "imperfect" but judged "Winter" "the best…[he had] yet written" because "the most artistic and truest to nature." "The springtime is come at last," he wrote, "and I am breaking my back with digging paths in the garden and laying out beds. I walk out to the woods also very often and sit down on logs and dream: for this is the sweetest season of the year for wood-wandering; there are no mosquitoes yet." Three months later, in a letter of August 8 to his future wife, Maud Playter, he explains that, although he has "written a poem called ‘Among the Millet’" (which he is "afraid is…very dry"), he is "not quite in mood for work" but "still…plodding on" and "thinking of getting down to another fairy tale."6 It is as if Lampman gradually found or recovered his métier in the spring of 1885 and, in so doing, imitated in his own life the successful quests of the poet-heroes of his fairy tales. Some two years after his move to Ottawa, the mental state that had prompted the spiritual searchings and wish-fulfilments embodied in "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" and "The Fairy Fountain" had moderated. Lampman would never be entirely free of self-doubt and dark thoughts, but the winters of his deepest discontent were over.

     If one reason for this was merely meteorological, others were his romantic interest in Maud Playter, whom he met in 1884, his growing friendship with his fellow poet, Duncan Campbell Scott, whom he also met in 1884, and his increasing success in finding outlets for his work in Canadian and American periodicals such as Century Magazine, which published his "Bird Voices" in May 1885, and Man, which was owned by Maud’s father.7 As important as these factors but in a very different sphere, was his development at this time of a philosophy of work whose roots lie in Thomas Carlyle. "I very often feel totally forlorn and impotent in the presence of what I have planned for myself to do," he told McKeggie in a letter of May 26, 1886,

[b]ut I find that it is useless to be always examining myself and endeavouring to calculate one’s own strength and resources. The best way is to go actively to work on the first thing in the way of one’s art that lies in the road—to forget if possible that one is trying to be great and just endeavour to do what one has in hand as naturally and truthfully as one can. Life has some boons either visibly or invisibly for everyone, and all work that is faithful and comes from a full heart is of value. I…have very little time to work—I seem to be getting less [and] less all the time—but I keep pounding away—and manage to produce some small thing every now and then—not much, but as good as I can make it…. I think a great deal of the good work that has been done in the world has been the outcome simply of a spirit of blind cheerful activity such as I describe. The great souls never knew half the time where they were going or what was to be the net result of it all—but they toiled carelessly and divinely on. Let us emulate them.

Carlylean in its rejection of obsessive subjectivity, its advocacy of "blind cheerful activity," its deference to "great souls" who have "toiled carelessly and divinely on," and, above all, in its tone of moral earnestness, this "sermon" (as Lampman proceeds to call it) is an explicit expression of the attitude that he gives to his poet-heroes at the conclusion of his fairy tales: as "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" draws to a close, Hans sings his "glad, beautiful songs" while working "diligently" as a tailor (308) and in the final paragraphs of "The Fairy Fountain" Anders sings of "beautiful things" while earning his living as a "cobbler" (1003, 990). "Two men I honour, and no third," runs a famous passage in Sartor Resartus (1833-1834): "[f]irst, the toilworn Craftsman…[and] second, and still more highly, …[the] Artist…the inspired Thinker…. Unspeakingly touching is it, however, when I find both dignities united; and he that must toil outwardly for the lowest of man’s wants, is also toiling inwardly for the highest" (1:181-82).


The philosophy that Lampman incarnated in his fairy tales and articulated to May McKeggie in the mid-eighteen eighties would have been entirely congenial to the author whose work apparently provided one of three principal quarries for "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" and "The Fairy Fountain": Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875). First translated into English in 1846 and, by the time Lampman was a child in the eighteen sixties, available in more than a dozen English translations, Andersen’s fairy tales may not only have shaped Lampman’s understanding of the fairy tale as such but also served as models when he turned his own hand to the genre in the early eighteen eighties, by which time the number of English translations had doubled. But which of Andersen’s more than eighty fairy tales and in what translation lie in the background of "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" and "The Fairy Fountain"? Neither of these questions can be answered with certainty, though it can be said that Lampman was perhaps most likely to have encountered Andersen’s fairy tales in one or more of the collections of his most able and prolific mid-Victorian translators, Henry William Dulken (1832-1894). The twenty-volumes of the The Hans Andersen Library that appeared between 1869 and 1887 included Dulken’s translations of most of Andersen’s fairy tales with numerous illustrations by A.W. Bayes, and volumes of similarly illustrated translations of the tales by Dulken were published in the ’sixties and ’seventies, culminating in Fairy Tales and Stories, which ran to three editions between 1880 and 1883. Lampman does not mention either Dulken or Andersen in any of his letters or essays, but he may have been acquainted with Dulken’s translations of German songs (see Lampman, Essays and Reviews 215) and the name of the protagonist in "The Fairy Fountain," Anders Christensen, is surely a gesture towards the great Danish writer.

As might be expected from both the title and the plot of "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson"—the protagonist of the tale, a poet and tailor whose surname in German means "thimble,"8 is transformed by an elf into a frog so that he may learn the lesson of the stream and regain his sense of the beauty and freshness of the world—the Andersen fairy tales and stories that it most resembles are of two kinds: (1) fairy tales that accord with the strict definition of the genre in depicting encounters between ordinary humans and supernatural, human-like beings9 and (2) stories in which a plant or animal is made to embody an attitude to life or a body of wisdom. In the category of fairy tales, "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" most resembles portions of two of Andersen’s best-known works in the genre: the third episode in "The Snow Queen," in which Gerda makes her way out of town to a river where she encounters an old woman who can "conjure" and hears riddling messages from various flowers (271-74), and the opening episode of "The Wild Swans," where Eliza makes a similar journey from town to country in search of her brothers and, on the advice of an old woman who turns out to be Fata Morgana, follows a "stream …to the great open ocean," where the "smoothness of the pebbles" gives her an insight into the nature of water and the need for perseverance: "‘[i]t rolls on unweariedly, and thus what is hard becomes smooth. I will be just as unwearied. Thanks for your lesson, you clear rolling waters…’" (406-410). ("‘[T]he song that [the water drops] sing is neither weary nor sad,"’ explains Lampman’s elf in his gloss of "‘the meaning of the stream song,’" "‘but perfectly happy and peaceful. So everything in the world has something great and noble to strive towards’" [268-70].) In the category of stories, "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" bears some resemblance both to "The Buckwheat," where the plant is punished for its pride, and some sparrows, curious about the weeping of a willow tree over its demise, express their unmitigatedly positive vision of the world ("‘everything is so cheerful: see how the sun shines, see how the clouds sail on. Do you not breathe the scent of flowers and bushes?"’ [320]) and to "The Flax," where the plant expresses similarly positive views through the various stages of its metamorphosis from plant to linen, to paper, and finally to ashes, at which point the "little invisible beings" that constitute its essence proclaim in unison that they are the "happiest of all things"’ because they know that "‘[t]he song is never done’" (190). Very likely Lampman read widely among Andersen’s fairy tales and stories either (or both) as a child or (and) in preparation for writing "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson," but in "The Snow Queen," "The Wild Swans," "The Buckwheat," and "The Flax" he seems to have found the principal materials that, like the poet-tailor of his tale, he "sewed…stitched" and shaped for the "delight and wonder" of little children and their parents (307-08, 312).

As conspicuously a part of the fabric of "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" as some of Andersen’s fairy tales are materials evocative of the other major nineteenth-century exponents of the genre, Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm (1785-1863) and his younger brother Wilhelm Carl (1789-1859). First translated into English as German Popular Stories by Edgar Taylor in 1823, Grimms’ fairy tales could have been known to Lampman as a child in any of several editions and reprintings of Taylor’s translations or in the translations of James Edward Taylor, E.H. Wehnert, and M.L. Davis, and by the early eighteen eighties they were also available in several other editions, reprintings, and translations, including the ten volumes of the The Grimm Fairy Library (1879). As is the case with Andersen, neither the Grimms’ fairy tales nor any of their translators are mentioned in Lampman’s essays and letters. Moreover, the grotesque and macabre aspects of some of the Grimms’ best-known tales ("Rumple-stilts-kin," for example and "The Goose-Girl") are very much at odds with the spirit of both "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" and "The Fairy Fountain." Nevertheless, the German name of the protagonist and the German setting of "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" raise numerous echoes in the Grimms’ fairy tales, as does the transformation of Hans from a human to a frog and back again by an elf: as intimated by the mere titles of some of the Grimms’ best-known fairy tales ("Hans in Luck," "Hansel and Grettel," "Hans and his Wife Grettel) the name Hans and its cognates is given to several of their protagonists; the word "Fingerhut"—Thimble— recalls such characters as Tom Thumb and the Tumbling of "The Young Giant and the Tailor"; and Hans’s double transformation cannot but recall the transformations of "The Frog-Prince" and "Cherry, the Frog-Bride." The very fact that Hans Fingerhut is a tailor aligns him with the craftsmen in several more of the Grimms’ fairy tales ("The Elves and the Shoemaker" and "The Four Clever Brothers" are cases in point), but herein lies a significant difference: Hans is not simply a tailor but, by virtue of his frog-lesson, a tailor re-tailored (sartor resartus) along Carlylean lines so that he is no longer angry, bitter, and out of tune with the natural world but the author of songs that are "sweet and beautiful and wise" like the song of the water drops (322). "Close thy Byron; open thy Goethe" is Carlyle’s famous commandment in Sartor Resartus (1:153). Lampman may not quite have closed his Grimm when he wrote his fairy tales, but he certainly opened his Andersen and, as will be seen in a few moments, perhaps also his Goethe.

Like "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson," "The Fairy Fountain" contains elements of the fairy tales of both Andersen and the Grimms and bears a particular resemblance to "The Snow Queen," this time in the elaborateness of Anders’ experiences in the land revealed by the fairy fountain and in the narrative of his quest for the love of the scholar’s daughter to whom he sings his songs about the fairy world. But the origins of "The Fairy Fountain" appear to be more complex than those of "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" and, indeed, to indicate that the lineage of the earlier work is less straightforward than it might so far have seemed. Given Lampman’s enormous reliance on Carlyle in the early-to-mid eighties (and more evidence of this, if required, can be found in the deep indebtedness of his 1883 essay on the French politician Léon Gambetta to The French Revolution [1837] and On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History [1841]),10 it can scarcely come as a surprise that another work by Carlyle apparently furnished him with the third body of material upon which he drew for his fairy tales. The work in question is Carlyle’s German Romance, a collection of translations of German stories and novellas that was first published in 1827, and the body of material to which it provided access is the work of Johann Ludwig Tieck (1773-1853), "a true Poet… born as well as made," according to Carlyle’s introductory and critical note, whose "own peculiar province.… [was] that of the Mährchen… [or] Popular Traditionary Tale" (21:264, 265). "Such tales ought to be poetical, because they spring from the very fountains of natural feeling," continues Carlyle in a definition of the Märchen or, more accurately, Kunstmärchen (art tale) that applies equally well to Lampman’s fairy tales; "they ought to be moral, not as exemplifying some contemporary apophthegm, but as imaging forth in shadowy emblems the universal tendencies and destinies of man" (21: 266). Since literary works are more likely to be generated by examples than by definitions, it is only to be expected that the resemblance between Tieck’s Kunstmärchen and Lampman’s fairy tales is most apparent at the level of detail than precept. A juxtaposition of three passages, the first from Tieck and the second two from Lampman will make the point:

A young hunter…was musing on his destiny; how he…had forsaken his father and mother, and accustomed home… and …found himself in this valley, in this employment. Great clouds were passing over him, and sinking behind the mountains; birds were singing from the bushes, and an echo was replying to them. He slowly descended the hill; and seated himself on the margin of a brook, that was gushing down among the rocks with foamy murmur. He listened to the fitful melody of the water; and it seemed to him as if the waves were saying to him, in unintelligible words, a thousand things that concerned him nearly; and he felt an inward trouble that he could not understand their speeches. Then…he looked aloft, and thought  that he was glad and happy; so he took new heart, and sang aloud…his hunting-song….  (Tieck, "The Runenberg" 319)

•      •      •

Long ago, almost out of recollection, there lived in a small town in a woody German valley a poet named Hans Fingerhut. He had come from the far north somewhere, and had travelled many years with his harp…buying his bread with songs that the gentlefolk at first were never tired of hearing….
     At last one day…he…passed away out of town, determined never to return. Everything seemed to mock him as walked; the blue sky and the fresh green earth, the song of the birds, the piping of the crickets and grasshoppers, the wind in the trees and the clink of the cow-bell, all so full of fair delight and contentment….
     At last he came to a forest and then to a little stream running among stones and fallen moss-grown trees. More than ever the cheery ripple and murmur of the water angered him. It seemed to say to him— "How very miserable you are, to be sure, Hans Fingerhut, you dishevelled outcast; see how happy I am and how delightfully I sing." And Hans Fingerhut began to fling stones into the stream; but it never heeded.  ("Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" 1-48)

•      •      •

Once in a northern city…far from here, there dwelt a cobbler whose name was Anders Christensen. He was very young, being scarcely twenty years of age. His parents were both dead….
     One evening…he fell to thinking…and he determined to make the next day a holiday, and spend it all by himself in… sweet places…. Early in the morning, before it was sunrise, he got up and packed a loaf of bread in his wallet and set out. The sun was not quite risen yet when he reached the highway; but all the East was white, and the birds were breaking into sweet muffled songs in the cool grey of the morning.
     Hour after hour he journeyed on, ever lighter of heart, and it was high noon and the sun was very hot, when he reached the hills and came into a narrow valley, with a small beautiful stream running through it…. At last in a quiet hidden place he came to a fountain… and on the wall was carved the figure of a fairy blowing a horn, and from the horn the water leaped into the basin and from this it ran down sparkling and murmuring over the slope…. He sat down on the rim of the fountain and looked over into the chrystal water….[A]s he gazed it seemed to him that the fairy was no longer of stone, but living flesh, and her lips were like those of a living being…. Then the quiet lips moved, and the sense of words came into Anders’ heart so softly that he could hardly tell whether it were a voice or not….
("The Fairy Fountain" 1-78)

To be sure, there are many differences such as the occupations of their principal characters between "The Runenberg" and Lampman’s fairy tales, but as these passages indicate, "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" and "The Fairy Fountain" appear indebted to Carlyle’s translation of Tieck’s Kunstmärchen not only in their setting and details, but also in their diction, tone, and even punctuation (notice particularly the use of semicolons in the three passages). Perhaps most striking in the three passages is the parallel between the cryptically meaningful utterances of the streams in "The Runenburg" and "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" and, as merely intimated by the excerpts from these two tales, the presence in both of songs that preach "cheerful activity" ("Blithe and cheery through the mountains / Goes the huntsman to the chase…" begins the hunter’s song; "We labor and sing sweet songs, but we never moan" proclaim the water drops [235]).11 Whatever characteristics "The Runenberg" and "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" may share, however, they differ radically in atmosphere and outcome: at the end of Tieck’s gothic tale the hunter abandons his wife and children for a "hideous Woodwoman" (342), but Lampman’s fairy tale concludes with Hans Fingerhut working and singing in the certainty that his songs are the gift of the "Great Father" (325-26). If Lampman drew upon "The Runenberg," it was not slavishly but as a point of departure for his own concerns and aims.

Much the same can be said of the relationship between "The Runenberg" and "The Fairy Fountain," though a comparison of the two in their entirety leaves the impression that Lampman’s second fairy tale is in more ways than "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" a generic variation of Tieck’s. In both works, the protagonists’ fathers loom large in their childhood education, but, whereas the young hunter disregards his father’s advice to read the "old books, which he used to see at home" (320), Anders spends "many a happy hour" listening to his father’s stories and "almost kn[ows]… by heart" the "few books" given to him by a priest (19-20). In both tales, the protagonists are inducted into a supernatural realm while sitting beside a stream, but whereas the harbinger of the uncanny in "The Runenberg" is a "mysterious mandrake-root" at which the young hunter "[u]nthinkingly" tugs (320-21), in "The Fairy Fountain," it is the fairy fountain itself that furnishes Anders with the "golden key" that provides access to a "half strange, half natural" land (185). And in both tales, the protagonists encounter bewildering distortions of space and time in the supernatural realm but, whereas the young hunter falls "headlong down [a] precipice" before "awakening [to] f[ind] himself upon a pleasant hill" in "a strange and remote quarter" (327)12 Anders simply walks "to the end of [a] plain," falls asleep on a slope, and awakens to find himself in "a great cornfield" (and, moreover, wearing "the rough homespun garb of a husbandman" [126-27], this being the first of several changes that accord with the different levels of society to which he is introduced during his otherworldly travels). In the light of such resemblances and departures, it may be wondered whether the name Anders Christensen might not also be a variation on the names of two of Tieck’s protagonists, Christian ("The Runenberg") and Anders ("The Elves"), and, indeed, whether the obsession with making money that enslaves Christensen to his work, results in his becoming a usurer, stifles his artistic creativity, denies him access to the "hidden land" (814), and nearly destroys his relationship with the woman he loves (and, thanks to his change of heart, finally marries) might not be an adaptation of the obsession with money that gradually destroys Christian after his experiences in the supernatural realm and eventually dooms him to the clutches of the Woodwoman. As these last possibilities intimate, whatever resemblances and differences of content and genre separate and link "The Fairy Fountain" and "The Runenberg," the two tales embody the same Christian moral concerning "the universal tendencies and destinies of man": radix malorum cupiditas est: "the love of money is the root of all evil": "[y]e cannot serve God and Mammon"(1 Timothy 6.10; Matthew 6.24).

Although the combination of Andersen’s and the Grimms’ fairy tales and stories and Tieck’s Märchen or Kunstmärchen may be sufficient to explain the genre and many of the components of "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" and "The Fairy Fountain," two more bodies of translation need to be mentioned as a possible influence on the form and content of Lampman’s tales, especially the latter. A little over a month before informing May McKeggie on January 29, 1885 that he had written "another fairy tale the other day," Lampman wrote to thank her for her Christmas present and to send his seasonal good wishes. Brief through it is, his letter of December 28, 188413 contains two clusters of information that may have considerable bearing on "The Fairy Fountain": (1) the fact that he also received for Christmas "a copy of Dante" from his mother and "a copy of Goethe’s short novels and Tales" from a male friend in Ottawa (perhaps Duncan Campbell Scott); and (2) the fact that he has "written some but not very much since the last batch of poems" that he had sent her earlier in the month. Now, if "The Fairy Fountain" was not written until after Christmas 1884, then the possibility exists that the various and, of course, typologically identical women whom Anders encounters in fairy land and the real world—the maiden who meets him in various guises in the cornfield, the forest, and the town and, later, the scholar’s daughter with whom he falls in love—were conceived under the influence of Dante and on the model of Beatrice as Ander’s guide(s) towards moral and spiritual truths.14 Indeed, the scholar’s daughter says as much when, towards the end of the tale, she informs Anders that the purpose of her earlier refusal of his love (this being the equivalent of Beatrice’s denying of her salutation to Dante in the Vita Nuova) was to "turn [him] away from what was spoiling [him], and make [him] as [he] had been before"(979-81). Needless to say this Dantean possibility does not diminish—in fact, it may increase—the likelihood that Lampman had Maud Playter in mind when he envisaged the scholar’s daughter and her spiritual counterparts, for in the wake of the Pre-Raphaelites it was difficult to construe the spiritual guide of the Divina Commedia as other than the representation of an actual person in Dante’s life.15

If "The Fairy Fountain" was not written until after Christmas 1884, then the likelihood also exists that it was composed under the influence of "Goethe’s short novels and Tales"—that is, R.D. Boylan’s translation of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Novels and Tales (1871). As well as Elective Affinities (Die Wahlverwandtschaften), a novel that lies centrally in the background of The Story of Affinity, Boylan’s translation contains two tales, "A Fairy Tale" ("Das Märchen") and "A Tale" (Novelle) that, if nothing else, must have reminded Lampman of the potential of the Kunstmärchen as a vehicle for artistic and philosophical expression. Over forty years earlier, as appendices to the studies of Goethe and other German writers that were collected in his Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (1839), Carlyle included translations of both "Das Märchen" and the Novelle with notes explaining the significance of their characters, landscapes, and events, arguing, for example, that "the great River" by which "the ancient Ferryman" sleeps in his "little Hut" at the beginning of "Das Märchen" represents "time" flowing between "the world of supernaturalism" and "the working week-day world" of "naturalism" and that the Novelle is a "[p]arable of the bright Morningtide of life" that teaches "childlike Trust in God" and "the Divine Harmony of his omnipotent Love" (28: 449, 507). That such ideas are by no means remote from either "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" or "The Fairy Fountain" is but further evidence of how deeply rooted the two works are in the nineteenth-century tradition of using and seeing materials actually or supposedly derived from folklore or intended for children as, in Carlyle’s terms, a means of "poetico-prophetically" "shadowing-forth" matters of the "deepest significance" (28: 448-49).

So, to sum up the discussion of the background and components of Lampman’s fairy tales and to place them in the context of his other work: "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" and "The Fairy Fountain" draw together elements from a variety of sources, especially Hans Christian Andersen, the Grimm brothers, and Johann Ludwig Tieck, into a synthesis that reflects Lampman’s intellectual, artistic and psychological concerns in the mid-’eighties and belongs to the same stage of his thinking and writing as "What Do Poets Want with Gold?"16 and his essay on "The Modern School of Poetry in England,"17 both of which come to much the same conclusions about the need for poets to put aside selfish and material considerations and, in the concluding words of the essay, "to help mankind in the gradual and eternal movement toward order and divine beauty and peace" (Essays and Reviews 69). Lampman’s fairy tales also belong to the same stage of his development as several poems about maturation and sexual love, including "The Little Handmaiden," a literary ballad that could well owe a part of its inspiration to a fairy tale, and "The Growth of Love," a sequence of sonnets to Maud Playter, that would not be out of place as interspersed poems in "The Fairy Fountain." With the possible exception of "In October," which he completed in October 1884 (Early, "Chronology" 78), none of the essays, poems, and fairy tales that Lampman wrote before the summer of 1885 is more than an accomplished exercise in a particular manner or genre, but each in its own way lays the stylistic and philosophical groundwork for the extraordinary poems that soon followed—for "Among the Timothy," "The Frogs," "Heat," and the other masterpieces of Among the Millet, and Other Poems (1888).


The Present Texts


"Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson. A Fairy Tale" was printed twice in Lampman’s life-time, first, as noticed earlier, in November 1885 in the inaugural issue of Man, a Toronto periodical run by Maud Playter’s physician father, and, second, in the February 1, 1886 number of Rouge et Noir, where it is attributed to "A Lampman, in ‘Man’" (12). Since Lampman probably either drew the attention of the editors of Rouge et Noir to the existence of his fairy tale in Man or, more likely, furnished them with a (revised?)18 copy of it, the second printing of "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" must be regarded as the more authoritative of the two and has, therefore, been used as the basis for the present text. A collation of the differences between the Man and Rouge et Noir versions of "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" is included as an Appendix in the present edition. It should also be noted that a holograph draft of "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson" with numerous revisions is held in the Lampman Papers in the National Archives of Canada, Ottawa, and that it differs in many respects from the printed versions of the fairy tale.19 To cite just one example, Hans Fingerhut is described as having "longed for unlimited good living, sympathy, and above all, for praise" in the opening paragraph of the fairy tale as it appears in Man and Rouge et Noir, but in the manuscript he longs for "love" rather than "sympathy" (1605).

The present text of "The Fairy Fountain. A Fairy Tale" is based on the holograph manuscript in the Lampman Papers in the National Archives (MG 29 D59 vol. 1, 635-65). Consisting of 40 consecutively numbered pages measuring 20.1 x 32.5 cm., the manuscript is clearly written in ink and has posed few problems of transcription. Although it is undated and unsigned, the fact that it is written in the same handwriting style, on the same paper, and with the same paucity of deletions and additions as "The Modern School of Poetry in England," which Lampman mentions in his January 29, 1885 letter to May McKeggie as needing to be ready for delivery to the Ottawa Literary and Scientific Society in March of that year (see Lampman, Essays and Reviews 244-45), indicate that it is a fair copy that was transcribed at about the same time. In the present text, Lampman’s corrections, deletions, and additions have been accepted, periods have been added where necessary, punctuation introducing quotations has been regularized, and ampersands have been expanded to "and".


Notes to the Introduction


  1. Connor adds that "after much misery [Hans] again became a minstrel, and his songs were changed to happy ones" (78). [back]
  2. Connor’s statement the "The Song of the Stream-drops" "later appeared in the ‘Collected Poems’"—that is, Poems (1900)—is somewhat misleading because it implies that the poem was not included in one of Lampman’s earlier collections when, in fact, it was. [back]
  3. As observed above, The Story of an Affinity was not written until 1892-1894, however, and remained unpublished at Lampman’s death (see Bentley, "Introduction" xi-xiii). [back]
  4. Since January 1884, when they moved to Ottawa to be with him, Lampman had been living with his parents and younger sisters. [back]
  5. "Winter," which Lampman apparently completed on April 10, 1885 (see Early, "Chronology" 78) was first published in Among the Millet, and Other Poems. [back]
  6. This letter is in the Lampman Papers at Simon Fraser University. Until her marriage to Lampman in September 1887, Maud Playter lived with her parents in Toronto. "Among the Millet" was the original title of "Among the Timothy," the manuscript of which in the Lampman Papers in the National Archives of Canada (1387-1392) is dated "August 5 ’85." No third fairy tale exists even in draft form among Lampman’s known manuscripts. [back]
  7.  See Connor 203 and Duncan Campbell Scott, "Memoir" xviii for details of Lampman’s early periodical publications. In a letter of July 25, 1885 to Maud that is also in the Lampman Papers at Simon Fraser University, Lampman states that her father "will use Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson next." Lampman’s "An October Sunset" was published in the same number of Man as "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson." [back]
  8. Although German by descent and evidently very interested in German literature and politics, particularly during his final years at Trinity College (see, for example, his essay on "German Patriotic Poetry" [1882] in Essays and Reviews 28-33), Lampman does not appear to have read or spoken German, at least not with any facility. Nevertheless, in a letter to Ritchie on September 9, 1882 he included German among the subjects that he was teaching at Orangeville (the others being Latin, Greek, History, and English literature) (see Connor 60). From the fact that his mother and his closest sister, Sarah Isabelle (Belle), spent time in Germany in the late eighteen eighties it is plausible to assume that they had a good knowledge of the language. [back]
  9. See Elia Bredsdorff, Hans Christian Andersen 313-32 for an elaborate taxonomy and contingent discussion of Andersen’s fairy tales. [back]
  10. See the explanatory notes to "Gambetta" in Essays and Reviews 232-44 and, for additional traces of Carlyle in Lampman’s essays, 205-07 and 247-48. It may well be that Lampman culled the definition of humour against which he judges Byron in his essay on "The Poetry of Byron" (circa 1892) not from Carlyle’s account of Jean-Paul Friedrich Richter’s life and works in Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (1839) (see Essays and Reviews 123 and 300-01) but from his introductory biographical and critical note on the same writer in German Romance (see Works 22: 122-23)—a possibility that, if confirmed, would further link Lampman to the earlier collection of translations. [back]
  11. Tieck’s works are alone in German Romance in employing interspersed poems, which are also a feature of several of the Grimms’ fairy tales and a few of Andersen’s. [back]
  12. See also the opening paragraphs of "The Elves" for a similarly sudden but less violent movement from the ordinary to the supernatural world. [back]
  13. The letter is actually dated December 28, 1885 but Lampman’s references both in it and in a letter of December 10, 1884 to a trip that McKeggie took to New York before Christmas indicate that it was written in 1884. [back]
  14. The likelihood is that Lampman’s "copy of Dante" was a translation of the Divina Commedia but it may have been a translation of La Vita Nuova, which, whether directly or indirectly through the sonnets of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, is an influence on "The Growth of Love" sonnets of late 1884 and early 1885. [back]
  15. See Essays and Reviews, 61-62 for Lampman’s Paterian discussion of Rossetti’s treatment of the "perfect union [of lovers] on earth" as "but the prelude to a beautiful and mystic condition hereafter that should have no end forever." [back]
  16. Other poems from this stage include "Why Do Ye Call the Poet Lonely?" and "The Usurer" (see Early, "Chronology" 78). [back]
  17. In his letter of January 29, 1885 to McKeggie, Lampman mentions that in March he will be reading "The Modern School of Poetry in England" to the Ottawa Literary and Scientific Society, adding with characteristic melancholy "I am sorry I agreed to it, for my ideas are all going to the winds—days and days pass over me without a swift thought, idea or fancy entering my head. I am as dull as a clod." [back]
  18. Several of the differences between the Man and Rouge et Noir texts (see Appendix) suggest that Lampman did indeed revise it for its second printing; for example, in Man lines 273-78 read "If you understand this rightly the troubles and vexations of life, all its toils and difficulties, will no longer fret you, but only arm you with the wider knowledge and power.’ So saying, the elf once more pricked Hans Fingerhut on the nose with his thistle-staff, and he bacame a man." and in Rouge et Noir they read "If you understand this rightly, the troubles and vexations of life, all its trials and difficulties will no longer fret you, but only arm you with the wide knowledge and power.’ So saying the elf once more pricked Hans Fingerhut on the nose with his thistle-staff and Hans again became a man." Of course, some of the differences between the Man and the Rouge et Noir texts may be typographical errors or omissions (for example, the change from "cow-bells" to cow-bell" in line 38), and some raise intriguing but unanswerable questions (for instance, is the change from "moonlit" to "moonlight" in line 196 an error or deliberate and, if the latter, an attempt by Lampman to evoke the "moonlight room" of John Keats’s "The Eve of St. Agnes" [198]?). [back]
  19. The draft is in a notebook of 1884 (MG 29 D59 vol. 3, 1605-24) and is dated "June 8, 1884". [back]


Works Cited in the Introduction


Andersen, Hans Christian. Fairy Tales and Stories. Trans. H.W. Dulken. 1880. London: George Routledge, 1898.

Bentley, D.M.R. Intoduction. The Story of Affinity. By Archibald Lampman. London: Canadian Poetry Press, 1986. xi-xxxi.

Bredsdorff, Elias. Hans Christian Andersen: the Story of His Life and Work, 1805-75. London: Phaidon, 1975.

Carlyle, Thomas. Works. Centenary Edition. 30 vols. London: Chapman and Hall, 1897. New York: AMS Press, 1969.

Connor, Carl Y. Archibald Lampman: Canadian Poet of Nature. Montreal: Louis Carrier, 1929.

Early, L.R. "A Chronology of Lampman’s Poems." Canadian Poetry: Studies, Documents, Reviews 14 (Spring/Summer, 1984): 75-87.

——. Archibald Lampman. Twayne World Authors Series: Canadian Literature. Boston: Twayne, 1986.

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. Novels and Tales. [Trans. R.D. Boylan.] London: Bell and Daldy, 1871.

——. "The Tale." Trans. Thomas Carlyle. In Works. By Thomas Carlyle. 28: 454-79.

——. "Novelle." Trans. Thomas Carlyle. In Works. By Thomas Carlyle. 28: 480-96.

Grimm, Jacob Ludwig Karl, and Wilhelm Carl Grimm. German Popular Stories. Trans. [Edgar Taylor]. 1823. 2 vols. London: C. Baldwin, 1824-1826.

Keats, John. Poetical Works. Ed. H.W. Garrod. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1956.

Lampman, Archibald. At the Long Sault and Other New Poems. Ed. E.K. Brown and Duncan Campbell Scott. Toronto: Ryerson, 1943.

——. Essays and Reviews. Ed. D.M.R. Bentley. London: Canadian Poetry Press, 1996.

——. "The Fairy Fountain." Archibald Lampman Papers, National Archives of Canada, MG 29 D59 vol. 1. 635-65.

——. "Hans Fingerhut’s Frog-lesson." Archibald Lampman Papers, National Archives of Canada, MG 29 D59 vol. 3. 1605-24.

——. Letters to May McKeggie. Trinity College Archives, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario.

——. Papers. W.A.C. Bennet Library, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia.

——. Poems. Toronto: Morang, 1900.

——. Selected Prose. Ed. Barrie Davies. Ottawa: Tecumseh, 1975.

Tieck, Johann Ludwig. "The Elves." Trans. Thomas Carlyle. In Works. By Thomas Carlyle. 21: 343-42.

——. "The Runenberg." Trans. Thomas Carlyle. In Works. By Thomas Carlyle. 21: 319-42.

Scott, Duncan Campbell. "Memoir." In Poems. By Archibald Lampman. Toronto: Morang, 1900. xi-xxv.