Child's, The English And Scottish Ballads

Volume 7 of 8 from 1860 edition - online book

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superiority in knowledge and wisdom, underwent a change about the twelfth century, by which they became essentially comic. The serious element, rep­resented by Salomon, was retained after this, merely to afford material, or contrast, for the coarse humor of Marcolf, whose part it is, under the character of a rude and clownish person, " facie deformis et tur-pissimus," to turn the sententious observations of the royal sage into ludicrous parodies.*
The hint, and possibly a model, for these disputa­tions may have been found in Jewish tradition. We learn from Josephus, (Antiquities, Book VIII. ch. v.) that Hiram of Tyre and Solomon sent one another sophistical puzzles and enigmas to be solved, on con­dition of forfeiting large sums of money in case of failure, and that Solomon's riddles were all guessed by Abdsemon of Tyre, or by Abdimus, his son, for authorities differ. This account coincides with what we read in Chronicles, (Book II. ch. ii. 13, 14,) of the man sent by Hiram to Solomon, who, besides a uni­versal knowledge of the arts, was skilful " to find out every device that might be put to him " by cunning men—that is, apparently, "hard questions," such as the Queen of Sheba came to prove Solomon with,
* Among those nations who originated and developed the character of Marcolf (the German and the French) his fame has declined, but in Italy, where the legend was first intro­duced towards the end of the sixteenth century, his shrewd sayings, like the kindred jests of the Eulenspiegel in Ger­many, have an undiminished popularity, and his story, both in the form of a chap-book and of a satirical epic, (the Ber-toldo,) is circulated throughout the length and breadth of the country, whence it has also been transplanted into Greece.