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The Goblin of La Via del Corno
On Fontarabian echoes borne,
When Roland brave and Olivier,
And every paladin and peer
At Roncesvalles died."—Waller Scott.
"The Korrigan who ever wears a horn."
THE Via del Corno is a narrow street passing from the Via del Leone. I have found the following story in reference to the origin of its name, which, if not authentic, is at least amusing and original :
"There was in what is now known as the Via del Corno an ancient palace, which a long time ago was inhabited only by a certain gentleman and a goblin.1
"Nor had he any servants, because of all who came, none remained more than one day for fear of the folletto. And as this spread far and wide, people kept away from the Via del Corno after dark; but as this also kept away thieves, and the goblin did all the house-work, the master was all the better pleased. Only on one point did the two differ, and that was the point of morality. Here the goblin was extremely strict, and drew the line distinctly. Several times, as was the custom in those wicked days, the Signore attempted to introduce a lady-friend to the palazzo, but the goblin all night long, when not busied in pulling the sheets from the fair sinner, was industriously occupied in strewing nettles or burrs under her, or tickling the soles of her feet with a pen; and then anon, when, sinking to sleep, she hoped for some remission of the tease, he would begin to play interminable airs on a horn. It is true that he played beautifully, like no earthly musician, but even enchanting airs may be annoying when they prevent sleep.
"Nor did the lord fare the better, even when, inspired by higher motives, he 'would a-wooing go.' For one lady or another had heard of the goblin, and when they had not, it always happened that by some mysterious means or other the match was broken off.
"Meantime the life led by the Signore was rather peculiar, as he slept nearly all day, sallied forth for an hour or two to exercise, go to a barber's, make his small purchases, or hear the news, supped at a trattoria, and then returning home, sat all night listening to the goblin as he played divinely on the horn, or blew it himself, which he did extremely well, toped and hob-nobbed with his familiar, who was a great critic of wine, and, as the proverb says, 'Buon vino fiaba lunga—Good wine, long tales'—they told one another no end of merry and marvellous stories ; and as il vin fa cantare, it makes man sing, they also sang duets, solos, and glees. And when the weather was ill, or chilly, or rainy, or too hot, they cured it with Chianti, according to a medical prescription laid down in sundry rare old works:
1 Folletto. This, which meant originally an airy tricksy sprite, is now applied not only to fairies and goblins in general, but also to every kind of supernatural apparition. I have a book in which even comets are described as folletti.
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