MR BOND, in his "Topographical and Historical Sketches of the Boroughs of East and West Looe," writes--" This pool is distant from Looe about twelve miles off. Mr Carew says:
'Dosmery Pool amid the moores,
On top stands of a hill;
More than a mile about, no streams
It empt, nor any fill'
It is a lake of fresh water about a mile in circumference, the only one in Cornwall (unless the Loe Pool near Helston may be deemed such), and probably takes its name from Dome-Mer, sweet or fresh-water sea. It is about eight or ten feet deep in many parts. The notion entertained by some, of there being a whirlpool in its middle, I can contradict, having, some years ago, passed all over in a boat then kept there."
Such is Mr Bond's evidence; but this is nothing compared with the popular belief, which declares the pool to be bottomless; and beyond this, is it not known to every man of faith, that a thorn-bush thrown into Dosmery Pool has sunk in the middle of it, and after some time has come up in Falmouth Harbour?
Notwithstanding that Carew says that "no streams it empt, nor any fill," James Michell, in his parochial history of St Neot's, says, -- "It is situate on a small stream called St Neot's River, a branch of the Fowey, which rises in Dosmare Pool"
There is a ballad," Tregeagle; or, Dozmaré Pool: an Anciente Cornishe Legende, in two parts," by John Penwame. He has given a somewhat different version of the legend from any I have heard, and in the ballad very considerable liberties have been taken. It must, however, be admitted, that nearly all the incidents introduced in the poem are to be found in some of the many stories current amongst the peasantry.
Speaking of Dozmaré Pool, Mr Penwarne says:--
"There is a popular story attached to this lake, ridiculous enough, as most of those tales are. It is, that a person of the name of Tregeagle, who had been a rich and powerful man, but very wicked, guilty of murder and other heinous crimes, lived near this place; and that, after his death, his spirit haunted the neighbourhood, but was at length exorcised and laid to rest in Dozmaré Pool. But having in his lifetime, in order to enjoy the good things of this world, disposed of his soul and body to the devil, his infernal majesty takes great pleasure in tormenting him, by imposing on him difficult tasks; such as spinning a rope of sand, dipping out the pool with a limpet-shell, &c., and at times amuses himself with hunting him over the moors with his hell-hounds, at which time Tregeagle is heard to roar and howl in a most dreadful manner, so that 'roaring or howling like Tregeagle,' is a common expression amongst the vulgar in Cornwall. Such is the foundation on which is built the following tale. The author has given it an ancient dress, as best suited to the subject."
Tregeagle, in the ballad, is a shepherd dwelling "by the poole on the moore." He was ambitious and unscrupulous. "I wish for all that I see !" was his exclamation, when "a figure gigantick" is seen "midst the gloom of the night."
This spirit offers Tregeagle, in exchange for his soul, all that he desires for one hundred years. Tregeagle does not hesitate:--
"'A bargaine! a bargaine!' he said aloude;
'At my lot I will never repine;
I sweare to observe it, I sweare by the roode.
And am readye to scale and to sygne with my bloode,
Both my soul and my body are thine."
Tregeagle is thrown into a trance, from which he awakes to find himself "cloathed in gorgeous attyre," and master of a wide domain of great beauty:
"Where Dozmare lake its darke waters did roil,
A castle now reared its heade,
Wythe manye a turrete soe statelye and talle;
And many a warden dyd walke on its-walle,
All splendidly cloathed in redde."
Surrounded with all that is supposed to minister to the enjoyment of a sensual life, time passes on, and "Tregeagle ne'er notyc'd its flyghte." Yet we are told "he marked each day with some damnable deed." In the midst of his vicious career he is returning home through a violent storm, and he is accosted by a damsel on a white horse and a little page by her side, who craves his protection. Tregeagle takes this beautiful maiden to his castle. The page is made to tell the lady's story; she is called Goonhylda, and is the daughter of "Earl Cornwaill," living in Launceston, or, as it was then called, "Dunevyd Castle." Engaged in the pleasures of the hunt, the lady and her page are lost and overtaken by the storm. Tregeagle, as the storm rages savagely, makes them his "guests for the nyghte," promising to send a "quicke messenger" to inform her father of her whereabouts. At the same time --
"If that the countenance speaketh the mynde,
Dark deeds he revolved in hys breaste."
The earl hears nothing of his daughter; and having passed a miserable night, he sets forth in the morning, "wyth hys knyghtes, and esquyers, and serving-men all," in search of his child; and --
"At length to the plaine he emerged from the woode,
For a father, alas, what a syghte!
There lay her fayre garments all drenched in blood,
Her palfreye all torn in the dark crimson floode,
By the ravenous beasts of the nyghte."
This is a delusion caused by enchantment; Goonhylda still lives. Tregeagle offers himself to Goonhylda, who rejects his suit with scorn, and desires to leave the castle. Tregeagle coolly informs her that she cannot quit the place; Goonhylda threatens him with her father's vengeance. She is a prisoner, but her page contrives to make his escape, and in the evening arrives at Launceston Castle gate. The Earl of Cornwall, hearing from the page that his daughter lives and is a prisoner, arms himself and all his retainers --
"And em the greye morne peep'd. the eastern hills o'er,
At Tregeagle's gate sounded hys home."
Tregeagle will not obey the summons, but suddenly "they hearde the Black Hunter's dread voyce in the wynde!"
"They heard hys curate hell-houndes runn,yelping
And his steede thundered loude on the eare!"
This gentleman in black shakes the castle with his cry, "Come forth, Sir Tregeagle! come forth and submit to thy fate!" Of course he comes forth, and "the rede bolte of vengeaunce shot forth wyth a glare, and strooke him a corpse to the grounde!"
"Then from the black corpse a pale spectre appear'd,
And hyed him away through the night."
Goonhylda is of course found uninjured, and taken home by the earl. The castle disappears and Dozmare Pool re-appears; but --
"Stylle as the traveller pursues hys lone waye,
In horroure at nyghte o'er the waste,
He hears Syr Tregeagle with shrieks rushe away
He hears the Black Hunter pursuing his preye,
And shrynkes at bys bugle's dread blaste."