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becomes possible to realize a usual state of the imagination among ancient and savage peoples, intermediate between the conditions of a healthy prosaic modern citizen and of a raving fanatic or a patient in a fever-ward. A poet of our own day has still much in common with the minds of uncultured tribes in the mythologic stage of thought. The rude man's imaginations may be narrow, crude, and repulsive, while the poet's more conscious fictions may be highly wrought into shapes of fresh artistic beauty, but both share in that sense of the reality of ideas, which fortunately or unfortunately modern education has proved so powerful to destroy. The change of meaning of a single word will tell the history of this transition, ranging from primæval to modern thought. From first to last, the processes of phantasy have been at work ; but where the savage could see phantasms, the civilized man has come to amuse himself with fancies.
Nature-myths, their origin, canon of interpretation, preservation of original
sense and significant names-Nature-myths of upper savage races compared with related forms among barbaric and civilized nations—Heaven and Earth as Universal Parents—Sun and Moon : Eclipse and Sunset, as Hero or Maiden swallowed by Monster ; Rising of Sun from Sea and Descent to Under-World ; Jaws of Night and Death, Symplegades ; Eye of Heaven, Eye of Odin and the Graiæ--Sun and Moon as mythic civilizers-Moon, her inconstancy, periodical death and revival-Stars, their generation-Constellations, their place in Mythology and AstronomyWind and Tempest - Thunder-Earthquake.
FROM laying down general principles of myth-development, we may now proceed to survey the class of Nature-myths, such especially as seem to have their earliest source and truest meaning among the lower races of mankind.
Science, investigating nature, discusses its facts and announces its laws in technical language which is clear and accurate to trained students, but which falls only as a mystic jargon on the ears of barbarians, or peasants, or children. It is to the comprehension of just these simple unschooled minds that the language of poetic myth is spoken, so far at least as it is true poetry, and not its quaint affected imitation. The poet contemplates the same natural world as the man of science, but in his so different craft strives to render difficult thought easy by making it visible and tangible, above all by referring the being and movement of the world to such personal life as his hearers feel within themselves, and thus working out in farstretched fancy the maxim that ' Man is the measure of all things.' Let but the key be recovered to this mythic
dialect, and its complex and shifting terms will translate themselves into reality, and show how far legend, in its sympathetic fictions of war, love, crime, adventure, fate, is only telling the perennial story of the world's daily life. The myths shaped out of those endless analogies between man and nature which are the soul of all poetry, into those half-human stories still so full to us of unfading life and beauty, are the masterpieces of an art belonging rather to the past than to the present. The growth of myth has been checked by science, it is dying of weights and measures, of proportions and specimens-it is not only dying, but half dead, and students are anatomising it. In this world one must do what one can, and if the moderns cannot feel myth as their forefathers did, at least they can analyse it. There is a kind of intellectual frontier within which he must be who will sympathise with myth, while he must be without who will investigate it, and it is our fortune that we live near this frontier-line, and can go in and out. European scholars can still in a measure understand the belief of Greeks or Aztecs or Maoris in their native myths, and at the same time can compare and interpret them without the scruples of men to whom such tales are history, and even sacred history. Moreover, were the whole human race at a uniform level of culture with ourselves, it would be hard to bring our minds to conceive of tribes in the mental state to which the early growth of nature-myth belongs, even as it is now hard to picture to ourselves a condition of mankind lower than any that has been actually found. But the various grades of existing civilization preserve the landmarks of a long course of history, and there survive by millions savages and barbarians whose minds still produce, in rude archaic forms, man's early mythic representations of nature.
Those who read for the first time the dissertations of the modern school of mythologists, and sometimes even those who have been familiar with them for years, are prone to ask, with half-incredulous appreciation of the beauty and simplicity of their interpretations, can they be really true ? Can so great a part of the legendary lore of classic, barbarian, and mediæval Europe be taken up with the everlasting depiction of Sun and Sky, Dawn and Gloaming, Day and Night, Summer and Winter, Cloud and Tempest; can so many of the personages of tradition, for all their heroic human aspect, have their real origin in anthropomorphic myths of nature ? Without any attempt to discuss these opinions at large, it will be seen that inspection of nature-mythology from the present point of view tells in their favour, at least as to principle. The general theory that such direct conceptions of nature as are so naïvely and even baldly uttered in the Veda, are among the primary sources of myth, is enforced by evidence gained elsewhere in the world. Especially the traditions of savage races display mythic conceptions of the outer world, primitive like those of the ancient Indian hymns, agreeing with them in their general character, and often remarkably corresponding in their very episodes. At the same time it must be clearly understood that the truth of such a general principle is no warrant for all the particular interpretations which mythologists claim to base upon it, for of these in fact many are wildly speculative, and many hopelessly unsound. Nature-myth demands indeed a recognition of its vast importance in the legendary lore of mankind, but only so far as its claim is backed by strong and legitimate evidence.
The close and deep analogies between the life of nature and the life of man have been for ages dwelt upon by poets and philosophers, who in simile or in argument have told of light and darkness, of calm and tempest, of birth, growth, change, decay, dissolution, renewal. But no one-sided interpretation can be permitted to absorb into a single theory such endless many-sided correspondences as these. Rash inferences which on the strength of mere resemblance derive episodes of myth from episodes of nature must be regarded with utter mistrust, for the student who has no more strin
gent criterion than this for his myths of sun and sky and dawn, will find them wherever it pleases him to seek them. It may be judged by simple trial what such a method may lead to; no legend, no allegory, no nursery rhyme, is safe from the hermeneutics of a thorough-going mythologic theorist. Should he, for instance, demand as his property the nursery Song of Sixpence, his claim would be easily established : obviously the four-and-twenty blackbirds are the four-and-twenty hours, and the pie that holds them is the underlying earth covered with the overarching sky; how true a touch of nature it is that when the pie is opened, that is, when day breaks, the birds begin to sing ; the King is the Sun, and his counting out his money is pouring out the sunshine, the golden shower of Danae ; the Queen is the Moon, and her transparent honey the moonlight; the Maid is the ‘ rosy-fingered 'Dawn who rises before the Sun her master, and hangs out the clouds, his clothes, across the sky; the particular blackbird who so tragically ends the tale by snipping off her nose, is the hour of sunrise. The time-honoured rhyme really wants but one thing to prove it a Sun-myth, that one thing being a proof by some argument more valid than analogy. Or if historical characters be "selected with any discretion, it is easy to point out the solar episodes embodied in their lives. See Cortès landing in Mexico, and seeming to the Aztecs their very Sun-priest Quetzalcoatl, come back from the East to renew his reign of light and glory; mark him deserting the wife of his youth, even as the Sun leaves the Dawn, and again in later life abandoning Marina for a new bride; watch his sun-like career of brilliant conquest, checkered with intervals of storm, and declining to a death clouded with sorrow and disgrace. The life of Julius Cæsar would fit as plausibly into a scheme of solar myth; his splendid course as in each
a new land he came, and saw, and conquered; his desertion of Cleopatra ; his ordinance of the solar year for men; his death at the hand of Brutus, like Sîfrit's death at the hand of Hagen in the Nibelungen Lied; his falling pierced with