Page:A history of Hungarian literature.djvu/23

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is a vast forest, the trees of which are wrapt in a mystical moonlit haze. Let us for a moment enter the dense, tangled forest ; we shall probably find no straight path, but above us we may see the stars of heaven shining through the leaves.

Every age has a different conception of space and time, of the place occupied in the Universe by Man, and of the changes which the whirligig of time brings to mankind and to the world in general. The man of the Middle Ages was convinced that his little Earth was the centre, and the chief concern of the Universe. Such a conception is entirely childish to our mind. He imagined Heaven to be so near the earth that "our world" and "the other world" might easily communicate with each other. The "other world" was the really important thing. Nature, as we understand it, had little interest for him.

Why pay careful heed to nature and her works ? Whenever it should prove necessary or beneficial, the skies would open and a host of glorious spirits would descend upon the earth. In seeking for help against the many physical ills of earthly life, the man of those times never attempted to subjugate the powers of nature and make them serve his purposes, but tried instead to win the active benevolence of supernatural powers. There were no difficulties, no obstacles nor wants, with which miracles could not cope, and it was by miracles that vice was punished and virtue rewarded. Only hard experience in the school of life could correct those views, and bring the lucidum intervallum of truth.

Those conceptions are abundantly illustrated in the Hungarians legends. When the coachman falls asleep, the carriage tears on its way in perfect safety for the sake