Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/271

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RUSKIN ON GREEK MYTHOLOGY


the dead formal worship of all that had its origin in Greece; and now I am interested to notice the men, leading from weight of earnestness, tho' educated in all the Gothic and Teuton sympathies, turning back to Greek thought, and even imagery, as if it contained nobler symbols of abiding truth than our northern legends. Yes, even to feel the influence of the Grecian wave myself. So we got into interesting talk. He told me that there was little translation of Greek which he knew or cared for; that he had done a little himself, which will be published with next Tuesday's lecture; that Homer, even translated by Pope, taught one a good deal; that some tales by Cox (do you know them?) were intensely good; but (as I was pleased to know that I had instinctively felt), Morris's Jason was the most helpful almost of all. He sketched for me most beautifully, a kind of plan of Greek mythology, saying that the deities who governed the elements were the primary ones; the earth the sustainer of man; the water governing the ebb and flow of his fortunes, the two fiery deities earthly and heavenly; and the goddess of the air the inspirer. He quoted curious parallel thoughts from the Bible; "the wind bloweth where it listeth." He told me some strange things, too, about Minerva giving men strength from winged beings, and once, when enduing Menelaus with courage to fight Paris, giving it from a mosquito; whereas most gods give them strength from quadrupeds that are strong. Round these central deities are grouped many minor ones; Mercury, the cloud-compeller, often represented as a shepherd, guides the footsteps of men in life and death.

I asked him how far Virgil was too Roman to be trusted. He seemed very much pleased to find that I