color. The epithet of 'golden-mouth,' which became the name of the eloquent Chrysostom, shows that 'gold' was used in a highly symbolic sense at an early period in the history of Christianity, while Shakespeare's 'golden lads and girls' is typical of this vague poetic use of the word. 'Golden' in English has largely come to mean not yellow or any other definite shade of color, but merely beautiful and precious, as 'red' means in Russia. The same contrast between 'yellow' and 'golden' may be found in other European languages; in French, for example, the affective tone of jaune is totally different from that of or, and it is the same in Italian and most other allied languages. As a general rule yellow is not applied by the poets to any object which suggests a definitely beautiful emotional tone, while 'golden' only in a minority of cases, as when applied to hair, corn, etc., bears any insistence on definite color.
It is not until the middle of the last century, at all events in England, that we find any definite revival of the old classic feeling in regard to yellow. It is very notable in Swinburne, who dwells with pleasure on honey and amber and other yellow substances, emphasizing their color; yet at the same time he usually avoids the use of the word yellow; 'white and gold and red,' he declares, are 'God's three chief words,' and he marks his sense of the inferiority of the word in the lines:
- A comb of gold for the king's daughter.
In the course of centuries and until recent times, we find, there has thus been a gradually diminishing tendency to insist on the color of any beautiful or desirable object that is yellow. At the same time, there has been a tendency to emphasize the associations of yellow, which are really founded on one of the most ancient observations of man. Yellow is the color of bile and of a jaundiced skin. Most of the evil passions and impulses of mankind, in the popular science of primitive peoples, have their origin in the liver and the bile. The degree to which mankind has been impressed by the yellowness of bile is sufficiently proved by the fact that bile has constantly served to supply a name to yellow; thus among the Eskimo, the Chukchis, the Samoyeds, the Voguls and other subarctic races yellow (and sometimes green) are called by a word which means bile. Even in our own Aryan tongues it seems to be the same, and 'gall' lies at the root not only of 'yellow' but also of 'green' and even of 'gold.' Hence it is that yellow is the color alike of envy and of melancholy. We have in Shakespeare's phrase the 'jealous complexion' (orange) and 'green and yellow melancholy,' and in Pope the 'jaundiced eye' to which 'all
- W. H. E. Rivers, 'Colour Vision of the Eskimo,' Proceedings Cambridge Philosophical Society, Vol. XL, Pt. II., 1901.