Page:Primitive Culture Vol 1.djvu/296

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economy happens for the moment to lie uppermost in our mind, we may with due gravity expound the story of Perseus as an allegory of trade: Perseus himself is Labour, and he finds Andromeda, who is Profit, chained and ready to be devoured by the monster Capital; he rescues her and carries her off in triumph. To know anything of poetry or of mysticism is to know this reproductive growth of fancy as an admitted and admired intellectual process. But when it comes to sober investigation of the processes of mythology, the attempt to penetrate to the foundation of an old fancy will scarcely be helped by burying it yet deeper underneath a new one.

Nevertheless, allegory has had a share in the development of myths which no interpreter must overlook. The fault of the rationalizer lay in taking allegory beyond its proper action, and applying it as a universal solvent to reduce dark stories to transparent sense. The same is true of the other great rationalizing process, founded also, to some extent, on fact. Nothing is more certain than that real personages often have mythic incidents tacked on to their history, and that they even figure in tales of which the very substance is mythic. No one disbelieves in the existence of Solomon because of his legendary adventure in the Valley of Apes, nor of Attila because he figures in the Nibelungen Lied. Sir Francis Drake is made not less but more real to us by the cottage tales which tell how he still leads the Wild Hunt over Dartmoor, and still rises to his revels when they beat at Buckland Abbey the drum that he carried round the world. The mixture of fact and fable in traditions of great men shows that legends containing monstrous fancy may yet have a basis in historic fact. But, on the strength of this, the mythologists arranged systematic methods of reducing legend to history, and thereby contrived at once to stultify the mythology they professed to explain, and to ruin the history they professed to develop. So far as the plan consisted in mere suppression of the marvellous, a notion of its trustworthiness may be obtained, as Sir G. W. Cox well