Page:The Mythology of the Aryan Nations.djvu/13

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ix
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.

dation the epic poets of these scattered and long-separated children of one primitive family have raised their magnificent fabrics or their cumbrous structures. Nay, from this common source they have derived even the most subtle distinctions of feature and character for their portraits of the actors in the great drama which in some one or more of its many scenes is the theme of all Aryan national poetry.

Momentous as this conclusion must be, it is one which seems to me to be strictly involved in the facts registered by all comparative mythologists; and while I wish to claim for myself no more than the honesty which refuses to adopt the statements of others without testing their accuracy, I may feel a legitimate confidence in the assurance that in all important points I am supported by the authority of such writers as Grimm, Max Müller, Bréal, Kuhn, Preller, Welcker, H. H. Wilson, Cornewall Lewis, Grote, and Thirlwall.

If in the task of establishing the physical origin of Aryan myths the same facts have been in some instances adduced more than once, I must plead not merely the necessity of the case, but the reiterated assertions of writers who seem to regard the proclamation of their views as of itself conclusive. The broad statement, for example, that Hermes is primarily and strictly a god of commerce, and of the subtlety and trickery which commerce is on this hypothesis supposed to require, makes it necessary at every step, and at the cost of repetitions which would otherwise be needless, to point out the true character of this divine harper.

In the wide field of inquiry on which I have entered in these volumes, I need scarcely say that I have very much more to learn, and that I shall receive with gratitude the suggestions of those who may wish to aid me in the task. Many portions of the subject are at present little more than