Page:The Mythology of the Aryan Nations.djvu/482

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MYTHOLOGY OF THE ARYAN NATIONS.

BOOK II can only work on what it finds already provided to hand."^ On the other hand, it is manifestly useless to explain as a jest the relations between Hermes and ApoUon, until we have shown why these particular relations should be invested with a ludicrous character. It is more than strange that Colonel Mure should suppose that he had touched the real point at issue by asserting that in order to accommodate the dispute "on terms honourable to each party" "an elegant expedient suggested itself" in the invention of the lyre by Hermes, and the transference of this instrument, which could not fail to lay Apollon under a heavy debt of gratitude to the donor.^ This leaves altogether out of sight the fact that Phoibos imparted to Hermes such secrets as it was lawful for him to disclose, and in no way explains why Hermes should invent the lyre and Phoibos be possessed of a hidden wisdom. To say that " Hermes in his capacity of god is gifted from the first moment of his existence with divine power and energy," and that " as a member of the Hellenic pantheon he is subjected to the natural drawbacks of humanity, and hence at his birth to those of infancy," is partly to misrepresent the myth and partly to say of him

^ G.diSion&, Homer and the Homeric Age, ii. 9.

  • Mure, History of Greek Literature, ii. 340. No wish to disparage the great learning of Colonel Mure or to depreciate his services in the important subject

to which he devoted himself must be in- ferred from the expression of a conviction that he was incapable of analysing fairly any mythical narrative, the truth being that he knew nothing of the nature of myths in general. Thus in the present case he seems to have a fixed idea that his work is done when he says that the whole Hymn to Hermes is designed as a burlesque, that the absurdity is intended to lie in the contrast " between the Herculean exploits of the divine urchin and his baby form and habits," and that the supernatural element ef the story "alone gives point and seasoning to an otherwise palpable extravagance." There is not an expression throughout the whole hymn which implies any consciousness of extravagance or bur- lesque or absurdity on the part of the poet, who evidently writes in all possible seriousness. But with Colonel Mure almost all mythical incidents resolve themselves into the mere extravagances of a disordered or ill-regulated fancy. The hundred-headed narcissus, whose fragrance made earth and heaven smile, and which tempted Persephone to leave her companions in the fields of Enna, he is content to put aside as " a mon- strous hyperbole." In point of fact, the poet chose the narcissus because its name denotes the deadly languor and lethargy which comes over the earth in autumn, and which is expressed more fully in the myth of Narkissos, the counterpart of Endymion. (See page 280.) It is not, however, accurate to speak of the "baby habits " of Hermes. His childish ways are confined to the time which he spends in his cradle. As soon as he leaves it, he begins to move with giant strides, and nothing of the child remains about him. Colonel Mure adds that " as the patron deity of cun- ning and intrigue, he is at once qualified to compete with and to surpass even Apollo, hitherto considered as unrivalled in these arts." There is not the slightest ground for thinking that Apollon was at any time connected with the notion of cunning and intrigue, and still less for supposing that he was regarded as the embodiment or ideal of those qualities until the questionable honour was transferred to Hermes. It is, in fact, impossible to determine whether the myth of Phoibos has the priority of time over that of Hermes, and therefore we cannot say how the former was re- garded before the latter furnished the notion of the Master Thief

» Crit. Hist. Cr. Lit. ii. 344.