Page:The Mythology of the Aryan Nations.djvu/57

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GERMS OF EPIC POETRY.
CHAP. III.

might woo the deep blue sky, the bride of heaven itself, and an in- evitable doom might bind his limbs on the blazing wheel for ever and ever. Nor in this crowd of phrases, all of which have borne their part in the formation of mythology, is there one which could not be used naturally by ourselves to describe the phenomena of the outward world, and there is scarcely one perhaps, which has not thus been used by our own poets.

Use of abstract and concrete names.But in truth we need not go back to that early time for evidence of the fact that language such as this comes naturally to mankind, Abstract names are the result of long thought and effort, and they are never congenial to the mass of men. They belong to a dialect which can never be spoken by poets, for on such unsubstantial food poetry must starve and die. Some of us may know now that there is nothing in natural phenomena which has any positive relation with the impressions produced on our minds, that the difference between the temperatures of Baise and Nova Zembla is simply the difference of a few degrees more or less of solar heat, as indicated by Reaumur or Fahrenheit ; that the beautiful tints of morning and evening are being produced every moment, and that they are mere results of the inclination which the earth at a particular moment may have to the sun. We may know that the whispering breeze and the roaring storm are merely air moving with different degrees of force, that there is no generic difference between ice and water, between fluids and solids, between heat and cold. What if this knowledge were extended to all? Would it be a gain if the language of men and women, boys and girls, were brought into strict agreement with scientific facts, and made to exhibit the exactness of technical defini- tions ? The question is superfluous, for so long as mankind remain what they are, such things are impossible. In one sense, the glorious hues which spread over the heavens at sunrise and sundown, the breeze and the hurricane, are to us nothing. The forces which produce the phenomena of the oubvard world take no notice of us. Shall it then be said that there is not One who does take note of the ' impressions which the sights or the sounds of nature make upon our minds? Must we not recognise the feelings which those phenomena irresistibly evoke in us as not less facts than the phenomena them- selves ? We cannot rid ourselves of these impressions. They are ])art of us ; they grow with our growth, and it is best for us if they receive a wholesome culture. Modern science may show that our feelings are merely relative ; but there is still that within us which answers to the mental condition from which the mythical language

of our forefathers sprang. It is impossible for us to look on the