Page:The Mythology of the Aryan Nations.djvu/71

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39
HOMERIC MYTHOLOGY.
CHAP. IV

and beautiful Sigurd. The deed is done by Gunnar's brethren—the cloud, the wind, and the storm; and Brynhild, filled again with her early love, lies down to die with him who had forsaken her.

Groundwork of the "Homeric" mythology.Phrases similar to those which gave birth to the legends of the Volsungs and the Nibelungs he at the root of the epics to which Greek genius has imparted such wonderful consistency and beauty. Yet it can scarcely be too often repeated, that these poets adopted as much of the popular mythology as suited their purpose, and no more. If casual expressions throughout these poems leave no room to doubt that they knew of wars among the heavenly beings, of the dethronement of Kronos, the good service and the hard recompense of Prometheus, and the early death of Achilleus, it appears not less manifest, that the idea of Oinone and of her relations to Paris could not have dawned for the first time on the mind of a later age. It was no part of the poet's design to furnish a complete mythology; and the Iliad exhibits only that process of disintegration which was perpetually multiplying new tales and new beings from the old mythical language. In no instance, perhaps, is this process brought out with greater clearness than in that of Paris. This son of Priam, as leading away the beautiful Helen from the far west and hiding her through ten long years in his secret chambers, represents the dark power which steals the light from the western sky, and sustains a ten hours' conflict before he will yield her up again. Paris thus is Pani, the dark thief of the Vedic songs, who hides the bright cattle of Indra in his dismal caves ; in other words, he is Vritra, the veiling enemy, and Ahi, the throttling serpent of night. Such is he in his relations to Menelaos and the children of the Sun, who come to reclaim the lost Helen. But among his own people Paris is the most prominent actor in the great drama which ends in the fall of Ilion. The night has its beauty, although, as with Kirke, with Kalypso, and with Ursula, this beauty may be a thing rather to be feared than loved. Paris, therefore, is beautiful, he is brave, and he is fated to bring ruin on his kinsfolk ; for the night not less than the day slays its parents, and falls a victim to its own offspring. Like Perseus, Telephos, and others among the host of fatal children, the babe is exposed on the slopes of Ida. Nourished by a bear, he grows up beautiful in form ; and if his love is sensual, so also in many myths is that of Herakles.[1] If, again, after the seduction of Helen, his
  1. The term γυναιμανής, as applied to Paris, only translates in a somewhat strengthened form a common epithet of Indra and of the black Krishna, the nocturnal sun, who, like the son of Priam, are "the lovers of the girls," "the husbands of the brides." The idea would not fail to assume a sensual aspect when the actors of the tale were invested with human personality.