صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

the Theogamia of Zeus and Here. Hear the exposition of Müller:— “The ancient Argive believing in his gods, Zeus and Here, as the sources of every blessing, observed an actual union of the pair in the season when the seed quickens and germinates, Zeus and Here embraced, and the thoroughly personal conception of this marriage begat a numerous progeny of childlike and naive ceremonies and myths. The bard of the Iliad, also, hears the story as a formed and widely-circulated mythus, without reference to a definite season or to nature at all; he weaves it into his poem, where, from its singularity, it must be handled in a somewhat sportive manner; the golden dropping cloud remains, and the earth grows green and sends forth shoots; but the motive for the former is the wish for concealment, and for the latter, the want of a soft couch. The bard, however, has still perhaps at the same time a certain feeling of the significance, which is only entirely lost in sheer Euhemerism.” —Müller, Proleg. p. 279. This hesitating and qualified concession of “perhaps a certain feeling of the significance on the part of the bard,” is a more liberal concession than is frequently made by Müller, whose entire system is weakened and disarranged by the rigour with which he enforces his primary definition of a mythus, as an essentially unconscious combination of fact and idea, reality and imagination. This, it is evident, is only one of the processes by which such productions, in result indistinguishable, may be developed. Apart from special evidence, a given combination of idea and reality, any one of the examples set forth by Müller, may have originated either consciously or unconsciously, may have been composed with design, or adopted in simplicity of error; such contrasted processes, proof to the contrary apart, are to be expected from general experience to be operating parallel to each other at the same time, in the same or in different parts of the wide spread country, and to vary in degree and relative strength at successive periods. To restrict the definition of a mythus to one of these forms, is, as a matter of general philosophy, incorrect, unless some other term is substituted to express the more general idea comprising both varieties;–in a special investigation, the exclusion of all consideration of the second form, can only be justified by adducing a greater amount of proof of its entire absence from the problem than I believe is in any case possible to be brought forward; but Müller appears to consider that the identification of one form dispenses with all necessity of marking the limits of the other, and eliciting the laws that determine its limitation. The same flaw vitiates the analysis of some of the most laborious and influential of German critical works without the lines of classical antiquity;-the work of Strauss is especially open to the charge of radical fallacy in plan, to go no further, from the insufficient distribution of terms in its fundamental theorem. I can only ascribe it to erroneous preconceptions on this point, that Müller stopped short in a train of investigation respecting the relation of Homeric poetry to earlier tradition, that, as far as he pursued it, yielded the most happy results, and, with moderate solicitation, gives up still more, and furnishes the solution of problems that have vexed and exercised criticism ancient and modern. He observes (Proleg., p. 297), “The more we penetrate into the history of the origin of the myths handled in the Odyssey, the more do we see, that what the poet received was a mass of legends already connected with each other—having been united by popular tradition, or even by earlier bards—in which there is far more of local origin than we are at first inclined to suppose.” I continue the statement of his views from the conspectus of Eckerman,” (p. 273.) “The legends of the Odyssey were local in Ithaka over against Epirus, a country unusually rich in myth and cults in the earliest period, though withdrawn by subsequent obscurity from the sight of the inquirer. The most wonderful legends of the Odyssey are founded on Epirotic rites. If Ulysses reaches the island of Kirké, Aia, the land of the Sun, and thence proceeds to the shades, this story finds its connection in Epirus. The service of the dead was of the highest antiquity in Thesprotian Ephyra ; Aidoneus was the king of the country. The earliest vexpopovtsiov was on the banks of the Acheron, where, at certain times, offerings were made to the dead, in order to evoke the shades and place them in communication with the upper world, as Teiresias was evoked by Odysseus. When Odysseus makes an offering at the entrance of the shades, and the dead appear to drink the blood, this is

* Lehrbuch der Religionsgeschichte und Mythologie. Halle 1845.

not the invention of the bard, these traditions had all their origin by the Acheron. There was here a cult of the Sun; the Pelasgians who occupied themselves so much with the shades, seem to have naturally attached themselves to sun worship as cheerful and consolatory. The mythus of Medea, child of the sun, belonged to the same Ephyra, and from her the Thesprotian kings, Mermeros and Ilos, derived their descent. Corinth is connected with Ephyra, a name which once belonged to it, and probably a colonial relation connected both cities, as in both the same traditions are repeated. Erytheia, where Geryones tended the herds of the sun-god, was placed by Scylax and Hecataeus on the borders of Epirus, in the district of Ambracia, or near Akrokeraunian Orikos, and Epirus in later times had the descendants of these herds of the sun. The cult of Helios was very prevalent in southern Epirus, and the same cult occurs in Apollonia, a colony of Corinth, though it is probable that the cult preceded the arrival of the Corinthians. “Allusions to Dodona occur in the Odyssey, as in the Iliad to Delphi; Odysseus seeks oracles at the oak; doves bring ambrosia to Olympus, the same Pleiads that bring the blessings of harvest to Dodona. Thus we see that the traditions that furnished materials to the Odyssey were mainly Thesprotian. Odysseus possessed the bow of Eurytus, and with it slew the suitors, and the Eurytanians dwelt by the Achelous. Finally, among the Æolian Eurytanians of Epirus there was an oracle of Odysseus.” Even more interesting in these combinations, than the demonstration of local origin in the mythic materials of the western epic, is the exhibition they contain of a fund of legends having reference to sun-worship and to the rites of the under world, and furnishing materials for the most refined poetry, without ceasing in their remote position to live on in cult, and truly theological tradition. But these solar traditions, not only gave incident and embellishment to a large scction of the poem, we may discover by comparison of some farther observations of Müller, that they were not without influence in furnishing the plan — “It is hinted in several passages of the Odyssey, in enigmatical expressions peculiar to that poem, that it was at the close of one month and the beginning of another, that the hero arrived in Ithaka, and punished the suitors. Now, on the day VI. 2 F

that he reappeared as an avenger, there was in Ithaka a great festival of Apollo Neophytoc, as Philochorus rightly observed, who was, together with Pallas, a household god in the race of Arkesius. It is on this account that the suitors assemble so early in the house of the king and the other nobles of Ithaka, in the grove of the far-smiting Apollo, to whom they offer a sacred hecatomb. On this day, therefore, the day of Apollo, the avenging God, the guardian of archers, Odysseus, makes his appearance, grasps the bow, and completes with Apollo the work of vengeance: A remarkable coincidence certainly, and an extremely significant feature of ancient tradition, in which nothing was baseless or unmeaning.” With what qualifications we are to receive the remarks that follow will appear in due course: “But even here Homer is satisfied with stating what was handed down, and no indication can be found that the bard himself comprehended the exceedingly grand connexion of the legend; and although we should naturally expect it, there is no indication given that it is the God of the festival who completes his work on that his own day.”—Proleg., 296. Loth indeed should I be to think that the significance which gives such glorious enhancement to the immortal poem, was a blind hit, an unconscious, undesigned accident of the unsuspecting bard. Modern criticism, no doubt, whether applied to Homer or Pindar, has gained for itself the title to declare with confidence the meaning of master-strokes which were mere obscurity to commentators who wrote in native Greek. But neither in Homer nor in Pindar do I believe that beauties remain to be discovered—beauties of the most refined character, (and such is certainly the happy position of Odysseus, gleaming with all the mythic glories of the sun god, yet never losing his individuality, and sinking into an allegory or a travestie,) which were not only unsuspected by the generation who heard the epic resounding from the lips of the author, but even by the author himself. Nitzsch (II. LXII.) has no kind word for the sagacity of Müller, or the pregnancy of the author, and again we have to look to an extended elucidation of Homer's scheme and allusions, to rescue him from dismemberment by the easy suggestion of interpolation.

*An eclipse of the sun occurs at the seventh days of every month were conreturn of Odysseus, a phenomenon sidered throughout Greece as sacred to which, it is observable, only occurs at Apollo. the period of a new moon : the first and

Nitzsch observes that the association of the death of the suitors with a solar period, may arise simply from the death of the young being ordinarily laid to the charge of Apollo; but this is not an objection to the proposed view, but confirmation and illustration; the youthful victims of Apollo and Artemis, the children of Niobe, no less than Hyacinthus, are all found on the most cursory examination to be types of the fruitful year, its epochs and divisions. In other legends the typical victims ap: pear as suitors, a still nearer approach to the argument of the Odyssey; I refer particularly to the legends of Hippodameia and the daughters of Danaus, in which the astronomical or rather perhaps chronological element is susceptible of very exact demonstration. Hence the appropriateness of the painting of Ulysses slaying the suitors as a decoration of the peribolus of Apollo at Corinth, (Paus. II. 3.), and thus we may recognize the deep significance, not hidden, we may be sure, to the contemporary of the poet, of the comparison of the avenger, when the slaughter is complete, standing bloody among the slain, to a lion who has killed and devours a bull, the eastern astronomical type, the analogue of the Mithriac group. Ulysses, therefore, might be regarded as the prototype of the Deus Sol Invictus of the later compositions, were it not for the admirable art with which the poet holds the just balance of the mystic and poetic elements, and never permits the “simple, sensuous and impassioned” expression of natural incident and grace, to harden into allegory.

Perhaps, however, the genius of the poet in combining the marvel and the meaning of earlier legends, is most brilliantly displayed in the instance which is yet to be examined, the return of Ulysses to his native land, slumbering on the prow of the wondrous sea-boat of the Phaeacians. In this voyage we may recognize, after our previous indications, an infallible reflection of the legend preserved by Mimnermus, himself of Smyrna, according to which the sun-god, restless throughout the day, on arriving at the island of the Hesperides, took ship, and was borne sleeping in a couch of gold, a winged vessel work of Hephaistos, over the surface of the waves to the land of the Ethiopians, there tor ecommence his exertions.—Apud Athen. p. 470 :

« السابقةمتابعة »