[Extracted from his Chips From A German Workshop, vol. 2 (1868), pp. 1-143.]
Phædros. Dot thou see that very tall plane-tree?
Sokrates. Certainly I do.
Phædros. There is shade there, and the wind is not too strong, and there is grass to sit, or, if we like, to lie down.
Sokrates. Lead on then!
Phædros. Tell me, Sokrates,—is it not from some place here they say that Boreas carried away Oreithyia from the Ilissos?
Sokrates. So they say.
Phædros. Should it not be from this spot? for the waters seem so lovely, and pure, and transparent, and as if made for girls to play on the bank.
Sokrates. No; it is two or three stadia further down, where you cross over to the Temple of Agra,—and there you find, somewhere, an altar of Boreas.
Phædros. I was not aware of this. But tell me, by Zeus, Sokrates,—doest thou believe this mythe to be true!
Sokrates. Well, if I did not believe it, like the wise people, I should not be so very far wrong; and I might set up an ingenious theory and say that a gust of Boreas, the Northwind, carried her down from the rocks in the neighbourhood, while she was [p.2] playing with her friend Pharmakeia; and that, having died in this manner, she was reported to have been carried off from thence by Boreas, or from the Ares peak,—for there goes also this story, that she was carried off from that, and not from this spot. As to myself, Phaedrus, I think these explanations, on the whole, very pleasant; but they require a man of strong mind and hard work, and a man who, after all, is not much to be envied, if it were only for this, that when he has set right this one fable, he is bound to do the same for the form of the Hippokentaurs, and again for that of the Chimæra. And then a host of such beings rushes in,—Gorgons and Pegasus', and masses of other hopeless beings, and absurdities of monstrous creatures. And if a man, not believing in the existence of these creatures, should try to represent each according to the probable explanation, dealing in a rough kind of philosophy, he would require abundance of leisure. I, at least, have no time to spare for these things, and the reason, my friend, is this, that I cannot yet, according to the Delphic line, know myself; and it seems to me ridiculous that a man who does not yet know this, should trouble himself about what does .not concern him. Therefore I leave those things alone, and, believing what other people believe about them, I meditate, as I said just now, not on them, but on myself,—whether I be a monster more complicated and more savage than Typhon, or a tamer and simpler creature, enjoying by nature a blessed and modest lot. But while we are talking, my friend,—was not this the tree to which thou wert to lead us!
Phædros. This is the very tree.
THIS passage, from the Introduction of Plato's 'Phaedrus,' has been frequently
quoted in order to show what the wisest of the Greeks thought about the
rationalists of his day. There were at Athens then, as there have been at all
times and in all countries, men who had no sense for the miraculous and
supernatural, and who, without having the moral courage to deny altogether what
they could not bring themselves to believe, endeavoured to find some plausible
explanation by which the sacred legends which tradition had handed down to them,
and which had been hallowed by religious observances, and sanctioned by the
authority of the law, might be brought into harmony with the dictates of reason
and the laws of nature. That Sokrates, though himself accused of heresy, did not
entertain a very high opinion of these speculators,—that he thought their
explanations more incredible and absurd than even the most incredible
absurdities of Greek mythology,—nay, that at a certain period of his life he
treated such attempts as impious, is clear from this and other passages of Plato
But if Mr. Grote, in his classical work on the 'History of Greece,' avails himself of this and similar passages, in order to introduce, as it were, Sokrates himself among the historians and critics of our own time,—if he endeavours to make him bear witness 'to the uselessness of digging for a supposed basis of truth' in the mythes of the Greek world, he makes the ancient philosopher say more than he really said. Our object in considering the mythes of the Greeks, or any other nation of antiquity, is so different from that of Sokrates, that the objections [p.4] which he waged against his rationalising contemporaries could hardly be said to apply to us. For what is it that makes us at the present day ask the question of the origin of the Greek mythes! Why do men study ancient history, acquire a knowledge of dead languages, and decipher illegible inscriptions? What inspires them with an interest not only in the literature of Greece and Rome, but of ancient India and Persia, of Egypt and Babylonia? Why do the puerile and often repulsive legends of savage tribes rivet their attention and engage their thoughts? Have we not been told that there is more wisdom in 'The Times' than in Thukydides! Are not the novels of Walter Scott more amusing than Apollodoros? or the works of Bacon more instructive than the cosmogony of the Puranas? What, then, gives life to the study of antiquity? What compels men, in the midst of these busy times, to sacrifice their leisure to studies apparently so unattractive and useless, if not the conviction, that in order to obey the Delphic commandment—in order to know what Man is, we ought to know what Man has been? This is a view as foreign to the mind of Sokrates as any of the principles of inductive philosophy by which men like Columbus, Leonardo da Vinci, Copernicus, Kepler, Bacon, and Galileo regenerated and invigorated the intellectual life of modem Europe. If we grant to Sokrates that the chief object of philosophy is that man should know himself, we should hardly consider his means of arriving at this knowledge adequate to so high an aim. To his mind man was pre-eminently the individual, without any reference to its being but one manifestation of a power, or, as he might have said, of [p.5] an idea, realised in and through an endless variety of human souls. He is ever seeking to solve the mystery of human nature by brooding over his own mind, by watching the secret workings of the soul, by analysing the organs of knowledge, and by trying to determine their proper limits; and thus the last result of his philosophy was, that he knew but one thing, and this was, that be knew nothing. To us, man is no longer this solitary being, complete in itself, and self-sufficient; man to us is a brother among brothers, a member of a class, of a genus, or a kind, and therefore intelligible only with reference to his equals. The earth was unintelligible to the ancients, because looked upon as a solitary being, without a peer in the whole universe; but it assumed a new and true significance as soon as it rose before the eye of man as one of many planets, all governed by the same laws, and all revolving around the same centre. It is the same with the human soul, and its nature stands before our mind in quite a different light since man has been taught to know and feel himself as a member of one great family,—as one of the myriads of wandering stars, all governed by the same laws, and all revolving around the same centre, and all deriving their light from the same source. The history of the world, or, as it is called, 'Universal History,' has laid open new avenues of thought, and it has enriched our language with a word which never passed the lips of Sokrates, or Plato, or Aristotle—mankind.1 Where the Greek saw barbarians, we see brethren; where the Greek saw heroes and demi-gods, we see our parents and ancestors; where the Greek saw nations, we see mankind, toiling and suffering, separated by [p.6] oceans, divided by language, and severed by national enmity,—yet evermore tending, under a divine control, towards the fulfilment of that inscrutable purpose for which the world was created, and man placed in it, bearing the image of God. History, therefore, with its dusty and mouldering pages, is to us as sacred a volume as the book of nature. In both we read, or we try to read, the reflex of the laws and thoughts of a Divine Wisdom. As we acknowledge no longer in nature the working of demons or the manifestation of an evil principle, so we deny in history an atomistic conglomerate of chances, or the despotic rule of a mute fate. We believe that there is nothing irrational in either history or nature, and that the human mind is called upon to read and to revere in both the manifestations of a Divine Power. Hence, even the most ancient and shattered pages of traditions are dear to us, nay dearer, perhaps, than the more copious chapters of modem times. The history of those distant ages and distant men—apparently so foreign to our modem interests—assumes a new charm as soon as we know that it tells us the story of our own race, of our own family—nay, of our own selves. Sometimes, when opening a desk which we have not opened for many years,—when looking over letters which we have not read for many years, we read on for some time with a cold indifference, and though we see it is our own handwriting, and though we meet with names once familiar to our heart, yet we can hardly believe that we wrote these letters, that we felt those pangs, that we shared in those delights, till at last the past draws near and we draw near to the past, and our heart grows warm, and we feel [p.7] again as we felt of old, and we know that these letters were our letters. It is the same in reading ancient history. At first it seems something strange and foreign; but the more intensely we read, the more our thoughts are engaged and our feelings warmed; and the history of those ancient men becomes, as it were, our own history,—their sufferings our sufferings,—their joys our joys. Without this sympathy, history is a dead letter, and might as well be burnt and forgotten; while, if it is once enlivened by this feeling, it appeals not only to the antiquarian, but to the heart of every man.
We find ourselves on a stage on which many acts have been acted before us, and where we are suddenly called to act our own part. To know the part which we have to act ourselves, we ought to know the character of those whose place we take. We naturally look back to the scenes on which the curtain of the past has fallen, for we believe that there ought to be one thought pervading the whole drama of mankind. And here history steps in, and gives us the thread which connects the present with the past. Many scenes, it is true, are lost beyond the hope of recovery; and the most interesting, the opening scenes of the childhood of the human race, are known to us by small fragments only. But for this very reason the antiquarian, if he descries a relic of those early times, grasps it with the eagerness of a biographer who finds unexpectedly some scraps written by his hero when yet a child—entirely himself, and before the shadows of life had settled on his brow. In whatever language it may be written, every line, every word, is welcome, that bears the impress of the early days of mankind. In our museums we [p.8] collect the rude playthings of our hero's boyhood, and we try to guess from their colossal features the thoughts of the mind which they once reflected. Many things are still unintelligible to us, and the hieroglyphic language of antiquity records but half of the mind's unconscious intentions. Yet more and more the image of man, in whatever clime we meet him, rifles before us, noble and pure from the very beginning: even his errors we learn to understand,—even his dreams we begin to interpret. As far as we can trace back the footsteps of man, even on the lowest strata of history, we see that the divine gift of a sound and sober intellect belonged to him from the very first; and the idea of a humanity emerging slowly from the depths of an animal brutality can never be maintained again. The earliest work of art wrought by the human mind,—more ancient than any literary document, and prior even to the first whisperings of tradition,—the human language, forms an uninterrupted chain from the first dawn of history down to our own times. We still speak the language of the first ancestors of our race; and this language, with its wonderful structure, bears witness against such gratuitous imputations.
The formation of language, the composition of roots, the gradual discrimination of meanings, the systematic elaboration of grammatical forms—all this working which we can still see under the surface of our own speech, attests from the very first the presence of a rational mind—of an artist as great, at least, as his work. This period, during which expressions were coined for the most necessary ideas,—such as pronouns, prepositions, numerals, and the household words of the simplest life,—a period to [p.9] which we must assign the first beginnings of a free and simply agglutinative grammar,—a grammar not impressed as yet with any individual or national peculiarities, yet containing the germs of all the Turanian, as well as the Aryan and Semitic forms of speech,—this period forms the first in the history of man,—the first, at least, to which even the keenest eye of the antiquarian and the philosopher can reach,—and we call it the Rhematic Period.
This is succeeded by a second period, during which we must suppose that at least two families of language left the simply agglutinative, or nomadic stage of grammar, and received, once for all, that peculiar impress of their formative system which we still find in all the dialects and national idioms comprised under the names of Semitic and Aryan, as distinguished from the Turanian, the latter retaining to a much later period, and in some instances to the present day, that agglutinative reproductiveness which has rendered a traditional and metamorphic system of grammar impossible, or has at least considerably limited its extent. Hence we do not find in the nomadic or Turanian languages scattered from China to the Pyrenees, from Cape Comorin, across the Caucasus, to Lapland, that traditional family likeness which enables us to treat the Teutonic, Celtic, Slavonic, Italic, Hellenic, Iranic, and Indie languages on one side, and the Arabian, Aramean, and Hebrew dialects on the other, as mere varieties of two specific forms of speech, in which, at a very early period, and through influences decidedly political, if not individual and personal, the floating elements of grammar have been arrested and made to assume an amalgamated, instead of a merely [p.10] agglutinative character. This second may be called the Dialectical Period.
Now, after these two periods, but before the appearance of the first traces of any national literature, there is a period, represented everywhere by the same characteristic features,—a kind of Eocene period, commonly called the Mythological or Mythopoeic Age. It is a period in the history of the human mind, perhaps the most difficult to understand, and the most likely to shake our faith in the regular progress of the human intellect. We can form a tolerably clear idea of the origin of language, of the gradual formation of grammar, and the unavoidable divergence of dialects and languages. We can understand, again, the earliest concentrations of political societies, the establishment of laws and customs, and the first beginnings of religion and poetry. But between the two there is a gulf which it seems impossible for any philosophy to bridge over. We call it the Mythic Period, and we have accustomed ourselves to believe that the Greeks, for instance, such as we find them represented to us In the Homeric poems, far advanced in the fine arts, acquainted with the refinements and comforts of life, such as we see at the palaces of Menelaos and Alkinoos, with public meetings and elaborate pleadings, with the mature wisdom of a Nestor and the cunning enterprise of an Odysseus, with the dignity of a Helena and the loveliness of a Nausikan, could have been preceded by a race of men whose chief amusement consisted in inventing absurd tales about gods and other nondescript beings,—a race of men, in fact, on whose tomb the historian could inscribe no better epigram than that on Bitto and Phainis. [p.11] Although later poets may have given to some of these fables a charm of beauty, and led us to accept them as imaginative compositions, it is impossible to conceal the fact that, taken by themselves, and in their literal meaning, most of these ancient mythes are absurd and irrational, and frequently opposed to the principles of thought, religion, and morality which guided the Greeks as soon as they appear to us in the twilight of traditional history. By whom, then, were these stories invented?—stories, we must say at once, identical in form and character, whether we find them on Indian, Persian, Greek, Italian, Slavonic, or Teutonic soil. Was there a period of temporary insanity, through which the human mind had to pass, and was it a madness identically the same in the south of India and in the north of Iceland? It is impossible to believe that a people who, in the very infancy of thought, produced men like Thales, Herakleitos, and Pythagoras, should have consisted of idle talkers but a few centuries before the time of these sages. Even if we take only that part of mythology which refers to religion, in our sense of the word, or the mythes which bear on the highest problems of philosophy,—such as the creation, the relation of man to God, life and death, virtue and vice,—mythes generally the most modem in origin, we find that even this small portion, which might be supposed to contain some sober ideas, or some pure and sublime conceptions, is unworthy of the ancestors of the Homeric poets, or the Ionic philosophers. When the swineherd Eumseos, unacquainted, perhaps, with the intricate system of the Olympian mythology, speaks of the Deity, he speaks like one of ourselves. 'Eat,' he says to Odysseus, [p.12] 'and enjoy what is here, for God will grant one thing, hut another he will refuse, whatever he will in his mind, for he can do all things.'2 This, we may suppose, was the language of the common people at the time of Homer, and it is simple and sublime, if compared with what has been supposed one of the grandest conceptions of Greek mythology, that, namely, where Zeus, in order to assert his omnipotence, tells the gods, that if they took a rope, and all the gods and goddesses pulled on one side, they could not drag him down from the heaven to the earth; while, if he chose, he could pull them all up, and suspend the earth and the sea from the summit of Olympos. What is more ridiculous than the mythological account of the creation of the human race by Deukalion and Pyrrha throwing stones behind them (a mythe which owes its origin to a mere pun on λαός and λάας), while we can hardly expect, among pagans, a more profound conception of the relation between God and man, than the saying of Herakleitos, 'Men are mortal gods, and gods are immortal men.' Let us think of the times which could bear a Lykurgos and a Solon,—which could found an Areopagos and the Olympic games, and how can we imagine that, a few generations before that time, the highest notions of the Godhead among the Greeks were adequately expressed by the story of Uranos maimed by Kronos,—of Kronos eating his children, swallowing a stone, and vomiting out alive his whole progeny. Among the lowest [p.13] tribes of Africa and America we hardly find anything more hideous and revolting. It is shutting our eyes to the difficulties which stare us in the face, if we say, like Mr. Grote, that this mythology was 'a past which was never present;' and it seems blasphemy to consider these fables of the heathen world as corrupted and misinterpreted fragments of a divine revelation once granted to the whole race of mankind—a view so frequently advocated by Christian divines. These mythes have been made by man at a certain period of history. There was an age which produced these mythes,—an age half-way between the Dialectical Period—presenting the human race gradually diverging into different families and languages, and the National Period—exhibiting to us the earliest traces of nationalised language, and a nationalised literature in India, Persia, Greece, Italy, and Germany. The fact is there, and we must either explain it, or admit in the gradual growth of the human mind, as in the formation of the earth, some violent revolutions, which broke the regularity of the early strata of thought, and convulsed the human mind, like volcanos and earthquakes arising from some unknown cause, below the surface of history.
Much, however, will be gained if, without being driven to adopt so violent and repugnant a theory, we are able to account in a more intelligible manner for the creation of mythes. Their propagation and subsistence in later times, though strange in many respects, is yet a much less intricate problem. The human mind has an inborn reverence for the past, and the religious piety of the man flows from the same natural spring as the filial piety of the child. [p.14] Even though the traditions of past ages may appear strange, wild, and sometimes immoral or impossible, each generation accepts them, and fashions them so that they can be borne with again, and even made to disclose a true and deeper meaning. Many of the natives of India, though versed in European science, and imbued with the principles of a pure natural theology, yet bow down and worship the images of Vishnu and Siva. They know that these images are but stone; they confess that their feelings revolt against the impurities attributed to these gods by what they call their sacred writings; yet there are honest Brahmans who will maintain that these stories have a deeper meaning,—that immortality being incompatible with a divine being, a mystery must be supposed to be concealed in these time-hallowed fables,—a mystery which an inquiring and reverent mind may hope to fathom. Nay, even where Christian missionaries have been successful, where the purity of the Christian faith has won the heart of a native, and made the extravagant absurdities of the Puranas insupportable to him, the faith of his early childhood will still linger on and break out occasionally in unguarded expressions, as several of the mythes of antiquity have crept into the legends of the Church of Rome.3 We find frequent indications in ancient history that the Greeks themselves were shocked by the stories told of their gods; yet as even in our own times faith with most men is not faith in God or in truth, but faith in the faith of others, we may understand why even men like [p.15] Sokrates were unwilling to renounce their belief in what had been believed by their fathers. As their idea of the Godhead became purer, they felt that the idea of perfection, involved in the idea of a divine being, excluded the possibility of immoral gods. Pindar, as pointed out by Otfried Muller,4 changes many mythes because they are not in harmony with his purer conceptions of the dignity of gods and heroes; and, because, according to his opinion, they must be false. Plato5 argues in a similar spirit when he examines the different traditions about Eros, and in the 'Symposium' we see how each speaker maintains that mythe of Eros to be the only true one which agrees best with his own ideas of the nature of this god,—Phaedrus6 calling him the oldest, Agathon the youngest of the gods; yet each appealing to the authority of an ancient mythe. Thus, men who had as clear a conception of the omnipotence and omnipresence of a supreme God as natural religion can reveal, still called him Zeus, forgetting the adulterer and parricide:
'Zeus is the beginning, Zeus the middle; out of Zeus all things have been made:'
— an Orphic line, but an old one, if, as Mr. Grote
[p.16] supposes, Plato alluded to it.7 Poets again, who felt in their hearts the true
emotion of prayer, a yearning after divine help and protection, still spoke of
Zeus, forgetting that at one time Zeus himself was vanquished by Titan, and had
to be delivered by Hermes.8
Æschylus9 says: 'Zeus, whoever be is, if this be
the name by which he loves to be called—by this name I address him. For,
pondering on all things except Zeus, I cannot tell whether I may truly cast off
the idle burden from my thought.'
No, the preservation of these mythic names, the long life of these fables, and their satisfying the religious, poetical, and moral wants of succeeding generations, though strange and startling, is not the real difficulty. The past has its charms, and tradition has a powerful friend in language. We still speak of the sun rising and setting, of rainbows, of thunderbolts, because language has sanctioned these expressions. We use them, though we do not believe in them. The difficulty is how at first the human mind was led to such imaginings,—how the names [p.17] and tales arose, and unless this question can be answered, our belief in a regular and consistent progress of the human intellect, through all ages and in all countries, must be given up as a false theory.
Nor can it be said that we know absolutely nothing of this period during which the as yet undivided Aryan nations—for it is chiefly of them that we are now speaking—formed their mythes. Even if we saw only the deep shadow which lies on the Greek mind from the very beginning of its political and literary history, we should be able to infer from it something of the real character of that age which must have preceded the earliest dawn of the national literature of Greece. Otfried Muller,10 though he was unacquainted with the new light which comparative philology has shed on this primitive Aryan period, says: 'The mythic form of expression which changes all beings into persons, all relations into actions, is something so peculiar that we must admit for its growth a distinct period in the civilisation of a people.' But comparative philology has since brought this whole period within the pale of documentary history. It has placed in our hands a telescope of such power that, where formerly we could see but nebulous clouds, we now discover distinct forms and outlines; nay, it has given us what we may call contemporary evidence, exhibiting to us the state of thought, language, religion, and civilisation at a period when Sanskrit was not yet Sanskrit, Greek not yet Greek, but when both, together with Latin, German, and other Aryan dialects, existed as [p.18] yet as one undivided language, in the same manner as French, Italian, and Spanish may be said to have at one time existed as one undivided language, in the form of Latin.
This will require a short explanation. If we knew nothing of the existence of Latin—if all historical documents previous to the fifteenth century had been lost—if tradition, even, were silent as to the former existence of a Roman empire, a mere comparison of the six Romance dialects would enable us to say, that at some time there must have been a language from which all these modern dialects derived their origin in common; for without this supposition it would be impossible to account for the facts exhibited by these dialects. Let us look at the auxiliary verb. We find:
|I am:||sono||sum (sunt)||sunt||icy||sou||suis|
|He is:||e||e (este)||ci||es||he||est|
|You are:||seinte||luntcti||sees||sois||ois||ett-s (eitee)|
|They are:||sono||sunt||an (sun)||son||sao||sont|
It is clear, even from a short consideration of these forms, first, that all are
but varieties of one common type; secondly, that it is impossible to consider
any one of these six paradigms as the original from which the others had been
borrowed. To this we may add, thirdly, that in none of the languages to which
these verbal forms belong, do we find the elements of which they could have been
composed. If we find such forms as j'ai aime, we can explain them by a
mere reference to the grammatical materials which French has still at its command,
and the same may be said even of compounds like j'aimerai, i.e. je-aimer-ai, I
have to love, I shall love. But a [p.19]
change from je suis to tu es is inexplicable by the light of French grammar.
These forms could not have grown, so to speak, on French soil, but must have
been handed down as relics from a former period,—must have existed in some
language antecedent to any of the Romance dialects. Now, fortunately, in this
case, we are not left to a mere inference, but as we possess the Latin verb, we
can prove how by phonetic corruption, and by mistaken analogies, every one of
the six paradigms is but a national metamorphosis of the Latin original.
Let us now look at another set of paradigms:
|We (two) are:||svas||esva||.......||......||yesva||.....||siju||......|
|You (two) are:||fcthas||esta||stho?||[Greek]||yesta||.....||sijuta||.....|
|They (two) are||stas||(esti)||sto||[Greek]||yesta||......||......||......|
From a careful consideration of these forms, we ought to draw exactly the same
conclusions; first, that all are but varieties of one common type; secondly,
that it is impossible to consider any of them as the original from which the
others have been borrowed; and thirdly, that, here again, none of the languages
in which these verbal forms occur, possess the grammatical materials out of
which such forms could have been framed. That Sanskrit cannot be taken as the
original from which all the rest were derived, (an opinion held by many
scholars,) is clear, if we see that Greek has, in several instances, preserved a
more primitive, or, as it is called, more organic form than Sanskrit.
cannot be derived from the Sanskrit smas, because smas has lost the radical
which Greek has preserved, the root [p.20] being as, to be, the termination
mas, we. Nor can Greek be fixed upon as the
more primitive language from which the others were derived, for not even Latin
could be called the daughter of Greek, the language of Rome having preserved
some forms more primitive than Greek; for instance, sunt instead of
έίσί. Here Greek has lost the radical as altogether,
έντί standing instead of
έσέντί, while Latin has at least, like Sanskrit, preserved the
radical s in sunt = santi.
Hence, all these dialects point to some more ancient language which was to them what Latin was to the Romance dialects,—only that at that early period there was no literature to preserve to us any remnants of that mother-tongue that died in giving birth to the modem Aryan dialects, such as Sanskrit, Zend, Greek, Latin, Gothic, Slavonic, and Celtic. Yet, if there is any truth in inductive reasoning, that language was once a living language, spoken in Asia by a small tribe, nay, originally by a small family living under one and the same roof, as the language of Camoens, Cervantes, Voltaire, and Dante, was once spoken by a few peasants who had built their huts on the Seven Hills near the Tibris. If we compare the two tables of paradigms, the coincidences between the language of the Veda and the dialect spoken at the present day by the Lithuanian recruit at Berlin are greater by far than between French and Italian; and, after Bopp's 'Comparative Grammar' has been completed, it will be seen clearly that all the essential forms of grammar had been fully framed and established before the first separation of the Aryan family took place.
But we may learn much more of the intellectual [p.21] state of the primitive and undivided family of the Aryan nations, if we use the materials which Comparative Philology has placed at our disposal; and, here again, the Romance languages will teach tie the spell by which we may hope to open the archives of the most ancient history of the Aryan race. If we find in all the Romance dialects a word like the French pont, the Italian ponte, the Spanish puente, the Walachian pod, identically the same in all, after making allowance for those peculiarities which give to each dialect its national character, we have a right to say that pons, the name for bridge, was known before these languages separated, and that, therefore, the art of building bridges must have been known at the same time. We could assert, even if we knew nothing of Latin and of Rome, that previous at least to the tenth century, books, bread, wine, houses, villages, towns, towers and gates, &c., were known to those people, whoever they were, from whose language the modem dialects of Southern Europe are derived. It is true, we should not be able to draw a very perfect picture of the intellectual state of the Roman people if we were obliged to construct their history from such scanty materials; yet, we should be able to prove that there really was such a people, and, in the absence of any other information, even a few casual glimpses of their work in life would be welcome. But, though we might safely use this method positively, only taking care to avoid foreign terms, we could not invert it or use it negatively. Because each of the Romance dialects has a different name for certain objects, it does not follow that the objects themselves were unknown to the ancestors of the Romance nations. Paper was [p.22] known at Rome, yet it is called carta in Italian, papier in French.
Now, as we know nothing of the Aryan race, before it was broken up into different nationalities, such as Indian, German, Greek, Roman, Slavonic, Teutonic, and Celtic,—this method of making language itself tell the history of ancient times will become of great value, because it will give a character of historical reality to a period in the history of the human race, the very existence of which had been doubted,—to a period that had been called 'a past that was never present.' We must not expect a complete history of civilisation, exhibiting in full detail a picture of the times when the language of Homer and of the Veda had not yet been formed. But we shall feel by some small but significant traits the real presence of that early period in the history of the human mind,—a period which, for reasons that will be clearer hereafter, we identify with the Mythopœic.
|Mother:||matar||matar||[Greek]||mater||........||mati (gen. matere)||mathair|
The mere fact, that the names for father, mother, brother, sister, and daughter are the same in most of the Aryan languages, might at first sight seem of immaterial significance; yet, even these words are full of import. That the name of father was coined at that early period, shows that the father acknowledged the offspring of his wife as his own, for thus only had he a right to claim the title of father. Father is derived from a root Pa, which means, not to beget, but to protect, to support, to [p.23] nourish. The father as genitor, was called in Sanskrit anitar, but as protector and supporter of his offspring he was called pitir. Hence, in the Veda these two names are used together, in order to express the full idea of father. Thus the poet says (I. 164, 33):
Dyaus me pita ganita.
Jo(vi)s mei pater genitor.
In a similar manner mitar, mother, is joined with ganitri, genitrix (Rv. III. 48, 2), which shows that the word matar must soon have lost its etymological meaning, and have become an expression of respect and endearment. Among the earliest Aryans, matar had the meaning of maker, from Ma, to fashion; and, in this sense, and with the same accent as the Greek [Greek], matar, not yet determined by a feminine affix, it is used in the Veda as a masculine. Thus we read, for instance, Rv. VIII. 41, 4:
'He, Varuna (Uranos), is the maker of the old place.'
Now, it should be observed, that matar, as well as pitar, is but one out of many
names by which the idea of father and mother might have been expressed. Even
if we confined ourselves to the root Pa, and took the granting of support to
offspring is the most characteristic attribute of father, many words might have
been, and actually were, formed, all equally fit to become, so to say, the
proper names of father. In Sanskrit protector can be expressed not only by Pa,
followed by the derivative suffix tar, but by pa-la, pa-laka, pa-yu, all
meaning protector. The fact, that out of many possible forms, one only
[p.24] has been admitted into all the Aryan dictionaries, shows that
there must have been something like a traditional usage in language long before the separation
of the Aryan family took place. Besides, there were other roots from which the
name of father might have been formed, such as Gan, from which we have ganitar,
genitor, [Greek]; or Par, from which the Greek [Greek]; or Par, from which the
Latin parens; not to mention many other names equally applicable to express some
prominent attribute of a father in his relation to his children. If each Aryan
dialect had formed its own name for father, from one of the many roots which all
the Aryan dialects share in common, we should be able to say that there was a
radical community between all these languages; but we should never succeed in
proving, what is most essential, their historical community, or their divergence
from one language which had already acquired a decided idiomatic consistency.
It happens, however, even with these, the most essential terms of an incipient civilisation, that one or the other of the Aryan dialects has lost the ancient expression, and replaced it by a new one. The common Aryan names for brother and sister, for instance, do not occur in Greek, where brother and sister are called [Greek] and [Greek]. To conclude from this that at the time when the Greeks started from their Aryan home, the names of brother and sister had not yet been framed, would be a mistake. We have no reason to suppose that the Greeks were the first to leave, and, if we find that nations like the Teutonic or Celtic, who could have had no contact with the natives of India after the first [p.25] separation had taken place, share the name of brother in common with Sanskrit, it is as certain that this name existed in the primitive Aryan language, as the occurrence of the same word in Walachian and Portuguese would prove its Latin origin, though no trace of it existed in any of the other Romance dialects. No doubt, the growth of language is governed by immutable laws, but the influence of accident is more considerable here than in any other branch of natural science; and though in this case it is possible to find a principle which determines the accidental loss11 of the ancient names for brother and sister in Greek, yet this is not the case always, and we shall frequently find that one or the other Aryan dialect does not exhibit a term which yet, on the strength of our general argument, we shall feel justified in ascribing to the most ancient period of Aryan speech.
The mutual relation between brother and sister had been hallowed at that early period, and it had been sanctioned by names which had become traditional before the Aryan family broke up into different colonies. The original meaning of bhratar seems to me to have been he who carries or assists; of svasar, she who pleases or consoles—svasti meaning in Sanskrit joy or happiness.
In duhitar, again, we find a name which must have become traditional long before the separation took place. It is a name identically the same in all the dialects, except Latin, and yet Sanskrit alone could have preserved a consciousness of its appellative power. Duhitar, as Professor Lassen was the [p.26] first to show, is derived from DUH, a root which in Sanskrit means to milk. It is perhaps connected with the Latin duco, and the transition of meaning would be the same as between trahere, to draw, and traire, to milk. Now, the name of milkmaid, given to the daughter of the house, opens before our eyes a little idyll of the poetical and pastoral life of the early Aryans. One of the few things by which the daughter, before she was married, might make herself useful in a nomadic household, was the milking of the cattle, and it discloses a kind of delicacy and humour, even in the rudest state of society, if we imagine a father calling his daughter his little milkmaid, rather than anti, his begotten, or filia, the suckling. This meaning, however, must have been forgotten long before the Aryans separated. Duhitar was then no longer a nickname, but it had become a technical term, or so to say, the proper name of daughter. That many words were formed in the same spirit, and that they were applicable only during a nomadic state of life, we shall have frequent opportunity of seeing, as we go on. But as the transition of words of such special meaning into general terms, deprived of all etymological vitality, may seem strange, we may as well give at once a few analogous cases where, behind expressions of the most general currency, we can discover, by means of etymology, this peculiar background of the ancient nomad life of the Aryan nations. The very word peculiar may serve as an illustration, taken from more modem times. Peculiar, now means singular, extraordinary, but originally it meant what was private, i.e. not common, property; being derived from peculium. Now, the Latin peculium stands [p.27] for pecudium (like consilium for considium); and being derived from peons, pecudis, it expressed originally what we should call cattle and chattel. Cattle constituting the chief personal property of agricultural people, we may well understand how peculiar, meaning originally what refers to one's own property, came to mean not-common, and at last, in our modem conversation, passed into the meaning of strange. I need hardly mention the well-known etymology of pecunia, which being derived from the same word, pecu, and therefore signifying flocks, took gradually the meaning of money, in the same manner as the Anglo-Saxon feoh, the German Vieh, cattle (and originally, according to Grimm's law, the same word as pecu), received in the course of time the sense of a pecuniary remuneration, a fee. What takes place in modern languages, and, as it were, under our own eyes, must not surprise us in more distant ages. Now, the most useful cattle have always been the ox and the cow, and they seem to have constituted the chief riches and the most important means of subsistence among the Aryan nations. Ox and cow are called in Sanskrit go, plur. govas, which is the same word as the Old High-German chuo, plur. chuowi, and with a change from the guttural to the labial media, the classical [Greek], [Greek], and bos, boves. Some of the Slavonic languages also have preserved a few traces of this ancient name; for instance, the Lettish gows, cow; the Slavonic govyado, a herd; Servian govedar, a cow-herd. From [Greek] we have in Greek [Greek], which meant originally a cowherd, but in the verb [Greek], the meaning of tending cows has been absorbed by the more general one of tending cattle, [p.28] nay, it is used in a metaphorical sense, such as [Greek], I feed myself on vain hopes. It is used with regard to hordes, and thus we find for horse-herd, [Greek], originally a cow-herd of horses,—an expression which we can only compare to Sanskrit goyuga, meaning a yoke of oxen, but afterwards any pair, so that a pair of oxen would be called go-go-yuga. Thus, in Sanskrit, go-pa means originally a cow-herd, but it soon loses this specific meaning, and is used for the head of a cow-pen, a herdsman, and at last, like the Greek [Greek], for a king. From gopa a new verb is formed, gopayati, and in it all traces of its original meaning are obliterated; it means simply to protect. As gopa meant a cow-herd, go-tra, in Sanskrit, was originally a hurdle, and meant the enclosure by which a herd was protected against thieves, and kept from straying. Gotra, however, has almost entirely lost its etymological power in the later Sanskrit, where the feminine only, gotra, preserves the meaning of a herd of kine. In ancient times, when most wars were carried on, not to maintain the balance of power of Asia or Europe, but to take possession of good pasture, or to appropriate large herds of cattle,12 the hurdles grew naturally into the walls of fortresses, the hedges became strongholds; Anglo-Saxon tun, a close (German Zaun), became a town; and those who lived behind the same walls were called a gotra, a family, a tribe, a race. In the Veda, gotra is still used in the sense of folds or hurdles (III. 39, 4):
Nakih esham nindita martyeshu
Ye asmakam pitarah goshu yodhah
Indrah eshim drimhita mahinavan
Ut gotrani sasrige damsinavan.
'There is not among men one scoffing at them who were our fathers, who fought
among the cows Indra, the mighty, is their defender; he, the powerful, spread
out their hurdles,13 i.e. their possessions.'
'Fighting among or for the cows,' goshu-yudh, is used in the Veda as a name for warrior, in general, I. 112, 22; and one of the most frequent words for battle is gav-ishti, literally 'striving for cows.' In the later Sanskrit, however, gaveshana means simply, research (physical or philosophical), gavesh, to inquire. Again, goshtha means cow-pen or stable ([Greek]); but, with the progress of tame and civilisation, goshtha became the name of an assembly, nay, it was used to express discussion and gossip, as gossip in English too meant originally a godfather or godmother, and then took the abstract sense of idle conversation or tattle.
All these words, composed with go, cattle, to which many more might have been added if we were not afraid of trying the patience of our less sceptical readers, prove that the people who formed them must have led a half nomadic and pastoral life, and we may well understand how the same people came to use duhitar in the sense of daughter. Language has [p.30] been called a map of the science and manners of the people who speak it, and we should probably find, if we examined the language of a maritime people, that instead of cattle and pasture, ships and water would form part of many words which afterwards were applied in a more general sense.
We proceed to examine other terms which indicate the state of society previous to the separation of the Aryan race, and which we hope will give to our distant picture that expression of truth and reality which can be appreciated even by those who have never seen the original.
We pass over the words for son, partly because their etymology is of no interest, their meaning being simply that of natus, born,14 partly because the position of the son, or the successor and inheritor of his father's wealth and power, would claim a name at a much earlier time than daughter, sister, or brother. All these lotions in fact, expressed by father and mother, son and daughter, brother and sister, are fixed, we should say, by the laws of nature, and their acknowledgment in language would not prove any considerable advance in civilisation, however appropriately the names themselves might have been chosen. But there are other relations, of later origin, and of a more conventional character, sanctioned, it is true, by the laws of society, but not proclaimed by the voice of nature,—relations which are aptly [p.31] expressed in English by the addition of in-law, as father-in-law, mother, son, daughter, brother, and sister-in-law. If the names for these relations could be vindicated for the earliest period of Aryan civilisation, we should have gained something considerable, for though there is hardly a dialect in Africa or Australia in which we do not find words for father, mother, son, daughter, brother, and sister, and hardly a tribe in which these natural degrees of relationship are not hallowed, there are languages in which the degrees of affinity have never received expression, and tribes who ignore their very meaning.15
|Brother-in-law:||devar||"||levir||Ang.-Sax. tacor||Lith. deweri-s||.....|
|Sister-in-law:||(nanandar)||"||glos||......||O. Bohem. Selva||.....|
|yataras (wives of brothers)||"||janitrices||...............||Poin. jatrew||......|
|syala (wife's brother)||" (and)||...............||...........||............||..........|
|syali (wife's sister)||" (husbands of sisters)||.........||............||................||.........|
The above table shows that, before the separation of the Aryan race, every one of the degrees of affinity had received expression and sanction in language, for, although some spaces had to be left empty, the coincidences, such as they are, are sufficient to warrant one general conclusion. If we find in Sanskrit the word putra, son, and in Celtic, again, paotr, son, root and suffix being the same, we must remember that, although none of the other Aryan dialects has preserved this word in exactly the same form, yet the identity of the Celtic and Sanskrit term can only be explained on the supposition that putra was a common Aryan term, well known before any branch of this family was severed from the common stem.
In modern languages we might, if dealing with similar cases, feel inclined to
admit a later communication, but fortunately, in ancient languages, no such
intercourse was possible, after the southern branch of the Aryan family had once
crossed the Himalaya, and the northern branch set foot on the shores of Europe.
Different questions are raised where, as is the case with gamatar and
originally bride-groom or husband,16
then son-in-law, we are only able to prove that the same root was taken, and
therefore the same radical idea expressed by Greek and Sanskrit, while the derivation is peculiar in each language. Here no
doubt we must be more careful in our conclusions, but generally we shall find
that these formal differences are only such as occur in dialects of the same
language, when out of many possible forms, used at first promiscuously, one was
chosen by one poet, one by another, and then became popular and traditional.
This at least is more likely than to suppose that to express a relation which
might be expressed in such various ways, the Greek should have chosen the same
root [Greek] to form [Greek] and [Greek], independently of the Hindu, who took
that root for the same purpose, only giving it a causal form (as in bhratar
instead of bhartar), and appending to it the usual suffix, tar;
thus forming gama-tar, instead of gamara or yamara. Again, when it happens that one of these languages
has lost a common term, we are sometimes enabled to prove its former existence
by means of derivatives. In Greek, for instance, at least in the literary
language, there is no trace of nepos, grandson, which we have in
[p.33] Sanskrit napat, German nefo; nor of
neptis, Sanskrit napti, German nift. Yet
there is in Greek [Greek], a first-cousin, i.e. one with whom we are grandsons together, as the uncle is called the little-grandfather,
avus. This word [Greek] is formed like Latin consobrinus, i.e.
one with whom we are sister-children, our modern cousin, Italian cugino, in which
there remains very little of the original word soror, from which however it is
derived. [Greek] therefore proves that in Greek also, some word like [Greek]
must have existed in the sense of child or grandchild, and it is by a similar
process that we can prove the former presence in Greek of a term
corresponding to Sanskrit syala, a wife's brother. In Sanskrit a husband calls
his wife's brother syala, his wife's sister syali. Therefore, in Greek Peleus
would call Amphitrite, and Poseidon Thetis, their syalis: having married
sisters, they would have syalis in common—they would be what the Greeks call
[Greek], for sy between two vowels is generally dropt in Greek; and the only
anomaly consists in the short e representing the long
â in Sanskrit.
There are still a few words which throw a dim light on the early organisation of the Aryan family life. The position of the widow was acknowledged in language and in law, and we find no trace that, at that early period, she who had lost her husband was doomed to die with him. If this custom had existed, the want of having a name for widow would hardly have been felt, or, if it had been, the word would most likely have had some reference to this awful rite. Now, husband, or man, in Sanskrit is dhava, a word which does not seem to exist in the other Aryan languages, except perhaps in Celtic, where Pictet brings forward [p.34] the analogous form, dea, a man or person. From dhava, Sanskrit forms the name of the widow by the addition of the preposition vi, which means without; therefore vi-dhava, husbandless, widow. This compound has been preserved in languages which have lost the simple word dhava, thus showing the great antiquity of this traditional term. We have it not only in Celtic feadbh, but in Gothic viduvo, Slavonic vdova, Old Prussian widdewu, and Latin vidua. If the custom of widow-burning had existed at that early period, there would have been no vidhavas, no husbandless women, because they would all have followed their husband into death. Therefore the very name indicates, what we are further enabled to prove by historical evidence, the late origin of widow-burning; in India. It is true, that when the English Government prohibited this melancholy custom, and when the whole of India seemed on the verge of a religious revolution, the Brahmans appealed to the Veda as the authority for this sacred rite, and as they had the promise that their religious practices should not be interfered with, they claimed respect for the Suttee. They actually quoted chapter and verse from the Rig-Veda, and Colebrooke,17 the most accurate and learned Sanskrit scholar we have ever had, has translated this passage in accordance with their views:
'Om! let these women, not to be widowed, good wives adorned with collyrium, holding clarified butter, consign themselves to the fire! Immortal, not childless, not husbandless, well adorned with gems, let [p.35] them pass into the fire, whose original element is water.' (From the Rig-Veda.)
Now this is perhaps the most flagrant instance of what can be done by an unscrupulous priesthood. Here have thousands and thousands of lives been sacrificed, and a fanatical rebellion been threatened on the authority of a passage which was mangled, mistranslated, and misapplied. If anybody had been able at the time to verify this verse of the Rig-Veda, the Brahmans might have been beaten with their own weapons; nay, their spiritual prestige might have been considerably shaken. The Rig-Veda, which now hardly one Brahman out of a hundred is able to read, so far from enforcing the burning of widows, shows clearly that this custom was not sanctioned during the earliest period of Indian history. According to the hymns of the Rig-Veda and the Vaidik ceremonial contained in the Grihya-sutras, the wife accompanies the corpse of her husband to the funeral pile, but she is there addressed with a verse taken from the Rig-Veda, and ordered to leave her husband, and to return to the world of the living.18 'Rise, woman,' it is said, 'come to the world of life; thou sleepest nigh unto him whose life is gone. Come to us. Thou hast thus fulfilled thy duties of a wife to the husband who once took thy hand, and made thee a mother.'
This verse is preceded by the very verse which the later Brahmans have falsified and quoted in support of their cruel tenet. The reading of the verse is beyond all doubt, for there is no various reading, in our sense of the word, in the whole of the Rig-Veda. Besides, we have the commentaries and the ceremonials, and nowhere is there any difference as to the text or its meaning. It is addressed to the other women who are present at the funeral, and who have to pour oil and butter on the pile:
'May these women who are not widows, but have good husbands, draw near with oil and butter. Those who are mothers may go up first to the altar, without tears, without sorrow, but decked with fine jewels.'
Now the words 'the mothers may go first to the altar,' are in Sanskrit,
'A rohantu ganayo yonim agre;'
and this the Brahmans have changed into
'A rohantu ganayo yonim agneh;'
—a small change, but sufficient to consign many lives to the womb (yonim)
of fire (agneh).19
The most important passage in Vedic literature to prove the decided disapproval of widow-burning on the part of the ancient Brahmans, at least as far as their own caste was concerned, occurs in the Brihaddevata. There we read:
Udirahva narity anaya mritam patny anurohati,
Bhrata kaniyan pretasya oigadys pratishedhati
Kuryid etat karma hota devaro na bhaved yadi,
Pretanugamanam na syid iti brahmanadisanat.
Varnanam itareaham ka stridbarmo 'yam bhaven na va.
'With the verse "Rise, woman," the wife ascends to follow her dead husband;
the younger brother of the departed, repeating the verse, prevents her. The Hotri priest performs that act, if there is no brother-in-law, but to follow the
dead husband is forbidden, so says the law of the Brahmans. With regard to the
other castes this law for women may be or may not be.'20
After this digression, we return to the earlier period of history of which language alone can give us any information, and, as we have claimed for it the name of widow, or the husbandless, we need not wonder that the name for husband also is to this day in most of the Aryan languages the same which had been fixed upon by the Aryans before their separation. It is pati in Sanskrit, meaning originally strong, like Latin potis or potens. In Lithuanian the form is exactly the same, patis, and this, if we apply Grimm's law, becomes faths in Gothic. In Greek, again, we find [Greek] instead of [Greek]. Now, the feminine of pati in Sanskrit is patni, and there is no doubt that the Old Prussian pattin, in the accusative wais-pattin, and the Greek [Greek] are mere transcripts of it, all meaning the mistress.
What the husband was in his house, the lord, the [p.38] strong protector; the king was among his people. Now, a common name for people was vis in Sanskrit, from which the title of the third caste, the householders, or Vaisyas is derived. It comes from the same root from which we have in Sanskrit vesa, house, [Greek], vicus, Gothic veihs, German wich, and the modern English termination of many names of places. Hence vispati in Sanskrit meant king, i.e. lord of the people, and that this compound had become a title sanctioned by Aryan etiquette before the separation, is confirmed in a strange manner by the Lithuanian wiesz-patis, a lord, wiesz-patene, a lady, as compared with the Sanskrit vis-patis and vis-patal. There was therefore, at that early period, not only a nicely organised family life, but the family began to be absorbed by the state, and here again conventional titles had been fixed, and were handed down perhaps two thousand years before the title of Cæsar was heard of.
Another name for people being dasa or dasyu, dasa-pati no doubt was an ancient name for king. There is, however, this great difference between vis and dasa, that the former means people, the latter subjects, conquered races, nay originally enemies. Dasyu in the Veda is enemy, but in the Zend-Avesta, where we have the same word, it means provinces or gentes; and Darius calls himself, in his mountain records, 'king of Persia and king of the provinces,' (kshayathiya Parsaiya, kshayathiya dahyunam.) Hence it is hardly doubtful that the Greek [Greek] represents a Sanskrit title dasa-pati, lord of nations; but we cannot admit that the title of Hospodar, which has lately become so notorious, should, as Bopp says, be the same as Sanskrit [p.39] vis-pati or dasa-pati. The word is gaspadorus in Lithuanian; in Old Slav, gospod, gospodin, and gospodar; Pol. gospodarz; Boh, hospodar. A Slavonic g, however, does not correspond to Sanskrit v or d, nor could the t of pati become d.21 Benfey, who derives gospod from the Vaidik gaspati, avoids the former, but not the latter difficulty; and it is certainly better to state these difficulties than to endeavour to smuggle in some ancient Aryan terms, in defiance of laws which can never be violated with impunity.
A third common Aryan word for king is rag in the Veda; rex, regis, in Latin; reike in Gothic, a word still used in German, as reich, regnum, Frank-reich, regnum Francorum; in Irish riogh; Welsh ri.
A fourth name for king and queen is simply father and mother. Ganaka in Sanskrit means father, from Gan, to beget; it also occurs, as the name of a well-known king, in the Veda. This is the Old German chuning, the English king. Mother in Sanskrit is grani or gani, the Greek [Greek], the Gothic quino, the Slavonic zena, the English queen. Queen, therefore, means originally mother, or lady; and thus, again, we see how the language of family life grew gradually into the political language of the oldest Aryan state, and how the brotherhood of the family became the [Greek] of the state.22
We have seen that the name of house was known [p.40] before the Aryan family broke up towards the south and the north, and we might bring further evidence to this effect by comparing Sanskrit dama with Greek [Greek], Latin domus, Slav. domu, Celtic daimh, and Gothic timrjan, to build, from which English timber, though we may doubt the identity of the Slavonic grod and gorod, the Lithuanian grod, with the Gothic gards, Latin hort-us, Greek [Greek], all meaning an enclosed ground. The most essential part of a house, particularly in ancient times, being a door well fastened and able to resist the attacks of enemies, we are glad to find the ancient name preserved in Sanskrit dvar, dvaras, Gothic daur, Lithuanian durrys, Celtic dor, Greek [Greek], Latin fores. The builder also, or architect, has the same name in Sanskrit and Greek, takshan being the Greek [Greek]. The Greek [Greek], again, has been compared with Sanskrit vastu, house; the Greek [Greek] with Gothic haims, a village; the English home. Still more conclusive as to the early existence of cities, is the Sanskrit puri, town, preserved by the Greeks in their name for town, [Greek]; and that highroads also were not unknown, appears from Sanskrit path, pathi, panthan, and pathas, all names for road, the Greek [Greek], the Gothic fad, which Bopp believes to be identical with Latin pons, pontis, and Slavonic ponti.
It would take a volume were we to examine all the relics of language, though, no doubt, every new word would strengthen our argument, and add, as it were, a new stone from which this ancient and venerable ruin of the Aryan mind might be constructed. The evidence, however, which we have gone through must be sufficient to show that the race of men which could [p.41] coin these words—words that have been carried down the stream of time, and washed up on the shores of so many nations, could not have been a race of savages, of mere nomads and hunters. Nay, it should be observed, that most of the terms connected with chase and warfare differ in each of the Aryan dialects, while words connected with more peaceful occupations, belong generally to the common heir-loom of the Aryan language. The proper appreciation of this fact in its general bearing will show how a similar remark made by Niebuhr with regard to Greek and Latin, requires a very different explanation from that which that great scholar, from his more restricted point of view, was able to give it. It will show that all the Aryan nations had led a long life of peace before they separated, and that their language acquired individuality and nationality, as each colony started in search of new homes,—new generations forming new terms connected with the warlike and adventurous life of their onward migrations. Hence it is that not only Greek and Latin, but all Aryan languages have their peaceful words in common; and hence it is that they all differ so strangely in their warlike expressions. Thus the domestic animals are generally known by the same name in England and in India, while the wild beasts have different names, even in Greek and Latin. I can only give a list, which must tell its own story, for it would take too much time to enter into the etymological formation of all these words, though no doubt a proper understanding of their radical meaning would make them more instructive as living witnesses to the world of thought and the primitive household of the Aryan race:
|Sanskrit and Zend||Greek.||Italian.||Teutonic||Lithuanian.||Slavonic.||Celtic.|
|Cattle||past||pasu||[Greek]||pecu||G. faihu/O.H.G. fihu||Pruss. pecku||.....||......|
|Ox and cows||go||gao||"||bos||O.H.G. chuo||Lett. gow||govjado||Ir. bo|
|Ox||ukshan||ukhshan||"||vacca?||G. suhsan||.....||.....||W. ych|
|Horse||asu, asva||aspa||"||equus||A.S. eoh||aszua, fem.||........||Ir. ech|
|Dog||svan||spa||"||canis||G. hund||szu||B. sobaka||Ir. cu|
|Sheep||avi||...........||"||ovis||G. avi-str||avi-s||Slav. ovjza||Ir. oi|
|He-goat||.......||.......||"||caper||O.H.G. hafr||.........||......||Ir. cabbar|
|Sow||su (kara)||......||"||sus||O.H.G. su||.........||svinia||Ir. suig|
|Hog||..........||......||"||porens||O.H.G. farah||parsza-s||Pol. prosie||Ir. pore|
|Pig||ghrirshvi||........||"||.......||O. N gris||......||.......||......|
|Mouse||mush||.......||"||mus||O.H.G. mus||.......||Pol. mysz||.......|
|Fly||makshika||makshiki||"||musca||O.H.G. micco||muse||R. mucha||.......|
|Goose||hamsa||.........||"||anser||O.H.G. kans||zul-s||Boh. hus||G. ganra|
Of wild animals some were known to the Aryans before they separated, and they happen to be animals which live both in Asia and Europe, the bear and the wolf:
|Bear:||riksha||[Greek]||ursus||.......||Lith. loky-s||Ir. art|
|Wolf:||vrik||"||lupus||G. vulf||Lith. wilka-s||Ir. brech|
To them should be added the serpent:
|Serpent:||ahi/sarpa||[Greek]||anguis||O.H.G. unc||Lith. angi-s||W. sarff|
Without dwelling on the various names of those animals which had partly been
tamed and domesticated, while others were then, as they are now, the natural
enemies of the shepherd and his flocks, we proceed at once to mention a few
words which indicate that this early pastoral life was not without some of the
most primitive arts, such as ploughing, grinding, weaving, and the working of
useful and precious metals.
The oldest term for ploughing is Ar, which we find in Latin arare, Greek [Greek], to ear, Old Slav, orati, [p.43] Gothic arjan, Lithuanian arti, and Gaelic ar. From this verb we have the common name of the plough, [Greek], aratrum, Old Saxon erida, Old Norse ardhr, Old Slavonic oralo and oradlo, Lithuanian arklas, Welsh aradyr and arad, Cornish aradar. [Greek] and arvum come probably from the same root. But a more general name for field is Sanskrit pada, Greek [Greek], Umbrian perum, Latin pedum in oppidum, Pol. pole, Saxon folda, O.H.G. feld, field; or Sanskrit agra, [Greek], ager, and Gothic akr-s.23
The corn which was grown in Asia could not well have been the same which the Aryan nations afterwards cultivated in more northern regions. Some of the names, however, have been preserved, and may be supposed to have had, if not exactly the same, at least a similar botanical character. Such are Sanskrit yava, Zend yava, Lithuanian javai, which in Greek must be changed to gea. Sanskrit sveta means white, and corresponds to Gothic hveit, O.H.G. huiz and wiz, the Anglo-Saxon hvit. But the name of the colour became also the name of the white grain, and thus we have Gothic hvaitei, Lith. kwaty-s, the English wheat, with which some scholars have compared the Slav. shito, and the Greek [Greek]. The name of corn signified originally what is crushed or ground. Thus kurna in Sanskrit means ground, and from the same radical element we must no doubt derive the Russian zerno, the Gothic kaurn, the Latin granum. In Lithuanian, girna is a mill-stone, and the plural girnos is the name of a hand-mill. The Russian word for mill-stone is, again, zernov, [p.44] and the Gothic name for mill, qvairnus, the later quirn. The English name for mill is likewise of considerable antiquity, for it exists not only in the O.H.G. muli, but in the Lithuanian maluna-s, the Bohemian mlyn, the Welsh melin, the Latin mola, and the Greek [Greek].
We might add the names for cooking and baking, and the early distinction between flesh and meat, to show that the same aversion which is expressed in later times, for instance, by the poets of the Veda, against tribes eating raw flesh, was felt already during this primitive period. Kravya-ad ([Greek]) and ama-ad ([Greek]) are names applied to barbarians, and used with the same horror in India as [Greek] and [Greek] in Greece. But we can only now touch on these points, and must leave it to another opportunity to bring out in full relief this old picture of human life.
As the name for clothes is the same among all the Aryan nations, being vastra in Sanskrit, vasti in Gothic, vestis in Latin, [Greek] in Greek, fassradh in Irish, gwisk in Welsh, we are justified in ascribing to the Aryan ancestors the art of weaving as well as of sewing. To weave in Sanskrit is ve, and, in a causative form, vap. With ve coincide the Latin vieo, and the Greek radical of [Greek]; with vap, the O.H.G. wab, the English weave, the Greek [Greek].
To sew in Sanskrit is siv, from which sutra, a thread. The same root is preserved in Latin suo, in Gothic siuja, in O.H.G. siwu, the English to sew, Lithuanian siuv-n, Greek [Greek] for [Greek]. Another Sanskrit root, with a very similar meaning, is Nah, which must have existed also as nabh and nadh. From nah we have Latin neo and necto, Greek [Greek], [p.45] German nahan and navan, to sew; from nadh, the Greek [Greek]; from nabh, the Sanskrit nabhi and nabha or urnanabha, the spider, literally the wool-spinner.
There is a fourth root which seems to have had originally the special meaning of sewing or weaving, but which afterwards took in Sanskrit the more general sense of making. This is rai, which may correspond to the Greek [Greek], to stitch together or to weave; nay, which might account for another name of the spider, [Greek] in Greek, and aranea in Latin, and for the classical name of woven wool, [Greek] or [Greek];, and the Latin lana.
That the value and usefulness of some of the metals was known before the separation of the Aryan race, can be proved only by a few words; for the names of most of the metals differ in different countries. Yet there can be no doubt that iron was known, and its value appreciated, whether for defence or for attack. Whatever its old Aryan name may have been, it is clear that Sanskrit ayas, Latin ahes in aheneus, and even the contracted form, ses, seris, the Gothic ais, the Old High-German er, and the English iron, are names cast in the same mould, and only slightly corroded even now by the rust of so many centuries. The names of the precious metals, such as gold and silver, have suffered more in passing through the hands of so many generations. But, notwithstanding, we are able to discover even in the Celtic airgiod the traces of the Sanskrit rapata, the Greek [Greek], the Latin argentum; and even in the Gothic gulth, gold, a similarity with the Slavonic zlato and Russian zoloto, Greek [Greek] and Sanskrit hirawyam, although their formative elements differ widely. The [p.46] radical seems to have been har-at, from whence the Sanskrit harit, the colour of the sun and of the dawn, as aurum also descends from the same root with aurora. Some of the iron implements used, whether for peaceful or warlike purposes, have kept their original name, and it is extremely curious to find the exact similarity of the Sanskrit parasu and the Greek [Greek], axe, or of Sanskrit asi, sword, and Latin ensis.
New ideas do not gain ground at once, and there is a tendency in our mind to resist new convictions as long as we can. Hence it is only by a gradual and careful accumulation of facts that we can hope, on this linguistic evidence, to establish the reality of a period in the history of mankind previous to the beginning of the most ancient known dialects of the Aryan world—previous to the origin of Sanskrit as well as Greek—previous to the time when the first Greek arrived on the shores of Asia Minor, and looking at the vast expanse of sky and sea and country to the west and north, called it Europa. Let us examine one other witness, whose negative evidence will be important. During this early period, the ancestors of the Aryan race must have occupied a more central position in Asia, whence the southern branches extended towards India, the northern to Asia Minor and Europe. It would follow, therefore, that before their separation, they could not have known the existence of the sea, and hence, if our theory be true, the name for sea must be of later growth, and different in the Aryan languages. And this expectation is fully confirmed. We find, indeed, identical names in Greek and Latin, but not in the northern and southern branches of the Aryan family. And even these Greek and Latin names [p.47] are evidently metaphorical expressions,—names that existed in the ancient language, and were transferred, at a later time, to this new phenomenon Pontus and [Greek] mean sea in the same sense as Homer speaks of [Greek], for pontus comes from the same source from which we have pons, pontis, and the Sanskrit pantha, if not pathas The sea was not called a barrier, but a high-road,—more useful for trade and travel than any other road,—and Professor Curtius24 has well pointed out Greek expressions, such as [Greek] and [Greek], as indicating, even among the Greeks, a consciousness of the original import of [Greek]. Nor can words like Sanskrit sara, Latin sal, and Greek [Greek], [Greek], be quoted as proving an acquaintance with the sea among the early Aryans. Sara in Sanskrit means, first, water, afterwards, salt made of water, but not necessarily of sea-water. We might conclude from Sanskrit sara, Greek [Greek], and Latin sal, that the preparation of salt by evaporation was known to the ancestors of the Aryan family before they separated. But this is all that could be proved by [Greek], sal, and Sanskrit sara or salila; the exclusive application of these words to the sea belongs to later times; and though the Greek [Greek] means exclusively marine, the Latin insula is by no means restricted to an island surrounded by salt-water. The same remark applies to words like aequor in Latin or [Greek] in Greek. [Greek] has long been proved to be a dialectical form of [Greek] or [Greek], expressing the troubled waves of the sea ([Greek]), and if the Latin mare be the same [p.48] as Sanskrit vri, vkri in Sanskrit does not mean sea, but water in general, and could, therefore, only confirm the fact that all the Aryan nations applied terms of a general meaning when they had each to fix their names for the sea. Mare is more likely a name for dead or stagnant water, like Sanskrit maru, the desert, derived from mri, to die; and though it is identical with Gothic marei, Slav. more, Irish muir, the application of all these words to the ocean is of later date. But, although the sea had not yet been reached by the Aryan nations before their common language branched off into various dialects, navigation was well known to them. The words oar and rudder can be traced back to Sanskrit, and the name of the ship is identically the same in Sanskrit (naus, nvas), in Latin (navis), in Greek ([Greek]), and in Teutonic (Old High-German naeho, Anglo-Saxon naca).
It is hardly possible to look at the evidence hitherto collected, and which, if space allowed, might have been considerably increased,25 without feeling that these words are the fragments of a real language, once spoken by a united race at a time which the historian has till lately hardly ventured to realise. Yet here [p.49] we have in our own hands, the relics of that distant time; we are using the same words which were used by the fathers of the Aryan race, changed only by phonetic influences; nay, we are as near to them in thought and speech as the French and Italians are to the ancient people of Rome. If any more proof was wanted as to the reality of that period which must have preceded the dispersion of the Aryan race, we might appeal to the Aryan numerals, as irrefragable evidence of that long-continued intellectual life which characterizes that period. Here is a decimal system of numeration, in itself one of the most marvellous achievements of the human mind, based on an abstract conception of quantity, regulated by a spirit of philosophical classification, and yet conceived, matured, and finished before the soil of Europe was trodden by Greek, Roman, Slave, or Teuton. Such a system could only have been formed by a very small community, and more than any part of language it seems to necessitate the admission of what might almost be called a conventional agreement among those who first framed and adopted the Aryan names for one to hundred. Let us imagine, as well as we can, that at the present moment we were suddenly called upon to invent new names for one, two, three, and we may then begin to feel what kind of task it was to form and fix such words. We could easily supply new expressions for material objects, because they always have some attributes which language can render either metaphorically or periphrastically. We could call the sea the salt-water; the rain, the water of heaven; the rivers, the daughters of the earth. Numbers, however, are, by their very nature, such abstract and empty conceptions, that it tries our ingenuity to [p.50] the utmost to find any attributive element in them to which expression might be given, and which might in time become the proper name of a merely quantitative idea. There might be less difficulty for one and two; and hence, these two numerals have received more than one name in the Aryan family. But this again would only create a new difficulty, because, if different people were allowed to use different names for the same numeral, the very object of these names would he defeated. If five could be expressed by a term meaning the open hand, and might also be rendered by the simple plural of the word for fingers, these two synonymous terms would be useless for the purpose of any exchange of thought. Again, if a word meaning fingers or toes might have been used to express five as well as ten, all commerce between individuals using the same word in different senses, would have been rendered impossible. Hence, in order to form and fix a series of words expressing one, two, three, four, &c., it was necessary that the ancestors of the Aryan race should have come to some kind of unconscious agreement to use but one term for each number, and to attach but one meaning to each term. This was not the case with regard to other words, as may be seen by the large proportion of synonymous and polyonymous terms by which every ancient language is characterized. The wear and tear of language in literary and practical usage is the only means for reducing the exuberance of this early growth, and for giving to each object but one name, and to each name but one power. And all this must have been achieved with regard to the Aryan numerals before Greek was Greek, for thus only can we account [p.51] for the coincidences as exhibited in the subjoined table:
If we cannot account for the coincidences between the French, Italian, Spanish,
Portuguese, and Walachian numerals, without admitting that all were derived
from a common type, the Latin, the same conclusion is forced upon us by a
comparison of the more ancient numerals. They must have existed ready made in
that language from which Sanskrit as well as Welsh is derived; but only as far
as hundred. Thousand had not received expression at that early period, and hence
the names for thousand differ, not however, without giving, by their very
disagreement, some further indications as to the subsequent history of the Aryan
race. We see Sanskrit and Zend share the name for thousand in common, (Sanskrit
sahasra, Zend hazanra,) which shows, that after the southern branch had been
severed from the northern, the ancestors of the Brahmans and Zoroastrians
continued united for a time by the ties of a common language. The same
may be drawn from the agreement between the Gothic thusundi and the Old
Prussian tusimtons (acc.), the Lithuanian tukstantis, the Old Slavonic
while the Greeks and the [p.52] Romans stand apart from all the rest, and seem to have formed, each
independently, their own name for thousand.
This earliest period, then, previous to any national separation, is what I call the mythopoeic period, for every one of these common Aryan words is, in a certain sense, a mythe. These words were all originally appellative; they expressed one out of many attributes, which seemed characteristic of a certain object, and the selection of these attributes and their expression in language, represents a kind of unconscious poetry, which modern languages have lost altogether.
Language has been called fossil poetry. But as the artist does not know that the clay which he is handling contains the remnants of organic life, we do not feel that when we address a father, we call him protector, nor did the Greeks, when using the word [Greek], brother-in-law, know that this term applied originally only to the younger brothers of the husband, who stayed at home with the bride while their elder brother was out in the field or the forests. The Sanskrit devar meant originally play-mate,—it told its own story,—it was a mythe; but in Greek it has dwindled down into a mere name, or a technical term. Yet, even in Greek it is not allowed to form a feminine of [Greek], as little as we should venture even now to form a masculine of 'daughter.'
Soon, however, languages lose their etymological conscience, and thus we find in Latin, for instance, not only vidua, husbandless, ('Penelope tarn diu vidua viro suo caruit,') but viduus, a formation which, if analysed etymologically, is as absurd as the Teutonic a widower. It must be confessed, however, [p.53] that the old Latin viduus26 a name of Orcus, who had a temple outside Rome, makes it doubtful whether the Latin vidua is really the Sanskrit vi-dhava, however great their similarity. At all events we should have to admit that a verb viduare was derived from vidua, and that afterwards a new adjective was formed with a more general sense, so that viduus to a Roman ear meant nothing more than privatus.
But, it may be asked, how does the feet, that the Aryan languages possess this treasure of ancient names in common, or even the discovery that all these names had originally an expressive and poetical power, explain the phenomenon of mythological language among all the members of this family? How does it render intelligible that phase of the human mind which gave birth to the extraordinary stories of gods and heroes,—of gorgons and chimæras,—of things that no human eye had ever seen, and that no human mind in a healthy state could ever have conceived?
Before we can answer this question, we must enter into some more preliminary observations as to the formation of words. Tedious as this may seem, we believe that while engaged in these considerations, the mist of mythology will gradually clear away, and enable us to discover behind the floating clouds of the dawn of thought and language, that real nature which mythology has so long veiled and disguised.
All the common Aryan words which we have hitherto examined referred to definite objects. They are all substantives, they express something [p.54] substantial, something open to sensuous perception. Nor is it in the power of language to express originally anything except objects as nouns, and qualities as verbs. Hence, the only definition we can give of language during that early state is, that it is the conscious expression in sound, of impressions received by all the senses.
To us, abstract nouns are so familiar that we can hardly appreciate the difficulty which men experienced in forming them. We can scarcely imagine a language without abstract nouns. There are, however, dialects spoken at the present day which have no abstract nouns, and the more we go back in the history of languages, the smaller we find the number of these useful expressions. As far as language is concerned, an abstract word is nothing but an adjective raised into a substantive; but in thought the conception of a quality as a subject, is a matter of extreme difficulty, and, in strict logical parlance, impossible. If we say, 'I love virtue,' we seldom connect any definite notion with virtue. Virtue is not a being, however unsubstantial; it is nothing individual, personal, active; nothing that could by itself produce an expressible impression on our mind. The word virtue is only a short-hand expression, and when men said for the first time 'I love virtue,' what they meant by it originally was 'I love all things that become an honest man, that are manly, or virtuous.'
But there are other words, which we hardly call abstract, but which nevertheless were so originally, and are so still, in form; I mean words like day and night, spring and winter, dawn and twilight, storm and thunder. For what do we mean if we speak of [p.55] day and night, or of spring and winter? We may answer, a season, or any other portion of time. But what is time, in our conceptions? It is nothing substantial, nothing individual; it is a quality raised by language into a substance. Therefore if we say 'the day dawns,' 'the night approaches,' we predicate actions of things that cannot act, we affirm a proposition which, if analysed logically, would have no definable subject.
The same applies to collective words, such as sky and earth, dew and rain,—even to rivers and mountains. For if we say, 'the earth nourishes man,' we do not mean any tangible portion of soil, but the earth, conceived as a whole; nor do we mean by the sky the small horizon which our eye can scan. We imagine something which does not fall under our senses, but whether we call it a whole, a power, or an idea, in speaking of it we change it unawares into something individual.
Now in ancient languages every one of these words had necessarily as termination expressive of gender, and this naturally produced in the mind the corresponding idea of sex, so that these names received not only an individual, but a sexual character. There was no substantive which was not either masculine or feminine; neuters being of later growth, and distinguishable chiefly in the nominative.
What must have been the result of this? As long as people thought in language, it was simply impossible to speak of morning or evening, of spring and winter, without giving to these conceptions something of an individual, active, sexual, and at last, personal character. They were either nothings, as they are nothings to our withered thought, or they [p.56] were something; and then they could not be conceived as mere powers, but as beings powerful. Even in our time, though we have the conception of nature as a power, what do we mean by power, except something powerful? Now, in early language, nature was Natura, a mere adjective made substantive; she was the Mother always 'going to bring forth.' Was this not a more definite idea than that which we connect with nature? And let us look to our poets, who still think and feel in language,—that is, who use no word without having really enlivened it in their mind, who do not trifle with language, but use it as a spell to call forth real things, full of light and colour. Can they speak of the sun, or the dawn, or the storms as neutral powers, without doing violence to their feelings? Let us open Wordsworth, and we shall hardly find him use a single abstract term without some life and blood in it:
Sacred Religion, mother of form and fear.
Dread arbitress of mutable respect,
New rites ordaining when the old are wrecked,
Or cease to please the fickle worshipper.
Humanity, delighting to behold
A fond reflection of her own decay.
Hath painted Winter like a traveller old,
Propped on a staff, and, through the sullen day,
In hooded mantle, limping o'er the plain.
As though his weakness were disturbed by pain:
Or, if a juster fancy should allow
An undisputed symbol of command.
The chosen sceptre is a withered bough.
Infirmly grasped within a palsied hand.
These emblems suit the helpless and forlorn;
But mighty Winter the device shall scorn.
For he it was—dread Winter!—who beset,
Flinging round von and rear his ghastly net,
That host, when from the regions of the Pole
They shrunk, insane Ambition's barren goal,—
That host, as huge and strong as e'er defied
Their God, and placed their trust in human pride!
As fathers prosecute rebellious sons.
He smote the blossoms of their warrior youth;
He called on Frost's inexorable tooth
Life to consume in manhood's firmest hold ....
..... And bade the Snow their ample backs bestride.
And to the battle ride.
So, again, of Age and the Hours:
Age! twine thy brows with fresh spring flowers.
And call a train of laughing Hours,
And hid them dance, and bid them sing;
And thon, too, mingle in the ring!
Now, when writing these lines, Wordsworth could hardly have thought of the
classical Horæ: the conception of dancing Hours came as natural to his mind as
to the poets of old.
Or, again, of Storms and Seasons:
Ye Storms, resound the praises of your King!
And ye mild Seasons,—in a sunny clime,
Midway, on some high hill, while father Time
Looks on delighted,—meet in festal ring.
And loud and long of Winter's triumph sing!
We are wont to call this poetical diction, and to make allowance for what seems to us exaggerated language. But to the poet it is no exaggeration, nor was it to the ancient poets of language. Poetry is older than prose, and abstract speech more difficult than the outpouring of a poet's sympathy with nature. It requires reflection to divest nature of [p.58] her living expression, to see in the swift-riding clouds nothing but vaporous exhalations, in the frowning mountains masses of stone, and in the lightning electric sparks. Wordsworth feels what he says, when he exclaims—
Mountains, and Vales, and Floods, I call on you
To share the passion of a just disdain;
and when he speaks of 'the last hill that parleys with the setting sun,' this
expression came to him as he was communing with nature; it was a thought untranslated as yet into the prose of our traditional and emaciated speech; it
was a thought such as the men of old would not have been ashamed of in their
common every day conversation.
There are some poems of this modern ancient, which are all mythology, and as we shall have to refer to them hereafter, I shall give one more extract, which to a Hindu and an ancient Greek would have been more intelligible than it is to us:
Hail, orient Conqueror of gloomy Night!
Thou that canst shed the bliss of gratitude
On hearts, howe'er insensible or rude;
Whether thy punctual visitations smite
The haughty towers where monarchs dwell,
Ur thou, impartial Sun, with presence bright
Cheer'st the low threshold of the peasant's cell!
Not unrejoiced I see thee climb the sky,
In naked splendour, clear from mist and haze,
Or cloud approaching to divert the rays,
Which even in deepest winter testify
Thy power and majesty.
Dazzling the vision that presumes to gaze.
Well does thine aspect usher in this Day;
As aptly suits therewith that modest pace
Submitted to the chains
That bind thee to the path which God ordains
That thou shouldst trace,
Till, with the heavens and earth, thou pass away!
Nor less, the stillness of these frosty plains—
Their utter stillness, and the silent grace
Of yon ethereal summits, white with snow,
(Whose tranquil pomp and spotless purity
Report of storms gone by
To us who tread below)—
Do with the service of this Day accord.
Divinest object which th' uplifted eye
Of mortal man is suffered to behold;
Thou, who upon these snow-clad Heights has poured
Meek lustre, nor forget'st the humble Vale;
Thou who dost warm Earth's universal mould,
And for thy bounty wert not unadored
By pious men of old;
Once more, heart-cheering Sun, I hid thee hail!
Bright be thy course to-day,—let not this promise fail!
Why then, if we ourselves, in speaking of the Sun or the Storms, of Sleep and
Death, of Earth and Pawn, connect either no distinct idea at all with these
names, or allow them to cast over our mind the fleeting shadows of the poetry of
old; why, if we, when speaking with the warmth which is natural to the human
heart, call upon the Winds and the Sun, the Ocean and the Sky, as if they would
still hear us; why, if plastic thought cannot represent any one of these beings
or powers, without giving them, if not a human form, at least human life and
human feeling—why should we wonder at the ancients, with their language
throbbing with life and revelling in colour, if instead of the grey outlines of
our modern thought, they threw out those living forms of nature, endowed with
human powers, nay, with powers more than human, inasmuch as the light of the
Sun was [p.60] brighter than the light of a human eye, and the roaring of the Storms louder
than the shouts of the human voice. We may be able to account for the origin of
rain and dew, of storm and thunder; yet, to the great majority of mankind, all
these things, unless they are mere names, are still what they were to Homer,
only perhaps less beautiful, less poetical, less real, and living.
So much for that peculiar difficulty which the human mind experiences in speaking of collective or abstract ideas,—a difficulty which, as we shall see, will explain many of the difficulties of Mythology.
We have now to consider a similar feature of ancient languages—the auxiliary verbs. They hold the same position among verbs, as abstract nouns among substantives. They are of later origin, and had all originally a more material and expressive character. Our auxiliary verbs have had to pass through a long chain of vicissitudes before they arrived at the withered and lifeless form which fits them so well for the purposes of our abstract prose. Habere, which is now used in all the Romance languages simply to express a past tense, j'ai aime, I loved, was originally, to hold fast, to hold back, as we may see in its derivative, habense, the reins. Thus tenere, to hold, becomes, in Spanish, an auxiliary verb, that can be used very much in the same manner as habere. The Greek [Greek] is the Sanskrit sab, and meant originally, to be strong, to be able, or to can. The Latin fui, I was, the Sanskrit bhi, to be, corresponds to the Greek [Greek], and there shows still its original and material power of growing, in an intransitive and transitive sense. As, the radical of the Sanskrit as-mi, the Greek [Greek], the Lithuanian [p.61] as-mi, I am, had probably the original meaning of breathing, if the Sanskrit as-u, breath, is correctly traced back to that root. Stare, to stand, sinks down in the Romance dialects to a mere auxiliary, as in j'ai-été, I have been, i.e. habeo etatum, I have stood; j'ai-été convaincu, I have stood convinced; the phonetic change of statum into été being borne out by the transition of status into état. The German werden, which is used to form futures and passives, the Gothic varth, points back to the Sanskrit vrit, the Latin verto. Will, again, in he will go, has lost its radical meaning of wishing; and shall, used in the same tense, I shall go, hardly betrays, even to the etymologist, its original power of legal or moral obligation. Schuld, however, in German means debt and sin, and soll has there not yet taken a merely temporal signification, the first trace of which may be discovered, however, in the names of the three Teutonic Parcte. These are called Vurdh, Verdhandi, and Skuld,—Past, Present, and Future.27 But what could be the original conception of a verb which, even in its earliest application, has already the abstract meaning of moral duty or legal obligation? Where could language, which can only draw upon the material world for its nominal and verbal treasures, find something analogous to the abstract idea of he shall pay, or, he ought to yield? Grimm, who has endeavoured to follow the German language into its most secret recesses, proposes an explanation of this verb, which deserves serious consideration, however strange and incredible it may appear at first sight. [p.62] Skal, and its preterite should, have the following forms in Gothic:
In Gothic this verb skal, which seems to be a present, can be proved to be an
old perfect, analogous to Greek perfects like [Greek], which have the form of the
perfect but the power of the present. There are several verbs of the same
character in the German language, and in English they can be detected by the
absence of the s, as the termination of the third person singular of the
present. Skal, then, according to Grimm, means, I owe, I am bound; but
originally, it meant I have killed. The chief guilt punished by ancient Teutonic
law, was the guilt of manslaughter,—and in many cases it could be atoned for
by a fine. Hence, skal meant literally, I am guilty, ich bin schuldig;
and afterwards, when this full expression had been ground down into a legal
phrase, new expressions became possible, such as I have killed a free man, a serf,
I am guilty of a free man, a serf; and at last, I owe (the fine for having
slain) a free man, a serf. In this manner Grimm accounts for the still later and
more anomalous expressions, such as he shall pay, i.e. he is guilty to pay, (er
ist schuldig zu zahlen); he shall go, i.e. he must go; and last, I shall
withdraw, i.e. I feel bound to withdraw.
A change of meaning like this seems, no doubt, [p.63] violent and fanciful, but we should feel more inclined to accept it, if we considered how almost every word we use discloses similar changes as soon as we analyse it etymologically, and then follow gradually its historical growth. The general conception of thing is in Walachian expressed by lucru, the Latin lucrum, gain. The French chose was originally causa, or cause. If we say, I am obliged to go, or, I am bound to pay, we forget that the origin of these expressions carries us hack to times when men were bound to go, or bound over to pay. Hoc me fallit means, in Latin, it deceives me, it escapes me. Afterwards, it took the sense of it is removed from me, I want it, I must have it: and hence, il me faut, I must. Again, I may is the Gothic Mag, maht, mag, magum, maguth, magun; and its primary signification was, I am strong. Now, this verb also was originally a preterite, and derived from a root which meant, to beget, whence the Gothic magus, son, i.e. begotten, the Scotch Mac, and Gothic magath-s, daughter, the English maid.
In mythological language we must make due allowance for the absence of merely auxiliary words. Every word, whether noun or verb, had still its full original power during the mythopœic ages. Words were heavy and unwieldy. They said more than they ought to say, and hence, much of the strangeness of the mythological language, which we can only understand by watching the natural growth of speech. Where we speak of the mm following the dawn, the ancient poets could only speak and think of the sun loving and embracing the dawn. What is with us a sunset, was to them the Sun growing [p.64] old, decaying, or dying. Our sunrise was to them the Night giving birth to a brilliant child; and in the Spring they really saw the Sun or the Sky embracing the earth with a warm embrace, and showering treasures into the lap of nature. There are many mythes in Hesiod, of late origin, where we have only to replace a full verb by an auxiliary, in order to change mythical into logical language. Hesiod calls Nyx (Night), the mother of Moros (Fate), and the dark Ker (Destruction); of Thanatos (Death), Hypnos (Sleep), and the tribe of the Oneiroi (Dreams). And this her progeny she is said to have borne without a father. Again, she is called the mother of Momos (Blame), and of the woeful Oizys (Woe), and of the Hesperides (Evening Stars), who guard the beautiful golden apples on the other side of the far-famed Okeanos, and the trees that bear fruit. She also bore Nemesis (Vengeance), and Apate (Fraud), and Philotes (Lust), and the pernicious Geras (Old Age), and the strong-minded Eris (Strife). Now, let us use our modern expressions, such as 'the stars are seen as the night approaches,' 'we sleep,' 'we dream,' 'we die,' 'we run danger during night,' 'nightly revels lead to strife, angry discussions, and woe,' 'many nights bring old age, and at last death,' 'an evil deed concealed at first by the darkness of night will at last be revealed by the day,' 'Night herself will be revenged on the criminal,' and we have translated the language of Hesiod—a language to a great extent understood by the people whom he addressed—into our modern form of thought and speech.28 [p.65] All this is hardly mythological language, hut rather a poetical and proverbial kind of expression known to all poets, whether modern or ancient, and frequently to be found in the language of common people.
Uranos, in the language of Hesiod, is used as a name for the sky; he is made or born that 'he should be a firm place for the blessed gods.'29 It is said twice, that Uranos covers everything (v. 127), and that when he brings the night, he is stretched out everywhere, embracing the earth. This sounds almost as if the Greek mythe had still preserved a recollection of the etymological power of Uranos. For Uranos is the Sanskrit Varuna, and this is derived from a root var, to cover; Varuna being in the Veda also a name of the firmament, but especially connected with the night, and opposed to Mitra, the day. At ail events, the name of Uranos retained with the Greek something of its original meaning, which was not the case with names like Apollo or Dionysos; and when we see him called [Greek], the starry heaven, we can hardly believe, as Mr. Grote says, that to the Greek, 'Uranos, Nyx, Hypnos, and Oneiros (Heaven, Night, Sleep, and Dream) are persons, just as much as Zeus and Apollo.' We need only read a few lines [p.66] further in Hesiod, in order to see that the progeny of Gæa, of which Uranos is the first, has not yet altogether arrived at that mythological personification or crystallization which makes most of the Olympian gods so difficult and doubtful in their original character. The poet has asked the Muses in the introduction how the gods and the earth were first born, and the rivers and the endless sea, and the bright stars, and the wide heaven above ([Greek]). The whole poem of the 'Theogony' is an answer to this question; and we can hardly doubt therefore that the Greek saw in some of the names that follow, simply poetical conceptions of real objects, such as the earth, and the rivers, and the mountains. Uranos, the first offspring of Gæa, is afterwards raised into a deity,—endowed with human feelings and attributes; but, the very next offspring of Gæa, [Greek], the great Mountains, are even in language represented as neuter, and can therefore hardly claim to be considered as persons like Zeus and Apollo.
Mr, Grote goes too far in insisting on the purely literal meaning of the whole of Greek mythology. Some mythological figures of speech remained in the Greek language to a very late period, and were perfectly understood,—that is to say, they required as little explanation as our expressions of 'the sun sets,' or 'the sun rises.' Mr. Grote feels compelled to admit this, but he declines to draw any further conclusions from it. 'Although some of the attributes and actions ascribed to these persons,' he says, 'are often explicable by allegory, the whole series and system of them never are so: the theorist who adopts this course of explanation finds that, after one or two simple and obvious steps, the path is no longer open, [p.67] and he is forced to clear a way for himself by gratuitous refinements and conjectures.' Here, then, Mr. Grote admits what he calls allegory as an ingredient of mythology; still he makes no further use of it, and leaves the whole of mythology as a riddle, that cannot and ought not to be solved, as something irrational—as a past that was never present—declining even to attempt a partial explanation of this important problem in the history of the Greek mind. [Greek]. Such a want of scientific courage would have put a stop to many systems which have since grown to completeness, but which at first had to make the most timid and uncertain steps. In palæontological sciences we must learn to be ignorant of certain things; and what Suetonius says of the grammarian, 'boni grammatici est nonnulla etiam nescire,' applies with particular force to the mythologist. It is in vain to attempt to solve the secret of every name; and nobody has expressed this with greater modesty than he who has laid the most lasting foundation of Comparative Mythology. Grimm, in the introduction to his 'German Mythology,' says, without disguise, 'I shall indeed interpret all that I can, but I cannot interpret all that I should like.' But surely Otfried Muller had opened a path into the labyrinth of Greek mythology, which a scholar of Mr. Grote's power and genius might have followed, and which at least he ought to have proved as either right or wrong. How late mythological language was in vogue among the Greeks has been shown by O. Muller (p. 65) in the mythe of Kyrene. The Greek town of Kyrene in Libya was founded about Olymp. 37; the ruling race derived its origin from the Minyans, who reigned chiefly in Lolkos, in [p.68] Southern Thessaly; the foundation of the colony was due to the oracle of Apollo at Pytho. Hence, the mythe—'The heroic maid Kyrene, who lived in Thessaly, is loved by Apollo and carried off to Libya;' while in modern language we should say,—'The town of Kyrene, in Thessaly, sent a colony to Libya, under the auspices of Apollo.' Many more instances might be given, where the mere substitution of a more matter-of-fact verb divests a mythe at once of its miraculous appearance.30
Kaunos is called the son of Miletos, i.e. Kretan colonists from Miletos had founded the town of Ratmos in Lycia. Again, the mythe says that Kaunos fled from Miletos to Lycia, and his sister Byblos was changed, by sorrow over her lost brother, into a fountain. Here Miletos in Ionia, being better known than the Miletos in Kreta, has been brought in by mistake, Byblos being simply a small river near the Ionian Miletos. Again, Pausanias tells us as a matter of history, that Miletos, a beautiful boy, fled from Kreta to Ionia, in order to escape the jealousy of Minos,—the fact being, that Miletos in Ionia was a colony of the Miletos of Kreta, and Minos the most famous king of that island. Again, Marpessa is called the daughter of Evenos, and a mythe represents her as carried away by Idas,—Idas being the name of a famous hero of the town of Marpessa. The fact, implied by the mythe and confirmed by other evidence, is, that colonists started from the river Evenos, and founded Marpessa in Mesana. And here again, the mythe adds, that Evenos, after trying in vain to reconquer his daughter from Idas, was [p.69] changed by sorrow into a river, like Byblos, the sister of Miletos.
If the Hellenes call themselves [Greek], we fancy we understand what is meant by this expression. But, if we are informed that [Greek], the red, was the oldest name of Thessaly, and that Hellen was the son of Pyrrha, Mr. Grote would say that we have here to deal with a mythe, and that the Greeks, at least, never doubted that there really was one individual called Pyrrha, and another called Hellen. Now, this may he true with regard to the later Greeks, such as Homer and Hesiod; but was it so—could it have been so originally? Language is always language,—it always meant something originally, and he, whoever it was, who first, instead of calling the Hellenes born of the soil, spoke of Pyrrha, the mother of Hellen, must have meant something intelligible and rational, he could not have meant a friend of his whom he knew by the name of Hellen, and an old lady called Pyrrha; he meant what we mean if we speak of Italy as the mother of Art.
Even in more modern times than those of which Otfried Muller speaks, we find that 'to speak mythologically,' was the fashion among poets and philosophers. Pausanias complains of those 'who genealogize everything, and make Pythis the son of Delphos.' The story of Eros in the 'Phaedros' is called a mythe (254 d; 257 b); yet Sokrates says ironically, 'that it is one of those which you may believe or not'. Again, when he tells the story of the Egyptian god Theuth, he calls it a 'tradition of old', but Phædros knows at once that it is one of Sokrates own making, [p.70] and he says to him, 'Sokrates, thou makest easily Egyptian or any other stories'. When Pindar calls Apophasis the daughter of Epimetheus, every Greek understood this mythological language as well as if he had said 'an after-thought leads to an excuse.'31 Nay, even in Homer, when the lame Litæ (Prayers) are said to follow Atê (Mischief), trying to appease her, a Greek understood this language as well as we do, when we say that 'Hell is paved with good intentions.'
When Prayers are called the daughters of Zeus, we are hardly as yet within the sphere of pure mythology. For Zeus was to the Greeks the protector of the suppliants, [Greek],—and hence Prayers are called his daughters, as we might call Liberty the daughter of England, or Prayer the offspring of the soul.
All these sayings, however, though mythical, are not yet mythes. It is the essential character of a true mythe that it should no longer be intelligible by a reference to the spoken language. The plastic character of ancient language, which we have traced in the formation of nouns and verbs, is not sufficient [p.71] to explain how a mythe could have lost its expressive power or its life and consciousness. Making due allowance for the difficulty of forming abstract nouns and abstract verbs, we should yet be unable to account for anything beyond allegorical poetry among the nations of antiquity; mythology would still remain a riddle. Here, then, we must call to our aid another powerful ingredient in the formation of ancient speech, for which I find no better name than Polyonymy and Synonymy.32 Most nouns, as we have seen before, were originally appellatives or predicates, expressive of what seemed at the time the most characteristic attribute of an object. But as most objects have more than one attribute, and as, under different aspects one or the other attribute might seem more appropriate to form the name, it happened by necessity that most objects, during the early period of language, had more than one name. In the course of time, the greater portion of these names became useless, and they were mostly replaced in literary dialects by one fixed name, which might be called the proper name of such objects. The more ancient a language, the richer it is in synonymes.
Synonymes, again, if used constantly, must naturally give rise to a number of homonymes. If we may call the sun by fifty names expressive of different qualities, some of these names will be applicable to other objects also, which happen to possess the same quality. These different objects would then be called by the same name—they would become homonymes.
In the Veda, the earth is called urvî (wide), prithvi (broad),
mahî (great), and
many more names of which the Nighantu mentions twenty-one. These twenty-one
words would be synonymes. But urvî (wide) is not only given as a name of the
earth, but also means a river. Prithvi (broad) means not only earth, but sky and
dawn. Mahî (great, strong) is used for cow and speech, as well as for
earth. Hence, earth, river, sky, dawn, cow, and speech, would become homonymes. All
these names, however, are simple and intelligible. But most of the old terms,
thrown out by language at the first burst of youthful poetry, are based on bold
metaphors. These metaphors once forgotten, or the meaning of the roots whence
the words were derived once dimmed and changed, many of these words would
naturally lose their radical as well as their poetical meaning. They would
become mere names handed down in the conversation of a family; understood,
by the grandfather, familiar to the father, but strange to the son, and
misunderstood by the grandson. This misunderstanding may arise in various
manners. Either the radical meaning of a word is forgotten, and thus what was
originally an appellative, or a name, in the etymological sense of the word, (nomen
stands for gnomen, 'quo gnoscimus res,' like natus for gnatus,) dwindled down into
a mere sound—a name in the modern sense of the word. Thus [Greek], being
originally a name of the sky, like the Sanskrit dyaus, became gradually a proper
name, which betrayed its appellative meaning only in a few proverbial
expressions, such as [Greek], or 'sub Jove frigido.'
Frequently it happened that after the true etymological meaning of a word had been forgotten, a [p.73] new meaning was attached to it by a kind of etymological instinct which exists even in modern languages. Thus, [Greek], the son of light—Apollo, was changed into a son of Lycia; [Greek], the bright one, gave rise to the mythe of the birth of Apollo in Deos.
Again, where two names existed for the same object, two persons would spring up out of the two names, and as the same stories could be told of either, they would naturally be represented as brothers and sisters, as parent and child. Thus we find Selene, the moon, side by side with Mene, the moon; Helios (Surya), the Sun, and Phoebos (Bhava, a different form of Rudra); and in most of the Greek heroes we can discover humanized forms of Greek gods, with names which, in many instances, were epithets of their divine prototypes. Still more frequently it happened that adjectives connected with a word as applied to one object, were used with the same word even though applied to a different object. What was told of the Sea was told of the Sky, and the Sun once being called a lion or a wolf, was soon endowed with claws and mane, even where the animal metaphor was forgotten. Thus the Sun with his golden rays might be called 'golden-handed,' hand being expressed by the same word as ray. But when the same epithet was applied to Apollo or Indra, a mythe would spring up, as we find it in German and Sanskrit mythology, telling us that Indra lost his hand, and that it was replaced by a hand made of gold.
Here we have some of the keys to mythology, but the manner of handling them can only be learnt from comparative philology. As in French it is difficult to find the radical meaning of many a word, unless [p.74] we compare it with its corresponding forms in Italian, Spanish, or Provencal; we should find it impossible to discover the origin of many a Greek word, without comparing it with its more or less corrupt relatives in German, Latin, Slavonic, and Sanskrit. Unfortunately we have in this ancient circle of languages nothing corresponding to Latin, by which we can test the more or less original form of a word in French, Italian, and Spanish. Sanskrit is not the mother of Latin and Greek, as Latin is the mother of French and Italian. But although Sanskrit is but one among many sisters, it is, no doubt, the eldest, in so far as it has preserved its words in their most primitive state; and if we once succeed in tracing a Latin and Greek word to its corresponding form in Sanskrit, we are generally able at the same time to account for its formation, and to fix its radical meaning. What should we know of the original meaning of [Greek], [Greek] and [Greek],33 if we were reduced to the knowledge of one language like Greek? But as soon as we trace these words to Sanskrit, their primitive power is clearly indicated, O. Muller was one of the first to see and acknowledge that classical philology must surrender all etymological research to comparative philology, and that the origin of Greek words cannot be settled by a mere reference to Greek. This applies with particular force to mythological names. In order to become mythological, it was necessary that the radical meaning of certain names should have been obscured and for- [p.75] gotten in the language to which they belong. Thus what is mythological in one language, is frequently natural and intelligible in another. We say, 'the sun sets,' but in our own Teutonic mythology, a seat or throne is given to the sun on which he sits down, as in Greek Eos is called [Greek], or as the Modern Greek speaks of the setting sun as [Greek]. We doubt about Hekate, but we understand at once [Greek] and [Greek]. We hesitate about Lucina, but we accept immediately what is a mere contraction of Lucna, the Latin Luna.
What is commonly called Hindu mythology, is of little or no avail for comparative purposes. The stories of Siva, Vishnu, Mahadeva, Parvati, Kali, Krishna, &c., are of late growth, indigenous to India, and full of wild and fanciful conceptions.
But while this late mythology of the Puranas and even of the Epic poems, offers no assistance to the comparative mythologist, a whole world of primitive, natural, and intelligible mythology has been preserved to us in the Veda. The mythology of the Veda is to comparative mythology what Sanskrit has been to comparative grammar. There is, fortunately, no system of religion or mythology in the Veda. Names are used in one hymn as appellatives, in another as names of gods. The same god is sometimes represented as supreme, sometimes as equal, sometimes as inferior to others. The whole nature of these so-called gods is still transparent; their first conception, in many cases, clearly perceptible. There are as yet no genealogies, no settled marriages between gods and goddesses. The father is sometimes the son, the brother is the husband, and she who in one hymn is the mother, is in another the wife. As the conceptions [p.76] of the poet varied, so varied the nature of these gods. Nowhere is the wide distance which separates the ancient poems of India from the most ancient literature of Greece more clearly felt than when we compare the growing mythes of the Veda with the full-grown and decayed mythes on which the poetry of Homer is founded. The Veda is the real Theogony of the Aryan races, while that of Hesiod is a distorted caricature of the original image. If we want to know whither the human mind, though endowed with the natural consciousness of a divine power, is driven necessarily and inevitably by the irresistible force of language as applied to supernatural and abstract ideas, we must read the Veda; and if we want to tell the Hindus what they are worshipping—mere names of natural phenomena, gradually obscured, personified, and deified—we must make them read the Veda. It was a mistake of the early Fathers to treat the heathen gods34 as demons or evil spirits, and we must take care not to commit the same error with regard to the Hindu gods. Their gods have no more right to any substantive existence than Eos or Hemera—than Nyx or Apate. They are masks without an actor,—the creations of man, not his creators; they are nomina, not numina; names without being, not beings without names. In some instances, no doubt, it happens that a [p.77] Greek, or a Latin, or a Teutonic mythe, may be explained, from the resources which each of these languages still possesses, as there are many words in Greek which can be explained etymologically without any reference to Sanskrit or Gothic. We shall begin with some of these mythes, and then proceed to the more difficult, which must receive light from more distant regions, whether from the snowy rocks of Iceland and the songs of the Edda, or from the borders of the 'Seven Rivers,' and the hymns of the Veda.
The rich imagination, the quick perception, the intellectual vivacity, and ever-varying fancy of the Greek nation, make it easy to understand that, after the separation of the Aryan race, no language was richer, no mythology more varied, than that of the Greeks. Words were created with wonderful facility, and were forgotten again with that carelessness which the consciousness of inexhaustible power imparts to men of genius. The creation of every word was originally a poem, embodying a bold metaphor or a bright conception. But, like the popular poetry of Greece, these words, if they were adopted by tradition, and lived on in the language of a family, of a city, of a tribe, in the dialects, or in the national speech of Greece, soon forgot the father that had given them birth, or the poet to whom they owed their existence. Their genealogical descent and native character were unknown to the Greeks themselves, and their etymological meaning would have baffled the most ingenious antiquarian. The Greeks, however, cared as little about the etymological individuality of their words as they cared to know the name of every bard that had first sung the Aristeia of [p.78] Menelaos or Diomedes. One Homer was enough to satisfy their curiosity, and any etymology that explained any part of the meaning of a word was welcome, no historical considerations being ever allowed to interfere with ingenious guesses. It is known how Sokrates changes, on the spur of the moment, Eros into a god of wings, but Homer is quite as ready with etymologies, and they are useful, at least so far as they prove that the real etymology of the names of the gods had been forgotten long before Homer.
We can best enter into the original meaning of a Greek mythe, when some of the persons who act in it have preserved names intelligible in Greek. When we find the names of Eos, Selene, Helios, or Herse, we have words which tell their own story, and we have a [Greek] for the rest of the mythe. Let us take the beautiful mythe of Selene and Endymion. Endymion is the son of Zeus and Kalyke, but he is also the son of Aethlios, a king of Elis, who is himself called a son of Zeus, and whom Endymion is said to have succeeded as king of Elis. This localises our mythe, and shows, at least, that Elis is its birthplace, and that, according to Greek custom, the reigning race of Elis derived its origin from Zeus. The same custom prevailed in India, and gave rise to the two great royal families of ancient India—the so-called Solar and the Lunar races: and Purûravas, of whom more by and by, says of himself,
The great king of day
And monarch of the night are my progenitors;
Their grandson I .....
There may, then, have been a king of Elis, Aethlios, and he may have had a son, Endymion; but what [p.79] the mythe tells of Endymion could not have happened to the king of Elis. The mythe transfers Endymion to Karia, to Mount Latmos, because it was in the Latmian cave that Selene saw the beautiful sleeper, loved him and lost him. Now about the meaning of Selene, there can be no doubt; but even if tradition had only preserved her other name, Asterodia, we should have had to translate this synonyme, as Moon, as 'Wanderer among the stars.' But who is Endymion? It is one of the many names of the sun, but with special reference to the setting or dying sun. It is derived from [Greek], a verb which, in classical Greek, is never used for setting, because the simple verb [Greek] had become the technical term for sunset. [Greek], the setting of the sun, is opposed to [Greek], the rising. Now, [Greek] meant originally, to dive into; and expressions like [Greek], the sun dived, presuppose an earlier conception of [Greek], he dived into the sea. Thus Thetis addresses her companions, II. xviii. 140:
You may now dive into the broad bosom of the sea.
Other dialects, particularly
of maritime nations, have the same expression. In Latin we find,35 'Cur mergat
seras æquore flammas.' In Old Norse, 'Sa gengr i
ægi.' Slavonic nations
represent the sun as a woman stepping into her bath in the evening, and rising
refreshed and purified in the morning; or they speak of the Sea as the mother
of the Sun (the apam napat), and of the Sun as sinking into her mother's arms
at night. We may [p.80] suppose, therefore, that in some Greek dialect
[Greek] was used in the same sense;
and that from [Greek], [Greek] was formed to express sunset. From this was formed
[Greek],36 like [Greek] from
[Greek], and like most of the names of the
Greek months. If [Greek] had become the commonly received name for sunset, the
mythe of Endymion could never have arisen. But the original meaning of Endymion
being once forgotten, what was told originally of the setting sun was now told of
a name, which, in order to have any meaning, had to be changed into a god or a
hero. The setting sun once dept in the Latmian cave, the cave of night—Latmos
being derived from the same root as Leto, Latona, the night;—but now he
sleeps on Mount Latos, in Karia. Endymion, sinking into eternal sleep after a
life of but one day, was once the setting sun, the son of Zeus, the brilliant
Sky, and of Kalyke, the covering night (from [Greek]); or, according to
another saying, of Zeus and Protogeneia, the first-born goddess, or the Dawn, who
is always represented, either as the mother, the sister, or the forsaken wife of
the Sun. Now he is the son of a king of Elis, probably for no other reason
except that it was usual for kings to take names of good omen, connected with
the sun, or the moon, or the stars,—in which case a mythe, connected with a
solar name, would naturally be transferred to its human namesake. In the
ancient poetical and proverbial language of Elis, people said 'Selene loves and
watches Endymion,' instead of [p.81] 'it is getting late;' 'Selene embraces Endymion,' instead of 'the sun is
setting and the moon is rising;' 'Selene kisses Endymion into sleep,' instead
of 'it is night.' These expressions remained long after their meaning had
ceased to be understood; and as the human mind is generally as anxious for a
reason as ready to invent one, a story arose by common consent, and without any
personal effort, that Endymion must have been a young lad loved by a young lady,
Selene; and, if children were anxious to know still more, there would always be
a grandmother happy to tell them that this young Endymion was the son of the Protogeneia,—she half meaning and half not meaning by that name the dawn who
gave birth to the sun; or of Kalyke, the dark and covering Night. This name,
once touched, would set many chords vibrating; three or four different reasons
might be given (as they really were given by ancient poets) why Endymion fell
into this everlasting sleep, and if any one of these was alluded to by a popular
poet, it became a mythological fact, repeated by later poets; so that Endymion grew at last almost into a type, no longer of the setting sun, but of a
handsome boy beloved of a chaste maiden, and therefore a most likely name for a
young prince. Many mythes have thus been transferred to real persons, by a mere
similarity of name, though it must be admitted that there is no historical
evidence whatsoever that there ever was a prince of Elis, called by the name of
Such is the growth of a legend, originally a mere word, a [Greek], probably one of those many words which have but a local currency, and lose their value if they are taken to distant places, words useless for [p.82] the daily interchange of thought, spurious coins in the hands of the many,—yet not thrown away, but preserved as curiosities and ornaments, and deciphered at last by the antiquarian, after the lapse of many centuries. Unfortunately, we do not possess these legends as they passed originally from mouth to mouth in villages or mountain castles,—legends such as Grimm has collected in his 'Mythology,' from the language of the poor people in Germany. We do not know them, as they were told by the older members of a family, who spoke a language half intelligible to themselves and strange to their children, or as the poet of a rising city embodied the traditions of his neighbourhood in a continuous poem, and gave to them their first form and permanence. Unless where Homer has preserved a local mythe, all is arranged as a system, with the 'Theogony' as its beginning, the 'Siege of Troy' as its centre, and the 'Return of the Heroes' as its end. But how many parts of Greek mythology are never mentioned by Homer!—We then come to Hesiod—a moralist and theologian, and again we find but a small segment of the mythological language of Greece. Thus, our chief sources are the ancient chroniclers, who took mythology for history, and used of it only so much as answered their purpose. And not even these are preserved to us, but we only believe that they formed the sources from which later writers, such as Apollodoros and the scholiasts, borrowed their information. The first duty of the mythologist is, therefore, to disentangle this cluster, to remove all that is systematic, and to reduce each mythe to its primitive unsystematic form. Much that is unessential has to be cut away altogether, [p.83] and after the rust is removed, we have to determine first of all, as with ancient coins, the locality, and, if possible, the age, of each mythe, by the character of its workmanship; and as we arrange ancient medals into gold, silver, and copper coins, we have to distinguish most carefully between the legends of gods, heroes, and men. If, then, we succeed in deciphering the ancient names and legends of Greek or any other mythology, we learn that the past which stands before our eyes in Greek mythology, has had its present, that there are traces of organic thought in these petrified relics, and that they once formed the surface of the Greek language. The legend of Endymion was present at the time when the people of Elis understood the old saying of the Moon (or Selene) rising under the cover of Night (or in the Latmian cave), to see and admire, in silent love, the beauty of the setting Sun, the sleeper Endymion, the son of Zeus, who had granted to him the double boon of eternal sleep and everlasting youth.
Endymion is not the Sun in the divine character of Phoibos Apollon, but a conception of the Sun in his daily course, as rising early from the womb of Dawn, and after a short and brilliant career, setting in the evening, never to return again to this mortal life. Similar conceptions occur in most mythologies. In Betshuana, an African dialect, 'the sun sets' is expressed by 'the sun dies.'37 In Aryan mythology the Sun viewed in this light is sometimes represented as divine, yet not immortal; sometimes as living, but sleeping; sometimes as a mortal beloved by a goddess, yet tainted by the fate of humanity. Thus, [p.84] Tithonos, a name that has been identified with the Sanskrit didhyanah,38 brilliant, expressed originally the idea of the Sun in his daily or yearly character. He also, like Endymion, does not enjoy the full immortality of Zeus and Apollon. Endymion retains his youth, but is doomed to sleep. Tithonos is made immortal, but as Eos forgot to ask for his eternal youth, he pines away as a decrepit old man, in the arms of his ever youthful wife, who loved him when he was young, and is kind to him in his old age. Other traditions, careless about contradictions, or ready to solve them sometimes by the most atrocious expedients, call Tithonos the son of Eos and Kephalos, as Endymion was the son of Protogeneia, the Dawn; and this very freedom in handling a mythe seems to show, that at first, a Greek knew what it meant if Eos was said to leave every morning the bed of Tithonos. As long as this expression was understood, I should say that the mythe was present; it was past when Tithonos had been changed into a son of Laomedon, a brother of Priamos, a prince of Troy. Then the saying, that Eos left his bed in the morning, became mythical, and had none but a conventional or traditional meaning. Then, as Tithonos was a prince of Troy, his son, the Ethiopian Memnon, had to take part in the Trojan war. And yet how strange!—even then the old mythe seems to float through the dim memory of the poet!—for when Eos weeps for her son, the beautiful Memnon, her tears are called 'morning-dew,'—so that the past may be said to have been still half-present.
As we have mentioned Kephalos as the beloved of Eos, and the father of Tithonos, we may add, that Kephalos also, like Tithonos and Epdymion, was one of the many names of the Sun. Kephaloa, however, was the rising sun—the head of light,—an expression frequently used of the sun in different mythologies. In the Veda, where the sun is addressed as a horse, the head of the horse is an expression meaning the rising sun. Thus, the poet says, Rv. I. 163, 6, 'I have known through my mind thy self when it was still far—thee, the bird flying up from below the sky; I saw a head with wings, toiling on smooth and dustless paths.' The Teutonic nations speak of the sun as the eye of Wuotan, as Hesiod speaks of—
and they also call the sun the face of their god.39 In the Veda, again, the sun
is called (I. 116, 1) 'the face of the gods,' or 'the face of Aditi' (I. 113,
19); and it is said that the winds obscure the eye of the sun by showers of rain
(V. 59, 5).
A similar idea led the Greeks to form the name of Kephalos; and if Kephalos is called the son of Herse—the Dew,—this patronymic meant the same in mythological language that we should express by the sun rising over dewy fields. What is told of Kephalos is, that he was the husband of Prokris, that he loved her, and that they vowed to be faithful to one another. But Eos also loves Kephalos; she tells her love, and Kephalos, true to Prokris, does not accept it. Eos, who knows her rival, replies, that he might remain faithful to Prokris, till Prokris had [p.86] broken her vow. Kephalos accepts the challenge, approaches his wife disguised as a stranger, and gains her love. Prokris, discovering her shame, flies to Kreta. Here Diana gives her a dog and a spear, that never miss their aim, and Prokris returns to Kephalos disguised as a huntsman. While hunting with Kephalos, she is asked by him to give him the dog and the spear. She promises to do so only in return for his love, and when he has assented, she discloses herself, and is again accepted by Kephalos. Yet Prokris fears the charms of Eos; and while jealously watching her husband, she is killed by him unintentionally, by the spear that never misses its aim.
Before we can explain this mythe, which, however, is told with many variations by Greek and Latin poets, we must dissect it, and reduce it to its constituent elements.
The first is 'Kephalos loves Prokris.' Prokris we must explain by a reference to Sanskrit, where prush and prish mean to sprinkle, and are used chiefly with reference to rain-drops. For instance, Rv. I. 168, 8: 'The lightnings laugh down upon the earth, when the winds shower forth the rain.'
The same root in the Teutonic languages has taken the sense of 'frost;' and Bopp identifies prush with O.H.G. frus, frigere. In Greek we must refer to the same root [Greek], [Greek], a dewdrop, and also Prokris, the dew40. Thus, the wife of Kephalos is [p.87] only a repetition of Herse, her mother,—Herse, dew, being derived from Sanskrit vrish,41 to sprinkle; Prokris, dew, from a Sanskrit root prush, having the same sense. The first part of our mythe, therefore, means simply, 'the Sun kisses the Morning Dew.'
The second saying is, 'Eos loves Kephalos.' This requires no explanation: it is the old story, repeated a hundred times in Aryan mythology, 'the Dawn loves the Sun.'
The third saying was, 'Prokris is faithless; yet her new lover, though in a different guise, is still [p.88] the same Kephalos.' This we may interpret as a poetical expression for the rays of the sun being reflected in various colours from the dewdrops,—so that Prokris may be said to be kissed by many lovers; yet they are all the same Kephalos, disguised, hut at last recognised.
The last saying was, 'Prokris is killed by Kephalos,' i.e. the dew is absorbed by the sun. Prokris dies for her love to Kephalos, and he must kill her because he loves her. It is the gradual and inevitable absorption of the dew by the glowing rays of the sun which is expressed, with so much truth, by the unerring shaft of Kephalos thrown unintentionally at Prokris hidden in the thicket of the forest.42
We have only to put these four sayings together, and every poet will at once tell us the story of the love and jealousy of Kephalos, Prokris, and Eos. If anything was wanted to confirm the solar nature of Kephalos, we might point out how the first meeting of Kephalos and Prokris takes place on Mount Hymettos, and how Kephalos throws himself afterwards, in despair, into the sea, from the Leukadian mountains. Now, the whole mythe belongs to Attika, and here the sun would rise, during the greater part of the year, over Mount Hymettos like a brilliant head. A straight line from this, the most eastern point, to the most western headland of Greece, carries us to the Leukadian promontory,—and here Kephalos might well be said to have drowned his sorrows in the waves of the ocean.
Another magnificent sunset looms in the mythe of [p.89] the death of Herakles. His twofold character as a god and as a hero is acknowledged even by Herodotos; and some of his epithets are sufficient to indicate his solar character, though, perhaps, no name has been made the vehicle of so many mythological and historical, physical and moral stories, as that of Herakles. Names which he shares with Apollo and Zeus are [Greek].
Now, in his last journey, Herakles also, like Kephalos, proceeds from east to west. He is performing his sacrifice to Zeus, on the Kenæon promontory of Eubœa, when Deianeira (dasya-nari = dasa-patni) sends him the fatal garment. He then throws Lichas into the sea, who is transformed into the Lichadian islands. From thence Herakles crosses over to Trachys, and then to Mount Oeta, where his pile is raised, and the hero is burnt, rising through the clouds to the seat of the immortal gods—himself henceforth immortal and wedded to Hebe, the goddess of youth. The coat which Deianeira sends to the solar hero is an expression frequently used in other mythologies; it is the coat which in the Veda, 'the mothers weave for their bright son,'—the clouds which rise from the waters and surround the sun like a dark raiment. Herakles tries to tear it off; his fierce splendour breaks through the thickening gloom, but fiery mists embrace him, and are mingled with the parting rays of the sun, and the dying hero is seen through the scattered clouds of the sky, tearing his own body to pieces, till at last his bright form is consumed in a general conflagration, his last-beloved being Iole,—perhaps the violet-coloured evening clouds,—a word which, as [p.90] it reminds us also of [Greek], poison (though the ι is long), may perhaps have originated the mythe of a poisoned garment.
In these legends the Greek language supplies almost all that is necessary in order to render these strange stories intelligible and rational, though the later Greeks—I mean Homer and Hesiod—had certainly in most cases no suspicion of the original import of their own traditions. But as there are Greek words which find no explanation in Greek, and which, without a reference to Sanskrit and the other cognate dialects, would have for ever remained to the philologist mere sounds with a conventional meaning, there are also names of gods and heroes inexplicable, from a Greek point of view, and which cannot be made to disclose their primitive character, unless confronted with contemporary witnesses from India, Persia, Italy, or Germany. Another mythe of the dawn will best explain this:
Ahan in Sanskrit is a name of the day, and is said to stand for dahan, like asru, tear, for daru, Greek [Greek]. Whether we have to admit an actual loss of this initial d, or whether the d is to be considered rather as a secondary letter, by which the root ah was individualised to dah, is a question which does not concern us at present. In Sanskrit we have the root dah, which means to burn, and from which a name of the day might have been formed in the same manner as dyu, day, is formed from dyu, to be brilliant. Nor does it concern us here, whether the Gothic daga, nom. dag-e, day, is the same word or not. According to Grimm's law, daha in Sanskrit should in Gothic appear as taga, and not as daga. However, there are several [p.91] roots in which the aspiration affects either the first or the last letter or both. This would give us dhah as a secondary type of dah, and thus remove the apparent irregularity of the Gothic daga.43 Bopp seems inclined to consider daga and daha identical in origin. Certain it is that the same root from which the Teutonic words for day are formed, has also given rise to the name for dawn. In German we say, der Morgen tagt; and in Old English day was dawe; while to dawn was in Anglo-Saxon dagian. Now, in the Veda, one of the names of the dawn is Ahani. It occurs only once, Rv. I. 123, 4:
Griham griham Ahana yati akkha.
Divé dive adhi nama dadhana
Sishanti Dyotona sasvat a agat
A'gram agram it bhagate vasunam.
'Ahanit, (the dawn) comes near to every house,—she who makes every day to be known.
Dyotani (the dawn), the active maiden, comes back for evermore,—she enjoys always the first of all goods.'
We have already seen the Dawn in various relations to the Sun, but not yet as the beloved of the Sun, flying before her lover, and destroyed by his embrace. This, however, was a very familiar expression in the old mythological language of the Aryans. The Dawn has died in the arms of the Sun, or the Dawn is flying before the Sun, or the Sun has shattered the car of the Dawn, were expressions meaning simply, the sun has risen, the dawn [p.92] is gone. Thus, we read in the Rv. IV. 30, in a hymn celebrating the achievements of Indra, the chief solar deity of the Veda;
'And this strong and manly deed also thou hast performed, Indra, that thou struckest the daughter of Dyaus (the Dawn), a woman difficult to vanquish.
Yes, even the daughter of Dyaus, the magnified, the Dawn, thou, Indra, a great hero, hast ground to pieces.
The Dawn rushed off from her crushed car, fearing that Indra, the bull, might strike her.
This her car lay there well ground to pieces; she went far away.'
In this case, Indra behaves rather unceremoniously to the daughter of the sky;
but, in other places, she is loved by all the bright gods of heaven, not excluding her own
father. The Sun, it is said, Rv. I. 115, 2, follows her from
behind, as a man follows a woman. 'She, the Dawn, whose cart is drawn by white
horses, is carried away in triumph by the two Asvins,' as the Leukippides are
carried off by the Dioskuroi.
If now we translate, or rather transliterate, Dahana into Greek, Daphne stands before us, and her whole history is intelligible. Daphne is young and beautiful—Apollo loves her—she flies before him, and dies as he embraces her with his brilliant rays. Or, as another poet of the Veda (X 189) expresses it, 'The Dawn comes near to him—she expires as soon as he begins to breathe—the mighty one irradiates the sky.' Any one who has eyes to see and a heart to feel with nature like the poets of old, may still see Daphne and Apollo,—the dawn rushing and trembling through the sky, and fading [p.93] away at the sudden approach of the bright sun. The metamorphosis of Daphne into a laurel-tree is a continuation of the mythe of peculiarly Greek growth. Daphne, in Greek, meant no longer the dawn, but it had become the name of the laurel.44 Hence the tree Daphne was considered sacred to the lover of Daphne, the dawn, and Daphne herself was fabled to have been changed into a tree when praying to her mother to protect her from the violence of Apollo.
Without the help of the Veda, the name of Daphne and the legend attached to her, would have remained unintelligible, for the later Sanskrit supplies no key to this name. This shows the value of the Veda for the purpose of comparative mythology, a science which, without the Veda, would have remained mere guess-work, without fixed principles and without a safe basis.45
In order to show in how many different ways the [p.94] same idea may be expressed mythologically, I have confined myself to the names of the dawn. The dawn is really one of the richest sources of Aryan mythology; and another class of legends, embodying the strife between winter and summer, the return of spring, the revival of nature, is in most languages but a reflection and amplification of the more ancient stories telling of the strife between night and day, the return of the morn, the revival of the whole world. The stories, again, of solar heroes fighting through a thunderstorm against the powers of darkness, are borrowed from the same source; and the cows, so frequently alluded to in the Veda, as carried off by Vritra and brought back by Indra, are in reality the same bright cows which the Dawn drives out every morning to their pasture ground; sometimes the clouds, which, from their heavy udders, send down refreshing and fertilising rain or dew upon the parched earth; sometimes the bright days themselves, that seem to step out one by one from the dark stable of the night, and to be carried off from their wide pasture by the dark powers of the West. There is no sight in nature more elevating than the dawn even to us, whom philosophy would wish to teach that nil admirari is the highest wisdom. Yet in ancient times the power of admiring was the greatest blessing bestowed on mankind; and when could man have admired more intensely, when could his heart have been more gladdened and over-powered with joy than at the approach of
the Lord of light,
Of life, of love, and gladness!
The darkness of night fills the human heart with [p.95] despondency and awe, and a feeling of fear and anguish sets every nerve trembling. There is man like a forlorn child fixing his eye with breathless anxiety upon the East, the womb of day, where the light of the world has flamed up so many times before. As the father waits the birth of his child, so the poet watches the dark heaving night who is to bring forth her bright son, the sun of the day. The doors of heaven seem slowly to open, and what are called the bright flocks of the Dawn step out of the dark stable, returning to their wonted pastures. Who has not seen the gradual advance of this radiant procession—the heaven like a distant sea tossing its golden waves—when the first rays shoot forth like brilliant horses racing round the whole course of the horizon—when the clouds begin to colour up, each shedding her own radiance over her more distant sisters! Not only the East, but the West, and the South, and the North, the whole temple of heaven is illuminated, and the pious worshipper lights in response his own small light on the altar of his hearth, and stammers words which express but faintly the joy that is in nature and in his own throbbing heart:
'Rise! Our life, our spirit has come back! the darkness is gone, the light approaches!'
If the people of antiquity called these eternal lights of heaven their gods, their bright ones (deva), the Dawn was the first-born among all the gods—Protogeneis—dearest to man, and always young and fresh. But if not raised to an immortal state, if only admired as a kind being, awakening every morning the children of man, her life would seem to be short. She soon fades away, and dies when the fountain- [p.96] head of light rises in naked splendour, and sends his first swift glance through the vault of heaven. We cannot realise that sentiment with which the eye of antiquity dwelt on these sights of nature. To us all is law, order, necessity. We calculate the refractory power of the atmosphere, we measure the possible length of the dawn in every climate, and the rising of the sun is to us no greater surprise than the birth of a child. But if we could believe again, that there was in the sun a being like our own, that in the dawn there was a soul open to human sympathy,—if we could bring ourselves to look for a moment upon these powers as personal, free, and adorable, how different would be our feelings at the blush of day! That Titanic assurance with which we say, the sun must rise, was unknown to the early worshippers of nature, or if they also began to feel the regularity with which the sun and the other stars perform their daily labour, they still thought of free beings kept in temporary servitude, chained for a time, and bound to obey a higher will, but sure to rise, like Herakles, to a higher glory at the end of their labours. It seems to us childish when we read in the Veda such expressions as, 'Will the Sun rise?' 'Will our old friend, the Dawn, come back again?' 'Will the powers of darkness be conquered by the God of light?' And when the Sun rose, they wondered how, but just born, he was so mighty, and strangled, as it were, in his cradle, the serpents of the night. They asked how he could walk along the sky? why there was no dust on his road? why he did not fall backward? But at last they greeted him like the poet of our own time—
Hail, orient Conqueror of gloomy Night!
[p.97] and the human eye felt that it could not bear the brilliant majesty of Him whom
they call 'the Life, the Breath, the brilliant Lord and Father.'
Thus sunrise was the revelation of nature, awakening in the human mind that feeling of dependence, of helplessness, of hope, of joy and faith in higher powers, which is the source of all wisdom, the spring of all religion. But if sunrise inspired the first prayers, called forth the first sacrificial flames, sunset was the other time when, again, the heart of man would tremble, and his mind be filled with awful thoughts. The shadows of night approach, the irresistible power of sleep grasps man in the midst of his pleasures, his friends depart, and in his loneliness his thoughts turn again to higher powers. When the day departs, the poet bewails the untimely death of his bright friend, nay, he sees in his short career the likeness of his own life. Perhaps, when he has fallen asleep, his sun may never rise again, and thus the place to which the setting sun withdraws in the far West rises before his mind as the abode where he himself would go after death, where 'his fathers went before him,' and where all the wise and the pious rejoice in a 'new life with Yama and Varuna.' Or he might look upon the sun, not as a short-lived hero, but as young, unchanging, and always the same, while generations after generations of mortal men were passing away. And hence, by the mere force of contrast, the first intimation of beings which do not wither and decay—of immortals, of immortality! Then the poet would implore the immortal sun to come again, to vouchsafe to the sleeper a new morning. The god of day would become the god of time, of life and death. Again, the evening twilight, [p.98] the sister of the dawn, repeating, though with a more sombre light, the wonders of the morning, how many feelings must it have roused in the musing poet—how many poems must it have elicited in the living language of ancient times! Was it the dawn that came again to give a last embrace to him who had parted from her in the morning? Was she the immortal, the always returning goddess, and he the mortal, the daily dying sun? Or was she the mortal, bidding a last farewell to her immortal lover, burnt, as it were, on the same pile which would consume her, while he would rise to the seat of the gods?
Let us express these simple scenes in ancient language, and we shall find ourselves surrounded on every side by mythology full of contradictions and incongruities, the same being represented as mortal or immortal, as man or woman, as the poetical eye of man shifts its point of view, and gives its own colour to the mysterious play of nature.
One of the mythes of the Veda which expresses this correlation of the Dawn and the Sun, this love between the immortal and the mortal, and the identity of the Morning Dawn and the Evening Twilight, is the story of Urvasî and Purûravas. The two names, Urvasî and Purûravas, are to the Hindu mere proper names, and even in the Veda their original meaning has almost entirely faded away. There is a dialogue in the Rig-Veda between Urvasî and Purûravas, where both appear personified in the same manner as in the play of Kalidasa. The first point, therefore, which we have to prove is that Urvasî was originally an appellation, and meant dawn.
The etymology of Urvasi is difficult. It cannot [p.99] be derived from urva by means of the suffix sa,46 because there is no such word as urva, and because derivatives in sa, like romasyuvasi, &c, have the accent on the last syllable.47 I therefore accept the common Indian explanation by which this name is derived from uru, wide ([Greek]), and a root as, to pervade, and thus compare uru-asi with another frequent epithet of the Dawn, urukhi, the feminine of uru-ak, far-going. It was certainly one of the most striking features, and one by which the Dawn was distinguished from all the other dwellers in the heavens, that she occupies the wide expanse of the sky, and that her horses ride, as it were, with the swiftness of thought round the whole horizon. Hence we find that names beginning with uru in Sanskrit, and with [Greek] in Greek, are almost invariably old mythological names of the Dawn or the Twilight. The Earth also, it is true, claims this epithet, but in different combinations from those which apply to the bright goddess. Names of the Dawn are Euryphaessa, the mother of Helios; Eurykyde or Eurypyle, the daughter of Endymion; Eurymede, the wife of Glaukos; Eurynome, the mother of the Charites; and Eurydike, the wife of Orpheus, whose character as an ancient god will be discussed hereafter. In the Veda the name of Ushas or Eos is hardly ever mentioned without some allusion to her far and wide spreading splendour; such as urviya vibhati, she shines wide; urviya vika- [p.100] kshe, looking far and wide; variyasi, the widest,48 whereas the light of the Sun is not represented as wide-stretching, but rather as far-darting.
But there are other indications besides the mere name of Urvasî, which lead us to suppose that she was originally the goddess of the dawn. Vasishtha, though best known as the name of one of the chief poets of the Veda, is the superlative of vasu, bright; and as such also a name of the Sun. Thus it happens that expressions which apply properly to the sun only, were transferred to the ancient poet. He is called the son of Mitra and Varuna, night and day, an expression which has a meaning only with regard to Vasishtha, the sun; and as the sun is frequently called the offspring of the dawn, Vasishtha, the poet, is said to owe his birth to Urvasî (Rv. VII. 33, 11). The peculiarity of his birth reminds us strongly of the birth of Aphrodite, as told by Hesiod.
Again, we find that in the few passages where the name of Urvasî occurs in the Rig-Veda, the same attributes and actions are ascribed to her which usually belong to Ushas, the Dawn.
It is frequently said of Ushas, that she prolongs the life of man, and the same is said of Urvasî [p.101] (V. 41,19; X. 95, 10). In one passage, Rv. IV.2, 18, Urvasi is even used as a plural, in the sense of many dawns or days increasing the life of man, which shows that the appellative power of the word was not yet quite forgotten. Again, she is called antarikshapra, filling the air, a usual epithet of the sun, brihaddiva, with mighty splendour, all indicating the bright presence of the dawn. However, the best proof that Urvasi was the dawn is the legend told of her and of her love to Purûravas, a story that is true only of the Sun and the Dawn. That Purûravas is an appropriate name of a solar hero requires hardly any proof Purûravas meant the same as [Greek], endowed with much light; for though rava is generally used of sound, yet the root ru, which means originally to cry, is also applied to colour,49 in the sense of a loud or crying colour, i.e. red, (cf. ruber, rufus, Lith. rauda, O.H.G. rot, rudhira, [Greek]; also Sanskrit ravi, sun.) Besides, Purûravas calls himself Vasishtha, which, as we know, is a name of the Sun; and if he is called Aida, the son of Ida, the same name is elsewhere (Rv. III. 29, 3) given to Agni, the fire.
Now the story, in its most ancient form, is found in the Brahmana of the Yagur-veda. There we read:
'Urvasî, a kind of fairy, fell in love with
Purûravas, the son of Ida, and
when she met him, she said: "Embrace me three times a-day, but never against
my will, and let me never see you without
your royal garments, for this is the manner of women." In this manner she lived
with him a long time, and she was with child. Then her former friends, the
Gandharvas, said: "This Urvasî has
now dwelt a long time among mortals; let us see that she come back." Now, there
was a ewe, with two lambs, tied to the couch of Urvasî and Purûravas, and the Gandharvas stole one of them.
Urvasî said: "They take away my darling, as if I
lived in a land where there is no hero and no man." They stole the second, and
she upbraided her husband again. Then Purûravas looked and said: "How can that
be a land without heroes or men where I am!" And naked, he sprang up; he
thought it too long to put on his dress. Then the Gandharvas sent a flash of
lightning, and Urvasî saw her husband naked as by daylight. Then she vanished;
"I come back," she said—and went. Then he bewailed his vanished love in
bitter grief; and went near Kurukshetra. There is a lake there, called
Anyatahplaksha, full of lotus flowers, and while the king walked along its
border, the fairies were playing there in the water, in the shape of birds. And
Urvasî discovered him, and said:
'"That is the man with whom I dwelt so long." Then her friends said: "Let us appear to him." She agreed, and they appeared before him. Then the king recognised her and said:
'"Lo! my wife! stay, thou cruel in mind! let us now exchange some words! Our secrets, if they are [p.103] not told now, will not bring us luck on any later day."
'She replied: "What shall I do with thy speech? I am gone like the first of the dawns. Purûravas, go home again! I am hard to be caught, like the wind."
'He said, in despair; "Then may thy former friend now fall down, never to rise again; may he go far, far away! May he lie down on the threshold of death, and may rabid wolves there devour him!"
'She replied: "Purûravas, do not die! do not fall down! let not evil wolves devour thee! there is no friendship with women, their hearts are the hearts of wolves. When I walked among mortals under a different form—when I dwelt with thee, four nights of the autumn, I ate once a-day a small piece of butter—and even now I feel pleasure from it."
'Thus, at last, her heart melted, and she said: "Come to me the last night of the year, and thou shalt be with me for one night, and a son will be born to thee." He went the last night of the year to the golden seats, and while he was alone, he was told to go up, and then they sent Urvasî to him. Then she said: "The Gandharvas will to-morrow grant thee a wish; choose!" He said: "Choose thou for me." She replied: "Say to them, let me be one of you," Early the next mom, the Gandharvas gave him his choice; but when he said "let me be one of you," they said: "That kind of sacred fire is not yet known among men, by which he could perform a sacrifice, and become one of ourselves." They then initiated Purûravas in the mysteries of a certain sacrifice, and when he had performed it, he became himself one of the Gandharvas.'
This is the simple story, told in the Brahmana, and it is told there in order to show the importance of a peculiar rite, the rite of kindling the fire by friction, which is represented as the one by which Purûravas obtained immortality.50 The verses quoted in the story are taken from the Rig-Veda, where we find, in the last book, together with many strange relics of popular poetry, a dialogue between the two celestial lovers. It consists of seventeen verses, while the author of the Brahmana knew only fifteen. In one of the verses which he quotes, Urvasî says, 'I am gone for ever, like the first of the dawns,' which shows a strange glimmering of the old mythe in the mind of the poet, and reminds us of the tears which the mother of Memnon shed over the corpse of her son, and which even by later poets are called morning dew. Again, in the fourth verse, Urvasî addressing herself, says: 'This person (that is to say I), when she was wedded to him, Dawn! she went to his house, and was embraced by him day and night.' Again, she tells Purûravas that he was created by the gods in order to slay the powers of darkness (dasyuhatyaya), a task invariably ascribed to Indra and other solar beings. Even the names of the companions of Urvasî point to the dawn, and Purûravas says:
'When I, the mortal, threw my arms around those flighty immortals, they trembled away from me like [p.105] a trembling doe, like horses that kick against the cart.'
No goddess is so frequently called the friend of man as the Dawn. 'She goes to every house' (I. 123, 4); 'she thinks of the dwelling of man' (I. 123, 1); 'she does not despise the small or the great' (I. 124, 6); 'she brings wealth' (I. 48, 1); 'she is always the same, immortal, divine' (I. 124, 4; 1.123,8); 'she does not grow old' (I. 113, 15); 'she is the young goddess, but she makes man grow old' (I. 92, 11). Thus Purûravas called Urvasî 'the immortal among the mortals;' and, in his last verse, he addressed his beloved in the following words:
'I, the brightest Sun, I hold Urvasî, her who fills the air (with light), who spreads the sky. May the blessing of thy kind deed be upon thee! Come back, the heart burns me.'
Then the poet says:
'Thus the gods spake to thee, son of Ida, in order that thou, bound to death, mayest grow to be this (immortal), thy race should worship the gods with oblations! Then thou also wilt rejoice in heaven.'
We must certainly admit, that even in the Veda, the poets were as ignorant of the original meaning of Urvasi and Purûravas as Homer was of Tithonos, if not of Eos. To them they were heroes, indefinite beings, men yet not men, gods yet not gods. But to us, though placed at a much greater distance, they disclose their true meaning. As Wordsworth says:
Not unrejoiced, I see thee climb the sky.
In naked splendour, clear from mist and haze—
Antiquity spoke of the naked sun, and of the chaste dawn hiding her £ice when
she had seen her [p.106] husband. Yet she says she will come again. And after the sun has travelled
through the world in search of his beloved, when he comes to the threshold of
death and is going to end his solitary life,
she appears again in the gloaming, the same as the dawn—as Eos in Homer begins
and ends the day,—and she carries him away to the golden seats of the immortals.51
I have selected this mythe chiefly in order to show how ancient poetry is only the faint echo of ancient language, and how it was the simple story of nature which inspired the early poet, and held before his mind that deep mirror in which he might see reflected the passions of his own soul. For the heart of man, as long as it knows but its own bitterness, is silent and sullen. It does not tell its love and its loss. There may be a mute poetry in solitary grief, but Mnemosyne, the musing goddess of recollection, is not a muse herself, though she is the mother of the muses. It is the sympathy with the grief of others which first gives utterance to the poet's grief, and opens the lips of a silent despair. And if his pain was too deep and too sacred, if he could not compare it to the suffering of any other human heart, the ancient poet had still the heart of nature to commune with, and in her silent suffering he saw a noble likeness of what he felt and suffered within himself. When, after a dark night, the light of the day returned, he thought of his own light that would never rise again. When he saw the Sun kissing the Dawn, he dreamt of days and joys gone for ever. And when the Dawn [p.107] trembled, and grew pale, and departed, and when the Sun seemed to look for her, and to lose her the more his brilliant eye sought her, an image would rise in his mind, and he would remember his own fate and yet forget it, while telling in measured words the love and loss of the Sun. Such was the origin of poetry. Nor was the evening without its charms. And when, at the end of a dreary day, the Sun seemed to die away in the far West, still looking for his Eastern bride, and suddenly the heavens opened, and the glorious image of the Dawn rose again, her beauty deepened by a gloaming sadness—would not the poet gaze till the last ray had vanished, and would not the last vanishing ray linger in his heart, and kindle there a hope of another life, where he would find again what he had loved and. lost on earth!
There is a radiant, though a short-lived flame.
That burns for poets in the dawning east;
And oft my soul has kindled at the same.
When the captivity of sleep had ceased.
There is much suffering in nature to those who have eyes for silent grief, and it is this tragedy—the tragedy of nature—which is the life spring of all the tragedies of the ancient world. The idea of a young hero, whether he is called Baldr, or Sigurd, or Sifrit, or Achilles, or Meleager, or Kephalos, dying in the fulness of youth, a story so frequently told, localized, and individualized, was first suggested by the Sun, dying in all his youthful vigour either at the end of a day, conquered by the powers of darkness, or at the end of the sunny season, stung by the thorn of winter. Again, that fatal spell by which these sunny heroes must leave their first love, become unfaithful to her or she to them, was borrowed from nature. The fate [p.108] of these solar heroes was inevitable, and it was their lot to die by the hand or by the unwilling treachery of their nearest friends or relatives. The Sun forsakes the Dawn, and dies at the end of the day, according to an inexorable fate, and bewailed by the whole of nature. Or the Sun is the Sun of Spring, who woos the Earth, and then forsakes his bride and grows cold, and is killed at last by the thorn of Winter, It is an old story, but it is for ever new in the mythology and the legends of the ancient world. Thus Baldr, in the Scandinavian Edda, the divine prototype of Sigurd and Sifrit, is beloved by the whole world. Gods and men, the whole of nature, all that grows and lives, had sworn to his mother not to hurt the bright hero. The mistletoe alone, that does not grow on the earth, but on trees, had been forgotten, and with it Baldr is killed at the winter solstice:
So on the floor lay Balder, dead; and round
Lay thickly strewn, swords, axes, darts, and appears,
Which all the gods in sport had idly thrown
At Balder, whom no weapon pierced or clove:
But in his breast stood fixt the fatal bough
Of mistletoe, which Lok, the accuser, gave
To Hoder, and unwitting Hoder threw:
'Gainst that alone had Balder's life no charm.
Thus Isfendiyar, in the Persian epic, cannot be wounded by any weapon, yet it is his fate to be killed by a thorn, which, as an arrow, is thrown into his eye by Rustem. Rustem, again, can only be killed by his brother; Herakles, by the mistaken kindness of his wife; Sifrit, by the anxious solicitude of Kriemhilt, or by the jealousy of Brunhilt, whom he had forsaken. He is vulnerable in one spot only, like Achilles, and it is there where Hagene (the thorn) [p.109] strikes him. All these are fragments of solar mythes. The whole of nature was divided into two realms—the one dark, cold, wintry, and deathlike, the other bright, warm, vernal, and full of life. Sigurd, as the solar hero is called in the Edda, the descendant of Odin, slays the serpent Fafnir, and conquers the treasure on which Andvari, the dwarf, had pronounced his curse. This is the treasure of the Niflung's or Nibelung's, the treasure of the earth which the nebulous powers of winter and darkness had carried away like robbers. The vernal sun wins it back, and like Demeter, rich in the possession of her restored daughter, the earth becomes for a time rich with all the treasures of spring.52 He then, according to the Edda, delivers Brynhild, who had been doomed to a magic sleep after being wounded with a thorn by Odin, but who is now, like the spring after the sleep of winter, brought back to new life by the love of Sigurd. But he, the lord of the treasure (vasupati) is driven onward by his fate. He plights his troth to Brynhild, and gives her the fatal ring he had taken from the treasure. But he must leave her, and when he arrives at the castle of Gunnar, Gunnar's wife, Grimhild, makes him forget Brynhild, and he marries her daughter, Gudrun. Already his course begins to decline. He is bound to Gunnar, nay, he must conquer for him his own former bride, Brynhild, whom Gunnar now marries Gunnar Gjukason seems to signify darkness, and thus we see that the awakening and [p.110] budding spring is gone, carried away by Gunnar, like Proserpina by Pluto; like Sita by Ravana. Gudrun, the daughter of Grimhild, and sometimes herself called Grimhild, whether the latter name meant summer (cf. gharma in Sanskrit), or the earth and nature in the latter part of the year, is a sister of the dark Gnnnar, and though now married to the bright Sigurd, she belongs herself to the nebulous regions. Gimnar, who has forced Sigurd to yield him Brynhild, is now planning the death of his kinsman, because Brynhild has discovered in Sigurd her former lover, and must have her revenge. Hogni dissuades his brother, Gunnar, from the murder; but at last the third brother, Hodr, stabs Sigurd while he is asleep at the winter solstice. Brynhild has always loved him, and when her hero is killed she distributes the treasure, and is burnt, like Nanna, on the same pile with Sigurd, a sword being placed between the two lovers. Gudrun also bewails the death of her husband, but she forgets him, and marries Atli, the brother of Brynhild. Atli now claims the treasure from Gunnar and Hogni, by right of his wife, and when they refuse to give it up, he invites them to his house, and makes them prisoners. Gunnar still refuses to reveal the spot where the treasure is buried till he see the heart of Hogni, his brother. A heart is brought him, but it quivers, and he says, 'This is not the heart of my brother.' The real heart of Hogni is brought at last, and Gunnar says, 'Now I alone know where the treasure lies, and the Rhine shall rather have it than I will give it up to thee.' He is then bound by Atli, and thrown among serpents. But even the serpents he charms by playing on the harp with his teeth, till at last one viper crawls up to him, and kills him.
How much has this mythe been changed, when we find it again in the poem of the
Nibelunge as it was written down at the end of the twelfth century in Germany! All the heroes are Christians, and have been mixed up with historical
persons of the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries, Gunther is localized in Burgundy, where we know that, in 436, a Gundicarius or Gundaharius happened to be a
real king, the same who, according to Cassiodorus, was vanquished first by
Aetius, and afterwards by the Huns of Attila. Hence Atli, the brother of Brynhild,
and the second husband of Gudrun (or Kriemhilt), is identified with Attila, the
king of the Huns (453); nay, even the brother of Attila, Bleda, is brought in
as Blodelin, the first who attacked the Burgundians, and was killed by Dankwart. Other historical persons were drawn into the vortex of the popular story,
persons for whom there is no precedent at all in the Edda. Thus we find in the
Nibelunge Dietrich von Bern, who is no other but Theodoric the Great (455-525),
who conquered Odoacer in the battle of Ravenna (the famous Rabenschlacht), and
lived at Verona, in German, Bern. Irenfried, again, introduced in the poem as
the Landgrave of Thuringia, has been discovered to be Hermanfried, the king of
Thuringia, married to Amalaberg, the niece of Theodoric. The most extraordinary
coincidence, however, is that by which Sigurd, the lover of Brynhild, has been
identified with Siegbert, king of Austrasia from 561 to 575, who was actually
married to the famous Brunehault, who actually defeated the Huns, and was
actually murdered under the most tragical circumstances by Fredegond, the mistress
of his brother Chilperic, This coincidence between mythe and history is so
great, that it has [p.112] induced some euhemeristic critics to derive the whole legend of the Nibelunge
from Austrasian history, and to make the murder of Siegbert by Brunehault the
basis of the murder of Sifrit or Sigurd by Brynhild. Fortunately, it is easier
to answer these German than the old Greek euhemerists, for we find in contemporary history that Jomandes, who wrote his history at least twenty years before
the death of the Austrasian Siegbert, knew already the daughter of the mythic
Sigurd, Swanhild, who was born, according to the Edda, after the murder of his
father, and afterwards killed by Jormunrek, whom the poem has again
historicised in Hermanicus, a Gothic king of the fourth century.
Let us now apply to the Greek mythes what we have learned from the gradual growth of the German mythe. There are evidently historical facts round which the mythe of Herakles has crystallized, only we cannot substantiate them so clearly as in the mythe of the Nibelunge, because we have there no contemporaneous historical documents. Yet as the chief Herakles is represented as belonging to the royal family of Argos, there may have been a Herakles, perhaps the son of a king called Amphitryo, whose descendants, after a temporary exile, reconquered that part of Greece which had formerly been under the sway of Herakles. The traditions of the miraculous birth, of many of his heroic adventures, and of his death, were as little based on historical facts as the legends of Sifrit. In Herakles killing the Chimæra and similar monsters, we see the reflected image of the Delphian Apollo killing the worm, or of Zeus, the god of the brilliant sky, with whom Herakles shares in common the names of Idreos, Olympics, and Pan- [p.113] genetor. As the mythe of Sigurd and Gunnar throws its last broken rays on the kings of Burgundy, and on Attila and Theodoric, the mythe of the solar Herakles was realised in some semi-historical prince of Argos and Mykense. Herakles may have been the name of the national god of the Heraklidæ, and this would explain the enmity of Hêrê, whose worship flourished in Argos before the Dorian immigration. What was formerly told of a god was transferred to Herakles, the leader of the Heraklidæ, the worshippers or sons of Herakles, while, at the same time, many local and historical facts connected with the Heraklidæ and their leaders may have been worked up with the mythe of the divine hero. The idea of Herakles being, as it were, the bond-servant of Eurystheus is of solar origin—it is the idea of the sun fettered to his work, and toiling for men, his inferiors in strength and virtue.53 Thus Sifrit is toiling for Gunther, and even Apollo is for one year the slave of Laomedon—pregnant expressions, necessitated by the absence of more abstract verbs, and familiar even to modern poets:
As aptly suits therewith that modest pace
Submitted to the chains
That bind thee to the path which God ordains
That thou shouldest trace.
The later growth of epic and tragical poetry may be Greek, or Indian, or Teutonic; it may take the different colours of the different skies, the different
[p.114] warmth of the different climes; nay, it may attract and absorb much that is
accidental and historical. But if we cut into it and analyse it, the blood that
runs through all the ancient poetry is the same blood; it is the ancient
mythical speech. The atmosphere in which the early poetry of the Aryans grew up
was mythological, it was impregnated with something that could not be resisted
by those who breathed in it. It was like the siren voice of the modern rhyme,
which has suggested so many common ideas to poets writing in a common language.
We know what Greek and Teutonic poets have made of their epic heroes; let us see now whether the swarthy Hindu has been able to throw an equally beautiful haze around the names of his mythical traditions.
The story of the loves of Purûravas and Urvasî has frequently been told by Hindu poets. We find it in their epic poems, in their Puranas, and in the Brihat-katha, the 'Great Story,' a collection of the popular legends of India It has suffered many changes, yet even in Kalidasa's54 play, of which I shall give a short abstract, we recognise the distant background, and we may admire the skill with which this poet has breathed new life and human feeling into the withered names of a language long forgotten.
The first act opens with a scene in the Himalaya mountains. The nymphs of heaven, on returning from an assembly of the gods, have been attacked, and are mourning over the loss of Urvasî, who has [p.115] been carried off by a demon. King Purûravas enters on his chariot, and on hearing the cause of their grief, hastens to the rescue of the nymph. He soon returns, after having vanquished the robber, and restores Urvasi to her heavenly companions. But while he is carrying the nymph back to her friends in his chariot, he falls in love with her and she with him. He describes how he saw her slowly recovering from her terror:
She recovers, though hut faintly.
So gently steals the moon upon the night,
Retiring tardily, so peeps the flame
Of coming fires through smoky wreaths; and thus
The Ganges slowly clears her troubled wave,
Engulphs the ruin that the crumbling bank
Has hurled across her agitated course,
And flows & clear and stately stream again.
When they part, Urvasi wishes to turn round once more to see Purûravas. She pretends that 'a straggling vine has caught her garland,' and, while feigning to disengage herself, she calls one of her friends to help her. Her friend replies,
No easy task, I fear: you seem entangled
Too fast to be set free: but come what may.
Depend upon my friendship.
The eye of the king then meets that of Urvasi, and he exclaims,
A thousand thanks, dear plant, to whose kind aid
I owe another instant, and behold
But for a moment, and imperfectly,
Those half-averted charms.
In the second act we meet the king at Allahabad, his residence. He walks in the garden of the palace, accompanied by a Brahman, who acts the part of the gracioso in the Indian drama. He is the confidential [p.116] companion of the king, and knows his love for Urvasî. But he is so afraid of betraying what must remain a secret to everybody at court, and in particular to the queen, that he hides himself in a retired temple. There a female servant of the queen discovers him, and 'as a secret can no more rest in his breast than morning dew upon the grass,' she soon finds out from him why the king is so changed since his return from the battle with the demon, and carries the tale to the queen. In the meantime, the king is in despair, and pours out his grief—
Like one contending with the stream,
And still borne backwards by the current's force.
But Urvasî also is sighing for Purûravas, and we suddenly see her, with her friend, descending through the air to meet the king. Both are at first invisible to him, and listen to the confession of his love. Then Urvasî writes a verse on a birch-leaf, and lets it fall near the bower where her beloved reclines. Next, her friend becomes visible; and, at last, Urvasî herself is introduced to the king. After a few moments, however, both Urvasî and her friend are called back by a messenger of the gods, and Purûravas is left alone with his jester. He looks for the leaf on which Urvasi had first disclosed her love, but it is lost, carried away by the wind:
Breeze of the south, the friend of love and spring,
Though from the flower you steal the fragrant down
To scatter perfume, yet why plunder me
Of these dear characters, her own fair hand,
In proof of her affection, traced? Thou knowest.
The lonely lover that in absence pines,
Lives on such fond memorials.
But worse than this, the leaf is picked up by the [p.117] queen, who comes to look for the king in the garden. There is a scene of matrimonial upbraiding, and, after a while, her majesty goes off in a hurry, like a river in the rainy season. The king is doubly miserable, for though he loves Urvasî, he acknowledges a respectful deference for his queen. At last he retires:
'Tis past midday, exhausted by the heat,
The peacock plunges in the scanty pool
That feeds the tall tree's root: the drowsy bee
Sleeps in the hollow chamber of the lotus,
Darkened with closing petals; on the brink
Of the now tepid lake the wild duck lurks
Amongst the sedgy shades; and, even here,
The parrot in his wiry bower complains,
And calls for water to allay his thirst.
At the beginning of the third act we are first informed of what befel Urvasi, when she was recalled to Indra's heaven. She had to act before Indra—her part was that of the goddess of beauty, who selects Vishnu for her husband. One of the names of Vishnu is Purushottama, and poor Urvasî, when called upon to confess whom she loves, forgetting the part she has to act, says, 'I love Purûravas,' instead of 'I love Purushottama.' The author of the play was so much exasperated by this mistake, that he pronounced a curse upon Urvasî, that she should lose her divine knowledge. But when the performance was over, Indra observing her as she stood apart, ashamed and disconsolate, called her. The mortal who engrossed her thoughts, he said, had been his friend in the hours of peril; be had aided him in conflict with the enemies of the gods, and was entitled to his acknowledgments. She must, accordingly, repair to the monarch, and remain with him 'till he beholds the offspring she shall bear him.'
A second scene opens, in the garden of the palace. The king has been engaged in the business of the state, and retires as the evening approaches:
So ends the day, the anxious cares of state
Have left no interval for private sorrow.
But how to pass the night? its dreary length
Affords no promise of relief.
A messenger arrives from the queen, apprising his majesty that she desires to see him on the terrace of the pavilion. The king obeys—and ascends the crystal steps while the moon is just about to rise, and the east is tinged with red.
King.—'Tis even so; illumined by the rays
Of his yet unseen orb, the evening gloom
On either hand retires, and in the midst
The horizon glows, like a fair face that smiles
Betwixt the jetty curls on either brow
In clusters pendulous. I could gaze for ever.
As he is waiting for the queen, his desire for Urvasî is awakened again:
In truth, my fond desire
Becomes more fervid as enjoyment seems
Remote, and fresh impediments obstruct
My happiness—like an impetuous torrent,
That, checked by adverse rocks, awhile delays
Its course, till high with chafing waters swollen
It rushes past with aggravated fury.
As spreads the moon its lustre, so my love
Grows with advancing night.
On a sudden Urvasî enters on a heavenly car, accompanied by her friend. They are invisible again, and listen to the king; but the moment that Urvasî is about to withdraw her veil, the queen appears. She is dressed in white, without any ornaments; and comes to propitiate her husband, by taking a vow.
King.—In truth she pleases me. Thus chastely robed
In modest white, her clustering tresses decked
With sacred flowers alone, her haughty mien
Exchanged for meek devotion,—thus arrayed
She moves with heightened charms.
Queen.—My gracious lord, I would perform a rite.
Of which you are the object, and must be you
Bear with the inconvenience that my presence
May for brief time occasion you.
King.—You do me wrong; your presence is a favour.
...... Yet trust me, it is needless
To wear this tender form, as slight and delicate
As the lithe lotus stem, with rude austerity.
In me behold your slave, whom to propitiate
Claims not your care,—your favour is his happiness.
Queen.—Not vain my vow, since it already wins me
My lord's complacent speech.
Then the queen performs her solemn vow; she calls upon the god of the moon—
Hear, and attest
The sacred promise that I make my husband!
Whatever nymph attract my lord's regard.
And share with him the mutual bonds of love,
I henceforth treat with kindness and complacency.
The Brahman (the confidential friend of the king), apart to Purûravas—The culprit that escapes before his hand is cut off determines never to run such a risk again. (Aloud.) What then; is his majesty indifferent to your grace?
Queen.—Wise sir, how think you,—to promote his happiness
I have resigned my own. Does such a purpose
Prove him no longer dear to me!
King.—I am not what yon doubt me; but the power
Abides with you: do with me as you will.
Give me to whom you please, or if you please,
Retain me still your slave.
Queen.—Be what you list;
My vow is plighted—nor in vain the rite,
If it afford you satisfaction. Come
Hence, girls; 'tis time we take our leave.
So soon to leave me is no mark of favour.
Queen.—You must excuse me; I may not forego
The duties I have solemnly incurred.
It does not bring out the character of the king under a very favourable light, that this scene of matrimonial reconciliation when the queen acts a part which we should hardly expect on an Oriental stage, should be followed immediately by the apparition of Urvasi. She has been present, though invisible, during the preceding conversation between him and his queen, and she now advances behind the king, and covers his eyes with her hands. It must be Urvasî (the king says);
No other hand could shed such ecstasy
Through this emaciate frame. The solar ray
Wakes not the night's fair blossom; that alone
Expands when conscious of the moon's dear presence.55
Urvasî takes the resignation of the queen in good earnest, and claims the king as granted her by right. Her friend takes leave, and she now remains with Purûravas as his beloved wife.
I caused my lord to suffer pain so long.
King.—Nay, say not so! The joy that follows grief
Gains richer zest from agony foregone
The traveller who, faint, pursues his track
In the fierce day alone can tell how sweet
The grateful shelter of the friendly tree.
The next act is the gem of the whole play, though it is very
imagine how it was performed without a mise en scene such as our modern theatres
would hardly be able to afford. It is a melodramatic intermezzo, very different
in style from the rest of the play. It is all in poetry, and in the most perfect
and highly elaborate metres. Besides, it is not written in Sanskrit, but in Prakrit,
the lingua vulgaris of India, poorer in form, but more melodious in sound than
Sanskrit. Some of the verses are like airs to be performed by a chorus, but the
stage directions which are given in the MSS. are so technical as to make their
exact interpretation extremely difficult.
We first have a chorus of nymphs, deploring the fate of Urvasi. She had been King with the king in the groves of a forest, in undisturbed happiness,
Whilst wandering pleasantly along the brink
Of the Mandakini, a nymph of air,
Who gambolled on its sandy shore, attracted
The monarch's momentary glance,—and this
Aroused the jealous wrath of Urvasî.
She heedlessly forgot the law that bars
All female access from the hateful groves
Of Kartikeya. Trespassing the bounds
Proscribed, she suffers now the penalty
Of her transgression, and, to a slender vine
Transformed, there pines till time shall set her free.
Mournful strains are heard in the air—
Soft voices low sound in the sky.
Where the nymphs a companion deplore
And lament, as together they fly.
The friend they encounter no more.
So sad and melodious awakes
The plaint of the swan o'er the stream
When the red lotus blossoms, as breaks
On the wave the day's orient beam.
Amidst the lake where the lotus, shining,
Its flowers unfolds to the sunny beam.
The swan, fur her lost companion pining,
Swims sad and slow o'er the lonely stream.
The king now enters, his features expressing insanity—his dress disordered. The scene represents a wild forest, clouds gathering overhead, elephants, deer, peacocks, and swans are seen. Here are rocks and waterfalls, lightning and rain. The king first rushes frantically after a cloud which he mistakes for a demon that carried away his bride.
Hold, treacherous friend; suspend thy Sight—forbear:
Ah! whither wouldst thou bear my beauteous bride?
And now his arrows sting me; thick as bail.
From yonder peak, whose sharp top pierces heaven,
They shower upon me.
[Rushes forward as to the attack, then pauses, and looks upwards.]
It is no demon, but a friendly cloud,—
No hostile quiver, but the bow of Indra;
The cooling rain-drops fall, not barbed shafts,—
And I mistake the lightning for my love.
These raving strains are interrupted by airs, bewailing the fate of the separated lovers; but it is impossible to give an idea of the real beauty of the whole, without much fuller extracts than we are able to give. The following passages may suffice:
Ah me! whatever I behold but aggravates
My woe. These bright and pendulous flowers,
Surcharged with dew, resemble those dear eyes,
Glistening with starting tears. How shall I learn
If she have passed this way?
He addresses various birds, and asks them whether they have seen his love,—the peacock, 'the bird of the dark blue throat and eye of jet,'—the cuckoo, 'whom lovers deem Love's messenger,'—the swans, 'who are sailing northward, and whose elegant gait betrays that they have seen her,'—the kakravaka, 'a bird who, during the night, is himself separated from his mate,'—but none give answer. Neither he, nor the bees who murmur amidst the petals of the lotus, nor the royal elephant, that reclines with his mate under the kadamba tree, has seen the lost one.
King.—From his companion he accepts the bough,
Her trunk baa snapped from the balm-breathing tree—
How rich with teeming shoots and juicy fragrance.
He crushes it.
Deep on the mountain's breast,
A yawning chasm appears—such shades are ever
Haunts of the nymphs of air and earth. Perchance,
My Urvasi now lurks within the grotto,
In cool seclusion. I will enter.—All
In utter darkness. Would the lightning's flash
Now blaze to guide me—No, the cloud disdains—
Such is my fate perverse—to shed for me
Its many-channelled radiance. Be it so.
I will retire—but first the rock address.
With horny hoofs and a resolute breast.
The boar through the thicket stalks;
He ploughs up the ground, as he plies his quest
In the forest's gloomiest walks.
Say, mountain, whose expansive slope confines
The forest verge,—oh tell me, hast thou seen
A nymph, as beauteous as the bride of love,
Mounting, with slender frame, the steep ascent,
Or, wearied, resting in thy crowning woods!
How! no reply! remote, be bears me not,—
I will approach him nearer.
From the crystal summits the glistening springs
Rush down the flowery sides,
And the spirit of heaven delightedly sings.
As among the peaks he hides.
Say, mountain so favoured,—have the feet
Of my fair one pressed this calm retreat!
Now, by my hopes, he answers! He has seen her;
Where is she!—say. Alas! again deceived.
Alone I hear the echo of my words.
As round the cavern's hollow mouth they roll.
And multiplied return. Ah, Urvasi!
Fatigue has overcome me. I will rest
Upon the borders of this mountain torrent.
And gather vigour from the breeze that gleans
Refreshing coolness from its gelid waves.
Whilst gazing on the stream whose new swoln waters
Yet turbid flow, what strange imaginings
Possess my soul, and fill it with delight.
The rippling wave is like her arching brow;
The fluttering line of storks, her timid tongue;
The foamy spray, her white loose floating robe;
And this meandering course the current tracks,
Her undulating gait. All these recall
My soon-offended love. I must appease her ....
I'll back to where my love first disappeared.
Yonder the black deer couchant lies; of him
I will inquire. Oh, antelope, behold ....
How ! he averts his gaze, as if disdaining
To hear my suit! Ah no, be, anxious, marks
His doe approach him; tardily she comes.
Her frolic fawn impeding her advance.
At last the king finds a gem, of ruddy radiance; [p.125] it is the gem of union, which, by its mighty spell, should restore Urvasî to her lover. He holds it in his hands, and embraces the vine, which is now transformed into Urvasî. The gem is placed on Urvasi's forehead, and the king and his heavenly queen return to Allahabad.
Shall be our downy car, to waft us swift
And lightly on our way; the lightning's wave
Its glittering banners; and the bow of Indra (the rainbow)
Hangs as its over-arching canopy
Of variegated and resplendent hues.
[Exeunt on the cloud. Music.]
The fifth and last act begins with an unlucky incident. A hawk has borne away the ruby of re-union. Orders are sent to shoot the thief, and, after a short pause, a forester brings the jewel and the arrow by which the hawk was killed. An inscription is discovered on the shaft, which states that it belonged to Ayus, the son of Urvasî and Purûravas. The king is not aware that Urvasî has ever borne him a son; but while he is still wondering, a female ascetic enters, leading a boy with a bow in his hand. It is Ayus, the son of Urvasî, whom his mother confided to the pious Kyavana, who educated him in the forest, and now sends him back to his mother. The king soon recognises Ayus as his son. Urvasî also comes to embrace him:
Her gaze intent
Is fixed upon him, and her heaving bosom
Has rent its veiling scarf.
But why has she concealed the birth of this child? and why is she now suddenly bursting into tears! She tells the king herself.
When for your love I gladly left the courts
Of heaven, the monarch thus declared his will:
'Go, and be happy with the prince, my friend;
But when he views the son that thou shalt bear him,
Then hitherward direct thy prompt return.' ....
The fated term expires, and to console
His father for my loss, he is restored.
I may no longer tarry.
King.—The tree that languished in the summer's blaze
Puts forth, reviving, as young rain descends,
Its leafy shoots, when lo! the lightning bursts
Fierce on its top, and fells it to the ground.
Urvasî.—But what remains for me? my task on earth
Fulfilled. Once gone, the king will soon forget me.
King.—Dearest, not so. It is no grateful task
To tear our memory from those we love.
But we must bow to power supreme: do you
Obey your lord; for me, I will resign
My throne to this my son, and with the deer
Will henceforth mourn amidst the lonely woods.
Preparations are made for the inauguration of the young king, when a new deus ex machina appears—Narada, the messenger of Indra.
Messenger.—May your days be many! King, attend:
The mighty Indra, to whom all is known,
By me thus intimates his high commands.
For your purpose of ascetic sorrow,
And Urvasî shall be through life united
With thee in holy bonds.
After this all concludes happily. Nymphs descend from heaven with a golden vase
containing the water of the heavenly Ganges, a throne, and other paraphernalia,
which they arrange. The prince is inaugurated as partner of the empire, and
all go together to pay their homage to the queen, who had [p.127]
so generously resigned her rights in favour of Urvasi, the heavenly nymph.
Here, then, we have the full flower, whose stem we trace through the Puranas and the Mahabharata to the Brahmanas and the Veda, while the seed lies buried deep in that fertile stratum of language from which all the Aryan dialects draw their strength and nourishment. Mr. Carlyle had seen deep into the very heart of mythology when he said, 'Thus, though tradition may have but one root, it grows, like a banian, into a whole over-arching labyrinth of trees.' The root of all the stories of Purûravas and Urvasi, were short proverbial expressions, of which ancient dialects are so fond. Thus—'Urvasi loves Purûravas,' meant 'the sun rises;' 'Urvasi sees Purûravas naked,' meant 'the dawn is gone;' 'Urvasi finds Purûravas again,' meant 'the sun is setting.' The names of Purûravas and Urvasi are of Indian growth, and we cannot expect to find them identically the same in other Aryan dialects. But the same ideas pervade the mythological language of Greece. There one of the many names of the dawn was Eurydike (p. 100). The name of her husband is, like many Greek words, inexplicable, but Orpheus is the same word as the Sanskrit Ribhu or Arbhu, which, though it is best known as the name of the three Ribhus, was used in the Veda as an epithet of Indra, and a name of the sun. The old story then, was this; 'Eurydike is bitten by a serpent (i.e. by the night), she dies, and descends into the lower regions. Orpheus follows her, and obtains from the gods that his wife should follow him if he promised not to look back. Orpheus promises,—ascends from the dark world below; Eurydike is behind him as [p.128] he rises, but, drawn by doubt or by love, he looks round;—the first ray of the sun glances at the dawn,—and the dawn fades away.' There may have been an old poet of the name of Orpheus,—for old poets delight in solar names; but, whether he existed or not, certain it is, that the story of Ophelia and Eurydike was neither borrowed from a real event, nor invented without provocation. In India also, the mythe of the Ribhus has taken a local and historical colouring by a mere similarity of names. A man, or a tribe of the name of Bribu (Rv. VI. 45, 31-33),56 was admitted into the Brahmanic community. They were carpenters, and had evidently rendered material assistance to the family of a Vedic chief, Bharadvsa. As they had no Vaidik gods, the Ribhus were made over to them, and many things were ascribed to these gods which originally applied only to the mortal Bribus. These historical realities will never yield to a mythological analysis, while the truly mythological answers at once if we only know how to test it. There is a grammar by which that ancient dialect can be retranslated into the common language of the Aryans.
I must come to a close; but it is difficult to leave a subject in which, as in an arch, each stone by itself threatens to fall, while the whole arch would stand the strongest pressure. One mythe more.—We have seen how the sun and the dawn have suggested so many expressions of love, that we may well ask, did the Aryan nations, previous to their separation, know the most ancient of the gods, the god of love? [p.129] Was Eros known at that distant period of awakening history, and what was meant by the name by which the Aryans called him? The common etymology derives Eros from a Sanskrit root, vri or var, which means to choose, to select.
Now, if the name of love had first been coined in our ball-rooms, such an etymology might be defensible, but surely the idea of weighing, comparing, and prudently choosing could not have struck a strong and genuine heart as the most prominent feature of love. Let us imagine, as well as we can, the healthy and strong feelings of a youthful race of men, free to follow the call of their hearts, unfettered by the rules and prejudices of a refined society, and controlled only by those laws which nature and the graces have engraved on every human heart. Let us imagine such hearts suddenly lighted up by love,—by a feeling of which they knew not either whence it came and whither it would carry them; an impulse they did not even know how to name. If they wanted a name for it, where could they look? Was not love to them like an awakening from sleep? Was it not like a mom radiating with heavenly splendour over their souls, pervading their hearts with a glowing warmth, purifying their whole being like a fresh breeze, and illuminating the whole world around them with a new light? If it was so, there was but one name by which they could express love,—there was but one similitude for the roseate bloom that betrays the dawn of love—it was the blush of the day, the rising of the sun. 'The sun has risen,' they said, where we say, 'I love;' 'the sun has set,' they said, where we say, 'I have loved.'
And this, which we might have guessed, if we could but throw off the fetters of
our own languages, is fully confirmed by an analysis of ancient speech. The name
of the dawn in Sanskrit is ushas, the Greek [Greek], both feminine. But the Veda knows also a masculine dawn, or rather a
dawning sun (Agni auahasya, [Greek]), and in this sense Ushas might be
supposed to have taken in Greek the form of [Greek]. S is frequently changed into
Sanskrit it is a general rule that s followed by a media becomes r. In Greek we
have the Lakonic forms in [Greek] instead of [Greek] (Ahrens, 'D. D.'
§ 8); in Latin, an
between two vowels often exists in ancient inscriptions under the more original
form of s (asa=ara). The very word ushas has in Latin taken the form of aurora,
which, is derived from an intermediate auros, auroris, like flora, from
But, however plausible such analogies may seem, it is only throwing dust in our eyes if comparative philologists imagine they can establish in this manner the transition of a Sanskrit sh into a Greek r. No, whatever analogies other dialects may exhibit, no Sanskrit sh between two vowels has ever as yet been proved to be represented by a Greek r. Therefore Eros cannot be Ushas.
And yet Eros is the dawning sun. The sun in the Veda is frequently called the runner, the quick racer, or simply the horse, while in the more humanized mythology of Greece, and also in many parts of the Veda, he is represented as standing on his cart, which in the Veda is drawn by two, seven, or ten horses, while in Greek we also have the quadriga:
These horses are called haritas; they are always feminine. They are called bhadras, happy or joyful (I. 115, 3); kitras, many-coloured (I. 116, 3); ghritackis and ghritasnas, bathed in dew (IV. 6, 9); svankas, with beautiful steps; vitaprishihas, with lovely backs (V. 45, 10). Thus we read:
Rv. IX. 63, 9. 'The Sun has yoked the ten Hants for his journey.'
Rv. I. 50, 8. 'The seven Harits bring thee, O bright Sun, on thy cart.'
Rv. IV. 13, 3. 'The seven Harits bring him, the Sun, the spy of the world.'
In other passages, however, they take a more human form, and as the Dawn which
is sometimes called simply asva, the mare, is well known by the name of the
sister, these Harits also are called the Seven Sisters (VII. 66, 15); and in one
passage (IX. 86, 37) they appear as 'the Harits with beautiful wings.' After
this I need hardly say that we have here the prototype of the Grecian 'Charites.'57
I should like to follow the track which this recognition of the Charites, as the Sanskrit Haritas, opens to comparative mythology; but I must return to Eros, in whose company they so frequently appear. If, according to the laws which regulate the metamorphosis of common Aryan words adopted in Greek or Sanskrit, we try to transliterate span into Sanskrit, we find that its derivative suffix [Greek], [Greek], is the same as the termination of the participle of the perfect. This termination is commonly represented in Sanskrit by vas, nom. masc. van, fem. ushi, neut. [p.132] vat, and this is to be considered as a modified form of the originally possessive suffix vat, nom. masc. vin, fem., vatt, neut. vat. The only irregularity in the declension of arvat occurs in the nom. ang., which is arva, instead of arvin; everything else is regular. There being no short e in Sanskrit, and a Greek p corresponding to a Sanskrit r, [Greek], [Greek], if it existed at all in Sanskrit, would have had the form of arvat, nom. irvan, gen. drvatas. Now Srvat in the later Sanskrit means only a horse, but in the Veda it has retained more of its radical power, and is used in the sense of quick, running, vehement. It is frequently applied to the Sun, so that in some passages it stands as the name of the Sun, while in others it is used as a substantive, meaning horse or rider. Thus, through the irresistible influence of the synonymous character of ancient language, and without any poetical effort on the part of the speaker, those who spoke of the sun as arvat, spoke and thought at the same time of a horse or rider. The word arvat, though intended only to express the rapid sun, set other ideas vibrating which gradually changed the sun into a horse or a horseman. Arvat means horse in passages like I. 91, 20:
'The god Soma gives us the cow; Soma gives us the quick horse; Soma gives a strong son.'
It means horseman, Rv. I, 132, 6:
'The rider is born without a horse, without a bridle.'
The rider who is meant here is the rising sun, and there is a
addressed to the sun as a horse. Nay, the growth of language and thought is so
quick, that in the Veda the mythe turns, so to [p.133]
speak, back upon itself; and one of the poets (1. 163, 2) praises the bright
Vasus, because 'out of the sun, they have wrought a horse.' Thus arvat becomes
by itself, without any adjective or explanation, the name for sun, like surya,
aditya, or any other of his old titles. Rv. I. 163, 3, the poet tells the sun,
'Thou, Arvat (horse), art Aditya' (the sun); and (VI. 12, 6), Agni, or the
fire of the sun, is invoked by the same name; 'Thou, O Arvat, keep us from
evil report! Agni, lighted with all the fires! thou givest treasures, thou
sendest away all evils; let us live happy for hundred winters; let us have
Before we can show how the threads of this name of the sun in India enter into the first woof of the god of love in Greece, we have still to observe that sometimes the horses, i.e. the rays of the sun, are called not only haritas, but rohitas (or rohitas) and arushis (or arushas). Rv. I. 14, 12: 'Yoke the Arushis to thy cart, bright Agni! the Harita, the Rohits! with them bring the gods to us!' These names may have been originally mere adjectives, meaning white, bright, and brown,58 but they soon grew into names of certain animals belonging to certain gods, according to their different colour and character. Thus we read:
Rv. II. 10, 2. 'Hear thou, the brilliant Agni, my prayer; whether the two black horses (syava) bring [p.134] thy cart, or the two brown (rahiti), or the two white horses (arusha).'
Rv. VII. 42, 2. 'Yoke the Harits and the Rohits, or the Arushas which are in thy stable.'
Arushi, by itself, is also used for cow; for instance, VIII. 65, 3, where a poet says that he has received four hundred cows (arushinan katuh satm). These Arushis, or bright cows, belong more particularly to the Dawn, and instead of saying 'the day dawns,' the old poets of the Veda say frequently, 'the bright cows return' (Rv. I. 92, 1). We found that the Harits were sometimes changed into seven sisters, and thus the Arushis also, originally the bright cows, underwent the same metamorphosis:
Rv. X. 5, 5. 'He brought the Seven Sisters, the Arushis (the bright cows):' or (X. 8, 3), 'When the sun flew up, the Arushis refreshed their bodies in the water.'
Sanskrit scholars need hardly be told that this arushi is in reality the
feminine of the form arvas, nom. arvan, while arvati is the feminine of
arvat, nom. arva, as vidvan, knowing, forms its feminine vidushi (kikitvan,
arva (n) makes Arushi, a form
which fully explains the formation of the feminine of the past participle in
Greek. This may be shown in the following equation:—vidvan: vidushi
= [Greek]: [Greek]. The feminine arushi is important for our purpose,
throws new light on the formation of another word, viz. arusha, a masculine, and
in the Veda again, one of the most frequent epithets or names of the sun. Arusha,
gen. asya, follow the weak declension, and arushi is by Sanskrit grammarians
considered as the [p.135] regular feminine of arush.
Arusha, as compared with the participial form
is formed like [Greek], or, instead of [Greek], [Greek]; like Latin vasum,
instead of vas, vasis; like Prakrit karanteshu, instead of
aratsu; like Modern Greek [Greek], instead of [Greek].
This arusha, as used in the Veda, brings us as near to the Greek Eros as we can expect. It is used in the sense of bright:
Rv. VII. 75, 6. 'The red bright horses are seen bringing to us the brilliant Dawn.'
The horses59 of Indra, of Agni, of Brihaspati, as quick as the wind, and as bright as suns, who like the udder of the dark cow, the night, are called arushi; the smoke which rises from the burning sun at daybreak, the limbs of the sun with which he climbs the sky, the thunderbolt which Indra throws, the fire which is seen by day and by night, all are called arush, 'He who fills heaven and earth with light, who runs across the darkness along the sky, who is seen among the black cows of the night,' he is called arush or the bright bull (arusho vrisha).
But this very Arusha is in the Veda, as in Greek mythology, represented as a child (as a solar Agni60):
Rv. III. 1, 4. 'The Seven Sisters have nursed him, the joyful, the white one, as he was born, the Arusha, [p.136] with great might; as horses go to the foal that is born, so did the gods bring up the sun when he was born.'
Arusha is always the young sun in the Veda; the sun who drives away the dark night, and sends his first rays to awaken the world:
Rv. VII. 71, 1. 'Night goes away from her sister, the Dawn; the dark one opens the path for Arusha.'
Though in some of his names there is an unintentional allusion to his animal character, he soon takes a purely human form. He is called Nrijakshd, 8 (III. 15, 3), 'having the eyes of a man;' and even his wings, as Grimm61 will be glad to learn, have commenced to grow in the Veda, where once, at least, (V. 47, 3) he is called Arushah suparnas, 'the bright sun with beautiful wings;'
As Eros is the child of Zeus, Arusha is called the child of Dyaus (Divah sisus).
Rv. IV. 15, 6. 'Him, the god Agni, they adorn and purify every day like a horse that has run his race,—like Arushi, the bright sun, the young child of Dyaus (heaven).'
Rv. VI. 49, 2. 'Let us worship Agni, the child of heaven, the son of strength, Arushi, the bright light of the sacrifice.'
This child is the first of the gods, for he comes (V. 1, 5) agre ahnam, 'at the point of the days;' ushasam agre (VII. 8, 1; X. 46, 5) 'at the beginning of the dawns;' but in one passage two daughters are ascribed to him, different in appear- [p.137] ance,—the one decked with the stars, the other brilliant by the light of the sun,—Day and Night, who are elsewhere called the daughters of the Sun. As the god of love, in the Greek sense of the word, Arusha does not occur, neither has love, as a mere feeling, been deified in the Veda under any name. Kama, who is the god of love in the later Sanskrit, never occurs in the Veda with personal or divine attributes, except in one passage of the tenth hook, and here love is rather represented as a power of creation than as a personal being. But there is one other passage in the Veda, where Kama, love, is clearly applied to the rising sun. The whole hymn (11. 38, 6) is addressed to Savitar, the sun. It is said, 'He rises as a mighty flame,—he stretches out his wide arms,—he is even like the wind. When he stops his homes, all activity ceases, and the night follows in his track. But before the night has half finished her weaving, the sun rises again. Then Agni goes to all men and to all houses; his light is powerful, and his mother, the Dawn, gives him the best share, the first worship among men.' Then the poet goes on:
'He came back, with wide strides, longing for victory; the love of all men cape near. The eternal approached, leaving the work (of Night) half-done; he followed the command of the heavenly Savitar.'
'The love of all men,' may mean he who is loved by all men, or who grants their
wishes to all men; yet 1 do not think it is by accident that Kama, love, is
thus applied to the rising sun.
Even in the latest traditions of the Puranas, the original solar character of the god of love, the beloved of the Dawn, was not quite forgotten. For [p.138] we find that one of the names given to the son of Kama, to Aniruddha, the irresistible ([Greek]), is Ushapati, the lord of the Dawn.
If we place clearly before our mind all the ideas and allusions which have clustered round the names of Arvat and Arusha in the Veda, the various mythes told of Eros, which at first seem so contradictory, become perfectly intelligible. He is in Hesiod the oldest of the gods, born when there exist as yet only Chaos and Earth. Here we have 'Arusha born at the beginning of all the days,' He is the youngest of the gods, the son of Zeus, the friend of the Charites, also the son of the chief Charis, Aphrodite, in whom we can hardly fail to discover a female Eros (an Ushi instead of an Agni aushasya). Every one of these mythes finds its key in the Veda. Arusha is there 'the child, the son of Dyaus; he yokes the Harits, and is, if not the son,62 at least the beloved of the dawn.' Besides, in Greek mythology also, Eros has many fathers and many mothers; and one pair of parents given him by Sappho, Heaven and Earth, is identical with his Vaidik parents, Dyaus and Ida.63 India, however, is [p.139] not Greece; and though we may trace the germs and roots of Greek words and Greek ideas to the rich [p.140] soil of India, the full flower of Aryan language, of Aryan poetry and mythology, belongs to Hellas, [p.141] where Plato has told us what Eros is, and where Sophokles sang his
If Hegel calls the discovery of the common origin of Greek and Sanskrit the discovery of a new world, the same may he said with regard to the common origin of Greek and Sanskrit mythology. The discovery is made, and the science of comparative mythology will soon rise to the same importance as that of comparative philology. I have here explained but a few mythes, but they all belong to one small cycle, and many more names might have been added. I may refer those who take an interest in this geology of language to the 'Journal of Comparative Philology,' published by my learned friend. Dr. Kuhn, at Berlin, who, in his periodical, has very properly admitted comparative mythology as an integral part of comparative philology, and who has himself discovered some of the most striking parallelisms between the traditions of the Veda and the mythological names of the other Aryan nations. The very 'Hippokentaure and the Chimæra, the Gorgons and Pegaeos, and other monstrous creatures,' have apparently been set right; and though I differ from [p.142] Dr. Kuhn on several points, and more particularly with regard to the elementary character of the gods, which he, like Lauer, the lamented author of the 'System of Greek Mythology,' seems to me to connect too exclusively with the fleeting phenomena of clouds, and storms, and thunder, while I believe their original conception to have been almost always solar, yet there is much to he learnt from both. Much, no doubt, remains to be done, and even with the assistance of the Veda, the whole of Greek mythology will never he deciphered and translated. But can this be urged as an objection? There are many Greek words of which we cannot find a satisfactory etymology, even by the help of Sanskrit. Are we therefore to say that the whole Greek language has no etymological organization? If we find a rational principle in the formation of but a small portion of Greek words, we are justified in inferring that the same principle which manifests itself in part, governed the organic growth of the whole; and though we cannot explain the etymological origin of all words, we should never say that language bad no etymological origin, or that etymology 'treats of a past which was never present.' That the later Greeks, such as Homer and Hesiod, ignored the origin and purport of their mythes, I fully admit, but they equally ignored the origin and purport of their words. What applies to etymology, therefore, applies with equal force to mythology. It has been proved by comparative philology that there is nothing irregular in language, and what was formerly considered as irregular in declension and conjugation is now recognised as the most regular and primitive stratum in the formation of grammar. The same, we hope [p.143] may be accomplished in mythology, and instead of deriving it, as heretofore, 'ab ingenii humani imbecillitate et a dictionis egestate,' it will obtain its truer solution, 'ab ingenii humani sapientia et a dictionis abundantia.' Mythology is only a dialect, an ancient form of language. Mythology, though chiefly concerned with nature, and here again mostly with those manifestations which bear the character of law, order, power, and wisdom impressed on them, was applicable to all things. Nothing is excluded from mythological expression; neither morals nor philosophy, neither history nor religion, have escaped the spell of that ancient sibyl. But mythology is neither philosophy, nor history, nor religion, nor ethics. It is, if we may use a scholastic expression, a quale, not a quid—something formal, not something substantial, and, like poetry, sculpture, and painting, applicable to nearly all that the ancient world could admire or adore.
1 See Cicero, 'Tusc. Disput.' v. 37.
2 'Od.' X. 443.
3 See Grimm's Introduction to his great work on 'Teutonic Mythology,' second edition, 1844, p. xxxi.
4 See O. Muller's excellent work, 'Prolegomena zu einer wissenschaftlichen Mythologie,' 1825, p. 87.
5 'Phaedrus,' 242 E.
6 'Symp.' 178 C.
7 Lobect, 'Aglaoph.' p. 523. See Preller's 'Greek Mythology,' 1854, p. 99.
8 'Apollod.' 1, 6, 3, Grote, H. G. p. 4.
9 I give the text, because it has been translated in different ways.
10 'Prol. Myth.' p. 78.
11 See 'Edinburgh Review,' Oct. 1851, p. 320.
12 'Toxar.' 36. Grimm, ' History of the German Language,' p. 17.
13 Hurdle seems to be connected with the Vaidik khardis, house, i.e. enclosure, and from the same root we have Gothic hairda, Anglo-Saxon heord, hurd, a herd. The original root would have been khurd, which stands for skard, and the initial s is dropt. Another explanation is given by Aufrecht in Kuhn's 'Zeitschrift,' vol. i. p. 362.
14 For instance, Sansk. sunu, Goth, sunus, Lith. sunus, all from su, to beget, whence Greek [Greek], but by a different suffix. Sansk. patra, son, is of doubtful origin, but probably of considerable antiquity, as it is shared by the Celtic branch, (Bret, paotr, boy; paotrez, girl.) The Lat. puer is supposed to be derived from the same root.
15 See Sir J. Lubbock, 'Transact. of Ethnol. Society,' vi. 337.
17 On the Duties of a Faithful Widow, 'Asiatic Researches,' vol. iv. pp. 209, 219. Calcutta, 1795.
18 See Grimm's Essay on 'The Burning of the Dead;' Koth's article on 'The Burial in India;' Professor Wilson's article on 'The supposed Vaidik authority for the Burning of Hindu Widows;' and my own translation of the complete documentary evidence published by Professor Wilson at the end of his article, and by myself in the 'Journal of the German Oriental Society,' vol. ix. fasc. 4. Professor Wilson was the first to point out the falsification of the text, and the change of 'yonim agre' into 'yonim agneh.'
19 In a similar manner the custom of widow-burning has been introduced by the Brahmans in an interpolated passage of the 'Toy-Cart,' an Indian drama of king Sudraka, which was translated by Professor Wilson, and has lately been performed at Paris. 'Le Chariot d'Enfant,' Drame en vera en cinq actea et sept tableaux, traduction du Drame Indien du Roi Soudraka, par MM. Méry et Gerard de Nerval. Paris, 1850.
20 Part of this passage is wanting in MSS. B, b, but it is found in A. C. See also M. M., Die Todtenbestattung bei den Brahmanen, 'Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellechaft,' vol. ix. p. vi, where the ritual is somewhat different.
21 See Schleicher's excellent remarks in his 'Formenlehre der Kirchenslawischen Sprache,' 1862, p. 107.
22 See 'Lectures on the Science of Language,' Second Series, p. 256, and particularly the German translation where objections to its derivation have been answered.
23 'Lectures on the Science of Language,' fifth edition, vol. i. p. 283.
24 See Kuhn's 'Journal of Comparative Philology,' i. 34.
25 A large collection of common Aryan words is found in Grimm's 'History of the German Language.' The first attempt to use them for historical purposes was made by Eichhof; but the most useful contributions have since been made by Winnng in his 'Manual of Comparative Philology,' 1838; by Kuhn, Curtius, and Forstemann; and much new material is to be found in Bopp's 'Olossarinm' and Pott's 'Etymologische Forschungen.' Pictet's great work, 'Les Origines Indo-Europeennes,' 2 vols. 1859 and 1863, brings together the most complete mass of materials, but requires also the most careful sifting. With regard to Sanskrit words, in particular, the greatest caution is required, as M. Fictot has not paid to it the same attention as to Celtic, Latin, Greek, and Slavonic.
26 Hartung, 'Die Religion der Romer,' vol. ii. p. 90.
27 Kuhn, 'Zeitschrift fur vergleichende Sprachforschung,' vol. iii. p. 449.
28 As to Philotes being the Child of Night, Juliet understood what it meant when she said—
Spread thy close curtain, love-performing Night!
That unawares eyes may wink; and Romeo
Leap to these arms, untalked of and unseen!—
Lovers can see to do their amorous rites
By their own beauties; or, if Love be blind,
It best agrees with Night.
29 Hesiod, 'Theog.' 128.
30 Kanne's 'Mythology,' § 10, p. xxxii.
31 O. Muller has pointed out how the different parents given to the Erinyes by different poets were suggested by the character which each poet ascribed to them. 'Evidently,' he says, in his 'Essay on the Eumenidee,' p. 184, 'this genealogy answered better to the views and poetical objects of Æschylos than one of the current genealogies by which the Erinyes are derived from Skotos and Gæa (Sophokles), Kronos and Eurynome (in a work ascribed to Epimenides), Phorkys (Eupborion), Gæa Eurynome (Istron), Acheron and Night (Eudemos), Hades and Persephone (Orphic hymns). Hades and Styx (Atheuodoros and Mnaseas). See, however, 'Ares,' by H. D. Muller, p. 67.
32 See the Author's letter to Chevalier Bunsen 'On the Turanian Languages,' p. 35.
33 Here is a specimen of Greek etymology, from the 'Etymolocum Magnum;' [Greek].
34 Aristotle has given an opinion of the Greek gods in a passage of the 'Metaphysics.' He is attacking the Platonic ideas, and tries to show their contradictory character, calling them eternal uneternals, i.e. things that cannot have any real existence; as men, he continues, maintain that there are gods, bat give them a human form, thus making them really 'immortal mortals,' i.e. non-entities.
35 Grimm's 'Deutsche Mythologie,' p. 704.
36 Lauer, in his 'System of Greek Mythology,' explains Endymion as the Diver. Gerhard, in his 'Greek Mythology,' gives '[Greek].'
37 See Pott, Kuhn's 'Zeitschrift,' vol. ii. p. 109.
38 See Sonne, 'On Charis,' in Kuhn's 'Zeitschrift,' vol. x. p, 178.
39 Grimm, 'Deutsche Mythologie,' p. 666.
40 I see no reason to modify this etymology of Prokris. Prish in Sanskrit means to sprinkle, and prishita occurs in the sense of shower, in vidyut-atanayitnu-prishiteshu, 'during lightning, thunder, and rain,' Gobb. 3, 3, 15, where Professor Roth ingeniously, but without necessity, suspects the original reading to have been prushita. Prishat, fem, prishati, means sprinkled, and is applied to a speckled deer and to a speckled cow. Prishata, too, has the same meaning, but is likewise used in the sense of drops. Prush, a cognate root, means in Sanskrit to sprinkle, and from it we have prushva, the rainy season, and prushva a drop, but more particularly a frozen drop, or frost. Now, it is perfectly true that the final sh of prish or prush is not regularly represented in Greek by a guttural consonant. But we find that in Sanskrit itself the lingual sh of this root varies with the palatal s, for instance, in pris-ni, speckled; and Professor Curtius has rightly traced the Greek [Greek], spotted, back to the same root as the Sanskrit pris-ni, and has clearly established for [Greek] and [Greek], the original meaning of a speckled deer. From the same root, therefore, not only [Greek], a dewdrop, but [Greek] also may be derived, in the sense of dew or hoar-frost, the derivative syllable being the same as in [Greek], or [Greek], gen. [Greek] or [Greek].
41 This derivation [Greek], dew, from the Sanskrit root vrish has been questioned, because Sanskrit v is generally represented in Greek by the Digamma, or the spiritus lenis. But in Greek we find both [Greek] and [Greek], a change of frequent occurrence, though difficult to explain. In the same manner the Greek has [Greek] and [Greek], from the root vid; and the Attic peculiarity of aspirating unaspirated initial vowels was well known even to ancient grammarians (Curtius, 'Grundzuge,' p. 617). Forms like [Greek] and [Greek] clearly prove the former presence of a Digamma (Curtius, ' Grundzuge,' p. 509).
42 La rugiada
Pugna col sole.—Dante, 'Purgatorio,' 1, 121.
43 This change of aspiration bas been fully illustrated, and well explained by Grassmann, in Kuhn's 'Zeitschrift,' vol. xii. p. 110.
44 Professor Curtius admits my explanation of the mythe of Daphne as the dawn, but he says, 'If we could but see why the dawn is changed into a laurel!' I have explained before the influence of homonymy in the growth of early mythes, and this is only another instance of this influence. The dawn was called [Greek], the burning, so was the laurel, as wood that burns easily. Afterwards the two, as usual, were supposed to be one, or to have some connection with each other, for how, the people would say, could they have the same names. See 'Etym. M.' p. 260, 20, [Greek], Ahrens, 'Dial. Græc.' ii 532). Legerlotz, in Kuhn's 'Zeitschrift,' vol. vii. p. 292. 'Lectures on the Science of Language,' Second Series, p. 502.
45 For another development of the same word Ahana, leading ultimately to the mythe of Athene, see 'Lectures on the Science of Language,' Second Series, p. 502.
46 Panini, v. 2, 100.
47 Other explanations of Urvasî may be seen in Professor Roth's edition of the Nirukta, and in the Sanskrit Dictionary published by him and Professor Boehthugk.
48 The name which approaches nearest to Urvasî in Greek might seem to be Europe, because the palatal s is occasionally represented by a Greek π, as asvi=[Greek]. The only difficulty is the long ω in Greek; otherwise Europe, carried away by the white bull (vrishan, man, bull, stallion, in the Veda a frequent appellation of the sun, and sveta, white, applied to the same deity), carried away on his back (the sun being frequently represented as behind or below the dawn, see p. 92 and the mythe of Eurydike on p. 127); again carried to a distant cave (the gloaming of the evening); and mother of Apollo, the god of daylight, or of Minos (Manu, a mortal Zeus),—all this would well agree with the goddess of the dawn.
49 Thus it is said, Rv. VI. 3, 6, the fire cries with light, sokisha rarapiti; the two Spartan Charites are called [Greek] ([Greek], incluta) and [Greek], i.e. Clara, clear-shining: (see Sonne, in Kuhn's 'Zeitschrift,' vol. x. p. 363.) In the Veda the rising sun is said to cry like a new-born child (Rv. IX. 74, 1). Professor Kuhn himself has evidently misunderstood my argument. I do not derive ravas from rap, but I only quote rap as illustrating the close connection between loudness of sound and brightness of light. See also Justi, 'Orient und Occident,' vol. ii. p. 69.
50 A most interesting and ingenious explanation of this ceremony is given by Professor Kuhn, in his Essay 'Die Herabkunst der Feners,' p. 79. The application of that ceremony to the old mythe of Urvasî and Purûravas belongs clearly to a later age: it is an after-thought that could only arise with people who wished to find a symbolical significance in every act of their traditional ritual.
51 'Od.' V. 390. For different explanations of this and similar verses see Volcker, 'Uber homerische Geographie und Weltkunde,' Hannover, 1830, p. 31.
52 Cf. Rig-Veda V. 47, 1: '[Sans.]' On mahi mata=Magna Mater, see Grassmann, in Kuhn's 'Zeitschrift,' vol. xvi p. 169. Duhitur bodhayanti, inquiring for or finding her daughter.
53 A Peruvian Inca denied the pretension of the sun to be the doer of all things, for if he were free, he would go and visit other parts of the heavens where he had never been. He is, said the Inca, like a tied beast who goes ever round and round in the same track. 'Garcilasso de la Vega,' part I. viii. 8. Acosta, 'Historia del Nuevo Orbe,' cap. v. Tylor, 'Early History of Mankind,' p. 343.
54 Professor Wilson has given the first and really beautiful translation of this play in his 'Hindu Theatre.' The original was published first at Calcutta, and has since been reprinted several times. The best edition is that published by Professor Bollensen.
55 This refers to a very well-known legend. There is one lotus which expands its flower at the approach of the sun and closes them during night; while another, the beloved of the moon, expands them during night and closes them during day-time. We have a similar mythe of the daisy, the Anglo-Saxon dægea eage, day's eye, Wordsworth's darling.
56 This explains the passage in Manu X. 107, and shows how it ought to be corrected.
57 This point has been more fully discussed in the Second Series of my 'Lectures on the Science of Language,' p. 368.
58 Poi che I'altro mattin la bella Aurora
L'aer sereo fe' biaoco e rosso e giallo.—'Ariosto,' xxiii. 62.
Si che le bianche e le vermiglie guance,
La dove io era, della bella Aurora,
Per troppa etate divenifan rance.—Dante, 'Purgatorio,' ii. 7.
59 'Aruha, si voisin d'Aruna (cocher du soleil), et d'Arus (le soleil), se retrouve en Zend sous la forme d'Aurusha (dont Anquetil fait Eorosh, l'oiseau), les chevaux qui trainent Serosh.'—Burnouf, Bhagavata-Purana LXXIX.
60 How the god Kama was grafted on Agni, may be seen from later passages in the Atharva-veda, the Taittirtya-sanhita, and some of the Grihya-sutras.—'Indische Studien,' vol. v. pp. 224-226.
61 See Jacob Grimm's 'Essay on the God of Love.'
62 Cf. 'Maxim. Tyr.' XXIV, [Greek]. See Preller, 'Greek Mythology,' p. 238.
63 The objections used by Professor Curtius ('Grundzuge der Griechischen Etymologie,' p. 114) against the common origin of [Greek] and arvat deserve careful attention. 'How can we separate [Greek],' he says, 'from [Greek], and other words, all of ancient date, and even Homeric? They cannot have sprung from the name [Greek], and if we suppose that they sprang from the some root ar, to which we have to assign the sense of going, running, striving, [Greek] would mean striving, or desire, and it would be difficult to prove that the cognate [Greek] started from the meaning of horse, or solar horse, which in Sanskrit was assigned to arvat.' Professor Curtius then proceeds to urge the same objections against the etymology of Charis: 'For what shall we do,' he says, 'with [Greek].' With regard to Charis, I may refer to the explanations which I have given in the Second Series of my Lectures, page 368, where I hope I have proved that Charis cannot be placed, as Professor Curtius proposes, in the same category of deities as [Greek]; and that there is nothing in the least improbable in certain derivatives of an ancient Aryan root taking a mythological character, while others retain an analogous appellative meaning. From the root dyu, to shine, we have Dyaus and [Greek]: but we also have in Sanskrit diva and dina, day; and in Greek [Greek], at noon day, [Greek], bright From the root vas or ush, to glow, to burn, we have [Greek], Vesta, Ushas, Eos, Aurora: but likewise Sanskrit usra, early, ushna, hot; Latin uro, aurum; Greek [Greek]. Unless we suppose that roots, after having given rise to a single mythological name, were struck by instantaneous sterility, or that Greek mythological names can only be derived from roots actually employed in that language, what we observe in the case of Eros and Charis is the natural and almost inevitable result of the growth of language and mythe, such as we now understand it. Greek scholars have asked, 'how can we separate [Greek] from [Greek] ('Grundzuge,' p. 312), or [Greek] from [Greek] (Welcker).' Yet few have questioned Kuhn's etymology of [Greek] and [Greek], whatever difference of opinion may prevail as to the exact process by which these two deities came to be what they are. But, on the other hand, I cannot protest too strongly against the opinion which has been ascribed to me, that the Greeks were in any way conscious of the secondary or idiomatic meaning which arvat and harit had assumed in India. In India both arvat, running, and harit, bright, became recognised names for horse. As arvat was also applied to the sun, the heavenly runner, the conception of the sun as a horse, became almost inevitable, and required no poetical effort on the part of people speaking Sanskrit. Nothing of the kind happened in Greek. In Greek [Greek] was never used as an appellative in the sense of horse, as little as it was used to signify the material sky. But unless we are prepared to look upon Eros, 'the oldest of the Greek gods,' as a mere abstraction, as a kind of Cupid, in fact, I thought, and I still think, that we have to admit among the earliest worshippers of Eros, even on Greek soil, a faint recollection of the ancient Aryan mythology in which the same word as Eros had been applied to the sun, and especially the rising sun. All the rest is simple and easy. The root ar, no doubt, had the sense of running or rushing, and might have yielded therefore names expressive of quick motion as well as of strong desire. Not every shoot, however, that springs from such a seed, lives on, when transferred to a different soil. Eros might have been the name for horse in Greece as arvat was in India, but it was not; arvat, or some other derivative like artha, might have expressed desire in Sanskrit as it did in Greek, but this, too, was not the case. Why certain words die, and others live on, why certain meanings of words become prominent so as to cause the absorption of all other meanings, we have no chance of explaining. We must take the work of language as we find it, and in disentangling the curious skein, we must not expect to find one continuous thread, but rest satisfied if we can separate the broken ends, and place them side by side in something like an intelligible order. Greek mythology was not borrowed from Vedic mythology, as little as Greek words were taken from a Sanskrit dictionary. This being once understood and generally admitted, offence should not be taken if here and there a Vedic deity or a Sanskrit word is called a prototype. The expression, I know, is not quite correct, and cannot be defended except on the plea that almost everybody knows what is meant by it. The Greek Charites are certainly not a mere modification of the Vedic Haritas, nor the Greek Eros of the Vedic Arvat. There was no recollection of an equine character in the Greek Eros or the Charites, as little as, from a purely Greek point of view, any traces of a canine character could be discovered in [Greek]=Sarama, or [Greek]=Sarameya. Arvat and Eros are radii starting from a common central thought, and the angle of the Vedic radius is less obtuse than that of the Greek. This is all that could be meant, and I believe this is the sense in which my words have been understood by the majority of my readers.
64 'Antigone,' ed. Dindorf, Oxford 1859, v. 781.