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With exquisite taste, simplicity, and pathos he has narrated the fabulous traditions of early ages, and given to them that appearance of reality which only a master-hand could impart. His pictures of nature are striking and true; he selects with care that which is appropriate; he rejects the superfluous, and when he has completed his work, it is neither defective nor redundant.

sojourn in the land of the sun revised the romance of tom doughty Manual

In an incidental manner, Horace , the prince of Roman lyric poets, and the lyric and elegiac writers, Catullus , Tibullus , and Propertius , have liberally increased our knowledge of Greek and Roman myth. Seneca , the teacher of Nero, is best known for his philosophical treatises; but he wrote, also, tragedies, the materials of which are well known Greek legends.

Apuleius , born in Africa, a. Records of Norse Mythology. Their mythological lore has been transmitted by means of Runes, Skaldic poems , the Eddas , and the Sagas. The Runes. The word means hidden lore , or mystery. The earliest runes were merely fanciful signs supposed to possess mysterious power. As a synonym for writing , the term was first applied to the Northern alphabet, itself derived from ancient Greek and Roman coins.

Of the old Scandinavian runes several specimens have been found—one an inscription on a golden horn of the third or fourth century a. From such an alphabet the Anglo-Saxon runes were derived. Inscriptions in later Scandinavian runes have been discovered in Sweden, Denmark, and the Isle of Man. The characters are of the stiff and angular form necessitated by the materials on which they were inscribed: tombstones, spoons, chairs, oars, and so forth.

The Skaldic Poems. They were the depositaries of whatever historic lore there was; and it was their office to mingle something of intellectual gratification with the rude feasts of the warriors, by rehearsing, with such accompaniments of poetry and music as their skill could afford, the exploits of heroes living or dead. Such songs were called Drapas. The origin of Skaldic poetry is lost in mythic or prehistoric darkness, but the Skalds of Iceland continued to play a most important part in the literary development of the north as late as the end of the fourteenth century.

Without their cooperation, the greater part of the songs and Sagas of genuine antiquity could hardly have reached us. The Skaldic diction which was polished to an artistic extreme, with its pagan metaphors and similes, retained its supremacy over literary form even after the influence of Christianity had revolutionized national thought. The Eddas. The word Edda has usually been connected with the Icelandic for great-grandmother ; 35 it has also been regarded as a corruption of the High German Erda , Mother Earth, from whom, according to the lay in which the word first occurs, the earliest race of mankind sprang, 36 — or as the point or head of Norse poetry, 37 or as a tale concerned with death 38 or as derived from Odde, the home of the reputed collector of the Elder Edda.

Until the year the name was applied to a book, principally in prose, containing Mythical Tales, a Treatise on the Poetic Art and Diction, a Poem on Metres, and a Rhymed Glossary of Synonyms, with an appendix of minor treatises on grammar and rhetoric — the whole intended as a guide for poets. Although a note in the Upsala manuscript, of date about a.

It is probable, too, that in the Mythical Tales, or the Delusion of Gylfi, Snorri merely enlarged, and edited with poetical illustrations, the work of earlier hands. In , Bishop Bryniolf Sveinsson discovered a manuscript of the mythological poems of Iceland. The oldest manuscript of the Poetical Edda is of the thirteenth century. Its contents were probably collected not later than The Sagas. Records of German Mythology. The Norse form of the story exhibits a later survival of the credulous, or myth-making, mental condition. The Lay of the Nibelungs absorbed, at an earlier date, historical elements, and began sooner to restrict the personality of its heroes within the compass of human limitations.

Although there are many manuscripts, or fragments of manuscripts, of the Nibelungenlied that attest its popularity between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, it was not until the Swiss critic, J.


Since that time many theories of the composition of the Nibelungenlied have been advanced. It has been held by some that the German epic is an adaptation of the Norse version ; 46 by others, that the Scandinavians, not the Germans, borrowed the story; and by others still that the epics, while proceeding from a common cradle, are of independent growth.

The last theory is the most tenable. In fine, the materials of the poem would persuade us not only of its origin in very ancient popular lays, but of their fusion and improvement by the imaginative effort of at least one, and, probably, of several poets, who lived and wrote between and a. The metrical structure, also, would indicate derivation from the German folk-song and modification due to multifarious handling on the part of popular minstrels and poets of written verse.

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Records of Oriental Mythology. The following is, however, a brief outline of the means by which some of them have been preserved. Egyptian Records. Indian Records. The most ancient, the Rig-veda , consists of hymns of an elevated and spiritual character composed by families of Rishis, or psalmists, as far back, perhaps, as b.

They give us the religious conceptions of the Aryans when they crossed the Himalayas and began to push toward Southern Hindostan.

The Sama-veda is a book of solemn chants and tunes. The Yajur-veda comprises prayers for sacrificial occasions, and interpretations of the same. The Atharva-veda shows, as might be expected of the youngest of the series, the influence upon the purer Aryan creed, of superstitions borrowed, perhaps, from the aboriginal tribes of India.

It contains spells for exorcising demons and placating them. Scholars differ as to the chronological precedence.


The Adventures of Rama , on the other hand, recalls a more primitive stage of credulity, and of savage invention. It contains several well-rounded epic poems, the most beautiful of which is the Episode of Nala, — a prince who, succumbing to a weakness common to his contemporaries, has gambled away his kingdom. The resemblance between the plot and that of the Iliad has inclined some scholars to derive the Indian from the Greek epic. The theory is unsubstantiated. These epics of India lack the artistic spirit and grace of the Iliad and the Odyssey , but they display a keener sympathy with nature and a more romantic appreciation of the loves and sorrows of mankind.

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Persian Records. Zoroaster , a holy man of God, was the founder or the reformer of the Persian religion. He lived as early as the fourteenth or fifteenth century b. The teachings of Zoroaster are characterized by beautiful simplicity and by an unwavering faith in the ultimate victory of righteousness Ormuzd over evil Ahriman. The stories of Greek, Roman, Norse, and German mythology that have most influenced our English literature will follow in the order named.

The Romans, being by nature a practical, not a poetic, people, incorporated in their literature the mythology of the Greeks. We shall, however, append to our description of the Greek gods a brief account of the native Latin divinities that retained an individuality in Roman literature. Origin of the World. Homer tells us that River Ocean, a deep and mighty flood, encircling land and sea like a serpent with its tail in its mouth, was the source of all.

According to other myths Night and Darkness were the prime elements of Nature and from them sprang Light. Of these, one was Heaven, the other Earth.

From the centre of the egg proceeded Eros Love and other wondrous beings. But the most consistent account of the origin of the world and of the gods is given by the poet Hesiod , who tells us that Chaos, the yawning abyss, composed of Void, Mass, and Darkness in confusion, preceded all things else. Next came into being broad-bosomed Earth, and beautiful Love who should rule the hearts of gods and men. But from Chaos itself issued Erebus, 53 the mysterious darkness that is under Earth, — and Night, dwelling in the remote regions of sunset.

From Mother Earth proceeded first the starry vault of Heaven, durable as brass or iron, where the gods were to take up their abode.