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Prof. A. V. William Jackson; Zoroaster, the Prophet of Ancient Iram.

“The Sacred Books of the East,” translations by various scholars, edited by the late Max Müller is an important series.

There are also English translations of the Koran and the Talmud.

VI

GREEK MYTH AND THE POETS

GREEK MYTH AND THE POETS

I

N an earlier chapter something has been said about the place

of the Myth in the ancestry of Literature. The nature of

myths was explained. Why it may be asked) return to the subject? It is necessary to return to it because mythology, like a parent's blood, has passed into all the veins of Literature, of which it is still one of the sweetest and most persisting currents. What the alphabet is to words, and what words are to vocal or written expression of thought—such is mythology to poetry.

§ 1 Words and Phrases

We are more Greek than we know. Thousands of our most subtle and beautiful words are Greek. Thus no word of a high order is heard more frequently to-day than “psychological”; yet unless, at the back of the mind, one remembers that the word is compounded of the Greek psyche (the soul) and logikos (appertaining to speaking or reasoning), a true understanding of the word, which will avail one in all its uses and appearances, is not possible; any more than the word “philosophy" can be fully sensed unless one knows that it is simply the Greek philo (I love) joined to sophia (wisdom): hence, in its essence, the love of wisdom. Even the telephone is less wonderful to a man to whom it does not recall tele (far off) and phone (sound). This is not to tax the ordinary man with ignorance of Greek; if he does not know these things it is because the curricula of his schooldays did not include a simple and short study of Greek roots.

a

You read a leading article which discusses the reform of some system, and it demands the cleansing of the Augean stable. The phrase may have become so familiar in like connections that you vaguely understand that it refers to a summary turn-out of bad methods or corrupt officials; but its full significance is lost if one does not know that what is now a common phrase is an allusion to the fifth Labour of Hercules, who, at the instigation of Juno, was compelled to undertake twelve colossal tasks, of which the fifth was to clean out the stables, or byres, of Augeas, king of Elis, where three thousand oxen had been untended for thirty years.

So deeply have these names and stories of the dawn of culture infused themselves in our speech that even the least educated refer to them unknowingly. When the two weary Bath chairmen brought Mrs. Dowler from a party at three o'clock in the morning, they were unable to make anyone in Mr. Dowler's and Mr. Pickwick's lodgings hear their prolonged knockings. in the arms o’ Porpus, I think,” said the short chairman, warming his hands at the attendant link-boy's torch.” This is true to life. The illiterate old chairman did not know that he was expressing his impatience by a perverted allusion to Morpheus the bringer of dreams, the son and servant of Somnus, the deity who presided over Sleep. Yet he referred to Morpheus as directly (and, indeed, as correctly) as does Milton in “Il Penseroso,” where he compares the “vain deluding Joys” of life to

the gay motes that people the sun-beams,
Or likest hovering dreams,
The fickle pensioners of Morpheus' train.

“'Servants

§ 2

THE GREAT GOD PAN

Mercury's Son

In recent years the name of no Greek deity has been more on the lips than Pan. The beautiful statue of Peter Pan in

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