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nervous system. Hence smoothness, which has no asperities to vellicate the parts, nor cause a sensation of pain, is beautiful. Sweets also, which, when reduced to their proper salts, assume a globular figure, and may be called the smooth in taste, must consequently relax, that is, be beautiful to the sense which they respectively affect. Smallness and color may be accounted for on the same principles.
Thus have we given an abstract of the more material parts of a performance, which seems to have cost the author much study and attention ; and which, with all the charms of style, is branched out more extensively on the subject than any modern work of this kind within our recollection. A writer who endeavors to penetrate beyond the surface of things, though he may be sometimes too minute, and at others even erroneous, will, however, clear the way for succeeding adventurers; and perhaps make even his errors subservient to the investigation of truth. If we have, in a very few instances, attempted to point out any mistake or oversight in this very agreeable author's principles, not a captious spirit of controversy, but a concern for truth, was the motive: and the ingenious inquirer, we are persuaded, is too much a philosopher to resent our sometimes taking a different course in pursuit of the game he has started.
II.-MYTHOLOGY AND POETRY OF THE CELTES.
[From the Monthly Review, 1757. On “Remains of the My
thology and Poetry of the Celtes, particularly of Scandinavia, designed as a Supplement and Proof of the Introduction to the History of Denmark.” By P. H. Mallet,* Copenhagen, 1756. 4to.
If all the brilliancy of sentiment which so dry a subject may require to its support, and all the laborious assiduity which may be necessary in the solution of its intricacies, demand applause, Professor Mallet must deserve it, who has so happily united both. The learned on this side of the Alps have long labored at the antiquities of Greece and Rome, but almost totally neglected their own; like conquerors who, while they have made inroads into the territories of their neighbors, have left their own natural dominions to desolation.
The cause of this our author ascribes; first, to the disadvantageous idea we have conceived of the Celtes in general, an idea entirely groundless, and which offers no reason for not studying those antiquities to which our manners, our government, our laws, are continually calling us back. Secondly, to the few monuments of Celtic mythology which have reached our times. “ To draw this subject from obscurity, we ought in some measure to give new life to those poetical mythologists, our ancestors; we should consult them, and attend, in the frightful
* (Paul Henry Mallet was born at Geneva in 1731. He was for some time professor of history in his native city, and became afterwards professor royal of the Belles-Lettres at Copenhagen, a member of the academies of Upsal, Lyons, Cassel, and of the Celtic Academy at Paris. An excellent translation, by Bishop Percy, of his “ Northern Antiquities, including the Edda,” was published in 1770. He died in 1807.)
gloom of their forests, to those mysterious incantations in which is concealed the whole system of their religion and morality.”
In France, Spain, and England, the ravages of time, or of more destructive zeal, have left few remains of this sacred poesy. The countries of the north, who were more slowly converted from superstition, still preserve those valuable monuments. Here is to be found the “EDDA,'* first written in Iceland after the abolition of the Celtic religion there. This was a work designed for the use of those young Icelanders who intended to become Scaldes or poets. Odin and Friga, genii and fairies, served as machinery to northern poetry then, as Grecian mythology does to ours now; and though they had abandoned the religion, yet the poets found it necessary to retain the knowledge of these fabulous divinities. The author of Edda, therefore, has given his countrymen an abridgment of this mythology, with a poetical dictionary to explain words or metaphors that may be too sublime. A translation of this work M. Mallet now lays before the public. There were two books of this name: the first was composed by Sæmund Sigfusson, born in Iceland, about the year 1057;t but being too voluminous and obscure in many respects, Snoro Sturleson, about a hundred and twenty years after, abstracted from the collection of Sæmund a system of poetical my
[“ This name of Edda hath frequently exercised the penetration of the etymologist. The most probable conjectures are, that it is derived from an old Gothic word signifying grandmother. In the figurative language of the old poets, this term was, doubtless, thought proper to express an ancient doctrine. — Mallet, Northern Antiq. vol. ii. p. 24.]
+ (Sæmund was born in 1756. He studied at Cologne, and travelled in Italy and Germany. On his return to Iceland, he took holy orders. Not long before his death, which took place about the year 1134, he wrote a History of Norway.--Nouv. Dict. Hist.)
I (A nobleman of ancient family, who twice, in 1215 and 1222, filled the high post of chief judge of Iceland. He was assassinated, in 1241, by Gyssarus, the chief of an opposite faction.- lbid.]
thology, both easy and intelligible. The Celtic religion, as our author clearly evinces in the work preceding this, was at first extremely simple; yet even this did not long hold its simplicity. Though nothing can be more express
some passages in the Edda concerning the supreme government of One God, yet those intelligences who are supposed to act by his commands receive in it too much veneration; their assistance seems nearer than that of a Deity, whose very name calls to our imagination the immense distance between him and his creatures: get must we still remember (says M. Mallet), that the Edda is but a poetical mythology, in which the real opinions of those times are set off with all the luxuriance of a heated imagination.
A King of Sweden, says the Edda, named Gylfe, astonished at the respect his subjects paid to some people who had newly come from Asia, was resolved to travel to Asgard, habited like an old man, and under the fictitious name of Gangler, with intention to improve by the journey.
On his arrival there, he was introduced into a magnificent palace, where he had a long conference with three kings, Har, Jafnar, and Thredi, whom he found seated on thrones in one of the inner apartments. These conferences are comprised in thirtythree fables, of which the first part of the Edda is composed. There we see those remarkable pages already hinted at with relation to the Supreme Being Gangler demands, “Who is the supreme of the gods ?" Har replies, “ Him whom we call Alfader, that is, Father of all." Gangler again asks, "What has he done to make his glory appear ?" Har replies, “He lives eternally. He governs his dominions, and things great and little, with great care." Jafnar adds, “He has made the heaven, the earth, and the air.”—“He has done more than making a heaven, or an earth,” continues Thredi; “He has made man, and infused into
him a living soul, which, even after the body is reduced to dust and ashes, shall continue to live for ever."
The three first fables abound in allegories, as extraordinary as an imagination the most fruitful of wonders could possibly conceive, on the formation of the carth, and the creation of man. Here may be perceived, however, striking resemblances of the doctrine of Moses, with respect to the luminous matter before that of the sun and moon; as also of the deiuge, and the history of the giants spoken of in Genesis. Our author, in his notes, takes care to point out these similitudes; and remarks, that of all the known systems, that of the ancient Persians most approaches the mythology of the Edda : an observation which greatly serves to confirm what several learned men have advanced, that anciently there was no difference between the Persians and Celtes.
The fourth fable describes Odin as father of gods and men, and who by his virtue has produced all things. Friga (or the earth) is his daughter, and wife, on whom he begat his son Thor. This doctrine of the union of the Deity with the earth, is of great antiquity. It has been generally received in all the Celtic nations; nay, the Greeks themselves adopted the same sentiments, as appears by the history of Saturn and Rhea.
And here our author ingeniously remarks, that though in this mythology the concourse of Deity and matter produced the universe, yet there is a vast difference, according to the Celtes, in these two principles. The Supreme God was eternal. By him matter was made, and consequently had a beginning. The name also of Thor, their son, signifies, in the language of the north, thunder; and our Thursday even now is called by the Flemish, donderday, or the day of thunder.
Nothing, however, can be more ridiculous than the system of physics that runs through the whole Edda, particularly the sixth