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fair specimens of the difference in effect between the systems of education cultivated in England and in Scotland. But at hap-hazard I will open this volume, and I doubt not that the first article which meets my view will present an agreeable and characteristic contrast to the general observations and metaphysical reflections of the paragraphs which I have just read.”
She accordingly opened the book and read
POPULAR MYTHOLOGY. “ Tales of supernatural agency are not read to full advantage except in the authors by whom they are first recorded. When treated by moderns, much of their original character must necessarily evaporate ; like tombs, which lose their venerable sanctity when removed from the aisles of a cathedral, and exposed in a museum. We reason where the writers of former days believed, and the attention of the reader is rivetted by the earnestness of their credulity. Besides which, the very outward appearance of their volumes diffuses a quiet charm ; the mellow tint of the pages, the full glossy black letter, the miniated capitals, the musky odour of the binding, all contribute to banish the present busy world, and to revive the recollection of the monastic library. And once within the cloistered precinct, we are reluctant to doubt the veracity of that grave friar, the venerable Henry Institor, seated at his desk in the sunny oriel, and devoutly employed in describing the terrific Sabbath of Satan, and the nocturnal flights and orgies of his worshippers.
“ When the fables of popular superstition are contemplated in detail, we discover a singular degree of uniformity in that realm wherein most diversity might be expected in the ideal world. Imagination seems to possess a boundless power of creation and combination ; and yet the beings which have their existence only in fancy, when freely called into action, in every climate and every age, betray so close an affinity to one another, that it is scarcely possible to avoid admitting that imagination had little share in giving them their shape and form. Their attributes and character are impressed by tokens, proving that they resulted rather from a succession of doctrines than from invention ; that they were traditive, and not arbitrary. The vague credulity of the peasant agrees with the systematic mythology of the sages of primeval times. Nations whom the ocean separates are united by their delusions. The village gossip recognises, though in ignorance, the divinities of classical antiquity, and the Hamadryads of Greece and the Elves of Scandinavia join the phantoms who swarm around us when, under the guidance of the wizard, we enter that gloomy dell,
“ Where the sad mandrake grows,
“ Amidst the evanescent groups, whose revels are embodied in the noble lines of the moral dramatist, the Fairies are the most poetical and the most potent; and many theories respecting their origin have been founded on their names. Morgain la Fay has been readily identified with Mergian Peri. We may, however, be allowed to observe, that arguments drawn from similarity of sound are frequently convincing without being conclusive. The romance of Merlin describes Morgain as a brunette ; in spite, however, of this venerable authority, the fairy dame is evidently Mor-Gwynn, the white damsel, corresponding with the white women of ghostly memory, and a true-born child of the Cymry. It is not our wish to dispute about words : we merely object to the inferences drawn from this coincidence, which, united to others of the same class, seem to have given some plausibility to the supposition that the character of the fairy has arisen from the amalgamation of Roman, Celtic, Gothic, and Oriental mythology. We are loth to dissent from an opinion which has been advocated by that mighty master, Walter Scott; but the converse of the proposition is the truth. The attributes have been dispersed and not collected. Fables have radiated from a common centre, and their universal consent does not prove their subsequent reaction upon each other, but their common derivation from a common origin.
“ Mythology has not been diffused from nation to nation, but all nations have derived their belief from one primitive system. It is with fable as with language. The dialects of the Hindoo, the Gothic, and the Pelasgic tribes betray a constant affinity, but they did not interchange their nomenclatures. Neither did one tribe borrow the religious fictions of the other. Each retained a modification of the belief of the parent stock. The Dewtas of Meru, the warlike forms of Asgard, and the inhabitants of Olympus, all emanated from the thrones and powers which had been worshipped by one mighty and energetic race.-Sabaism announced itself in another mode. But all mythology has been governed by a uniform principle, pervading its creations with plastic energy, and giving an unaltering and unalterable semblance of consistency to the successive developments of error. Divested of its mythic or poetic garb, it will be found that the creative power is the doctrine of fatality. Oppressed by the wretchedness of its nature, without some infallible guide, the human mind shrinks from contemplation, and cowers in its own imbecility ; it reposes in the belief of predestination, which enables us to bear up against every misery, and solves those awful doubts which are scarcely less tolerable than misery.The Gordian knot is cut, and the web is unravelled, when all things are seen subordinate to Fate, to that stern power which restrains the active intelligences of good and evil, dooming the universe of spirit and of matter to be the battle-field of endless strife between the light and the darkness. Whether the rites of the 'false religions, full of pomp and gold,' have been solemnized in the sculptured cavern or in the resplendent temple, in the shade of the forest or on the summit of the mountain, still the same lesson has been taught. Men and gods vainly struggle to free themselves from the adamantine bonds of destiny. The oracle, or the omen which declares the impending evil, affords no method of averting it. All insight into futurity proves a curse to those on whom the power descends. We hear the warning which we cannot obey. The gleam of light which radiates athwart the abyss only increases its horror. No gift which the favouring intelligence strives to bestow upon a mortal can be received without an admixture of evil, from which the powerful spirit of beneficence cannot defend it; but neither can the malice of the eternal enemy prevail and triumph ; it may scath but not con
“ Upon fatality and the tenet of conflicting power, popular mythology is wholly founded, the basis reappears in every trivial tale of supernatural agency, and the gossip sitting in the chimney-nook is imbued with
all the wisdom of the hierophants of Greece, or the magi of Persia. As the destroying principle appears more active in this lower world, Oromanes has prevailed in popular belief. Orb is involved in orb, the multiplied reflections become fainter and fainter, the strange and fantastic forms are variously tinted and refracted, some are bright and glorious as the rainbow, others shadowy and grey, yet all turn unto the central image, the personification of the principle of Evil.
“ The legendary Satan is a being wholly distinct from the theological Lucifer. He is never ennobled by the sullen dignity of the fallen angel. No traces of celestial origin are to be discerned on his brow. He is not a rebellious Æon who once was clothed in radiance. But he is the Fiend, the Enemy, evil from all time past in his very essence, foul and degraded, cowardly and impure; his rage is oftenest impotent, unless his cunning can assist his power. He excites fright rather than fear. Hence, wild caprice and ludicrous malice are his popular characteristics; they render him familiar, and diminish the awe inspired by his name ; and these playful elements enter into all the ghost and goblin combinations of the evil principle. More, the platonist, did not perceive the psycological fitness of these attributes, and he was greatly annoyed in his lucubrations by the uncouth oddity of the pranks ascribed to goblins and elves; they discomposed the gravity of his arguments, and in order to meet the objections of such reasoners as might venture to suspect that merriment and waggery degraded a spiritual being, he sturdily maintains, that there are as great fools in the body as there are out of it.' He would not observe that the mythological portrait was consistent in its features. Laughter is foreign to the serenity of beneficence. Angels may weep, but they would forfeit their essence were they to laugh. Mirth, on the contrary, is the consort of