Bible Myths and their Parallels in other Religions Being a Comparison of the Old and New Testament Myths and Miracles with those of the Heathen Nations of Antiquity Considering also their Origin and Meaning
Page: 273but the objects which so changed were to them living things, and the rising and setting of the sun, the return of winter and summer, became a drama in which the actors were their enemies or their friends.
"That this is a strict statement of facts in the history of the human mind, philology alone would abundantly prove; but not a few of these phrases have come down to us in their earliest form, and point to the long-buried stratum of language of which they are the fragments. These relics exhibit in their germs the myths which afterwards became the legends of gods and heroes with human [Pg 471]forms, and furnished the groundwork of the epic poems, whether of the eastern or the western world.
"The mythical or mythmaking language of mankind had no partialities; and if the career of the Sun occupies a large extent of the horizon, we cannot fairly simulate ignorance of the cause. Men so placed would not fail to put into words the thoughts or emotions roused in them by the varying phases of that mighty world on which we, not less than they, feel that our life depends, although we may know something more of its nature.
"Thus grew up a multitude of expressions which described the sun as the child of the night, as the destroyer of the darkness, as the lover of the dawn and the dew—of phrases which would go on to speak of him as killing the dew with his spears, and of forsaking the dawn as he rose in the heaven. The feeling that the fruits of the earth were called forth by his warmth would find utterance in words which spoke of him as the friend and the benefactor of man; while the constant recurrence of his work would lead them to describe him as a being constrained to toil for others, as doomed to travel over many lands, and as finding everywhere things on which he could bestow his love or which he might destroy by his power. His journey, again, might be across cloudless skies, or amid alternations of storm and calm; his light might break fitfully through the clouds, or be hidden for many a weary hour, to burst forth at last with dazzling splendor as he sank down in the western sky. He would thus be described as facing many dangers and many enemies, none of whom, however, may arrest his course; as sullen, or capricious, or resentful; as grieving for the loss of the dawn whom he had loved, or as nursing his great wrath and vowing a pitiless vengeance. Then as the veil was rent at eventide, they would speak of the chief, who had long remained still, girding on his armor; or of the wanderer throwing off his disguise, and seizing his bow or spear to smite his enemies; of the invincible warrior whose face gleams with the flush of victory when the fight is over, as he greets the fair-haired Dawn who closes, as she had begun, the day. To the wealth of images thus lavished on the daily life and death of the Sun there would be no limit. He was the child of the morning, or her husband, or her destroyer; he forsook her and he returned to her, either in calm serenity or only to sink presently in deeper gloom.