Изображения страниц



DURING the last three years Professor Max Müller has published in this Review a series, or rather a set, of articles dealing, more or less, with the beginnings of Myth and of Religion. I say a 'set' rather than a series,' because the articles were written on various occasions, and have therefore little formal connection, or necessary logical sequence. The word 'occasion' was used, by the old Scotch writer on fencing, Sir William Hope, as synonymous with a chance hostile encounter. Such an occasion' I venture to find in Professor Max Müller's mythological articles.

To keep up the metaphor, as it is usual for fencers to salute before they engage, I would take the opportunity of saying that not a word of what follows impugns the scholarship and learning which in Mr. Max Müller are as admirable as his pellucid and persuasive style. His philological conclusions, as far as they are philological, are sacred from an unlearned pen. Scholars may, and do, discuss and dispute them; here we are only concerned to show that differences do prevail, and that, even if the philological arguments were universally accepted, they could not support the burden of theory that is raised on them as a foundation. The opposed system, a system unknown or ignored in Germany, though it attracts notice in France, must suffer from the advocacy of a mere belletristic trifler' like myself, but if no one else will speak up for anthropological mythology, I must even, like the Men of the Mearse, in the Scotch proverb, do the best I can.

The 'general reader,' casting his eye over these pleasing essays, might suppose that the chief disputes of mythologists are actually settled settled in Mr. Max Müller's sense, and in favour of what is called the solar hypothesis.'2 The author assures us, and with

1 Nineteenth Century, January 1882, January 1885, October 1885, December 1885.

2 Mr. Max Müller has, himself, 'never attempted more than to prove that certain portions of ancient mythology have a directly solar origin.' I give a list of some of the mythical characters connected by Mr. Max Müller with the Sun or Dawn; in some cases (as Eos) the connection is obvious: Eos, Herse, Endymion (theory not alluded to in Roscher's Lexikon), Tithonus, Cephalus, Prokris, Herakles, Deianeira, Daphne, Apollo, Hermes, Athene, Eurydice (and, generally, all mythic ladies whose names begin with Eury), Europa's Bull (?), Achilles, Meleager, Orpheus, Eros, The Graces or Charites, Erinys, Aphrodite (a Moon goddess and Semitic, according to Dr. Isaac Taylor), Edipous, Perseus (apparently), Bellerophon, Helen of Troy.

perfect truth, that much solar mythology is found among Hottentots, Red Indians, and Samoyedes; that Mr. Le Page Renouf believes 'almost every atom' of Egyptian myth to be solar (he may settle that with M. Maspero); that Dr. Brinton holds the chief hero of the Algonkin Red Men to be a hero of the Dawn; that M. Réville finds the Sun everywhere in Mexico; that Mr. Tylor recognises in Maui, the Maori hero, a solar hero, and we all know that a working majority of myths are solar according to Mr. Max Müller himself.

Very well, here seems to be a consensus of opinion, and the reader, perhaps with a sigh, decides that he must henceforth regard the solar cause as triumphant, and recognises in the Greek Daphne and Athene, and Achilles, as in the Maori Maui, and the Algonkin Manibozho, the old familiar figure of the sun, or the dawn.

I shall attempt (as far as several long essays can be answered in one short article) to prove that this acquiescence is premature; that the solar theory is scarcely, as Mr. Max Müller declares, a generally recognised fact;' that even his old favourites, Athene, Daphne, Achilles, are not universally admitted to be the dawn or the sun; that the savage heroes whom he mentions are not proved to be 'solar' characters, and that the whole philological interpretation of myths is, at present, not much more than a series of contradictory etymological conjectures.


[ocr errors]

First, then, let us examine the statement that the solar theory is no longer a theory, but has now become a generally recognised fact.' I do not understand, I confess, in what sense this bold statement can be made by any student of contemporary mythological researches. Let us take some concrete examples. In his essays, 'The Lesson of Jupiter,' and 'Solar Myths,'3 Mr. Max Müller names 'Daphne= Ahanâ' as a safe equation.' 'Ahanâ,' he repeats, is a Sanskrit word for 'Dawn;' Ahanâ became Daphne in Greek, and Daphne, the girl changed into a laurel, is really and originally a dawn-maiden. Mr. Max Müller has been telling us this for a quarter of a century, but do mythologists agree with him? Do Sanskrit scholars, as a rule, agree with him?

[ocr errors]

If the agreement were general,' could M. Bergaigne possibly write as he does on the subject, in a spirit, I regret to say, of Parisian flippancy? In Paris, according to Voltaire, the very gamins

Nasum rhinocerotis habent.

This disdainful feature M. Bergaigne turns up at Ahanâ and Daphne. The word Ahanâ, he declares (and Mr. Müller agrees), is, a äπaş εiρnμévov-that is, occurs only once-and therefore its sense is hard to determine. He translates it 'eternal,' and gives four or five conjectural etymologies. Note in passing,' he says, 'that this

* Nineteenth Century, October and December 1885.
4 Compare Selected Essays, i. 397, 510, 607 ; ii. 237.



is the Abanâ to which Mr. Max Müller added a d, to make it the equivalent, or nearly so, of Daphne, and to discover in the Greek nymph a sister of the Vedic Dawn. O snows of yester-yearO neiges d'antan!' Mr. Max Müller complains of this flippancy. M. Bergaigne is a rebel, but would he dare to be so rebellious if 'Ahanâ Daphne' were a 'safe' equation, a 'generally recognised fact? But M. Bergaigne is not only a rebel, he is a French rebel. He has always experienced somewhat rough treatment from German scholars,' Mr. Max Müller says, and perhaps it is only a little revenge for Alsace and Lorraine he is taking on the Indo-Germanic dawn. maiden. But, it must be allowed, he has great allies,' even among Americans, even among Teutons. A transatlantic critic, in the Nation (can this be Mr. Whitney, that Mephistopheles who stets verneint?), denies that Ahanâ meant the dawn, or could possibly become Dahanâ, and therefore Daphne. As the Greeks at no time spoke Sanskrit, I myself cannot see how they got hold of Dahanâ, a Sanskrit word, if ever it was a word at all. But some of the very Germans reject Ahanâ Daphne.' The learned Roscher with twenty named allies is publishing a huge and most complete Dictionary of Mythology. In this thoroughgoing work, under the word Daphne, Mr. Max Müller's theory does not even receive a passing allusion. Mannhardt alludes to it only to say that it absolutely lacks foundation in facts.'


[ocr errors]

Preller says nothing about the etymological analysis, though he does show that Apollo had two other loves with tree or flower names, Cypress and Hyacinth. On the whole, then, whether the 'solar theory' in this example be correct or not, can any mortal maintain that it is generally acknowledged'?

Let us take some other examples they abound. Achilles, in Mr. Max Müller's opinion, is a 'solar hero,' and, like other solar heroes (and Tommy Atkins), is vulnerable.' Is this generally acknowledged? Far from it. Setting aside five ancient etymologies of Achilles, the modern philologists 7 (in Roscher's Lexikon) recognise Achilles as a hero (1) of light, (2) of rivers, (3) of dark, (4) of fire. His name, poor fellow, is tortured into support of each of these four opinions, while some witty authors judiciously combine their information,' and make Achilles a stream and sun god. All these views are based on etymological analysis.' Any reader of Mr. Max Müller would suppose that Achilles was universally admitted (except by anthropologists perhaps) to be a sun hero. But the curious have really

5 Ausführliches Lexikon (Teubner).

Antike Wald- und Feld-Cultur.

The sensible Curtius conjectures, also, that Achilles may mean 'the stay of the host,' or 'the stone-wielder'-appropriate names for a warrior in days when warriors threw big stones. But it is pointed out that 'stone-wielder' would be a natural title of a river-god, as if rivers were the only beings that could wield stones! Do we need more examples of the vanity of etymological research (as a general rule) into the roots and meanings of proper names?

their choice between light, dark, water, and fire, and Fleischer pronounces for Water.8

The exhibition of this kind of agreeable consistency of opinion. is called by Dr. Isaac Taylor," "placing the study of mythology on a firmer scientific basis.' No doubt the exposure of such a medley of philological contradictions will, in the long run, be favourable to science, but the present state of the science cannot be called satisfactory.


Let us choose another important example of want of general accord among mythologists. The goddess Athene occupies in Mr. Max Müller's Lectures on the Science of Language an important niche as a 'Dawn Maiden.'10 I believe,' says the author, that the root Ah, which yielded in Sanskrit Ahanâ, supplies likewise the germ of Athênê.' But on this point again Mr. Max Müller has not the unwavering support of his learned countrymen. Preller thinks the etymology of the name dubious. It is sometimes derived from the root all (whence aieńp, the clear height of air), and Preller himself regards Athene as originally a personification of the wonderful beauty and brilliance of the stainless sky in Hellas. Others are all for the root ȧ0, whence aveos, a flower. Schwartz holds that Athene is the thundercloud and the lightning, which is not exactly the same thing as the dawn, nor even as the clear æther. Benfey, Lauer, and Schwartz have attempted to suggest that the vivid lightning-flash out of the dark storm-rack is the origin of Athene, regarded as Goddess of Wisdom and referring to the lightning-like rapidity of thought. Benfey flies to Zend for the origin of her name. To this view, that Athene is "the brandisher of the lightning,' Dr. Isaac Taylor does seriously incline, and writes, ‘The name Athene is referred to the root of ȧ0-ýp a spearhead.' Here, then, we have no general acknowledgment that Athene is the dawn maiden, that Ahanâ Athene; very far from it indeed. Mr. Max Müller's contention is, that such names as Dyaus, Varuna, Ushas, Haritas,' and others, were in use before the 'Aryan separation,' and that Ahanâ=▲á¶vŋ' and 'Anvŋ was one of those names.11 How such words as Dyaus, Varuna, Ushas-Sanskrit, if anything— could have been current when Sanskrit was not yet Sanskrit,12 is one of the puzzles of Mr. Max Müller's historical system of mythology.' Perhaps by such names as Varuna, Ushas,' and the rest, he does not mean these names, but names that might become these when



8 Ausführliches Lexikon, s.v. 'Achilleus.' Another diverting example of philological unanimity is given in the case of Ares, the god of war. Preller makes him a blustering storm-god. Lauer thinks him a Himmelsgott. Schwenk is all for a god of light. Welcker believes him to be a sun god, while the learned Stott conceives that he is an earth god. And so forth. You take your choice between storm, sky, earth, sun, or light. And this is Science-this is the general acknowledgment of the solar theory! Rightly may Sir George Cox say of Roscher's Lexikon, ‘it would be well if the general agreement of mythologists had been brought out more clearly.' ' Academy, August 15, 1885.


"Selected Essays, i. 492.

10 Lectures on the Science of Language, ii. 549. 12 Selected Essays, i. 315.

Sanskrit became Sanskrit. But whether he is right or wrong in his philological facts and inferences, he certainly has not succeeded in getting his 'solar theory' regarded as 'no longer a theory, but a generally acknowledged fact.' I could fill a number of the Nineteenth Century with proofs of this; a few will be found in a little work published some time ago.13 It is almost a general law that where Mr. Max Müller sees a dawn and sun myth, another school will see a fire myth, a third school a storm myth, while sexual and earth and moon myths are also proposed, according to the taste and fancy of the philologist.


Mr. Max Müller, as he has shown in his article on The Lesson of Jupiter," has anticipated, and disapproves of these arguments. He states them in his own way. I have done no more than demonstrate that his solar theory is still a not universally accepted theory, not a 'generally recognised fact,' and that it is in conflict with four or five, sometimes with seven or eight, other learned hypotheses. My purpose in stating and proving this is to prevent the general reader from supposing that the cause has been heard by scholars, and decided in Mr. Max Müller's sense. Far from that, many German and French scholars not only differ from Mr. Max Müller, but they differ as widely from each other. Hence we may conclude that, even if etymological analysis of proper names be the true method of interpreting myths, that method has, so far, reached but few solid conclusions.

But Mr. Max Müller writes: In order to find an excuse for not studying Sanskrit, and yet criticising the labours of comparative philologists, great stress has been laid on the fact that comparative philologists, even those who know Sanskrit, often differ from each other, and therefore that the study of Sanskrit is of little use.' 15 Now, far be it from me to call the study of Sanskrit of little use." No study can be of greater use. But it does not follow that contradictory etymological conjectures (and I have proved that they are contradictory) are a proper basis for any science. Mr. Max Müller points out, in reply, that there are various interpretations of many Homeric texts, adverbs, and adjectives, and yet that no one, on that account, denounces the study of Greek. But no one is building a Science of Religion and of Mythology on contradictory renderings of passages in Homer. On the other hand, many scholars are trying to base a part of their Science of Mythology and of

13 Custom and Myth (Longmans). See chapters on 'Cronus,' ' Cupid and Psyche, 'A Far-travelled Tale.' The reader may also compare P. Cesare de Cara, Esame critico, p. 124. The different views of Bréal, Preller, and Mannhardt on Ixion may amuse: the First Murderer of Greek myth is interpreted now as the whirlwind, now as the sun, now his name is merely connected with the Greek word for 'a suppliant.' I do not, of course, deny that on some topics, as on the name of Zeus, there is agreement among scholars; but, in face of all the examples that I have given, and the crowd I could add, I fail to see that the agreement, on the whole, can be called general. 15 Ibid.

14 Nineteenth Century, p. 628.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »