Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 32626
Douglas Bush (essay date 1937)
SOURCE: "Coleridge: Wordsworth: Byron," in Mythology and the Romantic Tradition in English Poetry, 1937. Reprint, Harvard University Press, 1969, pp. 51-80.
[In the following essay, Bush examines the influence of Greek mythology on Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Byron. Bush argues that Christian ideas dominate "Hellenic impulses " in Coleridge's poetry; maintains that Wordsworth "re-created mythological poetry for the nineteenth century "; and asserts that Byron's use of myth is most effective in his satires.]
Before we come to Wordsworth, who has been described as Coleridge's greatest work, and, like all his other works, left unfinished, a few pages must be given to Coleridge's writings. Mythology is perhaps not to be counted among the first score or two of his major interests, but some of his allusions to the subject in both prose and verse are very suggestive and important. He touched everything, and seldom touched anything that he did not either illuminate or befog. For an example of the latter result, it is enough to refer to the extraordinary essay "On the Prometheus of Aeschylus" (1825).1 Much briefer and somewhat more lucid are his remarks on Asiatic and Greek mythologies. Whatever his immediate sources of information, ancient and modern, Coleridge might be summarizing Blackwell (not to mention the Germans) when he describes Greek mythology as being "in itself fundamentally allegorical, and typical of the powers and functions of nature, but subsequently mixed up with a deification of great men and hero-worship."2 It is in harmony with such ideas that Coleridge takes Bacchus not merely as the jolly god of wine but as "the symbol of that power which acts without our consciousness from the vital energies of nature, as Apollo was the symbol of our intellectual consciousness."3 Here also he is in agreement with Schlegel and Heyne—and Nietzsche—though it is doubtful "whether Heyne taught Coleridge anything that he did not know before he went to Germany."4
Coleridge's scattered and of course repeated observations on the finite, anthropomorphic, and statuesque quality of the Greek gods and Greek art are more familiar and perhaps more significant. In his lecture on Dante he compares these Greek "finîtes," in which the form was the end, with their opposites, Christian symbols of moral truth and infinity:
Hence resulted two great effects; a combination of poetry with doctrine, and, by turning the mind inward on its own essence instead of letting it act only on its outward circumstances and communities, a combination of poetry with sentiment. And it is this inwardness or subjectivity, which principally and most fundamentally distinguishes all the classic from all the modern poetry.5
It may be said in the first place that this whole passage seems to be mainly a reproduction of Schiller and Schlegel, though the general distinction between the finiteness of the Greek mind and the insatiable longing for the infinite characteristic of Christianity was a commonplace of German romanticism;6 we shall encounter the idea throughout the nineteenth century. Secondly, if we take Coleridge's definition of the two attitudes of mind without questioning its entire validity, it may be said that it is the union of those attitudes which distinguishes the mythological poetry of Keats and Shelley; for they (along with Elizabethan opulence of expression) combine, in different ways and degrees, this outwardness and inwardness, they make the beautiful forms of Greek myth symbols of infinity and progress.
Coleridge's comment on Gray's unfortunate "Phoebus" has a much wider bearing than its immediate topic:
That it is part of an exploded mythology, is an objection more deeply grounded. Yet when the torch of ancient learning was rekindled, so cheering were its beams, that our eldest poets, cut off by Christianity from all accredited machinery, and deprived of all acknowledged guardians and symbols of the great objects of nature, were naturally induced to adopt, as a poetic language, those fabulous personages, those forms of the supernatural in nature, which had given them such dear delight in the poems of their great masters. Nay, even at this day what scholar of genial taste will not so far sympathize with them, as to read with pleasure in Petrarch, Chaucer, or Spenser, what he would perhaps condemn as puerile in a modern poet?7
In a footnote Coleridge mentions the desiccating agent that we have noticed already, "the mechanical system of philosophy" which had made the world in relation to God like a building in relation to its mason, and had left "the idea of omnipresence a mere abstract notion in the state-room of our reason." In a similar, though more poetic and nostalgic, mood he had written the beautiful passage in The Piccolomini (1799-1800):
The intelligible forms of ancient poets,
The fair humanities of old religion,
The Power, the Beauty, and the Majesty,
That had their haunts in dale, or piny mountain,
Or forest by slow stream, or pebbly spring,
Or chasms and wat'ry depths; all these have vanished.
They live no longer in the faith of reason!
But still the heart doth need a language, still
Doth the old instinct bring back the old names. . . .
These lines are written, in a sense, from the outside, they are an expression of wistful regret, a comment, not a recreation; yet Coleridge has so rich an understanding of beauty, both sensuous and philosophic, that in his religious imagination the figures of mythology can become symbols of divine omnipresence in nature and in the heart of man.
One reason for the nature and the uniqueness of that mood is that Coleridge was not "primitive" or "pagan" enough in temperament to have an instinctively mythological intuition of the natural world such as, in varying degrees, Wordsworth, Keats, and Shelley had. A more positive reason we have met already, in the contrast between Greek finiteness and Christian ideas of infinity. It would be pleasanter to end this sketch with a memory of the fair humanities of old religion, yet one would give an inadequate picture of Coleridge, and an inadequate introduction to much later verse and prose of the century, if one failed to emphasize the dominance of his Christian over his Hellenic impulses, of his philosophic desire for unity over what he conceived to be the Greek contentment with multiplicity. In such moods he could be astringently and unpoetically hostile to Greek religion and myth.9
The Victorians, beset by science and skepticism, and groping for an undogmatic faith, reverenced the poet who gave them a natural religion. We, who have got far beyond such naïve gropings, and recoil from a plaster embodiment of virtue and nobility, have acquired a new respect for the poet who gave to society a natural daughter. Wordsworth has become, so to speak, one of ourselves; "Daddy Wordsworth" is, for a distinguished modern critic, "a reformed rake." Although the poet has been so happily revived and rehabilitated, the limitations of our subject forbid chatter about Annette and compel attention to what he wrote, and only a small portion of that. Nowadays we recognize Wordsworth, no matter how great his debt to Coleridge, as the most richly germinal of all the romantic poets, as the fountain-head from which flowed the main stream of nineteenth-century poetry. It is an obvious but less familiar fact that the poet of nature and the humble man was also the fountain-head of nineteenth-century poetry on mythological themes. In Laodamia he re-established the classical genre, and in the extended passages on the origins of myth in The Excursion he brought back to life what had been dead. When we think of the body of poetry which we call Wordsworth, we may be inclined to regard the offspring of his mythological Muse as another natural child, but his ideas of Greek myth were really rooted in his deepest intuitions.
Wordsworth was not a mere ruminating cow; he was from youth up, at least until weak eyes hampered him, an ardent reader of English and foreign literature; in his increasing preference for books of his own writing he was only more candid than most poets. Even as a child of the mountains, he says in the eleventh book of The Prelude, and before he had read the classics, he had "learnt to dream of Sicily," and he goes on to salute Theocritus. The boy who loved the Arabian Nights was the boy who reveled in their Roman counterpart, Ovid's Metamorphoses, who was later thankful that his early passion for romance had not been snuffed out by Rousseauistic educators, and who, later still, protested against Niebuhr's scientific destruction of the heroic legends of Rome.10 His note on the Ode to Lycoris (1817) is too important not to be quoted at length:
But surely one who has written so much in verse as I have done may be allowed to retrace his steps in the regions of fancy which delighted him in his boyhood, when he first became acquainted with the Greek and Roman poets. Before I read Virgil I was so strongly attached to Ovid, whose Metamorphoses I read at school, that I was quite in a passion whenever I found him, in books of criticism, placed below Virgil. As to Homer, I was never weary of travelling over the scenes through which he led me. Classical literature affected me by its own beauty. But the truths of Scripture having been entrusted to the dead languages, and these fountains having recently been laid open at the Reformation, an importance and a sanctity were at that period attached to classical literature that extended, as is obvious in Milton's Lycidas for example, both to its spirit and form in a degree that can never be revived. No doubt the hacknied and lifeless use into which mythology fell towards the close of the 17th century, and which continued through the eighteenth, disgusted the general reader with all allusion to it in modern verse; and though, in deference to this disgust, and also in a measure participating in it, I abstained in my earlier writings from all introduction of pagan fable, surely, even in its humble form, it may ally itself with real sentiment, as I can truly affirm it did in the present case.11
It was quite natural that the younger Wordsworth should prefer to sit on old gray stones rather than on "parlor" furniture of faded plush (though the Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches exhibit every other vice of eighteenth-century style). But, like most artists who have rebelled against effete conventions of the immediate past, Wordsworth was in touch with an older and richer tradition. His chosen masters, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Spenser, and Milton, had all delighted in Ovid and classic story, and, apart from other reasons, it was inevitable that under their influence, especially that of Milton, Wordsworth's initial antipathy to myth should diminish. The poetry of his great decade certainly contains very little mythology in comparison with his later and generally inferior work, but what there is is important; and his increasing use of myth is partly but not wholly explained by age and failing inspiration, since he wrote more good stuff after 1807 than he is always given credit for.
The finest and most familiar of Wordsworth's mythological allusions is the impassioned outburst in The world is too much with us:
Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
We have here a Miltonic complexity of literary reminiscence. Although Wordsworth was a reader of Plato, the Platonism of the Intimations of Immortality is rather that of Proclus and Coleridge. The sonnet was apparently written in 1802, at the same time as most of the Ode, and this sentence from Proclus, translated in Thomas Taylor's Plato, has connections with both the Ode and the sonnet:
It is requisite therefore that the soul which is about to be led properly from hence to that ever vigilant nature, should amputate those second and third powers which are suspended from its essence, in the same manner as weeds, stones, and shells, from the marine Glaucus; should restrain its externally proceeding impulses and recollect true beings and a divine essence, from which it descended, and to which it is fit that the whole of our life should hasten.12
Wordsworth's "Pagan" is of course a general symbol, but he undoubtedly is thinking of Proclus, one of the last opponents of Christianity; and Glaucus, who belongs originally to Plato's Republic, has become Proteus, a sea-god made more familiar by Paradise Lost, The Faerie Queene, and Colin Clout; this last poem furnishes also Triton's wreathed horn and, less happily, the pleasant lea.13 But these borrowings are fused into a completely original whole, and the classical allusions, though beautifully decorative, are essential to the rendering of the idea. In this sonnet we may find the keynote of a mass of mythological poetry of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; the old antagonism between Pan and Christ has become a contrast between the ugly materialism of our commercial and industrial civilization and the natural religion, the ideal beauty and harmony, of Hellenic life. Unlike many later poets, however, Wordsworth does not fall into sentimentalism.
In a similar though a more calm and philosophic mood Wordsworth wrote the passages on the origin and significance of myth in the fourth book of The Excursion.14 Reacting, like Coleridge, against eighteenth-century rationalism, and, like Coleridge, putting his faith in imagination (as they understood that faculty), Wordsworth could not despise ancient mythological religions as idle superstitions; they were testimonies, however imperfect, of the divine presence and of man's endeavor to apprehend it. Here, then, for the first time in many generations a great English poet set forth a really glowing conception of pagan myths as vital symbols of the religious imagination and established mythology as the language of poetic idealism. The passages are too long for quotation, but the substance, bereft of its beauty, is this. The Solitary, the disciple of Voltaire, overcome by disillusionment and despair of truth, has cut himself off from man and nature, has taken refuge in cynical apathy. But, declares the Wanderer, even humble children of the ancient east possessed a natural piety, a religious imagination. The rustic Greek, however ignorant and superstitious, lived close to the spirit of nature, in intimate communion with the deities of sun and moon and wood and stream. Through such forms of the divine were nourished the admiration, hope, and love by which we live, and perhaps too that faith in "Life continuous, Being unimpaired," which strengthens and sustains the frail creatures of a day.15 When the mind admits the law of duty, man gains dominion over experience, ascends in dignity of being and in spiritual power. As the moon rises behind a grove and turns all the dark foliage to silver,
Like power abides
In man's celestial spirit; virtue thus
Sets forth and magnifies herself; thus feeds
A calm, a beautiful, and silent fire.
The ethical import of this passage, of the whole poem in fact, was fully absorbed by Keats, and re-expressed particularly in Hyperion. It is more obvious that his senses and imagination would be delighted by Wordsworth's account of the way in which the myth-making faculty of the Greeks peopled heaven and earth with radiant or shaggy deities, from Apollo and Diana, naiads and oreads, to satyrs and Pan himself, "The simple shepherd's awe-inspiring God!"16 It is doubtless an insoluble problem how much Wordsworth's general conception may have owed to Coleridge and, directly or through Coleridge, to such German Hellenists as Schiller.17 At any rate he was not writing under any neo-pagan impulse. Though classic myth may seem remote from the Wordsworth we usually think of, it is not at all remote if we remember the animism which was for him, as it could not be for Coleridge, almost a religious faith.18 For one who held such conceptions of nature and of imaginative intuition, myths inevitably embodied authentic tidings of invisible things.19
Laodamia (1814) was the chief poetic fruit of Wordsworth's renewed reading, with his son, of some ancient authors. Ovid supplied a few details, though his epistle of course could not treat the return of Protesilaus, and Ovid's heroine, while not without pathos, comes dangerously close to comedy when she urges her husband to remember that his prowess should be displayed not in war but in love. Catullus, one of the Roman poets with whom Wordsworth's acquaintance was "intimate," emphasizes the passion of Laodamia. But the essential classical source was the sixth book of the Aeneid.20 While Tennyson is commonly accepted as the most Virgilian of nineteenth-century English poets, it is a less familiar fact that his nearest rival is the supposedly unbookish Wordsworth. The few lines in Laodamia are enough to convince one that no poet has absorbed with finer understanding, or rendered with more wistful beauty, the spirit of Virgil's picture of Elysium:
In his deportment, shape, and mien, appeared
Elysian beauty, melancholy grace,
Brought from a pensive though a happy place.
He spake of love, such love as Spirits feel
In worlds whose course is equable and pure;
No fears to beat away—no strife to heal—
The past unsighed for, and the future sure;
Spake of heroic arts in graver mood
Revived, with finer harmony pursued;
Of all that is most beauteous—imaged there
In happier beauty; more pellucid streams,
An ampler ether, a diviner air,
And fields invested with purpureal gleams;
Climes which the sun, who sheds the brightest day
Earth knows, is all unworthy to survey.
"An ampler ether, a diviner air" is Virgil rendered with literal felicity, but touched also with the Platonic radiance which illumines this and other parts of the poem; and the second and third lines of the quotation, though not directly Virgilian, are the distilled essence of Virgil's melancholy grace of style, his high, grave pity, tenderness, and hope.
Wordsworth's treatment of his heroine is not altogether Virgilian. Laodamia, like Dido, is passionate, and, so far as conventions go, with more justification (though her vulgar outspokenness offended the modesty of that British matron, Sara Coleridge).22 But Dido captured Virgil's sympathy to such a degree that for most modern readers she throws the poem out of focus—and perhaps did so for the author. Wordsworth, though at first lenient, grew more severe, as later versions of the ending show, in meting out punishment to Laodamia. And while Protesilaus has a sense of duty and discipline that is worthy of Aeneas, his moral seriousness, with its emphasis on chastity, is perhaps more puritan than Roman. His discourse on self-control and on the higher objects of love is partly Platonic, but it is Platonism that has, one may think, filtered through Milton.23 The name of Milton suggests a central question in regard to Laodamia. Milton treated the conflict between human reason and mainly sensual temptation in his four long poems. In Comus and Paradise Regained there is no struggle and no sin, while in Paradise Lost and still more in Samson Agonistes it is only after defeat that erring human beings win the victory which is a vindication of man's divine gifts and possibilities. Hence the one pair of poems (though their power has until lately been underestimated) do stir us less profoundly than the others. With which group does Laodamia belong? Did Wordsworth conceive of his heroine as a woman or as an object lesson, a sort of female Byron who dared to take "Life's rule from passion craved for passion's sake"?24 There is an obvious gulf between the poet's appeal to rational self-control and his early reliance for moral wisdom upon emotional intuitions of nature, between the condemnation of Laodamia's ardor and the ecstasies of Vaudracour and Julia, though the change is not in itself evidence of decline. Does Wordsworth's faith in reason and discipline mean that the romanticist has become classical (whatever that means!), or is this "classicism" a reversion to the mingled timidity and moralizing of the eighteenth-century classicist, a mark of the poet's own advancing years? Has he achieved a Sophoclean grasp of law and imaginative reason, or has he only put off the old man to put on the old woman?25
Such questions are perhaps unanswerable, but an increasing distrust of spontaneous emotion and impulse, an increasing desire for rational self-discipline, are clearly revealed in many poems of the great decade, in Ruth (1799), in Resolution and Independence (1802), in the noble series of patriotic sonnets, where Wordsworth appeals to heroic minds and careers and to "pure religion breathing household laws," in the 1805-06 version of The Prelude.26 Then there is the notable group of poems of 1804-06, the Ode to Duty, Elegiac Stanzas Suggested by a Picture of Peele Castle, and the Character of the Happy Warrior. The last two were written, like the conclusion of The Prelude, under the shadow of his brother's death, a loss which had thrown Wordsworth back upon his ultimate resources; to meet such a test the healing power of nature was not enough. In the reality of grief he submitted to a new control, the law of reason. The same lesson of high and composed endurance, with more religious coloring, is learned by the heroine of The White Doe of Rylstone (1807-08).27 Some relevant sentiments in The Excursion have already been touched upon, and that poem is so largely concerned with "reason's steadfast rule" over passions that "hold a fluctuating seat," with submission to the law of conscience, with the search for the central peace that subsists at the heart of endless agitation, that it would be idle to cite passages.28 Thus the doctrine which receives such stately expression in Laodamia does not represent a unique or isolated mood. Wordsworth did not, during some years at least, merely grow old and timid. Under the shock of grief especially, he fought a real battle to arrive at "the top of sovereignty"—to quote, for variety, the words of Keats—the power
to bear all naked truths,
And to envisage circumstance, all calm.
The trouble is that in a number of Wordsworth's later poems, including Laodamia, that genuine struggle seems to have receded into the past, and a "classical" faith in reason, order, moderation, becomes at times indistinguishable from copy-book morality and conventional pietism. At any rate, whatever motives really prompted the final ending of Laodamia, it has been, since Arnold, too readily accepted as inferior to the first one; some readers may prefer not to have a marmoreal poem suddenly lapse into softness.29
Dion (1816) ought to be more satisfying than Laodamia, for the hero is an indubitable sinner. In The Prelude, Dion had been linked with Beaupuy.30 Now he has, though with good intentions, "overleaped the eternal bars" of wisdom and moderation, and has "stained the robes of civil power with blood." But if we are to be moved by the workings of eternal justice we must be made to realize the behavior of the offender who is punished; and Dion is little more than a name, the lesson of his fate is not "carried alive into the heart by passion." Thus if the two poems are to be called partial failures, the cause is not so much lack of passion, for Wordsworth's half-mystical elevation of moral wisdom surely deserves that name, but the fact that the passion lacks an "objective correlative," that the raison d'être is inadequately conceived.
Laodamia and Dion are often spoken of, and were in their own day, as tours de force, and certainly they appear un-Wordsworthian in style if one comes to them directly from the Lucy poems or Michael. But if we had time to trace Wordsworth's stylistic evolution through the splendors of Intimations of Immortality and the frequent sublimities of The Excursion, we should find a fairly steady increase in the amount of classicized diction. Sometimes there is a truly Miltonic afflatus, sometimes only pseudo-Miltonic inflation. The Miltonic Wordsworth can now and then gain effects impossible for the Wordsworth of homespun, and we could ill spare the ornate dignity of the best parts of these poems, and such scattered beauties as "An incommunicable sleep" and "the unimaginable touch of Time."31 Not that Wordsworth lost his command of pregnant simplicity:
How fast has brother followed brother,
From sunshine to the sunless land!
The last phrase carries an aura of classical suggestion like that of Housman's "strengthless dead."
We cannot linger over the mythological allusions in Wordsworth's later verse. The imagination which had called up Proteus and Triton from the sea dwindled for the most part into uninspired bookishness, serious or playful; the poet who had been content with a simple Highland girl and a solitary reaper began to think of rustic maidens in terms of dryads.32 But that the aging Wordsworth was capable of genuine mythological and sensuous ardor we have Hazlitt's testimony, in his account of the poet's glowing talk about Bacchus and Titian's painting; and we have such a surprising and pretty piece of paganism as the Bacchic procession in On the Power of Sound (1828).33 It was not, however, pagan enough for Landor, who declared in his Landorian way that "after eight most noble Pindaric verses on Pan and the Fawns and Satyrs, he lays hold on a coffin and a convict, and ends in a flirtation with a steeple. We must never say all we think, and least so in poetry."34 In general, Wordsworth's nymphs, unlike Swinburne's, are clothed to the neck in British woolens, and they haunt, not an antique brake, nor the Mount Ida of the nude goddesses, but "The chaster coverts of a British hill."35
The consciousness of an antithesis between Christianity and paganism seems to have grown upon Wordsworth; in a more pallid way, for the question was not central in him, he went through a sort of Miltonic cycle. Even in The Excursion, the poem in which he had given new life to myth by treating it as a manifestation of natural religion, he could, like Milton, reveal in the same passage his love of myth and his fear of it.36 And in his preface of 1815 he expresses sentiments partly similar to those we have met in Coleridge. He names, as "the grand store-houses of enthusiastic and meditative Imagination," the prophetic and lyrical parts of the Bible, and Milton, and he cannot forbear to add Spenser:
If, in regard to classic myth, the visionary gleam had fled in Wordsworth's old age, if he was in that as in other affairs a lost leader, at least he had been a leader. Whatever he may have owed to Coleridge or Germany, it was he who re-created mythological poetry for the nineteenth century. He passed on to the younger generation, especially to Keats, its most influential representative, a noble and poetic conception of mythology as a treasury of symbols rich enough to embody not only the finest sensuous experience but the highest aspirations of man. And it was Wordsworth who created a style, or rather styles, fit for the treatment of such subjects. Of course Keats and Shelley absorbed Shakespeare, Spenser, Milton, and others of the Renaissance tradition, but in the matter of mythology the earlier masters were not enough. After the eighteenth century the vitality of serious poetic myth needed to be demonstrated by a great poet who belonged to their own age, who wrote under similar conditions, and who wrestled with similar problems in philosophy and poetry.
I select these writers in preference to those of ancient Greece and Rome, because the anthropomorphitism of the Pagan religion subjected the minds of the greatest poets in those countries too much to the bondage of definite form; from which the Hebrews were preserved by their abhorrence of idolatry. This abhorrence was almost as strong in our great epic Poet, both from circumstances of his life, and from the constitution of his mind. However imbued the surface might be with classical literature, he was a Hebrew in soul; and all things tended in him towards the sublime.37
Byron's classical mythology was mainly so remote from the idealistic symbolism of his contemporaries that a discussion of him at this point amounts to a digression. But his use of myth has some lively aspects, and, besides, such a book as this could not pass by "Euphorion," the poet whose name and whose death are bound up with the revival of Hellenism and the cause of Greek freedom. Only one whole poem, Prometheus, comes within our range—since we cannot take account of the drama Sardanapalus—and though mythological allusions are abundant, a glance at this peripheral aspect of Byron's work must be in the nature of a squint, for it excludes a view of wholes and misses the earth-shaking power and spacious sweep which animate pages or cantos but are rarely concentrated in single unforgettable images and phrases. We are all agreed that Byron was a volcano; it is not agreed whether he is an extinct one. However, his mythology mostly belongs to that part of him which still lives, the eighteenth-century part.
Although Byron's early education left him with a "sickening memory" of "the daily drug," "the drilled dull lesson,"38 his writing owed a great deal to his knowledge of ancient literature and history. One genuine passion was early kindled and never extinguished, a passion for the Prometheus Bound. The Donna Inez who "dreaded the Mythology" resembled Lady Byron more than Mrs. Byron, and the "filthy loves of gods and goddesses" which embarrassed Juan's tutors were not all that the young Byron absorbed:
The infant rapture still survived the boy,
And Loch-na-gar with Ida looked o'er Troy,
Mixed Celtic memories with the Phrygian mount,
And Highland linns with Castalie's clear fount.
Whatever the sufferings involved in the process, Byron learned about as much of the classics "as most schoolboys after a discipline of thirteen years,"40 as much at least as sat gracefully on a peer. In literary matters the great rebel was always a thorough conservative and well-bred man of the world. To vary a phrase of Georg Brandes' about Voltaire, the man who had little respect for anything in heaven or earth respected the dramatic unities. Byron never forgot his rank, and social prejudice apparently counted as much as critical taste in aligning him with Moore, Campbell, Rogers—"the last Argonaut of classic English poetry"41 —and the gentlemanly Popeian tradition; the Lake poets, clothed in homespun and moonshine, were not familiar denizens of St. James's Street and Pall Mall, and they undervalued Pope.
The romantics generally, even Keats, started out in the eighteenth-century manner, but all except Byron soon cast it off. While his non-satirical poems were seldom free from the glossy and rhetorical, he was, as a hard-headed man of this world commenting on society with realistic vigor, a truer and more masculine heir of Dryden and Pope.42 From almost the beginning to the end of his career Byron employed myth both seriously and facetiously. Most allusions of the former kind are conventional tags, though a few reach the level of memorable rhetoric or even poetry. The flippant and satirical ones are nearly all good, very often among the best of their kind; and when Byron uses the same reference in both ways, the witty one is almost invariably superior. The second canto of The Bride of Abydos opens with a serious, romantic recollection of the tale of Hero and Leander which might have been written by any poetaster; the humorous poem on his emulation of Leander (of which feat he was genuinely and inordinately proud) is at least worthy of Prior.43 In the first canto of Childe Harold, Byron writes of Phoebus and "his amorous clutch"—a mauling, perhaps, of "Phoebus' amorous pinches"—but the deity is more than a verbal counter in the famous apostrophe: "Oh, Amos Cottle!—Phoebus! what a name. . . ."44
We shall not try to follow Childe Harold as, with the brand of Cain on his brow and the taste of Dead Sea fruit in his mouth, he moved slowly about Europe, sighing or spouting before the appropriate landmarks. (It is true, as Mr. Grierson has said, "that Byron made his readers feel that he was large enough to stand thus face to face with these sublime topics—the Alps, Venice, Rome, the Sea—and comment in passionate tones, and in a single breath, on them and on himself.")45 There were good reasons for his fame. He was a peer, a rake, and a romantic misanthrope; his impressionistic guide-book in verse had more animation than the placid pages of Eustace, Clarke, and Gell; and in taste and style he was, unlike Shelley and Keats, in happy accord with the mass of readers. We can praise an image (borrowed from Sabellicus) as worthy of Venice—
She looks a sea Cybele, fresh from Ocean,
Rising with her tiara of proud towers—
yet here, as often, we feel how completely Byron's style was lacking in distinction, magic, finality of phrase and rhythm.
His rhetorical energy appears in the faded purple patches on works of art. Byron's esthetic opinions were largely a compound of untutored instinct and personal or popular prejudice. Following in the wake of Payne Knight, he had gibed at Lord Elgin's "Phidian freaks," and in The Curse of Minerva prejudice was mingled with genuine devotion to Greece, of which Byron had a tendency to regard himself as proprietor.47 But a literary member of the House of Lords had to combine correct taste with the good sense of the cosmopolite, he had to walk the zigzag path between "artiness" and Philistinism. Accordingly Childe Harold was bound to pause at intervals and declaim before the well-known statues, and he did so in the style of an admirer of Canova. In the dubiously Lucretian picture of Venus, whose "lava kisses" pour on Mars "as from an urn," we feel that we are reading "made" poetry, and we prefer the easy spontaneity, half idyllic, half mocking, of the lines on Haidée and Juan:
And thus they form a group that's quite antique,
Half naked, loving, natural, and Greek.
In a stanza on "the Lord of the unerring bow" the Pythian of the age is seeing and feeling, yet we are still uncomfortably aware of being addressed by an unusually eloquent guide-lecturer.49
Now and then Byron's passion for freedom burns into a memorable phrase, as in the apostrophe to Rome, "The Niobe of nations! . . . Childless and crownless, in her voiceless woe." Not many poets could equal his nonchalance in striking a different note; the Church, "Like Niobe, weeps o'er her offspring—Tithes."50 So too we may pass from the romantic grandeur and solitude of Childe Harold's ocean, where "the dark Euxine rolled Upon the blue Symplegades," to "The new Symplegades—the crushing Stocks," or to the passage in Don Juan where the Symplegades are still blue but where "Euxine" rhymes with "pukes in."51 If we had time to run through The Island (1823), Byron's chief contribution to romantic primitivism, we should observe how jejune and colorless the serious mythological allusions are when put beside satirical parallels in Don Juan.52 these Indeed it would add a welcome sparkle to pages to quote dozens of bits from that great epic, such as the original euhemeristic interpretation of Pasiphae, or the linking of Castlereagh with Ixion in the savage stanzas of the Dedication,53 but we have had more than enough evidence of the superiority of Byron's facetious over his serious mythology. The large element of earth and prose in Byron did not prevent his using myth with fluent triteness, but it contributed to his robust common sense, his firm grasp of realities. His cynicism was not unmixed with Calvinism. If we turn from Epipsychidion to Don Juan, we may at times recoil in disgust; but there are moods, not necessarily baser ones, in which we prefer Byron's anti-Platonic mockery. And however enraptured we may be by Shelley's visions of a golden age, we may find wisdom in such a stanza as this:
Oh, Mirth and Innocence! Oh, Milk and Water!
Ye happy mixtures of more happy days!
In these sad centuries of sin and slaughter,
Abominable Man no more allays
His thirst with such pure beverage. No matter,
I love you both, and both shall have my praise:
Oh, for old Saturn's reign of sugar-candy!—
Meantime I drink to your return in brandy.
Byron's last expedition to Greece was inspired partly by the desire of a man who was only half a poet to express in action an impulse worthier of his better self than his recent life had been. Like his own Sardanapalus, he "springs up a Hercules at once." It was with more than an aristocratic disdain for Grub Street that Byron insisted that he did not rank poetry and poets high in the scale of intellect. He praised the few authors, from Aeschylus down, who had been brave and active citizens, and preferred the capacity for doing to all the speculations of mere dreamers and observers.55 The desire to let inward lava erupt in action was of course coupled with Byron's zeal for freedom and his old love of Greece, "the only place," as he wrote to Trelawny, that he "was ever contented in." Trelawny records too that "he often said, if he had ever written a line worth preserving, it was Greece that inspired it."56 Yet even in these last days Byron still possessed the two pairs of lenses through which, according to his mood, he surveyed the world. "If things are farcical, they will do for Don Juan; if heroical, you shall have another canto of Childe Harold."57 One example must serve. When, at Ithaca, Trelawny wanted Byron to visit the scenes supposedly connected with Odysseus, he became the exasperated man of the world who detested "antiquarian twaddle." Yet it was during this very time that he wrote, at Cephalonia, the fragment Aristomenes which laments the death of Pan and other ancient deities.58 Even if the lines seem little more than a halting imitation of Coleridge's regrets for the fair humanities of old religion, their testimony to a genuine vein of sentiment is borne out by many other things in Byron. Finally, there is no better illustration of the poet's two sides than The Isles of Greece. Here passion kindles rhetoric into poetry, yet Byron is so afraid of being caught shedding manly tears that he puts the poem into a flippant frame.59
If one who knew a good deal of Byron were told that he had written only one poem on a mythological character, a character into whom he could project himself, the answer would be an easy guess. As Mr. Garrod says, "Of this new Prometheus, all the world was the Caucasus, and all the men and women in it vultures; and the part of first vulture was taken by a preposterous mother."60Prometheus was written in Switzerland in 1816, during the days of Byron's companionship with Shelley, and the modern significance of the myth must have been a topic of conversation. While there was doubtless mutual influence, Shelley had so far used Prometheus only as an example of the ills that came with the cooking and eating of flesh, and Byron in 1814 had recorded his view of "him, the unforgiven," who "in his fall preserved his pride."61 Moreover, Byron said that Aeschylus' drama, of which he "was passionately fond as a boy," was always so much in his head that he could easily conceive its influence over all or anything that he had written; his works contain some seventeen allusions to Prometheus, of varying length and seriousness.62
The Prometheus Bound had been too vast and explosive for neoclassic taste—Dacier, for instance, comments on its monstrosities63—but as in the course of the eighteenth century the formal and the rococo gave way to the wild and strong and rebellious, Prometheus (like Milton's Satan) came to be a symbol of heroic individualism, of revolt against divine or human tyranny. The development of the theme followed two main lines, which were sometimes separate, sometimes united. One starts (if a scholar may safely use the word "start" about any idea) from Shaftesbury's description of the true poet or artist who imitates the Creator, who "is indeed a second Maker; a just Prometheus under Jove."64 This partly esthetic conception, growing with the doctrine of original genius, may be said to culminate in the brief drama of Goethe (1773). Here Prometheus is more or less Goethe himself, a type of the free spirit of the artist who, emancipated from fear of the dull and idle gods, rejoices in the fullness of life as it is and in the exercise of his creative powers.65
The other main line of evolution, less esthetic than rebellious or humanitarian or both, is represented by Byron's poem and Shelley's drama, and also by Goethe's great monologue, "Bedecke deinen Himmel, Zeus."66 Byron's poem is of only fifty-nine lines, but he seldom maintains through even that space such unfaltering dignity of thought and expression. His Prometheus is a Titan, and the poem, for all its brevity, has a massive effect. Byron's hero is not Goethe's intellectual and creative spirit, nor is he Shelley's humanitarian idealist and lover of Asia. He embodies part of the conception that we have in Shelley, of the god who endures punishment for befriending man, but he is the Prometheus of Shelley's opening lines; he would have uttered the curse against Jupiter, he would never have retracted it. Byron's Prometheus is of course as much of a self-portrait as the works of Goethe and Shelley, and, though calm and restrained in manner, he anticipates the heaven-storming rebellion of Manfred, Cain, and Heaven and Earth. The poem "is a defiant and unshakeable arraignment of the conception of Providence taught him by Orthodox Evangelicalism," and Prometheus "becomes the symbol of humanity, humanity more sinned against than sinning."67 But though Byron denies the Calvinistic God and the Calvinistic conviction of sin and personal responsibility, he cannot find relief in a Shelleyan gospel of love, for the sense of inward discord and the reality of evil is in his bones. A stanza on life and evil in Childe Harold is echoed in Prometheus Unbound, and the iron lines at the end of Byron's Prometheus are echoed in Shelley's last stanza, but Byron cannot escape from his realistic dualism to rejoice in the triumphant and harmonious soul of man.68
1Miscellanies, Aesthetic and Literary, ed. T. Ashe (1885), pp. 55 ff. Along with Coleridge's own rueful account of the lecture (Letters, ed. E. H. Coleridge, 1895, II, 740) one should mention Hazlitt's eloquent report of the poet's eloquent talk on the Prometheus and Greek tragedy in general (The Spirit of the Age). See also Unpublished Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ed. Earl L. Griggs (1932), II, 281-82, 336.
2Miscellanies, p. 150; Coleridge's Miscellaneous Criticism, ed. Thomas M. Raysor (Harvard University Press, 1936), p. 191. Cf. Blackwell, Letters Concerning Mythology (1748), pp. 171, 207 ff., and above, ch. I, part v. Coleridge goes on to discuss ancient mysteries, the Cabiri, and other twilight topics which attracted Blackwell also (Letters, pp. 277 ff.), but he seems here to be following the mazy track of Friedrich Schelling, Ueber die Gottheiten von Samothrace (Stuttgart and Tübingen, 1815).
3Coleridge's Shakespearean Criticism, ed. Thomas M. Raysor (Harvard University Press, 1930), II, 263; cf. ibid., I, 184-85, II, 7. See also Lectures and Notes on Shakspere and Other English Poets, ed. T. Ashe (1908), pp. 234, 462; Lectures and Notes on Shakespeare and Other Dramatists (World's Classics ed.), p. 60. The phrase "vinum mundi" as applied to Bacchus occurs in the older texts of Coleridge, though not in Mr. Raysor's. While criticizing other Hellenic notions of Coleridge's, Mr. Gilbert Murray endorses his idea of the god as the wine of the world; see "What English Poetry May Still Learn from Greek," Essays and Studies by Members of the English Association, III (1912), 10.
4 A. C. Dunstan, "The German Influence on Coleridge," M.L.R., XVIII (1923), 196. Both Coleridge and Schlegel heard the lectures of Heyne. For Schlegel's conception of Bacchus as a symbol of higher aspirations, see Anna A. Helmholtz (Mrs. A. A. von Helmholtz Phelan), The Indebtedness of Samuel Taylor Coleridge to August Wilhelm von Schlegel, Bulletin of the University of Wisconsin, Philology and Literature Series, III (1907), 365 (and also p. 299); and Dunstan, pp. 194-95. Dunstan also quotes Heyne.
5Miscellanies, pp. 140-41; Coleridge's Miscellaneous Criticism, ed. Raysor, p. 148. Cf. Lectures and Notes, ed. Ashe, pp. 233 ff.; Coleridge's Shakespearean Criticism, ed. Raysor, I, 176, 222, II, 262-63; Unpublished Letters, ed. Griggs, II, 336.
6 A. C. Dunstan (M.L.R., XVII , 274-75) quotes Schiller's Über naive und sentimentalische Dichtung; see Schillers Sämtliche Werke (Säkular-Ausgabe), XII, 184 (and 179 ff., 247 ff.). For Coleridge and Schlegel, see Mrs. von Helmholtz Phelan, pp. 310 ff., 326, 337, 365 ff. According to Dunstan (M.L.R., XVIII, 193), both Schlegel and Coleridge drew their comparisons of classical and Gothic architecture and drama from Goethe's Deutsche Baukunst. See also Arthur O. Lovejoy, P.M.L.A., XXXIX (1924), 243-46, and M.L.N, XXXV (1920), 139.
7Biographia Literaria, ch. XVIII (ed. Shawcross, Clarendon Press, 1907, II, 58). Cf. Dryden, Essays, ed. Ker, II, 30-33; and Wordsworth's note on his Ode to Lycoris, quoted below.
We may recall the conclusion of Coleridge's The Garden of Boccaccio (1828), and the characterization, both charming and true, of Renaissance mythologizing—Boccaccio with his manuscript of Homer, and "Ovid's Holy Book of Love's sweet smart," and the all-enjoying, all-blending fancy which mingles "fauns, nymphs, and wingéd saints."
8Wallenstein, Part II (The Piccolomini), II. iv. 123 ff. In the fourth line of the extract, "their" was "her" in the 1829 text; see Complete Poetical Works, ed. E. H. Coleridge (Clarendon Press, 1912), II, 649. For the German text, as we have it now, see Schiller's Werke, V, 132, Die Piccolomini, III. iv, 11. 1632 ff. In considering Coleridge's very free adaptation we may remember that "the manuscript used by Coleridge was carefully prepared by Schiller and differed in some respects from the text that has since become the standard" (John L. Haney, The German Influence on Coleridge, Philadelphia, 1902, p. 21). And then, as Mr. Haney remarked in a letter to me, Coleridge "had too lively a poetic imagination to stick very closely to any original that he translated."
One may wonder if the rendering of these lines was colored by recollections of Schiller's Die Götter Griechenlands, a poem that he must surely have known. He translated Schiller's Dithyrambe (Gedichte, I, 7) as The Visit of the Gods. See Haney, p. 14; and F. W. Stokoe, German Influence in the English Romantic Period (Cambridge University Press, 1926), p. 122, note 4.
9 In a letter to Sotheby, September 10, 1802, Coleridge writes: "It must occur to every reader that the Greeks in their religious poems address always the Numina Loci, the Genii, the Dryads, the Naiads, etc., etc. All natural objects were dead, mere hollow statues, but there was a Godkin or Goddessling included in each. In the Hebrew poetry you find nothing of this poor stuff, as poor in genuine imagination as it is mean in intellect. At best, it is but fancy, or the aggregating faculty of the mind, not imagination or the modifying and coadunating faculty. This the Hebrew poets appear to me to have possessed beyond all others, and next to them the English. In the Hebrew poets each thing has a life of its own, and yet they are all our life" (Letters, ed. E. H. Coleridge, I, 405-06). See the severe condemnation of mythology in comparison with Christianity in a letter of December 17, 1796 (ibid., I, 199-200).
10Memorials of a Tour in Italy (1837), sonnets iv-vi (Poems of Wordsworth, ed. T. Hutchinson, Oxford University Press, 1926, p. 359). Unless some other reference is given, Wordsworth is regularly quoted from this edition.
11Poetical Works, ed. W. Knight (1896), VI, 145-46.. ..
12 Frederick E. Pierce, "Wordsworth and Thomas Taylor," P.Q., VII (1928), 62. For the Latin text see John D. Rea, "Coleridge's Intimations of Immortality from Proclus," M.P., XXVI (1928-29), 208-09. See also Herbert Hartman, "The 'Intimations' of Wordsworth's Ode," R.E.S., VI (1930), 1-20.
13 Rea, p. 211; Republic, bk. x, 611; Paradise Lost, iii. 604; Faerie Queene, III. viii, IV. xii; Colin Clout, 11. 245, 248 ff., 283. For Triton see also Comus, 1. 873.
Miss Abbie F. Potts has pointed out many reminiscences of Spenser and Milton in the Ode; see S.P., XXIX (1932), 607 ff.
14 Ll. 717 ff., 847 ff. Later (vi. 538 ff.) Wordsworth mentions the stories of Prometheus, Tantalus, and the line of Thebes, as fictions in form, but in their substance tremendous truths.
15 The image reminds us of the last sonnet of the Duddon series, where Wordsworth splendidly echoes Milton and Moschus (Poems, pp. 384, 915).
For the lines in The Excursion on the casting of a lock of hair into the river, Wordsworth would have found suggestions in various books that he possessed, such as Taylor's translation of Pausanias (I. xxxvii. 3) and Pope's Iliad, xxiii.175, note; see Works, ed. Knight, V, 396-97. For a parallel idea in Wordsworth's Essay upon Epitaphs, see Poems, p. 928, col. 2; or Prose Works, ed. Knight (1896), II, 128. He might also have got hints, especially for "Life continuous, Being unimpaired" (1. 755), from Potter's Archaeologia Graeca (ed. Edinburgh, 1818), II, 278. His library in 1859 contained Potter's first volume (Transactions of the Wordsworth Society, VI, 206, item 61); presumably he had owned the second, and possibly he had lent it to Coleridge. Potter says that both the watery deities and the sun were thought to deserve gratitude "for the first gift, as well as continuance of life."
16 See also the perfect lines on Pan in The Prelude, viii. 180 ff. Except for one word they are the same in the version of 1805-06 as in the later one.
17 Some scholars have found echoes of Schiller's Gods of Greece in these mythological passages of The Excursion, but the resemblances seem too slight and general to prove anything. Wordsworth of course knew, and admired, Coleridge's lines on the fair humanities of old religion (see The Correspondence of Henry Crabb Robinson with the Wordsworth Circle, ed. Edith J. Morley, Clarendon Press, 1927, I, 402), and they may well have been in his mind, but he is less close to Coleridge in The Excursion than in the fifth section of the Ode of 1816 (Poems, p. 325: "And ye, Pierian Sisters. . . ."). For various opinions on these points see, for example, Theodor Zeiger, Studien zur vergleichenden Litteraturgeschichte, I (1901), 287-89; Thomas Rea, Schiller's Dramas and Poems in England (1906), pp. 74-75; Max J. Herzberg, "William Wordsworth and German Literature," P.M.L.A., XL (1925), 339-42; F. W. Stokoe, German Influence in the English Romantic Period (1926), p. 116; A. C. Bradley, "English Poetry and German Philosophy in the Age of Wordsworth," A Miscellany (1929), pp. 126-27; Frederic Ewen, The Prestige of Schiller in England 1788-1859 (Columbia University Press, 1932), p. 80, note 154.
18 "It is interesting to notice that when Wordsworth began to write The Prelude he still delighted to conceive of Nature not merely as the expression of one divine spirit, but as in its several parts animated by individual spirits who had, like human beings, an independent life and power of action. This was obviously his firm belief in the primitive paganism of his boyhood . . . and long after he had given up definite belief in it, he cherished it as more than mere poetic fancy" (E. de Selincourt, The Prelude, Clarendon Press, 1926, p. 506). Cf. Melvin M. Rader, Presiding Ideas in Wordsworth's Poetry (University of Washington Publications in Language and Literature, VIII, 1931), especially pp. 175 ff., 186 ff.
19 For one expression of Wordsworth's belief in the religious character of all true poetry, see his letter in reply to Landor's strictures on Laodamia (Works, ed. Knight, 1896, VI, 9; Letters of the Wordsworth Family, ed. Knight, 1907, II, 214-15).
20 An obvious initial suggestion for the poem was the appearance of Laodamia among the shades of unhappy lovers. Some other items derived from the sixth book are the opening sacrifices to the infernal gods, the attitude of the suppliant Laodamia (modeled on that of the priestess), her vain attempt to embrace the ghost of her husband, and of course the passage quoted in the text
See Catullus, lxviii; and Letters of the Wordsworth Family, II, 179. In Hyginus (Fab. ciii-iv) Laodamia wins the favor from the gods; in Lucian (Dialogues of the Dead, xxiii) it is the ardent Protesilaus. In Propertius (I. xix) Protesilaus is the passionate one of the pair. See also Servius, on Aen. vi. 447. For details about Ovid, Euripides, and Virgil, see Works, ed. Knight, VI, 11 ff.
21 Cf. Aen. vi. 637 ff.:
"His demum exactis, perfecto munere divae,
devenere locos laetos et amoena virecta
fortunatorum nemorum sedesque beatas.
largior hic campos aether et lumine vestii
purpureo, solemque suum, sua sidera norunt.
pars in gramineis exercent membra palaestris,
contendunt ludo et fulva luctantur harena;
pars pedibus plaudunt choreas et carmina dicunt."
One might add two passages which show the difference between a dead convention and a convention brought to life. In Descriptive Sketches (1793 version, Poems, p. 613), Wordsworth echoes a hundred eighteenth-century versifiers:
"For come Diseases on, and Penury's rage,
Labour, and Pain, and Grief, and joyless Age,
And Conscience dogging close his bleeding way. . . ."
This is from Yew-Trees (1803; Poems, p. 185):
". . . ghostly Shapes
May meet at noontide; Fear and trembling Hope,
Silence and Foresight; Death the Skeleton
And Time the Shadow. . . ."
Cf. Aen. vi. 273 ff.
22Memoir and Letters (1873), I, 396 ff.
23 Compare Laodamia, 11. 73 ff., 145 ff., and Paradise Lost, viii. 586 ff. For the alterations in the conclusion see Wordsworth's Poems, p. 901.
24Evening Voluntaries, iv (1834), Poems, p. 455.
25 . .. See Dean Inge's remarks, quoted by Miss Edith C. Batho, The Later Wordsworth (Cambridge University Press, 1933), p. 307; and Aubrey de Vere, Essays Chiefly on Poetry (1887), I, 186-88.
Mr. Herbert Read (Wordsworth, 1930, pp. 214 ff.) and Mr. Hugh Fausset (The Lost Leader, 1933, p. 443) are very severe upon Laodamia; they both see behind the hero and heroine the figures of Wordsworth and Annette. It may be so, but one has grown weary of Annette as the one key to the poetry of Wordsworth, and the tone of critics who lecture him is not entirely unlike that of the Protesilaus they detest.
26 See, for example, book xiii, 11. 160 ff., 261 ff., pp. 482 and 488 in The Prelude, ed. De Selincourt (1926).
While in his early prime Wordsworth often disparaged books and reason, such sentiments were sometimes dramatic or playful, and sometimes they were the natural reaction of a man who had turned for salvation to Godwinism, the intellectual system par excellence, and had found it both inadequate and dangerous. Moreover, at the time of Laodamia or later he could on occasion cherish his early faith in impulses from the vernal wood.
27 Canto vii, 11. 1621-28 (Poems, p. 414).
28 See, for example, iv. 1270 ff., v. 1011 ff., and below, ch. III, notes 63-64.
29 For Arnold's complaint about Wordsworth's tinkering see his Letters, ed. G. W. E. Russell (1895), II, 182-83.
30The Prelude, ix. 408 ff. See De Selincourt's edition, pp. 570, 589. For Wordsworth's use of Plutarch in the poem, see Works, ed. Knight, VI, 125 ff. The most detailed criticism of Dion, and the highest eulogy, that I have seen is that of Mr. Sturge Moore ("The Best Poetry," Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature, Second Series, XXXI , 36 ff.).
31 This last phrase may be a reminiscence of the "unimaginable touches" of Milton's remarks on music in his Of Education (Prose Works, Bohn ed., III, 476). On the next page Milton says that in the spring "it were an injury and sullenness against nature, not to go out and see her riches"; with this compare Excursion, iv. 1190-91; Intimations of Immortality, 1. 42.
32 See, for example, the Miltonic conclusion of The Brownie's Cell (1814); The Excursion, vi. 826 ff.; The Three Cottage Girls (1821); the opening of the third part of The Russian Fugitive (1830).
33 See Hazlitt's The Spirit of the Age. Mr. De Selincourt has suggested that Hazlitt's account is colored by recollections of Keats's Bacchic lines (Poems of John Keats, 1926, p. 572).
34 John Forster, Walter Savage Landor (1869), II, 323.
35The Triad (1828); see Poems, p. 220. One of the triad, Sara Coleridge, thought the poem "artificial and unreal" (Memoir and Letters, 1873, II, 352), but Wordsworth liked it (Letters of the Wordsworth Family, II, 351).
36 Book vii, 11. 728 ff. The lines are uttered by the Pastor.
Doubtless too much should not be made of the anecdote told by Haydon and by Hazlitt, especially since both were masters of vivid corroborative detail. At Christie's, apparently in 1824, Wordsworth looked for some time, says Haydon, at "the group of Cupid and Psyche kissing," and then "he turned round to me with an expression I shall never forget, and said, 'The Dev-ils!'" (See Autobiography and Memoirs of Benjamin Robert Haydon, ed. Aldous Huxley, 1926, I, xviii, 351; Works of William Hazlitt, ed. P. P. Howe, VIII , 343.) Miss Batho (The Later Wordsworth, p. 84) insists that "there are at least two impossible interpretations, that he hated art and hated or was afraid of passionate love."
37Poems, p. 957.
38Works of Lord Byron. Poetry, ed. E. H. Coleridge (1903—04), I, 405, 424 (Hints from Horace, 11. 225-26, 513-14); II, 386-88 (Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, IV. lxxv ff).
39The Island, ii. 290-93 (Works, V, 609-10); Don Juan, I. xli (Works, VI, 26).
40Works. Letters and Journals, ed. R. E. Prothero (1902-04), I, 172.
41Ibid, V, 270, note; V, 274.
42 The early paraphrase, in Hours of Idleness (1807), of the Virgilian episode of Nisus and Euryalus often reads like an awkwardly heightened imitation of Dryden's rendering, which in fact it sometimes echoes. An odd conjunction of stars, by the way, was responsible for Byron's imitation of Ossian, The Death of Calmar and Orla (Works, I, 177-83), which is based on the Virgilian story.
43Works, III, 13. Cf. Don Juan, II. cv. In Don Juan, II. cciv, Byron seems to echo the passage in the Hero and Leander of Musaeus which describes the uncanonical union of the lovers.
44Childe Harold, I. lviii; English Bards, and Scotch Reviewers, 1. 399; Antony and Cleopatra, I. v. 28.
45 "Lord Byron: Arnold & Swinburne," The Background of English Literature (1925), p. 89.
46Childe Harold, IV. ii (Works, II, 328).
47 See, for instance, his defence of Pope's translation of the moonlight scene in Homer, and his strictures on Wordsworth's geography in the passage on Greece in The Excursion (Letters, III, 239 ff.). And see the remarks of Apollo-Byron in Disraeli's skit Ixion in Heaven (ed. 1927, p. 15).
48Childe Harold, IV. li; Don Juan, II. cxciv.
49Childe Harold, IV. clxi. Cf. Thomson, Liberty, iv. 163 ff.
50Childe Harold, IV. lxxix; The Age of Bronze, 11. 642-43.
51Childe Harold, IV. clxxv-clxxvi; The Age of Bronze, 11. 658-59; Don Juan, V. v. In this as in other respects Byron may have owed something to Frere, though he went far beyond him. See The Monks and the Giants, ed. R. D. Waller (Manchester University Press, 1926), II. li, III. ix and xi, IV. xiv-xv, xxxiii ff.
52 For example, compare the allusions to the Argo in The Island, i. 229-30 (Works, V, 597), and Don Juan, II. lxvi, XIV. lxxvi; or the allusions to Aphrodite and Venus in The Island, ii. 132-33, and Don Juan, I. lv.
53Don Juan, II. clv; Dedication, xiii.
54Beppo, lxxx (Works, IV, 185).
55Letters, II, 345, III, 405.
56Trelawny's Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron, ed. Dowden (Oxford University Press, 1923), pp. 107, 22.
57Ibid, p. 142.
58Trelawny's Recollections, pp. 136-37 (and cf. Letters, VI, 242); Works, IV, 566. The autograph manuscript of the fragment is dated September 10, 1823.
59Don Juan, III. lxxxvi, lxxxvii.
60The Profession of Poetry (Clarendon Press, 1929), p. 52.
61Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte, xvi (Works, III, 312).
62 See notes on Prometheus (Works, IV, 48); Letters, IV, 174 (1817). Nearly all the allusions are collected by Mr. Chew, M.L.N., XXXIII (1918), 306-09. One might refer to the Promethean ejaculation uttered by Byron when ill after a swim (Trelawny's Recollections, p. 101).
63La poëtique d'Aristote traduite en françois (Paris, 1692), p. 205.
64 "Soliloquy or Advice to an Author," Characteristics, ed. J. M. Robertson (1900), I, 136; and see II, 15-16. For some studies of the Prometheus theme in modern literature, see the writings of John Bailey, Arturo Graf, Karl Heinemann, and Oskar Walzel, in my bibliography, "General."
65Goethes Sämtliche Werke, Jubiläums-Ausgabe (Stuttgart and Berlin, 1902-07), XV, 11 ff. As Strich observes, "dieses Gedicht bringt ein neues Element in die mythologische Dichtkunst: den Mythos als Erlebnis des Dichters" (Die Mythologie in der deutschen Literatur, I, 235).
66Werke, II, 59. It is uncertain whether this monologue was intended for incorporation in the play or not (J. G. Robertson, Life and Work of Goethe, 1932, pp. 44-45). As Robertson remarks elsewhere, this magnificent Prometheus was Goethe's "real reply to Wieland, a reply before which Wieland's whole would-be Greek world shrivelled up" (The Gods of Greece, p. 10; Essays and Addresses, p. 125).
67 H. J. C. Grierson, "Byron and English Society," The Background of English Literature, pp. 184-86.
68Childe Harold, IV. cxxvi; Prometheus Unbound, II. iv. 100 ff.
.. . In the bibliography, as in the footnotes, the place of publication of books is London, unless another place is named. Abbreviations used here and in footnotes are these:
A.J.P., American Journal of Philology; ELH, English Literary History; J.E.G.P., Journal of English and Germanic Philology; M.L.N., Modern Language Notes; M.L.R., Modern Language Review; M.P., Modern Philology; P.M.L.A., Publications of the Modern Language Association of America; P.Q., Philological Quarterly; R.E.S., Review of English Studies; S.P., Studies in Philology; T.L.S., London Times Literary Supplement. . . .
(a) COLERIDGE AND WORDSWORTH
Leslie N. Broughton, The Theocritean Element in the Works of William Wordsworth. Halle, 1920.
Douglas Bush, "Wordsworth and the Classics." University of Toronto Quarterly, II (1933), 359-79.
C. C. Bushneil, "A Parallelism between Lucan and Lines in Tintern Abbey ." J.E.G.P., IV (1902), 58.
Lane Cooper, "Wordsworth's Knowledge of Plato." M.L.N., XXXIII (1918), 497-99.
A. C. Dunstan, "The German Influence on Coleridge." M.L.R., XVII (1922), 272-81; XVIII (1923), 183-201.
John L. Haney, The German Influence on Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Philadelphia, 1902.
Herbert Hartman, "The 'Intimations' of Wordsworth's Ode," R.E.S., VI (1930), 1-20.
Anna A. Helmholtz (Mrs. A. A. von Helmholtz Phelan), The Indebtedness of Samuel Taylor Coleridge to August Wilhelm Schlegel. Bulletin of the University of Wisconsin, Philology and Literature Series, III (1907), 273-370.
William Knight, "A Lost Wordsworthian Fragment" [On Harmodius and Aristogeiton]. Classical Review, XV (1901), 82.
K. Lienemann, Die Belesenheit von William Wordsworth. Berlin, 1908.
Frederick E. Pierce, "Wordsworth and Thomas Taylor." P.Q., VII (1928), 60-64.
J. P. Postgate, "Two Classical Parallels [Lucan, v. 219 ff., and Intimations of Immortality]." Classical Review, XXIII (1909), 42.
John D. Rea, "Coleridge's Intimations of Immortality from Proclus." M.P., XXVI (1928-29), 201-13.
F. W. Stokoe, German Influence in the English Romantic Period. Cambridge University Press, 1926.
Una V. Tuckerman, "Wordsworth's Plan for his Imitation of Juvenal." M.L.N, XLV (1930), 209-15.
James W. Tupper, "The Growth of the Classical in Wordsworth's Poetry." Sewanee Review, XXIII (1915), 95-107.
Karl Brunner, "Griechenland in Byrons Dichtung." Anglia, LX (1936), 203-10.
L. M. Buell, "Byron and Shelley [Prometheus]." M.L.N., XXXII (1917), 312-13.
Samuel C. Chew, "Byroniana." [Cf. Buell above.] M.L.N., XXXIII (1918), 306-09.
E. S. De Beer and Walter Seton, "Byroniana: The Archives of the London Greek Committee." Nineteenth Century, C (1926), 396 ff.
O. E., "Byron and Canova's Helen." T.L.S., September 23, 1926, p. 632.
H. J. C. Grierson, "Byron and English Society." The Background of English Literature (1925), p. 167-99; Byron, the Poet, ed. Walter A. Briscoe (1924), pp. 55-85.
R. G. Howarth, "Byron's Reading." T.L.S., March 15, 1934, p. 194.
Sir Richard Jebb, "Byron in Greece." Modern Greece (1880), pp. 143-83.
F. Maychrzak, "Lord Byron als Übersetzer." Englische Studien, XXI (1895), 384-430.
F. H. Pughe, "Byron, Wordsworth und die Antike." Studien über Byron und Wordsworth, ch. III. Anglistische Forschungen, VIII (1902), 40-54.
Helene Richter, "Byron. Klassizismus und Romantik." Anglia, XLVIII (1924), 209-57; Lord Byron (Halle, 1929), pp. 126 ff.
Walter F. Schirmer, "Zu Byrons 'klassizistischer Theorie.'" Archiv, CLI (1926), 84-85.
Harold Spender, Byron and Greece. 1924.
Douglas Bush (essay date 1937)
SOURCE: "Minor Poets of the Early Nineteenth Century," in Mythology and the Romantic Tradition in English Poetry, 1937. Reprint, Harvard University Press, 1969, pp. 169-96.
[In the essay below, Bush traces the Greek influence among the works of minor nineteenth-century poets—notably Leigh Hunt, Thomas Love Peacock, Hartley Coleridge, Thomas Hood, and Thomas Lovell Beddoes—and stresses that these poets helped to nurture the growth of Romantic Hellenism.]
While we look back to Wordsworth, Keats, and Shelley as the creators of the mythological genre in the nineteenth century, many smaller poets reflected and in some degree fostered the growth of romantic Hellenism. Indeed some of the poorest of them were popular when the great poets were not. However, the reader will not be asked to crawl with me through the endless underbrush which envelops the foothills of Parnassus . . . and most of this chapter, after the first few pages, is concerned with such more or less important minor poets as Hunt, Peacock, Hartley Coleridge, Hood, and Beddoes. We may observe, among other things, how constantly the mythological impulse is accompanied by, or springs from, Elizabethan enthusiasms. That note is dominant in such pioneers as Mrs. Tighe and Lord Thurlow. Mrs. Tighe, said Christopher North, was an angel on earth, "evanescent as her own immortal Psyche"; she was celebrated by Moore, and, in Mooreish strains, by the young Keats. In her long and languid allegorical poem of 1805 . .. , Mrs. Tighe was more of an eighteenth-century Spenserian than a true romantic, though her sensuous coloring was softer and warmer than that of her predecessors. If Elizabethan ardor, and adaptations of Shakespeare and Spenser, could alone make a poet, Lord Thurlow, the author of Ariadne (1814) and Angelica (1822), would have been one, and a man who thought the golden age of our language was that of Elizabeth was not entirely the fool Byron called him; but his Ariadne is as fantastic a romance as Henry Petowe's continuation of Marlowe's Hero and Leander.
A few better-known writers belong to the Hellenic rather than the Elizabethan revival. Mrs. Hemans, whose first volume appeared in 1808, began to celebrate Greek themes when still in pinafores. Her very literary Muse ranged far and wide, and might have groaned, with Aeneas, that the whole earth—and a large tract of heaven—was full of her labors. In her tepidly idealistic and romantic way Mrs. Hemans versified numerous bits of Plutarch, Mitford's History of Greece, Potter's Archaeologica Graeca, and similar books; her Elysium is headed by a quotation from Chateaubriand's La génie du christianisme. In Modern Greece (1817) she sang, a fluent, feminine, decorous Byron, of Greek freedom, art, and antiquities; the noble lord resented the infringement of his monopoly by a writer who had never been in Greece. Campbell eulogized the past, in his lectures on the poetry of Greece (1812), and to the modern struggle for independence he paid a tribute, not unworthy of his martial fire, in his Song of the Greeks. That charming friend of all the world, Tom Moore, translated Anacreon in 1800, with some aid from "Thomas Little," and then, as Thomas Little, drew from Anacreon a warmth of amorous sentiment which maintained his reputation for naughtiness well through the strict period of the Regency. No such adventitious interest helps to carry one through his Evenings in Greece (1825) and Legendary Ballads (1830). The thin treble of the songs is accompanied by a ponderous bass in the form of footnotes which testify to the multiplication of books of travel and antiquities, but Moore's reading did not prevent his Greece from bearing a close resemblance to the Orient of Lalla Rookh. His cheerfully inadequate notions of ancient Epicureanism were demolished by Peacock.
Three other writers must be included in these preliminary paragraphs, Thomas Wade, Mary Shelley, and Bryan Waller Procter. Of these the best poet was Wade, one of the earliest poetic admirers and imitators of Shelley; Keats also he admired, and Shakespeare's narrative poems.1 As one would expect, his long Nuptials of Juno (1825) was what, since the time of Shelley and Keats, has been called a typical young man's poem, an exuberant mythological tapestry of rich color and sensuous warmth. This last phrase should be partly qualified with reference to the opening episode, based on a rather obscure myth; a cuckoo, after being fondled by Juno, turns into Jove, and there follow fourteen blameless lines of asterisks.
Mary Shelley's little dramas, Proserpine and Midas, were probably written in 1820; the former was first printed in 1832, the latter in 1922, in M. Koszul's excellent edition. They are not important, but they enable us to read Shelley's lovely lyrics in the setting for which they were designed. Apart from the question of comparative quality, the lyrics harmonize with the context, though the conclusion at least of the Hymn of Pan hardly warrants the adjectives of Tmolus and Midas, "blithe," "merry," "springhtly," and "gay." The fable of each drama sticks pretty closely to Ovid (whom Mary read with Shelley); there is the usual fanciful and descriptive elaboration. In Midas there is also a moral, that only a man who preferred earthly to divine music would be fool enough to crave unlimited gold. (If Mary had not been a devoted daughter, one might be tempted to see behind Midas the figure of her father, who for some time cared less for Shelley's poetry than for negotiable bits of his formal prose.) But Midas learns his lesson, and the conclusion anticipates the era when man, having lost the curse of gold, shall be "Rich, happy, free & great." In Proserpine Mrs. Shelley expresses her own spontaneous pleasure in the beauties of nature and myth, and, while she cannot take wing like her husband, she does at moments catch something of the pure Shelleyan limpidity.
The amiable gentleman of letters, Bryan Waller Procter, long outlived the numerous mythological poems of "Barry Cornwall." In his Elizabethan and Italian sympathies, and in his soft, smooth, luscious manner, he was closer to Hunt than to his great contemporaries. The effort to be Miltonic, in The Flood of Thessaly (1823), did something to brace his nerveless and invertebrate style, but the poem was a comparative failure. Blackwood's, which had praised Procter's early work, now reluctantly linked him with the "Greekish" Cockneys, "the lieges of Leigh the First."2 In general Procter turned myths into pretty tapestries of descriptive luxuriance and delicate amorousness.3 Mrs. Browning acknowledged his "genius," but said he had done a good deal "to emasculate the poetry of the passing age."4 Both Shelley and Keats spoke well of Procter and ill of Barry Cornwall; Keats's words are kind and final.5 But I may quote a more formal judgment from the pontifex maximus of criticism because it is a general characterization of the new mode in mythological poetry. In his belated review Jeffrey praised Keats highly, and linked him as a mythological poet with Barry Cornwall. These and other recent poets, he says,
sheltering the violence of the fiction under the ancient traditionary fable, have in reality created and imagined an entire new set of characters; and brought closely and minutely before us the loves and sorrows and perplexities of beings, with whose names and supernatural attributes we had long been familiar, without any sense or feeling of their personal character. We have more than doubts of the fitness of such personages to maintain a permanent interest with the modern public;—but the way in which they are here managed certainly gives them the best chance that now remains for them; and; at all events, it cannot be denied that the effect is striking and graceful.6
I. Leigh Hunt (1784-1859)
Our memory of Leigh Hunt's verse is often limited to Abou Ben Adhem and a bad couplet or two from The Story of Rimini—the damned "rural spot" will not out—but he wrote, to mention only what concerns us, one charming poem, The Nymphs (1818), and two partly good narratives, Hero and Leander and Bacchus and Ariadne, both of 1819. Though his instinct for mythological luxuries had appeared as early as his Juvenilia (1801), Hunt may, in this group of poems, have been emulating Keats.7 We do not regret that, on hearing of Shelley's work, he abandoned a projected Prometheus Throned, since, as he wrote to Shelley, he was "rather the son of one of Atlas's daughters, than of Atlas himself."8 But if Hunt the romantic and mythological poet flowered and died early, Hunt the critic, essayist, and book-maker continued to testify to his faith, for the endless misfortunes and endless labor of his later life seem hardly to have dimmed his youthful vision of the radiant antique world.
Before we consider Hunt's notions of myth a word should be said of The Story of Rimini (1816) because of its general influence on mythological poetry. Taking as his model the English poet whom at that time he found most delightful, John Dryden, Hunt set out, with a stronger sense of "the tender and the pathetic," and a more sensuous pleasure in nature and color, to tell a romantic story in verse of informal flexibility, which should combine rich decoration with something of realism in tone and sentiment.9 As he candidly acknowledged later, Rimini was pitched in the wrong key—he was Ariosto's man, not Dante's—but, when all his lapses have been duly condemned and when the poem is compared with what had gone before rather than with what came after, it remains a notable piece of romantic narrative. For young writers of luscious tastes who inclined to the antique, Laodamia was too austere in form and style, and Rimini did more than any other single work to create the convention which Hunt himself, Keats, and others more or less followed in their mythological verse. If the fruits of that convention were sometimes over-ripe, they were sometimes beautiful too.
While Hunt was grateful to Christ's Hospital (if not especially to the renowned Boyer) for making him "acquainted with the languages of Homer and Ovid," gerund-grinding developed no immediate love for any of the classics except Virgil (and one episode in him, that of Nisus and Euryalus). His saturation in mythology began as a boyish and extra-curricular enthusiasm, that kind of enthusiasm which seems so often to have been engendered by primitive educational systems. Like Keats, Hunt reveled in a trinity which look drab enough now, Lempriere's Classical Dictionary, Spence's Polymetis (this for its plates rather than its text), and above all Tooke's Pantheon, over which he dreamed in the fields as well as in school.10 Later came such poetry as Spenser and the fifty-six volumes of the Parnaso Italiano (which the cheerful martyr bought while in prison) to fill his imagination with gods and nymphs. In addition to the classical and modern literature that he might be expected to know, Hunt could quote familiarly from such formidable mythographers as Boccaccio, Natalis Comes, George Sandys, Bochart, and others.11 More important than knowledge was his rich appreciation of mythology and the older poetic tradition, and no critic of his time set forth with such full and intuitive sympathy the esthetic and spiritual values which the romantic poets had re-discovered in myth. In the preface to Foliage (1818) Hunt expanded, with special reference to mythology, the anti-classicist doctrine of the preface to Rimini. Shakespeare
felt the Grecian mythology not as a set of school-boy common-places which it was thought manly to give up, but as something which it requires more than mere scholarship to understand,—as the elevation of the external world and of accomplished humanity to the highest pitch of the graceful, and as embodied essences of all the grand and lovely qualities of nature.
Hunt rejoiced, then, that the living and life-giving tradition of Shakespeare, Spenser, and the rest had come up, on the other side of the eighteenth-century desert, in romantic poetry. In its serious essence Hunt's interpretation of myth is in harmony with that of The Excursion:12 "There is a deeper sense of another world, precisely because there is a deeper sense of the present; of its varieties, its benignities, its mystery."13 But, as we should expect, Hunt feels more esthetic and sensuous enjoyment than religious or mystical aspiration. Like Francis Thompson toward the end of the century, he was well aware of what modern poets, because of their very remoteness from pagan religion, added in the way of refinement and nobility to ancient conceptions.14 Moreover, his approach to the subject was not merely bookish:
He that would run the whole round of the spirit of heathenism to perfection [a phrase impossible for Coleridge, Wordsworth, or Keats or Shelley!], must become intimate with the poetry of Milton and Spenser; of Ovid, Homer, Theocritus, and the Greek tragedians; with the novels of Wieland, the sculptures of Phidias and others, and the pictures of Raphael, and the Caraccis, and Nicholas Poussin. But a single page of Spenser or one morning at the Angerstein Gallery, will make him better acquainted with it than a dozen such folios as Spence's Polymetis, or all the mythologists and book-poets who have attempted to draw Greek inspiration from a Latin fount.15
I have emphasized Hunt's views of myth because they are such a clear summary of what his betters were doing in poetry, and because he exerted so much personal influence; his influence as a noted liberal is another story. His poem The Nymphs is not altogether unworthy of his critical ideals. Indeed it may be counted Hunt's best poem, though he left it out of the canon. It delighted Shelley, and we can hardly read the song of the Nepheliads without feeling that it contributed something to the richer music and imagery of The Cloud and Arethusa.16 The poem requires no investigation of sources; except for the names of the classes of nymphs and their general functions, it grows out of Hunt's lively senses.17 "I write to enjoy myself," he says in the preface to Foliage, and the statement indicates both his virtues and his limitations. "The main features of the book are a love of sociality, of the country, and of the fine imagination of the Greeks." Nowhere else does Hunt express so poetically,. and with so few of his irritating faults, his sensitive joy in all the bright and happy phenomena of nature, his loving observation of wood and field and stream and sky, and, one may add, the female form. There is no explicit symbolism in the poem; it is mainly "a now" in luxuriant verse. To use a formula of the age which Hunt the critic handled with insight, The Nymphs has more of fancy than imagination; but there is visual imagination at least, and in peopling the natural world with lovely nymphs Hunt is true to his own conception of the Greeks and their direct, unsophisticated response to nature. He does achieve something of a primitive outlook,18 though his more or less authentic tidings are of visible things. Hunt never wearied of quoting "Great God! I'd rather be . . . ," and he hazarded the guess that he had had far more sights of Proteus than Wordsworth; for Wordsworth, in occasional revulsions from ugly actuality, was only escaping into the world of imagination where he, Hunt, had habitually lived.19 Granted the possible truth of the claim, it would help to account for Hunt's rank as a poet. He was a more active and courageous publicist than his great elders and juniors, and in his personal experience of life he bore perhaps as much trouble as any of them, yet his sunny temperament seems to have banished clouds, and his writing to a large extent remained outside the world of reality.
Such a lover of the Elizabethans as Hunt should have had qualms in undertaking to re-tell the story of Hero and Leander. He made no such additions to the legend as Marlowe had, though he treated it freely enough and apparently with little thought of reproducing the antique.20 Indeed his sense of the modernity, or the timelessness, of the tale, which dictated his style and tone, is revealed in his thinking of the star-crossed lovers as he "would of two that died last night."21 The manner is much like that of Rimini, though nothing is so good or perhaps quite so bad. Such lines as "And after months of mutual admiration" and "Strained to his heart the cordial shapeliness" represent the obverse side of Hunt's attempt at unaffected ease. There is compensation in some half-Tennysonian lines like that about the crane which "Began to clang against the coming rain," or "All but the washing of the eternal seas."
The first part of Bacchus and Ariadne, which narrates the heroine's discovery of Theseus' desertion, is mainly adapted from the tenth epistle of the Heroides. Hunt softens the high-pitched rhetoric of the original into his own key of pathetic sentiment, and pleasantly amplifies Ovid's touches of nature; a happy example is the picture of Ariadne in her leafy bower, wakening out of her dreams to the chirp of birds. But if the poem has any claim upon the modern reader, it is by virtue of a long and fine bravura passage on the arrival of Bacchus and his throng. Though marred of course by bits of flat or inept phrasing, and though far inferior to Keats's Bacchic procession, it stands comparison better than most of Hunt's work because Hunt is at his best and Keats, while splendid, is merely descriptive. As for sources, Hunt would know Ovid and Catullus and other renderings in verse and prose, not to mention such paintings as Titian's and Poussin's.22
One cannot take leave of Hunt without quoting the finest mythological image he ever struck out, one that his greatest contemporaries might have been glad to own. In the essay "A Walk from Dulwich to Brockham" he described a bed of poppies with dark ruby cups and crowned heads, glowing with melancholy beauty in the setting sun: "They look as if they held a mystery at their hearts, like sleeping kings of Lethe."23 Francis Thompson did not equal that.
II. Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866)
Rhododaphne (1818) is an attractive if not important poem, and it partly expresses an element in Peacock which the reader of his lively prose might overlook. Though his literary career covered the first two thirds of the nineteenth century, Peacock was always an eighteenth-century aristocrat. His mellow (and sometimes belligerent) classical scholarship, his Epicurean creed, which was both gustatory and philosophic, his infinite common sense, his skeptical mockery of all forms of irrationality and "enthusiasm," these things are of the eighteenth century, and, along with his mental agility and high spirits, they give to his books their unique sanity and sparkle and tang. As a largely self-trained classic, Peacock united to more than donnish crotchets the more than donnish passion for Greek with which he endowed such fine old pagan clerics as Dr. Folliott. In temperament he was closer to Lucian than to Plato, and, like most satirists, he attacked his own age because he had visions of a better one. But he was no martyr or crusader because, again like most satirists', his visions were of the past, not of the future. Greece, however, is not a mere refuge from reality, it is reality; it is the touchstone of truth and simplicity, of rational wisdom. In the Aristophanic comedy in Gryll Grange, Peacock, like Spenser, makes use of Plutarch's Gryllus, the victim of Circe who preferred to retain his hoggish nature; for the man of the Renaissance such porcine contentment is an affront to the dignity of the human soul, in Peacock it expresses a resolute Tory's contempt for modern boasts of progress.24 If Gryllus belongs to the backyard of the Pantheon, Peacock employs mythology proper, along with medieval romance, in the prose fragment Calidore (1816). In this fantasy, which reminds us of Heine's The Gods in Exile, we learn that the Olympian deities were happy in their relations with humanity until men degenerated and began to call the gods Beelzebub and Astaroth, to sigh and groan and turn up the whites of their eyes. The Nonconformist conscience, as Mr. Beerbohm would say, had made cowards of them all, and the gods, disgusted with so unpleasant a race, retired to an undisturbed island.
The harmony which soon prevailed between the Olympians and their Arthurian visitors might be taken, allegorically, as a symbol of Peacock's combination of Hellenic rationalism with a genuine romantic strain. When in The Four Ages of Poetry (1820) he says, "We know too that there are no Dryads in Hyde-park nor Naiads in the Regent's-canal," he is not a rationalist rejoicing in the march of mind but a romantic mourning the decay of the spirit of wonder and mystery that progress has brought about. He feels, like Arnold thirty years later, how unpoetical the age is. And at the end of his life he was not merely the "whiteheaded jolly old worldling" whom Thackeray saw. The confession of faith that he put into the mouth of Mr. Falconer may stand as essentially his own; Peacock himself, strange as it seems, was a devotee of St. Catherine. Mr. Falconer feels the need of believing in some local spiritual influence, genius or nymph, to link him with the spirit of the universe, for the world of things "is too deeply tinged with sordid vulgarity."
There can be no intellectual power resident in a wood, where the only inscription is not "Genio loci," but "Trespassers will be prosecuted"; no Naiad in a stream that turns a cotton-mill; no Oread in a mountain dell, where a railway train deposits a cargo of vandals; no Nereids or Oceanitides along the sea-shore, where a coastguard is watching for smugglers. No; the intellectual life of the material world is dead. Imagination cannot replace it. But the intercession of saints still forms a link between the visible and invisible. . . .25
If this complaint has a touch of elderly sentimental peevishness—like "By the Ilissus there was no Wragg, poor thing"—Peacock's fundamental attitude, like the much more philosophic Arnold's, was sincere. His half-primitive and pagan belief, or desire to believe, was the closest approach to religious sentiment that his irresponsible intelligence permitted. But while in mythological poems Keats and Shelley, with their larger vision, did not lose sight of the modern world, Peacock did in Rhododaphne. The critic of modernity who wrote the novels owed much to his commerce with the ancients; the Hellenism of the poem is wholly a romantic dream, a way of escape.
The fable of the seven cantos can be briefly summarized. The maiden Calliroë suffers from a strange disease, and her lover Anthemion goes to a festival in honor of Love to make an offering on her behalf. He is enthralled by the beauty and magical power of Rhododaphne. He escapes to his own home, to find Calliroë well and radiant, but when he kisses her with the lips that have been kissed by the enchantress, she swoons, apparently in death. The stricken Anthemion rushes away. He is recaptured by Rhododaphne, who passionately insists that she holds sway over all things but his heart, and she must possess it. They live together in a magic palace, until Rhododaphne is slain by Uranian Love for profaning his altars. The palace vanishes, and Anthemion awakens to find himself at home in Arcadia, with the dead Rhododaphne beside him. But Calliroë appears, alive and lovely, to be reunited with him, and to weep for the fate of the loving Rhododaphne.
Peacock's main interest was in a tale of ancient magic and mystery and beauty. His imagination was too concrete, too simply romantic, for the symbolism that Keats and Shelley instinctively found in the antique, yet he went some way in that direction. The poem commences with a differentiation of threefold love, creative, heavenly, and earthly, and at the beginning of the last canto we are reminded that "Love's first flame," Anthemion's love for Calliroë, is "of heavenly birth," while the passion between him and the enchantress is earthly. The story of a young man torn between a supernatural and a human love will have recalled Keats's Endymion, which appeared a few months after Rhododaphne, and which Peacock did not like.26 But Peacock did not work out his parable with anything like Keats's seriousness, so that his critics have generally failed to observe that he has one. The episode of the magic palace reminds us at once of Lamia, and, as we have seen, Keats apparently gathered some hints from Peacock.
Rhododaphne contains, as Shelley said, "the transfused essence of Lucian, Petronius, and Apuleius," and the author's classical learning appears, unobtrusively, in and between the lines.27 In comparison with Endymion and Prometheus Unbound, if not in an absolute sense, the poem deserves Shelley's epithets, not yet overworn, of "Greek and Pagan," although, as Shelley went on to say, the love story is more modern than the spirit and scenery. The "strong religio loci" is partly in the substance of the tale, and so far may be called Hellenic, and partly it is in the way of modern and nostalgic comment. The most genuine emotion in the poem is felt in the expressions of wistful regret for the passing of the infant world and its divinities:
The life, the intellectual soul
Of vale, and grove, and stream, has fled
For ever with the creed sublime
That nursed the Muse of earlier time.
Peacock's classical taste is everywhere apparent, not merely in the use of local color but in the crystalline clarity, definiteness, and objectivity of his narrative method, style, and imagery. We have no vagueness or fumbling, no Keatsian lapses in taste, no beating of Shelleyan wings. That is a merit, and it belongs partly to the ancients and partly to the eighteenth century; one may say of the poem what the East India Company's officials said of the author's examination papers, "Nothing superfluous and nothing wanting." But one is compelled to add that Peacock is not struggling to utter anything of much difficulty or importance. If we happen to begin Rhododaphne, we yield at once to its melodious charm and the freshness of its bright water-color pictures, but we retain no memory of it, and we may forget to pick it up again; the story of human love stirs no emotion, the diablerie causes no frisson. If we compare the description of Rhododaphne in the moonlit grove with parallel scenes in Christabel we feel at once what the former lacks, or avoids.29 When Peacock uses the simile "like the phantom of a dream," it has in its context something of Greek externality and distinctness which is quite different from the inwardness, the suggestion of reverie, in Shelley's "As suddenly Thou comest as the memory of a dream."30 There seem to be echoes of the poem in Shelley's work, and it was doubtless association with Shelley that kindled a genuine poetic flame from the ashes of Palmyra and The Genius of the Thames. Yet Peacock remained himself, a modern Ovid.
III. Hartley Coleridge (1796-1849)
Hartley Coleridge discussed mythology in a prose essay much more lucid than his father's speculations.31 Like Jeffrey, he linked together "Keats, Cornwall, and Shelley"—and he added Wordsworth—as poets who had breathed a new life into dry bones. Like Jeffrey also, he observed that the stern, simple gods of ancient paganism had acquired "new manners, and almost new faces"; they have become tender, radiant beings allied with "the gentler parts of nature." The most eloquent bits of the essay are largely an elaboration of the mythological passages in The Excursion and The Piccolomini, both of which are quoted. In Hartley's sympathetic view Greek myth lives on, at least for poets, because of its very humanity; it once was, and may still be, the beautiful or terrible expression of man's unchanging loves and fears, his yearnings and his passions. From a gifted poet thus inclined toward the symbolic use of myth, a poet with a keen love of nature and one who went up to Oxford, as Southey said, with Greek enough for a whole college, we might expect something distinctive. If Hartley's verse on classical themes (like much of his other verse) does not seem worthy of his powers, still we have such things as the sonnets on Homer,32The Vale of Tempe, Diana and Endymion, and the fragment of a dramatic poem, Prometheus.
In addition to the general causes which hindered the fulfilment of Hartley's poetic promise there was the fact that, in spite of his imaginative sympathy with mythology, his heart was divided. In the first place he inherited the paternal doctrine of the finite quality of Greek anthropomorphism.33 That idea is touched, quite beautifully, in The Vale of Tempe, but at least between the lines of the sonnet appears a related and more fundamental anti-mythological instinct, also paternal, the religious pietism which found such sincere and usually unpoetic expression in Hartley's later poems. For a full statement of it we may turn back to the very essay in which he celebrated the poetic possibilities of myth:
Oh! what a faith were this, if human life indeed were but a summer's dream, and sin and sorrow but a beldame's tale, and death the fading of a rainbow, or the sinking of a breeze into quiet air; if all mankind were lovers and poets, and there were no truer pain than the first sigh of love, or the yearning after ideal beauty; if there were no dark misgivings, no obstinate questionings, no age to freeze the springs of life, and no remorse to taint them.34
Such words, from Hartley Coleridge, are not mere rhetoric, and some of them have a parallel in the Prometheus which, in ignorance of Shelley's drama, he had begun at Oxford, apparently in 1820.35 His scholarly equipment was admirable; he translated the Medea in 1820 and planned a prose version of Aeschylus. For many years he hoped to finish Prometheus, but of course he never did, partly on account of his constitutional infirmities and partly, perhaps, because he sank under the formidable exposition of the myth which his zealous father unloaded upon him.36 The fragment, which has something over six hundred lines, consists mainly of a dialogue between the unconquerable Prometheus and a chorus of sylphs who wish to be allowed to plead with Jupiter on his behalf. As "a lovely child, a boy divine," Jupiter had sworn to make his reign a golden age, and the sylphs had sung of it. It is their music, says Prometheus, which deludes mortals into dreaming of a new world of peace
Where beauty feads not, love is ever true,
And life immortal like a summer day.
How the drama would have evolved we cannot tell, but the separate "Conclusion" gives a hint:
Mortal! fear no more,—
The reign is past of ancient violence;
And Jove hath sworn that time shall not deface,
Nor death destroy, nor mutability
Perplex the truth of love.
The reign of love sounds Shelleyan, though not the idea of a reformed and beneficent Jupiter.37 Hartley may have intended something like the Aeschylean solution, or, more probably, a development of the contrast between pagan and Christian ideals. In Bagehot's judgment the poem had no Greek severity of style, no defined outline, but one may think that in general concreteness and humanity of feeling it is closer to Greek drama than most English imitations except those whose severity is indistinguishable from rigor mortis.38
IV. Thomas Hood (1799-1845)
Hood's arduous maturity allowed little time for classical reading, but he must have absorbed some mythological lore during his brief schooldays.39 The poems of his which concern us are notable examples of Elizabethan influence combined with that of some moderns, especially Keats. The least happy example is Lamia, which is Keats's poem made over into an Elizabethan play.40 In the charming Plea of the Midsummer Fairies (1827) we are reminded not only of Shakespeare but of Spenser and Marlowe, and of Keats by the rich coloring and the "hoary majesty" of Saturn.41 The feeling that Hood here expressed for the old divinities of tree and stream42 found further expression in the two classical narratives, Lycus, the Centaur (1822) and Hero and Leander (1827).
Both the theme and the sensuous detail of the former poem show the influence of Keats. The nymph who loves Lycus procures a charm from Circe to make him immortal, but, as she utters it and sees him becoming a horse, she breaks off in horror, and he remains a centaur. One thinks at once of the episode of Glaucus, Scylla, and Circe in the third book of Endymion; though Hood is concerned with the sensations of Lycus and not with humanitarian and ethical symbolism, he is closer to Keats than to Ovid.43 Besides, as Mr. Elton remarks, Lycus seems to be influenced, in its slow-galloping meter, by Shelley's Vision of the Sea, and "perhaps also in its highly charged attempt at dreadfulness."44 Hartley Coleridge wrote to Hood that the poem was "a work absolutely unique in its line, such as no man has written, or could have written, but yourself," and John Clare could not understand a word of it.45 Something can be said for both opinions. The utterance of a man changed into a centaur may well be somewhat distraught and incoherent. But if Hood has the imagination, he has not the style to sustain horror and pity at the level he sometimes reaches.
Hero and Leander contains some beauties, and its faults may be less irritating than those of Hunt's version. Hood avoided direct competition with Marlowe by inventing a large part of his story. He begins with the parting of the lovers in the morning. Leander, on his way back to Abydos, encounters a sea nymph who carries him down to her home, not knowing that gratification of her love means death to him; in the hope of restoring his life she brings him up to the shore, but the body is removed by fishermen and she returns to the water. This episode occupies ninety out of the hundred and thirty stanzas; only at the end does Hood resume the original tale in describing the grief and suicide of Hero. The theme of the episode is common property—it had been used lately by Hood's friend, J. H. Reynolds, in The Naiad (1816), and by Hood himself in Lycus—but the initial hint might have come from Marlowe's lines about Neptune's pulling Leander down to the depths where sweet singing mermaids sported with their loves. Hood's poem has some clear echoes of Marlowe.46
There are also clear echoes of Venus and Adonis—not to mention the sixain stanza—and of The Rape of Lucrece. The nymph's invitation to love, and her efforts to revive the drowned Leander, recall Shakespeare's Venus.47 When she sees that Leander is dead, she denounces Night in a series of conceits parallel to those of Lucrece on the same theme, and her address to Death, in the latter part of the same speech, was doubtless suggested by the tirade of Venus.48 But no list of actual reminiscences or imitations could begin to indicate the Elizabethan quality of the rhetorical speeches, conceits, gnomic lines, and the diction generally. The poem is probably the most remarkable example in modern verse of almost complete reproduction of the narrative manner of the Elizabethan Ovidians. One cannot quite dismiss as pastiche what is written with the youthful freshness and spontaneity of a contemporary of Shakespeare and Marlowe. Of course there is some obvious modernity of spirit and expression—and Keats is not forgotten49—but in general Hood seems to see and think and feel in the Elizabethan way, and he is as unconscious as Shakespeare and Marlowe were that it is often a bad way.
V Thomas Lovell Beddoes (1803-49)
That Beddoes was the last Elizabethan—more properly the last Jacobean—has long been a cliché of criticism, and the incidental mythology of the dramas recalls the main varieties of Elizabethan style. He can be soft and idyllic, in the Elizabethan-Romantic convention of his own day, though he seldom lapses into mere prettiness; he can let himself go in boyishly flamboyant rhetoric, like Marlowe and Shakespeare; or, like Donne, he can divest a decorative mythological image of its traditional glamor and give us an anti-romantic or ghoulish shock. Though Beddoes took classical prizes at school, and in later life continued to read Greek along with anatomy and German, most of his writing was decidedly "Gothic." And, for all his strange Elizabethan quality, his distinctive mythological allusions could not be mistaken for early work; whether quiet or turbid, they are of the nineteenth century. Every critic quotes these lovely lines:
Here's the blue violet, like Pandora's eye,
When first it darkened with immortal life.
The first line might have been uttered by Perdita, but not the second. For a less serene image, take the lines on Night with giant strides stalking over the world
Like a swart Cyclops, on its hideous front
One round, red, thunderswollen eye ablaze.
While the Elizabethans and Jacobeans loved such large personifications, there is here a modern touch of conscious composition or aggregation. Beddoes is more characteristic in his sardonic or macabre vein. It is a far cry from, say, Portia's "Peace, ho! the moon sleeps with Endymion," to Isbrand's
That wolf-howled, witch-prayed,
Fat mother moon . . . ,
or from Shakespeare's or even Hunt's Cleopatra—"The laughing queen that caught the world's great hands"—to Beddoes' lines on the queen's cracked and battered skull.52
In addition to many allusions, Beddoes has some poems on classical subjects, from the genial, robust, and grotesque Silenus in Proteus to such a romantic whimsy as the Song of the Stygian Naiades.53 His most ambitious effort in that vein was Pygmalion (1825), which most of his critics have united in ignoring, perhaps in the belief that the author, who liked it at first, was right in looking back on it as "considerable trash."54 In style the poem reminds one sometimes of Landor's Hellenics, sometimes of Keats;55 it is at any rate not Elizabethan, unless the largely imagined and energetic conceits and the occasionally knotty texture have a parallel in Chapman. All that Beddoes retains of the Ovidian myth is the first part—how Pygmalion, scorning the women around him, made a statue and fell in love with it—and even that part is re-created; the conclusion, and the interpretation, are entirely modern. This poem is Beddoes' Alastor or Endymion. Pygmalion is a type of the lonely artist, the artist of an age of idealism, frustration, and Weltschmerz, whose life is apart from the world about him. The statue is so beautiful that its maker must be called divine, a giver of immortality greater than Jove, but he cannot pass the bars between his mortal self and the fragment of reality he has created. He prays that he may be spared from death and the grave, that the figure into which he has poured his soul may be endowed with life by the gods who have often wasted life "On the deformed, the hideous and the vile."56 But the statue remains stone and the sculptor pines away; as his body dies the statue comes to life. Artist and work of art are united only in the immaterial world of eternity.57
As poetry, Pygmalion is not one of the things by which Beddoes lives, yet as a document at least it is worth something. His skeptical, disillusioned brain and soul harbored a tormenting conviction of the emptiness of life, and he searched "with avidity for every shadow of a proof or probability of an after-existence, both in the material & immaterial nature of man." Nothing else could "satisfy the claims of the oppressed on nature, satiate endless & admirable love & humanity, & quench the greediness of the spirit for existence."58 One other passage from a letter brings us close to the specific theme of Pygmalion:
Shakspeare, Dante, Milton, all who have come next to the human heart, had found no object in life to satiate the restless yearnings of their hearts & appease at the same time the fastidious cravings of their imaginations. Dissatisfaction is the lot of the poet, if it be that of any being; & therefore the gushings of the spirit, these pourings out of their innermost on imaginary topics, because there was no altar in their home worthy of the libation.59
And the conclusion of the last letter Beddoes wrote is the ultimate comment on Pygmalion: "I ought to have been among other things a good poet; Life was too great a bore on one peg & that a bad one. . . ."
These various minor writers show how ready the poetic soil was to foster the mythological seed sown by Keats and Shelley (and Wordsworth), and no one dropped more gentle rain from heaven upon it than Leigh Hunt. Besides the abundant evidence in print of these young men's interests, it is pleasant to hear of Hunt, Peacock, and Hogg on Sunday afternoons "talking of mythology, and the Greeks, and our old friends."60 Some of these poets are original and important figures, others, like Barry Cornwall and Mrs. Shelley, only testify to the ease with which, after a fashion, the new mythological conventions could be worked. Nearly all of them showed in their writing the influence of their Elizabethan enthusiasms. With such exceptions as Hartley Coleridge and Beddoes, they generally lacked the philosophic depth and symbolic power of Keats and Shelley, and were content, like most of the Elizabethans, with decorative story-telling and picture-making. And only one, Hartley Coleridge, revealed the cleavage, apparent in his father and in Wordsworth, between Christian and pagan ideals, a cleavage which was to persist and to widen during the rest of the century.
1 In addition to internal evidence in Wade's volumes of 1825 and 1835, see, in the latter, pp. 120-22, 234. This volume, Mundi et Cordis, was dedicated to Procter.
2Blackwood's Magazine, XIII (1823), 534; Richard W. Armour, Barry Cornwall (Boston, 1935), pp. 158-59.
3 It was not always quite delicate, and Shelley was roused to unnecessary vehemence by Procter's imitation of Beppo and Don Juan, the pertly arch and vulgar Gyges (published in A Sicilian Story, 1820); see Shelley's Letters, ed. Ingpen (1914), II, 839, 847, 860. The birthmark with which Procter endows the queen, and which he compares with that of Imogen, seems to be a reminiscence of Spenser's tale of Pastorella (Faerie Queene, VI. xii. 7). It is to Procter's credit as an Elizabethan student, if not as a poet, that he quotes a "moral" from the story of Gyges in Painter's Palace of Pleasure.
4Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning Addressed to Richard Hengist Home, ed. S. R. Townshend Mayer (1877), I, 233. See Procter's retrospective words, in The Browning Box, ed. H. W. Donner (Oxford University Press, 1935), p. 50.
5Letters, ed. M. B. Forman (1935), p. 471.
6Jeffrey's Literary Criticism, ed. D. Nichol Smith (Oxford University Press, 1910), pp. 183-84; Edinburgh Review, XXXIV (1820), 206-07.
7 Louis Landré, Leigh Hunt (Paris, 1936), II, 287; for a discussion of Hunt's mythological essays and sketches in prose, see II, 370 ff. M. Landré's study appeared too late to allow more than a last-minute perusal—since there comes a time when one does have to stop reading—but I am glad to find that my few pages, so far as they go, are in sufficient accord with that massive and admirable work.
8 Edmund Blunden, Leigh Hunt and His Circle (1930), pp. 140-41; Correspondence of Leigh Hunt (1862), I, 132.
Any reader of Hunt's original verse might predict the varying degrees of success he would attain in his numerous translations—that he would be happy in rendering most of the Italians (such as Tasso's Aminta and Redi's Bacco in Toscana), the Greek pastorals and Anacreontics, and similar congenial things, and that he would be less happy with Homer. (Hunt infuriated Byron, of course, by referring, in the preface to Foliage, to Pope's Iliad as an elegant mistake in two volumes octavo; see Byron's Letters and Journals, IV, 238.) Perhaps the only real anomaly is Hunt's unexpectedly virile rendering of Catullus' Attis, done in 1810.
9Autobiography of Leigh Hunt (World's Classics ed.), p. 310.
10Autobiography, pp. 98-101, 108, 126, 138, 492.
11 See especially the mythological papers included in the volume A Day by the Fire, ed. J. E. Babson (Boston, 1870). These had appeared in The New Monthly Magazine for 1835-36, and in other journals; see Luther A. Brewer, My Leigh Hunt Library (Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1932), pp. 96, 127, 165, etc. Hunt's references to Sandys' Ovid in A Day by the Fire (pp. 195, 214) show that he used the edition of 1640, the one Keats also referred to.
12 He refers admiringly to this passage in connection with his own poem of 1836, Apollo and the Sunbeams (Poetical Works, ed. H. S. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1923, p. 262). He had mentioned it in 1817 as the basis of Keats's myths in I Stood Tip-toe; see Edmund Blunden, Leigh Hunt's "Examiner" Examined (1928), p. 134; Poems of John Keats, ed. De Selincourt (1926), p. 390. Cf. Hazlitt, "On the Love of the Country" (Works, ed. Waller and Glover, 1902, I, 19), and Mr. C. D. Thorpe's edition of Keats (New York, 1935), pp. 56-57.
13 "Spirit of the Ancient Mythology," The Indicator, January 19, 1820; Essays. By Leigh Hunt (Moxon, 1842); Essays by Leigh Hunt, ed. Arthur Symons (1888). This is one of a number of mythological pieces in prose which appeared in The Indicator during 1819-20.
14Ibid.; and A Day by the Fire, pp. 58-59.
15 "A Popular View of the Heathen Mythology," A Day by the Fire, p. 59.
16Works, pp. 328-30, Il. 135 ff.; and p. 322, Il. 131-33. See Letters of Shelley (1914), II, 589, 909; for a report of Shelley's less favorable opinion of Hunt's work in general, see Peck, Shelley, II, 409. Although, or because, The Nymphs so much resembles the early verse of Keats, the more philosophic Keats found it inadequate; see the Letters (1935), pp. 16, 25-26, 96.
17 The less common as well as the common names and functions (apart from the Nepheliads) were described in a number of books Hunt was familiar with, from Tooke's Pantheon (ed. 1781, pp. 223-24) and Natalis Comes, Mythologiae, V, xi-xii (ed. Padua, 1616, pp. 254-55), to the Parnaso Italiano; in this vast anthology, see, for instance, XVI, 197-98, 249, and XXIV, 194 (ed. Venice, 1784 et seq.). A prose analogue to the poem is Hunt's essay of 1836, "The Nymphs of Antiquity and of the Poets" (A Day by the Fire). A brief passage on nymphs in Rimini was based, Hunt says, partly on Poussin's picture of Polyphemus; see Works, p. 23, Il. 470 ff., and the preface to The Story of Rimini, 1817, p. xiii.
18 Many years later Hunt remarked that the supernatural should not be weakly and mistakenly humanized by a poet: "His nymphs will have no taste of their woods and waters; his gods and goddesses be only so many fair or frowning ladies and gentlemen. . . ." (Imagination and Fancy, ed. 1870, p. 17.)
19Autobiography, pp. 492-93.
20 In Imagination and Fancy (p. 122) Hunt mentions Marlowe's poem as "not comparable with his plays." In the same book (pp. 255, 263) he cites Coleridge's mythological paraphrases from Schiller, and he may have known Schiller's Hero und Leander. There is some resemblance, for example, between Hunt's Hero and Leander, 11. 179 ff., and Schiller, 11. 65 ff. (Werke, Säkular-Ausgabe, I, 79), but it may be only coincidence.
21Works, p. 683.
22 In Sleep and Poetry, Keats alluded to the prints on Hunt's walls, among them "several, probably, of his [Poussin's] various 'Bacchanals,' with the god and his leopard-drawn car, and groups of nymphs dancing with fauns or strewn upon the foreground to right or left" (Colvin, John Keats, 1917, p. 54).
23The Companion. By Leigh Hunt (1828), p. 361; Essays, ed. Symons, pp. 309-10; Essays (Everyman ed.), p. 85.
24Faerie Queene, II. xii. 86-87. See Plutarch's Morals, ed. W. W. Goodwin (Boston, 1878), V, 218 ff. ("That Brute Beasts Make Use of Reason").
25Gryll Grange (1861), ch. IX. See Carl Van Doren, Life of Thomas Love Peacock (1911), pp. 245-46; Jean-Jacques Mayoux, Un épicurien anglais: Thomas Love Peacock (Paris, 1933), p. 499.
26 He complained because Keats's hero, instead of having an eternal sleep, went questing after shadows; see Peacock's Works, Halliford Edition, ed. H. F. B. Brett-Smith and C. E. Jones (1924-34), I, lxxxii. M. Mayoux (p. 317, note) says that to Peacock Keats would seem to have done violence to the classic ideal of repose, but Peacock's own narrative is hardly reposeful, and he was, moreover, contemptuous of Hyperion (Works, loc. cit.). In connection with Peacock's parable of love in Rhododaphne, M. Mayoux (p. 134) cites Shelley's Prince Athanase.
Peacock planned a nympholeptic tale, which "would obviously have been a second Rhododaphne" (Van Doren, pp. 110-11), but he gave it up on the announcement of Horace Smith's Amarynthus, the Nympholept (Works, I, lxxix).
27 Shelley's Letters, II, 995; Works, ed. Ingpen and Peck (1926-30), VI, 273 ff. Peacock discusses these three and other ancient authorities in his preface and notes. He remarks that the song about Bacchus and the pirates in the fifth canto is based on the Homeric Hymn to Dionysus; see, to cite the most accessible edition, pp. 137 and 205 in The Misfortunes of Elphin and Rhododaphne, ed. G. Saintsbury (London, 1927). In the opening of the sixth canto Peacock paraphrases at length the reflections in Petronius (Satyricon, cxv) on a man lost at sea and the vicissitudes of human life (cf. the First section of Taylor's Holy Dying). A sentence from this passage of Petronius is the motto for the tenth chapter of Gryll Grange.
I cannot claim a close acquaintance with Peacock's beloved Nonnus—probably he did not wish that anyone should—but his animated description of Bacchic revels (p. 239), though the theme was stereotyped, may owe something to the Dionysiaca, xxii. I ff.; and see his reference to the twelfth book in a letter to Shelley (Works, VIII, 203). Magic palaces are also somewhat stereotyped, and Rhododaphne's apparently includes items from those of Alcinous (Od. vii. 100-02) and Psyche (Rhododaphne, canto vi, pp. 222, 225). For an account of similar palaces and gardens in Nonnus, see Lewis P. Chamberlayne, "A Study of Nonnus," S.P., XIII (1916), 63-65. The transformation of a pirate crew into animals who prowl around the gardens (canto vii, p. 234) is an obvious reminiscence of Circe (Od. x. 212 ff). The picture of Rhododaphne hurling the javelin (canto vii, p. 240) embodies some lines from Peacock's unpublished version of the dialogue Phaedra and Nurse, from Euripides (Works, VII, 413, 442).
28 Canto iii, 11. I ff., and iv. 13 ff. Part of the former passage was quoted by Poe, who found the poem "brimfull of music"; see his Works, ed. E. C. Stedman and G. E. Woodberry (New York, 1914), VII, 314.
29Rhododaphne, canto iii; Christabel, 11. 58 ff., 279 ff.
30Rhododaphne, canto ii, 1. 17; Prometheus Unbound, II. i. 7-8. Cf. also Peacock's lines on love, which rhyme "ocean" and "emotion" (canto vii, ed. Saintsbury, p. 245), and Shelley's use of the words and idea (P.U., IV. 98-96). The second stanza of the Hymn of Pan seems to have echoes of Peacock's "Down Pindus' steep . . ." (canto iii, p. 176); see Works of Shelley, ed. Ingpen and Peck, IV, 402, and the opening of Shelley's review of Rhododaphne. For possible echoes in Adonais, see Peck, Shelley, II, 221, note 11 (and also I, 426, note 71).
31 "On the Poetical Use of the Heathen Mythology," London Magazine, February, 1822, pp. 113 ff; reprinted in Essays and Marginalia, ed. Derwent Coleridge (1851), I, 18 ff. The essay gave much pleasure to the Wordsworths (Letters of the Wordsworth Family, ed. Knight, II, 173).
32Poems, ed. Derwent Coleridge (1851), I, 144, II, 16. While Hartley's father, Wordsworth, and Southey "all leant to the Wolfian, or, as my brother called it, Wolfish and Heinous (Heyne) hypothesis respecting the origin of the Homeric poems, Hartley was always a stout and vehement upholder of the orthodox opinion" (ibid., I, clvi). He said he had witnessed the Trojan war, being then "an insect which in these days is nameless," that took refuge in Helen's hair (Earl L. Griggs, Hartley Coleridge, University of London Press, 1929, p. 168).
33 See Essays, I, 37; Poems, I, 37, 162, II, 212; Herbert Hartman, Hartley Coleridge (Oxford University Press, 1931), pp. 109-10.
34 Cf. Poems, I, 117, and a piece in lighter vein, I, 152.
35 See Poems, I, xciii, II, 280; Griggs, p. 93; Hartman, p. 81.
36 That is, the lecture on the Prometheus of Aeschylus mentioned at the beginning of my second chapter. See Unpublished Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ed. E. L. Griggs (1932), II, 281, 336; and Derwent Coleridge's summary of the relevant part of the lecture (Poems, II, 282).
Apart from echoes of Aeschylus' Promethean drama in Hartley's poem, compare Agam., 11. 717 ff., and Poems, II, 301; Paradise Regained, ii. 178 ff., and Poems, II, 295.
37 Richard Garnett said that "although his brother attributes it to an earlier period, it is plainly composed under the influence of Shelley" (D.N.B. [Dictionary of National Biography]). Allowing for the identity of the fables, I do not think the internal evidence is so plain.
38 See Bagehot's Literary Studies (Everyman ed.), I, 64. A reviewer in Fraser's Magazine (XLIII , 611) complained, not quite justly, that the theme required an Aeschylus, not a Theocritus.
39 See The Irish Schoolmaster, stanzas 22-23 (Poetical Works of Thomas Hood, ed. Walter Jerrold, Oxford University Press, 1920, pp. 64-65).
40 The date of composition is uncertain; see my Appendix, under 1822. The allusion to the poor maiden that adored Apollo (i. 27; Works, p. 675) suggests The Girl of Provence, by Hood's friend Procter, which appeared in The Flood of Thessaly (1823), though the story was well known.
41 For Spenser and Marlowe, see stanzas cxii and lx. While Saturn is altered to suit a fanciful poem, such stanzas as lxiii-lxv, including the borrowed phrase, recall Hyperion (cf. i. 59 in particular). Keats's general influence on Hood was discussed, rather inadequately, by Federico Olivero, in M.L.N. [Modern Language Notes], XXVIII (1913), 233-35.
42 P. 116, st. xxiv.
43 Cf. the myth of Cronus and Philyra in Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, ii. 1231 ff. Keats's Lamia is remembered in Lycus, 11. 56-57, and probably the first line of Endymion in 11. 154-55.
44Survey of English Literature, 1780-1880 (1920), II, 288.
45 Walter Jerrold, Thomas Hood: His Life and Times (New York, 1909), p. 197.
46 E.g., Hood, 11. 403 ff, Marlowe, i. 347-48; Hood, 11. 493 ff., Marlowe, i. 375-76.
47 See especially Hood, 11. 447-48, and Shakespeare, 11. 1127-28. In Biancas Dream (Works, p. 76, 1. 233) there is an acknowledged echo (see 1. 234) of Shakespeare, 1. 231.
48 Hood, 11. 499 ff; Lucrece, 11. 764 ff.; Venus and Adonis, 11. 931 ff. Hood doubtless knew the original of Lucrece's declamation on Night, Faerie Queene, III. iv. 55 ff. Hood's detailed description of the attitudes of the people watching the nymph (11. 667 ff.) appears to be an imitation of Lucrece's account of the painting of Trojan scenes.
49 For probable or possible echoes, see Hood, 11. 226-28, and Isabella, st. xxxiv; Hood, 11. 269-70, and Keats's sonnet on Leander (cf. Hood's sonnet and a comic piece on Hero and Leander, Works, pp. 194, 436); Hood, 1. 376, and Eve of St. Agnes, st. xxxiii-xxxv; Hood, 1. 620, and Lamia, i. 8.
50The Brides' Tragedy (1822), I. 1 (Works, e d. H. W. Donner, Oxford University Press, 1935, p. 174; ed. Gosse, 1928, II, 406).
51Ibid., III. iii (Donner, p. 204; Gosse, II, 442-43).
52Death's Jest-Book, III. iii and V. iv (Donner, pp. 423, 479-80; Gosse, I, 184, 246). In Isbrand's lyric on Harpagus and Astyages, which has nothing lyrical but the meter, a sufficiently grim incident from Herodotus (i. 119) is elaborated with gruesomely jocular details (Donner, pp. 90, 466; Gosse, I, 230).
53 Donner, pp. 136-37; Gosse, II, 375, 398.
54 A letter of 1837 (Donner, pp. 662, 664; Gosse, I, 103, 105). For the poem, see Donner, pp. 78-83; Gosse, II, 346-52.
55 Kelsall spoke of the "peculiar fascination" Keats had for Beddoes, and found "traces" of his influence in Pygmalion, "the sole instance of a direct impress from another mind, in the whole compass" of his friend's poetry; see his edition of the Poems (1851), pp. xxii-xxiii. Cf. Kelsall's letter of 1869, in The Browning Box, ed. H. W. Donner (Oxford University Press, 1935), pp. 85-86.
56 In a letter of August 25, 1824, Beddoes wrote of Shelley: "What would he not have done, if ten years more, that will be wasted upon the lives of unprofitable knaves and fools, had been given to him" (Donner, p. 590; Gosse, I, 18).
57 Though Beddoes went much beyond Rousseau's "Pygmalion," I think he owed somewhat more to it than Mr. Donner admits. See Rousseau's Œuvres complètes (Paris, 1870-74), V, 232-36; Donner, pp. 601, 754, and his Thomas Lovell Beddoes: The Making of a Poet (Oxford, 1935), p. 174. Leigh Hunt, in his version of Rousseau's work, remarked that the author "was a kind of Pygmalion himself, disgusted with the world, and perpetually yet hopelessly endeavouring to realize the dreams of his imagination" (The Indicator, May 10, 1820, pp. 241 ff.). Compare Beddoes' "Translation of the Philosophic Letters of Schiller," published in 1825 (Donner, pp. 549 ff).
58 A letter of April 20, 1827 (Donner, p. 630; Gosse, I, 64-65). For this question as a motive in his medical studies see Donner, Thomas Lovell Beddoes, p. 187.
59 October 21, 1827 (Donner, p. 635; Gosse, I, 71).
60 Blunden, Leigh Hunt and His Circle, p. 139; Correspondence of Leigh Hunt (1862), I, 129 (March 9, 1819).
Edmund Blunden, "Leigh Hunt." T.L.S. [London Times Literary Supplement], November 16, 1922, pp. 733-34; reprinted, as "Leigh Hunt's Poetry," in Votive Tablets (1931), pp. 205-18.
Leigh Hunt, A Day by the Fire; And Other Papers, Hitherto Uncollected, ed. J. E. B[abson]. Boston, 1870.
Louis Landré, Leigh Hunt (1784-1859): Contribution à l'histoire du romantisme anglais. Paris, 1936.
Jean-Jacques Mayoux, Un épicurien anglais: Thomas Love Peacock. Paris, 1933.
Grete Moldauer, Thomas Lovell Beddoes. Wiener Beiträge, LU (1924).
Federico Olivero, "Hood and Keats." M.L.N. [Modern Language Notes], XXVIII (1913), 233-35.
Proserpine and Midas: Two unpublished Mythological Dramas by Mary Shelley, ed. A. Koszul. Oxford University Press, 1922.
Edward B. Hungerford (essay date 1941)
SOURCE: "Myths and Mythagogues," in Shores of Darkness, Columbia University Press, 1941, pp. 3-34.
[In the following excerpt, Hungerford discusses the ways in which Greek mythology was researched and presented in the eighteenth through the early nineteenth century. The critic argues that nineteenth-century poets were influenced not only by the Euhemeristic and rationalistic treatments of mythology—which attempted to explain myths as covers for historical fact—but also by the works of ''speculative mythologists," in which "new modes of treating the myths " were propounded.]
Whoever has read carefully the mythological poems of the early decades of the nineteenth century has been aware of dead presences among them, of vague and nameless influences so remote and shapeless that the mind can scarcely define them. These spectres are no imaginary ones. They are ghosts indeed—the ghosts of a forgotten generation of men who once spoke of each other respectfully as "the learned," of men who believed that by the evidences of elephants' bones, the skeletons of giants, the roots of Greek verbs, Phoenician place names, Druids, and gods, they had traced man and his society and his religion to a pristine time—not more than a very few thousand years ago—when all was in a state of fresh wonder and men walked with God. These men were the speculative mythologists of the latter half of the eighteenth century and of the early years of the nineteenth. They rose quickly from obscurity and plunged so completely into oblivion that they have left scarcely an acknowledged trace upon intellectual history. Yet their pallid and disembodied shades walk with the living poets, like the unburied dead of ancient times who, for the want of a handful of dust thrown upon their bodies, could not descend to the abode of the dead. This chapter shall be that handful of dust which will give them decent burial.
My attention was first attracted toward these speculative mythologists by noticing that in the more ambitious mythological poetry of the early nineteenth century there were unusual departures from conventional myth which were certainly not authorized by classical mythology but which did not seem to be wholly inventions. A case in point is Keats's picture of the Titaness Asia in Hyperion. Instead of having Asia born of the usual mythological personifications which provided the Titans with parents in Greek myth, Keats names the father of his Titaness as Caf. No such figure, of course, appears in classical myth. In the Oriental Library of Herbelot some legends respecting a mountain named Caf are preserved, and William Beckford knew about them when he wrote Vathek; but Herbelot's legends do not explain Keats's use of the name. When I encountered the mythological speculations of Jean Sylvain Bailly, however, the allusion was made clear. Bailly had conceived a remarkable theory concerning the descent of culture, in which he imagined a prehistoric Atlantean people to have existed for many centuries in the region of Caf in the Caucasus Mountains. From this giant race, Asiatic culture had taken its origin. Keats, as I shall later point out in more detail, had seized hold of the picturesque theory and employed it as a means of prophesying the rise of Asiatic culture. The circumstance throws considerable light upon his plans for the story of Hyperion, and indicates that not merely classical mythology but contemporary speculations upon mythology found a place in the poetry which he based upon classical fable.
Others of the poets were reading not merely the classical authors and the mythological handbooks based upon them, but the highly speculative treatises whose brief vogue I shall describe. Blake in particular was affected by them so much that they constitute a kind of revelation of the world in which his imagination was operating, and it is worth reflecting that, in his poetry and in that of many other poets, ideas which seem mystical and scraps of erudition which seem profound may have been caught up from no more dignified source than Hancarville's ridiculous Researches or Wilford's "An Essay on the Sacred Isles in the West."
Who were these "speculative mythologists?" Most of them were men now so completely forgotten that the repetition of their names will not wake many echoes in the mind of the modern reader. The Abbés Pluche and Banier, Dom Antoine Pernety, Court de Gebelin, Charles François Dupuis, Jacob Bryant, Jean Sylvain Bailly, Hancarville, Francis Wilford, Georg Friedrich Creuzer, George Faber, Colonel Vallancey—these are but a few of the legion who made mythology their province. Most of them are too inconsequential to mention. The names of a truly imposing number are embedded in the list of "authorities" which Charles Anthon attached to his great mythological dictionary, and there I shall leave most of them. To review them all in detail might reveal a number of minute particulars in which they had exerted an influence upon the poets, but these "minute particulars," of which William Blake was so fond of speaking, would in the bulk be trivial compared to certain general tendencies in which their influence was most felt. At a time when the conventional myths had become too shopworn for literary fashion, the imaginative and exciting speculations of "the learned" introduced new modes of treating the myths.
It is a curious fact that the Greek Renaissance of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries did not express itself in literature as in the other arts. For a period of about seventy-five years, beginning near the middle of the eighteenth century with the excavations at Herculaneum and the publications of Winckelmann and subsiding with the setting up of the Elgin marbles in England and the revolution in Greece, there flourished an intense interest in the classical "antique." The diverse impulses of this latter Renaissance had a common denominator, the influence upon European taste not of a Greece preserved in books, but of an extant Greece surviving in the land itself and in its physical monuments. The fever of archaeological recovery burned high, and the contagion of a new classicism spread even to Russia and America. Never wholly Greek in character, the new classicism nevertheless shook off the rich adornment of the Renaissance and betook itself to what it regarded as a "purer" antique style. There emerged distinguishable styles in architecture, in sculpture, in painting, and in the arts of decoration. But the prevailing influences did not operate in literature in quite the same fashion as in the other arts. Keats's Ode on a Grecian Urn and the brief poems of André Chénier, true reflections of the Graeco-Roman taste of the era, did not strike the dominant note in poetry.
The truth of the matter is that men of letters from Dr. Johnson to William Blake had tired of the ancients as a too constant literary theme. The mythology of Greece and Rome had been so steadily exploited ever since the early Renaissance that its freshness as literary material had disappeared. The mythological theme had degenerated into its worst absurdity in the opera, and as Dr. Johnson pointed out, the mythological allusion had too often exhausted itself in puerilities. Mythological allusions were usually, he found, absurd, inappropriate, and dull. Reflecting the weariness of contemporary taste, Johnson resented the intrusion of "heathen fable" in poems dealing with religious themes, and modern attempts to revive mythological stories he regarded as properly doomed to neglect. Writing of Rowe's Ulysses, he observed shrewdly: "We have been too early acquainted with the poetical heroes to expect any pleasure from their revival: to shew them as they have already been shewn is to disgust by repetition; to give them new qualities or new adventures is to offend by violating received notions."
Laodamia, Endymion, Adonis, Albion, Prometheus, Helen, and Hyperion might well have been doomed, despite the ever-increasing Greek gusto, to the neglect which Dr. Johnson predicted for them had it not been that the study of mythology took a remarkable turn which was to fasten the minds of the poets upon it again as a new and different material.
After the early Renaissance the study of mythology had taken a fairly pedestrian course. At first books on mythology were concerned primarily with making an adjustment of fables which was satisfactory to the teachings of the Christian faith and the authority of the Bible, and secondly with providing a ready means for the acquisition of that intimate knowledge of the gods and heroes which superficially distinguished the lettered from the unlettered. But with the rise of an independent spirit of inquiry, mythologists followed the increasing rationalism of scientific thought in imposing systems upon inchoate knowledge, and throughout the latter seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries there appeared a wide diversity of treatises upon myth, each with a special theory to plead. When in 1765 the Chevalier de Jaucourt endeavored to survey for Diderot's Encyclopédie the great body of this literature, he was forced to declare: "Each man has uncovered in myth what his own particular genius and the plan of his studies have led him to look for. The physician finds by allegory the mysteries of nature; the political scientist, the refinements of the wisdom of government; the philosopher, the most beautiful morals; the chemist, the secrets of his art. Each has regarded fable as a country to be invaded, where he has believed that he had the right to make expeditions conforming to his taste and to his interests."
The spirit of this literature was for the most part Euhemeristic or rationalistic; that is, it was concerned to demonstrate that the myths were covers for some historical or natural facts. Thus the Cyclops were lighthouse builders, and their one eye was the beacon. Endymion was an early astronomer who observed the courses of the moon. Neither of these schools of interpretation was particularly stimulating to the poetic imagination, but both were to evolve in directions which eventually provided the strongest sort of stimulation.
The Euhemerists were attempting to resolve myth into the corrupted record of historical fact, explaining the gods and heroes as having had an actual human origin. This was no modern form of mythological interpretation, for the Euhemerists were followers of an ancient mythographer, Euhemerus, whose work has survived only in fragments. But the motive of modern Euhemerism was different from that of the ancient world. Modern Euhemerism commenced with the effort to explain the myths of antiquity as corrupted records of persons and events mentioned in the Old Testament. It is no accident that old Samuel Bochart, the most celebrated and most eccentric of seventeenth-century mythologists, commenced his studies in the field by lectures designed to support the authority of the book of Genesis. But a study which commenced with the effort to explain the myths of the ancient world as corruptions of facts recorded in the Bible ended in the eighteenth century by questioning whether the events recorded in the Bible were not merely myths. Bochart's original effort to turn the gods into patriarchs resulted in turning the patriarchs into myths. Hence the suspicion with which mythology came to be regarded, and the unexpected alliances which we find between the mythologists and liberal thinkers who were advancing in various directions. Just as it was no accident that Bochart's speculations began with his lectures on the book of Genesis, so it was no accident that the unreligious Bailly formulated his Euhemeristic system in a set of letters to Voltaire.
What happened was this: Whether men were disposed to defend or to attack the authority of the Bible, the way was opened for a new consideration of all the evidences bearing on the earliest history of man, and in this study the mythologist assumed a position of unaccustomed and unexpected authority. Hence the excitement which greeted the rapid succession of new and, from a modern point of view, preposterous systems embracing theories of the origin and dissemination of culture, such as those of Bryant, Bailly, Davies, and Wilford. It is difficult for the modern mind to realize how central a position the mythologist assumed for a brief period in scientific inquiry, or to believe that men like Bailly could receive the approbation of such bodies as the Academy in France or that Wilford's effusions could be received with profound attention by sober men like Sir William Jones, president of the Asiatic Society. Shortly after the beginning of the nineteenth century "evidences" had accumulated in such great quantity that the theories of what we may now think of as a lunatic fringe of mythologists were swept into oblivion. The statement of Grimm's Law took linguistic science out of the hands of amateurs, and it was no longer possible to speculate wildly about the Phoenician origin of the Celts or the British origin of the Hindus. Evidences as to the antiquity of human society ended efforts to trace all civilizations to the scattering of the peoples after the destruction of the tower of Babel or to describe society in such simple terms as ante- and postdiluvian. Knowledge of the immense antiquity of the earth itself made the oldest myths seem recent. And the Darwinian theory of an upward evolution disposed forever of the widely held belief that society and man himself had degenerated from a Golden Age in which the first institutions of God had been perfect and those which we now possess are, as Volney described them, mere ruins.
The Euhemerism of the middle of the eighteenth century had led, by the beginning of the nineteenth, to a situation in which the mythologist exercised authority over speculation relating to the origin of culture. At the same time, mythology had been advancing in another direction. The fashion of the middle of the eighteenth century had been both Euhemeristic and rationalistic. From the efforts to explain myth in rational terms arose that diversity of special systems of which the Chevalier de Jaucourt complained. No matter how cogently each specialist pleaded his cause, it was apparent that not every system could be correct. Common to each was the everpresent conviction that the myths rested upon some natural fact, and gradually, without controversy, the doctrine that the myths were embodiments of natural phenomena gained ground. The most interesting development in this direction began in France with Hancarville's theory that most of the myths were merely variants of each other and that basically they were allegories of the procreative powers. The detection of sexual symbolism in the myths became fashionable; in England the work of Richard Payne Knight, who developed Hancarville's theories, caused a suppressed scandal. A development from the new form of speculation was the unsavory recognition of survivals of sexual symbolism in still revered religious forms, and adherents of nature myth found themselves under suspicion as antireligionists. Less preoccupied with sex was another school of symbolists who discovered in myth the primitive language of men who had attempted to express in symbolic language their awe before the face of unknown powers. The increasing recognition, as the study of comparative mythology developed, that the natural language of the myths of one country was common to all, led even to the assumption that in primitive times men had been in a direct relationship to God and that the myths contained a vague but high theosophic knowledge communicated directly in pristine revelation. In Germany it was the mystical feature of the new symbolism which became most significant. The mystic revelation, clothed in the symbols of ancient myth, was of the same character as the mystery of Christianity. The symbolists supported the new movement toward Catholicism in Germany. Voss attacked savagely on this ground. Symbolism became the foe of Protestantism, at least in Voss's attack upon Heyne, Hermann, and Creuzer. Even the moderate Keightley in England pointed out that if the symbolists were right, Christianity became unnecessary.
The Euhemerism and rationalism which prevailed at the middle of the eighteenth century had provided little to stimulate the imagination of the poets. But the subsequent developments, which I have perhaps too hastily surveyed, were of a far different sort. In these was matter for the poetic mind to take hold of. The study of mythology ceased to be, for the poets, merely the instrument of a polite and conventional erudition. It became, indeed, a new sphere in which each, according to his capacities and disposition, could operate. From the eccentric systems of Wilford and Davies it was but a step to that of Blake, and if Blake chose to metamorphose the nebulous figures of mythological personages into equally nebulous figures of his visions, the contemporary reader would at least have recognized the misty region in which he trod. If a mythical Arthur faded into the outlines of an equally mythical Albion, there was little to be astonished at, and Los and Urizen were no more implausible than Bryant's Noah and Bailly's Atlas. Compared to the wild fancies of George Faber and Colonel Vallancey, Blake's work was that of a rigidly disciplined scientist.
To men like Shelley, who had grown mistrustful of what they regarded as the hypocrisy of conventional religion, myth became a new language in which the essential religious truths could be reëxpressed. To the poets of England as to the symbolists of Germany, myth was the vehicle of religious utterance. It was no accident that when Blake and Shelley desired to give utterance to the yearning for a regeneration of mankind through love neither chose the figure of Christ for the sufferer and the redeemer; the one took the figure of Albion who should awake from his sleep, and the other the figure of Prometheus tortured upon his rock. Even the young John Keats strove to instill into his Endymion an aspiration of the soul for some higher good; if he failed to give the poem a convincing spiritual meaning, it was the fault of his youth, not of his desire.
Those mythologists who had attempted to trace, by their tenuous "evidences," the origin of the races had felt that they had made important and exciting discoveries. They had gazed with a wild surmise upon the Golden Age, and they trembled with the excitement of the explorer. To the poets they communicated not so much their wild surmises as their exhilaration. Blake's visions took him to the origin of things. He saw the giants of antediluvian creation, and he moved backwards in time through the epochs which had preceded man. Shelley and Keats lived in a world of myth, and Goethe drew the vanished beauty of the age of myth down through the centuries with Helena. Shelley conceived the primordial Demogorgon, and his imagination dwelt upon the age when Prometheus brought down the gift of fire. Keats's Endymion was of a generation before the heroes, and Hyperion drove his orb of fire to light a world of elementary forms. Mythologist and poet alike shared the mystery of the remote and the original. As Creuzer, the most mystic of the scholars, declared that the mythologist must have the mind of a poet, so the poet found himself at home in the realm of the mythologist.
If the intellectual interpretations of myth in the eighteenth century had given the poet little stimulation, such was no longer the case. In the poetry of Keats the new nature myth found an inspired utterance. No poet was more skillful than Keats in merging the personages of his mythological poems with the elements which they represent. The most beautiful passages of Endymion are of this sort. Sleep (Hypnos), Ocean, the rivers Alpheus and Arethusa are magical translations of personages into natural forms. In Hyperion the manner in which the older myth of the sun dies into the rising splendor of Apollo is infinitely subtle and beautiful. Brilliant also is the ingenious manner in which Keats was shaping Enceladus to represent—as he must eventually, had the poem been completed—the volcanic eruptions of Mount Aetna.
Shelley's complex and mercurial mind asserted itself in another direction. Capable of dealing with intricate moral and intellectual allegories, Shelley seized hold of Hancarville and Knight's thesis of the double symbol in myth of the generative powers of nature. The ingenuity with which he applied this theory to his poetic conception of Adonais and Urania, sustaining the allegory in terms applicable to the quickening influence of the poet Keats, gave his peculiar stamp to a mythographical fashion. The immense failure of Goethe's Second Part of Faust came from the superabundant diversity of subtle allegories which he attempted to apply to an incongruous mythological theme.
One of the notable influences of the new mythology upon the poets was the growth of interest in very obscure mythological documents containing unconventional variants of the myths. Dr. Johnson's prediction that to give the poetical heroes new qualities or new adventures would offend by violating received notions was met in a curious fashion.
In the effort to foist new theories upon an overworked mass of mythology, each expounder of a new system had to present fresh evidences. The result was a thorough but uncritical exploration of a vast number of doubtful "authorities." Homer, Hesiod, Vergil, and Ovid gave way before a host of minor personages and unfamiliar variants of well-known legends. Recondite notions buried in the most obscure of writings became more important than the usual and the well known. Early Greek logographers and late Byzantine poets, reputed Babylonian priests and nameless mediaeval scholiasts—these became the authorities whose alleged knowledge was cited in support of new theories. In the footnotes of "the learned," Euhemerus, Philo of Biblis, Sanchuniathon, and even the pseudo-Berotus awoke to a brief second life. One encounters names which only the very doughtiest has met upon the verges of bibliography—names like Dionysius Skytobrachion—he of the leather arm—revived for his account of the Atlanteans. Pherecydes, Harpocration, Sallust the Gaul surnamed the Philosopher, Ptolemy Chennus, Antoninus Liberalis—these are names as remote from the course of things as the dwellings of the Cimmerians or Homer's Ethiopians. Minor writers on mythological topics, such as Conon, Parthenius, Hyginus, Heraclides of Pontus, Cornutus (or Phurnutus), Fulgentius, Apollodorus the Athenian, Palaephatus, even the doubtful, but certainly mediaeval, Albricus, became familiar names. Obscure writers on special subjects became fashionable, such as the astronomical writers Eratosthenes, Aratus, Manilius, and the pseudo-Hyginus. Poets as little read today as the pompous Tzetzes, the dull Nonnus, and the obscure Lykophron assumed a place among the sons of light. Even Theodontius, whom Boccaccio mentioned and perhaps invented, was revived, and with him that Pronapides, the tutor of Homer, from whom Theodontius received much valuable information, but whose works, unhappily, have perished.
The great Winckelmann once declared that the Greeks had one vanity the less, the vanity of knowing many books. From that modern vanity the Romantic poets were not exempted. Since the works of the mycologists bristled with the names of obscure authors, it is not surprising to find that the poets followed them in their erudite excursions. The insipidity and banality of mythological material was corrected by novelty. The vigorous research of the mythologists out from the conventional into the adumbral regions of myth drew new facts and new ideas from the shadows. Freshness of theme became possible by developing unusual variants of old legends, and worn classical figures were reinvigorated by unfamiliar circumstance.
Thus the theme of Keats's Hyperion was intended to turn, as I shall point out later, on an obscure circumstance hinted by Procopius and Tzetzes. The action concerning Demogorgon in Shelley's Prometheus Unbound rests upon traditions preserved by the doubtful Theodontius, who had them from who knows what sources—from that mythical Pronapides, from Conradus de Mure, from Janibiceps (whom Conrad cites but about whom nothing else is preserved but his astonishing name) and from the nameless scholiasts upon Lucan and Statius. In his Achilleis Goethe was plotting merely a single part of his action by putting together hints from a fragment of the Cyprian poems preserved by Proclus, a prophecy reported by Lykophron in the Alexandra, another from Quintus Smyrnaeus, a story in Pausanias, and an unusual and otherwise unrecorded piece of information in Ptolemy Chennus.
Even the most unostentatious of the poets drew, in matters pertaining to classical myth, upon circumstances far outside the limits of information which the ordinarily well-read man might be expected to possess. Thus a stanza of Wordsworth's Laodamia seems to have been suggested by a passage in Tzetzes' Antehomerica. Several of the Titans in Keats's Hyperion stepped from the pages of Hyginus. Keats's friend Woodhouse speaks of "the very dark hints in the mythological poets of Greece and Rome" which went into the making of Hyperion. Shelley turned a whole scene in Prometheus Unbound upon a trivial piece of information contained in a scholium upon Aristophanes. The classical erudition necessary to design Goethe's plans for the activities of the Thessalian witches in the Second Part of Faust is bewilderingly minute. In one case—in his choice of Manto—the identification as a Thessalian sibyl rests only upon an insignificant notice by Suidas.
There was, perhaps, an element of vanity involved in the display of the most minute classical erudition. When Byron confessed to reading Diodorus Siculus in preparation for writing Sardanapalus, he explained that it was merely to refresh his memory, as he had long been familiar with the story. Goethe's humor in the Classical Walpurgis Night and in the reproaches leveled against the character of Helen of Troy depends upon such out-of-the-way information as to make one suspect that the poet was deliberately puzzling and confounding the learned among his readers. But there was more than vanity involved. The poets had invented a new kind of pleasure. The thing was to take the most daring liberties with the received notion of well-known myths and yet not really depart from the authority of ancient texts. There was a challenge to the reader to detect that the writer had kept his fable within authorized limits. The critic who failed to discern might easily make a fool of himself. Shelley, for instance, could have cited reputable authority for every circumstance of his barely discernible identification of the cave of Prometheus with Colonus. Novelty was combined with authority, and the learned reader might have the additional pleasure of perceiving the deft manner in which a new turn to a mythological fable had been executed upon an old fact. Much of the action of the last book of Endymion depends upon a story recorded briefly in one of the fragments of a mainly lost work of Hesiod, a story amplified by a scholiast upon Apollonius of Rhodes. The reader's pleasure was intended to be increased by perceiving that although the story had departed far from the well-known story concerning Endymion, it was yet operating within limits allowed by the Hesiodic story. The extraordinary flights of Euphorion in the Second Part of Faust are quite puzzling unless one has turned to Ptolemy Chennus to discover that Helen's child was born with wings. . . .
Alex Zwerdling (essay date 1964)
SOURCE: "The Mythographers and the Romantic Revival of Greek Myth," in PMLA, Vol. LXXIX, No. 4, September, 1964, pp. 447-56.
[In this essay, Zwerdling surveys the changing attitude toward Greek mythology from the eighteenth century through the early nineteenth century, noting that the Romantic poets contributed to the popularization of Greek myth, as did the mythographers of the eighteenth century.]
That the English Romantic poets were much more seriously interested in Greek myth, both in itself and as a subject for poetry, than their eighteenth-century predecessors hardly requires demonstration.1 The divergence may be suggested, admittedly in somewhat exaggerated form, by juxtaposing two quotations: Addison (in Spectator 523) congratulates a new poet because he "had not amused himself with Fables out of the Pagan Theology," unlike the fashionable poetasters who filled their works with the exploits of river gods; and Keats hopes (in the Preface to Endymion) that he had "not in too late a day touched the beautiful mythology of Greece, and dulled its brightness." The poet who uses the "pagan fables," Addison suggests, can only be amusing himself; while for Keats those fables have become "the beautiful mythology of Greece," which the poet scarcely feels himself worthy to touch.
Such a considerable shift in attitude, in "tone," is usually gradual and not exclusively the work of great minds. This is not to minimize the importance of the Keatses and the Wordsworths of any generation, but to acknowledge the fact that the new ideas of such men are frequently the complex products of controversies which only the historian can now trace. Such a controversy is recorded in the writings of those who, in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, would have been considered the authorities on the subject: the mythographers.
The disrepute into which Greek myth had fallen by the eighteenth century did not of course extend to classical literature itself, and this presented something of a problem. How was one to read Homer and Virgil intelligently without knowing a good deal about the "Pagan Theology"? This need for adequate works of reference was filled by the "Pantheons" of the mythographers, factual and interpretative books on classical mythology primarily designed to help the modern reader who had only a limited familiarity with the writings of the ancients. Such handbooks were very popular in England, clearly indispensable in the schools, and an essential item in any good private library. The work of such mythographers, as may be imagined, is hardly likely to be very radical, and yet books like these create the taste of their times at least as much as they reflect it. The break with tradition which we find in a writer like Keats is made easier by the gradual transformation of the tradition itself by lesser minds moving, however clumsily, in the same direction. It is important to see the way in which Greek mythology was brought back into repute towards the end of the eighteenth century if we want to understand how one gets, so to speak, from Addison to Keats.
The mythographers of the eighteenth century were carrying on a medieval and renaissance tradition of commentary on classical myth which is discussed at length in Jean Seznec's Survival of the Pagan Gods. In continuing that tradition, these writers were still concerned with the problem of how to make pagan "idolatry" palatable to a Christian audience. For the uneasiness with which most commentators approached Greek myth in these later centuries suggests that the problem was still very real and that the two religions were to a significant extent still considered "rivals." The general attitude toward Greek myth in eighteenth-century England may be seen as the product of several opposing forces: a poetic tradition which had become largely decorative, a continuing (if not increasing) respect for the classical writers themselves, and a general uneasiness about the danger of exposing the true Christian to the pagan idolaters. The balance of these forces at the beginning of the eighteenth century made the predominant attitude more negative than positive, but if we look at the works of the mythographers and of other writers on Greek myth during the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, we will begin to see a gradual shift in attitude which may be said to have cleared the way for the more positive evaluation of classical mythology during the Romantic period.
In their approach to classical fable, the mythographers of the early eighteenth century were following a tradition which in actuality goes back to classical times. The basic problem was how to make a theology which was apparently polytheistic and grossly immoral palatable to the Christian reader, and in confronting this problem the eighteenth-century writers on myth to a large extent turned to "solutions" which their medieval and renaissance counterparts had used before them. Seznec describes three basic theories which the mythographers used to de-emphasize the seeming immorality and polytheism of Greek fable: "(1) the myths are a more or less distorted account of historical facts, in which the characters are mere men who have been raised to the rank of the immortals; or (2) they express the union or conflict of the elementary powers which constitute the universe, the gods then being cosmic symbols; or (3) they are merely the expression in fable of moral and philosophical ideas, in which case the gods are allegories."2 It will be apparent that each of these explanations actually de-emphasizes the primary, obvious meaning of any particular myth in favor of some less controversial meaning which is considered to lie behind it. The gods are not really gods; they are mortal men, or they are natural forces, or they are personifications of moral qualities; and therefore the events which the classical myths record are deceptive, and the only way to understand them properly is to look beneath the surface.
At least two of these methods of rehabilitating the gods survived into the eighteenth century: the euhemerism of the first and the allegorizing of the third. Euhemerism, the theory that the gods were in fact deified human beings, goes back at least to the fourth century B.C., to the Sicilian philosopher after whom it is named. Here, for example, is an explanation of the division of the universe among Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto in Andrew Tooke's famous Pantheon, a book which first appeared in 1698 but was constantly used, in later editions, throughout the eighteenth century: "Jupiter was King of Crete, and, according to Eusebius, contemporary with the Patriarch Abraham. This Jupiter deposed his Father, and afterwards divided by Lot the Kingdom with his two Brothers Neptune and Pluto. And, because the Eastern Part of the Country was by Lot given to Jupiter, the Western to Pluto, and the Maritime Parts to Neptune; they took Occasion from hence to feign, that Jupiter was the God and king of the Heavens, Neptune of the Sea, and Pluto of Hell."3 The explanation of a myth which seemed to suggest the autonomy of at least three different gods by making it merely a disguised version of an actual event in the history of Crete thus allows the Christian reader to examine the myth without paying serious attention to the Manichean suggestiveness of its polytheism. But of course it does so at a price, for the euhemeristic explanation degrades the tale to the level of some rather sordid political machinations and makes it almost inconceivable that such "gods" could ever have been worshipped.
The myth of Endymion is one of the favorite provinces of the euhemeristic mythographer. The earthly paramour of the moon-goddess, Dr. King tells us in his Historical Account of the Heathen Gods (third edition, 1722), was, in reality, "a just King of Elis, and a famous Astronomer, who studied the Motions of the Moon, and therefore pass'd the Nights in retir'd Places, to observe her with less Interruption."4 Samuel Boyse, on the other hand, in his A New Pantheon (1753), suggests that the Endymion fable "had its Origin in Egypt. These people in the Neomenia or Feast, in which they celebrated the antient State of Mankind, chose a Grove, or some retir'd shady Grotto, where they plac'd an Isis with her Crescent or Moon, and by her Side an Horus asleep, to denote the Security and Repose which Mankind then enjoy'd. This Figure they call'd Endymion, and these Symbolical Figures, like the rest, degenerated into Idolatry, and became the Materials for fabulous History."5
The explanation of this euhemeristic process was usually highly unflattering both to the predeified mortals and to the poets who were responsible for the fabrications. Boyse, for example, has a very ungallant explanation of the many myths in which a god seduces a mortal woman: "Sometimes a Concern for the Honour of the Ladies became the Source of Fables. If a Princess prov'd too frail to withstand the Attempts of her Lover, her Flatterer, to skreen her Reputation, immediately called in the Assistance of some enamour'd God; this was easily believed by the ignorant Vulgar; for they could suppose none but a divine Person could presume to attempt one of her Rank, or could be able to thaw the Coldness of the insensible Fair. Thus her Reputation was unsullied, and instead of becoming infamous, she was highly honoured, and the Husband himself, instead of being offended, partook of her Glory."6 But the poets were the real villains, content to pervert the truth in order to satisfy the taste for entertainment or to flatter a patron. They were "meant rather to amuse than to instruct," Blackwell explains in the Letters Concerning Mythology (1748), "and therefore selected the most striking Tales for the Entertainment of their Audience, and dwelt upon the most wondrous Circumstances of these Tales, with little regard to the Truth of the original Doctrine, or Justness of the Application."7 The very nature of literary art seems to encourage the confusion of deity and mortal. As Ramsay says in "A Discourse upon the Theology and Mythology of the Ancients" (second edition, 1728), poets "pass in a Moment from Allegory to the literal Sense, and from the literal Sense to Allegory; from real Gods to fabulous Deities: and this occasions that Jumble of their Images, that Absurdity in their Fictions, and that Indecorum in their Expressions, which are so justly condemned by the Philosophers."8 In this way, the poet often becomes the scapegoat on whom the seeming idolatry (and even the immorality) of pagan myth can be blamed. This may seem to suggest that there is a less objectionable realm of classical religious thought which exists until the poets begin to corrupt it, and such an analysis of the mythopoetic process is actually found in many of the eighteenth-century mythographers.
The basic theory of these mythographers is that in the beginning Greek religious thought was monotheistic and thus not radically opposed to Christianity, and that its seeming polytheism is merely the result of the accretion of centuries of poetic flattery or vulgar superstition. One of his principal discoveries, Joseph Spence says in his Polymetis (1747), is that even the Roman religion is only seemingly polytheistic, that actually the more "thinking part of them believed that there was but one great Being, that made, and preserved, and actuated all things: which is just as much as to say that they believed there was but one God, in our sense of the word. . . . When they considered this one great Being as influencing the affairs of the world in different manners, they gave him as many different names; and hence came all their variety of nominal gods. When he thundered or lightened, they called him Jupiter, when he calmed the seas, Neptune; when he guided their councils, it was Minerva; and when he gave them strength in battle, it was Mars."9 And Blackwell says that the source of the idolatrous proliferation of gods in heathen mythology was the literal-mindedness of the common people, "the blind and credulous Vulgar, always apt to take Representations for Things, as we see daily happen in Popish Countries" (p. 176). The comparison of the idolatry of the later stages of Greek religion with Catholicism was in fact fairly common in England: the minor deity was considered the equivalent of the Catholic saint.
It will be readily apparent that the euhemeristic explanation could be used either to attack or to defend Greek myths. When it was used to defend them, the basis of the argument was usually the contrast of two religions, one which the writers insisted was held by the "ignorant Vulgar," the other which was the province of the learned and intelligent members of the same society. This theory of "the double truth," as Frank Manuel has called it,10 was extremely influential among the eighteenth-century mythographers. Ramsay insists that we must distinguish between the religion of the poets and the religion of the philosophers (p. 22), and Spence explains that the heathens had two beliefs, "1 . That there was but one supreme God; and 2. They believed, or rather talked of a multitude of ministers, deputies, or inferior gods; as acting under this supreme. The first may be called the philosophical belief; and the second, the vulgar belief of the heathens" (p. 47). Blackwell combines this idea with an attack on Catholicism in the following passage: "Are there not many Parables and Prophecies well understood and justly explained by the wise and knowing, that are grossly shocking, in their literal Signification, and yet greedily so swallowed by the unthinking Vulgar? Are there not many Images, Relicks, Wafers, Agnus-Dei's, and other sacred Utensils among the Appendages of Devotion, that were never worshipped by a Bessarion nor a Bembo, by a Borromeo nor a Sarpi; but which the far greater Part of those who arrogate to themselves the Name of Catholics absurdly adore?" (p. 63). The price of making Greek religion respectable in this way, however, was the necessity of assuming that almost everything which distinguishes it from Christianity was mere vulgar accretion, and since most readers would have purchased such books because they wanted to know something about those distinctive characteristics, the mythographers were in a sense casting aspersions on their own wares.
Idolatry, however, was not the only thing which the modern Christian reader was likely to find objectionable in Greek myth. Even granted that polytheism could be explained away, what possible excuse was there for the gross immorality of these pagan gods and goddesses? Tooke's Pantheon illustrates this sense of outrage. The Romans, he says, were even worse than the Greeks, for they worshipped not only beasts but also "Adulterers, Thieves, Drunkards, Robbers, and such-like Pests of Mankind" (p. 5). And the exploits of Jupiter unleash a real verbal storm: "For, was there any Kind of Lewdness of which he was not guilty! or any Mark of Infamy that is not branded upon his Name?" Tooke then lists these exploits, being careful to use a different verb for each one: Jupiter "ruined his Sister," "corrupted Leda," "abused Antiope," "defiled Alcmena," "inflamed Aegina," "deflowered Clytoris," "debauched Calisto," and "undid Europa" (pp. 14-16). How could one possibly explain such immoral ity? One of the answers to this question had also been used by the medieval and renaissance mythographers: the stories have an allegorical meaning which the alert reader can discover. Allegorical interpretation, then, became essential if some of the Greek myths were to survive, and the commentators in adopting this method were merely following in the tradition of the moralizing mythographers since the time of the medieval Ovide Moralisé. King, for example, reminds his readers that "it is a well-grounded Opinion of Learned Men, that many Principles of Morality and Policy may be gather'd from the ancient Fables" (Preface, paragraph 3). Blackwell refuses to grant the title of myth to any tale which can not be so interpreted: "MYTHOLOGY in general, is Instruction conveyed in a Tale. A Fable or meer [sic] Legend without a Moral, or if you please without a Meaning, can with little Propriety deserve the Name" (p. 70). And his epigraph is a hortatory quotation from Dante (Inferno IX.61-63):
O Voi! c'havete gl' Intelletti sani,
Mirate la Dottrina, che s'asconde
Sott'il Velame de gli Versi strani.
One of the best examples of this allegorizing technique is Tooke's explanation of the story of Venus' adulterous love for Mars: "Let us explain this Fable. Indeed when a Venus is married to a Vulcan, that is, a very handsome Woman to a very ugly Man, it is a great Occasion of Adultery. But neither can that Dishonesty, or any other, escape the Knowledge of the Sun of Righteousness although they may be done in the obscurest Darkness; though they be with the utmost Care guarded by the trustiest Pimps in the World; though they be committed in the privatesi Retirement, and concealed with the greatest Art, they will at one Time or other be exposed to both the Infernal and Celestial Regions, in the brightest Light; when the Offenders shall be set in the Midst, bound by the Chains of their Conscience, by that fallen Vulcan, who is the Instrument of the Terrors of the true Jupiter; and then they shall hear and suffer the Sentence, that was formerly threatened to David, in this Life, Thou didst this Thing secretly; but I will do this Thing before all Israel, and before the Sun" (pp. 82-83). In this way, the fable of Venus and Mars becomes a highly moral tale, Jupiter is transformed into a Hebraic-Christian God of justice, and the Greek myth becomes an example of one of the universal Christian truths. The mythographer too can cite scripture to his purpose.
It must, however, be admitted that the method of allegorical interpretation seems to have fallen into relative disrepute during the eighteenth century. The simple fact that so many of the interpretations of the same fable put forward by earlier mythographers often flatly contradicted each other eventually gave rise to a more sophisticated and sceptical attitude which assumed that the variety of meanings could only be accounted for by ascribing the interpretation to the mythographer, rather than to the fable itself. So that, although someone like King will still explain some of the myths in an allegorical fashion, he warns us that "in these sort of Interpretations, Authors have been so various and fanciful, and even contradictory, that it were in vain to pretend to enumerate them" (Preface, paragraph 3).
It should be mentioned that the other category of interpretation which Seznec lists—the gods seen as natural or cosmic forces—is occasionally also found among the eighteenth-century mythographers, but even more rarely than the allegorical explanation. It may be useful to quote at length a passage from Boyse's New Pantheon which combines all three of these methods—euhemeristic, naturalistic, and allegorical—and at the same time reveals the effect of interpreting Greek myth in this way:
Who would imagine that by the Wings of Dedalus and Icarus, were signify'd a Ship under Sail? That all the Changes of Achelous were only frequent Inundations? That by the Combat of Hercules with the God of that River, was only meant a Bank that was raised to prevent its Overflowing? That Hercules encountering the Hydra of Lerna, signified no more than a Man's draining a marshy Country; or, that Hercules separating with his Hands the two Mountains Calpe and Abyla, when the Ocean rush'd in with Violence, and found a Passage into the Mediterranean, meant no more, perhaps, than that in the Time of one Hercules, the Ocean, by the Assistance of an Earthquake, broke a Neck of Land, and form'd the Straits of Gibraltar? Or that the Fable of Pasiphae contains nothing but an Intrigue of the Queen of Crete with a Captain nam'd Taurus?
Who could believe that Scylla and Charybdis, those dreadful Monsters that devour'd all Passengers, were only two dangerous Rocks near the Island of Sicily, render'd famous by their being frequently fatal to Mariners? That the frightful Monster which ravaged the Plains of Troy, was the Inundations of the Sea; or that Hesione's being expos'ed to this Monster, meant no more than that she was to be given to him, who put a Stop to these Inundations?
Thus, says the Abbe Banier, if we would distinguish Truth from Fiction, whenever a Poet brings a God upon the Stage, he ought to be set aside: What Homer and Virgil ascribe to Minerva, is to be attributed to Prudence and good Conduct. It is no longer the Exhalations that produce Thunder, but Jupiter armed to affright Mortals. If a Mariner perceives a rising Storm, it is angry Neptune swelling the Waves. Echo ceases to be a mere Sound, and becomes Nymph bewailing the Loss of her Narcissus. (pp. 236-237)
The passage suggests exactly how Greek myth is preserved for the eighteenth-century reader. Pasiphae's bull is merely a captain named Taurus; Scylla and Charybdis have become a couple of Sicilian rocks; and the goddess Minerva is only Prudence in fancy dress. The shrewd reader, according to Boyse, is the one who can see through the absurd fictions of Greek myth to the simple truths which inspired them. He is not fooled by the poet's deceptions; he can tell Truth from Fiction and does not confuse mere sounds for wailing nymphs. The only thing which is sacrificed in the process is the idea of imaginative truth, the idea which the Romantic poets were to find so important: "What the imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth,"11 Keats insists; but it is a statement which is flatly denied in the work of the eighteenth-century mythographer. For we are dealing here with a world in which the two must constantly be separated. If it is imaginative, it is false. It is only when we have penetrated to the core of truth that all imaginative "trappings" fall away.
It should be obvious, then, that in temporarily rescuing Greek mythology from oblivion, the mythographers of the eighteenth century were doing so at a price which the Romantic poets would not be willing to pay. For the final attitude which these mythographers wish to create in their readers is that Greek myth—if properly understood—may not be shocking or bad, but neither is it to be taken very seriously. The result is what one might call a decorative theory of mythology. As Thomas Blackwell writes to the young gentleman to whom he addresses his Letters Concerning Mythology: "I would not, you well know, altogether follow the old Sages in their Philosophy, how much soever I may admire their Morals. . . . These things, when set about in earnest, must be taken in other Lights. All the Use I wou'd have you to make of them, is a little innocent Speculation, whose sole Effect, as Jack Anvil says of all the fine things you can write, is to make you simper a little, shake your Head, say it is a pretty, ingenious kind of a Thing, and so have done" (p. 6).
Joseph Spence, who was particularly interested in the use which a modern poet might make of classical fable, is careful to insist that the most important rule to follow is never to mix Christian truth with pagan fable in the same poem. The trouble with so much modern poetry, he says, is that "The poet generally sits down wholly undetermined, whether Furies, or Devils, are to be the executioners he will make use of: and brings in either the one or the other, just as the humour takes; or, as the verse demands. If two syllables are wanting, it is Satan; but if four, you are sure of meeting with Tisiphone" (p. 300). One of the real failings of Spenser as a poet, he says, is "that poet's mixing the fables of heathenism, with the truths of Christianity" (p. 302). The modern poet must be uniform, he must never "mix any one name of the gods of the heathens, with the names of the ministers of blessings and vengeance used in our sacred writings" (p. 320). This is a "rule" which has of course been broken not only by Spenser, but by Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton; and it crystallizes for us the disrepute into which classical mythology had fallen in England since the Renaissance. For what worries Spence is not the problem of literary decorum, that Christ and Hyperion are the products of different cultures and should therefore be kept separate. Rather, what concerns him is the mixing of truth and falsehood and the possibility that Christian truth will be adulterated and devalued by being used side by side with pagan fiction. He is really suggesting that we approach these two realms in completely different ways: the world of Christian reference is true, therefore serious and worthy of the most complete attention; the world of pagan reference, on the other hand, is the world of the literary exercise, and it therefore can hardly be treated with comparable seriousness. When Keats says that "what the imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth," it seems likely that what he means is not that an imaginative world exhibits exactly the same kind of "truth" as the one which the physical eye can see, but rather that the products of man's imagination are to be given the sort of serious and unapologetic consideration which the eighteenth-century mythographer denied them. In the next three-quarters of a century, from about 1750 on, there was to be a shift in attitude which made Keats's view considerably less outrageous or absurd than it would have seemed to a Blackwell.
What elements contributed to the more positive evaluation of Greek mythology in the early nineteenth century? To answer this question, we should look at the traditional mythographers and the new "scientific" students of classical myth, as well as at the poets themselves; we have, on the whole, looked only at the poets. In the years between 1775 and 1825, there appeared in England a number of works on Greek myth which prepare the way for a genuinely new evaluation of the subject: Lempriere's Bibliotheca Classica or "Classical Dictionary" (1788), Bell's New Pantheon (1790), William Godwin's The Pantheon (1806), and R. P. Knight's An Inquiry into the Symbolical Language of Ancient Art and Mythology (1818). In many respects, these books seem to be based on the same principles and to use the same methods as their eighteenth-century predecessors, but a more careful examination also reveals some important divergences from the traditional practices of the early mythographers. In a sense the most important difference is also the most superficial. It is perfectly obvious, for example, that Lempriere and Bell are different in format from the books which we have just been considering. They are, in effect, dictionaries of classical fact, arranged alphabetically, and clearly designed as works of reference. Although this may seem to be a minor difference, it has this important effect: that the author of the work has considerably less opportunity to inculcate a specific approach to his subject. In reading an encyclopedia, for example, we are less likely to consider what the general attitudes of the "author" of any particular piece are likely to be. In effect, the author disappears as a potent force in his work: the more reliable such a work of reference is likely to be, the less conscious are we of the peculiar prejudices and attitudes of the writer. The form of the encyclopedic work encourages objectivity and anonymity.
Bell's New Pantheon is an example of such relative objectivity and anonymity. It is interesting that this enormous two-volume work should have no preface (except the publisher's note of self-congratulation because the work proved less costly than anticipated), and that it seems to have no author. John Bell is the publisher, but the book itself is anonymous: we are presumably expected to care as little about who is responsible for the various entries as we care about the "authors" of the telephone book. The entries themselves also reveal, on the whole, no central attitudes or points of view. There is little in the way of interpretation to get between the reader and the details of the myth he may be interested in. This is not to say, of course, that there are no allegorical or euhemeristic explanations. But usually such interpretations are qualified by a phrase like "some scholars have said," or "according to some mythologists." The Endymion legend, for example, is explained in this way: "According to some mythologists this fable had its origin from the Neomenia, or feast in which the Egyptians celebrated the ancient state of mankind; for which purpose, it is said, they chose a retired grotto, wherein they placed an Isis with her crescent, and by her side an Horus, asleep, to denote the repose and security mankind then enjoyed. This figure they called Endymion, or the grotto of the representation. Others affirm that Endymion was the 12th king of Elis, who being expelled his [sic] kingdom, retired to Mount Latmos, in Curia, where applying himself to the study of the heavenly bodies, but chiefly the moon, it was feigned that he was beloved by Luna, who visited him every night, as he lay asleep on the top of that mountain."12 Now we have encountered both of these explanations before, it is true, but in two different works, and in each case as the authoritative explanation. Here they are presented merely as two contradictory explanations, and without any attempt to convince the reader of the truth of either one. In fact, the introductory phrases, "according to some mythologists," "it is said," and "others affirm that," create a more or less sceptical awareness of the nature of most mythological "interpretations," and focus attention on the story itself. But the most important differences which we find here are those of omission rather than of commission. There are no tirades against Catholicism; there is no sense of shock about the adulterous doings of the gods; there are no sermons about the superiority of Christian revelation to pagan idolatry. For the first time since the classical age itself, it seems to be possible to look at the realm of Greek mythology as a province of fact, to be dealt with as objectively as the historian would try to deal with the facts, say, of the Peloponnesian War.
Lempriere's Classical Dictionary, the standard handbook of the early nineteenth century on the subject, is the most famous example of the methods of the encyclopedia applied to the province of classical lore. Lempriere goes a step further in the direction of treating mythological subject matter as simply a part of the realm of fact. His book is an attempt to identify all the proper names mentioned by all classical writers, and as a result we find the figures of Greek mythology side by side with historical personages and geographical names.13 Lempriere's work prospered. By 1809 it had gone through seven editions, and by 1831, 30,000 copies had been printed and sold, according to a contemporary estimate. It was "in the hands of every schoolboy. . . . The young and the old, the pupil and the master would be eager to possess a book, which promised to give 'a copious account of all the proper names mentioned in ancient authors'."14 No library was complete without a copy.
Two other important works on classical mythology published in the early nineteenth century began by attacking some of the traditional methods and assumptions of the early mythographers. William Godwin's The Pantheon (written under the pseudonym of Edward Baldwin) is organized in the older non-encyclopedic fashion; though it uses the allegorical method of interpretation and assures its readers "that nothing will be found in it, to administer libertinism to the fancy of the stripling, or to sully the whiteness of mind of the purest virgin,"15 it sounds one very new note. Godwin begins with an attack on Tooke's Pantheon and on the methods of the older mythographers in general:
The dulness of the compilers in some instances, and still more extraordinary, their malice in others, have combined to place Pantheons and Histories of the Heathen Gods among the most repulsive articles of the juvenile library. The book in particular, written in Latin by the Jesuit Pomoy, and known among us by the name of Tooke, contains in every page an elaborate calumny upon the Gods of the Greeks, and that in the coarsest thoughts and words that rancour could furnish. The author seems continually haunted by the fear that his pupil might prefer the religion of Jupiter to the religion of Christ. (p. vi)
But such methods are surely no longer necessary, says Godwin, if indeed they ever were. Christianity "fears no comparison with the mythology of ancient Greece. It looks something like blasphemy for a Christian to think it necessary to the cause in which he is engaged, to inveigh against the amours of Jupiter, and to revive all the libels of the ancient Fathers against the religion of the government under which they lived. I felt no apprehension, that while I vindicated the Heathen mythology from misrepresentation .. . I should risk the seducing one votary from the cross of Christ" (pp. vi-vii).
Of course it is possible to interpret such a statement as a confirmation of an even more anti-mythological prejudice. It may be that Baldwin is merely saying the Greek religion is so totally inferior to Christianity that it degrades Christianity itself even to be mentioned in the same breath. But we soon begin to see that these are not his feelings, and that in fact he is making more of a case for the basic similarity of some of the elements of Christian and pagan belief. For the Greek mind, he says in a very unconventional passage, is genuinely religious, and Greek "myth" is a real religion:
Every one must feel how superior this state of mind is to that of the atheist: if the Greeks were unacquainted with the Christian God, the "Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth," the omniscient author and governor of the universe; if their Gods appear limited, fantastic, and in this tremendous comparison contemptible;—yet they had the happiness to regard all nature, even the most solitary scenes, as animated and alive, to see every where around them a kind and benevolent agency, and to find on every side motives for contentment, reliance and gratitude. (p. 101)
In its small way, Godwin's Pantheon proposed views almost as extraordinary as those of his better-known writings, ideas which were to find a place in the famous passage on Greek myth in Wordsworth's Excursion.
Another highly unconventional work on Greek mythology was Richard Payne Knight's An Inquiry into the Symbolical Language of Ancient Art and Mythology, first published in 1818. The 1836 edition of this book has a very interesting preface by E. H. Barker in defense of Knight, who seems to have come in for a considerable amount of hostile criticism. Barker contrasts Knight's objective methods with those of previous writers on the subject: "Disregarding the vain imaginations, and the wild speculations of Writers, who have discussed ancient mythology with more zeal than knowledge,—with more prejudice than judgment,—with more religion than piety,—Mr. KNIGHT has surveyed her not through a colored medium, but with the naked eye."16 But surveying classical myth "with the naked eye" seems to have inspired the attacks of the more traditionally minded, those who felt that the mythographer must preach against the heresy he describes. This alone can account for the impassioned tone of Barker's remarks. True Christianity, he says, does not concern itself with such issues: "the words sectarianism and heresy are no terms in her vocabulary,—censure and persecution make no part of her business; exclusiveness is no sentiment of her mind, and bigotry no feeling of her heart" (p. iv).
If we turn to Knight's Inquiry itself, we see that though he is basically still using the methods of the allegorists, there are also a number of important variations in his approach to the subject. For one thing, he is violently opposed to the euhemeristic methods of his predecessors, not because their kind of speculation is unscholarly and inaccurate, but rather because the idea that the gods are merely mortals with a desire for attention succeeds only in degrading and discrediting the essentially religious truth of the ancient myths. Such mythographers "inferred that, because some of the objects of public worship had been mortal men, they had all been equally so; for which purpose, they rejected the authority of the mysteries, where the various gradations of gods, daemons, and heroes, with all the metaphysical distinctions of emanated, personified, and canonised beings, were taught" (p. 67). Perhaps it was understandable that these methods were used in early Christian times by the patristic writers, "Because it favored that system, which, by degrading the old, facilitated the progress of the new religion" (p. 67), but it was certainly no longer necessary to use such dishonest methods.
Although he attacks euhemerism, Knight continues to allegorize classical myths; and yet even here we can see an important change of method. For Knight does not interpret these fables as veiled moral allegories, nor does he treat Olympian gods as abstract virtues and vices. It is difficult to imagine him using the Venus and Mars story to prove that adultery does not pay. Rather, Knight is concerned with cosmological and metaphysical symbolism: the truths behind the fictions of Greek mythology are concerned with the creation of the world, the relationship between Time and Matter, the nature of Being, and so on. His Greek mythology is veiled metaphysics, not ethics. Here, for example, is his interpretation of the Saturn story: "The allegory of . . . Saturn devouring his own children seems to allude to the rapid succession of creation and destruction before the world had acquired a permanent constitution" (p. 11). This manner of "conveying knowledge by symbols, and its long-established appropriation to religious subjects, had given it a character of sanctity unknown to any other mode of writing" (p. 3).
Whether this form of allegorical interpretation represents any kind of advance over the methods of the older mythographers is indeed an open question. It seems quite possible that the results are just as arbitrary and just as untrue to the primitive mythological imagination. But the assumptions behind the method are of considerable importance, for Greek mythology is here being treated as a religion, to be taken with complete seriousness since it seeks answers to the basic religious questions. Furthermore, Knight's methods go hand in hand with the growing interest in metaphysical as opposed to ethical inquiry in the early nineteenth century. If the rehabilitation of Greek myth in the Romantic period was very largely a matter of raising it to the status of respectability, Knight's Inquiry was certainly an important step in that direction.
We have been considering, in these pages, a shift in attitude toward classical myth primarily among the writers of the handbooks of Greek mythology used during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Such books are reliable indicators of the general current of opinion, since any book designed to a great extent for use in schools is unlikely to offer shockingly unorthodox opinions. But in popularizing the academically respectable opinions of the day, the mythographers were also highly influential in creating a larger acceptance for these ideas during the formative years of the students who used such works. Among those students were the great Romantic poets who were later to popularize Greek mythology in their own way. Tooke's Pantheon "was one of the favorite books of Keats's boyhood."17 His friend Charles Cowden Clarke tells us that the young poet seemed to be memorizing Lempriere: "The books, however, that were his constantly recurrent sources of attraction were Tooke's 'Pantheon,' Lempriere's 'Classical Dictionary,' which he appeared to learn, and Spence's 'Polymetis.' This was the store whence he acquired his intimacy with the Greek mythology."18 And Wordsworth's library, according to the Rydal Mount Sale Catalogue, contained Tindal's Polymetis Abridged, Tooke's Pantheon, and two copies of Lempriere's Classical Dictionary.19
Nevertheless, it is important to emphasize that these writers were not the only students of mythology during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries responsible for the gradual acceptance of Greek mythology as a legitimate and important realm of inquiry and as a possible subject for poetry. There were at least two other groups of writers directly concerned with this shift in taste: the so-called syncretic mythographers, and the new breed of scientific historians of Greek myth. Although these groups worked with very different methods, they are also partially responsible for the Romantic rehabilitation of classical fable.
The syncretic mythographers have already been discussed at length in Edward Hungerford's Shores of Darkness and in a recent article by Albert J. Kuhn.20 The works of Jacob Bryant, George Stanley Faber, Edward Davies, and other syncretic mythographers differed from the more traditional books by being far more speculative and fantastic. Their subject matter was not restricted to classical mythology but rather extended to all myths, since most of the writers were arguing that "beneath the seemingly disparate and heterogeneous elements of ancient universal mythico-religious and historical traditions there lay a harmonious tradition" (Kuhn, p. 1094), which the student of mythology then set out to discover.
In a completely different way, the study of Greek mythology was being revitalized in Germany by scholars like Karl Otfried Müller and Chr. Augustus Lobeck. Müller's Prolegomena zu einer wissenschaftlichen Mythologie, which might be translated as "An Introduction to a Scientific Study of Mythology," was published in Göttingen in 1825, and though it was not translated into English for some twenty years, the British public had been informed of its conclusions in a long article in The Foreign Quarterly Review in 1831.21 Müller's is a revolutionary book, an attempt to formulate the general principles of a scientific study of mythology, and as such it may be said to represent the wave of the future. He attacks most euhemeristic interpretations on the grounds that they are not historically convincing, and that a proper knowledge of Greek philology, history, and geography makes most of the previous interpretations of specific myths seem highly inaccurate.22 The first task for the serious student of Greek myth is to separate the primitive myths from the various interpretations which have been accumulating since the more sophisticated commentators of classical times began to turn their attention to them. In order to accomplish that, we must rid ourselves of any private interpretations or prejudices we may have. The new student of Greek myth, it seems, should have the qualities of mind which the Foreign Quarterly Review article finds in the German mythographers: "learning and industry . . . a cool discriminating judgment, a power of original investigation, a disregard for the authority of great names, and perfect controul over his imagination."23
With the perfection of this new thoroughly professional attitude toward the study of Greek mythology, the respectability of the subject matter may be said to have been finally demonstrated. Unlike the critics of and apologists for classical fable whom we have been investigating, the work of the scientific mythographer is totally unpolemical and reveals no attitude towards its subject whatsoever, though it is presumably based on the assumption that the subject is worthy of close investigation. But the important point is that such an assumption could not have been made in the early eighteenth century. The academic respectability which the province of Greek mythology had finally achieved is the direct result of the writings of many men, not least among them, presumably, the poets themselves, but also the mythographers writing around the turn of the century.
The historical interest created by the scientific mythologists combines with the poetical interest which is the product of the attitudes of the Romantic poets to make the province of Greek mythology completely respected by the middle of the nineteenth century. An anonymous pantheon published in 1842, for example, nostalgically suggests that there "was something very pleasing and poetical in the thought, that each river had its nymph, and every wood its god: that a visible power watched over even the domestic duties of the people, ready to punish and reward."24 And in an article on the "Mythological System of the Hellenes" which appeared in Fraser's in 1847, the author praises Greek mythology because it is the province of pure, unsophisticated religious faith and thus in its way superior to the sceptical world which we see around us.25
Like almost any major shift in taste, the rehabilitation of Greek mythology was the product of many different but clearly related forces. Direct influences are difficult to establish; but the fact remains that in the century following Addison's attempt to convince his readers that the use of classical fable in serious verse was "down-right Puerility, and unpardonable in a Poet that is past Sixteen,"26 Greek mythology had once again become an absorbing, important, imaginative world not only for the poet but for the audience which he addressed.
1 Douglas Bush's Mythology and the Romantic Tradition in English Poetry (Cambridge, Mass., 1937) deals with the subject in full. See especially pp. 20-26 on the status of mythology in the eighteenth century. While there have been many discussions of the treatment of Greek myth by the Romantic poets (see especially Edward Hungerford's Shores of Darkness, New York, 1941, and Edward S. LeComte's Endymion in England, New York, 1944), the mythographers discussed in this article have received little attention. Seznec's The Survival of the Pagan Gods stops far short of the period, and Manuel's The Eighteenth Century Confronts the Gods deals primarily with the sources in continental philosophy of the attitudes toward Greek myth.
2 Jean Seznec, The Survival of the Pagan Gods (New York, 1940), p. 4.
3 Andrew Tooke, The Pantheon, Representing the Fabulous Histories of the Heathen Gods, and Most Illustrious Heroes (London, 1781), p. 26.
4 [William] King, An Historical Account of the Heathen Gods and Heroes; Necessary for the Understanding of the Ancient Poets (London, 1722), p. 91.
5 Samuel Boyse, A New Pantheon: or, Fabulous History of the Heathen Gods, Heroes, Goddesses, &c. (London, 1753), p. 94.
6 Ibid., p. 239.
7 [Thomas Blackwell], Letters Concerning Mythology (London, 1748), p. 178.
8 The Chevalier Ramsay, "A Discourse upon the Theology and Mythology of the Ancients," The Travels of Cyrus (London, 1727-28), II, 23.
9 Joseph Spence, Polymetis: or, An Enquiry Concerning the Agreement Between the Works of the Roman Poets, and the Remains of the Antient Artists (London, 1747), p. 47.
10 Frank E. Manuel, The Eighteenth Century Confronts the Gods (Cambridge, Mass., 1959), p. 65.
11The Letters of John Keats, ed. Maurice Buxton Forman (London, 1952), p. 67.
12 John Bell, Bell's New Pantheon; or, Historical Dictionary of the Gods, Demi-gods, Heroes, and Fabulous Personages of Antiquity (London, 1790), I, 287.
13 It is interesting that when a heavily revised edition appeared in America in 1837, the editors proudly announced that they had separated the historical and geographical parts of the work from the mythological parts and relegated the mythological section to the last part of the book, presumably so that its imaginative "facts" would not be confused with the genuine facts of Greek history and geography. Furthermore, the editors of this edition informed their readers, they were particularly pleased that they had "removed from their pages the offensive matter with which those of the first author were so profusely stained," those "grosser failings, to pervert the moral sense and feeling of the youthful inquirer who may have recourse to its pages." [J. Lempriere, Bibliotheca Classica: or, a Dictionary of All the Principal Names and Terms Relating to the Geography, Topography, History, Literature, and Mythology of Antiquity and of the Ancients. Revised and Corrected, and Divided. . . by Lorenzo L. DaPonte and John D. Ogilby (New York, 1837), p. 5.] The America of 1837 sounds oddly like the England of 1737.
14 "Lempriere's Dictionary," The Quarterly Journal of Education, I (1831), 297.
15 Edward Baldwin (pseud.), The Pantheon: or Ancient History of the Gods of Greece and Rome (London, 1806), p. vii.
16 R. P. Knight, An Inquiry into the Symbolical Language of Ancient Art and Mythology (London, 1836), p. iii.
17 Douglas Bush, "Notes on Keats's Reading," PMLA [Publications of the Modern Language Association], L (1935), 796.
18 Charles and Mary Cowden Clarke, Recollections of Writers (New York, ), p. 124.
19 Lots 673, 170, 321, and 449. Transactions of the Wordsworth Society, VI (1884), 195-257.
20 "English Deism and the Development of Mythological Syncretism," PMLA, LXXI (1956), 1094-1116.
21 "Mythology and Religion of Ancient Greece," The Foreign Quarterly Review, VII (1831), 33-52.
22 Karl Otfried Müller, Prolegomena zu einer wissenschaftlichen Mythologie (Göttingen, 1825), pp. 61-62.
23 "Mythology and Religion of Ancient Greece," p. 51.
24Heathen Mythology. Illustrated by Extracts from the Most Celebrated Writers, Both Ancient and Modern (London, ), p. v.
25 "Mythological System of the Hellenes," Fraser 's, xxxv (1847), 304-305.
26Spectator 523. Addison does accept the use of the fables in the mock epic, however.