Imatges de pÓgina
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In fact, the doctrines of the northern nations and of Zeno and the Stoics, appear to have been nearly alike. Both maintained the existence of an omnipotent and eternal deity, from whom proceeded universal animation and intelligence, and who governed the world through the medium of inferior spirits or divinities, who, emanating immediately from himself, were, on the dissolution of terrestrial forms, to be re-absorbed into his own essence. They alike believed in the gradual decay and approaching struggles of nature, and that, directly previous to the conflagration of the globe, an age of moral and physical depravation should take place, in which all the powers, hostile to life and organized matter, and led on by the Principle of Evil, should contend with the opposed energies or inferior gods, and mutual destruction ensue: earth and heaven disappear, and immediately the Almighty, rising in the plenitude of his power, calls into being a new and more beauteous creation.

This wonderful conformity of opinions, between nations so widely separated as were the Scandinavians and the Greeks, will be

readily accounted for, provided we can refer both countries to one common source. Now the mythology of Odin and of Zeno may be traced with sufficient precision to the tenets of the Eastern Magi. The Scandinavians, it is well known, migrated from an Asiatic country, and Zeno, who was born of Phonician parents, and travelled through various regions, eager in the search of truth, was learned in the doctrines of the East.

The Legislator of the North and the Gre cian Philosopher, were, therefore, probably indebted to the system of Zoroaster, for the broad outline of their respective and approximating dogmata. The Principle of Good and Evil, the Oromasdes and Arimanes of the Persian Sage; the re-union of Oromasdes at the last day, with the Supreme Being from whom he had originally emanated; the conflagration of the globe, and its re-production. in a state more perfect and beautiful, are leading features of the Zendevasta or sacred Code of the Persians.

The most striking and characteristic parts of the Scandinavian mythology, together with

no inconsiderable portion of the manners and customs of our northern ancestors, have now passed before the reader; their theology, warfare, and poetry, their gallantry, religious rites and superstitions, have been separately, and, I trust, distinctly reviewed.

To render popular a subject, in itself naturally intricate and abstruse, a close adhe rence to selection, arrangement, and illustra tion, has been necessary. I have more particularly endeavoured to explain and familiarize those parts, best adapted to the purposes of poetry and fiction, whilst, at the same time, it has been my aim, to impart a general, but clear idea, of the entire system.

A strong objection to the introduction of the machinery of the Edda has arisen, from the almost universal ignorance of the mythology from which it is derived. Hence obscurity, a fault of itself alone sufficient to arrest the progress of any work to general favour, must necessarily surround and destroy the effect of imagery, which, were its sources but previously familiar, is, perhaps, better calculated than any other, to add spirit, sub

limity, and vigour, to the efforts of imagi

nation.

The poet, however, who wishes to avail himself of the treasures of this rich, and, hitherto, but little explored mine of fiction, must have recourse to the original writers. He must appeal to the Edda and Volupsa, he must study the works of Bartholinus, Wormius, Verelius, Keysler and Mallet, and enter deeply into the minutiæ, the bearings and tendency of every part of the system. The purport of these Essays is merely to awaken his attention to the subject, and to enable the lovers of poetry, without further research or trouble, to relish and understand the splendid creations, which, in the hands of the genuine bard, this neglected mythology may give birth to.

To disseminate a taste, therefore, for the subject, and to shew to what extent and with what effect our poets have introduced the gothic fables, I have liberally quoted their productions, from the sublime effusions of the lyric Gray, to the not less elegant and splendid sketches of Penrose and Sayers. I

have also inserted in this last number of the series, two entire odes by Sterling and Mathias, a liberty which those gentlemen will, I am certain, readily excuse, as the motive for their introduction has been, not only to turn the attention of the public to their beautiful and spirited imitations, but to illustrate and render pleasing a topic, in whose circulation and popularity they must of course be interested.

I shall only add, that should these Essays lead to a more extensive adoption of the Scandinavian mythology, especially in our epic and lyric compositions, the event will be not merely satisfactory to myself, but will assuredly meet with the approbation and acknowledgement of every friend to literature and genius.

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