图书图片
PDF
ePub

FORE WORD.

A COMPANY of open-eyed, wonder-loving children are walking on the shore of the sea. It is the spring-time; the hour is early morning; the air is redolent with the odor of flowers, and musical with the songs of birds. To these children the world is young, and nature, like their own lives, is full of sweet and hidden mysteries. Before them stretches the great sea— a mighty kingdom concealing many a beauty and many a terror-in the contemplation of which their fancy is invited to roam unlimited and unrestrained. Behind them rise mighty mountains, symbols of king-like power and sublime repose. Above them bends the blue sky-dome, beautiful and fathomless, suggestive of the protection and care which the All-Father bestows upon his children. There is nothing that comes within their vision which does not tend to kindle emotion, to arouse enthusiasm or to encourage the imagination. To their understanding the sea is deep, the mountains are high, the heavens are glorious, the world is very fair. What more should they seek to know? What would they gain by exchanging their childish fancies for the surer methods of the exact sciences, the application of measurements, or a knowledge of mathematics? The sun rising above the mountain-tops is a golden chariot; the rustling of the leaves in the morning breeze is the whispering of dryads among the branches; the murmur of the waves beating upon the shore is the song of sea-nymphs deep down in their ocean caves. Compared with the pleasures derived from such fancies, of what avail is a knowledge of physics, or a study of economics, or all the wisdom which the school-books contain? Then, too, the minds of these children are attuned in harmony with nature's music; they are inspired with lofty thoughts, and the utterances which leap spontaneously from their lips are clothed in the garb of true poetry,

- poetry such as the rules of rhetoric and the principles of studied art have never created, and yet full of melody, grace, and beauty.

So was it with the remote ancestors of our race who lived while yet the air of the world's morning was crisp with sweet imaginings, and the music of the spheres still echoed upon the earth. Like

Imagination and Fancy.

wondering children they imagined the existence of strange lands beyond the mountains, and peopled them with creatures of their own fancy. They heard spirits in the wood and on the shore, and saw them in the clouds. The mysteries of creation, of life and death, and of their own possible relations to beings higher than themselves inspired them with awe - with dread of things baneful, with love for things beneficent. And when they perceived what seemed to them a living truth they gave it a concrete formpreserved the idea as a word-picture- for as yet they had not the power to understand purely abstract thoughts, much less the ability to give them expression. To the forces of nature they applied names, and to these names they attached many mythical stories "poetical expressions of the oldest forms of truth." Observing that all living beings derive nourishment from the soil, they personified the Earth and spoke of her as the loving Mother of gods and men. Believing that from the air and sky comes the spirit of life which animates what would otherwise be senseless dust, they spoke of the fatherhood of the heavens, and, in Greece, they personified it as Uranos. The phenomena of rain, hail, and snow were poetically described as the hundred-handed children of heaven - the furrower, the smiter, the presser. Day was a beneficent being by whom light was borne to mortals. Night was likewise a friend to toil-worn man, and she appeared to him wrapped in a sable cloud and carrying Sleep in her arms. But among other primitive folk a different story was told. Night, they said, was a giantess, dark and swarthy, who rode in a car drawn by a restless steed, the foam from whose bits ofttimes covered the grass and the trees with dew. And Day was the son of Night; and the glistening mane of the horse which he drove in his unceasing journeys round the world lighted all the earth and the heavens with its beams.

Personification of Nature.

When storm-clouds obscured the sky, and the thunder rolled, and the lightnings flashed, some said that mighty Thor was battling with the giants in mid-air and hurling his dread hammer into their ranks. Others said that Zeus was brandishing his darts on high and uttering his thunder among the clouds. When the mountainmeadows were green with long grass, and the corn was yellow for the reapers' sickles, these spoke of bright-tressed Demeter, the mistress of the fields; and those sang of golden-haired Sif, the bountiful queen of the harvests.

It was easy to extend almost indefinitely this poetic method of assigning to natural objects and natural manifestations some of the attributes possessed or exhibited by human beings. One personi

fication suggested another, and the fancy was constantly discovering new domains. It was but a step from the natural to the supernatural. The earth, the air, the sea, were peopled with myriads of unseen intelligences, and over them all, the gods presided. And so, out of what in the beginning were simple poetic descriptions of well-known phenomena, there grew in time a system of myths upon which the religious faith of the people was based. But this was not all. Alongside with these poetic conceptions of nature and nature's manifestations, there were ideas also of the mental and moral attributes and characteristics of the human mind. Love, hope, fear, malice, rage, revenge, wisdom, strength, courage, justice, and whatever had reference to the duties or obligations of men, or to their passions, were, in imagination, creatures of flesh and blood clothed with these attributes of humanity. Thus it was that Myth and Allegory, twin daughters of Imagination and Fancy, were born in the early dawn of the world's morning, when the sun-rays of intelligence were first beginning to illumine the human mind.

Origin of
Myths.

Origin of
Allegory.

In the oldest literature of every people Allegory is one of the most prominent elements. Sometimes it is hopelessly intermingled and confounded with that which is purely mythical; at other times it stands out clear and distinct as the figurative representation of some vital truth. As a method of giving instruction, or of impressing important facts upon the mind, it was especially esteemed among the Oriental nations. Nor were abstract ideas alone submitted to this allegorical treatment. Not only were truth and error, courage and fear, vice and virtue, pictured as living, intelligent beings, but real persons were frequently portrayed allegorically in such a manner as to present, either for admiration or for ridicule, some special traits of character or some peculiar conditions of life.

In the Old Testament of the Scriptures are numerous examples of allegory. Indeed, there have been among Christian theologians those who affirmed that no small portion of the Bible is an allegory which, properly interpreted, discovers a meaning more spiritual and more profound than is to be derived from any literal interpretation of the text. In the early ages of the church this view was maintained with great vigor by the Alexandrine Christians, and especially by their famous leader and representative, Origen. These taught that "the Mosaic account of the Garden of Eden was allegorical; that Paradise only symbolized a high primeval spirituality; that the fall consisted in the loss of

Bible

Allegories.

such through spiritual and not material temptation; and that the expulsion from the Garden lay in the soul's being driven out of its region of original purity." But it is not for us to enter into the discussion of theological problems. That there are allegorical passages in the earlier chapters of the Book of Genesis no one can deny. Such, for example, is the description of the trees in Eden — "the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil." So, doubtless, also is that beautiful and striking passage describing the discovery of our guilty first parents after their transgression, when "they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden."

But to consider the more obvious examples of allegory in the Scriptures let us call to mind the short parables quoted here and there in the Old Testament, or used so often and so effectively in the New Testament as the means of illustrating some declaration of doctrine, or of giving clearness and emphasis to some statement of universal truth. The earliest of such parables is the beautiful allegory of the trees which Jerub-baal related to the Shechemites. Being obliged to flee for his life from his brother who had usurped the kingdom that was rightfully his own, he stood one day upon the top of Mount Gerizim, in the sight of the people who had deserted his cause, and told them this fable:

"The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, 'Reign thou over us.'

"But the olive tree said unto them, 'Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honor God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?'

"And the trees said to the fig tree, 'Come thou, and reign over us.'

Allegory of the Trees.

"But the fig tree said unto them, 'Should I forsake my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?' "Then said the trees unto the vine, ‘Come thou, and reign over us.'

“And the vine said unto them, 'Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?'

"Then said all the trees unto the bramble, 'Come thou, and reign over us.'

“And the bramble said unto the trees, 'If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow; and if not let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.""

« 上一页继续 »