« AnteriorContinuar »
It has long been evident to me that much of our best English poetry lies beyond the imaginative reach of many readers because of their unfamiliarity with the commonplaces of literary allusion, reference, and tradition. Of such commonplaces few are more frequently recurrent than the situations and agencies of myth.
In view of this consideration, the Academic Council of the University of California, some two years ago, introduced into its requirements for entrance in English the subject of Classical Mythology in its relation to English Literature, and recommended, as a text-book for preparation, Bulfinch's Age of Fable. The experience of English and classical teachers in the schools of the state has attested the wisdom of the requirement; but the demand for some text-book adapted to the needs of the class-room has made necessary the preparation of this volume. For, while the Age of Fable offers a tempting collection of Greek, Norse, and Oriental narratives with illustrations from English literature, while it has delighted one generation of American boys and girls, and will, no doubt, delight many generations to come, - it was designed neither as a school-book nor as a systematized presentation and interpretation of the myths that have most influenced English literature.
At the request of my publishers, I have accordingly undertaken such a revision and rearrangement of the materials of the Age of Fable as may adapt it to the purposes of teacher and pupil, and to the taste of readers somewhat more advanced in years than those addressed by the original work or by the edition which bears the name of the Rev. Edward Everett Hale. But,
after a year's work, I find that half my material for copy is altogether new, and that the remainder differs in many important respects from the book upon which it was based. Consequently, while the obligation to the Age of Fable is acknowledged in full, a new title has been selected for this volume. For, neither my publishers, nor I, would desire to have the scholarship or the taste of Mr. Bulfinch held accountable for liberties that have been taken with his work.
In the Classic Myths in English Literature, Chaps. XXV.-XXX., containing paraphrases of the Iliad, the Odyssey, and of certain Norse lays, are a revision of corresponding chapters in the Age of Fable. Chaps. IX.-XXIII., comprising Attributes of Roman Divinities, Myths of the Greater Divinities of Heaven, Earth, the Underworld, and the Waters, Myths of the Lesser Divinities of the same regions, Myths of the Older Heroes, and Myths of the Younger Heroes, represent a careful rearrangement and recomposition of the original material, section by section, and frequently paragraph by paragraph, - such portions of the Age of Fable as have been retained being abridged or rewritten, and, in places too frequent to enumerate, supplemented by new and necessary sentences, paragraphs, and sections. The Introduction, the first eight chapters (on the origin, elements, distribution, and preservation of myth, the Greek myths of the creation, and the attributes of Greek divinities), Chaps. XXIV. and XXXI. (on the Houses concerned in the Trojan War, and the old Norse and German heroes), choice of illustrations, the footnotes referring to sources, and the Commentary are wholly, or essentially, my own.
Although in the Index of Mythological Subjects the more common myths of some other nations are briefly stated, no myths save those known to the Greeks, Romans, Norsemen, or Germans have been included in the body of the text. The scope of selection has been thus confined for three reasons : first, the regard for necessary limits; second, the desirability of emphasizing only such myths as have actually acclimated themselves in English-speaking lands, and have influenced the spirit, form, and habit of English imaginative
thought; third, the necessity of excluding all but the unquestionably classic. The term Classic, however, is, of course, not restricted to the products of Greece and Rome; nor is it employed as synonymous with Classical or as antithetical to Romantic. From the extreme Classical to the extreme Romantic is a far
cry; but as human life knows no divorce of necessity from freedom, so human art knows neither an unrelieved Classical nor an unrestrained Romantic. Classical and Romantic are relative terms. The Classical and the Romantic of one generation may merit equally to be the Classics of the next. Therefore certain Hellenic myths of romantic spirit or construction have been included in this work; and certain Norse and German myths have not been excluded. Whatever is admitted, is admitted as first-class : first-class, because simple, spontaneous, and beautiful ; because fulfilling the requirements of perennial freshness, of æsthetic potency, and of ideal worth.
In the matter of illustrative English and American poems the principle of selection has been that the verses shall translate a myth from the classic original, or exemplify the genuine poetic idealization and embellishment of the subject, or suggest the spirit and mien of ancient art. But in each case regard has been had to the æsthetic value of the poem or the citation. In the search for suitable examples I have derived valuable assistance from Mr. E. C. Guild's Bibliography of Greek Mythology in English Poetry of the Nineteenth Century (Bowdoin College, Library Bulletin, No. I).
In the Commentary four things have been attempted : first, an explanation, under each section, of ordinary textual difficulties; second, an unpretentious exposition of the myth or a brief statement of the more evident interpretations advanced by philologists or ethnologists ; third, an indication of certain additional poems or verses that illustrate the myth ; fourth, special mention of a few masterpieces of ancient and modern sculpture and painting that may serve to introduce the student or the general reader to a field of æsthetic profit neglected by the great mass of our people.
Since this book is intended for students of English poetry, and since in English poetry Latin names of mythological characters are much more frequently employed than Greek, the Latin designations, or Latinized forms of Greek names, have been, so far as possible retained. In the chapters, however, on the attributes of the Greek gods, names exclusively Greek have been placed in parentheses after the usual Roman equivalents, Latin appellations, or designations common to both Greek and Roman usage. In the transliteration of Greek names I have followed, also, the prevalent practice of our poets, which is, generally speaking, the practice of the Romans. The diphthong el, for instance, is transliterated according to the accepted English pronunciation, which in individual words perpetuates the preference of the Latins for the e, or the 1, respectively. So ’Arpeidns becomes Atrides; IIoo edôv, Posidon; Ioquédela, Iphimedia. But, on the other hand, Κυθέρεια becomes Cytherea ; Πηνειός, Peneus ; and Μήδεια, Medēa. On the same principle, such a name as Peldias would be anglicized not Pheidias, nor even Phidias, but - Phidias. A few names of islands, towns, persons, etc., that even in Latin retain their Greek forms, such as Delos, Naxos, Argos, Aglauros, Pandrosos, have been transferred without modification. In short, the practice aimed at has been not that of scientific uniformity, but of acknowledged poetic usage.
For the benefit of readers who have failed to acquire the fundamental rules for the pronunciation of Greek and Latin proper names in English, a brief statement of rules is prefixed to the Index; and in the Index of Mythological Subjects and their Sources names are not only accented, but, when there is possibility of error, syllabicated.
In the preparation of the Text and Commentary more or less use has been made of: Roscher's Ausführliches Lexicon der Griechischen und Römischen Mythologie (Lieferungen 1-21, Teubner, Leipzig); Preller's Griechische Mythologie (2 Bde., Berlin : 1861); Max Müller's Chips from a German Workshop, Science of Religion (Lond. : 1873), Science of Language (7th ed. 2 v., Lond. : 1873),