The Homeric Hymns eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 142 pages of information about The Homeric Hymns.
American, and Australian “mediators” are infinitely more akin to Apollo, in his relations with Zeus and with men, than to any Person about whom missionaries can preach.  But the most devoted believer in borrowing will not say that, when the Australian mediator, Tundun, son of Mungun-gnaur, turns into a porpoise, the Kurnai have borrowed from our Hymn of the Dolphin Apollo.  It is absurd to maintain that the Son of the God, the go-between of God and men, in savage theology, is borrowed from missionaries, while this being has so much more in common with Apollo (from whom he cannot conceivably be borrowed) than with Christ.  The Tundun-porpoise story seems to have arisen in gratitude to the porpoise, which drives fishes inshore, for the natives to catch.  Neither Tharamulun nor Hobamoc (Australian and American Gods of healing and soothsaying), who appear to men as serpents, are borrowed from Asclepius, or from the Python of Apollo.  The processes have been quite different, and in Apollo, the oracular son of Zeus, who declares his counsel to men, I am apt to see a beautiful Greek modification of the type of the mediating Son of the primal Being of savage belief, adorned with many of the attributes of the Sun God, from whom, however, he is fundamentally distinct.  Apollo, I think, is an adorned survival of the Son of the God of savage theology.  He was not, at first, a Nature God, solar or not.  This opinion, if it seems valid, helps to account, in part, for the animal metamorphoses of Apollo, a survival from the mental confusion of savagery.  Such a confusion, in Greece, makes it necessary for the wise son of Zeus to seek information, as in the Hymn to Hermes, from an old clown.  This medley of ideas, in the mind of a civilised poet, who believes that Apollo is all-knowing in the counsels of eternity, is as truly mythological as Dunbar’s God who laughs his heart sore at an ale-house jest.  Dunbar, and the author of the Hymn, and the savage with his tale of Tundun or Daramulun, have all quite contradictory sets of ideas alternately present to their minds; the mediaeval poet, of course, being conscious of the contradiction, which makes the essence of his humour, such as it is.  To Greece, in its loftier moods, Apollo was, despite his myth, a noble source of inspiration, of art, and of conduct.  But the contradiction in the low myth and high doctrine of Apollo, could never be eradicated under any influence less potent than that of Christianity. {34} If this theory of Apollo’s origin be correct, many pages of learned works on Mythology need to be rewritten.


[Hermes with the boy Dionysos.  Statue by Praxiteles, found at Olympia:  lang35.jpg]

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The Homeric Hymns from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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