The Edda continues,
The wonderful Golden tablets
Are found in the grass
In time’s morning,
The leader of the gods
And Odin’s race
And what a find was that! This poor remnant of humanity discovers “the golden tablets” of the former
civilization. Doubtless, the inscribed tablets, by which the art of writing survived to the race; for what would tablets be without inscriptions? For they talk of “the ancient runes of mighty Odin,” that is, of the runic letters, the alphabetical writing. And we shall see hereafter that this view is confirmed from other sources.
There follows a happy age:
“The fields unsown
Yield their growth;
All ills cease.
Hoder and Balder,
Those heavenly gods,
Dwell together in Odin’s halls.”
The great catastrophe is past. Man is saved, The world is once more fair. The sun shines again in heaven. Night and day follow each other in endless revolution around the happy globe. Ragnarok is past.
THE CONFLAGRATION OF PHAËTON
Now let us turn to the mythology of the Latins, as preserved in the pages of Ovid, one of the greatest of the poets of ancient Rome.
Here we have the burning of the world involved in the myth of Phaëton, son of Phœbus—Apollo—the Sun—who drives the chariot of his father; he can not control the horses of the Sun, they run away with him; they come so near the earth as to set it on fire, and Phaëton is at last killed by Jove, as he killed Typhon in the Greek legends, to save heaven and earth from complete and common ruin.
This is the story of the conflagration as treated by a civilized mind, explained by a myth, and decorated with the flowers and foliage of poetry.
We shall see many things in the narrative of Ovid which strikingly confirm our theory.
Phaëton, to prove that he is really the son of Phœbus, the Sun, demands of his parent the right to drive his chariot for one day. The sun-god reluctantly consents, not without many pleadings that the infatuated and rash boy would give up his inconsiderate ambition. Phaëton persists. The old man says:
“Even the ruler of vast Olympus, who hurls the ruthless bolts with his terrific right hand, can not guide
[1. “The Metamorphoses,” book xi, fable 1.]
this chariot; and yet, what have we greater than Jupiter? The first part of the road is steep, and such as the horses, though fresh in the morning, can hardly climb. In the middle of the heaven it is high aloft, whence it is often a source of fear, even to myself, to look down upon the sea and the earth, and my breast trembles with fearful apprehensions. The last stage is a steep descent, and requires a sure command of the horses. . . . Besides, the heavens are carried round with a constant rotation, and carrying with them the lofty stars, and whirl them with rapid revolution. Against this I have to contend; and that force which overcomes all other things does not overcome me, and I am carried in a contrary direction to the rapid world.”