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    Ch. 1 - Hero as Divinity

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    Chapter 1

    [May 5, 1840.]

    We have undertaken to discourse here for a little on Great Men, their
    manner of appearance in our world's business, how they have shaped
    themselves in the world's history, what ideas men formed of them, what work
    they did;--on Heroes, namely, and on their reception and performance; what
    I call Hero-worship and the Heroic in human affairs. Too evidently this is
    a large topic; deserving quite other treatment than we can expect to give
    it at present. A large topic; indeed, an illimitable one; wide as
    Universal History itself. For, as I take it, Universal History, the
    history of what man has accomplished in this world, is at bottom the
    History of the Great Men who have worked here. They were the leaders of
    men, these great ones; the modellers, patterns, and in a wide sense
    creators, of whatsoever the general mass of men contrived to do or to
    attain; all things that we see standing accomplished in the world are
    properly the outer material result, the practical realization and
    embodiment, of Thoughts that dwelt in the Great Men sent into the world:
    the soul of the whole world's history, it may justly be considered, were
    the history of these. Too clearly it is a topic we shall do no justice to
    in this place!

    One comfort is, that Great Men, taken up in any way, are profitable
    company. We cannot look, however imperfectly, upon a great man, without
    gaining something by him. He is the living light-fountain, which it is
    good and pleasant to be near. The light which enlightens, which has
    enlightened the darkness of the world; and this not as a kindled lamp only,
    but rather as a natural luminary shining by the gift of Heaven; a flowing
    light-fountain, as I say, of native original insight, of manhood and heroic
    nobleness;--in whose radiance all souls feel that it is well with them. On
    any terms whatsoever, you will not grudge to wander in such neighborhood
    for a while. These Six classes of Heroes, chosen out of widely distant
    countries and epochs, and in mere external figure differing altogether,
    ought, if we look faithfully at them, to illustrate several things for us.
    Could we see them well, we should get some glimpses into the very marrow of
    the world's history. How happy, could I but, in any measure, in such times
    as these, make manifest to you the meanings of Heroism; the divine relation
    (for I may well call it such) which in all times unites a Great Man to
    other men; and thus, as it were, not exhaust my subject, but so much as
    break ground on it! At all events, I must make the attempt.

    It is well said, in every sense, that a man's religion is the chief fact
    with regard to him. A man's, or a nation of men's. By religion I do not
    mean here the church-creed which he professes, the articles of faith which
    he will sign and, in words or otherwise, assert; not this wholly, in many
    cases not this at all. We see men of all kinds of professed creeds attain
    to almost all degrees of worth or worthlessness under each or any of them.
    This is not what I call religion, this profession and assertion; which is
    often only a profession and assertion from the outworks of the man, from
    the mere argumentative region of him, if even so deep as that. But the
    thing a man does practically believe (and this is often enough _without_
    asserting it even to himself, much less to others); the thing a man does
    practically lay to heart, and know for certain, concerning his vital
    relations to this mysterious Universe, and his duty and destiny there, that
    is in all cases the primary thing for him, and creatively determines all
    the rest. That is his _religion_; or, it may be, his mere scepticism and
    _no-religion_: the manner it is in which he feels himself to be
    spiritually related to the Unseen World or No-World; and I say, if you tell
    me what that is, you tell me to a very great extent what the man is, what
    the kind of things he will do is. Of a man or of a nation we inquire,
    therefore, first of all, What religion they had? Was it
    Heathenism,--plurality of gods, mere sensuous representation of this
    Mystery of Life, and for chief recognized element therein Physical Force?
    Was it Christianism; faith in an Invisible, not as real only, but as the
    only reality; Time, through every meanest moment of it, resting on
    Eternity; Pagan empire of Force displaced by a nobler supremacy, that of
    Holiness? Was it Scepticism, uncertainty and inquiry whether there was an
    Unseen World, any Mystery of Life except a mad one;--doubt as to all this,
    or perhaps unbelief and flat denial? Answering of this question is giving
    us the soul of the history of the man or nation. The thoughts they had
    were the parents of the actions they did; their feelings were parents of
    their thoughts: it was the unseen and spiritual in them that determined
    the outward and actual;--their religion, as I say, was the great fact about
    them. In these Discourses, limited as we are, it will be good to direct
    our survey chiefly to that religious phasis of the matter. That once known
    well, all is known. We have chosen as the first Hero in our series Odin
    the central figure of Scandinavian Paganism; an emblem to us of a most
    extensive province of things. Let us look for a little at the Hero as
    Divinity, the oldest primary form of Heroism.

    Surely it seems a very strange-looking thing this Paganism; almost
    inconceivable to us in these days. A bewildering, inextricable jungle of
    delusions, confusions, falsehoods, and absurdities, covering the whole
    field of Life! A thing that fills us with astonishment, almost, if it were
    possible, with incredulity,--for truly it is not easy to understand that
    sane men could ever calmly, with their eyes open, believe and live by such
    a set of doctrines. That men should have worshipped their poor fellow-man
    as a God, and not him only, but stocks and stones, and all manner of
    animate and inanimate objects; and fashioned for themselves such a
    distracted chaos of hallucinations by way of Theory of the Universe: all
    this looks like an incredible fable. Nevertheless it is a clear fact that
    they did it. Such hideous inextricable jungle of misworships, misbeliefs,
    men, made as we are, did actually hold by, and live at home in. This is
    strange. Yes, we may pause in sorrow and silence over the depths of
    darkness that are in man; if we rejoice in the heights of purer vision he
    has attained to. Such things were and are in man; in all men; in us too.

    Some speculators have a short way of accounting for the Pagan religion:
    mere quackery, priestcraft, and dupery, say they; no sane man ever did
    believe it,--merely contrived to persuade other men, not worthy of the name
    of sane, to believe it! It will be often our duty to protest against this
    sort of hypothesis about men's doings and history; and I here, on the very
    threshold, protest against it in reference to Paganism, and to all other
    _isms_ by which man has ever for a length of time striven to walk in this
    world. They have all had a truth in them, or men would not have taken them
    up. Quackery and dupery do abound; in religions, above all in the more
    advanced decaying stages of religions, they have fearfully abounded: but
    quackery was never the originating influence in such things; it was not the
    health and life of such things, but their disease, the sure precursor of
    their being about to die! Let us never forget this. It seems to me a most
    mournful hypothesis, that of quackery giving birth to any faith even in
    savage men. Quackery gives birth to nothing; gives death to all things.
    We shall not see into the true heart of anything, if we look merely at the
    quackeries of it; if we do not reject the quackeries altogether; as mere
    diseases, corruptions, with which our and all men's sole duty is to have
    done with them, to sweep them out of our thoughts as out of our practice.
    Man everywhere is the born enemy of lies. I find Grand Lamaism itself to
    have a kind of truth in it. Read the candid, clear-sighted, rather
    sceptical Mr. Turner's _Account of his Embassy_ to that country, and see.
    They have their belief, these poor Thibet people, that Providence sends
    down always an Incarnation of Himself into every generation. At bottom
    some belief in a kind of Pope! At bottom still better, belief that there
    is a _Greatest_ Man; that _he_ is discoverable; that, once discovered, we
    ought to treat him with an obedience which knows no bounds! This is the
    truth of Grand Lamaism; the "discoverability" is the only error here. The
    Thibet priests have methods of their own of discovering what Man is
    Greatest, fit to be supreme over them. Bad methods: but are they so much
    worse than our methods,--of understanding him to be always the eldest-born
    of a certain genealogy? Alas, it is a difficult thing to find good methods
    for!--We shall begin to have a chance of understanding Paganism, when we
    first admit that to its followers it was, at one time, earnestly true. Let
    us consider it very certain that men did believe in Paganism; men with open
    eyes, sound senses, men made altogether like ourselves; that we, had we
    been there, should have believed in it. Ask now, What Paganism could have

    Another theory, somewhat more respectable, attributes such things to
    Allegory. It was a play of poetic minds, say these theorists; a shadowing
    forth, in allegorical fable, in personification and visual form, of what
    such poetic minds had known and felt of this Universe. Which agrees, add
    they, with a primary law of human nature, still everywhere observably at
    work, though in less important things, That what a man feels intensely, he
    struggles to speak out of him, to see represented before him in visual
    shape, and as if with a kind of life and historical reality in it. Now
    doubtless there is such a law, and it is one of the deepest in human
    nature; neither need we doubt that it did operate fundamentally in this
    business. The hypothesis which ascribes Paganism wholly or mostly to this
    agency, I call a little more respectable; but I cannot yet call it the true
    hypothesis. Think, would _we_ believe, and take with us as our
    life-guidance, an allegory, a poetic sport? Not sport but earnest is what
    we should require. It is a most earnest thing to be alive in this world;
    to die is not sport for a man. Man's life never was a sport to him; it was
    a stern reality, altogether a serious matter to be alive!

    I find, therefore, that though these Allegory theorists are on the way
    towards truth in this matter, they have not reached it either. Pagan
    Religion is indeed an Allegory, a Symbol of what men felt and knew about
    the Universe; and all Religions are symbols of that, altering always as
    that alters: but it seems to me a radical perversion, and even inversion,
    of the business, to put that forward as the origin and moving cause, when
    it was rather the result and termination. To get beautiful allegories, a
    perfect poetic symbol, was not the want of men; but to know what they were
    to believe about this Universe, what course they were to steer in it; what,
    in this mysterious Life of theirs, they had to hope and to fear, to do and
    to forbear doing. The _Pilgrim's Progress_ is an Allegory, and a
    beautiful, just and serious one: but consider whether Bunyan's Allegory
    could have _preceded_ the Faith it symbolizes! The Faith had to be already
    there, standing believed by everybody;--of which the Allegory could _then_
    become a shadow; and, with all its seriousness, we may say a _sportful_
    shadow, a mere play of the Fancy, in comparison with that awful Fact and
    scientific certainty which it poetically strives to emblem. The Allegory
    is the product of the certainty, not the producer of it; not in Bunyan's
    nor in any other case. For Paganism, therefore, we have still to inquire,
    Whence came that scientific certainty, the parent of such a bewildered heap
    of allegories, errors and confusions? How was it, what was it?

    Surely it were a foolish attempt to pretend "explaining," in this place, or
    in any place, such a phenomenon as that far-distant distracted cloudy
    imbroglio of Paganism,--more like a cloud-field than a distant continent of
    firm land and facts! It is no longer a reality, yet it was one. We ought
    to understand that this seeming cloud-field was once a reality; that not
    poetic allegory, least of all that dupery and deception was the origin of
    it. Men, I say, never did believe idle songs, never risked their soul's
    life on allegories: men in all times, especially in early earnest times,
    have had an instinct for detecting quacks, for detesting quacks. Let us
    try if, leaving out both the quack theory and the allegory one, and
    listening with affectionate attention to that far-off confused rumor of the
    Pagan ages, we cannot ascertain so much as this at least, That there was a
    kind of fact at the heart of them; that they too were not mendacious and
    distracted, but in their own poor way true and sane!

    You remember that fancy of Plato's, of a man who had grown to maturity in
    some dark distance, and was brought on a sudden into the upper air to see
    the sun rise. What would his wonder be, his rapt astonishment at the sight
    we daily witness with indifference! With the free open sense of a child,
    yet with the ripe faculty of a man, his whole heart would be kindled by
    that sight, he would discern it well to be Godlike, his soul would fall
    down in worship before it. Now, just such a childlike greatness was in the
    primitive nations. The first Pagan Thinker among rude men, the first man
    that began to think, was precisely this child-man of Plato's. Simple, open
    as a child, yet with the depth and strength of a man. Nature had as yet no
    name to him; he had not yet united under a name the infinite variety of
    sights, sounds, shapes and motions, which we now collectively name
    Universe, Nature, or the like,--and so with a name dismiss it from us. To
    the wild deep-hearted man all was yet new, not veiled under names or
    formulas; it stood naked, flashing in on him there, beautiful, awful,
    unspeakable. Nature was to this man, what to the Thinker and Prophet it
    forever is, preternatural. This green flowery rock-built earth, the trees,
    the mountains, rivers, many-sounding seas;--that great deep sea of azure
    that swims overhead; the winds sweeping through it; the black cloud
    fashioning itself together, now pouring out fire, now hail and rain; what
    _is_ it? Ay, what? At bottom we do not yet know; we can never know at
    all. It is not by our superior insight that we escape the difficulty; it
    is by our superior levity, our inattention, our _want_ of insight. It is
    by _not_ thinking that we cease to wonder at it. Hardened round us,
    encasing wholly every notion we form, is a wrappage of traditions,
    hearsays, mere _words_. We call that fire of the black thunder-cloud
    "electricity," and lecture learnedly about it, and grind the like of it out
    of glass and silk: but _what_ is it? What made it? Whence comes it?
    Whither goes it? Science has done much for us; but it is a poor science
    that would hide from us the great deep sacred infinitude of Nescience,
    whither we can never penetrate, on which all science swims as a mere
    superficial film. This world, after all our science and sciences, is still
    a miracle; wonderful, inscrutable, _magical_ and more, to whosoever will
    _think_ of it.

    That great mystery of TIME, were there no other; the illimitable, silent,
    never-resting thing called Time, rolling, rushing on, swift, silent, like
    an all-embracing ocean-tide, on which we and all the Universe swim like
    exhalations, like apparitions which are, and then are _not_: this is
    forever very literally a miracle; a thing to strike us dumb,--for we have
    no word to speak about it. This Universe, ah me--what could the wild man
    know of it; what can we yet know? That it is a Force, and thousand-fold
    Complexity of Forces; a Force which is _not_ we. That is all; it is not
    we, it is altogether different from us. Force, Force, everywhere Force; we
    ourselves a mysterious Force in the centre of that. "There is not a leaf
    rotting on the highway but has Force in it; how else could it rot?" Nay
    surely, to the Atheistic Thinker, if such a one were possible, it must be a
    miracle too, this huge illimitable whirlwind of Force, which envelops us
    here; never-resting whirlwind, high as Immensity, old as Eternity. What is
    it? God's Creation, the religious people answer; it is the Almighty God's!
    Atheistic science babbles poorly of it, with scientific nomenclatures,
    experiments and what not, as if it were a poor dead thing, to be bottled up
    in Leyden jars and sold over counters: but the natural sense of man, in
    all times, if he will honestly apply his sense, proclaims it to be a living
    thing,--ah, an unspeakable, godlike thing; towards which the best attitude
    for us, after never so much science, is awe, devout prostration and
    humility of soul; worship if not in words, then in silence.

    But now I remark farther: What in such a time as ours it requires a
    Prophet or Poet to teach us, namely, the stripping-off of those poor
    undevout wrappages, nomenclatures and scientific hearsays,--this, the
    ancient earnest soul, as yet unencumbered with these things, did for
    itself. The world, which is now divine only to the gifted, was then divine
    to whosoever would turn his eye upon it. He stood bare before it face to
    face. "All was Godlike or God:"--Jean Paul still finds it so; the giant
    Jean Paul, who has power to escape out of hearsays: but there then were no
    hearsays. Canopus shining down over the desert, with its blue diamond
    brightness (that wild blue spirit-like brightness, far brighter than we
    ever witness here), would pierce into the heart of the wild Ishmaelitish
    man, whom it was guiding through the solitary waste there. To his wild
    heart, with all feelings in it, with no _speech_ for any feeling, it might
    seem a little eye, that Canopus, glancing out on him from the great deep
    Eternity; revealing the inner Splendor to him. Cannot we understand how
    these men _worshipped_ Canopus; became what we call Sabeans, worshipping
    the stars? Such is to me the secret of all forms of Paganism. Worship is
    transcendent wonder; wonder for which there is now no limit or measure;
    that is worship. To these primeval men, all things and everything they saw
    exist beside them were an emblem of the Godlike, of some God.

    And look what perennial fibre of truth was in that. To us also, through
    every star, through every blade of grass, is not a God made visible, if we
    will open our minds and eyes? We do not worship in that way now: but is
    it not reckoned still a merit, proof of what we call a "poetic nature,"
    that we recognize how every object has a divine beauty in it; how every
    object still verily is "a window through which we may look into Infinitude
    itself"? He that can discern the loveliness of things, we call him Poet!
    Painter, Man of Genius, gifted, lovable. These poor Sabeans did even what
    he does,--in their own fashion. That they did it, in what fashion soever,
    was a merit: better than what the entirely stupid man did, what the horse
    and camel did,--namely, nothing!

    But now if all things whatsoever that we look upon are emblems to us of the
    Highest God, I add that more so than any of them is man such an emblem.
    You have heard of St. Chrysostom's celebrated saying in reference to the
    Shekinah, or Ark of Testimony, visible Revelation of God, among the
    Hebrews: "The true Shekinah is Man!" Yes, it is even so: this is no vain
    phrase; it is veritably so. The essence of our being, the mystery in us
    that calls itself "I,"--ah, what words have we for such things?--is a
    breath of Heaven; the Highest Being reveals himself in man. This body,
    these faculties, this life of ours, is it not all as a vesture for that
    Unnamed? "There is but one Temple in the Universe," says the devout
    Novalis, "and that is the Body of Man. Nothing is holier shall that high
    form. Bending before men is a reverence done to this Revelation in the
    Flesh. We touch Heaven when we lay our hand on a human body!" This sounds
    much like a mere flourish of rhetoric; but it is not so. If well

    meditated, it will turn out to be a scientific fact; the expression, in
    such words as can be had, of the actual truth of the thing. We are the
    miracle of miracles,--the great inscrutable mystery of God. We cannot
    understand it, we know not how to speak of it; but we may feel and know, if
    we like, that it is verily so.

    Well; these truths were once more readily felt than now. The young
    generations of the world, who had in them the freshness of young children,
    and yet the depth of earnest men, who did not think that they had finished
    off all things in Heaven and Earth by merely giving them scientific names,
    but had to gaze direct at them there, with awe and wonder: they felt
    better what of divinity is in man and Nature; they, without being mad,
    could _worship_ Nature, and man more than anything else in Nature.
    Worship, that is, as I said above, admire without limit: this, in the full
    use of their faculties, with all sincerity of heart, they could do. I
    consider Hero-worship to be the grand modifying element in that ancient
    system of thought. What I called the perplexed jungle of Paganism sprang,
    we may say, out of many roots: every admiration, adoration of a star or
    natural object, was a root or fibre of a root; but Hero-worship is the
    deepest root of all; the tap-root, from which in a great degree all the
    rest were nourished and grown.

    And now if worship even of a star had some meaning in it, how much more
    might that of a Hero! Worship of a Hero is transcendent admiration of a
    Great Man. I say great men are still admirable; I say there is, at bottom,
    nothing else admirable! No nobler feeling than this of admiration for one
    higher than himself dwells in the breast of man. It is to this hour, and
    at all hours, the vivifying influence in man's life. Religion I find stand
    upon it; not Paganism only, but far higher and truer religions,--all
    religion hitherto known. Hero-worship, heartfelt prostrate admiration,
    submission, burning, boundless, for a noblest godlike Form of Man,--is not
    that the germ of Christianity itself? The greatest of all Heroes is
    One--whom we do not name here! Let sacred silence meditate that sacred
    matter; you will find it the ultimate perfection of a principle extant
    throughout man's whole history on earth.

    Or coming into lower, less unspeakable provinces, is not all Loyalty akin
    to religious Faith also? Faith is loyalty to some inspired Teacher, some
    spiritual Hero. And what therefore is loyalty proper, the life-breath of
    all society, but an effluence of Hero-worship, submissive admiration for
    the truly great? Society is founded on Hero-worship. All dignities of
    rank, on which human association rests, are what we may call a _Hero_archy
    (Government of Heroes),--or a Hierarchy, for it is "sacred" enough withal!
    The Duke means _Dux_, Leader; King is _Kon-ning_, _Kan-ning_, Man that
    _knows_ or _cans_. Society everywhere is some representation, not
    insupportably inaccurate, of a graduated Worship of Heroes--reverence and
    obedience done to men really great and wise. Not insupportably inaccurate,
    I say! They are all as bank-notes, these social dignitaries, all
    representing gold;--and several of them, alas, always are _forged_ notes.
    We can do with some forged false notes; with a good many even; but not with
    all, or the most of them forged! No: there have to come revolutions then;
    cries of Democracy, Liberty and Equality, and I know not what:--the notes
    being all false, and no gold to be had for _them_, people take to crying in
    their despair that there is no gold, that there never was any! "Gold,"
    Hero-worship, _is_ nevertheless, as it was always and everywhere, and
    cannot cease till man himself ceases.

    I am well aware that in these days Hero-worship, the thing I call
    Hero-worship, professes to have gone out, and finally ceased. This, for
    reasons which it will be worth while some time to inquire into, is an age
    that as it were denies the existence of great men; denies the desirableness
    of great men. Show our critics a great man, a Luther for example, they
    begin to what they call "account" for him; not to worship him, but take the
    dimensions of him,--and bring him out to be a little kind of man! He was
    the "creature of the Time," they say; the Time called him forth, the Time
    did everything, he nothing--but what we the little critic could have done
    too! This seems to me but melancholy work. The Time call forth? Alas, we
    have known Times _call_ loudly enough for their great man; but not find him
    when they called! He was not there; Providence had not sent him; the Time,
    _calling_ its loudest, had to go down to confusion and wreck because he
    would not come when called.

    For if we will think of it, no Time need have gone to ruin, could it have
    _found_ a man great enough, a man wise and good enough: wisdom to discern
    truly what the Time wanted, valor to lead it on the right road thither;
    these are the salvation of any Time. But I liken common languid Times,
    with their unbelief, distress, perplexity, with their languid doubting
    characters and embarrassed circumstances, impotently crumbling down into
    ever worse distress towards final ruin;--all this I liken to dry dead fuel,
    waiting for the lightning out of Heaven that shall kindle it. The great
    man, with his free force direct out of God's own hand, is the lightning.
    His word is the wise healing word which all can believe in. All blazes
    round him now, when he has once struck on it, into fire like his own. The
    dry mouldering sticks are thought to have called him forth. They did want
    him greatly; but as to calling him forth--! Those are critics of small
    vision, I think, who cry: "See, is it not the sticks that made the fire?"
    No sadder proof can be given by a man of his own littleness than disbelief
    in great men. There is no sadder symptom of a generation than such general
    blindness to the spiritual lightning, with faith only in the heap of barren
    dead fuel. It is the last consummation of unbelief. In all epochs of the
    world's history, we shall find the Great Man to have been the indispensable
    savior of his epoch;--the lightning, without which the fuel never would
    have burnt. The History of the World, I said already, was the Biography of
    Great Men.

    Such small critics do what they can to promote unbelief and universal
    spiritual paralysis: but happily they cannot always completely succeed.
    In all times it is possible for a man to arise great enough to feel that
    they and their doctrines are chimeras and cobwebs. And what is notable, in
    no time whatever can they entirely eradicate out of living men's hearts a
    certain altogether peculiar reverence for Great Men; genuine admiration,
    loyalty, adoration, however dim and perverted it may be. Hero-worship
    endures forever while man endures. Boswell venerates his Johnson, right
    truly even in the Eighteenth century. The unbelieving French believe in
    their Voltaire; and burst out round him into very curious Hero-worship, in
    that last act of his life when they "stifle him under roses." It has
    always seemed to me extremely curious this of Voltaire. Truly, if
    Christianity be the highest instance of Hero-worship, then we may find here
    in Voltaireism one of the lowest! He whose life was that of a kind of
    Antichrist, does again on this side exhibit a curious contrast. No people
    ever were so little prone to admire at all as those French of Voltaire.
    _Persiflage_ was the character of their whole mind; adoration had nowhere a
    place in it. Yet see! The old man of Ferney comes up to Paris; an old,
    tottering, infirm man of eighty-four years. They feel that he too is a
    kind of Hero; that he has spent his life in opposing error and injustice,
    delivering Calases, unmasking hypocrites in high places;--in short that
    _he_ too, though in a strange way, has fought like a valiant man. They
    feel withal that, if _persiflage_ be the great thing, there never was such
    a _persifleur_. He is the realized ideal of every one of them; the thing
    they are all wanting to be; of all Frenchmen the most French. He is
    properly their god,--such god as they are fit for. Accordingly all
    persons, from the Queen Antoinette to the Douanier at the Porte St. Denis,
    do they not worship him? People of quality disguise themselves as
    tavern-waiters. The Maitre de Poste, with a broad oath, orders his
    Postilion, "_Va bon train_; thou art driving M. de Voltaire." At Paris his
    carriage is "the nucleus of a comet, whose train fills whole streets." The
    ladies pluck a hair or two from his fur, to keep it as a sacred relic.
    There was nothing highest, beautifulest, noblest in all France, that did
    not feel this man to be higher, beautifuler, nobler.

    Yes, from Norse Odin to English Samuel Johnson, from the divine Founder of
    Christianity to the withered Pontiff of Encyclopedism, in all times and
    places, the Hero has been worshipped. It will ever be so. We all love
    great men; love, venerate and bow down submissive before great men: nay
    can we honestly bow down to anything else? Ah, does not every true man
    feel that he is himself made higher by doing reverence to what is really
    above him? No nobler or more blessed feeling dwells in man's heart. And
    to me it is very cheering to consider that no sceptical logic, or general
    triviality, insincerity and aridity of any Time and its influences can
    destroy this noble inborn loyalty and worship that is in man. In times of
    unbelief, which soon have to become times of revolution, much down-rushing,
    sorrowful decay and ruin is visible to everybody. For myself in these
    days, I seem to see in this indestructibility of Hero-worship the
    everlasting adamant lower than which the confused wreck of revolutionary
    things cannot fall. The confused wreck of things crumbling and even
    crashing and tumbling all round us in these revolutionary ages, will get
    down so far; _no_ farther. It is an eternal corner-stone, from which they
    can begin to build themselves up again. That man, in some sense or other,
    worships Heroes; that we all of us reverence and must ever reverence Great
    Men: this is, to me, the living rock amid all rushings-down
    whatsoever;--the one fixed point in modern revolutionary history, otherwise
    as if bottomless and shoreless.

    So much of truth, only under an ancient obsolete vesture, but the spirit of
    it still true, do I find in the Paganism of old nations. Nature is still
    divine, the revelation of the workings of God; the Hero is still
    worshipable: this, under poor cramped incipient forms, is what all Pagan
    religions have struggled, as they could, to set forth. I think
    Scandinavian Paganism, to us here, is more interesting than any other. It
    is, for one thing, the latest; it continued in these regions of Europe till
    the eleventh century: eight hundred years ago the Norwegians were still
    worshippers of Odin. It is interesting also as the creed of our fathers;
    the men whose blood still runs in our veins, whom doubtless we still
    resemble in so many ways. Strange: they did believe that, while we
    believe so differently. Let us look a little at this poor Norse creed, for
    many reasons. We have tolerable means to do it; for there is another point
    of interest in these Scandinavian mythologies: that they have been
    preserved so well.

    In that strange island Iceland,--burst up, the geologists say, by fire from
    the bottom of the sea; a wild land of barrenness and lava; swallowed many
    months of every year in black tempests, yet with a wild gleaming beauty in
    summertime; towering up there, stern and grim, in the North Ocean with its
    snow jokuls, roaring geysers, sulphur-pools and horrid volcanic chasms,
    like the waste chaotic battle-field of Frost and Fire;--where of all places
    we least looked for Literature or written memorials, the record of these
    things was written down. On the seabord of this wild land is a rim of
    grassy country, where cattle can subsist, and men by means of them and of
    what the sea yields; and it seems they were poetic men these, men who had
    deep thoughts in them, and uttered musically their thoughts. Much would be
    lost, had Iceland not been burst up from the sea, not been discovered by
    the Northmen! The old Norse Poets were many of them natives of Iceland.

    Saemund, one of the early Christian Priests there, who perhaps had a
    lingering fondness for Paganism, collected certain of their old Pagan
    songs, just about becoming obsolete then,--Poems or Chants of a mythic,
    prophetic, mostly all of a religious character: that is what Norse critics
    call the _Elder_ or Poetic _Edda_. _Edda_, a word of uncertain etymology,
    is thought to signify _Ancestress_. Snorro Sturleson, an Iceland
    gentleman, an extremely notable personage, educated by this Saemund's
    grandson, took in hand next, near a century afterwards, to put together,
    among several other books he wrote, a kind of Prose Synopsis of the whole
    Mythology; elucidated by new fragments of traditionary verse. A work
    constructed really with great ingenuity, native talent, what one might call
    unconscious art; altogether a perspicuous clear work, pleasant reading
    still: this is the _Younger_ or Prose _Edda_. By these and the numerous
    other _Sagas_, mostly Icelandic, with the commentaries, Icelandic or not,
    which go on zealously in the North to this day, it is possible to gain some
    direct insight even yet; and see that old Norse system of Belief, as it
    were, face to face. Let us forget that it is erroneous Religion; let us
    look at it as old Thought, and try if we cannot sympathize with it

    The primary characteristic of this old Northland Mythology I find to be
    Impersonation of the visible workings of Nature. Earnest simple
    recognition of the workings of Physical Nature, as a thing wholly
    miraculous, stupendous and divine. What we now lecture of as Science, they
    wondered at, and fell down in awe before, as Religion The dark hostile
    Powers of Nature they figure to themselves as "_Jotuns_," Giants, huge
    shaggy beings of a demonic character. Frost, Fire, Sea-tempest; these are
    Jotuns. The friendly Powers again, as Summer-heat, the Sun, are Gods. The
    empire of this Universe is divided between these two; they dwell apart, in
    perennial internecine feud. The Gods dwell above in Asgard, the Garden of
    the Asen, or Divinities; Jotunheim, a distant dark chaotic land, is the
    home of the Jotuns.

    Curious all this; and not idle or inane, if we will look at the foundation
    of it! The power of _Fire_, or _Flame_, for instance, which we designate
    by some trivial chemical name, thereby hiding from ourselves the essential
    character of wonder that dwells in it as in all things, is with these old
    Northmen, Loke, a most swift subtle _Demon_, of the brood of the Jotuns.
    The savages of the Ladrones Islands too (say some Spanish voyagers) thought
    Fire, which they never had seen before, was a devil or god, that bit you
    sharply when you touched it, and that lived upon dry wood. From us too no
    Chemistry, if it had not Stupidity to help it, would hide that Flame is a
    wonder. What _is_ Flame?--_Frost_ the old Norse Seer discerns to be a
    monstrous hoary Jotun, the Giant _Thrym_, _Hrym_; or _Rime_, the old word
    now nearly obsolete here, but still used in Scotland to signify hoar-frost.
    _Rime_ was not then as now a dead chemical thing, but a living Jotun or
    Devil; the monstrous Jotun _Rime_ drove home his Horses at night, sat
    "combing their manes,"--which Horses were _Hail-Clouds_, or fleet
    _Frost-Winds_. His Cows--No, not his, but a kinsman's, the Giant Hymir's
    Cows are _Icebergs_: this Hymir "looks at the rocks" with his devil-eye,
    and they _split_ in the glance of it.

    Thunder was not then mere Electricity, vitreous or resinous; it was the God
    Donner (Thunder) or Thor,--God also of beneficent Summer-heat. The thunder
    was his wrath: the gathering of the black clouds is the drawing down of
    Thor's angry brows; the fire-bolt bursting out of Heaven is the all-rending
    Hammer flung from the hand of Thor: he urges his loud chariot over the
    mountain-tops,--that is the peal; wrathful he "blows in his red
    beard,"--that is the rustling storm-blast before the thunder begins.
    Balder again, the White God, the beautiful, the just and benignant (whom
    the early Christian Missionaries found to resemble Christ), is the Sun,
    beautifullest of visible things; wondrous too, and divine still, after all
    our Astronomies and Almanacs! But perhaps the notablest god we hear tell
    of is one of whom Grimm the German Etymologist finds trace: the God
    _Wunsch_, or Wish. The God _Wish_; who could give us all that we _wished_!
    Is not this the sincerest and yet rudest voice of the spirit of man? The
    _rudest_ ideal that man ever formed; which still shows itself in the latest
    forms of our spiritual culture. Higher considerations have to teach us
    that the God _Wish_ is not the true God.

    Of the other Gods or Jotuns I will mention only for etymology's sake, that
    Sea-tempest is the Jotun _Aegir_, a very dangerous Jotun;--and now to this
    day, on our river Trent, as I learn, the Nottingham bargemen, when the
    River is in a certain flooded state (a kind of backwater, or eddying swirl
    it has, very dangerous to them), call it Eager; they cry out, "Have a care,
    there is the _Eager_ coming!" Curious; that word surviving, like the peak
    of a submerged world! The _oldest_ Nottingham bargemen had believed in the
    God Aegir. Indeed our English blood too in good part is Danish, Norse; or
    rather, at bottom, Danish and Norse and Saxon have no distinction, except a
    superficial one,--as of Heathen and Christian, or the like. But all over
    our Island we are mingled largely with Danes proper,--from the incessant
    invasions there were: and this, of course, in a greater proportion along
    the east coast; and greatest of all, as I find, in the North Country. From
    the Humber upwards, all over Scotland, the Speech of the common people is
    still in a singular degree Icelandic; its Germanism has still a peculiar
    Norse tinge. They too are "Normans," Northmen,--if that be any great

    Of the chief god, Odin, we shall speak by and by. Mark at present so much;
    what the essence of Scandinavian and indeed of all Paganism is: a
    recognition of the forces of Nature as godlike, stupendous, personal
    Agencies,--as Gods and Demons. Not inconceivable to us. It is the infant
    Thought of man opening itself, with awe and wonder, on this ever-stupendous
    Universe. To me there is in the Norse system something very genuine, very
    great and manlike. A broad simplicity, rusticity, so very different from
    the light gracefulness of the old Greek Paganism, distinguishes this
    Scandinavian System. It is Thought; the genuine Thought of deep, rude,
    earnest minds, fairly opened to the things about them; a face-to-face and
    heart-to-heart inspection of the things,--the first characteristic of all
    good Thought in all times. Not graceful lightness, half-sport, as in the
    Greek Paganism; a certain homely truthfulness and rustic strength, a great
    rude sincerity, discloses itself here. It is strange, after our beautiful
    Apollo statues and clear smiling mythuses, to come down upon the Norse Gods
    "brewing ale" to hold their feast with Aegir, the Sea-Jotun; sending out
    Thor to get the caldron for them in the Jotun country; Thor, after many
    adventures, clapping the Pot on his head, like a huge hat, and walking off
    with it,--quite lost in it, the ears of the Pot reaching down to his heels!
    A kind of vacant hugeness, large awkward gianthood, characterizes that
    Norse system; enormous force, as yet altogether untutored, stalking
    helpless with large uncertain strides. Consider only their primary mythus
    of the Creation. The Gods, having got the Giant Ymer slain, a Giant made
    by "warm wind," and much confused work, out of the conflict of Frost and
    Fire,--determined on constructing a world with him. His blood made the
    Sea; his flesh was the Land, the Rocks his bones; of his eyebrows they
    formed Asgard their Gods'-dwelling; his skull was the great blue vault of
    Immensity, and the brains of it became the Clouds. What a
    Hyper-Brobdignagian business! Untamed Thought, great, giantlike,
    enormous;--to be tamed in due time into the compact greatness, not
    giantlike, but godlike and stronger than gianthood, of the Shakspeares, the
    Goethes!--Spiritually as well as bodily these men are our progenitors.

    I like, too, that representation they have of the tree Igdrasil. All Life
    is figured by them as a Tree. Igdrasil, the Ash-tree of Existence, has its
    roots deep down in the kingdoms of Hela or Death; its trunk reaches up
    heaven-high, spreads its boughs over the whole Universe: it is the Tree of
    Existence. At the foot of it, in the Death-kingdom, sit Three _Nornas_,
    Fates,--the Past, Present, Future; watering its roots from the Sacred Well.
    Its "boughs," with their buddings and disleafings?--events, things
    suffered, things done, catastrophes,--stretch through all lands and times.
    Is not every leaf of it a biography, every fibre there an act or word? Its
    boughs are Histories of Nations. The rustle of it is the noise of Human
    Existence, onwards from of old. It grows there, the breath of Human
    Passion rustling through it;--or storm tost, the storm-wind howling through
    it like the voice of all the gods. It is Igdrasil, the Tree of Existence.
    It is the past, the present, and the future; what was done, what is doing,
    what will be done; "the infinite conjugation of the verb _To do_."
    Considering how human things circulate, each inextricably in communion with
    all,--how the word I speak to you to-day is borrowed, not from Ulfila the
    Moesogoth only, but from all men since the first man began to speak,--I
    find no similitude so true as this of a Tree. Beautiful; altogether
    beautiful and great. The "_Machine_ of the Universe,"--alas, do but think
    of that in contrast!

    Well, it is strange enough this old Norse view of Nature; different enough
    from what we believe of Nature. Whence it specially came, one would not
    like to be compelled to say very minutely! One thing we may say: It came
    from the thoughts of Norse men;--from the thought, above all, of the
    _first_ Norse man who had an original power of thinking. The First Norse
    "man of genius," as we should call him! Innumerable men had passed by,
    across this Universe, with a dumb vague wonder, such as the very animals
    may feel; or with a painful, fruitlessly inquiring wonder, such as men only
    feel;--till the great Thinker came, the _original_ man, the Seer; whose
    shaped spoken Thought awakes the slumbering capability of all into Thought.
    It is ever the way with the Thinker, the spiritual Hero. What he says, all
    men were not far from saying, were longing to say. The Thoughts of all
    start up, as from painful enchanted sleep, round his Thought; answering to
    it, Yes, even so! Joyful to men as the dawning of day from night;--_is_ it
    not, indeed, the awakening for them from no-being into being, from death
    into life? We still honor such a man; call him Poet, Genius, and so forth:
    but to these wild men he was a very magician, a worker of miraculous
    unexpected blessing for them; a Prophet, a God!--Thought once awakened does
    not again slumber; unfolds itself into a System of Thought; grows, in man
    after man, generation after generation,--till its full stature is reached,
    and _such_ System of Thought can grow no farther; but must give place to

    For the Norse people, the Man now named Odin, and Chief Norse God, we
    fancy, was such a man. A Teacher, and Captain of soul and of body; a Hero,
    of worth immeasurable; admiration for whom, transcending the known bounds,
    became adoration. Has he not the power of articulate Thinking; and many
    other powers, as yet miraculous? So, with boundless gratitude, would the
    rude Norse heart feel. Has he not solved for them the sphinx-enigma of
    this Universe; given assurance to them of their own destiny there? By him
    they know now what they have to do here, what to look for hereafter.
    Existence has become articulate, melodious by him; he first has made Life
    alive!--We may call this Odin, the origin of Norse Mythology: Odin, or
    whatever name the First Norse Thinker bore while he was a man among men.
    His view of the Universe once promulgated, a like view starts into being in
    all minds; grows, keeps ever growing, while it continues credible there.
    In all minds it lay written, but invisibly, as in sympathetic ink; at his
    word it starts into visibility in all. Nay, in every epoch of the world,
    the great event, parent of all others, is it not the arrival of a Thinker
    in the world!--

    One other thing we must not forget; it will explain, a little, the
    confusion of these Norse Eddas. They are not one coherent System of
    Thought; but properly the _summation_ of several successive systems. All
    this of the old Norse Belief which is flung out for us, in one level of
    distance in the Edda, like a picture painted on the same canvas, does not
    at all stand so in the reality. It stands rather at all manner of
    distances and depths, of successive generations since the Belief first
    began. All Scandinavian thinkers, since the first of them, contributed to
    that Scandinavian System of Thought; in ever-new elaboration and addition,
    it is the combined work of them all. What history it had, how it changed
    from shape to shape, by one thinker's contribution after another, till it
    got to the full final shape we see it under in the Edda, no man will now
    ever know: _its_ Councils of Trebizond, Councils of Trent, Athanasiuses,
    Dantes, Luthers, are sunk without echo in the dark night! Only that it had
    such a history we can all know. Wheresover a thinker appeared, there in
    the thing he thought of was a contribution, accession, a change or
    revolution made. Alas, the grandest "revolution" of all, the one made by
    the man Odin himself, is not this too sunk for us like the rest! Of Odin
    what history? Strange rather to reflect that he _had_ a history! That
    this Odin, in his wild Norse vesture, with his wild beard and eyes, his
    rude Norse speech and ways, was a man like us; with our sorrows, joys, with
    our limbs, features;--intrinsically all one as we: and did such a work!
    But the work, much of it, has perished; the worker, all to the name.
    "_Wednesday_," men will say to-morrow; Odin's day! Of Odin there exists no
    history; no document of it; no guess about it worth repeating.

    Snorro indeed, in the quietest manner, almost in a brief business style,
    writes down, in his _Heimskringla_, how Odin was a heroic Prince, in the
    Black-Sea region, with Twelve Peers, and a great people straitened for
    room. How he led these _Asen_ (Asiatics) of his out of Asia; settled them
    in the North parts of Europe, by warlike conquest; invented Letters, Poetry
    and so forth,--and came by and by to be worshipped as Chief God by these
    Scandinavians, his Twelve Peers made into Twelve Sons of his own, Gods like
    himself: Snorro has no doubt of this. Saxo Grammaticus, a very curious
    Northman of that same century, is still more unhesitating; scruples not to
    find out a historical fact in every individual mythus, and writes it down
    as a terrestrial event in Denmark or elsewhere. Torfaeus, learned and
    cautious, some centuries later, assigns by calculation a _date_ for it:
    Odin, he says, came into Europe about the Year 70 before Christ. Of all
    which, as grounded on mere uncertainties, found to be untenable now, I need
    say nothing. Far, very far beyond the Year 70! Odin's date, adventures,
    whole terrestrial history, figure and environment are sunk from us forever
    into unknown thousands of years.

    Nay Grimm, the German Antiquary, goes so far as to deny that any man Odin
    ever existed. He proves it by etymology. The word _Wuotan_, which is the
    original form of _Odin_, a word spread, as name of their chief Divinity,
    over all the Teutonic Nations everywhere; this word, which connects itself,
    according to Grimm, with the Latin _vadere_, with the English _wade_ and
    such like,--means primarily Movement, Source of Movement, Power; and is the
    fit name of the highest god, not of any man. The word signifies Divinity,
    he says, among the old Saxon, German and all Teutonic Nations; the
    adjectives formed from it all signify divine, supreme, or something
    pertaining to the chief god. Like enough! We must bow to Grimm in matters
    etymological. Let us consider it fixed that _Wuotan_ means _Wading_, force
    of _Movement_. And now still, what hinders it from being the name of a
    Heroic Man and _Mover_, as well as of a god? As for the adjectives, and
    words formed from it,--did not the Spaniards in their universal admiration
    for Lope, get into the habit of saying "a Lope flower," "a Lope _dama_," if
    the flower or woman were of surpassing beauty? Had this lasted, _Lope_
    would have grown, in Spain, to be an adjective signifying _godlike_ also.
    Indeed, Adam Smith, in his Essay on Language, surmises that all adjectives
    whatsoever were formed precisely in that way: some very green thing,
    chiefly notable for its greenness, got the appellative name _Green_, and
    then the next thing remarkable for that quality, a tree for instance, was
    named the _green_ tree,--as we still say "the _steam_ coach," "four-horse
    coach," or the like. All primary adjectives, according to Smith, were
    formed in this way; were at first substantives and things. We cannot
    annihilate a man for etymologies like that! Surely there was a First
    Teacher and Captain; surely there must have been an Odin, palpable to the
    sense at one time; no adjective, but a real Hero of flesh and blood! The
    voice of all tradition, history or echo of history, agrees with all that
    thought will teach one about it, to assure us of this.

    How the man Odin came to be considered a _god_, the chief god?--that surely
    is a question which nobody would wish to dogmatize upon. I have said, his
    people knew no _limits_ to their admiration of him; they had as yet no
    scale to measure admiration by. Fancy your own generous heart's-love of
    some greatest man expanding till it _transcended_ all bounds, till it
    filled and overflowed the whole field of your thought! Or what if this man
    Odin,--since a great deep soul, with the afflatus and mysterious tide of
    vision and impulse rushing on him he knows not whence, is ever an enigma, a
    kind of terror and wonder to himself,--should have felt that perhaps _he_
    was divine; that _he_ was some effluence of the "Wuotan," "_Movement_",
    Supreme Power and Divinity, of whom to his rapt vision all Nature was the
    awful Flame-image; that some effluence of Wuotan dwelt here in him! He was
    not necessarily false; he was but mistaken, speaking the truest he knew. A
    great soul, any sincere soul, knows not what he is,--alternates between the
    highest height and the lowest depth; can, of all things, the least
    measure--Himself! What others take him for, and what he guesses that he
    may be; these two items strangely act on one another, help to determine one
    another. With all men reverently admiring him; with his own wild soul full
    of noble ardors and affections, of whirlwind chaotic darkness and glorious
    new light; a divine Universe bursting all into godlike beauty round him,
    and no man to whom the like ever had befallen, what could he think himself
    to be? "Wuotan?" All men answered, "Wuotan!"--

    And then consider what mere Time will do in such cases; how if a man was
    great while living, he becomes tenfold greater when dead. What an enormous
    _camera-obscura_ magnifier is Tradition! How a thing grows in the human
    Memory, in the human Imagination, when love, worship and all that lies in
    the human Heart, is there to encourage it. And in the darkness, in the
    entire ignorance; without date or document, no book, no Arundel-marble;
    only here and there some dumb monumental cairn. Why, in thirty or forty
    years, were there no books, any great man would grow _mythic_, the
    contemporaries who had seen him, being once all dead. And in three hundred
    years, and in three thousand years--! To attempt _theorizing_ on such
    matters would profit little: they are matters which refuse to be
    _theoremed_ and diagramed; which Logic ought to know that she _cannot_
    speak of. Enough for us to discern, far in the uttermost distance, some
    gleam as of a small real light shining in the centre of that enormous
    camera-obscure image; to discern that the centre of it all was not a
    madness and nothing, but a sanity and something.

    This light, kindled in the great dark vortex of the Norse Mind, dark but
    living, waiting only for light; this is to me the centre of the whole. How
    such light will then shine out, and with wondrous thousand-fold expansion
    spread itself, in forms and colors, depends not on _it_, so much as on the
    National Mind recipient of it. The colors and forms of your light will be
    those of the _cut-glass_ it has to shine through.--Curious to think how,
    for every man, any the truest fact is modelled by the nature of the man! I
    said, The earnest man, speaking to his brother men, must always have stated
    what seemed to him a _fact_, a real Appearance of Nature. But the way in
    which such Appearance or fact shaped itself,--what sort of _fact_ it became
    for him,--was and is modified by his own laws of thinking; deep, subtle,
    but universal, ever-operating laws. The world of Nature, for every man, is
    the Fantasy of Himself. this world is the multiplex "Image of his own
    Dream." Who knows to what unnamable subtleties of spiritual law all these
    Pagan Fables owe their shape! The number Twelve, divisiblest of all, which
    could be halved, quartered, parted into three, into six, the most
    remarkable number,--this was enough to determine the _Signs of the Zodiac_,
    the number of Odin's _Sons_, and innumerable other Twelves. Any vague
    rumor of number had a tendency to settle itself into Twelve. So with
    regard to every other matter. And quite unconsciously too,--with no notion
    of building up " Allegories "! But the fresh clear glance of those First
    Ages would be prompt in discerning the secret relations of things, and
    wholly open to obey these. Schiller finds in the _Cestus of Venus_ an
    everlasting aesthetic truth as to the nature of all Beauty; curious:--but
    he is careful not to insinuate that the old Greek Mythists had any notion
    of lecturing about the "Philosophy of Criticism"!--On the whole, we must
    leave those boundless regions. Cannot we conceive that Odin was a reality?
    Error indeed, error enough: but sheer falsehood, idle fables, allegory
    aforethought,--we will not believe that our Fathers believed in these.

    Odin's _Runes_ are a significant feature of him. Runes, and the miracles
    of "magic" he worked by them, make a great feature in tradition. Runes are
    the Scandinavian Alphabet; suppose Odin to have been the inventor of
    Letters, as well as "magic," among that people! It is the greatest
    invention man has ever made! this of marking down the unseen thought that
    is in him by written characters. It is a kind of second speech, almost as
    miraculous as the first. You remember the astonishment and incredulity of
    Atahualpa the Peruvian King; how he made the Spanish Soldier who was
    guarding him scratch _Dios_ on his thumb-nail, that he might try the next
    soldier with it, to ascertain whether such a miracle was possible. If Odin
    brought Letters among his people, he might work magic enough!

    Writing by Runes has some air of being original among the Norsemen: not a
    Phoenician Alphabet, but a native Scandinavian one. Snorro tells us
    farther that Odin invented Poetry; the music of human speech, as well as
    that miraculous runic marking of it. Transport yourselves into the early
    childhood of nations; the first beautiful morning-light of our Europe, when
    all yet lay in fresh young radiance as of a great sunrise, and our Europe
    was first beginning to think, to be! Wonder, hope; infinite radiance of
    hope and wonder, as of a young child's thoughts, in the hearts of these
    strong men! Strong sons of Nature; and here was not only a wild Captain
    and Fighter; discerning with his wild flashing eyes what to do, with his
    wild lion-heart daring and doing it; but a Poet too, all that we mean by a
    Poet, Prophet, great devout Thinker and Inventor,--as the truly Great Man
    ever is. A Hero is a Hero at all points; in the soul and thought of him
    first of all. This Odin, in his rude semi-articulate way, had a word to
    speak. A great heart laid open to take in this great Universe, and man's
    Life here, and utter a great word about it. A Hero, as I say, in his own
    rude manner; a wise, gifted, noble-hearted man. And now, if we still
    admire such a man beyond all others, what must these wild Norse souls,
    first awakened into thinking, have made of him! To them, as yet without
    names for it, he was noble and noblest; Hero, Prophet, God; _Wuotan_, the
    greatest of all. Thought is Thought, however it speak or spell itself.
    Intrinsically, I conjecture, this Odin must have been of the same sort of
    stuff as the greatest kind of men. A great thought in the wild deep heart
    of him! The rough words he articulated, are they not the rudimental roots
    of those English words we still use? He worked so, in that obscure
    element. But he was as a _light_ kindled in it; a light of Intellect, rude
    Nobleness of heart, the only kind of lights we have yet; a Hero, as I say:
    and he had to shine there, and make his obscure element a little
    lighter,--as is still the task of us all.

    We will fancy him to be the Type Norseman; the finest Teuton whom that race
    had yet produced. The rude Norse heart burst up into _boundless_
    admiration round him; into adoration. He is as a root of so many great
    things; the fruit of him is found growing from deep thousands of years,
    over the whole field of Teutonic Life. Our own Wednesday, as I said, is it
    not still Odin's Day? Wednesbury, Wansborough, Wanstead, Wandsworth: Odin
    grew into England too, these are still leaves from that root! He was the
    Chief God to all the Teutonic Peoples; their Pattern Norseman;--in such way
    did _they_ admire their Pattern Norseman; that was the fortune he had in
    the world.

    Thus if the man Odin himself have vanished utterly, there is this huge
    Shadow of him which still projects itself over the whole History of his
    People. For this Odin once admitted to be God, we can understand well that
    the whole Scandinavian Scheme of Nature, or dim No-scheme, whatever it
    might before have been, would now begin to develop itself altogether
    differently, and grow thenceforth in a new manner. What this Odin saw
    into, and taught with his runes and his rhymes, the whole Teutonic People
    laid to heart and carried forward. His way of thought became their way of
    thought:--such, under new conditions, is the history of every great thinker
    still. In gigantic confused lineaments, like some enormous camera-obscure
    shadow thrown upwards from the dead deeps of the Past, and covering the
    whole Northern Heaven, is not that Scandinavian Mythology in some sort the
    Portraiture of this man Odin? The gigantic image of _his_ natural face,
    legible or not legible there, expanded and confused in that manner! Ah,
    Thought, I say, is always Thought. No great man lives in vain. The
    History of the world is but the Biography of great men.

    To me there is something very touching in this primeval figure of Heroism;
    in such artless, helpless, but hearty entire reception of a Hero by his
    fellow-men. Never so helpless in shape, it is the noblest of feelings, and
    a feeling in some shape or other perennial as man himself. If I could show
    in any measure, what I feel deeply for a long time now, That it is the
    vital element of manhood, the soul of man's history here in our world,--it
    would be the chief use of this discoursing at present. We do not now call
    our great men Gods, nor admire _without_ limit; ah no, _with_ limit enough!
    But if we have no great men, or do not admire at all,--that were a still
    worse case.

    This poor Scandinavian Hero-worship, that whole Norse way of looking at the
    Universe, and adjusting oneself there, has an indestructible merit for us.
    A rude childlike way of recognizing the divineness of Nature, the
    divineness of Man; most rude, yet heartfelt, robust, giantlike; betokening
    what a giant of a man this child would yet grow to!--It was a truth, and is
    none. Is it not as the half-dumb stifled voice of the long-buried
    generations of our own Fathers, calling out of the depths of ages to us, in
    whose veins their blood still runs: "This then, this is what we made of
    the world: this is all the image and notion we could form to ourselves of
    this great mystery of a Life and Universe. Despise it not. You are raised
    high above it, to large free scope of vision; but you too are not yet at
    the top. No, your notion too, so much enlarged, is but a partial,
    imperfect one; that matter is a thing no man will ever, in time or out of
    time, comprehend; after thousands of years of ever-new expansion, man will
    find himself but struggling to comprehend again a part of it: the thing is
    larger shall man, not to be comprehended by him; an Infinite thing!"

    The essence of the Scandinavian, as indeed of all Pagan Mythologies, we
    found to be recognition of the divineness of Nature; sincere communion of
    man with the mysterious invisible Powers visibly seen at work in the world
    round him. This, I should say, is more sincerely done in the Scandinavian
    than in any Mythology I know. Sincerity is the great characteristic of it.
    Superior sincerity (far superior) consoles us for the total want of old
    Grecian grace. Sincerity, I think, is better than grace. I feel that
    these old Northmen wore looking into Nature with open eye and soul: most
    earnest, honest; childlike, and yet manlike; with a great-hearted
    simplicity and depth and freshness, in a true, loving, admiring, unfearing
    way. A right valiant, true old race of men. Such recognition of Nature
    one finds to be the chief element of Paganism; recognition of Man, and his
    Moral Duty, though this too is not wanting, comes to be the chief element
    only in purer forms of religion. Here, indeed, is a great distinction and
    epoch in Human Beliefs; a great landmark in the religious development of
    Mankind. Man first puts himself in relation with Nature and her Powers,
    wonders and worships over those; not till a later epoch does he discern
    that all Power is Moral, that the grand point is the distinction for him of
    Good and Evil, of _Thou shalt_ and _Thou shalt not_.

    With regard to all these fabulous delineations in the _Edda_, I will
    remark, moreover, as indeed was already hinted, that most probably they
    must have been of much newer date; most probably, even from the first, were
    comparatively idle for the old Norsemen, and as it were a kind of Poetic
    sport. Allegory and Poetic Delineation, as I said above, cannot be
    religious Faith; the Faith itself must first be there, then Allegory enough
    will gather round it, as the fit body round its soul. The Norse Faith, I
    can well suppose, like other Faiths, was most active while it lay mainly in
    the silent state, and had not yet much to say about itself, still less to

    Among those shadowy _Edda_ matters, amid all that fantastic congeries of
    assertions, and traditions, in their musical Mythologies, the main
    practical belief a man could have was probably not much more than this: of
    the _Valkyrs_ and the _Hall of Odin_; of an inflexible _Destiny_; and that
    the one thing needful for a man was _to be brave_. The _Valkyrs_ are
    Choosers of the Slain: a Destiny inexorable, which it is useless trying to
    bend or soften, has appointed who is to be slain; this was a fundamental
    point for the Norse believer;--as indeed it is for all earnest men
    everywhere, for a Mahomet, a Luther, for a Napoleon too. It lies at the
    basis this for every such man; it is the woof out of which his whole system
    of thought is woven. The _Valkyrs_; and then that these _Choosers_ lead
    the brave to a heavenly _Hall of Odin_; only the base and slavish being
    thrust elsewhither, into the realms of Hela the Death-goddess: I take this
    to have been the soul of the whole Norse Belief. They understood in their
    heart that it was indispensable to be brave; that Odin would have no favor
    for them, but despise and thrust them out, if they were not brave.
    Consider too whether there is not something in this! It is an everlasting
    duty, valid in our day as in that, the duty of being brave. _Valor_ is
    still _value_. The first duty for a man is still that of subduing _Fear_.
    We must get rid of Fear; we cannot act at all till then. A man's acts are
    slavish, not true but specious; his very thoughts are false, he thinks too
    as a slave and coward, till he have got Fear under his feet. Odin's creed,
    if we disentangle the real kernel of it, is true to this hour. A man shall
    and must be valiant; he must march forward, and quit himself like a
    man,--trusting imperturbably in the appointment and _choice_ of the upper
    Powers; and, on the whole, not fear at all. Now and always, the
    completeness of his victory over Fear will determine how much of a man he

    It is doubtless very savage that kind of valor of the old Northmen. Snorro
    tells us they thought it a shame and misery not to die in battle; and if
    natural death seemed to be coming on, they would cut wounds in their flesh,
    that Odin might receive them as warriors slain. Old kings, about to die,
    had their body laid into a ship; the ship sent forth, with sails set and
    slow fire burning it; that, once out at sea, it might blaze up in flame,
    and in such manner bury worthily the old hero, at once in the sky and in
    the ocean! Wild bloody valor; yet valor of its kind; better, I say, than
    none. In the old Sea-kings too, what an indomitable rugged energy!
    Silent, with closed lips, as I fancy them, unconscious that they were
    specially brave; defying the wild ocean with its monsters, and all men and
    things;--progenitors of our own Blakes and Nelsons! No Homer sang these
    Norse Sea-kings; but Agamemnon's was a small audacity, and of small fruit
    in the world, to some of them;--to Hrolf's of Normandy, for instance!
    Hrolf, or Rollo Duke of Normandy, the wild Sea-king, has a share in
    governing England at this hour.

    Nor was it altogether nothing, even that wild sea-roving and battling,
    through so many generations. It needed to be ascertained which was the
    _strongest_ kind of men; who were to be ruler over whom. Among the
    Northland Sovereigns, too, I find some who got the title _Wood-cutter_;
    Forest-felling Kings. Much lies in that. I suppose at bottom many of them
    were forest-fellers as well as fighters, though the Skalds talk mainly of
    the latter,--misleading certain critics not a little; for no nation of men
    could ever live by fighting alone; there could not produce enough come out
    of that! I suppose the right good fighter was oftenest also the right good
    forest-feller,--the right good improver, discerner, doer and worker in
    every kind; for true valor, different enough from ferocity, is the basis of
    all. A more legitimate kind of valor that; showing itself against the
    untamed Forests and dark brute Powers of Nature, to conquer Nature for us.
    In the same direction have not we their descendants since carried it far?
    May such valor last forever with us!

    That the man Odin, speaking with a Hero's voice and heart, as with an
    impressiveness out of Heaven, told his People the infinite importance of
    Valor, how man thereby became a god; and that his People, feeling a
    response to it in their own hearts, believed this message of his, and
    thought it a message out of Heaven, and him a Divinity for telling it them:
    this seems to me the primary seed-grain of the Norse Religion, from which
    all manner of mythologies, symbolic practices, speculations, allegories,
    songs and sagas would naturally grow. Grow,--how strangely! I called it a
    small light shining and shaping in the huge vortex of Norse darkness. Yet
    the darkness itself was _alive_; consider that. It was the eager
    inarticulate uninstructed Mind of the whole Norse People, longing only to
    become articulate, to go on articulating ever farther! The living doctrine
    grows, grows;--like a Banyan-tree; the first _seed_ is the essential thing:
    any branch strikes itself down into the earth, becomes a new root; and so,
    in endless complexity, we have a whole wood, a whole jungle, one seed the
    parent of it all. Was not the whole Norse Religion, accordingly, in some
    sense, what we called "the enormous shadow of this man's likeness"?
    Critics trace some affinity in some Norse mythuses, of the Creation and
    such like, with those of the Hindoos. The Cow Adumbla, "licking the rime
    from the rocks," has a kind of Hindoo look. A Hindoo Cow, transported into
    frosty countries. Probably enough; indeed we may say undoubtedly, these
    things will have a kindred with the remotest lands, with the earliest
    times. Thought does not die, but only is changed. The first man that
    began to think in this Planet of ours, he was the beginner of all. And
    then the second man, and the third man;--nay, every true Thinker to this
    hour is a kind of Odin, teaches men _his_ way of thought, spreads a shadow
    of his own likeness over sections of the History of the World.

    Of the distinctive poetic character or merit of this Norse Mythology I have
    not room to speak; nor does it concern us much. Some wild Prophecies we
    have, as the _Voluspa_ in the _Elder Edda_; of a rapt, earnest, sibylline
    sort. But they were comparatively an idle adjunct of the matter, men who
    as it were but toyed with the matter, these later Skalds; and it is _their_
    songs chiefly that survive. In later centuries, I suppose, they would go
    on singing, poetically symbolizing, as our modern Painters paint, when it
    was no longer from the innermost heart, or not from the heart at all. This
    is everywhere to be well kept in mind.

    Gray's fragments of Norse Lore, at any rate, will give one no notion of
    it;--any more than Pope will of Homer. It is no square-built gloomy palace
    of black ashlar marble, shrouded in awe and horror, as Gray gives it us:
    no; rough as the North rocks, as the Iceland deserts, it is; with a
    heartiness, homeliness, even a tint of good humor and robust mirth in the
    middle of these fearful things. The strong old Norse heart did not go upon
    theatrical sublimities; they had not time to tremble. I like much their
    robust simplicity; their veracity, directness of conception. Thor "draws
    down his brows" in a veritable Norse rage; "grasps his hammer till the
    _knuckles grow white_." Beautiful traits of pity too, an honest pity.
    Balder "the white God" dies; the beautiful, benignant; he is the Sungod.
    They try all Nature for a remedy; but he is dead. Frigga, his mother,
    sends Hermoder to seek or see him: nine days and nine nights he rides
    through gloomy deep valleys, a labyrinth of gloom; arrives at the Bridge
    with its gold roof: the Keeper says, "Yes, Balder did pass here; but the
    Kingdom of the Dead is down yonder, far towards the North." Hermoder rides
    on; leaps Hell-gate, Hela's gate; does see Balder, and speak with him:
    Balder cannot be delivered. Inexorable! Hela will not, for Odin or any
    God, give him up. The beautiful and gentle has to remain there. His Wife
    had volunteered to go with him, to die with him. They shall forever remain
    there. He sends his ring to Odin; Nanna his wife sends her _thimble_ to
    Frigga, as a remembrance.--Ah me!--

    For indeed Valor is the fountain of Pity too;--of Truth, and all that is
    great and good in man. The robust homely vigor of the Norse heart attaches
    one much, in these delineations. Is it not a trait of right honest
    strength, says Uhland, who has written a fine _Essay_ on Thor, that the old
    Norse heart finds its friend in the Thunder-god? That it is not frightened
    away by his thunder; but finds that Summer-heat, the beautiful noble
    summer, must and will have thunder withal! The Norse heart _loves_ this
    Thor and his hammer-bolt; sports with him. Thor is Summer-heat: the god
    of Peaceable Industry as well as Thunder. He is the Peasant's friend; his
    true henchman and attendant is Thialfi, _Manual Labor_. Thor himself
    engages in all manner of rough manual work, scorns no business for its
    plebeianism; is ever and anon travelling to the country of the Jotuns,
    harrying those chaotic Frost-monsters, subduing them, at least straitening
    and damaging them. There is a great broad humor in some of these things.

    Thor, as we saw above, goes to Jotun-land, to seek Hymir's Caldron, that
    the Gods may brew beer. Hymir the huge Giant enters, his gray beard all
    full of hoar-frost; splits pillars with the very glance of his eye; Thor,
    after much rough tumult, snatches the Pot, claps it on his head; the
    "handles of it reach down to his heels." The Norse Skald has a kind of
    loving sport with Thor. This is the Hymir whose cattle, the critics have
    discovered, are Icebergs. Huge untutored Brobdignag genius,--needing only
    to be tamed down; into Shakspeares, Dantes, Goethes! It is all gone now,
    that old Norse work,--Thor the Thunder-god changed into Jack the
    Giant-killer: but the mind that made it is here yet. How strangely things
    grow, and die, and do not die! There are twigs of that great world-tree of
    Norse Belief still curiously traceable. This poor Jack of the Nursery,
    with his miraculous shoes of swiftness, coat of darkness, sword of
    sharpness, he is one. _Hynde Etin_, and still more decisively _Red Etin of
    Ireland_, _in_ the Scottish Ballads, these are both derived from Norseland;
    _Etin_ is evidently a _Jotun_. Nay, Shakspeare's _Hamlet_ is a twig too of
    this same world-tree; there seems no doubt of that. Hamlet, _Amleth_ I
    find, is really a mythic personage; and his Tragedy, of the poisoned
    Father, poisoned asleep by drops in his ear, and the rest, is a Norse
    mythus! Old Saxo, as his wont was, made it a Danish history; Shakspeare,
    out of Saxo, made it what we see. That is a twig of the world-tree that
    has _grown_, I think;--by nature or accident that one has grown!

    In fact, these old Norse songs have a _truth_ in them, an inward perennial
    truth and greatness,--as, indeed, all must have that can very long preserve
    itself by tradition alone. It is a greatness not of mere body and gigantic
    bulk, but a rude greatness of soul. There is a sublime uncomplaining
    melancholy traceable in these old hearts. A great free glance into the
    very deeps of thought. They seem to have seen, these brave old Northmen,
    what Meditation has taught all men in all ages, That this world is after
    all but a show,--a phenomenon or appearance, no real thing. All deep souls
    see into that,--the Hindoo Mythologist, the German Philosopher,--the
    Shakspeare, the earnest Thinker, wherever he may be:

    "We are such stuff as Dreams are made of!"

    One of Thor's expeditions, to Utgard (the _Outer_ Garden, central seat of
    Jotun-land), is remarkable in this respect. Thialfi was with him, and
    Loke. After various adventures, they entered upon Giant-land; wandered
    over plains, wild uncultivated places, among stones and trees. At
    nightfall they noticed a house; and as the door, which indeed formed one
    whole side of the house, was open, they entered. It was a simple
    habitation; one large hall, altogether empty. They stayed there. Suddenly
    in the dead of the night loud noises alarmed them. Thor grasped his
    hammer; stood in the door, prepared for fight. His companions within ran
    hither and thither in their terror, seeking some outlet in that rude hall;
    they found a little closet at last, and took refuge there. Neither had
    Thor any battle: for, lo, in the morning it turned out that the noise had
    been only the _snoring_ of a certain enormous but peaceable Giant, the
    Giant Skrymir, who lay peaceably sleeping near by; and this that they took
    for a house was merely his _Glove_, thrown aside there; the door was the
    Glove-wrist; the little closet they had fled into was the Thumb! Such a
    glove;--I remark too that it had not fingers as ours have, but only a
    thumb, and the rest undivided: a most ancient, rustic glove!

    Skrymir now carried their portmanteau all day; Thor, however, had his own
    suspicions, did not like the ways of Skrymir; determined at night to put an
    end to him as he slept. Raising his hammer, he struck down into the
    Giant's face a right thunder-bolt blow, of force to rend rocks. The Giant
    merely awoke; rubbed his cheek, and said, Did a leaf fall? Again Thor
    struck, so soon as Skrymir again slept; a better blow than before; but the
    Giant only murmured, Was that a grain of sand? Thor's third stroke was
    with both his hands (the "knuckles white" I suppose), and seemed to dint
    deep into Skrymir's visage; but he merely checked his snore, and remarked,
    There must be sparrows roosting in this tree, I think; what is that they
    have dropt?--At the gate of Utgard, a place so high that you had to "strain
    your neck bending back to see the top of it," Skrymir went his ways. Thor
    and his companions were admitted; invited to take share in the games going
    on. To Thor, for his part, they handed a Drinking-horn; it was a common
    feat, they told him, to drink this dry at one draught. Long and fiercely,
    three times over, Thor drank; but made hardly any impression. He was a
    weak child, they told him: could he lift that Cat he saw there? Small as
    the feat seemed, Thor with his whole godlike strength could not; he bent up
    the creature's back, could not raise its feet off the ground, could at the
    utmost raise one foot. Why, you are no man, said the Utgard people; there
    is an Old Woman that will wrestle you! Thor, heartily ashamed, seized this
    haggard Old Woman; but could not throw her.

    And now, on their quitting Utgard, the chief Jotun, escorting them politely
    a little way, said to Thor: "You are beaten then:--yet be not so much
    ashamed; there was deception of appearance in it. That Horn you tried to
    drink was the _Sea_; you did make it ebb; but who could drink that, the
    bottomless! The Cat you would have lifted,--why, that is the _Midgard-
    snake_, the Great World-serpent, which, tail in mouth, girds and keeps up
    the whole created world; had you torn that up, the world must have rushed
    to ruin! As for the Old Woman, she was _Time_, Old Age, Duration: with
    her what can wrestle? No man nor no god with her; gods or men, she
    prevails over all! And then those three strokes you struck,--look at these
    _three valleys_; your three strokes made these!" Thor looked at his
    attendant Jotun: it was Skrymir;--it was, say Norse critics, the old
    chaotic rocky _Earth_ in person, and that glove-_house_ was some
    Earth-cavern! But Skrymir had vanished; Utgard with its sky-high gates,
    when Thor grasped his hammer to smite them, had gone to air; only the
    Giant's voice was heard mocking: "Better come no more to Jotunheim!"--

    This is of the allegoric period, as we see, and half play, not of the
    prophetic and entirely devout: but as a mythus is there not real antique
    Norse gold in it? More true metal, rough from the Mimer-stithy, than in
    many a famed Greek Mythus _shaped_ far better! A great broad Brobdignag
    grin of true humor is in this Skrymir; mirth resting on earnestness and
    sadness, as the rainbow on black tempest: only a right valiant heart is
    capable of that. It is the grim humor of our own Ben Jonson, rare old Ben;
    runs in the blood of us, I fancy; for one catches tones of it, under a
    still other shape, out of the American Backwoods.

    That is also a very striking conception that of the _Ragnarok_,
    Consummation, or _Twilight of the Gods_. It is in the _Voluspa_ Song;
    seemingly a very old, prophetic idea. The Gods and Jotuns, the divine
    Powers and the chaotic brute ones, after long contest and partial victory
    by the former, meet at last in universal world-embracing wrestle and duel;
    World-serpent against Thor, strength against strength; mutually extinctive;
    and ruin, "twilight" sinking into darkness, swallows the created Universe.
    The old Universe with its Gods is sunk; but it is not final death: there
    is to be a new Heaven and a new Earth; a higher supreme God, and Justice to
    reign among men. Curious: this law of mutation, which also is a law
    written in man's inmost thought, had been deciphered by these old earnest
    Thinkers in their rude style; and how, though all dies, and even gods die,
    yet all death is but a phoenix fire-death, and new-birth into the Greater
    and the Better! It is the fundamental Law of Being for a creature made of
    Time, living in this Place of Hope. All earnest men have seen into it; may
    still see into it.

    And now, connected with this, let us glance at the _last_ mythus of the
    appearance of Thor; and end there. I fancy it to be the latest in date of
    all these fables; a sorrowing protest against the advance of
    Christianity,--set forth reproachfully by some Conservative Pagan. King
    Olaf has been harshly blamed for his over-zeal in introducing Christianity;
    surely I should have blamed him far more for an under-zeal in that! He
    paid dear enough for it; he died by the revolt of his Pagan people, in
    battle, in the year 1033, at Stickelstad, near that Drontheim, where the
    chief Cathedral of the North has now stood for many centuries, dedicated
    gratefully to his memory as _Saint_ Olaf. The mythus about Thor is to this
    effect. King Olaf, the Christian Reform King, is sailing with fit escort
    along the shore of Norway, from haven to haven; dispensing justice, or
    doing other royal work: on leaving a certain haven, it is found that a
    stranger, of grave eyes and aspect, red beard, of stately robust figure,
    has stept in. The courtiers address him; his answers surprise by their
    pertinency and depth: at length he is brought to the King. The stranger's
    conversation here is not less remarkable, as they sail along the beautiful
    shore; but after some time, he addresses King Olaf thus: "Yes, King Olaf,
    it is all beautiful, with the sun shining on it there; green, fruitful, a
    right fair home for you; and many a sore day had Thor, many a wild fight
    with the rock Jotuns, before he could make it so. And now you seem minded
    to put away Thor. King Olaf, have a care!" said the stranger, drawing down
    his brows;--and when they looked again, he was nowhere to be found.--This
    is the last appearance of Thor on the stage of this world!

    Do we not see well enough how the Fable might arise, without unveracity on
    the part of any one? It is the way most Gods have come to appear among
    men: thus, if in Pindar's time "Neptune was seen once at the Nemean
    Games," what was this Neptune too but a "stranger of noble grave
    aspect,"--fit to be "seen"! There is something pathetic, tragic for me in
    this last voice of Paganism. Thor is vanished, the whole Norse world has
    vanished; and will not return ever again. In like fashion to that, pass
    away the highest things. All things that have been in this world, all
    things that are or will be in it, have to vanish: we have our sad farewell
    to give them.

    That Norse Religion, a rude but earnest, sternly impressive _Consecration
    of Valor_ (so we may define it), sufficed for these old valiant Northmen.
    Consecration of Valor is not a bad thing! We will take it for good, so far
    as it goes. Neither is there no use in _knowing_ something about this old
    Paganism of our Fathers. Unconsciously, and combined with higher things,
    it is in us yet, that old Faith withal! To know it consciously, brings us
    into closer and clearer relation with the Past,--with our own possessions
    in the Past. For the whole Past, as I keep repeating, is the possession of
    the Present; the Past had always something _true_, and is a precious
    possession. In a different time, in a different place, it is always some
    other _side_ of our common Human Nature that has been developing itself.
    The actual True is the sum of all these; not any one of them by itself
    constitutes what of Human Nature is hitherto developed. Better to know
    them all than misknow them. "To which of these Three Religions do you
    specially adhere?" inquires Meister of his Teacher. "To all the Three!"
    answers the other: "To all the Three; for they by their union first
    constitute the True Religion."
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