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Why The Pagans Could Not Invest Their Gods With Any Iota Of Grandeur
by [?]

It is not for so idle a purpose as that of showing the Pagan backsliding–that is too evident–but for a far subtler purpose, and one which no man has touched, viz., the incapacity of creating grandeur for the Pagans, even with carte blanche in their favour, that I write this paper. Nothing is more incomprehensible than the following fact–nothing than this when mastered and understood is more thoroughly instructive–the fact that having a wide, a limitless field open before them, free to give and to take away at their own pleasure, the Pagans could not invest their Gods with any iota of grandeur. Diana, when you translate her into the Moon, then indeed partakes in all the natural grandeur of a planet associated with a dreamy light, with forests, forest lawns, etc., or the wild accidents of a huntress. But the Moon and the Huntress are surely not the creations of Pagans, nor indebted to them for anything but the murderous depluming which Pagan mythology has operated upon all that is in earth or in the waters that are under the earth. Now, why could not the ancients raise one little scintillating glory in behalf of their monstrous deities? So far are they from thus raising Jupiter, that he is sometimes made the ground of nature (not, observe, for any positive reason that they had for any relation that Jupiter had to Creation, but simply for the negative reason that they had nobody else)–never does Jupiter seem more disgusting than when as just now in a translation of the ‘Batrachia’ I read that Jupiter had given to frogs an amphibious nature, making the awful, ancient, first-born secrets of Chaos to be his, and thus forcing into contrast and remembrance his odious personality.

Why, why, why could not the Romans, etc., make a grandeur for their Gods? Not being able to make them grand, they daubed them with finery. All that people imagine in the Jupiter Olympus of Phidias–they themselves confer. But an apostle is beyond their reach.

When, be it well observed, the cruel and dark religions are far more successful than those of Greece and Rome, for Osiris, etc., by the might of the devil, of darkness, are truly terrific. Cybele stands as a middle term half-way between these dark forms and the Greek or Roman. Pluto is the very model of a puny attempt at darkness utterly failing. He looks big; he paints himself histrionically; he soots his face; he has a masterful dog, nothing half so fearful as a wolf-dog or bloodhound; and he raises his own manes, poor, stridulous Struldbrugs.

Vainly did the ancient Pagans fight against this fatal weakness.

They may confer upon their Gods glittering titles of ‘ambrosial,’ ‘immortal’; but the human mind is careless of positive assertion, and of clamorous iteration in however angry a tone, when silently it observes stealing out of facts already conceded some fatal consequence at war with all these empty pretensions–mortal even in the virtual conceptions of the Pagans. If the Pagan Gods were really immortal, if essentially they repelled the touch of mortality, and not through the adulatory homage of their worshipers causing their true aspects to unsettle or altogether to disappear in clouds of incense, then how came whole dynasties of Gods to pass away, and no man could tell whither? If really they defied the grave, then how was it that age and the infirmities of age passed upon them like the shadow of eclipse upon the golden faces of the planets? If Apollo were a beardless young man, his father was not such–he was in the vigour of maturity; maturity is a flattering term for expressing it, but it means past youth–and his grandfather was superannuated. But even this grandfather, who had been once what Apollo was now, could not pretend to more than a transitory station in the long succession of Gods. Other dynasties, known even to man, there had been before his; and elder dynasties before that, of whom only rumours and suspicions survived. Even this taint, however, this direct access of mortality, was less shocking to my mind in after-years than the abominable fact of its reflex or indirect access in the shape of grief for others who had died. I need not multiply instances; they are without end. The reader has but to throw his memory back upon the anguish of Jupiter, in the ‘Iliad,’ for the approaching death of his son Sarpedon, and his vain struggles to deliver himself from this ghastly net; or upon Thetis, fighting against the vision of her matchless Pelides caught in the same vortex; or upon the Muse in Euripides, hovering in the air and wailing over her young Rhesus, her brave, her beautiful one, of whom she trusted that he had been destined to confound the Grecian host. What! a God, and liable to the pollution of grief! A Goddess, and standing every hour within the peril of that dismal shadow!