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by [?]

And if such be the attitude of the uneducated man towards the permanent terrors of nature, what will it be towards those which are sudden and seemingly capricious?–towards storms, earthquakes, floods, blights, pestilences? We know too well what it has been– one of blind, and therefore often cruel, fear. How could it be otherwise? Was Theophrastus’s superstitious man so very foolish for pouring oil on every round stone? I think there was a great deal to be said for him. This worship of Baetyli was rational enough. They were aerolites, fallen from heaven. Was it not as well to be civil to such messengers from above?–to testify by homage to them due awe of the being who had thrown them at men, and who though he had missed his shot that time might not miss it the next? I think if we, knowing nothing of either gunpowder, astronomy, or Christianity, saw an Armstrong bolt fall within five miles of London, we should be inclined to be very respectful to it indeed. So the aerolites, or glacial boulders, or polished stone weapons of an extinct race, which looked like aerolites, were the children of Ouranos the heaven, and had souls in them. One, by one of those strange transformations in which the logic of unreason indulges, the image of Diana of the Ephesians, which fell down from Jupiter; another was the Ancile, the holy shield which fell from the same place in the days of Numa Pompilius, and was the guardian genius of Rome; and several more became notable for ages.

Why not? The uneducated man of genius, unacquainted alike with metaphysics and with biology, sees, like a child, a personality in every strange and sharply-defined object. A cloud like an angel may be an angel; a bit of crooked root like a man may be a man turned into wood–perhaps to be turned back again at its own will. An erratic block has arrived where it is by strange unknown means. Is not that an evidence of its personality? Either it has flown hither itself, or some one has thrown it. In the former case, it has life, and is proportionally formidable; in the latter, he who had thrown it is formidable.

I know two erratic blocks of porphyry–I believe there are three–in Cornwall, lying one on serpentine, one, I think, on slate, which–so I was always informed as a boy–were the stones which St. Kevern threw after St. Just when the latter stole his host’s chalice and paten, and ran away with them to the Land’s End. Why not? Before we knew anything about the action of icebergs and glaciers, that is, until the last eighty years, that was as good a story as any other; while how lifelike these boulders are, let a great poet testify; for the fact has not escaped the delicate eye of Wordsworth:

As a huge stone is sometimes seen to lie Couched on the bald top of an eminence; Wonder to all who do the same espy, By what means it could thither come, and whence, So that it seems a thing endued with sense; Like a sea-beast crawled forth, that on a shelf Of rock or sand reposeth, there to sun itself.

To the civilised poet, the fancy becomes a beautiful simile; to a savage poet, it would have become a material and a very formidable fact. He stands in the valley, and looks up at the boulder on the far-off fells. He is puzzled by it. He fears it. At last he makes up his mind. It is alive. As the shadows move over it, he sees it move. May it not sleep there all day, and prowl for prey all night? He had been always afraid of going up those fells; now he will never go. There is a monster there.