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Translated by Charles Edwardes

      IT is said that the first inhabitants of the earth were everywhere created simultaneously. Whilst children they were fed by bees, goats, and doves, as the poets say the infant Jove was nourished. The earth was much smaller than it is at- present, and devoid of mountains and hills. The sky was starless. There was no sea; and the world as a whole was far less varied and beautiful than it now is. Yet men were never weary of looking at the sky and the earth, which excited within them feelings of wonder and admiration. They considered them both to be of infinite extent, majesty, and magnificence. Their souls were filled with joyous hopes, and every sensation of life gave them inexpressible pleasure. Their contentment daily increased, so that they at length thought themselves supremely happy. In this peaceful state of mind they passed their infancy and youth. Arrived at a mature age, their feelings began to experience some alteration. As their early hopes, to which they had perseveringly adhered, failed of realisation, they no longer put faith in them. But, on the other hand, present happiness isolated from anticipation of the future, did not suffice them; especially seeing that, either from habit or because the charm of a first acquaintanceship had worn off, nature and all the incidents of life gave them much less pleasure than at first. They travelled over the earth, and visited the most distant lands. This they could easily do, because there were neither seas, 'mountains, nor obstacles of any kind to oppose them. After a few years, most men had proved the finite nature of the earth, the boundaries of which were by no means so remote as to be unattainable. They found too, that all countries of the world, and all men, with but slight differences, were alike. These discoveries so greatly increased their discontent, that a weariness of life became prevalent among men even before they had passed the threshold of manhood. And as men grew older, this feeling gradually transformed itself into a hatred of existence, so that at length, seized by despair, they in one way or another hesitated not to abandon the light and life once so beloved.

      It seemed to the gods a shocking thing that living creatures should prefer death to life, and should destroy themselves for no other reason than that they were weary of existence. It also amazed them beyond measure to find their gifts held in such contempt, and so unequivocally rejected by men. They thought the world had been endowed with sufficient beauty, goodness, and harmony to make it not merely a bearable, but even a highly enjoyable place of residence for every living thing, and especially for man, whom they had fabricated with peculiar care, and a marvellous perfection. At the same time, touched with a deep feeling of compassion for the distress men exhibited, they began to fear lest the renewal and increase of these deplorable actions might not soon result in the extinction of the human race, contrary to destiny, and they would thus lose the most perfect work of their creation, and be deprived of the honours they received from men.

      Jove determined therefore to improve the condition of men, since it seemed necessary, and to increase the means whereby they might obtain happiness. They complained of the deceitfulness of things; which were neither as great, beautiful, perfect, nor varied as they at first imagined them to be; but were, on the contrary, small, imperfect, and monotonous. They derived no pleasure from their youth; still less were they satisfied with the times of maturity, and old age. Their infancy alone gave them pleasure, and yearning for the sweetness of their early days, they besought Jove to make their condition one of perpetual childhood. But the god could not satisfy them in this matter; for it was contrary to the laws of nature, and the divine decrees and intentions. Neither could he communicate his own infinity to mortal creatures, nor the world itself, any more than he could bestow infinite happiness and perfection on men and things. It seemed best to him to extend the limits of creation, at the same time increasing the world's diversity and beauty. In fulfilment of this intention, he enlarged the earth on all sides; and made the sea to flow as a separation between inhabited places, so that it might vary the aspect of things, and by severing their roads, prevent men from easily discovering the confines of the world. He also designed the sea to serve as a vivid representation of the infinity which they desired. Then it was that the waters covered the island Atlantis, as well as many other vast tracts of country; but the remembrance of this island alone has survived the multitude of centuries that have passed since that time. Jove formed valleys by lowering certain places; and by exalting others he created hills and mountains. He bespread the night with stars; purified the atmosphere; increased the brilliancy and light of day; intensified the colours of the sky and the country, and gave them more variety. He also mixed the generations of men, so that the aged of one generation were contemporaneous with the children of another. Above all, Jove determined to multiply resemblances of that infinity for which men so eagerly craved. He could not really satisfy them, but wishing to soothe and appease their imagination, which he knew had been the chief source of their happiness in childhood, he employed many expedients like that of the sea. He created the echo, and hid it in valleys and caverns, and gave to the forests a dull deep whispering, conjoined with a mysterious undulation of their treetops. He created also the gorgeous land of dreams, and gave men power to visit it in their sleep. There they could experience such perfect happiness as could not in reality be accorded to them. This served as a substitute for the vague unrealisable conception of felicity formed by men within themselves, and to which Jove himself could not have given any real expression, had he desired to do so.

      By these means the god infused new strength and vigour into the minds of men, and endeared life to them again, so that they were full of admiration for the beauty and immensity of nature. This happy state lasted longer than the previous one. Its duration was chiefly due to the diversity of ages among men, whereby those who were chilled and wearied with their experience of the world, were comforted by the society of others full of the ardency and hopefulness of youth. But in process of time this novelty wore off, and men again became discontented and wearied with life. So despondent did they become, that then is said to have originated the custom attributed by history to certain ancient nations; the birth of a child was celebrated with tears, and the death of a parent was the occasion of rejoicing for his deliverance (1). At length wickedness became universal. This was either because men thought that Jove disregarded them, or because it is the nature of misfortune to debase even the noblest minds. It is a popular error to imagine that man's misfortunes are the result of his impiety and iniquity. On the contrary, his wickedness is the consequence of his misfortunes.

      The gods avenged themselves for their injuries, and punished mortals for their renewed perverseness, by the deluge of Deucalion. There were only two survivors of this shipwreck of the human race, Deucalion and Pyrrha. These unhappy ones were filled with the sense of their wretchedness, and far from regretting the loss of all their fellows, themselves loudly invoked death from the summit of a rock. But Jove commanded them to remedy the depopulation of the earth, and seeing that they had not the heart to beget a new generation, directed them to take stones from the hill-sides, and cast them over their shoulders. From these stones men were created, and the earth was again peopled. The history of the past had enlightened Jove as to the nature of men, and had shown him that it is not sufficient for them, as for other animals, merely to live in a state of freedom from sorrow and physical discomfort. He knew that whatever their condition of life, they would seek the impossible, and if unpossessed of genuine evils, would torment themselves with imaginary ones. The god resolved therefore to employ new means for the preservation of the miserable race. For this purpose he used two especial artifices. In the first place, he strewed life with veritable evils; and secondly, instituted a thousand kinds of business and labour, to distract men as much as possible from self-contemplation, and their desires for an unknown and imaginary happiness.

      He began by sending a multitude of diseases, and an infinite number of other calamities among them, with the intention of varying the conditions of life so as to obviate the feeling of satiety which had resulted before, and to induce men to esteem the good things they possessed so much the more by contrast with these new evils. The god hoped that men would be better able to bear the absence of the happiness they longed for, when occupied and under the discipline of suffering. He also determined by means of these physical infirmities and exertions, to reduce the vigour of men's minds, to humble their pride, to make them bow the head to necessity, and be more contented with their lot. He knew that disease and misfortune would operate as a preventive to the committal of those acts of suicide which had formerly been rife; for they would not only make men cowardly and weak, but would help to attach them to life by the hope of an existence free from such sufferings. For it is a characteristic of the unfortunate that they imagine happiness will wait on them as soon as the immediate cause of their present misfortune is removed. Jove then created the winds and the rain-clouds, prepared the thunder and lightning, gave the trident to Neptune, launched comets, and arranged eclipses. By means of these and other terrible signs, he resolved to frighten mortals from time to time, knowing that fear and actual danger would temporarily reconcile to life, not only the unhappy, but even those who most detested and were most disposed to put an end to their existence.

      As a cure for the idleness of the past, Jove gave to men a taste and desire for new foods and drinks, unprocurable, however, without the greatest exertions. Previous to the deluge men had lived on water, herbs, and such fruits as were yielded by the earth and the trees, just as certain people of California and other places live even in the present day. He assigned different climates to different countries, and appointed the seasons of the year. Hitherto there had been no diversity of temperature in any place, but the atmosphere was uniformly so equable and mild that men were ignorant of the use of clothing. Now, however, they were obliged to exert themselves industriously to remedy the inclemency and changeability of the weather. Jove gave Mercury command to lay the foundations of the first cities, and to divide men into different races, nations, and languages, separated by feelings of rivalry and discord. He was also commissioned to teach them music and those other arts, which, owing to their nature and origin, are still called divine. Jove himself distributed laws and constitutions to the new nations. Finally, as a supreme gift, he sent among men certain sublime and superhuman Phantoms, to whom he committed very great influence and control over the people of the earth. They were called Justice, Virtue, Glory, Patriotism, &c. Among these Phantoms was one named Love, which then first entered the world. For previous to the introduction of clothes, the sexes were drawn towards one another by merely a brute instinct, far different from love. The feeling was comparable to that which we experience towards articles of food and such things, that we desire, but do not love.

      By these divine decrees the condition of man was infinitely ameliorated, and rendered easier and pleasanter than before; in spite of the fatigues, sufferings, and terrors which were now inseparable from humanity. And this result was chiefly due to the wonderful chimeras, whom some men regarded as genii, others as gods, and whom they followed with an intense veneration and enthusiasm for a very long time. To such a pitch was their ardour excited by the poets and artists of the times, that numbers of men did not hesitate to sacrifice their lives to one or other of these Phantoms. Far from displeasing Jove, this fact gratified him exceedingly, for he judged that if men esteemed their life a gift worthy of sacrifice to these fine and glorious illusions, they would be less likely to, repudiate it as before. This happy state of affairs was of longer duration than the preceding ages. And even when after the lapse of many centuries, a tendency to decline became apparent, existence, thanks to these bright illusions, was still easy and bearable enough, up to a time not very far distant from the present.

      This decline was chiefly due to the facility with which men were able to satisfy their wants and desires; the growing inequality between men in their social and other conditions, as they receded farther and farther from the republican models founded by Jove; the reappearance of vanity and idleness as a consequence of this retrocession; the diminishing interest with which the variety of life's incidents inspired them; and many other well-known and important causes. Again men were filled with the old feeling of disgust for their existence, and again their minds clamoured for an unknown happiness, inconsistent with the order of nature.

      But the total revolution of the fortunes of men, and the end of that epoch which we nowadays designate as the "old world," was due to one especial influence. It was this. Among the Phantoms so appreciated by the ancients was a certain one called Wisdom. This Phantom had duly contributed to the prosperity of the times, and like the others received high honour from men, a number of whom consecrated themselves to her service. She had frequently promised her disciples to show them her mistress, the Truth, a superior spirit who associated with the gods in heaven, whence she had never yet descended. The Phantom assured them that she would bring Truth among men, and that this spirit would exercise so marvellous an influence over their life, that in knowledge, perfection, and happiness they would almost rival the gods themselves. But how could a shadow fulfil any promise, much less induce the Truth to descend to earth? So after a long confiding expectancy, men perceived the falseness of Wisdom. At the same time, greedy of novelty because of the idleness of their life, and stimulated partly by ambition of equalling the gods, and partly by the intensity of their yearning for the happiness they imagined would ensue from the possession of Truth, they presumptuously requested Jove to lend them this noble spirit for a time, and reproached him for having so long jealously withheld from men the great advantages that would follow from the presence of Truth. They with one accord expressed dissatisfaction with their lot, and renewed their former hateful winnings about the meanness and misery of human things. The Phantoms, once so dear to them, were now almost entirely abandoned, not that men had discerned the unreality of their nature, but because they were so debased in mind and manners as to have no sympathy with even the appearance of goodness. Thus they wickedly rejected the greatest gift of gods to men, and excused themselves by saying that none but inferior genii had been sent on earth, the nobler ones, whom they would willingly have worshipped, being retained in heaven.

      Many things long before this had contributed to lessen the goodwill of Jove towards men, especially the magnitude and number of their vices and crimes, which were far in advance of those punished by the deluge. He was out of patience with the human race, the restless and unreasonable nature of which exasperated him. He recognised the futility of all effort on his part to make men happy and contented. Had he not enlarged the world, multiplied its pleasures, and increased its diversity? Yet all things were soon regarded by men (desirous and at the same time incapable of infinity) as equally restricted and valueless. Jove determined therefore to make a perpetual example of the human race. He resolved to punish men unsparingly, and reduce them to a state of misery far surpassing their former condition. Towards the attainment of this end, he purposed sending Truth among men, not for a time only as they desired, but for eternity, and giving her supreme control and dominion over the human race, instead of the Phantoms that were now so greatly despised.

      The other gods marvelled at this decision of Jove, as likely to exalt the human race to a degree prejudicial to their own dignity. But he explained to them that all genii are not beneficial, and that apart from this, it was not of the nature of Truth to produce the same results among men as with the gods. For whereas to the gods she unveiled the eternity of their joy, to mortals she would expose the immensity of their unhappiness, representing it to them not as a matter of chance, but as an inevitable and perpetual necessity. And since human evils are great in proportion as they are believed to be so by their victims, it may be imagined how acute an affliction Truth will prove to men. The vanity of all earthly things will be apparent to them; they will find that nothing is genuine save their own unhappiness. Above all, they will lose hope, hitherto the greatest solace and support of life. Deprived of hope, they will have nothing to stimulate them to any exertions; consequently work, industry, and all mental culture will languish, and the life of the living will partake of the inertness of the grave. Yet in spite of their despair and inactivity, men will still be tormented by their old longing for happiness intensified and quickened, because they will be less distracted by cares, and the stir of action. They will also be deprived of the power of imagination, which in itself could mysteriously transport them into a state of happiness comparable to the felicity for which they long. "And," said Jove, "all those representations of infinity which I designedly placed in the world to deceive and satisfy men, and all the vague thoughts suggestive of happiness, which I infused into their minds, will yield to the doctrines of Truth. The earth, which formerly displeased them for its insignificance, will do so increasedly when its true dimensions are known, and when all the secrets of nature are made manifest to them. And finally, with the disappearance of those Phantoms that alone gave brightness to existence, human life will become aimless and valueless. Nations and countries will lose even their names, for with Patriotism will vanish all incentive to national identities. Men will unite and form one nation and one people (as they will say), and will profess a universal love for the race. But in reality there will be the least possible union amongst them; they will be divided into as many peoples as there are individuals. For having no special country to love, and no foreigners to hate, every man will hate his neighbour, and love only himself. The evil consequences of this are incalculable. Nevertheless, men will not put an end to their unhappiness by depriving themselves of life, because under the sway of Truth they will become as cowardly as miserable. Truth will increase the bitterness of their existence, and at the same time bereave them of sufficient courage to reject it."

      These words of Jove moved the gods t'o compassion for the human race. It seemed to them that so great inflictions were inconsistent with the divine attribute of mercy. But Jove continued: "There will remain to humanity a certain consolation proceeding from the Phantom Love, which alone I purpose leaving among men. And even Truth, in spite of her almost omnipotence, will never quite prevail over Love, nor succeed in chasing this Phantom from the earth, though the struggle between them will be perpetual. Thus the life of man, divided betwixt the worship of Truth and Love, will consist of two epochs, during which these influences will respectively control his mind and actions. To the aged, instead of the solace of Love, will be granted a state of contentment with their existence, similar to that of other animals. They will love life for its own sake, not for any pleasure or profit they derive from it."

      Accordingly, Jove removed the Phantoms from earth, save only Love, the least noble of all, and sent Truth among men to exercise over them perpetual rule. The consequences foreseen by the god were not long in making themselves manifest. And strange to say, whereas the spirit before her descent on earth, and when she had no real authority over men, was honoured by a multitude of temples and sacrifices, her presence had the effect of cooling their enthusiasm on her behalf. With the other gods this was not so; the more they made themselves manifest, the more they were honoured; but Truth saddened men, and ultimately inspired them with such hatred that they refused to worship her, and only by constraint rendered her obedience. And whereas formerly, men who were under the especial influence of any one of the ancient Phantoms, used to love and revere that Phantom above the others, Truth was detested and cursed by those over whom she gained supreme control. So, unable to resist her tyranny, men lived from that time in the complete state of misery, which is their fate in the present day, and to which they are eternally doomed.

      But not long ago, pity, which is never exhausted in the minds of the gods, moved Jove to compassionate the wretchedness of mortals. He noticed especially the affliction of certain men, remarkable for their high intellect, and nobility, and purity of life, who were extraordinarily oppressed by the sway of Truth. Now in former times, when Justice, Virtue, and the other Phantoms directed humanity, the gods had been accustomed at times to visit the earth, and sojourn with men for awhile, always on such occasions benefiting the race, or particular individuals, in some especial manner. But since men had become so debased, and sunk in wickedness, they had not deigned to associate with them. Jove therefore, pitying our condition, asked the immortals whether any one of them would visit the earth as of old, and console men under their calamities, especially such as seemed undeserving of the universal affliction. All the gods were silent. At length Love, the son of celestial Venus, bearing the same name as the Phantom Love, but very different in nature and power, and the most compassionate of the immortals, offered himself for the mission proposed by Jove. This deity was so beloved by the other gods, that hitherto they had never allowed him to quit their presence, even for a moment. The ancients indeed imagined that the god had appeared to them from time to time; but it was not so. They were deceived by the subterfuges and transformations of the Phantom Love. The deity of the same name first visited mankind after they were placed under the empire of Truth. Since that time the god has rarely and briefly descended, because of the general unworthiness of humanity, and the impatience with which the celestials await his return. When he comes on earth he chooses the tender and noble hearts of the most generous and magnanimous persons. Here he rests for a short time, diffusing in them so strange and wondrous a sweetness, and inspiring them with affections so lofty and vigorous, that they then experience what is entirely new to mankind, the substance rather than the semblance of happiness. Sometimes, though very rarely, he brings about the union of two hearts, abiding in them both simultaneously, and exciting within them a reciprocal warmth and desire. All within whom he dwells beseech him to effect this union; but Jove forbids him to yield to their entreaties, save in very few instances, because the happiness of such mutual love approaches too nearly to the felicity of the immortals. The man in whom Love abides is the happiest of mortals. And not only is he blessed by the presence of the deity, but he is also charmed by the old mysterious Phantoms, which, though removed from the lot of men, by Jove's permission follow in the train of Love, in spite of the great opposition of Truth, their supreme enemy. But Truth, like all the other genii, is powerless to resist the will of the gods. And, since destiny has granted to Love a state of eternal youth, the god can partially give effect to that first desire of men, that they might return to the happiness of their childhood. In the souls he inhabits, Love awakens and vivifies, so long as he stays there, the boundless hopes, and the sweet and fine illusions of early life. Many persons, ignorant and incapable of appreciating Love, vituperate and affront the god, even to his face. But he disregards these insults, and exacts no vengeance for them, so noble and compassionate is his nature. Nor do the other gods any longer trouble themselves about the crimes of men, being satisfied with the vengeance they have already wrought on the human race, and the incurable misery which is its portion. Consequently, wicked and blasphemous men suffer no punishment for their offences, except that they are absolutely excluded from being partakers of the divine favours.


(1) See Herodotus, Strabo, &c.

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