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CHAPTER VIII.

LEGENDS OF THE AGE OF DARKNESS.

ALL the cosmogonies begin with an Age of Darkness; a damp, cold, rainy, dismal time.

Hesiod tells us, speaking of the beginning of things

"In truth, then, foremost sprung Chaos. . . . But from Chaos were born Erebus and black Night; and from Night again sprang forth Æther and Day, whom she bare after having conceived by union with Erebus."

Aristophanes, in his "Aves," says:[1]

"Chaos and Night and black Erebus and wide Tartarus first existed."[2]

Orpheus says:

"From the beginning the gloomy night enveloped and obscured all things that were under the ether" (the clouds). "The earth was invisible on account of the darkness, but the light broke through the ether" (the clouds), "and illuminated the earth."

By this power were produced the sun, moon, and stars.[3]

It is from Sanchoniathon that we derive most of the little we know of that ancient and mysterious people, the Phśnicians. He lived before the Trojan war; and of his writings but fragments survive--quotations in the writings of others.

[1. "The Theogony."

2. Faber's "Origin of Pagan Idolatry," vol. i, p. 255.

3. Cory's "Fragments," p. 298.]

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He tells us that--

"The beginning of all things was a condensed, windy air, or a breeze of thick air, and a chaos turbid and black as Erebus.

"Out of this chaos was generated Môt, which some call Ilus," (mud,) "but others the putrefaction of a watery mixture. And from this sprang all the seed of the creation, and the generation of the universe. . . . And, when the air began to send forth light, winds were produced and clouds, and very great defluxions and torrents of the heavenly waters."

Was this "thick air" the air thick with comet-dust, which afterward became the mud? Is this the meaning of the "turbid chaos"?

We turn to the Babylonian legends. Berosus wrote from records preserved in the temple of Belus at Babylon. He says:

"There was a time in which there existed nothing but darkness and an abyss of waters, wherein resided most hideous beings, which were produced of a twofold principle."

Were these "hideous beings" the comets?

From the "Laws of Menu," of the Hindoos, we learn that the universe existed at first in darkness.

We copy the following text from the Vedas:

"The Supreme Being alone existed; afterward there was universal darkness; next the watery ocean was produced by the diffusion of virtue."

We turn to the legends of the Chinese, and we find the same story:

Their annals begin with "Pwan-ku, or the Reign of Chaos."[1]

[1. "The Ancient Dynasties of Berosus and China," Rev. T. P. Crawford, D. D., p. 4.]

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And we are told by the Chinese historians that--

"P'an-ku came forth in the midst of the great chaotic void, and we know not his origin; that he knew the rationale of heaven and earth, and comprehended the changes of the Darkness and the Light."[1]

He "existed before the shining of the Light."[2] He was "the Prince of Chaos."

"After the chaos cleared away, heaven appeared first in order, then earth, then after they existed, and the atmosphere had changed its character, man came forth."[3]

That is to say, P'an-ku lived through the Age of Darkness, during a chaotic period, and while the atmosphere was pestilential with the gases of the comet. Where did he live? The Chinese annals tell us:

"In the age after the chaos, when heaven and earth had just separated."

That is, when the great mass of cloud had just lifted from the earth:

"Records had not yet been established or inscriptions invented. At first even the rulers dwelt in caves and desert places, eating raw flesh and drinking blood. At this fortunate juncture Pan-ku-sze came forth, and from that time heaven and earth began to be heaven and earth, men and things to be men and things, and so the chaotic state passed away."[1]

This is the rejuvenation of the world told of in so many legends.

And these annals tell us further of the "Ten Stems," being the stages of the earth's primeval history.

"At Wu--the Sixth Stem--the Darkness and the Light unite with injurious effects--all things become solid," (frozen?), "and the Darkness destroys the growth of all things.

[1. Compendium of Wong-shi-Shing 1526-1590," Crawford, p. 3.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid., p. 2.

4. Ibid., p. 3.]

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"At Kung--the Seventh Stem--the Darkness nips all things."

But the Darkness is passing away:

"At Jin--the Ninth Stem--the Light begins to nourish all things in the recesses below.

"Lastly, at Tsze, all things begin to germinate."[1]

The same story is told in the "Twelve Branches."

"1. K'wun-tun stands for the period of chaos, the cold midnight darkness. It is said that with it all things began to germinate in the hidden recesses of the under-world."

In the 2d--Ch'i-fun-yoh--"light and heat become active, and all things begin to rise in obedience to its nature." In the 3d--Sheh-ti-kuh--the stars and sun probably appear, as from this point the calendar begins. In the 5th--Chi-shii--all things in a torpid state begin to come forth. In the 8th--Hëen-hia--all things harmonize, and the present order of things is established; that is to say, the effects of the catastrophe have largely passed away.[2]

The kings who governed before the Drift were called the Rulers of heaven and earth; those who came after were the Rulers of man.

"Cheu Ching-huen says: 'The Rulers of man succeeded to the Rulers of heaven and the Rulers of earth in the government; that then the atmosphere gradually cleared away, and all things sprang up together; that the order of time was gradually settled, and the usages of society gradually became correct and respectful."[3]

And then we read that "the day and night had not yet been divided," but, after a time, "day and night were distinguished from each other."[4]

Here we have the history of some event which changed

[1. "Compendium of Wong-shi-Shing 1526-1590," Crawford, pp. 4, 5.

2. Ibid., p. 8.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid., p. 7.]

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the dynasties of the world: the heavenly kingdom was succeeded by a merely human one; there were chaos, cold, and darkness, and death to vegetation; then the light increases, and vegetation begins once more to germinate; the atmosphere is thick; the heavens rest on the earth; day and night can not be distinguished from one another, and mankind dwell in caves, and live on raw meat and blood.

Surely all this accords wonderfully with our theory.

And here we have the same story in another form:

"The philosopher of Oraibi tells us that when the people ascended by means of the magical tree, which constituted the ladder from the lower world to this, they found the firmament, the ceiling of this world, low down upon the earth--the floor of this world."

That is to say, when the people climbed up, from the cave in which they were bidden, to the surface of the earth, the dense clouds rested on the face of the earth.

"Machito, one of their gods, raised the firmament on his shoulders to where it is now seen. Still the world was dark, as there was no sun, no moon, and no stars. So the people murmured because of the darkness and the cold. Machito said, 'Bring me seven maidens'; and they brought him seven maidens; and he said, 'Bring me seven baskets of cotton-bolls'; and they brought him seven baskets of cotton-bolls; and he taught the seven maidens to weave a magical fabric from the cotton, and when they had finished it he held it aloft, and the breeze carried it away toward the firmament, and in the twinkling of an eye it was transformed into a beautiful and full-orbed moon; and the same breeze caught the remnants of flocculent cotton, which the maidens had scattered during their work, and carried them aloft, and they were transformed into bright stars. But still it was cold; and the people murmured again, and Machito said, 'Bring me seven buffalo-robes'; and they brought him seven buffalo-robes, and from the densely matted hair of the robes he wove another wonderful fabric, which the storm carried

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away into the sky, and it was transformed into the full-orbed sun. Then Machito appointed times and seasons, and ways for the heavenly bodies; and the gods of the firmament have obeyed the injunctions of Machito from the day of their creation to the present." *

Among the Thlinkeets of British Columbia there is a legend that the Great Crow or Raven, Yehl, was the creator of most things:

"Very dark, damp, and chaotic was the world in the beginning; nothing with breath or body moved there except Yehl; in the likeness of a raven he brooded over the mist; his black winds beat down the vast confusion; the waters went back before him and the dry land appeared. The Thlinkeets were placed on the earth--though how or when does not exactly appear--while the world was still in darkness, and without sun, moon, or stars."[2]

The legend proceeds at considerable length to tell the doings of Yehl. His uncle tried to slay him, and, when he failed, "he imprecated with a potent curse a deluge upon all the earth. . . . The flood came, the waters rose and rose; but Yehl clothed himself in his bird-skin, and soared up to the heavens, where he stuck his beak into a cloud, and remained until the waters were assuaged."[3]

This tradition reminds us of the legend of the Thessalian Cerambos, "who escaped the flood by rising into the air on wings, given him by the nymphs."

I turn now to the traditions of the Miztecs, who dwelt on the outskirts of the Mexican Empire; this legend was taken by Fray Gregoria Garcia[4] from a book found in a convent in Cuilapa, a little Indian town, about a league and a half south of Oajaca; the book had been compiled by the vicar of the convent, "just as they

[1. "Popular Science Monthly," October, 1879, p. 800.

2. Bancroft's "Native Races," vol. iii, p. 98.

3. Ibid., p. 99.

4. "Origen de los Ind.," pp. 327-329.]

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themselves were accustomed to depict and to interpret it in their primitive scrolls":

"In the year and in the day of obscurity and darkness," (the days of the dense clouds?), "yea, even before the days or the years were," (before the visible revolution of the sun marked the days, and the universal darkness and cold prevented the changes of the seasons?), "when the world was in great darkness and chaos, when the earth was covered with water, and there was nothing but mud and slime on all the face of the earth--behold a god became visible, and his name was the Deer, and his surname was the Lion-snake. There appeared also a very beautiful goddess called the Deer, and surnamed the Tiger-snake. These two gods were the origin and beginning of all the gods."

This lion-snake was probably one of the comets; the tiger-snake was doubtless a second comet, called after the tiger, on account of its variegated, mottled appearance. It will be observed they appeared before the light had returned,

These gods built a temple on a high place, and laid out a garden, and waited patiently, offering sacrifices to the higher gods, wounding themselves with flint knives, and "praying that it might seem good to them to shape the firmament, and lighten the darkness of the world, and to establish the foundation of the earth; or, rather, to gather the waters together so that the earth might appear--as they had no place to rest in save only one little garden."

Here we have the snakes and the people confounded together. The earth was afterward made fit for the use of mankind, and at a later date there came--

"A great deluge, wherein perished many of the sons and daughters that had been born to the gods; and it is said that, when the deluge was passed, the human race

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was restored, as at the first, and the Miztec kingdom populated, and the heavens and the earth established."[1]

Father Duran, in his MS. "History Antique of New Spain," written in A. D. 1585, gives the Cholula legend, which commences:

"In the beginning, before the light of the sun had been created, this land was in obscurity and darkness and void of any created thing."

In the Toltec legends we read of a time when--

"There was a tremendous hurricane that carried away trees, mounds, houses, and the largest edifices, notwithstanding which many men and women escaped, principally in caves, and places where the great hurricane could not reach them. A few days having passed, they set out to see what had become of the earth, when they found it all populated with monkeys. All this time they were in darkness, without seeing the light of the sun, nor the moon, that the wind had brought them."[2]

In the Aztec creation-myths, according to the accounts furnished by Mendieta, and derived from Fray Andres de Olmos, one of the earliest of the Christian missionaries among the Mexicans, we have the following legend of the "Return of the Sun":

"Now, there had been no sun in existence for many years; so the gods being assembled in a place called Teotihuacan, six leagues from Mexico, and gathered at the time around a great fire, told their devotees that he of them who should first cast himself into that, fire should have the honor of being transformed into a sun. So, one of them, called Nanahuatzin . . . flung himself into the fire. Then the gods" (the chiefs?) "began to peer through the gloom in all directions for the expected light, and to make bets as to what part of heaven. he should

[1. Bancroft's "Native Races," vol. iii, pp. 71-73.

2. "North Americans of Antiquity," p. 239.]

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first appear in. Some said 'Here,' and some said 'There'; but when the sun rose they were all proved wrong, for not one of them had fixed upon the east."

In the long-continued darkness they had lost all knowledge of the cardinal points. The ancient landmarks, too, were changed.

The "Popul Vuh," the national book of the Quiches, tells us of four ages of the world. The man of the first age was made of clay; he was "strengthless, inept, watery; he could not move his head, his face looked but one way; his sight was restricted, he could not look behind him," that is, he had no knowledge of the past; "he had been endowed with language, but he had no intelligence, so he was consumed in the water."[1]

Then followed a higher race of men; they filled the world with their progeny; they had intelligence, but no moral sense"; "they forgot the Heart of Heaven." They were destroyed by fire and pitch from heaven, accompanied by tremendous earthquakes, from which only a few escaped.

Then followed a period when all was dark, save the white light "of the morning-star--sole light as yet of the primeval world"--probably a volcano.

"Once more are the gods in council, in the darkness, in the night of a desolated universe."

Then the people prayed to God for light, evidently for the return of the sun:

"'Hail! O Creator they cried, 'O Former! Thou that hearest and understandest us! abandon us not! forsake us not! O God, thou that art in heaven and on earth; O Heart of Heaven I O Heart of Earth! give us descendants, and a posterity as long as the light endure.'" . . .

In other words, let not the human race cease to be.

[1. Bancroft's "Native Races," vol. iii, p. 46.]

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"It was thus they spake, living tranquilly, invoking the return of the light; waiting the rising of the sun; watching the star of the morning, precursor of the sun. But no sun came, and the four men and their descendants grew uneasy. 'We have no person to watch over us,' they said; 'nothing to guard our symbols!' Then they adopted gods of their own, and waited. They kindled fires, for the climate was colder; then there fell great rains and hail-storms, and put out their fires. Several times they made fires, and several times the rains and storms extinguished them. Many other trials also they underwent in Tulan, famines and such things, and a general dampness and cold--for the earth was moist, there being yet no sun."

All this accords with what I have shown we might expect as accompanying the close of the so-called Glacial Age. Dense clouds covered the sky, shutting out the light of the sun; perpetual rains and storms fell; the world was cold and damp, muddy and miserable; the people were wanderers, despairing and hungry. They seem to have come from an eastern land. We are told:

"Tulan was a much colder climate than the happy eastern land they had left."

Many generations seem to have grown up and perished under the sunless skies, "waiting for the return of the light"; for the "Popul Vuh" tells us that "here also the language of all the families was confused, so that no one of the first four men could any longer understand the speech of the others."

That is to say, separation and isolation into rude tribes had made their tongues unintelligible to one another.

This shows that many, many years--it may be centuries--must have elapsed before that vast volume of moisture, carried up by evaporation, was able to fall

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back, in snow and rain to the land and sea, and allow the sun to shine through "the blanket of the dark." Starvation encountered the scattered fragments of mankind.

And in these same Quiche legends of Central America we are told:

"The persons of the godhead were enveloped in the darkness which enshrouded a desolated world."[1]

They counseled together, and created four men of white and yellow maize (the white and yellow races?). It was still dark; for they had no light but the light of the morning-star. They came to Tulan.

And the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg gives further details of the Quiche legends:

Now, behold our ancients and our fathers were made lords, and had their dawn. Behold we will relate also the rising of the sun, the moon, and the stars! Great was their joy when they saw the morning-star, which came out first, with its resplendent face before the sun. At last the sun itself began to come forth; the animals, small and great, were in joy; they rose from the water-courses and ravines, and stood on the mountain-tops, with their heads toward where the sun was coming. An innumerable crowd of people were there, and the dawn cast light on all these people at once. At last the face of the ground was dried by the sun: like a man the sun showed himself, and his presence warmed and dried the surface of the ground. Before the sun appeared, muddy and wet was the surface of the ground, and it was before the sun appeared, and then only the sun rose like a man. But his heat had no strength, and he did but show when he rose; he only remained like" (an image in) "a mirror and it is not, indeed, the same sun that appears now, they say, in the stories."[2]

[1. "North Americans of Antiquity," p. 214.

2. Tylor's "Early History of Mankind," p. 308.]

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How wonderfully does all this accord with what we have shown would follow from the earth's contact with a comet!

The earth is wet and covered with mud, the clay; the sun is long absent; at last he returns; he dries the mud, but his face is still covered with the remnants of the great cloud-belt; "his heat has no strength"; he shows himself only in glimpses; he shines through the fogs like an image in a mirror; he is not like the great blazing orb we see now.

But the sun, when it did appear in all its glory, must have been a terrible yet welcome sight to those who had not looked upon him for many years. We read in the legends of the Thlinkeets of British Columbia, after narrating that the world was once "dark, damp, and chaotic," full of water, with no sun, moon, or stars, how these luminaries were restored. The great hero-god of the race, Yehl, got hold of three mysterious boxes, and, wrenching the lids off, let out the sun, moon, and stars.

"When he set up the blazing light" (of the sun) "in heaven, the people that saw it were at first afraid. Many hid themselves in the mountains, and in the forests, and even in the water, and were changed into the various kinds of animals that frequent these places."[1]

Says James Geikie:

"Nor can we form any proper conception of how long a time was needed to bring about that other change of climate, under the influence of which, slowly and imperceptibly, this immense sheet of frost melted away from the lowlands and retired to the mountain recesses. We must allow that long ages elapsed before the warmth became such as to induce plants and animals to clothe and people the land. How vast a time, also, must have passed away ere the warmth reached its climax!"[2]

[1. Bancroft's "Native Races," vol. iii, p. 100.

2. "The Great Ice Age," p. 184.]

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And all this time the rain fell. There could be no return of the sun until all the mass of moisture sucked up by the comet's heat had been condensed into water, and falling on the earth had found its way back to the ocean; and this process had to be repeated many times. It was the age of the great primeval rain.

THE PRIMEVAL STORM.

In the Andes, Humboldt tells us of a somewhat similar state of facts:

"A thick mist during a particular season obscures the firmament for many months. Not a planet, not the most brilliant stars of the southern hemisphere--Canopus, the

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Southern Cross, nor the feet of Centaur--are visible. It is frequently almost impossible to discover the position of the moon. If by chance the outlines of the sun's disk be visible during the day, it appears devoid of rays."

Says Croll:

"We have seen that the accumulation of snow and ice on the ground, resulting from the long and cold winters, tended to cool the air and produce fogs, which cut off the sun's rays."[1]

The same writer says:

"Snow and ice lower the temperature by chilling the air and condensing the rays into thick fogs. The great strength of the sun's rays during summer, due to his nearness at that season, would, in the first place, tend to produce an increased amount of evaporation. But the presence of snow-clad mountains and an icy sea would chill the atmosphere and condense the vapors into thick fogs. The thick fogs and cloudy sky would effectually prevent the sun's rays from reaching the earth, and the snow, in consequence, would remain unmelted during the entire summer. In fact, we have this very condition of things exemplified in some of the islands of the Southern Ocean at the present day. Sandwich Land, which is in the same parallel of latitude as the north of Scotland, is covered with ice and snow the entire summer; and in the Island of South Georgia, which is in the same parallel as the center of England, the perpetual snow descends to the very sea-beach. The following is Captain Cook's description of this dismal place: 'We thought it very extraordinary,' he says, 'that an island between the latitudes of 54° and 55° should, in the very height of summer, be almost wholly covered with frozen snow, in some places many fathoms deep. . . . The head of the bay was terminated by ice-cliffs of considerable height, pieces of which were continually breaking off, which made a noise like cannon. Nor were the interior parts of the country less horrible. The savage rocks raised their lofty summits

[1. "Climate and Time," p. 75.]

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till lost in the clouds, and valleys were covered with seemingly perpetual snow. Not a tree nor a shrub of any size was to be seen.'"

I return to the legends.

The Gallinomeros of Central California also recollect the day of darkness and the return of the sun:

"In the beginning they say there was no light, but a thick darkness covered all the earth. Man stumbled blindly against man and against the animals, the birds clashed together in the air, and confusion reigned everywhere. The Hawk happening by chance to fly into the face of the Coyote, there followed mutual apologies, and afterward a long discussion on the emergency of the situation. Determined to make some effort toward abating the public evil, the two set about a remedy. The Coyote gathered a great heap, of tules" (rushes) "rolled them into a ball, and gave it to the Hawk, together with some pieces of flint. Gathering all together as well as he could, the Hawk flew straight up into the sky, where he struck fire with the flints, lit his ball of reeds, and left it there whirling along all in a fierce red glow as it continues to the present; for it is the sun. In the same way the moon was made, but as the tules of which it was constructed were rather damp, its light has always been somewhat uncertain and feeble."[2]

The Algonquins believed in a world, an earth, "anterior to this of ours, but one without light or human inhabitants. A lake burst its bounds and submerged it wholly."

This reminds us of the Welsh legend, and the bursting of the lake Llion (see page 135, ante).

The ancient world was united in believing in great cycles of time terminating in terrible catastrophes:

[1. Captain Cook's "Second Voyage," vol. ii, pp. 232-235;

2. "Climate and Time," Croll, pp. 60, 61.

3. Powers's Pomo MS., Bancroft's "Native Races," vol. iii, p. 86.]

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Hence arose the belief in Epochs of Nature, elaborated by ancient philosophers into the Cycles of the Stoics, the great Days of Brahm, long periods of time rounding off by sweeping destructions, the Cataclysms and Ekpyrauses of the universe. Some thought in these all things perished, others that a few survived. . . . For instance, Epietetus favors the opinion that at the solstices of the great year not only all human beings, but even the gods, are annihilated; and speculates whether at such times Jove feels lonely.[1] Macrobius, so far from agreeing with him, explains the great antiquity of Egyptian civilization by the hypothesis that that country is so happily situated between the pole and the equator, as to escape both the deluge and conflagration of the great cycle."[2]

In the Babylonian Genesis tablets we have the same references to the man or people who, after the great disaster, divided the heavens into constellations, and regulated, that is, discovered and revealed, their movements. In the Fifth Tablet of the Creation Legend[3] we read:

"1. It was delightful all that was fixed by the great gods.

2. Stars, their appearance (in figures) of animals he arranged.

3. To fix the year through the observation of their constellations,

4. Twelve months or signs of stars in three rows he arranged,

5. From the day when the year commences unto the close.

6. He marked the positions of the wandering stars to shine in their courses,

7. That they may not do injury, and may not trouble any one."

That is to say, the civilized race that followed the great cataclysm, with whom the history of the event was

[1. Discourses," book iii, chapter xiii.

2. Brinton's Myths of the New World," p. 215.

3. Proctor's Pleasant Ways," p. 393.]

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yet fresh, and who were impressed with all its horrors, and who knew well the tenure of danger and terror on which they held all the blessings of the world, turned their attention to the study of the heavenly bodies, and sought to understand the source of the calamity which had so recently overwhelmed the world. Hence they "marked," as far as they were able, "the positions of the 'comets,'" "that they might not" again "do injury, and not trouble any one." The word here given is Nibir, which Mr. Smith says does not mean planets, and, in the above account, Nibir is contradistinguished from the stars; they have already been arranged in constellations; hence it can only mean comets.

And the tablet proceeds, with distinct references to the Age of Darkness:

"8. The positions of the gods Bel and Hea he fixed with him,

9. And he opened the great gates in the darkness shrouded.

10. The fastenings were strong on the left and right.

11. In its mass, (i. e., the lower chaos,) he made a boiling.

12. The god Uru (the moon) he caused to rise out, the night he overshadowed,

13. To fix it also for the light of the night until the shining of the day.

14. That the month might not be broken, and in its amount be regular,

15. At the beginning of the month, at the rising of the night,

16. His (the sun's) horns are breaking through to shine on the heavens.

17. On the seventh day to a circle he begins to swell,

18. And stretches toward the dawn further,

19. When the god Shamas, (the in the horizon of heaven, in the east,

20 . . . . formed beautifully and . . .

21 . . . . to the orbit Shamas was perfected."

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Here the tablet becomes illegible. The meaning, however, seems plain:

Although to left and right, to east and west, the darkness was fastened firm, was dense, yet "the great gods opened the great gates in the darkness," and let the light through. First, the moon appeared, through a "boiling," or breaking up of the clouds, so that now men were able to once more count time by the movements of the moon. On the seventh day, Shamas, the sun, appeared; first, his horns, his beams, broke through the darkness imperfectly; then he swells to a circle, and comes nearer and nearer to perfect dawn; at last he appeared on the horizon, in the east, formed beautifully, and his orbit was perfected; i. e., his orbit could be traced continuously through the clearing heavens.

But how did the human race fare in this miserable time?

In his magnificent poem "Darkness," Byron has imagined such a blind and darkling world as these legends depict; and he has imagined, too, the hunger, and the desolation, and the degradation of the time.

We are not to despise the imagination. There never was yet a great thought that had not wings to it; there never was yet a great mind that did not survey things from above the mountain-tops.

If Bacon built the causeway over which modern science has advanced, it was because, mounting on the pinions of his magnificent imagination, he saw that poor struggling mankind needed such a pathway; his heart embraced humanity even as his brain embraced the universe.

The river which is a boundary to the rabbit, is but a landmark to the eagle. Let not the gnawers of the world, the rodentia, despise the winged creatures of the upper air.

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Byron saw what the effects of the absence of the sunlight would necessarily be upon the world, and that which he prefigured the legends of mankind tell us actually came to pass, in the dark days that followed the Drift.

He says:

"Morn came, and went--and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation, and all hearts
Were chilled into a selfish prayer for light. . . .
A fearful hope was all the world contained;
Forests were set on fire--but hour by hour
They fell and faded,--and the crackling trunks
Extinguished with a crash,--and all was black.
The brows of men by the despairing light
Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
The flashes fell upon them; some lay down
And bid their eyes and wept; and some did rest
Their chins upon their clinchèd hands and smiled;
And others hurried to and fro, and fed
Their funeral piles with fuel, and looked up
With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
The pall of a past world; and then again
With curses cast them down upon the dust,
And gnashed their teeth and howled. . . .
And War, which for a moment was no more,
Did glut himself again--a meal was bought
With blood, and each sat sullenly apart,
Gorging himself in gloom, . . . and the pang
Of famine fed upon all entrails;--men
Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh
The meager by the meager were devoured,
Even dogs assailed their masters."

How graphic, how dramatic, how realistic is this picture! And how true!

For the legends show us that when, at last, the stones and clay had ceased to fall, and the fire had exhausted itself, and the remnant of mankind were able to dig their way out, to what an awful wreck of nature did they return.

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Instead of the fair face of the world, as they had known it, bright with sunlight, green with the magnificent foliage of the forest, or the gentle verdure of the plain, they go forth upon a wasted, an unknown land, covered with oceans of mud and stones; the very face of the country changed--lakes, rivers, hills, all swept away and lost. They wander, breathing a foul and sickening atmosphere, under the shadow of an awful darkness, a darkness which knows no morning, no stars, no moon; a darkness palpable and visible, lighted only by electrical discharges from the abyss of clouds, with such roars of thunder as we, in this day of harmonious nature, can form no conception of. It is, indeed, "chaos and ancient night." All the forces of nature are there, but disorderly, destructive, battling against each other, and multiplied a thousand-fold in power; the winds are cyclones, magnetism is gigantic, electricity is appalling.

The world is more desolate than the caves from which they have escaped. The forests are gone; the fruit-trees are swept away; the beasts of the chase have perished; the domestic animals, gentle ministers to man, have disappeared; the cultivated fields are buried deep in drifts of mud and gravel; the people stagger in the darkness against each other; they fall into the chasms of the earth; within them are the two great oppressors of humanity, hunger and terror; hunger that knows not where to turn; fear that shrinks before the whirling blasts, the rolling thunder, the shocks of blinding lightning; that knows not what moment the heavens may again open and rain fire and stones and dust upon them.

God has withdrawn his face; his children are deserted; all the, kindly adjustments of generous Nature are gone. God has left man in the midst of a material world without law; he is a wreck, a fragment, a lost particle,

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in the midst of an illimitable and endless warfare of giants.

Some lie down to die, hopeless, cursing their helpless gods; some die by their own bands; some gather around the fires of volcanoes for warmth and light--stars that attract them from afar off; some feast on such decaying remnants of the great animals as they may find projecting above the débris, running to them, as we shall see, with outcries, and fighting over the fragments.

The references to the worship of "the morning star," which occur in the legend, seem to relate to some great volcano in the East, which alone gave light when all the world was lost in darkness. As Byron says, in his great poem, "Darkness":

And they did live by watch-fires--and the thrones,
The palaces of crownèd kings--the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consumed,
And men were gathered round their blazing homes
To look once more into each other's face;
Happy were they who dwelt within the eye
Of the volcanoes and their mountain-torch
."

In this pitiable state were once the ancestors of all mankind.

If you doubt it, reader, peruse again the foregoing legends, and then turn to the following Central American prayer, the prayer of the Aztecs, already referred to on page 186, ante, addressed to the god Tezcatlipoca, himself represented as a flying or winged serpent, perchance the comet:

"Is it possible that this lash and chastisement are not given for our correction and amendment, but only for our total destruction and overthrow; that the sun will never more shine upon us, but that we must remain in perpetual darkness? . . . It is a sore thing to tell how we are all in

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darkness. . . . O Lord, . . . make an end of this smoke and fog. Quench also the burning and destroying fire of thine anger; let serenity come and clearness," (light); "let the small birds of thy people begin to sing and approach the sun."

There is still another Aztec prayer, addressed to the same deity, equally able, sublime, and pathetic, which it seems to me may have been uttered when the people had left their biding-place, when the conflagration had passed, but while darkness still covered the earth, before vegetation had returned, and while crops of grain as yet were not. There are a few words in it that do not answer to this interpretation, where it refers to those "people who have something"; but there may have been comparative differences of condition even in the universal poverty; or these words may have been an interpolation of later days. The prayer is as follows:

"O our Lord, protector most strong and compassionate, invisible and impalpable, thou art the giver of life; lord of all, and lord of battles. I present myself here before thee to say some few words concerning the need of the poor people of none estate or intelligence. When they lie down at night they have nothing, nor when they rise up in the morning; the darkness and the light pass alike in great poverty. Know, O Lord, that thy subjects and servants suffer a sore poverty that can not be told of more than that it is a sore poverty and desolateness. The men have no garments, nor the women, to cover themselves with, but only certain rags rent in every part, that allow the air and the cold to pass everywhere.

"With great toil and weariness they scrape together enough for each day, going by mountain and wilderness seeking their food; so faint and enfeebled are they that their bowels cleave to their ribs, and all their body reechoes with hollowness, and they walk as people affrighted, the face and body in likeness of death. If they be merchants, they now sell only cakes of salt and broken

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pepper; the people that have something despise their wares, so that they go out to sell from door to door, and from house to house; and when they sell nothing they sit down sadly by some fence or wall, or in some corner, licking their lips and gnawing the nails of their hands for the hunger that is in them; they look on the one side and on the other at the mouths of those that pass by, hoping peradventure that one may speak some word to them.

"O compassionate God, the bed on which they lie down is not a thing to rest upon, but to endure torment in; they draw a rag over them at night, and so sleep; there they throw down their bodies, and the bodies of children that thou hast given them. For the misery that they grow up in, for the filth of their food, for the lack of covering, their faces are yellow, and all their bodies of the color of earth. They tremble with cold, and for leaness they stagger in walking. They go weeping and sighing, and full of sadness, and all misfortunes are joined to them; though they stay by afire, they find little heat."[1]

The prayer continues in the same strain, supplicating God to give the people "some days of prosperity and tranquillity, so that they may sleep and know repose"; it concludes:

"If thou answerest my petition it will be only of thy liberality and magnificence, for no one is worthy to receive thy bounty for any merit of his, but only through thy grace. Search below the dung-hills and in the mountains for thy servants, friends, and acquaintance, and raise them to riches and dignities." . . .

"Where am I? Lo, I speak with thee, O King; well do I know that I stand in an eminent place, and that I talk with one of great majesty, before whose presence flows a river through a chasm, a gulf sheer down of awful depth; this, also, is a slippery place, whence many precipitate themselves, for there shall not be found one without error before thy majesty. I myself, a man of little understanding and lacking speech, dare to address

[1. Bancroft's "Native Races," vol. iii, p. 204.]

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my words to thee; I put myself in peril of falling into the gorge and cavern of this river. I, Lord, have come to take with my hands, blindness to mine eyes, rottenness and shriveling to my members, poverty and affliction to my body; for my meanness and rudeness this it is that I merit to receive. Live and rule for ever in all quietness and tranquillity, O thou that art our lord, our shelter, our protector, most compassionate, most pitiful, invisible, impalpable."

It is true that much of all this would apply to any great period of famine, but it appears that these events occurred when there was great cold in the country, when the people gathered around fires and could not get warm, a remarkable state of things in a country possessing as tropical a climate as Mexico. Moreover, these people were wanderers, "going by mountain and wilderness," seeking food, a whole nation of poverty-stricken, homeless, wandering paupers. And when we recur to the part where the priest tells the Lord to seek his friends and servants in the mountains, "below the dung-hills," and raise them to riches, it is difficult to understand it otherwise than as an allusion to those who had been buried under the falling slime, clay, and stones. Even poor men do not dwell under dung-hills, nor are they usually buried under them, and it is very possible that in transmission from generation to generation the original meaning was lost sight of. I should understand it to mean, "Go, O Lord, and search and bring back to life and comfort and wealth the millions thou hast slaughtered on the mountains, covering them with hills of slime and refuse."

And when we turn to the traditions of the kindred and more ancient race, the Toltecs,[1] we find that, after the fall of the fire from heaven, the people, emerging from the

[1. "North Americans of Antiquity," p. 240.]

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seven caves, wandered one hundred and four years, "suffering from nakedness, hunger, and cold, over many lands, across expanses of sea, and through untold hardships," precisely as narrated in the foregoing pathetic prayer.

It tells of the migration of a race, over the desolated world, during the Age of Darkness. And we will find something, hereafter, very much like it, in the Book of Job.

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Next: Chapter IX. The Triumph Of The Sun