N the course of centuries it has charged their names, their attributes, and their powers, according to the alternations of history, the changes of languages, the individual and national variations of traditions; finally, it has caused them to die, as it gave them birth, and has replaced them by new divinities.
No lamentation ascending from below disturbed the gods in their eternal quiet. Their nectar was ever delicious, their ambrosia always exquisite. They inhaled with relish the odor of hecatombs; listened, as if to music, to the concert of suppliant voices. Beneath them was unrolled, like an endless picture, the spectacle of struggles and of human miseries: they beheld armies dash against one another, fleets become ingulfed, towns disappear amid flames and smoke, the poor toilers (almost invisible myrmidons) exhausting themselves in efforts to gather in harvests of which a master should despoil
them; even beneath the roofs of the dwellings they saw women weeping and children wailing. Afar off their enemy, Prometheus, was dying upon a rock of Mount Caucasus. Such were the pleasures of the gods.
Did ever a Hellene, shepherd, priest, or king, dare to climb up the slopes of Olympus, away above the lofty pastures ot its dales and crests? Did even one only venture by placing his foot upon the great peak, to find himsef suddenly in the presence of terrible gods? Ancient writers tell us that philosophers are not afraid of scaling Mount Etna, although much higher than Olympus; but they never mention one single mortal who has had the temerity to ascend the mountain of the gods, not even in the days of science, in that age when philosophers taught that Zeus and the other immortals were mere conceptions of the human mind.
AND while we muse upon the history of the mountain and its glacier, what they were, and what they will one day become, yonder is the little torrent murmuring as it issues from the ice, and going forth into the world to work at the task of continually renewing the earth.
HERE is a great deal in being with the right people in the woods. How you would enjoy a walk with Elie Reclus! The other Saturday I spent the whole morning on the Zürichberg with him. He knew all the points where you find the most delightful contrasts. On one side the deep dark pine woods that might be in the wilderness, on the other, through a little opening, a glimpse of Zürich with its manufactories, University, Churches, even the Lake teeming with busy life.
Then we stopped for about ten minutes to prop up the heads of thistles which some barbarous boy had semi-decapitated. We examined into the structure of spider webs, considered the various characteristics of these, even their mode of government among themselves. Then we returned over the sunny road at noon and we found a topic for enthusiasm in a small child who was cultivating the corner of a manure patch and fancying it a garden. It was a pretty, dirty little thing. These Swiss children are very pretty when small but, sad to say, are rarely so after seven years of age. I think you would like Elie Reclus.
AMY PUTNAM (MRS. ROBERT PINHEY)
[Extract from a letter written from Zurich 1876, to her mother.]