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The countries and creatures of legend passed from the scene without the parting word that every passing merits, without even a gesture of farewell. Is it more than a tardy courtesy to summon them back for a word that shall be both appraisal and remembrance?
These are the stories wanderers told in hall when the world was young; and in out-of-the-way places still they tell them, and men believe. These are stories the lad Raleigh heard along wharves where sailors in outlandish garb recited the wonders of countries below the rim of the sea. If one could recapture Raleigh's boyish faith, and the faith of ages of listeners before him, it might still be possible to behold the King of Is in state beside the menacing ocean, to traverse the streets of the lost Atlantis, to win to the cities of gold which Spain could not find, and to repeople the waste places with their strange inhabitants. So might one achieve the purpose of these pages and regain a picture of things as they were supposed to be.
This is a survey of the world through the stained glass of men's imagisings.
C. B. F.
Chapter I. The World That Was
The geography, anthropology, and natural history of this volume present a world a little different from that which is outlined in modern text-books and yet one that is familiar. It is the traditional world of wonder, which until yesterday was believed to be the real world. A map of it would show the same continents, and some of the same races of men and species of animals that are delineated in any atlas of to-day; but there would be changes. Asia would bear far away into the unknown spaces of the East. A shadowy continent would stretch across the open waters of the Indian Ocean. The clouds and darkness of supernatural terrors, or dimly remembered fates, would shroud the Atlantic, the Green Sea of Gloom of the Arab geographers. Looming vaguely in the mists southwest of Gibraltar one would discern a lost continent. One would see there, also, smaller bodies of land which on a second glance are seen no more.
Within the contours of continents and islands there would be countries which seem to belong both to fable and to fact. The Incense Kingdom would be there on both sides of the Red Sea, but its sumptuous ritual and swooning odors would sug. gest little now to be found in southern Arabia and Somaliland. The Spice Islands would be there, but wearing the splendor of a world-desire of which no trace is left to the Moluccas. There would be seen the haughty realm of Prester John and the vast pastures of Gog and Magog; but on a modern map of Asia one does not find the country of the priest king and must look under other names for the terrifying races of Hebrew and Moslem legend.
On the map would appear the gold port of Ophir and the golden land of Havilah, but the Arab haven was silted up ages ago, and the abandoned mine-workings of Rhodesia minister no more to the pride of kings. The Arcadia that it would picture, of pastoral innocence and bucolic song, has faded from
the central uplands of the Morea, and the rugged mountain land hears no longer the pipes of Pan. There are other regions of enchantment—deserts where demon-voices tempted the traveler from his track, mountains where cymbals clashed and lights gleamed at night, countries of serene charm which were placed so far away that few people ever reached them. Of these regions the modern maps know nothing.
If the map of the traditional world were pictorial, as such maps ought to be, it would show strange races of men in Asia, in Africa, in South America, in the sea-washed islands, and in the seas themselves. There would be Amazons sweeping down upon the Mediterranean settlements, pygmies battling with cranes in Upper Egypt, satyrs pursuing women in African woodlots, troglodytes of Arabia looking on with indifference while strangers maltreated their offspring. The vistas of Asia and Africa would disclose men taking their siestas beneath the shade of their own gigantic feet, sleeping at night under the cover of their elephant-like ears, supporting life by smelling flowers rather than eating food. Sixteenth-century charts of the Spanish Americas would reveal the unsuspected fact that these creatures dwelt also in the new world, and that mermaids sang upon its coasts, as upon those of the old.
A pictorial map of the traditional world would show that it was a menagerie of strange animals as well as a museum of prodigious peoples. The lairs and roosts of heraldry would return their tenants to its blank spaces. The phenix would be seen winging its way from Araby the Blest, or mounting its own funeral pyre in the City of the Sun in Lower Egypt. The Desert of Gobi would show the griffin, a formidable guard for its stores of fabled gold. The unicorn would be sketched doing the elephant to death in the jungles of Asia and Africa. The baleful glare of the basilisk would be staged in the recesses of Libya. The dragon's breath would poison earth and air and water alike. The harpies and the Stymphalian birds would raise their shrill clamor beside the brink of sea or marsh. Among other creatures in the ocean would be depicted the mon. strous orc, the kraken of the northern deeps, and the ubiqui. tous, immemorial, and enigmatic sea serpent. The familiar animals of natural history would share with the fabled creatures