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Page Hyperboreorum Atlantiorum, seu Suiogotorum et
Nord mannorum EDDA, &c. Opera et Studio
..................209 FJVE PIECES OF RUNIC POETRY, translated from the ICELANDIC LANGUAGE ................. ......... ..271 Preface,
.287 The Incantation of Hervor.............................289 The Dying Ode of Regner Lodbrog.............305 The Ransom of Egill the Scald......................317 The Funeral Song of Hacon..........
.325 The Complaint of Harold,...........................333
VOLUME THE SECOND.
I KNOW not whether, among the multitude of interesting objects whjeh history offers to our reflection, there are any more worthy to engage our thoughts, than the different Religions which have appeared with splendour in the world.
It is on this stage, if I may be allowed the expression, that men are represented as they really are ; that their characters are distinctly marked, and truly exhibited. Here they display all the foibles, the passions, and wants of the heart; the resources, the powers, and the imperfections of the mind.
It is only by studying the different religions, that we become sensible how far our natures are capable of being debased by prejudices, or elevated, even above themselves, by sound and solid pripciples. If the human heart is a profound abyss, the religions that-have prevailed in the world have brought to light its most hidden secrets: They alone have imprinted on the heart all the forms it is capable of receiving. They triumph over every thing that has been deemed most essential to our nature. In short, it has been owing to them that man has been either a Brute or an Angel. VOL. II. b
This is not all the advantage of this study: Without it, our knowledge of mankind must be extremely superficial. Who knows not the influence which Religion has on manners and laws ? Intimately blended, as it were, with the original formation of different nations, it directs and governs all their thoughts and actions. In one place we see it enforcing and supporting despotism; in another, restraining it: It has constituted the very soul and spirit of more than one republic. ' Conquerors have frequently been unable to depress it, even' by force; and it is generally either the soul to animate, or the arm to execute, the opera; tions of politics.
Religion acts by such pressing motives, and speaks so strongly to mens most important and dearest interests, that, where it happens not to be analogous to the national character of the people who have adopted it, it will soon give them a character analogous to its own: One of these two forces must unavoidably triumph over the other, and become both of them blended and combined together; as two rivers, when united, form a common stream, which rapidly bears down all opposition.
But in this multitude of religions, all are not equally worthy of our research. There are, among some barbarous nations, creeds without ideas, and practices without any object; these have at first been dictated by fear, and afterward continued by mere mechanical habit. A single glance of the eye thrown upon such religions as these, is sufficient to show us all their relations and dependencies.
The thinking part of mankind must have objects more relative to themselves; they will never put them. selves in the place of a Samoiede or an Algonquin : nor bestow much attention upon the wild and unmeaning superstitions of barbarians, so little known and unconnected with themselves. But as for these parts of