More Than Just a Witty Allegory
John Ruskin (1819-1900), Modern Painters, Vol. III, Part IV, Chapter XIII, § 4:
I do not think we ever [try hard enough] to enter into what a Greek’s real notion of a god was.
We are so accustomed to the modern mockeries of the classical religion, so accustomed to hear and see the Greek gods [written about] by men who believe neither in them nor in any other gods, that we seem to have infected the Greek ages themselves with the breath . . . of our hypocrisy; and are apt to think that Homer . . . was merely [a good story-teller];
nay, more than this, that all the nations of past time were [good story-tellers] also, to whom the universe was a lyrical drama, and . . . whatsoever was said about it was merely a witty allegory, or a graceful lie, of which the entire upshot and consummation was a pretty statue in the middle of the court, or at the end of the garden.
To which I make bold to add, they’d never have been such good story-tellers if they didn’t believe it. Which goes for the rest of us. When we don’t believe what we say, we head for a fall.