At all events, it represented, as Mr. With the accession of the house of Hanover in the literary situation in London was considerably modified. The common ground upon which Whigs and Tories had, Edition: current; Page: [ xvi ] with diminishing success, continued to associate, was taken from under their feet. Politics became the first issue, and literature was relegated to a subordinate position. During the few years in which the process of public readjustment absorbed the attention of London, Pope was hard at work upon the most exacting task he had yet undertaken.
He was now not only a famous author, but a man of fashion; and on both accounts he wished to be nearer London. At Chiswick he found more society and less leisure. Many times during the next few years he accuses himself of laziness, but it does not appear that his mild junketings with the nobilities gave him more relaxation from the toil of his Homer translation than he needed.
The first books of the Iliad were published in , and the last books of the Odyssey in The cripple and man of the world who could do that in the intervals of his house parties and his sieges of physical pain was certainly producing his full share of work. The Iliad was hailed with applause on all sides, and handsomely paid for.
It was in one way a task for which the translator would appear to have been quite unfitted. The Rape of the Lock had proved him the mouthpiece of a conventional and sophisticated age; and conventionality and sophistication are not qualities to go naturally with Homer. But though Pope inevitably missed the simplicity and the hearty surge and swing of Homer, he did manage to retain something of his vigor; and his Iliad is still the classic English version. Only half of the Odyssey translation which followed was really the work of Pope, and even his own part was deficient in the spirit which had marked the first translation.
It had indeed been undertaken from a very different motive: he could not hope to add greatly to the credit which his Iliad had gained for him, but the cash might readily be increased. The facts are briefly these: Fenton translated four books and Broome eight. Both were Cambridge men of parts, Fenton the more brilliant and Broome the more thorough. The latter furnished also all the notes. Pope paid them a very small price for their labor, though not less than they had bargained for, and gave them very little credit for it. Before attempting the Odyssey, Pope was unfortunately led to prepare an edition of Shakespeare, which showed some ingenuity in textual emendation.
In the poet leased the estate at Twickenham, and set to work upon the improvements which became a hobby. He had planned to build a town house, but was fortunately dissuaded. His work after the completion of the Homer translation was almost entirely restricted to satire. It was too seldom a kindly laughter. His capacity for personal hatred was suffered not only to remain, but to grow upon him; until it became at length one of the ruling motives of his literary life. His first conception of The Dunciad was formed as early as So let Gildon and Philips rest in peace.
The first judgment of both authors was of course the right one. The Dunciad, with all its cleverness, remains the record of a strife between persons whom we do not now care about. It has no determinable significance beyond that; it lacks the didactic soundness of his Essay on Criticism, and the graceful lightness of The Rape of the Lock. Only in a few detached passages in the Moral Essays and Satires, indeed, did he ever succeed in approaching either of these qualities. The Moral Essays, and more particularly the Essay on Man, are the product of a materialism which marked the age, and which was set before Pope in something like systematic form by Bolingbroke.
As Bolingbroke was primarily a politician, and dabbled in philosophy only because the favorite game was for a great part of his life denied him, it could not be expected that much more than shallow generalization would come out of him. At all events, his system of sophistry was all that Pope needed for a thread upon which to string his couplets. Some of the difficulty that we have found in The Dunciad is present in the Satires. They are full of personalities. As a rule, however, the persons hit off are of some account, both in themselves and as types, rather than as mere objects of private rancor.
Altogether these poems contain, besides the famous portraits of contemporaries, many passages of universal application to the virtues and the shortcomings of any practical age. His remaining years were to be spent mainly in revising his works and correspondence; the final additions and alterations to The Dunciad being the only task of special importance which in his weakening health, and decreasing creative impulse, he was able to undertake.
He had numbered among his acquaintances all the prominent men of the time; and not a few of them had been friends upon whom he depended for encouragement and companionship. Swift was meantime rapidly breaking up in mind and body, and by Pope was separated from him by a chasm as impassable as that of death. Bolingbroke remained to him, and he was to have one other friend, Warburton, upon whom he relied for advice and aid during his last years, and who became his literary executor. Intellectually he was clever rather than profound, and, in consequence, though so much of his work was of the didactic type, he made few original contributions to poetic thought.
He kept a note-book full of clever distiches set down at random; presently so many couplets are taken and classified, others are added, a title is found, and the world applauds. If we except The Rape of the Lock, and possibly the Epistle to Arbuthnot, none of his poems can be called organic in structure. The patching is neatly done, but the result is patchwork.
The Essay on Man, therefore, which most of his contemporaries considered his greatest work, appears to us a mosaic of cleverly phrased platitudes and epigrams. Many of the couplets have become proverbial; the work as a whole cannot be taken seriously. He was only the condenser and epigrammatizer of Bolingbroke—a very fitting St. John for such a gospel.
The Rape of the Lock affords exactly the field in which Pope was fitted to excel. The very qualities of artificiality and sophistication which mar the Homer translations make the story of Belinda and her Baron a perfect thing of its kind. Here is the conventional society which Pope knew, and with which—however he might sneer at it—he really sympathized.
The polished trivialities, the shallow gallantry, the hardly veiled coarseness of the London which Pope understood, are here to the life. Depth of emotion, of imagination, of thought, are absent, and properly so; but here are present in their purest forms the flashing wit, the ingenious fancy, the malicious innuendo, of which Pope was undoubtedly master.
In versification his merit is to have done one thing incomparably well. Not only is his latest work marked by the same wit, conciseness, and brilliancy of finish which gained the attention of his earliest critics, but it employs the same metrical form which in boyhood he had brought to a singular perfection.
He has nothing to declare, not even genius
No doubt we are fortunate to have escaped the trammels of the rigid mode which so long restrained the flight of English verse. Something—it cannot be very much—remains to be said of his private character. It was a character of marked contradictions, the nether side of which—the weaknesses and positive faults—has, as is common in such cases, been laid bare with sufficient pitilessness. He was, we are told, malicious, penurious, secretive, unchivalrous, underhanded, implacable. He could address Lady Mary Wortley one day with fulsome adulation, and the next—and ever after—with foul abuse.
He could deliberately goad his dunces to self-betrayal by his Treatise on the Bathos, and presently flay them in The Dunciad by way of revenge. He could by circuitous means cause his letters—letters carefully edited by him—to be published, and prosecute the publisher for outraging his sensibilities. He could stoop to compassing the most minute ends of private malice by the most elaborate and leisurely methods.
But let us see what we might be fairly saying on the other side. If he was capable of malice, he was incapable of flattery; if he was dishonest in the little matters, he was honest in the great ones; if he held mediocrity in contempt, he had an ungrudging welcome for excellence. In later life he had encouragement for the younger generation of writers,—Johnson, Young, Thomson, and poor Savage. If he allowed a fancied injury to separate him from Addison, he had still to boast of the friendship of men like Gay, Arbuthnot, and Swift; and they had to boast of his.
He nursed his mother in extreme old age with anxious devotion, and mourned her death with unaffected grief. In his best satirical mood, the best in English verse, he did not hesitate to arraign the highest as well as the lowest; not even Swift could be so fearless.
The relation between these facts has been, perhaps, insufficiently grasped. Pope was not by nature a celibate or a hater of women. He was, on the contrary, fond of their society, and anxious to make himself agreeable to them. His failure with Martha Blount was of a very different sort, and of far greater significance. With her and with her sister Teresa, Pope was for many years upon terms of the closest intimacy. To his unspeakable humiliation and grief, she treated his honest declaration as an affront to her sister, and upon precisely the painful ground of his deformity, which had for so many years kept him from speaking.
Pope could not help feeling that however Martha might, if left to herself, have received his advances, it Edition: current; Page: [ xx ] was now out of the question to pursue them. His behavior under the circumstances was full of dignity. It was impossible for the friendship to be renewed upon the old footing, but his only revenge beyond that of the necessary withdrawal from familiar intercourse was to settle a pension upon Teresa at the time, and to leave most of his property by will to Martha.
We can hardly imagine Pope madly in love, but that he had a calm and steadfast affection for Martha Blount we cannot doubt. He was disposed to marry, and he would have liked to marry her. She represented the ideal of womanhood in his mind; and to her, in the heat of his most savage bouts of idol-breaking, he pauses to raise a white shaft of love and faith. If the present editor, after a careful and well-rewarded study of the poet and the man, has any mite of interpretation to offer, it is not that Pope was a greater poet, but that he was a better man, than he is commonly painted; an unamiable man, yet not for that reason altogether unworthy of regard; a man with little meannesses carried upon his sleeve for all the world to mock at, and with the large magnanimity which could face the world alone, without advantages of birth or wealth or education or even health, and win a great victory.
Such a man cannot conceivably be supposed to have stumbled upon success. Not only inspired cleverness of hand, but force of character and sanity of mind must be responsible for his work. After the lapse of nearly two centuries it should perhaps be right to indulge ourselves somewhat more sparingly in condemnation of his foibles, and to recall more willingly the sound kernel of character which is the basis of his personality. Whatever slander he may have retailed about the camp-fire, whatever foolish vanity he may have had in his uniform, Pope fought the good fight.
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If the statement is true, it was probably written during the year Warburton or possibly Pope in a note on Dunciad, I. Though Pope ascribes this translation to , there is evidence that part of it was done as early as Being neglected by them, he makes his prayer to the Fury Tisiphone, to sow debate betwixt the brothers. Jupiter, in a council of the gods, declares his resolution of punishing the Thebans, and Argives also, by means of a marriage betwixt Polynices and one of the daughters of Adrastus King of Argos.
Juno opposes, but to no effect; and Mercury is sent on a message to the shades, to the ghost of Laius, who is to appear to Eteocles, and provoke him to break the agreement. The rise of this solemnity. These imitations, with the exception of Silence Lintot, , were not published till The Discourse on Pastoral Poetry did not appear till the edition of , but is here given the place which he desired for it at the head of the Pastorals: and the original footnotes, referring to critical authorities, are retained.
There are not, I believe, a greater number of any sort of verses than of those which are called Pastorals; nor a smaller than of those which are truly so. It therefore seems necessary to give some account of this kind of poem; and it is my design to comprise in this short paper the substance of those numerous dissertations that critics have made on the subject, without omitting any of their rules in my own favour.
You will also find some points reconciled, about which they seem to differ, and a few remarks which, I think, have escaped their observation. The origin of Poetry is ascribed to that age which succeeded the creation of the world: and as the keeping of flocks seems to have been the first employment of mankind, the most ancient sort of poetry was probably pastoral.
From hence a poem was invented, and afterwards improved to a perfect image of that happy time; which, by giving us an esteem for the virtues of a former age, might recommend them to the present. And since the life of shepherds was attended with more tranquillity than any other rural employment, the poets chose to introduce their persons, from whom it received the name of Pastoral. A Pastoral is an imitation of the action of a shepherd, or one considered under that character.
The form of this imitation is dramatic, or narrative, or mixed of both: 2 the fable simple, the manners not too polite nor too rustic: the thoughts are plain, yet admit a little quickness and passion, but that short and flowing: the expression humble, yet as pure as the language will afford; neat, but not florid; easy, and yet lively.
In short, the fable, manners, thoughts, and expressions are full of the greatest simplicity in nature. The complete character of this poem consists in simplicity, 3 brevity, and delicacy; the two first of which render an eclogue natural, and the last delightful.
If we would copy nature, it may be useful to take this idea along with us, that Pastoral is an image of what they call the golden age: so that we are not to describe our shepherds as shepherds at this day really are, but as they may be conceived then to have been, when the best of men followed the employment.
To carry this resemblance yet further, it would not be amiss to give these shepherds some skill in astronomy, as far as it may be useful to that sort of life; and an air of piety to the gods should shine through the poem, which so visibly appears in all the works of antiquity; and it ought to preserve some relish of the old way of writing: the connection should be loose, the narrations and descriptions short, 4 and the periods concise.
Yet it is not sufficient that the sentences only be brief; the whole eclogue should be so too: for we cannot suppose poetry in those days to have been the business of men, but their recreation at vacant hours. But, with respect to the present age, nothing more conduces to make these composures natural, than when some knowledge in rural affairs is discovered.
For what is inviting in this sort of poetry proceeds not so much from the idea of that business, as of the tranquillity of a country life. Besides, in each of them a designed scene or prospect is to be presented to our view, which should likewise have its variety. This variety is obtained, in a great degree, by frequent comparisons, drawn from the most agreeable objects of the country; by interrogations to things inanimate; by beautiful digressions, but those short; sometimes by insisting a little on circumstances; and, lastly, by elegant turns on the words, which render the numbers extremely sweet and pleasing.
As for the numbers themselves, though they are properly of the heroic measure, they should be the smoothest, the most easy and flowing imaginable. It is by rules like these that we ought to judge of Pastoral. And since the instructions given for any art are to be delivered as that art is in perfection, they must of necessity be derived from those in whom it is acknowledged so to be.
It is therefore from the practice of Theocritus and Virgil the only undisputed authors of Pastoral that the critics have drawn the foregoing notions concerning it. Theocritus excels all others in nature and simplicity. The subjects of his Idyllia are purely pastoral; but he is not so exact in his persons, having introduced reapers 2 and fishermen as well as shepherds. He is apt to be too long in his descriptions, of which that of the cup in the first pastoral is a remarkable instance.
In the manners he seems a little defective, for his swains are sometimes abusive and immodest, and perhaps too much inclining to rusticity; for instance, in his fourth and fifth Idyllia. But it is enough that all others learned their excellences from him, and that his dialect alone has a secret charm in it, which no other could ever attain.
Virgil, who copies Theocritus, refines upon his original; and, in all points where judgment is principally concerned, he is much superior to his master. Though some of his subjects are not pastoral in themselves, but only seem to be such, they have a wonderful variety in them, which the Greek was a stranger to. Among the moderns their success has been greatest who have most endeavoured to make these ancients their pattern.
The most considerable genius appears in the famous Tasso, and our Spenser. Tasso, in his Aminta, has as far excelled all the pastoral writers, as in his Gierusalemme he has outdone the epic poets of his country. But as this piece seems to have been the original of a new sort of poem, the pastoral comedy, in Italy, it cannot so well be considered as a copy of the ancients.
This last may be the reason his expression is sometimes not concise enough; for the tetrastic has obliged him to extend his sense to the length of four lines, which would have been more closely confined in the couplet. In the manners, thoughts, and characters, he comes near to Theocritus himself; though, notwithstanding all the care he has taken, he is certainly inferior in his dialect: for the Doric had its beauty and propriety in the time of Theocritus; it was used in part of Greece, and frequent in the mouths of many of the greatest persons: whereas the old English and country phrases of Spenser were either entirely obsolete, or spoken only by people of the lowest condition.
As there is a difference betwixt simplicity and rusticity, so the expression of simple thoughts should be plain, but not clownish.
He has nothing to declare, not even genius
The addition he has made of a calendar to his eclogues is very beautiful; since by this, besides the general moral of innocence and simplicity, which is common to other authors of Pastoral, he has one peculiar to himself; he compares human life to the several seasons, and at once exposes to his readers a view of the great and little worlds, in their various changes and aspects.
Yet the scrupulous division of his pastorals into months has obliged him either to repeat the same description, in other words, for three months together, or, when it was exhausted before, entirely to omit it; whence it comes to pass that some of Edition: current; Page: [ 21 ] his eclogues as the sixth, eighth, and tenth for example have nothing but their titles to distinguish them.
The reason is evident, because the year has not that variety in it to furnish every month with a particular description, as it may every season. But after all, if they have any merit, it is to be attributed to some good old authors; whose works, as I had leisure to study, so, I hope, I have not wanted care to imitate. The rest of the poem, with its celebration of the Peace of Utrecht, was added at the instance of Lord Lansdown, the Granville of the opening lines.
To this collection be prefixed this Advertisement:—. They were first separately printed in Miscellanies by J. Tonson and B. Lintot, and afterwards collected in the Quarto Edition of The Imitations of English Authors, which are added at the end, were done as early, some of them at fourteen or fifteen years old; but having also got into Miscellanies, we have put them here together to complete this Juvenile Volume. Warburton asserts that Pope did not intend to include this group of poems in the final edition of his works.
Not published until , but naturally classified with January and May, and not improbably the product of the same period. Pope asserted that this poem was composed in This Advertisement was prefixed:—. The design is in a manner entirely altered; the descriptions and most of the particular thoughts my own: yet I could not suffer it to be printed without this acknowledgment.
The reader who would compare this with Chaucer, may begin with his third Book of Fame, there being nothing in the two first books that answers to their title. Written, according to Pope, in This, the first mature original work of the author, was written in , when Pope was in his twentieth year. It was not published till That it is as great a fault to judge ill as to write ill, and a more dangerous one to the public.
That a true Taste is as rare to be found as a true Genius. That most men are born with some Taste, but spoiled by false education. The multitude of Critics, and causes of them. That we are to study our own Taste, and know the limits of it. Nature the best guide of judgment. Improved by Art and rules, which are but methodized Nature. Rules derived from the practice of the ancient poets. That therefore the ancients are necessary to be studied by a Critic, particularly Homer and Virgil. Of licenses, and the use of them by the ancients.
Reverence due to the ancients, and praise of them. Causes hindering a true judgment. Imperfect learning. Judging by parts, and not by the whole. Critics in wit, language, versification only. Being too hard to please, or too apt to admire. Partiality—too much love to a sect—to the ancients or moderns. Prejudice or prevention. Party spirit. Against envy, and in praise of good-nature. When severity is chiefly to be used by critics. Rules for the conduct and manners in a Critic. Good breeding.
Sincerity and freedom of advice. Character of an Edition: current; Page: [ 75 ] incorrigible poet. And of an impertinent critic. Character of a good critic. The history of criticism, and characters of the best critics; Aristotle. Of the decay of Criticism, and its revival. This ode was written at the suggestion of Richard Steele, in It was recast in in briefer form so that it might be set to music; and the first four stanzas were considerably changed.
Katharine Tofts was an English opera singer popular in London between and To Teresa Blount. See note. It ran as follows:—. The poem was first published in It was long rumored that this poem was literally founded on fact: that the unfortunate lady was a maiden with whom Pope was in love, and from whom he was separated. The verses were not published till , but were probably written several years earlier. In reading several passages of the prophet Isaiah, which foretell the coming of Christ, and the felicities attending it, I could not but observe a remarkable parity between many of Edition: current; Page: [ 85 ] the thoughts and those in the Pollio of Virgil.
This will not seem surprising, when we reflect that the Eclogue was taken from a Sibylline prophecy on the same subject. One may judge that Virgil did not copy it line by line, but selected such ideas as best agreed with the nature of Pastoral Poetry, and disposed them in that manner which served most to beautify his piece. I have endeavoured the same in this imitation of him, though without admitting any thing of my own; since it was written with this particular view, that the reader, by comparing the several thoughts, might see how far the images and descriptions of the Prophet are superior to those of the Poet.
But as I fear I have prejudiced them by my management, I shall subjoin the passages of Isaiah, and those of Virgil, under the same disadvantage of a literal translation. But there are some other circumstances not unworthy relating. Fermor, on the trifling occasion of his having cut off a lock of her hair.
The author sent it to the lady, with whom he was acquainted; and she took it so well as to give about copies of it. That first sketch we learn from one of his letters was written in less than a fortnight, in , in two cantos only, and it was so printed first, in a Miscellany of Bern. But it was received so well that he made it more considerable the next year by the addition of the machinery of the Sylphs, and extended it to five cantos.
It will be in vain to deny that I have some regard for this piece, since I dedicate it to you. But as it was communicated with the air of a secret, it soon found its way into the world. These Machines I determined to raise on a very new and odd foundation, the Rosicrucian doctrine of Spirits. I know how disagreeable it is to make use of hard words before a lady; but it is so much the concern of a poet to have his works understood, and particularly by your sex, that you must give me leave to explain two or three difficult terms.
The Rosicrucians are a people I must bring you acquainted with. The best account I know of them is in a French book called La Comte de Gabalis, which, both in its title and size, is so like a novel, that many of the fair sex have read it for one by mistake. According to these gentlemen, the four elements are inhabited by Spirits, which they call Sylphs, Gnomes, Nymphs, and Salamanders.
As to the following cantos, all the passages of them are as fabulous as the Vision at the beginning, or the Transformation at the end except the loss of your hair, which I always mention with reverence. The human persons are as fictitious as the airy ones; and the character of Belinda, as it is now managed, resembles you in nothing but in beauty. But let its fortune be what it will, mine is happy enough, to have given me this occasion of assuring you that I am, with the truest esteem, Madam,.
This prologue was written in , after Addison had given Pope two of the main causes which led to their estrangement; and itself led the way for the third. These verses were first published in Proof is lacking that these lines belong to Pope. They were printed by E. Curll in This was first printed in in the Miscellanies of Pope and Swift, but was probably written in Macer is supposed to be Ambrose Philips. This was written shortly after the coronation of George I. Referred to in a letter from Trumbull to Pope dated January, The epigram imitated is the twenty-third of the tenth book.
See the fourth elegy of Tibullus, lines 55, In the course of his high-flown correspondence with Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, after her departure for the East, Pope often suggests the possibility of his travelling to meet her. This mock pastoral was one of three which made up the original volume of Town Eclogues, published anonymously in Three more appeared in a later edition. The three ladies here addressed were attached to the court of the Prince and Princess of Wales. Pulteney was a daughter of one John Gumley, who had made a fortune by a glass manufactory. It was first published in The Rev.
He submitted the translation to Pope, , who gave him the following Edition: current; Page: [ ] lines, being a translation of a Prayer of Brutus. They met in , became friends, and in Lady Mary left England. In a letter of June, , Pope commends the poem to her consideration, with a suggestion of the personal applicability of the concluding lines to his own suffering under the existing circumstance of their separation. Abelard and Eloisa flourished in the twelfth century; they were two of the most distinguished persons of their age in Learning and Beauty, but for nothing more famous than for their unfortunate passion.
After a long course of calamities, they retired each to a several convent, and consecrated the remainder of their days to Religion. This, awakening all her tenderness, occasioned those celebrated letters out of which the following is partly extracted , which give so lively a picture of the struggles of Grace and Nature, Virtue and Passion. Pope himself became seriously involved in the South Sea speculations, and while he does not appear to have been a heavy loser in the end, his unwise action for friends, notably for Lady Mary Wortley seems to have gotten him into some difficulties.
This was of course written before the bursting of the bubble; presumably in He succeeded Addison in , and died in the following year. Probably Craggs, who was in office at the time when Pope established himself at Twickenham. Both were published in The plays have no literary merit. Written to Martha Blount in Lines were elsewhere adapted for a versified celebration of his own birthday, and for an epitaph on a suicide!
Though speculation has connected several other persons with this poem, it is probably still another hit at the luckless Ambrose Philips. It, with the three following poems, was first published in the Miscellanies, The enterprise was begun in , when these verses were probably written. First applied by Pope to Francis Chartres, but published in this form in The captain, some time after his return, being retired to Mr. Gulliver, apprehending from his late behaviour some estrangement of his affections, writes him the following expostulatory, soothing, and tenderly complaining epistle.
The public astonished Pope by taking this burlesque seriously, and praising it as poetry. These lines were enclosed in a letter to Bolingbroke, dated September 3, It was afterwards sold to Sir Hans Sloane. When the house was taken down in , its gateway, built by Inigo Jones, was given by Sir Hans Sloane to the Earl of Burlington, who removed it with the greatest care to his garden at Chiswick, where it may be still seen. Southern was invited to dine on his birthday with Lord Orrery, who had prepared the entertainment, of which the bill of fare is here set down.
Explained by Carruthers to refer to the large sums of money given in charity on account of the severity of the weather about the year Wilson, formerly fellow and librarian of Trinity College, Dublin; who speaks of the Fragment in the following terms:—. He left many blanks for fear of the Argus eye of those who, if they cannot find, can fabricate treason; yet, spite of his precaution, it fell into the hands of his enemies. To the hieroglyphics there are direct allusions, I think, in some of the notes on the Dunciad.
Swift set up a plain monument to his grandfather, and also presented a cup to the church of Goodrich, or Gotheridge in Herefordshire. He sent a pencilled elevation of the monument a simple tablet to Mrs. Howard, who returned it with the following lines, inscribed on the drawing by Pope.
It is not known who the Bishop was. This Journal was established in January, , and carried on for eight years by Pope Edition: current; Page: [ ] and his friends, in answer to the attacks provoked by the Dunciad. It corresponds in some measure to the Xenien of Goethe and Schiller. Occasioned by seeing some sheets of Dr.
Who, having resigned his Place, died in his retirement at Easthamsted, in Berkshire, His only daughter having expired in his arms immediately after she arrived in France to see him. John Hughes and Sarah Drew. The first two epistles of the Essay on Man were written in , the third in the year following, and the fourth in , when the complete Essay was published as we have it.
The science of Human Nature is, like all other sciences, reduced to a few clear points: there are not many certain truths in this world. It is therefore in the anatomy of the mind, as in that of the body; more good will accrue to mankind by attending to the large, open, and perceptible parts, than by studying too much such finer nerves and vessels, the conformations and uses of which will for ever escape our observation. The disputes are all upon these last; and, I will venture to say, they have less sharpened the wits than the hearts of men against each other, and have diminished the practice more than advanced the theory of morality.
If I could flatter myself that this Essay has any merit, it is in steering betwixt the extremes of doctrines seemingly opposite, in passing over terms utterly unintelligible and in forming a temperate, yet not inconsistent, and a short, yet not imperfect, system of ethics. This I might have done in prose; but I chose verse, and even rhyme, for two reasons. The one will appear obvious; that principles, maxims, or precepts, so written, both strike the reader more strongly at first, and are more easily retained by him afterwards: the other may seem odd, but it is true: I found I could express them more shortly this way than in prose itself; and nothing is more certain than that much of the force as well as grace of arguments or instructions depends on their conciseness.
I was unable to treat this part of my subject more in detail without becoming dry and tedious; or more poetically without sacrificing perspicuity to ornament, without wandering from the precision, or breaking the chain of reasoning. If any man can unite all these without diminution of any of them, I freely confess he will compass a thing above my capacity. What is now published is only to be considered as a general Map of Man, marking out no more than the greater parts, their extent, their limits, and their connexion, but leaving the particular to be more fully delineated in the charts which are to follow; consequently these epistles in their progress if I have health and leisure to make any progress will be less dry, and more susceptible of poetical ornament.
I am here only opening the fountains, and clearing the passage: to deduce the rivers, to follow them in their course, and to observe their effects, may be a task more agreeable. Of Man in the abstract. That we can judge only with regard to our own system, being ignorant of the relations of systems and things, verse 17, etc. That Man is not to be deemed imperfect, but a being suited to his place and rank in the creation, agreeable to the general order of things, and conformable to ends and relations to him unknown, verse 35, etc.
That it is partly upon his ignorance of future events, and partly upon the hope of a future state, that all his happiness in the present depends, verse 77, etc. The impiety of putting himself in the place of God, and judging of the fitness or unfitness, perfection or imperfection, justice or injustice, of his dispensations, verse , etc.
The absurdity of conceiting himself the final cause of the creation, or expecting that perfection in the moral world which is not in the natural, verse , etc. The unreasonableness of his complaints against Providence, while, on the one hand, he demands the perfections of Edition: current; Page: [ ] the angels, and, on the other, the bodily qualifications of the brutes; though to possess any of the sensitive faculties in a higher degree would render him miserable, verse , etc. That throughout the whole visible world a universal order and gradation in the sensual and mental faculties is observed, which causes a subordination of creature to creature, and of all creatures to man.
The gradations of Sense, Instinct, Thought, Reflection, Reason: that Reason alone countervails all the other faculties, verse , etc. How much further this order and subordination of living creatures may extend above and below us; were any part of which broken, not that part only, but the whole connected creation must be destroyed, verse , etc.
The extravagance, madness, and pride of such a desire, verse , etc. The consequence of all, the absolute submission due to Providence, both as to our present and future state, verse , etc. The business of Man not to pry into God, but to study himself. His middle nature; his powers and frailties, verses 1 to The Edition: current; Page: [ ] limits of his capacity, verse 19, etc. The two principles of Man, Self-love and Reason, both necessary. Self-love the stronger, and why.
Their end the same, verse 81, etc. The Passions, and their use. The predominant passion, and its force. Its necessity, in directing men to different purposes. Its providential use, in fixing our principle, and ascertaining our virtue, verse 93, etc. Virtue and Vice joined in our mixed nature; the limits near, yet the things separate and evident: what is the office of Reason, verse , etc.
How odious Vice in itself, and how we deceive ourselves into it, verse , etc. That, however, the ends of Providence, and general goods, are answered in our passions and imperfections. How usefully these are distributed to all orders of men: how useful they are to Society; and to individuals; in every state, and every age of life, verse , etc.
The whole Universe one system of Society. Nothing made wholly for itself, nor yet wholly for another. The happiness of animals mutual, verse 7, etc. Reason or Instinct operates alike to the good of each individual. Reason or Instinct operates also to Society in all animals, verse 49, etc. How far Society carried by Instinct;—how much farther by reason, verse , etc. Ay, there he is! Stand forth, my good fellow! While he spoke, the slave stepped forward from his lurking-place behind the statue, where the quick eye of Placidus had detected him, and presented to Myrrhina with a respectful gesture the offering of his lord to her mistress a filigree basket of frosted silver, filled with a few choice fruits and flowers—.
The flowers are scarce yet dry from the spray that brawling Anio flings upon its banks; the fruits were glowing in yesterday's sun, on the brightest slopes of Tibur. My master offers the freshest and fairest of his fruits and flowers to his kinswoman, who is fresher and fairer than them all. He delivered his message, which he had obviously learned by rote, in sufficiently pure and fluent Latin, scarcely tinged with the accent of a barbarian, and bowing low as he placed the basket in Myrrhina's hand, drew himself up to his noble height, and looked proudly, almost defiantly, at the tribune.
The girl started and turned pale it seemed as if the statue of Hermes had descended from its pedestal to do her homage. He stood there, that glorious specimen of manhood, in his majestic strength and symmetry, in the glow of his youth, and health, and beauty, like an impersonation of the god.
Myrrhina, in common with many of her sex, was easily fascinated by external advantages, and she laughed nervously, while she accepted with shaking hands the handsome slave's offering to his master's kinswoman. But the slave excused himself, abruptly, almost rudely, losing, be sure, by his refusal, none of the ground he had already gained in Myrrhina's good graces. It chafed him to remain even at the porch. The atmosphere of luxury that pervaded it, seemed to weigh upon his senses, and oppress his breath.
Moreover, the insult he had sustained from Automedon, yet rankled in his heart. How he wished the boy charioteer was nearer his match in size and strength! He would have hurled him from the chariot where he stood, turning his curls so insolently round his dainty fingers—hurled him to earth beyond his horses' heads, and taught him the strength of a Briton's arm and the squeeze of a Briton's gripe. Placidus, however, scanned him once more, as he strode away, with the critical gaze of a judge of human animals. It was this man's peculiarity to look on all he met as possible tools, that might come into use for various purposes at a future and indefinite time.
If he observed more than usual courage in a soldier, superior acuteness in a freedman, nay, even uncommon beauty in a woman, he bethought himself that although he might have no immediate use for these qualities, occasions often arose on which he could turn them to his profit, and he noted, and made sure of, their amount accordingly.
In the present instance, although somewhat surprised that he had never before remarked the slave's stalwart proportions in the household of Licinius, whose affection for the Briton had excused him from all menial offices, and consequent contact with visitors, he determined not to lose sight of one so formed by nature to excel in the gymnasium or the amphitheatre, while there crept into his heart a cruel cold-blooded feeling of satisfaction at the possibility of witnessing so muscular and shapely a figure in the contortions of a mortal struggle, or the throes of a painful death.
Besides, there was envy, too, at the bottom——envy in the proud patrician's breast, leaning so negligently on the cushions of his gilded chariot, with all his advantages of rank, reputation, wealth, and influence envy of the noble bearing, the personal comeliness, and the free manly step of the slave.
Gently with that outside horse; dost see how he chafes upon the rein? Gently, boy, I say! As he settled himself among the cushions and rolled swiftly away, Myrrhina came forth into the porch once more. She seemed, however, scarcely to notice the departing chariot, but looked dreamily about her, and then re-entered the house with a shake of the head, a smile, and something that was almost a sigh.
A NEGRO boy, the ugliest of his kind, and probably all the more prized for that reason, was shifting uneasily from knee to knee, in an attitude of constraint that showed how long and tiresome he felt his office, and how wearied he was of Valeria's own apartment. Such a child, for the urchin seemed of the tenderest age, might be initiated without impropriety into the mysteries of a lady's toilet; and, indeed, the office it was his duty to undertake, formed the most indispensable part of the whole performance. With a skill and steadiness beyond his years, though with a rueful face, he was propping up an enormous mirror, in which his mistress might contemplate the whole galaxy of her charms—a mirror formed of one broad plate of silver, burnished to the brightness and lucidity of glass, set in an oval frame of richly chased gold, wrought into fantastic patterns and studded with emeralds, rubies, and other precious stones.
Not a speck was to be discerned on the polish of its dazzling surface; and, indeed, the time of one maiden was devoted to the task alone of preserving it from the lightest breath that might dim its brightness, and cloud the reflection of the stately form that now sat before it, undergoing, at the hands of her attendants, the pleasing tortures of an elaborate toilet.
The reflection was that of a large handsome woman in the very prime and noontide of her beauty—a woman whose every movement and gesture bespoke physical organisation of a vigorous nature and perfect health. While the strong white neck gave grace and dignity to her carriage—while the deep bosom and somewhat massive shoulders partook more of Juno's majestic frame than Hebe's pliant youth—while the full sweep and outline of her figure denoted maturity and completeness in every part—the long round limbs, the shapely hands and feet, might have belonged to Diana, so perfect was their symmetry; the warm flush that tinted them, the voluptuous ease of her attitude, the gentle languor of her whole bearing, would have done no discredit to the goddess, hanging over the mountain-tops in the golden summer nights to look down upon Endymion, and bathe her sleeping favourite in floods of light and love.
Too fastidious a critic might have objected to Valeria's form that it expressed more of physical strength than is compatible with perfect womanly beauty, that the muscles were developed overmuch, and the whole frame, despite its flowing outlines, partook somewhat of a man's organisation, and a man's redundant strength.
The same fault might have been found in a less degree with her countenance. There was a little too much resolution in the small aquiline nose, something of manly audacity and energy in the large well-formed mouth, with its broad white teeth that the fullest and reddest of lips could not conceal—a shade of masculine sternness on the low wide brow, smooth and white, but somewhat prominent, and scarcely softened by the arch of the marked eyebrows, or the dark sweep of the lashes that fringed the long laughing eyes.
And yet it was a face that a man, and still more a boy, could hardly have looked on without misgivings that he might too soon learn to long for its glances, its smiles, its approval, and its love. There was such a glow of health on the soft transparent skin, such a freshness and vitality in the colour of those blooming cheeks, such a sparkle in the grey eyes, that flashed so meaningly when she smiled, that gleamed so clear and bright and cold when the features resumed their natural expression, grave, scornful, almost stern in their repose; and then such womanly softness in the masses of rich nut-brown hair that showered down neck and shoulders, to form a framework for this lovely, dangerous, and too alluring picture.
Even the little negro, wearied as he was, peeped at intervals from the back of the mirror he upheld, fawning like a dog for some sign of approval from his haughty, careless mistress. At length she bade him keep still, with a half-scornful smile at his antics; and the sharp white teeth gleamed from ear to ear of the dusky little face, as it grinned with pleasure, while the boy settled himself once more in an attitude of patience and steady submission.
Nor was Valeria's apartment unworthy of the noble beauty who devoted it to the mysterious rites of dress and decoration. Everything that luxury could imagine for bodily ease, everything that science had as yet discovered for the preservation or the production of feminine attractions, was there to be found in its handsomest and costliest form. In one recess, shrouded by transparent curtains of the softest pink, was the bath that could be heated at will to any temperature, and the marble steps of which that shapely form was accustomed to descend twice and thrice a day.
In another stood the ivory couch with its quilted crimson silks and ornamental pillars of solid gold, in which Valeria slept, and dreamed such dreams as hover round the rest of those whose life is luxury, and whose business is a ceaseless career of pleasure. On a table of cedar-wood, fashioned like a palm-leaf opening out from a pedestal that terminated in a single claw of grotesque shape, stood her silver night-lamp, exhaling odours of perfumed oil, and near it lay the waxen tablets, on which she made her memorandums, or composed her love-letters, and from which, as from an unfinished task, the sharp-pointed steel pencil had rolled away upon the shining floor.
Through the whole court for court it might be called, with its many entrances and recesses, its cool and shady nooks, its lofty ceiling and its tesselated pavement choice vases, jewelled cups, burnished chalices, and exquisite little statues, were scattered in systematic irregularity and graceful profusion. Even the very water in the bath flowed through the mouth of a marble Cupid; and two more winged urchins wrought in bronze, supported a stand on which was set a formidable array of perfumes, essences, cosmetics, and such material for offensive and defensive warfare.
The walls, too, of this seductive arsenal, were delicately tinted of a light rose-colour, that should throw the most becoming shade over its inmates, relieved at intervals by oval wreaths wrought out in bas-relief, enclosing diverse mythological subjects, in which the figure of Venus, goddess of love and laughter, predominated. Round the cornices stretched a frieze representing, also in relief, the fabulous contests of the Amazons with every description of monster, amongst which the most conspicuous foe was the well-known gryphon, or griffin, an abnormal quadruped, with the head and neck of a bird of prey.
It was curious to trace in the female warriors thus delineated, something of the imperious beauty, the vigorous symmetry, and the dauntless bearing that distinguished Valeria herself, though their energetic and spirited attitudes afforded, at the same time, a marked contrast to the pleasing languor that seemed to pervade every movement of that luxurious lady reclining before her mirror, and submitting indolently to the attentions of her maid-servants.
These were five in number, and constituted the principal slaves of her household; the most important among them seemed to be a tall matronly woman, considerably older than her comrades, who filled the responsible office of housekeeper in the establishment—a dignity which did not, however, exempt her from insult, and even blows, when she failed to satisfy the caprices of a somewhat exacting mistress; the others, comely laughing girls, with the sparkling v eyes and white teeth of their countrywomen, seemed principally occupied with the various matters that constituted their lady's toilet a daily penance, in which, notwithstanding the rigour of its discipline, and the severities that were sure to follow the most trifling act of negligence, they took an inexplicable and essentially feminine delight.
Of these it was obvious that Myrrhina was the first in place as in favour. She it was who brought her mistress the warm towels for her bath; who was ready with her slippers when she emerged; who handed every article of clothing as it was required; whose taste was invariably consulted, and whose decision was considered final, on such important points as the position of a jewel, the studied negligence of a curl, or the exact adjustment of a fold. This girl possessed, with an Italian exterior, the pliant cunning and plausible fluency of the Greek.
Born a slave on one of Valeria's estates in the country, she had been reared a mere peasant, on a simple country diet, and amidst healthful country occupations, till a freak of her mistress brought her to Rome. With a woman's versatility—with a woman's quickness in adapting herself to a strange phase of life and a total change of circumstances—the country girl had not been a year in her new situation, ere she became the acutest and cleverest waiting-maid in the capital, with what benefit to her own morals and character, it is needless to inquire. Who so quick as Myrrhina to prepare the unguents, the perfumes, or the cosmetics that repaired the injuries of climate, and effaced the marks of dissipation?
Who so delicate a sempstress; who had such taste in colours; who could convey a note or a message with half such precision, simplicity, and tact? In short, who was ever so ready, in an emergency, with brush, crisping-iron, needle, hand, eye, or tongue? Intrigue was her native element. To lie on her mistress's behalf, seemed as natural as on her own. He who would advance in Valeria's goodwill, must begin by bribing her maid; and many a Roman gallant had ere this discovered that even that royal road to success was as tedious as it was costly, and might lead eventually to discomfiture and disgrace.
As she took the pouncet-box from one of the girls, and proceeded to sprinkle gold-dust in Valeria's hair, Myrrhina's eye was caught by the gift of Placidus, lying neglected at her feet, the casket open, the jewels scattered on the floor. Such as it was, the waiting -maid owned a conscience. It warned her that she had not as yet worked out the value of the costly chain thrown round her neck by the tribune.
Showering the gold-dust liberally about her lady's head, Myrrhina felt her way cautiously to the delicate theme. But it's to be the fashion, nevertheless, and right sorry I am to hear it; nor am I the only one for that matter. Myrrhina had done with the gold-dust now, and, holding the comb in her mouth, was throwing a rich brown curl across her wrist, while she laid a plat carefully beneath it. Notwithstanding the impediment between her lips, however, she was able to reply with great volubility.
It's a pleasure to run your hands through it, let alone dressing and crisping it, and plaiting it up into a crown that's fit for a queen. But this new fashion will make us all alike, whether we're as bald as old Lyce, or wear our curls down to our ankles, like Neaera. Still, to hide such hair as yours ;—as my lord said, only this morning—". His approval is indeed worth having. A few late roses and a bunch or two of figs to the richest lady in Rome! To be sure, he sent a messenger with them, who might have come direct from Jove, and the properest man I ever set eyes on.
And Myrrhina moved to one side, that her lady might not observe the blush that rose, even to her shameless brow, as she recalled the impression made on her by the handsome slave. Valeria liked to hear of proper men; she woke up a little out of her languor, and flung the hair back from her face. But the waiting-maid felt the chain round her neck, and acknowledged in her heart the equivalent it demanded. Only to see him this morning, with his violet mantle and his jewels sparkling in the sun, with the handsomest chariot and the four whitest horses in the town.
And you, too, Myrrhina, who know Licinius and Hippias, and saw with your own eyes two hundred gladiators in the circus only yesterday, you ought to be a better judge. Man, forsooth! Why, you will be calling smooth-faced Paris a man next! Here maid and mistress burst out laughing, for thereby hung a tale of which Valeria was not a little proud.
This Paris, a young Egyptian, of beautiful but effeminate appearance, had lately come to Italy to figure with no small success on the Roman stage. His delicate features, his symmetrical shape, and the girlish graces of his pantomimic gestures, had made sad havoc in the hearts of the Roman ladies, at all times too susceptible to histrionic charms. He lost nothing, either, of public attention, by bearing the name of Nero's ill-fated favourite, and embarked at once, unhesitatingly, on the same brilliant and dangerous career. But although it was the fashion to be in love with Paris, Valeria alone never yielded to the mode, but treated him with all the placid indifference she felt for attractions that found no favour in her sight.
Stung by such neglect, the petted actor paid devoted court to the woman who despised him, and succeeded, after much importunity, in prevailing on her to accord him an interview in her own house. Of this he had the bad taste to make no small boast in anticipation; and Myrrhina, who found out most things, lost no time in informing her mistress that her condescension was already as much misrepresented as it was misplaced.
The two laid their plans accordingly; and when Paris, attired in the utmost splendour, arrived panting to the promised interview, he found himself seized by some half-dozen hideous old negresses, who smothered him with caresses, stripped him from head to foot, forced him into the bath, and persisted in treating him as if he were a delicate young lady, but with a quiet violence the while, that it was useless to resist. The same swarthy tirewomen then dressed him in female garments; and despite of threats, struggles, outcries, and entreaties, placed him in Valeria's litter, and so carried him home to his own door.
The ready wit of the play-actor put upon his metamorphosis the construction least favourable to the character of its originator; but he vowed a summary vengeance, we may be sure, nevertheless. What of this tall slave, Myrrhina, who seems to have attracted your attention? Did he look like one of the barbarians my kinsman Licinius cries up so mightily? Is he handsome enough to step with my Liburnians, think you, under the day-litter?
The waiting-maid's eyes sparkled as she thought how pleasant it would be to have him in the same household as herself; and any little restraint she might have experienced in running over the personal advantages that had captivated her fancy disappeared before this agreeable prospect. Barbarian, like enough, he may be, Cimbrian, Frisian, Ansibarian, or what not, for I caught the foreign accent tripping on his tongue, and we have few men in Rome of stature equal to his.
A neck like a tower of marble; arms and shoulders like the statue of Hercules yonder in the vestibule; a face, ay, twice as beautiful as Pericles on your medallion, with the golden curls clustering round a forehead as white as milk and eyes—". Here Myrrhina stopped, a little at a loss for a simile, and a good deal out of breath besides. And yet they flashed into sparks of fire when he looked at poor little Automedon.
I wonder the boy wasn't frightened! I am sure I should have been; only nothing frightens those impudent young charioteers. But Valeria declined at once, and sat on before her mirror, without even raising her eyes to the tempting picture it displayed. Whatever was the subject of her thoughts, it must have been very engrossing, she seemed so loth to be disturbed. MEANWHILE the British slave, unconscious that he was already the object of Valeria's interest and Myrrhina's admiration, was threading his way through the crowded streets that 'adjoined the Forum, enjoying that vague sense of amusement with which a man surveys a scene of bustle and confusion that does not affect his immediate concerns.
Thanks to the favour of his master, his time was nearly at his own disposal, and he had ample leisure to observe the busiest scene in the known world, and to compare it, perhaps, with the peace and simplicity of those early days, which seemed now like the memories of a dream, so completely had they passed away. The business of the Forum was over: the markets were disgorging their mingled stream of purveyors, purchasers, and idle lookers-on. The whole population of Rome was hurrying home to dinner, and a motley crowd it was. The citizens themselves, the Plebeians, properly so called, scarcely formed one half of the swarming assemblage.
Slaves innumerable hurried to and fro, to speed the business or the pleasure of their lords; slaves of every colour and of every nation, from the Scandinavian giant, with blue eyes and waving yellow locks, to the sturdy Ethiopian, thick-lipped, and woolly-haired, the swarthy child of Africa, whose inheritance has been servitude from the earliest ages until now. Many a Roman born was there, too, amongst the servile crowd, aping the appearance and manner of a citizen, but who shrank from a master's frown at home, and who, despite the acquirement of wealth, and even the attainment of power, must die a bondsman as he had lived.
Not the least characteristic feature of the state of society under the Empire was the troop of freedmen that everywhere accompanied the person, and swelled the retinue of each powerful patrician. These manumitted slaves were usually bound by the ties of interest as much as gratitude to the former master, who had now become their patron. Dependent on him in many cases for their daily food, doled out to them in rations at his door, they were necessarily little emancipated from his authority by their lately acquired freedom.
While the relation of patron and client was productive of crying evils in the Imperial City, while the former threw the shield of his powerful protection over the crimes of the latter, and the client in return became the willing pander to his patron's vices, it was the freedman who, more than all others, rendered himself a willing tool to his patrician employer, who yielded unhesitatingly time, affections, probity, and honour itself, to the caprices of his lord. They swarmed about the Forum now, running hither and thither with the obsequious haste of the parasite, bent on errands which in too many cases would scarce have borne the light of day.
Besides these, a vast number of foreigners, wearing the costumes of their different countries, hindered the course of traffic as they stood gaping, stupefied by the confusing scene on which they gazed. The Gaul, with his short, close-fitting garment; the Parthian, with his conical sheepskin cap; the Mede, with his loose silken trousers; the Jew, barefoot and robed in black; the stately Spaniard, the fawning Egyptian, and amongst them all, winding his way wherever the crowd was closest, with perfect ease and self-possession, the smooth and supple Greek.
When some great man passed through the midst, borne aloft in his litter, or leaning on the shoulder of a favourite slave, and freedmen and clients made a passage for him with threat, and push, and blow, the latter would invariably miss the Greek to light on the pate of a humble mechanic, or the shoulders of a sturdy barbarian, while the descendant of Leonidas or Alcibiades would reply in whining sing-song tones to the verbal abuse, with some biting retort, which was sure to turn the laughter of the crowd on the aggressor.
If Rome had once overrun and conquered the dominions of her elder sister in civilisation, the invasion seemed now to be all the other way. With the turn of the tide had come such an overflow of Greek manners, Greek customs, Greek morals, and Greek artifice, that the Imperial City was already losing its natural characteristics; and the very language was so interlarded with the vocabulary of the conquered, that it was fast becoming less Latin than Greek.
The Roman ladies, especially, delighted in those euphonious syllables, which clothed Athenian eloquence in such melodious rhythm; and their choicest terms of endearment in the language of love, were invariably whispered in Greek. That supple nation, too, adapting itself to the degradation of slavery and the indulgence of ease, as it had risen in nobler times to the exigencies of liberty and the efforts demanded by war, had usurped the greater portion of art, science, and even power, in Rome. The most talented painters and sculptors were Greeks. The most enterprising contractors and engineers were Greeks.
Rhetoric and elocution could only be learned in a Greek school, and mathematics, unless studied with Greek letters, must be esteemed confused and useless; the fashionable invalid who objected to consult a Greek physician deserved to die; and there was but one astrologer in Rome who could cast a patrician horoscope. Of course he was a Greek. In the lower walks of criminal industry; in the many iniquitous professions called into existence by the luxury of a great city, the Greeks drove a thriving and almost an exclusive trade. Whoever was in most repute, as an evil counsellor, a low buffoon, a money-lender, pimp, pander, or parasite, whatever might be his other qualifications, was sure to be a Greek.
And many a scrutinising glance was cast by professors of this successful nation at the Briton's manly form as he strode through the crowd, making his way quietly but surely from sheer weight and strength. They followed him with covetous eyes, as they speculated on the various purposes to which so much good manhood might be applied. They appraised him, so to speak, and took an inventory of his thews and sinews, his limbs, his stature, and his good looks; but they refrained from accosting him with importunate questions or insolent proposals, for there was a bold confident air about him, that bespoke the stout heart and the ready hand.
The stamp of freedom had not yet faded from his brow, and he looked like one who was accustomed to take his own part in a crowd. Suddenly a stoppage in the traffic arrested the moving stream, which swelled in continually to a struggling, eager, vociferating mass. A dray, containing huge blocks of marble, and drawn by several files of oxen, had become entangled with the chariot of a passing patrician, and another great man's litter being checked by the obstruction, much confusion and bad language was the result.
Amused with the turmoil, and in no hurry to get home, the British slave stood looking over the heads of the populace at the irritated and gesticulating antagonists, when a smart blow on the shoulder caused him to wheel suddenly round, prepared to return the injury with interest. At the same instant a powerful hand dragged him back by the tunic, and a grasp was laid on him, from which he could not shake himself free, while a rough good-humoured voice whispered in his ear—.
Keep hands off Caesar's lictors an' thou be'st not mad in good earnest. These gentry give more than they take, I can promise thee! The speaker was a broad powerful man of middle size, with the chest of a Hercules; he held the Briton firmly pinioned in his arms while he spoke, and it was well that he did so, for the lictors were indeed forcing a passage for the Emperor himself, who was proceeding on foot, and as far as was practicable incog. Vitellius shuffled along with the lagging step of an infirm and bloated old man.
His face was pale and flabby, his eye dim, though sparkling at intervals with some little remnant of the ready wit and pliant humour that had made him the favourite of three emperors ere he himself attained the purple. Supported by two freedmen, preceded and followed only by a file of lictors, and attended by three or four slaves, Caesar was taking his short walk in hopes of acquiring some little appetite for dinner: what locality so favourable for the furtherance of this object as the fish-market, where the imperial glutton could feast his eyes, if nothing else, on the choicest dainties of the deep?
He was so seldom seen abroad in Rome, that the Briton could not forbear following him with his glance, while his new friend, relaxing his hold with great caution, whispered once more in his ear—. There's a shape for the purple! There's a head to carry a diadem! Well, well, for all he's so white and flabby now, like a Lucrine turbot, he could drive a chariot once, and hold his own at sword and buckler with the best of them. They say he can drink as well as ever still. Not that he was a match for Nero in his best days, even at that game. Ay, ay, they may talk as they will: we've never had an emperor like him before nor since.
Wine, women, shows, sacrifices, wild-beast fights; a legion of men all engaged in the circus at once! Such a friend as he was to our trade. Maybe you have heard of Hirpinus, the gladiator? Tuscan born, free Roman citizen, and willing to match himself with any man of his weight, on foot or on horseback, blindfold or half-armed, in or out of a war- chariot, with two swords, sword and buckler, or sword or spear.
Any weapon, and every weapon, always excepting the net and the noose. Those I can't bear talking about—to my mind they are not fair fighting. But what need I tell you all about it? Think of the rows of heads one upon another piled up like apples to the very awnings. Think of the patricians and senators wagering their collars and bracelets, and their sesterces in millions, on the strength of your arm, and the point of your blade. Think of your own vigour and manhood, trained till you feel as strong as an elephant, and as lithe as a panther, with an honest wooden buckler on your arm, and two feet of pliant steel in your hand, as you defile by Caesar and bid him 'Good-morrow, from those who have come here to die!
If you go backwards on the sand, with the hilt at your breastbone, and the two feet of steel in your bosom? How does it feel then? When it comes I shall know how to meet it. But this talking makes a man thirsty, and the sun is hot enough to bake a negro here. Come with me, lad! I know a shady nook, where we can pierce a skin of wine, and afterwards play a game at quoits, or have a bout of wrestling, to while away the afternoon. The slave was nothing loth. Besides the debt of gratitude he owed for preservation from a serious danger, there was something in his new friend's rough, good-humoured, and athletic manhood that won on the Briton's favour.
Hirpinus, with even more than their fierce courage, had less than the usual brutality of his class, and possessed besides a sort of quaint and careless good-humour, by no means rare among the athletes of every time, which found its way at once to the natural sympathies of the slave. They started off accordingly, on the most amicable terms, in search of that refreshment which a few hours' exposure to an Italian sun rendered very desirable; but the crowd had not yet cleared off, and their progress was necessarily somewhat slow, notwithstanding that the throng of passengers gave way readily enough before two such stalwart and athletic forms.
Hirpinus thought it incumbent on him to take the Briton, as it were, under his protection, and to point out to him the different objects of interest, and the important personages, to be seen at that hour in the streets of the capital, totally irrespective of the fact that his pupil was as well instructed on these points as himself. But the gladiator dearly loved a listener, and, truth to tell, was extremely diffuse in his narratives when he had got one to his mind. These generally turned on his own physical prowess, and his deadly exploits in the amphitheatre, which he was by no means disposed to underrate.
There are some really brave men who are also boasters, and Hirpinus was one of them. He was in the midst of a long dissertation on the beauties of an encounter fought out between naked combatants, armed only with the sword, and was explaining at great length a certain fatal thrust outside his antagonist's guard, and over his elbow, which he affirmed to be his own invention, and irresistible by any party yet discovered, when the slave felt his gown plucked by a female hand, and turning sharply round was somewhat disconcerted to find himself face to face with Valeria's waiting-maid.
Make haste, man; she cannot brook waiting. Myrrhina pointed while she spoke to where a closed litter borne aloft by four tall Liburnian slaves, had stopped the traffic, and already become the nucleus of a crowd. A white hand peeped through its curtains, as the slave approached, surprised and somewhat abashed at this unexpected appeal. Hirpinus looked on with grave approval the while. Arriving close beneath the litter, of which the curtain was now open, the slave paused and made a graceful obeisance; then, drawing himself up proudly, stood erect before it, looking unconsciously his best, in the pride of his youth and beauty.
Valeria's cheek was paler than usual, and her attitude more languid, but her grey eyes sparkled, and a smile played round her mouth as she addressed him. Why did you not wait to carry back my salutations to my kinsman? The colour mounted to the slave's brow as he thought of Automedon's insolence, but he only replied humbly. I should recognise you myself anywhere now. She paused, expecting a suitable reply, but the slave, albeit not insensible to the compliment, only blushed again and was silent.
Valeria, meanwhile, whose motives in summoning him to her litter had been in the first instance of simple curiosity to see the stalwart barbarian who had so excited Myrrhina's admiration, and whom that sharp-sighted damsel had recognised in an instant amongst the populace, now found herself pleased and interested by the quiet demeanour and noble bearing of this foreign slave. She had always been susceptible to manly beauty, and here she beheld it in its noblest type.
She was rapacious of admiration in all quarters; and here she could not but flatter herself she gathered an undoubted tribute to the power of her charms. She owned all a woman's interest in anything that had a spice of mystery or romance, and a woman's unfailing instinct in discovering high birth and gentle breeding under every disguise; and here she found a delightful puzzle in the manner and appearance of her kinsman's messenger, whose position seemed so at variance with his looks.
She had never in her life laid the slightest restraint on her thoughts, and but little on her actions—she had never left a purpose unfulfilled, nor a wish ungratified—but a strange and new feeling, at which even her courageous nature quailed, seemed springing up in her heart while she gazed with half-closed eyes at the Briton, and hesitated to confess, even to herself, that she had never seen such a man as this in her life before.
It was in a softened tone that she again addressed him, moving on her couch to show an ivory shoulder and a rounded arm to the best advantage. You are attached to his person, and always to be found in his household? Licinius has never mentioned you to me. I do not even know your name. What is it? Who and what are you? She gave him her hand to kiss, with a gesture of pity that was almost a caress, and then, as though ashamed of her own condescension, bade the Liburnians angrily to " go on. Esca looked long and wistfully after the litter as it disappeared; but Hirpinus, clapping him on the back with his heavy hand, burst into a hearty laugh while he declared.
Your business Is not to play with arrows, but set afire Your little torch that guides unwary lovers. Then Cupid aimed at Phoebus, and love's arrow With fire of lightning pierced his bones; Apollo walked as in a tower of flames. As Phoebus burned with love young Daphne fled As though she feared love's name, as if she were The wraith of virgin Phoebe, huntress and child Who trapped small creatures of the bushband fen, And ran with floating hair through green-deep forest; Nor would she hear of lovers or of men, Nor cared for promise of a wedding day, Nor Hymen's night of love.
Do what Diana's father did for her. At one look Phoebus loved her; as he gazed, "Daphne," he thought, "is mine," but did not think His prophecy might fail him — his hopes, desires Had outpaced all the Dehan oracles; Then as September fields of wheat and straw Take fire from a careless traveller's torch Left smouldering in the wind that wakes the dawn, So did Apollo's heart break into flames, The sterile fires that feed on empty hopes.
And while he gazed at Daphne's floating hair That fell in tendrils at her throat and forehead He thought, "What if that fair head wore a crown? Though staring does not satisfy desire, His eyes praised all they saw — her lips, her fingers, Her hands, her naked arms from wrist to shoulder; And what they did not see they thought the best. Yet she ran from him swifter than light air That turns to nothingness as we pursue it, Nor did she stop to hear Apollo calling.
Rest where time waits But where you vanish the way is rough; briar And thom and fallen rock make wounds that bleed, And green pits open where swift unwary fall. Surely my home is not in mountain passes, Nor am I shepherd or wild-haired stable boy.
Anything you, that thesis will not are reached.
O ignorant, unknowing, thoughtless child Who runs in darkness — and from whom? Jove is my father and I am lord of Delphi; My temples stand at Claros, Patara, And beyond the cities, glimmering Tenebros, Enchanted island of the eastern seas. Where caves and temples speak you hear my voices, The past, the present, and the yet to come; My lyre sounds the soul of harmony; My arrows never fail — and yet one arrow More certain of its aim than mine wakes fire Behind the chambers of an indifferent heart.
And if you wait, learn more. I am physician, The good physician of magic in clever herbs And artful grasses; yet herbs are feeble cures, Unhealthy diet for one who falls in love, Nor can physician cure himself — " As Daphne ran Phoebus had more to say, and she, distracted, In flight, in fear, wind flowing through her dress And her wild hair — she grew more beautiful The more he followed her and saw wind tear Her dress and the short tunic that she wore, The girl a naked wraith in wilderness.
And as they ran young Phoebus saved his breath For greater speed to close the race, to circle The spent girl in an open field, to harry The chase as greyhound races hare, His teeth, his black jaws glancing at her heels. Even now Phoebus embraced the lovely tree Whose heart he felt still beating in its side; He stroked its branches, kissed the sprouting bark, And as the tree still seemed to sway, to shudder At his touch, Apollo whispered, "Daphne, Who cannot be my wife must be the seal, The sign of all I own, immortal leaf Twined in my hair as hers, and by this sign My constant love, my honour shall be shown: When Roman captains home from victory Ride with the Legions up Capitohne, Their heads will shine with laurels and wherever The Augustus sets his gates, plain or frontier, Or Roman city wall, the bronze oak leaf And the green-pointed laurel shall guard the portal And grace the Roman crown.
Here in the dark Of hanging rocks, The Father of the Waters, Old Peneus, sits in court directing colleges Of greenhaired girls who haunt the forests, Who lead lost travellers to the banks of rivers Which he commands. First to his dark throne came The waters of his land: the poplar-shaded River Sperchios, Dashing Enipeus, White-crested Apidanus and the two, languid Streams, Amphrysos and River Aeas; At last no matter which way they had run Or leaped or wandered wearily to sea, All rivers came; they came to celebrate Or weep the fate of Daphne.
Yet Inachus Deep in his darkest cave did not arrive, He wept and swelled the waters with his tears, He wept for Io his lost child, his daughter. Nor did he know if she still walked the earth, Or wandered underground among the shades, Yet gone she was, perhaps dropped into nowhere, Darker than Hades and less sure than death.
Now it so happened that all-seeing Jove Saw Io walking by her father's stream And said, "O lovely child, and you a virgin! Such beauty merits the rewards of Jove As well as making mortal husbands happy. Young lady, take a rest beneath the trees" — He pointed to a deep grove m the forest — "The noonday heat destroys a fair complexion. As Io fell Juno looked down at Argos And from clear skies witnessed a single cloud Bring midnight into noon. Something was wrong; The cloud was neither fog nor river mist, But of an origin that could have been divine, A cause that made her think of Jove, his habits Of deception, his craftiness, which well She knew even before this hour.
She glanced Through heaven and he was gone. But thoughtful Jove felt the arrival. Of Juno's spirit in the air, and changed the girl Into a milk-white cow even as cow the child Was beautiful and Juno gazing at her Half admitted the creature's charms — then quickly, As though she questioned nothing else, she asked The creature's breed, and why it came, And Jove to close discussion briefly lied: "This cow is a surprise, a gift of earth — " Said Juno, "Why not give the gift to me? It's very pretty.
And if he did there would be further questions, More explanations; the cow would then seem Other than merely cow, more valuable Perhaps. The ethics of the case, shame, love, Poor Io's plight — and what did Juno know Or half suspect? Jove knew That she, both wife and sister, knew him well. Though her unhappy rival was hers to keep Queen Juno also had a troubled mind: What would Jove turn to next? By day the monster Let her graze, but at each sunset drove her, Haltered, half starved, weary, to evening diets Of withered leaves, stale drink — and off to bed He plunged the creature on sharp stones and clay.
Whenever she tried to stretch her arms toward Argos, Her arms were forelegs and her weeping voice Was very like the moaning of a cow Which frightened her and had no charms for Argos; At times she wandered where her father's river Winds through the fields, where once on innocent Days she walked and played, and now looking Down as in a mirror she saw great horns Above her ears and saw a great mouth open That was her mouth; the appantion ran And was the shadow beneath her feet, fear Following fear.
Nor did her sisters know That it was she who walked beside them, nor Did her father guess that she, the creature Whom they caressed, was Io, his hand kissed By her thick tongue. If only she could speak, Tell him her name, her story — he could save her! At last with one hoof spelling words in dust, Her misadventures told, her father threw His arms around her white neck. Perhaps it would be better Not to find you, however lost you were, I looking for you everywhere on earth.
Nor shall death close his doors upon my grief, Even my disgrace shall seem to be immortall" And as they wept aloud, rough, star-eyed Argos Thrust Io from her father's side and drove Her to a pasture far from home, where, seated On a well-worn mountaintop, an easy throne, He viewed the country with his searchlight eyes. But now the stern director of heaven's laws Had seen, had heard enough of Io's tears — She, after all, was Ocean's fair granddaughter; He called his son — and Maia's son as well — And told the boy to see that watchful Argos Would meet an early unexpected death. Then Mercury, wing-shod and with a wand Which as he waved it put his friends to sleep, Took up his cap and with a step through air Came down to earth.
He dropped his wings, his cap, But kept his wand, then, as a shepherd straying A lonely road, he caught a few wild goats, Kicked them in line, and as he led his flock Piped an unearthly song. Argos who had No ear for any kind of music was enchanted; He called out, "Boy, whoever you may be, Sit at my side. There is no better grass That grows than this and the neat shade above it Is wonderful for shepherds; why not sit down? She envied, imitated The virgin attitudes of Queen Diana — Her dress, her manner, all but the goddess' Golden bow was hers, and some few lovers Mistook her for Diana; the chase continued.
Pipes are my pleasure; they are mine to keep. So Argos perished: fires, All fires that were his glancing sight put out; A single darkness filled his hundred eyes. With jeweller's art the raging Juno — she Was Saturn's daughter in her frenzy — set The monster's eyes as stars in the tail feathers Of her pet bird, the peacock, then inflamed With further rages called the dread Ennyes, Instructed one of them to haunt poor Io, Until the creature, fear eating at its heart, Ran mad by day, by night, throughout the world. And not until she reached the blessed Nile Were trials exhausted, and the curse grown weak Permitted her to fall upon her knees, To raise her face, her forelegs in the sand, Until she saw the stars, to moo, to weep, To moan at Jove and send her hopes to heaven.
Epaphus had a friend named Phacthon, Child of the Sun, of temper like his own, Hasty, hot, proud, and both boys loved to talk. Phaethon said that Phoebus was his father; The grandson of Inachus, not impressed, Said, "What a baby, what a crazy fool' Do you believe all that your mother tells Or wants to think is true? What fancy dreams Some people have as fathers! If I was born of heaven Let me know now, give me the right to say Whose son I am. Then Clymene, Whether through Phaethon's pleas or by her own Anger at slighted honour, raised her hands To tall noon shining in the sky; she stared Into the whitest fires of the sun: "By that Great planet whose heat is my delight, who As I tum to see him look at me, I Swear my dearest son you are his son, son Of the life-giving Sun whose light is day — If I am lying, let darkness overcome me.
Yet where your father lives is not too far; Go if you wish; the Sun will answer questions. Current productions of Hamlet tend to stress the scenes between Hamlet and his mother, the guilty queen. There are relatively few memorable stories of father-son relationships, the first of which is the Homeric Ulysses-Telemachus story, so ad- mirably reinterpreted by James Joyce in his Ulysses. The Biblical David and Absalom story is still another classic. Ovid's Phoebus Apollo-Phaeton story is of that line, and one of the best in classical literature.
Phaetons doubts as to his paternity, his need to settle them, his bright, impulsive temper, his wilfulness are signs of Ovid's genius in portraying character. No less so are the skills with which he shows a fatherly Phoebus Apollo, his indulgence to his son, and the futility of his warnings, which may be taken as Ovid's warm yet ironic commentary on the helplessness of an elder genera- tion in teaching a younger generation anything Ovid's Phoebus Apollo, both in his earlier pursuit of Daphne and in his grief over the loss of Phaeton, is less awe-inspiring, less godlike than the god whose arrows fall on Thebes to curse the reign of Oedipus in Sophocles' play.
Ovid's Apollo shows something of the great dis- tance between the religious depth of Sophoclean tragedy and the lighter, more domestic temper of Ovidian feeling. Across their panels Vulcan carved the waters That held mid-earth, its continents and islands And sky above it, and in seas below The dark gods, song-lipped Triton, ever shifting Proteus, Aegaeon, his arms tossed round The backs of two great whales, beside them, Doris And her daughters, mermaids, some gliding Through glassy waves, and other girls rock-seated Sunning green hair while others as though racing The spray on backs of fishes, each with her own Gesture and look, were sisterly, of one Large family of the sea Then men and cities, Girls of the forest, nymphs, and all the little Provincial deities and on each panel Above them wheeled the blazing sky, six signs Of Zodiac on right and six on left.
The Sun sat in the center of the hall; His eyes glanced everywhere and fixed the boy Who stood trembling at the new world he saw, To whom Sun said, "Why here, Phaethon? What do you look for in my aethereal chambers? To meet a father? You, the son no father Should deny? Ask any favour My hand can give — by all the lakes of Hades, Which I have never seen, yet gods swear by them, The gift is yours to take. Four times he shook his fiery golden hair; "Your words prove mine have been too quickly said, 1 would be happy to unsay them now, For what you ask is the one gift that I Would keep beyond your reach; let me attempt To unpersuade you of your wish, a dangerous one That asks too much, too far beyond your strength, Or any boy's.
Though each god has his charms, Great Jove who with his right hand hurls dread thunder Through sky and air can scarcely nde with me — And who in heaven's more powerful than Jove? At first the way is steep where even through Refreshing dawn, horse, rider hardly climb; Even mid-heaven's road is perilous high Where one look downward onto earth and sea Unmans my heart, and as the course declines A sharp, a precipitous drop, a chfflike fall Where hand and eye must be both firm and clever: Tethys, who greets me at the bottom of her waters, Fears I might tip headfirst into her sea — This while the firmament circles round forever And carries with it distant stars and planets At whirling, blinding speed which mazes all But me, who with a wary hand drive clean Through the swift courses of the sky But you?
Can you ride counter to the whirling axis Of space, of sky, and yet ride clear? Perhaps You dream unearthly forests on your path: Cities of gods, and temples pouring gifts, Yet all the way is filled with hidden terror, And if you hold the road, the horned Bull, The enchanted Archer, the open mouth Of the wild Lion, Scorpion and Crab With hairy, knifelike tails, claws reaching Each against each, to meet, to face the other, Are in your way Nor then are horses easy To control: when they grow hot the fires leap Within their hearts, stream from their nostrils, lips, And even I can scarcely hold the reins To steer the fiery eyes and foaming bit.
Then let me warn you, Phaethon my son: My yielding to your wish looks like your death — And there is time for you to change your mind — Do you need further proof that you are mine? If you could understand, O son! Turn here, See all the riches of the world, the light Of land, sea, sky within your eyes — take all, Take anything, nothing shall be denied. Except what you desire, which if you knew It is a curse, my Phaethon, and not The honour and the hope within your mind. What are these arms around my neck, my fool, My innocent?
You must not doubt my word Which I have sworn to grant you by Death's waters. My promise holds — but make a wiser wish! Then Phoebus took him To work of art from Vulcan's hands swift axles Of gold, of gold the harness, beam, and golden Tires on silver-spoked wheels, the cross-piece Set with topaz, chrysolite, their eyes lit By the restless, gleaming light of Phoebus' hair. While eager Phaethon gazed at Vulcan's craft, Aurora, sleepless in the waking dawn, Swung wide her purple gates and rose-tipped light Flowed through her stairs and halls, retreating stars Were closed in ranks by Lucifer who vanished Even from his watchtower in the morning sky.
When Titan saw that Lucifer had gone, The world rose-tinted light, and thin moon's Crescent fading into sky, he called the speeding Hours to dress his team, which they, quick goddesses, Had done at once and led the horses, fed With ambrosia and breathing fire, from Their vaulted stalls, and slipped over their heads The janglmg bridles. Do not take the direct Road through Five Zones of sky, but cut obliquely In a wide arc within the Three Zones, skirting South Heaven and Far North: this is your course; You'll see trails left by my own chariot wheels.
So that both earth and sky take equal heat, Ride then the middle of the road, don't sway too far Toward Wnthing Serpent on the nght, nor left Where Altar swings low in the heavens, steer Clean between the two. Fortuna save you! May she be at your side to guide you better Than you lead yourself. Even as I speak Mist-carrymg night falls to the Western Isles. We wait no longer; we are called to go. See how Aurora shines and shadows vanish; Pick up the rems, or if your will has changed, Take my advice and not my chariot, Even before you mount, since you are still on earth, The folly of your desire may be undone, And you, secure, shall see me light the world.
Meanwhile the Sun's wild horses, Pyrois, Eous, Aethon, and the fourth, Phlegon, Filled all the air with fiery whinnying And with impatient hoofs stormed at the bars Which Tethys, mindless of her grandson's fate, Dropped to the ground. The way had opened Into sky and space: swifter than East Wind Rising behind their course, the horses flew, Wing-spread and flying feet through cloud and wind.
Weightless the hones flared, flying from their Accustomed course, their fear-struck driver, shaken Knew neither how to rein them, nor the road Beneath their feet which even had he known He could not steer the horses in their flight. Now for the first time since the world began The circuit of the frozen Northern Bears Glowed with sun's heat, the creatures almost leaped Though they could not into forbidden seas.
Then the cold Serpent at the ice-bound Pole Grew mad with fire and it was said that Bootes, herdsman of the Northern skies, Slow as he was, and hampered by his cart, Sweated with heat and fear and ran away. When the unlucky Phaethon looked down From the top run of heaven to small and far Lands under him, he turned weak, pale, knees shaking, And, in the blazing light, dark filled his eyes: He wished he had not known his father's horses, Nor who his father was, he wished undone His prayer, his hope — he wished himself to be The son of Merops.
And it was as though The boy were in a boat, piercing the storm, As though its futile pilot dropped the rudder And gave the ship to sail the will of gods. What could he do? Although much of his way Unrolled behind him, there were greater reaches Of sky to go; he tried to measure both, Forward to West where he was fated never To arrive, backward to East — mazed, helpless, He neither held the reins nor let them go, Nor could he call the horses by their names. Then Phaethon, Numbed, chilled, and broken, dropped the reins. As the reins fell across their flanks the horses Broke from their course; riderless charging, wild, Wherever their desire turned, they followed, Flaming against the deep-set stars and tossing Their chariot through wilderness of air.
Up to the top of heaven they blazed, then down Almost to earth. The Moon in wonder saw Her brother's chargers race beneath her own, Break smoking through the clouds, the earth in flames, Mountains touched first, hills, plateaus, plains, The dry earth canyon-split, the fields spread white In ashes; trees, leaves were branches of the flames While miles of grain were fuel for their own fires — But these were the lesser losses I regret.
The great walled cities perished; nations fell, Forests and mountains fed each other's flames: Athos on fire, Taurus and Tmolus, then Oete, And famous springs of Ida now bumed dry, And Helicon where Muses danced and sang, And the pre-Orphic woods of Thessaly, Aetna a fire of redoubled flames, twin-homed Parnassus, Eryx, Cynthus, Othrys, and Rhodope which had lost its snow, Mimas, Dindyma, Mycale, and sacred Cithaeron — Nor did its natural cold save Scythia — Caucausus bumed, Ossa and Pindus, and Taller than both, Olympus, and the sky-riding Alps and the cloud-carrying Apennines.
And in that hour so some would think the creatures Of Africa turned black, their thick blood drawn To the surface of the skin. And swans Who swam Arcadian streams in gliding peace Were singed with fires in the channels of Cayster. Nile ran in terror to the end of earth To hide its head which now is still unseen; Its seven mouths fell open, filled with dust, The seven beds scorched dry, the same fate falling On Thracian nvers, Hebrus and Strymon, And rivers of the West, Rhine, Rhone, and Po — Tiber, whose promise was to rule the world.
There fish dived down To deepest ocean's floor and dolphins feared To leap the fiery air. On glowing waves With bellies to the sky dead sea cows floated; And it was rumoured Nereus, Dons fled, Sweltered with all their daughters in a cave; And three times Neptune tried to raise his arms, His glorious head above the waves, three times Fell back, nor could he face the flaming air. Yet Ancient Earth, child-bearer of all things Was not subdued, surrounded as she was By deep and shrinking seas and by her nvers That sank to darkest wells down to her womb; Though black with heat and soot she raised her face, And as she lifted hands to shield her eyes, She shrank back lower than her usual place While all things shook as though the world would break.
She cried aloud, "O greatest of the gods! Is this your will and is this my reward? Why does your lightning cease? If this Is death by fire, then let your bolt of fire Bring death to me so I may suffer you To cause my death; even now I scarcely speak — " For flames and smoke had filled her mouth, her throat. For me who wear the scars Of plough and spade? And each year torn and delved That grass may grow for cattle, grain for men, And myrrh placed on the altars of the gods?
It may be I deserve an early death, But how or why has Sea, your brother, erred? If you have no Concern for him nor me, look how your heavens Blaze from pole to pole — if fire consumes them The very universe will fall to dust. In pain, in worry, Atlas almost fails To balance world's hot axis on his shoulders; If sea, land, and celestial heavens fall, The very world we live in falls to dust, Then we return to Chaos. Save, O Lord, The charred remains of our poor Universe.
Then Jove, father of all things, called the gods — Particularly those who made and guarded Phoebus' chariot — to be his witness, To let them see his need to save the world; He mounted to the highest hill of heaven From where it was his pleasure to stir lightning Among great clouds that darken over earth, But now were empty of all clouds and rain. Jove's thunder blazed and from his hand a shaft Poured lightning aimed at Phaethon that burst Behind his ear and blasted him from sky And out of cart and out of life as well, Jove's lightning had quenched fire with greater fire And Sun's wild team broke harness, bit and rein, Fragments of chariot falling from the sky, Axle and torn wheel scattered on hill and plain.
But Phaethon, fire pouring through fiery hair, Sailed earthward through clear skies as though he were A star that does not fall, yet seems to fall Through long horizons of the quiet air. Far from his home he fell, across the globe Where River Eridanus cooled his face. Then in black grief the Father cloaked his face And it was said that one day's hours travelled Without the sun. The burning Earth gave light, And even in disaster served the world. When she had said all that gnef s lips could say, Clymene with torn breast walked over earth Searching the limbs, the bones of Phaethon, And by a river in a distant land she found them, Where as she threw herself upon the tomb She curved her breast against his name in stone And warmed it with her tears.
Then all her daughters Poured futile tears in memory of their brother, Beating their naked breasts and calling out The name of Phaethon by night, by day, Who cannot hear their cries above his tomb. Four times the Moon had changed her slender horns Into a globe of light, yet they rained tears As though tears were the habit that they wore And weeping was their only cause to live. At last the eldest daughter, Phaethusa Cried, as she walked the grave, her feet grew numb, And when bnght Lampetia came to help her She too felt rooted into clay.
A third sister Who tore her hair clutched leaves; another found Her ankles sheathed in wood, another that Her arms became long branches. As they gazed, They saw the wooded bark close round their thighs And creeping up close uterus and belly, Breast and shoulder, even to fingertips Of leafy hands; only their lips were free To call their mother. And what could this Mad woman do but run to each, to press Each fading pair of lips against her own? Cycnus, son of Sthenelus saw these marvels Of amber tears.
Though by his mother's blood He was a cousin of Phaethon himself His love for him was deeper than his kinship; Though he was King of Liguna's province, Its peoples, its broad lands and great walled cities, He left his throne to wander, wailing, sighing Along the Po and through the tear-rained forest Made darker by the sisters turned to trees. There as he walked his voice grew thin and shrill, White feathers sprouted through his hair, his neck Arched high above his collarbone and webbed Membrane grew thick between his rose-tipped fingers, Wings fell across his sides, and where his lips were Came a blunt beak, and Cycnus was a new Thing called a swan, a creature who remembered Jove's burning thunderbolt, unjustly fired At falling Phaethon.
Therefore he feared The higher heavens and sought out stagnant streams, Pools, quiet lakes, and, since he hated fire, He took to shaded waters for his home. Meanwhile the father of dead Phaethon Sat in funereal darkness, dark as when His face is covered by eclipse; he turned Hate on himself and on the light of day And gave his soul to sorrow and grief's anger And would not, could not stir to light the world.
Then Phoebus harnessed His wild team whose limbs still shook with fear And in his grief and fury lashed their sides Calling hate upon them for his dear son's death. Arcadia had become His special care: he made her springs, her Fountains, nvers waken to life again, Her grass to grow, leaves on her trees to open — Till forests wore again their usual green.
And as he took his tour of reparation He saw a girl, Arcadian Calhsto, And at one glance heat flamed within his bones. Now as the Sun rose to his noonday heat She sought the darkest grove of an old forest: She dropped her arrows and unstrung her bow, Sank to the grass resting her head against The painted quiver. Jove saw how wearily She fell and that she was alone. She fought against him with a woman's valour O Saturn's daughter, had you seen her, even You would have been a little sympathetic But how could anyone, much less a girl, Withstand the will of Jove?
He had his way And vanished in the sky while she, because The forest knew her fall, hated the trees That were her witnesses and as she walked Almost forgot her painted sheaf of arrows, Even the branch where she had hung her bow. But lookl Diana with her troop of girls Came winding round the sides of Maenalus, Showing the prizes of the chase. How hard it was not to show signs Of guilt! The girl walked slowly with her eyes To earth, not as she used to stride, the first Of girls close to her goddess. Her flushed face And all she did not say told what she felt — And if Diana had not been a virgin She would have seen ten hundred ways the girl Betrayed herself — in ways, was said, the others Knew too well.
Day passed and the horned moon Grew to a glowing circle nine times over, When an hour after the hunt, Diana, languid With heat of sun, strolled to a brook which poured Clear waters over sand In that green shade, The place delighted her, as she stepped in She called her girls, "Off with your clothes, my dears. Since no one's here to see us, we shall bathe.
Throughout this time the Thunderer's wary wife Knew the condition of her husband's mistress, Yet waited for the moment of revenge; Now it was ripe and sharp enough to give A point to Juno's hate ; Areas was born, The child of Jove's Arcadian adventure. Therefore she turned a savage eye and mind Upon the girl and said, "Well, my adulteress, You did no less than make my injury public; Here is your son, the very living proof Of Jove's decline from grace to infamy.
And to prevent her prayers from reaching heaven Her gift of speech was ripped away and from her throat Came guttural noises horrible to hear: Though her emotions were of human kind, She was a bear, and as she lifted hands Paws rather in grief, in sorrow, though she Could not say her thoughts, she felt Jove showed her Lack of gratitude. O there were many times She feared to sleep in empty wooded coverts; Restless she walked in sight of her old home, And paced the meadows that were once her own; O many days she ran through rocky trails Pursued by hunters and the call of hounds, And, though a huntress, fearful of the chase.
Too often she forgot her beastlike being And trembled as she looked at other bears That wandered at their will on mountainsides; Even a wolf would startle all her fears — And this despite her father, Lycaon, Who, as a wolf himself, ran with the pack. Now Lycaon's grandson reached his fifteenth year And Areas, ignorant of his mother's fate, Hunted wild creatures and sought out their lairs; His nets were woven round Arcadian forests Where on a day he came upon his mother, Who looked at him as if she knew him well.
He stepped back from the staring eyes that held him, Eyes that seemed fixed to pierce his gaze forever, And with that look a wordless fear possessed him. When she beheld Jove's mistress in the skies Glittering against the night, pale Juno's rage Swelled hot, and like a meteor in flight She dropped to Tethys and to ancient Oceanus, two elders of the sea To whom the gods gave reverence and awe. They asked her why she came and she replied, "Why do you question me, the Queen of Heaven, While still another queen shines in the sky?
Say I am liar, if tonight you do not see New constellations rising in the dark, That brilliance which usurps my place in heaven Of the high north, the farthest, shortest circle That turns above the pole. With this in sight Who cares to worship Juno, hold me in awe? Or who should fear my rage? I seem to glory Those whom I destroy; what great things rise from Deeds that I have done.
And she I whipped, banned out of Human shape is now a goddess 1 Such is The punishment I give to enemies, Such the great power for which my name is known.
B.P. Perry (Author of The Mablethorpe Connection)
As in the case of Io, Jove has only To give the girl freedom from bestial state, Restore her shapeliness — since I am fallen, What shall prevent him now from leading her Into my bed, and Jove himself from being Her husband and Lycaon's son-in-law? If this dishonour to your adopted child Stirs in your hearts, forbid these bearlike Beings in the stars to wade your waters, Shut out the creatures who at cost of sin Shine down from heaven, nor allow that whore To taint the waters of your sacred streams.
About that time the raven changed his color From white to black, he who had once been silver- White as the doves, as geese whose wakeful cries Were destined to rescue Rome, as white as River-loving swans. But his tongue doomed him. The chattering bird was everything not white. In Thessaly no girl grew half as fair As pretty young Coronis of Larissa; As long as she was chaste or thought to be, God of Delphi, then the girl was pleasure In your eyes.
But her unfaithfulness Was closely witnessed by Apollo's bird Who ran, or rather flew, to tell his master. The crow came after him on flapping wings To ask him what was cause of all the hurry, And when he heard the reason, he replied, "What futile flight! Do not refuse to hear My timely warning. Think what I used to be, Look at me now and find that good intentions Worked me ill: One day a child was born, his name, Erichthonius, without a mother.
Pallas concealed him in a box of woven willows And gave it to three daughters of old Cecrops — Instructions not to look into her secret! I told Minerva what the girls had done, And I, who was still then her favourite bird, Was sent among the black birds of the night! Let my disgrace warn creatures of the air To talk less — if they wish to outwit trouble. Yet she chose me to be her counselor; Go, ask Minerva, though she's furious At me now and very angry, yet she Will not deny it.
My story is well known, For I was once a princess, daughter of A famous king, Coroneus of Phocis Hear me, nor turn aside , rich noblemen Had hopes to marry me. But too much beauty Was the cause of my undoing. One day I took my lonely walk along the beach, Pacing the sands, there Neptune looked at me And was all heat; he begged, he pleaded, then When smooth words failed, tried force, and I, distracted, Ran away, the beach behind me, over dune And hollow until I almost fell from Weariness into soft sand.
I called aloud On men and gods to save me, and my cries Reached no mortal ear. Only a virgin Goddess heard a virgin's prayer, she it was Who rescued me. And as I lifted up My arms to heaven I saw them grow like Shadows of whitest feathers in the air, And as I turned to toss my stole aside My feathered shoulders were a pair of wings, And feathers struck their roots within my flesh, Nor could I beat my naked breasts with hands, For both had vanished.
As I tried to run, I floated above sand, above the earth, And rising lightly flew to higher air, And at Minerva's side was her chaste friend. But what is this to me if Nyctimene, Changed to an owl for her dark sins, has taken My place of honour at Minerva's court? And though she is all owl she still remembers Her guilt, her lust, and in her darkness flies From sight of men and from the light of day, Exiled by all who rule the brilliant sky. When bright Apollo, god and lover, heard This news, the laurels melted from his curls, His face, his color paled, the plectra fluttered From his hand, and as his heart flamed into Growing rage, he snatched his usual weapons, Strung taut his bow, aimed at and pierced the breast That he so often held against his own.
Then as he drew his arrow from her heart, And her white belly and thighs ran red with blood, The girl groaned, "Phoebus, O this deepest thrust Was well deserved, but first I should have given The child beneath my heart his light of day, For now we die as one. Her lover wept too late, too late for tears or To undo the cruel act done: he hated self, The self that heard her guilt, the self that fired With rage, hated the raven who made him hear The rumours of her sins which caused his anger And his present grief, hated his bow, hated His quick arrow and the hand that sped it.
He kissed the fallen girl and tried to force A victory over fate, but now his arts Of medicine were useless. Then Phoebus poured sweet- Smelling ointment on his dead love's breast And for the last time held her in his arms, Nor can he let her rest as honoured dead, Nor bear the thought of his own son consumed By the same fires that take his mother's body, He tore the flame-wrapped child out of its womb And took it to the cave of Centaur Chiron.
The raven, waiting praise for truthfulness, Stood by, but Phoebus promptly banished him To night, far from the haven of white birds. Meanwhile Chiron was happily engaged In rearing a young demigod and proud Of the prestige that came with it, when look, His daughter — she, whose hair was reddish gold, Was also daughter of the nymph, Chanclo, Whose mother gave the new-born girl to Chiron Among the grasses near swift-flowing waters, She who was called thereafter Ocyrhoe — Arrived in view.
And it was not enough For her to leam her father's gifts of wisdom, She knew the supernatural prophecies, Nourished the frenzies that grew hot between Her breasts and as their godlike fires flamed She saw the child and spoke: "O blessed boy, You shall give health and strength to all on earth; Grow quickly as you can. And you, O dearest father, By birth immortal, shall cry in agony And wish to die, your body in the fires Of the she-serpent's blood.