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Title: Imaginary Conversations and Poems - A Selection
Author: Landor, Walter Savage, 1775-1864
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Imaginary Conversations and Poems - A Selection" ***

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      IMAGINARY CONVERSATIONS
      AND POEMS: A SELECTION

               By
       WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR



CONTENTS


IMAGINARY CONVERSATIONS

          Marcellus and Hannibal

          Queen Elizabeth and Cecil

          Epictetus and Seneca

          Peter the Great and Alexis

          Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn

          Joseph Scaliger and Montaigne

          Boccaccio and Petrarca

          Bossuet and the Duchess de Fontanges

          John of Gaunt and Joanna of Kent

          Leofric and Godiva

          Essex and Spenser

          Lord Bacon and Richard Hooker

          Oliver Cromwell and Walter Noble

          Lord Brooke and Sir Philip Sidney

          Southey and Porson

          The Abbé Delille and Walter Landor

          Diogenes and Plato

          Alfieri and Salomon the Florentine Jew

          Rousseau and Malesherbes

          Lucullus and Caesar

          Epicurus, Leontion, and Ternissa

          Dante and Beatrice

          Fra Filippo Lippi and Pope Eugenius the Fourth

          Tasso and Cornelia

          La Fontaine and de La Rochefoucault

          Lucian and Timotheus

          Bishop Shipley and Benjamin Franklin

          Southey and Landor

          The Emperor of China and Tsing-Ti

          Louis XVIII and Talleyrand

          Oliver Cromwell and Sir Oliver Cromwell

          The Count Gleichem: the Countess: their Children, and Zaida


THE PENTAMERON

          First Day's Interview

          Third Day's Interview

          Fourth Day's Interview

          Fifth Day's Interview


POEMS

       I. She I love (alas in vain!)

      II. Pleasure! why thus desert the heart

     III. Past ruin'd Ilion Helen lives

      IV. Ianthe! you are call'd to cross the sea!

       V. The gates of fame and of the grave

      VI. Twenty years hence my eyes may grow

     VII. Here, ever since you went abroad

    VIII. Tell me not things past all belief

      IX. Proud word you never spoke, but you will speak

       X. Fiesole Idyl

      XI. Ah what avails the sceptred race

     XII. With rosy hand a little girl prest down

    VIII. Ternissa! you are fled!

     XIV. Various the roads of life; in one

      XV. Yes; I write verses now and then

     XVI. On seeing a hair of Lucretia Borgia

    XVII. Once, and once only, have I seen thy face

   XVIII. To Wordsworth

     XIX. To Charles Dickens

      XX. To Barry Cornwall

     XXI. To Robert Browning

    XXII. Age

   XXIII. Leaf after leaf drops off, flower after flower

    XXIV. Well I remember how you smiled

     XXV. I strove with none, for none was worth my strife

    XXVI. Death stands above me, whispering low

   XXVII. A Pastoral

  XXVIII. The Lover

    XXIX. The Poet who Sleeps

     XXX. Daniel Defoe

    XXXI. Idle Words

   XXXII. To the River Avon



IMAGINARY CONVERSATIONS



MARCELLUS AND HANNIBAL


_Hannibal._ Could a Numidian horseman ride no faster? Marcellus! oh!
Marcellus! He moves not--he is dead. Did he not stir his fingers?
Stand wide, soldiers--wide, forty paces; give him air; bring water;
halt! Gather those broad leaves, and all the rest, growing under the
brushwood; unbrace his armour. Loose the helmet first--his breast
rises. I fancied his eyes were fixed on me--they have rolled back
again. Who presumed to touch my shoulder? This horse? It was surely
the horse of Marcellus! Let no man mount him. Ha! ha! the Romans, too,
sink into luxury: here is gold about the charger.

_Gaulish Chieftain._ Execrable thief! The golden chain of our king
under a beast's grinders! The vengeance of the gods hath overtaken the
impure----

_Hannibal._ We will talk about vengeance when we have entered Rome,
and about purity among the priests, if they will hear us. Sound for
the surgeon. That arrow may be extracted from the side, deep as it is.
The conqueror of Syracuse lies before me. Send a vessel off to
Carthage. Say Hannibal is at the gates of Rome. Marcellus, who stood
alone between us, fallen. Brave man! I would rejoice and cannot. How
awfully serene a countenance! Such as we hear are in the islands of
the Blessed. And how glorious a form and stature! Such too was theirs!
They also once lay thus upon the earth wet with their blood--few other
enter there. And what plain armour!

_Gaulish Chieftain._ My party slew him; indeed, I think I slew him
myself. I claim the chain: it belongs to my king; the glory of Gaul
requires it. Never will she endure to see another take it.

_Hannibal._ My friend, the glory of Marcellus did not require him to
wear it. When he suspended the arms of your brave king in the temple,
he thought such a trinket unworthy of himself and of Jupiter. The
shield he battered down, the breast-plate he pierced with his
sword--these he showed to the people and to the gods; hardly his wife
and little children saw this, ere his horse wore it.

_Gaulish Chieftain._ Hear me; O Hannibal!

_Hannibal._ What! when Marcellus lies before me? when his life may
perhaps be recalled? when I may lead him in triumph to Carthage? when
Italy, Sicily, Greece, Asia, wait to obey me? Content thee! I will
give thee mine own bridle, worth ten such.

_Gaulish Chieftain._ For myself?

_Hannibal._ For thyself.

_Gaulish Chieftain._ And these rubies and emeralds, and that
scarlet----?

_Hannibal._ Yes, yes.

_Gaulish Chieftain._ O glorious Hannibal! unconquerable hero! O my
happy country! to have such an ally and defender. I swear eternal
gratitude--yes, gratitude, love, devotion, beyond eternity.

_Hannibal._ In all treaties we fix the time: I could hardly ask a
longer. Go back to thy station. I would see what the surgeon is about,
and hear what he thinks. The life of Marcellus! the triumph of
Hannibal! what else has the world in it? Only Rome and Carthage: these
follow.

_Marcellus._ I must die then? The gods be praised! The commander of a
Roman army is no captive.

_Hannibal._ [_To the Surgeon._] Could not he bear a sea voyage?
Extract the arrow.

_Surgeon._ He expires that moment.

_Marcellus._ It pains me: extract it.

_Hannibal._ Marcellus, I see no expression of pain on your
countenance, and never will I consent to hasten the death of an enemy
in my power. Since your recovery is hopeless, you say truly you are no
captive.

[_To the Surgeon._] Is there nothing, man, that can assuage the mortal
pain? for, suppress the signs of it as he may, he must feel it. Is
there nothing to alleviate and allay it?

_Marcellus._ Hannibal, give me thy hand--thou hast found it and
brought it me, compassion.

[_To the Surgeon._] Go, friend; others want thy aid; several fell
around me.

_Hannibal._ Recommend to your country, O Marcellus, while time permits
it, reconciliation and peace with me, informing the Senate of my
superiority in force, and the impossibility of resistance. The tablet
is ready: let me take off this ring--try to write, to sign it, at
least. Oh, what satisfaction I feel at seeing you able to rest upon
the elbow, and even to smile!

_Marcellus._ Within an hour or less, with how severe a brow would
Minos say to me, 'Marcellus, is this thy writing?'

Rome loses one man: she hath lost many such, and she still hath many
left.

_Hannibal._ Afraid as you are of falsehood, say you this? I confess in
shame the ferocity of my countrymen. Unfortunately, too, the nearer
posts are occupied by Gauls, infinitely more cruel. The Numidians are
so in revenge: the Gauls both in revenge and in sport. My presence is
required at a distance, and I apprehend the barbarity of one or other,
learning, as they must do, your refusal to execute my wishes for the
common good, and feeling that by this refusal you deprive them of
their country, after so long an absence.

_Marcellus._ Hannibal, thou art not dying.

_Hannibal._ What then? What mean you?

_Marcellus._ That thou mayest, and very justly, have many things yet
to apprehend: I can have none. The barbarity of thy soldiers is
nothing to me: mine would not dare be cruel. Hannibal is forced to be
absent; and his authority goes away with his horse. On this turf lies
defaced the semblance of a general; but Marcellus is yet the regulator
of his army. Dost thou abdicate a power conferred on thee by thy
nation? Or wouldst thou acknowledge it to have become, by thy own sole
fault, less plenary than thy adversary's?

I have spoken too much: let me rest; this mantle oppresses me.

_Hannibal._ I placed my mantle on your head when the helmet was first
removed, and while you were lying in the sun. Let me fold it under,
and then replace the ring.

_Marcellus._ Take it, Hannibal. It was given me by a poor woman who
flew to me at Syracuse, and who covered it with her hair, torn off in
desperation that she had no other gift to offer. Little thought I that
her gift and her words should be mine. How suddenly may the most
powerful be in the situation of the most helpless! Let that ring and
the mantle under my head be the exchange of guests at parting. The
time may come, Hannibal, when thou (and the gods alone know whether as
conqueror or conquered) mayest sit under the roof of my children, and
in either case it shall serve thee. In thy adverse fortune, they will
remember on whose pillow their father breathed his last; in thy
prosperity (Heaven grant it may shine upon thee in some other
country!) it will rejoice thee to protect them. We feel ourselves the
most exempt from affliction when we relieve it, although we are then
the most conscious that it may befall us.

There is one thing here which is not at the disposal of either.

_Hannibal._ What?

_Marcellus._ This body.

_Hannibal._ Whither would you be lifted? Men are ready.

_Marcellus._ I meant not so. My strength is failing. I seem to hear
rather what is within than what is without. My sight and my other
senses are in confusion. I would have said--this body, when a few
bubbles of air shall have left it, is no more worthy of thy notice
than of mine; but thy glory will not let thee refuse it to the piety
of my family.

_Hannibal._ You would ask something else. I perceive an inquietude not
visible till now.

_Marcellus._ Duty and Death make us think of home sometimes.

_Hannibal._ Thitherward the thoughts of the conqueror and of the
conquered fly together.

_Marcellus._ Hast thou any prisoners from my escort?

_Hannibal._ A few dying lie about--and let them lie--they are Tuscans.
The remainder I saw at a distance, flying, and but one brave man among
them--he appeared a Roman--a youth who turned back, though wounded.
They surrounded and dragged him away, spurring his horse with their
swords. These Etrurians measure their courage carefully, and tack it
well together before they put it on, but throw it off again with
lordly ease.

Marcellus, why think about them? or does aught else disquiet your
thoughts?

_Marcellus._ I have suppressed it long enough. My son--my beloved son!

_Hannibal._ Where is he? Can it be? Was he with you?

_Marcellus._ He would have shared my fate--and has not. Gods of my
country! beneficent throughout life to me, in death surpassingly
beneficent: I render you, for the last time, thanks.



QUEEN ELIZABETH AND CECIL


_Elizabeth._ I advise thee again, churlish Cecil, how that our Edmund
Spenser, whom thou callest most uncourteously a whining whelp, hath
good and solid reason for his complaint. God's blood! shall the lady
that tieth my garter and shuffles the smock over my head, or the lord
that steadieth my chair's back while I eat, or the other that looketh
to my buck-hounds lest they be mangy, be holden by me in higher esteem
and estate than he who hath placed me among the bravest of past times,
and will as safely and surely set me down among the loveliest in the
future?

_Cecil._ Your Highness must remember he carouseth fully for such
deserts: fifty pounds a year of unclipped moneys, and a butt of canary
wine; not to mention three thousand acres in Ireland, worth fairly
another fifty and another butt, in seasonable and quiet years.

_Elizabeth._ The moneys are not enough to sustain a pair of grooms and
a pair of palfreys, and more wine hath been drunken in my presence at
a feast. The moneys are given to such men, that they may not incline
nor be obligated to any vile or lowly occupation; and the canary, that
they may entertain such promising wits as court their company and
converse; and that in such manner there may be alway in our land a
succession of these heirs unto fame. He hath written, not indeed with
his wonted fancifulness, nor in learned and majestical language, but
in homely and rustic wise, some verses which have moved me, and haply
the more inasmuch as they demonstrate to me that his genius hath been
dampened by his adversities. Read them.

_Cecil._

      How much is lost when neither heart nor eye
        Rosewinged Desire or fabling Hope deceives;
      When boyhood with quick throb hath ceased to spy
        The dubious apple in the yellow leaves;

      When, rising from the turf where youth reposed,
        We find but deserts in the far-sought shore;
      When the huge book of Faery-land lies closed,
        And those strong brazen clasps will yield no more.

_Elizabeth._ The said Edmund hath also furnished unto the weaver at
Arras, John Blanquieres, on my account, a description for some of his
cunningest wenches to work at, supplied by mine own self, indeed, as
far as the subject-matter goes, but set forth by him with figures and
fancies, and daintily enough bedecked. I could have wished he had
thereunto joined a fair comparison between Dian--no matter--he might
perhaps have fared the better for it; but poets' wits--God help
them!--when did they ever sit close about them? Read the poesy, not
over-rich, and concluding very awkwardly and meanly.

_Cecil._

      Where forms the lotus, with its level leaves
        And solid blossoms, many floating isles,
      What heavenly radiance swift descending cleaves
        The darksome wave! Unwonted beauty smiles

      On its pure bosom, on each bright-eyed flower,
        On every nymph, and twenty sate around,
      Lo! 'twas Diana--from the sultry hour
        Hither she fled, nor fear'd she sight or sound.

      Unhappy youth, whom thirst and quiver-reeds
        Drew to these haunts, whom awe forbade to fly!
      Three faithful dogs before him rais'd their heads,
        And watched and wonder'd at that fixèd eye.

      Forth sprang his favourite--with her arrow-hand
        Too late the goddess hid what hand may hide,
      Of every nymph and every reed complain'd,
        And dashed upon the bank the waters wide.

      On the prone head and sandal'd feet they flew--
        Lo! slender hoofs and branching horns appear!
      The last marr'd voice not e'en the favourite knew,
        But bay'd and fasten'd on the upbraiding deer.

      Far be, chaste goddess, far from me and mine
        The stream that tempts thee in the summer noon!
      Alas, that vengeance dwells with charms divine----

_Elizabeth._ Pshaw! give me the paper: I forewarned thee how it
ended--pitifully, pitifully.

_Cecil._ I cannot think otherwise than that the undertaker of the
aforecited poesy hath chosen your Highness; for I have seen painted--I
know not where, but I think no farther off than Putney--the
identically same Dian, with full as many nymphs, as he calls them, and
more dogs. So small a matter as a page of poesy shall never stir my
choler nor twitch my purse-string.

_Elizabeth._ I have read in Plinius and Mela of a runlet near Dodona,
which kindled by approximation an unlighted torch, and extinguished a
lighted one. Now, Cecil, I desire no such a jetty to be celebrated as
the decoration of my court: in simpler words, which your gravity may
more easily understand, I would not from the fountain of honour give
lustre to the dull and ignorant, deadening and leaving in its tomb the
lamp of literature and genius. I ardently wish my reign to be
remembered: if my actions were different from what they are, I should
as ardently wish it to be forgotten. Those are the worst of suicides,
who voluntarily and propensely stab or suffocate their fame, when God
hath commanded them to stand on high for an example. We call him
parricide who destroys the author of his existence: tell me, what
shall we call him who casts forth to the dogs and birds of prey its
most faithful propagator and most firm support? Mark me, I do not
speak of that existence which the proudest must close in a ditch--the
narrowest, too, of ditches and the soonest filled and fouled, and
whereunto a pinch of ratsbane or a poppy-head may bend him; but of
that which reposes on our own good deeds, carefully picked up,
skilfully put together, and decorously laid out for us by another's
kind understanding: I speak of an existence such as no father is
author of, or provides for. The parent gives us few days and
sorrowful; the poet, many and glorious: the one (supposing him
discreet and kindly) best reproves our faults; the other best
remunerates our virtues.

A page of poesy is a little matter: be it so; but of a truth I do tell
thee, Cecil, it shall master full many a bold heart that the Spaniard
cannot trouble; it shall win to it full many a proud and flighty one
that even chivalry and manly comeliness cannot touch. I may shake
titles and dignities by the dozen from my breakfast-board; but I may
not save those upon whose heads I shake them from rottenness and
oblivion. This year they and their sovereign dwell together; next
year, they and their beagle. Both have names, but names perishable.
The keeper of my privy seal is an earl: what then? the keeper of my
poultry-yard is a Caesar. In honest truth, a name given to a man is no
better than a skin given to him: what is not natively his own falls
off and comes to nothing.

I desire in future to hear no contempt of penmen, unless a depraved
use of the pen shall have so cramped them as to incapacitate them for
the sword and for the council chamber. If Alexander was the Great,
what was Aristoteles who made him so, and taught him every art and
science he knew, except three--those of drinking, of blaspheming, and
of murdering his bosom friends? Come along: I will bring thee back
again nearer home. Thou mightest toss and tumble in thy bed many
nights, and never eke out the substance of a stanza; but Edmund, if
perchance I should call upon him for his counsel, would give me as
wholesome and prudent as any of you. We should indemnify such men for
the injustice we do unto them in not calling them about us, and for
the mortification they must suffer at seeing their inferiors set
before them. Edmund is grave and gentle: he complains of fortune, not
of Elizabeth; of courts, not of Cecil. I am resolved--so help me,
God!--he shall have no further cause for his repining. Go, convey unto
him those twelve silver spoons, with the apostles on them, gloriously
gilded; and deliver into his hand these twelve large golden pieces,
sufficing for the yearly maintenance of another horse and groom.
Beside which, set open before him with due reverence this Bible,
wherein he may read the mercies of God toward those who waited in
patience for His blessing; and this pair of crimson silk hose, which
thou knowest I have worn only thirteen months, taking heed that the
heel-piece be put into good and sufficient restoration, at my sole
charges, by the Italian woman nigh the pollard elm at Charing Cross.



EPICTETUS AND SENECA


_Seneca._ Epictetus, I desired your master, Epaphroditus, to send you
hither, having been much pleased with his report of your conduct, and
much surprised at the ingenuity of your writings.

_Epictetus._ Then I am afraid, my friend----

_Seneca._ _My friend!_ are these the expressions--Well, let it pass.
Philosophers must bear bravely. The people expect it.

_Epictetus._ Are philosophers, then, only philosophers for the people;
and, instead of instructing them, must they play tricks before them?
Give me rather the gravity of dancing dogs. Their motions are for the
rabble; their reverential eyes and pendant paws are under the
pressure of awe at a master; but they are dogs, and not below their
destinies.

_Seneca._ Epictetus! I will give you three talents to let me take that
sentiment for my own.

_Epictetus._ I would give thee twenty, if I had them, to make it
thine.

_Seneca._ You mean, by lending it the graces of my language?

_Epictetus._ I mean, by lending it to thy conduct. And now let me
console and comfort thee, under the calamity I brought on thee by
calling thee _my friend_. If thou art not my friend, why send for me?
Enemy I can have none: being a slave, Fortune has now done with me.

_Seneca._ Continue, then, your former observations. What were you
saying?

_Epictetus._ That which thou interruptedst.

_Seneca._ What was it?

_Epictetus._ I should have remarked that, if thou foundest ingenuity
in my writings, thou must have discovered in them some deviation from
the plain, homely truths of Zeno and Cleanthes.

_Seneca._ We all swerve a little from them.

_Epictetus._ In practice too?

_Seneca._ Yes, even in practice, I am afraid.

_Epictetus._ Often?

_Seneca._ Too often.

_Epictetus._ Strange! I have been attentive, and yet have remarked but
one difference among you great personages at Rome.

_Seneca._ What difference fell under your observation?

_Epictetus._ Crates and Zeno and Cleanthes taught us that our desires
were to be subdued by philosophy alone. In this city, their acute and
inventive scholars take us aside, and show us that there is not only
one way, but two.

_Seneca._ Two ways?

_Epictetus._ They whisper in our ear, 'These two ways are philosophy
and enjoyment: the wiser man will take the readier, or, not finding
it, the alternative.' Thou reddenest.

_Seneca._ Monstrous degeneracy.

_Epictetus._ What magnificent rings! I did not notice them until thou
liftedst up thy hands to heaven, in detestation of such effeminacy and
impudence.

_Seneca._ The rings are not amiss; my rank rivets them upon my
fingers: I am forced to wear them. Our emperor gave me one,
Epaphroditus another, Tigellinus the third. I cannot lay them aside a
single day, for fear of offending the gods, and those whom they love
the most worthily.

_Epictetus._ Although they make thee stretch out thy fingers, like the
arms and legs of one of us slaves upon a cross.

_Seneca._ Oh, horrible! Find some other resemblance.

_Epictetus._ The extremities of a fig-leaf.

_Seneca._ Ignoble!

_Epictetus._ The claws of a toad, trodden on or stoned.

_Seneca._ You have great need, Epictetus, of an instructor in
eloquence and rhetoric: you want topics, and tropes, and figures.

_Epictetus._ I have no room for them. They make such a buzz in the
house, a man's own wife cannot understand what he says to her.

_Seneca._ Let us reason a little upon style. I would set you right,
and remove from before you the prejudices of a somewhat rustic
education. We may adorn the simplicity of the wisest.

_Epictetus._ Thou canst not adorn simplicity. What is naked or
defective is susceptible of decoration: what is decorated is
simplicity no longer. Thou mayest give another thing in exchange for
it; but if thou wert master of it, thou wouldst preserve it inviolate.
It is no wonder that we mortals, little able as we are to see truth,
should be less able to express it.

_Seneca._ You have formed at present no idea of style.

_Epictetus._ I never think about it. First, I consider whether what I
am about to say is true; then, whether I can say it with brevity, in
such a manner as that others shall see it as clearly as I do in the
light of truth; for, if they survey it as an ingenuity, my desire is
ungratified, my duty unfulfilled. I go not with those who dance round
the image of Truth, less out of honour to her than to display their
agility and address.

_Seneca._ We must attract the attention of readers by novelty, and
force, and grandeur of expression.

_Epictetus._ We must. Nothing is so grand as truth, nothing so
forcible, nothing so novel.

_Seneca._ Sonorous sentences are wanted to awaken the lethargy of
indolence.

_Epictetus._ Awaken it to what? Here lies the question; and a weighty
one it is. If thou awakenest men where they can see nothing and do no
work, it is better to let them rest: but will not they, thinkest thou,
look up at a rainbow, unless they are called to it by a clap of
thunder?

_Seneca._ Your early youth, Epictetus, has been, I will not say
neglected, but cultivated with rude instruments and unskilful hands.

_Epictetus._ I thank God for it. Those rude instruments have left the
turf lying yet toward the sun; and those unskilful hands have plucked
out the docks.

_Seneca._ We hope and believe that we have attained a vein of
eloquence, brighter and more varied than has been hitherto laid open
to the world.

_Epictetus._ Than any in the Greek?

_Seneca._ We trust so.

_Epictetus._ Than your Cicero's?

_Seneca._ If the declaration may be made without an offence to
modesty. Surely, you cannot estimate or value the eloquence of that
noble pleader?

_Epictetus._ Imperfectly, not being born in Italy; and the noble
pleader is a much less man with me than the noble philosopher. I
regret that, having farms and villas, he would not keep his distance
from the pumping up of foul words against thieves, cut-throats, and
other rogues; and that he lied, sweated, and thumped his head and
thighs, in behalf of those who were no better.

_Seneca._ Senators must have clients, and must protect them.

_Epictetus._ Innocent or guilty?

_Seneca._ Doubtless.

_Epictetus._ If I regret what is and might not be, I may regret more
what both is and must be. However, it is an amiable thing, and no
small merit in the wealthy, even to trifle and play at their leisure
hours with philosophy. It cannot be expected that such a personage
should espouse her, or should recommend her as an inseparable mate to
his heir.

_Seneca._ I would.

_Epictetus._ Yes, Seneca, but thou hast no son to make the match for;
and thy recommendation, I suspect, would be given him before he could
consummate the marriage. Every man wishes his sons to be philosophers
while they are young; but takes especial care, as they grow older, to
teach them its insufficiency and unfitness for their intercourse with
mankind. The paternal voice says: 'You must not be particular; you are
about to have a profession to live by; follow those who have thriven
the best in it.' Now, among these, whatever be the profession, canst
thou point out to me one single philosopher?

_Seneca._ Not just now; nor, upon reflection, do I think it feasible.

_Epictetus._ Thou, indeed, mayest live much to thy ease and
satisfaction with philosophy, having (they say) two thousand talents.

_Seneca._ And a trifle to spare--pressed upon me by that godlike
youth, my pupil Nero.

_Epictetus._ Seneca! where God hath placed a mine, He hath placed the
materials of an earthquake.

_Seneca._ A true philosopher is beyond the reach of Fortune.

_Epictetus._ The false one thinks himself so. Fortune cares little
about philosophers; but she remembers where she hath set a rich man,
and she laughs to see the Destinies at his door.



PETER THE GREAT AND ALEXIS


_Peter._ And so, after flying from thy father's house, thou hast
returned again from Vienna. After this affront in the face of Europe,
thou darest to appear before me?

_Alexis._ My emperor and father! I am brought before your Majesty, not
at my own desire.

_Peter._ I believe it well.

_Alexis._ I would not anger you.

_Peter._ What hope hadst thou, rebel, in thy flight to Vienna?

_Alexis._ The hope of peace and privacy; the hope of security; and,
above all things, of never more offending you.

_Peter._ That hope thou hast accomplished. Thou imaginedst, then, that
my brother of Austria would maintain thee at his court--speak!

_Alexis._ No, sir! I imagined that he would have afforded me a place
of refuge.

_Peter._ Didst thou, then, take money with thee?

_Alexis._ A few gold pieces.

_Peter._ How many?

_Alexis._ About sixty.

_Peter._ He would have given thee promises for half the money; but the
double of it does not purchase a house, ignorant wretch!

_Alexis._ I knew as much as that: although my birth did not appear to
destine me to purchase a house anywhere; and hitherto your liberality,
my father, hath supplied my wants of every kind.

_Peter._ Not of wisdom, not of duty, not of spirit, not of courage,
not of ambition. I have educated thee among my guards and horses,
among my drums and trumpets, among my flags and masts. When thou wert
a child, and couldst hardly walk, I have taken thee into the arsenal,
though children should not enter according to regulations: I have
there rolled cannon-balls before thee over iron plates; and I have
shown thee bright new arms, bayonets and sabres; and I have pricked
the back of my hands until the blood came out in many places; and I
have made thee lick it; and I have then done the same to thine.
Afterward, from thy tenth year, I have mixed gunpowder in thy grog; I
have peppered thy peaches; I have poured bilge-water (with a little
good wholesome tar in it) upon thy melons; I have brought out girls to
mock thee and cocker thee, and talk like mariners, to make thee
braver. Nothing would do. Nay, recollect thee! I have myself led thee
forth to the window when fellows were hanged and shot; and I have
shown thee every day the halves and quarters of bodies; and I have
sent an orderly or chamberlain for the heads; and I have pulled the
cap up from over the eyes; and I have made thee, in spite of thee,
look steadfastly upon them, incorrigible coward!

And now another word with thee about thy scandalous flight from the
palace, in time of quiet, too! To the point! Did my brother of Austria
invite thee? Did he, or did he not?

_Alexis._ May I answer without doing an injury or disservice to his
Imperial Majesty?

_Peter._ Thou mayest. What injury canst thou or any one do, by the
tongue, to such as he is?

_Alexis._ At the moment, no; he did not. Nor indeed can I assert that
he at any time invited me; but he said he pitied me.

_Peter._ About what? hold thy tongue; let that pass. Princes never
pity but when they would make traitors: then their hearts grow
tenderer than tripe. He pitied thee, kind soul, when he would throw
thee at thy father's head; but finding thy father too strong for him,
he now commiserates the parent, laments the son's rashness and
disobedience, and would not make God angry for the world. At first,
however, there must have been some overture on his part; otherwise
thou are too shamefaced for intrusion. Come--thou hast never had wit
enough to lie--tell me the truth, the whole truth.

_Alexis._ He said that if ever I wanted an asylum, his court was open
to me.

_Peter._ Open! so is the tavern; but folks pay for what they get
there. Open, truly! and didst thou find it so?

_Alexis._ He received me kindly.

_Peter._ I see he did.

_Alexis._ Derision, O my father! is not the fate I merit.

_Peter._ True, true! it was not intended.

_Alexis._ Kind father! punish me then as you will.

_Peter._ Villain! wouldst thou kiss my hand, too? Art thou ignorant
that the Austrian threw thee away from him, with the same indifference
as he would the outermost leaf of a sandy sunburnt lettuce?

_Alexis._ Alas! I am not ignorant of this.

_Peter._ He dismissed thee at my order. If I had demanded from him his
daughter, to be the bedfellow of a Kalmuc, he would have given her,
and praised God.

_Alexis._ O father! is his baseness my crime?

_Peter._ No; thine is greater. Thy intention, I know, is to subvert
the institutions it has been the labour of my lifetime to establish.
Thou hast never rejoiced at my victories.

_Alexis._ I have rejoiced at your happiness and your safety.

_Peter._ Liar! coward! traitor! when the Polanders and Swedes fell
before me, didst thou from thy soul congratulate me? Didst thou get
drunk at home or abroad, or praise the Lord of Hosts and Saint
Nicholas? Wert thou not silent and civil and low-spirited?

_Alexis._ I lamented the irretrievable loss of human life; I lamented
that the bravest and noblest were swept away the first; that the
gentlest and most domestic were the earliest mourners; that frugality
was supplanted by intemperance; that order was succeeded by confusion;
and that your Majesty was destroying the glorious plans you alone were
capable of devising.

_Peter._ I destroy them! how? Of what plans art thou speaking?

_Alexis._ Of civilizing the Muscovites. The Polanders in part were
civilized: the Swedes, more than any other nation on the Continent;
and so excellently versed were they in military science, and so
courageous, that every man you killed cost you seven or eight.

_Peter._ Thou liest; nor six. And civilized, forsooth? Why, the robes
of the metropolitan, him at Upsal, are not worth three ducats, between
Jew and Livornese. I have no notion that Poland and Sweden shall be
the only countries that produce great princes. What right have they to
such as Gustavus and Sobieski? Europe ought to look to this before
discontents become general, and the people do to us what we have the
privilege of doing to the people. I am wasting my words: there is no
arguing with positive fools like thee. So thou wouldst have desired me
to let the Polanders and Swedes lie still and quiet! Two such powerful
nations!

_Alexis._ For that reason and others I would have gladly seen them
rest, until our own people had increased in numbers and prosperity.

_Peter._ And thus thou disputest my right, before my face, to the
exercise of the supreme power.

_Alexis._ Sir! God forbid!

_Peter._ God forbid, indeed! What care such villains as thou art what
God forbids! He forbids the son to be disobedient to the father; He
forbids--He forbids--twenty things. I do not wish, and will not have,
a successor who dreams of dead people.

_Alexis._ My father! I have dreamed of none such.

_Peter._ Thou hast, and hast talked about them--Scythians, I think,
they call 'em. Now, who told thee, Mr. Professor, that the Scythians
were a happier people than we are; that they were inoffensive; that
they were free; that they wandered with their carts from pasture to
pasture, from river to river; that they traded with good faith; that
they fought with good courage; that they injured none, invaded none,
and feared none? At this rate I have effected nothing. The great
founder of Rome, I heard in Holland, slew his brother for despiting
the weakness of his walls; and shall the founder of this better place
spare a degenerate son, who prefers a vagabond life to a civilized
one, a cart to a city, a Scythian to a Muscovite? Have I not shaved my
people, and breeched them? Have I not formed them into regular armies,
with bands of music and haversacks? Are bows better than cannon?
shepherds than dragoons, mare's milk than brandy, raw steaks than
broiled? Thine are tenets that strike at the root of politeness and
sound government. Every prince in Europe is interested in rooting them
out by fire and sword. There is no other way with false doctrines:
breath against breath does little.

_Alexis._ Sire, I never have attempted to disseminate my opinions.

_Peter._ How couldst thou? the seed would fall only on granite. Those,
however, who caught it brought it to me.

_Alexis._ Never have I undervalued civilization: on the contrary, I
regretted whatever impeded it. In my opinion, the evils that have been
attributed to it sprang from its imperfections and voids; and no
nation has yet acquired it more than very scantily.

_Peter._ How so? give me thy reasons--thy fancies, rather; for reason
thou hast none.

_Alexis._ When I find the first of men, in rank and genius, hating one
another, and becoming slanderers and liars in order to lower and
vilify an opponent; when I hear the God of mercy invoked to massacres,
and thanked for furthering what He reprobates and condemns--I look
back in vain on any barbarous people for worse barbarism. I have
expressed my admiration of our forefathers, who, not being Christians,
were yet more virtuous than those who are; more temperate, more just,
more sincere, more chaste, more peaceable.

_Peter._ Malignant atheist!

_Alexis._ Indeed, my father, were I malignant I must be an atheist;
for malignity is contrary to the command, and inconsistent with the
belief, of God.

_Peter._ Am I Czar of Muscovy, and hear discourses on reason and
religion? from my own son, too! No, by the Holy Trinity! thou art no
son of mine. If thou touchest my knee again, I crack thy knuckles with
this tobacco-stopper: I wish it were a sledge-hammer for thy sake.
Off, sycophant! Off, runaway slave!

_Alexis._ Father! father! my heart is broken! If I have offended,
forgive me!

_Peter._ The State requires thy signal punishment.

_Alexis._ If the State requires it, be it so; but let my father's
anger cease!

_Peter._ The world shall judge between us. I will brand thee with
infamy.

_Alexis._ Until now, O father! I never had a proper sense of glory.
Hear me, O Czar! let not a thing so vile as I am stand between you and
the world! Let none accuse you!

_Peter._ Accuse me, rebel! Accuse me, traitor!

_Alexis._ Let none speak ill of you, O my father! The public voice
shakes the palace; the public voice penetrates the grave; it precedes
the chariot of Almighty God, and is heard at the judgment-seat.

_Peter._ Let it go to the devil! I will have none of it here in
Petersburg. Our church says nothing about it; our laws forbid it. As
for thee, unnatural brute, I have no more to do with thee neither!

Ho, there! chancellor! What! come at last! Wert napping, or counting
thy ducats?

_Chancellor._ Your Majesty's will and pleasure!

_Peter._ Is the Senate assembled in that room?

_Chancellor._ Every member, sire.

_Peter._ Conduct this youth with thee, and let them judge him; thou
understandest me.

_Chancellor._ Your Majesty's commands are the breath of our nostrils.

_Peter._ If these rascals are amiss, I will try my new cargo of
Livonian hemp upon 'em.

_Chancellor._ [_Returning._] Sire, sire!

_Peter._ Speak, fellow! Surely they have not condemned him to death,
without giving themselves time to read the accusation, that thou
comest back so quickly.

_Chancellor._ No, sire! Nor has either been done.

_Peter._ Then thy head quits thy shoulders.

_Chancellor._ O sire!

_Peter._ Curse thy silly _sires_! what art thou about?

_Chancellor._ Alas! he fell.

_Peter._ Tie him up to thy chair, then. Cowardly beast! what made him
fall?

_Chancellor._ The hand of Death; the name of father.

_Peter._ Thou puzzlest me; prithee speak plainlier.

_Chancellor._ We told him that his crime was proven and manifest; that
his life was forfeited.

_Peter._ So far, well enough.

_Chancellor._ He smiled.

_Peter._ He did! did he? Impudence shall do him little good. Who could
have expected it from that smock-face! Go on--what then?

_Chancellor._ He said calmly, but not without sighing twice or thrice,
'Lead me to the scaffold: I am weary of life; nobody loves me.' I
condoled with him, and wept upon his hand, holding the paper against
my bosom. He took the corner of it between his fingers, and said,
'Read me this paper; read my death-warrant. Your silence and tears
have signified it; yet the law has its forms. Do not keep me in
suspense. My father says, too truly, I am not courageous; but the
death that leads me to my God shall never terrify me.'

_Peter._ I have seen these white-livered knaves die resolutely; I have
seen them quietly fierce like white ferrets with their watery eyes and
tiny teeth. You read it?

_Chancellor._ In part, sire! When he heard your Majesty's name
accusing him of treason and attempts at rebellion and parricide, he
fell speechless. We raised him up: he was motionless; he was dead!

_Peter._ Inconsiderate and barbarous varlet as thou art, dost thou
recite this ill accident to a father! and to one who has not dined!
Bring me a glass of brandy.

_Chancellor._ And it please your Majesty, might I call a--a----

_Peter._ Away and bring it: scamper! All equally and alike shall obey
and serve me.

Hark ye! bring the bottle with it: I must cool myself--and--hark ye! a
rasher of bacon on thy life! and some pickled sturgeon, and some krout
and caviare, and good strong cheese.



HENRY VIII AND ANNE BOLEYN


_Henry._ Dost thou know me, Nanny, in this yeoman's dress? 'Sblood!
does it require so long and vacant a stare to recollect a husband
after a week or two? No tragedy-tricks with me! a scream, a sob, or
thy kerchief a trifle the wetter, were enough. Why, verily the little
fool faints in earnest. These whey faces, like their kinsfolk the
ghosts, give us no warning. Hast had water enough upon thee? Take
that, then: art thyself again?

_Anne._ Father of mercies! do I meet again my husband, as was my last
prayer on earth? Do I behold my beloved lord--in peace--and pardoned,
my partner in eternal bliss? it was his voice. I cannot see him: why
cannot I? Oh, why do these pangs interrupt the transports of the
blessed?

_Henry._ Thou openest thy arms: faith! I came for that. Nanny, thou
art a sweet slut. Thou groanest, wench: art in labour? Faith! among
the mistakes of the night, I am ready to think almost that thou hast
been drinking, and that I have not.

_Anne._ God preserve your Highness: grant me your forgiveness for one
slight offence. My eyes were heavy; I fell asleep while I was reading.
I did not know of your presence at first; and, when I did, I could
not speak. I strove for utterance: I wanted no respect for my liege
and husband.

_Henry._ My pretty warm nestling, thou wilt then lie! Thou wert
reading, and aloud too, with thy saintly cup of water by thee,
and--what! thou art still girlishly fond of those dried cherries!

_Anne._ I had no other fruit to offer your Highness the first time I
saw you, and you were then pleased to invent for me some reason why
they should be acceptable. I did not dry these: may I present them,
such as they are? We shall have fresh next month.

_Henry._ Thou art always driving away from the discourse. One moment
it suits thee to know me, another not.

_Anne._ Remember, it is hardly three months since I miscarried. I am
weak, and liable to swoons.

_Henry._ Thou hast, however, thy bridal cheeks, with lustre upon them
when there is none elsewhere, and obstinate lips resisting all
impression; but, now thou talkest about miscarrying, who is the father
of that boy?

_Anne._ Yours and mine--He who hath taken him to his own home, before
(like me) he could struggle or cry for it.

_Henry._ Pagan, or worse, to talk so! He did not come into the world
alive: there was no baptism.

_Anne._ I thought only of our loss: my senses are confounded. I did
not give him my milk, and yet I loved him tenderly; for I often
fancied, had he lived, how contented and joyful he would have made you
and England.

_Henry._ No subterfuges and escapes. I warrant, thou canst not say
whether at my entrance thou wert waking or wandering.

_Anne._ Faintness and drowsiness came upon me suddenly.

_Henry._ Well, since thou really and truly sleepedst, what didst dream
of?

_Anne._ I begin to doubt whether I did indeed sleep.

_Henry._ Ha! false one--never two sentences of truth together! But
come, what didst think about, asleep or awake?

_Anne._ I thought that God had pardoned me my offences, and had
received me unto Him.

_Henry._ And nothing more?

_Anne._ That my prayers had been heard and my wishes were
accomplishing: the angels alone can enjoy more beatitude than this.

_Henry._ Vexatious little devil! She says nothing now about me, merely
from perverseness. Hast thou never thought about me, nor about thy
falsehood and adultery?

_Anne._ If I had committed any kind of falsehood, in regard to you or
not, I should never have rested until I had thrown myself at your feet
and obtained your pardon; but, if ever I had been guilty of that other
crime, I know not whether I should have dared to implore it, even of
God's mercy.

_Henry._ Thou hast heretofore cast some soft glances upon Smeaton;
hast thou not?

_Anne._ He taught me to play on the virginals, as you know, when I was
little, and thereby to please your Highness.

_Henry._ And Brereton and Norris--what have they taught thee?

_Anne._ They are your servants, and trusty ones.

_Henry._ Has not Weston told thee plainly that he loved thee?

_Anne._ Yes; and----

_Henry._ What didst thou?

_Anne._ I defied him.

_Henry._ Is that all?

_Anne._ I could have done no more if he had told me that he hated me.
Then, indeed, I should have incurred more justly the reproaches of
your Highness: I should have smiled.

_Henry._ We have proofs abundant: the fellows shall one and all
confront thee. Aye, clap thy hands and kiss thy sleeve, harlot!

_Anne._ Oh that so great a favour is vouchsafed me! My honour is
secure; my husband will be happy again; he will see my innocence.

_Henry._ Give me now an account of the moneys thou hast received from
me within these nine months. I want them not back: they are letters of
gold in record of thy guilt. Thou hast had no fewer than fifteen
thousand pounds in that period, without even thy asking; what hast
done with it, wanton?

_Anne._ I have regularly placed it out to interest.

_Henry._ Where? I demand of thee.

_Anne._ Among the needy and ailing. My Lord Archbishop has the account
of it, sealed by him weekly. I also had a copy myself; those who took
away my papers may easily find it; for there are few others, and they
lie open.

_Henry._ Think on my munificence to thee; recollect who made thee.
Dost sigh for what thou hast lost?

_Anne._ I do, indeed.

_Henry._ I never thought thee ambitious; but thy vices creep out one
by one.

_Anne._ I do not regret that I have been a queen and am no longer
one; nor that my innocence is called in question by those who never
knew me; but I lament that the good people who loved me so cordially,
hate and curse me; that those who pointed me out to their daughters
for imitation check them when they speak about me; and that he whom
next to God I have served with most devotion is my accuser.

_Henry._ Wast thou conning over something in that dingy book for thy
defence? Come, tell me, what wast thou reading?

_Anne._ This ancient chronicle. I was looking for someone in my own
condition, and must have missed the page. Surely in so many hundred
years there shall have been other young maidens, first too happy for
exaltation, and after too exalted for happiness--not, perchance,
doomed to die upon a scaffold, by those they ever honoured and served
faithfully; that, indeed, I did not look for nor think of; but my
heart was bounding for any one I could love and pity. She would be
unto me as a sister dead and gone; but hearing me, seeing me,
consoling me, and being consoled. O my husband! it is so heavenly a
thing----

_Henry._ To whine and whimper, no doubt, is vastly heavenly.

_Anne._ I said not so; but those, if there be any such, who never
weep, have nothing in them of heavenly or of earthly. The plants, the
trees, the very rocks and unsunned clouds, show us at least the
semblances of weeping; and there is not an aspect of the globe we live
on, nor of the waters and skies around it, without a reference and a
similitude to our joys or sorrows.

_Henry._ I do not remember that notion anywhere. Take care no enemy
rake out of it something of materialism. Guard well thy empty hot
brain; it may hatch more evil. As for those odd words, I myself would
fain see no great harm in them, knowing that grief and frenzy strike
out many things which would else lie still, and neither spurt nor
sparkle. I also know that thou hast never read anything but Bible and
history--the two worst books in the world for young people, and the
most certain to lead astray both prince and subject. For which reason
I have interdicted and entirely put down the one, and will (by the
blessing of the Virgin and of holy Paul) commit the other to a rigid
censor. If it behoves us kings to enact what our people shall eat and
drink--of which the most unruly and rebellious spirit can entertain no
doubt--greatly more doth it behove us to examine what they read and
think. The body is moved according to the mind and will; we must take
care that the movement be a right one, on pain of God's anger in this
life and the next.

_Anne._ O my dear husband! it must be a naughty thing, indeed, that
makes Him angry beyond remission. Did you ever try how pleasant it is
to forgive any one? There is nothing else wherein we can resemble God
perfectly and easily.

_Henry._ Resemble God perfectly and easily! Do vile creatures talk
thus of the Creator?

_Anne._ No, Henry, when His creatures talk thus of Him, they are no
longer vile creatures! When they know that He is good, they love Him;
and, when they love Him, they are good themselves. O Henry! my husband
and king! the judgments of our Heavenly Father are righteous; on this,
surely, we must think alike.

_Henry._ And what, then? Speak out; again I command thee, speak
plainly! thy tongue was not so torpid but this moment. Art ready? Must
I wait?

_Anne._ If any doubt remains upon your royal mind of your equity in
this business: should it haply seem possible to you that passion or
prejudice, in yourself or another, may have warped so strong an
understanding--do but supplicate the Almighty to strengthen and
enlighten it, and He will hear you.

_Henry._ What! thou wouldst fain change thy quarters, ay?

_Anne._ My spirit is detached and ready, and I shall change them
shortly, whatever your Highness may determine.

_Henry._ Yet thou appearest hale and resolute, and (they tell me)
smirkest and smilest to everybody.

_Anne._ The withered leaf catches the sun sometimes, little as it can
profit by it; and I have heard stories of the breeze in other climates
that sets in when daylight is about to close, and how constant it is,
and how refreshing. My heart, indeed, is now sustained strangely; it
became the more sensibly so from that time forward, when power and
grandeur and all things terrestrial were sunk from sight. Every act of
kindness in those about me gives me satisfaction and pleasure, such as
I did not feel formerly. I was worse before God chastened me; yet I
was never an ingrate. What pains have I taken to find out the
village-girls who placed their posies in my chamber ere I arose in the
morning! How gladly would I have recompensed the forester who lit up a
brake on my birthnight, which else had warmed him half the winter! But
these are times past: I was not Queen of England.

_Henry._ Nor adulterous, nor heretical.

_Anne._ God be praised!

_Henry._ Learned saint! thou knowest nothing of the lighter, but
perhaps canst inform me about the graver, of them.

_Anne._ Which may it be, my liege?

_Henry._ Which may it be? Pestilence! I marvel that the walls of this
tower do not crack around thee at such impiety.

_Anne._ I would be instructed by the wisest of theologians: such is
your Highness.

_Henry._ Are the sins of the body, foul as they are, comparable to
those of the soul?

_Anne._ When they are united, they must be worse.

_Henry._ Go on, go on: thou pushest thy own breast against the sword.
God hath deprived thee of thy reason for thy punishment. I must hear
more: proceed, I charge thee.

_Anne._ An aptitude to believe one thing rather than another, from
ignorance or weakness, or from the more persuasive manner of the
teacher, or from his purity of life, or from the strong impression of
a particular text at a particular time, and various things beside, may
influence and decide our opinion; and the hand of the Almighty, let us
hope, will fall gently on human fallibility.

_Henry._ Opinion in matters of faith! rare wisdom! rare religion!
Troth, Anne! thou hast well sobered me. I came rather warmly and
lovingly; but these light ringlets, by the holy rood, shall not shade
this shoulder much longer. Nay, do not start; I tap it for the last
time, my sweetest. If the Church permitted it, thou shouldst set forth
on thy long journey with the Eucharist between thy teeth, however
loath.

_Anne._ Love your Elizabeth, my honoured lord, and God bless you! She
will soon forget to call me. Do not chide her: think how young she is.

Could I, could I kiss her, but once again! it would comfort my
heart--or break it.



JOSEPH SCALIGER AND MONTAIGNE


_Montaigne._ What could have brought you, M. de l'Escale, to visit the
old man of the mountain, other than a good heart? Oh, how delighted
and charmed I am to hear you speak such excellent Gascon. You rise
early, I see: you must have risen with the sun, to be here at this
hour; it is a stout half-hour's walk from the brook. I have capital
white wine, and the best cheese in Auvergne. You saw the goats and
the two cows before the castle.

Pierre, thou hast done well: set it upon the table, and tell Master
Matthew to split a couple of chickens and broil them, and to pepper
but one. Do you like pepper, M. de l'Escale?

_Scaliger._ Not much.

_Montaigne._ Hold hard! let the pepper alone: I hate it. Tell him to
broil plenty of ham; only two slices at a time, upon his salvation.

_Scaliger._ This, I perceive, is the antechamber to your library: here
are your everyday books.

_Montaigne._ Faith! I have no other. These are plenty, methinks; is
not that your opinion?

_Scaliger._ You have great resources within yourself, and therefore
can do with fewer.

_Montaigne._ Why, how many now do you think here may be?

_Scaliger._ I did not believe at first that there could be above
fourscore.

_Montaigne._ Well! are fourscore few?--are we talking of peas and
beans?

_Scaliger._ I and my father (put together) have written well-nigh as
many.

_Montaigne._ Ah! to write them is quite another thing: but one reads
books without a spur, or even a pat from our Lady Vanity. How do you
like my wine?--it comes from the little knoll yonder: you cannot see
the vines, those chestnut-trees are between.

_Scaliger._ The wine is excellent; light, odoriferous, with a
smartness like a sharp child's prattle.

_Montaigne._ It never goes to the head, nor pulls the nerves, which
many do as if they were guitar-strings. I drink a couple of bottles a
day, winter and summer, and never am the worse for it. You gentlemen
of the Agennois have better in your province, and indeed the very best
under the sun. I do not wonder that the Parliament of Bordeaux should
be jealous of their privileges, and call it Bordeaux. Now, if you
prefer your own country wine, only say it: I have several bottles in
my cellar, with corks as long as rapiers, and as polished. I do not
know, M. de l'Escale, whether you are particular in these matters: not
quite, I should imagine, so great a judge in them as in others?

_Scaliger._ I know three things: wine, poetry, and the world.

_Montaigne._ You know one too many, then. I hardly know whether I know
anything about poetry; for I like Clem Marot better than Ronsard.
Ronsard is so plaguily stiff and stately, where there is no occasion
for it; I verily do think the man must have slept with his wife in a
cuirass.

_Scaliger._ It pleases me greatly that you like Marot. His versions of
the Psalms is lately set to music, and added to the New Testament of
Geneva.

_Montaigne._ It is putting a slice of honeycomb into a barrel of
vinegar, which will never grow the sweeter for it.

_Scaliger._ Surely, you do not think in this fashion of the New
Testament!

_Montaigne._ Who supposes it? Whatever is mild and kindly is there.
But Jack Calvin has thrown bird-lime and vitriol upon it, and whoever
but touches the cover dirties his fingers or burns them.

_Scaliger._ Calvin is a very great man, I do assure you, M. de
Montaigne.

_Montaigne._ I do not like your great men who beckon me to them, call
me their begotten, their dear child, and their entrails; and, if I
happen to say on any occasion, 'I beg leave, sir, to dissent a little
from you,' stamp and cry, 'The devil you do!' and whistle to the
executioner.

_Scaliger._ You exaggerate, my worthy friend!

_Montaigne._ Exaggerate do I, M. de l'Escale? What was it he did the
other day to the poor devil there with an odd name?--Melancthon, I
think it is.

_Scaliger._ I do not know: I have received no intelligence of late
from Geneva.

_Montaigne._ It was but last night that our curate rode over from
Lyons (he made two days of it, as you may suppose) and supped with me.
He told me that Jack had got his old friend hanged and burned. I could
not join him in the joke, for I find none such in the New Testament,
on which he would have founded it; and, if it is one, it is not in my
manner or to my taste.

_Scaliger._ I cannot well believe the report, my dear sir. He was
rather urgent, indeed, on the combustion of the heretic Michael
Servetus some years past.

_Montaigne._ A thousand to one, my spiritual guide mistook the name.
He has heard of both, I warrant him, and thinks in his conscience that
either is as good a roast as the other.

_Scaliger._ Theologians are proud and intolerant, and truly the
farthest of all men from theology, if theology means the rational
sense of religion, or indeed has anything to do with it in any way.
Melancthon was the very best of the reformers; quiet, sedate,
charitable, intrepid, firm in friendship, ardent in faith, acute in
argument, and profound in learning.

_Montaigne._ Who cares about his argumentation or his learning, if he
was the rest?

_Scaliger._ I hope you will suspend your judgment on this affair until
you receive some more certain and positive information.

_Montaigne._ I can believe it of the Sieur Calvin.

_Scaliger._ I cannot. John Calvin is a grave man, orderly and
reasonable.

_Montaigne._ In my opinion he has not the order nor the reason of my
cook. Mat never took a man for a sucking-pig, cleaning and scraping
and buttering and roasting him; nor ever twitched God by the sleeve
and swore He should not have His own way.

_Scaliger._ M. de Montaigne, have you ever studied the doctrine of
predestination?

_Montaigne._ I should not understand it, if I had; and I would not
break through an old fence merely to get into a cavern. I would not
give a fig or a fig-leaf to know the truth of it, as far as any man
can teach it me. Would it make me honester or happier, or, in other
things, wiser?

_Scaliger._ I do not know whether it would materially.

_Montaigne._ I should be an egregious fool then to care about it. Our
disputes on controverted points have filled the country with
missionaries and cut-throats. Both parties have shown a disposition to
turn this comfortable old house of mine into a fortress. If I had
inclined to either, the other would have done it. Come walk about it
with me; after a ride, you can do nothing better to take off fatigue.

_Scaliger._ A most spacious kitchen!

_Montaigne._ Look up!

_Scaliger._ You have twenty or more flitches of bacon hanging there.

_Montaigne._ And if I had been a doctor or a captain, I should have
had a cobweb and predestination in the place of them. Your soldiers of
the _religion_ on the one side, and of the _good old faith_ on the
other, would not have left unto me safe and sound even that good old
woman there.

_Scaliger._ Oh, yes! they would, I hope.

_Old Woman._ Why dost giggle, Mat? What should he know about the
business? He speaks mighty bad French, and is as spiteful as the
devil. Praised be God, we have a kind master, who thinks about us, and
feels for us.

_Scaliger._ Upon my word, M. de Montaigne, this gallery is an
interesting one.

_Montaigne._ I can show you nothing but my house and my dairy. We have
no chase in the month of May, you know--unless you would like to bait
the badger in the stable. This is rare sport in rainy days.

_Scaliger._ Are you in earnest, M. de Montaigne?

_Montaigne._ No, no, no, I cannot afford to worry him outright: only a
little for pastime--a morning's merriment for the dogs and wenches.

_Scaliger._ You really are then of so happy a temperament that, at
your time of life, you can be amused by baiting a badger!

_Montaigne._ Why not? Your father, a wiser and graver and older man
than I am, was amused by baiting a professor or critic. I have not a
dog in the kennel that would treat the badger worse than brave Julius
treated Cardan and Erasmus, and some dozens more. We are all childish,
old as well as young; and our very last tooth would fain stick, M. de
l'Escale, in some tender place of a neighbour. Boys laugh at a person
who falls in the dirt; men laugh rather when they make him fall, and
most when the dirt is of their own laying.

Is not the gallery rather cold, after the kitchen? We must go through
it to get into the court where I keep my tame rabbits; the stable is
hard by: come along, come along.

_Scaliger._ Permit me to look a little at those banners. Some of them
are old indeed.

_Montaigne._ Upon my word, I blush to think I never took notice how
they are tattered. I have no fewer than three women in the house, and
in a summer's evening, only two hours long, the worst of these rags
might have been darned across.

_Scaliger._ You would not have done it surely!

_Montaigne._ I am not over-thrifty; the women might have been better
employed. It is as well as it is then; ay?

_Scaliger._ I think so.

_Montaigne._ So be it.

_Scaliger._ They remind me of my own family, we being descended from
the great Cane della Scala, Prince of Verona, and from the House of
Hapsburg, as you must have heard from my father.

_Montaigne._ What signifies it to the world whether the great Cane was
tied to his grandmother or not? As for the House of Hapsburg, if you
could put together as many such houses as would make up a city larger
than Cairo, they would not be worth his study, or a sheet of paper on
the table of it.



BOCCACCIO AND PETRARCA


_Boccaccio._ Remaining among us, I doubt not that you would soon
receive the same distinctions in your native country as others have
conferred upon you: indeed, in confidence I may promise it. For
greatly are the Florentines ashamed that the most elegant of their
writers and the most independent of their citizens lives in exile, by
the injustice he had suffered in the detriment done to his property,
through the intemperate administration of their laws.

_Petrarca._ Let them recall me soon and honourably: then perhaps I may
assist them to remove their ignominy, which I carry about with me
wherever I go, and which is pointed out by my exotic laurel.

_Boccaccio._ There is, and ever will be, in all countries and under
all governments, an ostracism for their greatest men.

_Petrarca._ At present we will talk no more about it. To-morrow I
pursue my journey towards Padua, where I am expected; where some few
value and esteem me, honest and learned and ingenious men; although
neither those Transpadane regions, nor whatever extends beyond them,
have yet produced an equal to Boccaccio.

_Boccaccio._ Then, in the name of friendship, do not go thither!--form
such rather from your fellow-citizens. I love my equals heartily; and
shall love them the better when I see them raised up here, from our
own mother earth, by you.

_Petrarca._ Let us continue our walk.

_Boccaccio._ If you have been delighted (and you say you have been) at
seeing again, after so long an absence, the house and garden wherein I
have placed the relaters of my stories, as reported in the _Decameron_,
come a little way farther up the ascent, and we will pass through the
vineyard on the west of the villa. You will see presently another on
the right, lying in its warm little garden close to the roadside, the
scene lately of somewhat that would have looked well, as illustration,
in the midst of your Latin reflections. It shows us that people the
most serious and determined may act at last contrariwise to the line
of conduct they have laid down.

_Petrarca._ Relate it to me, Messer Giovanni; for you are able to give
reality the merits and charms of fiction, just as easily as you give
fiction the semblance, the stature, and the movement of reality.

_Boccaccio._ I must here forgo such powers, if in good truth I possess
them.

_Petrarca._ This long green alley, defended by box and cypresses, is
very pleasant. The smell of box, although not sweet, is more agreeable
to me than many that are: I cannot say from what resuscitation of
early and tender feeling. The cypress, too, seems to strengthen the
nerves of the brain. Indeed, I delight in the odour of most trees and
plants.

Will not that dog hurt us?--he comes closer.

_Boccaccio._ Dog! thou hast the colours of a magpie and the tongue of
one; prithee be quiet: art thou not ashamed?

_Petrarca._ Verily he trots off, comforting his angry belly with his
plenteous tail, flattened and bestrewn under it. He looks back, going
on, and puffs out his upper lip without a bark.

_Boccaccio._ These creatures are more accessible to temperate and just
rebuke than the creatures of our species, usually angry with less
reason, and from no sense, as dogs are, of duty. Look into that white
arcade! Surely it was white the other day; and now I perceive it is
still so: the setting sun tinges it with yellow.

_Petrarca._ The house has nothing of either the rustic or the
magnificent about it; nothing quite regular, nothing much varied. If
there is anything at all affecting, as I fear there is, in the story
you are about to tell me, I could wish the edifice itself bore
externally some little of the interesting that I might hereafter turn
my mind toward it, looking out of the catastrophe, though not away
from it. But I do not even find the peculiar and uncostly decoration
of our Tuscan villas: the central turret, round which the kite
perpetually circles in search of pigeons or smaller prey, borne
onward, like the Flemish skater, by effortless will in motionless
progression. The view of Fiesole must be lovely from that window; but
I fancy to myself it loses the cascade under the single high arch of
the Mugnone.

_Boccaccio._ I think so. In this villa--come rather farther off: the
inhabitants of it may hear us, if they should happen to be in the
arbour, as most people are at the present hour of day--in this villa,
Messer Francesco, lives Monna Tita Monalda, who tenderly loved Amadeo
degli Oricellari. She, however, was reserved and coy; and Father
Pietro de' Pucci, an enemy to the family of Amadeo, told her nevermore
to think of him, for that, just before he knew her, he had thrown his
arm round the neck of Nunciata Righi, his mother's maid, calling her
most immodestly a sweet creature, and of a whiteness that marble would
split with envy at.

Monna Tita trembled and turned pale. 'Father, is the girl really so
very fair?' said she anxiously.

'Madonna,' replied the father, 'after confession she is not much
amiss: white she is, with a certain tint of pink not belonging to her,
but coming over her as through the wing of an angel pleased at the
holy function; and her breath is such, the very ear smells it: poor,
innocent, sinful soul! Hei! The wretch, Amadeo, would have endangered
her salvation.'

'She must be a wicked girl to let him,' said Monna Tita. 'A young man
of good parentage and education would not dare to do such a thing of
his own accord. I will see him no more, however. But it was before he
knew me: and it may not be true. I cannot think any young woman would
let a young man do so, even in the last hour before Lent. Now in what
month was it supposed to be?'

'Supposed to be!' cried the father indignantly: 'in June; I say in
June.'

'Oh! that now is quite impossible: for on the second of July,
forty-one days from this, and at this very hour of it, he swore to me
eternal love and constancy. I will inquire of him whether it is true:
I will charge him with it.'

She did. Amadeo confessed his fault, and, thinking it a venial one,
would have taken and kissed her hand as he asked forgiveness.

_Petrarca._ Children! children! I will go into the house, and if their
relatives, as I suppose, have approved of the marriage, I will
endeavour to persuade the young lady that a fault like this, on the
repentance of her lover, is not unpardonable. But first, is Amadeo a
young man of loose habits?

_Boccaccio._ Less than our others: in fact, I never heard of any
deviation, excepting this.

_Petrarca._ Come, then, with me.

_Boccaccio._ Wait a little.

_Petrarca._ I hope the modest Tita, after a trial, will not be too
severe with him.

_Boccaccio._ Severity is far from her nature; but, such is her purity
and innocence, she shed many and bitter tears at his confession, and
declared her unalterable determination of taking the veil among the
nuns of Fiesole. Amadeo fell at her feet, and wept upon them. She
pushed him from her gently, and told him she would still love him if
he would follow her example, leave the world, and become a friar of
San Marco. Amadeo was speechless; and, if he had not been so, he never
would have made a promise he intended to violate. She retired from
him. After a time he arose, less wounded than benumbed by the sharp
uncovered stones in the garden-walk; and, as a man who fears to fall
from a precipice goes farther from it than is necessary, so did Amadeo
shun the quarter where the gate is, and, oppressed by his agony and
despair, throw his arms across the sundial and rest his brow upon it,
hot as it must have been on a cloudless day in August. When the
evening was about to close, he was aroused by the cries of rooks
overhead; they flew towards Florence, and beyond; he, too, went back
into the city.

Tita fell sick from her inquietude. Every morning ere sunrise did
Amadeo return; but could hear only from the labourers in the field
that Monna Tita was ill, because she had promised to take the veil and
had not taken it, knowing, as she must do, that the heavenly
bridegroom is a bridegroom never to be trifled with, let the spouse be
young and beautiful as she may be. Amadeo had often conversed with the
peasant of the farm, who much pitied so worthy and loving a gentleman;
and, finding him one evening fixing some thick and high stakes in the
ground, offered to help him. After due thanks, 'It is time,' said the
peasant, 'to rebuild the hovel and watch the grapes.'

'This is my house,' cried he. 'Could I never, in my stupidity, think
about rebuilding it before? Bring me another mat or two: I will sleep
here to-night, to-morrow night, every night, all autumn, all winter.'

He slept there, and was consoled at last by hearing that Monna Tita
was out of danger, and recovering from her illness by spiritual means.
His heart grew lighter day after day. Every evening did he observe the
rooks, in the same order, pass along the same track in the heavens,
just over San Marco; and it now occurred to him, after three weeks,
indeed, that Monna Tita had perhaps some strange idea, in choosing his
monastery, not unconnected with the passage of these birds. He grew
calmer upon it, until he asked himself whether he might hope. In the
midst of this half-meditation, half-dream, his whole frame was shaken
by the voices, however low and gentle, of two monks, coming from the
villa and approaching him. He would have concealed himself under this
bank whereon we are standing; but they saw him, and called him by
name. He now perceived that the younger of them was Guiberto Oddi,
with whom he had been at school about six or seven years ago, and who
admired him for his courage and frankness when he was almost a child.

'Do not let us mortify poor Amadeo,' said Guiberto to his companion.
'Return to the road: I will speak a few words to him, and engage him
(I trust) to comply with reason and yield to necessity.' The elder
monk, who saw he should have to climb the hill again, assented to the
proposal, and went into the road. After the first embraces and few
words, 'Amadeo! Amadeo!' said Guiberto, 'it was love that made me a
friar; let anything else make you one.'

'Kind heart!' replied Amadeo. 'If death or religion, or hatred of me,
deprives me of Tita Monalda, I will die, where she commanded me, in
the cowl. It is you who prepare her, then, to throw away her life and
mine!'

'Hold! Amadeo!' said Guiberto, 'I officiate together with good Father
Fontesecco, who invariably falls asleep amid our holy function.'

Now, Messer Francesco, I must inform you that Father Fontesecco has
the heart of a flower. It feels nothing, it wants nothing; it is pure
and simple, and full of its own little light. Innocent as a child, as
an angel, nothing ever troubled him but how to devise what he should
confess. A confession costs him more trouble to invent than any
Giornata in my _Decameron_ cost me. He was once overheard to say on
this occasion, 'God forgive me in His infinite mercy, for making it
appear that I am a little worse than He has chosen I should be!' He is
temperate; for he never drinks more than exactly half the wine and
water set before him. In fact, he drinks the wine and leaves the
water, saying: 'We have the same water up at San Domenico; we send it
hither: it would be uncivil to take back our own gift, and still more
to leave a suspicion that we thought other people's wine poor
beverage.' Being afflicted by the gravel, the physician of his convent
advised him, as he never was fond of wine, to leave it off entirely;
on which he said, 'I know few things; but this I know well--in water
there is often gravel, in wine never. It hath pleased God to afflict
me, and even to go a little out of His way in order to do it, for the
greater warning to other sinners. I will drink wine, brother
Anselmini, and help His work.'

I have led you away from the younger monk.

'While Father Fontesecco is in the first stage of beatitude, chanting
through his nose the _Benedicite_, I will attempt,' said Guiberto, 'to
comfort Monna Tita.'

'Good, blessed Guiberto!' exclaimed Amadeo in a transport of
gratitude, at which Guiberto smiled with his usual grace and suavity.
'O Guiberto! Guiberto! my heart is breaking. Why should she want you
to comfort her?--but--comfort her then!' and he covered his face
within his hands.

'Remember,' said Guiberto placidly, 'her uncle is bedridden; her aunt
never leaves him; the servants are old and sullen, and will stir for
nobody. Finding her resolved, as they believe, to become a nun, they
are little assiduous in their services. Humour her, if none else does,
Amadeo; let her fancy that you intend to be a friar; and, for the
present, walk not on these grounds.'

'Are you true, or are you traitorous?' cried Amadeo, grasping his
friend's hand most fiercely.

'Follow your own counsel, if you think mine insincere,' said the young
friar, not withdrawing his hand, but placing the other on Amadeo's.
'Let me, however, advise you to conceal yourself; and I will direct
Silvestrina to bring you such accounts of her mistress as may at least
make you easy in regard to her health. Adieu.'

Amadeo was now rather tranquil; more than he had ever been, not only
since the displeasure of Monna Tita, but since the first sight of her.
Profuse at all times in his gratitude to Silvestrina, whenever she
brought him good news, news better than usual, he pressed her to his
bosom. Silvestrina Pioppi is about fifteen, slender, fresh,
intelligent, lively, good-humoured, sensitive; and any one but Amadeo
might call her very pretty.

_Petrarca._ Ah, Giovanni! here I find your heart obtaining the mastery
over your vivid and volatile imagination. Well have you said, the
maiden being really pretty, any one but Amadeo might think her so. On
the banks of the Sorga there are beautiful maids; the woods and the
rocks have a thousand times repeated it. I heard but one echo; I heard
but one name: I would have fled from them for ever at another.

_Boccaccio._ Francesco, do not beat your breast just now: wait a
little. Monna Tita would take the veil. The fatal certainty was
announced to Amadeo by his true Guiberto, who had earnestly and
repeatedly prayed her to consider the thing a few months longer.

'I will see her first! By all the saints of heaven I will see her!'
cried the desperate Amadeo, and ran into the house, toward the still
apartment of his beloved. Fortunately Guiberto was neither less active
nor less strong than he, and overtaking him at the moment, drew him
into the room opposite. 'If you will be quiet and reasonable, there is
yet a possibility left you,' said Guiberto in his ear, although
perhaps he did not think it. 'But if you utter a voice or are seen by
any one, you ruin the fame of her you love, and obstruct your own
prospects for ever. It being known that you have not slept in Florence
these several nights, it will be suspected by the malicious that you
have slept in the villa with the connivance of Monna Tita. Compose
yourself; answer nothing; rest where you are: do not add a worse
imprudence to a very bad one. I promise you my assistance, my speedy
return, and best counsel: you shall be released at daybreak.' He
ordered Silvestrina to supply the unfortunate youth with the cordials
usually administered to the uncle, or with the rich old wine they were
made of; and she performed the order with such promptitude and
attention, that he was soon in some sort refreshed.

_Petrarca._ I pity him from my innermost heart, poor young man! Alas,
we are none of us, by original sin, free from infirmities or from
vices.

_Boccaccio._ If we could find a man exempt by nature from vices and
infirmities, we should find one not worth knowing: he would also be
void of tenderness and compassion. What allowances then could his best
friends expect from him in their frailties? What help, consolation,
and assistance in their misfortunes? We are in the midst of a workshop
well stored with sharp instruments: we may do ill with many, unless we
take heed; and good with all, if we will but learn how to employ them.

_Petrarca._ There is somewhat of reason in this. You strengthen me to
proceed with you: I can bear the rest.

_Boccaccio._ Guiberto had taken leave of his friend, and had advanced
a quarter of a mile, which (as you perceive) is nearly the whole way,
on his return to the monastery, when he was overtaken by some peasants
who were hastening homeward from Florence. The information he
collected from them made him determine to retrace his steps. He
entered the room again, and, from the intelligence he had just
acquired, gave Amadeo the assurance that Monna Tita must delay her
entrance into the convent; for that the abbess had that moment gone
down the hill on her way toward Siena to venerate some holy relics,
carrying with her three candles, each five feet long, to burn before
them; which candles contained many particles of the myrrh presented at
the Nativity of our Saviour by the Wise Men of the East. Amadeo
breathed freely, and was persuaded by Guiberto to take another cup of
old wine, and to eat with him some cold roast kid, which had been
offered him for _merenda_. After the agitation of his mind a heavy
sleep fell upon the lover, coming almost before Guiberto departed: so
heavy indeed that Silvestrina was alarmed. It was her apartment; and
she performed the honours of it as well as any lady in Florence could
have done.

_Petrarca._ I easily believe it: the poor are more attentive than the
rich, and the young are more compassionate than the old.

_Boccaccio._ O Francesco! what inconsistent creatures are we!

_Petrarca._ True, indeed! I now foresee the end. He might have done
worse.

_Boccaccio._ I think so.

_Petrarca._ He almost deserved it.

_Boccaccio._ I think that too.

_Petrarca._ Wretched mortals! our passions for ever lead us into this,
or worse.

_Boccaccio._ Ay, truly; much worse generally.

_Petrarca._ The very twig on which the flowers grew lately scourges us
to the bone in its maturity.

_Boccaccio._ Incredible will it be to you, and, by my faith, to me it
was hardly credible. Certain, however, is it that Guiberto on his
return by sunrise found Amadeo in the arms of sleep.

_Petrarca._ Not at all, not at all: the truest lover might suffer and
act as he did.

_Boccaccio._ But, Francesco, there was another pair of arms about him,
worth twenty such, divinity as he is. A loud burst of laughter from
Guiberto did not arouse either of the parties; but Monna Tita heard
it, and rushed into the room, tearing her hair, and invoking the
saints of heaven against the perfidy of man. She seized Silvestrina by
that arm which appeared the most offending: the girl opened her eyes,
turned on her face, rolled out of bed, and threw herself at the feet
of her mistress, shedding tears, and wiping them away with the only
piece of linen about her. Monna Tita too shed tears. Amadeo still
slept profoundly; a flush, almost of crimson, overspreading his
cheeks. Monna Tita led away, after some pause, poor Silvestrina, and
made her confess the whole. She then wept more and more, and made the
girl confess it again, and explain her confession. 'I cannot believe
such wickedness,' she cried: 'he could not be so hardened. O sinful
Silvestrina! how will you ever tell Father Doni one half, one quarter?
He never can absolve you.'

_Petrarca._ Giovanni, I am glad I did not enter the house; you were
prudent in restraining me. I have no pity for the youth at all: never
did one so deserve to lose a mistress.

_Boccaccio._ Say, rather, to gain a wife.

_Petrarca._ Absurdity! impossibility!

_Boccaccio._ He won her fairly; strangely, and on a strange table, as
he played his game. Listen! that guitar is Monna Tita's. Listen! what
a fine voice (do not you think it?) is Amadeo's.

_Amadeo._ [_Singing._]

            Oh, I have err'd!
      I laid my hand upon the nest
      (Tita, I sigh to sing the rest)
            Of the wrong bird.

_Petrarca._ She laughs too at it! Ah! Monna Tita was made by nature to
live on this side of Fiesole.



BOSSUET AND THE DUCHESS DE FONTANGES


_Bossuet._ Mademoiselle, it is the king's desire that I compliment you
on the elevation you have attained.

_Fontanges._ O monseigneur, I know very well what you mean. His
Majesty is kind and polite to everybody. The last thing he said to me
was, 'Angélique! do not forget to compliment Monseigneur the bishop on
the dignity I have conferred upon him, of almoner to the dauphiness. I
desired the appointment for him only that he might be of rank
sufficient to confess, now you are duchess. Let him be your confessor,
my little girl.'

_Bossuet._ I dare not presume to ask you, mademoiselle, what was your
gracious reply to the condescension of our royal master.

_Fontanges._ Oh, yes! you may. I told him I was almost sure I should
be ashamed of confessing such naughty things to a person of high rank,
who writes like an angel.

_Bossuet._ The observation was inspired, mademoiselle, by your
goodness and modesty.

_Fontanges._ You are so agreeable a man, monseigneur, I will confess
to you, directly, if you like.

_Bossuet._ Have you brought yourself to a proper frame of mind, young
lady?

_Fontanges._ What is that?

_Bossuet._ Do you hate sin?

_Fontanges._ Very much.

_Bossuet._ Are you resolved to leave it off?

_Fontanges._ I have left it off entirely since the king began to love
me. I have never said a spiteful word of anybody since.

_Bossuet._ In your opinion, mademoiselle, are there no other sins than
malice?

_Fontanges._ I never stole anything; I never committed adultery; I
never coveted my neighbour's wife; I never killed any person, though
several have told me they should die for me.

_Bossuet._ Vain, idle talk! Did you listen to it?

_Fontanges._ Indeed I did, with both ears; it seemed so funny.

_Bossuet._ You have something to answer for, then.

_Fontanges._ No, indeed, I have not, monseigneur. I have asked many
times after them, and found they were all alive, which mortified me.

_Bossuet._ So, then! you would really have them die for you?

_Fontanges._ Oh, no, no! but I wanted to see whether they were in
earnest, or told me fibs; for, if they told me fibs, I would never
trust them again.

_Bossuet._ Do you hate the world, mademoiselle?

_Fontanges._ A good deal of it: all Picardy, for example, and all
Sologne; nothing is uglier--and, oh my life! what frightful men and
women!

_Bossuet._ I would say, in plain language, do you hate the flesh and
the devil?

_Fontanges._ Who does not hate the devil? If you will hold my hand the
while, I will tell him so. I hate you, beast! There now. As for flesh,
I never could bear a fat man. Such people can neither dance nor hunt,
nor do anything that I know of.

_Bossuet._ Mademoiselle Marie-Angélique de Scoraille de Rousille,
Duchess de Fontanges! do you hate titles and dignities and yourself?

_Fontanges._ Myself! does any one hate me? Why should I be the first?
Hatred is the worst thing in the world: it makes one so very ugly.

_Bossuet._ To love God, we must hate ourselves. We must detest our
bodies, if we would save our souls.

_Fontanges._ That is hard: how can I do it? I see nothing so
detestable in mine. Do you? To love is easier. I love God whenever I
think of Him, He has been so very good to me; but I cannot hate
myself, if I would. As God hath not hated me, why should I? Beside, it
was He who made the king to love me; for I heard you say in a sermon
that the hearts of kings are in His rule and governance. As for titles
and dignities, I do not care much about them while his Majesty loves
me, and calls me his Angélique. They make people more civil about us;
and therefore it must be a simpleton who hates or disregards them, and
a hypocrite who pretends it. I am glad to be a duchess. Manon and
Lisette have never tied my garter so as to hurt me since, nor has the
mischievous old La Grange said anything cross or bold: on the
contrary, she told me what a fine colour and what a plumpness it gave
me. Would not you rather be a duchess than a waiting-maid or a nun, if
the king gave you your choice?

_Bossuet._ Pardon me, mademoiselle, I am confounded at the levity of
your question.

_Fontanges._ I am in earnest, as you see.

_Bossuet._ Flattery will come before you in other and more dangerous
forms: you will be commended for excellences which do not belong to
you; and this you will find as injurious to your repose as to your
virtue. An ingenuous mind feels in unmerited praise the bitterest
reproof. If you reject it, you are unhappy; if you accept it, you are
undone. The compliments of a king are of themselves sufficient to
pervert your intellect.

_Fontanges._ There you are mistaken twice over. It is not my person
that pleases him so greatly: it is my spirit, my wit, my talents, my
genius, and that very thing which you have mentioned--what was it? my
intellect. He never complimented me the least upon my beauty. Others
have said that I am the most beautiful young creature under heaven; a
blossom of Paradise, a nymph, an angel; worth (let me whisper it in
your ear--do I lean too hard?) a thousand Montespans. But his Majesty
never said more on the occasion than that I was _imparagonable!_ (what
is that?) and that he adored me; holding my hand and sitting quite
still, when he might have romped with me and kissed me.

_Bossuet._ I would aspire to the glory of converting you.

_Fontanges._ You may do anything with me but convert me: you must not
do that; I am a Catholic born. M. de Turenne and Mademoiselle de Duras
were heretics: you did right there. The king told the chancellor that
he prepared them, that the business was arranged for you, and that you
had nothing to do but get ready the arguments and responses, which you
did gallantly--did not you? And yet Mademoiselle de Duras was very
awkward for a long while afterwards in crossing herself, and was once
remarked to beat her breast in the litany with the points of two
fingers at a time, when every one is taught to use only the second,
whether it has a ring upon it or not. I am sorry she did so; for
people might think her insincere in her conversion, and pretend that
she kept a finger for each religion.

_Bossuet._ It would be as uncharitable to doubt the conviction of
Mademoiselle de Duras as that of M. le Maréchal.

_Fontanges._ I have heard some fine verses, I can assure you,
monseigneur, in which you are called the conqueror of Turenne. I
should like to have been his conqueror myself, he was so great a man.
I understand that you have lately done a much more difficult thing.

_Bossuet._ To what do you refer, mademoiselle?

_Fontanges._ That you have overcome quietism. Now, in the name of
wonder, how could you manage that?

_Bossuet._ By the grace of God.

_Fontanges._ Yes, indeed; but never until now did God give any
preacher so much of His grace as to subdue this pest.

_Bossuet._ It has appeared among us but lately.

_Fontanges._ Oh, dear me! I have always been subject to it dreadfully,
from a child.

_Bossuet._ Really! I never heard so.

_Fontanges._ I checked myself as well as I could, although they
constantly told me I looked well in it.

_Bossuet._ In what, mademoiselle?

_Fontanges._ In quietism; that is, when I fell asleep at sermon time.
I am ashamed that such a learned and pious man as M. de Fénelon should
incline to it,[1] as they say he does.

_Bossuet._ Mademoiselle, you quite mistake the matter.

_Fontanges._ Is not then M. de Fénelon thought a very pious and
learned person?

_Bossuet._ And justly.

_Fontanges._ I have read a great way in a romance he has begun, about
a knight-errant in search of a father. The king says there are many
such about his court; but I never saw them nor heard of them before.
The Marchioness de la Motte, his relative, brought it to me, written
out in a charming hand, as much as the copy-book would hold; and I got
through, I know not how far. If he had gone on with the nymphs in the
grotto, I never should have been tired of him; but he quite forgot his
own story, and left them at once; in a hurry (I suppose) to set out
upon his mission to Saintonge in the _pays de d'Aunis_, where the king
has promised him a famous _heretic hunt_. He is, I do assure you, a
wonderful creature: he understands so much Latin and Greek, and knows
all the tricks of the sorceresses. Yet you keep him under.

_Bossuet._ Mademoiselle, if you really have anything to confess, and
if you desire that I should have the honour of absolving you, it would
be better to proceed in it, than to oppress me with unmerited eulogies
on my humble labours.

_Fontanges._ You must first direct me, monseigneur: I have nothing
particular. The king assures me there is no harm whatever in his love
toward me.

_Bossuet._ That depends on your thoughts at the moment. If you
abstract the mind from the body, and turn your heart toward Heaven----

_Fontanges._ O monseigneur, I always did so--every time but once--you
quite make me blush. Let us converse about something else, or I shall
grow too serious, just as you made me the other day at the funeral
sermon. And now let me tell you, my lord, you compose such pretty
funeral sermons, I hope I shall have the pleasure of hearing you
preach mine.

_Bossuet._ Rather let us hope, mademoiselle, that the hour is yet far
distant when so melancholy a service will be performed for you. May he
who is unborn be the sad announcer of your departure hence![2] May he
indicate to those around him many virtues not perhaps yet full-blown
in you, and point triumphantly to many faults and foibles checked by
you in their early growth, and lying dead on the open road, you shall
have left behind you! To me the painful duty will, I trust, be
spared: I am advanced in age; you are a child.

_Fontanges._ Oh, no! I am seventeen.

_Bossuet._ I should have supposed you younger by two years at least.
But do you collect nothing from your own reflection, which raises so
many in my breast? You think it possible that I, aged as I am, may
preach a sermon at your funeral. We say that our days are few; and
saying it, we say too much. Marie-Angélique, we have but one: the past
are not ours, and who can promise us the future? This in which we live
is ours only while we live in it; the next moment may strike it off
from us; the next sentence I would utter may be broken and fall
between us.[3] The beauty that has made a thousand hearts to beat at
one instant, at the succeeding has been without pulse and colour,
without admirer, friend, companion, follower. She by whose eyes the
march of victory shall have been directed, whose name shall have
animated armies at the extremities of the earth, drops into one of its
crevices and mingles with its dust. Duchess de Fontanges! think on
this! Lady! so live as to think on it undisturbed!

_Fontanges._ O God! I am quite alarmed. Do not talk thus gravely. It
is in vain that you speak to me in so sweet a voice. I am frightened
even at the rattle of the beads about my neck: take them off, and let
us talk on other things. What was it that dropped on the floor as you
were speaking? It seemed to shake the room, though it sounded like a
pin or button.

_Bossuet._ Leave it there!

_Fontanges._ Your ring fell from your hand, my lord bishop! How quick
you are! Could not you have trusted me to pick it up?

_Bossuet._ Madame is too condescending: had this happened, I should
have been overwhelmed with confusion. My hand is shrivelled: the ring
has ceased to fit it. A mere accident may draw us into perdition; a
mere accident may bestow on us the means of grace. A pebble has moved
you more than my words.

_Fontanges._ It pleases me vastly: I admire rubies. I will ask the
king for one exactly like it. This is the time he usually comes from
the chase. I am sorry you cannot be present to hear how prettily I
shall ask him: but that is impossible, you know; for I shall do it
just when I am certain he would give me anything. He said so himself:
he said but yesterday--

      'Such a sweet creature is worth a world':

and no actor on the stage was more like a king than his Majesty was
when he spoke it, if he had but kept his wig and robe on. And yet you
know he is rather stiff and wrinkled for so great a monarch; and his
eyes, I am afraid, are beginning to fail him, he looks so close at
things.

_Bossuet._ Mademoiselle, such is the duty of a prince who desires to
conciliate our regard and love.

_Fontanges._ Well, I think so, too, though I did not like it in him at
first. I am sure he will order the ring for me, and I will confess to
you with it upon my finger. But first I must be cautious and
particular to know of him how much it is his royal will that I should
say.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] The opinions of Molinos on Mysticism and Quietism had begun to
spread abroad; but Fénelon, who had acquired already a very high
celebrity for eloquence, had not yet written on the subject. We may
well suppose that Bossuet was among the earliest assailants of a
system which he afterward attacked so vehemently.

[2] Bossuet was in his fifty-fourth year; Mademoiselle de Fontanges
died in child-bed the year following: he survived her twenty-three
years.

[3] Though Bossuet was capable of uttering and even of feeling such a
sentiment, his conduct towards Fénelon, the fairest apparition that
Christianity ever presented, was ungenerous and unjust.

While the diocese of Cambray was ravaged by Louis, it was spared by
Marlborough; who said to the archbishop that, if he was sorry he had
not taken Cambray, it was chiefly because he lost for a time the
pleasure of visiting so great a man. Peterborough, the next of our
generals in glory, paid his respects to him some years afterward.



JOHN OF GAUNT AND JOANNA OF KENT


      Joanna, called the Fair Maid of Kent, was cousin of
      the Black Prince, whom she married. John of Gaunt was
      suspected of aiming at the crown in the beginning of
      Richard's minority, which, increasing the hatred of
      the people against him for favouring the sect of
      Wickliffe, excited them to demolish his house and to
      demand his impeachment.

_Joanna._ How is this, my cousin, that you are besieged in your own
house by the citizens of London? I thought you were their idol.

_Gaunt._ If their idol, madam, I am one which they may tread on as
they list when down; but which, by my soul and knighthood! the ten
best battle-axes among them shall find it hard work to unshrine.

Pardon me: I have no right, perhaps, to take or touch this hand; yet,
my sister, bricks and stones and arrows are not presents fit for you.
Let me conduct you some paces hence.

_Joanna._ I will speak to those below in the street. Quit my hand:
they shall obey me.

_Gaunt._ If you intend to order my death, madam, your guards who have
entered my court, and whose spurs and halberts I hear upon the
staircase, may overpower my domestics; and, seeing no such escape as
becomes my dignity, I submit to you. Behold my sword and gauntlet at
your feet! Some formalities, I trust, will be used in the proceedings
against me. Entitle me, in my attainder, not John of Gaunt, not Duke
of Lancaster, not King of Castile; nor commemorate my father, the most
glorious of princes, the vanquisher and pardoner of the most powerful;
nor style me, what those who loved or who flattered me did when I was
happier, cousin to the Fair Maid of Kent. Joanna, those days are over!
But no enemy, no law, no eternity can take away from me, or move
further off, my affinity in blood to the conqueror in the field of
Crecy, of Poitiers, and Najera. Edward was my brother when he was but
your cousin; and the edge of my shield has clinked on his in many a
battle. Yes, we were ever near--if not in worth, in danger. She weeps.

_Joanna._ Attainder! God avert it! Duke of Lancaster, what dark
thought--alas! that the Regency should have known it! I came hither,
sir, for no such purpose as to ensnare or incriminate or alarm you.

These weeds might surely have protected me from the fresh tears you
have drawn forth.

_Gaunt._ Sister, be comforted! this visor, too, has felt them.

_Joanna._ O my Edward! my own so lately! Thy memory--thy beloved
image--which never hath abandoned me, makes me bold: I dare not say
'generous'; for in saying it I should cease to be so--and who could be
called generous by the side of thee? I will rescue from perdition the
enemy of my son.

Cousin, you loved your brother. Love, then, what was dearer to him
than his life: protect what he, valiant as you have seen him, cannot!
The father, who foiled so many, hath left no enemies; the innocent
child, who can injure no one, finds them!

Why have you unlaced and laid aside your visor? Do not expose your
body to those missiles. Hold your shield before yourself, and step
aside. I need it not. I am resolved----

_Gaunt._ On what, my cousin? Speak, and, by the saints! it shall be
done. This breast is your shield; this arm is mine.

_Joanna._ Heavens! who could have hurled those masses of stone from
below? they stunned me. Did they descend all of them together; or did
they split into fragments on hitting the pavement?

_Gaunt._ Truly, I was not looking that way: they came, I must believe,
while you were speaking.

_Joanna._ Aside, aside! further back! disregard _me_! Look! that last
arrow sticks half its head deep in the wainscot. It shook so violently
I did not see the feather at first.

No, no, Lancaster! I will not permit it. Take your shield up again;
and keep it all before you. Now step aside: I am resolved to prove
whether the people will hear me.

_Gaunt._ Then, madam, by your leave----

_Joanna._ Hold!

_Gaunt._ Villains! take back to your kitchens those spits and skewers
that you, forsooth, would fain call swords and arrows; and keep your
bricks and stones for your graves!

_Joanna._ Imprudent man! who can save you? I shall be frightened: I
must speak at once.

O good kind people! ye who so greatly loved me, when I am sure I had
done nothing to deserve it, have I (unhappy me!) no merit with you
now, when I would assuage your anger, protect your fair fame, and send
you home contented with yourselves and me? Who is he, worthy citizens,
whom ye would drag to slaughter?

True, indeed, he did revile someone. Neither I nor you can say
whom--some feaster and rioter, it seems, who had little right (he
thought) to carry sword or bow, and who, to show it, hath slunk away.
And then another raised his anger: he was indignant that, under his
roof, a woman should be exposed to stoning. Which of you would not be
as choleric in a like affront? In the house of which among you should
I not be protected as resolutely?

No, no: I never can believe those angry cries. Let none ever tell me
again he is the enemy of my son, of his king, your darling child,
Richard. Are your fears more lively than a poor weak female's? than a
mother's? yours, whom he hath so often led to victory, and praised to
his father, naming each--he, John of Gaunt, the defender of the
helpless, the comforter of the desolate, the rallying signal of the
desperately brave!

Retire, Duke of Lancaster! This is no time----

_Gaunt._ Madam, I obey; but not through terror of that puddle at the
house door, which my handful of dust would dry up. Deign to command
me!

_Joanna._ In the name of my son, then, retire!

_Gaunt._ Angelic goodness! I must fairly win it.

_Joanna._ I think I know his voice that crieth out: 'Who will answer
for him?' An honest and loyal man's, one who would counsel and save me
in any difficulty and danger. With what pleasure and satisfaction,
with what perfect joy and confidence, do I answer our right-trusty and
well-judging friend!

'Let Lancaster bring his sureties,' say you, 'and we separate.' A
moment yet before we separate; if I might delay you so long, to
receive your sanction of those securities: for, in such grave matters,
it would ill become us to be over-hasty. I could bring fifty, I could
bring a hundred, not from among soldiers, not from among courtiers;
but selected from yourselves, were it equitable and fair to show such
partialities, or decorous in the parent and guardian of a king to
offer any other than herself.

Raised by the hand of the Almighty from amidst you, but still one of
you, if the mother of a family is a part of it, here I stand surety
for John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, for his loyalty and allegiance.

_Gaunt._ [_Running back toward Joanna._] Are the rioters, then,
bursting into the chamber through the windows?

_Joanna._ The windows and doors of this solid edifice rattled and
shook at the people's acclamation. My word is given for you: this was
theirs in return. Lancaster! what a voice have the people when they
speak out! It shakes me with astonishment, almost with consternation,
while it establishes the throne: what must it be when it is lifted up
in vengeance!

_Gaunt._ Wind; vapour----

_Joanna._ Which none can wield nor hold. Need I say this to my cousin
of Lancaster?

_Gaunt._ Rather say, madam, that there is always one star above which
can tranquillize and control them.

_Joanna._ Go, cousin! another time more sincerity!

_Gaunt._ You have this day saved my life from the people; for I now
see my danger better, when it is no longer close before me. My Christ!
if ever I forget----

_Joanna._ Swear not: every man in England hath sworn what you would
swear. But if you abandon my Richard, my brave and beautiful child,
may--Oh! I could never curse, nor wish an evil; but, if you desert him
in the hour of need, you will think of those who have not deserted
you, and your own great heart will lie heavy on you, Lancaster!

Am I graver than I ought to be, that you look dejected? Come, then,
gentle cousin, lead me to my horse, and accompany me home. Richard
will embrace us tenderly. Every one is dear to every other upon rising
out fresh from peril; affectionately then will he look, sweet boy,
upon his mother and his uncle! Never mind how many questions he may
ask you, nor how strange ones. His only displeasure, if he has any,
will be that he stood not against the rioters or among them.

_Gaunt._ Older than he have been as fond of mischief, and as fickle in
the choice of a party.

I shall tell him that, coming to blows, the assailant is often in the
right; that the assailed is always.



LEOFRIC AND GODIVA


_Godiva._ There is a dearth in the land, my sweet Leofric! Remember
how many weeks of drought we have had, even in the deep pastures of
Leicestershire; and how many Sundays we have heard the same prayers
for rain, and supplications that it would please the Lord in His mercy
to turn aside His anger from the poor, pining cattle. You, my dear
husband, have imprisoned more than one malefactor for leaving his dead
ox in the public way; and other hinds have fled before you out of the
traces, in which they, and their sons and their daughters, and haply
their old fathers and mothers, were dragging the abandoned wain
homeward. Although we were accompanied by many brave spearmen and
skilful archers, it was perilous to pass the creatures which the
farmyard dogs, driven from the hearth by the poverty of their masters,
were tearing and devouring; while others, bitten and lamed, filled the
air either with long and deep howls or sharp and quick barkings, as
they struggled with hunger and feebleness, or were exasperated by heat
and pain. Nor could the thyme from the heath, nor the bruised branches
of the fir-tree, extinguish or abate the foul odour.

_Leofric._ And now, Godiva, my darling, thou art afraid we should be
eaten up before we enter the gates of Coventry; or perchance that in
the gardens there are no roses to greet thee, no sweet herbs for thy
mat and pillow.

_Godiva._ Leofric, I have no such fears. This is the month of roses: I
find them everywhere since my blessed marriage. They, and all other
sweet herbs, I know not why, seem to greet me wherever I look at them,
as though they knew and expected me. Surely they cannot feel that I am
fond of them.

_Leofric._ O light, laughing simpleton! But what wouldst thou? I came
not hither to pray; and yet if praying would satisfy thee, or remove
the drought, I would ride up straightway to Saint Michael's and pray
until morning.

_Godiva._ I would do the same, O Leofric! but God hath turned away His
ear from holier lips than mine. Would my own dear husband hear me, if
I implored him for what is easier to accomplish--what he can do like
God?

_Leofric._ How! what is it?

_Godiva._ I would not, in the first hurry of your wrath, appeal to
you, my loving lord, on behalf of these unhappy men who have offended
you.

_Leofric._ Unhappy! is that all?

_Godiva._ Unhappy they must surely be, to have offended you so
grievously. What a soft air breathes over us! how quiet and serene and
still an evening! how calm are the heavens and the earth! Shall none
enjoy them; not even we, my Leofric? The sun is ready to set: let it
never set, O Leofric, on your anger. These are not my words: they are
better than mine. Should they lose their virtue from my unworthiness
in uttering them?

_Leofric._ Godiva, wouldst thou plead to me for rebels?

_Godiva._ They have, then, drawn the sword against you? Indeed, I knew
it not.

_Leofric._ They have omitted to send me my dues, established by my
ancestors, well knowing of our nuptials, and of the charges and
festivities they require, and that in a season of such scarcity my own
lands are insufficient.

_Godiva._ If they were starving, as they said they were----

_Leofric._ Must I starve too? Is it not enough to lose my vassals?

_Godiva._ Enough! O God! too much! too much! May you never lose them!
Give them life, peace, comfort, contentment. There are those among
them who kissed me in my infancy, and who blessed me at the baptismal
font. Leofric, Leofric! the first old man I meet I shall think is one
of those; and I shall think on the blessing he gave, and (ah me!) on
the blessing I bring back to him. My heart will bleed, will burst; and
he will weep at it! he will weep, poor soul, for the wife of a cruel
lord who denounces vengeance on him, who carries death into his
family!

_Leofric._ We must hold solemn festivals.

_Godiva._ We must, indeed.

_Leofric._ Well, then?

_Godiva._ Is the clamorousness that succeeds the death of God's dumb
creatures, are crowded halls, are slaughtered cattle festivals?--are
maddening songs, and giddy dances, and hireling praises from
parti-coloured coats? Can the voice of a minstrel tell us better
things of ourselves than our own internal one might tell us; or can
his breath make our breath softer in sleep? O my beloved! let
everything be a joyance to us: it will, if we will. Sad is the day,
and worse must follow, when we hear the blackbird in the garden, and
do not throb with joy. But, Leofric, the high festival is strown by
the servant of God upon the heart of man. It is gladness, it is
thanksgiving; it is the orphan, the starveling, pressed to the bosom,
and bidden as its first commandment to remember its benefactor. We
will hold this festival; the guests are ready: we may keep it up for
weeks, and months, and years together, and always be the happier and
the richer for it. The beverage of this feast, O Leofric, is sweeter
than bee or flower or vine can give us: it flows from heaven; and in
heaven will it abundantly be poured out again to him who pours it out
here abundantly.

_Leofric._ Thou art wild.

_Godiva._ I have, indeed, lost myself. Some Power, some good kind
Power, melts me (body and soul and voice) into tenderness and love. O
my husband, we must obey it. Look upon me! look upon me! lift your
sweet eyes from the ground! I will not cease to supplicate; I dare
not.

_Leofric._ We may think upon it.

_Godiva._ Oh, never say that! What! think upon goodness when you can
be good? Let not the infants cry for sustenance! The Mother of Our
Blessed Lord will hear them; us never, never afterward.

_Leofric._ Here comes the bishop: we are but one mile from the walls.
Why dismountest thou? no bishop can expect this. Godiva! my honour and
rank among men are humbled by this. Earl Godwin will hear of it. Up!
up! the bishop hath seen it: he urgeth his horse onward. Dost thou not
hear him now upon the solid turf behind thee?

_Godiva._ Never, no, never will I rise, O Leofric, until you remit
this most impious task--this tax on hard labour, on hard life.

_Leofric._ Turn round: look how the fat nag canters, as to the tune of
a sinner's psalm, slow and hard-breathing. What reason or right can
the people have to complain, while their bishop's steed is so sleek
and well caparisoned? Inclination to change, desire to abolish old
usages. Up! up! for shame! They shall smart for it, idlers! Sir
Bishop, I must blush for my young bride.

_Godiva._ My husband, my husband! will you pardon the city?

_Leofric._ Sir Bishop! I could think you would have seen her in this
plight. Will I pardon? Yea, Godiva, by the holy rood, will I pardon
the city, when thou ridest naked at noontide through the streets!

_Godiva._ O my dear, cruel Leofric, where is the heart you gave me? It
was not so: can mine have hardened it?

_Bishop._ Earl, thou abashest thy spouse; she turneth pale, and
weepeth. Lady Godiva, peace be with thee.

_Godiva._ Thanks, holy man! peace will be with me when peace is with
your city. Did you hear my lord's cruel word?

_Bishop._ I did, lady.

_Godiva._ Will you remember it, and pray against it?

_Bishop._ Wilt _thou_ forget it, daughter?

_Godiva._ I am not offended.

_Bishop._ Angel of peace and purity!

_Godiva._ But treasure it up in your heart: deem it an incense, good
only when it is consumed and spent, ascending with prayer and
sacrifice. And, now, what was it?

_Bishop._ Christ save us! that He will pardon the city when thou
ridest naked through the streets at noon.

_Godiva._ Did he swear an oath?

_Bishop._ He sware by the holy rood.

_Godiva._ My Redeemer, Thou hast heard it! save the city!

_Leofric._ We are now upon the beginning of the pavement: these are
the suburbs. Let us think of feasting: we may pray afterward;
to-morrow we shall rest.

_Godiva._ No judgments, then, to-morrow, Leofric?

_Leofric._ None: we will carouse.

_Godiva._ The saints of heaven have given me strength and confidence;
my prayers are heard; the heart of my beloved is now softened.

_Leofric._ Ay, ay.

_Godiva._ Say, dearest Leofric, is there indeed no other hope, no
other mediation?

_Leofric._ I have sworn. Beside, thou hast made me redden and turn my
face away from thee, and all the knaves have seen it: this adds to the
city's crime.

_Godiva._ I have blushed, too, Leofric, and was not rash nor obdurate.

_Leofric._ But thou, my sweetest, art given to blushing: there is no
conquering it in thee. I wish thou hadst not alighted so hastily and
roughly: it hath shaken down a sheaf of thy hair. Take heed thou sit
not upon it, lest it anguish thee. Well done! it mingleth now sweetly
with the cloth of gold upon the saddle, running here and there, as if
it had life and faculties and business, and were working thereupon
some newer and cunninger device. O my beauteous Eve! there is a
Paradise about thee! the world is refreshed as thou movest and
breathest on it. I cannot see or think of evil where thou art. I could
throw my arms even here about thee. No signs for me! no shaking of
sunbeams! no reproof or frown of wonderment.--I _will_ say it--now,
then, for worse--I could close with my kisses thy half-open lips, ay,
and those lovely and loving eyes, before the people.

_Godiva._ To-morrow you shall kiss me, and they shall bless you for
it. I shall be very pale, for to-night I must fast and pray.

_Leofric._ I do not hear thee; the voices of the folk are so loud
under this archway.

_Godiva._ [_To herself._] God help them! good kind souls! I hope they
will not crowd about me so to-morrow. O Leofric! could my name be
forgotten, and yours alone remembered! But perhaps my innocence may
save me from reproach; and how many as innocent are in fear and
famine! No eye will open on me but fresh from tears. What a young
mother for so large a family! Shall my youth harm me? Under God's hand
it gives me courage. Ah! when will the morning come? Ah! when will the
noon be over?

      The story of Godiva, at one of whose festivals or
      fairs I was present in my boyhood, has always much
      interested me; and I wrote a poem on it, sitting, I
      remember, by the _square pool_ at Rugby. When I showed
      it to the friend in whom I had most confidence, he
      began to scoff at the subject; and, on his reaching
      the last line, his laughter was loud and immoderate.
      This conversation has brought both laughter and stanza
      back to me, and the earnestness with which I entreated
      and implored my friend _not to tell the lads_, so
      heart-strickenly and desperately was I ashamed. The
      verses are these, if any one else should wish another
      laugh at me:

      'In every hour, in every mood,
      O lady, it is sweet and good
        To bathe the soul in prayer;
      And, at the close of such a day,
      When we have ceased to bless and pray,
        To dream on thy long hair.'

      May the peppermint be still growing on the bank in
      that place!



ESSEX AND SPENSER


_Essex._ Instantly on hearing of thy arrival from Ireland, I sent a
message to thee, good Edmund, that I might learn, from one so
judicious and dispassionate as thou art, the real state of things in
that distracted country; it having pleased the queen's Majesty to
think of appointing me her deputy, in order to bring the rebellious to
submission.

_Spenser._ Wisely and well considered; but more worthily of her
judgment than her affection. May your lordship overcome, as you have
ever done, the difficulties and dangers you foresee.

_Essex._ We grow weak by striking at random; and knowing that I must
strike, and strike heavily, I would fain see exactly where the stroke
shall fall.

Now what tale have you for us?

_Spenser._ Interrogate me, my lord, that I may answer each question
distinctly, my mind being in sad confusion at what I have seen and
undergone.

_Essex._ Give me thy account and opinion of these very affairs as thou
leftest them; for I would rather know one part well than all
imperfectly; and the violences of which I have heard within the day
surpass belief.

Why weepest thou, my gentle Spenser? Have the rebels sacked thy house?

_Spenser._ They have plundered and utterly destroyed it.

_Essex._ I grieve for thee, and will see thee righted.

_Spenser._ In this they have little harmed me.

_Essex._ How! I have heard it reported that thy grounds are fertile,
and thy mansion large and pleasant.

_Spenser._ If river and lake and meadow-ground and mountain could
render any place the abode of pleasantness, pleasant was mine, indeed!

On the lovely banks of Mulla I found deep contentment. Under the dark
alders did I muse and meditate. Innocent hopes were my gravest cares,
and my playfullest fancy was with kindly wishes. Ah! surely of all
cruelties the worst is to extinguish our kindness. Mine is gone: I
love the people and the land no longer. My lord, ask me not about
them: I may speak injuriously.

_Essex._ Think rather, then, of thy happier hours and busier
occupations; these likewise may instruct me.

_Spenser._ The first seeds I sowed in the garden, ere the old castle
was made habitable for my lovely bride, were acorns from Penshurst. I
planted a little oak before my mansion at the birth of each child. My
sons, I said to myself, shall often play in the shade of them when I
am gone; and every year shall they take the measure of their growth,
as fondly as I take theirs.

_Essex._ Well, well; but let not this thought make thee weep so
bitterly.

_Spenser._ Poison may ooze from beautiful plants; deadly grief from
dearest reminiscences. I _must_ grieve, I _must_ weep: it seems the
law of God, and the only one that men are not disposed to contravene.
In the performance of this alone do they effectually aid one another.

_Essex._ Spenser! I wish I had at hand any arguments or persuasions of
force sufficient to remove thy sorrow; but, really, I am not in the
habit of seeing men grieve at anything except the loss of favour at
court, or of a hawk, or of a buck-hound. And were I to swear out
condolences to a man of thy discernment, in the same round, roll-call
phrases we employ with one another upon these occasions, I should be
guilty, not of insincerity, but of insolence. True grief hath ever
something sacred in it; and, when it visiteth a wise man and a brave
one, is most holy.

Nay, kiss not my hand: he whom God smiteth hath God with him. In His
presence what am I?

_Spenser._ Never so great, my lord, as at this hour, when you see
aright who is greater. May He guide your counsels, and preserve your
life and glory!

_Essex._ Where are thy friends? Are they with thee?

_Spenser._ Ah, where, indeed! Generous, true-hearted Philip! where art
thou, whose presence was unto me peace and safety; whose smile was
contentment, and whose praise renown? My lord! I cannot but think of
him among still heavier losses: he was my earliest friend, and would
have taught me wisdom.

_Essex._ Pastoral poetry, my dear Spenser, doth not require tears and
lamentations. Dry thine eyes; rebuild thine house: the queen and
council, I venture to promise thee, will make ample amends for every
evil thou hast sustained. What! does that enforce thee to wail still
louder?

_Spenser._ Pardon me, bear with me, most noble heart! I have lost what
no council, no queen, no Essex, can restore.

_Essex._ We will see that. There are other swords, and other arms to
yield them, beside a Leicester's and a Raleigh's. Others can crush
their enemies, and serve their friends.

_Spenser._ O my sweet child! And of many so powerful, many so wise and
so beneficent, was there none to save thee? None, none!

_Essex._ I now perceive that thou lamentest what almost every father
is destined to lament. Happiness must be bought, although the payment
may be delayed. Consider: the same calamity might have befallen thee
here in London. Neither the houses of ambassadors, nor the palaces of
kings, nor the altars of God Himself, are asylums against death. How
do I know but under this very roof there may sleep some latent
calamity, that in an instant shall cover with gloom every inmate of
the house, and every far dependent?

_Spenser._ God avert it!

_Essex._ Every day, every hour of the year, do hundreds mourn what
thou mournest.

_Spenser._ Oh, no, no, no! Calamities there are around us; calamities
there are all over the earth; calamities there are in all seasons: but
none in any season, none in any place, like mine.

_Essex._ So say all fathers, so say all husbands. Look at any old
mansion-house, and let the sun shine as gloriously as it may on the
golden vanes, or the arms recently quartered over the gateway or the
embayed window, and on the happy pair that haply is toying at it:
nevertheless, thou mayest say that of a certainty the same fabric hath
seen much sorrow within its chambers, and heard many wailings; and
each time this was the heaviest stroke of all. Funerals have passed
along through the stout-hearted knights upon the wainscot, and amid
the laughing nymphs upon the arras. Old servants have shaken their
heads, as if somebody had deceived them, when they found that beauty
and nobility could perish.

Edmund! the things that are too true pass by us as if they were not
true at all; and when they have singled us out, then only do they
strike us. Thou and I must go too. Perhaps the next year may blow us
away with its fallen leaves.

_Spenser._ For you, my lord, many years (I trust) are waiting: I never
shall see those fallen leaves. No leaf, no bud, will spring upon the
earth before I sink into her breast for ever.

_Essex._ Thou, who art wiser than most men, shouldst bear with
patience, equanimity, and courage what is common to all.

_Spenser._ Enough, enough, enough! Have all men seen their infant
burnt to ashes before their eyes?

_Essex._ Gracious God! Merciful Father! what is this?

_Spenser._ Burnt alive! burnt to ashes! burnt to ashes! The flames
dart their serpent tongues through the nursery window. I cannot quit
thee, my Elizabeth! I cannot lay down our Edmund! Oh, these flames!
They persecute, they enthral me; they curl round my temples; they hiss
upon my brain; they taunt me with their fierce, foul voices; they carp
at me, they wither me, they consume me, throwing back to me a little
of life to roll and suffer in, with their fangs upon me. Ask me, my
lord, the things you wish to know from me: I may answer them; I am now
composed again. Command me, my gracious lord! I would yet serve you:
soon I shall be unable. You have stooped to raise me up; you have
borne with me; you have pitied me, even like one not powerful. You
have brought comfort, and will leave it with me, for gratitude is
comfort.

Oh! my memory stands all a-tiptoe on one burning point: when it drops
from it, then it perishes. Spare me: ask me nothing; let me weep
before you in peace--the kindest act of greatness.

_Essex._ I should rather have dared to mount into the midst of the
conflagration than I now dare entreat thee not to weep. The tears that
overflow thy heart, my Spenser, will staunch and heal it in their
sacred stream; but not without hope in God.

_Spenser._ My hope in God is that I may soon see again what He has
taken from me. Amid the myriads of angels, there is not one so
beautiful; and even he (if there be any) who is appointed my guardian
could never love me so. Ah! these are idle thoughts, vain wanderings,
distempered dreams. If there ever were guardian angels, he who so
wanted one--my helpless boy--would not have left these arms upon my
knees.

_Essex._ God help and sustain thee, too gentle Spenser! I never will
desert thee. But what am I? Great they have called me! Alas, how
powerless, then, and infantile is greatness in the presence of
calamity!

Come, give me thy hand: let us walk up and down the gallery. Bravely
done! I will envy no more a Sidney or a Raleigh.



LORD BACON AND RICHARD HOOKER


_Bacon._ Hearing much of your worthiness and wisdom, Master Richard
Hooker, I have besought your comfort and consolation in this my too
heavy affliction: for we often do stand in need of hearing what we
know full well, and our own balsams must be poured into our breasts by
another's hand. As the air at our doors is sometimes more expeditious
in removing pain and heaviness from the body than the most far-fetched
remedies would be, so the voice alone of a neighbourly and friendly
visitant may be more effectual in assuaging our sorrows, than whatever
is most forcible in rhetoric and most recondite in wisdom. On these
occasions we cannot put ourselves in a posture to receive the latter,
and still less are we at leisure to look into the corners of our
store-room, and to uncurl the leaves of our references. As for Memory,
who, you may tell me, would save us the trouble, she is footsore
enough in all conscience with me, without going farther back.
Withdrawn as you live from court and courtly men, and having ears
occupied by better reports than such as are flying about me, yet haply
so hard a case as mine, befalling a man heretofore not averse from the
studies in which you take delight, may have touched you with some
concern.

_Hooker._ I do think, my Lord of Verulam, that, unhappy as you appear,
God in sooth has forgone to chasten you, and that the day which in His
wisdom He appointed for your trial, was the very day on which the
king's Majesty gave unto your ward and custody the great seal of his
English realm. And yet perhaps it may be--let me utter it without
offence--that your features and stature were from that day forward no
longer what they were before. Such an effect do power and rank and
office produce even on prudent and religious men.

A hound's whelp howleth, if you pluck him up above where he stood:
man, in much greater peril from falling, doth rejoice. You, my lord,
as befitted you, are smitten and contrite, and do appear in deep
wretchedness and tribulation to your servants and those about you; but
I know that there is always a balm which lies uppermost in these
afflictions, and that no heart rightly softened can be very sore.

_Bacon._ And yet, Master Richard, it is surely no small matter to
lose the respect of those who looked up to us for countenance; and the
favour of a right learned king; and, O Master Hooker, such a power of
money! But money is mere dross. I should always hold it so, if it
possessed not two qualities: that of making men treat us reverently,
and that of enabling us to help the needy.

_Hooker._ The respect, I think, of those who respect us for what a
fool can give and a rogue can take away, may easily be dispensed with;
but it is indeed a high prerogative to help the needy; and when it
pleases the Almighty to deprive us of it, let us believe that He
foreknoweth our inclination to negligence in the charge entrusted to
us, and that in His mercy He hath removed from us a most fearful
responsibility.

_Bacon._ I know a number of poor gentlemen to whom I could have
rendered aid.

_Hooker._ Have you examined and sifted their worthiness?

_Bacon._ Well and deeply.

_Hooker._ Then must you have known them long before your adversity,
and while the means of succouring them were in your hands.

_Bacon._ You have circumvented and entrapped me, Master Hooker. Faith!
I am mortified: you the schoolman, I the schoolboy!

_Hooker._ Say not so, my lord. Your years, indeed, are fewer than
mine, by seven or thereabout; but your knowledge is far higher, your
experience richer. Our wits are not always in blossom upon us. When
the roses are overcharged and languid, up springs a spike of rue.
Mortified on such an occasion? God forfend it! But again to the
business. I should never be over-penitent for my neglect of needy
gentlemen who have neglected themselves much worse. They have chosen
their profession with its chances and contingencies. If they had
protected their country by their courage or adorned it by their
studies, they would have merited, and under a king of such learning
and such equity would have received in some sort, their reward. I look
upon them as so many old cabinets of ivory and tortoise-shell,
scratched, flawed, splintered, rotten, defective both within and
without, hard to unlock, insecure to lock up again, unfit to use.

_Bacon._ Methinks it beginneth to rain, Master Richard. What if we
comfort our bodies with a small cup of wine, against the ill-temper of
the air. Wherefore, in God's name, are you affrightened?

_Hooker._ Not so, my lord; not so.

_Bacon._ What then affects you?

_Hooker._ Why, indeed, since your lordship interrogates me--I looked,
idly and imprudently, into that rich buffet; and I saw, unless the
haze of the weather has come into the parlour, or my sight is the
worse for last night's reading, no fewer than six silver pints.
Surely, six tables for company are laid only at coronations.

_Bacon._ There are many men so squeamish that forsooth they would keep
a cup to themselves, and never communicate it to their nearest and
best friend; a fashion which seems to me offensive in an honest house,
where no disease of ill repute ought to be feared. We have lately,
Master Richard, adopted strange fashions; we have run into the wildest
luxuries. The Lord Leicester, I heard it from my father--God forfend
it should ever be recorded in our history!--when he entertained Queen
Elizabeth at Kenilworth Castle, laid before her Majesty a fork of pure
silver. I the more easily credit it, as Master Thomas Coriatt doth
vouch for having seen the same monstrous sign of voluptuousness at
Venice. We are surely the especial favourites of Providence, when such
wantonness hath not melted us quite away. After this portent, it would
otherwise have appeared incredible that we should have broken the
Spanish Armada.

Pledge me: hither comes our wine.

[_To the Servant._] Dolt! villain! is not this the beverage I reserve
for myself?

The blockhead must imagine that Malmsey runs in a stream under the
ocean, like the Alpheus. Bear with me, good Master Hooker, but verily
I have little of this wine, and I keep it as a medicine for my many
and growing infirmities. You are healthy at present: God in His
infinite mercy long maintain you so! Weaker drink is more wholesome
for you. The lighter ones of France are best accommodated by Nature to
our constitutions, and therefore she has placed them so within our
reach that we have only to stretch out our necks, in a manner, and
drink them from the vat. But this Malmsey, this Malmsey, flies from
centre to circumference, and makes youthful blood boil.

_Hooker._ Of a truth, my knowledge in such matters is but spare. My
Lord of Canterbury once ordered part of a goblet, containing some
strong Spanish wine, to be taken to me from his table when I dined by
sufferance with his chaplains, and, although a most discreet, prudent
man as befitteth his high station, was not so chary of my health as
your lordship. Wine is little to be trifled with, physic less. The
Cretans, the brewers of this Malmsey, have many aromatic and powerful
herbs among them. On their mountains, and notably on Ida, grows that
dittany which works such marvels, and which perhaps may give activity
to this hot medicinal drink of theirs. I would not touch it,
knowingly: an unregarded leaf, dropped into it above the ordinary,
might add such puissance to the concoction as almost to break the
buckles in my shoes; since we have good and valid authority that the
wounded hart, on eating thereof, casts the arrow out of his haunch or
entrails, although it stuck a palm deep.[4]

_Bacon._ When I read of such things I doubt them. Religion and
politics belong to God, and to God's vicegerent the king; we must not
touch upon them unadvisedly: but if I could procure a plant of dittany
on easy terms, I would persuade my apothecary and my gamekeeper to
make some experiments.

_Hooker._ I dare not distrust what grave writers have declared in
matters beyond my knowledge.

_Bacon._ Good Master Hooker, I have read many of your reasonings, and
they are admirably well sustained: added to which, your genius has
given such a strong current to your language as can come only from a
mighty elevation and a most abundant plenteousness. Yet forgive me, in
God's name, my worthy master, if you descried in me some expression of
wonder at your simplicity. We are all weak and vulnerable somewhere:
common men in the higher parts; heroes, as was feigned of Achilles, in
the lower. You would define to a hair's-breadth the qualities, states,
and dependencies of principalities, dominations, and powers; you would
be unerring about the apostles and the churches; and 'tis marvellous
how you wander about a pot-herb!

_Hooker._ I know my poor weak intellects, most noble lord, and how
scantily they have profited by my hard painstaking. Comprehending few
things, and those imperfectly, I say only what others have said
before, wise men and holy; and if, by passing through my heart into
the wide world around me, it pleaseth God that this little treasure
shall have lost nothing of its weight and pureness, my exultation is
then the exultation of humility. Wisdom consisteth not in knowing many
things, nor even in knowing them thoroughly; but in choosing and in
following what conduces the most certainly to our lasting happiness
and true glory. And this wisdom, my Lord of Verulam, cometh from
above.

_Bacon._ I have observed among the well-informed and the ill-informed
nearly the same quantity of infirmities and follies: those who are
rather the wiser keep them separate, and those who are wisest of all
keep them better out of sight. Now, examine the sayings and writings
of the prime philosophers, and you will often find them, Master
Richard, to be untruths made to resemble truths. The business with
them is to approximate as nearly as possible, and not to touch it: the
goal of the charioteer is _evitata fervidis rotis_, as some poet
saith. But we who care nothing for chants and cadences, and have no
time to catch at applauses, push forward over stones and sands
straightway to our object. I have persuaded men, and shall persuade
them for ages, that I possess a wide range of thought unexplored by
others, and first thrown open by me, with many fair enclosures of
choice and abstruse knowledge. I have incited and instructed them to
examine all subjects of useful and rational inquiry; few that occurred
to me have I myself left untouched or untried: one, however, hath
almost escaped me, and surely one worth the trouble.

_Hooker._ Pray, my lord, if I am guilty of no indiscretion, what may
it be?

_Bacon._ Francis Bacon.

FOOTNOTE:

[4] Lest it be thought that authority is wanting for the strong
expression of Hooker on the effects of dittany, the reader is referred
to the curious treatise of Plutarch on the reasoning faculty of
animals, in which (near the end) he asks: 'Who instructed deer wounded
by the Cretan arrow to seek for dittany? on the tasting of which herb
the bolts fall immediately from their bodies.'



OLIVER CROMWELL AND WALTER NOBLE


_Cromwell._ What brings thee back from Staffordshire, friend Walter?

_Noble._ I hope, General Cromwell, to persuade you that the death of
Charles will be considered by all Europe as a most atrocious action.

_Cromwell._ Thou hast already persuaded me: what then?

_Noble._ Surely, then, you will prevent it, for your authority is
great. Even those who upon their consciences found him guilty would
remit the penalty of blood, some from policy, some from mercy. I have
conversed with Hutchinson, with Ludlow,[5] your friend and mine, with
Henry Nevile, and Walter Long: you will oblige these worthy friends,
and unite in your favour the suffrages of the truest and trustiest men
living. There are many others, with whom I am in no habits of
intercourse, who are known to entertain the same sentiments; and these
also are among the country gentlemen, to whom our parliament owes the
better part of its reputation.

_Cromwell._ You country gentlemen bring with you into the People's
House a freshness and sweet savour which our citizens lack mightily. I
would fain merit your esteem, heedless of those pursy fellows from
hulks and warehouses, with one ear lappeted by the pen behind it, and
the other an heirloom, as Charles would have had it, in Laud's
Star-chamber. Oh, they are proud and bloody men! My heart melts; but,
alas! my authority is null: I am the servant of the Commonwealth. I
will not, dare not, betray it. If Charles Stuart had threatened my
death only, in the letter we ripped out of the saddle, I would have
reproved him manfully and turned him adrift: but others are concerned;
lives more precious than mine, worn as it is with fastings, prayers,
long services, and preyed upon by a pouncing disease. The Lord hath
led him into the toils laid for the innocent. Foolish man! he never
could eschew evil counsel.

_Noble._ In comparison with you, he is but as a pinnacle to a
buttress. I acknowledge his weaknesses, and cannot wink upon his
crimes: but that which you visit as the heaviest of them perhaps was
not so, although the most disastrous to both parties--the bearing of
arms against his people. He fought for what he considered his
hereditary property; we do the same: should we be hanged for losing a
lawsuit?

_Cromwell._ No, unless it is the second. Thou talkest finely and
foolishly, Wat, for a man of thy calm discernment. If a rogue holds a
pistol to my breast, do I ask him who he is? Do I care whether his
doublet be of cat-skin or of dog-skin? Fie upon such wicked sophisms!
Marvellous, how the devil works upon good men's minds!

_Noble._ Charles was always more to be dreaded by his friends than by
his enemies, and now by neither.

_Cromwell._ God forbid that Englishmen should be feared by Englishmen!
but to be daunted by the weakest, to bend before the worst--I tell
thee, Walter Noble, if Moses and the prophets commanded me to this
villainy, I would draw back and mount my horse.

_Noble._ I wish that our history, already too dark with blood, should
contain, as far as we are concerned in it, some unpolluted pages.

_Cromwell._ 'Twere better, much better. Never shall I be called, I
promise thee, an unnecessary shedder of blood. Remember, my good,
prudent friend, of what materials our sectaries are composed: what
hostility against all eminence, what rancour against all glory. Not
only kingly power offends them, but every other; and they talk of
_putting to the sword_, as if it were the quietest, gentlest, and most
ordinary thing in the world. The knaves even dictate from their stools
and benches to men in armour, bruised and bleeding for them; and with
school-dames' scourges in their fists do they give counsel to those
who protect them from the cart and halter. In the name of the Lord, I
must spit outright (or worse) upon these crackling bouncing
firebrands, before I can make them tractable.

_Noble._ I lament their blindness; but follies wear out the faster by
being hard run upon. This fermenting sourness will presently turn
vapid, and people will cast it out. I am not surprised that you are
discontented and angry at what thwarts your better nature. But come,
Cromwell, overlook them, despise them, and erect to yourself a
glorious name by sparing a mortal enemy.

_Cromwell._ A glorious name, by God's blessing, I will erect; and all
our fellow-labourers shall rejoice at it: but I see better than they
do the blow descending on them, and my arm better than theirs can ward
it off. Noble, thy heart overflows with kindness for Charles Stuart:
if he were at liberty to-morrow by thy intercession, he would sign thy
death-warrant the day after, for serving the Commonwealth. A
generation of vipers! there is nothing upright nor grateful in them:
never was there a drop of even Scotch blood in their veins. Indeed, we
have a clue to their bedchamber still hanging on the door, and I
suspect that an Italian fiddler or French valet has more than once
crossed the current.

_Noble._ That may be: nor indeed is it credible that any royal or
courtly family has gone on for three generations without a spur from
interloper. Look at France! some stout Parisian saint performed the
last miracle there.

_Cromwell._ Now thou talkest gravely and sensibly: I could hear thee
discourse thus for hours together.

_Noble._ Hear me, Cromwell, with equal patience on matters more
important. We all have our sufferings: why increase one another's
wantonly? Be the blood Scotch or English, French or Italian, a
drummer's or a buffoon's, it carries a soul upon its stream; and every
soul has many places to touch at, and much business to perform, before
it reaches its ultimate destination. Abolish the power of Charles;
extinguish not his virtues. Whatever is worthy to be loved for
anything is worthy to be preserved. A wise and dispassionate
legislator, if any such should arise among men, will not condemn to
death him who has done, or is likely to do, more service than injury
to society. Blocks and gibbets are the nearest objects to ours, and
their business is never with virtues or with hopes.

_Cromwell._ Walter! Walter! we laugh at speculators.

_Noble._ Many indeed are ready enough to laugh at speculators, because
many profit, or expect to profit, by established and widening abuses.
Speculations toward evil lose their name by adoption; speculations
towards good are for ever speculations, and he who hath proposed them
is a chimerical and silly creature. Among the matters under this
denomination I never find a cruel project, I never find an oppressive
or unjust one: how happens it?

_Cromwell._ Proportions should exist in all things. Sovereigns are
paid higher than others for their office; they should therefore be
punished more severely for abusing it, even if the consequences of
this abuse were in nothing more grievous or extensive. We cannot clap
them in the stocks conveniently, nor whip them at the market-place.
Where there is a crown there must be an axe: I would keep it there
only.

_Noble._ Lop off the rotten, press out the poisonous, preserve the
rest; let it suffice to have given this memorable example of national
power and justice.

_Cromwell._ Justice is perfect; an attribute of God: we must not
trifle with it.

_Noble._ Should we be less merciful to our fellow-creatures than to
our domestic animals? Before we deliver them to be killed, we weigh
their services against their inconveniences. On the foundation of
policy, when we have no better, let us erect the trophies of humanity:
let us consider that, educated in the same manner and situated in the
same position, we ourselves might have acted as reprovably. Abolish
that for ever which must else for ever generate abuses; and attribute
the faults of the man to the office, not the faults of the office to
the man.

_Cromwell._ I have no bowels for hypocrisy, and I abominate and detest
kingship.

_Noble._ I abominate and detest hangmanship; but in certain stages of
society both are necessary. Let them go together; we want neither now.

_Cromwell._ Men, like nails, lose their usefulness when they lose
their direction and begin to bend: such nails are then thrown into the
dust or into the furnace. I must do my duty; I must accomplish what is
commanded me; I must not be turned aside. I am loath to be cast into
the furnace or the dust; but God's will be done! Prithee, Wat, since
thou readest, as I see, the books of philosophers, didst thou ever
hear of Digby's remedies by sympathy?

_Noble._ Yes, formerly.

_Cromwell._ Well, now, I protest, I do believe there is something in
them. To cure my headache, I must breathe a vein in the neck of
Charles.

_Noble._ Oliver, Oliver! others are wittiest over wine, thou over
blood: cold-hearted, cruel man.

_Cromwell._ Why, dost thou verily think me so, Walter? Perhaps thou
art right in the main: but He alone who fashioned me in my mother's
womb, and who sees things deeper than we do, knows that.

FOOTNOTE:

[5] Ludlow, a most humane and temperate man, signed the death-warrant
of Charles, for violating the constitution he had sworn to defend, for
depriving the subject of property, liberty, limbs, and life
unlawfully. In equity he could do no otherwise; and to equity was the
only appeal, since the laws of the land had been erased by the king
himself.



LORD BROOKE AND SIR PHILIP SIDNEY


      Lord Brooke is less known than the personage with whom
      he converses, and upon whose friendship he had the
      virtue and good sense to found his chief distinction.
      On his monument at Warwick, written by himself, we
      read that he was servant of Queen Elizabeth,
      counsellor of King James and friend of Sir Philip
      Sidney. His style is stiff, but his sentiments are
      sound and manly.

_Brooke._ I come again unto the woods and unto the wilds of Penshurst,
whither my heart and the friend of my heart have long invited me.

_Sidney._ Welcome, welcome! And now, Greville, seat yourself under
this oak; since if you had hungered or thirsted from your journey, you
would have renewed the alacrity of your old servants in the hall.

_Brooke._ In truth I did; for no otherwise the good household would
have it. The birds met me first, affrightened by the tossing up of
caps; and by these harbingers I knew who were coming. When my palfrey
eyed them askance for their clamorousness, and shrank somewhat back,
they quarrelled with him almost before they saluted me, and asked him
many pert questions. What a pleasant spot, Sidney, have you chosen
here for meditation! A solitude is the audience-chamber of God. Few
days in our year are like this; there is a fresh pleasure in every
fresh posture of the limbs, in every turn the eye takes.

      Youth! credulous of happiness, throw down
      Upon this turf thy wallet--stored and swoln
      With morrow-morns, bird-eggs, and bladders burst--
      That tires thee with its wagging to and fro:
      Thou too wouldst breathe more freely for it, Age!
      Who lackest heart to laugh at life's deceit.

It sometimes requires a stout push, and sometimes a sudden resistance,
in the wisest men, not to become for a moment the most foolish. What
have I done? I have fairly challenged you, so much my master.

_Sidney._ You have warmed me: I must cool a little and watch my
opportunity. So now, Greville, return you to your invitations, and I
will clear the ground for the company; for Youth, for Age, and
whatever comes between, with kindred and dependencies. Verily we need
no taunts like those in your verses: here we have few vices, and
consequently few repinings. I take especial care that my young
labourers and farmers shall never be idle, and I supply them with bows
and arrows, with bowls and ninepins, for their Sunday evening,[6]
lest they drink and quarrel. In church they are taught to love God;
after church they are practised to love their neighbour: for business
on workdays keeps them apart and scattered, and on market-days they
are prone to a rivalry bordering on malice, as competitors for custom.
Goodness does not more certainly make men happy than happiness makes
them good. We must distinguish between felicity and prosperity; for
prosperity leads often to ambition, and ambition to disappointment:
the course is then over; the wheel turns round but once; while the
reaction of goodness and happiness is perpetual.

_Brooke._ You reason justly and you act rightly. Piety--warm, soft,
and passive as the ether round the throne of Grace--is made callous
and inactive by kneeling too much: her vitality faints under rigorous
and wearisome observances. A forced match between a man and his
religion sours his temper, and leaves a barren bed.

_Sidney._ Desire of lucre, the worst and most general country vice,
arises here from the necessity of looking to small gains; it is,
however, but the tartar that encrusts economy.

_Brooke._ Oh that anything so monstrous should exist in this profusion
and prodigality of blessings! The herbs, elastic with health, seem to
partake of sensitive and animated life, and to feel under my hand the
benediction I would bestow on them. What a hum of satisfaction in
God's creatures! How is it, Sidney, the smallest do seem the happiest?

_Sidney._ Compensation for their weaknesses and their fears;
compensation for the shortness of their existence. Their spirits mount
upon the sunbeam above the eagle; and they have more enjoyment in
their one summer than the elephant in his century.

_Brooke._ Are not also the little and lowly in our species the most
happy?

_Sidney._ I would not willingly try nor over-curiously examine it. We,
Greville, are happy in these parks and forests: we were happy in my
close winter-walk of box and laurustine. In our earlier days did we
not emboss our bosoms with the daffodils, and shake them almost unto
shedding with our transport? Ay, my friend, there is a greater
difference, both in the stages of life and in the seasons of the year,
than in the conditions of men: yet the healthy pass through the
seasons, from the clement to the inclement, not only unreluctantly
but rejoicingly, knowing that the worst will soon finish, and the best
begin anew; and we are desirous of pushing forward into every stage of
life, excepting that alone which ought reasonably to allure us most,
as opening to us the _Via Sacra_, along which we move in triumph to
our eternal country. We may in some measure frame our minds for the
reception of happiness, for more or for less; we should, however, well
consider to what port we are steering in search of it, and that even
in the richest its quantity is but too exhaustible. There is a
sickliness in the firmest of us, which induceth us to change our side,
though reposing ever so softly: yet, wittingly or unwittingly, we turn
again soon into our old position.

God hath granted unto both of us hearts easily contented, hearts
fitted for every station, because fitted for every duty. What appears
the dullest may contribute most to our genius; what is most gloomy may
soften the seeds and relax the fibres of gaiety. We enjoy the
solemnity of the spreading oak above us: perhaps we owe to it in part
the mood of our minds at this instant; perhaps an inanimate thing
supplies me, while I am speaking, with whatever I possess of
animation. Do you imagine that any contest of shepherds can afford
them the same pleasure as I receive from the description of it; or
that even in their loves, however innocent and faithful, they are so
free from anxiety as I am while I celebrate them? The exertion of
intellectual power, of fancy and imagination, keeps from us greatly
more than their wretchedness, and affords us greatly more than their
enjoyment. We are motes in the midst of generations: we have our
sunbeams to circuit and climb. Look at the summits of the trees around
us, how they move, and the loftiest the most: nothing is at rest
within the compass of our view, except the grey moss on the
park-pales. Let it eat away the dead oak, but let it not be compared
with the living one.

Poets are in general prone to melancholy; yet the most plaintive ditty
hath imparted a fuller joy, and of longer duration, to its composer,
than the conquest of Persia to the Macedonian. A bottle of wine
bringeth as much pleasure as the acquisition of a kingdom, and not
unlike it in kind: the senses in both cases are confused and
perverted.

_Brooke._ Merciful Heaven! and for the fruition of an hour's
drunkenness, from which they must awaken with heaviness, pain, and
terror, men consume a whole crop of their kind at one harvest home.
Shame upon those light ones who carol at the feast of blood! and worse
upon those graver ones who nail upon their escutcheon the name of
great! Ambition is but Avarice on stilts and masked. God sometimes
sends a famine, sometimes a pestilence, and sometimes a hero, for the
chastisement of mankind; none of them surely for our admiration. Only
some cause like unto that which is now scattering the mental fog of
the Netherlands, and is preparing them for the fruits of freedom, can
justify us in drawing the sword abroad.

_Sidney._ And only the accomplishment of our purpose can permit us
again to sheathe it; for the aggrandizement of our neighbour is nought
of detriment to us: on the contrary, if we are honest and industrious,
his wealth is ours. We have nothing to dread while our laws are
equitable and our impositions light: but children fly from mothers who
strip and scourge them.

_Brooke._ We are come to an age when we ought to read and speak
plainly what our discretion tells us is fit: we are not to be set in a
corner for mockery and derision, with our hands hanging down
motionless and our pockets turned inside out.

       *       *       *       *       *

But away, away with politics: let not this city-stench infect our
fresh country air!

       *       *       *       *       *

FOOTNOTE:

[6] Censurable as that practice may appear, it belonged to the age of
Sidney. Amusements were permitted the English on the seventh day, nor
were they restricted until the Puritans gained the ascendancy.



SOUTHEY AND PORSON


_Porson._ I suspect, Mr. Southey, you are angry with me for the
freedom with which I have spoken of your poetry and Wordsworth's.

_Southey._ What could have induced you to imagine it, Mr. Professor?
You have indeed bent your eyes upon me, since we have been together,
with somewhat of fierceness and defiance: I presume you fancied me to
be a commentator. You wrong me in your belief that any opinion on my
poetical works hath molested me; but you afford me more than
compensation in supposing me acutely sensible of injustice done to
Wordsworth. If we must converse on these topics, we will converse on
him. What man ever existed who spent a more inoffensive life, or
adorned it with nobler studies?

_Porson._ I believe so; and they who attack him with virulence are men
of as little morality as reflection. I have demonstrated that one of
them, he who wrote the _Pursuits of Literature_, could not construe a
Greek sentence or scan a verse; and I have fallen on the very _Index_
from which he drew out his forlorn hope on the parade. This is
incomparably the most impudent fellow I have met with in the course of
my reading, which has lain, you know, in a province where impudence is
no rarity.

       *       *       *       *       *

I had visited a friend in _King's Road_ when he entered.

'Have you seen the _Review_?' cried he. 'Worse than ever! I am
resolved to insert a paragraph in the papers, declaring that I had no
concern in the last number.'

'Is it so very bad?' said I, quietly.

'Infamous! detestable!' exclaimed he.

'Sit down, then: nobody will believe you,' was my answer.

Since that morning he has discovered that I drink harder than usual,
that my faculties are wearing fast away, that once, indeed, I had some
Greek in my head, but--he then claps the forefinger to the side of his
nose, turns his eye slowly upward, and looks compassionately and
calmly.

_Southey._ Come, Mr. Porson, grant him his merits: no critic is better
contrived to make any work a monthly one, no writer more dexterous in
giving a finishing touch.

_Porson._ The plagiary has a greater latitude of choice than we; and
if he brings home a parsnip or turnip-top, when he could as easily
have pocketed a nectarine or a pineapple, he must be a blockhead. I
never heard the name of the _Pursuer of Literature_, who has little
more merit in having stolen than he would have had if he had never
stolen at all; and I have forgotten that other man's, who evinced his
fitness to be the censor of our age, by a translation of the most
naked and impure satires of antiquity--those of Juvenal, which owe
their preservation to the partiality of the friars. I shall entertain
an unfavourable opinion of him if he has translated them well: pray,
has he?

_Southey._ Indeed, I do not know. I read poets for their poetry, and
to extract that nutriment of the intellect and of the heart which
poetry should contain. I never listen to the swans of the cesspool,
and must declare that nothing is heavier to me than rottenness and
corruption.

_Porson._ You are right, sir, perfectly right. A translator of Juvenal
would open a public drain to look for a needle, and may miss it. My
nose is not easily offended; but I must have something to fill my
belly. Come, we will lay aside the scrip of the transpositor and the
pouch of the pursuer, in reserve for the days of unleavened bread;
and again, if you please, to the lakes and mountains. Now we are both
in better humour, I must bring you to a confession that in your friend
Wordsworth there is occasionally a little trash.

_Southey._ A haunch of venison would be trash to a Brahmin, a bottle
of Burgundy to the xerif of Mecca. We are guided by precept, by habit,
by taste, by constitution. Hitherto our sentiments on poetry have been
delivered down to us from authority; and if it can be demonstrated, as
I think it may be, that the authority is inadequate, and that the
dictates are often inapplicable and often misinterpreted, you will
allow me to remove the cause out of court. Every man can see what is
very bad in a poem; almost every one can see what is very good: but
you, Mr. Porson, who have turned over all the volumes of all the
commentators, will inform me whether I am right or wrong in asserting
that no critic hath yet appeared who hath been able to fix or to
discern the exact degrees of excellence above a certain point.

_Porson._ None.

_Southey._ The reason is, because the eyes of no one have been upon a
level with it. Supposing, for the sake of argument, the contest of
Hesiod and Homer to have taken place: the judges who decided in favour
of the worse, and he, indeed, in poetry has little merit, may have
been elegant, wise, and conscientious men. Their decision was in
favour of that to the species of which they had been the most
accustomed. Corinna was preferred to Pindar no fewer than five times,
and the best judges in Greece gave her the preference; yet whatever
were her powers, and beyond a question they were extraordinary, we may
assure ourselves that she stood many degrees below Pindar. Nothing is
more absurd than the report that the judges were prepossessed by her
beauty. Plutarch tells us that she was much older than her competitor,
who consulted her judgment in his earlier odes. Now, granting their
first competition to have been when Pindar was twenty years old, and
that the others were in the years succeeding, her beauty must have
been somewhat on the decline; for in Greece there are few women who
retain the graces, none who retain the bloom of youth, beyond the
twenty-third year. Her countenance, I doubt not, was expressive: but
expression, although it gives beauty to men, makes women pay dearly
for its stamp, and pay soon. Nature seems, in protection to their
loveliness, to have ordered that they who are our superiors in
quickness and sensibility should be little disposed to laborious
thought, or to long excursions in the labyrinths of fancy. We may be
convinced that the verdict of the judges was biased by nothing else
than the habitudes of thinking; we may be convinced, too, that living
in an age when poetry was cultivated highly, and selected from the
most acute and the most dispassionate, they were subject to no greater
errors of opinion than are the learned messmates of our English
colleges.

_Porson._ You are more liberal in your largesses to the fair Greeks
than a friend of mine was, who resided in Athens to acquire the
language. He assured me that beauty there was in bud at thirteen, in
full blossom at fifteen, losing a leaf or two every day at seventeen,
trembling on the thorn at nineteen, and under the tree at twenty.

_Southey._ Mr. Porson, it does not appear to me that anything more is
necessary, in the first instance, than to interrogate our hearts in
what manner they have been affected. If the ear is satisfied; if at
one moment a tumult is aroused in the breast, and tranquillized at
another, with a perfect consciousness of equal power exerted in both
cases; if we rise up from the perusal of the work with a strong
excitement to thought, to imagination, to sensibility; above all, if
we sat down with some propensities toward evil, and walk away with
much stronger toward good, in the midst of a world which we never had
entered and of which we never had dreamed before--shall we perversely
put on again the _old man_ of criticism, and dissemble that we have
been conducted by a most beneficent and most potent genius? Nothing
proves to me so manifestly in what a pestiferous condition are its
lazarettos, as when I observe how little hath been objected against
those who have substituted words for things, and how much against
those who have reinstated things for words.

Let Wordsworth prove to the world that there may be animation without
blood and broken bones, and tenderness remote from the stews. Some
will doubt it; for even things the most evident are often but little
perceived and strangely estimated. Swift ridiculed the music of Handel
and the generalship of Marlborough; Pope the perspicacity and the
scholarship of Bentley; Gray the abilities of Shaftesbury and the
eloquence of Rousseau. Shakespeare hardly found those who would
collect his tragedies; Milton was read from godliness; Virgil was
antiquated and rustic; Cicero, Asiatic. What a rabble has persecuted
my friend! An elephant is born to be consumed by ants in the midst of
his unapproachable solitudes: Wordsworth is the prey of Jeffrey. Why
repine? Let us rather amuse ourselves with allegories, and recollect
that God in the creation left His noblest creature at the mercy of a
serpent.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Porson._ Wordsworth goes out of his way to be attacked; he picks up a
piece of dirt, throws it on the carpet in the midst of the company,
and cries, _This is a better man than any of you!_ He does indeed
mould the base material into what form he chooses; but why not rather
invite us to contemplate it than challenge us to condemn it? Here
surely is false taste.

_Southey._ The principal and the most general accusation against him
is, that the vehicle of his thoughts is unequal to them. Now did ever
the judges at the Olympic games say: 'We would have awarded to you the
meed of victory, if your chariot had been equal to your horses: it is
true they have won; but the people are displeased at a car neither new
nor richly gilt, and without a gryphon or sphinx engraved on the
axle'? You admire simplicity in Euripides; you censure it in
Wordsworth: believe me, sir, it arises in neither from penury of
thought--which seldom has produced it--but from the strength of
temperance, and at the suggestion of principle.

Take up a poem of Wordsworth's and read it--I would rather say, read
them all; and, knowing that a mind like yours must grasp closely what
comes within it, I will then appeal to you whether any poet of our
country, since Milton, hath exerted greater powers with less of strain
and less of ostentation. I would, however, by his permission, lay
before you for this purpose a poem which is yet unpublished and
incomplete.

_Porson._ Pity, with such abilities, he does not imitate the ancients
somewhat more.

_Southey._ Whom did they imitate? If his genius is equal to theirs he
has no need of a guide. He also will be an ancient; and the very
counterparts of those who now decry him will extol him a thousand
years hence in malignity to the moderns.



THE ABBÉ DELILLE AND WALTER LANDOR


The Abbé Delille was the happiest of creatures, when he could weep
over the charms of innocence and the country in some crowded and
fashionable circle at Paris. We embraced most pathetically on our
first meeting there, as if the one were condemned to quit the earth,
the other to live upon it.

_Delille._ You are reported to have said that descriptive poetry has
all the merits of a handkerchief that smells of roses?

_Landor._ This, if I said it, is among the things which are neither
false enough nor true enough to be displeasing. But the Abbé Delille
has merits of his own. To translate Milton well is more laudable than
originality in trifling matters; just as to transport an obelisk from
Egypt, and to erect it in one of the squares, must be considered a
greater labour than to build a new chandler's shop.

_Delille._ Milton is indeed extremely difficult to translate; for,
however noble and majestic, he is sometimes heavy, and often rough and
unequal.

_Landor._ Dear Abbé, porphyry is heavy, gold is heavier; Ossa and
Olympus are rough and unequal; the steppes of Tartary, though high,
are of uniform elevation: there is not a rock, nor a birch, nor a
cytisus, nor an arbutus upon them great enough to shelter a
new-dropped lamb. Level the Alps one with another, and where is their
sublimity? Raise up the vale of Tempe to the downs above, and where
are those sylvan creeks and harbours in which the imagination watches
while the soul reposes; those recesses in which the gods partook the
weaknesses of mortals, and mortals the enjoyments of the gods?

You have treated our poet with courtesy and distinction; in your
trimmed and measured dress, he might be taken for a Frenchman. Do not
think me flattering. You have conducted Eve from Paradise to Paris,
and she really looks prettier and smarter than before she tripped.
With what elegance she rises from a most awful dream! You represent
her (I repeat your expression) as springing up _en sursaut_, as if
you had caught her asleep and tickled the young creature on that sofa.

Homer and Virgil have been excelled in sublimity by Shakespeare and
Milton, as the Caucasus and Atlas of the old world by the Andes and
Teneriffe of the new; but you would embellish them all.

_Delille._ I owe to Voltaire my first sentiment of admiration for
Milton and Shakespeare.

_Landor._ He stuck to them as a woodpecker to an old forest-tree, only
for the purpose of picking out what was rotten: he has made the holes
deeper than he found them, and, after all his cries and chatter, has
brought home but scanty sustenance to his starveling nest.

_Delille._ You must acknowledge that there are fine verses in his
tragedies.

_Landor._ Whenever such is the first observation, be assured, M.
l'Abbé, that the poem, if heroic or dramatic, is bad. Should a work of
this kind be excellent, we say, 'How admirably the characters are
sustained! What delicacy of discrimination! There is nothing to be
taken away or altered without an injury to the part or to the whole.'
We may afterward descend on the versification. In poetry, there is a
greater difference between the good and the excellent than there is
between the bad and the good. Poetry has no golden mean; mediocrity
here is of another metal, which Voltaire, however, had skill enough to
encrust and polish. In the least wretched of his tragedies, whatever
is tolerable is Shakespeare's; but, gracious Heaven! how deteriorated!
When he pretends to extol a poet he chooses some defective part, and
renders it more so whenever he translates it. I will repeat a few
verses from Metastasio in support of my assertion. Metastasio was both
a better critic and a better poet, although of the second order in
each quality; his tyrants are less philosophical, and his chambermaids
less dogmatic. Voltaire was, however, a man of abilities, and author
of many passable epigrams, beside those which are contained in his
tragedies and heroics; yet it must be confessed that, like your
Parisian lackeys, they are usually the smartest when out of place.

_Delille._ What you call epigram gives life and spirit to grave works,
and seems principally wanted to relieve a long poem. I do not see why
what pleases us in a star should not please us in a constellation.



DIOGENES AND PLATO


_Diogenes._ Stop! stop! come hither! Why lookest thou so scornfully
and askance upon me?

_Plato._ Let me go! loose me! I am resolved to pass.

_Diogenes._ Nay, then, by Jupiter and this tub! thou leavest three
good ells of Milesian cloth behind thee. Whither wouldst thou amble?

_Plato._ I am not obliged in courtesy to tell you.

_Diogenes._ Upon whose errand? Answer me directly.

_Plato._ Upon my own.

_Diogenes._ Oh, then, I will hold thee yet awhile. If it were upon
another's, it might be a hardship to a good citizen, though not to a
good philosopher.

_Plato._ That can be no impediment to my release: you do not think me
one.

_Diogenes._ No, by my Father Jove!

_Plato._ Your father!

_Diogenes._ Why not? Thou shouldst be the last man to doubt it. Hast
not thou declared it irrational to refuse our belief to those who
assert that they are begotten by the gods, though the assertion (these
are thy words) be unfounded on reason or probability? In me there is a
chance of it: whereas in the generation of such people as thou art
fondest of frequenting, who claim it loudly, there are always too many
competitors to leave it probable.

_Plato._ Those who speak against the great do not usually speak from
morality, but from envy.

_Diogenes._ Thou hast a glimpse of the truth in this place, but as
thou hast already shown thy ignorance in attempting to prove to me
what a _man_ is, ill can I expect to learn from thee what is a _great
man_.

_Plato._ No doubt your experience and intercourse will afford me the
information.

_Diogenes._ Attend, and take it. The great man is he who hath nothing
to fear and nothing to hope from another. It is he who, while he
demonstrates the iniquity of the laws, and is able to correct them,
obeys them peaceably. It is he who looks on the ambitious both as weak
and fraudulent. It is he who hath no disposition or occasion for any
kind of deceit, no reason for being or for appearing different from
what he is. It is he who can call together the most select company
when it pleases him.

_Plato._ Excuse my interruption. In the beginning of your definition I
fancied that you were designating your own person, as most people do
in describing what is admirable; now I find that you have some other
in contemplation.

_Diogenes._ I thank thee for allowing me what perhaps I _do_ possess,
but what I was not then thinking of; as is often the case with rich
possessors: in fact, the latter part of the description suits me as
well as any portion of the former.

_Plato._ You may call together the best company, by using your hands
in the call, as you did with me; otherwise I am not sure that you
would succeed in it.

_Diogenes._ My thoughts are my company; I can bring them together,
select them, detain them, dismiss them. Imbecile and vicious men
cannot do any of these things. Their thoughts are scattered, vague,
uncertain, cumbersome: and the worst stick to them the longest; many
indeed by choice, the greater part by necessity, and accompanied, some
by weak wishes, others by vain remorse.

_Plato._ Is there nothing of greatness, O Diogenes! in exhibiting how
cities and communities may be governed best, how morals may be kept
the purest, and power become the most stable?

_Diogenes._ _Something_ of greatness does not constitute the great
man. Let me, however, see him who hath done what thou sayest: he must
be the most universal and the most indefatigable traveller, he must
also be the oldest creature, upon earth.

_Plato._ How so?

_Diogenes._ Because he must know perfectly the climate, the soil, the
situation, the peculiarities, of the races, of their allies, of their
enemies; he must have sounded their harbours, he must have measured
the quantity of their arable land and pasture, of their woods and
mountains; he must have ascertained whether there are fisheries on
their coasts, and even what winds are prevalent. On these causes, with
some others, depend the bodily strength, the numbers, the wealth, the
wants, the capacities of the people.

_Plato._ Such are low thoughts.

_Diogenes._ The bird of wisdom flies low, and seeks her food under
hedges: the eagle himself would be starved if he always soared aloft
and against the sun. The sweetest fruit grows near the ground, and the
plants that bear it require ventilation and lopping. Were this not to
be done in thy garden, every walk and alley, every plot and border,
would be covered with runners and roots, with boughs and suckers. We
want no poets or logicians or metaphysicians to govern us: we want
practical men, honest men, continent men, unambitious men, fearful to
solicit a trust, slow to accept, and resolute never to betray one.
Experimentalists may be the best philosophers: they are always the
worst politicians. Teach people their duties, and they will know their
interests. Change as little as possible, and correct as much.

Philosophers are absurd from many causes, but principally from laying
out unthriftily their distinctions. They set up four virtues:
fortitude, prudence, temperance, and justice. Now a man may be a very
bad one, and yet possess three out of the four. Every cut-throat must,
if he has been a cut-throat on many occasions, have more fortitude and
more prudence than the greater part of those whom we consider as the
best men. And what cruel wretches, both executioners and judges, have
been strictly just! how little have they cared what gentleness, what
generosity, what genius, their sentence hath removed from the earth!
Temperance and beneficence contain all other virtues. Take them home,
Plato; split them, expound them; do what thou wilt with them, if thou
but use them.

Before I gave thee this lesson, which is a better than thou ever
gavest any one, and easier to remember, thou wert accusing me of
invidiousness and malice against those whom thou callest the great,
meaning to say the powerful. Thy imagination, I am well aware, had
taken its flight toward Sicily, where thou seekest thy great man, as
earnestly and undoubtingly as Ceres sought her Persephone. Faith!
honest Plato, I have no reason to envy thy worthy friend Dionysius.
Look at my nose! A lad seven or eight years old threw an apple at me
yesterday, while I was gazing at the clouds, and gave me nose enough
for two moderate men. Instead of such a godsend, what should I have
thought of my fortune, if, after living all my lifetime among golden
vases, rougher than my hand with their emeralds and rubies, their
engravings and embossments; among Parian caryatides and porphyry
sphinxes; among philosophers with rings upon their fingers and linen
next their skin; and among singing-boys and dancing-girls, to whom
alone thou speakest intelligibly--I ask thee again, what should I in
reason have thought of my fortune, if, after these facilities and
superfluities, I had at last been pelted out of my house, not by one
young rogue, but by thousands of all ages, and not with an apple (I
wish I could say a rotten one), but with pebbles and broken pots; and,
to crown my deserts, had been compelled to become the teacher of so
promising a generation? Great men, forsooth! thou knowest at last who
they are.

_Plato._ There are great men of various kinds.

_Diogenes._ No, by my beard, are there not!

_Plato._ What! are there not great captains, great geometricians,
great dialectitians?

_Diogenes._ Who denied it? A great man was the postulate. Try thy hand
now at the powerful one.

_Plato._ On seeing the exercise of power, a child cannot doubt who is
powerful, more or less; for power is relative. All men are weak, not
only if compared to the Demiurgos, but if compared to the sea or the
earth, or certain things upon each of them, such as elephants and
whales. So placid and tranquil is the scene around us, we can hardly
bring to mind the images of strength and force, the precipices, the
abysses----

_Diogenes._ Prithee hold thy loose tongue, twinkling and glittering
like a serpent's in the midst of luxuriance and rankness! Did never
this reflection of thine warn thee that, in human life, the precipices
and abysses would be much farther from our admiration if we were less
inconsiderate, selfish, and vile? I will not however stop thee long,
for thou wert going on quite consistently. As thy great men are
fighters and wranglers, so thy mighty things upon the earth and sea
are troublesome and intractable encumbrances. Thou perceivedst not
what was greater in the former case, neither art thou aware what is
greater in this. Didst thou feel the gentle air that passed us?

_Plato._ I did not, just then.

_Diogenes._ That air, so gentle, so imperceptible to thee, is more
powerful not only than all the creatures that breathe and live by it;
not only than all the oaks of the forest, which it rears in an age and
shatters in a moment; not only than all the monsters of the sea, but
than the sea itself, which it tosses up into foam, and breaks against
every rock in its vast circumference; for it carries in its bosom,
with perfect calm and composure, the incontrollable ocean and the
peopled earth, like an atom of a feather.

To the world's turmoils and pageantries is attracted, not only the
admiration of the populace, but the zeal of the orator, the enthusiasm
of the poet, the investigation of the historian, and the contemplation
of the philosopher: yet how silent and invisible are they in the
depths of air! Do I say in those depths and deserts? No; I say in the
distance of a swallow's flight--at the distance she rises above us,
ere a sentence brief as this could be uttered.

What are its mines and mountains? Fragments welded up and dislocated
by the expansion of water from below; the most part reduced to mud,
the rest to splinters. Afterwards sprang up fire in many places, and
again tore and mangled the mutilated carcass, and still growls over
it.

What are its cities and ramparts, and moles and monuments? Segments of
a fragment, which one man puts together and another throws down. Here
we stumble upon thy great ones at their work. Show me now, if thou
canst, in history, three great warriors, or three great statesmen, who
have acted otherwise than spiteful children.

_Plato._ I will begin to look for them in history when I have
discovered the same number in the philosophers or the poets. A prudent
man searches in his own garden after the plant he wants, before he
casts his eyes over the stalls in Kenkrea or Keramicos.

Returning to your observation on the potency of the air, I am not
ignorant or unmindful of it. May I venture to express my opinion to
you, Diogenes, that the earlier discoverers and distributors of wisdom
(which wisdom lies among us in ruins and remnants, partly distorted
and partly concealed by theological allegory) meant by Jupiter the air
in its agitated state; by Juno the air in its quiescent. These are the
great agents, and therefore called the king and queen of the gods.
Jupiter is denominated by Homer the _compeller of clouds_: Juno
receives them, and remits them in showers to plants and animals.

I may trust you, I hope, O Diogenes?

_Diogenes._ Thou mayest lower the gods in my presence, as safely as
men in the presence of Timon.

_Plato._ I would not lower them: I would exalt them.

_Diogenes._ More foolish and presumptuous still!

_Plato._ Fair words, O Sinopean! I protest to you my aim is truth.

_Diogenes._ I cannot lead thee where of a certainty thou mayest always
find it; but I will tell thee what it is. Truth is a point; the
subtilest and finest; harder than adamant; never to be broken, worn
away, or blunted. Its only bad quality is, that it is sure to hurt
those who touch it; and likely to draw blood, perhaps the life-blood,
of those who press earnestly upon it. Let us away from this narrow
lane skirted with hemlock, and pursue our road again through the wind
and dust toward the _great_ man and the _powerful_. Him I would call
the powerful one who controls the storms of his mind, and turns to
good account the worst accidents of his fortune. The great man, I was
going on to demonstrate, is somewhat more. He must be able to do this,
and he must have an intellect which puts into motion the intellect of
others.

_Plato._ Socrates, then, was your great man.

_Diogenes._ He was indeed; nor can all thou hast attributed to him
ever make me think the contrary. I wish he could have kept a little
more at home, and have thought it as well worth his while to converse
with his own children as with others.

_Plato._ He knew himself born for the benefit of the human race.

_Diogenes._ Those who are born for the benefit of the human race go
but little into it: those who are born for its curse are crowded.

_Plato._ It was requisite to dispel the mists of ignorance and error.

_Diogenes._ Has he done it? What doubt has he elucidated, or what fact
has he established? Although I was but twelve years old and resident
in another city when he died, I have taken some pains in my inquiries
about him from persons of less vanity and less perverseness than his
disciples. He did not leave behind him any true philosopher among
them; any who followed his mode of argumentation, his subjects of
disquisition, or his course of life; any who would subdue the
malignant passions or coerce the looser; any who would abstain from
calumny or from cavil; any who would devote his days to the glory of
his country, or, what is easier and perhaps wiser, to his own
well-founded contentment and well-merited repose. Xenophon, the best
of them, offered up sacrifices, believed in oracles, consulted
soothsayers, turned pale at a jay, and was dysenteric at a magpie.

_Plato._ He had courage at least.

_Diogenes._ His courage was of so strange a quality, that he was
ready, if jay or magpie did not cross him, to fight for Spartan or
Persian. Plato, whom thou esteemest much, and knowest somewhat less,
careth as little for portent and omen as doth Diogenes. What he would
have done for a Persian I cannot say; certain I am that he would have
no more fought for a Spartan than he would for his own father: yet he
mortally hates the man who hath a kinder muse or a better milliner, or
a seat nearer the minion of a king. So much for the two disciples of
Socrates who have acquired the greatest celebrity!

       *       *       *       *       *

_Plato._ Diogenes! if you must argue or discourse with me, I will
endure your asperity for the sake of your acuteness; but it appears to
me a more philosophical thing to avoid what is insulting and
vexatious, than to breast and brave it.

_Diogenes._ Thou hast spoken well.

_Plato._ It belongs to the vulgar, not to us, to fly from a man's
opinions to his actions, and to stab him in his own house for having
received no wound in the school. One merit you will allow me: I always
keep my temper; which you seldom do.

_Diogenes._ Is mine a good or a bad one?

_Plato._ Now, must I speak sincerely?

_Diogenes._ Dost thou, a philosopher, ask such a question of me, a
philosopher? Ay, sincerely or not at all.

_Plato._ Sincerely as you could wish, I must declare, then, your
temper is the worst in the world.

_Diogenes._ I am much in the right, therefore, not to keep it. Embrace
me: I have spoken now in thy own manner. Because thou sayest the most
malicious things the most placidly, thou thinkest or pretendest thou
art sincere.

_Plato._ Certainly those who are most the masters of their resentments
are likely to speak less erroneously than the passionate and morose.

_Diogenes._ If they would, they might; but the moderate are not
usually the most sincere, for the same circumspection which makes them
moderate makes them likewise retentive of what could give offence:
they are also timid in regard to fortune and favour, and hazard
little. There is no mass of sincerity in any place. What there is must
be picked up patiently, a grain or two at a time; and the season for
it is after a storm, after the overflowing of banks, and bursting of
mounds, and sweeping away of landmarks. Men will always hold something
back; they must be shaken and loosened a little, to make them let go
what is deepest in them, and weightiest and purest.

_Plato._ Shaking and loosening as much about you as was requisite for
the occasion, it became you to demonstrate where and in what manner I
had made Socrates appear less sagacious and less eloquent than he was;
it became you likewise to consider the great difficulty of finding new
thoughts and new expressions for those who had more of them than any
other men, and to represent them in all the brilliancy of their wit
and in all the majesty of their genius. I do not assert that I have
done it; but if I have not, what man has? what man has come so nigh to
it? He who could bring Socrates, or Solon, or Diogenes through a
dialogue, without disparagement, is much nearer in his intellectual
powers to them, than any other is near to him.

_Diogenes._ Let Diogenes alone, and Socrates, and Solon. None of the
three ever occupied his hours in tingeing and curling the tarnished
plumes of prostitute Philosophy, or deemed anything worth his
attention, care, or notice, that did not make men brave and
independent. As thou callest on me to show thee where and in what
manner thou hast misrepresented thy teacher, and as thou seemest to
set an equal value on eloquence and on reasoning, I shall attend to
thee awhile on each of these matters, first inquiring of thee whether
the axiom is Socratic, that it is never becoming to get drunk,
_unless_ in the solemnities of Bacchus?

_Plato._ This god was the discoverer of the vine and of its uses.

_Diogenes._ Is drunkenness one of its uses, or the discovery of a god?
If Pallas or Jupiter hath given us reason, we should sacrifice our
reason with more propriety to Jupiter or Pallas. To Bacchus is due a
libation of wine; the same being his gift, as thou preachest.

Another and a graver question.

Did Socrates teach thee that 'slaves are to be scourged, and by no
means admonished as though they were the children of the master'?

_Plato._ He did not argue upon government.

_Diogenes._ He argued upon humanity, whereon all government is
founded: whatever is beside it is usurpation.

_Plato._ Are slaves then never to be scourged, whatever be their
transgressions and enormities?

_Diogenes._ Whatever they be, they are less than his who reduced them
to this condition.

_Plato._ What! though they murder his whole family?

_Diogenes._ Ay, and poison the public fountain of the city.

What am I saying? and to whom? Horrible as is this crime, and next in
atrocity to parricide, thou deemest it a lighter one than stealing a
fig or grape. The stealer of these is scourged by thee; the sentence
on the poisoner is to cleanse out the receptacle. There is, however, a
kind of poisoning which, to do thee justice, comes before thee with
all its horrors, and which thou wouldst punish capitally, even in such
a sacred personage as an aruspex or diviner: I mean the poisoning by
incantation. I, and my whole family, my whole race, my whole city, may
bite the dust in agony from a truss of henbane in the well; and little
harm done forsooth! Let an idle fool set an image of me in wax before
the fire, and whistle and caper to it, and purr and pray, and chant a
hymn to Hecate while it melts, entreating and imploring her that I may
melt as easily--and thou wouldst, in thy equity and holiness, strangle
him at the first stave of his psalmody.

_Plato._ If this is an absurdity, can you find another?

_Diogenes._ Truly, in reading thy book, I doubted at first, and for a
long continuance, whether thou couldst have been serious; and whether
it were not rather a satire on those busy-bodies who are incessantly
intermeddling in other people's affairs. It was only on the
protestation of thy intimate friends that I believed thee to have
written it in earnest. As for thy question, it is idle to stoop and
pick out absurdities from a mass of inconsistency and injustice; but
another and another I could throw in, and another and another
afterward, from any page in the volume. Two bare, staring falsehoods
lift their beaks one upon the other, like spring frogs. Thou sayest
that no punishment decreed by the laws tendeth to evil. What! not if
immoderate? not if partial? Why then repeal any penal statute while
the subject of its animadversion exists? In prisons the less criminal
are placed among the more criminal, the inexperienced in vice together
with the hardened in it. This is part of the punishment, though it
precedes the sentence; nay, it is often inflicted on those whom the
judges acquit: the law, by allowing it, does it.

The next is, that he who is punished by the laws is the better for it,
however the less depraved. What! if anteriorly to the sentence he
lives and converses with worse men, some of whom console him by
deadening the sense of shame, others by removing the apprehension of
punishment? Many laws as certainly make men bad, as bad men make many
laws; yet under thy regimen they take us from the bosom of the nurse,
turn the meat about upon the platter, pull the bed-clothes off, make
us sleep when we would wake, and wake when we would sleep, and never
cease to rummage and twitch us, until they see us safe landed at the
grave. We can do nothing (but be poisoned) with impunity. What is
worst of all, we must marry certain relatives and connexions, be they
distorted, blear-eyed, toothless, carbuncled, with hair (if any)
eclipsing the reddest torch of Hymen, and with a hide outrivalling in
colour and plaits his trimmest saffron robe. At the mention of this
indeed, friend Plato, even thou, although resolved to stand out of
harm's way, beginnest to make a wry mouth, and findest it difficult to
pucker and purse it up again, without an astringent store of moral
sentences. Hymen is truly no acquaintance of thine. We know the
delicacies of love which thou wouldst reserve for the gluttony of
heroes and the fastidiousness of philosophers. Heroes, like gods, must
have their own way; but against thee and thy confraternity of elders I
would turn the closet-key, and your mouths might water over, but your
tongues should never enter those little pots of comfiture. Seriously,
you who wear embroidered slippers ought to be very cautious of
treading in the mire. Philosophers should not only live the simplest
lives, but should also use the plainest language. Poets, in employing
magnificent and sonorous words, teach philosophy the better by thus
disarming suspicion that the finest poetry contains and conveys the
finest philosophy. You will never let any man hold his right station:
you would rank Solon with Homer for poetry. This is absurd. The only
resemblance is in both being eminently wise. Pindar, too, makes even
the cadences of his dithyrambics keep time to the flute of Reason. My
tub, which holds fifty-fold thy wisdom, would crack at the
reverberation of thy voice.

_Plato._ Farewell.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Diogenes._ I mean that every one of thy whimsies hath been picked up
somewhere by thee in thy travels; and each of them hath been rendered
more weak and puny by its place of concealment in thy closet. What
thou hast written on the immortality of the soul goes rather to prove
the immortality of the body; and applies as well to the body of a
weasel or an eel as to the fairer one of Agathon or of Aster. Why not
at once introduce a new religion, since religions keep and are
relished in proportion as they are salted with absurdity, inside and
out? and all of them must have one great crystal of it for the centre;
but Philosophy pines and dies unless she drinks limpid water. When
Pherecydes and Pythagoras felt in themselves the majesty of
contemplation, they spurned the idea that flesh and bones and arteries
should confer it: and that what comprehends the past and the future
should sink in a moment and be annihilated for ever. 'No,' cried they,
'the power of thinking is no more in the brain than in the hair,
although the brain may be the instrument on which it plays. It is not
corporeal, it is not of this world; its existence is eternity, its
residence is infinity.' I forbear to discuss the rationality of their
belief, and pass on straightway to thine; if, indeed, I am to consider
as one, belief and doctrine.

_Plato._ As you will.

_Diogenes._ I should rather, then, regard these things as mere
ornaments; just as many decorate their apartments with lyres and
harps, which they themselves look at from the couch, supinely
complacent, and leave for visitors to admire and play on.

_Plato._ I foresee not how you can disprove my argument on the
immortality of the soul, which, being contained in the best of my
dialogues, and being often asked for among my friends, I carry with
me.

_Diogenes._ At this time?

_Plato._ Even so.

_Diogenes._ Give me then a certain part of it for my perusal.

_Plato._ Willingly.

_Diogenes._ Hermes and Pallas! I wanted but a cubit of it, or at most
a fathom, and thou art pulling it out by the plethron.

_Plato._ This is the place in question.

_Diogenes._ Read it.

_Plato._ [_Reads._] 'Sayest thou not that death is the opposite of
life, and that they spring the one from the other?' '_Yes._' 'What
springs then from the living?' '_The dead._' 'And what from the dead?'
'_The living._' 'Then all things alive spring from the dead.'

_Diogenes._ Why the repetition? but go on.

_Plato._ [_Reads._] 'Souls therefore exist after death in the infernal
regions.'

_Diogenes._ Where is the _therefore_? where is it even as to
_existence_? As to the _infernal regions_, there is nothing that
points toward a proof, or promises an indication. Death neither
springs from life, nor life from death. Although death is the
inevitable consequence of life, if the observation and experience of
ages go for anything, yet nothing shows us, or ever hath signified,
that life comes from death. Thou mightest as well say that a
barley-corn dies before the germ of another barley-corn grows up from
it, than which nothing is more untrue; for it is only the protecting
part of the germ that perishes, when its protection is no longer
necessary. The consequence, that souls exist after death, cannot be
drawn from the corruption of the body, even if it were demonstrable
that out of this corruption a live one could rise up. Thou hast not
said that the soul is among those dead things which living things must
spring from; thou hast not said that a living soul produces a dead
soul, or that a dead soul produces a living one.

_Plato._ No, indeed.

_Diogenes._ On my faith, thou hast said, however, things no less
inconsiderate, no less inconsequent, no less unwise; and this very
thing must be said and proved, to make thy argument of any value. Do
dead men beget children?

_Plato._ I have not said it.

_Diogenes._ Thy argument implies it.

_Plato._ These are high mysteries, and to be approached with
reverence.

_Diogenes._ Whatever we cannot account for is in the same predicament.
We may be gainers by being ignorant if we can be thought mysterious.
It is better to shake our heads and to let nothing out of them, than
to be plain and explicit in matters of difficulty. I do not mean in
confessing our ignorance or our imperfect knowledge of them, but in
clearing them up perspicuously: for, if we answer with ease, we may
haply be thought good-natured, quick, communicative; never deep,
never sagacious; not very defective possibly in our intellectual
faculties, yet unequal and chinky, and liable to the probation of
every clown's knuckle.

_Plato._ The brightest of stars appear the most unsteady and tremulous
in their light; not from any quality inherent in themselves, but from
the vapours that float below, and from the imperfection of vision in
the surveyor.

_Diogenes._ Draw thy robe round thee; let the folds fall gracefully,
and look majestic. That sentence is an admirable one; but not for me.
I want sense, not stars. What then? Do no vapours float below the
others? and is there no imperfection in the vision of those who look
at _them_, if they are the same men, and look the next moment? We must
move on: I shall follow the dead bodies, and the benighted driver of
their fantastic bier, close and keen as any hyena.

_Plato._ Certainly, O Diogenes, you excel me in elucidations and
similes: mine was less obvious.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Diogenes._ I know the respect thou bearest to the dogly character,
and can attribute to nothing else the complacency with which thou hast
listened to me since I released thy cloak. If ever the Athenians, in
their inconstancy, should issue a decree to deprive me of the
appellation they have conferred on me, rise up, I pray thee, in my
defence, and protest that I have not merited so severe a mulct.
Something I do deserve at thy hands; having supplied thee, first with
a store of patience, when thou wert going without any about thee,
although it is the readiest viaticum and the heartiest sustenance of
human life; and then with weapons from this tub, wherewith to drive
the importunate cock before thee out of doors again.



ALFIERI AND SALOMON THE FLORENTINE JEW


_Alfieri._ Let us walk to the window, Signor Salomon. And now, instead
of the silly, simpering compliments repeated at introductions, let me
assure you that you are the only man in Florence with whom I would
willingly exchange a salutation.

_Salomon._ I must think myself highly flattered, Signor Conte, having
always heard that you are not only the greatest democrat, but also the
greatest aristocrat, in Europe.

_Alfieri._ These two things, however opposite, which your smile would
indicate, are not so irreconcilable as you imagine. Let us first
understand the words, and then talk about them. The democrat is he who
wishes the people to have a due share in the government, and this
share if you please shall be the principal one. The aristocrat of our
days is contented with no actual share in it; but if a man of family
is conscious of his dignity, and resentful that another has invaded
it, he may be, and is universally, called an aristocrat. The principal
difference is, that one carries outward what the other carries inward.
I am thought an aristocrat by the Florentines for conversing with few
people, and for changing my shirt and shaving my beard on other days
than festivals; which the most aristocratical of them never do,
considering it, no doubt, as an excess. I am, however, from my soul a
republican, if prudence and modesty will authorize any man to call
himself so; and this, I trust, I have demonstrated in the most
valuable of my works, the _Treatise on Tyranny_ and the _Dialogue_
with my friends at Siena. The aristocratical part of me, if part of me
it must be called, hangs loose and keeps off insects. I see no
aristocracy in the children of sharpers from behind the counter, nor,
placing the matter in the most favourable point of view, in the
descendants of free citizens who accepted from any vile
enslaver--French, Spanish, German, or priest, or monk (represented
with a piece of buffoonery, like a beehive on his head and a picklock
key at his girdle)--the titles of counts and marquises. In Piedmont
the matter is different: we must either have been the rabble or the
lords; we were military, and we retain over the populace the same rank
and spirit as our ancestors held over the soldiery.

_Salomon._ Signor Conte, I have heard of levellers, but I have never
seen one: all are disposed to level down, but nobody to level up. As
for nobility, there is none in Europe beside the Venetian. Nobility
must be self-constituted and independent: the free alone are noble;
slavery, like death, levels all. The English come nearest to the
Venetian: they are independent, but want the main characteristic, the
_self-constituted_. You have been in England, Signor Conte, and can
judge of them better than I can.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Alfieri._ It is among those who stand between the peerage and the
people that there exists a greater mass of virtue and of wisdom than
in the rest of Europe. Much of their dignified simplicity may be
attributed to the plainness of their religion, and, what will always
be imitated, to the decorous life of their king: for whatever may be
the defects of either, if we compare them with others round us, they
are excellent.

_Salomon._ A young religion jumps upon the shoulders of an older one,
and soon becomes like her, by mockery of her tricks, her cant, and her
decrepitude. Meanwhile the old one shakes with indignation, and swears
there is neither relationship nor likeness. Was there ever a religion
in the world that was not the true religion, or was there ever a king
that was not the best of kings?

_Alfieri._ In the latter case we must have arrived nigh perfection;
since it is evident from the authority of the gravest men--theologians,
presidents, judges, corporations, universities, senates--that every
prince is better than his father, 'of blessed memory, now with God'. If
they continue to rise thus transcendently, earth in a little time will
be incapable of holding them, and higher heavens must be raised upon
the highest heavens for their reception. The lumber of our Italian
courts, the most crazy part of which is that which rests upon a red
cushion in a gilt chair, with stars and sheep and crosses dangling from
it, must be approached as Artaxerxes and Domitian. These automatons, we
are told nevertheless, are very condescending. Poor fools who tell us
it! ignorant that where on one side is condescension, on the other side
must be baseness. The rascals have ruined my physiognomy. I wear an
habitual sneer upon my face, God confound them for it! even when I
whisper a word of love in the prone ear of my donna.

_Salomon._ This temper or constitution of mind I am afraid may do
injury to your works.

_Alfieri._ Surely not to all: my satire at least must be the better
for it.

_Salomon._ I think differently. No satire can be excellent where
displeasure is expressed with acrimony and vehemence. When satire
ceases to smile, it should be momentarily, and for the purpose of
inculcating a moral. Juvenal is hardly more a satirist than Lucan: he
is indeed a vigorous and bold declaimer, but he stamps too often, and
splashes up too much filth. We Italians have no delicacy in wit: we
have indeed no conception of it; we fancy we must be weak if we are
not offensive. The scream of Pulcinello is imitated more easily than
the masterly strokes of Plautus, or the sly insinuations of Catullus
and of Flaccus.

_Alfieri._ We are the least witty of men because we are the most
trifling.

_Salomon._ You would persuade me then that to be witty one must be
grave: this is surely a contradiction.

_Alfieri._ I would persuade you only that banter, pun, and quibble are
the properties of light men and shallow capacities; that genuine
humour and true wit require a sound and capacious mind, which is
always a grave one. Contemptuousness is not incompatible with them:
worthless is that man who feels no contempt for the worthless, and
weak who treats their emptiness as a thing of weight. At first it may
seem a paradox, but it is perfectly true, that the gravest nations
have been the wittiest; and in those nations some of the gravest men.
In England, Swift and Addison; in Spain, Cervantes. Rabelais and La
Fontaine are recorded by their countrymen to have been _rêveurs_. Few
men have been graver than Pascal; few have been wittier.

       *       *       *       *       *

That Shakespeare was gay and pleasurable in conversation I can easily
admit; for there never was a mind at once so plastic and so pliant:
but without much gravity, could there have been that potency and
comprehensiveness of thought, that depth of feeling, that creation of
imperishable ideas, that sojourn in the souls of other men? He was
amused in his workshop: such was society. But when he left it, he
meditated intensely upon those limbs and muscles on which he was about
to bestow new action, grace, and majesty; and so great an intensity of
meditation must have strongly impressed his whole character.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Salomon._ Certainly no race of men upon earth ever was so unwarlike,
so indifferent to national dignity and to personal honour, as the
Florentines are now: yet in former days a certain pride, arising from
a resemblance in their government to that of Athens, excited a
vivifying desire of approximation where no danger or loss accompanied
it; and Genius was no less confident of his security than of his
power. Look from the window. That cottage on the declivity was
Dante's: that square and large mansion, with a circular garden before
it elevated artificially, was the first scene of Boccaccio's
_Decameron_. A boy might stand at an equal distance between them, and
break the windows of each with his sling. What idle fabricators of
crazy systems will tell me that climate is the creator of genius? The
climate of Austria is more regular and more temperate than ours, which
I am inclined to believe is the most variable in the whole universe,
subject, as you have perceived, to heavy fogs for two months in
winter, and to a stifling heat, concentrated within the hills, for
five more. Yet a single man of genius hath never appeared in the whole
extent of Austria, an extent of several thousand times greater than
our city; and this very street has given birth to fifty.

_Alfieri._ Since the destruction of the republic, Florence has
produced only one great man, Galileo, and abandoned him to every
indignity that fanaticism and despotism could invent. Extraordinary
men, like the stones that are formed in the higher regions of the air,
fall upon the earth only to be broken and cast into the furnace. The
precursor of Newton lived in the deserts of the moral world, drank
water, and ate locusts and wild honey. It was fortunate that his head
also was not lopped off: had a singer asked it, instead of a dancer,
it would have been.

_Salomon._ In fact it was; for the fruits of it were shaken down and
thrown away: he was forbidden to publish the most important of his
discoveries, and the better part of his manuscripts was burned after
his death.

_Alfieri._ Yes, Signor Salomon, those things may rather be called our
heads than this knob above the shoulder, of which (as matters stand)
we are rather the porters than the proprietors, and which is really
the joint concern of barber and dentist.

_Salomon._ Our thoughts, if they may not rest at home, may wander
freely. Delighting in the remoter glories of my native city, I forget
at times its humiliation and ignominy. A town so little that the voice
of a cabbage-girl in the midst of it may be heard at the extremities,
reared within three centuries a greater number of citizens illustrious
for their genius than all the remainder of the Continent (excepting
her sister Athens) in six thousand years. My ignorance of the Greek
forbids me to compare our Dante with Homer. The propriety and force of
language and the harmony of verse in the glorious Grecian are quite
lost to me. Dante had not only to compose a poem, but in great part a
language. Fantastical as the plan of his poem is, and, I will add,
uninteresting and uninviting; unimportant, mean, contemptible, as are
nine-tenths of his characters and his details, and wearisome as is the
scheme of his versification--there are more thoughts highly poetical,
there is more reflection, and the nobler properties of mind and
intellect are brought into more intense action, not only than in the
whole course of French poetry, but also in the whole of continental;
nor do I think (I must here also speak with hesitation) that any one
drama of Shakespeare contains so many. Smile as you will, Signor
Conte, what must I think of a city where Michel Angelo, Frate
Bartolomeo, Ghiberti (who formed them), Guicciardini, and Machiavelli
were secondary men? And certainly such were they, if we compare them
with Galileo and Boccaccio and Dante.

_Alfieri._ I smiled from pure delight, which I rarely do; for I take
an interest deep and vital in such men, and in those who appreciate
them rightly and praise them unreservedly. These are my
fellow-citizens: I acknowledge no other; we are of the same tribe, of
the same household; I bow to them as being older than myself, and I
love them as being better.

_Salomon._ Let us hope that our Italy is not yet effete. Filangieri
died but lately: what think you of him?

_Alfieri._ If it were possible that I could ever see his statue in a
square at Constantinople, though I should be scourged for an idolater,
I would kiss the pedestal. As this, however, is less likely than that
I should suffer for writing satirically, and as criticism is less
likely to mislead me than speculation, I will revert to our former
subject.

Indignation and contempt may be expressed in other poems than such as
are usually called satires. Filicaia, in his celebrated address to
Italy, steers a middle course.

       *       *       *       *       *

A perfect piece of criticism must exhibit _where_ a work is good or
bad; _why_ it is good or bad; in what degree it is good or bad; must
also demonstrate in what manner, and to what extent, the same ideas or
reflections have come to others, and, if they be clothed in poetry,
why by an apparently slight variation, what in one author is
mediocrity, in another is excellence. I have never seen a critic of
Florence, or Pisa, or Milan, or Bologna, who did not commend and
admire the sonnet of Cassiani on the rape of Proserpine, without a
suspicion of its manifold and grave defects.

       *       *       *       *       *

Does not this describe the devils of our carnival, rather than the
majestic brother of Jupiter, at whose side upon asphodel and amaranth
the sweet Persephone sits pensively contented, in that deep motionless
quiet which mortals pity and which the gods enjoy; rather than him
who, under the umbrage of Elysium, gazes at once upon all the beauties
that on earth were separated--Helena and Eriphyle, Polyxena and
Hermione, Deidamia and Deianira, Leda and Omphale, Atalanta and
Cydippe, Laodamia, with her arm round the neck of a fond youth whom
she still seems afraid of losing, and, apart, the daughters of Niobe
clinging to their parent?

_Salomon._ These images are better than satires; but continue, in
preference to other thoughts or pursuits, the noble career you have
entered. Be contented, Signor Conte, with the glory of our first great
dramatist, and neglect altogether any inferior one. Why vex and
torment yourself about the French? They buzz and are troublesome while
they are swarming; but the master will soon hive them. Is the whole
nation worth the worst of your tragedies? All the present race of
them, all the creatures in the world which excite your indignation,
will lie in the grave, while young and old are clapping their hands or
beating their bosoms at your _Bruto Primo_. Consider also that kings
and emperors should in your estimation be but as grasshoppers and
beetles: let them consume a few blades of your clover without
molesting them, without bringing them to crawl on you and claw you.
The difference between them and men of genius is almost as great as
between men of genius and those higher intelligences who act in
immediate subordination to the Almighty. Yes, I assert it, without
flattery and without fear, the angels are not higher above mortals
than you are above the proudest that trample on them.

_Alfieri._ I believe, sir, you were the first in commending my
tragedies.

_Salomon._ He who first praises a good book becomingly is next in
merit to the author.

_Alfieri._ As a writer and as a man I know my station: if I found in
the world five equal to myself, I would walk out of it, not to be
jostled.

I must now, Signor Salomon, take my leave of you; for his Eminence my
coachman and their Excellencies my horses are waiting.



ROUSSEAU AND MALESHERBES


_Rousseau._ I am ashamed, sir, of my countrymen: let my humiliation
expiate their offence. I wish it had not been a minister of the Gospel
who received you with such inhospitality.

_Malesherbes._ Nothing can be more ardent and more cordial than the
expressions with which you greet me, M. Rousseau, on my return from
your lakes and mountains.

_Rousseau._ If the pastor took you for a courtier, I reverence him for
his contemptuousness.

_Malesherbes._ Why so? Indeed you are in the wrong, my friend. No
person has a right to treat another with contemptuousness unless he
knows him to deserve it. When a courtier enters the house of a pastor
in preference to the next, the pastor should partake in the sentiment
that induced him, or at least not to be offended to be preferred. A
courtier is such at court: in the house of a clergyman he is not a
courtier, but a guest. If to be a courtier is offensive, remember that
we punish offences where they are committed, where they can be
examined, where pleadings can be heard for and against the accused,
and where nothing is admitted extraneous from the indictment,
excepting what may be adduced in his behalf by witnesses to the
general tenor of his character.

_Rousseau._ Is it really true that the man told you to mount the
hayloft if you wished a night's lodging?

_Malesherbes._ He did: a certain proof that he no more took me to be a
courtier than I took him to be. I accepted his offer, and never slept
so soundly. Moderate fatigue, the Alpine air, the blaze of a good fire
(for I was admitted to it some moments), and a profusion of
odoriferous hay, below which a cow was sleeping, subdued my senses,
and protracted my slumbers beyond the usual hour.

_Rousseau._ You have no right, sir, to be the patron and remunerator
of inhospitality. Three or four such men as you would corrupt all
Switzerland, and prepare it for the fangs of France and Austria.
Kings, like hyenas, will always fall upon dead carcasses, although
their bellies are full, and although they are conscious that in the
end they will tear one another to pieces over them. Why should you
prepare their prey? Were your fire and effulgence given you for this?
Why, in short, did you thank this churl? Why did you recommend him to
his superiors for preferment on the next vacancy?

_Malesherbes._ I must adopt your opinion of his behaviour in order to
answer you satisfactorily. You suppose him inhospitable: what milder
or more effectual mode of reproving him, than to make every dish at
his table admonish him? If he did evil, have I no authority before me
which commands me to render him good for it? Believe me, M. Rousseau,
the execution of this command is always accompanied by the heart's
applause, and opportunities of obedience are more frequent here than
anywhere. Would not you exchange resentment for the contrary feeling,
even if religion or duty said nothing about the matter? I am afraid
the most philosophical of us are sometimes a little perverse, and will
not be so happy as they might be, because the path is pointed out to
them, and because he who points it out is wise and powerful. Obstinacy
and jealousy, the worst parts of childhood and of manhood, have range
enough for their ill humours without the heavens.

_Rousseau._ Sir, I perceive you are among my enemies. I did not think
it; for, whatever may be my faults, I am totally free from suspicion.

_Malesherbes._ And do not think it now, I entreat you, my good friend.

_Rousseau._ Courts and society have corrupted the best heart in
France, and have perverted the best intellect.

_Malesherbes._ They have done much evil then.

_Rousseau._ Answer me, and your own conscience: how could you choose
to live among the perfidies of Paris and Versailles?

_Malesherbes._ Lawyers, and advocates in particular, must live there;
philosophers need not. If every honest man thought it requisite to
leave those cities, would the inhabitants be the better?

_Rousseau._ You have entered into intimacies with the members of
various administrations, opposite in plans and sentiments, but alike
hostile to you, and all of whom, if they could have kept your talents
down, would have done it. Finding the thing impossible, they ceased to
persecute, and would gladly tempt you under the semblance of
friendship and esteem to supplicate for some office, that they might
indicate to the world your unworthiness by refusing you: a proof, as
you know, quite sufficient and self-evident.

_Malesherbes._ They will never tempt me to supplicate for anything but
justice, and that in behalf of others. I know nothing of parties. If I
am acquainted with two persons of opposite sides in politics, I
consider them as you consider a watchmaker and a cabinet-maker: one
desires to rise by one way, the other by another. Administrations and
systems of government would be quite indifferent to those very
functionaries and their opponents, who appear the most zealous
partisans, if their fortunes and consequence were not affixed to them.
Several of these men seem consistent, and indeed are; the reason is,
versatility would loosen and detach from them the public esteem and
confidence----

_Rousseau._ By which their girandoles are lighted, their dinners
served, their lackeys liveried, and their opera-girls vie in
benefit-nights. There is no State in Europe where the least wise have
not governed the most wise. We find the light and foolish keeping up
with the machinery of government easily and leisurely, just as we see
butterflies keep up with carriages at full speed. This is owing in
both cases to their levity and their position: the stronger and the
more active are left behind. I am resolved to prove that
farmers-general are the main causes of the defects in our music.

_Malesherbes._ Prove it, or anything else, provided that the
discussion does not irritate and torment you.

_Rousseau._ Truth is the object of philosophy.

_Malesherbes._ Not of philosophers: the display of ingenuity, for the
most part, is and always has been it. I must here offer you an opinion
of my own, which, if you think well of me, you will pardon, though you
should disbelieve its solidity. My opinion then is, that truth is not
reasonably the main and ultimate object of philosophy; but that
philosophy should seek truth merely as the means of acquiring and of
propagating happiness. Truths are simple; wisdom, which is formed by
their apposition and application, is concrete: out of this, in its
vast varieties, open to our wants and wishes, comes happiness. But the
knowledge of all the truths ever yet discovered does not lead
immediately to it, nor indeed will ever reach it, unless you make the
more important of them bear upon your heart and intellect, and form,
as it were, the blood that moves and nurtures them.

_Rousseau._ I never until now entertained a doubt that truth is the
ultimate aim and object of philosophy: no writer has denied it, I
think.

_Malesherbes._ Designedly none may: but when it is agreed that
happiness is the chief good, it must also be agreed that the chief
wisdom will pursue it; and I have already said, what your own
experience cannot but have pointed out to you, that no truth, or
series of truths, hypothetically, can communicate or attain it. Come,
M. Rousseau, tell me candidly, do you derive no pleasure from a sense
of superiority in genius and independence?

_Rousseau._ The highest, sir, from a consciousness of independence.

_Malesherbes._ _Ingenuous_ is the epithet we affix to modesty, but
modesty often makes men act otherwise than ingenuously: you, for
example, now. You are angry at the servility of people, and disgusted
at their obtuseness and indifference, on matters of most import to
their welfare. If they were equal to you, this anger would cease; but
the fire would break out somewhere else, on ground which appears at
present sound and level. Voltaire, for instance, is less eloquent than
you: but Voltaire is wittier than any man living. This quality----

_Rousseau._ Is the quality of a buffoon and a courtier. But the
buffoon should have most of it, to support his higher dignity.

_Malesherbes._ Voltaire's is Attic.

_Rousseau_. If malignity is Attic. Petulance is not wit, although a
few grains of wit may be found in petulance: quartz is not gold,
although a few grains of gold may be found in quartz. Voltaire is a
monkey in mischief, and a spaniel in obsequiousness. He declaims
against the cruel and tyrannical; and he kisses the hands of
adulteresses who murder their husbands, and of robbers who decimate
their gang.

_Malesherbes._ I will not discuss with you the character of the man,
and only that part of the author's on which I spoke. There may be
malignity in wit, there cannot be violence. You may irritate and
disquiet with it; but it must be by means of a flower or a feather.
Wit and humour stand on one side, irony and sarcasm on the other.

_Rousseau._ They are in near neighbourhood.

_Malesherbes._ So are the Elysian fields and Tartarus.

_Rousseau._ Pray, go on: teach me to stand quiet in my stall, while my
masters and managers pass by.

_Malesherbes._ Well then--Pascal argues as closely and methodically;
Bossuet is as scientific in the structure of his sentences;
Demosthenes, many think, has equal fire, vigour, dexterity: equal
selection of topics and equal temperance in treating them,
immeasurably as he falls short of you in appeals to the sensibility,
and in everything which by way of excellence we usually call genius.

_Rousseau._ Sir, I see no resemblance between a pleader at the bar, or
a haranguer of the populace, and me.

_Malesherbes._ Certainly his questions are occasional: but one great
question hangs in the centre, and high above the rest; and this is,
whether the Mother of liberty and civilization shall exist, or whether
she shall be extinguished in the bosom of her family. As we often
apply to Eloquence and her parts the terms we apply to Architecture
and hers, let me do it also, and remark that nothing can be more
simple, solid, and symmetrical, nothing more frugal in decoration or
more appropriate in distribution, than the apartments of Demosthenes.
Yours excel them in space and altitude; your ornaments are equally
chaste and beautiful, with more variety and invention, more airiness
and light. But why, among the Loves and Graces, does Apollo flay
Marsyas?--and why may not the tiara still cover the ears of Midas?
Cannot you, who detest kings and courtiers, keep away from them? If I
must be with them, let me be in good humour and good spirits. If I
will tread upon a Persian carpet, let it at least be in clean shoes.

As the raciest wine makes the sharpest vinegar, so the richest fancies
turn the most readily to acrimony. Keep yours, my dear M. Rousseau,
from the exposure and heats that generate it. Be contented; enjoy your
fine imagination; and do not throw your salad out of window, nor shove
your cat off your knee, on hearing it said that Shakespeare has a
finer, or that a minister is of opinion that you know more of music
than of state. My friend! the quarrels of ingenious men are generally
far less reasonable and just, less placable and moderate, than those
of the stupid and ignorant. We ought to blush at this: and we should
blush yet more deeply if we bring them in as parties to our
differences. Let us conquer by kindness; which we cannot do easily or
well without communication.

_Rousseau._ The minister would expel me from his antechamber, and
order his valets to buffet me, if I offered him any proposal for the
advantage of mankind.

_Malesherbes._ Call to him, then, from this room, where the valets are
civiler. Nature has given you a speaking-trumpet, which neither storm
can drown nor enemy can silence. If you esteem him, instruct him; if
you despise him, do the same. Surely, you who have much benevolence
would not despise any one willingly or unnecessarily. Contempt is for
the incorrigible: now, where upon earth is he whom your genius, if
rightly and temperately exerted, would not influence and correct?

I never was more flattered or honoured than by your patience in
listening to me. Consider me as an old woman who sits by the bedside
in your infirmity, who brings you no savoury viand, no exotic fruit,
but a basin of whey or a basket of strawberries from your native
hills; assures you that what oppressed you was a dream, occasioned by
the wrong position in which you lay; opens the window, gives you fresh
air, and entreats you to recollect the features of Nature, and to
observe (which no man ever did so accurately) their beauty. In your
politics you cut down a forest to make a toothpick, and cannot make
even that out of it! Do not let us in jurisprudence be like critics in
the classics, and change whatever can be changed, right or wrong. No
statesman will take your advice. Supposing that any one is liberal in
his sentiments and clear-sighted in his views, nevertheless love of
power is jealous, and he would rejoice to see you fleeing from
persecution or turning to meet it. The very men whom you would benefit
will treat you worse. As the ministers of kings wish their masters to
possess absolute power that the exercise of it may be delegated to
them, which it naturally is from the violence and sloth alternate with
despots as with wild beasts, and that they may apprehend no check or
control from those who discover their misdemeanours, in like manner
the people places more trust in favour than in fortune, and hopes to
obtain by subserviency what it never might by election or by chance.
Else in free governments, so some are called (for names once given are
the last things lost), all minor offices and employments would be
assigned by ballot. Each province or canton would present a list
annually of such persons in it as are worthy to occupy the local
administrations.

To avoid any allusion to the country in which we live, let us take
England for example. Is it not absurd, iniquitous, and revolting, that
the minister of a church in Yorkshire should be appointed by a lawyer
in London, who never knew him, never saw him, never heard from a
single one of the parishioners a recommendation of any kind? Is it not
more reasonable that a justice of the peace should be chosen by those
who have always been witnesses of his integrity?

_Rousseau._ The king should appoint his ministers, and should invest
them with power and splendour; but those ministers should not appoint
to any civil or religious place of trust or profit which the community
could manifestly fill better. The greater part of offices and
dignities should be conferred for a short and stated time, that all
might hope to attain and strive to deserve them. Embassies in
particular should never exceed one year in Europe, nor consulates two.
To the latter office I assign this duration as the more difficult to
fulfil properly, from requiring a knowledge of trade, although a
slight one, and because those who possess any such knowledge are
inclined for the greater part to turn it to their own account, which a
consul ought by no means to do. Frequent election of representatives
and of civil officers in the subordinate employments would remove most
causes of discontent in the people, and of instability in kingly
power. Here is a lottery in which every one is sure of a prize, if not
for himself, at least for somebody in his family or among his friends;
and the ticket would be fairly paid for out of the taxes.

_Malesherbes._ So it appears to me. What other system can present so
obviously to the great mass of the people the two principal piers and
buttresses of government, tangible interest and reasonable hope? No
danger of any kind can arise from it, no antipathies, no divisions, no
imposture of demagogues, no caprice of despots. On the contrary, many
and great advantages in places which at the first survey do not appear
to border on it. At present, the best of the English juridical
institutions, that of justices of the peace, is viewed with diffidence
and distrust. Elected as they would be, and increased in number, the
whole judicature, civil and criminal, might be confided to them, and
their labours be not only not aggravated but diminished. Suppose them
in four divisions to meet at four places in every county once in
twenty days, and to possess the power of imposing a fine not exceeding
two hundred francs on every cause implying oppression, and one not
exceeding fifty on such as they should unanimously declare frivolous.

_Rousseau._ Few would become attorneys, and those from among the
indigent.

_Malesherbes._ Almost the greatest evil that exists in the world,
moral or physical, would be removed. A second appeal might be made in
the following session; a third could only come before Parliament, and
this alone by means of attorneys, the number of whom altogether would
not exceed the number of coroners; for in England there are as many
who cut their own throats as who would cut their own purses.

_Rousseau._ The famous _trial by jury_ would cease: this would disgust
the English.

_Malesherbes._ The number of justices would be much augmented: nearly
all those who now are jurymen would enjoy this rank and dignity, and
would be flattered by sitting on the same bench with the first
gentlemen of the land.

_Rousseau._ What number would sit?

_Malesherbes._ Three or five in the first instance; five or seven in
the second--as the number of causes should permit.

_Rousseau._ The laws of England are extremely intricate and perplexed:
such men would be puzzled.

_Malesherbes._ Such men having no interest in the perplexity, but on
the contrary an interest in unravelling it, would see such laws
corrected. Intricate as they are, questions on those which are the
most so are usually referred by the judges themselves to private
arbitration; of which my plan, I conceive, has all the advantages,
united to those of open and free discussion among men of unperverted
sense, and unbiased by professional hopes and interests. The different
courts of law in England cost about seventy millions of francs
annually. On my system, the justices or judges would receive
five-and-twenty francs daily; as the _special jurymen_ do now, without
any sense of shame or impropriety, however rich they may be: such
being the established practice.

_Rousseau._ Seventy millions! seventy millions!

_Malesherbes._ There are attorneys and conveyancers in London who gain
one hundred thousand francs a year, and advocates more. The
chancellor----

_Rousseau._ The Celeno of these harpies----

_Malesherbes._ Nets above one million, and is greatly more than an
archbishop in the Church, scattering preferment in Cumberland and
Cornwall from his bench at Westminster.

_Rousseau._ Absurdities and enormities are great in proportion to
custom or insuetude. If we had lived from childhood with a boa
constrictor, we should think it no more a monster than a canary-bird.
The sum you mentioned, of seventy millions, is incredible.

_Malesherbes._ In this estimate the expense of letters by the post,
and of journeys made by the parties, is not and cannot be included.

_Rousseau._ The whole machine of government, civil and religious,
ought never to bear upon the people with a weight so oppressive. I do
not add the national defence, which being principally naval is more
costly, nor institutions for the promotion of the arts, which in a
country like England ought to be liberal. But such an expenditure
should nearly suffice for these also, in time of peace. Religion and
law indeed should cost nothing: at present the one hangs property, the
other quarters it. I am confounded at the profusion. I doubt whether
the Romans expended so much in that year's war which dissolved the
Carthaginian empire, and left them masters of the universe. What is
certain, and what is better, it did not cost a tenth of it to colonize
Pennsylvania, in whose forests the cradle of freedom is suspended, and
where the eye of philanthropy, tired with tears and vigils, may wander
and may rest. Your system, or rather your arrangement of one already
established, pleases me. Ministers would only lose thereby that
portion of their possessions which they give away to needy relatives,
unworthy dependants, or the requisite supporters of their authority
and power.

_Malesherbes._ On this plan, no such supporters would be necessary, no
such dependants could exist, and no such relatives could be
disappointed. Beside, the conflicts of their opponents must be
periodical, weak, and irregular.

_Rousseau._ The craving for the rich carrion would be less keen; the
zeal of opposition, as usual, would be measured by the stomach,
whereon hope and overlooking have always a strong influence.

_Malesherbes._ My excellent friend, do not be offended with me for an
ingenuous and frank confession: promise me your pardon.

_Rousseau._ You need none.

_Malesherbes._ Promise it, nevertheless.

_Rousseau._ You have said nothing, done nothing, which could in any
way displease me.

_Malesherbes._ You grant me, then, a bill of indemnity for what I may
have undertaken with a good intention since we have been together?

_Rousseau._ Willingly.

_Malesherbes._ I fell into your views, I walked along with you side by
side, merely to occupy your mind, which I perceived was agitated.

In compliance with your humour, to engage your fancy, to divert it
awhile from Switzerland, by which you appear and partly on my account
to be offended, I began with reflections upon England: I raised up
another cloud in the region of them, light enough to be fantastic and
diaphanous, and to catch some little irradiation from its western
sun. Do not run after it farther; it has vanished already. Consider:
the three great nations----

_Rousseau._ Pray, which are those?

_Malesherbes._ I cannot in conscience give the palm to the Hottentots,
the Greenlanders, or the Hurons: I meant to designate those who united
to empire the most social virtue and civil freedom. Athens, Rome, and
England have received on the subject of government elaborate treatises
from their greatest men. You have reasoned more dispassionately and
profoundly on it than Plato has done, or probably than Cicero, led
away as he often is by the authority of those who are inferior to
himself: but do you excel Aristoteles in calm and patient
investigation? Or, think you, are your reading and range of thought
more extensive than Harrington's and Milton's? Yet what effect have
the political works of these marvellous men produced upon the
world?--what effect upon any one state, any one city, any one hamlet?
A clerk in office, an accountant, a gauger of small beer, a songwriter
for a tavern dinner, produces more. He thrusts his rags into the hole
whence the wind comes, and sleeps soundly. While you and I are talking
about elevations and proportions, pillars and pilasters, architraves
and friezes, the buildings we should repair are falling to the earth,
and the materials for their restoration are in the quarry.

_Rousseau._ I could answer you: but my mind has certain moments of
repose, or rather of oscillation, which I would not for the world
disturb. Music, eloquence, friendship, bring and prolong them.

_Malesherbes._ Enjoy them, my dear friend, and convert them if
possible to months and years. It is as much at your arbitration on
what theme you shall meditate, as in what meadow you shall botanize;
and you have as much at your option the choice of your thoughts, as of
the keys in your harpsichord.

_Rousseau._ If this were true, who could be unhappy?

_Malesherbes._ Those of whom it is not true. Those who from want of
practice cannot manage their thoughts, who have few to select from,
and who, because of their sloth or of their weakness, do not roll away
the heaviest from before them.



LUCULLUS AND CAESAR


_Caesar._ Lucius Lucullus, I come to you privately and unattended for
reasons which you will know; confiding, I dare not say in your
friendship, since no service of mine toward you hath deserved it, but
in your generous and disinterested love of peace. Hear me on. Cneius
Pompeius, according to the report of my connexions in the city, had,
on the instant of my leaving it for the province, begun to solicit his
dependants to strip me ignominiously of authority. Neither vows nor
affinity can bind him. He would degrade the father of his wife; he
would humiliate his own children, the unoffending, the unborn; he
would poison his own nascent love--at the suggestion of Ambition.
Matters are now brought so far, that either he or I must submit to a
reverse of fortune; since no concession can assuage his malice, divert
his envy, or gratify his cupidity. No sooner could I raise myself up,
from the consternation and stupefaction into which the certainty of
these reports had thrown me, than I began to consider in what manner
my own private afflictions might become the least noxious to the
republic. Into whose arms, then, could I throw myself more naturally
and more securely, to whose bosom could I commit and consign more
sacredly the hopes and destinies of our beloved country, than his who
laid down power in the midst of its enjoyments, in the vigour of
youth, in the pride of triumph, when Dignity solicited, when
Friendship urged, entreated, supplicated, and when Liberty herself
invited and beckoned to him from the senatorial order and from the
curule chair? Betrayed and abandoned by those we had confided in, our
next friendship, if ever our hearts receive any, or if any will
venture in those places of desolation, flies forward instinctively to
what is most contrary and dissimilar. Caesar is hence the visitant of
Lucullus.

_Lucullus._ I had always thought Pompeius more moderate and more
reserved than you represent him, Caius Julius; and yet I am considered
in general, and surely you also will consider me, but little liable to
be prepossessed by him.

_Caesar._ Unless he may have ingratiated himself with you recently,
by the administration of that worthy whom last winter his partisans
dragged before the Senate, and forced to assert publicly that you and
Cato had instigated a party to circumvent and murder him; and whose
carcass, a few days afterward, when it had been announced that he had
died by a natural death, was found covered with bruises, stabs, and
dislocations.

_Lucullus._ You bring much to my memory which had quite slipped out of
it, and I wonder that it could make such an impression on yours. A
proof to me that the interest you take in my behalf began earlier than
your delicacy will permit you to acknowledge. You are fatigued, which
I ought to have perceived before.

_Caesar._ Not at all; the fresh air has given me life and alertness: I
feel it upon my cheek even in the room.

_Lucullus._ After our dinner and sleep, we will spend the remainder of
the day on the subject of your visit.

_Caesar._ Those Ethiopian slaves of yours shiver with cold upon the
mountain here; and truly I myself was not insensible to the change of
climate, in the way from Mutina.

What white bread! I never found such even at Naples or Capua. This
Formian wine (which I prefer to the Chian), how exquisite!

_Lucullus._ Such is the urbanity of Caesar, even while he bites his
lip with displeasure. How! surely it bleeds! Permit me to examine the
cup.

_Caesar._ I believe a jewel has fallen out of the rim in the carriage:
the gold is rough there.

_Lucullus._ Marcipor, let me never see that cup again! No answer, I
desire. My guest pardons heavier faults. Mind that dinner be prepared
for us shortly.

_Caesar._ In the meantime, Lucullus, if your health permits it, shall
we walk a few paces round the villa? for I have not seen anything of
the kind before.

_Lucullus._ The walls are double; the space between them two feet: the
materials for the most part earth and straw. Two hundred slaves, and
about as many mules and oxen, brought the beams and rafters up the
mountain; my architects fixed them at once in their places: every part
was ready, even the wooden nails. The roof is thatched, you see.

_Caesar._ Is there no danger that so light a material should be
carried off by the winds, on such an eminence?

_Lucullus._ None resists them equally well.

_Caesar._ On this immensely high mountain, I should be apprehensive of
the lightning, which the poets, and I think the philosophers too, have
told us strikes the highest.

_Lucullus._ The poets are right; for whatever is received as truth is
truth in poetry; and a fable may illustrate like a fact. But the
philosophers are wrong, as they generally are, even in the commonest
things; because they seldom look beyond their own tenets, unless
through captiousness, and because they argue more than they meditate,
and display more than they examine. Archimedes and Euclid are, in my
opinion, after our Epicurus, the worthiest of the name, having kept
apart to the demonstrable, the practical, and the useful. Many of the
rest are good writers and good disputants; but unfaithful suitors of
simple science, boasters of their acquaintance with gods and
goddesses, plagiarists and impostors. I had forgotten my roof,
although it is composed of much the same materials as the
philosophers'. Let the lightning fall: one handful of silver, or less,
repairs the damage.

_Caesar._ Impossible! nor indeed one thousand, nor twenty, if those
tapestries and pictures are consumed.

_Lucullus._ True; but only the thatch would burn. For, before the
baths were tessellated, I filled the area with alum and water, and
soaked the timbers and laths for many months, and covered them
afterward with alum in powder, by means of liquid glue. Mithridates
taught me this. Having in vain attacked with combustibles a wooden
tower, I took it by stratagem, and found within it a mass of alum,
which, if a great hurry had not been observed by us among the enemy in
the attempt to conceal it, would have escaped our notice. I never
scrupled to extort the truth from my prisoners; but my instruments
were purple robes and plate, and the only wheel in my armoury destined
to such purposes was the wheel of Fortune.

_Caesar._ I wish, in my campaigns, I could have equalled your clemency
and humanity; but the Gauls are more uncertain, fierce, and perfidious
than the wildest tribes of Caucasus; and our policy cannot be carried
with us, it must be formed upon the spot. They love you, not for
abstaining from hurting them, but for ceasing; and they embrace you
only at two seasons--when stripes are fresh, or when stripes are
imminent. Elsewhere, I hope to become the rival of Lucullus in this
admirable part of virtue.

I shall never build villas, because--but what are your proportions?
Surely the edifice is extremely low.

_Lucullus._ There is only one floor; the height of the apartments is
twenty feet to the cornice, five above it; the breadth is twenty-five,
the length forty. The building, as you perceive, is quadrangular:
three sides contain four rooms each; the other has many partitions and
two stories, for domestics and offices. Here is my salt-bath.

_Caesar._ A bath, indeed, for all the Nereids named by Hesiod, with
room enough for the Tritons and their herds and horses.

_Lucullus._ Here stand my two cows. Their milk is brought to me with
its warmth and froth; for it loses its salubrity both by repose and by
motion. Pardon me, Caesar: I shall appear to you to have forgotten
that I am not conducting Marcus Varro.

_Caesar._ You would convert him into Cacus: he would drive them off.
What beautiful beasts! how sleek and white and cleanly! I never saw
any like them, excepting when we sacrifice to Jupiter the stately
leader from the pastures of the Clitumnus.

_Lucullus._ Often do I make a visit to these quiet creatures, and with
no less pleasure than in former days to my horses. Nor indeed can I
much wonder that whole nations have been consentaneous in treating
them as objects of devotion: the only thing wonderful is that
gratitude seems to have acted as powerfully and extensively as fear;
indeed, more extensively, for no object of worship whatever has
attracted so many worshippers. Where Jupiter has one, the cow has ten:
she was venerated before he was born, and will be when even the
carvers have forgotten him.

_Caesar._ Unwillingly should I see it; for the character of our gods
hath formed the character of our nation. Serapis and Isis have stolen
in among them within our memory, and others will follow, until at last
Saturn will not be the only one emasculated by his successor. What can
be more august than our rites? The first dignitaries of the republic
are emulous to administer them: nothing of low or venal has any place
in them; nothing pusillanimous, nothing unsocial and austere. I speak
of them as they were; before Superstition woke up again from her
slumber, and caught to her bosom with maternal love the alluvial
monsters of the Nile. Philosophy, never fit for the people, had
entered the best houses, and the image of Epicurus had taken the place
of the Lemures. But men cannot bear to be deprived long together of
anything they are used to, not even of their fears; and, by a reaction
of the mind appertaining to our nature, new stimulants were looked
for, not on the side of pleasure, where nothing new could be expected
or imagined, but on the opposite. Irreligion is followed by
fanaticism, and fanaticism by irreligion, alternately and perpetually.

_Lucullus._ The religion of our country, as you observe, is well
adapted to its inhabitants. Our progenitor, Mars, hath Venus recumbent
on his breast and looking up to him, teaching us that pleasure is to
be sought in the bosom of valour and by the means of war. No great
alteration, I think, will ever be made in our rites and
ceremonies--the best and most imposing that could be collected from
all nations, and uniting them to us by our complacence in adopting
them. The gods themselves may change names, to flatter new power: and,
indeed, as we degenerate, Religion will accommodate herself to our
propensities and desires. Our heaven is now popular: it will become
monarchal; not without a crowded court, as befits it, of apparitors
and satellites and minions of both sexes, paid and caressed for
carrying to their stern, dark-bearded master prayers and
supplications. Altars must be strown with broken minds, and incense
rise amid abject aspirations. Gods will be found unfit for their
places; and it is not impossible that, in the ruin imminent from our
contentions for power, and in the necessary extinction both of ancient
families and of generous sentiments, our consular fasces may become
the water-sprinklers of some upstart priesthood, and that my son may
apply for lustration to the son of my groom. The interest of such men
requires that the spirit of arms and of arts be extinguished. They
will predicate peace, that the people may be tractable to them; but a
religion altogether pacific is the fomenter of wars and the nurse of
crimes, alluring Sloth from within and Violence from afar. If ever it
should prevail among the Romans, it must prevail alone: for nations
more vigorous and energetic will invade them, close upon them, trample
them under foot; and the name of Roman, which is now the most
glorious, will become the most opprobrious upon earth.

_Caesar._ The time, I hope, may be distant; for next to my own name I
hold my country's.

_Lucullus._ Mine, not coming from Troy or Ida, is lower in my
estimation: I place my country's first.

You are surveying the little lake beside us. It contains no fish,
birds never alight on it, the water is extremely pure and cold; the
walk round is pleasant, not only because there is always a gentle
breeze from it, but because the turf is fine and the surface of the
mountain on this summit is perfectly on a level to a great extent in
length--not a trifling advantage to me, who walk often and am weak. I
have no alley, no garden, no enclosure; the park is in the vale below,
where a brook supplies the ponds, and where my servants are lodged;
for here I have only twelve in attendance.

_Caesar._ What is that so white, towards the Adriatic?

_Lucullus._ The Adriatic itself. Turn round and you may descry the
Tuscan Sea. Our situation is reported to be among the highest of the
Apennines. Marcipor has made the sign to me that dinner is ready. Pass
this way.

_Caesar._ What a library is here! Ah, Marcus Tullius! I salute thy
image. Why frownest thou upon me--collecting the consular robe and
uplifting the right arm, as when Rome stood firm again, and Catiline
fled before thee?

_Lucullus._ Just so; such was the action the statuary chose, as adding
a new endearment to the memory of my absent friend.

_Caesar._ Sylla, who honoured you above all men, is not here.

_Lucullus._ I have his _Commentaries_: he inscribed them, as you know,
to me. Something even of our benefactors may be forgotten, and
gratitude be unreproved.

_Caesar._ The impression on that couch, and the two fresh honeysuckles
in the leaves of those two books, would show, even to a stranger, that
this room is peculiarly the master's. Are they sacred?

_Lucullus._ To me and Caesar.

_Caesar._ I would have asked permission----

_Lucullus._ Caius Julius, you have nothing to ask of Polybius and
Thucydides; nor of Xenophon, the next to them on the table.

_Caesar._ Thucydides! the most generous, the most unprejudiced, the
most sagacious, of historians. Now, Lucullus, you whose judgment in
style is more accurate than any other Roman's, do tell me whether a
commander, desirous of writing his _Commentaries_, could take to
himself a more perfect model than Thucydides?

_Lucullus._ Nothing is more perfect, nor ever will be: the scholar of
Pericles, the master of Demosthenes, the equal of the one in military
science, and of the other not the inferior in civil and forensic; the
calm dispassionate judge of the general by whom he was defeated, his
defender, his encomiast. To talk of such men is conducive not only to
virtue but to health.

       *       *       *       *       *

This other is my dining-room. You expect the dishes.

_Caesar._ I misunderstood--I fancied----

_Lucullus._ Repose yourself, and touch with the ebony wand, beside
you, the sphinx on either of those obelisks, right or left.

_Caesar._ Let me look at them first.

_Lucullus._ The contrivance was intended for one person, or two at
most, desirous of privacy and quiet. The blocks of jasper in my pair,
and of porphyry in yours, easily yield in their grooves, each forming
one partition. There are four, containing four platforms. The lower
holds four dishes, such as sucking forest-boars, venison, hares,
tunnies, sturgeons, which you will find within; the upper three, eight
each, but diminutive. The confectionery is brought separately, for the
steam would spoil it, if any should escape. The melons are in the
snow, thirty feet under us: they came early this morning from a place
in the vicinity of Luni, travelling by night.

_Caesar._ I wonder not at anything of refined elegance in Lucullus;
but really here Antiochia and Alexandria seem to have cooked for us,
and magicians to be our attendants.

_Lucullus._ The absence of slaves from our repast is the luxury, for
Marcipor alone enters, and he only when I press a spring with my foot
or wand. When you desire his appearance, touch that chalcedony just
before you.

_Caesar._ I eat quick and rather plentifully; yet the valetudinarian
(excuse my rusticity, for I rejoice at seeing it) appears to equal the
traveller in appetite, and to be contented with one dish.

_Lucullus._ It is milk: such, with strawberries, which ripen on the
Apennines many months in continuance, and some other berries of sharp
and grateful flavour, has been my only diet since my first residence
here. The state of my health requires it; and the habitude of nearly
three months renders this food not only more commodious to my studies
and more conducive to my sleep, but also more agreeable to my palate
than any other.

_Caesar._ Returning to Rome or Baiae, you must domesticate and tame
them. The cherries you introduced from Pontus are now growing in
Cisalpine and Transalpine Gaul; and the largest and best in the
world, perhaps, are upon the more sterile side of Lake Larius.

_Lucullus._ There are some fruits, and some virtues, which require a
harsh soil and bleak exposure for their perfection.

_Caesar._ In such a profusion of viands, and so savoury, I perceive no
odour.

_Lucullus._ A flue conducts heat through the compartments of the
obelisks; and, if you look up, you may observe that those gilt roses,
between the astragals in the cornice, are prominent from it half a
span. Here is an aperture in the wall, between which and the outer is
a perpetual current of air. We are now in the dog-days; and I have
never felt in the whole summer more heat than at Rome in many days of
March.

_Caesar._ Usually you are attended by troops of domestics and of
dinner-friends, not to mention the learned and scientific, nor your
own family, your attachment to which, from youth upward, is one of the
higher graces in your character. Your brother was seldom absent from
you.

_Lucullus._ Marcus was coming; but the vehement heats along the Arno,
in which valley he has a property he never saw before, inflamed his
blood, and he now is resting for a few days at Faesulae, a little town
destroyed by Sylla within our memory, who left it only air and water,
the best in Tuscany. The health of Marcus, like mine, has been
declining for several months: we are running our last race against
each other, and never was I, in youth along the Tiber, so anxious of
first reaching the goal. I would not outlive him: I should reflect too
painfully on earlier days, and look forward too despondently on
future. As for friends, lampreys and turbots beget them, and they
spawn not amid the solitude of the Apennines. To dine in company with
more than two is a Gaulish and German thing. I can hardly bring myself
to believe that I have eaten in concert with twenty; so barbarous and
herdlike a practice does not now appeal to me--such an incentive to
drink much and talk loosely; not to add, such a necessity to speak
loud, which is clownish and odious in the extreme. On this mountain
summit I hear no noises, no voices, not even of salutation; we have no
flies about us, and scarcely an insect or reptile.

_Caesar._ Your amiable son is probably with his uncle: is he well?

_Lucullus._ Perfectly. He was indeed with my brother in his intended
visit to me; but Marcus, unable to accompany him hither, or
superintend his studies in the present state of his health, sent him
directly to his Uncle Cato at Tusculum--a man fitter than either of us
to direct his education, and preferable to any, excepting yourself and
Marcus Tullius, in eloquence and urbanity.

_Caesar._ Cato is so great, that whoever is greater must be the
happiest and first of men.

_Lucullus._ That any such be still existing, O Julius, ought to excite
no groan from the breast of a Roman citizen. But perhaps I wrong you;
perhaps your mind was forced reluctantly back again, on your past
animosities and contests in the Senate.

_Caesar._ I revere him, but cannot love him.

_Lucullus._ Then, Caius Julius, you groaned with reason; and I would
pity rather than reprove you.

On the ceiling at which you are looking, there is no gilding, and
little painting--a mere trellis of vines bearing grapes, and the
heads, shoulders, and arms rising from the cornice only, of boys and
girls climbing up to steal them, and scrambling for them: nothing
overhead; no giants tumbling down, no Jupiter thundering, no Mars and
Venus caught at mid-day, no river-gods pouring out their urns upon us;
for, as I think nothing so insipid as a flat ceiling, I think nothing
so absurd as a storied one. Before I was aware, and without my
participation, the painter had adorned that of my bedchamber with a
golden shower, bursting from varied and irradiated clouds. On my
expostulation, his excuse was that he knew the Danaë of Scopas, in a
recumbent posture, was to occupy the centre of the room. The walls,
behind the tapestry and pictures, are quite rough. In forty-three days
the whole fabric was put together and habitable.

The wine has probably lost its freshness: will you try some other?

_Caesar._ Its temperature is exact; its flavour exquisite. Latterly I
have never sat long after dinner, and am curious to pass through the
other apartments, if you will trust me.

_Lucullus._ I attend you.

_Caesar._ Lucullus, who is here? What figure is that on the poop of
the vessel? Can it be----

_Lucullus._ The subject was dictated by myself; you gave it.

_Caesar._ Oh, how beautifully is the water painted! How vividly the
sun strikes against the snows on Taurus! The grey temples and pierhead
of Tarsus catch it differently, and the monumental mound on the left
is half in shade. In the countenance of those pirates I did not
observe such diversity, nor that any boy pulled his father back: I did
not indeed mark them or notice them at all.

_Lucullus._ The painter in this fresco, the last work finished, had
dissatisfied me in one particular. 'That beautiful young face,' said
I, 'appears not to threaten death.'

'Lucius,' he replied, 'if one muscle were moved it were not Caesar's:
beside, he said it jokingly, though resolved.'

'I am contented with your apology, Antipho; but what are you doing
now? for you never lay down or suspend your pencil, let who will talk
and argue. The lines of that smaller face in the distance are the
same.'

'Not the same,' replied he, 'nor very different: it smiles, as surely
the goddess must have done at the first heroic act of her descendant.'

_Caesar._ In her exultation and impatience to press forward she seems
to forget that she is standing at the extremity of the shell, which
rises up behind out of the water; and she takes no notice of the
terror on the countenance of this Cupid who would detain her, nor of
this who is flying off and looking back. The reflection of the shell
has given a warmer hue below the knee; a long streak of yellow light
in the horizon is on the level of her bosom, some of her hair is
almost lost in it; above her head on every side is the pure azure of
the heavens.

Oh! and you would not have shown me this? You, among whose primary
studies is the most perfect satisfaction of your guests!

_Lucullus._ In the next apartment are seven or eight other pictures
from our history.

There are no more: what do you look for?

_Caesar._ I find not among the rest any descriptive of your own
exploits. Ah, Lucullus! there is no surer way of making them
remembered.

This, I presume by the harps in the two corners, is the music-room.

_Lucullus._ No, indeed; nor can I be said to have one here; for I love
best the music of a single instrument, and listen to it willingly at
all times, but most willingly while I am reading. At such seasons a
voice or even a whisper disturbs me; but music refreshes my brain when
I have read long, and strengthen it from the beginning. I find also
that if I write anything in poetry (a youthful propensity still
remaining), it gives rapidity and variety and brightness to my ideas.
On ceasing, I command a fresh measure and instrument, or another
voice; which is to the mind like a change of posture, or of air to the
body. My heal this benefited by the gentle play thus opened to the
most delicate of the fibres.

_Caesar._ Let me augur that a disorder so tractable may be soon
removed. What is it thought to be?

_Lucullus._ I am inclined to think, and my physician did not long
attempt to persuade me of the contrary, that the ancient realms of
Aeaetes have supplied me with some other plants than the cherry, and
such as I should be sorry to see domesticated here in Italy.

_Caesar._ The gods forbid! Anticipate better things! The reason of
Lucullus is stronger than the medicaments of Mithridates; but why not
use them too? Let nothing be neglected. You may reasonably hope for
many years of life: your mother still enjoys it.

_Lucullus._ To stand upon one's guard against Death exasperates her
malice and protracts our sufferings.

_Caesar._ Rightly and gravely said: but your country at this time
cannot do well without you.

_Lucullus._ The bowl of milk, which to-day is presented to me, will
shortly be presented to my Manes.

_Caesar._ Do you suspect the hand?

_Lucullus._ I will not suspect a Roman: let us converse no more about
it.

_Caesar._ It is the only subject on which I am resolved never to
think, as relates to myself. Life may concern us, death not; for in
death we neither can act nor reason, we neither can persuade nor
command; and our statues are worth more than we are, let them be but
wax.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Lucullus._ From being for ever in action, for ever in contention, and
from excelling in them all other mortals, what advantage derive we? I
would not ask what satisfaction, what glory? The insects have more
activity than ourselves, the beasts more strength, even inert matter
more firmness and stability; the gods alone more goodness. To the
exercise of this every country lies open; and neither I eastward nor
you westward have found any exhausted by contests for it.

Must we give men blows because they will not look at us? or chain them
to make them hold the balance evener?

Do not expect to be acknowledged for what you are, much less for what
you would be; since no one can well measure a great man but upon the
bier. There was a time when the most ardent friend to Alexander of
Macedon would have embraced the partisan for his enthusiasm, who
should have compared him with Alexander of Pherae. It must have been
at a splendid feast, and late at it, when Scipio should have been
raised to an equality with Romulus, or Cato with Curius. It has been
whispered in my ear, after a speech of Cicero, 'If he goes on so, he
will tread down the sandal of Marcus Antonius in the long run, and
perhaps leave Hortensius behind.' Officers of mine, speaking about
you, have exclaimed with admiration: 'He fights like Cinna.' Think,
Caius Julius (for you have been instructed to think both as a poet and
as a philosopher), that among the hundred hands of Ambition, to whom
we may attribute them more properly than to Briareus, there is not one
which holds anything firmly. In the precipitancy of her course, what
appears great is small, and what appears small is great. Our estimate
of men is apt to be as inaccurate and inexact as that of things, or
more. Wishing to have all on our side, we often leave those we should
keep by us, run after those we should avoid, and call importunately on
others who sit quiet and will not come. We cannot at once catch the
applause of the vulgar and expect the approbation of the wise. What
are parties? Do men really great ever enter into them? Are they not
ball-courts, where ragged adventurers strip and strive, and where
dissolute youths abuse one another, and challenge and game and wager?
If you and I cannot quite divest ourselves of infirmities and
passions, let us think, however, that there is enough in us to be
divided into two portions, and let us keep the upper undisturbed and
pure. A part of Olympus itself lies in dreariness and in clouds,
variable and stormy; but it is not the highest: there the gods govern.
Your soul is large enough to embrace your country: all other affection
is for less objects, and less men are capable of it. Abandon, O
Caesar! such thoughts and wishes as now agitate and propel you: leave
them to mere men of the marsh, to fat hearts and miry intellects.
Fortunate may we call ourselves to have been born in an age so
productive of eloquence, so rich in erudition. Neither of us would be
excluded, or hooted at, on canvassing for these honours. He who can
think dispassionately and deeply as I do, is great as I am; none
other. But his opinions are at freedom to diverge from mine, as mine
are from his; and indeed, on recollection, I never loved those most
who thought with me, but those rather who deemed my sentiments worth
discussion, and who corrected me with frankness and affability.

_Caesar._ Lucullus, you perhaps have taken the wiser and better part,
certainly the pleasanter. I cannot argue with you: I would gladly hear
one who could, but you again more gladly. I should think unworthily of
you if I thought you capable of yielding or receding. I do not even
ask you to keep our conversation long a secret, so greatly does it
preponderate in your favour; so much more of gentleness, of eloquence,
and of argument. I came hither with one soldier, avoiding the cities,
and sleeping at the villa of a confidential friend. To-night I sleep
in yours, and, if your dinner does not disturb me, shall sleep
soundly. You go early to rest I know.

_Lucullus._ Not, however, by daylight. Be assured, Caius Julius, that
greatly as your discourse afflicts me, no part of it shall escape my
lips. If you approach the city with arms, with arms I meet you; then
your denouncer and enemy, at present your host and confidant.

_Caesar._ I shall conquer you.

_Lucullus._ That smile would cease upon it: you sigh already.

_Caesar._ Yes, Lucullus, if I am oppressed I shall overcome my
oppressor: I know my army and myself. A sigh escaped me, and many more
will follow; but one transport will rise amid them, when, vanquisher
of my enemies and avenger of my dignity, I press again the hand of
Lucullus, mindful of this day.



EPICURUS, LEONTION, AND TERNISSA


       *       *       *       *       *

_Ternissa._ The broad and billowy summits of yon monstrous trees, one
would imagine, were made for the storms to rest upon when they are
tired of raving. And what bark! It occurs to me, Epicurus, that I have
rarely seen climbing plants attach themselves to these trees, as they
do to the oak, the maple, the beech, and others.

_Leontion._ If your remark be true, perhaps the resinous are not
embraced by them so frequently because they dislike the odour of the
resin, or some other property of the juices; for they, too, have their
affections and antipathies no less than countries and their climes.

_Ternissa._ For shame! what would you with me?

_Epicurus._ I would not interrupt you while you were speaking, nor
while Leontion was replying; this is against my rules and practice.
Having now ended, kiss me, Ternissa!

_Ternissa._ Impudent man! in the name of Pallas, why should I kiss
you?

_Epicurus._ Because you expressed hatred.

_Ternissa._ Do we kiss when we hate?

_Epicurus._ There is no better end of hating. The sentiment should not
exist one moment; and if the hater gives a kiss on being ordered to do
it, even to a tree or a stone, that tree or stone becomes the monument
of a fault extinct.

_Ternissa._ I promise you I never will hate a tree again.

_Epicurus._ I told you so.

_Leontion._ Nevertheless, I suspect, my Ternissa, you will often be
surprised into it. I was very near saying, 'I hate these rude square
stones!' Why did you leave them here, Epicurus?

_Epicurus._ It is true, they are the greater part square, and seem to
have been cut out in ancient times for plinths and columns; they are
also rude. Removing the smaller, that I might plant violets and
cyclamens and convolvuluses and strawberries, and such other herbs as
grow willingly in dry places, I left a few of these for seats, a few
for tables and for couches.

_Leontion._ Delectable couches!

_Epicurus._ Laugh as you may, they will become so when they are
covered with moss and ivy, and those other two sweet plants whose
names I do not remember to have found in any ancient treatise, but
which I fancy I have heard Theophrastus call 'Leontion' and
'Ternissa'.

_Ternissa._ The bold, insidious, false creature!

_Epicurus._ What is that volume, may I venture to ask, Leontion? Why
do you blush?

_Leontion._ I do not blush about it.

_Epicurus._ You are offended, then, my dear girl.

_Leontion._ No, nor offended. I will tell you presently what it
contains. Account to me first for your choice of so strange a place to
walk in: a broad ridge, the summit and one side barren, the other a
wood of rose-laurels impossible to penetrate. The worst of all is, we
can see nothing of the city or the Parthenon, unless from the very
top.

_Epicurus._ The place commands, in my opinion, a most perfect view.

_Leontion._ Of what, pray?

_Epicurus._ Of itself; seeming to indicate that we, Leontion, who
philosophize, should do the same.

_Leontion._ Go on, go on! say what you please: I will not hate
anything yet. Why have you torn up by the root all these little
mountain ash-trees? This is the season of their beauty: come,
Ternissa, let us make ourselves necklaces and armlets, such as may
captivate old Sylvanus and Pan; you shall have your choice. But why
have you torn them up?

_Epicurus._ On the contrary, they were brought hither this morning.
Sosimenes is spending large sums of money on an olive-ground, and has
uprooted some hundreds of them, of all ages and sizes. I shall cover
the rougher part of the hill with them, setting the clematis and vine
and honeysuckle against them, to unite them.

_Ternissa._ Oh, what a pleasant thing it is to walk in the green light
of the vine trees, and to breathe the sweet odour of their invisible
flowers!

_Epicurus._ The scent of them is so delicate that it requires a sigh
to inhale it; and this, being accompanied and followed by enjoyment,
renders the fragrance so exquisite. Ternissa, it is this, my sweet
friend, that made you remember the green light of the foliage, and
think of the invisible flowers as you would of some blessing from
heaven.

_Ternissa._ I see feathers flying at certain distances just above the
middle of the promontory: what can they mean?

_Epicurus._ Cannot you imagine them to be the feathers from the wings
of Zethes and Caläis, who came hither out of Thrace to behold the
favourite haunts of their mother Oreithyia? From the precipice that
hangs over the sea a few paces from the pinasters she is reported to
have been carried off by Boreas; and these remains of the primeval
forest have always been held sacred on that belief.

_Leontion._ The story is an idle one.

_Ternissa._ Oh no, Leontion! the story is very true.

_Leontion._ Indeed!

_Ternissa._ I have heard not only odes, but sacred and most ancient
hymns upon it; and the voice of Boreas is often audible here, and the
screams of Oreithyia.

_Leontion._ The feathers, then, really may belong to Caläis and
Zethes.

_Ternissa._ I don't believe it; the winds would have carried them
away.

_Leontion._ The gods, to manifest their power, as they often do by
miracles, could as easily fix a feather eternally on the most
tempestuous promontory, as the mark of their feet upon the flint.

_Ternissa._ They could indeed; but we know the one to a certainty, and
have no such authority for the other. I have seen these pinasters from
the extremity of the Piraeus, and have heard mention of the altar
raised to Boreas: where is it?

_Epicurus._ As it stands in the centre of the platform, we cannot see
it from hence; there is the only piece of level ground in the place.

_Leontion._ Ternissa intends the altar to prove the truth of the
story.

_Epicurus._ Ternissa is slow to admit that even the young can deceive,
much less the old; the gay, much less the serious.

_Leontion._ It is as wise to moderate our belief as our desires.

_Epicurus._ Some minds require much belief, some thrive on little.
Rather an exuberance of it is feminine and beautiful. It acts
differently on different hearts; it troubles some, it consoles others;
in the generous it is the nurse of tenderness and kindness, of heroism
and self-devotion; in the ungenerous it fosters pride, impatience of
contradiction and appeal, and, like some waters, what it finds a dry
stick or hollow straw, it leaves a stone.

_Ternissa._ We want it chiefly to make the way of death an easy one.

_Epicurus._ There is no easy path leading out of life, and few are the
easy ones that lie within it. I would adorn and smoothen the
declivity, and make my residence as commodious as its situation and
dimensions may allow; but principally I would cast under-foot the
empty fear of death.

_Ternissa._ Oh, how can you?

_Epicurus._ By many arguments already laid down: then by thinking that
some perhaps, in almost every age, have been timid and delicate as
Ternissa; and yet have slept soundly, have felt no parent's or
friend's tear upon their faces, no throb against their breasts: in
short, have been in the calmest of all possible conditions, while
those around were in the most deplorable and desperate.

_Ternissa._ It would pain me to die, if it were only at the idea that
any one I love would grieve too much for me.

_Epicurus._ Let the loss of our friends be our only grief, and the
apprehension of displeasing them our only fear.

_Leontion._ No apostrophes! no interjections! Your argument was
unsound; your means futile.

_Epicurus._ Tell me, then, whether the horse of a rider on the road
should not be spurred forward if he started at a shadow.

_Leontion._ Yes.

_Epicurus._ I thought so: it would, however, be better to guide him
quietly up to it, and to show him that it was one. Death is less than
a shadow: it represents nothing, even imperfectly.

_Leontion._ Then at the best what is it? why care about it, think
about it, or remind us that it must befall us? Would you take the same
trouble, when you see my hair entwined with ivy, to make me remember
that, although the leaves are green and pliable, the stem is fragile
and rough, and that before I go to bed I shall have many knots and
entanglements to extricate? Let me have them; but let me not hear of
them until the time is come.

_Epicurus._ I would never think of death as an embarrassment, but as a
blessing.

_Ternissa._ How? a blessing?

_Epicurus._ What, if it makes our enemies cease to hate us? what, if
it makes our friends love us the more?

_Leontion._ Us? According to your doctrine we shall not exist at all.

_Epicurus._ I spoke of that which is consolatory while we are here,
and of that which in plain reason ought to render us contented to stay
no longer. You, Leontion, would make others better; and better they
certainly will be, when their hostilities languish in an empty field,
and their rancour is tired with treading upon dust. The generous
affections stir about us at the dreary hour of death, as the blossoms
of the Median apple swell and diffuse their fragrance in the cold.

_Ternissa._ I cannot bear to think of passing the Styx, lest Charon
should touch me; he is so old and wilful, so cross and ugly.

_Epicurus._ Ternissa! Ternissa! I would accompany you thither, and
stand between. Would you not too, Leontion?

_Leontion._ I don't know.

_Ternissa._ Oh, that we could go together!

_Leontion._ Indeed!

_Ternissa._ All three, I mean--I said--or was going to say it. How
ill-natured you are, Leontion, to misinterpret me; I could almost cry.

_Leontion._ Do not, do not, Ternissa! Should that tear drop from your
eyelash you would look less beautiful.

_Epicurus._ If it is well to conquer a world, it is better to conquer
two.

_Ternissa._ That is what Alexander of Macedon wept because he could
not accomplish.

_Epicurus._ Ternissa! we three can accomplish it; or any one of us.

_Ternissa._ How? pray!

_Epicurus._ We can conquer this world and the next; for you will have
another, and nothing should be refused you.

_Ternissa._ The next by piety: but this, in what manner?

_Epicurus._ By indifference to all who are indifferent to us; by
taking joyfully the benefit that comes spontaneously; by wishing no
more intensely for what is a hair's-breadth beyond our reach than for
a draught of water from the Ganges; and by fearing nothing in another
life.

_Ternissa._ This, O Epicurus! is the grand impossibility.

_Epicurus._ Do you believe the gods to be as benevolent and good as
you are? or do you not?

_Ternissa._ Much kinder, much better in every way.

_Epicurus._ Would you kill or hurt the sparrow that you keep in your
little dressing-room with a string around the leg, because he hath
flown where you did not wish him to fly?

_Ternissa._ No! it would be cruel; the string about the leg of so
little and weak a creature is enough.

_Epicurus._ You think so; I think so; God thinks so. This I may say
confidently; for whenever there is a sentiment in which strict justice
and pure benevolence unite, it must be His.

_Ternissa._ O Epicurus! when you speak thus--

_Leontion._ Well, Ternissa, what then?

_Ternissa._ When Epicurus teaches us such sentiments as these, I am
grieved that he has not so great an authority with the Athenians as
some others have.

_Leontion._ You will grieve more, I suspect, my Ternissa, when he
possesses that authority.

_Ternissa._ What will he do?

_Leontion._ Why turn pale? I am not about to answer that he will
forget or leave you. No; but the voice comes deepest from the
sepulchre, and a great name hath its root in the dead body. If you
invited a company to a feast, you might as well place round the table
live sheep and oxen and vases of fish and cages of quails, as you
would invite a company of friendly hearers to the philosopher who is
yet living. One would imagine that the iris of our intellectual eye
were lessened by the glory of his presence, and that, like eastern
kings, he could be looked at near only when his limbs are stiff, by
waxlight, in close curtains.

_Epicurus._ One of whom we know little leaves us a ring or other token
of remembrance, and we express a sense of pleasure and of gratitude;
one of whom we know nothing writes a book, the contents of which might
(if we would let them) have done us more good and might have given us
more pleasure, and we revile him for it. The book may do what the
legacy cannot; it may be pleasurable and serviceable to others as well
as ourselves: we would hinder this too. In fact, all other love is
extinguished by self-love: beneficence, humanity, justice, philosophy,
sink under it. While we insist that we are looking for Truth, we
commit a falsehood. It never was the first object with any one, and
with few the second.

Feed unto replenishment your quieter fancies, my sweetest little
Ternissa! and let the gods, both youthful and aged, both gentle and
boisterous, administer to them hourly on these sunny downs: what can
they do better?

_Leontion._ But those feathers, Ternissa, what god's may they be?
since you will not pick them up, nor restore them to Caläis nor to
Zethes.

_Ternissa._ I do not think they belong to any god whatever; and shall
never be persuaded of it unless Epicurus says it is so.

_Leontion._ O unbelieving creature! do you reason against the
immortals?

_Ternissa._ It was yourself who doubted, or appeared to doubt, the
flight of Oreithyia. By admitting too much we endanger our religion.
Beside, I think I discern some upright stakes at equal distances, and
am pretty sure the feathers are tied to them by long strings.

_Epicurus._ You have guessed the truth.

_Ternissa._ Of what use are they there?

_Epicurus._ If you have ever seen the foot of a statue broken off just
below the ankle, you have then, Leontion and Ternissa, seen the form
of the ground about us. The lower extremities of it are divided into
small ridges, as you will perceive if you look around; and these are
covered with corn, olives, and vines. At the upper part, where
cultivation ceases, and where those sheep and goats are grazing,
begins my purchase. The ground rises gradually unto near the summit,
where it grows somewhat steep, and terminates in a precipice. Across
the middle I have traced a line, denoted by those feathers, from one
dingle to the other; the two terminations of my intended garden. The
distance is nearly a thousand paces, and the path, perfectly on a
level, will be two paces broad, so that I may walk between you; but
another could not join us conveniently. From this there will be
several circuitous and spiral, leading by the easiest ascent to the
summit; and several more, to the road along the cultivation
underneath: here will, however, be but one entrance. Among the
projecting fragments and the massive stones yet standing of the
boundary-wall, which old pomegranates imperfectly defend, and which my
neighbour has guarded more effectively against invasion, there are
hillocks of crumbling mould, covered in some places with a variety of
moss; in others are elevated tufts, or dim labyrinths of eglantine.

_Ternissa._ Where will you place the statues? for undoubtedly you must
have some.

_Epicurus._ I will have some models for statues. Pygmalion prayed the
gods to give life to the image he adored: I will not pray them to give
marble to mine. Never may I lay my wet cheek upon the foot under which
is inscribed the name of Leontion or Ternissa!

_Leontion._ Do not make us melancholy; never let us think that the
time can come when we shall lose our friends. Glory, literature,
philosophy have this advantage over friendship: remove one object from
them, and others fill the void; remove one from friendship, one only,
and not the earth nor the universality of worlds, no, nor the
intellect that soars above and comprehends them, can replace it!

_Epicurus._ Dear Leontion! always amiable, always graceful! How lovely
do you now appear to me! what beauteous action accompanied your words!

_Leontion._ I used none whatever.

_Epicurus._ That white arm was then, as it is now, over the shoulder
of Ternissa; and her breath imparted a fresh bloom to your cheek, a
new music to your voice. No friendship is so cordial or so delicious
as that of girl for girl; no hatred so intense and immovable as that
of woman for woman. In youth you love one above the others of your
sex; in riper age you hate all, more or less, in proportion to
similarity of accomplishments and pursuits--which sometimes (I wish it
were oftener) are bonds of union to man. In us you more easily pardon
faults than excellences in each other. _Your_ tempers are such, my
beloved scholars, that even this truth does not ruffle them; and such
is your affection, that I look with confidence to its unabated ardour
at twenty.

_Leontion._ Oh, then I am to love Ternissa almost fifteen months!

_Ternissa._ And I am destined to survive the loss of it three months
above four years!

_Epicurus._ Incomparable creatures! may it be eternal! In loving ye
shall follow no example; ye shall step securely over the iron rule
laid down for others by the Destinies, and _you_ for ever be Leontion,
and _you_ Ternissa.

_Leontion._ Then indeed we should not want statues.

_Ternissa._ But men, who are vainer creatures, would be good for
nothing without them: they must be flattered even by the stones.

_Epicurus._ Very true. Neither the higher arts nor the civic virtues
can flourish extensively without the statues of illustrious men. But
gardens are not the places for them. Sparrows, wooing on the general's
truncheon (unless he be such a general as one of ours in the last
war), and snails besliming the emblems of the poet, do not remind us
worthily of their characters. Porticos are their proper situations,
and those the most frequented. Even there they may lose all honour and
distinction, whether from the thoughtlessness of magistrates or from
the malignity of rivals. Our own city, the least exposed of any to the
effects of either, presents us a disheartening example. When the
Thebans in their jealousy condemned Pindar to the payment of a fine
for having praised the Athenians too highly, our citizens erected a
statue of bronze to him.

_Leontion._ Jealousy of Athens made the Thebans fine him; and jealousy
of Thebes made the Athenians thus record it.

_Epicurus._ And jealousy of Pindar, I suspect, made some poet persuade
the archons to render the distinction a vile and worthless one, by
placing his effigy near a king's--one Evagoras of Cyprus.

_Ternissa._ Evagoras, I think I remember to have read in the
inscription, was rewarded in this manner for his reception of Conon,
defeated by the Lacedemonians.

_Epicurus._ Gratitude was due to him, and some such memorial to record
it. External reverence should be paid unsparingly to the higher
magistrates of every country who perform their offices exemplarily;
yet they are not on this account to be placed in the same degree with
men of primary genius. They never exalt the human race, and rarely
benefit it; and their benefits are local and transitory, while those
of a great writer are universal and eternal.

If the gods did indeed bestow on us a portion of their fire, they seem
to have lighted it in sport and left it; the harder task and the
nobler is performed by that genius who raises it clear and glowing
from its embers, and makes it applicable to the purposes that dignify
or delight our nature. I have ever said, 'Reverence the rulers.' Let,
then, his image stand; but stand apart from Pindar's. Pallas and Jove!
defend me from being carried down the stream of time among a shoal of
royalets, and the rootless weeds they are hatched on!

_Ternissa._ So much piety would deserve the exemption, even though
your writings did not hold out the decree.

_Leontion._ Child, the compliment is ill turned: if you are ironical,
as you must be on the piety of Epicurus, Atticism requires that you
should continue to be so, at least to the end of the sentence.

_Ternissa._ Irony is my abhorrence. Epicurus may appear less pious
than some others, but I am certain he is more; otherwise the gods
would never have given him----

_Leontion._ What? what? let us hear!

_Ternissa._ Leontion!

_Leontion._ Silly girl! Were there any hibiscus or broom growing near
at hand, I would send him away and whip you.

_Epicurus._ There is fern, which is better.

_Leontion._ I was not speaking to you: but now you shall have
something to answer for yourself. Although you admit no statues in the
country, you might at least, methinks, have discovered a retirement
with a fountain in it: here I see not even a spring.

_Epicurus._ Fountain I can hardly say there is; but on the left there
is a long crevice or chasm, which we have never yet visited, and which
we cannot discern until we reach it. This is full of soft mould, very
moist, and many high reeds and canes are growing there; and the rock
itself too drips with humidity along it, and is covered with more
tufted moss and more variegated lichens. This crevice, with its
windings and sinuosities, is about four hundred paces long, and in
many parts eleven, twelve, thirteen feet wide, but generally six or
seven. I shall plant it wholly with lilies of the valley, leaving the
irises which occupy the sides as well as the clefts, and also those
other flowers of paler purple, from the autumnal cups of which we
collect the saffron; and forming a narrow path of such turf as I can
find there, or rather following it as it creeps among the bays and
hazels and sweet-brier, which had fallen at different times from the
summit and are now grown old, with an infinity of primroses at the
roots. There are nowhere twenty steps without a projection and a turn,
nor in any ten together is the chasm of the same width or figure.
Hence the ascent in its windings is easy and imperceptible quite to
the termination, where the rocks are somewhat high and precipitous; at
the entrance they lose themselves in privet and elder, and you must
make your way between them through the canes. Do not you remember
where I carried you both across the muddy hollow in the footpath?

_Ternissa._ Leontion does.

_Epicurus._ That place is always wet; not only in this month of
Puanepsion,[7] which we are beginning to-day, but in midsummer. The
water that causes it comes out a little way above it, but originates
from the crevice, which I will cover at top with rose-laurel and
mountain-ash, with clematis and vine; and I will intercept the little
rill in its wandering, draw it from its concealment, and place it like
Bacchus under the protection of the nymphs, who will smile upon it in
its marble cradle, which at present I keep at home.

_Ternissa._ Leontion, why do you turn away your face? have the nymphs
smiled upon you in it?

_Leontion._ I bathed in it once, if you must know, Ternissa! Why now,
Ternissa, why do you turn away yours? have the nymphs frowned upon you
for invading their secrets?

_Ternissa._ Epicurus, you are in the right to bring it away from
Athens, from under the eye of Pallas: she might be angry.

_Epicurus._ You approve of its removal then, my lovely friend?

_Ternissa._ Mightily. [_Aside._] I wish it may break in pieces on the
road.

_Epicurus._ What did you say?

_Ternissa._ I wish it were now on the road, that I might try whether
it would hold me--I mean with my clothes on.

_Epicurus._ It would hold you, and one a span longer. I have another
in the house; but it is not decorated with fauns and satyrs and
foliage, like this.

_Leontion._ I remember putting my hand upon the frightful satyr's
head, to leap in: it seems made for the purpose. But the sculptor
needed not to place the naiad quite so near--he must have been a very
impudent man; it is impossible to look for a moment at such a piece of
workmanship.

_Ternissa._ For shame! Leontion!--why, what was it? I do not desire to
know.

_Epicurus._ I don't remember it.

_Leontion._ Nor I neither; only the head.

_Epicurus._ I shall place the satyr toward the rock, that you may
never see him, Ternissa.

_Ternissa._ Very right; he cannot turn round.

_Leontion._ The poor naiad had done it, in vain.

_Ternissa._ All these labourers will soon finish the plantation, if
you superintend them, and are not appointed to some magistrature.

_Epicurus._ Those who govern us are pleased at seeing a philosopher
out of the city, and more still at finding in a season of scarcity
forty poor citizens, who might become seditious, made happy and quiet
by such employment.

Two evils, of almost equal weight, may befall the man of erudition:
never to be listened to, and to be listened to always. Aware of
these, I devote a large portion of my time and labours to the
cultivation of such minds as flourish best in cities, where my garden
at the gate, although smaller than this, we find sufficiently
capacious. There I secure my listeners; here my thoughts and
imaginations have their free natural current, and tarry or wander as
the will invites: may it ever be among those dearest to me!--those
whose hearts possess the rarest and divinest faculty, of retaining or
forgetting at option what ought to be forgotten or retained.

_Leontion._ The whole ground then will be covered with trees and
shrubs?

_Epicurus._ There are some protuberances in various parts of the
eminence, which you do not perceive till you are upon them or above
them. They are almost level at the top, and overgrown with fine grass;
for they catch the better soil brought down in small quantities by the
rains. These are to be left unplanted: so is the platform under the
pinasters, whence there is a prospect of the city, the harbour, the
isle of Salamis, and the territory of Megara. 'What then!' cried
Sosimenes, 'you would hide from your view my young olives, and the
whole length of the new wall I have been building at my own expense
between us! and, when you might see at once the whole of Attica, you
will hardly see more of it than I could buy.'

_Leontion._ I do not perceive the new wall, for which Sosimenes, no
doubt, thinks himself another Pericles.

_Epicurus._ Those old junipers quite conceal it.

_Ternissa._ They look warm and sheltering; but I like the rose-laurels
much better: and what a thicket of them here is!

_Epicurus._ Leaving all the larger, I shall remove many thousands of
them; enough to border the greater part of the walk, intermixed with
roses.

There is an infinity of other plants and flowers, or weeds as
Sosimenes calls them, of which he has cleared his oliveyard, and which
I shall adopt. Twenty of his slaves came in yesterday, laden with
hyacinths and narcissi, anemones and jonquils. 'The curses of our
vineyards,' cried he, 'and good neither for man nor beast. I have
another estate infested with lilies of the valley: I should not wonder
if you accepted these too.'

'And with thanks,' answered I.

The whole of his remark I could not collect: he turned aside, and (I
believe) prayed. I only heard 'Pallas'--'Father'--'sound
mind'--'inoffensive man'--'good neighbour'. As we walked together I
perceived him looking grave, and I could not resist my inclination to
smile as I turned my eyes toward him. He observed it, at first with
unconcern, but by degrees some doubts arose within him, and he said,
'Epicurus, you have been throwing away no less than half a talent on
this sorry piece of mountain, and I fear you are about to waste as
much in labour: for nothing was ever so terrible as the price we are
obliged to pay the workman, since the conquest of Persia and the
increase of luxury in our city. Under three obols none will do his
day's work. But what, in the name of all the deities, could induce you
to plant those roots, which other people dig up and throw away?'

'I have been doing,' said I, 'the same thing my whole life through,
Sosimenes!'

'How!' cried he; 'I never knew that.'

'Those very doctrines,' added I, 'which others hate and extirpate, I
inculcate and cherish. They bring no riches, and therefore are thought
to bring no advantage; to me, they appear the more advantageous for
that reason. They give us immediately what we solicit through the
means of wealth. We toil for the wealth first; and then it remains to
be proved whether we can purchase with it what we look for. Now, to
carry our money to the market, and not to find in the market our
money's worth, is great vexation; yet much greater has already
preceded, in running up and down for it among so many competitors, and
through so many thieves.'

After a while he rejoined, 'You really, then, have not overreached
me?'

'In what, my friend?' said I.

'These roots,' he answered, 'may perhaps be good and saleable for some
purpose. Shall you send them into Persia? or whither?'

'Sosimenes, I shall make love-potions of the flowers.'

_Leontion._ O Epicurus! should it ever be known in Athens that they
are good for this, you will not have, with all your fences of prunes
and pomegranates, and precipices with brier upon them, a single root
left under ground after the month of Elaphebolion.[8]

_Epicurus._ It is not every one that knows the preparation.

_Leontion._ Everybody will try it.

_Epicurus._ And you, too, Ternissa?

_Ternissa._ Will you teach me?

_Epicurus._ This, and anything else I know. We must walk together when
they are in flower.

_Ternissa._ And can you teach me, then?

_Epicurus._ I teach by degrees.

_Leontion._ By very slow ones, Epicurus! I have no patience with you;
tell us directly.

_Epicurus._ It is very material what kind of recipient you bring with
you. Enchantresses use a brazen one; silver and gold are employed in
other arts.

_Leontion._ I will bring any.

_Ternissa._ My mother has a fine golden one. She will lend it me; she
allows me everything.

_Epicurus._ Leontion and Ternissa, those eyes of yours brighten at
inquiry, as if they carried a light within them for a guidance.

_Leontion._ No flattery!

_Ternissa._ No flattery! Come, teach us!

_Epicurus._ Will you hear me through in silence?

_Leontion._ We promise.

_Epicurus._ Sweet girls! the calm pleasures, such as I hope you will
ever find in your walks among these gardens, will improve your beauty,
animate your discourse, and correct the little that may hereafter rise
up for correction in your dispositions. The smiling ideas left in our
bosoms from our infancy, that many plants are the favourites of the
gods, and that others were even the objects of their love--having once
been invested with the human form, beautiful and lively and happy as
yourselves--give them an interest beyond the vision; yes, and a
station--let me say it--on the vestibule of our affections. Resign
your ingenuous hearts to simple pleasures; and there is none in man,
where men are Attic, that will not follow and outstrip their
movements.

_Ternissa._ O Epicurus!

_Epicurus._ What said Ternissa?

_Leontion._ Some of those anemones, I do think, must be still in
blossom. Ternissa's golden cup is at home; but she has brought with
her a little vase for the filter--and has filled it to the brim. Do
not hide your head behind my shoulder, Ternissa; no, nor in my lap.

_Epicurus._ Yes, there let it lie--the lovelier for that tendril of
sunny brown hair upon it. How it falls and rises! Which is the hair?
which the shadow?

_Leontion._ Let the hair rest.

_Epicurus._ I must not, perhaps, clasp the shadow!

_Leontion._ You philosophers are fond of such unsubstantial things.
Oh, you have taken my volume! This is deceit.

You live so little in public, and entertain such a contempt for
opinion, as to be both indifferent and ignorant what it is that people
blame you for.

_Epicurus._ I know what it is I should blame myself for, if I attended
to them. Prove them to be wiser and more disinterested in their wisdom
than I am, and I will then go down to them and listen to them. When I
have well considered a thing, I deliver it--regardless of what those
think who neither take the time nor possess the faculty of considering
anything well, and who have always lived far remote from the scope of
our speculations.

_Leontion._ In the volume you snatched away from me so slyly, I have
defended a position of yours which many philosophers turn into
ridicule--namely, that politeness is among the virtues. I wish you
yourself had spoken more at large upon the subject.

_Epicurus._ It is one upon which a lady is likely to display more
ingenuity and discernment. If philosophers have ridiculed my
sentiment, the reason is, it is among those virtues which in general
they find most difficult to assume or counterfeit.

_Leontion._ Surely life runs on the smoother for this equability and
polish; and the gratification it affords is more extensive than is
afforded even by the highest virtue. Courage, on nearly all occasions,
inflicts as much of evil as it imparts of good. It may be exerted in
defence of our country, in defence of those who love us, in defence of
the harmless and the helpless; but those against whom it is thus
exerted may possess an equal share of it. If they succeed, then
manifestly the ill it produces is greater than the benefit; if they
succumb, it is nearly as great. For many of their adversaries are
first killed and maimed, and many of their own kindred are left to
lament the consequences of the aggression.

_Epicurus._ You have spoken first of courage, as that virtue which
attracts your sex principally.

_Ternissa._ Not me; I am always afraid of it. I love those best who
can tell me the most things I never knew before, and who have patience
with me, and look kindly while they teach me, and almost as if they
were waiting for fresh questions. Now let me hear directly what you
were about to say to Leontion.

_Epicurus._ I was proceeding to remark that temperance comes next; and
temperance has then its highest merit when it is the support of
civility and politeness. So that I think I am right and equitable in
attributing to politeness a distinguished rank, not among the
ornaments of life, but among the virtues. And you, Leontion and
Ternissa, will have leaned the more propensely toward this opinion, if
you considered, as I am sure you did, that the peace and concord of
families, friends, and cities are preserved by it; in other terms, the
harmony of the world.

_Ternissa._ Leontion spoke of courage, you of temperance; the next
great virtue, in the division made by the philosophers, is justice.

_Epicurus._ Temperance includes it; for temperance is imperfect if it
is only an abstinence from too much food, too much wine, too much
conviviality or other luxury. It indicates every kind of forbearance.
Justice is forbearance from what belongs to another. Giving to this
one rightly what that one would hold wrongfully in magistrature not in
the abstract, and is only a part of its office. The perfectly
temperate man is also the perfectly just man; but the perfectly just
man (as philosophers now define him) may not be the perfectly
temperate one. I include the less in the greater.

_Leontion._ We hear of judges, and upright ones too, being immoderate
eaters and drinkers.

_Epicurus._ The Lacedemonians are temperate in food and courageous in
battle; but men like these, if they existed in sufficient numbers,
would devastate the universe. We alone, we Athenians, with less
military skill perhaps, and certainly less rigid abstinence from
voluptuousness and luxury, have set before it the only grand example
of social government and of polished life. From us the seed is
scattered; from us flow the streams that irrigate it; and ours are the
hands, O Leontion, that collect it, cleanse it, deposit it, and convey
and distribute it sound and weighty through every race and age.
Exhausted as we are by war, we can do nothing better than lie down and
doze while the weather is fine overhead, and dream (if we can) that we
are affluent and free.

O sweet sea air! how bland art thou and refreshing! Breathe upon
Leontion! breathe upon Ternissa! bring them health and spirits and
serenity, many springs and many summers, and when the vine-leaves have
reddened and rustle under their feet!

These, my beloved girls, are the children of Eternity: they played
around Theseus and the beauteous Amazon; they gave to Pallas the bloom
of Venus, and to Venus the animation of Pallas. Is it not better to
enjoy by the hour their soft, salubrious influence, than to catch by
fits the rancid breath of demagogues; than to swell and move under it
without or against our will; than to acquire the semblance of
eloquence by the bitterness of passion, the tone of philosophy by
disappointment, or the credit of prudence by distrust? Can fortune,
can industry, can desert itself, bestow on us anything we have not
here?

_Leontion._ And when shall those three meet? The gods have never
united them, knowing that men would put them asunder at the first
appearance.

_Epicurus._ I am glad to leave the city as often as possible, full as
it is of high and glorious reminiscences, and am inclined much rather
to indulge in quieter scenes, whither the Graces and Friendship lead
me. I would not contend even with men able to contend with me. You,
Leontion, I see, think differently, and have composed at last your
long-meditated work against the philosophy of Theophrastus.

_Leontion._ Why not? he has been praised above his merits.

_Epicurus._ My Leontion! you have inadvertently given me the reason
and origin of all controversial writings. They flow not from a love of
truth or a regard for science, but from envy and ill-will. Setting
aside the evil of malignity--always hurtful to ourselves, not always
to others--there is weakness in the argument you have adduced. When a
writer is praised above his merits in his own times, he is certain of
being estimated below them in the times succeeding. Paradox is dear to
most people: it bears the appearance of originality, but is usually
the talent of the superficial, the perverse, and the obstinate.

Nothing is more gratifying than the attention you are bestowing on me,
which you always apportion to the seriousness of my observations.

_Leontion._ I dislike Theophrastus for his affected contempt of your
doctrines.

_Epicurus._ Unreasonably, for the contempt of them; reasonably, if
affected. Good men may differ widely from me, and wiser ones
misunderstand me; for, their wisdom having raised up to them schools
of their own, they have not found leisure to converse with me; and
from others they have received a partial and inexact report. My
opinion is, that certain things are indifferent and unworthy of
pursuit or attention, as lying beyond our research and almost our
conjecture; which things the generality of philosophers (for the
generality are speculative) deem of the first importance. Questions
relating to them I answer evasively, or altogether decline. Again,
there are modes of living which are suitable to some and unsuitable to
others. What I myself follow and embrace, what I recommend to the
studious, to the irritable, to the weak in health, would ill agree
with the commonality of citizens. Yet my adversaries cry out: 'Such is
the opinion and practice of Epicurus!' For instance, I have never
taken a wife, and never will take one; but he from among the mass, who
should avow his imitation of my example, would act as wisely and more
religiously in saying that he chose celibacy because Pallas had done
the same.

_Leontion._ If Pallas had many such votaries she would soon have few
citizens to supply them.

_Epicurus._ And extremely bad ones, if all followed me in retiring
from the offices of magistracy and of war. Having seen that the most
sensible men are the most unhappy, I could not but examine the causes
of it; and, finding that the same sensibility to which they are
indebted for the activity of their intellect is also the restless
mover of their jealousy and ambition, I would lead them aside from
whatever operates upon these, and throw under their feet the terrors
their imagination has created. My philosophy is not for the populace
nor for the proud: the ferocious will never attain it; the gentle will
embrace it, but will not call it mine. I do not desire that they
should: let them rest their heads upon that part of the pillow which
they find the softest, and enjoy their own dreams unbroken.

_Leontion._ The old are all against you, Epicurus, the name of
pleasure is an affront to them: they know no other kind of it than
that which has flowered and seeded, and of which the withered stems
have indeed a rueful look.

_Epicurus._ Unhappily the aged are retentive of long-acquired maxims,
and insensible to new impressions, whether from fancy or from truth:
in fact, their eyes blend the two together. Well might the poet tell
us:

      Fewer the gifts that gnarled Age presents
      To elegantly-handed Infancy,
      Than elegantly-handed Infancy
      Presents to gnarled Age. From both they drop;
      The middle course of life receives them all,
      Save the light few that laughing Youth runs off with,
      Unvalued as a mistress or a flower.

_Leontion._ Since, in obedience to your institutions, O Epicurus, I
must not say I am angry, I am offended at least with Theophrastus for
having so misrepresented your opinions, on the necessity of keeping
the mind composed and tranquil, and remote from every object and every
sentiment by which a painful sympathy may be excited. In order to
display his elegance of language, he runs wherever he can lay a
censure on you, whether he believes in its equity or not.

_Epicurus._ This is the case with all eloquent men, and all
disputants. Truth neither warms nor elevates them, neither obtains for
them profit nor applause.

_Ternissa._ I have heard wise remarks very often and very warmly
praised.

_Epicurus._ Not for the truth in them, but for the grace, or because
they touched the spring of some preconception or some passion. Man is
a hater of truth, a lover of fiction.

Theophrastus is a writer of many acquirements and some shrewdness,
usually judicious, often somewhat witty, always elegant; his thoughts
are never confused, his sentences are never incomprehensible. If
Aristoteles thought more highly of him than his due, surely you ought
not to censure Theophrastus with severity on the supposition of his
rating me below mine; unless you argue that a slight error in a short
sum is less pardonable than in a longer. Had Aristoteles been living,
and had he given the same opinion of me, your friendship and perhaps
my self-love might have been wounded; for, if on one occasion he spoke
too favourably, he never spoke unfavourably but with justice. This is
among the indications of orderly and elevated minds; and here stands
the barrier that separates them from the common and the waste. Is a
man to be angry because an infant is fretful? Is a philosopher to
unpack and throw away his philosophy, because an idiot has tried to
overturn it on the road, and has pursued it with gibes and ribaldry?

_Leontion._ Theophrastus would persuade us that, according to your
system, we not only should decline the succour of the wretched, but
avoid the sympathies that poets and historians would awaken in us.
Probably for the sake of introducing some idle verses, written by a
friend of his, he says that, following the guidance of Epicurus, we
should altogether shun the theatre; and not only when Prometheus and
Oedipus and Philoctetes are introduced, but even when generous and
kindly sentiments are predominant, if they partake of that tenderness
which belongs to pity. I know not what Thracian lord recovers his
daughter from her ravisher; such are among the words they exchange:

_Father._

      Insects that dwell in rotten reeds, inert
      Upon the surface of a stream or pool,
      Then rush into the air on meshy vans,
      Are not so different in their varying lives
      As we are.--Oh! what father on this earth,
      Holding his child's cool cheek within his palms
      And kissing his fair front, would wish him man?--
      Inheritor of wants and jealousies,
      Of labour, of ambition, of distress,
      And, cruellest of all the passions, lust.
      Who that behold me, persecuted, scorned,
      A wanderer, e'er could think what friends were mine,
      How numerous, how devoted? with what glee
      Smiled my old house, with what acclaim my courts
      Rang from without whene'er my war-horse neighed?

_Daughter._

      Thy fortieth birthday is not shouted yet
      By the young peasantry, with rural gifts
      And nightly fires along the pointed hills,
      Yet do thy temples glitter with grey hair
      Scattered not thinly: ah, what sudden change!
      Only thy voice and heart remain the same:
      No! that voice trembles, and that heart (I feel),
      While it would comfort and console me, breaks.

_Epicurus._ I would never close my bosom against the feelings of
humanity; but I would calmly and well consider by what conduct of life
they may enter it with the least importunity and violence. A
consciousness that we have promoted the happiness of others, to the
uttermost of our power, is certain not only to meet them at the
threshold, but to bring them along with us, and to render them
accurate and faithful prompters, when we bend perplexedly over the
problem of evil figured by the tragedians. If there were more of pain
than of pleasure in the exhibitions of the dramatist, no man in his
senses would attend them twice. All the imitative arts have delight
for the principal object: the first of these is poetry; the highest of
poetry is tragic.

_Leontion._ The epic has been called so.

_Epicurus._ Improperly; for the epic has much more in it of what is
prosaic. Its magnitude is no argument. An Egyptian pyramid contains
more materials than an Ionic temple, but requires less contrivance,
and exhibits less beauty of design. My simile is yet a defective one;
for a tragedy must be carried on with an unbroken interest, and,
undecorated by loose foliage or fantastic branches, it must rise,
like the palm-tree, with a lofty unity. On these matters I am unable
to argue at large, or perhaps correctly; on those, however, which I
have studied and treated, my terms are so explicit and clear, that
Theophrastus can never have misunderstood them. Let me recall to your
attention but two axioms.

Abstinence from low pleasures is the only means of meriting or of
obtaining the higher.

Kindness in ourselves is the honey that blunts the sting of unkindness
in another.

_Leontion._ Explain to me, then, O Epicurus, why we suffer so much
from ingratitude.

_Epicurus._ We fancy we suffer from ingratitude, while in reality we
suffer from self-love. Passion weeps while she says, 'I did not
deserve this from him'; Reason, while she says it, smoothens her brow
at the clear fountain of the heart. Permit me also, like Theophrastus,
to borrow a few words from a poet.

_Ternissa._ Borrow as many such as any one will entrust to you, and
may Hermes prosper your commerce! Leontion may go to the theatre then;
for she loves it.

_Epicurus._ Girls! be the bosom friends of Antigone and Ismene; and
you shall enter the wood of the Eumenides without shuddering, and
leave it without the trace of a tear. Never did you appear so graceful
to me, O Ternissa--no, not even after this walk do you--as when I saw
you blow a fly from the forehead of Philoctetes in the propylëa. The
wing, with which Sophocles and the statuary represent him, to drive
away the summer insects in his agony, had wearied his flaccid arm,
hanging down beside him.

_Ternissa._ Do you imagine, then, I thought him a living man?

_Epicurus._ The sentiment was both more delicate and more august from
being indistinct. You would have done it, even if he _had_ been a
living man; even if he could have clasped you in his arms, imploring
the deities to resemble you in gentleness, you would have done it.

_Ternissa._ He looked so abandoned by all, and so heroic, yet so
feeble and so helpless! I did not think of turning around to see if
any one was near me; or else, perhaps----

_Epicurus._ If you could have thought of looking around, you would no
longer have been Ternissa. The gods would have transformed you for it
into some tree.

_Leontion._ And Epicurus had been walking under it this day, perhaps.

_Epicurus._ With Leontion, the partner of his sentiments. But the walk
would have been earlier or later than the present hour; since the
middle of the day, like the middle of certain fruits, is good for
nothing.

_Leontion._ For dinner, surely?

_Epicurus._ Dinner is a less gratification to me than to many: I dine
alone.

_Ternissa._ Why?

_Epicurus._ To avoid the noise, the heat, and the intermixture both of
odours and of occupations. I cannot bear the indecency of speaking
with a mouth in which there is food. I careen my body (since it is
always in want of repair) in as unobstructed a space as I can, and I
lie down and sleep awhile when the work is over.

_Leontion._ Epicurus! although it would be very interesting, no doubt,
to hear more of what you do after dinner--[_Aside to him._] now don't
smile: I shall never forgive you if you say a single word--yet I would
rather hear a little about the theatre, and whether you think at last
that women should frequent it; for you have often said the contrary.

_Epicurus._ I think they should visit it rarely; not because it
excites their affections, but because it deadens them. To me nothing
is so odious as to be at once among the rabble and among the heroes,
and, while I am receiving into my heart the most exquisite of human
sensations, to feel upon my shoulder the hand of some inattentive and
insensible young officer.

_Leontion._ Oh, very bad indeed! horrible!

_Ternissa._ You quite fire at the idea.

_Leontion._ Not I: I don't care about it.

_Ternissa._ Not about what is very bad indeed? quite horrible?

_Leontion._ I seldom go thither.

_Epicurus._ The theatre is delightful when we erect it in our own
house or arbour, and when there is but one spectator.

_Leontion._ You must lose the illusion in great part, if you only read
the tragedy, which I fancy to be your meaning.

_Epicurus._ I lose the less of it. Do not imagine that the illusion
is, or can be, or ought to be, complete. If it were possible, no
Phalaris or Perillus could devise a crueller torture. Here are two
imitations: first, the poet's of the sufferer; secondly, the actor's
of both: poetry is superinduced. No man in pain ever uttered the
better part of the language used by Sophocles. We admit it, and
willingly, and are at least as much illuded by it as by anything else
we hear or see upon the stage. Poets and statuaries and painters give
us an adorned imitation of the object, so skilfully treated that we
receive it for a correct one. This is the only illusion they aim at:
this is the perfection of their arts.

_Leontion._ Do you derive no pleasure from the representation of a
consummate actor?

_Epicurus._ High pleasure; but liable to be overturned in an instant:
pleasure at the mercy of any one who sits beside me.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Leontion._ In my treatise I have only defended your tenets against
Theophrastus.

_Epicurus._ I am certain you have done it with spirit and eloquence,
dear Leontion; and there are but two words in it I would wish you to
erase.

_Leontion._ Which are they?

_Epicurus._ Theophrastus and Epicurus. If you love me, you will do
nothing that may make you uneasy when you grow older; nothing that may
allow my adversary to say, 'Leontion soon forgot her Epicurus.' My
maxim is, never to defend my systems or paradoxes; if you undertake
it, the Athenians will insist that I impelled you secretly, or that my
philosophy and my friendship were ineffectual on you.

_Leontion._ They shall never say that.

_Epicurus._ I am not unmoved by the kindness of your intentions. Most
people, and philosophers, too, among the rest, when their own conduct
or opinions are questioned, are admirably prompt and dexterous in the
science of defence; but when another's are assailed, they parry with
as ill a grace and faltering a hand as if they never had taken a
lesson in it at home. Seldom will they see what they profess to look
for; and, finding it, they pick up with it a thorn under the nail.
They canter over the solid turf, and complain that there is no corn
upon it; they canter over the corn, and curse the ridges and furrows.
All schools of philosophy, and almost all authors, are rather to be
frequented for exercise than for freight; but this exercise ought to
acquire us health and strength, spirits and good-humour. There is none
of them that does not supply some truth useful to every man, and some
untruth equally so to the few that are able to wrestle with it. If
there were no falsehood in the world, there would be no doubt; if
there were no doubt, there would be no inquiry; if no inquiry, no
wisdom, no knowledge, no genius: and Fancy herself would lie muffled
up in her robe, inactive, pale, and bloated. I wish we could
demonstrate the existence of utility in some other evils as easily as
in this.

_Leontion._ My remarks on the conduct and on the style of Theophrastus
are not confined to him solely. I have taken at last a general view of
our literature, and traced as far as I am able its deviation and
decline. In ancient works we sometimes see the mark of the chisel; in
modern we might almost suppose that no chisel was employed at all, and
that everything was done by grinding and rubbing. There is an
ordinariness, an indistinctness, a generalization, not even to be
found in a flock of sheep. As most reduce what is sand into dust, the
few that avoid it run to a contrary extreme, and would force us to
believe that what is original must be unpolished and uncouth.

_Epicurus._ There have been in all ages, and in all there will be,
sharp and slender heads made purposely and peculiarly for creeping
into the crevices of our nature. While we contemplate the magnificence
of the universe, and mensurate the fitness and adaptation of one part
to another, the small philosopher hangs upon a hair or creeps within a
wrinkle, and cries out shrilly from his elevation that we are blind
and superficial. He discovers a wart, he pries into a pore; and he
calls it knowledge of man. Poetry and criticism, and all the fine
arts, have generated such living things, which not only will be
co-existent with them but will (I fear) survive them. Hence history
takes alternately the form of reproval and of panegyric; and science
in its pulverized state, in its shapeless and colourless atoms,
assumes the name of metaphysics. We find no longer the rich succulence
of Herodotus, no longer the strong filament of Thucydides, but
thoughts fit only for the slave, and language for the rustic and the
robber. These writings can never reach posterity, nor serve better
authors near us; for who would receive as documents the perversions of
venality and party? Alexander we know was intemperate, and Philip both
intemperate and perfidious: we require not a volume of dissertation on
the thread of history, to demonstrate that one or other left a
tailor's bill unpaid, and the immorality of doing so; nor a supplement
to ascertain on the best authorities which of the two it was. History
should explain to us how nations rose and fell, what nurtured them in
their growth, what sustained them in their maturity; not which orator
ran swiftest through the crowd from the right hand to the left, which
assassin was too strong for manacles, or which felon too opulent for
crucifixion.

_Leontion._ It is better, I own it, that such writers should amuse our
idleness than excite our spleen.

_Ternissa._ What is spleen?

_Epicurus._ Do not ask her; she cannot tell you. The spleen, Ternissa,
is to the heart what Arimanes is to Oromazes.

_Ternissa._ I am little the wiser yet. Does he ever use such hard
words with you?

_Leontion._ He means the evil Genius and the good Genius, in the
theogony of the Persians: and would perhaps tell you, as he hath told
me, that the heart in itself is free from evil, but very capable of
receiving and too tenacious of holding it.

_Epicurus._ In our moral system, the spleen hangs about the heart and
renders it sad and sorrowful, unless we continually keep it in
exercise by kind offices, or in its proper place by serious
investigation and solitary questionings. Otherwise, it is apt to
adhere and to accumulate, until it deadens the principles of sound
action, and obscures the sight.

_Ternissa._ It must make us very ugly when we grow old.

_Leontion._ In youth it makes us uglier, as not appertaining to it: a
little more or less ugliness in decrepitude is hardly worth
considering, there being quite enough of it from other quarters: I
would stop it here, however.

_Ternissa._ Oh, what a thing is age!

_Leontion._ Death without death's quiet.

_Ternissa._ Leontion said that even bad writers may amuse our idle
hours: alas! even good ones do not much amuse mine, unless they record
an action of love or generosity. As for the graver, why cannot they
come among us and teach us, just as you do?

_Epicurus._ Would you wish it?

_Ternissa._ No, no! I do not want them: only I was imagining how
pleasant it is to converse as we are doing, and how sorry I should be
to pore over a book instead of it. Books always make me sigh, and
think about other things. Why do you laugh, Leontion?

_Epicurus._ She was mistaken in saying bad authors may amuse our
idleness. Leontion knows not then how sweet and sacred idleness is.

_Leontion._ To render it sweet and sacred, the heart must have a
little garden of its own, with its umbrage and fountains and
perennial flowers--a careless company! Sleep is called sacred as well
as sweet by Homer; and idleness is but a step from it. The idleness of
the wise and virtuous should be both, it being the repose and
refreshment necessary for past exertions and for future; it punishes
the bad man, it rewards the good; the deities enjoy it, and Epicurus
praises it. I was indeed wrong in my remark; for we should never seek
amusement in the foibles of another, never in coarse language, never
in low thoughts. When the mind loses its feeling for elegance, it
grows corrupt and grovelling, and seeks in the crowd what ought to be
found at home.

_Epicurus._ Aspasia believed so, and bequeathed to Leontion, with
every other gift that Nature had bestowed upon her, the power of
delivering her oracles from diviner lips.

_Leontion._ Fie! Epicurus! It is well you hide my face for me with
your hand. Now take it away; we cannot walk in this manner.

_Epicurus._ No word could ever fall from you without its weight; no
breath from you ought to lose itself in the common air.

_Leontion._ For shame! What would you have?

_Ternissa._ He knows not what he would have nor what he would say. I
must sit down again. I declare I scarcely understand a single
syllable. Well, he is very good, to tease you no longer. Epicurus has
an excellent heart; he would give pain to no one; least of all to you.

_Leontion,_ I have pained him by this foolish book, and he would only
assure me that he does not for a moment bear me malice. Take the
volume; take it, Epicurus! tear it in pieces.

_Epicurus._ No, Leontion! I shall often look with pleasure on this
trophy of brave humanity; let me kiss the hand that raises it!

_Ternissa._ I am tired of sitting: I am quite stiff: when shall we
walk homeward?

_Epicurus._ Take my arm, Ternissa!

_Ternissa._ Oh! I had forgotten that I proposed to myself a trip as
far up as the pinasters, to look at the precipice of Oreithyia. Come
along! come along! how alert does the sea air make us! I seem to feel
growing at my feet and shoulders the wings of Zethes or Caläis.

_Epicurus._ Leontion walks the nimblest to-day.

_Ternissa._ To display her activity and strength, she runs before us.
Sweet Leontion, how good she is! but she should have stayed for us: it
would be in vain to try to overtake her.

No, Epicurus! Mind! take care! you are crushing these little
oleanders--and now the strawberry plants--the whole heap. Not I,
indeed. What would my mother say, if she knew it? And Leontion! she
will certainly look back.

_Epicurus._ The fairest of the Eudaimones never look back: such are
the Hours and Love, Opportunity and Leontion.

_Ternissa._ How could you dare to treat me in this manner? I did not
say again I hated anything.

_Epicurus._ Forgive me!

_Ternissa._ Violent creature!

_Epicurus._ If tenderness is violence. Forgive me; and say you love
me.

_Ternissa._ All at once? could you endure such boldness?

_Epicurus._ Pronounce it! whisper it.

_Ternissa._ Go, go. Would it be proper?

_Epicurus._ Is that sweet voice asking its heart or me? let the
worthier give the answer.

_Ternissa._ O Epicurus! you are very, very dear to me; and are the
last in the world that would ever tell you were called so.

FOOTNOTES:

[7] The Attic month of Puanepsion had its commencement in the latter
days of October; its name is derived from +puana+, the legumes
which were offered in sacrifice to Apollo at that season.

[8] The thirteenth of Elaphebolion was the tenth of April.



DANTE AND BEATRICE


_Dante._ When you saw me profoundly pierced with love, and reddening
and trembling, did it become you, did it become you, you whom I have
always called _the most gentle Bice_, to join in the heartless
laughter of those girls around you? Answer me. Reply unhesitatingly.
Requires it so long a space for dissimulation and duplicity? Pardon!
pardon! pardon! My senses have left me; my heart being gone, they
follow.

_Beatrice._ Childish man! pursuing the impossible.

_Dante._ And was it this you laughed at? We cannot touch the hem of
God's garment; yet we fall at His feet and weep.

_Beatrice._ But weep not, gentle Dante! fall not before the weakest of
His creatures, willing to comfort, unable to relieve you. Consider a
little. Is laughter at all times the signal or the precursor of
derision? I smiled, let me avow it, from the pride I felt in your
preference of me; and if I laughed, it was to conceal my sentiments.
Did you never cover sweet fruit with worthless leaves? Come, do not
drop again so soon so faint a smile. I will not have you grave, nor
very serious. I pity you; I must not love you: if I might, I would.

_Dante._ Yet how much love is due to me, O Bice, who have loved you,
as you well remember, even from your tenth year. But it is reported,
and your words confirm it, that you are going to be married.

_Beatrice._ If so, and if I could have laughed at that, and if my
laughter could have estranged you from me, would you blame me?

_Dante._ Tell me the truth.

_Beatrice._ The report is general.

_Dante._ The truth! the truth! Tell me, Bice.

_Beatrice._ Marriages, it is said, are made in heaven.

_Dante._ Is heaven then under the paternal roof?

_Beatrice._ It has been to me hitherto.

_Dante._ And now you seek it elsewhere.

_Beatrice._ I seek it not. The wiser choose for the weaker. Nay, do
not sigh so. What would you have, my grave pensive Dante? What can I
do?

_Dante._ Love me.

_Beatrice._ I always did.

_Dante._ Love me? O bliss of heaven!

_Beatrice._ No, no, no! Forbear! Men's kisses are always mischievous
and hurtful; everybody says it. If you truly loved me, you would never
think of doing so.

_Dante._ Nor even this!

_Beatrice._ You forget that you are no longer a boy; and that it is
not thought proper at your time of life to continue the arm at all
about the waist. Beside, I think you would better not put your head
against my bosom; it beats too much to be pleasant to you. Why do you
wish it? why fancy it can do you any good? It grows no cooler; it
seems to grow even hotter. Oh, how it burns! Go, go; it hurts me too:
it struggles, it aches, it sobs. Thank you, my gentle friend, for
removing your brow away; your hair is very thick and long; and it
began to heat me more than you can imagine. While it was there, I
could not see your face so well, nor talk with you so quietly.

_Dante._ Oh, when shall we talk quietly in future?

_Beatrice._ When I am married. I shall often come to visit my father.
He has always been solitary since my mother's death, which happened in
my infancy, long before you knew me.

_Dante._ How can he endure the solitude of his house when you have
left it?

_Beatrice._ The very question I asked him.

_Dante._ You did not then wish to ... to ... go away?

_Beatrice._ Ah no! It is sad to be an outcast at fifteen.

_Dante._ An outcast?

_Beatrice._ Forced to leave a home.

_Dante._ For another?

_Beatrice._ Childhood can never have a second.

_Dante._ But childhood is now over.

_Beatrice._ I wonder who was so malicious as to tell my father that?
He wanted me to be married a whole year ago.

_Dante._ And, Bice, you hesitated?

_Beatrice._ No; I only wept. He is a dear good father. I never
disobeyed him but in those wicked tears; and they ran the faster the
more he reprehended them.

_Dante._ Say, who is the happy youth?

_Beatrice._ I know not who ought to be happy if you are not.

_Dante._ I?

_Beatrice._ Surely you deserve all happiness.

_Dante._ Happiness! any happiness is denied me. Ah, hours of
childhood! bright hours! what fragrant blossoms ye unfold! what bitter
fruits to ripen!

_Beatrice._ Now cannot you continue to sit under that old fig-tree at
the corner of the garden? It is always delightful to me to think of
it.

_Dante._ Again you smile: I wish I could smile too.

_Beatrice._ You were usually more grave than I, although very often,
two years ago, you told me I was the graver. Perhaps I _was_ then
indeed; and perhaps I ought to be now: but really I must smile at the
recollection, and make you smile with me.

_Dante._ Recollection of what in particular?

_Beatrice._ Of your ignorance that a fig-tree is the brittlest of
trees, especially when it is in leaf; and moreover of your tumble,
when your head was just above the wall, and your hand (with the verses
in it) on the very coping-stone. Nobody suspected that I went every
day to the bottom of our garden, to hear you repeat your poetry on the
other side; nobody but yourself; you soon found me out. But on that
occasion I thought you might have been hurt; and I clambered up our
high peach-tree in the grass plot nearest the place; and thence I saw
Messer Dante, with his white sleeve reddened by the fig-juice, and the
seeds sticking to it pertinaciously, and Messer blushing, and trying
to conceal his calamity, and still holding the verses. They were all
about me.

_Dante._ Never shall any verse of mine be uttered from my lips, or
from the lips of others, without the memorial of Bice.

_Beatrice._ Sweet Dante! in the purity of your soul shall Bice live;
as (we are told by the goatherds and foresters) poor creatures have
been found preserved in the serene and lofty regions of the Alps, many
years after the breath of life had left them. Already you rival Guido
Cavalcante and Cino da Pistoja: you must attempt, nor perhaps shall it
be vainly, to surpass them in celebrity.

_Dante._ If ever I am above them ... and I must be ... I know already
what angel's hand will have helped me up the ladder. Beatrice, I vow
to heaven, shall stand higher than Selvaggia, high and glorious and
immortal as that name will be. You have given me joy and sorrow; for
the worst of these (I will not say the least) I will confer on you all
the generations of our Italy, all the ages of our world. But first
(alas, from me you must not have it!) may happiness, long happiness,
attend you!

_Beatrice._ Ah, those words rend your bosom! why should they?

_Dante._ I could go away contented, or almost contented, were I sure
of it. Hope is nearly as strong as despair, and greatly more
pertinacious and enduring. You have made me see clearly that you never
can be mine in this world: but at the same time, O Beatrice, you have
made me see quite as clearly that you may and must be mine in another!
I am older than you: precedency is given to age, and not to
worthiness; I will pray for you when I am nearer to God, and purified
from the stains of earth and mortality. He will permit me to behold
you, lovely as when I left you. Angels in vain should call me onward.

_Beatrice._ Hush, sweetest Dante! hush!

_Dante._ It is there where I shall have caught the first glimpse of
you again, that I wish all my portion of Paradise to be assigned me;
and there, if far below you, yet within the sight of you, to establish
my perdurable abode.

_Beatrice._ Is this piety? Is this wisdom? O Dante! And may not I be
called away first?

_Dante._ Alas, alas, how many small feet have swept off the early dew
of life, leaving the path black behind them! But to think that you
should go before me! It almost sends me forward on my way, to receive
and welcome you. If indeed, O Beatrice, such should be God's immutable
will, sometimes look down on me when the song to Him is suspended.
Oh! look often on me with prayer and pity; for there all prayers are
accepted, and all pity is devoid of pain! Why are you silent?

_Beatrice._ It is very sinful not to love all creatures in the world.
But it is true, O Dante! that we always love those the most who make
us the most unhappy?

_Dante._ The remark, I fear, is just.

_Beatrice._ Then, unless the Virgin be pleased to change my
inclinations, I shall begin at last to love my betrothed; for already
the very idea of him renders me sad, wearisome, and comfortless.
Yesterday he sent me a bunch of violets. When I took them up,
delighted as I felt at that sweetest of odours, which you and I once
inhaled together....

_Dante._ And only once.

_Beatrice._ You know why. Be quiet now, and hear me. I dropped the
posy; for around it, hidden by various kinds of foliage, was twined
the bridal necklace of pearls. O Dante, how worthless are the finest
of them (and there are many fine ones) in comparison with those little
pebbles, some of which (for perhaps I may not have gathered up all)
may be still lying under the peach-tree, and some (do I blush to say
it?) under the fig! Tell me not who threw these, nor for what. But you
know you were always thoughtful, and sometimes reading, sometimes
writing, and sometimes forgetting me, while I waited to see the
crimson cap, and the two bay-leaves I fastened in it, rise above the
garden-wall. How silently you are listening, if you do listen!

_Dante._ Oh, could my thoughts incessantly and eternally dwell among
these recollections, undisturbed by any other voice ... undistracted
by any other presence! Soon must they abide with me alone, and be
repeated by none but me ... repeated in the accents of anguish and
despair! Why could you not have held in the sad home of your heart
that necklace and those violets?

_Beatrice._ My Dante! we must all obey ... I my father, you your God.
He will never abandon you.

_Dante._ I have ever sung, and will for ever sing, the most glorious
of His works: and yet, O Bice! He abandons me, He casts me off; and He
uses your hand for this infliction.

_Beatrice._ Men travel far and wide, and see many on whom to fix or
transfer their affections; but we maidens have neither the power nor
the will. Casting our eyes on the ground, we walk along the straight
and narrow road prescribed for us; and, doing this, we avoid in great
measure the thorns and entanglements of life. We know we are
performing our duty; and the fruit of this knowledge is contentment.
Season after season, day after day, you have made me serious, pensive,
meditative, and almost wise. Being so little a girl, I was proud that
you, so much taller, should lean on my shoulder to overlook my work.
And greatly more proud was I when in time you taught me several Latin
words, and then whole sentences, both in prose and verse, pasting a
strip of paper over, or obscuring with impenetrable ink, those
passages in the poets which were beyond my comprehension, and might
perplex me. But proudest of all was I when you began to reason with
me. What will now be my pride if you are convinced by the first
arguments I ever have opposed to you; or if you only take them up and
try if they are applicable. Certainly do I know (indeed, indeed I do)
that even the patience to consider them will make you happier. Will it
not then make me so? I entertain no other wish. Is not this true love?

_Dante._ Ah, yes! the truest, the purest, the least perishable, but
not the sweetest. Here are the rue and hyssop; but where the rose?

_Beatrice._ Wicked must be whatever torments you: and will you let
love do it? Love is the gentlest and kindest breath of God. Are you
willing that the tempter should intercept it, and respire it polluted
into your ear? Do not make me hesitate to pray to the Virgin for you,
nor tremble lest she look down on you with a reproachful pity. To her
alone, O Dante, dare I confide all my thoughts! Lessen not my
confidence in my only refuge.

_Dante._ God annihilate a power so criminal! Oh, could my love flow
into your breast with hers! It should flow with equal purity.

_Beatrice._ You have stored my little mind with many thoughts; dear
because they are yours, and because they are virtuous. May I not, O my
Dante! bring some of them back again to your bosom; as the _contadina_
lets down the string from the cottage-beam in winter, and culls a few
bunches of the soundest for the master of the vineyard? You have not
given me glory that the world should shudder at its eclipse. To prove
that I am worthy of the smallest part of it, I must obey God; and,
under God, my father. Surely the voice of Heaven comes to us audibly
from a parent's lips. You will be great, and, what is above, all
greatness, good.

_Dante._ Rightly and wisely, my sweet Beatrice, have you spoken in
this estimate. Greatness is to goodness what gravel is to porphyry:
the one is a movable accumulation, swept along the surface of the
earth; the other stands fixed and solid and alone, above the violence
of war and of the tempest; above all that is residuous of a wasted
world. Little men build up great ones; but the snow colossus soon
melts: the good stand under the eye of God; and therefore stand.

_Beatrice._ Now you are calm and reasonable, listen to me, Bice. You
must marry.

_Dante._ Marry?

_Beatrice._ Unless you do, how can we meet again unreservedly? Worse,
worse than ever! I cannot bear to see those large heavy tears
following one another, heavy and slow as nuns at the funeral of a
sister. Come, I will kiss off one, if you will promise me faithfully
to shed no more. Be tranquil, be tranquil; only hear reason. There are
many who know you; and all who know you must love you. Don't you hear
me? Why turn aside? and why go farther off? I will have that hand. It
twists about as if it hated its confinement. Perverse and peevish
creature! you have no more reason to be sorry than I have; and you
have many to the contrary which I have not. Being a man, you are at
liberty to admire a variety, and to make a choice. Is that no comfort
to you?

_Dante._

      Bid this bosom cease to grieve?
        Bid these eyes fresh objects see?
      Where's the comfort to believe
        None might once have rivall'd me?
      What! my freedom to receive?
        Broken hearts, are they the free?
      For another can I live
        When I may not live for thee?

_Beatrice._ I will never be fond of you again if you are so violent.
We have been together too long, and we may be noticed.

_Dante._ Is this our last meeting? If it is ... and that it is, my
heart has told me ... you will not, surely you will not refuse....

_Beatrice._ Dante! Dante! they make the heart sad after: do not wish
it. But prayers ... oh, how much better are they, how much quieter and
lighter they render it! They carry it up to heaven with them; and
those we love are left behind no longer.



FRA FILIPPO LIPPI AND POPE EUGENIUS THE FOURTH


_Eugenius._ Filippo! I am informed by my son Cosimo de' Medici of many
things relating to thy life and actions, and among the rest, of thy
throwing off the habit of a friar. Speak to me as to a friend. Was
that well done?

_Filippo._ Holy Father! it was done most unadvisedly.

_Eugenius._ Continue to treat me with the same confidence and
ingenuousness; and, beside the remuneration I intend to bestow on thee
for the paintings wherewith thou hast adorned my palace, I will remove
with my own hand the heavy accumulation of thy sins, and ward off the
peril of fresh ones, placing within thy reach every worldly solace and
contentment.

_Filippo._ Infinite thanks, Holy Father! from the innermost heart of
your unworthy servant, whose duty and wishes bind him alike and
equally to a strict compliance with your paternal commands.

_Eugenius._ Was it a love of the world and its vanities that induced
thee to throw aside the frock?

_Filippo._ It was indeed, Holy Father! I never had the courage to
mention it in confession among my manifold offences.

_Eugenius._ Bad! bad! Repentance is of little use to the sinner,
unless he pour it from a full and overflowing heart into the capacious
ear of the confessor. Ye must not go straightforward and bluntly up to
your Maker, startling Him with the horrors of your guilty conscience.
Order, decency, time, place, opportunity, must be observed.

_Filippo._ I have observed the greater part of them: time, place, and
opportunity.

_Eugenius._ That is much. In consideration of it, I hereby absolve
thee.

_Filippo._ I feel quite easy, quite new-born.

_Eugenius._ I am desirous of hearing what sort of feelings thou
experiencest, when thou givest loose to thy intractable and unruly
wishes. Now, this love of the world, what can it mean? A love of
music, of dancing, of riding? What in short is it in thee?

_Filippo._ Holy Father! I was ever of a hot and amorous constitution.

_Eugenius._ Well, well! I can guess, within a trifle, what that leads
unto. I very much disapprove of it, whatever it may be. And then? and
then? Prithee go on: I am inflamed with a miraculous zeal to cleanse
thee.

_Filippo._ I have committed many follies, and some sins.

_Eugenius._ Let me hear the sins; I do not trouble my head about the
follies; the Church has no business with them. The State is founded on
follies, the Church on sins. Come then, unsack them.

_Filippo._ Concupiscence is both a folly and a sin. I felt more and
more of it when I ceased to be a monk, not having (for a time) so
ready means of allaying it.

_Eugenius._ No doubt. Thou shouldst have thought again and again
before thou strippedst off the cowl.

_Filippo._ Ah! Holy Father! I am sore at heart. I thought indeed how
often it had held two heads together under it, and that stripping it
off was double decapitation. But compensation and contentment came,
and we were warm enough without it.

_Eugenius._ I am minded to reprove thee gravely. No wonder it pleased
the Virgin, and the saints about her, to permit that the enemy of our
faith should lead thee captive into Barbary.

_Filippo._ The pleasure was all on their side.

_Eugenius._ I have heard a great many stories both of males and
females who were taken by Tunisians and Algerines: and although there
is a sameness in certain parts of them, my especial benevolence toward
thee, worthy Filippo, would induce me to lend a vacant ear to thy
report. And now, good Filippo, I could sip a small glass of Muscatel
or Orvieto, and turn over a few bleached almonds, or essay a smart
dried apricot at intervals, and listen while thou relatest to me the
manners and customs of that country, and particularly as touching thy
own adversities. First, how wast thou taken?

_Filippo._ I was visiting at Pesaro my worshipful friend the canonico
Andrea Paccone, who delighted in the guitar, played it skilfully, and
was always fond of hearing it well accompanied by the voice. My own
instrument I had brought with me, together with many gay Florentine
songs, some of which were of such a turn and tendency, that the
canonico thought they would sound better on water, and rather far from
shore, than within the walls of the canonicate. He proposed then, one
evening when there was little wind stirring, to exercise three young
abbates[9] on their several parts, a little way out of hearing from
the water's edge.

_Eugenius._ I disapprove of exercising young abbates in that manner.

_Filippo._ Inadvertently, O Holy Father! I have made the affair seem
worse than it really was. In fact, there were only two genuine
abbates; the third was Donna Lisetta, the good canonico's pretty
niece, who looks so archly at your Holiness when you bend your knees
before her at bedtime.

_Eugenius._ How? Where?

_Filippo._ She is the angel on the right-hand side of the Holy Family,
with a tip of amethyst-coloured wing over a basket of figs and
pomegranates. I painted her from memory: she was then only fifteen,
and worthy to be the niece of an archbishop. Alas! she never will be:
she plays and sings among the infidels, and perhaps would eat a
landrail on a Friday as unreluctantly as she would a roach.

_Eugenius._ Poor soul! So this is the angel with the amethyst-coloured
wing? I thought she looked wanton: we must pray for her release ...
from the bondage of sin. What followed in your excursion?

_Filippo._ Singing, playing, fresh air, and plashing water, stimulated
our appetites. We had brought no eatable with us but fruit and thin
_marzopane_, of which the sugar and rose-water were inadequate to ward
off hunger; and the sight of a fishing-vessel between us and Ancona,
raised our host immoderately. 'Yonder smack,' said he, 'is sailing at
this moment just over the best sole-bank in the Adriatic. If she
continues her course and we run toward her, we may be supplied, I
trust in God, with the finest fish in Christendom. Methinks I see
already the bellies of those magnificent sole bestar the deck, and
emulate the glories of the orient sky.' He gave his orders with such a
majestic air, that he looked rather like an admiral than a priest.

_Eugenius._ How now, rogue! Why should not the churchman look
majestically and courageously? I myself have found occasion for it,
and exerted it.

_Filippo._ The world knows the prowess of your Holiness.

_Eugenius._ Not mine, not mine, Filippo! but His who gave me the sword
and the keys, and the will and the discretion to use them. I trust the
canonico did not misapply his station and power, by taking the fish at
any unreasonably low price; and that he gave his blessing to the
remainder, and to the poor fishermen and to their nets.

_Filippo._ He was angry at observing that the vessel, while he thought
it was within hail, stood out again to sea.

_Eugenius._ He ought to have borne more manfully so slight a vexation.

_Filippo._ On the contrary, he swore bitterly he would have the
master's ear between his thumb and forefinger in another half-hour,
and regretted that he had cut his nails in the morning lest they
should grate on his guitar. 'They may fish well,' cried he, 'but they
can neither sail nor row; and, when I am in the middle of that tub of
theirs, I will teach them more than they look for.' Sure enough he was
in the middle of it at the time he fixed: but it was by aid of a rope
about his arms and the end of another laid lustily on his back and
shoulders. 'Mount, lazy long-chined turnspit, as thou valuest thy
life,' cried Abdul the corsair, 'and away for Tunis.' If silence is
consent, he had it. The captain, in the Sicilian dialect, told us we
might talk freely, for he had taken his siesta. 'Whose guitars are
those?' said he. As the canonico raised his eyes to heaven and
answered nothing, I replied, 'Sir, one is mine: the other is my worthy
friend's there.' Next he asked the canonico to what market he was
taking those young slaves, pointing to the abbates. The canonico
sobbed and could not utter one word. I related the whole story; at
which he laughed. He then took up the music, and commanded my reverend
guest to sing an air peculiarly tender, invoking the compassion of a
nymph, and calling her cold as ice. Never did so many or such profound
sighs accompany it. When it ended, he sang one himself in his own
language, on a lady whose eyes were exactly like the scimitars of
Damascus, and whose eyebrows met in the middle like the cudgels of
prize-fighters. On the whole she resembled both sun and moon, with the
simple difference that she never allowed herself to be seen, lest all
the nations of the earth should go to war for her, and not a man to be
left to breathe out his soul before her. This poem had obtained the
prize at the University of Fez, had been translated into the Arabic,
the Persian, and the Turkish languages, and was the favourite lay of
the corsair. He invited me lastly to try my talent. I played the same
air on the guitar, and apologized for omitting the words, from my
utter ignorance of the Moorish. Abdul was much pleased, and took the
trouble to convince me that the poetry they conveyed, which he
translated literally, was incomparably better than ours. 'Cold as
ice!' he repeated, scoffing: 'anybody might say that who had seen
Atlas: but a genuine poet would rather say, "Cold as a lizard or a
lobster."' There is no controverting a critic who has twenty stout
rowers, and twenty well-knotted rope-ends. Added to which, he seemed
to know as much of the matter as the generality of those who talked
about it. He was gratified by my attention and edification, and thus
continued: 'I have remarked in the songs I have heard, that these wild
woodland creatures of the west, these nymphs, are a strange
fantastical race. But are your poets not ashamed to complain of their
inconstancy? whose fault is that? If ever it should be my fortune to
take one, I would try whether I could not bring her down to the level
of her sex; and if her inconstancy caused any complaints, by Allah!
they should be louder and shriller than ever rose from the throat of
Abdul.' I still thought it better to be a disciple than a commentator.

_Eugenius._ If we could convert this barbarian and detain him awhile
at Rome, he would learn that women and nymphs (and inconstancy also)
are one and the same. These cruel men have no lenity, no suavity. They
who do not as they would be done by, are done by very much as they do.
Women will glide away from them like water; they can better bear two
masters than half one; and a new metal must be discovered before any
bars are strong enough to confine them. But proceed with your
narrative.

_Filippo._ Night had now closed upon us. Abdul placed the younger of
the company apart, and after giving them some boiled rice, sent them
down into his own cabin. The sailors, observing the consideration and
distinction with which their master had treated me, were civil and
obliging. Permission was granted me, at my request, to sleep on deck.

_Eugenius._ What became of your canonico?

_Filippo._ The crew called him a conger, a priest, and a porpoise.

_Eugenius._ Foul-mouthed knaves! could not one of these terms content
them? On thy leaving Barbary was he left behind?

_Filippo._ Your Holiness consecrated him, the other day, Bishop of
Macerata.

_Eugenius._ True, true; I remember the name, Saccone. How did he
contrive to get off?

_Filippo._ He was worth little at any work; and such men are the
quickest both to get off and to get on. Abdul told me he had received
three thousand crowns for his ransom.

_Eugenius._ He was worth more to him than to me. I received but two
first-fruits, and such other things as of right belong to me by
inheritance. The bishopric is passably rich: he may serve thee.

_Filippo._ While he was a canonico he was a jolly fellow; not very
generous; for jolly fellows are seldom that; but he would give a
friend a dinner, a flask of wine or two in preference, and a piece of
advice as readily as either. I waited on monsignor at Macerata, soon
after his elevation.

_Eugenius._ He must have been heartily glad to embrace his companion
in captivity, and the more especially as he himself was the cause of
so grievous a misfortune.

_Filippo._ He sent me word he was so unwell he could not see me.
'What!' said I to his valet, 'is monsignor's complaint in his eyes?'
The fellow shrugged up his shoulders and walked away. Not believing
that the message was a refusal to admit me, I went straight upstairs,
and finding the door of an antechamber half open, and a chaplain
milling an egg-posset over the fire, I accosted him. The air of
familiarity and satisfaction he observed in me left no doubt in his
mind that I had been invited by his patron. 'Will the man never come?'
cried his lordship. 'Yes, monsignor!' exclaimed I, running in and
embracing him; 'behold him here!' He started back, and then I first
discovered the wide difference between an old friend and an
egg-posset.

_Eugenius._ Son Filippo! thou hast seen but little of the world, and
art but just come from Barbary. Go on.

_Filippo._ 'Fra Filippo!' said he gravely, 'I am glad to see you. I
did not expect you just at present: I am not very well: I had ordered
a medicine and was impatient to take it. If you will favour me with
the name of your inn, I will send for you when I am in a condition to
receive you; perhaps within a day or two.' 'Monsignor!' said I, 'a
change of residence often gives a man a cold, and oftener a change of
fortune. Whether you caught yours upon deck (where we last saw each
other), from being more exposed than usual, or whether the mitre holds
wind, is no question for me, and no concern of mine.'

_Eugenius._ A just reproof, if an archbishop had made it. On uttering
it, I hope thou kneeledst and kissedst his hand.

_Filippo._ I did not indeed.

_Eugenius._ Oh, there wert thou greatly in the wrong! Having, it is
reported, a good thousand crowns yearly of patrimony, and a canonicate
worth six hundred more, he might have attempted to relieve thee from
slavery, by assisting thy relatives in thy redemption.

_Filippo._ The three thousand crowns were the uttermost he could
raise, he declared to Abdul, and he asserted that a part of the money
was contributed by the inhabitants of Pesaro. 'Do they act out of pure
mercy?' said he. 'Ay, they must, for what else could move them in
behalf of such a lazy, unserviceable street-fed cur?' In the morning,
at sunrise, he was sent aboard. And now, the vessel being under weigh,
'I have a letter from my lord Abdul,' said the master, 'which, being
in thy language, two fellow slaves shall read unto thee publicly.'
They came forward and began the reading. 'Yesterday I purchased these
two slaves from a cruel, unrelenting master, under whose lash they
have laboured for nearly thirty years. I hereby give orders that five
ounces of my own gold be weighed out to them.' Here one of the slaves
fell on his face; the other lifted up his hands, praised God, and
blessed his benefactor.

_Eugenius._ The pirate? the unconverted pirate?

_Filippo._ Even so. 'Here is another slip of paper for thyself to read
immediately in my presence,' said the master. The words it contained
were, 'Do thou the same, or there enters thy lips neither food nor
water until thou landest in Italy. I permit thee to carry away more
than double the sum: I am no sutler: I do not contract for thy
sustenance.' The canonico asked of the master whether he knew the
contents of the letter; he replied no. 'Tell your master, lord Abdul,
that I shall take them into consideration.' 'My lord expected a much
plainer answer, and commanded me, in case of any such as thou hast
delivered, to break this seal.' He pressed it to his forehead and then
broke it. Having perused the characters reverentially, 'Christian!
dost thou consent?' The canonico fell on his knees, and overthrew the
two poor wretches who, saying their prayers, had remained in the same
posture before him quite unnoticed. 'Open thy trunk and take out thy
money-bag, or I will make room for it in thy bladder.' The canonico
was prompt in the execution of the command. The master drew out his
scales, and desired the canonico to weigh with his own hand five
ounces. He groaned and trembled: the balance was unsteady. 'Throw in
another piece: it will not vitiate the agreement,' cried the master.
It was done. Fear and grief are among the thirsty passions, but add
little to the appetite. It seemed, however, as if every sigh had left
a vacancy in the stomach of the canonico. At dinner the cook brought
him a salted bonito, half an ell in length; and in five minutes his
reverence was drawing his middle finger along the white backbone, out
of sheer idleness, until were placed before him some as fine dried
locusts as ever provisioned the tents of Africa, together with olives
the size of eggs and colour of bruises, shining in oil and brine. He
found them savoury and pulpy, and, as the last love supersedes the
foregoing, he gave them the preference, even over the delicate
locusts. When he had finished them, he modestly requested a can of
water. A sailor brought a large flask, and poured forth a plentiful
supply. The canonico engulfed the whole, and instantly threw himself
back in convulsive agony. 'How is this?' cried the sailor. The master
ran up and, smelling the water, began to buffet him, exclaiming, as he
turned round to all the crew, 'How came this flask here?' All were
innocent. It appeared, however, that it was a flask of mineral water,
strongly sulphureous, taken out of a Neapolitan vessel, laden with a
great abundance of it for some hospital in the Levant. It had taken
the captor by surprise in the same manner as the canonico. He himself
brought out instantly a capacious stone jar covered with dew, and
invited the sufferer into the cabin. Here he drew forth two richly-cut
wineglasses, and, on filling one of them, the outside of it turned
suddenly pale, with a myriad of indivisible drops, and the senses were
refreshed with the most delicious fragrance. He held up the glass
between himself and his guest, and looking at it attentively, said,
'Here is no appearance of wine; all I can see is water. Nothing is
wickeder than too much curiosity: we must take what Allah sends us,
and render thanks for it, although it fall far short of our
expectations. Besides, our Prophet would rather we should even drink
wine than poison.' The canonico had not tasted wine for two months: a
longer abstinence than ever canonico endured before. He drooped: but
the master looked still more disconsolate. 'I would give whatever I
possess on earth rather than die of thirst,' cried the canonico. 'Who
would not?' rejoined the captain, sighing and clasping his fingers.
'If it were not contrary to my commands, I could touch at some cove or
inlet.' 'Do, for the love of Christ!' exclaimed the canonico. 'Or even
sail back,' continued the captain. 'O Santa Vergine!' cried in anguish
the canonico. 'Despondency,' said the captain, with calm solemnity,
'has left many a man to be thrown overboard: it even renders the
plague, and many other disorders, more fatal. Thirst too has a
powerful effect in exasperating them. Overcome such weaknesses, or I
must do my duty. The health of the ship's company is placed under my
care; and our lord Abdul, if he suspected the pest, would throw a Jew,
or a Christian, or even a bale of silk, into the sea: such is the
disinterestedness and magnanimity of my lord Abdul.' 'He believes in
fate; does he not?' said the canonico. 'Doubtless: but he says it is
as much fated that he should throw into the sea a fellow who is
infected, as that the fellow should have ever been so.' 'Save me, oh,
save me!' cried the canonico, moist as if the spray had pelted him.
'Willingly, if possible,' answered calmly the master. 'At present I
can discover no certain symptoms; for sweat, unless followed by
general prostration, both of muscular strength and animal spirits, may
be cured without a hook at the heel.' 'Giesu-Maria!' ejaculated the
canonico.

_Eugenius._ And the monster could withstand that appeal?

_Filippo._ It seems so. The renegade who related to me, on my return,
these events as they happened, was very circumstantial. He is a
Corsican, and had killed many men in battle, and more out; but is (he
gave me his word for it) on the whole an honest man.

_Eugenius._ How so? honest? and a renegade?

_Filippo._ He declared to me that, although the Mahomedan is the best
religion to live in, the Christian is the best to die in; and that,
when he has made his fortune, he will make his confession, and lie
snugly in the bosom of the Church.

_Eugenius._ See here the triumphs of our holy faith! The lost sheep
will be found again.

_Filippo._ Having played the butcher first.

_Eugenius._ Return we to that bad man, the master or captain, who
evinced no such dispositions.

_Filippo._ He added, 'The other captives, though older men, have
stouter hearts than mine.' 'Alas! they are longer used to hardships,'
answered he. 'Dost thou believe, in thy conscience,' said the captain,
'that the water we have aboard would be harmless to them? for we have
no other; and wine is costly; and our quantity might be insufficient
for those who can afford to pay for it.' 'I will answer for their
lives,' replied the canonico. 'With thy own?' interrogated sharply the
Tunisian. 'I must not tempt God,' said, in tears, the religious man.
'Let us be plain,' said the master. 'Thou knowest thy money is safe; I
myself counted it before thee when I brought it from the scrivener's;
thou hast sixty broad gold pieces; wilt thou be answerable, to the
whole amount of them, for the lives of thy two countrymen if they
drink this water?' 'O sir!' said the canonico, 'I will give it, if,
only for these few days of voyage, you vouchsafe me one bottle daily
of that restorative wine of Bordeaux. The other two are less liable to
the plague: they do not sorrow and sweat as I do. They are spare men.
There is enough of me to infect a fleet with it; and I cannot bear to
think of being in any wise the cause of evil to my fellow-creatures.'
'The wine is my patron's,' cried the Tunisian; 'he leaves everything
at my discretion: should I deceive him?' 'If he leaves everything at
your discretion,' observed the logician of Pesaro, 'there is no deceit
in disposing of it.' The master appeared to be satisfied with the
argument. 'Thou shalt not find me exacting,' said he; 'give me the
sixty pieces, and the wine shall be thine.' At a signal, when the
contract was agreed to, the two slaves entered, bringing a hamper of
jars. 'Read the contract before thou signest,' cried the master. He
read. 'How is this? how is this? _Sixty golden ducats to the brothers
Antonio and Bernabo Panini, for wine received from them?_' The aged
men tottered under the stroke of joy; and Bernabo, who would have
embraced his brother, fainted.

On the morrow there was a calm, and the weather was extremely sultry.
The canonico sat in his shirt on deck, and was surprised to see, I
forget which of the brothers, drink from a goblet a prodigious draught
of water. 'Hold!' cried he angrily; 'you may eat instead; but putrid
or sulphureous water, you have heard, may produce the plague, and
honest men be the sufferers by your folly and intemperance.' They
assured him the water was tasteless, and very excellent, and had been
kept cool in the same kind of earthern jars as the wine. He tasted it,
and lost his patience. It was better, he protested, than any wine in
the world. They begged his acceptance of the jar containing it. But
the master, who had witnessed at a distance the whole proceeding, now
advanced, and, placing his hand against it, said sternly, 'Let him
have his own.' Usually, when he had emptied the second bottle, a
desire of converting the Mohammedans came over him: and they showed
themselves much less obstinate and refractory than they are generally
thought. He selected those for edification who swore the oftenest and
the loudest by the Prophet; and he boasted in his heart of having
overcome, by precept and example, the stiffest tenet of their
abominable creed. Certainly they drank wine, and somewhat freely. The
canonico clapped his hands, and declared that even some of the
apostles had been more pertinacious recusants of the faith.

_Eugenius._ Did he so? Cappari! I would not have made him a bishop for
twice the money if I had known it earlier. Could not he have left them
alone? Suppose one or other of them did doubt and persecute, was he
the man to blab it out among the heathen?

_Filippo._ A judgment, it appears, fell on him for so doing. A very
quiet sailor, who had always declined his invitations, and had always
heard his arguments at a distance and in silence, being pressed and
urged by him, and reproved somewhat arrogantly and loudly, as less
docile than his messmates, at last lifted up his leg behind him,
pulled off his right slipper, and counted deliberately and distinctly
thirty-nine sound strokes of the same, on the canonico's broadest
tablet, which (please your Holiness) might be called, not inaptly,
from that day the tablet of memory. In vain he cried out. Some of the
mariners made their moves at chess and waved their left hands as if
desirous of no interruption; others went backward and forward about
their business, and took no more notice than if their messmate was
occupied in caulking a seam or notching a flint. The master himself,
who saw the operation, heard the complaint in the evening, and lifted
up his shoulders and eyebrows, as if the whole were quite unknown to
him. Then, acting as judge-advocate, he called the young man before
him and repeated the accusation. To this the defence was purely
interrogative. 'Why would he convert me? I never converted him.'
Turning to his spiritual guide, he said, 'I quite forgive thee: nay, I
am ready to appear in thy favour, and to declare that, in general,
thou hast been more decorous than people of thy faith and profession
usually are, and hast not scattered on deck that inflammatory language
which I, habited in the dress of a Greek, heard last Easter. I went
into three churches; and the preachers in all three denounced the
curse of Allah on every soul that differed from them a tittle. They
were children of perdition, children of darkness, children of the
devil, one and all. It seemed a matter of wonder to me, that, in such
numerous families and of such indifferent parentage, so many slippers
were kept under the heel. Mine, in an evil hour, escaped me: but I
quite forgive thee. After this free pardon I will indulge thee with a
short specimen of my preaching. I will call none of you a generation
of vipers, as ye call one another; for vipers neither bite nor eat
during many months of the year: I will call none of you wolves in
sheep's clothing; for if ye are, it must be acknowledged that the
clothing is very clumsily put on. You priests, however, take people's
souls aboard whether they will or not, just as we do your bodies: and
you make them pay much more for keeping these in slavery than we make
you pay for setting you free body and soul together. You declare that
the precious souls, to the especial care of which Allah has called and
appointed you, frequently grow corrupt, and stink in His nostrils.
Now, I invoke thy own testimony to the fact that thy soul, gross as I
imagine it to be from the greasy wallet that holds it, had no carnal
thoughts whatsoever, and that thy carcass did not even receive a
fly-blow, while it was under my custody. Thy guardian angel (I speak
it in humility) could not ventilate thee better. Nevertheless, I
should scorn to demand a single maravedi for my labour and skill, or
for the wear and tear of my pantoufle. My reward will be in Paradise,
where a houri is standing in the shade, above a vase of gold and
silver fish, with a kiss on her lip, and an unbroken pair of green
slippers in her hand for me.' Saying which, he took off his foot
again, the one he had been using, and showed the sole of it, first to
the master, then to all the crew, and declared it had become (as they
might see) so smooth and oily by the application, that it was
dangerous to walk on deck in it.

_Eugenius._ See! what notions these creatures have, both of their
fool's paradise and of our holy faith! The seven Sacraments, I warrant
you, go for nothing! Purgatory, purgatory itself, goes for nothing!

_Filippo._ Holy Father! we must stop thee. _That_ does not go for
nothing, however.

_Eugenius._ Filippo! God forbid I should suspect thee of any heretical
taint; but this smells very like it. If thou hast it now, tell me
honestly. I mean, hold thy tongue. Florentines are rather lax. Even
Son Cosimo might be stricter: so they say: perhaps his enemies. The
great always have them abundantly, beside those by whom they are
served, and those also whom they serve. Now would I give a silver
rose with my benediction on it, to know of a certainty what became of
those poor creatures the abbates. The initiatory rite of Mohammedanism
is most diabolically malicious. According to the canons of our
Catholic Church, it disqualifies the neophyte for holy orders, without
going so far as adapting him to the choir of the pontifical chapel.
They limp; they halt.

_Filippo._ Beatitude! which of them?

_Eugenius._ The unbelievers: they surely are found wanting.

_Filippo._ The unbelievers too?

_Eugenius._ Ay, ay, thou half renegade! Couldst not thou go over with
a purse of silver, and try whether the souls of these captives be
recoverable? Even if they should have submitted to such unholy rites,
I venture to say they have repented.

_Filippo._ The devil is in them if they have not.

_Eugenius._ They may become again as good Christians as before.

_Filippo._ Easily, methinks.

_Eugenius._ Not so easily; but by aid of Holy Church in the
administration of indulgences.

_Filippo._ They never wanted those, whatever they want.

_Eugenius._ The corsair then is not one of those ferocious creatures
which appear to connect our species with the lion and panther.

_Filippo._ By no means, Holy Father! He is an honest man; so are many
of his countrymen, bating the Sacrament.

_Eugenius._ Bating! poor beguiled Filippo! Being unbaptized, they are
only as the beasts that perish: nay worse: for the soul being
imperishable, it must stick to their bodies at the last day, whether
they will or no, and must sink with it into the fire and brimstone.

_Filippo._ Unbaptized! why, they baptize every morning.

_Eugenius._ Worse and worse! I thought they only missed the stirrup;
I find they overleap the saddle. Obstinate blind reprobates! of whom
it is written ... of whom it is written ... of whom, I say, it is
written ... as shall be manifest before men and angels in the day of
wrath.

_Filippo._ More is the pity! for they are hospitable, frank, and
courteous. It is delightful to see their gardens, when one has not the
weeding and irrigation of them. What fruit! what foliage! what
trellises! what alcoves! what a contest of rose and jessamine for
supremacy in odour! of lute and nightingale for victory in song! And
how the little bright ripples of the docile brooks, the fresher for
their races, leap up against one another, to look on! and how they
chirrup and applaud, as if they too had a voice of some importance in
these parties of pleasure that are loath to separate.

_Eugenius._ Parties of pleasure! birds, fruits, shallow-running
waters, lute-players, and wantons! Parties of pleasure! and composed
of these! Tell me now, Filippo, tell me truly, what complexion in
general have the discreeter females of that hapless country.

_Filippo._ The colour of an orange-flower, on which an overladen bee
has left a slight suffusion of her purest honey.

_Eugenius._ We must open their eyes.

_Filippo._ Knowing what excellent hides the slippers of this people
are made of, I never once ventured on their less perfect theology,
fearing to find it written that I should be abed on my face the next
fortnight. My master had expressed his astonishment that a religion so
admirable as ours was represented should be the only one in the world
the precepts of which are disregarded by all conditions of men. 'Our
Prophet,' said he, 'our Prophet ordered us to go forth and conquer; we
did it: yours ordered you to sit quiet and forbear; and, after
spitting in His face, you threw the order back into it, and fought
like devils.'

_Eugenius._ The barbarians talk of our Holy Scriptures as if they
understood them perfectly. The impostor they follow has nothing but
fustian and rodomontade in his impudent lying book from beginning to
end. I know it, Filippo, from those who have contrasted it, page by
page, paragraph by paragraph, and have given the knave his due.

_Filippo._ Abdul is by no means deficient in a good opinion of his own
capacity and his Prophet's all-sufficiency, but he never took me to
task about my faith or his own.

_Eugenius._ How wert thou mainly occupied?

_Filippo._ I will give your Holiness a sample both of my employments
and of his character. He was going one evening to a country-house,
about fifteen miles from Tunis; and he ordered me to accompany him. I
found there a spacious garden, overrun with wild flowers and most
luxuriant grass, in irregular tufts, according to the dryness or the
humidity of the spot. The clematis overtopped the lemon and
orange-trees; and the perennial pea sent forth here a pink blossom,
here a purple, here a white one, and after holding (as it were) a
short conversation with the humbler plants, sprang up about an old
cypress, played among its branches, and mitigated its gloom. White
pigeons, and others in colour like the dawn of day, looked down on us
and ceased to coo, until some of their companions, in whom they had
more confidence, encouraged them loudly from remoter boughs, or
alighted on the shoulders of Abdul, at whose side I was standing. A
few of them examined me in every position their inquisitive eyes could
take; displaying all the advantages of their versatile necks, and
pretending querulous fear in the midst of petulant approaches.

_Eugenius._ Is it of pigeons thou art talking, O Filippo? I hope it
may be.

_Filippo._ Of Abdul's pigeons. He was fond of taming all creatures;
men, horses, pigeons, equally: but he tamed them all by kindness. In
this wilderness is an edifice not unlike our Italian chapter-houses
built by the Lombards, with long narrow windows, high above the
ground. The centre is now a bath, the waters of which, in another part
of the enclosure, had supplied a fountain, at present in ruins, and
covered by tufted canes, and by every variety of aquatic plants. The
structure has no remains of roof: and, of six windows, one alone is
unconcealed by ivy. This had been walled up long ago, and the cement
in the inside of it was hard and polished. 'Lippi!' said Abdul to me,
after I had long admired the place in silence, 'I leave to thy
superintendence this bath and garden. Be sparing of the leaves and
branches: make paths only wide enough for me. Let me see no mark of
hatchet or pruning-hook, and tell the labourers that whoever takes a
nest or an egg shall be impaled.'

_Eugenius._ Monster! so then he would really have impaled a poor
wretch for eating a bird's egg? How disproportionate is the punishment
to the offence!

_Filippo._ He efficiently checked in his slaves the desire of
transgressing his command. To spare them as much as possible, I
ordered them merely to open a few spaces, and to remove the weaker
trees from the stronger. Meanwhile I drew on the smooth blank window
the figure of Abdul and of a beautiful girl.

_Eugenius._ Rather say handmaiden: choicer expression; more decorous.

_Filippo._ Holy Father! I have been lately so much out of practice, I
take the first that comes in my way. Handmaiden I will use in
preference for the future.

_Eugenius._ On then! and God speed thee!

_Filippo._ I drew Abdul with a blooming handmaiden. One of his feet
is resting on her lap, and she is drying the ankle with a saffron
robe, of which the greater part is fallen in doing it. That she is a
bondmaid is discernible, not only by her occupation, but by her
humility and patience, by her loose and flowing brown hair, and by her
eyes expressing the timidity at once of servitude and of fondness. The
countenance was taken from fancy, and was the loveliest I could
imagine: of the figure I had some idea, having seen it to advantage in
Tunis. After seven days Abdul returned. He was delighted with the
improvement made in the garden. I requested him to visit the bath. 'We
can do nothing to that,' answered he impatiently. 'There is no
sudatory, no dormitory, no dressing-room, no couch. Sometimes I sit an
hour there in the summer, because I never found a fly in it--the
principal curse of hot countries, and against which plague there is
neither prayer nor amulet, nor indeed any human defence.' He went away
into the house. At dinner he sent me from his table some quails and
ortolans, and tomatoes and honey and rice, beside a basket of fruit
covered with moss and bay-leaves, under which I found a verdino fig,
deliciously ripe, and bearing the impression of several small teeth,
but certainly no reptile's.

_Eugenius._ There might have been poison in them, for all that.

_Filippo._ About two hours had passed, when I heard a whir and a crash
in the windows of the bath (where I had dined and was about to sleep),
occasioned by the settling and again the flight of some pheasants.
Abdul entered. 'Beard of the Prophet! what hast thou been doing? That
is myself! No, no, Lippi! thou never canst have seen her: the face
proves it: but those limbs! thou hast divined them aright: thou hast
had sweet dreams then! Dreams are large possessions: in them the
possessor may cease to possess his own. To the slave, O Allah! to the
slave is permitted what is not his!... I burn with anguish to think
how much ... yea, at that very hour. I would not another should, even
in a dream.... But, Lippi! thou never canst have seen above the
sandal?' To which I answered, 'I never have allowed my eyes to look
even on that. But if any one of my lord Abdul's fair slaves resembles,
as they surely must all do, in duty and docility, the figure I have
represented, let it express to him my congratulation on his
happiness.' 'I believe,' said he, 'such representations are forbidden
by the Koran; but as I do not remember it, I do not sin. There it
shall stay, unless the angel Gabriel comes to forbid it.' He smiled in
saying so.

_Eugenius._ There is hope of this Abdul. His faith hangs about him
more like oil than pitch.

_Filippo._ He inquired of me whether I often thought of those I loved
in Italy, and whether I could bring them before my eyes at will. To
remove all suspicion from him, I declared I always could, and that one
beautiful object occupied all the cells of my brain by night and day.
He paused and pondered, and then said, 'Thou dost not love deeply.' I
thought I had given the true signs. 'No, Lippi! we who love ardently,
we, with all our wishes, all the efforts of our souls, cannot bring
before us the features which, while they were present, we thought it
impossible we ever could forget. Alas! when we most love the absent,
when we most desire to see her, we try in vain to bring her image back
to us. The troubled heart shakes and confounds it, even as ruffled
waters do with shadows. Hateful things are more hateful when they
haunt our sleep: the lovely flee away, or are changed into less
lovely.'

_Eugenius._ What figures now have these unbelievers?

_Filippo._ Various in their combinations as the letters or the
numerals; but they all, like these, signify something. Almeida (did I
not inform your Holiness?) has large hazel eyes....

_Eugenius._ Has she? thou never toldest me that. Well, well! and what
else has she? Mind! be cautious! use decent terms.

_Filippo._ Somewhat pouting lips.

_Eugenius._ Ha! ha! What did they pout at?

_Filippo._ And she is rather plump than otherwise.

_Eugenius._ No harm in that.

_Filippo._ And moreover is cool, smooth, and firm as a nectarine
gathered before sunrise.

_Eugenius._ Ha! ha! do not remind me of nectarines. I am very fond of
them; and this is not the season! Such females as thou describest are
said to be among the likeliest to give reasonable cause for suspicion.
I would not judge harshly, I would not think uncharitably; but,
unhappily, being at so great a distance from spiritual aid,
peradventure a desire, a suggestion, an inkling ... ay? If she, the
lost Almeida, came before thee when her master was absent ... which I
trust she never did.... But those flowers and shrubs and odours and
alleys and long grass and alcoves, might strangely hold, perplex, and
entangle, two incautious young persons ... ay?

_Filippo._ I confessed all I had to confess in this matter the evening
I landed.

_Eugenius._ Ho! I am no candidate for a seat at the rehearsal of
confessions: but perhaps my absolution might be somewhat more pleasing
and unconditional. Well! well! since I am unworthy of such confidence,
go about thy business ... paint! paint!

_Filippo._ Am I so unfortunate as to have offended your Beatitude?

_Eugenius._ Offend _me_, man! who offends _me_? I took an interest in
thy adventures, and was concerned lest thou mightest have sinned; for
by my soul! Filippo! those are the women that the devil hath set his
mark on.

_Filippo._ It would do your Holiness's heart good to rub it out again,
wherever he may have had the cunning to make it.

_Eugenius._ Deep! deep!

_Filippo._ Yet it may be got at; she being a Biscayan by birth, as she
told me, and not only baptized, but going by sea along the coast for
confirmation, when she was captured.

_Eugenius._ Alas! to what an imposition of hands was this tender young
thing devoted! Poor soul!

_Filippo._ I sigh for her myself when I think of her.

_Eugenius._ Beware lest the sigh be mundane, and lest the thought
recur too often. I wish it were presently in my power to examine her
myself on her condition. What thinkest thou? Speak.

_Filippo._ Holy Father! she would laugh in your face.

_Eugenius._ So lost!

_Filippo._ She declared to me she thought she should have died, from
the instant she was captured until she was comforted by Abdul: but
that she was quite sure she should if she were ransomed.

_Eugenius._ Has the wretch then shaken her faith?

_Filippo._ The very last thing he would think of doing. Never did I
see the virtue of resignation in higher perfection than in the
laughing, light-hearted Almeida.

_Eugenius._ Lamentable! Poor lost creature! lost in this world and in
the next.

_Filippo._ What could she do? how could she help herself?

_Eugenius._ She might have torn his eyes out, and have died a martyr.

_Filippo._ Or have been bastinadoed, whipped, and given up to the
cooks and scullions for it.

_Eugenius._ Martyrdom is the more glorious the greater the indignities
it endures.

_Filippo._ Almeida seems unambitious. There are many in our Tuscany
who would jump at the crown over those sloughs and briers, rather than
perish without them: she never sighs after the like.

_Eugenius._ Nevertheless, what must she witness! what abominations!
what superstitions!

_Filippo._ Abdul neither practises nor exacts any other superstition
than ablutions.

_Eugenius._ Detestable rites! without our authority. I venture to
affirm that, in the whole of Italy and Spain, no convent of monks or
nuns contains a bath; and that the worst inmate of either would
shudder at the idea of observing such a practice in common with the
unbeliever. For the washing of the feet indeed we have the authority
of the earlier Christians; and it may be done; but solemnly and
sparingly. Thy residence among the Mahomedans, I am afraid, hath
rendered thee more favourable to them than beseems a Catholic, and thy
mind, I do suspect, sometimes goes back into Barbary unreluctantly.

_Filippo._ While I continued in that country, although I was well
treated, I often wished myself away, thinking of my friends in
Florence, of music, of painting, of our villeggiatura at the
vintage-time; whether in the green and narrow glades of Pratolino,
with lofty trees above us, and little rills unseen, and little bells
about the necks of sheep and goats, tinkling together ambiguously; or
amid the grey quarries, or under the majestic walls of modern Fiesole;
or down in the woods of the Doccia, where the cypresses are of such a
girth that, when a youth stands against one of them, and a maiden
stands opposite, and they clasp it, their hands at the time do little
more than meet. Beautiful scenes, on which heaven smiles eternally,
how often has my heart ached for you! He who hath lived in this
country can enjoy no distant one. He breathes here another air; he
lives more life; a brighter sun invigorates his studies, and serener
stars influence his repose. Barbary hath also the blessing of climate;
and although I do not desire to be there again, I feel sometimes a
kind of regret at leaving it. A bell warbles the more mellifluously in
the air when the sound of the stroke is over, and when another swims
out from underneath it, and pants upon the element that gave it birth.
In like manner the recollection of a thing is frequently more pleasing
than the actuality; what is harsh is dropped in the space between.
There is in Abdul a nobility of soul on which I often have reflected
with admiration. I have seen many of the highest rank and
distinction, in whom I could find nothing of the great man, excepting
a fondness for low company, and an aptitude to shy and start at every
spark of genius or virtue that sprang up above or before them. Abdul
was solitary, but affable: he was proud, but patient and complacent. I
ventured once to ask him how the master of so rich a house in the
city, of so many slaves, of so many horses and mules, of such
cornfields, of such pastures, of such gardens, woods, and fountains,
should experience any delight or satisfaction in infesting the open
sea, the high-road of nations. Instead of answering my question, he
asked me in return whether I would not respect any relative of mine
who avenged his country, enriched himself by his bravery, and endeared
to him his friends and relatives by his bounty. On my reply in the
affirmative, he said that his family had been deprived of possessions
in Spain much more valuable than all the ships and cargoes he could
ever hope to capture, and that the remains of his nation were
threatened with ruin and expulsion. 'I do not fight,' said he,
'whenever it suits the convenience, or gratifies the malignity, or the
caprice of two silly, quarrelsome princes, drawing my sword in
perfectly good humour, and sheathing it again at word of command, just
when I begin to get into a passion. No; I fight on my own account; not
as a hired assassin, or still baser journeyman.'

_Eugenius._ It appears then really that the Infidels have some
semblances of magnanimity and generosity?

_Filippo._ I thought so when I turned over the many changes of fine
linen; and I was little short of conviction when I found at the bottom
of my chest two hundred Venetian zecchins.

_Eugenius._ Corpo di Bacco! Better things, far better things, I would
fain do for thee, not exactly of this description; it would excite
many heart-burnings. Information has been laid before me, Filippo,
that thou art attached to a certain young person, by name Lucrezia,
daughter of Francesco Buti, a citizen of Prato.

_Filippo._ I acknowledge my attachment: it continues.

_Eugenius._ Furthermore, that thou hast offspring by her.

_Filippo._ Alas! 'tis undeniable.

_Eugenius._ I will not only legitimatize the said offspring by _motu
proprio_ and rescript to consistory and chancery....

_Filippo._ Holy Father! Holy Father! For the love of the Virgin, not a
word to consistory or chancery of the two hundred zecchins. As I hope
for salvation, I have but forty left, and thirty-nine would not serve
them.

_Eugenius._ Fear nothing. Not only will I perform what I have
promised, not only will I give the strictest order that no money be
demanded by any officer of my courts, but, under the seal of Saint
Peter, I will declare thee and Lucrezia Buti man and wife.

_Filippo._ Man and wife!

_Eugenius._ Moderate thy transport.

_Filippo._ O Holy Father! may I speak?

_Eugenius._ Surely she is not the wife of another?

_Filippo._ No, indeed.

_Eugenius._ Nor within the degrees of consanguinity and affinity?

_Filippo._ No, no, no. But ... man and wife! Consistory and chancery
are nothing to this fulmination.

_Eugenius._ How so?

_Filippo._ It is man and wife the first fortnight, but wife and man
ever after. The two figures change places: the unit is the decimal and
the decimal is the unit.

_Eugenius._ What, then, can I do for thee?

_Filippo._ I love Lucrezia; let me love her; let her love me. I can
make her at any time what she is not; I could never make her again
what she is.

_Eugenius._ The only thing I can do then is to promise I will forget
that I have heard anything about the matter. But, to forget it, I must
hear it first.

_Filippo._ In the beautiful little town of Prato, reposing in its
idleness against the hill that protects it from the north, and looking
over fertile meadows, southward to Poggio Cajano, westward to Pistoja,
there is the convent of Santa Margarita. I was invited by the sisters
to paint an altar-piece for the chapel. A novice of fifteen, my own
sweet Lucrezia, came one day alone to see me work at my Madonna. Her
blessed countenance had already looked down on every beholder lower by
the knees. I myself who made her could almost have worshipped her.

_Eugenius._ Not while incomplete; no half-virgin will do.

_Filippo._ But there knelt Lucrezia! there she knelt! first looking
with devotion at the Madonna, then with admiring wonder and grateful
delight at the artist. Could so little a heart be divided? 'Twere a
pity! There was enough for me; there is never enough for the Madonna.
Resolving on a sudden that the object of my love should be the object
of adoration to thousands, born and unborn, I swept my brush across
the maternal face, and left a blank in heaven. The little girl
screamed; I pressed her to my bosom.

_Eugenius._ In the chapel?

_Filippo._ I knew not where I was; I thought I was in Paradise.

_Eugenius._ If it was not in the chapel, the sin is venial. But a
brush against a Madonna's mouth is worse than a beard against her
votary's.

_Filippo._ I thought so too, Holy Father!

_Eugenius._ Thou sayest thou hast forty zecchins; I will try in due
season to add forty more. The fisherman must not venture to measure
forces with the pirate. Farewell! I pray God my son Filippo, to have
thee alway in His holy keeping.

FOOTNOTE:

[9] Little boys, wearing clerical habits, are often called _abbati_.



TASSO AND CORNELIA


_Tasso._ She is dead, Cornelia! she is dead!

_Cornelia._ Torquato! my Torquato! after so many years of separation
do I bend once more your beloved head to my embrace?

_Tasso._ She is dead!

_Cornelia._ Tenderest of brothers! bravest and best and most
unfortunate of men! What, in the name of heaven, so bewilders you?

_Tasso._ Sister! sister! sister! I could not save her.

_Cornelia._ Certainly it was a sad event; and they who are out of
spirits may be ready to take it for an evil omen. At this season of
the year the vintagers are joyous and negligent.

_Tasso._ How! What is this?

_Cornelia._ The little girl was crushed, they say, by a wheel of the
car laden with grapes, as she held out a handful of vine-leaves to one
of the oxen. And did you happen to be there at the moment?

_Tasso._ So then the little too can suffer! the ignorant, the
indigent, the unaspiring! Poor child! She was kind-hearted, else never
would calamity have befallen her.

_Cornelia._ I wish you had not seen the accident.

_Tasso._ I see it? I? I saw it not. No other is crushed where I am.
The little girl died for her kindness! Natural death!

_Cornelia._ Be calm, be composed, my brother!

_Tasso._ You would not require me to be composed or calm if you
comprehended a thousandth part of my sufferings.

_Cornelia._ Peace! peace! we know them all.

_Tasso._ Who has dared to name them? Imprisonment, derision, madness.

_Cornelia._ Hush! sweet Torquato! If ever these existed, they are
past.

_Tasso._ You do think they are sufferings? ay?

_Cornelia._ Too surely.

_Tasso._ No, not too surely: I will not have that answer. They would
have been; but Leonora was then living. Unmanly as I am! did I
complain of them? and while she was left me?

_Cornelia._ My own Torquato! is there no comfort in a sister's love?
Is there no happiness but under the passions? Think, O my brother, how
many courts there are in Italy: are the princes more fortunate than
you? Which among them all loves truly, deeply, and virtuously? Among
them all is there any one, for his genius, for his generosity, for his
gentleness, ay, for his mere humanity, worthy to be beloved?

_Tasso._ Princes! talk to me of princes! How much cross-grained wood a
little gypsum covers! a little carmine quite beautifies! Wet your
forefinger with your spittle; stick a broken gold-leaf on the
sinciput; clip off a beggar's beard to make it tresses; kiss it; fall
down before it; worship it. Are you not irradiated by the light of its
countenance? Princes! princes! Italian princes! Estes! What matters
that costly carrion? Who thinks about it? [_After a pause._] She is
dead! She is dead!

_Cornelia._ We have not heard it here.

_Tasso._ At Sorrento you hear nothing but the light surges of the sea,
and the sweet sprinkles of the guitar.

_Cornelia._ Suppose the worst to be true.

_Tasso._ Always, always.

_Cornelia._ If she ceases, as then perhaps she must, to love and to
lament you, think gratefully, contentedly, devoutly, that her arms had
clasped your neck before they were crossed upon her bosom, in that
long sleep which you have rendered placid, and from which your
harmonious voice shall once more awaken her. Yes, Torquato! her bosom
had throbbed to yours, often and often, before the organ peal shook
the fringes round the catafalque. Is not this much, from one so high,
so beautiful?

_Tasso._ Much? yes; for abject me. But I did so love her! so love her!

_Cornelia._ Ah! let the tears flow: she sends you that balm from
heaven.

_Tasso._ So love her did poor Tasso! Else, O Cornelia, it had indeed
been much. I thought, in the simplicity of my heart, that God was as
great as an emperor, and could bestow and had bestowed on me as much
as the German had conferred or could confer on his vassal. No part of
my insanity was ever held in such ridicule as this. And yet the idea
cleaves to me strangely, and is liable to stick to my shroud.

_Cornelia._ Woe betide the woman who bids you to forget that woman who
has loved you: she sins against her sex. Leonora was unblameable.
Never think ill of her for what you have suffered.

_Tasso._ Think ill of her? I? I? I? No; those we love, we love for
everything; even for the pain they have given us. But she gave me
none; it was where she was not that pain was.

_Cornelia._ Surely, if love and sorrow are destined for companionship,
there is no reason why the last comer of the two should supersede the
first.

_Tasso._ Argue with me, and you drive me into darkness. I am easily
persuaded and led on while no reasons are thrown before me. With these
you have made my temples throb again. Just heaven! dost thou grant us
fairer fields, and wider, for the whirlwind to lay waste? Dost thou
build us up habitations above the street, above the palace, above the
citadel, for the plague to enter and carouse in? Has not my youth paid
its dues, paid its penalties? Cannot our griefs come first, while we
have strength to bear them? The fool! the fool! who thinks it a
misfortune that his love is unrequited. Happier young man! look at the
violets until thou drop asleep on them. Ah! but thou must awake!

_Cornelia._ O heavens! what must you have suffered! for a man's heart
is sensitive in proportion to its greatness.

_Tasso._ And a woman's?

_Cornelia._ Alas! I know not; but I think it can be no other. Comfort
thee, comfort thee, dear Torquato!

_Tasso._ Then do not rest thy face upon my arm; it so reminds me of
her. And thy tears too! they melt me into her grave.

_Cornelia._ Hear you not her voice as it appeals to you, saying to
you, as the priests around have been saying to _her_, Blessed soul!
rest in peace?

_Tasso._ I heard it not; and yet I am sure she said it. A thousand
times has she repeated it, laying her head on my heart to quiet it,
simple girl! She told it to rest in peace ... and she went from me!
Insatiable love! ever self-torturer, never self-destroyer! the world,
with all its weight of miseries, cannot crush thee, cannot keep thee
down. Generally men's tears, like the droppings of certain springs,
only harden and petrify what they fall on; but mine sank deep into a
tender heart, and were its very blood. Never will I believe she has
left me utterly. Oftentimes, and long before her departure, I fancied
we were in heaven together. I fancied it in the fields, in the
gardens, in the palace, in the prison. I fancied it in the broad
daylight, when my eyes were open, when blessed spirits drew around me
that golden circle which one only of earth's inhabitants could enter.
Oftentimes in my sleep also I fancied it; and sometimes in the
intermediate state, in that serenity which breathes about the
transported soul, enjoying its pure and perfect rest, a span below the
feet of the Immortal.

_Cornelia._ She has not left you; do not disturb her peace by these
repinings.

_Tasso._ She will bear with them. Thou knowest not what she was,
Cornelia; for I wrote to thee about her while she seemed but human. In
my hours of sadness, not only her beautiful form, but her very voice
bent over me. How girlish in the gracefulness of her lofty form! how
pliable in her majesty! what composure at my petulance and reproaches!
what pity in her reproofs! Like the air that angels breathe in the
metropolitan temple of the Christian world, her soul at every season
preserved one temperature. But it was when she could and did love me!
Unchanged must ever be the blessed one who has leaned in fond security
on the unchangeable. The purifying flame shoots upward, and is the
glory that encircles their brows when they meet above.

_Cornelia._ Indulge in these delightful thoughts, my Torquato! and
believe that your love is and ought to be imperishable as your glory.
Generations of men move forward in endless procession to consecrate
and commemorate both. Colour-grinders and gilders, year after year,
are bargained with to refresh the crumbling monuments and tarnished
decorations of rude, unregarded royalty, and to fasten the nails that
cramp the crown upon its head. Meanwhile, in the laurels of my
Torquato there will always be one leaf above man's reach, above time's
wrath and injury, inscribed with the name of Leonora.

_Tasso._ O Jerusalem! I have not then sung in vain the Holy Sepulchre.

_Cornelia._ After such devotion of your genius, you have undergone too
many misfortunes.

_Tasso._ Congratulate the man who has had many, and may have more. I
have had, I have, I can have, one only.

_Cornelia._ Life runs not smoothly at all seasons, even with the
happiest; but after a long course, the rocks subside, the views widen,
and it flows on more equably at the end.

_Tasso._ Have the stars smooth surfaces? No, no; but how they shine!

_Cornelia._ Capable of thoughts so exalted, so far above the earth we
dwell on, why suffer any to depress and anguish you?

_Tasso._ Cornelia, Cornelia! the mind has within its temples and
porticoes and palaces and towers: the mind has under it, ready for the
course, steeds brighter than the sun and stronger than the storm; and
beside them stand winged chariots, more in number than the Psalmist
hath attributed to the Almighty. The mind, I tell thee again, hath its
hundred gates, compared whereto the Theban are but willow wickets; and
all those hundred gates can genius throw open. But there are some that
groan heavily on their hinges, and the hand of God alone can close
them.

_Cornelia._ Torquato has thrown open those of His holy temple;
Torquato hath stood, another angel, at His tomb; and am I the sister
of Torquato? Kiss me, my brother, and let my tears run only from my
pride and joy! Princes have bestowed knighthood on the worthy and
unworthy; thou hast called forth those princes from their ranks,
pushing back the arrogant and presumptuous of them like intrusive
varlets, and conferring on the bettermost crowns and robes,
imperishable and unfading.

_Tasso._ I seem to live back into those days. I feel the helmet on my
head; I wave the standard over it: brave men smile upon me; beautiful
maidens pull them gently back by the scarf, and will not let them
break my slumber, nor undraw the curtain. Corneliolina!...

_Cornelia._ Well, my dear brother! why do you stop so suddenly in the
midst of them? They are the pleasantest and best company, and they
make you look quite happy and joyous.

_Tasso._ Corneliolina, dost thou remember Bergamo? What city was ever
so celebrated for honest and valiant men, in all classes, or for
beautiful girls! There is but one class of those: Beauty is above all
ranks; the true Madonna, the patroness and bestower of felicity, the
queen of heaven.

_Cornelia._ Hush, Torquato, hush! talk not so.

_Tasso._ What rivers, how sunshiny and revelling, are the Brembo and
the Serio! What a country the Valtellina! I went back to our father's
house, thinking to find thee again, my little sister; thinking to kick
away thy ball of yellow silk as thou wast stooping for it, to make
thee run after me and beat me. I woke early in the morning; thou wert
grown up and gone. Away to Sorrento: I knew the road: a few strides
brought me back: here I am. To-morrow, my Cornelia, we will walk
together, as we used to do, into the cool and quiet caves on the
shore; and we will catch the little breezes as they come in and go out
again on the backs of the jocund waves.

_Cornelia._ We will indeed to-morrow; but before we set out we must
take a few hours' rest, that we may enjoy our ramble the better.

_Tasso._ Our Sorrentines, I see, are grown rich and avaricious. They
have uprooted the old pomegranate hedges, and have built high walls to
prohibit the wayfarer from their vineyards.

_Cornelia._ I have a basket of grapes for you in the book-room that
overlooks our garden.

_Tasso._ Does the old twisted sage-tree grow still against the window?

_Cornelia._ It harboured too many insects at last, and there was
always a nest of scorpions in the crevice.

_Tasso._ Oh! what a prince of a sage-tree! And the well, too, with its
bucket of shining metal, large enough for the largest cocomero to cool
in it for dinner.

_Cornelia._ The well, I assure you, is as cool as ever.

_Tasso._ Delicious! delicious! And the stone-work round it, bearing no
other marks of waste than my pruning-hook and dagger left behind?

_Cornelia._ None whatever.

_Tasso._ White in that place no longer; there has been time enough for
it to become all of one colour: grey, mossy, half-decayed.

_Cornelia._ No, no; not even the rope has wanted repair.

_Tasso._ Who sings yonder?

_Cornelia._ Enchanter! No sooner did you say the word cocomero than
here comes a boy carrying one upon his head.

_Tasso._ Listen! listen! I have read in some book or other those
verses long ago. They are not unlike my _Aminta_. The very words!

_Cornelia._ Purifier of love, and humanizer of ferocity, how many, my
Torquato, will your gentle thoughts make happy!

_Tasso._ At this moment I almost think I am one among them.[10]

_Cornelia._ Be quite persuaded of it. Come, brother, come with me. You
shall bathe your heated brow and weary limbs in the chamber of your
childhood. It is there we are always the most certain of repose. The
boy shall sing to you those sweet verses; and we will reward him with
a slice of his own fruit.

_Tasso._ He deserves it; cut it thick.

_Cornelia._ Come then, my truant! Come along, my sweet smiling
Torquato!

_Tasso._ The passage is darker than ever. Is this the way to the
little court? Surely those are not the steps that lead down toward the
bath? Oh yes! we are right; I smell the lemon-blossoms. Beware of the
old wilding that bears them; it may catch your veil; it may scratch
your fingers! Pray, take care: it has many thorns about it. And now,
Leonora! you shall hear my last verses! Lean your ear a little toward
me; for I must repeat them softly under this low archway, else others
may hear them too. Ah! you press my hand once more. Drop it, drop it!
or the verses will sink into my breast again, and lie there silent!
Good girl!

      Many, well I know, there are
      Ready in your joys to share,
      And (I never blame it) you
      Are almost as ready too.
      But when comes the darker day,
      And those friends have dropt away,
      Which is there among them all
      You should, if you could, recall?
      One who wisely loves and well
      Hears and shares the griefs you tell;
      Him you ever call apart
      When the springs o'erflow the heart;
      For you know that he alone
      Wishes they were _but_ his own.
      Give, while these he may divide,
      Smiles to all the world beside.

_Cornelia._ We are now in the full light of the chamber; cannot you
remember it, having looked so intently all around?

_Tasso._ O sister! I could have slept another hour. You thought I
wanted rest: why did you waken me so early? I could have slept another
hour or longer. What a dream! But I am calm and happy.

_Cornelia._ May you never more be otherwise! Indeed, he cannot be
whose last verses are such as those.

_Tasso._ Have you written any since that morning?

_Cornelia._ What morning?

_Tasso._ When you caught the swallow in my curtains, and trod upon my
knees in catching it, luckily with naked feet. The little girl of
thirteen laughed at the outcry of her brother Torquatino, and sang
without a blush her earliest lay.

_Cornelia._ I do not recollect it.

_Tasso._ I do.

      Rondinello! rondinello!
      Tu sei nero, ma sei bello.
      Cosa fà se tu sei nero?
      Rondinello! sei il primiero
      De' volanti, palpitanti,
      (E vi sono quanti quanti!)
      Mai tenuto a questo petto,
      E perciò sei il mio diletto.[11]

_Cornelia._ Here is the cocomero; it cannot be more insipid. Try it.

_Tasso._ Where is the boy who brought it? where is the boy who sang my
_Aminta_? Serve him first; give him largely. Cut deeper; the knife is
too short: deeper; mia brava Corneliolina! quite through all the red,
and into the middle of the seeds. Well done!

FOOTNOTES:

[10] The miseries of Tasso arose not only from the imagination and the
heart. In the metropolis of the Christian world, with many admirers
and many patrons, bishops, cardinals, princes, he was left destitute,
and almost famished. These are his own words: '_Appena_ in questo
stato ho comprato _due meloni_: e benchè io sia stato _quasi sempre
infermo_, molte volte mi sono contentato del manzo: e la ministra di
latte o di zucca, _quando ho potuto averne_, mi è stata in vece di
delizie.' In another part he says that he was unable to pay the
carriage of a parcel. No wonder; if he had not wherewithal to buy
enough of zucca for a meal. Even had he been in health and appetite,
he might have satisfied his hunger with it for about five farthings,
and have left half for supper. And now a word on his insanity. Having
been so imprudent not only as to make it too evident in his poetry
that he was the lover of Leonora, but also to signify (not very
obscurely) that his love was returned, he much perplexed the Duke of
Ferrara, who, with great discretion, suggested to him the necessity of
feigning madness. The lady's honour required it from a brother; and a
true lover, to convince the world, would embrace the project with
alacrity. But there was no reason why the seclusion should be in a
dungeon, or why exercise and air should be interdicted. This cruelty,
and perhaps his uncertainty of Leonora's compassion, may well be
imagined to have produced at last the malady he had feigned. But did
Leonora love Tasso as a man would be loved? If we wish to do her
honour, let us hope it: for what greater glory can there be, than to
have estimated at the full value so exalted a genius, so affectionate
and so generous a heart!

[11] The author wrote the verses first in English, but he found it
easy to write them better in Italian: they stood in the text as below:
they only do for a girl of thirteen:

      'Swallow! swallow! though so jetty
      Are your pinions, you are pretty:
      And what matter were it though
      You were blacker than a crow?
      Of the many birds that fly
      (And how many pass me by!)
      You 're the first I ever prest,
      Of the many, to my breast:
      Therefore it is very right
      You should be my own delight.'



LA FONTAINE AND DE LA ROCHEFOUCAULT


_La Fontaine._ I am truly sensible of the honour I receive, M. de la
Rochefoucault, in a visit from a personage so distinguished by his
birth and by his genius. Pardon my ambition, if I confess to you that
I have long and ardently wished for the good fortune, which I never
could promise myself, of knowing you personally.

_Rochefoucault._ My dear M. de la Fontaine!

_La Fontaine._ Not '_de_ la', not '_de_ la'. I am _La_ Fontaine,
purely and simply.

_Rochefoucault._ The whole; not derivative. You appear, in the midst
of your purity, to have been educated at court, in the lap of the
ladies. What was the last day (pardon!) I had the misfortune to miss
you there?

_La Fontaine._ I never go to court. They say one cannot go without
silk stockings; and I have only thread: plenty of them indeed, thank
God! Yet, would you believe it? Nanon, in putting a _solette_ to the
bottom of one, last week, sewed it so carelessly, she made a kind of
cord across: and I verily believe it will lame me for life; for I
walked the whole morning upon it.

_Rochefoucault._ She ought to be whipped.

_La Fontaine._ I thought so too, and grew the warmer at being unable
to find a wisp of osier or a roll of packthread in the house. Barely
had I begun with my garter, when in came the Bishop of Grasse, my old
friend Godeau, and another lord, whose name he mentioned, and they
both interceded for her so long and so touchingly, that at last I was
fain to let her rise up and go. I never saw men look down on the
erring and afflicted more compassionately. The bishop was quite
concerned for me also. But the other, although he professed to feel
even more, and said that it must surely be the pain of purgatory to
me, took a pinch of snuff, opened his waistcoat, drew down his
ruffles, and seemed rather more indifferent.

_Rochefoucault._ Providentially, in such moving scenes, the worst is
soon over. But Godeau's friend was not too sensitive.

_La Fontaine._ Sensitive! no more than if he had been educated at the
butcher's or the Sorbonne.

_Rochefoucault._ I am afraid there are as many hard hearts under satin
waistcoats as there are ugly visages under the same material in
miniature cases.

_La Fontaine._ My lord, I could show you a miniature case which
contains your humble servant, in which the painter has done what no
tailor in his senses would do; he has given me credit for a coat of
violet silk, with silver frogs as large as tortoises. But I am loath
to get up for it while the generous heart of this dog (if I mentioned
his name he would jump up) places such confidence on my knee.

_Rochefoucault._ Pray do not move on any account; above all, lest you
should disturb that amiable grey cat, fast asleep in his innocence on
your shoulder.

_La Fontaine._ Ah, rogue! art thou there? Why! thou hast not licked my
face this half-hour.

_Rochefoucault._ And more, too, I should imagine. I do not judge from
his somnolency, which, if he were President of the Parliament, could
not be graver, but from his natural sagacity. Cats weigh
practicabilities. What sort of tongue has he?

_La Fontaine._ He has the roughest tongue and the tenderest heart of
any cat in Paris. If you observe the colour of his coat, it is rather
blue than grey; a certain indication of goodness in these
contemplative creatures.

_Rochefoucault._ We were talking of his tongue alone; by which cats,
like men, are flatterers.

_La Fontaine._ Ah! you gentlemen of the court are much mistaken in
thinking that vices have so extensive a range. There are some of our
vices, like some of our diseases, from which the quadrupeds are
exempt; and those, both diseases and vices, are the most
discreditable.

_Rochefoucault._ I do not bear patiently any evil spoken of the court:
for it must be acknowledged, by the most malicious, that the court is
the purifier of the whole nation.

_La Fontaine._ I know little of the court, and less of the whole
nation; but how can this be?

_Rochefoucault._ It collects all ramblers and gamblers; all the
market-men and market-women who deal in articles which God has thrown
into their baskets, without any trouble on their part; all the
seducers and all who wish to be seduced; all the duellists who erase
their crimes with their swords, and sweat out their cowardice with
daily practice; all the nobles whose patents of nobility lie in gold
snuff-boxes, or have worn Mechlin ruffles, or are deposited within the
archives of knee-deep waistcoats; all stock-jobbers and
church-jobbers, the black-legged and the red-legged game, the flower
of the _justaucorps_, the _robe_, and the _soutane_. If these were
spread over the surface of France, instead of close compressure in the
court or cabinet, they would corrupt the whole country in two years.
As matters now stand, it will require a quarter of a century to effect
it.

_La Fontaine._ Am I not right then in preferring my beasts to yours?
But if yours were loose, mine (as you prove to me) would be the last
to suffer by it, poor dear creatures! Speaking of cats, I would have
avoided all personality that might be offensive to them: I would not
exactly have said, in so many words, that, by their tongues, they are
flatterers, like men. Language may take a turn advantageously in
favour of our friends. True, we resemble all animals in something. I
am quite ashamed and mortified that your lordship, or anybody, should
have had the start of me in this reflection. When a cat flatters with
his tongue he is not insincere: you may safely take it for a real
kindness. He is loyal, M. de la Rochefoucault! my word for him, he is
loyal. Observe too, if you please, no cat ever licks you when he wants
anything from you; so that there is nothing of baseness in such an act
of adulation, if we must call it so. For my part, I am slow to
designate by so foul a name, that (be it what it may) which is
subsequent to a kindness. Cats ask plainly for what they want.

_Rochefoucault._ And, if they cannot get it by protocols they get it
by invasion and assault.

_La Fontaine._ No! no! usually they go elsewhere, and fondle those
from whom they obtain it. In this I see no resemblance to invaders and
conquerors. I draw no parallels: I would excite no heart-burnings
between us and them. Let all have their due.

I do not like to lift this creature off, for it would waken him, else
I could find out, by some subsequent action, the reason why he has not
been on the alert to lick my cheek for so long a time.

_Rochefoucault._ Cats are wary and provident. He would not enter into
any contest with you, however friendly. He only licks your face, I
presume, while your beard is but a match for his tongue.

_La Fontaine._ Ha! you remind me. Indeed I did begin to think my beard
was rather of the roughest; for yesterday Madame de Rambouillet sent
me a plate of strawberries, the first of the season, and raised (would
you believe it?) under glass. One of these strawberries was dropping
from my lips, and I attempted to stop it. When I thought it had fallen
to the ground, 'Look for it, Nanon; pick it up and eat it,' said I.

'Master!' cried the wench, 'your beard has skewered and spitted it.'
'Honest girl,' I answered, 'come, cull it from the bed of its
adoption.'

I had resolved to shave myself this morning: but our wisest and best
resolutions too often come to nothing, poor mortals!

_Rochefoucault._ We often do very well everything but the only thing
we hope to do best of all; and our projects often drop from us by
their weight. A little while ago your friend Molière exhibited a
remarkable proof of it.

_La Fontaine._ Ah, poor Molière! the best man in the world; but
flighty, negligent, thoughtless. He throws himself into other men, and
does not remember where. The sight of an eagle, M. de la
Rochefoucault, but the memory of a fly.

_Rochefoucault_. I will give you an example: but perhaps it is already
known to you.

_La Fontaine._ Likely enough. We have each so many friends, neither of
us can trip but the other is invited to the laugh. Well; I am sure he
has no malice, and I hope I have none: but who can see his own faults?

_Rochefoucault._ He had brought out a new edition of his comedies.

_La Fontaine._ There will be fifty; there will be a hundred: nothing
in our language, or in any, is so delightful, so graceful; I will add,
so clear at once and so profound.

_Rochefoucault._ You are among the few who, seeing well his other
qualities, see that Molière is also profound. In order to present the
new edition to the dauphin, he had put on a sky-blue velvet coat,
powdered with fleurs-de-lis. He laid the volume on his library table;
and, resolving that none of the courtiers should have an opportunity
of ridiculing him for anything like absence of mind, he returned to
his bedroom, which, as may often be the case in the economy of poets,
is also his dressing-room. Here he surveyed himself in his mirror, as
well as the creeks and lagoons in it would permit.

_La Fontaine._ I do assure you, from my own observation, M. de la
Rochefoucault, that his mirror is a splendid one. I should take it to
be nearly three feet high, reckoning the frame, with the Cupid above
and the elephant under. I suspected it was the present of some great
lady; and indeed I have since heard as much.

_Rochefoucault._ Perhaps then the whole story may be quite as fabulous
as the part of it which I have been relating.

_La Fontaine._ In that case, I may be able to set you right again.

_Rochefoucault._ He found his peruke a model of perfection; tight, yet
easy; not an inch more on one side than on the other. The black patch
on the forehead....

_La Fontaine._ Black patch too! I would have given a fifteen-sous
piece to have caught him with that black patch.

_Rochefoucault._ He found it lovely, marvellous, irresistible. Those
on each cheek....

_La Fontaine._ Do you tell me he had one on each cheek?

_Rochefoucault._ Symmetrically. The cravat was of its proper descent,
and with its appropriate charge of the best Strasburg snuff upon it.
The waistcoat, for a moment, puzzled and perplexed him. He was not
quite sure whether the right number of buttons were in their holes;
nor how many above, nor how many below, it was the fashion of the week
to leave without occupation. Such a piece of ignorance is enough to
disgrace any courtier on earth. He was in the act of striking his
forehead with desperation; but he thought of the patch, fell on his
knees, and thanked Heaven for the intervention.

_La Fontaine._ Just like him! just like him! good soul!

_Rochefoucault._ The breeches ... ah! those require attention: all
proper: everything in its place. Magnificent. The stockings rolled up,
neither too loosely nor too negligently. A picture! The buckles in the
shoes ... all but one ... soon set to rights ... well thought of! And
now the sword ... ah, that cursed sword! it will bring at least one
man to the ground if it has its own way much longer ... up with it! up
with it higher.... _Allons!_ we are out of danger.

_La Fontaine._ Delightful! I have him before my eyes. What simplicity!
aye, what simplicity!

_Rochefoucault._ Now for hat. Feather in? Five at least. Bravo!

He took up hat and plumage, extended his arm to the full length,
raised it a foot above his head, lowered it thereon, opened his
fingers, and let them fall again at his side.

_La Fontaine._ Something of the comedian in that; aye, M. de la
Rochefoucault? But, on the stage or off, all is natural in Molière.

_Rochefoucault._ Away he went: he reached the palace, stood before the
dauphin.... O consternation! O despair! 'Morbleu! bête que je suis,'
exclaimed the hapless man, 'le livre, où donc est-il?' You are
forcibly struck, I perceive, by this adventure of your friend.

_La Fontaine._ Strange coincidence! quite unaccountable! There are
agents at work in our dreams, M. de la Rochefoucault, which we shall
never see out of them, on this side the grave. [_To himself._]
Sky-blue? no. Fleurs-de-lis? bah! bah! Patches? I never wore one in my
life.

_Rochefoucault._ It well becomes your character for generosity, M. La
Fontaine, to look grave, and ponder, and ejaculate, on a friend's
untoward accident, instead of laughing, as those who little know you,
might expect. I beg your pardon for relating the occurrence.

_La Fontaine._ Right or wrong, I cannot help laughing any longer.
Comical, by my faith! above the tiptop of comedy. Excuse my flashes
and dashes and rushes of merriment. Incontrollable! incontrollable!
Indeed the laughter is immoderate. And you all the while are sitting
as grave as a judge; I mean a criminal one; who has nothing to do but
to keep up his popularity by sending his rogues to the gallows. The
civil indeed have much weighty matter on their minds: they must
displease one party: and sometimes a doubt arises whether the fairer
hand or the fuller shall turn the balance.

_Rochefoucault._ I congratulate you on the return of your gravity and
composure.

_La Fontaine._ Seriously now: all my lifetime I have been the
plaything of dreams. Sometimes they have taken such possession of me,
that nobody could persuade me afterward they were other than real
events. Some are very oppressive, very painful, M. de la
Rochefoucault! I have never been able, altogether, to disembarrass my
head of the most wonderful vision that ever took possession of any
man's. There are some truly important differences, but in many
respects this laughable adventure of my innocent, honest friend
Molière seemed to have befallen myself. I can only account for it by
having heard the tale when I was half asleep.

_Rochefoucault._ Nothing more probable.

_La Fontaine._ You absolutely have relieved me from an incubus.

_Rochefoucault._ I do not yet see how.

_La Fontaine._ No longer ago than when you entered this chamber, I
would have sworn that I myself had gone to the Louvre, that I myself
had been commanded to attend the dauphin, that I myself had come into
his presence, had fallen on my knee, and cried, 'Peste! où est donc le
livre?' Ah, M. de la Rochefoucault, permit me to embrace you: this is
really to find a friend at court.

_Rochefoucault._ My visit is even more auspicious than I could have
ventured to expect: it was chiefly for the purpose of asking your
permission to make another at my return to Paris.... I am forced to go
into the country on some family affairs: but hearing that you have
spoken favourably of my _Maxims_, I presume to express my satisfaction
and delight at your good opinion.

_La Fontaine._ Pray, M. de la Rochefoucault, do me the favour to
continue here a few minutes. I would gladly reason with you on some of
your doctrines.

_Rochefoucault._ For the pleasure of hearing your sentiments on the
topics I have treated, I will, although it is late, steal a few
minutes from the court, of which I must take my leave on parting for
the province.

_La Fontaine._ Are you quite certain that all your _Maxims_ are true,
or, what is of greater consequence, that they are all original? I have
lately read a treatise written by an Englishman, Mr. Hobbes; so loyal
a man that, while others tell you kings are appointed by God, he tells
you God is appointed by kings.

_Rochefoucault._ Ah! such are precisely the men we want. If he
establishes this verity, the rest will follow.

_La Fontaine._ He does not seem to care so much about the rest. In his
treatise I find the ground-plan of your chief positions.

_Rochefoucault._ I have indeed looked over his publication; and we
agree on the natural depravity of man.

_La Fontaine._ Reconsider your expression. It appears to me that what
is natural is not depraved: that depravity is deflection from nature.
Let it pass: I cannot, however, concede to you that the generality of
men are bad. Badness is accidental, like disease. We find more
tempers good than bad, where proper care is taken in proper time.

_Rochefoucault._ Care is not nature.

_La Fontaine._ Nature is soon inoperative without it; so soon indeed
as to allow no opportunity for experiment or hypothesis. Life itself
requires care, and more continually than tempers and morals do. The
strongest body ceases to be a body in a few days without a supply of
food. When we speak of men being naturally bad or good, we mean
susceptible and retentive and communicative of them. In this case (and
there can be no other true or ostensible one) I believe that the more
are good; and nearly in the same proportion as there are animals and
plants produced healthy and vigorous than wayward and weakly. Strange
is the opinion of Mr. Hobbes, that, when God hath poured so abundantly
His benefits on other creatures, the only one capable of great good
should be uniformly disposed to greater evil.

_Rochefoucault._ Yet Holy Writ, to which Hobbes would reluctantly
appeal, countenances the supposition.

_La Fontaine._ The Jews, above all nations, were morose and splenetic.
Nothing is holy to me that lessens in my view the beneficence of my
Creator. If you could show Him ungentle and unkind in a single
instance, you would render myriads of men so, throughout the whole
course of their lives, and those too among the most religious. The
less that people talk about God the better. He has left us a design to
fill up: He has placed the canvas, the colours, and the pencils,
within reach; His directing hand is over ours incessantly; it is our
business to follow it, and neither to turn round and argue with our
Master, nor to kiss and fondle Him. We must mind our lesson, and not
neglect our time: for the room is closed early, and the lights are
suspended in another, where no one works. If every man would do all
the good he might within an hour's walk from his house, he would live
the happier and the longer: for nothing is so conducive to longevity
as the union of activity and content. But, like children, we deviate
from the road, however well we know it, and run into mire and puddles
in despite of frown and ferule.

_Rochefoucault._ Go on, M. La Fontaine! pray go on. We are walking in
the same labyrinth, always within call, always within sight of each
other. We set out at its two extremities, and shall meet at last.

_La Fontaine._ I doubt it. From deficiency of care proceed many
vices, both in men and children, and more still from care taken
improperly. Mr. Hobbes attributes not only the order and peace of
society, but equity and moderation and every other virtue, to the
coercion and restriction of the laws. The laws, as now constituted, do
a great deal of good; they also do a great deal of mischief. They
transfer more property from the right owner in six months than all the
thieves of the kingdom do in twelve. What the thieves take they soon
disseminate abroad again; what the laws take they hoard. The thief
takes a part of your property: he who prosecutes the thief for you
takes another part: he who condemns the thief goes to the tax-gatherer
and takes the third. Power has been hitherto occupied in no employment
but in keeping down Wisdom. Perhaps the time may come when Wisdom
shall exert her energy in repressing the sallies of Power.

_Rochefoucault._ I think it more probable that they will agree; that
they will call together their servants of all liveries, to collect
what they can lay their hands upon; and that meanwhile they will sit
together like good housewives, making nets from our purses to cover
the coop for us. If you would be plump and in feather, pick up your
millet and be quiet in your darkness. Speculate on nothing here below,
and I promise you a nosegay in Paradise.

_La Fontaine._ Believe me, I shall be most happy to receive it there
at your hands, my lord duke.

The greater number of men, I am inclined to think, with all the
defects of education, all the frauds committed on their credulity, all
the advantages taken of their ignorance and supineness, are disposed,
on most occasions, rather to virtue than to vice, rather to the kindly
affections than the unkindly, rather to the social than the selfish.

_Rochefoucault._ Here we differ: and were my opinion the same as
yours, my book would be little read and less commended.

_La Fontaine._ Why think so?

_Rochefoucault._ For this reason. Every man likes to hear evil of all
men: every man is delighted to take the air of the common, though not
a soul will consent to stand within his own allotment. No enclosure
act! no finger-posts! You may call every creature under heaven fool
and rogue, and your auditor will join with you heartily: hint to him
the slightest of his own defects or foibles, and he draws the rapier.
You and he are the judges of the world, but not its denizens.

_La Fontaine._ Mr. Hobbes has taken advantage of these weaknesses. In
his dissertation he betrays the timidity and malice of his character.
It must be granted he reasons well, according to the view he has taken
of things; but he has given no proof whatever that his view is a
correct one. I will believe that it is, when I am persuaded that
sickness is the natural state of the body, and health the unnatural.
If you call him a sound philosopher, you may call a mummy a sound man.
Its darkness, its hardness, its forced uprightness, and the place in
which you find it, may commend it to you; give me rather some weakness
and peccability, with vital warmth and human sympathies. A shrewd
reasoner in one thing, a sound philosopher is another. I admire your
power and precision. Monks will admonish us how little the author of
the _Maxims_ knows of the world; and heads of colleges will cry out 'a
libel on human nature!' but when they hear your titles, and, above
all, your credit at court, they will cast back cowl, and peruke, and
lick your boots. You start with great advantages. Throwing off from a
dukedom, you are sure of enjoying, if not the tongue of these
puzzlers, the full cry of the more animating, and will certainly be as
long-lived as the imperfection of our language will allow. I consider
your _Maxims_ as a broken ridge of hills, on the shady side of which
you are fondest of taking your exercise: but the same ridge hath also
a sunny one. You attribute (let me say it again) all actions to
self-interest. Now, a sentiment of interest must be preceded by
calculation, long or brief, right or erroneous. Tell me then in what
region lies the origin of that pleasure which a family in the country
feels on the arrival of an unexpected friend. I say a family in the
country; because the sweetest souls, like the sweetest flowers, soon
canker in cities, and no purity is rarer there than the purity of
delight. If I may judge from the few examples I have been in a
position to see, no earthly one can be greater. There are pleasures
which lie near the surface, and which are blocked up by artificial
ones, or are diverted by some mechanical scheme, or are confined by
some stiff evergreen vista of low advantage. But these pleasures do
occasionally burst forth in all their brightness; and, if ever you
shall by chance find one of them, you will sit by it, I hope,
complacently and cheerfully, and turn toward it the kindliest aspect
of your meditations.

_Rochefoucault._ Many, indeed most people, will differ from me.
Nothing is quite the same to the intellect of any two men, much less
of all. When one says to another, 'I am entirely of your opinion,' he
uses in general an easy and indifferent phrase, believing in its
accuracy, without examination, without thought. The nearest
resemblance in opinions, if we could trace every line of it, would be
found greatly more divergent than the nearest in the human form or
countenance, and in the same proportion as the varieties of mental
qualities are more numerous and fine than of the bodily. Hence I do
not expect nor wish that my opinions should in all cases be similar to
those of others: but in many I shall be gratified if, by just degrees
and after a long survey, those of others approximate to mine. Nor does
this my sentiment spring from a love of power, as in many good men
quite unconsciously, when they would make proselytes, since I shall
see few and converse with fewer of them, and profit in no way by their
adherence and favour; but it springs from a natural and a cultivated
love of all truths whatever, and from a certainty that these delivered
by me are conducive to the happiness and dignity of man. You shake
your head.

_La Fontaine._ Make it out.

_Rochefoucault._ I have pointed out to him at what passes he hath
deviated from his true interest, and where he hath mistaken
selfishness for generosity, coldness for judgment, contraction of
heart for policy, rank for merit, pomp for dignity; of all mistakes,
the commonest and the greatest. I am accused of paradox and
distortion. On paradox I shall only say, that every new moral truth
has been called so. Inexperienced and negligent observers see no
difference in the operations of ravelling and unravelling: they never
come close enough: they despise plain work.

_La Fontaine._ The more we simplify things, the better we descry their
substances and qualities. A good writer will not coil them up and
press them into the narrowest possible space, nor macerate them into
such particles that nothing shall be remaining of their natural
contexture. You are accused of this too, by such as have forgotten
your title-page, and who look for treatises where maxims only have
been promised. Some of them perhaps are spinning out sermons and
dissertations from the poorest paragraph in the volume.

_Rochefoucault._ Let them copy and write as they please; against or
for, modestly or impudently. I have hitherto had no assailant who is
not of too slender a make to be detained an hour in the stocks he had
unwarily put his foot into. If you hear of any, do not tell of them.
On the subjects of my remarks, had others thought as I do, my labour
would have been spared me. I am ready to point out the road where I
know it, to whosoever wants it; but I walk side by side with few or
none.

_La Fontaine._ We usually like those roads which show us the fronts of
our friends' houses and the pleasure-grounds about them, and the
smooth garden-walks, and the trim espaliers, and look at them with
more satisfaction than at the docks and nettles that are thrown in
heaps behind. The _Offices_ of Cicero are imperfect; yet who would not
rather guide his children by them than by the line and compass of
harder-handed guides; such as Hobbes for instance?

_Rochefoucault._ Imperfect as some gentlemen in hoods may call the
_Offices_, no founder of a philosophical or of a religious sect has
been able to add to them anything important.

_La Fontaine._ Pity! that Cicero carried with him no better
authorities than reason and humanity. He neither could work miracles,
nor damn you for disbelieving them. Had he lived fourscore years
later, who knows but he might have been another Simon Peter, and have
talked Hebrew as fluently as Latin, all at once! Who knows but we
might have heard of his patrimony! who knows but our venerable popes
might have claimed dominion from him, as descendant from the kings of
Rome!

_Rochefoucault._ The hint, some centuries ago, would have made your
fortune, and that saintly cat there would have kittened in a mitre.

_La Fontaine._ Alas! the hint could have done nothing: Cicero could
not have lived later.

_Rochefoucault._ I warrant him. Nothing is easier to correct than
chronology. There is not a lady in Paris, nor a jockey in Normandy,
that is not eligible to a professor's chair in it. I have seen a man's
ancestor, whom nobody ever saw before, spring back over twenty
generations. Our Vatican Jupiters have as little respect for old
Chronos as the Cretan had: they mutilate him when and where they think
necessary, limp as he may by the operation.

_La Fontaine._ When I think, as you make me do, how ambitious men are,
even those whose teeth are too loose (one would fancy) for a bite at
so hard an apple as the devil of ambition offers them, I am inclined
to believe that we are actuated not so much by selfishness as you
represent it, but under another form, the love of power. Not to speak
of territorial dominion or political office, and such other things as
we usually class under its appurtenances, do we not desire an
exclusive control over what is beautiful and lovely? the possession
of pleasant fields, of well-situated houses, of cabinets, of images,
of pictures, and indeed of many things pleasant to see but useless to
possess; even of rocks, of streams, and of fountains? These things,
you will tell me, have their utility. True, but not to the wisher, nor
does the idea of it enter his mind. Do not we wish that the object of
our love should be devoted to us only; and that our children should
love us better than their brothers and sisters, or even than the
mother who bore them? Love would be arrayed in the purple robe of
sovereignty, mildly as he may resolve to exercise his power.

_Rochefoucault._ Many things which appear to be incontrovertible are
such for their age only, and must yield to others which, in their age,
are equally so. There are only a few points that are always above the
waves. Plain truths, like plain dishes, are commended by everybody,
and everybody leaves them whole. If it were not even more impertinent
and presumptuous to praise a great writer in his presence than to
censure him in his absence, I would venture to say that your prose,
from the few specimens you have given of it, is equal to your verse.
Yet, even were I the possessor of such a style as yours, I would never
employ it to support my _Maxims_. You would think a writer very
impudent and self-sufficient who should quote his own works: to defend
them is doing more. We are the worst auxiliaries in the world to the
opinions we have brought into the field. Our business is, to measure
the ground, and to calculate the forces; then let them try their
strength. If the weak assails me, he thinks me weak; if the strong, he
thinks me strong. He is more likely to compute ill his own vigour than
mine. At all events, I love inquiry, even when I myself sit down. And
I am not offended in my walks if my visitor asks me whither does that
alley lead. It proves that he is ready to go on with me; that he sees
some space before him; and that he believes there may be something
worth looking after.

_La Fontaine._ You have been standing a long time, my lord duke: I
must entreat you to be seated.

_Rochefoucault._ Excuse me, my dear M. la Fontaine; I would much
rather stand.

_La Fontaine._ Mercy on us! have you been upon your legs ever since
you rose to leave me?

_Rochefoucault._ A change of position is agreeable: a friend always
permits it.

_La Fontaine._ Sad doings! sad oversight! The other two chairs were
sent yesterday evening to be scoured and mended. But that dog is the
best tempered dog! an angel of a dog, I do assure you; he would have
gone down in a moment, at a word. I am quite ashamed of myself for
such inattention. With your sentiments of friendship for me, why could
you not have taken the liberty to shove him gently off, rather than
give me this uneasiness?

_Rochefoucault._ My true and kind friend! we authors are too
sedentary; we are heartily glad of standing to converse, whenever we
can do it without any restraint on our acquaintance.

_La Fontaine._ I must reprove that animal when he uncurls his body. He
seems to be dreaming of Paradise and houris. Ay, twitch thy ear, my
child! I wish at my heart there were as troublesome a fly about the
other: God forgive me! The rogue covers all my clean linen! shirt and
cravat! what cares he!

_Rochefoucault._ Dogs are not very modest.

_La Fontaine._ Never say that, M. de la Rochefoucault! The most modest
people upon earth! Look at a dog's eyes, and he half closes them, or
gently turns them away, with a motion of the lips, which he licks
languidly, and of the tail, which he stirs tremulously, begging your
forbearance. I am neither blind nor indifferent to the defects of
these good and generous creatures. They are subject to many such as
men are subject to: among the rest, they disturb the neighbourhood in
the discussion of their private causes; they quarrel and fight on
small motives, such as a little bad food, or a little vainglory, or
the sex. But it must be something present or near that excites them;
and they calculate not the extent of evil they may do or suffer.

_Rochefoucault._ Certainly not: how should dogs calculate?

_La Fontaine._ I know nothing of the process. I am unable to inform
you how they leap over hedges and brooks, with exertion just
sufficient, and no more. In regard to honour and a sense of dignity,
let me tell you, a dog accepts the subsidies of his friends, but never
claims them: a dog would not take the field to obtain power for a son,
but would leave the son to obtain it by his own activity and prowess.
He conducts his visitor or inmate out a-hunting, and makes a present
of the game to him as freely as an emperor to an elector. Fond as he
is of slumber, which is indeed one of the pleasantest and best things
in the universe, particularly after dinner, he shakes it off as
willingly as he would a gadfly, in order to defend his master from
theft or violence. Let the robber or assailant speak as courteously
as he may, he waives your diplomatical terms, gives his reasons in
plain language, and makes war. I could say many other things to his
advantage; but I never was malicious, and would rather let both
parties plead for themselves; give me the dog, however.

_Rochefoucault._ Faith! I will give you both, and never boast of my
largess in so doing.

_La Fontaine._ I trust I have removed from you the suspicion of
selfishness in my client, and I feel it quite as easy to make a
properer disposal of another ill attribute, namely cruelty, which we
vainly try to shuffle off our own shoulders upon others, by employing
the offensive and most unjust term, brutality. But to convince you of
my impartiality, now I have defended the dog from the first obloquy, I
will defend the man from the last, hoping to make you think better of
each. What you attribute to cruelty, both while we are children and
afterward, may be assigned, for the greater part, to curiosity.
Cruelty tends to the extinction of life, the dissolution of matter,
the imprisonment and sepulture of truth; and if it were our ruling and
chief propensity, the human race would have been extinguished in a few
centuries after its appearance. Curiosity, in its primary sense,
implies care and consideration.

_Rochefoucault._ Words often deflect from their primary sense. We find
the most curious men the most idle and silly, the least observant and
conservative.

_La Fontaine._ So we think; because we see every hour the idly
curious, and not the strenuously; we see only the persons of the one
set, and only the works of the other.

More is heard of cruelty than of curiosity, because while curiosity is
silent both in itself and about its object, cruelty on most occasions
is like the wind, boisterous in itself, and exciting a murmur and
bustle in all the things it moves among. Added to which, many of the
higher topics whereto our curiosity would turn, are intercepted from
it by the policy of our guides and rulers; while the principal ones on
which cruelty is most active, are pointed to by the sceptre and the
truncheon, and wealth and dignity are the rewards of their attainment.
What perversion! He who brings a bullock into a city for its
sustenance is called a butcher, and nobody has the civility to take
off the hat to him, although knowing him as perfectly as I know
Matthieu le Mince, who served me with those fine kidneys you must have
remarked in passing through the kitchen: on the contrary, he who
reduces the same city to famine is styled M. le Général or M. le
Maréchal, and gentlemen like you, unprejudiced (as one would think)
and upright, make room for him in the antechamber.

_Rochefoucault._ He obeys orders without the degrading influence of
any passion.

_La Fontaine._ Then he commits a baseness the more, a cruelty the
greater. He goes off at another man's setting, as ingloriously as a
rat-trap: he produces the worst effects of fury, and feels none: a
Cain unirritated by a brother's incense.

_Rochefoucault._ I would hide from you this little rapier, which, like
the barber's pole, I have often thought too obtrusive in the streets.

_La Fontaine._ Never shall I think my countrymen half civilized while
on the dress of a courtier is hung the instrument of a cut-throat. How
deplorably feeble must be that honour which requires defending at
every hour of the day!

_Rochefoucault._ Ingenious as you are, M. La Fontaine, I do not
believe that, on this subject, you could add anything to what you have
spoken already; but really, I do think one of the most instructive
things in the world would be a dissertation on dress by you.

_La Fontaine._ Nothing can be devised more commodious than the dress
in fashion. Perukes have fallen among us by the peculiar dispensation
of Providence. As in all the regions of the globe the indigenous have
given way to stronger creatures, so have they (partly at least) on the
human head. At present the wren and the squirrel are dominant there.
Whenever I have a mind for a filbert, I have only to shake my foretop.
Improvement does not end in that quarter. I might forget to take my
pinch of snuff when it would do me good, unless I saw a store of it on
another's cravat. Furthermore, the slit in the coat behind tells in a
moment what it was made for: a thing of which, in regard to ourselves,
the best preachers have to remind us all our lives: then the central
part of our habiliment has either its loop-hole or its portcullis in
the opposite direction, still more demonstrative. All these are for
very mundane purposes: but Religion and Humanity have whispered some
later utilities. We pray the more commodiously, and of course the more
frequently, for rolling up a royal ell of stocking round about our
knees: and our high-heeled shoes must surely have been worn by some
angel, to save those insects which the flat-footed would have crushed
to death.

_Rochefoucault._ Ah! the good dog has awakened: he saw me and my
rapier, and ran away. Of what breed is he? for I know nothing of dogs.

_La Fontaine._ And write so well!

_Rochefoucault._ Is he a truffler?

_La Fontaine._ No, not he; but quite as innocent.

_Rochefoucault._ Something of the shepherd-dog, I suspect.

_La Fontaine._ Nor that neither; although he fain would make you
believe it. Indeed he is very like one: pointed nose, pointed ears,
apparently stiff, but readily yielding; long hair, particularly about
the neck; noble tail over his back, three curls deep, exceedingly
pleasant to stroke down again; straw-colour all above, white all
below. He might take it ill if you looked for it; but so it is, upon
my word: an ermeline might envy it.

_Rochefoucault._ What are his pursuits?

_La Fontaine._ As to pursuit and occupation, he is good for nothing.
In fact, I like those dogs best ... and those men too.

_Rochefoucault._ Send Nanon then for a pair of silk stockings, and
mount my carriage with me: it stops at the Louvre.



LUCIAN AND TIMOTHEUS


_Timotheus._ I am delighted, my Cousin Lucian, to observe how popular
are become your _Dialogues of the Dead_. Nothing can be so gratifying
and satisfactory to a rightly disposed mind, as the subversion of
imposture by the force of ridicule. It hath scattered the crowd of
heathen gods as if a thunderbolt had fallen in the midst of them. Now,
I am confident you never would have assailed the false religion,
unless you were prepared for the reception of the true. For it hath
always been an indication of rashness and precipitancy, to throw down
an edifice before you have collected materials for reconstruction.

_Lucian._ Of all metaphors and remarks, I believe this of yours, my
good cousin Timotheus, is the most trite, and pardon me if I add, the
most untrue. Surely we ought to remove an error the instant we detect
it, although it may be out of our competence to state and establish
what is right. A lie should be exposed as soon as born: we are not to
wait until a healthier child is begotten. Whatever is evil in any way
should be abolished. The husbandman never hesitates to eradicate
weeds, or to burn them up, because he may not happen at the time to
carry a sack on his shoulder with wheat or barley in it. Even if no
wheat or barley is to be sown in future, the weeding and burning are
in themselves beneficial, and something better will spring up.

_Timotheus._ That is not so certain.

_Lucian._ Doubt it as you may, at least you will allow that the
temporary absence of evil is an advantage.

_Timotheus._ I think, O Lucian, you would reason much better if you
would come over to our belief.

_Lucian._ I was unaware that belief is an encourager and guide to
reason.

_Timotheus._ Depend upon it, there can be no stability of truth, no
elevation of genius, without an unwavering faith in our holy
mysteries. Babes and sucklings who are blest with it, stand higher,
intellectually as well as morally, than stiff unbelievers and proud
sceptics.

_Lucian._ I do not wonder that so many are firm holders of this novel
doctrine. It is pleasant to grow wise and virtuous at so small an
expenditure of thought or time. This saying of yours is exactly what I
heard spoken with angry gravity not long ago.

_Timotheus._ Angry! no wonder! for it is impossible to keep our
patience when truths so incontrovertible are assailed. What was your
answer?

_Lucian._ My answer was: If you talk in this manner, my honest friend,
you will excite a spirit of ridicule in the gravest and most saturnine
of men, who never had let a laugh out of their breasts before. Lie to
_me_, and welcome; but beware lest your own heart take you to task for
it, reminding you that both anger and falsehood are reprehended by all
religions, yours included.

_Timotheus._ Lucian! Lucian! you have always been called profane.

_Lucian._ For what? for having turned into ridicule the gods whom you
have turned out of house and home, and are reducing to dust?

_Timotheus._ Well; but you are equally ready to turn into ridicule the
true and holy.

_Lucian._ In other words, to turn myself into a fool. He who brings
ridicule to bear against Truth, finds in his hand a blade without a
hilt. The most sparkling and pointed flame of wit flickers and
expires against the incombustible walls of her sanctuary.

_Timotheus._ Fine talking! Do you know, you have really been called an
atheist?

_Lucian._ Yes, yes; I know it well. But, in fact, I believe there are
almost as few atheists in the world as there are Christians.

_Timotheus._ How! as few? Most of Europe, most of Asia, most of
Africa, is Christian.

_Lucian._ Show me five men in each who obey the commands of Christ,
and I will show you five hundred in this very city who observe the
dictates of Pythagoras. Every Pythagorean obeys his defunct
philosopher; and almost every Christian disobeys his living God. Where
is there one who practises the most important and the easiest of His
commands, to abstain from strife? Men easily and perpetually find
something new to quarrel about; but the objects of affection are
limited in number, and grow up scantily and slowly. Even a small house
is often too spacious for them, and there is a vacant seat at the
table. Religious men themselves, when the Deity has bestowed on them
everything they prayed for, discover, as a peculiar gift of
Providence, some fault in the actions or opinions of a neighbour, and
run it down, crying and shouting after it, with more alacrity and more
clamour than boys would a leveret or a squirrel in the playground. Are
our years and our intellects, and the word of God itself, given us for
this, O Timotheus?

_Timotheus._ A certain latitude, a liberal construction....

_Lucian._ Ay, ay! These 'liberal constructions' let loose all the
worst passions into those 'certain latitudes'. The priests themselves,
who ought to be the poorest, are the richest; who ought to be the most
obedient, are the most refractory and rebellious. All trouble and all
piety are vicarious. They send missionaries, at the cost of others,
into foreign lands, to teach observances which they supersede at home.
I have ridiculed the puppets of all features, all colours, all sizes,
by which an impudent and audacious set of impostors have been gaining
an easy livelihood these two thousand years.

_Timotheus._ Gently! gently! Ours have not been at it yet two hundred.
We abolish all idolatry. We know that Jupiter was not the father of
gods and men: we know that Mars was not the Lord of Hosts: we know who
is: we are quite at ease upon that question.

_Lucian._ Are you so fanatical, my good Timotheus, as to imagine that
the Creator of the world cares a fig by what appellation you adore
Him? whether you call Him on one occasion Jupiter, on another Apollo?
I will not add Mars or Lord of Hosts; for, wanting as I may be in
piety, I am not, and never was, so impious as to call the Maker the
Destroyer; to call Him Lord of Hosts who, according to your holiest of
books, declared so lately and so plainly that He permits no hosts at
all; much less will He take the command of one against another. Would
any man in his senses go down into the cellar, and seize first an
amphora from the right, and then an amphora from the left, for the
pleasure of breaking them in pieces, and of letting out the wine he
had taken the trouble to put in? We are not contented with attributing
to the gods our own infirmities; we make them even more wayward, even
more passionate, even more exigent and more malignant: and then some
of us try to coax and cajole them, and others run away from them
outright.

_Timotheus._ No wonder: but only in regard to yours: and even those
are types.

_Lucian._ There are honest men who occupy their lives in discovering
types for all things.

_Timotheus._ Truly and rationally thou speakest now. Honest men and
wise men above their fellows are they, and the greatest of all
discoverers. There are many types above thy reach, O Lucian!

_Lucian._ And one which my mind, and perhaps yours also, can
comprehend. There is in Italy, I hear, on the border of a quiet and
beautiful lake, a temple dedicated to Diana; the priests of which
temple have murdered each his predecessor for unrecorded ages.

_Timotheus._ What of that? They were idolaters.

_Lucian._ They made the type, however: take it home with you, and hang
it up in your temple.

_Timotheus._ Why! you seem to have forgotten on a sudden that I am a
Christian: you are talking of the heathens.

_Lucian._ True! true! I am near upon eighty years of age, and to my
poor eyesight one thing looks very like another.

_Timotheus._ You are too indifferent.

_Lucian._ No indeed. I love those best who quarrel least, and who
bring into public use the most civility and good humour.

_Timotheus._ Our holy religion inculcates this duty especially.

_Lucian._ Such being the case, a pleasant story will not be thrown
away upon you. Xenophanes, my townsman of Samosata, was resolved to
buy a new horse: he had tried him, and liked him well enough. I asked
him why he wished to dispose of his old one, knowing how sure-footed
he was, how easy in his paces, and how quiet in his pasture. 'Very
true, O Lucian,' said he; 'the horse is a clever horse; noble eye,
beautiful figure, stately step; rather too fond of neighing and of
shuffling a little in the vicinity of a mare; but tractable and good
tempered.' 'I would not have parted with him then,' said I. 'The fact
is,' replied he, 'my grandfather, whom I am about to visit, likes no
horses but what are _Saturnized_. To-morrow I begin my journey: come
and see me set out.' I went at the hour appointed. The new purchase
looked quiet and demure; but _he_ also pricked up his ears, and gave
sundry other tokens of equinity, when the more interesting part of his
fellow-creatures came near him. As the morning oats began to operate,
he grew more and more unruly, and snapped at one friend of Xenophanes,
and sidled against another, and gave a kick at a third. 'All in play!
all in play!' said Xenophanes; 'his nature is more of a lamb's than a
horse's.' However, these mute salutations being over, away went
Xenophanes. In the evening, when my lamp had just been replenished for
the commencement of my studies, my friend came in striding as if he
were still across the saddle. 'I am apprehensive, O Xenophanes,' said
I, 'your new acquaintance has disappointed you.' 'Not in the least,'
answered he. 'I do assure you, O Lucian! he is the very horse I was
looking out for.' On my requesting him to be seated, he no more
thought of doing so than if it had been in the presence of the Persian
king. I then handed my lamp to him, telling him (as was true) it
contained all the oil I had in the house, and protesting I should be
happier to finish my Dialogue in the morning. He took the lamp into my
bedroom, and appeared to be much refreshed on his return.
Nevertheless, he treated his chair with great delicacy and
circumspection, and evidently was afraid of breaking it by too sudden
a descent. I did not revert to the horse: but he went on of his own
accord. 'I declare to you, O Lucian! it is impossible for me to be
mistaken in a palfrey. My new one is the only one in Samosata that
could carry me at one stretch to my grandfather's.' 'But _has_ he?'
said I, timidly. 'No; he has not yet,' answered my friend. 'To-morrow,
then, I am afraid, we really must lose you.' 'No,' said he; 'the horse
does trot hard: but he is the better for that: I shall soon get used
to him.' In fine, my worthy friend deferred his visit to his
grandfather: his rides were neither long nor frequent: he was ashamed
to part with his purchase, boasted of him everywhere, and, humane as
he is by nature, could almost have broken on the cross the quiet
contented owner of old Bucephalus.

_Timotheus._ Am I to understand by this, O Cousin Lucian, that I ought
to be contented with the impurities of paganism?

_Lucian._ Unless you are very unreasonable. A moderate man finds
plenty in it.

_Timotheus._ We abominate the Deities who patronize them, and we hurl
down the images of the monsters.

_Lucian._ Sweet cousin! be tenderer to my feelings. In such a tempest
as this, my spark of piety may be blown out. Hold your hand cautiously
before it, until I can find my way. Believe me, no Deities (out of
their own houses) patronize immorality; none patronize unruly
passions, least of all the fierce and ferocious. In my opinion, you
are wrong in throwing down the images of those among them who look on
you benignly: the others I give up to your discretion. But I think it
impossible to stand habitually in the presence of a sweet and open
countenance, graven or depicted, without in some degree partaking of
the character it expresses. Never tell any man that he can derive no
good, in his devotions, from this or from that: abolish neither hope
nor gratitude.

_Timotheus._ God is offended at vain efforts to represent Him.

_Lucian._ No such thing, my dear Timotheus. If you knew Him at all,
you would not talk of Him so irreverently. He is pleased, I am
convinced, at every effort to resemble Him, at every wish to remind
both ourselves and others of His benefits. You cannot think so often
of Him without an effigy.

_Timotheus._ What likeness is there in the perishable to the
Unperishable?

_Lucian._ I see no reason why there may not be a similitude. All that
the senses can comprehend may be represented by any material; clay or
fig-tree, bronze or ivory, porphyry or gold. Indeed I have a faint
remembrance that, according to your sacred volumes, man was made by
God after His own image. If so, man's intellectual powers are worthily
exercised in attempting to collect all that is beautiful, serene, and
dignified, and to bring Him back to earth again by showing Him the
noblest of His gifts, the work most like His own. Surely He cannot
hate or abandon those who thus cherish His memory, and thus implore
His regard. Perishable and imperfect is everything human: but in these
very qualities I find the best reason for striving to attain what is
least so. Would not any father be gratified by seeing his child
attempt to delineate his features? And would not the gratification be
rather increased than diminished by his incapacity? How long shall the
narrow mind of man stand between goodness and omnipotence? Perhaps the
effigy of your ancestor Isknos is unlike him; whether it is or no, you
cannot tell; but you keep it in your hall, and would be angry if
anybody broke it to pieces or defaced it. Be quite sure there are many
who think as much of their gods as you think of your ancestor Isknos,
and who see in their images as good a likeness. Let men have their own
way, especially their way to the temples. It is easier to drive them
out of one road than into another. Our judicious and good-humoured
Trajan has found it necessary on many occasions to chastise the
law-breakers of your sect, indifferent as he is what gods are
worshipped, so long as their followers are orderly and decorous. The
fiercest of the Dacians never knocked off Jupiter's beard, or broke an
arm off Venus; and the emperor will hardly tolerate in those who have
received a liberal education what he would punish in barbarians. Do
not wear out his patience: try rather to imitate his equity, his
equanimity, and forbearance.

_Timotheus._ I have been listening to you with much attention, O
Lucian! for I seldom have heard you speak with such gravity. And yet,
O Cousin Lucian! I really do find in you a sad deficiency of that
wisdom which alone is of any value. You talk of Trajan! what is
Trajan?

_Lucian._ A beneficent citizen, an impartial judge, a sagacious ruler;
the comrade of every brave soldier, the friend and associate of every
man eminent in genius, throughout his empire, the empire of the world.
All arts, all sciences, all philosophies, all religions, are protected
by him. Wherefore his name will flourish, when the proudest of these
have perished in the land of Egypt. Philosophies and religions will
strive, struggle, and suffocate one another. Priesthoods, I know not
how many, are quarrelling and scuffling in the street at this instant,
all calling on Trajan to come and knock an antagonist on the head; and
the most peaceful of them, as it wishes to be thought, proclaiming him
an infidel for turning a deaf ear to its imprecations. Mankind was
never so happy as under his guidance; and he has nothing now to do but
to put down the battles of the gods. If they must fight it out, he
will insist on our neutrality.

_Timotheus._ He has no authority and no influence over us in matters
of faith. A wise and upright man, whose serious thoughts lead him
forward to religion, will never be turned aside from it by any worldly
consideration or any human force.

_Lucian._ True: but mankind is composed not entirely of the upright
and the wise. I suspect that we may find some, here and there, who are
rather too fond of novelties in the furniture of temples; and I have
observed that new sects are apt to warp, crack, and split, under the
heat they generate. Our homely old religion has run into fewer
quarrels, ever since the Centaurs and Lapiths (whose controversy was
on a subject quite comprehensible), than yours has engendered in
twenty years.

_Timotheus._ We shall obviate that inconvenience by electing a supreme
Pontiff to decide all differences. It has been seriously thought about
long ago: and latterly we have been making out an ideal series down to
the present day, in order that our successors in the ministry may have
stepping-stones up to the fountain-head. At first the disseminators of
our doctrines were equal in their commission; we do not approve of
this any longer, for reasons of our own.

_Lucian._ You may shut, one after another, all our other temples, but,
I plainly see, you will never shut the temple of Janus. The Roman
Empire will never lose its pugnacious character while your sect
exists. The only danger is, lest the fever rage internally and consume
the vitals. If you sincerely wish your religion to be long-lived,
maintain in it the spirit of its constitution, and keep it patient,
humble, abstemious, domestic, and zealous only in the services of
humanity. Whenever the higher of your priesthood shall attain the
riches they are aiming at, the people will envy their possessions and
revolt from their impostures. Do not let them seize upon the palace,
and shove their God again into the manger.

_Timotheus._ Lucian! Lucian! I call this impiety.

_Lucian._ So do I, and shudder at its consequences. Caverns which at
first look inviting, the roof at the aperture green with overhanging
ferns and clinging mosses, then glittering with native gems and with
water as sparkling and pellucid, freshening the air all around; these
caverns grow darker and closer, until you find yourself among animals
that shun the daylight, adhering to the walls, hissing along the
bottom, flapping, screeching, gaping, glaring, making you shrink at
the sounds, and sicken at the smells, and afraid to advance or
retreat.

_Timotheus._ To what can this refer? Our caverns open on verdure, and
terminate in veins of gold.

_Lucian._ Veins of gold, my good Timotheus, such as your excavations
have opened and are opening, in the spirit of avarice and ambition,
will be washed (or as you would say, _purified_) in streams of blood.
Arrogance, intolerance, resistance to authority and contempt of law,
distinguish your aspiring sectarians from the other subjects of the
empire.

_Timotheus._ Blindness hath often a calm and composed countenance;
but, my Cousin Lucian! it usually hath also the advantage of a
cautious and a measured step. It hath pleased God to blind you, like
all the other adversaries of our faith; but He has given you no staff
to lean upon. You object against us the very vices from which we are
peculiarly exempt.

_Lucian._ Then it is all a story, a fable, a fabrication, about one of
your earlier leaders cutting off with his sword a servant's ear? If
the accusation is true, the offence is heavy. For not only was the
wounded man innocent of any provocation, but he is represented as
being in the service of the high priest at Jerusalem. Moreover, from
the direction and violence of the blow, it is evident that his life
was aimed at. According to law, you know, my dear cousin, all the
party might have been condemned to death, as accessories to an attempt
at murder. I am unwilling to think so unfavourably of your sect; nor
indeed do I see the possibility that, in such an outrage, the
principal could be pardoned. For any man but a soldier to go about
armed is against the Roman law, which, on that head, as on many
others, is borrowed from the Athenian; and it is incredible that in
any civilized country so barbarous a practice can be tolerated.
Travellers do indeed relate that, in certain parts of India, there are
princes at whose courts even civilians are armed. But _traveller_ has
occasionally the same signification as _liar_, and _India_ as _fable_.
However, if the practice really does exist in that remote and rarely
visited country, it must be in some region of it very far beyond the
Indus or the Ganges: for the nations situated between those rivers
are, and were in the reign of Alexander, and some thousand years
before his birth, as civilized as the Europeans; nay, incomparably
more courteous, more industrious, and more pacific; the three grand
criterions.

But answer my question: is there any foundation for so mischievous a
report?

_Timotheus._ There was indeed, so to say, an ear, or something of the
kind, abscinded; probably by mistake. But high priests' servants are
propense to follow the swaggering gait of their masters, and to carry
things with a high hand, in such wise as to excite the choler of the
most quiet. If you knew the character of the eminently holy man who
punished the atrocious insolence of that bloody-minded wretch, you
would be sparing of your animadversions. We take him for our model.

_Lucian._ I see you do.

_Timotheus._ We proclaim him Prince of the Apostles.

_Lucian._ I am the last in the world to question his princely
qualifications; but, if I might advise you, it should be to follow in
preference Him whom you acknowledge to be an unerring guide; who
delivered to you His ordinances with His own hand, equitable, plain,
explicit, compendious, and complete; who committed no violence, who
countenanced no injustice, whose compassion was without weakness,
whose love was without frailty, whose life was led in humility, in
purity, in beneficence, and, at the end, laid down in obedience to His
Father's will.

_Timotheus._ Ah, Lucian! what strangely imperfect notions! all that is
little.

_Lucian._ Enough to follow.

_Timotheus._ Not enough to compel others. I did indeed hope, O Lucian!
that you would again come forward with the irresistible arrows of your
wit, and unite with us against our adversaries. By what you have just
spoken, I doubt no longer that you approve of the doctrines inculcated
by the blessed Founder of our religion.

_Lucian._ To the best of my understanding.

_Timotheus._ So ardent is my desire for the salvation of your precious
soul, O my cousin! that I would devote many hours of every day to
disputation with you on the principal points of our Christian
controversy.

_Lucian._ Many thanks, my kind Timotheus! But I think the blessed
Founder of your religion very strictly forbade that there should be
_any_ points of controversy. Not only has He prohibited them on the
doctrines He delivered, but on everything else. Some of the most
obstinate might never have doubted of His Divinity, if the conduct of
His followers had not repelled them from the belief of it. How can
they imagine you sincere when they see you disobedient? It is in vain
for you to protest that you worship the God of Peace, when you are
found daily in the courts and market-places with clenched fists and
bloody noses. I acknowledge the full value of your offer; but really I
am as anxious for the salvation of your precious time as you appear to
be for the salvation of my precious soul, particularly since I am
come to the conclusion that souls cannot be lost, and that time can.

_Timotheus._ We mean by _salvation_ exemption from eternal torments.

_Lucian._ Among all my old gods and their children, morose as some of
the senior are, and mischievous as are some of the junior, I have
never represented the worst of them as capable of inflicting such
atrocity. Passionate and capricious and unjust are several of them;
but a skin stripped off the shoulder, and a liver tossed to a vulture,
are among the worst of their inflictions.

_Timotheus._ This is scoffing.

_Lucian._ Nobody but an honest man has a right to scoff at anything.

_Timotheus._ And yet people of a very different cast are usually those
who scoff the most.

_Lucian._ We are apt to push forward at that which we are without: the
low-born at titles and distinctions, the silly at wit, the knave at
the semblance of probity. But I was about to remark, that an honest
man may fairly scoff at all philosophies and religions which are
proud, ambitious, intemperate, and contradictory. The thing most
adverse to the spirit and essence of them all is falsehood. It is the
business of the philosophical to seek truth: it is the office of the
religious to worship her; under what name is unimportant. The
falsehood that the tongue commits is slight in comparison with what is
conceived by the heart, and executed by the whole man, throughout
life. If, professing love and charity to the human race at large, I
quarrel day after day with my next neighbour; if, professing that the
rich can never see God, I spend in the luxuries of my household a
talent monthly; if, professing to place so much confidence in His
word, that, in regard to wordly weal, I need take no care for
to-morrow, I accumulate stores even beyond what would be necessary,
though I quite distrusted both His providence and His veracity; if,
professing that 'he who giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord', I
question the Lord's security, and haggle with Him about the amount of
the loan; if, professing that I am their steward, I keep ninety-nine
parts in the hundred as the emolument of my stewardship; how, when God
hates liars and punishes defrauders, shall I, and other such thieves
and hypocrites, fare hereafter?

_Timotheus._ Let us hope there are few of them.

_Lucian._ We cannot hope against what is: we may, however, hope that
in future these will be fewer; but never while the overseers of a
priesthood look for offices out of it, taking the lead in politics, in
debate, and strife. Such men bring to ruin all religion, but their own
first, and raise unbelievers not only in Divine Providence, but in
human faith.

_Timotheus._ If they leave the altar for the market-place, the
sanctuary for the senate-house, and agitate party questions instead of
Christian verities, everlasting punishments await them.

_Lucian._ Everlasting?

_Timotheus._ Certainly: at the very least. I rank it next to heresy in
the catalogue of sins; and the Church supports my opinion.

_Lucian._ I have no measure for ascertaining the distance between the
opinions and practices of men; I only know that they stand widely
apart in all countries on the most important occasions; but this
newly-hatched word _heresy_, alighting on my ear, makes me rub it. A
beneficent God descends on earth in the human form, to redeem us from
the slavery of sin, from the penalty of our passions: can you imagine
He will punish an error in opinion, or even an obstinacy in unbelief,
with everlasting torments? Supposing it highly criminal to refuse to
weigh a string of arguments, or to cross-question a herd of witnesses,
on a subject which no experience has warranted and no sagacity can
comprehend; supposing it highly criminal to be contented with the
religion which our parents taught us, which they bequeathed to us as
the most precious of possessions, and which it would have broken their
hearts if they had foreseen we should cast aside; yet are eternal
pains the just retribution of what at worst is but indifference and
supineness?

_Timotheus._ Our religion has clearly this advantage over yours: it
teaches us to regulate our passions.

_Lucian._ Rather say it _tells_ us. I believe all religions do the
same; some indeed more emphatically and primarily than others; but
_that_ indeed would be incontestably of Divine origin, and
acknowledged at once by the most sceptical, which should thoroughly
teach it. Now, my friend Timotheus, I think you are about seventy-five
years of age.

_Timotheus._ Nigh upon it.

_Lucian._ Seventy-five years, according to my calculation, are
equivalent to seventy-five gods and goddesses in regulating our
passions for us, if we speak of the amatory, which are always thought
in every stage of life the least to be pardoned.

_Timotheus._ Execrable!

_Lucian._ I am afraid the sourest hang longest on the tree. Mimnermus
says:

      In early youth we often sigh
      Because our pulses beat so high;
      All this we conquer, and at last
      We sigh that we are grown so chaste.

_Timotheus._ Swine!

_Lucian._ No animal sighs oftener or louder. But, my dear cousin, the
quiet swine is less troublesome and less odious than the grumbling and
growling and fierce hyena, which will not let the dead rest in their
graves. We may be merry with the follies and even the vices of men,
without doing or wishing them harm; punishment should come from the
magistrate, not from us. If we are to give pain to any one because he
thinks differently from us, we ought to begin by inflicting a few
smart stripes on ourselves; for both upon light and upon grave
occasions, if we have thought much and often, our opinions must have
varied. We are always fond of seizing and managing what appertains to
others. In the savage state all belongs to all. Our neighbours the
Arabs, who stand between barbarism and civilization, waylay
travellers, and plunder their equipage and their gold. The wilier
marauders in Alexandria start up from under the shadow of temples,
force us to change our habiliments for theirs, and strangle us with
fingers dipped in holy water if we say they sit uneasily.

_Timotheus._ This is not the right view of things.

_Lucian._ That is never the right view which lets in too much light.
About two centuries have elapsed since your religion was founded. Show
me the pride it has humbled; show me the cruelty it has mitigated;
show me the lust it has extinguished or repressed. I have now been
living ten years in Alexandria; and you never will accuse me, I think,
of any undue partiality for the system in which I was educated; yet,
from all my observation, I find no priest or elder, in your community,
wise, tranquil, firm, and sedate as Epicurus, and Carneades, and Zeno,
and Epictetus; or indeed in the same degree as some who were often
called forth into political and military life; Epaminondas, for
instance, and Phocion.

_Timotheus._ I pity them from my soul: they were ignorant of the
truth: they are lost, my cousin! take my word for it, they are lost
men.

_Lucian._ Unhappily, they are. I wish we had them back again; or
that, since we have lost them, we could at least find among us the
virtues they left for our example.

_Timotheus._ Alas, my poor cousin! you too are blind; you do not
understand the plainest words, nor comprehend those verities which are
the most evident and palpable. Virtues! if the poor wretches had any,
they were false ones.

_Lucian._ Scarcely ever has there been a politician, in any free
state, without much falsehood and duplicity. I have named the most
illustrious exceptions. Slender and irregular lines of a darker colour
run along the bright blade that decides the fate of nations, and may
indeed be necessary to the perfection of its temper. The great warrior
has usually his darker lines of character, necessary (it may be) to
constitute his greatness. No two men possess the same quantity of the
same virtues, if they have many or much. We want some which do not far
outstep us, and which we may follow with the hope of reaching; we want
others to elevate, and others to defend us. The order of things would
be less beautiful without this variety. Without the ebb and flow of
our passions, but guided and moderated by a beneficent light above,
the ocean of life would stagnate; and zeal, devotion, eloquence, would
become dead carcasses, collapsing and wasting on unprofitable sands.
The vices of some men cause the virtues of others, as corruption is
the parent of fertility.

_Timotheus._ O my cousin! this doctrine is diabolical.

_Lucian._ What is it?

_Timotheus._ Diabolical; a strong expression in daily use among us. We
turn it a little from its origin.

_Lucian._ Timotheus, I love to sit by the side of a clear water,
although there is nothing in it but naked stones. Do not take the
trouble to muddy the stream of language for my benefit; I am not about
to fish in it.

_Timotheus._ Well, we will speak about things which come nearer to
your apprehension. I only wish you were somewhat less indifferent in
your choice between the true and the false.

_Lucian._ We take it for granted that what is not true must be false.

_Timotheus._ Surely we do.

_Lucian._ This is erroneous.

_Timotheus._ Are you grown captious? Pray explain.

_Lucian._ What is not true, I need not say, must be untrue; but that
alone is false which is intended to deceive. A witness may be
mistaken, yet would not you call him a false witness unless he
asserted what he knew to be false.

_Timotheus._ Quibbles upon words!

_Lucian._ On words, on quibbles, if you please to call distinctions
so, rests the axis of the intellectual world. A winged word hath stuck
ineradicably in a million hearts, and envenomed every hour throughout
their hard pulsation. On a winged word hath hung the destiny of
nations. On a winged word hath human wisdom been willing to cast the
immortal soul, and to leave it dependent for all its future happiness.
It is because a word is unsusceptible of explanation, or because they
who employed it were impatient of any, that enormous evils have
prevailed, not only against our common sense, but against our common
humanity. Hence the most pernicious of absurdities, far exceeding in
folly and mischief the worship of threescore gods; namely, that an
implicit faith in what outrages our reason, which we know is God's
gift, and bestowed on us for our guidance, that this weak, blind,
stupid faith is surer of His favour than the constant practice of
every human virtue. They at whose hands one prodigious lie, such as
this, hath been accepted, may reckon on their influence in the
dissemination of many smaller, and may turn them easily to their own
account. Be sure they will do it sooner or later. The fly floats on
the surface for a while, but up springs the fish at last and swallows
it.

_Timotheus._ Was ever man so unjust as you are? The abominable old
priesthoods are avaricious and luxurious: ours is willing to stand or
fall by maintaining its ordinances of fellowship and frugality. Point
out to me a priest of our religion whom you could, by any temptation
or entreaty, so far mislead, that he shall reserve for his own
consumption one loaf, one plate of lentils, while another poor
Christian hungers. In the meanwhile the priests of Isis are proud and
wealthy, and admit none of the indigent to their tables. And now, to
tell you the whole truth, my Cousin Lucian, I come to you this morning
to propose that we should lay our heads together and compose a merry
dialogue on these said priests of Isis. What say you?

_Lucian._ These said priests of Isis have already been with me,
several times, on a similar business in regard to yours.

_Timotheus._ Malicious wretches!

_Lucian._ Beside, they have attempted to persuade me that your
religion is borrowed from theirs, altering a name a little and laying
the scene of action in a corner, in the midst of obscurity and ruins.

_Timotheus._ The wicked dogs! the hellish liars! We have nothing in
common with such vile impostors. Are they not ashamed of taking such
unfair means of lowering us in the estimation of our fellow-citizens?
And so, they artfully came to you, craving any spare jibe to throw
against us! They lie open to these weapons; we do not: we stand above
the malignity, above the strength, of man. You would do justly in
turning their own devices against them: it would be amusing to see how
they would look. If you refuse me, I am resolved to write a Dialogue
of the Dead, myself, and to introduce these hypocrites in it.

_Lucian._ Consider well first, my good Timotheus, whether you can do
any such thing with propriety; I mean to say judiciously in regard to
composition.

_Timotheus._ I always thought you generous and open-hearted, and quite
inaccessible to jealousy.

_Lucian._ Let nobody ever profess himself so much as that: for,
although he may be insensible of the disease, it lurks within him, and
only waits its season to break out. But really, my cousin, at present
I feel no symptoms: and, to prove that I am ingenuous and sincere with
you, these are my reasons for dissuasion. We believers in the Homeric
family of gods and goddesses, believe also in the locality of Tartarus
and Elysium. We entertain no doubt whatever that the passions of men
and demigods and gods are nearly the same above ground and below; and
that Achilles would dispatch his spear through the body of any shade
who would lead Briseis too far among the myrtles, or attempt to throw
the halter over the ears of any chariot horse belonging to him in the
meads of asphodel. We admit no doubt of these verities, delivered down
to us from the ages when Theseus and Hercules had descended into Hades
itself. Instead of a few stadions in a cavern, with a bank and a bower
at the end of it, under a very small portion of our diminutive Hellas,
you Christians possess the whole cavity of the earth for punishment,
and the whole convex of the sky for felicity.

_Timotheus._ Our passions are burnt out amid the fires of
purification, and our intellects are elevated to the enjoyment of
perfect intelligence.

_Lucian._ How silly then and incongruous would it be, not to say how
impious, to represent your people as no better and no wiser than they
were before, and discoursing on subjects which no longer can or ought
to concern them. Christians must think your Dialogue of the Dead no
less irreligious than their opponents think mine, and infinitely more
absurd. If indeed you are resolved on this form of composition, there
is no topic which may not, with equal facility, be discussed on
earth; and you may intersperse as much ridicule as you please, without
any fear of censure for inconsistency or irreverence. Hitherto such
writers have confined their view mostly to speculative points,
sophistic reasonings, and sarcastic interpellations.

_Timotheus._ Ha! you are always fond of throwing a little pebble at
the lofty Plato, whom we, on the contrary, are ready to receive (in a
manner) as one of ourselves.

_Lucian._ To throw pebbles is a very uncertain way of showing where
lie defects. Whenever I have mentioned him seriously, I have brought
forward, not accusations, but passages from his writings, such as no
philosopher or scholar or moralist can defend.

_Timotheus._ His doctrines are too abstruse and too sublime for you.

_Lucian._ Solon, Anaxagoras, and Epicurus, are more sublime, if truth
is sublimity.

_Timotheus._ Truth is, indeed; for God is truth.

_Lucian._ We are upon earth to learn what can be learnt upon earth,
and not to speculate on what never can be. This you, O Timotheus, may
call philosophy: to me it appears the idlest of curiosity; for every
other kind may teach us something, and may lead to more beyond. Let
men learn what benefits men; above all things, to contract their
wishes, to calm their passions, and, more especially, to dispel their
fears. Now these are to be dispelled, not by collecting clouds, but by
piercing and scattering them. In the dark we may imagine depths and
heights immeasurable, which, if a torch be carried right before us, we
find it easy to leap across. Much of what we call sublime is only the
residue of infancy, and the worst of it.

The philosophers I quoted are too capacious for schools and systems.
Without noise, without ostentation, without mystery, not quarrelsome,
not captious, not frivolous, their lives were commentaries on their
doctrine. Never evaporating into mist, never stagnating into mire,
their limpid and broad morality runs parallel with the lofty summits
of their genius.

_Timotheus._ Genius! was ever genius like Plato's?

_Lucian._ The most admired of his Dialogues, his _Banquet_, is beset
with such puerilities, deformed with such pedantry, and disgraced with
such impurity, that none but the thickest beards, and chiefly of the
philosophers and the satyrs, should bend over it. On a former occasion
he has given us a specimen of history, than which nothing in our
language is worse: here he gives us one of poetry, in honour of Love,
for which the god has taken ample vengeance on him, by perverting his
taste and feelings. The grossest of all the absurdities in this
dialogue is, attributing to Aristophanes, so much of a scoffer and so
little of a visionary, the silly notion of male and female having been
originally complete in one person, and walking circuitously. He may be
joking: who knows?

_Timotheus._ Forbear! forbear! do not call this notion a silly one:
he took it from our Holy Scriptures, but perverted it somewhat. Woman
was made from man's rib, and did not require to be cut asunder all
the way down: this is no proof of bad reasoning, but merely of
misinterpretation.

_Lucian._ If you would rather have bad reasoning, I will adduce a
little of it. Farther on, he wishes to extol the wisdom of Agathon by
attributing to him such a sentence as this:

'It is evident that Love is the most beautiful of the gods, _because_
he is the youngest of them.'

Now, even on earth, the youngest is not always the most beautiful; how
infinitely less cogent, then, is the argument when we come to speak of
the Immortals, with whom age can have no concern! There was a time
when Vulcan was the youngest of the gods: was he, also, at that time,
and for that reason, the most beautiful? Your philosopher tells us,
moreover, that 'Love is of all deities the most _liquid_; else he
never could fold himself about everything, and flow into and out of
men's souls.'

The three last sentences of Agathon's rhapsody are very harmonious,
and exhibit the finest specimen of Plato's style; but we, accustomed
as we are to hear him lauded for his poetical diction, should hold
that poem a very indifferent one which left on the mind so superficial
an impression. The garden of Academus is flowery without fragrance,
and dazzling without warmth: I am ready to dream away an hour in it
after dinner, but I think it insalutary for a night's repose. So
satisfied was Plato with his _Banquet_, that he says of himself, in
the person of Socrates, 'How can I or any one but find it difficult to
speak after a discourse so eloquent? It would have been wonderful if
the brilliancy of the sentences at the end of it, and the choice of
expression throughout, had not astonished all the auditors. I, who can
never say anything nearly so beautiful, would if possible have made my
escape, and have fairly run off for shame.' He had indeed much better
run off before he made so wretched a pun on the name of Gorgias. 'I
dreaded,' says he, 'lest Agathon, _measuring my discourse by the head
of the eloquent Gorgias, should turn me to stone_ for inability of
utterance.'

Was there ever joke more frigid? What painful twisting of unelastic
stuff! If Socrates was the wisest man in the world, it would require
another oracle to persuade us, after this, that he was the wittiest.
But surely a small share of common sense would have made him abstain
from hazarding such failures. He falls on his face in very flat and
very dry ground; and, when he gets up again, his quibbles are
well-nigh as tedious as his witticisms. However, he has the presence
of mind to throw them on the shoulders of Diotima, whom he calls a
prophetess, and who, ten years before the plague broke out in Athens,
obtained from the gods (he tells us) that delay. Ah! the gods were
doubly mischievous: they sent her first. Read her words, my cousin, as
delivered by Socrates; and if they have another plague in store for
us, you may avert it by such an act of expiation.

_Timotheus._ The world will have ended before ten years are over.

_Lucian._ Indeed!

_Timotheus._ It has been pronounced.

_Lucian._ How the threads of belief and unbelief run woven close
together in the whole web of human life! Come, come; take courage; you
will have time for your Dialogue. Enlarge the circle; enrich it with a
variety of matter, enliven it with a multitude of characters, occupy
the intellect of the thoughtful, the imagination of the lively; spread
the board with solid viands, delicate rarities, and sparkling wines;
and throw, along the whole extent of it, geniality and festal crowns.

_Timotheus._ What writer of dialogues hath ever done this, or
undertaken, or conceived, or hoped it?

_Lucian._ None whatever; yet surely you yourself may, when even your
babes and sucklings are endowed with abilities incomparably greater
than our niggardly old gods have bestowed on the very best of us.

_Timotheus._ I wish, my dear Lucian, you would let our babes and
sucklings lie quiet, and say no more about them: as for your gods, I
leave them at your mercy. Do not impose on me the performance of a
task in which Plato himself, if he had attempted it, would have
failed.

_Lucian._ No man ever detected false reasoning with more quickness;
but unluckily he called in Wit at the exposure; and Wit, I am sorry to
say, held the lowest place in his household. He sadly mistook the
qualities of his mind in attempting the facetious; or, rather, he
fancied he possessed one quality more than belonged to him. But, if he
himself had not been a worse quibbler than any whose writings are come
down to us, we might have been gratified by the exposure of wonderful
acuteness wretchedly applied. It is no small service to the community
to turn into ridicule the grave impostors, who are contending which of
them shall guide and govern us, whether in politics or religion. There
are always a few who will take the trouble to walk down among the
seaweeds and slippery stones, for the sake of showing their credulous
fellow-citizens that skins filled with sand, and set upright at the
forecastle, are neither men nor merchandise.

_Timotheus._ I can bring to mind, O Lucian, no writer possessing so
great a variety of wit as you.

_Lucian._ No man ever possessed any variety of this gift; and the
holder is not allowed to exchange the quality for another. Banter (and
such is Plato's) never grows large, never sheds its bristles, and
never do they soften into the humorous or the facetious.

_Timotheus._ I agree with you that banter is the worst species of wit.
We have indeed no correct idea what persons those really were whom
Plato drags by the ears, to undergo slow torture under Socrates. One
sophist, I must allow, is precisely like another: no discrimination of
character, none of manner, none of language.

_Lucian._ He wanted the fancy and fertility of Aristophanes.

_Timotheus._ Otherwise, his mind was more elevated and more poetical.

_Lucian._ Pardon me if I venture to express my dissent in both
particulars. Knowledge of the human heart, and discrimination of
character, are requisites of the poet. Few ever have possessed them in
an equal degree with Aristophanes: Plato has given no indication of
either.

_Timotheus._ But consider his imagination.

_Lucian._ On what does it rest? He is nowhere so imaginative as in his
_Polity_. Nor is there any state in the world that is, or would be,
governed by it. One day you may find him at his counter in the midst
of old-fashioned toys, which crack and crumble under his fingers while
he exhibits and recommends them; another day, while he is sitting on a
goat's bladder, I may discover his bald head surmounting an enormous
mass of loose chaff and uncleanly feathers, which he would persuade
you is the pleasantest and healthiest of beds, and that dreams descend
on it from the gods.

      'Open your mouth, and shut your eyes, and see what Zeus shall
          send you,'

says Aristophanes in his favourite metre. In this helpless condition
of closed optics and hanging jaw, we find the followers of Plato. It
is by shutting their eyes that they see, and by opening their mouths
that they apprehend. Like certain broad-muzzled dogs, all stand
equally stiff and staunch, although few scent the game, and their lips
wag, and water, at whatever distance from the net. We must leave them
with their hands hanging down before them, confident that they are
wiser than we are, were it only for this attitude of humility. It is
amusing to see them in it before the tall, well-robed Athenian, while
he mis-spells the charms, and plays clumsily the tricks, he acquired
from the conjurors here in Egypt. I wish you better success with the
same materials. But in my opinion all philosophers should speak
clearly. The highest things are the purest and brightest; and the best
writers are those who render them the most intelligible to the world
below. In the arts and sciences, and particularly in music and
metaphysics, this is difficult: but the subjects not being such as lie
within the range of the community, I lay little stress upon them, and
wish authors to deal with them as they best may, only beseeching that
they recompense us, by bringing within our comprehension the other
things with which they are entrusted for us. The followers of Plato
fly off indignantly from any such proposal. If I ask them the meaning
of some obscure passage, they answer that I am unprepared and unfitted
for it, and that his mind is so far above mine, I cannot grasp it. I
look up into the faces of these worthy men, who mingle so much
commiseration with so much calmness, and wonder at seeing them look no
less vacant than my own.

_Timotheus._ You have acknowledged his eloquence, while you derided
his philosophy and repudiated his morals.

_Lucian._ Certainly there was never so much eloquence with so little
animation. When he has heated his oven, he forgets to put the bread
into it; instead of which, he throws in another bundle of faggots. His
words and sentences are often too large for the place they occupy. If
a water-melon is not to be placed in an oyster-shell, neither is a
grain of millet in a golden salver. At high festivals a full band may
enter: ordinary conversation goes on better without it.

_Timotheus._ There is something so spiritual about him, that many of
us Christians are firmly of opinion he must have been partially
enlightened from above.

_Lucian._ I hope and believe we all are. His entire works are in our
library. Do me the favour to point out to me a few of those passages
where in poetry he approaches the spirit of Aristophanes, or where in
morals he comes up to Epictetus.

_Timotheus._ It is useless to attempt it if you carry your prejudices
with you. Beside, my dear cousin, I would not offend you, but really
your mind has no point about it which could be brought to contact or
affinity with Plato's.

_Lucian._ In the universality of his genius there must surely be some
atom coincident with another in mine. You acknowledge, as everybody
must do, that his wit is the heaviest and lowest: pray, is the
specimen he has given us of history at all better?

_Timotheus._ I would rather look to the loftiness of his mind, and the
genius that sustains him.

_Lucian._ So would I. Magnificent words, and the pomp and procession
of stately sentences, may accompany genius, but are not always nor
frequently called out by it. The voice ought not to be perpetually nor
much elevated in the ethic and didactic, nor to roll sonorously, as if
it issued from a mask in the theatre. The horses in the plain under
Troy are not always kicking and neighing; nor is the dust always
raised in whirlwinds on the banks of Simois and Scamander; nor are the
rampires always in a blaze. Hector has lowered his helmet to the
infant of Andromache, and Achilles to the embraces of Briseis. I do
not blame the prose-writer who opens his bosom occasionally to a
breath of poetry; neither, on the contrary, can I praise the gait of
that pedestrian who lifts up his legs as high on a bare heath as in a
cornfield. Be authority as old and obstinate as it may, never let it
persuade you that a man is the stronger for being unable to keep
himself on the ground, or the weaker for breathing quietly and softly
on ordinary occasions. Tell me, over and over, that you find every
great quality in Plato: let me only once ask you in return, whether he
ever is ardent and energetic, whether he wins the affections, whether
he agitates the heart. Finding him deficient in every one of these
faculties, I think his disciples have extolled him too highly. Where
power is absent, we may find the robes of genius, but we miss the
throne. He would acquit a slave who killed another in self-defence,
but if he killed any free man, even in self-defence; he was not only
to be punished with death, but to undergo the cruel death of a
parricide. This effeminate philosopher was more severe than the manly
Demosthenes, who quotes a law against the striking of a slave: and
Diogenes, when one ran away from him, remarked that it would be
horrible if Diogenes could not do without a slave, when a slave could
do without Diogenes.

_Timotheus._ Surely the allegories of Plato are evidences of his
genius.

_Lucian._ A great poet in the hours of his idleness may indulge in
allegory: but the highest poetical character will never rest on so
unsubstantial a foundation. The poet must take man from God's hands,
must look into every fibre of his heart and brain, must be able to
take the magnificent work to pieces, and to reconstruct it. When this
labour is completed, let him throw himself composedly on the earth,
and care little how many of its ephemeral insects creep over him. In
regard to these allegories of Plato, about which I have heard so much,
pray what and where are they? You hesitate, my fair cousin Timotheus!
Employ one morning in transcribing them, and another in noting all the
passages which are of practical utility in the commerce of social
life, or purify our affections at home, or excite and elevate our
enthusiasm in the prosperity and glory of our country. Useful books,
moral books, instructive books are easily composed: and surely so
great a writer should present them to us without blot or blemish: I
find among his many volumes no copy of a similar composition. My
enthusiasm is not easily raised indeed; yet such a whirlwind of a poet
must carry it away with him; nevertheless, here I stand, calm and
collected, not a hair of my beard in commotion. Declamation will find
its echo in vacant places: it beats ineffectually on the
well-furnished mind. Give me proof; bring the work; show the passages;
convince, confound, overwhelm me.

_Timotheus._ I may do that another time with Plato. And yet, what
effect can I hope to produce on an unhappy man who doubts even that
the world is on the point of extinction?

_Lucian._ Are there many of your association who believe that this
catastrophe is so near at hand?

_Timotheus._ We all believe it; or rather, we all are certain of it.

_Lucian._ How so? Have you observed any fracture in the disk of the
sun? Are any of the stars loosened in their orbits? Has the beautiful
light of Venus ceased to pant in the heavens, or has the belt of Orion
lost its gems?

_Timotheus._ Oh, for shame!

_Lucian._ Rather should I be ashamed of indifference on so important
an occasion.

_Timotheus._ We know the fact by surer signs.

_Lucian._ These, if you could vouch for them, would be sure enough for
me. The least of them would make me sweat as profusely as if I stood
up to the neck in the hot preparation of a mummy. Surely no wise or
benevolent philosopher could ever have uttered what he knew or
believed might be distorted into any such interpretation. For if men
are persuaded that they and their works are so soon about to perish,
what provident care are they likely to take in the education and
welfare of their families? What sciences will they improve, what
learning will they cultivate, what monuments of past ages will they be
studious to preserve, who are certain that there can be no future
ones? Poetry will be censured as rank profaneness, eloquence will be
converted into howls and execrations, statuary will exhibit only
Midases and Ixions, and all the colours of painting will be mixed
together to produce one grand conflagration: _flammantia moenia
mundi_.

_Timotheus._ Do not quote an atheist; especially in Latin. I hate the
language; the Romans are beginning to differ from us already.

_Lucian._ Ah! you will soon split into smaller fractions. But pardon
me my unusual fault of quoting. Before I let fall a quotation I must
be taken by surprise. I seldom do it in conversation, seldomer in
composition; for it mars the beauty and unity of style, especially
when it invades it from a foreign tongue. A quoter is either
ostentatious of his acquirements or doubtful of his cause. And
moreover, he never walks gracefully who leans upon the shoulder of
another, however gracefully that other may walk. Herodotus, Plato,
Aristoteles, Demosthenes, are no quoters. Thucydides, twice or thrice,
inserts a few sentences of Pericles: but Thucydides is an emanation of
Pericles, somewhat less clear indeed, being lower, although at no
great distance from that purest and most pellucid source. The best of
the Romans, I agree with you, are remote from such originals, if not
in power of mind, or in acuteness of remark, or in sobriety of
judgment, yet in the graces of composition. While I admired, with a
species of awe such as not Homer himself ever impressed me with, the
majesty and sanctimony of Livy, I have been informed by learned Romans
that in the structure of his sentences he is often inharmonious, and
sometimes uncouth. I can imagine such uncouthness in the goddess of
battles, confident of power and victory, when part of her hair is
waving round the helmet, loosened by the rapidity of her descent or
the vibration of her spear. Composition may be too adorned even for
beauty. In painting it is often requisite to cover a bright colour
with one less bright; and, in language, to relieve the ear from the
tension of high notes, even at the cost of a discord. There are urns
of which the borders are too prominent and too decorated for use, and
which appear to be brought out chiefly for state, at grand carousals.
The author who imitates the artificers of these, shall never have my
custom.

_Timotheus._ I think you judge rightly: but I do not understand
languages: I only understand religion.

_Lucian._ He must be a most accomplished, a most extraordinary man,
who comprehends them both together. We do not even talk clearly when
we are walking in the dark.

_Timotheus._ Thou art not merely walking in the dark, but fast asleep.

_Lucian._ And thou, my cousin, wouldst kindly awaken me with a red-hot
poker. I have but a few paces to go along the corridor of life:
prithee let me turn into my bed again and lie quiet. Never was any man
less an enemy to religion than I am, whatever may be said to the
contrary: and you shall judge of me by the soundness of my advice. If
your leaders are in earnest, as many think, do persuade them to
abstain from quarrelsomeness and contention, and not to declare it
necessary that there should perpetually be a religious as well as a
political war between east and west. No honest and considerate man
will believe in their doctrines, who, inculcating peace and good-will,
continue all the time to assail their fellow-citizens with the utmost
rancour at every divergency of opinion, and, forbidding the indulgence
of the kindlier affections, exercise at full stretch the fiercer. This
is certain: if they obey any commander, they will never sound a charge
when his order is to sound a retreat: if they acknowledge any
magistrate, they will never tear down the tablet of his edicts.

_Timotheus._ We have what is all-sufficient.

_Lucian._ I see you have.

_Timotheus._ You have ridiculed all religion and all philosophy.

_Lucian._ I have found but little of either. I have cracked many a
nut, and have come only to dust or maggots.

_Timotheus._ To say nothing of the saints, are all philosophers fools
or impostors? And, because you cannot rise to the ethereal heights of
Plato, nor comprehend the real magnitude of a man so much above you,
must he be a dwarf?

_Lucian._ The best sight is not that which sees best in the dark or
the twilight; for no objects are then visible in their true colours,
and just proportions; but it is that which presents to us things as
they are, and indicates what is within our reach and what is beyond
it. Never were any three writers, of high celebrity, so little
understood in the main character, as Plato, Diogenes, and Epicurus.
Plato is a perfect master of logic and rhetoric; and whenever he errs
in either, as I have proved to you he does occasionally, he errs
through perverseness, not through unwariness. His language often
settles into clear and most beautiful prose, often takes an imperfect
and incoherent shape of poetry, and often, cloud against cloud, bursts
with a vehement detonation in the air. Diogenes was hated both by the
vulgar and the philosophers. By the philosophers, because he exposed
their ignorance, ridiculed their jealousies, and rebuked their pride:
by the vulgar, because they never can endure a man apparently of their
own class who avoids their society and partakes in none of their
humours, prejudices, and animosities. What right has he to be greater
or better than they are? he who wears older clothes, who eats staler
fish, and possesses no vote to imprison or banish anybody. I am now
ashamed that I mingled in the rabble, and that I could not resist the
childish mischief of smoking him in his tub. He was the wisest man of
his time, not excepting Aristoteles; for he knew that he was greater
than Philip or Alexander. Aristoteles did not know that he himself
was, or knowing it, did not act up to his knowledge; and here is a
deficiency of wisdom.

_Timotheus._ Whether you did or did not strike the cask, Diogenes
would have closed his eyes equally. He would never have come forth and
seen the truth, had it shone upon the world in that day. But,
intractable as was this recluse, Epicurus, I fear, is quite as
lamentable. What horrible doctrines!

_Lucian._ Enjoy, said he, the pleasant walks where you are: repose and
eat gratefully the fruit that falls into your bosom: do not weary your
feet with an excursion, at the end whereof you will find no
resting-place: reject not the odour of roses for the fumes of pitch
and sulphur. What horrible doctrines!

_Timotheus._ Speak seriously. He was much too bad for ridicule.

_Lucian._ I will then speak as you desire me, seriously. His smile
was so unaffected and so graceful, that I should have thought it very
injudicious to set my laugh against it. No philosopher ever lived with
such uniform purity, such abstinence from censoriousness, from
controversy, from jealousy, and from arrogance.

_Timotheus._ Ah, poor mortal! I pity him, as far as may be; he is in
hell: it would be wicked to wish him out: we are not to murmur against
the all-wise dispensations.

_Lucian._ I am sure he would not; and it is therefore I hope he is
more comfortable than you believe.

_Timotheus._ Never have I defiled my fingers, and never will I defile
them, by turning over his writings. But in regard to Plato, I can have
no objection to take your advice.

_Lucian._ He will reward your assiduity: but he will assist you very
little if you consult him principally (and eloquence for this should
principally be consulted) to strengthen your humanity. Grandiloquent
and sonorous, his lungs seem to play the better for the absence of the
heart. His imagination is the most conspicuous, buoyed up by swelling
billows over unsounded depths. There are his mild thunders, there are
his glowing clouds, his traversing coruscations, and his shooting
stars. More of true wisdom, more of trustworthy manliness, more of
promptitude and power to keep you steady and straightforward on the
perilous road of life, may be found in the little manual of Epictetus,
which I could write in the palm of my left hand, than there is in all
the rolling and redundant volumes of this mighty rhetorician, which
you may begin to transcribe on the summit of the Great Pyramid, carry
down over the Sphinx at the bottom, and continue on the sands half-way
to Memphis. And indeed the materials are appropriate; one part being
far above our sight, and the other on what, by the most befitting
epithet, Homer calls the _no-corn-bearing_.

_Timotheus._ There are many who will stand against you on this ground.

_Lucian._ With what perfect ease and fluency do some of the dullest
men in existence toss over and discuss the most elaborate of all
works! How many myriads of such creatures would be insufficient to
furnish intellect enough for any single paragraph in them! Yet '_we
think this_', '_we advise that_', are expressions now become so
customary, that it would be difficult to turn them into ridicule. We
must pull the creatures out while they are in the very act, and show
who and what they are. One of these fellows said to Caius Fuscus in my
hearing, that there was a time when it was permitted him to doubt
occasionally on particular points of criticism, but that the time was
now over.

_Timotheus._ And what did you think of such arrogance? What did you
reply to such impertinence?

_Lucian._ Let me answer one question at a time. First: I thought him a
legitimate fool, of the purest breed. Secondly: I promised him I would
always be contented with the judgment he had rejected, leaving him and
his friends in the enjoyment of the rest.

_Timotheus._ And what said he?

_Lucian._ I forget. He seemed pleased at my acknowledgment of his
discrimination, at my deference and delicacy. He wished, however, I
had studied Plato, Xenophon, and Cicero, more attentively; without
which preparatory discipline, no two persons could be introduced
advantageously into a dialogue. I agreed with him on this position,
remarking that we ourselves were at that very time giving our sentence
on the fact. He suggested a slight mistake on my side, and expressed a
wish that he were conversing with a writer able to sustain the
opposite part. With his experience and skill in rhetoric, his long
habitude of composition, his knowledge of life, of morals, and of
character, he should be less verbose than Cicero, less gorgeous than
Plato, and less trimly attired than Xenophon.

_Timotheus._ If he spoke in that manner, he might indeed be ridiculed
for conceitedness and presumption, but his language is not altogether
a fool's.

_Lucian._ I deliver his sentiments, not his words: for who would read,
or who would listen to me, if such fell from me as from him? Poetry
has its probabilities, so has prose: when people cry out against the
representation of a dullard, _Could he have spoken all that?_
'Certainly no,' is the reply: neither did Priam implore, in harmonious
verse, the pity of Achilles. We say only what might be said, when
great postulates are conceded.

_Timotheus._ We will pretermit these absurd and silly men: but, Cousin
Lucian! Cousin Lucian! the name of Plato will be durable as that of
Sesostris.

_Lucian._ So will the pebbles and bricks which gangs of slaves erected
into a pyramid. I do not hold Sesostris in much higher estimation than
those quieter lumps of matter. They, O Timotheus, who survive the
wreck of ages, are by no means, as a body, the worthiest of our
admiration. It is in these wrecks, as in those at sea, the best things
are not always saved. Hen-coops and empty barrels bob upon the
surface, under a serene and smiling sky, when the graven or depicted
images of the gods are scattered on invisible rocks, and when those
who most resemble them in knowledge and beneficence are devoured by
cold monsters below.

_Timotheus._ You now talk reasonably, seriously, almost religiously.
Do you ever pray?

_Lucian._ I do. It was no longer than five years ago that I was
deprived by death of my dog Melanops. He had uniformly led an innocent
life; for I never would let him walk out with me, lest he should bring
home in his mouth the remnant of some god or other, and at last get
bitten or stung by one. I reminded Anubis of this: and moreover I told
him, what he ought to be aware of, that Melanops did honour to his
relationship.

_Timotheus._ I cannot ever call it piety to pray for dumb and dead
beasts.

_Lucian._ Timotheus! Timotheus! have you no heart? have you no dog? do
you always pray only for yourself?

_Timotheus._ We do not believe that dogs can live again.

_Lucian._ More shame for you! If they enjoy and suffer, if they hope
and fear, if calamities and wrongs befall them, such as agitate their
hearts and excite their apprehensions; if they possess the option of
being grateful or malicious, and choose the worthier; if they exercise
the same sound judgment on many other occasions, some for their own
benefit and some for the benefit of their masters, they have as good a
chance of a future life, and a better chance of a happy one, than half
the priests of all the religions in the world. Wherever there is the
choice of doing well or ill, and that choice (often against a first
impulse) decides for well, there must not only be a soul of the same
nature as man's, although of less compass and comprehension, but,
being of the same nature, the same immortality must appertain to it;
for spirit, like body, may change, but cannot be annihilated.

It was among the prejudices of former times that pigs are uncleanly
animals, and fond of wallowing in the mire for mire's sake. Philosophy
has now discovered that when they roll in mud and ordure, it is only
from an excessive love of cleanliness, and a vehement desire to rid
themselves of scabs and vermin. Unfortunately, doubts keep pace with
discoveries. They are like warts, of which the blood that springs from
a great one extirpated, makes twenty little ones.

_Timotheus._ The Hydra would be a more noble simile.

_Lucian._ I was indeed about to illustrate my position by the old
Hydra, so ready at hand and so tractable; but I will never take hold
of a hydra, when a wart will serve my turn.

_Timotheus._ Continue then.

_Lucian._ Even children are now taught, in despite of Aesop, that
animals never spoke. The uttermost that can be advanced with any show
of confidence is, that if they spoke at all, they spoke in unknown
tongues. Supposing the fact, is this a reason why they should not be
respected? Quite the contrary. If the tongues were unknown, it tends
to demonstrate _our_ ignorance, not _theirs_. If we could not
understand them, while they possessed the gift, here is no proof that
they did not speak to the purpose, but only that it was not to _our_
purpose; which may likewise be said with equal certainty of the wisest
men that ever existed. How little have we learned from them, for the
conduct of life or the avoidance of calamity! Unknown tongues, indeed!
yes, so are all tongues to the vulgar and the negligent.

_Timotheus._ It comforts me to hear you talk in this manner, without a
glance at our gifts and privileges.

_Lucian._ I am less incredulous than you suppose, my cousin! Indeed I
have been giving you what ought to be a sufficient proof of it.

_Timotheus._ You have spoken with becoming gravity, I must confess.

_Lucian._ Let me then submit to your judgment some fragments of
history which have lately fallen into my hands. There is among them a
_hymn_, of which the metre is so incondite, and the phraseology so
ancient, that the grammarians have attributed it to Linus. But the
hymn will interest you less, and is less to our purpose, than the
tradition; by which it appears that certain priests of high antiquity
were of the brute creation.

_Timotheus._ No better, any of them.

_Lucian._ Now you have polished the palms of your hands, I will
commence my narrative from the manuscript.

_Timotheus._ Pray do.

_Lucian._ There existed in the city of Nephosis a fraternity of
priests, reverenced by the appellation of _Gasteres_. It is reported
that they were not always of their present form, but were birds
aquatic and migratory, a species of cormorant. The poet Linus, who
lived nearer the transformation (if there indeed was any), sings thus,
in his Hymn to Zeus:

'Thy power is manifest, O Zeus! in the Gasteres. Wild birds were they,
strong of talon, clanging of wing, and clamorous of gullet. Wild
birds, O Zeus! wild birds; now cropping the tender grass by the river
of Adonis, and breaking the nascent reed at the root, and depasturing
the sweet nymphaea; now again picking up serpents and other creeping
things on each hand of old Aegyptos, whose head is hidden in the
clouds.

'Oh that Mnemosyne would command the staidest of her three daughters
to stand and sing before me! to sing clearly and strongly. How before
thy throne, Saturnian! sharp voices arose, even the voices of Heré and
of thy children. How they cried out that innumerable mortal men,
various-tongued, kid-roasters in tent and tabernacle, devising in
their many-turning hearts and thoughtful minds how to fabricate
well-rounded spits of beech-tree, how such men having been changed
into brute animals, it behoved thee to trim the balance, and in thy
wisdom to change sundry brute animals into men; in order that they
might pour out flame-coloured wine unto thee, and sprinkle the white
flower of the sea upon the thighs of many bulls, to pleasure thee.
Then didst thou, O storm-driver! overshadow far lands with thy dark
eyebrows, looking down on them, to accomplish thy will. And then didst
thou behold the Gasteres, fat, tall, prominent-crested, purple-legged,
daedal-plumed, white and black, changeable in colour as Iris. And lo!
thou didst will it, and they were men.'

_Timotheus._ No doubt whatever can be entertained of this hymn's
antiquity. But what farther says the historian?

_Lucian._ I will read on, to gratify you.

'It is recorded that this ancient order of a most lordly priesthood
went through many changes of customs and ceremonies, which indeed they
were always ready to accommodate to the maintenance of their authority
and the enjoyment of their riches. It is recorded that, in the
beginning, they kept various tame animals, and some wild ones, within
the precincts of the temple: nevertheless, after a time, they applied
to their own uses everything they could lay their hands on, whatever
might have been the vow of those who came forward with the offering.
And when it was expected of them to make sacrifices, they not only
would make none, but declared it an act of impiety to expect it. Some
of the people, who feared the Immortals, were dismayed and indignant
at this backwardness; and the discontent at last grew universal.
Whereupon, the two chief priests held a long conference together, and
agreed that something must be done to pacify the multitude. But it was
not until the greater of them, acknowledging his despondency, called
on the gods to answer for him that his grief was only because he never
could abide bad precedents: and the other, on his side, protested that
he was overruled by his superior, and moreover had a serious
objection (founded on principle) to be knocked on the head. Meanwhile
the elder was looking down on the folds of his robe, in deep
melancholy. After long consideration, he sprang upon his feet, pushing
his chair behind him, and said, "Well, it is grown old, and was always
too long for me: I am resolved to cut off a finger's breadth."

'"Having, in your wisdom and piety, well contemplated the bad
precedent," said the other, with much consternation in his countenance
at seeing so elastic a spring in a heel by no means bearing any
resemblance to a stag's.... "I have, I have," replied the other,
interrupting him; "say no more; I am sick at heart; you must do the
same."

'"A cursed dog has torn a hole in mine," answered the other, "and, if
I cut anywhere about it, I only make bad worse. In regard to its
length, I wish it were as long again." "Brother! brother! never be
worldly-minded," said the senior. "Follow my example: snip off it not
a finger's breadth, half a finger's breadth."

'"But," expostulated the other, "will that satisfy the gods?" "Who
talked about them?" placidly said the senior. "It is very unbecoming
to have them always in our mouths: surely there are appointed times
for them. Let us be contented with laying the snippings on the altar,
and thus showing the people our piety and condescension. They, and the
gods also, will be just as well satisfied, as if we offered up a
buttock of beef, with a bushel of salt and the same quantity of
wheaten flour on it."

'"Well, if that will do ... and you know best," replied the other, "so
be it." Saying which words, he carefully and considerately snipped off
as much in proportion (for he was shorter by an inch) as the elder had
done, yet leaving on his shoulders quite enough of materials to make
handsome cloaks for seven or eight stout-built generals. Away they
both went, arm-in-arm, and then holding up their skirts a great deal
higher than was necessary, told the gods what they two had been doing
for them and their glory. About the court of the temple the sacred
swine were lying in indolent composure: seeing which, the brotherly
twain began to commune with themselves afresh: and the senior said
repentantly, "What fools we have been! The populace will laugh
outright at the curtailment of our vestures, but would gladly have
seen these animals eat daily a quarter less of the lentils." The words
were spoken so earnestly and emphatically that they were overheard by
the quadrupeds. Suddenly there was a rising of all the principal ones
in the sacred enclosure: and many that were in the streets took up,
each according to his temperament and condition, the gravest or
shrillest tone of reprobation. The thinner and therefore the more
desperate of the creatures, pushing their snouts under the curtailed
habiliments of the high priests, assailed them with ridicule and
reproach. For it had pleased the gods to work a miracle in their
behoof, and they became as loquacious as those who governed them, and
who were appointed to speak in the high places. "Let the worst come to
the worst, we at least have our tails to our hams," said they. "For
how long?" whined others, piteously: others incessantly ejaculated
tremendous imprecations: others, more serious and sedate, groaned
inwardly; and, although under their hearts there lay a huge mass of
indigestible sourness ready to rise up against the chief priests, they
ventured no farther than expostulation. "We shall lose our voices,"
said they, "if we lose our complement of lentils; and then, most
reverend lords, what will ye do for choristers?" Finally, one of grand
dimensions, who seemed almost half-human, imposed silence on every
debater. He lay stretched out apart from his brethren, covering with
his side the greater portion of a noble dunghill, and all its verdure
native and imported. He crushed a few measures of peascods to cool his
tusks; then turned his pleasurable longitudinal eyes far toward the
outer extremities of their sockets, and leered fixedly and
sarcastically at the high priests, showing every tooth in each jaw.
Other men might have feared them; the high priests envied them, seeing
what order they were in, and what exploits they were capable of. A
great painter, who flourished many olympiads ago, has, in his volume
entitled the _Canon_, defined the line of beauty. It was here in its
perfection: it followed with winning obsequiousness every member, but
delighted more especially to swim along that placid and pliant
curvature on which Nature had ranged the implements of mastication.
Pawing with his cloven hoof, he suddenly changed his countenance from
the contemplative to the wrathful. At one effort he rose up to his
whole length, breadth, and height: and they who had never seen him in
earnest, nor separate from the common swine of the enclosure, with
which he was in the habit of husking what was thrown to him, could
form no idea what a prodigious beast he was. Terrible were the
expressions of choler and comminations which burst forth from his
fulminating tusks. Erimanthus would have hidden his puny offspring
before them; and Hercules would have paused at the encounter. Thrice
he called aloud to the high priests: thrice he swore in their own
sacred language that they were a couple of thieves and impostors:
thrice he imprecated the worst maledictions on his own head if they
had not violated the holiest of their vows, and were not ready even to
sell their gods. A tremor ran throughout the whole body of the united
swine; so awful was the adjuration! Even the Gasteres themselves in
some sort shuddered, not perhaps altogether at the solemn tone of its
impiety; for they had much experience in these matters. But among them
was a Gaster who was calmer than the swearer, and more prudent and
conciliating than those he swore against. Hearing this objurgation, he
went blandly up to the sacred porker, and, lifting the flap of his
right ear between forefinger and thumb with all delicacy and
gentleness, thus whispered into it: "You do not in your heart believe
that any of us are such fools as to sell our gods, at least while we
have such a reserve to fall back upon."

'"Are we to be devoured?" cried the noble porker, twitching his ear
indignantly from under the hand of the monitor. "Hush!" said he,
laying it again, most soothingly, rather farther from the tusks:
"hush! sweet friend! Devoured? Oh, certainly not: that is to say, not
_all_: or, if all, not all at once. Indeed the holy men my brethren
may perhaps be contented with taking a little blood from each of you,
entirely for the advantage of your health and activity, and merely to
compose a few slender black-puddings for the inferior monsters of the
temple, who latterly are grown very exacting, and either are, or
pretend to be, hungry after they have eaten a whole handful of acorns,
swallowing I am ashamed to say what a quantity of water to wash them
down. We do not grudge them it, as they well know: but they appear to
have forgotten how recently no inconsiderable portion of this bounty
has been conferred. If we, as they object to us, eat more, they ought
to be aware that it is by no means for our gratification, since we
have abjured it before the gods, but to maintain the dignity of the
priesthood, and to exhibit the beauty and utility of subordination."

'The noble porker had beaten time with his muscular tail at many of
these periods; but again his heart panted visibly, and he could bear
no more.

'"All this for our good! for our activity! for our health! Let us
alone: we have health enough; we want no activity. Let us alone, I say
again, or by the Immortals!..." "Peace, my son! Your breath is
valuable: evidently you have but little to spare: and what mortal
knows how soon the gods may demand the last of it?"

'At the beginning of this exhortation, the worthy high priest had
somewhat repressed the ebullient choler of his refractory and
pertinacious disciple, by applying his flat soft palm to the
signet-formed extremity of the snout.

'"We are ready to hear complaints at all times," added he, "and to
redress any grievance at our own. But beyond a doubt, if you continue
to raise your abominable outcries, some of the people are likely to
hit upon two discoveries: first that your lentils would be sufficient
to make daily for every poor family a good wholesome porridge; and
secondly, that your flesh, properly cured, might hang up nicely
against the forthcoming bean-season." Pondering these mighty words,
the noble porker kept his eyes fixed upon him for some instants, then
leaned forward dejectedly, then tucked one foot under him, then
another, cautious to descend with dignity. At last he grunted (it must
for ever be ambiguous whether with despondency or with resignation),
pushed his wedgy snout far within the straw subjacent, and sank into
that repose which is granted to the just.'

_Timotheus._ Cousin! there are glimmerings of truth and wisdom in
sundry parts of this discourse, not unlike little broken shells
entangled in dark masses of seaweed. But I would rather you had
continued to adduce fresh arguments to demonstrate the beneficence of
the Deity, proving (if you could) that our horses and dogs, faithful
servants and companions to us, and often treated cruelly, may
recognize us hereafter, and we them. We have no authority for any such
belief.

_Lucian._ We have authority for thinking and doing whatever is humane.
Speaking of humanity, it now occurs to me, I have heard a report that
some well-intentioned men of your religion so interpret the words or
wishes of its Founder, they would abolish slavery throughout the
empire.

_Timotheus._ Such deductions have been drawn indeed from our Master's
doctrine: but the saner part of us receive it metaphorically, and
would only set men free from the bonds of sin. For if domestic slaves
were manumitted, we should neither have a dinner dressed nor a bed
made, unless by our own children: and as to labour in the fields, who
would cultivate them in this hot climate? We must import slaves from
Ethiopia and elsewhere, wheresoever they can be procured: but the
hardship lies not on them; it lies on us, and bears heavily; for we
must first buy them with our money, and then feed them; and not only
must we maintain them while they are hale and hearty and can serve us,
but likewise in sickness and (unless we can sell them for a trifle) in
decrepitude. Do not imagine, my cousin, that we are no better than
enthusiasts, visionaries, subverters of order, and ready to roll
society down into one flat surface.

_Lucian._ I thought you were maligned: I said so.

_Timotheus._ When the subject was discussed in our congregation, the
meaner part of the people were much in favour of the abolition: but
the chief priests and ministers absented themselves, and gave no vote
at all, deeming it secular, and saying that in such matters the laws
and customs of the country ought to be observed.

_Lucian._ Several of these chief priests and ministers are robed in
purple and fine linen, and fare sumptuously every day.

_Timotheus._ I have hopes of you now.

_Lucian._ Why so suddenly?

_Timotheus._ Because you have repeated those blessed words, which are
only to be found in our Scriptures.

_Lucian._ There indeed I found them. But I also found in the same
volume words of the same speaker, declaring that the rich shall never
see His face in heaven.

_Timotheus._ He does not always mean what you think He does.

_Lucian._ How is this? Did He then direct His discourses to none but
men more intelligent than I am?

_Timotheus._ Unless He gave you understanding for the occasion, they
might mislead you.

_Lucian._ Indeed!

_Timotheus._ Unquestionably. For instance, He tells us to take no heed
of to-morrow: He tells us to share equally all our worldly goods: but
we know that we cannot be respected unless we bestow due care on our
possessions, and that not only the vulgar but the well-educated esteem
us in proportion to the gifts of fortune.

_Lucian._ The eclectic philosophy is most flourishing among you
Christians. You take whatever suits your appetites, and reject the
rest.

_Timotheus._ We are not half so rich as the priests of Isis. Give us
their possessions; and we will not sit idle as they do, but be able
and ready to do incalculable good to our fellow-creatures.

_Lucian._ I have never seen great possessions excite to great
alacrity. Usually they enfeeble the sympathies, and often overlie and
smother them.

_Timotheus._ Our religion is founded less on sympathies than on
miracles. Cousin! you smile most when you ought to be most serious.

_Lucian._ I was smiling at the thought of one whom I would recommend
to your especial notice, as soon as you disinherit the priests of
Isis. He may perhaps be refractory; for he pretends (the knave!) to
work miracles.

_Timotheus._ Impostor! who is he?

_Lucian._ Aulus of Pelusium. Idle and dissolute, he never gained
anything honestly but a scourging, if indeed he ever made, what he
long merited, this acquisition. Unable to run into debt where he was
known, he came over to Alexandria.

_Timotheus._ I know him: I know him well. Here, of his own accord, he
has betaken himself to a new and regular life.

_Lucian._ He will presently wear it out, or make it sit easier on his
shoulders. My metaphor brings me to my story. Having nothing to carry
with him beside an empty valise, he resolved on filling it with
something, however worthless, lest, seeing his utter destitution, and
hopeless of payment, a receiver of lodgers should refuse to admit him
into the hostelry. Accordingly, he went to a tailor's, and began to
joke about his poverty. Nothing is more apt to bring people into good
humour; for, if they are poor themselves, they enjoy the pleasure of
discovering that others are no better off; and, if not poor, there is
the consciousness of superiority.

'The favour I am about to ask of a man so wealthy and so liberal as
you are,' said Aulus, 'is extremely small: you can materially serve
me, without the slightest loss, hazard, or inconvenience. In few
words, my valise is empty: and to some ears an empty valise is louder
and more discordant than a bagpipe: I cannot say I like the sound of
it myself. Give me all the shreds and snippings you can spare me. They
will feel like clothes; not exactly so to me and my person, but to
those who are inquisitive, and who may be importunate.'

The tailor laughed, and distended both arms of Aulus with his
munificence. Soon was the valise well filled and rammed down. Plenty
of boys were in readiness to carry it to the boat. Aulus waved them
off, looking at some angrily, at others suspiciously. Boarding the
skiff, he lowered his treasure with care and caution, staggering a
little at the weight, and shaking it gently on deck, with his ear
against it: and then, finding all safe and compact, he sat on it; but
as tenderly as a pullet on her first eggs. When he was landed, his
care was even greater, and whoever came near him was warned off with
loud vociferations. Anxiously as the other passengers were invited by
the innkeepers to give their houses the preference, Aulus was
importuned most: the others were only beset; he was borne off in
triumphant captivity. He ordered a bedroom, and carried his valise
with him; he ordered a bath, and carried with him his valise. He
started up from the company at dinner, struck his forehead, and cried
out, 'Where is my valise?' 'We are honest men here,' replied the host.
'You have left it, sir, in your chamber: where else indeed should you
leave it?'

'Honesty is seated on your brow,' exclaimed Aulus; 'but there are few
to be trusted in the world we live in. I now believe I can eat.' And
he gave a sure token of the belief that was in him, not without a
start now and then and a finger at his ear, as if he heard somebody
walking in the direction of his bedchamber. Now began his first
miracle: for now he contrived to pick up, from time to time, a little
money. In the presence of his host and fellow-lodgers, he threw a few
obols, negligently and indifferently, among the beggars. 'These poor
creatures,' said he, 'know a new-comer as well as the gnats do: in one
half-hour I am half ruined by them; and this daily.'

Nearly a month had elapsed since his arrival, and no account of board
and lodging had been delivered or called for. Suspicion at length
arose in the host whether he really was rich. When another man's
honesty is doubted, the doubter's is sometimes in jeopardy. The host
was tempted to unsew the valise. To his amazement and horror he found
only shreds within it. However, he was determined to be cautious, and
to consult his wife, who, although a Christian like Aulus, and much
edified by his discourses, might dissent from him in regard to a
community of goods, at least in her own household, and might defy him
to prove by any authority that the doctrine was meant for innkeepers.
Aulus, on his return in the evening, found out that his valise had
been opened. He hurried back, threw its contents into the canal, and,
borrowing an old cloak, he tucked it up under his dress, and returned.
Nobody had seen him enter or come back again, nor was it immediately
that his host or hostess were willing to appear. But, after he had
called them loudly for some time, they entered his apartment: and he
thus addressed the woman:

'O Eucharis! no words are requisite to convince you (firm as you are
in the faith) of eternal verities, however mysterious. But your
unhappy husband has betrayed his incredulity in regard to the most
awful. If my prayers, offered up in our holy temples all day long,
have been heard, and that they have been heard I feel within me the
blessed certainty, something miraculous has been vouchsafed for the
conversion of this miserable sinner. Until the present hour, the
valise before you was filled with precious relics from the apparel of
saints and martyrs, fresh as when on them.' 'True, by Jove!' said the
husband to himself. 'Within the present hour,' continued Aulus, 'they
are united into one raiment, signifying our own union, our own
restoration.'

He drew forth the cloak, and fell on his face. Eucharis fell also, and
kissed the saintly head prostrate before her. The host's eyes were
opened, and he bewailed his hardness of heart. Aulus is now occupied
in strengthening his faith, not without an occasional support to the
wife's: all three live together in unity.

_Timotheus._ And do you make a joke even of this? Will you never cease
from the habitude?

_Lucian._ Too soon. The farther we descend into the vale of years, the
fewer illusions accompany us: we have little inclination, little time,
for jocularity and laughter. Light things are easily detached from us,
and we shake off heavier as we can. Instead of levity, we are liable
to moroseness: for always near the grave there are more briers than
flowers, unless we plant them ourselves, or our friends supply them.

_Timotheus._ Thinking thus, do you continue to dissemble or to distort
the truth? The shreds are become a cable for the faithful. That they
were miraculously turned into one entire garment who shall gainsay?
How many hath it already clothed with righteousness? Happy men,
casting their doubts away before it! Who knows, O Cousin Lucian, but
on some future day you yourself will invoke the merciful interposition
of Aulus!

_Lucian._ Possibly: for if ever I fall among thieves, nobody is
likelier to be at the head of them.

_Timotheus._ Uncharitable man! how suspicious! how ungenerous! how
hardened in unbelief! Reason is a bladder on which you may paddle like
a child as you swim in summer waters: but, when the winds rise and the
waves roughen, it slips from under you, and you sink; yes, O Lucian,
you sink into a gulf whence you never can emerge.

_Lucian._ I deem those the wisest who exert the soonest their own
manly strength, now with the stream and now against it, enjoying the
exercise in fine weather, venturing out in foul, if need be, yet
avoiding not only rocks and whirlpools, but also shallows. In such a
light, my cousin, I look on your dispensations. I shut them out as we
shut out winds blowing from the desert; hot, debilitating, oppressive,
laden with impalpable sands and pungent salts, and inflicting an
incurable blindness.

_Timotheus._ Well, Cousin Lucian! I can bear all you say while you are
not witty. Let me bid you farewell in this happy interval.

_Lucian._ Is it not serious and sad, O my cousin, that what the Deity
hath willed to lie incomprehensible in His mysteries, we should fall
upon with tooth and nail, and ferociously growl over, or ignorantly
dissect?

_Timotheus._ Ho! now you come to be serious and sad, there are hopes
of you. Truth always begins or ends so.

_Lucian._ Undoubtedly. But I think it more reverential to abstain from
that which, with whatever effort, I should never understand.

_Timotheus._ You are lukewarm, my cousin, you are lukewarm. A most
dangerous state.

_Lucian._ For milk to continue in, not for men. I would not fain be
frozen or scalded.

_Timotheus._ Alas! you are blind, my sweet cousin!

_Lucian._ Well; do not open my eyes with pincers, nor compose for them
a collyrium of spurge.

May not men eat and drink and talk together, and perform in relation
one to another all the duties of social life, whose opinions are
different on things immediately under their eyes? If they can and do,
surely they may as easily on things equally above the comprehension of
each party. The wisest and most virtuous man in the whole extent of
the Roman Empire is Plutarch of Cheronaea: yet Plutarch holds a firm
belief in the existence of I know not how many gods, every one of whom
has committed notorious misdemeanours. The nearest to the Cheronaean
in virtue and wisdom is Trajan, who holds all the gods dog-cheap.
These two men are friends. If either of them were influenced by your
religion, as inculcated and practised by the priesthood, he would be
the enemy of the other, and wisdom and virtue would plead for the
delinquent in vain. When your religion had existed, as you tell us,
about a century, Caius Caecilius, of Novum Comum, was proconsul in
Bithynia. Trajan, the mildest and most equitable of mankind, desirous
to remove from them, as far as might be, the hatred and invectives of
those whose old religion was assailed by them, applied to Caecilius
for information on their behaviour as good citizens. The reply of
Caecilius was favourable. Had Trajan applied to the most eminent and
authoritative of the sect, they would certainly have brought into
jeopardy all who differed in one tittle from any point of their
doctrine or discipline. For the thorny and bitter aloe of dissension
required less than a century to flower on the steps of your temple.

_Timotheus._ You are already half a Christian, in exposing to the
world the vanities both of philosophy and of power.

_Lucian._ I have done no such thing: I have exposed the vanities of
the philosophizing and the powerful. Philosophy is admirable; and
Power may be glorious: the one conduces to truth, the other has nearly
all the means of conferring peace and happiness, but it usually, and
indeed almost always, takes a contrary direction. I have ridiculed the
futility of speculative minds, only when they would pave the clouds
instead of the streets. To see distant things better than near is a
certain proof of a defective sight. The people I have held in derision
never turn their eyes to what they can see, but direct them
continually where nothing is to be seen. And this, by their disciples,
is called the sublimity of speculation! There is little merit
acquired, or force exhibited, in blowing off a feather that would
settle on my nose: and this is all I have done in regard to the
philosophers: but I claim for myself the approbation of humanity, in
having shown the true dimensions of the great. The highest of them are
no higher than my tunic; but they are high enough to trample on the
necks of those wretches who throw themselves on the ground before
them.

_Timotheus._ Was Alexander of Macedon no higher?

_Lucian._ What region of the earth, what city, what theatre, what
library, what private study, hath he enlightened? If you are silent, I
may well be. It is neither my philosophy nor your religion which casts
the blood and bones of men in their faces, and insists on the most
reverence for those who have made the most unhappy. If the Romans
scourged by the hands of children the schoolmaster who would have
betrayed them, how greatly more deserving of flagellation, from the
same quarter, are those hundreds of pedagogues who deliver up the
intellects of youth to such immoral revellers and mad murderers! They
would punish a thirsty child for purloining a bunch of grapes from a
vineyard, and the same men on the same day would insist on his
reverence for the subverter of Tyre, the plunderer of Babylon, and the
incendiary of Persepolis. And are these men teachers? are these men
philosophers? are these men priests? Of all the curses that ever
afflicted the earth, I think Alexander was the worst. Never was he in
so little mischief as when he was murdering his friends.

_Timotheus._ Yet he built this very city; a noble and opulent one when
Rome was of hurdles and rushes.

_Lucian._ He built it! I wish, O Timotheus! he had been as well
employed as the stone-cutters or the plasterers. No, no: the wisest of
architects planned the most beautiful and commodious of cities, by
which, under a rational government and equitable laws, Africa might
have been civilized to the centre, and the palm have extended her
conquests through the remotest desert. Instead of which, a dozen of
Macedonian thieves rifled a dying drunkard and murdered his children.
In process of time, another drunkard reeled hitherward from Rome, made
an easy mistake in mistaking a palace for a brothel, permitted a
stripling boy to beat him soundly, and a serpent to receive the last
caresses of his paramour.

Shame upon historians and pedagogues for exciting the worst passions
of youth by the display of such false glories! If your religion hath
any truth or influence, her professors will extinguish the promontory
lights, which only allure to breakers. They will be assiduous in
teaching the young and ardent that great abilities do not constitute
great men, without the right and unremitting application of them; and
that, in the sight of Humanity and Wisdom, it is better to erect one
cottage than to demolish a hundred cities. Down to the present day we
have been taught little else than falsehood. We have been told to do
this thing and that: we have been told we shall be punished unless we
do: but at the same time we are shown by the finger that prosperity
and glory, and the esteem of all about us, rest upon other and very
different foundations. Now, do the ears or the eyes seduce the most
easily and lead the most directly to the heart? But both eyes and ears
are won over, and alike are persuaded to corrupt us.

_Timotheus._ Cousin Lucian, I was leaving you with the strangest of
all notions in my head. I began to think for a moment that you doubted
my sincerity in the religion I profess; and that a man of your
admirable good sense, and at your advanced age, could reject that only
sustenance which supports us through the grave into eternal life.

_Lucian._ I am the most docile and practicable of men, and never
reject what people set before me: for if it is bread, it is good for
my own use; if bone or bran, it will do for my dog or mule. But,
although you know my weakness and facility, it is unfair to expect I
should have admitted at once what the followers and personal friends
of your Master for a long time hesitated to receive. I remember to
have read in one of the early commentators, that His disciples
themselves could not swallow the miracle of the loaves; and one who
wrote more recently says, that even His brethren did not believe in
Him.

_Timotheus._ Yet, finally, when they have looked over each other's
accounts, they cast them up, and make them all tally in the main sum;
and if one omits an article, the next supplies its place with a
commodity of the same value. What would you have? But it is of little
use to argue on religion with a man who, professing his readiness to
believe, and even his credulity, yet disbelieves in miracles.

_Lucian._ I should be obstinate and perverse if I disbelieved in the
existence of a thing for no better reason than because I never saw it,
and cannot understand its operations. Do you believe, O Timotheus,
that Perictione, the mother of Plato, became his mother by the sole
agency of Apollo's divine spirit, under the phantasm of that god?

_Timotheus._ I indeed believe such absurdities?

_Lucian._ You touch me on a vital part if you call an absurdity the
religion or philosophy in which I was educated. Anaxalides, and
Clearagus, and Speusippus, his own nephew, assert it. Who should know
better than they?

_Timotheus._ Where are their proofs?

_Lucian._ I would not be so indelicate as to require them on such an
occasion. A short time ago I conversed with an old centurion, who was
in service by the side of Vespasian, when Titus, and many officers and
soldiers of the army, and many captives, were present, and who saw one
Eleazar put a ring to the nostril of a demoniac (as the patient was
called) and draw the demon out of it.

_Timotheus._ And do you pretend to believe this nonsense?

_Lucian._ I only believe that Vespasian and Titus had nothing to gain
or accomplish by the miracle; and that Eleazar, if he had been
detected in a trick by two acute men and several thousand enemies, had
nothing to look forward to but a cross--the only piece of upholstery
for which Judea seems to have either wood or workmen, and which are
as common in that country as direction-posts are in any other.

_Timotheus._ The Jews are a stiff-necked people.

_Lucian._ On such occasions, no doubt.

_Timotheus._ Would you, O Lucian, be classed among the atheists, like
Epicurus?

_Lucian._ It lies not at my discretion what name shall be given me at
present or hereafter, any more than it did at my birth. But I wonder
at the ignorance and precipitancy of those who call Epicurus an
atheist. He saw on the same earth with himself a great variety of
inferior creatures, some possessing more sensibility and more
thoughtfulness than others. Analogy would lead so contemplative a
reasoner to the conclusion that if many were inferior and in sight,
others might be superior and out of sight. He never disbelieved in the
existence of the gods; he only disbelieved that they troubled their
heads with our concerns. Have they none of their own? If they are
happy, does their happiness depend on us, comparatively so imbecile
and vile? He believed, as nearly all nations do, in different ranks
and orders of superhuman beings; and perhaps he thought (but I never
was in his confidence or counsels) that the higher were rather in
communication with the next to them in intellectual faculties, than
with the most remote. To me the suggestion appears by no means
irrational, that if we are managed or cared for at all by beings wiser
than ourselves (which in truth would be no sign of any great wisdom in
them), it can only be by such as are very far from perfection, and who
indulge us in the commission of innumerable faults and follies, for
their own speculation or amusement.

_Timotheus._ There is only one such; and he is the devil.

_Lucian._ If he delights in our wickedness, which you believe, he must
be incomparably the happiest of beings, which you do not believe. No
god of Epicurus rests his elbow on his armchair with less energetic
exertion or discomposure.

_Timotheus._ We lead holier and purer lives than such ignorant mortals
as are not living under Grace.

_Lucian._ I also live under Grace, O Timotheus! and I venerate her for
the pleasures I have received at her hands. I do not believe she has
quite deserted me. If my grey hairs are unattractive to her, and if
the trace of her fingers is lost in the wrinkles of my forehead, still
I sometimes am told it is discernible even on the latest and coldest
of my writings.

_Timotheus._ You are wilful in misapprehension. The Grace of which I
speak is adverse to pleasure and impurity.

_Lucian._ Rightly do you separate impurity and pleasure, which indeed
soon fly asunder when the improvident would unite them. But never
believe that tenderness of heart signifies corruption of morals, if
you happen to find it (which indeed is unlikely) in the direction you
have taken; on the contrary, no two qualities are oftener found
together, on mind as on matter, than hardness and lubricity.

Believe me, Cousin Timotheus, when we come to eighty years of age we
are all Essenes. In our kingdom of heaven there is no marrying or
giving in marriage; and austerity in ourselves, when Nature holds over
us the sharp instrument with which Jupiter operated on Saturn, makes
us austere to others. But how happens it that you, both old and young,
break every bond which connected you anciently with the Essenes? Not
only do you marry (a height of wisdom to which I never have attained,
although in others I commend it), but you never share your substance
with the poorest of your community, as they did, nor live simply and
frugally, nor purchase nor employ slaves, nor refuse rank and offices
in the State, nor abstain from litigation, nor abominate and execrate
the wounds and cruelties of war. The Essenes did all this, and greatly
more, if Josephus and Philo, whose political and religious tenets are
opposite to theirs, are credible and trustworthy.

_Timotheus._ Doubtless you would also wish us to retire into the
desert, and eschew the conversation of mankind.

_Lucian._ No, indeed; but I would wish the greater part of your people
to eschew mine, for they bring all the worst of the desert with them
whenever they enter; its smothering heats, its blinding sands, its
sweeping suffocation. Return to the pure spirit of the Essenes,
without their asceticism; cease from controversy, and drop party
designations. If you will not do this, do less, and be merely what you
profess to be, which is quite enough for an honest, a virtuous, and a
religious man.

_Timotheus._ Cousin Lucian, I did not come hither to receive a lecture
from you.

_Lucian._ I have often given a dinner to a friend who did not come to
dine with me.

_Timotheus._ Then, I trust, you gave him something better for dinner
than bay-salt and dandelions. If you will not assist us in nettling
our enemies a little for their absurdities and impositions, let me
entreat you, however, to let us alone, and to make no remarks on us.
I myself run into no extravagances, like the Essenes, washing and
fasting, and retiring into solitude. I am not called to them; when I
am, I go.

_Lucian._ I am apprehensive the Lord may afflict you with deafness in
that ear.

_Timotheus._ Nevertheless, I am indifferent to the world, and all
things in it. This, I trust, you will acknowledge to be true religion
and true philosophy.

_Lucian._ That is not philosophy which betrays an indifference to
those for whose benefit philosophy was designed; and those are the
whole human race. But I hold it to be the most unphilosophical thing
in the world to call away men from useful occupations and mutual help,
to profitless speculations and acrid controversies. Censurable enough,
and contemptible, too, is that supercilious philosopher, sneeringly
sedate, who narrates in full and flowing periods the persecutions and
tortures of a fellow-man, led astray by his credulity, and ready to
die in the assertion of what in his soul he believes to be the truth.
But hardly less censurable, hardly less contemptible, is the
tranquilly arrogant sectarian, who denies that wisdom or honesty can
exist beyond the limits of his own ill-lighted chamber.

_Timotheus._ What! is he sanguinary?

_Lucian._ Whenever he can be, he is; and he always has it in his power
to be even worse than that, for he refuses his custom to the
industrious and honest shopkeeper who has been taught to think
differently from himself in matters which he has had no leisure to
study, and by which, if he had enjoyed that leisure, he would have
been a less industrious and a less expert artificer.

_Timotheus._ We cannot countenance those hard-hearted men who refuse
to hear the word of the Lord.

_Lucian._ The hard-hearted knowing this of the tender-hearted, and
receiving the declaration from their own lips, will refuse to hear the
word of the Lord all their lives.

_Timotheus._ Well, well; it cannot be helped. I see, cousin, my hopes
of obtaining a little of your assistance in your own pleasant way are
disappointed; but it is something to have conceived a better hope of
saving your soul, from your readiness to acknowledge your belief in
miracles.

_Lucian._ Miracles have existed in all ages and in all religions.
Witnesses to some of them have been numerous; to others of them fewer.
Occasionally, the witnesses have been disinterested in the result.

_Timotheus._ Now indeed you speak truly and wisely.

_Lucian._ But sometimes the most honest and the most quiescent have
either been unable or unwilling to push themselves so forward as to
see clearly and distinctly the whole of the operation; and have
listened to some knave who felt a pleasure in deluding their
credulity, or some other who himself was either an enthusiast or a
dupe. It also may have happened in the ancient religions, of Egypt for
instance, or of India, or even of Greece, that narratives have been
attributed to authors who never heard of them; and have been
circulated by honest men who firmly believed them; by half-honest, who
indulged their vanity in becoming members of a novel and bustling
society; and by utterly dishonest, who, having no other means of
rising above the shoulders of the vulgar, threw dust into their eyes
and made them stoop.

_Timotheus._ Ha! the rogues! It is nearly all over with them.

_Lucian._ Let us hope so. Parthenius and the Roman poet Ovidius Naso,
have related the transformations of sundry men, women, and gods.

_Timotheus._ Idleness! Idleness! I never read such lying authors.

_Lucian._ I myself have seen enough to incline me toward a belief in
them.

_Timotheus._ You? Why! you have always been thought an utter infidel;
and now you are running, hot and heedless as any mad dog, to the
opposite extreme!

_Lucian._ I have lived to see, not indeed one man, but certainly one
animal turned into another; nay, great numbers. I have seen sheep with
the most placid faces in the morning, one nibbling the tender herb
with all its dew upon it; another, negligent of its own sustenance,
and giving it copiously to the tottering lamb aside it.

_Timotheus._ How pretty! half poetical!

_Lucian._ In the heat of the day I saw the very same sheep tearing off
each other's fleeces with long teeth and longer claws, and imitating
so admirably the howl of wolves, that at last the wolves came down on
them in a body, and lent their best assistance at the general
devouring. What is more remarkable, the people of the villages seemed
to enjoy the sport; and, instead of attacking the wolves, waited until
they had filled their stomachs, ate the little that was left, said
piously and from the bottom of their hearts what you call _grace_, and
went home singing and piping.



BISHOP SHIPLEY AND BENJAMIN FRANKLIN


_Shipley._ There are very few men, even in the bushes and the
wilderness, who delight in the commission of cruelty; but nearly all,
throughout the earth, are censurable for the admission. When we see a
blow struck, we go on and think no more about it: yet every blow aimed
at the most distant of our fellow-creatures, is sure to come back,
some time or other, to our families and descendants. He who lights a
fire in one quarter is ignorant to what other the winds may carry it,
and whether what is kindled in the wood may not break out again in the
cornfield.

_Franklin._ If we could restrain but one generation from deeds of
violence, the foundation for a new and a more graceful edifice of
society would not only have been laid, but would have been
consolidated.

_Shipley._ We already are horrified at the bare mention of religious
wars; we should then be horrified at the mention of political. Why
should they who, when they are affronted or offended, abstain from
inflicting blows, some from a sense of decorousness and others from a
sense of religion, be forward to instigate the infliction of ten
thousand, all irremediable, all murderous? Every chief magistrate
should be arbitrator and umpire in all differences between any two,
forbidding war. Much would be added to the dignity of the most
powerful king by rendering him an efficient member of such a grand
Amphictyonic council. Unhappily they are persuaded in childhood that a
reign is made glorious by a successful war. What schoolmaster ever
taught a boy to question it? or indeed any point of political
morality, or any incredible thing in history? Caesar and Alexander are
uniformly clement: Themistocles died by a draught of bull's blood:
Portia by swallowing red-hot pieces of charcoal.

_Franklin._ Certainly no woman or man could perform either of these
feats. In my opinion it lies beyond a doubt that Portia suffocated
herself by the fumes of charcoal; and that the Athenian, whose stomach
must have been formed on the model of other stomachs, and must
therefore have rejected a much less quantity of blood than would have
poisoned him, died by some chemical preparation, of which a bull's
blood might, or might not, have been part. Schoolmasters who thus
betray their trust, ought to be scourged by their scholars, like him
of their profession who underwent the just indignation of the Roman
Consul. You shut up those who are infected with the plague; why do you
lay no coercion on those who are incurably possessed by the legion
devil of carnage? When a creature is of intellect so perverted that he
can discern no difference between a review and a battle, between the
animating bugle and the dying groan, it were expedient to remove him,
as quietly as may be, from his devastation of God's earth and his
usurpation of God's authority. Compassion points out the cell for him
at the bottom of the hospital, and listens to hear the key turned in
the ward: until then the house is insecure.

_Shipley._ God grant our rulers wisdom, and our brethren peace!

_Franklin._ Here are but indifferent specimens and tokens. Those
fellows throw stones pretty well: if they practise much longer, they
will hit us: let me entreat you, my lord, to leave me here. So long as
the good people were contented with hooting and shouting at us, no
great harm was either done or apprehended: but now they are beginning
to throw stones, perhaps they may prove themselves more dexterous in
action than their rulers have done latterly in council.

_Shipley._ Take care, Doctor Franklin! _That_ was very near being the
philosopher's stone.

_Franklin._ Let me pick it up, then, and send it to London by the
diligence. But I am afraid your ministers, and the nation at large,
are as little in the way of wealth as of wisdom, in the experiment
they are making.

_Shipley._ While I was attending to you, William had started. Look! he
has reached them: they are listening to him. Believe me, he has all
the courage of an Englishman and of a Christian; and, if the stoutest
of them force him to throw off his new black coat, the blusterer would
soon think it better to have listened to less polemical doctrine.

_Franklin._ Meantime a few of the town boys are come nearer, and begin
to grow troublesome. I am sorry to requite your hospitality with such
hard fare.

_Shipley._ True, these young bakers make their bread very gritty, but
we must partake of it together so long as you are with us.

_Franklin._ Be pleased, my lord, to give us grace; our repast is over;
this is my boat.

_Shipley._ We will accompany you as far as to the ship. Thank God! we
are now upon the water, and all safe. Give me your hand, my good
Doctor Franklin! and although you have failed in the object of your
mission, yet the intention will authorize me to say, in the holy words
of our Divine Redeemer, Blessed are the peacemakers!

_Franklin._ My dear lord! if God ever blessed a man at the
intercession of another, I may reasonably and confidently hope in such
a benediction. Never did one arise from a warmer, a tenderer, or a
purer heart.

_Shipley._ Infatuation! that England should sacrifice to her king so
many thousands of her bravest men, and ruin so many thousands of her
most industrious, in a vain attempt to destroy the very principles on
which her strength and her glory are founded! The weakest prince that
ever sat upon a throne, and the most needy and sordid Parliament that
ever pandered to distempered power, are thrusting our blindfold nation
from the pinnacle of prosperity.

_Franklin._ I believe _your_ king (from this moment it is permitted me
to call him _ours_ no longer) to be as honest and as wise a man as any
of those about him: but unhappily he can see no difference between a
review and a battle. Such are the optics of most kings and rulers. His
Parliament, in both Houses, acts upon calculation. There is hardly a
family, in either, that does not anticipate the clear profit of
several thousands a year, to itself and its connexions. Appointments
to regiments and frigates raise the price of papers; and forfeited
estates fly confusedly about, and darken the air from the Thames to
the Atlantic.

_Shipley._ It is lamentable to think that war, bringing with it every
species of human misery, should become a commercial speculation. Bad
enough when it arises from revenge; another word for honour.

_Franklin._ A strange one indeed! but not more strange than fifty
others that come under the same title. Wherever there is nothing of
religion, nothing of reason, nothing of truth, we come at once to
honour; and here we draw the sword, dispense with what little of
civilization we ever pretended to, and murder or get murdered, as may
happen. But these ceremonials both begin and end with an appeal to
God, who, before we appealed to Him, plainly told us we should do no
such thing, and that He would punish us most severely if we did. And
yet, my lord, even the gentlemen upon your bench turn a deaf ear to
Him on these occasions: nay, they go further; they pray to Him for
success in that which He has forbidden so strictly, and when they have
broken His commandment, thank Him. Upon seeing these mockeries and
impieties age after age repeated, I have asked myself whether the
depositaries and expounders of religion have really any whatever of
their own; or rather, like the lawyers, whether they do not defend
professionally a cause that otherwise does not interest them in the
least. Surely, if these holy men really believed in a just retributive
God, they would never dare to utter the word _war_, without horror and
deprecation.

_Shipley._ Let us attribute to infirmity what we must else attribute
to wickedness.

_Franklin._ Willingly would I: but children are whipped severely for
inobservance of things less evident, for disobedience of commands less
audible and less awful. I am loath to attribute cruelty to your order:
men so entirely at their ease have seldom any. Certain I am that
several of the bishops would not have patted Cain upon the back while
he was about to kill Abel; and my wonder is that the very same holy
men encourage their brothers in England to kill their brothers in
America; not one, not two nor three, but thousands, many thousands.

_Shipley._ I am grieved at the blindness with which God has afflicted
us for our sins. These unhappy men are little aware what combustibles
they are storing under the Church, and how soon they may explode. Even
the wisest do not reflect on the most important and the most certain
of things; which is, that every act of inhumanity and injustice goes
far beyond what is apparent at the time of its commission; that these,
and all other things, have their consequences; and that the
consequences are infinite and eternal. If this one truth alone could
be deeply impressed upon the hearts of men, it would regenerate the
whole human race.

_Franklin._ In regard to politics, I am not quite certain whether a
politician may not be too far-sighted: but I am quite certain that, if
it be a fault, it is one into which few have fallen. The policy of the
Romans in the time of the republic, seems to have been prospective.
Some of the Dutch also, and of the Venetians, used the telescope. But
in monarchies the prince, not the people, is consulted by the minister
of the day; and what pleases the weakest supersedes what is approved
by the wisest.

_Shipley._ We have had great statesmen: Burleigh, Cromwell,
Marlborough, Somers: and whatever may have been in the eyes of a
moralist the vices of Walpole, none ever understood more perfectly, or
pursued more steadily, the direct and palpable interests of the
country. Since his administration, our affairs have never been managed
by men of business; and it was more than could have been expected
that, in our war against the French in Canada, the appointment fell on
an able commander.

_Franklin._ Such an anomaly is unlikely to recur. You have in the
English Parliament (I speak of both Houses) only two great men; only
two considerate and clear-sighted politicians; Chatham and Burke.
Three or four can say clever things; several have sonorous voices;
many vibrate sharp comminations from the embrasures of portentously
slit sleeves; and there are those to be found who deliver their
oracles out of wigs as worshipful as the curls of Jupiter, however
they may be grumbled at by the flour-mills they have laid under such
heavy contribution; yet nearly all of all parties want alike the
sagacity to discover that in striking America you shake Europe; that
kings will come out of the war either to be victims or to be despots;
and that within a quarter of a century they will be hunted down like
vermin by the most servile nations, or slain in their palaces by their
own courtiers. In a peace of twenty years you might have paid off the
greater part of your National Debt, indeed as much of it as it would
be expedient to discharge, and you would have left your old enemy
France labouring and writhing under the intolerable and increasing
weight of hers. This is the only way in which you can ever quite
subdue her; and in this you subdue her without a blow, without a
menace, and without a wrong. As matters now stand, you are calling her
from attending to the corruptions of her court, and inviting her from
bankruptcy to glory.

_Shipley._ I see not how bankruptcy can be averted by the expenditure
of war.

_Franklin._ It cannot. But war and glory are the same thing to France,
and she sings as shrilly and as gaily after a beating as before. With
a subsidy to a less amount than she has lately been accustomed to
squander in six weeks, and with no more troops than would garrison a
single fortress, she will enable us to set you at defiance, and to do
you a heavier injury in two campaigns than she has been able to do in
two centuries, although your king was in her pay against you. She will
instantly be our ally, and soon our scholar. Afterward she will sell
her crown jewels and her church jewels, which cover the whole kingdom,
and will derive unnatural strength from her vices and her profligacy.
You ought to have conciliated us as your ally, and to have had no
other, excepting Holland and Denmark. England could never have, unless
by her own folly, more than one enemy. Only one is near enough to
strike her; and that one is down. All her wars for six hundred years
have not done this; and the first trumpet will untrance her. You leave
your house open to incendiaries while you are running after a
refractory child. Had you laid down the rod, the child would have come
back. And because he runs away from the rod, you take up the poker.
Seriously, what means do you possess of enforcing your unjust claims
and insolent authority? Never since the Norman Conquest had you an
army so utterly inefficient, or generals so notoriously unskilful: no,
not even in the reign of that venal traitor, that French stipendiary,
the second Charles. Those were yet living who had fought bravely for
his father, and those also who had vanquished him: and Victory still
hovered over the mast that had borne the banners of our Commonwealth:
_ours_, _ours_, my lord! the word is the right word here.

_Shipley._ I am depressed in spirit, and can sympathize but little in
your exultation. All the crimes of Nero and Caligula are less
afflicting to humanity, and consequently we may suppose will bring
down on the offenders a less severe retribution, than an unnecessary
and unjust war. And yet the authors and abettors of this most grievous
among our earthly calamities, the enactors and applauders (on how vast
a theatre!) of the first and greatest crime committed upon earth, are
quiet complacent creatures, jovial at dinner, hearty at breakfast, and
refreshed with sleep! Nay, the prime movers in it are called most
religious and most gracious; and the hand that signs in cold blood the
death-warrant of nations, is kissed by the kind-hearted, and confers
distinction upon the brave! The prolongation of a life that shortens
so many others, is prayed for by the conscientious and the pious!
Learning is inquisitive in the research of phrases to celebrate him
who has conferred such blessings, and the eagle of genius holds the
thunderbolt by his throne! Philosophy, O my friend, has hitherto done
little for the social state; and Religion has nearly all her work to
do! She too hath but recently washed her hands from blood, and stands
neutrally by, yes, worse than neutrally, while others shed it. I am
convinced that no day of my life will be so censured by my own
clergy, as this, the day on which the last hopes of peace have
abandoned us, and the only true minister of it is pelted from our
shores. Farewell, until better times! may the next generation be
wiser! and wiser it surely will be, for the lessons of Calamity are
far more impressive than those which repudiated Wisdom would have
taught.

_Franklin._ Folly hath often the same results as Wisdom: but Wisdom
would not engage in her schoolroom so expensive an assistant as
Calamity. There are, however, some noisy and unruly children whom she
alone has the method of rendering tame and tractable: perhaps it may
be by setting them to their tasks both sore and supperless. The ship
is getting under weigh. Adieu once more, my most reverend and noble
friend! Before me in imagination do I see America, beautiful as Leda
in her infant smiles, when her father Jove first raised her from the
earth; and behind me I leave England, hollow, unsubstantial, and
broken, as the shell she burst from.

_Shipley._ O worst of miseries, when it is impiety to pray that our
country may be successful. Farewell! may every good attend you! with
as little of evil to endure or to inflict, as national sins can expect
from the Almighty.



SOUTHEY AND LANDOR


_Southey._ Of all the beautiful scenery round King's Weston the view
from this terrace, and especially from this sundial, is the
pleasantest.

_Landor._ The last time I ever walked hither in company (which, unless
with ladies, I rarely have done anywhere) was with a just, a valiant,
and a memorable man, Admiral Nichols, who usually spent his summer
months at the village of Shirehampton, just below us. There, whether
in the morning or evening, it was seldom I found him otherwise engaged
than in cultivating his flowers.

_Southey._ I never had the same dislike to company in my walks and
rambles as you profess to have, but of which I perceived no sign
whatever when I visited you, first at Llanthony Abbey and afterward
on the Lake of Como. Well do I remember our long conversations in the
silent and solitary church of Sant' Abondio (surely the coolest spot
in Italy), and how often I turned back my head toward the open door,
fearing lest some pious passer-by, or some more distant one in the
wood above, pursuing the pathway that leads to the tower of Luitprand,
should hear the roof echo with your laughter, at the stories you had
collected about the brotherhood and sisterhood of the place.

_Landor._ I have forgotten most of them, and nearly all: but I have
not forgotten how we speculated on the possibility that Milton might
once have been sitting on the very bench we then occupied, although we
do not hear of his having visited that part of the country. Presently
we discoursed on his poetry; as we propose to do again this morning.

_Southey._ In that case, it seems we must continue to be seated on the
turf.

_Landor._ Why so?

_Southey._ Because you do not like to walk in company: it might
disturb and discompose you: and we never lose our temper without
losing at the same time many of our thoughts, which are loath to come
forward without it.

_Landor._ From my earliest days I have avoided society as much as I
could decorously, for I received more pleasure in the cultivation and
improvement of my own thoughts than in walking up and down among the
thoughts of others. Yet, as you know, I never have avoided the
intercourse of men distinguished by virtue and genius; of genius,
because it warmed and invigorated me by my trying to keep pace with
it; of virtue, that if I had any of my own it might be called forth by
such vicinity. Among all men elevated in station who have made a noise
in the world (admirable old expression!) I never saw any in whose
presence I felt inferiority, excepting Kosciusco. But how many in the
lower paths of life have exerted both virtues and abilities which I
never exerted, and never possessed! what strength and courage and
perseverance in some, in others what endurance and forbearance! At the
very moment when most, beside yourself, catching up half my words,
would call and employ against me in its ordinary signification what
ought to convey the most honorific, the term _self-sufficiency_, I bow
my head before the humble, with greatly more than their humiliation.
You are better tempered than I am, and are readier to converse. There
are half-hours when, although in good humour and good spirits, I
would, not be disturbed by the necessity of talking, to be the
possessor of all the rich marshes we see yonder. In this interval
there is neither storm nor sunshine of the mind, but calm and (as the
farmer would call it) _growing_ weather, in which the blades of
thought spring up and dilate insensibly. Whatever I do, I must do in
the open air, or in the silence of night: either is sufficient: but I
prefer the hours of exercise, or, what is next to exercise, of
field-repose. Did you happen to know the admiral?

_Southey._ Not personally: but I believe the terms you have applied to
him are well merited. After some experience, he contended that public
men, public women, and the public press, may be all designated by one
and the same trisyllable. He is reported to have been a strict
disciplinarian. In the mutiny at the Nore he was seized by his crew,
and summarily condemned by them to be hanged. Many taunting questions
were asked him, to which he made no reply. When the rope was fastened
round his neck, the ringleader cried, 'Answer this one thing, however,
before you go, sir! What would you do with any of us, if we were in
your power as you are now in ours?' The admiral, then captain, looked
sternly and contemptuously, and replied, 'Hang you, by God!' Enraged
at this answer, the mutineer tugged at the rope: but another on the
instant rushed forward, exclaiming, 'No, captain!' (for thus he called
the fellow) 'he has been cruel to us, flogging here and flogging
there, but before so brave a man is hanged like a dog, you heave me
overboard.' Others among the most violent now interceded: and an old
seaman, not saying a single word, came forward with his knife in his
hand, and cut the noose asunder. Nichols did not thank him, nor notice
him, nor speak: but, looking round at the other ships, in which there
was the like insubordination, he went toward his cabin slow and
silent. Finding it locked, he called to a midshipman: 'Tell that man
with a knife to come down and open the door.' After a pause of a few
minutes, it was done: but he was confined below until the quelling of
the mutiny.

_Landor._ His conduct as Controller of the Navy was no less
magnanimous and decisive. In this office he presided at the trial of
Lord Melville. His lordship was guilty, we know, of all the charges
brought against him; but, having more patronage than ever minister had
before, he refused to answer the questions which (to repeat his own
expression) might incriminate him. And his refusal was given with a
smile of indifference, a consciousness of security. In those days, as
indeed in most others, the main use of power was promotion and
protection: and _honest man_ was never in any age among the titles of
nobility, and has always been the appellation used toward the feeble
and inferior by the prosperous. Nichols said on the present occasion,
'If this man is permitted to skulk away under such pretences, trial is
here a mockery.' Finding no support, he threw up his office as
Controller of the Navy, and never afterward entered the House of
Commons. Such a person, it appears to me, leads us aptly and
becomingly to that steadfast patriot on whose writings you promised me
your opinion; not incidentally, as before, but turning page after
page. It would ill beseem us to treat Milton with generalities.
Radishes and salt are the picnic quota of slim spruce reviewers: let
us hope to find somewhat more solid and of better taste. Desirous to
be a listener and a learner when you discourse on his poetry, I have
been more occupied of late in examining the prose.

_Southey._ Do you retain your high opinion of it?

_Landor._ Experience makes us more sensible of faults than of
beauties. Milton is more correct than Addison, but less correct than
Hooker, whom I wish he had been contented to receive as a model in
style, rather than authors who wrote in another and a poorer language;
such, I think, you are ready to acknowledge is the Latin.

_Southey._ This was always my opinion.

_Landor._ However, I do not complain that in oratory and history his
diction is sometimes poetical.

_Southey._ Little do I approve of it in prose on any subject.
Demosthenes and Aeschines, Lisias and Isaeus, and finally Cicero,
avoided it.

_Landor._ They did: but Chatham and Burke and Grattan did not; nor
indeed the graver and greater Pericles; of whom the most memorable
sentence on record is pure poetry. On the fall of the young Athenians
in the field of battle, he said, 'The year hath lost its spring.' But
how little are these men, even Pericles himself, if you compare them
as men of genius with Livy! In Livy, as in Milton, there are bursts of
passion which cannot by the nature of things be other than poetical,
nor (being so) come forth in other language. If Milton had executed
his design of writing a history of England, it would probably have
abounded in such diction, especially in the more turbulent scenes and
in the darker ages.

_Southey._ There are quiet hours and places in which a taper may be
carried steadily, and show the way along the ground; but you must
stand a-tiptoe and raise a blazing torch above your head, if you would
bring to our vision the obscure and time-worn figures depicted on the
lofty vaults of antiquity. The philosopher shows everything in one
clear light; the historian loves strong reflections and deep shadows,
but, above all, prominent and moving characters. We are little pleased
with the man who disenchants us: but whoever can make us wonder, must
himself (we think) be wonderful, and deserve our admiration.

_Landor._ Believing no longer in magic and its charms, we still
shudder at the story told by Tacitus, of those which were discovered
in the mournful house of Germanicus.

_Southey._ Tacitus was also a great poet, and would have been a
greater, had he been more contented with the external and ordinary
appearances of things. Instead of which, he looked at a part of his
pictures through a prism, and at another part through a _camera
obscura_. If the historian were as profuse of moral as of political
axioms, we should tolerate him less: for in the political we fancy a
writer is but meditating; in the moral we regard him as declaiming. In
history we desire to be conversant with only the great, according to
our notions of greatness: we take it as an affront, on such an
invitation, to be conducted into the lecture-room, or to be desired to
amuse ourselves in the study.

_Landor._ Pray go on. I am desirous of hearing more.

_Southey._ Being now alone, with the whole day before us, and having
carried, as we agreed at breakfast, each his Milton in his pocket, let
us collect all the graver faults we can lay our hands upon, without a
too minute and troublesome research; not in the spirit of Johnson, but
in our own.

_Landor._ That is, abasing our eyes in reverence to so great a man,
but without closing them. The beauties of his poetry we may omit to
notice, if we can: but where the crowd claps the hands, it will be
difficult for us always to refrain. Johnson, I think, has been charged
unjustly with expressing too freely and inconsiderately the blemishes
of Milton. There are many more of them than he has noticed.

_Southey._ If we add any to the number, and the literary world hears
of it, we shall raise an outcry from hundreds who never could see
either his excellences or his defects, and from several who never have
perused the noblest of his writings.

_Landor._ It may be boyish and mischievous, but I acknowledge I have
sometimes felt a pleasure in irritating, by the cast of a pebble,
those who stretch forward to the full extent of the chain their open
and frothy mouths against me. I shall seize upon this conjecture of
yours, and say everything that comes into my head on the subject.
Beside which, if any collateral thoughts should spring up, I may throw
them in also; as you perceive I have frequently done in my _Imaginary
Conversations_, and as we always do in real ones.

_Southey._ When we adhere to one point, whatever the form, it should
rather be called a disquisition than a conversation. Most writers of
dialogue take but a single stride into questions the most abstruse,
and collect a heap of arguments to be blown away by the bloated whiffs
of some rhetorical charlatan, tricked out in a multiplicity of ribbons
for the occasion.

Before we open the volume of poetry, let me confess to you I admire
his prose less than you do.

_Landor._ Probably because you dissent more widely from the opinions
it conveys: for those who are displeased with anything are unable to
confine the displeasure to one spot. We dislike everything a little
when we dislike anything much. It must indeed be admitted that his
prose is often too latinized and stiff. But I prefer his heavy cut
velvet, with its ill-placed Roman fibula, to the spangled gauze and
gummed-on flowers and puffy flounces of our present street-walking
literature. So do you, I am certain.

_Southey._ Incomparably. But let those who have gone astray, keep
astray, rather than bring Milton into disrepute by pushing themselves
into his company and imitating his manner. Milton is none of these:
and his language is never a patchwork. We find daily, in almost every
book we open, expressions which are not English, never were, and never
will be: for the writers are by no means of sufficiently high rank to
be masters of the mint. To arrive at this distinction, it is not
enough to scatter in all directions bold, hazardous, undisciplined
thoughts: there must be lordly and commanding ones, with a full
establishment of well-appointed expressions adequate to their
maintenance.

Occasionally I have been dissatisfied with Milton, because in my
opinion that is ill said in prose which can be said more plainly. Not
so in poetry: if it were, much of Pindar and Aeschylus, and no little
of Dante, would be censurable.

_Landor._ Acknowledge that he whose poetry I am holding in my hand is
free from every false ornament in his prose, unless a few bosses of
latinity may be called so; and I am ready to admit the full claims of
your favourite South. Acknowledge that, heading all the forces of our
language, he was the great antagonist of every great monster which
infested our country; and he disdained to trim his lion-skin with
lace. No other English writer has equalled Raleigh, Hooker, and
Milton, in the loftier parts of their works.

_Southey._ But Hooker and Milton, you allow, are sometimes pedantic.
In Hooker there is nothing so elevated as there is in Raleigh.

_Landor._ Neither he, however, nor any modern, nor any ancient, has
attained to that summit on which the sacred ark of Milton strikes and
rests. Reflections, such as we indulged in on the borders of the
Larius, come over me here again. Perhaps from the very sod where you
are sitting, the poet in his youth sate looking at the Sabrina he was
soon to celebrate. There is pleasure in the sight of a glebe which
never has been broken; but it delights me particularly in those places
where great men have been before. I do not mean warriors: for
extremely few among the most remarkable of them will a considerate man
call great: but poets and philosophers and philanthropists, the
ornaments of society, the charmers of solitude, the warders of
civilization, the watchmen at the gate which Tyranny would batter
down, and the healers of those wounds which she left festering in the
field. And now, to reduce this demon into its proper toad-shape again,
and to lose sight of it, open your _Paradise Lost_.

       *       *       *       *       *



THE EMPEROR OF CHINA AND TSING-TI


On the morrow I was received at the folding-doors by Pru-Tsi, and
ushered by him into the presence of his majesty the Emperor, who was
graciously pleased to inform me that he had rendered thanks to
Almighty God for enlightening his mind, and for placing his empire far
beyond the influence of the persecutor and fanatic. 'But,' continued
his majesty, 'this story of the sorcerer's man quite confounds me.
Little as the progress is which the Europeans seem to have made in the
path of humanity, yet the English, we know, are less cruel than their
neighbours, and more given to reflection and meditation. How then is
it possible they should allow any portion of their fellow-citizens to
be hoodwinked, gagged, and carried away into darkness, by such
conspirators and assassins? Why didst thou not question the man
thyself?'

_Tsing-Ti._ I did, O Emperor! and his reply was, 'We can bury such
only as were in the household of the faith. It would be a mockery to
bid those spirits go in peace which we know are condemned to
everlasting fire.'

_Emperor._ Amazing! have they that? Who invented it? Everlasting fire!
It surely might be applied to better purposes. And have those rogues
authority to throw people into it? In what part of the kingdom is it?
If natural, it ought to have been marked more plainly in the maps. The
English, no doubt, are ashamed of letting it be known abroad that they
have any such places in their country. If artificial, it is no wonder
they keep such a secret to themselves. Tsing-Ti, I commend thy
prudence in asking no questions about it; for I see we are equally at
a loss on this curiosity.

_Tsing-Ti._ The sorcerer has a secret for diluting it. Oysters and the
white of eggs, applied on lucky days, enter into the composition; but
certain charms in a strange language must also be employed, and must
be repeated a certain number of times. There are stones likewise, and
wood cut into particular forms, good against this eternal fire, as
they believe. The sorcerer has the power, they pretend, of giving the
faculty of hearing and seeing to these stones and pieces of wood; and
when he has given them the faculties, they become so sensible and
grateful, they do whatever he orders. Some roll their eyes, some
sweat, some bleed; and the people beat their breasts before them,
calling themselves miserable sinners.

_Emperor._ _Sinners_ is not the name I should have given them,
although no doubt they are in the right.

_Tsing-Ti._ Sometimes, if they will not bleed freely, nor sweat, nor
roll their eyes, the devouter break their heads with clubs, and look
out for others who will.

_Emperor._ Take heed, Tsing-Ti! Take heed! I do believe thou art
talking all the while of idols. Thou must be respectful; remember I am
head of all the religions in the empire. We have something in our own
country not very unlike them, only the people do not worship them;
they merely fall down before them as representatives of a higher
power. So they say.

_Tsing-Ti._ I do not imagine they go much farther in Europe, excepting
the introduction of this club-law into their adoration.

_Emperor._ And difference enough, in all conscience. Our people is
less ferocious and less childish. If any man break an idol here for
not sweating, he himself would justly be condemned to sweat, showing
him how inconvenient a thing it is when the sweater is not disposed.
As for rolling the eyes, surely they know best whom they should ogle;
as for bleeding, that must be regulated by the season of the year. Let
every man choose his idol as freely as he chooses his wife; let him be
constant if he can; if he cannot, let him at least be civil. Whoever
dares to scratch the face of any one in my empire, shall be condemned
to varnish it afresh, and moreover to keep it in repair all his
lifetime.

_Tsing-Ti._ In Europe such an offence would be punished with the
extremities of torture.

_Emperor._ Perhaps their idols cost more, and are newer. Is there no
chance, in all their changes, that we may be called upon to supply
them with a few?

_Tsing-Ti._ They have plenty for the present, and they dig up fresh
occasionally.

_Emperor._ In regard to the worship of idols, they have not a great
deal to learn from us; and what is deficient will come by degrees as
they grow humaner. But how little care can any ruler have for the
happiness and improvement of his people, who permits such ferocity in
the priesthood. If its members are employed by the government to
preside at burials, as according to thy discourse I suppose, a
virtuous prince would order a twelvemonth's imprisonment, and spare
diet, to whichever of them should refuse to perform the last office of
humanity toward a fellow-creature. What separation of citizen from
citizen, and necessarily what diminution of national strength, must be
the consequence of such a system! A single act of it ought to be
punished more severely than any single act of sedition, not only as
being a greater distractor of civic union, but, in its cruel
sequestration of the best affections, a fouler violator of domestic
peace. I always had fancied, from the books in my library, that the
Christian religion was founded on brotherly love and pure equality. I
may calculate ill; but, in my hasty estimate, damnation and dog-burial
stand many removes from these.

'Wait a little,' the Emperor continued: 'I wish to read in my library
the two names that my father said are considered the two greatest in
the West, and may vie nearly with the highest of our own country.'

Whereupon did his majesty walk forth into his library; and my eyes
followed his glorious figure as he passed through the doorway,
traversing the _gallery of the peacocks_, so called because fifteen of
those beautiful birds unite their tails in the centre of the ceiling,
painted so naturally as to deceive the beholder, each carrying in his
beak a different flower, the most beautiful in China, and bending his
neck in such a manner as to present it to the passer below. Traversing
this gallery, his majesty with his own hand drew aside the curtain of
the library door. His majesty then entered; and, after some delay, he
appeared with two long scrolls, and shook them gently over the
fish-pond, in this dormitory of the sages. Suddenly there were so many
splashes and plunges that I was aware of the gratification the fishes
had received from the grubs in them, and the disappointment in the
atoms of dust. His majesty, with his own right hand, drew the two
scrolls trailing on the marble pavement, and pointing to them with his
left, said:

'Here they are; Nhu-Tong: Pa-Kong. Suppose they had died where the
sorcerer's men held firm footing, would the priests have refused them
burial?'

I bowed my head at the question; for a single tinge of red, whether
arising from such ultra-bestial cruelty in those who have the
impudence to accuse the cannibals of theirs, or whether from abhorrent
shame at the corroding disease of intractable superstition, hereditary
in the European nations for fifteen centuries, a tinge of red came
over the countenance of the emperor. When I raised up again my
forehead, after such time as I thought would have removed all traces
of it, still fixing my eyes on the ground, I answered:

'O Emperor! the most zealous would have done worse. They would have
prepared these great men for burial, and then have left them
unburied.'

_Emperor._ So! so! they would have embalmed them, in their reverence
for meditation and genius, although their religion prohibits the
ceremony of interring them.

_Tsing-Ti._ Alas, sire, my meaning is far different. They would have
dislocated their limbs with pulleys, broken them with hammers, and
then have burnt the flesh off the bones. This is called an _act of
faith_.

_Emperor._ _Faith_, didst thou say? Tsing-Ti, thou speakest bad
Chinese: thy native tongue is strangely occidentalized.

_Tsing-Ti._ So they call it.

_Emperor._ God hath not given unto all men the use of speech. Thou
meanest to designate the ancient inhabitants of the country, not those
who have lived there within the last three centuries.

_Tsing-Ti._ The Spaniards and Italians (such are the names of the
nations who are most under the influence of the spells) were never so
barbarous and cruel as during the first of the last three centuries.
The milder of them would have refused two cubits of earth to the two
philosophers; and not only would have rejected them from the cemetery
of the common citizens, but from the side of the common hangman; the
most ignorant priest thinking himself much wiser, and the most
enlightened prince not daring to act openly as one who could think
otherwise. The Italians had formerly two illustrious men among them;
the earlier was a poet, the later a philosopher; one was exiled, the
other was imprisoned, and both were within a span of being burnt
alive.

_Emperor._ We have in Asia some odd religions and some barbarous
princes, but neither are like the Europeans. In the name of God! do
the fools think of their Christianity as our neighbours in Tartary
(with better reason) think of their milk; that it will keep the longer
for turning sour? or that it must be wholesome because it is heady?
Swill it out, swill it out, say I, and char the tub.



LOUIS XVIII AND TALLEYRAND


_Louis._ M. Talleyrand! in common with all my family, all France, all
Europe, I entertain the highest opinion of your abilities and
integrity. You have convinced me that your heart, throughout the
storms of the revolution, leaned constantly toward royalty; and that
you permitted and even encouraged the caresses of the usurper, merely
that you might strangle the more certainly and the more easily his
new-born empire. After this, it is impossible to withhold my
confidence from you.

_Talleyrand._ Conscious of the ridicule his arrogance and presumption
would incur, the usurper attempted to silence and stifle it with
other and far different emotions. Half his cruelties were perpetrated
that his vanity might not be wounded: for scorn is superseded by
horror. Whenever he committed an action or uttered a sentiment which
would render him an object of derision, he instantly gave vent to
another which paralysed by its enormous wickedness. He would extirpate
a nation to extinguish a smile. No man alive could deceive your
majesty: the extremely few who would wish to do it, lie under that
vigilant and piercing eye, which discerned in perspective from the
gardens of Hartwell those of the Tuileries and Versailles. As joy
arises from calamity, so spring arises from the bosom of winter,
purely to receive your majesty, inviting the august descendant of
their glorious founder to adorn and animate them again with his
beneficent and gracious presence. The waters murmur, in voices
half-suppressed, the reverential hymn of peace restored: the woods bow
their heads....

_Louis._ Talking of woods, I am apprehensive all the game has been
woefully killed up in my forests.

_Talleyrand._ A single year will replenish them.

_Louis._ Meanwhile! M. Talleyrand! meanwhile!

_Talleyrand._ Honest and active and watchful gamekeepers, in
sufficient number, must be sought; and immediately.

_Louis._ Alas! if the children of my nobility had been educated like
the children of the English, I might have promoted some hundreds of
them in this department. But their talents lie totally within the
binding of their breviaries. Those of them who shoot, can shoot only
with pistols; which accomplishment they acquired in England, that they
might challenge any of the islanders who should happen to look with
surprise or displeasure in their faces, expecting to be noticed by
them in Paris, for the little hospitalities the proud young gentlemen,
and their prouder fathers, were permitted to offer them in London and
at their country-seats. What we call _reconnaissance_, they call
_gratitude_, treating a recollector like a debtor. This is a want of
courtesy, a defect in civilization, which it behoves us to supply. Our
memories are as tenacious as theirs, and rather more eclectic.

Since my return to my kingdom I have undergone great indignities from
this unreflecting people. One Canova, a sculptor at Rome, visited
Paris in the name of the Pope, and in quality of his envoy, and
insisted on the cession of those statues and pictures which were
brought into France by the French armies. He began to remove them out
of the gallery: I told him I would never give my consent: he replied,
he thought it sufficient that he had Wellington's. Therefore, the next
time Wellington presented himself at the Tuileries, I turned my back
upon him before the whole court. Let the English and their allies be
aware, that I owe my restoration not to them, but partly to God and
partly to Saint Louis. They and their armies are only brute
instruments in the hands of my progenitor and intercessor.

_Talleyrand._ Fortunate, that the conqueror of France bears no
resemblance to the conqueror of Spain. Peterborough (I shudder at the
idea) would have ordered a file of soldiers to seat your Majesty in
your travelling carriage, and would have reinstalled you at Hartwell.
The English people are so barbarous, that he would have done it not
only with impunity, but with applause.

_Louis._ But the sovereign of his country ... would the sovereign
suffer it?

_Talleyrand._ Alas! sire! Confronted with such men, what are
sovereigns, when the people are the judges? Wellington can drill
armies: Peterborough could marshal nations.

_Louis._ Thank God! we have no longer any such pests on earth. The
most consummate general of our days (such is Wellington) sees nothing
one single inch beyond the field of battle; and he is so observant of
discipline, that if I ordered him to be flogged in the presence of the
allied armies, he would not utter a complaint nor shrug a shoulder; he
would only write a dispatch.

_Talleyrand._ But his soldiers would execute the Duke of Brunswick's
manifesto, and Paris would sink into her catacombs. No man so little
beloved was ever so well obeyed: and there is not a man in England, of
either party, citizen or soldier, who would not rather die than see
him disgraced. His firmness, his moderation, his probity, place him
more opposite to Napoleon than he stood in the field of Waterloo.
These are his lofty lines of Torres Vedras, which no enemy dares
assail throughout their whole extent.

_Louis._ M. Talleyrand! is it quite right to extol an enemy and an
Englishman in this manner?

_Talleyrand._ Pardon! Sire! I stand corrected. Forgive me a momentary
fit of enthusiasm, in favour of those qualities by which, although an
Englishman's, I am placed again in your majesty's service.

_Louis._ We will now then go seriously to business. Wellington and the
allied armies have interrupted and occupied us. I will instantly
write, with my own hand, to the Marquis of Buckingham, desiring him to
send me five hundred pheasants' eggs. I am restored to my throne, M.
Talleyrand! but in what a condition! Not a pheasant on the table! I
must throw myself on the mercy of foreigners, even for a pheasant!
When I have written my letter, I shall be ready to converse with you
on the business on which I desired your presence. [_Writes._] Here;
read it. Give me your opinion: is not the note a model?

_Talleyrand._ If the charms of language could be copied, it would be.
But what is intended for delight may terminate in despair: and there
are words which, unapproachable by distance and sublimity, may wither
the laurels on the most exalted of literary brows.

_Louis._ There is grace in that expression of yours, M. Talleyrand!
there is really no inconsiderable grace in it. Seal my letter: direct
it to the Marquis of Buckingham at Stowe. Wait: open it again: no, no:
write another in your own name: instruct him how sure you are it will
be agreeable to me, if he sends at the same time fifty or a hundred
brace of the birds as well as the eggs. At present I am desolate. My
heart is torn, M. Talleyrand! it is almost plucked out of my bosom. I
have no other care, no other thought, day or night, but the happiness
of my people. The allies, who have most shamefully overlooked the
destitution of my kitchen, seem resolved to turn a deaf ear to its
cries evermore; nay, even to render them shriller and shriller. The
allies, I suspect, are resolved to execute the design of the
mischievous Pitt.

_Talleyrand._ May it please your majesty to inform me _which_ of them;
for he formed a thousand, all mischievous, but greatly more
mischievous to England than to France. Resolved to seize the sword, in
his drunkenness, he seized it by the edge, and struck at us with the
hilt, until he broke it off and until he himself was exhausted by loss
of breath and of blood. We owe alike to him the energy of our armies,
the bloody scaffolds of public safety, the Reign of Terror, the empire
of usurpation, and finally, as the calm is successor to the tempest,
and sweet fruit to bitter kernel, the blessing of your majesty's
restoration. Excepting in this one event, he was mischievous to our
country; but in all events, and in all undertakings, he was pernicious
to his own. No man ever brought into the world such enduring evil; few
men such extensive.

_Louis._ His king ordered it. George III loved battles and blood.

_Talleyrand._ But he was prudent in his appetite for them.

_Louis._ He talked of peppering his people as I would talk of
peppering a capon.

_Talleyrand._ Having split it. His subjects cut up by his subjects
were only capers to his leg of mutton. From none of his palaces and
parks was there any view so rural, so composing to his spirits, as the
shambles. When these were not fresh, the gibbet would do.

I wish better luck to the pheasants' eggs than befell Mr. Pitt's
designs. Not one brought forth anything.

_Louis._ No: but he declared in the face of his Parliament, and of
Europe, that he would insist on indemnity for the past and security
for the future. These were his words. Now, all the money and other
wealth the French armies levied in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and
everywhere else, would scarcely be sufficient for this indemnity.

_Talleyrand._ England shall never receive from us a tithe of that
amount.

_Louis._ A tithe of it! She may demand a quarter or a third, and leave
us wondering at her moderation and forbearance.

_Talleyrand._ The matter must be arranged immediately, before she has
time for calculation or reflection. A new peace maddens England to the
same paroxysm as a new war maddens France. She hath sent over hither
her minister ... or rather her prime minister himself is come to
transact all the business ... the most ignorant and most shortsighted
man to be found in any station of any public office throughout the
whole of Europe. He must be treated as her arbiter: we must talk to
him of restoring her, of regenerating her, of preserving her, of
guiding her, which (we must protest with our hands within our frills)
he alone is capable of doing. We must enlarge on his generosity (and
generous he indeed is), and there is nothing he will not concede.

_Louis._ But if they do not come over in a week, we shall lose the
season. I ought to be eating a pheasant-poult by the middle of July.
Oh, but you were talking to me about the other matter, and perhaps the
weightier of the two; ay, certainly. If this indemnity is paid to
England, what becomes of our civil list, the dignity of my family and
household?

_Talleyrand._ I do assure your majesty, England shall never receive ...
did I say a tithe?... I say she shall never receive a fiftieth of what
she expended in the war against us. It would be out of all reason, and
out of all custom in her to expect it. Indeed it would place her in
almost as good a condition as ourselves. Even if she were beaten she
could hardly hope _that_: she never in the last three centuries has
demanded it when she was victorious. Of all the sufferers by the war,
we shall be the best off.

_Louis._ The English are calculators and traders.

_Talleyrand._ Wild speculators, gamblers in trade, who hazard more
ventures than their books can register. It will take England some
years to cast up the amount of her losses.

_Louis._ But she, in common with her allies, will insist on our ceding
those provinces which my predecessor Louis XIV annexed to his kingdom.
Be quite certain that nothing short of Alsace, Lorraine, and Franc
Comté, will satisfy the German princes. They must restore the German
language in those provinces: for languages are the only true
boundaries of nations, and there will always be dissension where there
is difference of tongue. We must likewise be prepared to surrender the
remainder of the Netherlands; not indeed to England, who refused them
in the reign of Elizabeth: she wants only Dunkirk, and Dunkirk she
will have.

_Talleyrand._ This seems reasonable: for which reason it must never
be. Diplomacy, when she yields to such simple arguments as plain
reason urges against her, loses her office, her efficacy, and her
name.

_Louis._ I would not surrender our conquests in Germany, if I could
help it.

_Talleyrand._ Nothing more easy. The Emperor Alexander may be
persuaded that Germany united and entire, as she would then become,
must be a dangerous rival to Russia.

_Louis._ It appears to me that Poland will be more so, with her free
institutions.

_Talleyrand._ There is only one statesman in the whole number of those
assembled at Paris, who believes that her institutions will continue
free; and he would rather they did not; but he stipulates for it, to
gratify and mystify the people of England.

_Louis._ I see this clearly. I have a great mind to send Blacas over
to Stowe. I can trust to him to look to the crates and coops, and to
see that the pheasants have enough of air and water, and that the
Governor of Calais finds a commodious place for them to roost in,
forbidding the drums to beat and disturb them, evening or morning. The
next night, according to my calculation, they repose at Montreuil. I
must look at them before they are let loose. I cannot well imagine why
the public men employed by England are usually, indeed constantly so
inferior in abilities to those of France, Prussia, Austria, and
Russia. What say you, M. Talleyrand? I do not mean about the
pheasants; I mean about the envoys.

_Talleyrand._ It can only be that I have considered the subject more
frequently and attentively than suited the avocations of your majesty,
that the reason comes out before me clearly and distinctly. The prime
ministers, in all these countries, are independent, and uncontrolled
in the choice of agents. A prime minister in France may perhaps be
willing to promote the interests of his own family; and hence he may
appoint from it one unworthy of the place. In regard to other
families, he cares little or nothing about them, knowing that his
power lies in the palace, and not in the club-room. Whereas in England
he must conciliate the great families, the hereditary dependants of
his faction, Whig or Tory. Hence even the highest commands have been
conferred on such ignorant and worthless men as the Duke of York and
the Earl of Chatham, although the minister was fully aware that the
honour of his nation was tarnished, and that its safety was in
jeopardy, by such appointments. Meanwhile he kept his seat however,
and fed from it his tame creatures in the cub.

_Louis._ Do you apprehend any danger (talking of cubs) that my
pheasants will be bruised against the wooden bars, or suffer by
sea-sickness? I would not command my bishops to offer up public
prayers against such contingencies: for people must never have
positive evidence that the prayers of the Church can possibly be
ineffectual: and we cannot pray for pheasants as we pray for fine
weather, by the barometer. We must drop it. Now go on with the others,
if you have done with England.

_Talleyrand._ A succession of intelligent men rules Prussia, Russia,
and Austria; because these three are economical, and must get their
bread by creeping, day after day, through the hedges next to them, and
by filching a sheaf or two, early and late, from cottager or small
farmer; that is to say, from free states and petty princes. Prussia,
like a mongrel, would fly at the legs of Austria and Russia, catching
them with the sack upon their shoulders, unless they untied it and
tossed a morsel to her. These great powers take especial care to
impose a protective duty on intellect; to let none enter the country,
and none leave it, without a passport. Their diplomatists are as
clever and conciliatory as those of England are ignorant and
repulsive, who, while they offer an uncounted sum of secret-service
money with the left hand, give a sounding slap on the face with the
right.

_Louis._ We, by adopting a contrary policy, gain more information,
raise more respect, inspire more awe, and exercise more authority. The
weightiest of our disbursements are smiles and flatteries, with a
ribbon and a cross at the end of them.

But, between the Duke of York and the Earl of Chatham, I must confess,
I find very little difference.

_Talleyrand._ Some, however. The one was only drunk all the evening
and all the night; the other was only asleep all the day. The
accumulated fogs of Walcheren seemed to concentrate in his brain,
puffing out at intervals just sufficient to affect with typhus and
blindness four thousand soldiers. A cake of powder rusted their
musket-pans, which they were too weak to open and wipe. Turning round
upon their scanty and mouldy straw, they beheld their bayonets piled
together against the green dripping wall of the chamber, which neither
bayonet nor soldier was ever to leave again.

_Louis._ We suffer by the presence of the allied armies in our
capital: but we shall soon be avenged: for the English minister in
another fortnight will return and remain at home.

_Talleyrand._ England was once so infatuated as to give up Malta to
us, although fifty Gibraltars would be of inferior value to her.
Napoleon laughed at her: she was angry: she began to suspect she had
been duped and befooled: and she broke her faith.

_Louis._ For the first time, M. Talleyrand, and with a man who never
had any.

_Talleyrand._ We shall now induce her to evacuate Sicily, in violation
of her promises to the people of that island. Faith, having lost her
virginity, braves public opinion, and never blushes more.

_Louis._ Sicily is the key to India, Egypt is the lock.

_Talleyrand._ What, if I induce the minister to restore to us
Pondicherry?

_Louis._ M. Talleyrand! you have done great things, and without
boasting. Whenever you do boast, let it be that you will perform only
the thing which is possible. The English know well enough what it is
to allow us a near standing-place anywhere. If they permit a Frenchman
to plant one foot in India, it will upset all Asia before the other
touches the ground. It behoves them to prohibit a single one of us
from ever landing on those shores. Improbable as it is that a man
uniting to the same degree as Hyder-Ali did political and military
genius, will appear in the world again for centuries; most of the
princes are politic, some are brave, and perhaps no few are credulous.
While England is confiding in our loyalty, we might expatiate on her
perfidy, and our tears fall copiously on the broken sceptre in the
dust of Delhi. Ignorant and stupid as the king's ministers may be, the
East India Company is well-informed on its interests, and alert in
maintaining them. I wonder that a republic so wealthy and so wise
should be supported on the bosom of royalty. Believe me, her merchants
will take alarm, and arouse the nation.

_Talleyrand._ We must do all we have to do, while the nation is
feasting and unsober. It will awaken with sore eyes and stiff limbs.

_Louis._ Profuse as the English are, they will never cut the bottom of
their purses.

_Talleyrand._ They have already done it. Whenever I look toward the
shores of England, I fancy I descry the Danaïds there, toiling at the
replenishment of their perforated vases, and all the Nereids leering
and laughing at them in the mischievous fullness of their hearts.

_Louis._ Certainly she can do me little harm at present, and for
several years to come: but we must always have an eye upon her, and be
ready to assert our superiority.

_Talleyrand._ We feel it. In fifty years, by abstaining from war, we
may discharge our debt and replenish our arsenals. England will never
shake off the heavy old man from her shoulders. Overladen and morose,
she will be palsied in the hand she unremittingly holds up against
Ireland. Proud and perverse, she runs into domestic warfare as blindly
as France runs into foreign: and she refuses to her subject what she
surrenders to her enemy.

_Louis._ Her whole policy tends to my security.

_Talleyrand._ We must now consider how your majesty may enjoy it at
home, all the remainder of your reign.

_Louis._ Indeed you must, M. Talleyrand! Between you and me be it
spoken, I trust but little my loyal people; their loyalty being so
ebullient, that it often overflows the vessel which should contain it,
and is a perquisite of scouts and scullions. I do not wish to offend
you.

_Talleyrand._ Really I can see no other sure method of containing and
controlling them, than by bastions and redoubts, the whole circuit of
the city.

_Louis._ M. Talleyrand! I will not doubt your sincerity: I am
confident you have reserved the whole of it for my service; and there
are large arrears. But M. Talleyrand! such an attempt would be
resisted by any people which had ever heard of liberty, and much more
by a people which had ever dreamt of enjoying it.

_Talleyrand._ Forts are built in all directions above Genoa.

_Louis._ Yes; by her conqueror, not by her king.

_Talleyrand._ Your majesty comes with both titles, and rules, like
your great progenitor,

      Et par droit de conquête et par droit de naissance.

_Louis._ True; my arms have subdued the rebellious; but not without
great firmness and great valour on my part, and some assistance
(however tardy) on the part of my allies. Conquerors must conciliate:
fatherly kings must offer digestible spoon-meat to their
ill-conditioned children. There would be sad screaming and kicking
were I to swaddle mine in stone-work. No, M. Talleyrand; if ever Paris
is surrounded by fortifications to coerce the populace, it must be the
work of some democrat, some aspirant to supreme power, who resolves to
maintain it, exercising a domination too hazardous for legitimacy. I
will only scrape from the chambers the effervescence of superficial
letters and corrosive law.

_Talleyrand._ Sire! under all their governments the good people of
Paris have submitted to the _octroi_. Now, all complaints, physical or
political, arise from the stomach. Were it decorous in a subject to
ask a question (however humbly) of his king, I would beg permission to
inquire of your majesty, in your wisdom, whether a bar across the
shoulders is less endurable than a bar across the palate. Sire! the
French can bear anything now they have the honour of bowing before
your majesty.

_Louis._ The compliment is in a slight degree (a _very_ slight degree)
ambiguous, and (accept in good part my criticism, M. Talleyrand) not
turned with your usual grace.

Announce it as my will and pleasure that the Duc de Blacas do
superintend the debarkation of the pheasants; and I pray God, M. de
Talleyrand, to have you in His holy keeping.



OLIVER CROMWELL AND SIR OLIVER CROMWELL


_Sir Oliver._ How many saints and Sions dost carry under thy cloak,
lad? Ay, what dost groan at? What art about to be delivered of? Troth,
it must be a vast and oddly-shapen piece of roguery which findeth no
issue at such capacious quarters. I never thought to see thy face
again. Prithee what, in God's name, hath brought thee to Ramsey, fair
Master Oliver?

_Oliver._ In His name verily I come, and upon His errand; and the love
and duty I bear unto my godfather and uncle have added wings, in a
sort, unto my zeal.

_Sir Oliver._ Take 'em off thy zeal and dust thy conscience with 'em.
I have heard an account of a saint, one Phil Neri, who in the midst of
his devotions was lifted up several yards from the ground. Now I do
suspect, Nol, thou wilt finish by being a saint of his order; and
nobody will promise or wish thee the luck to come down on thy feet
again, as he did. So! because a rabble of fanatics at Huntingdon have
equipped thee as their representative in Parliament, thou art free of
all men's houses, forsooth! I would have thee to understand, sirrah,
that thou art fitter for the House they have chaired thee unto than
for mine. Yet I do not question but thou wilt be as troublesome and
unruly there as here. Did I not turn thee out of Hinchinbrook when
thou wert scarcely half the rogue thou art latterly grown up to? And
yet wert thou immeasurably too big a one for it to hold.

_Oliver._ It repenteth me, O mine uncle! that in my boyhood and youth
the Lord had not touched me.

_Sir Oliver._ Touch thee! thou wast too dirty a dog by half.

_Oliver._ Yes, sorely doth it vex and harrow me that I was then of ill
conditions, and that my name ... even your godson's ... stank in your
nostrils.

_Sir Oliver._ Ha! polecat! it was not thy name, although bad enough,
that stank first; in my house, at least. But perhaps there are worse
maggots in stauncher mummeries.

_Oliver._ Whereas in the bowels of your charity you then vouchsafed me
forgiveness, so the more confidently may I crave it now in this my
urgency.

_Sir Oliver._ More confidently! What! hast got more confidence? Where
didst find it? I never thought the wide circle of the world had within
it another jot for thee. Well, Nol, I see no reason why shouldst stand
before me with thy hat off, in the courtyard and in the sun, counting
the stones in the pavement. Thou hast some knavery in thy head, I
warrant thee. Come, put on thy beaver.

_Oliver._ Uncle Sir Oliver! I know my duty too well to stand covered
in the presence of so worshipful a kinsman, who, moreover, hath
answered at baptism for my good behaviour.

_Sir Oliver._ God forgive me for playing the fool before Him so
presumptuously and unprofitably! Nobody shall ever take me in again to
do such an absurd and wicked thing. But thou hast some left-handed
business in the neighbourhood, no doubt, or thou wouldst never more
have come under my archway.

_Oliver._ These are hard times for them that seek peace. We are clay
in the hands of the potter.

_Sir Oliver._ I wish your potters sought nothing costlier, and dug in
their own grounds for it. Most of us, as thou sayest, have been upon
the wheel of these artificers; and little was left but rags when we
got off. Sanctified folks are the cleverest skinners in all
Christendom, and their Jordan tans and constringes us to the
avoirdupois of mummies.

_Oliver._ The Lord hath chosen His own vessels.

_Sir Oliver._ I wish heartily He would pack them off, and send them
anywhere on ass-back or cart (cart preferably), to rid our country of
'em. But now again to the point: for if we fall among the potsherds we
shall hobble on but lamely. Since thou art raised unto a high command
in the army, and hast a dragoon to hold thy solid and stately piece of
horse-flesh, I cannot but take it into my fancy that thou hast some
commission of array or disarray to execute hereabout.

_Oliver._ With a sad sinking of spirit, to the pitch well-nigh of
swounding, and with a sight of bitter tears, which will not be put
back nor stayed in any wise, as you bear testimony unto me, Uncle
Oliver!

_Sir Oliver._ No tears, Master Nol, I beseech thee! Wet days, among
those of thy kidney, portend the letting of blood. What dost whimper
at?

_Oliver._ That I, that I, of all men living, should be put upon this
work!

_Sir Oliver._ What work, prithee?

_Oliver._ I am sent hither by them who (the Lord in His loving
kindness having pity, and mercy upon these poor realms) do, under His
right hand, administer unto our necessities, and righteously command
us, _by the aforesaid as aforesaid_ (thus runs the commission), hither
am I deputed (woe is me!) to levy certain fines in this county, or
shire, on such as the Parliament in its wisdom doth style malignants.

_Sir Oliver._ If there is anything left about the house, never be
over-nice: dismiss thy modesty and lay hands upon it. In this county
or shire, we let go the civet-bag to save the weazon.

_Oliver._ O mine uncle and godfather! be witness for me.

_Sir Oliver._ Witness for thee! not I indeed. But I would rather be
witness than surety, lad, where thou art docketed.

_Oliver._ From the most despised doth the Lord ever choose His
servants.

_Sir Oliver._ Then, faith! thou art His first butler.

_Oliver._ Serving Him with humility, I may peradventure be found
worthy of advancement.

_Sir Oliver._ Ha! now if any devil speaks from within thee, it is thy
own: he does not snuffle: to my ears he speaks plain English. Worthy
or unworthy of advancement, thou wilt attain it. Come in; at least for
an hour's rest. Formerly thou knewest the means of setting the
heaviest heart afloat, let it be sticking in what mud-bank it might:
and my wet dock at Ramsey is pretty near as commodious as that over
yonder at Hinchinbrook was erewhile. Times are changed, and places
too! yet the cellar holds good.

_Oliver._ Many and great thanks! But there are certain men on the
other side of the gate, who might take it ill if I turn away and
neglect them.

_Sir Oliver._ Let them enter also, or eat their victuals where they
are.

_Oliver._ They have proud stomachs: they are recusants.

_Sir Oliver._ Recusants of what? of beef and ale? We have claret, I
trust, for the squeamish, if they are above the condition of
tradespeople. But of course you leave no person of higher quality in
the outer court.

_Oliver._ Vain are they and worldly, although such wickedness is the
most abominable in their cases. Idle folks are fond of sitting in the
sun: I would not forbid them this indulgence.

_Sir Oliver._ But who are they?

_Oliver._ The Lord knows. Maybe priests, deacons, and such-like.

_Sir Oliver._ Then, sir, they are gentlemen. And the commission you
bear from the parliamentary thieves, to sack and pillage my
mansion-house, is far less vexatious and insulting to me, than your
behaviour in keeping them so long at my stable-door. With your
permission, or without it, I shall take the liberty to invite them to
partake of my poor hospitality.

_Oliver._ But, Uncle Sir Oliver! there are rules and ordinances
whereby it must be manifested that they lie under displeasure ... not
mine ... not mine ... but my milk must not flow for them.

_Sir Oliver._ You may enter the house or remain where you are, at your
option; I make my visit to these gentlemen immediately, for I am tired
of standing. If thou ever reachest my age,[12] Oliver! (but God will
not surely let this be) thou wilt know that the legs become at last of
doubtful fidelity in the service of the body.

_Oliver._ Uncle Sir Oliver! now that, as it seemeth, you have been
taking a survey of the courtyard and its contents, am I indiscreet in
asking your worship whether I acted not prudently in keeping the
_men-at-belly_ under the custody of the _men-at-arms_? This
pestilence, like unto one I remember to have read about in some poetry
of Master Chapman's,[13] began with the dogs and mules, and afterwards
crope up into the breasts of men.

_Sir Oliver._ I call such treatment barbarous; their troopers will not
let the gentlemen come with me into the house, but insist on sitting
down to dinner with them. And yet, having brought them out of their
colleges, these brutal half-soldiers must know that they are fellows.

_Oliver._ Yea, of a truth are they, and fellows well met. Out of their
superfluities they give nothing to the Lord or His saints; no, not
even stirrup or girth, wherewith we may mount our horses and go forth
against those who thirst for our blood. Their eyes are fat, and they
raise not up their voices to cry for our deliverance.

_Sir Oliver._ Art mad? What stirrups and girths are hung up in
college halls and libraries? For what are these gentlemen brought
hither?

_Oliver._ They have elected me, with somewhat short of unanimity, not
indeed to be one of themselves, for of that distinction I acknowledge
and deplore my unworthiness, nor indeed to be a poor scholar, to
which, unless it be a very poor one, I have almost as small
pretension, but simply to undertake a while the heavier office of
bursar for them; to cast up their accounts; to overlook the scouring
of their plate; and to lay a list thereof, with a few specimens,
before those who fight the fight of the Lord, that His saints, seeing
the abasement of the proud and the chastisement of worldly-mindedness,
may rejoice.

_Sir Oliver._ I am grown accustomed to such saints and such
rejoicings. But, little could I have thought, threescore years ago,
that the hearty and jovial people of England would ever join in so
filching and stabbing a jocularity. Even the petticoated torchbearers
from rotten Rome, who lighted the faggots in Smithfield some years
before, if more blustering and cocksy, were less bitter and vulturine.
They were all intolerant, but they were not all hypocritical; they had
not always '_the Lord_' in their mouth.

_Oliver._ According to their own notions, they might have had, at an
outlay of a farthing.

_Sir Oliver._ Art facetious, Nol? for it is as hard to find that out
as anything else in thee, only it makes thee look, at times, a little
the grimmer and sourer.

But, regarding these gentlemen from Cambridge. Not being such as, by
their habits and professions, could have opposed you in the field, I
hold it unmilitary and unmanly to put them under any restraint, and to
lead them away from their peaceful and useful occupations.

_Oliver._ I always bow submissively before the judgment of mine
elders; and the more reverentially when I know them to be endowed with
greater wisdom, and guided by surer experience than myself. Alas!
these collegians not only are strong men, as you may readily see if
you measure them round the waistband, but boisterous and pertinacious
challengers. When we, who live in the fear of God, exhorted them
earnestly unto peace and brotherly love, they held us in derision.
Thus far indeed it might be an advantage to us, teaching us
forbearance and self-seeking, but we cannot countenance the evil
spirit moving them thereunto. Their occupations, as you remark most
wisely, might have been useful and peaceful, and had formerly been
so. Why then did they gird the sword of strife about their loins
against the children of Israel? By their own declaration, not only are
they our enemies, but enemies the most spiteful and untractable. When
I came quietly, lawfully, and in the name of the Lord, for their
plate, what did they? Instead of surrendering it like honest and
conscientious men, they attacked me and my people on horseback, with
syllogisms and enthymemes, and the Lord knows with what other such
gimcracks; such venomous and rankling old weapons as those who have
the fear of God before their eyes are fain to lay aside. Learning
should not make folks mockers ... should not make folks malignants ...
should not harden their hearts. We came with bowels for them.

_Sir Oliver._ That ye did! and bowels which would have stowed within
them all the plate on board of a galleon. If tankards and
wassail-bowls had stuck between your teeth, you would not have felt
them.

_Oliver._ We did feel them; some at least: perhaps we missed too many.

_Sir Oliver._ How can these learned societies raise the money you
exact from them, beside plate? dost think they can create and coin it?

_Oliver._ In Cambridge, Uncle Sir Oliver, and more especially in that
college named in honour (as they profanely call it) of the Blessed
Trinity, there are great conjurors or chemists. Now the said conjurors
or chemists not only do possess the faculty of making the precious
metals out of old books and parchments, but out of the skulls of young
lordlings and gentlefolks, which verily promise less. And this they
bring about by certain gold wires fastened at the top of certain caps.
Of said metals, thus devilishly converted, do they make a vain and
sumptuous use; so that, finally, they are afraid of cutting their lips
with glass. But indeed it is high time to call them.

_Sir Oliver._ Well ... at last thou hast some mercy.

_Oliver._ [_Aloud._] Cuffsatan Ramsbottom! Sadsoul Kiteclaw! advance!
Let every gown, together with the belly that is therein, mount up
behind you and your comrades in good fellowship. And forasmuch as you
at the country places look to bit and bridle, it seemeth fair and
equitable that ye should leave unto them, in full propriety, the
mancipular office of discharging the account. If there be any spare
beds at the inns, allow the doctors and dons to occupy the same ...
they being used to lie softly; and be not urgent that more than three
lie in each ... they being mostly corpulent. Let pass quietly and
unreproved any light bubble of pride or impetuosity, seeing that they
have not always been accustomed to the service of guards and ushers.
The Lord be with ye!... Slow trot! And now, Uncle Sir Oliver, I can
resist no longer your loving kindness. I kiss you, my godfather, in
heart's and soul's duty; and most humbly and gratefully do I accept of
your invitation to dine and lodge with you, albeit the least worthy of
your family and kinsfolk. After the refreshment of needful food, more
needful prayer, and that sleep which descendeth on the innocent like
the dew of Hermon, to-morrow at daybreak I proceed on my journey
Londonward.

_Sir Oliver._ [_Aloud._] Ho, there! [_To a servant._] Let dinner be
prepared in the great dining-room; let every servant be in waiting,
each in full livery; let every delicacy the house affords be placed
upon the table in due courses; arrange all the plate upon the
sideboard: a gentleman by descent ... a stranger ... has claimed my
hospitality. [_Servant goes._]

Sir! you are now master. Grant me dispensation, I entreat you, from a
further attendance on you.

FOOTNOTES:

[12] Sir Oliver, who died in 1655, aged ninety-three, might, by
possibility, have seen all the men of great genius, excepting Chaucer
and Roger Bacon, whom England had produced from its first discovery
down to our own times, Francis Bacon, Shakespeare, Milton, Newton, and
the prodigious shoal that attended these leviathans through the
intellectual deep. Newton was but in his thirteenth year at Sir
Oliver's death. Raleigh, Spenser, Hooker, Eliot, Selden, Taylor,
Hobbes, Sidney, Shaftesbury, and Locke, were existing in his lifetime;
and several more, who may be compared with the smaller of these.

[13] Chapman's _Homer_, first book.



THE COUNT GLEICHEM: THE COUNTESS: THEIR CHILDREN, AND ZAIDA.


_Countess._ Ludolph! my beloved Ludolph! do we meet again? Ah! I am
jealous of these little ones, and of the embraces you are giving them.

Why sigh, my sweet husband?

Come back again, Wilhelm! Come back again, Annabella! How could you
run away? Do you think you can see better out of the corner?

_Annabella._ Is this indeed our papa? What, in the name of mercy, can
have given him so dark a colour? I hope I shall never be like that;
and yet everybody tells me I am very like papa.

_Wilhelm._ Do not let her plague you, papa; but take me between your
knees (I am too old to sit upon them), and tell me all about the
Turks, and how you ran away from them.

_Countess._ Wilhelm! if your father had run away from the enemy, we
should not have been deprived of him two whole years.

_Wilhelm._ I am hardly such a child as to suppose that a Christian
knight would run away from a rebel Turk in battle. But even Christians
are taken, somehow, by their tricks and contrivances, and their dog
Mahomet. Beside, you know you yourself told me, with tear after tear,
and scolding me for mine, that papa was taken by them.

_Annabella._ Neither am I, who am only one year younger, so foolish as
to believe there is any dog Mahomet. And, if there were, we have dogs
that are better and faithfuller and stronger.

_Wilhelm._ [_To his father._] I can hardly help laughing to think what
curious fancies girls have about Mahomet. We know that Mahomet is a
dog-spirit with three horsetails.

_Annabella._ Papa! I am glad to see you smile at Wilhelm. I do assure
you he is not half so bad a boy as he was, although he did point at
me, and did tell you some mischief.

_Count._ I ought to be indeed most happy at seeing you all again.

_Annabella._ And so you are. Don't pretend to look grave now. I very
easily find you out. I often look grave when I am the happiest. But
forth it bursts at last: there is no room for it in tongue, or eyes,
or anywhere.

_Count._ And so, my little angel, you begin to recollect me.

_Annabella._ At first I used to dream of papa, but at last I forgot
how to dream of him: and then I cried, but at last I left off crying.
And then, papa, who could come to me in my sleep, seldom came again.

_Count._ Why do you now draw back from me, Annabella?

_Annabella._ Because you really are so very very brown: just like
those ugly Turks who sawed the pines in the saw-pit under the wood,
and who refused to drink wine in the heat of summer, when Wilhelm and
I brought it to them. Do not be angry; we did it only once.

_Wilhelm._ Because one of them stamped and frightened her when the
other seemed to bless us.

_Count._ Are they still living?

_Countess._ One of them is.

_Wilhelm._ The fierce one.

_Count._ We will set him free, and wish it were the other.

_Annabella._ Papa! I am glad you are come back without your spurs.

_Countess._ Hush, child, hush.

_Annabella._ Why, mamma? Do not you remember how they tore my frock
when I clung to him at parting? Now I begin to think of him again: I
lose everything between that day and this.

_Countess._ The girl's idle prattle about the spurs has pained you:
always too sensitive; always soon hurt, though never soon offended.

_Count._ O God! O my children! O my wife! it is not the loss of spurs
I now must blush for.

_Annabella._ Indeed, papa, you never can blush at all, until you cut
that horrid beard off.

_Countess._ Well may you say, my own Ludolph, as you do; for most
gallant was your bearing in the battle.

_Count._ Ah! why was it ever fought?

_Countess._ Why were most battles? But they may lead to glory even
through slavery.

_Count._ And to shame and sorrow.

_Countess._ Have I lost the little beauty I possessed, that you hold
my hand so languidly, and turn away your eyes when they meet mine? It
was not so formerly ... unless when first we loved.

That one kiss restores to me all my lost happiness.

Come; the table is ready: there are your old wines upon it: you must
want that refreshment.

_Count._ Go, my sweet children! you must eat your supper before I do.

_Countess._ Run into your own room for it.

_Annabella._ I will not go until papa has patted me again on the
shoulder, now I begin to remember it. I do not much mind the beard: I
grow used to it already: but indeed I liked better to stroke and pat
the smooth laughing cheek, with my arm across the neck behind. It is
very pleasant even so. Am I not grown? I can put the whole length of
my finger between your lips.

_Count._ And now, will not _you_ come, Wilhelm?

_Wilhelm._ I am too tall and too heavy: she is but a child.
[_Whispers._] Yet I think, papa, I am hardly so much of a man but you
may kiss me over again ... if you will not let her see it.

_Countess._ My dears! why do not you go to your supper?

_Annabella._ Because he has come to show us what Turks are like.

_Wilhelm._ Do not be angry with her. Do not look down, papa!

_Count._ Blessings on you both, sweet children!

_Wilhelm._ We may go now.

_Countess._ And now, Ludolph, come to the table, and tell me all your
sufferings.

_Count._ The worst begin here.

_Countess._ Ungrateful Ludolph!

_Count._ I am he: that is my name in full.

_Countess._ You have then ceased to love me?

_Count._ Worse; if worse can be: I have ceased to deserve your love.

_Countess._ No: Ludolph hath spoken falsely for once; but Ludolph is
not false.

_Count._ I have forfeited all I ever could boast of, your affection
and my own esteem. Away with caresses! Repulse me, abjure me; hate,
and never pardon me. Let the abject heart lie untorn by one remorse.
Forgiveness would split and shiver what slavery but abased.

_Countess._ Again you embrace me; and yet tell me never to pardon you!
O inconsiderate man! O idle deviser of impossible things!

But you have not introduced to me those who purchased your freedom, or
who achieved it by their valour.

_Count._ Mercy! O God!

_Countess._ Are they dead? Was the plague abroad.

_Count._ I will not dissemble ... such was never my intention ... that
my deliverance was brought about by means of----

_Countess._ Say it at once ... a lady.

_Count._ It was.

_Countess._ She fled with you.

_Count._ She did.

_Countess._ And have you left her, sir?

_Count._ Alas! alas! I have not; and never can.

_Countess._ Now come to my arms, brave, honourable Ludolph! Did I not
say thou couldst not be ungrateful? Where, where is she who has given
me back my husband?

_Count._ Dare I utter it! in this house.

_Countess._ Call the children.

_Count._ No; they must not affront her: they must not even stare at
her: other eyes, not theirs, must stab me to the heart.

_Countess._ They shall bless her; we will all. Bring her in.

[_Zaida is led in by the Count._]

_Countess._ We three have stood silent long enough: and much there
may be on which we will for ever keep silence. But, sweet young
creature! can I refuse my protection, or my love, to the preserver of
my husband? Can I think it a crime, or even a folly, to have pitied
the brave and the unfortunate? to have pressed (but alas! that it ever
should have been so here!) a generous heart to a tender one?

Why do you begin to weep?

_Zaida._ Under your kindness, O lady, lie the sources of these tears.

But why has he left us? He might help me to say many things which I
want to say.

_Countess._ Did he never tell you he was married?

_Zaida._ He did indeed.

_Countess._ That he had children?

_Zaida._ It comforted me a little to hear it.

_Countess._ Why? prithee why?

_Zaida._ When I was in grief at the certainty of holding but the
second place in his bosom, I thought I could at least go and play with
them, and win perhaps their love.

_Countess._ According to our religion, a man must have only one wife.

_Zaida._ That troubled me again. But the dispenser of your religion,
who binds and unbinds, does for sequins or services what our Prophet
does purely through kindness.

_Countess._ We can love but one.

_Zaida._ We indeed can love only one: but men have large hearts.

_Countess._ Unhappy girl!

_Zaida._ The very happiest in the world.

_Countess._ Ah! inexperienced creature!

_Zaida._ The happier for that perhaps.

_Countess._ But the sin!

_Zaida._ Where sin is, there must be sorrow: and I, my sweet sister,
feel none whatever. Even when tears fall from my eyes, they fall only
to cool my breast: I would not have one the fewer: they all are for
him: whatever he does, whatever he causes, is dear to me.

_Countess._ [_Aside._] This is too much. I could hardly endure to have
him so beloved by another, even at the extremity of the earth. [_To
Zaida._] You would not lead him into perdition?

_Zaida._ I have led him (Allah be praised!) to his wife and children.
It was for those I left my father. He whom we love might have stayed
with me at home: but there he would have been only half happy, even
had he been free. I could not often let him see me through the
lattice; I was too afraid; and I dared only once let fall the
water-melon; it made such a noise in dropping and rolling on the
terrace: but, another day, when I had pared it nicely, and had swathed
it up well among vine-leaves, dipped in sugar and sherbet, I was quite
happy. I leaped and danced to have been so ingenious. I wonder what
creature could have found and eaten it. I wish he were here, that I
might ask him if he knew.

_Countess._ He quite forgot home then!

_Zaida._ When we could speak together at all, he spoke perpetually of
those whom the calamity of war had separated from him.

_Countess._ It appears that you could comfort him in his distress, and
did it willingly.

_Zaida._ It is delightful to kiss the eye-lashes of the beloved: is it
not? but never so delightful as when fresh tears are on them.

_Countess._ And even this too? you did this?

_Zaida._ Fifty times.

_Countess._ Insupportable!

He often then spoke about me?

_Zaida._ As sure as ever we met: for he knew I loved him the better
when I heard him speak so fondly.

_Countess._ [_To herself._] Is this possible? It may be ... of the
absent, the unknown, the unfeared, the unsuspected.

_Zaida._ We shall now be so happy, all three.

_Countess._ How can we all live together?

_Zaida._ Now he is here, is there no bond of union?

_Countess._ Of union? of union? [_Aside_.] Slavery is a frightful
thing! slavery for life, too! And she released him from it. What then?
Impossible! impossible! [_To Zaida._] We are rich....

_Zaida._ I am glad to hear it. Nothing anywhere goes on well without
riches.

_Countess._ We can provide for you amply....

_Zaida._ Our husband....

_Countess._ _Our!... husband!..._

_Zaida._ Yes, yes; I know he is yours too; and you, being the elder
and having children, are lady above all. He can tell you how little I
want: a bath, a slave, a dish of pilau, one jonquil every morning, as
usual; nothing more. But he must swear that he has kissed it first.
No, he need not swear it; I may always see him do it, now.

_Countess._ [_Aside._] She agonizes me. [_To Zaida._] Will you never
be induced to return to your own country? Could not Ludolph persuade
you?

_Zaida._ He who could once persuade me anything, may now command me
everything: when he says I must go, I go. But he knows what awaits me.

_Countess._ No, child! he never shall say it.

_Zaida._ Thanks, lady! eternal thanks! The breaking of his word would
break my heart; and better _that_ break first. Let the command come
from you, and not from him.

_Countess._ [_Calling aloud._] Ludolph! Ludolph! hither! Kiss the hand
I present to you, and never forget it is the hand of a preserver.



THE PENTAMERON;

OR,

INTERVIEWS OF MESSER GIOVANNI BOCCACCIO
AND MESSER FRANCESCO PETRARCA

WHEN

SAID MESSER GIOVANNI LAY INFIRM AT HIS VILLETTA
HARD BY CERTALDO;

AFTER WHICH THEY SAW NOT EACH OTHER ON OUR SIDE
OF PARADISE.



FIRST DAY'S INTERVIEW


_Boccaccio._ Who is he that entered, and now steps so silently and
softly, yet with a foot so heavy it shakes my curtains?

Frate Biagio! can it possibly be you?

No more physic for me, nor masses neither, at present.

Assunta! Assuntina! who is it?

_Assunta._ I cannot say, Signor Padrone! he puts his finger in the
dimple of his chin, and smiles to make me hold my tongue.

_Boccaccio._ Fra Biagio! are you come from Samminiato for this? You
need not put your finger there. We want no secrets. The girl knows her
duty and does her business. I have slept well, and wake better.
[_Raising himself up a little._]

Why? who are you? It makes my eyes ache to look aslant over the
sheets; and I cannot get to sit quite upright so conveniently; and I
must not have the window-shutters opened, they tell me.

_Petrarca._ Dear Giovanni! have you then been very unwell?

_Boccaccio._ O that sweet voice! and this fat friendly hand of thine,
Francesco!

Thou hast distilled all the pleasantest flowers, and all the
wholesomest herbs of spring, into my breast already.

What showers we have had this April, ay! How could you come along such
roads? If the devil were my labourer, I would make him work upon these
of Certaldo. He would have little time and little itch for mischief
ere he had finished them, but would gladly fan himself with an
Agnus-castus, and go to sleep all through the carnival.

_Petrarca._ Let us cease to talk both of the labour and the labourer.
You have then been dangerously ill?

_Boccaccio._ I do not know: they told me I was: and truly a man might
be unwell enough, who has twenty masses said for him, and fain sigh
when he thinks what he has paid for them. As I hope to be saved, they
cost me a lira each. Assunta is a good market-girl in eggs, and
mutton, and cow-heel; but I would not allow her to argue and haggle
about the masses. Indeed she knows best whether they were not fairly
worth all that was asked for them, although I could have bought a
winter cloak for less money. However, we do not want both at the same
time. I did not want the cloak: I wanted _them_, it seems. And yet I
begin to think God would have had mercy on me, if I had begged it of
him myself in my own house. What think you?

_Petrarca._ I think he might.

_Boccaccio._ Particularly if I offered him the sacrifice on which I
wrote to you.

_Petrarca._ That letter has brought me hither.

_Boccaccio._ You do then insist on my fulfilling my promise, the
moment I can leave my bed. I am ready and willing.

_Petrarca._ Promise! none was made. You only told me that, if it
pleased God to restore you to your health again, you are ready to
acknowledge His mercy by the holocaust of your _Decameron_. What proof
have you that God would exact it? If you could destroy the _Inferno_
of Dante, would you?

_Boccaccio._ Not I, upon my life! I would not promise to burn a copy
of it on the condition of a recovery for twenty years.

_Petrarca._ You are the only author who would not rather demolish
another's work than his own; especially if he thought it better: a
thought which seldom goes beyond suspicion.

_Boccaccio._ I am not jealous of any one: I think admiration
pleasanter. Moreover, Dante and I did not come forward at the same
time, nor take the same walks. His flames are too fierce for you and
me: we had trouble enough with milder. I never felt any high
gratification in hearing of people being damned; and much less would I
toss them into the fire myself. I might indeed have put a nettle under
the nose of the learned judge in Florence, when he banished you and
your family; but I hardly think I could have voted for more than a
scourging to the foulest and fiercest of the party.

_Petrarca._ Be as compassionate, be as amiably irresolute, toward your
own _Novelle_, which have injured no friend of yours, and deserve more
affection.

_Boccaccio._ Francesco! no character I ever knew, ever heard of, or
ever feigned, deserves the same affection as you do; the tenderest
lover, the truest friend, the firmest patriot, and, rarest of glories!
the poet who cherishes another's fame as dearly as his own.

_Petrarca._ If aught of this is true, let it be recorded of me that my
exhortations and entreaties have been successful, in preserving the
works of the most imaginative and creative genius that our Italy, or
indeed our world, hath in any age beheld.

_Boccaccio._ I would not destroy his poems, as I told you, or think I
told you. Even the worst of the Florentines, who in general keep only
one of God's commandments, keep it rigidly in regard to Dante--

      Love them who curse you.

He called them all scoundrels, with somewhat less courtesy than
cordiality, and less afraid of censure for veracity than adulation: he
sent their fathers to hell, with no inclination to separate the child
and parent: and now they are hugging him for it in his shroud! Would
you ever have suspected them of being such lovers of justice?

You must have mistaken my meaning; the thought never entered my head:
the idea of destroying a single copy of Dante! And what effect would
that produce? There must be fifty, or near it, in various parts of
Italy.

_Petrarca._ I spoke of you.

_Boccaccio._ Of me! My poetry is vile; I have already thrown into the
fire all of it within my reach.

_Petrarca._ Poetry was not the question. We neither of us are such
poets as we thought ourselves when we were younger, and as younger men
think us still. I meant your _Decameron_; in which there is more
character, more nature, more invention, than either modern or ancient
Italy, or than Greece, from whom she derived her whole inheritance,
ever claimed or ever knew. Would you consume a beautiful meadow
because there are reptiles in it; or because a few grubs hereafter may
be generated by the succulence of the grass?

_Boccaccio._ You amaze me: you utterly confound me.

_Petrarca._ If you would eradicate twelve or thirteen of the
_Novelle_, and insert the same number of better, which you could
easily do within as many weeks, I should be heartily glad to see it
done. Little more than a tenth of the _Decameron_ is bad: less than a
twentieth of the _Divina Commedia_ is good.

_Boccaccio._ So little?

_Petrarca._ Let me never seem irreverent to our master.

_Boccaccio._ Speak plainly and fearlessly, Francesco! Malice and
detraction are strangers to you.

_Petrarca._ Well then: at least sixteen parts in twenty of the
_Inferno_ and _Purgatorio_ are detestable, both in poetry and
principle: the higher parts are excellent indeed.

_Boccaccio._ I have been reading the _Paradiso_ more recently. Here it
is, under the pillow. It brings me happier dreams than the others, and
takes no more time in bringing them. Preparation for my lectures made
me remember a great deal of the poem. I did not request my auditors to
admire the beauty of the metrical version:

      Osanna sanctus deus Sabbaoth,
      Super-illustrans charitate tuâ
      Felices ignes horum Malahoth,

nor these, with a slip of Italian between two pales of Latin:

      Modicum,[14] et non videbitis me,
      Et iterum, sorelle mie dilette,
      Modicum, et vos videbitis me.

I dare not repeat all I recollect of

      Pepe Setan, Pepe Setan, aleppe,

as there is no holy-water-sprinkler in the room: and you are aware
that other dangers awaited me, had I been so imprudent as to show the
Florentines the allusion of our poet. His _gergo_ is perpetually in
play, and sometimes plays very roughly.

_Petrarca._ We will talk again of him presently. I must now rejoice
with you over the recovery and safety of your prodigal son, the
_Decameron_.

_Boccaccio._ So then, you would preserve at any rate my favourite
volume from the threatened conflagration.

_Petrarca._ Had I lived at the time of Dante, I would have given him
the same advice in the same circumstances. Yet how different is the
tendency of the two productions! Yours is somewhat too licentious; and
young men, in whose nature, or rather in whose education and habits,
there is usually this failing, will read you with more pleasure than
is commendable or innocent. Yet the very time they occupy with you,
would perhaps be spent in the midst of those excesses or
irregularities, to which the moralist, in his utmost severity, will
argue that your pen directs them. Now there are many who are fond of
standing on the brink of precipices, and who nevertheless are as
cautious as any of falling in. And there are minds desirous of being
warmed by description, which without this warmth might seek excitement
among the things described.

I would not tell you in health what I tell you in convalescence, nor
urge you to compose what I dissuade you from cancelling. After this
avowal, I do declare to you, Giovanni, that in my opinion, the very
idlest of your tales will do the world as much good as evil; not
reckoning the pleasure of reading, nor the exercise and recreation of
the mind, which in themselves are good. What I reprove you for, is the
indecorous and uncleanly; and these, I trust, you will abolish. Even
these, however, may repel from vice the ingenuous and graceful spirit,
and can never lead any such toward them. Never have you taken an
inhuman pleasure in blunting and fusing the affections at the furnace
of the passions; never, in hardening by sour sagacity and ungenial
strictures, that delicacy which is more productive of innocence and
happiness, more estranged from every track and tendency of their
opposites, than what in cold, crude systems hath holden the place and
dignity of the highest virtue. May you live, O my friend, in the
enjoyment of health, to substitute the facetious for the licentious,
the simple for the extravagant, the true and characteristic for the
indefinite and diffuse.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Boccaccio._ And after all this, can you bear to think what I am?

_Petrarca._ Complacently and joyfully; venturing, nevertheless, to
offer you a friend's advice.

Enter into the mind and heart of your own creatures: think of them
long, entirely, solely: never of style, never of self, never of
critics, cracked or sound. Like the miles of an open country, and of
an ignorant population, when they are correctly measured they become
smaller. In the loftiest rooms and richest entablatures are suspended
the most spider-webs; and the quarry out of which palaces are erected
is the nursery of nettle and bramble.

_Boccaccio._ It is better to keep always in view such writers as
Cicero, than to run after those idlers who throw stones that can never
reach us.

_Petrarca._ If you copied him to perfection, and on no occasion lost
sight of him, you would be an indifferent, not to say a bad writer.

_Boccaccio._ I begin to think you are in the right. Well then,
retrenching some of my licentious tales, I must endeavour to fill up
the vacancy with some serious and some pathetic.

_Petrarca._ I am heartily glad to hear of this decision; for,
admirable as you are in the jocose, you descend from your natural
position when you come to the convivial and the festive. You were
placed among the Affections, to move and master them, and gifted with
the rod that sweetens the fount of tears. My nature leads me also to
the pathetic; in which, however, an imbecile writer may obtain
celebrity. Even the hard-hearted are fond of such reading, when they
are fond of any; and nothing is easier in the world than to find and
accumulate its sufferings. Yet this very profusion and luxuriance of
misery is the reason why few have excelled in describing it. The eye
wanders over the mass without noticing the peculiarities. To mark them
distinctly is the work of genius; a work so rarely performed, that, if
time and space may be compared, specimens of it stand at wider
distances than the trophies of Sesostris. Here we return again to the
_Inferno_ of Dante, who overcame the difficulty. In this vast desert
are its greater and its less oasis; Ugolino and Francesca di Rimini.
The peopled region is peopled chiefly with monsters and moschitoes:
the rest for the most part is sand and suffocation.

_Boccaccio._ Ah! had Dante remained through life the pure solitary
lover of Bice, his soul had been gentler, tranquiller, and more
generous. He scarcely hath described half the curses he went through,
nor the roads he took on the journey: theology, politics, and that
barbican of the _Inferno_, marriage, surrounded with its

      Selva selvaggia ed aspra e forte.

Admirable is indeed the description of Ugolino, to whoever can endure
the sight of an old soldier gnawing at the scalp of an old archbishop.

_Petrarca._ The thirty lines from

      Ed io sentii,

are unequalled by any other continuous thirty in the whole dominions
of poetry.

_Boccaccio._ Give me rather the six on Francesca: for if in the former
I find the simple, vigorous, clear narration, I find also what I would
not wish, the features of Ugolino reflected full in Dante. The two
characters are similar in themselves; hard, cruel, inflexible,
malignant, but, whenever moved, moved powerfully. In Francesca, with
the faculty of divine spirits, he leaves his own nature (not indeed
the exact representative of theirs) and converts all his strength into
tenderness. The great poet, like the original man of the Platonists,
is double, possessing the further advantage of being able to drop one
half at his option, and to resume it. Some of the tenderest on paper
have no sympathies beyond; and some of the austerest in their
intercourse with their fellow-creatures have deluged the world with
tears. It is not from the rose that the bee gathers her honey, but
often from the most acrid and the most bitter leaves and petals:

      Quando leggemmo il disiato viso
        Esser baciato di cotanto amante,
      Questi, chi mai da me non sia diviso!
        La bocca mi baciò tutto tremante ...
      _Galeotto_ fù il libro, e chi lo scrisse ...
        Quel giorno più non vi leggemmo avante.

In the midst of her punishment, Francesca, when she comes to the
tenderest part of her story, tells it with complacency and delight;
and, instead of naming Paolo, which indeed she never has done from the
beginning, she now designates him as

      Questi chi mai da me non sia diviso!

Are we not impelled to join in her prayer, wishing them happier in
their union?

_Petrarca._ If there be no sin in it.

_Boccaccio._ Ay, and even if there be ... God help us!

What a sweet aspiration in each cesura of the verse! three love-sighs
fixed and incorporate! Then, when she hath said

      La bocca mi baciò, tutto tremante,

she stops: she would avert the eyes of Dante from her: he looks for
the sequel: she thinks he looks severely: she says: '_Galeotto_ is the
name of the book,' fancying by this timorous little flight she has
drawn him far enough from the nest of her young loves. No, the eagle
beak of Dante and his piercing eyes are yet over her.

'_Galeotto_ is the name of the book.'

'What matters that?'

'And of the writer.'

'Or that either?'

At last she disarms him: but how?

'_That_ day we read no more.'

Such a depth of intuitive judgment, such a delicacy of perception,
exists not in any other work of human genius; and from an author who,
on almost all occasions, in this part of the work, betrays a
deplorable want of it.

_Petrarca._ Perfection of poetry! The greater is my wonder at
discovering nothing else of the same order or cast in this whole
section of the poem. He who fainted at the recital of Francesca,

      And he who fell as a dead body falls,

would exterminate all the inhabitants of every town in Italy! What
execrations against Florence, Pistoia, Siena, Pisa, Genoa! what hatred
against the whole human race! what exultation and merriment at eternal
and immitigable sufferings! Seeing this, I cannot but consider the
_Inferno_ as the most immoral and impious book that ever was written.
Yet, hopeless that our country shall ever see again such poetry, and
certain that without it our future poets would be more feebly urged
forward to excellence, I would have dissuaded Dante from cancelling
it, if this had been his intention. Much however as I admire his
vigour and severity of style in the description of Ugolino, I
acknowledge with you that I do not discover so much imagination, so
much creative power, as in the Francesca. I find indeed a minute
detail of probable events: but this is not all I want in a poet: it is
not even all I want most in a scene of horror. Tribunals of justice,
dens of murderers, wards of hospitals, schools of anatomy, will afford
us nearly the same sensations, if we hear them from an accurate
observer, a clear reporter, a skilful surgeon, or an attentive nurse.
There is nothing of sublimity in the horrific of Dante, which there
always is in Aeschylus and Homer. If you, Giovanni, had described so
nakedly the reception of Guiscardo's heart by Gismonda, or Lorenzo's
head by Lisabetta, we could hardly have endured it.

_Boccaccio._ Prithee, dear Francesco, do not place me over Dante: I
stagger at the idea of approaching him.

_Petrarca._ Never think I am placing you blindly or indiscriminately.
I have faults to find with you, and even here. Lisabetta should by no
means have been represented cutting off the head of her lover, '_as
well as she could_,' with a clasp-knife. This is shocking and
improbable. She might have found it already cut off by her brothers,
in order to bury the corpse more commodiously and expeditiously. Nor
indeed is it likely that she should have entrusted it to her
waiting-maid, who carried home in her bosom a treasure so dear to her,
and found so unexpectedly and so lately.

_Boccaccio._ That is true: I will correct the oversight. Why do we
never hear of our faults until everybody knows them, and until they
stand in record against us?

_Petrarca._ Because our ears are closed to truth and friendship for
some time after the triumphal course of composition. We are too
sensitive for the gentlest touch; and when we really have the most
infirmity, we are angry to be told that we have any.

_Boccaccio._ Ah, Francesco! thou art poet from scalp to heel: but what
other would open his breast as thou hast done! They show
ostentatiously far worse weaknesses; but the most honest of the tribe
would forswear himself on this. Again, I acknowledge it, you have
reason to complain of Lisabetta and Gismonda.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Petrarca._ In my delight to listen to you after so long an absence, I
have been too unwary; and you have been speaking too much for one
infirm. Greatly am I to blame, not to have moderated my pleasure and
your vivacity. You must rest now: to-morrow we will renew our
conversation.

_Boccaccio._ God bless thee, Francesco! I shall be talking with thee
all night in my slumbers. Never have I seen thee with such pleasure as
to-day, excepting when I was deemed worthy by our fellow-citizens of
bearing to thee, and of placing within this dear hand of thine, the
sentence of recall from banishment, and when my tears streamed over
the ordinance as I read it, whereby thy paternal lands were redeemed
from the public treasury.

Again God bless thee! Those tears were not quite exhausted: take the
last of them.

FOOTNOTE:

[14] It may puzzle an Englishman to read the lines beginning with
'Modicum', so as to give the metre. The secret is, to draw out _et_
into a disyllable, et-te, as the Italians do, who pronounce Latin
verse, if possible, worse than we, adding a syllable to such as end
with a consonant.


THIRD DAY'S INTERVIEW

It being now the Lord's day, Messer Francesco thought it meet that he
should rise early in the morning and bestir himself, to hear mass in
the parish church at Certaldo. Whereupon he went on tiptoe, if so
weighty a man could indeed go in such a fashion, and lifted softly the
latch of Ser Giovanni's chamber door, that he might salute him ere he
departed, and occasion no wonder at the step he was about to take. He
found Ser Giovanni fast asleep, with the missal wide open across his
nose, and a pleasant smile on his genial, joyous mouth. Ser Francesco
leaned over the couch, closed his hands together, and looking with
even more than his usual benignity, said in a low voice:

'God bless thee, gentle soul! the mother of purity and innocence
protect thee!'

He then went into the kitchen, where he found the girl Assunta, and
mentioned his resolution. She informed him that the horse had eaten
his two beans,[15] and was as strong as a lion and as ready as a
lover. Ser Francesco patted her on the cheek, and called her
_semplicetta_! She was overjoyed at this honour from so great a man,
the bosom friend of her good master, whom she had always thought the
greatest man in the world, not excepting Monsignore, until he told her
he was only a dog confronted with Ser Francesco. She tripped alertly
across the paved court into the stable, and took down the saddle and
bridle from the farther end of the rack. But Ser Francesco, with his
natural politeness, would not allow her to equip his palfrey.

'This is not the work for maidens,' said he; 'return to the house,
good girl!'

She lingered a moment, then went away; but, mistrusting the dexterity
of Ser Francesco, she stopped and turned back again, and peeped
through the half-closed door, and heard sundry sobs and wheezes round
about the girth. Ser Francesco's wind ill seconded his intention; and,
although he had thrown the saddle valiantly and stoutly in its
station, yet the girths brought him into extremity. She entered again,
and dissembling the reason, asked him whether he would not take a
small beaker of the sweet white wine before he set out, and offered to
girdle the horse while his Reverence bitted and bridled him. Before
any answer could be returned, she had begun. And having now
satisfactorily executed her undertaking, she felt irrepressible
delight and glee at being able to do what Ser Francesco had failed in.
He was scarcely more successful with his allotment of the labour;
found unlooked-for intricacies and complications in the machinery,
wondered that human wit could not simplify it, and declared that the
animal had never exhibited such restiveness before. In fact, he never
had experienced the same grooming. At this conjuncture, a green cap
made its appearance, bound with straw-coloured ribbon, and surmounted
with two bushy sprigs of hawthorn, of which the globular buds were
swelling, and some bursting, but fewer yet open. It was young
Simplizio Nardi, who sometimes came on the Sunday morning to sweep the
courtyard for Assunta.

'Oh! this time you are come just when you were wanted,' said the girl.

'Bridle, directly, Ser Francesco's horse, and then go away about your
business.'

The youth blushed, and kissed Ser Francesco's hand, begging his
permission. It was soon done. He then held the stirrup; and Ser
Francesco, with scarcely three efforts, was seated and erect on the
saddle. The horse, however, had somewhat more inclination for the
stable than for the expedition; and, as Assunta was handing to the
rider his long ebony staff, bearing an ivory caduceus, the quadruped
turned suddenly round. Simplizio called him _bestiaccia_! and then,
softening it, _poco garbato_! and proposed to Ser Francesco that he
should leave the bastone behind, and take the crab-switch he presented
to him, giving at the same time a sample of its efficacy, which
covered the long grizzle hair of the worthy quadruped with a profusion
of pink blossoms, like embroidery. The offer was declined; but Assunta
told Simplizio to carry it himself, and to walk by the side of Ser
Canonico quite up to the church porch, having seen what a sad,
dangerous beast his reverence had under him.

With perfect good will, partly in the pride of obedience to Assunta,
and partly to enjoy the renown of accompanying a canon of Holy Church,
Simplizio did as she enjoined.

And now the sound of village bells, in many hamlets and convents and
churches out of sight, was indistinctly heard, and lost again; and at
last the five of Certaldo seemed to crow over the faintness of them
all. The freshness of the morning was enough of itself to excite the
spirits of youth; a portion of which never fails to descend on years
that are far removed from it, if the mind has partaken in innocent
mirth while it was its season and its duty to enjoy it. Parties of
young and old passed the canonico and his attendant with mute respect,
bowing and bare-headed; for that ebony staff threw its spell over the
tongue, which the frank and hearty salutation of the bearer was
inadequate to break. Simplizio, once or twice, attempted to call back
an intimate of the same age with himself; but the utmost he could
obtain was a _riveritissimo_! and a genuflexion to the rider. It is
reported that a heart-burning rose up from it in the breast of a
cousin, some days after, too distinctly apparent in the long-drawn
appellation of _Gnor_[16] Simplizio.

Ser Francesco moved gradually forward, his steed picking his way along
the lane, and looking fixedly on the stones with all the sobriety of a
mineralogist. He himself was well satisfied with the pace, and told
Simplizio to be sparing of the switch, unless in case of a hornet or a
gadfly. Simplizio smiled, toward the hedge, and wondered at the
condescension of so great a theologian and astrologer, in joking with
him about the gadflies and hornets in the beginning of April. 'Ah!
there are men in the world who can make wit out of anything!' said he
to himself.

As they approached the walls of the town, the whole country was
pervaded by a stirring and diversified air of gladness. Laughter and
songs and flutes and viols, inviting voices and complying responses,
mingled with merry bells and with processional hymns, along the
woodland paths and along the yellow meadows. It was really the _Lord's
Day_, for He made His creatures happy in it, and their hearts were
thankful. Even the cruel had ceased from cruelty; and the rich man
alone exacted from the animal his daily labour. Ser Francesco made
this remark, and told his youthful guide that he had never been before
where he could not walk to church on a Sunday; and that nothing should
persuade him to urge the speed of his beast, on the seventh day,
beyond his natural and willing foot's-pace. He reached the gates of
Certaldo more than half an hour before the time of service, and he
found laurels suspended over them, and being suspended; and many
pleasant and beautiful faces were protruded between the ranks of
gentry and clergy who awaited him. Little did he expect such an
attendance; but Fra Biagio of San Vivaldo, who himself had offered no
obsequiousness or respect, had scattered the secret of his visit
throughout the whole country. A young poet, the most celebrated in the
town, approached the canonico with a long scroll of verses, which fell
below the knee, beginning:

      How shall we welcome our illustrious guest?

To which Ser Francesco immediately replied: 'Take your favourite
maiden, lead the dance with her, and bid all your friends follow; you
have a good half-hour for it.'

Universal applauses succeeded, the music struck up, couples were
instantly formed. The gentry on this occasion led out the
cittadinanza, as they usually do in the villeggiatura, rarely in the
carnival, and never at other times. The elder of the priests stood
round in their sacred vestments, and looked with cordiality and
approbation on the youths, whose hands and arms could indeed do much,
and did it, but whose active eyes could rarely move upward the
modester of their partners.

While the elder of the clergy were thus gathering the fruits of their
liberal cares and paternal exhortations, some of the younger looked on
with a tenderer sentiment, not unmingled with regret. Suddenly the
bells ceased; the figure of the dance was broken; all hastened into
the church; and many hands that joined on the green, met together at
the font, and touched the brow reciprocally with its lustral waters,
in soul-devotion.

After the service, and after a sermon a good church-hour in length to
gratify him, enriched with compliments from all authors, Christian and
Pagan, informing him at the conclusion that, although he had been
crowned in the Capitol, he must die, being born mortal, Ser Francesco
rode homeward. The sermon seemed to have sunk deeply into him, and
even into the horse under him, for both of them nodded, both snorted,
and one stumbled. Simplizio was twice fain to cry:

'Ser Canonico! Riverenza! in this country if we sleep before dinner it
does us harm. There are stones in the road, Ser Canonico, loose as
eggs in a nest, and pretty nigh as thick together, huge as mountains.'

'Good lad!' said Ser Francesco, rubbing his eyes, 'toss the biggest of
them out of the way, and never mind the rest.'

The horse, although he walked, shuffled almost into an amble as he
approached the stable, and his master looked up at it with nearly the
same contentment. Assunta had been ordered to wait for his return, and
cried:

'O Ser Francesco! you are looking at our long apricot, that runs the
whole length of the stable and barn, covered with blossoms as the old
white hen is with feathers. You must come in the summer, and eat this
fine fruit with Signor Padrone. You cannot think how ruddy and golden
and sweet and mellow it is. There are peaches in all the fields, and
plums, and pears, and apples, but there is not another apricot for
miles and miles. Ser Giovanni brought the stone from Naples before I
was born: a lady gave it to him when she had eaten only half the fruit
off it: but perhaps you may have seen her, for you have ridden as far
as Rome, or beyond. Padrone looks often at the fruit, and eats it
willingly; and I have seen him turn over the stones in his plate, and
choose one out from the rest, and put it into his pocket, but never
plant it.'

'Where is the youth?' inquired Ser Francesco.

'Gone away,' answered the maiden.

'I wanted to thank him,' said the Canonico.

'May I tell him so?' asked she.

'And give him ...' continued he, holding a piece of silver.

'I will give him something of my own, if he goes on and behaves well,'
said she; 'but Signor Padrone would drive him away for ever, I am
sure, if he were tempted in an evil hour to accept a quattrino for any
service he could render the friends of the house.'

Ser Francesco was delighted with the graceful animation of this
ingenuous girl, and asked her, with a little curiosity, how she could
afford to make him a present.

'I do not intend to make him a present,' she replied: 'but it is
better he should be rewarded by me,' she blushed and hesitated, 'or by
Signor Padrone,' she added, 'than by your reverence. He has not done
half his duty yet; not half. I will teach him: he is quite a child;
four months younger than me.'

Ser Francesco went into the house, saying to himself at the doorway:

'Truth, innocence, and gentle manners have not yet left the earth.
There are sermons that never make the ears weary. I have heard but few
of them, and come from church for this.'

Whether Simplizio had obeyed some private signal from Assunta, or
whether his own delicacy had prompted him to disappear, he was now
again in the stable, and the manger was replenished with hay. A bucket
was soon after heard ascending from the well; and then two words:
'Thanks, Simplizio.'

When Petrarca entered the chamber, he found Boccaccio with his
breviary in his hand, not looking into it indeed, but repeating a
thanksgiving in an audible and impassioned tone of voice. Seeing Ser
Francesco, he laid the book down beside him, and welcomed him.

'I hope you have an appetite after your ride,' said he, 'for you have
sent home a good dinner before you.'

Ser Francesco did not comprehend him, and expressed it not in words
but in looks.

'I am afraid you will dine sadly late to-day: noon has struck this
half-hour, and you must wait another, I doubt. However, by good luck,
I had a couple of citrons in the house, intended to assuage my thirst
if the fever had continued. This being over, by God's mercy, I will
try (please God!) whether we two greyhounds cannot be a match for a
leveret.'

'How is this?' said Ser Francesco.

'Young Marc-Antonio Grilli, the cleverest lad in the parish at noosing
any wild animal, is our patron of the feast. He has wanted for many a
day to say something in the ear of Matilda Vercelli. Bringing up the
leveret to my bedside, and opening the lips, and cracking the
knuckles, and turning the foot round to show the quality and quantity
of the hair upon it, and to prove that it really and truly was a
leveret, and might be eaten without offence to my teeth, he informed
me that he had left his mother in the yard, ready to dress it for me;
she having been cook to the prior. He protested he owed the _crowned
martyr_ a forest of leverets, boars, deers, and everything else within
them, for having commanded the most backward girls to dance directly.
Whereupon he darted forth at Matilda, saying, "The _crowned martyr_
orders it," seizing both her hands, and swinging her round before she
knew what she was about. He soon had an opportunity of applying a
word, no doubt as dexterously as hand or foot; and she said
submissively, but seriously, and almost sadly, "Marc-Antonio, now all
the people have seen it, they will think it."

'And after a pause:

'"I am quite ashamed: and so should you be: are not you now?"

'The others had run into the church. Matilda, who scarcely had noticed
it, cried suddenly:

'"O Santissima! we are quite alone."

'"Will you be mine?" cried he, enthusiastically.

'"Oh! they will hear you in the church," replied she.

'"They shall, they shall," cried he again, as loudly.

'"If you will only go away."

'"And then?"

'"Yes, yes, indeed."

'"The Virgin hears you: fifty saints are witnesses."

'"Ah! they know you made me: they will look kindly on us."

'He released her hand: she ran into the church, doubling her veil (I
will answer for her) at the door, and kneeling as near it as she could
find a place.

'"By St. Peter," said Marc-Antonio, "if there is a leveret in the
wood, the _crowned martyr_ shall dine upon it this blessed day." And
he bounded off, and set about his occupation. I inquired what induced
him to designate you by such a title. He answered, that everybody knew
you had received the crown of martyrdom at Rome, between the pope and
antipope, and had performed many miracles, for which they had
canonized you, and that you wanted only to die to become a saint.'

The leveret was now served up, cut into small pieces, and covered with
a rich tenacious sauce, composed of sugar, citron, and various spices.
The appetite of Ser Francesco was contagious. Never was dinner more
enjoyed by two companions, and never so much by a greater number. One
glass of a fragrant wine, the colour of honey, and unmixed with water,
crowned the repast. Ser Francesco then went into his own chamber, and
found, on his ample mattress, a cool, refreshing sleep, quite
sufficient to remove all the fatigues of the morning; and Ser Giovanni
lowered the pillow against which he had seated himself, and fell into
his usual repose. Their separation was not of long continuance: and,
the religious duties of the Sabbath having been performed, a few
reflections on literature were no longer interdicted.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Petrarca._ The land, O Giovanni, of your early youth, the land of my
only love, fascinates us no longer. Italy is our country; and not ours
only, but every man's, wherever may have been his wanderings, wherever
may have been his birth, who watches with anxiety the recovery of the
Arts, and acknowledges the supremacy of Genius. Besides, it is in
Italy at last that all our few friends are resident. Yours were left
behind you at Paris in your adolescence, if indeed any friendship can
exist between a Florentine and a Frenchman: mine at Avignon were
Italians, and older for the most part than myself. Here we know that
we are beloved by some, and esteemed by many. It indeed gave me
pleasure the first morning as I lay in bed, to overhear the fondness
and earnestness which a worthy priest was expressing in your behalf.

_Boccaccio._ In mine?

_Petrarca._ Yes indeed: what wonder?

_Boccaccio._ A worthy priest?

_Petrarca._ None else, certainly.

_Boccaccio._ Heard in bed! dreaming, dreaming; ay?

_Petrarca._ No indeed: my eyes and ears were wide open.

_Boccaccio._ The little parlour opens into your room. But what priest
could that be? Canonico Casini? He only comes when we have a roast of
thrushes, or some such small matter, at table: and this is not the
season; they are pairing. Plover eggs might tempt him hitherward. If
he heard a plover he would not be easy, and would fain make her drop
her oblation before she had settled her nest.

_Petrarca._ It is right and proper that you should be informed who the
clergyman was, to whom you are under an obligation.

_Boccaccio._ Tell me something about it, for truly I am at a loss to
conjecture.

_Petrarca._ He must unquestionably have been expressing a kind and
ardent solicitude for your eternal welfare. The first words I heard on
awakening were these:

'Ser Giovanni, although the best of masters ...'

_Boccaccio._ Those were Assuntina's.

_Petrarca._ '... may hardly be quite so holy (not being priest or
friar) as your Reverence.'

She was interrupted by the question: 'What conversation holdeth he?'

She answered:

'He never talks of loving our neighbour with all our heart, all our
soul, and all our strength, although he often gives away the last loaf
in the pantry.'

_Boccaccio._ It was she! Why did she say that? the slut!

_Petrarca._ 'He doth well,' replied the confessor. 'Of the Church, of
the brotherhood, that is, of me, what discourses holdeth he?'

I thought the question an indiscreet one; but confessors vary in their
advances to the seat of truth.

She proceeded to answer:

'He never said anything about the power of the Church to absolve us,
if we should happen to go astray a little in good company, like your
Reverence.'

Here, it is easy to perceive, is some slight ambiguity. Evidently she
meant to say, by the seduction of 'bad' company, and to express that
his Reverence had asserted his power of absolution; which is
undeniable.

_Boccaccio._ I have my version.

_Petrarca._ What may yours be?

_Boccaccio._ Frate Biagio; broad as daylight; the whole frock round!

I would wager a flask of oil against a turnip, that he laid another
trap for a penance. Let us see how he went on. I warrant, as he
warmed, he left off limping in his paces, and bore hard upon the
bridle.

_Petrarca._ 'Much do I fear,' continued the expositor, 'he never spoke
to thee, child, about another world.'

There was a silence of some continuance.

'Speak!' said the confessor.

'No indeed he never did, poor Padrone!' was the slow and evidently
reluctant avowal of the maiden; for, in the midst of the
acknowledgment her sighs came through the crevices of the door: then,
without any farther interrogation, and with little delay, she added:

'But he often makes this look like it.'

_Boccaccio._ And now, if he had carried a holy scourge, it would not
have been on his shoulders that he would have laid it.

_Petrarca._ Zeal carries men often too far afloat; and confessors in
general wish to have the sole steerage of the conscience. When she
told him that your benignity made this world another heaven, he warmly
and sharply answered:

'It is only we who ought to do that.'

'Hush,' said the maiden; and I verily believe she at that moment set
her back against the door, to prevent the sounds from coming through
the crevices, for the rest of them seemed to be just over my
night-cap. 'Hush,' said she, in the whole length of that softest of
all articulations. 'There is Ser Francesco in the next room: he sleeps
long into the morning, but he is so clever a clerk, he may understand
you just the same. I doubt whether he thinks Ser Giovanni in the wrong
for making so many people quite happy; and if he should, it would
grieve me very much to think he blamed Ser Giovanni.'

'Who is Ser Francesco?' he asked, in a low voice.

'Ser Canonico,' she answered.

'Of what Duomo?' continued he.

'Who knows?' was the reply; 'but he is Padrone's heart's friend, for
certain.'

'Cospetto di Bacco! It can then be no other than Petrarca. He makes
rhymes and love like the devil. Don't listen to him, or you are
undone. Does he love you too, as well as Padrone?' he asked, still
lowering his voice.

'I cannot tell that matter,' she answered, somewhat impatiently; 'but
I love him.'

'To my face!' cried he, smartly.

'To the Santissima!' replied she, instantaneously; 'for have not I
told your Reverence he is Padrone's true heart's friend! And are not
you my confessor, when you come on purpose?'

'True, true!' answered he; 'but there are occasions when we are
shocked by the confession, and wish it made less daringly.'

'I was bold; but who can help loving him who loves my good Padrone?'
said she, much more submissively.

_Boccaccio._ Brave girl, for that!

Dog of a Frate! They are all of a kidney; all of a kennel. I would
dilute their meal well and keep them low. They should not waddle and
wallop in every hollow lane, nor loll out their watery tongues at
every wash-pool in the parish. We shall hear, I trust, no more about
Fra Biagio in the house while you are with us. Ah! were it then for
life.

_Petrarca._ The man's prudence may be reasonably doubted, but it were
uncharitable to question his sincerity. Could a neighbour, a religious
one in particular, be indifferent to the welfare of Boccaccio, or any
belonging to him?

_Boccaccio._ I do not complain of his indifference. Indifferent! no,
not he. He might as well be, though. My villetta here is my castle: it
was my father's; it was his father's. Cowls did not hang to dry upon
the same cord with caps in their podere; they shall not in mine. The
girl is an honest girl, Francesco, though I say it. Neither she nor
any other shall be befooled and bamboozled under my roof. Methinks
Holy Church might contrive some improvement upon confession.

_Petrarca._ Hush! Giovanni! But, it being a matter of discipline, who
knows but she might.

_Boccaccio._ Discipline! ay, ay, ay! faith and troth there are some
who want it.

_Petrarca._ You really terrify me. These are sad surmises.

_Boccaccio._ Sad enough: but I am keeper of my handmaiden's probity.

_Petrarca._ It could not be kept safer.

_Boccaccio._ I wonder what the Frate would be putting into her head?

_Petrarca._ Nothing, nothing: be assured.

_Boccaccio._ Why did he ask her all those questions?

_Petrarca._ Confessors do occasionally take circuitous ways to arrive
at the secrets of the human heart.

_Boccaccio._ And sometimes they drive at it, me thinks, a whit too
directly. He had no business to make remarks about me.

_Petrarca._ Anxiety.

_Boccaccio._ 'Fore God, Francesco, he shall have more of that; for I
will shut him out the moment I am again up and stirring, though he
stand but a nose's length off. I have no fear about the girl; no
suspicion of her. He might whistle to the moon on a frosty night, and
expect as reasonably her descending. Never was a man so entirely at
his ease as I am about that; never, never. She is adamant; a bright
sword now first unscabbarded; no breath can hang about it. A seal of
beryl, of chrysolite, of ruby; to make impressions (all in good time
and proper place though) and receive none: incapable, just as they
are, of splitting, or cracking, or flawing, or harbouring dirt. Let
him mind that. Such, I assure you, is that poor little wench,
Assuntina.

_Petrarca._ I am convinced that so well-behaved a young creature as
Assunta----

_Boccaccio._ Right! Assunta is her name by baptism; we usually call
her Assuntina, because she is slender, and scarcely yet full-grown,
perhaps: but who can tell?

As for those friars, I never was a friend to impudence: I hate loose
suggestions. In girls' minds you will find little dust but what is
carried there by gusts from without. They seldom want sweeping; when
they do, the broom should be taken from behind the house door, and the
master should be the sacristan.

... Scarcely were these words uttered when Assunta was heard running
up the stairs; and the next moment she rapped. Being ordered to come
in, she entered with a willow twig in her hand, from the middle of
which willow twig (for she held the two ends together) hung a fish,
shining with green and gold.

'What hast there, young maiden?' said Ser Francesco.

'A fish, Riverenza!' answered she. 'In Tuscany we call it _tinca_.'

_Petrarca._ I too am a little of a Tuscan.

_Assunta._ Indeed! well, you really speak very like one, but only more
sweetly and slowly. I wonder how you can keep up with Signor
Padrone--he talks fast when he is in health; and you have made him so.
Why did not you come before? Your Reverence has surely been at
Certaldo in time past.

_Petrarca._ Yes, before thou wert born.

_Assunta._ Ah, sir! it must have been long ago then.

_Petrarca._ Thou hast just entered upon life.

_Assunta._ I am no child.

_Petrarca._ What then art thou?

_Assunta._ I know not: I have lost both father and mother; there is a
name for such as I am.

_Petrarca._ And a place in heaven.

_Boccaccio._ Who brought us that fish, Assunta? hast paid for it?
there must be seven pounds: I never saw the like.

_Assunta._ I could hardly lift up my apron to my eyes with it in my
hand. Luca, who brought it all the way from the Padule, could scarcely
be entreated to eat a morsel of bread or sit down.

_Boccaccio._ Give him a flask or two of our wine; he will like it
better than the sour puddle of the plain.

_Assunta._ He is gone back.

_Boccaccio._ Gone! who is he, pray?

_Assunta._ Luca, to be sure.

_Boccaccio._ What Luca?

_Assunta._ Dominedio! O Riverenza! how sadly must Ser Giovanni, my
poor Padrone, have lost his memory in this cruel long illness! he
cannot recollect young Luca of the Bientola, who married Maria.

_Boccaccio._ I never heard of either, to the best of my knowledge.

_Assunta._ Be pleased to mention this in your prayers to-night, Ser
Canonico! May Our Lady soon give him back his memory! and everything
else she has been pleased (only in play, I hope) to take away from
him! Ser Francesco, you must have heard all over the world how Maria
Gargarelli, who lived in the service of our paroco, somehow was
outwitted by Satanasso. Monsignore thought the paroco had not done all
he might have done against his wiles and craftiness, and sent his
Reverence over to the monastery in the mountains, Laverna yonder, to
make him look sharp; and there he is yet.

And now does Signor Padrone recollect?

_Boccaccio._ Rather more distinctly.

_Assunta._ Ah me! Rather more distinctly! have patience, Signor
Padrone! I am too venturous, God help me! But, Riverenza, when Maria
was the scorn or the abhorrence of everybody else, excepting poor Luca
Sabbatini, who had always cherished her, and excepting Signor Padrone,
who had never seen her in his lifetime ... for paroco Snello said he
desired no visits from any who took liberties with Holy Church ... as
if Padrone did! Luca one day came to me out of breath, with money in
his hand for our duck. Now it so happened that the duck, stuffed with
noble chestnuts, was going to table at that instant. I told Signor
Padrone....

_Boccaccio._ Assunta, I never heard thee repeat so long and tiresome a
story before, nor put thyself out of breath so. Come, we have had
enough of it.

_Petrarca._ She is mortified: pray let her proceed.

_Boccaccio._ As you will.

_Assunta._ I told Signor Padrone how Luca was lamenting that Maria was
seized with an _imagination_.

_Petrarca._ No wonder then she fell into misfortune, and her
neighbours and friends avoided her.

_Assunta._ Riverenza! how can you smile? Signor Padrone! and you too?
You shook your head and sighed at it when it happened. The Demonio,
who had caused all the first mischief, was not contented until he had
given her the _imagination_.

_Petrarca._ He could not have finished his work more effectually.

_Assunta._ He was balked, however. Luca said:

'She shall not die under her wrongs, please God!'

I repeated the words to Signor Padrone.... He seems to listen,
Riverenza! and will remember presently ... and Signor Padrone cut away
one leg for himself, clean forgetting all the chestnuts inside, and
said sharply, 'Give the bird to Luca; and, hark ye, bring back the
minestra.'

Maria loved Luca with all her heart, and Luca loved Maria with all
his: but they both hated paroco Snello for such neglect about the evil
one. And even Monsignore, who sent for Luca on purpose, had some
difficulty in persuading him to forbear from choler and discourse. For
Luca, who never swears, swore bitterly that the devil should play no
such tricks again, nor alight on girls napping in the parsonage.
Monsignore thought he intended to take violent possession, and to keep
watch there himself without consent of the incumbent. 'I will have no
scandal,' said Monsignore; so there was none. Maria, though she did
indeed, as I told your Reverence, love her Luca dearly, yet she long
refused to marry him, and cried very much at last on the wedding day,
and said, as she entered the porch:

'Luca! it is not yet too late to leave me.'

He would have kissed her, but her face was upon his shoulder.

Pievano Locatelli married them, and gave them his blessing: and going
down from the altar, he said before the people, as he stood on the
last step: 'Be comforted, child! be comforted! God above knows that
thy husband is honest, and that thou art innocent.' Pievano's voice
trembled, for he was an aged and holy man, and had walked two miles on
the occasion. Pulcheria, his governante, eighty years old, carried an
apronful of lilies to bestrew the altar; and partly from the lilies,
and partly from the blessed angels who (although invisible) were
present, the church was filled with fragrance. Many who heretofore had
been frightened at hearing the mention of Maria's name, ventured now
to walk up toward her; and some gave her needles, and some offered
skeins of thread, and some ran home again for pots of honey.

_Boccaccio._ And why didst not thou take her some trifle?

_Assunta._ I had none.

_Boccaccio._ Surely there are always such about the premises.

_Assunta._ Not mine to give away.

_Boccaccio._ So then at thy hands, Assunta, she went off not
overladen. Ne'er a bone-bodkin out of thy bravery, ay?

_Assunta._ I ran out knitting, with the woodbine and syringa in the
basket for the parlour. I made the basket ... I and ... but myself
chiefly, for boys are loiterers.

_Boccaccio._ Well, well: why not bestow the basket, together with its
rich contents?

_Assunta._ I am ashamed to say it ... I covered my half-stocking with
them as quickly as I could, and ran after her, and presented it. Not
knowing what was under the flowers, and never minding the liberty I
had taken, being a stranger to her, she accepted it as graciously as
possible, and bade me be happy.

_Petrarca._ I hope you have always kept her command.

_Assunta._ Nobody is ever unhappy here, except Fra Biagio, who frets
sometimes: but that may be the walk; or he may fancy Ser Giovanni to
be worse than he really is.

... Having now performed her mission and concluded her narrative, she
bowed, and said:

'Excuse me, Riverenza! excuse me, Signor Padrone! my arm aches with
this great fish.'

Then, bowing again, and moving her eyes modestly toward each, she
added, 'with permission!' and left the chamber.

'About the sposina,' after a pause began Ser Francesco: 'about the
sposina, I do not see the matter clearly.'

'You have studied too much for seeing all things clearly,' answered
Ser Giovanni; 'you see only the greatest. In fine, the devil, on this
count, is acquitted by acclamation; and the paroco Snello eats lettuce
and chicory up yonder at Laverna. He has mendicant friars for his
society every day; and snails, as pure as water can wash and boil
them, for his repast on festivals. Under this discipline, if they keep
it up, surely one devil out of legion will depart from him.'

FOOTNOTES:

[15] Literally, _due fave_, the expression on such occasions to
signify a small quantity.

[16] Contraction of _signor_, customary in Tuscany.


FOURTH DAY'S INTERVIEW

_Petrarca._ Giovanni, you are unsuspicious, and would scarcely see a
monster in a minotaur. It is well, however, to draw good out of evil,
and it is the peculiar gift of an elevated mind. Nevertheless, you
must have observed, although with greater curiosity than concern, the
slipperiness and tortuousness of your detractors.

_Boccaccio._ Whatever they detract from me, they leave more than they
can carry away. Beside, they always are detected.

_Petrarca._ When they are detected, they raise themselves up fiercely,
as if their nature were erect and they could reach your height.

_Boccaccio._ Envy would conceal herself under the shadow and shelter
of contemptuousness, but she swells too huge for the den she creeps
into. Let her lie there and crack, and think no more about her. The
people you have been talking of can find no greater and no other
faults in my writings than I myself am willing to show them, and still
more willing to correct. There are many things, as you have just now
told me, very unworthy of their company.

_Petrarca._ He who has much gold is none the poorer for having much
silver too. When a king of old displayed his wealth and magnificence
before a philosopher, the philosopher's exclamation was:

'How many things are here which I do not want!'

Does not the same reflection come upon us, when we have laid aside our
compositions for a time, and look into them again more leisurely? Do
we not wonder at our own profusion, and say like the philosopher:

'How many things are here which I do not want!'

It may happen that we pull up flowers with weeds; but better this than
rankness. We must bear to see our first-born dispatched before our
eyes, and give them up quietly.

_Boccaccio._ The younger will be the most reluctant. There are poets
among us who mistake in themselves the freckles of the hay-fever for
beauty-spots. In another half-century their volumes will be inquired
after; but only for the sake of cutting out an illuminated letter from
the title-page, or of transplanting the willow at the end, that hangs
so prettily over the tomb of Amaryllis. If they wish to be healthy and
vigorous, let them open their bosoms to the breezes of Sunium; for the
air of Latium is heavy and overcharged. Above all, they must remember
two admonitions; first, that sweet things hurt digestion; secondly,
that great sails are ill adapted to small vessels. What is there
lovely in poetry unless there be moderation and composure? Are they
not better than the hot, uncontrollable harlotry of a flaunting,
dishevelled enthusiasm? Whoever has the power of creating, has
likewise the inferior power of keeping his creation in order. The best
poets are the most impressive, because their steps are regular; for
without regularity there is neither strength nor state. Look at
Sophocles, look at Aeschylus, look at Homer.

_Petrarca._ I agree with you entirely to the whole extent of your
observations; and, if you will continue, I am ready to lay aside my
Dante for the present.

_Boccaccio._ No, no; we must have him again between us: there is no
danger that he will sour our tempers.

_Petrarca._ In comparing his and yours, since you forbid me to declare
all I think of your genius, you will at least allow me to congratulate
you as being the happier of the two.

_Boccaccio._ Frequently, where there is great power in poetry, the
imagination makes encroachments on the heart, and uses it as her own.
I have shed tears on writings which never cost the writer a sigh, but
which occasioned him to rub the palms of his hands together, until
they were ready to strike fire, with satisfaction at having overcome
the difficulty of being tender.

_Petrarca._ Giovanni! are you not grown satirical?

_Boccaccio._ Not in this. It is a truth as broad and glaring as the
eye of the Cyclops. To make you amends for your shuddering, I will
express my doubt, on the other hand, whether Dante felt all the
indignation he threw into his poetry. We are immoderately fond of
warming ourselves; and we do not think, or care, what the fire is
composed of. Be sure it is not always of cedar, like Circe's. Our
Alighieri had slipped into the habit of vituperation; and he thought
it fitted him; so he never left it off.

_Petrarca._ Serener colours are pleasanter to our eyes and more
becoming to our character. The chief desire in every man of genius is
to be thought one; and no fear or apprehension lessens it. Alighieri,
who had certainly studied the gospel, must have been conscious that he
not only was inhumane, but that he betrayed a more vindictive spirit
than any pope or prelate who is enshrined within the fretwork of his
golden grating.

_Boccaccio._ Unhappily, his strong talon had grown into him, and it
would have pained him to suffer amputation. This eagle, unlike
Jupiter's, never loosened the thunderbolt from it under the influence
of harmony.

_Petrarca._ The only good thing we can expect in such minds and
tempers is good poetry: let us at least get that; and, having it, let
us keep and value it. If you had never written some wanton stories,
you would never have been able to show the world how much wiser and
better you grew afterward.

_Boccaccio._ Alas! if I live, I hope to show it. You have raised my
spirits: and now, dear Francesco! do say a couple of prayers for me,
while I lay together the materials of a tale; a right merry one, I
promise you. Faith! it shall amuse you, and pay decently for the
prayers; a good honest litany-worth. I hardly know whether I ought to
have a nun in it: do you think I may?

_Petrarca._ Cannot you do without one?

_Boccaccio._ No; a nun I must have: say nothing against her; I can
more easily let the abbess alone. Yet Frate Biagio ... that Frate
Biagio, who never came to visit me but when he thought I was at
extremities or asleep.... Assuntina! are you there?

_Petrarca._ No; do you want her?

_Boccaccio._ Not a bit. That Frate Biagio has heightened my pulse when
I could not lower it again. The very devil is that Frate for
heightening pulses. And with him I shall now make merry ... God
willing ... in God's good time ... should it be His divine will to
restore me! which I think He has begun to do miraculously. I seem to
be within a frog's leap of well again; and we will presently have some
rare fun in my _Tale of the Frate_.

_Petrarca._ Do not openly name him.

_Boccaccio._ He shall recognize himself by one single expression. He
said to me, when I was at the worst:

'Ser Giovanni! it would not be much amiss (with permission!) if you
begin to think (at any spare time), just a morsel, of eternity.'

'Ah! Fra Biagio!' answered I, contritely, 'I never heard a sermon of
yours but I thought of it seriously and uneasily, long before the
discourse was over.'

'So must all,' replied he, 'and yet few have the grace to own it.'

Now mind, Francesco! if it should please the Lord to call me unto Him,
I say, _The Nun and Fra Biagio_ will be found, after my decease, in
the closet cut out of the wall, behind yon Saint Zacharias in blue and
yellow.

Well done! well done! Francesco. I never heard any man repeat his
prayers so fast and fluently. Why! how many (at a guess) have you
repeated? Such is the power of friendship, and such the habit of
religion! They have done me good: I feel myself stronger already.
To-morrow I think I shall be able, by leaning on that stout maple
stick in the corner, to walk half over my podere.

Have you done? have you done?

_Petrarca._ Be quiet: you may talk too much.

_Boccaccio._ I cannot be quiet for another hour; so, if you have any
more prayers to get over, stick the spur into the other side of them:
they must verily speed, if they beat the last.

_Petrarca._ Be more serious, dear Giovanni.

_Boccaccio._ Never bid a convalescent be more serious: no, nor a sick
man neither. To health it may give that composure which it takes away
from sickness. Every man will have his hours of seriousness; but, like
the hours of rest, they often are ill-chosen and unwholesome. Be
assured, our heavenly Father is as well pleased to see His children in
the playground as in the schoolroom. He has provided both for us, and
has given us intimations when each should occupy us.

_Petrarca._ You are right, Giovanni! but we know which bell is heard
the most distinctly. We fold our arms at the one, try the cooler part
of the pillow, and turn again to slumber; at the first stroke of the
other, we are beyond our monitors. As for you, hardly Dante himself
could make you grave.

_Boccaccio._ I do not remember how it happened that we slipped away
from his side. One of us must have found him tedious.

_Petrarca._ If you were really and substantially at his side, he would
have no mercy on you.

_Boccaccio._ In sooth, our good Alighieri seems to have had the
appetite of a dogfish or shark, and to have bitten the harder the
warmer he was. I would not voluntarily be under his manifold rows of
dentals. He has an incisor to every saint in the calendar. I should
fare, methinks, like Brutus and the archbishop. He is forced to
stretch himself, out of sheer listlessness, in so idle a place as
Purgatory: he loses half his strength in Paradise: Hell alone makes
him alert and lively: there he moves about and threatens as
tremendously as the serpent that opposed the legions on their march
in Africa. He would not have been contented in Tuscany itself, even
had his enemies left him unmolested. Were I to write on his model a
tripartite poem, I think it should be entitled, _Earth, Italy, and
Heaven_.

_Petrarca._ You will never give yourself the trouble.

_Boccaccio._ I should not succeed.

_Petrarca._ Perhaps not: but you have done very much, and may be able
to do very much more.

_Boccaccio._ Wonderful is it to me, when I consider that an infirm and
helpless creature, as I am, should be capable of laying thoughts up in
their cabinets of words, which Time, as he rushes by, with the
revolutions of stormy and destructive years, can never move from their
places. On this coarse mattress, one among the homeliest in the fair
at Impruneta, is stretched an old burgess of Certaldo, of whom perhaps
more will be known hereafter than we know of the Ptolemies and the
Pharaohs; while popes and princes are lying as unregarded as the fleas
that are shaken out of the window. Upon my life, Francesco! to think
of this is enough to make a man presumptuous.

_Petrarca._ No, Giovanni! not when the man thinks justly of it, as
such a man ought to do, and must. For so mighty a power over Time, who
casts all other mortals under his, comes down to us from a greater;
and it is only if we abuse the victory that it were better we had
encountered a defeat. Unremitting care must be taken that nothing soil
the monuments we are raising: sure enough we are that nothing can
subvert, and nothing but our negligence, or worse than negligence,
efface them. Under the glorious lamp entrusted to your vigilance, one
among the lights of the world, which the ministering angels of our God
have suspended for His service, let there stand, with unclosing eyes,
Integrity, Compassion, Self-denial.

_Boccaccio._ These are holier and cheerfuller images than Dante has
been setting up before us. I hope every thesis in dispute among his
theologians will be settled ere I set foot among them. I like Tuscany
well enough: it answers all my purposes for the present: and I am
without the benefit of those preliminary studies which might render me
a worthy auditor of incomprehensible wisdom.

_Petrarca._ I do not wonder you are attached to Tuscany. Many as have
been your visits and adventures in other parts, you have rendered it
pleasanter and more interesting than any: and indeed we can scarcely
walk in any quarter from the gates of Florence without the
recollection of some witty or affecting story related by you. Every
street, every farm, is peopled by your genius: and this population
cannot change with seasons or with ages, with factions or with
incursions. Ghibellines and Guelphs will have been contested for only
by the worms, long before the _Decameron_ has ceased to be recited on
our banks of blue lilies and under our arching vines. Another plague
may come amidst us; and something of a solace in so terrible a
visitation would be found in your pages, by those to whom letters are
a refuge and relief.

_Boccaccio._ I do indeed think my little bevy from Santa Maria Novella
would be better company on such an occasion, than a devil with three
heads, who diverts the pain his claws inflicted, by sticking his fangs
in another place.

_Petrarca._ This is atrocious, not terrific nor grand. Alighieri is
grand by his lights, not by his shadows; by his human affections, not
by his infernal. As the minutest sands are the labours of some
profound sea, or the spoils of some vast mountain, in like manner his
horrid wastes and wearying minutenesses are the chafings of a
turbulent spirit, grasping the loftiest things and penetrating the
deepest, and moving and moaning on the earth in loneliness and
sadness.

_Boccaccio._ Among men he is what among waters is

      The strange, mysterious, solitary Nile.

_Petrarca._ Is that his verse? I do not remember it.

_Boccaccio._ No, it is mine for the present: how long it may continue
mine I cannot tell. I never run after those who steal my apples: it
would only tire me: and they are hardly worth recovering when they are
bruised and bitten, as they are usually. I would not stand upon my
verses: it is a perilous boy's trick, which we ought to leave off when
we put on square shoes. Let our prose show what we are, and our poetry
what we have been.

_Petrarca._ You would never have given this advice to Alighieri.

_Boccaccio._ I would never plough porphyry; there is ground fitter for
grain. Alighieri is the parent of his system, like the sun, about whom
all the worlds are but particles thrown forth from him. We may write
little things well, and accumulate one upon another; but never will
any be justly called a great poet unless he has treated a great
subject worthily. He may be the poet of the lover and of the idler, he
may be the poet of green fields or gay society; but whoever is this
can be no more. A throne is not built of birds'-nests, nor do a
thousand reeds make a trumpet.

_Petrarca._ I wish Alighieri had blown his on nobler occasions.

_Boccaccio._ We may rightly wish it: but, in regretting what he
wanted, let us acknowledge what he had: and never forget (which we
omitted to mention) that he borrowed less from his predecessors than
any of the Roman poets from theirs. Reasonably may it be expected that
almost all who follow will be greatly more indebted to antiquity, to
whose stores we, every year, are making some addition.

_Petrarca._ It can be held no flaw in the title-deeds of genius, if
the same thoughts reappear as have been exhibited long ago. The
indisputable sign of defect should be looked for in the proportion
they bear to the unquestionably original. There are ideas which
necessarily must occur to minds of the like magnitude and materials,
aspect and temperature. When two ages are in the same phasis, they
will excite the same humours, and produce the same coincidences and
combinations. In addition to which, a great poet may really borrow: he
may even condescend to an obligation at the hand of an equal or
inferior: but he forfeits his title if he borrows more than the amount
of his own possessions. The nightingale himself takes somewhat of his
song from birds less glorified: and the lark, having beaten with her
wing the very gates of heaven, cools her breast among the grass. The
lowlier of intellect may lay out a table in their field, at which
table the highest one shall sometimes be disposed to partake: want
does not compel him. Imitation, as we call it, is often weakness, but
it likewise is often sympathy.

_Boccaccio._ Our poet was seldom accessible in this quarter. Invective
picks up the first stone on the wayside, and wants leisure to consult
a forerunner.

_Petrarca._ Dante (original enough everywhere) is coarse and clumsy in
this career. Vengeance has nothing to do with comedy, nor properly
with satire. The satirist who told us that Indignation made his verses
for him, might have been told in return that she excluded him thereby
from the first class, and thrust him among the rhetoricians and
declaimers. Lucretius, in his vituperation, is graver and more
dignified than Alighieri. Painful; to see how tolerant is the atheist,
how intolerant the Catholic: how anxiously the one removes from among
the sufferings of Mortality, her last and heaviest, the fear of a
vindictive Fury pursuing her shadow across rivers of fire and tears;
how laboriously the other brings down Anguish and Despair, even when
Death has done his work. How grateful the one is to that beneficent
philosopher who made him at peace with himself, and tolerant and
kindly toward his fellow-creatures! how importunate the other that God
should forgo His divine mercy, and hurl everlasting torments both upon
the dead and the living!

_Boccaccio._ I have always heard that Ser Dante was a very good man
and sound Catholic: but Christ forgive me if my heart is oftener on
the side of Lucretius![17] Observe, I say, my heart; nothing more. I
devoutly hold to the sacraments and the mysteries: yet somehow I would
rather see men tranquillized than frightened out of their senses, and
rather fast asleep than burning. Sometimes I have been ready to
believe, as far as our holy faith will allow me, that it were better
our Lord were nowhere, than torturing in His inscrutable wisdom, to
all eternity, so many myriads of us poor devils, the creatures of His
hands. Do not cross thyself so thickly, Francesco! nor hang down thy
nether lip so loosely, languidly, and helplessly; for I would be a
good Catholic, alive or dead. But, upon my conscience, it goes hard
with me to think it of Him, when I hear that woodlark yonder, gushing
with joyousness, or when I see the beautiful clouds, resting so softly
one upon another, dissolving ... and not damned for it. Above all, I
am slow to apprehend it, when I remember His great goodness vouchsafed
to me, and reflect on my sinful life heretofore, chiefly in summer
time, and in cities, or their vicinity. But I was tempted beyond my
strength; and I fell as any man might do. However, this last illness,
by God's grace, has well-nigh brought me to my right mind again in all
such matters: and if I get stout in the present month, and can hold
out the next without sliding, I do verily think I am safe, or nearly
so, until the season of beccaficoes.

_Petrarca._ Be not too confident!

_Boccaccio._ Well, I will not be.

_Petrarca._ But be firm.

_Boccaccio._ Assuntina! what! are you come in again?

_Assunta._ Did you or my master call me, Riverenza?

_Petrarca._ No, child!

_Boccaccio._ Oh! get you gone! Get you gone! you little rogue you!

Francesco, I feel quite well. Your kindness to my playful creatures in
the _Decameron_ has revived me, and has put me into good humour with
the greater part of them. Are you quite certain the Madonna will not
expect me to keep my promise? You said you were: I need not ask you
again. I will accept the whole of your assurances, and half your
praises.

_Petrarca._ To represent so vast a variety of personages so
characteristically as you have done, to give the wise all their
wisdom, the witty all their wit, and (what is harder to do
advantageously) the simple all their simplicity, requires a genius
such as you alone possess. Those who doubt it are the least dangerous
of your rivals.

FOOTNOTE:

[17] Qy. How much of Lucretius (or Petronius or Catullus, before
cited) was then known?


FIFTH DAY'S INTERVIEW

It being now the last morning that Petrarca could remain with his
friend, he resolved to pass early into his bedchamber. Boccaccio had
risen and was standing at the open window, with his arms against it.
Renovated health sparkled in the eyes of the one; surprise and delight
and thankfulness to Heaven filled the other's with sudden tears. He
clasped Giovanni, kissed his flaccid and sallow cheek, and falling on
his knees, adored the Giver of life, the source of health to body and
soul. Giovanni was not unmoved: he bent one knee as he leaned on the
shoulder of Francesco, looking down into his face, repeating his
words, and adding:

'Blessed be Thou, O Lord! who sendest me health again! and blessings
on Thy messenger who brought it.'

He had slept soundly; for ere he closed his eyes he had unburdened his
mind of its freight, not only by employing the prayers appointed by
Holy Church, but likewise by ejaculating; as sundry of the fathers did
of old. He acknowledged his contrition for many transgressions, and
chiefly for uncharitable thoughts of Fra Biagio: on which occasion he
turned fairly round on his couch, and leaning his brow against the
wall, and his body being in a becomingly curved position, and proper
for the purpose, he thus ejaculated:

'Thou knowest, O most Holy Virgin! that never have I spoken to
handmaiden at this villetta, or within my mansion at Certaldo,
wantonly or indiscreetly, but have always been, inasmuch as may be,
the guardian of innocence; deeming it better, when irregular thoughts
assailed me, to ventilate them abroad than to poison the house with
them. And if, sinner as I am, I have thought uncharitably of others,
and more especially of Fra Biagio, pardon me, out of thy exceeding
great mercies! And let it not be imputed to me, if I have kept, and
may keep hereafter, an eye over him, in wariness and watchfulness; not
otherwise. For thou knowest, O Madonna! that many who have a perfect
and unwavering faith in thee, yet do cover up their cheese from the
nibblings of vermin.'

Whereupon, he turned round again, threw himself on his back at full
length, and feeling the sheets cool, smooth, and refreshing, folded
his arms, and slept instantaneously. The consequence of his wholesome
slumber was a calm alacrity: and the idea that his visitor would be
happy at seeing him on his feet again, made him attempt to get up: at
which he succeeded, to his own wonder. And it was increased by the
manifestation of his strength in opening the casement, stiff from
being closed, and swelled by the continuance of the rains. The morning
was warm and sunny: and it is known that on this occasion he composed
the verses below:

      My old familiar cottage-green!
      I see once more thy pleasant sheen;
      The gossamer suspended over
      Smart celandine by lusty clover;
      And the last blossom of the plum
      Inviting her first leaves to come;
      Which hang a little back, but show
      'Tis not their nature to say no.
      I scarcely am in voice to sing
      How graceful are the steps of Spring;
      And ah! it makes me sigh to look
      How leaps along my merry brook,
      The very same to-day as when
      He chirrupt first to maids and men.

_Petrarca._ I can rejoice at the freshness of your feelings: but the
sight of the green turf reminds me rather of its ultimate use and
destination.

      For many serves the parish pall,
      The turf in common serves for all.

_Boccaccio._ Very true; and, such being the case, let us carefully
fold it up, and lay it by until we call for it.

Francesco, you made me quite light-headed yesterday. I am rather too
old to dance either with Spring, as I have been saying, or with
Vanity: and yet I accepted her at your hand as a partner. In future,
no more of comparisons for me! You not only can do me no good, but you
can leave me no pleasure: for here I shall remain the few days I have
to live, and shall see nobody who will be disposed to remind me of
your praises. Beside, you yourself will get hated for them. We neither
can deserve praise nor receive it with impunity.

_Petrarca._ Have you never remarked that it is into quiet water that
children throw pebbles to disturb it? and that it is into deep caverns
that the idle drop sticks and dirt? We must expect such treatment.

_Boccaccio._ Your admonition shall have its wholesome influence over
me, when the fever your praises have excited has grown moderate.

... After the conversation on this topic and various others had
continued some time, it was interrupted by a visitor. The clergy and
monkery at Certaldo had never been cordial with Messer Giovanni, it
being suspected that certain of his _Novelle_ were modelled on
originals in their orders. Hence, although they indeed both professed
and felt esteem for Canonico Petrarca, they abstained from expressing
it at the villetta. But Frate Biagio of San Vivaldo was (by his own
appointment) the friend of the house; and, being considered as very
expert in pharmacy, had, day after day, brought over no indifferent
store of simples, in ptisans, and other refections, during the
continuance of Ser Giovanni's ailment. Something now moved him to cast
about in his mind whether it might not appear dutiful to make another
visit. Perhaps he thought it possible that, among those who
peradventure had seen him lately on the road, one or other might
expect from him a solution of the questions, What sort of person was
the _crowned martyr_? whether he carried a palm in his hand? whether a
seam was visible across the throat? whether he wore a ring over his
glove, with a chrysolite in it, like the bishops, but representing the
city of Jerusalem and the judgment-seat of Pontius Pilate? Such were
the reports; but the inhabitants of San Vivaldo could not believe the
Certaldese, who, inhabiting the next township to them, were naturally
their enemies. Yet they might believe Frate Biagio, and certainly
would interrogate him accordingly. He formed his determination, put
his frock and hood on, and gave a curvature to his shoe, to evince his
knowledge of the world, by pushing the extremity of it with his
breast-bone against the corner of his cell. Studious of his figure and
of his attire, he walked as much as possible on his heels, to keep up
the reformation he had wrought in the workmanship of the cordwainer.
On former occasions he had borrowed a horse, as being wanted to hear
confession or to carry medicines, which might otherwise be too late.
But, having put on an entirely new habiliment, and it being the season
when horses are beginning to do the same, he deemed it prudent to
travel on foot. Approaching the villetta, his first intention was to
walk directly into his patient's room: but he found it impossible to
resist the impulses of pride, in showing Assunta his rigid and stately
frock, and shoes rather of the equestrian order than the monastic. So
he went into the kitchen where the girl was at work, having just taken
away the remains of the breakfast.

'Frate Biagio!' cried she, 'is this you? Have you been sleeping at
Conte Jeronimo's?'

'Not I,' replied he.

'Why!' said she, 'those are surely his shoes! Santa Maria! you must
have put them on in the dusk of the morning, to say your prayers in!
Here! here! take these old ones of Signor Padrone, for the love of
God! I hope your Reverence met nobody.'

_Frate._ What dost smile at?

_Assunta._ Smile at! I could find in my heart to laugh outright, if I
only were certain that nobody had seen your Reverence in such a funny
trim. Riverenza! put on these.

_Frate._ Not I indeed.

_Assunta._ Allow me then?

_Frate._ No, nor you.

_Assunta._ Then let me stand upon yours, to push down the points.

... Frate Biagio now began to relent a little, when Assunta, who had
made one step toward the project, bethought herself suddenly, and
said:

'No; I might miss my footing. But, mercy upon us! what made you cramp
your Reverence with those ox-yoke shoes? and strangle your Reverence
with that hangdog collar?'

'If you must know,' answered the Frate, reddening, 'it was because I
am making a visit to the Canonico of Parma. I should like to know
something about him: perhaps you could tell me?'

_Assunta._ Ever so much.

_Frate._ I thought no less: indeed I knew it. Which goes to bed first?

_Assunta._ Both together.

_Frate._ Demonio! what dost mean?

_Assunta._ He tells me never to sit up waiting, but to say my prayers
and dream of the Virgin.

_Frate._ As if it was any business of his! Does he put out his lamp
himself?

_Assunta._ To be sure he does: why should not he? what should he be
afraid of? It is not winter: and beside, there is a mat upon the
floor, all round the bed, excepting the top and bottom.

_Frate._ I am quite convinced he never said anything to make you
blush. Why are you silent?

_Assunta._ I have a right.

_Frate._ He did then? ay? Do not nod your head: that will never do.
Discreet girls speak plainly.

_Assunta._ What would you have?

_Frate._ The truth; the truth; again, I say, the truth.

_Assunta._ He _did_ then.

_Frate._ I knew it! The most dangerous man living!

_Assunta._ Ah! indeed he is! Signor Padrone said so.

_Frate._ He knows him of old: he warned you, it seems.

_Assunta._ Me! He never said it was I who was in danger.

_Frate._ He might: it was his duty.

_Assunta._ Am I so fat? Lord! you may feel every rib. Girls who run
about as I do, slip away from apoplexy.

_Frate._ Ho! ho! that is all, is it?

_Assunta._ And bad enough too! that such good-natured men should ever
grow so bulky; and stand in danger, as Padrone said they both do, of
such a seizure?

_Frate._ What? and art ready to cry about it? Old folks cannot die
easier: and there are always plenty of younger to run quick enough for
a confessor. But I must not trifle in this manner. It is my duty to
set your feet in the right way: it is my bounden duty to report to Ser
Giovanni all irregularities I know of, committed in his domicile. I
could indeed, and would, remit a trifle, on hearing the worst. Tell me
now, Assunta! tell me, you little angel! did you ... we all may, the
very best of us may, and do ... sin, my sweet?

_Assunta._ You may be sure I did not: for whenever I sin I run into
church directly, although it snows or thunders: else I never could see
again Padrone's face, or any one's.

_Frate._ You do not come to me.

_Assunta._ You live at San Vivaldo.

_Frate._ But when there is sin so pressing I am always ready to be
found. You perplex, you puzzle me. Tell me at once how he made you
blush.

_Assunta._ Well then!

_Frate._ Well then! you did not hang back so before him. I lose all
patience.

_Assunta._ So famous a man!...

_Frate._ No excuse in that.

_Assunta._ So dear to Padrone....

_Frate._ The more shame for him!

_Assunta._ Called me....

_Frate._ And _called_ you, did he! the traitorous swine!

_Assunta._ Called me ... _good girl_.

_Frate._ Psha! the wenches, I think, are all mad: but few of them in
this manner.

       *       *       *       *       *

... Without saying another word, Fra Biagio went forward and opened
the bedchamber door, saying briskly:

'Servant! Ser Giovanni! Ser Canonico! most devoted! most obsequious! I
venture to incommode you. Thanks to God, Ser Canonico, you are looking
well for your years. They tell me you were formerly (who would believe
it?) the handsomest man in Christendom, and worked your way glibly,
yonder at Avignon.

'Capperi! Ser Giovanni! I never observed that you were sitting
bolt-upright in that long-backed armchair, instead of lying abed.
Quite in the right. I am rejoiced at such a change for the better. Who
advised it?'

_Boccaccio._ So many thanks to Fra Biagio! I not only am sitting up,
but have taken a draught of fresh air at the window, and every leaf
had a little present of sunshine for me.

There is one pleasure, Fra Biagio, which I fancy you never have
experienced, and I hardly know whether I ought to wish it you; the
first sensation of health after a long confinement.

_Frate._ Thanks! infinite! I would take any man's word for that,
without a wish to try it. Everybody tells me I am exactly what I was a
dozen years ago; while, for my part, I see everybody changed: those
who ought to be much about my age, even those.... Per Bacco! I told
them my thoughts when they had told me theirs; and they were not so
agreeable as they used to be in former days.

_Boccaccio._ How people hate sincerity!

Cospetto! why, Frate! what hast got upon thy toes? Hast killed some
Tartar and tucked his bow into one, and torn the crescent from the
vizier's tent to make the other match it? Hadst thou fallen in thy
mettlesome expedition (and it is a mercy and a miracle thou didst
not) those sacrilegious shoes would have impaled thee.

_Frate._ It was a mistake in the shoemaker. But no pain or incommodity
whatsoever could detain me from paying my duty to Ser Canonico, the
first moment I heard of his auspicious arrival, or from offering my
congratulations to Ser Giovanni, on the annunciation that he was
recovered and looking out of the window. All Tuscany was standing on
the watch for it, and the news flew like lightning. By this time it is
upon the Danube.

And pray, Ser Canonico, how does Madonna Laura do?

_Petrarca._ Peace to her gentle spirit! she is departed.

_Frate._ Ay, true. I had quite forgotten: that is to say, I recollect
it. You told us as much, I think, in a poem on her death. Well, and do
you know! our friend Giovanni here is a bit of an author in his way.

_Boccaccio._ Frate! you confuse my modesty.

_Frate._ Murder will out. It is a fact, on my conscience. Have you
never heard anything about it, Canonico! Ha! we poets are sly fellows:
we can keep a secret.

_Boccaccio._ Are you quite sure you can?

_Frate._ Try, and trust me with any. I am a confessional on legs:
there is no more a whisper in me than in a woolsack.

I am in feather again, as you see; and in tune, as you shall hear.

April is not the month for moping. Sing it lustily.

_Boccaccio._ Let it be your business to sing it, being a Frate; I can
only recite it.

_Frate._ Pray do, then.

_Boccaccio._

      Frate Biagio! sempre quando
      Quà tu vieni cavalcando,
      Pensi che le buone strade
      Per il mondo sien ben rade;
      E, di quante sono brutte,
      La più brutta è tua di tutte.
      Badi, non cascare sulle
      Graziosissime fanciulle,
      Che con capo dritto, alzato,
      Uova portano al mercato.
      Pessima mi pare l'opra
      Rovesciarle sottosopra.
      Deh! scansando le erte e sassi,
      Sempre con premura passi.
      Caro amico! Frate Biagio!
      Passi pur, ma passi adagio.

_Frate._ Well now really, Canonico, for one not exactly one of us,
that canzone of Ser Giovanni has merit; has not it? I did not ride,
however, to-day; as you may see by the lining of my frock. But _plus
non vitiat_; ay, Canonico! About the roads he is right enough; they
are the devil's own roads; that must be said for them.

Ser Giovanni! with permission; your mention of eggs in the canzone has
induced me to fancy I could eat a pair of them. The hens lay well now:
that white one of yours is worth more than the goose that laid the
golden: and you have a store of others, her equals or betters: we have
none like them at poor St. Vivaldo. _A riverderci, Ser Giovanni!
Schiavo! Ser Canonico! mi commandino._

       *       *       *       *       *

... Fra Biagio went back into the kitchen, helped himself to a quarter
of a loaf, ordered a flask of wine, and, trying several eggs against
his lips, selected seven, which he himself fried in oil, although the
maid offered her services. He never had been so little disposed to
enter into conversation with her; and on her asking him how he found
her master, he replied, that in bodily health Ser Giovanni, by his
prayers and ptisans, had much improved, but that his faculties were
wearing out apace. 'He may now run in the same couples with the
Canonico: they cannot catch the mange one of the other: the one could
say nothing to the purpose, and the other nothing at all. The whole
conversation was entirely at my charge,' added he. 'And now, Assunta,
since you press it, I will accept the service of your master's shoes.
How I shall ever get home I don't know.' He took the shoes off the
handles of the bellows, where Assunta had placed them out of her way,
and tucking one of his own under each arm, limped toward St. Vivaldo.

The unwonted attention to smartness of apparel, in the only article
wherein it could be displayed, was suggested to Frate Biagio by
hearing that Ser Francesco, accustomed to courtly habits and elegant
society, and having not only small hands, but small feet, usually wore
red slippers in the morning. Fra Biagio had scarcely left the outer
door, than he cordially cursed Ser Francesco for making such a fool of
him, and wearing slippers of black list. 'These canonicoes,' said he,
'not only lie themselves, but teach everybody else to do the same. He
has lamed me for life: I burn as if I had been shod at the
blacksmith's forge.'

The two friends said nothing about him, but continued the discourse
which his visit had interrupted.

_Petrarca._ Turn again, I entreat you, to the serious; and do not
imagine that because by nature you are inclined to playfulness, you
must therefore write ludicrous things better. Many of your stories
would make the gravest men laugh, and yet there is little wit in them.

_Boccaccio._ I think so myself; though authors, little disposed as
they are to doubt their possession of any quality they would bring
into play, are least of all suspicious on the side of wit. You have
convinced me. I am glad to have been tender, and to have written
tenderly: for I am certain it is this alone that has made you love me
with such affection.

_Petrarca._ Not this alone, Giovanni! but this principally. I have
always found you kind and compassionate, liberal and sincere, and when
Fortune does not stand very close to such a man, she leaves only the
more room for Friendship.

_Boccaccio._ Let her stand off then, now and for ever! To my heart, to
my heart, Francesco! preserver of my health, my peace of mind, and
(since you tell me I may claim it) my glory.

_Petrarca._ Recovering your strength you must pursue your studies to
complete it. What can you have been doing with your books? I have
searched in vain this morning for the treasury. Where are they kept?
Formerly they were always open. I found only a short manuscript, which
I suspect is poetry, but I ventured not on looking into it, until I
had brought it with me and laid it before you.

_Boccaccio._ Well guessed! They are verses written by a gentleman who
resided long in this country, and who much regretted the necessity of
leaving it. He took great delight in composing both Latin and Italian,
but never kept a copy of them latterly, so that these are the only
ones I could obtain from him. Read: for your voice will improve them:


TO MY CHILD CARLINO

      Carlino! what art thou about, my boy?
      Often I ask that question, though in vain,
      For we are far apart: ah! therefore 'tis
      I often ask it; not in such a tone
      As wiser fathers do, who know too well.
      Were we not children, you and I together?
      Stole we not glances from each other's eyes?
      Swore we not secrecy in such misdeeds?
      Well could we trust each other. Tell me then
      What thou art doing. Carving out thy name,
      Or haply mine, upon my favourite seat,
      With the new knife I sent thee over sea?
      Or hast thou broken it, and hid the hilt
      Among the myrtles, starr'd with flowers, behind?
      Or under that high throne whence fifty lilies
      (With sworded tuberoses dense around)
      Lift up their heads at once, not without fear
      That they were looking at thee all the while.

        Does Cincirillo follow thee about?
      Inverting one swart foot suspensively,
      And wagging his dread jaw at every chirp
      Of bird above him on the olive-branch?
      Frighten him then away! 'twas he who slew
      Our pigeons, our white pigeons peacock-tailed,
      That fear'd not you and me ... alas, nor him!
      I flattened his striped sides along my knee,
      And reasoned with him on his bloody mind,
      Till he looked blandly, and half-closed his eyes
      To ponder on my lecture in the shade.
      I doubt his memory much, his heart a little,
      And in some minor matters (may I say it?)
      Could wish him rather sager. But from thee
      God hold back wisdom yet for many years!
      Whether in early season or in late
      It always comes high-priced. For thy pure breast
      I have no lesson; it for me has many.
      Come throw it open then! What sports, what cares
      (Since there are none too young for these) engage
      Thy busy thoughts? Are you again at work,
      Walter and you, with those sly labourers,
      Geppo, Giovanni, Cecco, and Poeta,
      To build more solidly your broken dam
      Among the poplars, whence the nightingale
      Inquisitively watch'd you all day long?
      I was not of your council in the scheme,
      Or might have saved you silver without end,
      And sighs too without number. Art thou gone
      Below the mulberry, where that cold pool
      Urged to devise a warmer, and more fit
      For mighty swimmers, swimming three abreast?
      Or art thou panting in this summer noon
      Upon the lowest step before the hall,
      Drawing a slice of water-melon, long
      As Cupid's bow, athwart thy wetted lips
      (Like one who plays Pan's pipe) and letting drop
      The sable seeds from all their separate cells,
      And leaving bays profound and rocks abrupt,
      Redder than coral round Calypso's cave?

_Petrarca._ There have been those anciently who would have been
pleased with such poetry, and perhaps there may be again. I am not
sorry to see the Muses by the side of childhood, and forming a part of
the family. But now tell me about the books.

_Boccaccio._ Resolving to lay aside the more valuable of those I had
collected or transcribed, and to place them under the guardianship of
richer men, I locked them up together in the higher story of my tower
at Certaldo. You remember the old tower?

_Petrarca._ Well do I remember the hearty laugh we had together (which
stopped us upon the staircase) at the calculation we made, how much
longer you and I, if we continued to thrive as we had thriven
latterly, should be able to pass within its narrow circle. Although I
like this little villa much better, I would gladly see the place
again, and enjoy with you, as we did before, the vast expanse of
woodlands and mountains and maremma; frowning fortresses inexpugnable;
and others more prodigious for their ruins; then below them, lordly
abbeys, overcanopied with stately trees and girded with rich
luxuriance; and towns that seem approaching them to do them honour,
and villages nestling close at their sides for sustenance and
protection.

_Boccaccio._ My disorder, if it should keep its promise of leaving me
at last, will have been preparing me for the accomplishment of such a
project. Should I get thinner and thinner at this rate, I shall soon
be able to mount not only a turret or a belfry, but a tube of
macarone, while a Neapolitan is suspending it for deglutition.

What I am about to mention will show you how little you can rely on
me! I have preserved the books, as you desired, but quite contrary to
my resolution: and, no less contrary to it, by your desire I shall now
preserve the _Decameron_. In vain had I determined not only to mend in
future, but to correct the past; in vain had I prayed most fervently
for grace to accomplish it, with a final aspiration to Fiametta that
she would unite with your beloved Laura, and that, gentle and
beatified spirits as they are, they would breathe together their purer
prayers on mine. See what follows.

_Petrarca._ Sigh not at it. Before we can see all that follows from
their intercession, we must join them again. But let me hear anything
in which they are concerned.

_Boccaccio._ I prayed; and my breast, after some few tears, grew
calmer. Yet sleep did not ensue until the break of morning, when the
dropping of soft rain on the leaves of the fig-tree at the window, and
the chirping of a little bird, to tell another there was shelter under
them, brought me repose and slumber. Scarcely had I closed my eyes, if
indeed time can be reckoned any more in sleep than in heaven, when my
Fiametta seemed to have led me into the meadow. You will see it below
you: turn away that branch: gently! gently! do not break it; for the
little bird sat there.

_Petrarca._ I think, Giovanni, I can divine the place. Although this
fig-tree, growing out of the wall between the cellar and us, is
fantastic enough in its branches, yet that other which I see yonder,
bent down and forced to crawl along the grass by the prepotency of the
young shapely walnut-tree, is much more so. It forms a seat, about a
cubit above the ground, level and long enough for several.

_Boccaccio._ Ha! you fancy it must be a favourite spot with me,
because of the two strong forked stakes wherewith it is propped and
supported!

_Petrarca._ Poets know the haunts of poets at first sight; and he who
loved Laura.... O Laura! did I say he who _loved_ thee? ... hath
whisperings where those feet would wander which have been restless
after Fiametta.

_Boccaccio._ It is true, my imagination has often conducted her
thither; but there in this chamber she appeared to me more visibly in
a dream.

'Thy prayers have been heard, O Giovanni,' said she.

I sprang to embrace her.

'Do not spill the water! Ah! you have spilt a part of it.'

I then observed in her hand a crystal vase. A few drops were sparkling
on the sides and running down the rim: a few were trickling from the
base and from the hand that held it.

'I must go down to the brook,' said she, 'and fill it again as it was
filled before.'

What a moment of agony was this to me! Could I be certain how long
might be her absence? She went: I was following: she made a sign for
me to turn back: I disobeyed her only an instant: yet my sense of
disobedience, increasing my feebleness and confusion, made me lose
sight of her. In the next moment she was again at my side, with the
cup quite full. I stood motionless: I feared my breath might shake the
water over. I looked her in the face for her commands ... and to see
it ... to see it so calm, so beneficent, so beautiful. I was
forgetting what I had prayed for, when she lowered her head, tasted of
the cup, and gave it me. I drank; and suddenly sprang forth before me
many groves and palaces and gardens, and their statues and their
avenues, and their labyrinths of alaternus and bay, and alcoves of
citron, and watchful loopholes in the retirements of impenetrable
pomegranate. Farther off, just below where the fountain slipped away
from its marble hall and guardian gods, arose, from their beds of moss
and drosera and darkest grass, the sisterhood of oleanders, fond of
tantalizing with their bosomed flowers and their moist and pouting
blossoms the little shy rivulet, and of covering its face with all the
colours of the dawn. My dream expanded and moved forward. I trod again
the dust of Posilipo, soft as the feathers in the wings of Sleep. I
emerged on Baia; I crossed her innumerable arches; I loitered in the
breezy sunshine of her mole; I trusted the faithful seclusion of her
caverns, the keepers of so many secrets; and I reposed on the buoyancy
of her tepid sea. Then Naples, and her theatres and her churches, and
grottoes and dells and forts and promontories, rushed forward in
confusion, now among soft whispers, now among sweetest sounds, and
subsided, and sank, and disappeared. Yet a memory seemed to come fresh
from every one: each had time enough for its tale, for its pleasure,
for its reflection, for its pang. As I mounted with silent steps the
narrow staircase of the old palace, how distinctly did I feel against
the palm of my hand the coldness of that smooth stone-work, and the
greater of the cramps of iron in it!

'Ah me! is this forgetting?' cried I anxiously to Fiametta.

'We must recall these scenes before us,' she replied: 'such is the
punishment of them. Let us hope and believe that the apparition, and
the compunction which must follow it, will be accepted as the full
penalty, and that both will pass away almost together.'

I feared to lose anything attendant on her presence: I feared to
approach her forehead with my lips: I feared to touch the lily on its
long wavy leaf in her hair, which filled my whole heart with
fragrance. Venerating, adoring, I bowed my head at last to kiss her
snow-white robe, and trembled at my presumption. And yet the
effulgence of her countenance vivified while it chastened me. I loved
her ... I must not say _more_ than ever ... _better_ than ever; it was
Fiametta who had inhabited the skies. As my hand opened toward her:

'Beware!' said she, faintly smiling; 'beware, Giovanni! Take only the
crystal; take it, and drink again.'

'Must all be then forgotten?' said I sorrowfully.

'Remember your prayer and mine, Giovanni. Shall both have been
granted ... oh, how much worse than in vain?'

I drank instantly; I drank largely. How cool my bosom grew; how could
it grow so cool before her! But it was not to remain in its
quiescency; its trials were not yet over. I will not, Francesco! no, I
may not commemorate the incidents she related to me, nor which of us
said, 'I blush for having loved _first_;' nor which of us replied,
'Say _least_, say _least_, and blush again.'

The charm of the words (for I felt not the encumbrance of the body nor
the acuteness of the spirit) seemed to possess me wholly. Although the
water gave me strength and comfort, and somewhat of celestial
pleasure, many tears fell around the border of the vase as she held it
up before me, exhorting me to take courage, and inviting me with more
than exhortation to accomplish my deliverance. She came nearer, more
tenderly, more earnestly; she held the dewy globe with both hands,
leaning forward, and sighed and shook her head, drooping at my
pusillanimity. It was only when a ringlet had touched the rim, and
perhaps the water (for a sunbeam on the surface could never have given
it such a golden hue), that I took courage, clasped it, and exhausted
it. Sweet as was the water, sweet as was the serenity it gave me ...
alas! that also which it moved away from me was sweet!

'This time you can trust me alone,' said she, and parted my hair, and
kissed my brow. Again she went toward the brook: again my agitation,
my weakness, my doubt, came over me: nor could I see her while she
raised the water, nor knew I whence she drew it. When she returned,
she was close to me at once: she smiled: her smile pierced me to the
bones: it seemed an angel's. She sprinkled the pure water on me; she
looked most fondly; she took my hand; she suffered me to press hers to
my bosom; but, whether by design I cannot tell, she let fall a few
drops of the chilly element between.

'And now, O my beloved!' said she, 'we have consigned to the bosom of
God our earthly joys and sorrows. The joys cannot return, let not the
sorrows. These alone would trouble my repose among the blessed.'

'Trouble thy repose! Fiametta! Give me the chalice!' cried I ... 'not
a drop will I leave in it, not a drop.'

'Take it!' said that soft voice. 'O now most dear Giovanni! I know
thou hast strength enough; and there is but little ... at the bottom
lies our first kiss.'

'Mine! didst thou say, beloved one? and is that left thee still?'

'_Mine_,' said she, pensively; and as she abased her head, the broad
leaf of the lily hid her brow and her eyes; the light of heaven shone
through the flower.

'O Fiametta! Fiametta!' cried I in agony, 'God is the God of mercy,
God is the God of love ... can I, can I ever?' I struck the chalice
against my head, unmindful that I held it; the water covered my face
and my feet. I started up, not yet awake, and I heard the name of
Fiametta in the curtains.

_Petrarca._ Love, O Giovanni, and life itself, are but dreams at best.
I do think

      Never so gloriously was Sleep attended
      As with the pageant of that heavenly maid.

But to dwell on such subjects is sinful. The recollection of them,
with all their vanities, brings tears into my eyes.

_Boccaccio._ And into mine too ... they were so very charming.

_Petrarca._ Alas, alas! the time always comes when we must regret the
enjoyments of our youth.

_Boccaccio._ If we have let them pass us.

_Petrarca._ I mean our indulgence in them.

_Boccaccio._ Francesco! I think you must remember Raffaellino degli
Alfani.

_Petrarca._ Was it Raffaellino who lived near San Michele in Orto?

_Boccaccio._ The same. He was an innocent soul, and fond of fish. But
whenever his friend Sabbatelli sent him a trout from Pratolino, he
always kept it until next day or the day after, just long enough to
render it unpalatable. He then turned it over in the platter, smelt at
it closer, although the news of its condition came undeniably from a
distance, touched it with his forefinger, solicited a testimony from
the gills which the eyes had contradicted, sighed over it, and sent it
for a present to somebody else. Were I a lover of trout as Raffaellino
was, I think I should have taken an opportunity of enjoying it while
the pink and crimson were glittering on it.

_Petrarca._ Trout, yes.

_Boccaccio._ And all other fish I could encompass.

_Petrarca._ O thou grave mocker! I did not suspect such slyness in
thee: proof enough I had almost forgotten thee.

_Boccaccio._ Listen! listen! I fancied I caught a footstep in the
passage. Come nearer; bend your head lower, that I may whisper a word
in your ear. Never let Assunta hear you sigh. She is mischievous: she
may have been standing at the door: not that I believe she would be
guilty of any such impropriety: but who knows what girls are capable
of! She has no malice, only in laughing; and a sigh sets her windmill
at work, van over van, incessantly.

_Petrarca._ I should soon check her. I have no notion....

_Boccaccio._ After all, she is a good girl ... a trifle of the wilful.
She must have it that many things are hurtful to me ... reading in
particular ... it makes people so odd. Tina is a small matter of the
madcap ... in her own particular way ... but exceedingly discreet, I
do assure you, if they will only leave her alone.

I find I was mistaken, there was nobody.

_Petrarca._ A cat, perhaps.

_Boccaccio._ No such thing. I order him over to Certaldo while the
birds are laying and sitting: and he knows by experience, favourite as
he is, that it is of no use to come back before he is sent for. Since
the first impetuosities of youth, he has rarely been refractory or
disobliging. We have lived together now these five years, unless I
miscalculate; and he seems to have learnt something of my manners,
wherein violence and enterprise by no means predominate. I have
watched him looking at a large green lizard; and, their eyes being
opposite and near, he has doubted whether it might be pleasing to me
if he began the attack; and their tails on a sudden have touched one
another at the decision.

_Petrarca._ Seldom have adverse parties felt the same desire of peace
at the same moment, and none ever carried it more simultaneously and
promptly into execution.

_Boccaccio._ He enjoys his _otium cum dignitate_ at Certaldo: there he
is my castellan, and his chase is unlimited in those domains. After
the doom of relegation is expired, he comes hither at midsummer. And
then if you could see his joy! His eyes are as deep as a well, and as
clear as a fountain: he jerks his tail into the air like a royal
sceptre, and waves it like the wand of a magician. You would fancy
that, as Horace with his head, he was about to smite the stars with
it. There is ne'er such another cat in the parish; and he knows it, a
rogue! We have rare repasts together in the bean-and-bacon time,
although in regard to the bean he sides with the philosopher of Samos;
but after due examination. In cleanliness he is a very nun; albeit in
that quality which lies between cleanliness and godliness, there is a
smack of Fra Biagio about him. What is that book in your hand?

_Petrarca._ My breviary.

_Boccaccio._ Well, give me mine too ... there, on the little table in
the corner, under the glass of primroses. We can do nothing better.

_Petrarca._ What prayer were you looking for? let me find it.

_Boccaccio._ I don't know how it is: I am scarcely at present in a
frame of mind for it. We are of one faith: the prayers of the one will
do for the other: and I am sure, if you omitted my name, you would say
them all over afresh. I wish you could recollect in any book as dreamy
a thing to entertain me as I have been just repeating. We have had
enough of Dante: I believe few of his beauties have escaped us: and
small faults, which we readily pass by, are fitter for small folks, as
grubs are the proper bait for gudgeons.

_Petrarca._ I have had as many dreams as most men. We are all made up
of them, as the webs of the spider are particles of her own vitality.
But how infinitely less do we profit by them! I will relate to you,
before we separate, one among the multitude of mine, as coming the
nearest to the poetry of yours, and as having been not totally useless
to me. Often have I reflected on it; sometimes with pensiveness, with
sadness never.

_Boccaccio._ Then, Francesco, if you had with you as copious a choice
of dreams as clustered on the elm-trees where the Sibyl led Aeneas,
this, in preference to the whole swarm of them, is the queen dream for
me.

_Petrarca._ When I was younger I was fond of wandering in solitary
places, and never was afraid of slumbering in woods and grottoes.
Among the chief pleasures of my life, and among the commonest of my
occupations, was the bringing before me such heroes and heroines of
antiquity, such poets and sages, such of the prosperous and the
unfortunate, as most interested me by their courage, their wisdom,
their eloquence, or their adventures. Engaging them in the
conversation best suited to their characters, I knew perfectly their
manners, their steps, their voices: and often did I moisten with my
tears the models I had been forming of the less happy.

_Boccaccio._ Great is the privilege of entering into the studies of
the intellectual; great is that of conversing with the guides of
nations, the movers of the mass, the regulators of the unruly will,
stiff, in its impurity and rust, against the finger of the Almighty
Power that formed it: but give me, Francesco, give me rather the
creature to sympathize with; apportion me the sufferings to assuage.
Ah, gentle soul! thou wilt never send them over to another; they have
better hopes from thee.

_Petrarca._ We both alike feel the sorrows of those around us. He who
suppresses or allays them in another, breaks many thorns off his own;
and future years will never harden fresh ones.

My occupation was not always in making the politician talk politics,
the orator toss his torch among the populace, the philosopher run down
from philosophy to cover the retreat or the advances of his sect; but
sometimes in devising how such characters must act and discourse, on
subjects far remote from the beaten track of their career. In like
manner the philologist, and again the dialectician, were not indulged
in the review and parade of their trained bands, but, at times,
brought forward to show in what manner and in what degree external
habits had influenced the conformation of the internal man. It was far
from unprofitable to set passing events before past actors, and to
record the decisions of those whose interests and passions are
unconcerned in them.

_Boccaccio._ This is surely no easy matter. The thoughts are in fact
your own, however you distribute them.

_Petrarca._ All cannot be my own; if you mean by _thoughts_ the
opinions and principles I should be the most desirous to inculcate.
Some favourite ones perhaps may obtrude too prominently, but otherwise
no misbehaviour is permitted them: reprehension and rebuke are always
ready, and the offence is punished on the spot.

_Boccaccio._ Certainly you thus throw open, to its full extent, the
range of poetry and invention; which cannot but be very limited and
sterile, unless where we find displayed much diversity of character as
disseminated by nature, much peculiarity of sentiment as arising from
position, marked with unerring skill through every shade and
gradation; and finally and chiefly, much intertexture and intensity of
passion. You thus convey to us more largely and expeditiously the
stores of your understanding and imagination, than you ever could by
sonnets or canzonets, or sinewless and sapless allegories.

But weightier works are less captivating. If you had published any
such as you mention, you must have waited for their acceptance. Not
only the fame of Marcellus, but every other,

      Crescit occulto velut arbor aevo;

and that which makes the greatest vernal shoot is apt to make the
least autumnal. Authors in general who have met celebrity at starting,
have already had their reward; always their utmost due, and often much
beyond it. We cannot hope for both celebrity and fame: supremely
fortunate are the few who are allowed the liberty of choice between
them. We two prefer the strength that springs from exercise and toil,
acquiring it gradually and slowly: we leave to others the earlier
blessing of that sleep which follows enjoyment. How many at first
sight are enthusiastic in their favour! Of these how large a portion
come away empty-handed and discontented! like idlers who visit the
seacoast, fill their pockets with pebbles bright from the passing
wave, and carry them off with rapture. After a short examination at
home, every streak seems faint and dull, and the whole contexture
coarse, uneven, and gritty: first one is thrown away, then another;
and before the week's end the store is gone, of things so shining and
wonderful.

_Petrarca._ Allegory, which you named with sonnets and canzonets, had
few attractions for me, believing it to be the delight in general of
idle, frivolous, inexcursive minds, in whose mansions there is neither
hall nor portal to receive the loftier of the Passions. A stranger to
the Affections, she holds a low station among the handmaidens of
Poetry, being fit for little but an apparition in a mask. I had
reflected for some time on this subject, when, wearied with the length
of my walk over the mountains, and finding a soft old molehill,
covered with grey grass, by the wayside, I laid my head upon it and
slept. I cannot tell how long it was before a species of dream or
vision came over me.

Two beautiful youths appeared beside me; each was winged; but the
wings were hanging down, and seemed ill adapted to flight. One of
them, whose voice was the softest I ever heard, looking at me
frequently, said to the other:

'He is under my guardianship for the present: do not awaken him with
that feather.'

Methought, hearing the whisper, I saw something like the feather on an
arrow; and then the arrow itself; the whole of it, even to the point;
although he carried it in such a manner that it was difficult at first
to discover more than a palm's length of it: the rest of the shaft,
and the whole of the barb, was behind his ankles.

'This feather never awakens any one,' replied he, rather petulantly;
'but it brings more of confident security, and more of cherished
dreams, than you without me are capable of imparting.'

'Be it so!' answered the gentler ... 'none is less inclined to quarrel
or dispute than I am. Many whom you have wounded grievously, call upon
me for succour. But so little am I disposed to thwart you, it is
seldom I venture to do more for them than to whisper a few words of
comfort in passing. How many reproaches on these occasions have been
cast upon me for indifference and infidelity! Nearly as many, and
nearly in the same terms, as upon you!'

'Odd enough that we, O Sleep! should be thought so alike,' said Love,
contemptuously. 'Yonder is he who bears a nearer resemblance to you:
the dullest have observed it.' I fancied I turned my eyes to where he
was pointing, and saw at a distance the figure he designated.
Meanwhile the contention went on uninterruptedly. Sleep was slow in
asserting his power or his benefits. Love recapitulated them; but only
that he might assert his own above them. Suddenly he called on me to
decide, and to choose my patron. Under the influence, first of the
one, then of the other, I sprang from repose to rapture, I alighted
from rapture on repose ... and knew not which was sweetest. Love was
very angry with me, and declared he would cross me throughout the
whole of my existence. Whatever I might on other occasions have
thought of his veracity, I now felt too surely the conviction that he
would keep his word. At last, before the close of the altercation, the
third Genius had advanced, and stood near us. I cannot tell how I knew
him, but I knew him to be the Genius of Death. Breathless as I was at
beholding him, I soon became familiar with his features. First they
seemed only calm; presently they grew contemplative; and lastly
beautiful: those of the Graces themselves are less regular, less
harmonious, less composed. Love glanced at him unsteadily, with a
countenance in which there was somewhat of anxiety, somewhat of
disdain; and cried: 'Go away! go away! nothing that thou touchest,
lives.'

'Say rather, child!' replied the advancing form, and advancing grew
loftier and statelier, 'say rather that nothing of beautiful or of
glorious lives its own true life until my wing hath passed over it.'

Love pouted, and rumpled and bent down with his forefinger the stiff
short feathers on his arrow-head; but replied not. Although he frowned
worse than ever, and at me, I dreaded him less and less, and scarcely
looked toward him. The milder and calmer Genius, the third, in
proportion as I took courage to contemplate him, regarded me with more
and more complacency. He held neither flower nor arrow, as the others
did; but, throwing back the clusters of dark curls that overshadowed
his countenance, he presented to me his hand, openly and benignly. I
shrank on looking at him so near, and yet I sighed to love him. He
smiled, not without an expression of pity, at perceiving my
diffidence, my timidity: for I remembered how soft was the hand of
Sleep, how warm and entrancing was Love's. By degrees, I became
ashamed of my ingratitude; and turning my face away, I held out my
arms, and felt my neck within his. Composure strewed and allayed all
the throbbings of my bosom; the coolness of freshest morning breathed
around: the heavens seemed to open above me; while the beautiful cheek
of my deliverer rested on my head. I would now have looked for those
others; but knowing my intention by my gesture, he said,
consolatorily:

'Sleep is on his way to the Earth, where many are calling him; but it
is not to these he hastens; for every call only makes him fly farther
off. Sedately and gravely as he looks, he is nearly as capricious and
volatile as the more arrogant and ferocious one.'

'And Love!' said I, 'whither is he departed? If not too late, I would
propitiate and appease him.'

'He who cannot follow me, he who cannot overtake and pass me,' said
the Genius, 'is unworthy of the name, the most glorious in earth or
heaven. Look up! Love is yonder, and ready to receive thee.'

I looked: the earth was under me: I saw only the clear blue sky, and
something brighter above it.



POEMS


I

      She I love (alas in vain!)
        Floats before my slumbering eyes:
      When she comes she lulls my pain,
        When she goes what pangs arise!
      Thou whom love, whom memory flies,
        Gentle Sleep! prolong thy reign!
      If even thus she soothe my sighs,
        Never let me wake again!


II

      Pleasure! why thus desert the heart
          In its spring-tide?
      I could have seen her, I could part,
          And but have sigh'd!

      O'er every youthful charm to stray,
          To gaze, to touch....
      Pleasure! why take so much away,
          Or give so much?


III

      Past ruin'd Ilion Helen lives,
        Alcestis rises from the shades;
      Verse calls them forth; 'tis verse that gives
        Immortal youth to mortal maids.

      Soon shall Oblivion's deepening veil
        Hide all the peopled hills you see,
      The gay, the proud, while lovers hail
        These many summers you and me.


IV

      Ianthe! you are call'd to cross the sea!
            A path forbidden _me_!
      Remember, while the Sun his blessing sheds
            Upon the mountain-heads,
      How often we have watcht him laying down
            His brow, and dropt our own
      Against each other's, and how faint and short
            And sliding the support!
      What will succeed it now? Mine is unblest,
            Ianthe! nor will rest
      But on the very thought that swells with pain.
            O bid me hope again!
      O give me back what Earth, what (without you)
            Not Heaven itself can do,
      One of the golden days that we have past;
            And let it be my last!
      Or else the gift would be, however sweet,
            Fragile and incomplete.


V

      The gates of fame and of the grave
      Stand under the same architrave.


VI

      Twenty years hence my eyes may grow
      If not quite dim, yet rather so,
      Still yours from others they shall know
                             Twenty years hence.
      Twenty years hence tho' it may hap
      That I be call'd to take a nap
      In a cool cell where thunder-clap
                             Was never heard,
      There breathe but o'er my arch of grass
      A not too sadly sigh'd _Alas_,
      And I shall catch, ere you can pass,
                             That winged word.


VII

      Here, ever since you went abroad,
        If there be change, no change I see,
      I only walk our wonted road,
        The road is only walkt by me.

      Yes; I forgot; a change there is;
        Was it of _that_ you bade me tell?
      I catch at times, at times I miss
        The sight, the tone, I know so well.

      Only two months since you stood here!
        Two shortest months! then tell me why
      Voices are harsher than they were,
        And tears are longer ere they dry.


VIII

      Tell me not things past all belief;
        One truth in you I prove;
      The flame of anger, bright and brief,
        Sharpens the barb of Love.


IX

      Proud word you never spoke, but you will speak
        Four not exempt from pride some future day.
      Resting on one white hand a warm wet cheek
        Over my open volume you will say,
      'This man loved _me_!' then rise and trip away.


X

FIESOLE IDYL

      Here, where precipitate Spring, with one light bound
      Into hot Summer's lusty arms, expires,
      And where go forth at morn, at eve, at night,
      Soft airs that want the lute to play with 'em,
      And softer sighs that know not what they want,
      Aside a wall, beneath an orange-tree,
      Whose tallest flowers could tell the lowlier ones
      Of sights in Fiesole right up above,
      While I was gazing a few paces off
      At what they seem'd to show me with their nods,
      Their frequent whispers and their pointing shoots,
      A gentle maid came down the garden-steps
      And gathered the pure treasure in her lap.
      I heard the branches rustle, and stept forth
      To drive the ox away, or mule, or goat,
      Such I believed it must be. How could I
      Let beast o'erpower them? When hath wind or rain
      Borne hard upon weak plant that wanted me,
      And I (however they might bluster round)
      Walkt off? 'Twere most ungrateful: for sweet scents
      Are the swift vehicles of still sweeter thoughts,
      And nurse and pillow the dull memory
      That would let drop without them her best stores.
      They bring me tales of youth and tones of love,
      And 'tis and ever was my wish and way
      To let all flowers live freely, and all die
      (Whene'er their Genius bids their souls depart)
      Among their kindred in their native place.
      I never pluck the rose; the violet's head
      Hath shaken with my breath upon its bank
      And not reproacht me; the ever-sacred cup
      Of the pure lily hath between my hands
      Felt safe, unsoil'd, nor lost one grain of gold.
      I saw the light that made the glossy leaves
      More glossy; the fair arm, the fairer cheek
      Warmed by the eye intent on its pursuit;
      I saw the foot that, although half-erect
      From its grey slipper, could not lift her up
      To what she wanted: I held down a branch
      And gather'd her some blossoms; since their hour
      Was come, and bees had wounded them, and flies
      Of harder wing were working their way thro'
      And scattering them in fragments under-foot.
      So crisp were some, they rattled unevolved,
      Others, ere broken off, fell into shells,
      For such appear the petals when detacht,
      Unbending, brittle, lucid, white like snow,
      And like snow not seen thro', by eye or sun:
      Yet every one her gown received from me
      Was fairer than the first. I thought not so,
      But so she praised them to reward my care.
      I said, 'You find the largest.'
                                    'This indeed,'
      Cried she, 'is large and sweet.' She held one forth,
      Whether for me to look at or to stake
      She knew not, nor did I; but taking it
      Would best have solved (and this she felt) her doubt.
      I dared not touch it; for it seemed a part
      Of her own self; fresh, full, the most mature
      Of blossoms, yet a blossom; with a touch
      To fall, and yet unfallen. She drew back
      The boon she tender'd, and then, finding not
      The ribbon at her waist to fix it in,
      Dropt it, as loath to drop it, on the rest.


XI

      Ah what avails the sceptred race,
        Ah what the form divine!
      What every virtue, every grace!
        Rose Aylmer, all were thine.
      Rose Aylmer, whom these wakeful eyes
        May weep, but never see,
      A night of memories and of sighs
        I consecrate to thee.


XII

      With rosy hand a little girl prest down
      A boss of fresh-cull'd cowslips in a rill:
      Often as they sprang up again, a frown
      Show'd she disliked resistance to her will:
      But when they droopt their heads and shone much less,
      She shook them to and fro, and threw them by,
      And tript away. 'Ye loathe the heaviness
      Ye love to cause, my little girls!' thought I,
      'And what had shone for you, by you must die.'


XIII

            Ternissa! you are fled!
            I say not to the dead,
      But to the happy ones who rest below:
            For, surely, surely, where
            Your voice and graces are,
      Nothing of death can any feel or know.
            Girls who delight to dwell
            Where grows most asphodel,
      Gather to their calm breasts each word you speak:
            The mild Persephone
            Places you on her knee,
      And your cool palm smooths down stern Pluto's cheek.


XIV

      Various the roads of life; in one
        All terminate, one lonely way
      We go; and 'Is he gone?'
        Is all our best friends say.


XV

      Yes; I write verses now and then,
      But blunt and flaccid is my pen,
      No longer talkt of by young men
                            As rather clever:

      In the last quarter are my eyes,
      You see it by their form and size;
      Is it not time then to be wise?
                            Or now or never.

      Fairest that ever sprang from Eve!
      While Time allows the short reprieve,
      Just look at me! would you believe
                            'Twas once a lover?

      I cannot clear the five-bar gate,
      But, trying first its timber's state,
      Climb stiffly up, take breath, and wait
                            To trundle over.

      Thro' gallopade I cannot swing
      The entangling blooms of Beauty's spring:
      I cannot say the tender thing,
                            Be 't true or false,

      And am beginning to opine
      Those girls are only half-divine
      Whose waists yon wicked boys entwine
                            In giddy waltz.

      I fear that arm above that shoulder,
      I wish them wiser, graver, older,
      Sedater, and no harm if colder
                            And panting less.

      Ah! people were not half so wild
      In former days, when, starchly mild,
      Upon her high-heel'd Essex smiled
                            The brave Queen Bess.


XVI

ON SEEING A HAIR OF LUCRETIA BORGIA

      Borgia, thou once wert almost too august
      And high for adoration; now thou'rt dust.
      All that remains of thee these plaits unfold,
      Calm hair, meandering in pellucid gold.


XVII

      Once, and once only, have I seen thy face,
      Elia! once only has thy tripping tongue
      Run o'er my breast, yet never has been left
      Impression on it stronger or more sweet.
      Cordial old man! what youth was in thy years,
      What wisdom in thy levity, what truth
      In every utterance of that purest soul!
      Few are the spirits of the glorified
      I'd spring to earlier at the gate of Heaven.


XVIII

TO WORDSWORTH

      Those who have laid the harp aside
        And turn'd to idler things,
      From very restlessness have tried
        The loose and dusty strings.
      And, catching back some favourite strain,
      Run with it o'er the chords again.

      But Memory is not a Muse,
        O Wordsworth! though 'tis said
      They all descend from her, and use
        To haunt her fountain-head:
      That other men should work for me
      In the rich mines of Poesie,
      Pleases me better than the toil
        Of smoothing under hardened hand,
      With Attic emery and oil,
        The shining point for Wisdom's wand,
      Like those thou temperest 'mid the rills
      Descending from thy native hills.

      Without his governance, in vain
        Manhood is strong, and Youth is bold
      If oftentimes the o'er-piled strain
        Clogs in the furnace, and grows cold
      Beneath his pinions deep and frore,
      And swells and melts and flows no more,
      That is because the heat beneath
        Pants in its cavern poorly fed.
      Life springs not from the couch of Death,
        Nor Muse nor Grace can raise the dead;
      Unturn'd then let the mass remain,
      Intractable to sun or rain.

      A marsh, where only flat leaves lie,
      And showing but the broken sky,
      Too surely is the sweetest lay
      That wins the ear and wastes the day,
      Where youthful Fancy pouts alone
      And lets not Wisdom touch her zone.

      He who would build his fame up high,
      The rule and plummet must apply,
      Nor say, 'I'll do what I have plann'd,'
      Before he try if loam or sand
      Be still remaining in the place
      Delved for each polisht pillar's base.
      With skilful eye and fit device
      Thou raisest every edifice,
      Whether in sheltered vale it stand
      Or overlook the Dardan strand,
      Amid the cypresses that mourn
      Laodameia's love forlorn.

      We both have run o'er half the space
      Listed for mortal's earthly race;
      We both have crost life's fervid line,
      And other stars before us shine:
      May they be bright and prosperous
      As those that have been stars for us!
      Our course by Milton's light was sped,
      And Shakespeare shining overhead:
      Chatting on deck was Dryden too,
      The Bacon of the rhyming crew;
      None ever crost our mystic sea
      More richly stored with thought than he;
      Tho' never tender nor sublime,
      He wrestles with and conquers Time.
      To learn my lore on Chaucer's knee,
      I left much prouder company;
      Thee gentle Spenser fondly led,
      But me he mostly sent to bed.

      I wish them every joy above
      That highly blessed spirits prove,
      Save one: and that too shall be theirs,
      But after many rolling years,
      When 'mid their light thy light appears.


XIX

TO CHARLES DICKENS

      Go then to Italy; but mind
      To leave the pale low France behind;
      Pass through that country, nor ascend
      The Rhine, nor over Tyrol wend:
      Thus all at once shall rise more grand
      The glories of the ancient land.
        Dickens! how often, when the air
      Breath'd genially, I've thought me there,
      And rais'd to heaven my thankful eyes
      To see three spans of deep blue skies.
        In Genoa now I hear a stir,
      A shout ... _Here comes the Minister!_
      Yes, thou art he, although not sent
      By cabinet or parliament:
      Yes, thou art he. Since Milton's youth
      Bloom'd in the Eden of the South,
      Spirit so pure and lofty none
      Hath heavenly Genius from his throne
      Deputed on the banks of Thames
      To speak his voice and urge his claims.
      Let every nation know from thee
      How less than lovely Italy
      Is the whole world beside; let all
      Into their grateful breasts recall
      How Prospero and Miranda dwelt
      In Italy: the griefs that melt
      The stoniest heart, each sacred tear
      One lacrymatory gathered here;
      All Desdemona's, all that fell
      In playful Juliet's bridal cell.
        Ah! could my steps in life's decline
      Accompany or follow thine!
      But my own vines are not for me
      To prune, or from afar to see.
      I miss the tales I used to tell
      With cordial Hare and joyous Gell,
      And that good old Archbishop whose
      Cool library, at evening's close
      (Soon as from Ischia swept the gale
      And heav'd and left the dark'ning sail),
      Its lofty portal open'd wide
      To me, and very few beside:
      Yet large his kindness. Still the poor
      Flock round Taranto's palace door,
      And find no other to replace
      The noblest of a noble race.
      Amid our converse you would see
      Each with white cat upon his knee,
      And flattering that grand company:
      For Persian kings might proudly own
      Such glorious cats to share the throne.
        Write me few letters: I'm content
      With what for all the world is meant;
      Write then for all: but, since my breast
      Is far more faithful than the rest,
      Never shall any other share
      With little Nelly nestling there.


XX

TO BARRY CORNWALL

      Barry! your spirit long ago
      Has haunted me; at last I know
      The heart it sprung from: one more sound
      Ne'er rested on poetic ground.
      But, Barry Cornwall! by what right
      Wring you my breast and dim my sight,
      And make me wish at every touch
      My poor old hand could do as much?
      No other in these later times
      Has bound me in so potent rhymes.
      I have observed the curious dress
      And jewelry of brave Queen Bess,
      But always found some o'ercharged thing,
      Some flaw in even the brightest ring,
      Admiring in her men of war,
      A rich but too argute guitar.
      Our foremost now are more prolix,
      And scrape with three-fell fiddlesticks,
      And, whether bound for griefs or smiles,
      Are slow to turn as crocodiles.
      Once, every court and country bevy
      Chose the gallant of loins less heavy,
      And would have laid upon the shelf
      Him who could talk but of himself.
      Reason is stout, but even Reason
      May walk too long in Rhyme's hot season.
      I have heard many folks aver
      They have caught horrid colds with her.
      Imagination's paper kite,
      Unless the string is held in tight,
      Whatever fits and starts it takes,
      Soon bounces on the ground, and breaks.
      You, placed afar from each extreme,
      Nor dully drowse nor wildly dream,
      But, ever flowing with good-humour,
      Are bright as spring and warm as summer.
      Mid your Penates not a word
      Of scorn or ill-report is heard;
      Nor is there any need to pull
      A sheaf or truss from cart too full,
      Lest it o'erload the horse, no doubt,
      Or clog the road by falling out.
      We, who surround a common table,
      And imitate the fashionable,
      Wear each two eyeglasses: _this_ lens
      Shows us our faults, _that_ other men's.
      We do not care how dim may be
      _This_ by whose aid our own we see,
      But, ever anxiously alert
      That all may have their whole desert,
      We would melt down the stars and sun
      In our heart's furnace, to make one
      Thro' which the enlighten'd world might spy
      A mote upon a brother's eye.


XXI

TO ROBERT BROWNING

      There is delight in singing, tho' none hear
      Beside the singer: and there is delight
      In praising, tho' the praiser sit alone
      And see the prais'd far off him, far above.
      Shakespeare is not our poet, but the world's,
      Therefore on him no speech! and brief for thee,
      Browning! Since Chaucer was alive and hale,
      No man hath walkt along our roads with step
      So active, so inquiring eye, or tongue
      So varied in discourse. But warmer climes
      Give brighter plumage, stronger wing: the breeze
      Of Alpine highths thou playest with, borne on
      Beyond Sorrento and Amalfi, where
      The Siren waits thee, singing song for song.


XXII

AGE

      Death, tho' I see him not, is near
      And grudges me my eightieth year.
      Now, I would give him all these last
      For one that fifty have run past.
      Ah! he strikes all things, all alike,
      But bargains: those he will not strike.


XXIII

      Leaf after leaf drops off, flower after flower,
      Some in the chill, some in the warmer hour:
      Alike they flourish and alike they fall,
      And Earth who nourisht them receives them all.
      Should we, her wiser sons, be less content
      To sink into her lap when life is spent?


XXIV

      Well I remember how you smiled
        To see me write your name upon
      The soft sea-sand--'_O! what a child!_
        _You think you're writing upon stone!_'
      I have since written what no tide
        Shall ever wash away, what men
      Unborn shall read o'er ocean wide
        And find Ianthe's name again.


XXV

      I strove with none, for none was worth my strife.
      Nature I loved, and, next to Nature, Art;
      I warmed both hands before the fire of Life;
      It sinks, and I am ready to depart.


XXVI

      Death stands above me, whispering low
        I know not what into my ear:
      Of his strange language all I know
        Is, there is not a word of fear.


XXVII

A PASTORAL

      Damon was sitting in the grove
      With Phyllis, and protesting love;
      And she was listening; but no word
      Of all he loudly swore she heard.
      How! was she deaf then? no, not she,
      Phyllis was quite the contrary.
      Tapping his elbow, she said, 'Hush!
      O what a darling of a thrush!
      I think he never sang so well
      As now, below us, in the dell.'


XXVIII

THE LOVER

      Now thou art gone, tho' not gone far,
        It seems that there are worlds between us;
      Shine here again, thou wandering star!
        Earth's planet! and return with Venus.

      At times thou broughtest me thy light
        When restless sleep had gone away;
      At other times more blessed night
        Stole over, and prolonged thy stay.


XXIX

THE POET WHO SLEEPS

      One day, when I was young, I read
      About a poet, long since dead,
      Who fell asleep, as poets do
      In writing--and make others too.
      But herein lies the story's gist,
      How a gay queen came up and kist
      The sleeper.
                    'Capital!' thought I.
      'A like good fortune let me try.'
      Many the things we poets feign.
      I feign'd to sleep, but tried in vain.
      I tost and turn'd from side to side,
      With open mouth and nostrils wide.
      At last there came a pretty maid,
      And gazed; then to myself I said,
      'Now for it!' She, instead of kiss,
      Cried, 'What a lazy lout is this!'


XXX

DANIEL DEFOE

      Few will acknowledge what they owe
      To persecuted, brave Defoe.
      Achilles, in Homeric song,
      May, or he may not, live so long
      As Crusoe; few their strength had tried
      Without so staunch and safe a guide.
      What boy is there who never laid
      Under his pillow, half afraid,
      That precious volume, lest the morrow
      For unlearnt lessons might bring sorrow?
      But nobler lessons he has taught
      Wide-awake scholars who fear'd naught:
      A Rodney and a Nelson may
      Without him not have won the day.


XXXI

IDLE WORDS

      They say that every idle word
      Is numbered by the Omniscient Lord.
      O Parliament! 'tis well that He
      Endureth for Eternity,
      And that a thousand Angels wait
      To write them at thy inner gate.


XXXII

TO THE RIVER AVON

      Avon! why runnest thou away so fast?
      Rest thee before that Chancel where repose
      The bones of him whose spirit moves the world.
      I have beheld thy birthplace, I have seen
      Thy tiny ripples where they play amid
      The golden cups and ever-waving blades.
      I have seen mighty rivers, I have seen
      Padus, recovered from his fiery wound,
      And Tiber, prouder than them all to bear
      Upon his tawny bosom men who crusht
      The world they trod on, heeding not the cries
      Of culprit kings and nations many-tongued.
      What are to me these rivers, once adorn'd
      With crowns they would not wear but swept away?
      Worthier art thou of worship, and I bend
      My knees upon thy bank, and call thy name,
      And hear, or think I hear, thy voice reply.



Transcriber's Note:

Minor errors (missing or transposed letters, omitted punctuation, etc.)
have been corrected without note. The author used a lot of archaic
spelling, which remains unchanged.

The single Greek word in this work has been transliterated, and is
surrounded by plus signs +like this+.





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